You make that critical life decision to go vegan. You stand in front of your refrigerator, gazing through the racks of ingredients stacked up—processed, fresh, frozen, and other kinds. Scanning through the items, the crucial question that floats in your head is, "What items do you have to bid goodbye to?". And then your eyes stop at the serene bottle of milk. "Is it time to say farewell?"
The popularity of vegan diets has swiped the food and healthcare industry in the last decade. It has gained immense recognition in an effort towards a sustainable and healthy lifestyle. More and more people are trying to understand the "vegan life" and its intricacies. With globalization, there has been an increasing variety of food in our pantry, making it difficult to segregate the vegan from the non-vegan. It could thus be a challenge to filter out the unwanted items or ingredients for vegans. More so ever, there are ongoing debates on what qualifies as a vegan?
Honey is one of the hotly debated topics apart from chocolates, ketchup, mustard, and so on. Milk, which is a crucial part that humans have been introduced to from their early years, is also under question as one decides to switch to a vegan lifestyle.
What Is Milk?
Since ancient times, humans have been practicing dairy farming and supporting their nutrition demands on animal products, one of the familiar being milk. Traditional definitions of milk are associated with the product derived from the mammary glands of milch animals (cows, goats, etc.).
Milk has been an extensive part of the human diet since early times. Milk provides nine crucial nutrients like vitamin D, calcium, potassium, and vitamin B.
It is a protein-rich product (casein and whey being the two major types) that's especially favored in growth and development. Newer food industries are reinventing the definition and identifying new processes of deriving the proteins-rich liquid: Extractions of soy and nut are also labeled as milk.
Issues With The Dairy Industry
The hallmark shift to a vegan lifestyle is rooted in the dairy and meat industry's cruelty and the realization of an ecologically sound existence. With increasing population and commercialization, manufacturers have resorted to unnatural and inhuman practices to exploit animals. It has exerted excessive psychological and physical trauma on the animals.
Separation from their loved ones, prolonged confinement, inhuman procedures like mutilation, dehorning, and artificial fertilization have raised severe alarms concerning animal rights violations. With such artificial procedures, the by-product of these cows, milk, also stages a concern for the human consumers.
Repeated injection of hormones and other elements has a high chance of making the milk toxic and unhealthy. It thus exposes us to various ailments like heart disease or diabetes.
Thus, veganism is highly advocated to minimize the trauma and environmental degradation associated with meat and animal product consumption.
Vegan Milk Vs. Vegetarian Milk
The Vegan community could be considered a subgroup of the vegetarian community. Vegetarians forbid animal meat in their diet. It means avoiding poultry and seafood. Vegans, on the other end, go a few steps further in removing all associated animal products.
Vegetarians do include milk, cheese, and butter as part of their diet. Furthermore, there are a variety of sources for milk. Goat, cow, llamas, sheep, and camels are all preferred sources to obtain milk.
Vegans, however, do not consider milk from milch animals as part of their diet as it is an animal product. While it is natural for milch animals to lactate, commercializing the same to get milk is unethical.
Thus, a variety of non-dairy alternatives have emerged for vegans. Soy milk is one of the popular options in the market. Extracted from soy, it is protein-rich and has a similar profile for the nutritional aspect of milk. Other options include coconut milk, almond milk, rice milk, oat milk, quinoa milk, hemp milk, etc. In making your ideal choice, avoid overly processed products as they have their associated risks.
Can You Give Milk To Your Baby?
A fundamental ingredient introduced to babies from their very early years is milk. Up till the age of one, mothers prefer feeding their offspring their breast milk. It is considered one of the most important sources of early nutrients and iron to support babies. It is crucial for healthy bone and brain development.
Once they reach one year, it is said that they can make their transition to cow milk as their digestive system is much evolved by then. Moreover, cow's milk is fortified with all essential vitamin D and folic acid.
Moreover, for children with lactose intolerance or otherwise, vegan alternatives like soya milk are also considered nutritionally rich, as long as it is fortified with essential components like calcium, vitamin B12, and iodine.
In general, however, these alternatives are not at par with whole cows' milk even after fortification. Thus, they could either be a part of a balanced diet for children or introduced later.
Milk has been a traditional part of human lives for centuries. From the early domestication of animals, milk from milch animals came to be utilized by humans for their consumption and thus became more or less a cultural norm. However, with increasing population and commercialization, there has been an ever-increasing pressure on the dairy industry.
Cruel treatment has alarmed many people and made them question whether "milk and associated products from animals'' is a mandatory part of our diet. It is this question that saw the dawn of the Vegan Movement. While vegetarians take dairy products as part of their diet, vegans eliminate any animal-based product, milk being one of them. While milk carries the nine crucial nutrient components, it is not the only source.
There are plant-based alternatives that have struck similar success in supplementing the nutrition requirements for adults and infants alike. With increasing research being performed to evaluate the efficacy of milk, the bottom line realization is that milk is not necessarily a mandatory part of the human diet.
It is one of the supplements that is consumed for value addition. Vegan alternatives of milk are recognized in popular options like soy, oats, almond, etc.