Choosing a Plant Milk? Check the Nutrition Facts Label!

By Reed Mangels, PhD, RD

Does your plant milk supply calcium, vitamin B12, and
vitamin D? Not everyone relies on plant milk to supply these nutrients;
however, plant milks are often identified as an easy way to get significant
amounts of these essentials.

     A recently
published study examined 148 different plant milks from stores in Europe,
Australia, and the United States. The plant milks from the U.S., as opposed to
those in other countries, were more likely to be fortified with calcium,
vitamin D, and vitamin B12 and for an 8-ounce serving to contain at least 20%
of the Daily
Value
for these nutrients. A food that contains at least 20% of the Daily
Value per serving for a nutrient is considered to be high in that nutrient. Of
the plant milks examined in the U.S., 87% were fortified with calcium and 82%
contained vitamin D. Surprisingly, less than half (47%) supplied vitamin B12. If
we look at the number of products that were examined in the U.S. that would be
considered to be high in a nutrient, 73% were high in calcium, 47% were high in
vitamin D, and 40% were high in vitamin B12. These results suggest that
consumers cannot assume that the plant milk they purchase is a good source of
key nutrients unless they have confirmed this by checking the Nutrition Facts
label.

     All the plant milks that were examined,
except for those based on coconut, had very little saturated fat; more than 60%
were low in sodium. More than half of the plant milks had low to moderate
amounts of added sugar. The Nutrition Facts label lists added sugar, making it
easy to select a milk with little or no added sugar.

     If you are relying on a plant milk to
supply calcium, vitamin D, and/or vitamin B12, be sure to check the Nutrition
Facts label to see if the product you plan to purchase supplies these
nutrients.

Reference:

Craig
WJ, Fresán U. International analysis of the nutritional content and a review of
health benefits of non-dairy plant-based beverages. Nutrients.
2021;13(3):842.

For
nutrition information on coconut, nut, seed, pea, grain, and soy milks, see: https://www.vrg.org/nutrition/milk_alternatives/index.htm

For VRG’s national poll on what Americans expect from a
beverage labeled as soymilk, see: https://www.vrg.org/blog/2020/10/30/what-do-american-adults-expect-from-a-beverage-labeled-soymilk-questions-asked-by-the-vegetarian-resource-group-in-a-national-poll/