Milk vs Soy Milk: 7 Reasons Why Soy Milk Is Better Than Dairy

Kate Fowler wrote . . . . . . . . .

Wondering whether it’s worth ditching cow’s milk and swapping for soy milk? Find out why you should go dairy-free as we reveal why soy milk comes out into top in the milk vs soy milk battle.

There are many preconceptions about the true health benefits of soya milk, and so we wanted to break down the facts about this plant-based milk and compare it with animal-derived dairy milk.

Soya milk is not a dairy food item and it does not deliver the effects that dairy milk can have on the body. However, it is a great alternative for those who can not or do not wish to consume dairy milk.

In fact, it has been shown that one to two servings of soya milk per day can give you the same nutrients as dairy milk, and is considered a safe amount to consume.

It can seem like the surge of plant-based milk is a recent trend, but soya milk in particular has a rich and detailed history and was first recorded in the 17th century. If you’re interested in learning more, read our article on the history of plant milk.

If you’re still undecided about giving soya milk a try, read on to discover the perks of ditching dairy and choosing soya instead.

1. Nutrition

Cows’ milk and soy milk contain almost identical amounts of complete protein – around 3.5g per 100g.

But soya milk contains a lot less saturated fat than cows’ milk and no cholesterol at all.

It also contains some fibre, which dairy doesn’t, and which we need for healthy digestion.

When fortified, which most brands are, soya milk contains B12, calcium and iodine, making it a very useful source of these nutrients. It’s vital that vegans ensure their diet is supplement with B12, so soya milk is a great and easy source of vegan B12.

It’s true that cows’ milk contains more vitamin A2, zinc and folate, but these are among the easiest nutrients to get from plants, so there is no need to rely on cows’ milk for them.

2. Antibiotics

On British dairy factory farms, there are 32 cases of mastitis per 100 cows every year, a figure celebrated by the farming press as “an improvement”.

Mastitis is an infection in cows’ udders, caused by their living conditions and treatment.

It’s not the only bacterial infection prevalent on dairy farms, but all over the planet. In fact, it is one of the leading reasons for the use of antibiotics in milk-producing cows.

It is legal to sell milk containing antibiotic residues, it just cannot exceed a maximum level. Consuming products such as this can contribute to antibiotic resistance.

Whereas soya milk contains no antibiotics at all.

3. Lactose Intolerance & Allergies

Most of the world’s adult population cannot digest lactose4, the sugars found in milk.

In Black communities, lactose intolerance is around 70 per cent, and in Asian communities, it is almost 100 per cent.

People who consume dairy may suffer bloating, stomach cramps, and diarrhoea, but they may have no idea that it is the lactose that is causing these unpleasant symptoms.

There is no lactose in plants, so switching to soya milk – or any other plant milk – can alleviate the problem almost immediately.

However, it is also important to be aware that some people can have a soya allergy, with symptoms ranging from mild to severe.

4. Cancer

There have long been question marks over the role of dairy in cancer, and the evidence keeps mounting.

One study, for example, found that those with the highest intake of whole milk and lactose increased their risk for ovarian cancer, compared with those who consumed the least.

Another study revealed that drinking just one glass of dairy milk a day could increase your risk of developing breast cancer.

And a 2015 meta-analysis in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that high intakes of dairy products also increase the risk for prostate cancer.

Despite rumours that persist in online forums, evidence shows that soya does not cause cancer.The myth began some years ago when scientists conjectured that, because soya contains phytoestrogens, they would act in the same way as oestrogen, and this was concerning because most breast cancers are sensitive to oestrogen.

The headline writers went into overdrive before the facts were known. Once the research had actually been conducted, scientists found that, far from causing cancer, soya can be cancer protective, not just for breast cancer, but also for prostate cancer.

One study discovered that women who have just one cup of soya milk per day have 30 per cent less risk of developing breast cancer compared with women who have little or no soya.

Another study found that consumption of soya is associated with a 20-30 per cent reduced risk of prostate cancer.

5. Climate-Changing Emissions

Oxford University researchers analysed the climate impact of many different foods, including dairy milk and soya milk.

Largely because of the methane produced by cows, but also because of the amount of land needed, cows’ milk was found to be the far worse option, creating more than three times the emissions of soya.

Researcher Joseph Poore said that even the most sustainable dairy is worse for the planet than the least sustainable soya milk.

6. Land Use and Deforestation

Poore also examined the amount of land needed to produce 100g of protein from many different foods.

He found that dairy milk required more than 27 square metres of land, whereas soya beans required just over two square metres.

It is this disproportionate amount of land that is needed to produce animal products that drive deforestation and has such a devastating impact on wild animal populations and biodiversity.

We know that soya is implicated in deforestation, but in fact, forests tend to be razed by beef farmers, with the soya farmers only moving in later, once the cows have eaten all the vegetation.

It doesn’t make soya entirely innocent, but since just seven per cent of soya goes into human foods like tofu and soya milk, it’s not plant-based eaters who are the biggest soya consumers.

That title goes to meat-eaters, because the vast majority of soya goes into farmed animal feed, predominantly for factory-farmed chickens and pigs, but also for fish and milk-producing cows.

The UK Environment Act has even officially recognised that animal agriculture is a main cause of deforestation.

7. Water Usage

A study of the global milk supply found that 628 litres of water are needed to make just one litre of cows’ milk.

For soya milk, the figure is 28 litres, more than 22 times less. This is important because fresh water is becoming increasingly scarce and this problem will only worsen as climate breakdown progresses.

Already, two-thirds of the global population live under water scarcity, so producing dairy (and meat) is a reckless waste.

Thankfully, every kind of plant milk, including soya, analysed uses a lot less water than dairy.

Research from The Humane Society has even shown that switching to plant-based milk could save more than 300 baths of water per year.

Source: Vegan Food & Living






Healthy Dining Is Healthy for the Planet, Too

Cara Murez wrote . . . . . . . . .

Plant-based diets can be better for the environment, but they’re not all created equally, new research shows.

The best type of plant-based diet for health and environmental benefits are those higher in whole grains, fruits, vegetables, nuts, legumes, vegetable oils and tea/coffee.

Meanwhile plant-based diets high in fruit juices, sugar-sweetened beverages, refined grains, potatoes and sweets/desserts are associated with an increased risk of chronic disease and are less environmentally friendly, according to the study authors.

“The differences between plant-based diets was surprising, because they’re often portrayed as universally healthy and good for the environment, but it’s more nuanced than that,” said corresponding author Aviva Musicus. She is a postdoctoral research fellow in the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health’s department of nutrition, in Boston.

“To be clear, we’re not asserting that less healthy plant-based diets are worse for the environment than animal-based diets. However, our findings show that plant-based diets can have different health and environmental impacts,” Musicus said in a school news release.

While previous research had documented that different types of plant-based diets have various health effects, little work had been done to determine the different environmental impacts, which can include greenhouse gas emissions, use of high-quality cropland, nitrogen from fertilizer, and irrigation water.

For the study, the researchers used data from the Nurses’ Health Study II to analyze the food intake of more than 65,000 people. The team analyzed the participants’ diets both for associations with health outcomes, such as heart disease, and for environmental impacts.

The diets were scored based on whether they were higher in unhealthy refined grains, for example, or healthier whole grains.

The research team found that participants who consumed healthy plant-based diets had lower heart disease risk. Those diets were also related to lower greenhouse gas emissions and use of cropland, irrigation water and nitrogenous fertilizer compared to the unhealthy plant-based diets and to animal-based diets.

These findings also reinforced earlier studies showing that diets higher in animal-based foods, especially red and processed meat, have greater adverse environmental impacts than plant-based diets, the study authors noted.

“Because human health ultimately depends upon planetary health, future U.S. dietary guidelines should include nuanced consideration of environmental sustainability and recognize that not all plant-based diets confer the same health and environmental benefits,” according to study co-author Daniel Wang, an assistant professor in Harvard’s department of nutrition.

The findings were published online in The Lancet Planetary Health journal.

Source: HealthDay





Low Levels of Air Pollution Deadlier than Previously Thought

The World Health Organization’s most recent estimates (2016) are that over 4.2 million people die prematurely each year due to long-term exposure to fine particulate outdoor air pollution (often referred to as PM2.5,). A recent study involving McGill researchers now suggests that the annual global death toll from outdoor PM2.5 may be significantly higher than previously thought. That’s because the researchers found that mortality risk was increased even at very low levels of outdoor PM2.5, ones which had not previously been recognized as being potentially deadly. These microscopic toxins cause a range of cardiovascular and respiratory diseases and cancers.

“We found that outdoor PM2.5 may be responsible for as many as 1.5 million additional deaths around the globe each year because of effects at very-low concentrations that were not previously appreciated,” said Scott Weichenthal, an Associate Professor in the Department of Epidemiology, Biostatistics, and Occupational Health at McGill University and the lead author on the recent paper in Science Advances.

Canadian data advances global understanding of effects of outdoor pollution

The researchers arrived at this conclusion by combining health and mortality data for seven million Canadians gathered over a twenty-five-year period with information about the levels of outdoor PM2.5 concentrations across the country. Canada is a country with low levels of outdoor PM2.5, making it the perfect place to study health impacts at low concentrations. Knowledge gained in Canada was then used to update the lower end of the scale that is used to describe how mortality risk changes with outdoor PM2.5 levels. The result? An improved understanding of how air pollution impacts health on a global scale.

The WHO recently set out ambitious new guidelines for annual average outdoor fine particulate air pollution, cutting its earlier recommendations in half, from concentrations of 10 to concentrations of 5 micrograms (ug) per cubic metre. The current United States Environmental Protection Agency standard of 12 (ug) per cubic metre is now more than double the value recommended by the WHO.

“One take away is that the global health benefits of meeting the new WHO guideline are likely much larger than previously assumed,” adds Weichenthal. “The next steps are to stop focussing only on particle mass and start looking more closely at particle composition because some particles are likely more harmful than others. If we can gain a better understanding of this, it may allow us to be much more efficient in designing regulatory interventions to improve population health.”

Source: Science Daily





Breathing Polluted Air May Trigger Skipped Heartbeats in Otherwise Healthy Teens

Breathing polluted air may trigger irregular heart rhythms in otherwise healthy teens – even when pollution levels fall within standards set by the government, new research suggests.

The study found teens experienced skipped heartbeats within two hours of breathing fine particulate matter, the type of pollution that comes from car and truck exhaust or wildfires. The findings were published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

While prior research shows that breathing polluted air may cause harm to cardiovascular health in adults, researchers said this was the first study to investigate how air pollution may affect heart health in U.S. teenagers.

Though rare, irregular heart rhythms can lead to sudden cardiac death in otherwise healthy adolescents and young adults, lead author Fan He said in a news release. He is an instructor in public health sciences at the Penn State College of Medicine in Hershey, Pennsylvania.

“Our findings linking air pollution to irregular heart rhythms suggest that particulate matter may contribute to the risk of sudden cardiac death among youth,” He said. “Since childhood and adolescent cardiovascular conditions can track into adulthood and affect risk of major cardiovascular disease later in life, identifying modifiable risk factors of cardiac arrhythmia that may cause sudden cardiac death among adolescents should be of great public interest.”

Fine particulates are less than 2.5 microns in size, making them easy to inhale deep into the lungs. They also can enter the bloodstream. Once inhaled, they can irritate the lungs and blood vessels around the heart. Over time, they may contribute to cardiovascular disease.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency sets air quality standards at 35 micrograms of particulate matter per cubic feet of air per day. Average particulate matter concentrations in this study were approximately 17 micrograms per cubic foot, well below that standard.

Researchers measured exposure to fine particulate matter in the air breathed by 322 teens in central Pennsylvania for 24-hour periods between 2010 and 2013. At the same time, they measured electrocardiogram tracings for each teen’s heart rhythms using wearable devices called Holter monitors. The teens in the study were an average 17 years old, free of major cardiovascular conditions and considered at low risk for irregular heart rhythms.

The researchers looked at two types of irregular heart rhythms characterized by a premature contraction of the heart muscle, also known as a skipped heartbeat.

Premature atrial contractions, or PACs, occur when the irregular heartbeat comes from the top chamber of the heart. Usually, this doesn’t cause any harm. However, PACs have been associated with an increased risk for atrial fibrillation – a type of irregular heartbeat in which the top chambers of the heart quiver. This can lead to a higher risk for blood clots and strokes.

The other type is called a premature ventricular contraction, or PVC. These occur when the irregular heartbeat comes from the lower chambers of the heart. They can raise the risk for heart attacks, strokes, heart failure or sudden cardiac death.

When either of these irregular rhythms occur without symptoms, they are not treated. If they occur frequently, they can be treated with medication or an implantable device that makes the heart beat regularly.

In the analysis, 79% of participants had at least one irregular heart rhythm during the 24-hour study period. Within that group, 40% had PACs, 12% had PVCs and 48% had both. For each increase of 10 micrograms per cubic foot of air, there was a 5% increase in the number of PVCs within two hours of exposure. There was no association between the increase in particulate matter exposure and PACs.

“It is alarming that we were able to observe such a significant impact of air pollution on cardiac arrhythmias when the air quality remained well within the health-based standards established by the EPA,” He said. “It may suggest that adolescents who live in highly polluted areas” are at even higher risk.

Among adults, previous research shows even higher increases in PVCs due to particulate matter exposure.

The authors said reducing the number of irregular heartbeats in adolescents could reduce their risk for developing heart disease as adults.

“Protective measures, such as wearing masks and avoiding vigorous physical activities (outdoors), may be warranted on days that particulate matter concentration is high, especially during early morning rush hours,” He said.

Source: American Heart Association





Can We Save the Planet and Still Eat Meat?

Bob Holmes wrote . . . . . . . . .

As governments drag their feet in responding to climate change, many concerned people are looking for actions they can take as individuals—and eating less meat is an obvious place to start. Livestock today account for about 14.5 percent of global greenhouse gas emissions, more than all the world’s cars and trucks combined.

Those numbers are daunting already, but the situation could grow worse: Our appetite for meat is increasing. The United Nations forecasts that the world will be eating 14 percent more of it by 2030, especially as middle-income countries get wealthier. That means more demand for pasture and feed crops, more deforestation, and more climate problems. For people alarmed about climate change, giving up meat altogether can seem like the only option.

But is it? A growing body of research suggests that the world could, in fact, raise a modest amount of beef, pork, chicken, and other meat, so that anyone who wants could eat a modest portion of meat a few times a week—and do so sustainably. Indeed, it turns out that a world with some animal agriculture in it likely would have a smaller environmental footprint than an entirely vegan world. The catch is that hitting the environmental sweet spot would require big changes in the way we raise livestock—and, for most of us in the wealthy West, a diet with considerably less meat than we eat today.

“The future that sounds sustainable to me is one where we have livestock, but it’s a very different scale,” says Nicole Tichenor Blackstone, a food systems sustainability researcher at Tufts University in Boston. “I think the livestock industry’s going to have to look different.”

One big reason for meat’s outsized environmental impact is that it’s more efficient for people to eat plants directly than to feed them to livestock. Chickens need almost 2 pounds of feed to produce each pound of weight gain, pigs need 3 to 5 pounds, and cattle need 6 to 10—and a lot of that weight gain is bones, skin, and guts, not meat. As a result, about 40 percent of the world’s arable land is now used to grow animal feed, with all the attendant environmental costs related to factors such as deforestation, water use, fertilizer runoff, pesticides, and fossil fuel use.

But it’s not inevitable that livestock compete with people for crops. Ruminants—that is, grazing animals with multiple stomachs, like cattle, sheep, and goats—can digest the cellulose in grass, straw, and other fibrous plant material that humans can’t eat, converting it into animal protein that we can. And two-thirds of the world’s agricultural lands are grazing lands, many of which are too steep, arid, or marginal to be suitable for crops. “That land cannot be used for any other food-growing purpose other than the use of ruminant livestock,” says Frank Mitloehner, an animal scientist at the University of California, Davis.

Of course, those grazing lands could revert to natural forest or grassland vegetation, taking up atmospheric carbon in the process. This carbon-capturing regrowth could be a major contributor to global climate-mitigation strategies aimed at net-zero greenhouse gas emissions, researchers say. But that’s not necessarily incompatible with moderate levels of grazing. For example, some research suggests that replacing croplands with well-managed grazing lands in the southeastern U.S. captures far more carbon from the atmosphere.

Livestock can also use crop wastes such as the bran and germ left over when wheat is milled to white flour, or the soy meal left over after pressing the beans for oil. That’s a big reason why 20 percent of the U.S. dairy herd is in California’s Central Valley, where cows feed partly on wastes from fruits, nuts, and other specialty crops, Mitloehner says. Even pigs and chickens, which can’t digest cellulose, could be fed on other wastes such as fallen fruit, discarded food scraps, and insects, which most people wouldn’t eat.

The upshot is that a world entirely without meat would require about one-third more cropland—and therefore, more energy-intensive fertilizer, pesticides, and tractor fuel—to feed everyone, says Hannah van Zanten, a sustainable food systems researcher at Wageningen University in the Netherlands. But only if we’re talking about meat raised the right way, in the right amounts.

Livestock also bring other benefits. Meat provides balanced protein and other nutrients such as iron and vitamin B12 that are more difficult to get from a vegan diet, especially for poorer people who can’t always afford a variety of fresh vegetables and other nutritious foods, says Matin Qaim, an agricultural economist at the University of Bonn, Germany, who co-authored a look at the sustainability of meat consumption in the 2022 Annual Review of Resource Economics. Livestock, he notes, are the main source of wealth for many otherwise poor people in traditional pastoral cultures. And on small, mixed farms, animals that graze widely and then deposit their manure in the farmyard can help to concentrate nutrients for use as fertilizer in the family’s garden.

Moreover, many of the world’s natural grasslands have evolved in the presence of grazers, which play a key role in ecosystem function. Where those native grazers no longer dominate—think of the vanished bison from the American prairies, for example—domestic livestock can fill the same role. “Grasslands are disturbance-dependent,” says Sasha Gennet, who heads the sustainable grazing lands program for the Nature Conservancy. “Most of these systems evolved and adapted with grazing animals and fire. They can benefit from good livestock management practices. If you’re doing it right, and you’re doing it in the right places, you can have good outcomes for conservation.”

For all these reasons, some experts say, the world is better off with some meat and dairy than it would be with none at all—though clearly, a sustainable livestock system would have to be much different, and smaller, than the one we have today. But suppose we did it right? How much meat could the world eat sustainably? The answer, most studies suggest, may be enough to give meat-eaters some hope.

Interdisciplinary researcher Vaclav Smil of the University of Manitoba got the ball rolling in 2013 with a back-of-the-envelope calculation published in his book, Should We Eat Meat? Let’s assume, he reasoned, that we stop clearing forest for new pastureland, let 25 percent of existing pastures revert to forest or other natural vegetation, and feed livestock as much as possible on forage, crop residues, and other leftovers. After making those concessions to sustainability, Smil’s best guesstimate was that this “rational” meat production could yield about two-thirds as much meat as the world was producing at the time. Subsequent studies suggest that the real number might be a bit lower, but still enough to promise a significant place for meat on the world’s plate, even as the population continues to grow.

If so, there are several surprising implications. For one thing, the total amount of meat or dairy that could be produced in this way depends strongly on what else is on people’s plates, says van Zanten. If people eat a healthy, whole-grain diet, for example, they leave fewer milling residues than they would on a diet heavy in refined grains—so a world full of healthy eaters can support fewer livestock on its leftovers. And little choices matter a lot: If people get most of their cooking oil from canola, for example, they leave less nutritious meal for feed after pressing out the oil than if they get their oil from soy.

A second surprise is the nature of the meat itself. Sustainability experts typically encourage people to eat less beef and more pork and chicken, because the latter are more efficient at converting feed into animal protein. But in the “livestock on leftovers” scenario, the amount of pork and chicken that can be raised is limited by the availability of milling residues, food scraps, and other food wastes. In contrast, cattle can graze on pasture, which shifts the livestock balance back somewhat toward beef, mutton, and dairy products.

Much would have to change to make such a world possible, van Zanten notes. To maximize the flow of food wastes to pigs and chickens, for example, cities would need systems for collecting household wastes, sterilizing them, and processing them for feed. Some Asian countries are well ahead on this already. “They have this whole infrastructure ready,” van Zanten says. “In Europe, we don’t.” And much of our current animal agriculture, based on grain-fed livestock in feedlots, would have to be abandoned, causing significant economic disruption.

Moreover, people in wealthy countries would have to get used to eating less meat than they currently do. If no human-edible crops were fed to livestock, van Zanten and her colleagues calculated, the world could only produce enough meat and dairy for everyone to eat around 20 grams of animal protein per day, enough for a three-ounce piece of meat or cheese (about the size of a deck of cards) each day. By comparison, the average North American now chows down on about 70 grams of animal protein a day—well above their protein requirement—and the average European on 51.

That’s a hefty reduction in meat—but it would bring significant environmental benefits. Because livestock would no longer eat feed crops, the world would need about a quarter less cropland than it uses today. That surplus cropland could be allowed to regrow into forest or other natural habitat, benefitting both biodiversity and carbon balance.

There’s another dimension to meat’s sustainability, though. The gut microbes that let grazing animals digest grasses and other human-inedible forage release methane in the process—and methane is a potent greenhouse gas. Indeed, methane from ruminants accounts for about 40 percent of all livestock-related greenhouse gas emissions. Animal scientists are working on ways to reduce the amount of methane produced by grazers. At present, however, it remains a serious problem.

Paradoxically, raising cattle on grass—better for other dimensions of sustainability—makes this problem worse, because grass-fed cattle grow more slowly. Grass-fed Brazilian cattle, for example, take three to four years to reach slaughter weight, compared with 18 months for U.S. cattle finished on grain in feedlots. And that’s not all: Because the grain-fed animals eat less roughage, their microbes also produce less methane each day. As a result, grass-fed beef—often viewed as the greener option—actually emits more methane, says Jason Clay, senior vice president of markets for the World Wildlife Fund-U.S.

Even so, raising livestock on leftovers and marginal grazing lands not suitable for crops eliminates the need to grow feed crops, with all their associated emissions, and there will be fewer livestock overall. As a result, greenhouse gas emissions may end up lower than today. For Europe, for example, van Zanten and her colleagues compared expected emissions from livestock raised on leftovers and marginal lands against those from animals fed a conventional grain-based diet. Livestock on leftovers would produce up to 31 percent less greenhouse gas emissions than the conventional approach, they calculated.

Some sustainability experts also argue that as long as grazing herds aren’t increasing, methane may be less of a worry than previously thought. Molecule for molecule, methane contributes about 80 times more warming than carbon dioxide does in the short term. However, CO₂ persists in the atmosphere for centuries, so newly emitted CO₂ always makes the climate crisis worse by adding to the stock of CO₂ in the atmosphere. In contrast, methane lasts only a decade or so in the atmosphere. If livestock levels remain constant over the span of decades, then the rate at which old methane washes out of the atmosphere will be about equal to the rate at which new methane is emitted, so there would be no additional burden on climate, says Qaim.

But with climate experts warning that the world may be fast approaching a climate tipping point, some experts say there’s good reason to reduce meat consumption well below what’s sustainable. Completely eliminating livestock, for example, would allow some of the land now devoted to feed crops and pastures to revert to native vegetation. Over 25 to 30 years of regrowth, this would tie up enough atmospheric CO₂ to completely offset a decade’s worth of global fossil fuel emissions, Matthew Hayek, an environmental scientist at New York University, and his colleagues reported in 2020. Add to that the rapid reduction in methane no longer emitted by livestock, and the gains become even more attractive.

“We need to be moving in the opposite direction than we are now,” says Hayek. “The things that are going to do that are aggressive, experimental, bold policies—not ones that try to marginally reduce meat consumption by 20 or even 50 percent.”

Source: Slate