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NUTRITION

Great health & mkt potential for vegan milk; Products being developed
Friday, 04 January, 2019, 08 : 00 AM [IST]
Dr Preeti Birwal
Milk is a well known source of almost all the nutrients since millennium and whenever milk is mentioned, it is assumed that it has been obtained from animal sources.

India is the largest producer of milk in the world. There are unlimited significant health benefits reported from animal milk. But with the change in lifestyle, eating habits, level of physical work from individual, digestion of milk is becoming a big problem. Also, many factors for commercial production of milk are not acceptable.

Though animal milk is an excellent source of minerals, protein and fat, today’s generation is preferring vegan milk. For many people, it is a matter of ethics where they are concerned with environmental and animal health issues, while for many it is just the health which is the driving source.

Vegan milk is the milk obtained from non-dairy sources like beans, vegetables and seeds and other plant sources. There are many reasons why people are preferring vegan milk to animal milk. One of the reasons includes the fact that nowadays many farmhouse owners are practicing harsh techniques for increasing production of milk. Conditions for animal are not very hygienic as the space of movement is less with an agenda of containment of large number of animals.

Further, farm people are sending animals, which are not healthy or contributing insignificantly, for slaughtering. Lactose intolerance is also one of the major reasons for large number of population. According to scientific reports, animal milk sometimes causes congestion, acne, digestive problem. Problems like methane production, cholesterol, allergies are also playing considerable role in preferring vegan milk to animal milk.

Now, coming to vegan milk, nutrition-wise there is no surprise that it is one of the rich sources of all kinds of essentials. Vegan milk of some sources is incredibly nutritious. All vitamins, especially vitamin D, are present in significant quantity. Vegan milk is also rich source of protein, for example soy milk. Protein is also present in almond and coconut milk but in very small proportion. Different brands and types of vegan milk is available in the market.

Soy Milk
Soy milk is widely available in Indian and worldwide markets. Soy milk is healthy, cheap, easy to produce and also a rich source of protein with no cholesterol properties. Soy milk can be used in confectionery, baking and cooking. Tofu is the best example of utilisation of soy milk.

Many reports on phytochemicals and soy milk-based products in particular for prevention of specific cancer are highlighted. Soy-based diets help in reducing the blood pressure. In one study conducted, the researcher fed 500 ml of soy milk and cow milk to 40 men and women with disease of hypertension.

The study was authenticated by majoring the urinary isoflavonoids (measured by HPLC). After three months of soy milk consumption, systolic blood pressure decreased by 18.4 ± 10.7 mmHg compared with 1.4 ± 7.2 mmHg in the cow's milk group (P < 0.0001) also the diastolic blood pressure decreased by 15.9 ± 9.8 mmHg compared to 3.7 ± 5.0 mmHg in the cow's milk group (P < 0.0001).

The study concluded that soy milk consumption had a significant effect on hypertensive disease. Many products are available in the market and one of the earliest products was soy milk-based yogurt, which was prepared using activated carbon treated soy milk containing 3-5% (w/w) with supplement of whey protein concentrate (WPC) followed by fermentation with traditional yoghurt bacteria. The yoghurt was comparable with milk-based yoghurt in many aspects but, the flavour of milk  yoghurt was not there.

Rice Milk
Rice milk is obtained from crushing of rice and it is translucent in appearance. Rice milk is little sweet in nature and mainly used in dessert and confectionery. It is also used for cooking purpose. Compared to soy milk, rice milk is having less protein content. One study indicates that being a bad resource of protein the consumption of rice milk with total replacement of animal milk could cause poor weight gain and hypoalbuminemia. Careful guidance is required.

Almond Milk
Almond milk is another potential candidate of vegan milk. Almond milk is creamier in nature. This milk is having its own nutty flavour. For dessert, confectionery and flavours-based drinks are being manufactured in the industry. One scientific study presents that the almond milk may be an efficacious substitute of cow milk in infants with cow-milk allergy/intolerance (CMA/CMI).  This could be beneficial contribution which was observed in CMI-/CMA-affected infants.

Many products can be developed from almond milk and one of the products already developed is fermentation-based. Almond milk was fermented with probiotic Lactobacillus reuteri and Streptococcus thermophilus and subjected to physico-chemical characterisation. Positive results with high probiotic population (>107 cfu/mL) were obtained. Glucose was used as the main nutrient and the production of mannitol by L. reuteri was detected. The probiotic bacteria are already well documented for all the health benefits and combining the almond milk definitely could give health enhancing potential benefits.

Market of Vegan Milk
According to reports, the demand for vegan milk is continuously increasing (Janssen et al., 2016). With forecasting of problems associated with dairy milk, industries are gearing up for better and newer products. But it has been argued worldwide that marketing of plant-based milk will always be associated with a set of complexities.

While not much research has been done on the marketing of substitutes, potential market in baking like breads, cakes, cookies, muffins, puddings and desserts is being observed. A part of water and milk replacement with vegan milk in cereals, oatmeal and beverages is having great opportunity to penetrate in the market.

Conclusion
Great health and market potential is there for vegan milk. Lot of new products development, utilisation of vegan milk in all kinds of food and dairy processing could be a great area of research. Over come with combining the vegan milk with protein rich source. Fortification is one of the important ideas.

(The author is assistant professor, school of engineering and technology, Jain University. She can be contacted at preetibirwal@gmail.com)
 
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