You’ve been told you should drink milk to get calcium for bone strength, but from various reasons, which range from lactose intolerance to empathy for animals, you decided to avoid it. The alternatives are almond, rice, coconut etc. and especially soy milk, but will these actually be capable of meeting your calcium needs?
First of all, soy is an excellent source of protein, which means anyone can include it in their diet if they wish to increase their protein intake. It’s recommended for hard training individuals and it does not make you feel heavy and full like animal protein. It’s not all about the protein, however. Soy is packed with important compounds. Its nutrient profile is the most similar to milk, of all the alternatives.
In one serving, not only that you get between 8 to 10 g of protein, but you also ingest vitamins A and D in important quantities, as well as calcium. These are often added by manufacturers to make their soy milk more nutritious, just like with breakfast cereals. Cow’s milk contains 122 mg of calcium per 100 ml. The same amount of milk extracted from soy can have a total of 120 mg of calcium, which is extremely close. However, the quantity is largely dependent on the manufacturer. Each brand can have a very different amount and the only way to find out is to read the label of the product. Almond and coconut milk show the same figures, so these are interchangeable if you’re looking to diversify your menu.
Soy milk can actually give you much more calcium than cow’s milk, if we are to compare the absorption rate. This element is easier to absorb from ‘green’ source than it is from cow’s milk, which humans only began drinking more often in the 1900s (this also explains the widespread intolerance to lactose – the impossibility to digest it). Calcium in animal milk has an absorption rate of about 32%, while we can take between 40% and 60% of the calcium available in plant sources.
Soy milk also has other advantages like no cholesterol, no lactose and a very low amount of saturated fats. Also, this type of milk is rich in potassium. It’s dairy-free milk that can be consumed frequently, although it comes with certain warnings. People with thyroid disease should avoid it. Also, soy is rich in phytoestrogens, plant hormones that mimic female estrogens and may affect certain people in negative ways, especially men.
Soy milk is available in both sweetened and unsweetened form. It can also have different flavors. It mixes well in hot drinks such as tea and coffee. Note that it can cause allergic reactions in some people. If you find it unsuitable, you can replace it with almond or coconut milk, which have similar nutrient profiles.
This drink can be prepared at home, too. There are a few different recipes available online, but the easiest one involves soaking mature (not green) soy beans in water over night.
Your fitness pal