It seems almost all plant-based foods are turned into “milk” these days, the latest being potato milk.
It is not surprising that the potato was chosen to be the last vegetable milk. After all, potatoes have many health benefits as they are packed with important vitamins and nutrients. But how do they compare to other popular plant milks?
No matter the type of plant milk, they contain only a fraction of the ingredient from which they are derived. For example, only 10% of the volume of a carton of rice or oat milk comes from these grains. Soy drinks contain between 5% and 8% of the actual soybean, and almond milks contain as little as 2% of the actual nut. Since coconut uses the cream or milk of the fruit, it contains between 5% and 13%, depending on the creaminess of the product. And based on today’s potato milk products, a liter carton only contains about 60g of a real potato – a small potato.
The problem is that these milks now contain far fewer vitamins and nutrients than the raw material. This can make them less nutritious than they would be if you ate the whole ingredient.
Take protein, for example. Ingredients like almonds are naturally great sources of protein with over 20g of protein per 100g of almonds.
But after processing, 100 milliliters of almond milk contains only about one gram of protein. This is actually the same amount of protein you’ll find in the same amount of oat milk, although oats contain much less protein (13.5g per 100g).
Soy milk is better because it contains more soybeans than almond milk. In fact, soy milk provides about 3-3.5g of protein per 100ml. That’s about as much protein as you get in the same amount of cow’s milk. And like cow’s milk, soy milk contains essential amino acids that our bodies are unable to produce naturally. Amino acids are important because they keep our bodies functioning properly, for example by helping our muscles to keep moving.
Potatoes are already low in protein. This means that after processing, potato milk contains about as much protein as coconut and rice milk – less than 0.5g of protein per 100ml. But some brands of potato milk supplement with pea protein, so a 100ml serving contains around 1.3g of protein.
So if you choose your plant-based milk for its protein content, it may be better to stick with soy or almond milk rather than potato milk.
Like cow’s milk, plant-based milks can also contain added sugars. We are encouraged to limit our intake of added sugar to No more more than five to six teaspoons a day. In fact, eating too much sugar is linked to an increased risk of obesity as well as tooth decay. But since many products sell both sweetened and unsweetened versions, it’s easier for someone to buy a product that doesn’t contain sugar.
Sweet potato milk contains about 1.8 g of sugar per 100 ml. This is a little less than other vegetable milks which contain around 2 to 3.5 g of added sugar per 100 ml. So in this category, potato milk comes out on top. Although some plant milks use natural fruit sugars, these are still considered added sugars and should be limited.
Since potatoes are naturally low in fat, potato milk would have a texture closer to water. That’s why extra fat is added to it. A similar thing is made with rice and oat milk, where oil (like sunflower oil) is added. This increases the fat content to approach semi-skimmed milk (about 1.5g per 100ml). For potato milk, rapeseed oil is added. Almond and soy already tend to contain fat, so no extra oil is added.
This means that compared to other plant milks, potato milk is higher in monounsaturated fats, which are considered better for your heart. They are also lower in saturated fat than cow’s milk, which is considered less healthy for our hearts.
A “barista version” of milk alternatives must contain a combination of protein and fat for the milk to froth, so add a little more fat.
When it comes to vitamins and minerals, many plant-based milks contain them, because they just don’t contain as much as cow’s milk.
Vitamins like riboflavin, B12 and D alongside calcium are added to potato milks. The same goes for other plant-based milks – although organic versions may not contain added vitamins, often due to organic food rules and trying to keep the label free of additives.
As many of us struggle to get enough vitamin D – which is essential for bone and immune system health – and many vegans and vegetarians may have low levels of B12 (which is necessary to keep our blood cells and nerves healthy) opting for milk alternatives with these added vitamins and minerals can be a good idea.
Potato milk is another option for those who want an alternative to cow’s milk or other plant milks, or those looking for a more environmentally friendly dairy product. Nutritionally, it may not contain the protein of soy milk, but many products are fortified, so they still contain important vitamins and minerals.
But since it contains several refined ingredients, such as oils and protein isolates (proteins extracted from food), it can technically count as a ultra-processed foods. There are some concerns about ultra-processed foods, which have been linked to chronic disease – so it remains to be seen whether potato milk poses similar risks.