Soy Milk: A Bowl Of Froot Loops In Every Glass?

I was in Starbucks recently (I try to avoid it, but its always “right there” and so too, mid morning, is my need for caffeine).   “Are you lactose intolerant?” I asked my friend as she poured soy milk into her coffee.  “No”, she shrugged, ” I just don’t think cow’s milk is good for you.”  “Hmm”, I said, unscrewing the silver thermos of Whole Milk.

It’s not that I’m opposed to “the other white milk”,  it’s just that I think we’ve been co-opted into believing that cow’s milk is bad, while alternative milk, the surest path to health salvation. (At last count there was soy, rice, almond, oat, hazelnut, coconut and hemp milk.)

To see if I was making too big a deal of this, I went to Whole Foods with a measuring tape. (As one does.) Amount of shelf space allocated to alt-milk – 80 sq. feet. Dairy milk – 20. Four times as much space for alt-milk! Granted this was a highly unscientific study conducted with a flimsy measuring device and because they are frequently replenishing the perishable dairy milk, they could be selling more than alt-milk, but still – four times!

Trends aside, what’s on the inside?

  • Soy milk contains a ton of added sugar. (Unless it’s “unsweetened”). Fruit Loops has 12g of sugar per cup – so does West Soy Organic Original*. If you’re drinking Chocolate flavor, eat a Hershey’s bar instead (24g of sugar vs. 23g in a cup of ZenSoy Chocolate.)
  • The majority of calcium is added. (There is some disagreement as to whether added calcium is as well absorbed as naturally-occurring, but I am of the belief that what’s added by a processor is never as good as what’s added by nature.)
  • Vitamins D, E and A are all added (none is naturally occurring).
  • Protein level is comparable to cow’s milk (about 8g/cup), but read the ingredients to see if soy protein isolate is added.  SPI is an extracted and highly processed form of soy protein.
  • Some brands contain flavors (both natural and artificial) as well as additives.
  • Many of the cheaper and non-organic brands use beans processed with hexane (a petroleum derivative).

Find your brand on this chart.
You might also want to look for your brand here. The Cornucopia Institute considers not the micro nutritional info, as I did, but the broader corporate practices (including the use of hexane, as referenced above).

If you drink, drink responsibly

If you’re vegan, lactose intolerant or grossed-out by the idea of humans drinking another mammal’s milk, then drink soy (or another alt-milk), but if nothing else, be aware of the sugar and choose an organic, premium priced brand.

If you need a hint of sweet, either dilute the sweetened version with unsweetened, or add a touch of honey or agave to the unsweetened  (toss it in a blender for better mixing).

Wondering about other health issues around soy?  See this post where that’s addressed.

I have a soft spot for cows and would hate to see them out of work, so until I bow to pressure, cow’s milk (the kind from my local farmer- except for those occasional times at Starbucks) is going in my coffee.

And you? Alt-milk?  Or are your loyalties with the cow.

Related Posts
Tofu: White Bread Of The Soy World?
What’s Not In Your Organic Milk That Should Be
What Children Get From Milk That You Don’t

*Cow’s milk also has 12g, making it not a low sugar product, but lactose is absorbed slightly more slowly than glucose (added to most soy milks). Moreover, the sugar in milk is naturally occurring, while the higher fat in whole milk helps slow the absorption of the sugar.

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  • highestbid

    Cow lovers :-) Really … Look at all the animal species that man gets no cirect benefit from. They are going extinct at a very high rate. If we did not monitize cows they too would disappear. And as far as all that goes how do YOU know that soybean plants dont have feelings. Latest scientiific research shows they sense their environment, communicate and in some cases seem to care for theur young. I dont mind sparing cows but let’s not pic what we save because it shares a few physical traits with humans. You dont have to have eyes to have a heart. signed People for the Ethical Treatment of Plants

  • Jacquie

    Um, cows that make our milk do so in inhumane conditions. If you’re loyal to the cows then you need to mention the conditions they work in. And they are mass produced to be slaughtered and spend their days overproducing milk for people in mass. They aren’t respected, and you definately don’t care as much you try to lead on: “I have a soft spot for cows and would hate to see them out of work, so until I bow to pressure, cow’s milk (the kind from my local farmer- except for those occasional times at Starbucks) is going in my coffee.” Cows milk is meant for cows, not humans.