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Which type of milk is best for you? - Jonathan J. O'Sullivan and Grace E. Cunningham

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    If you go to the store in search of milk,
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    there are a dizzying number
    of products to choose from.
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    There’s dairy milk,
    but also plant-based products.
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    To turn a plant into something
    resembling milk,
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    it must be either soaked, drained,
    rinsed, and milled into a thick paste,
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    or dried, and milled into flour.
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    The plant paste or flour is then
    fortified with vitamins and minerals,
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    flavoured, and diluted with water.
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    The result is a barrage of options
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    that share many of the qualities
    of animal milk.
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    So which milk is actually best for you?
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    Let’s dive into some of the most
    popular milks:
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    dairy, almond, soy, or oat?
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    A 250 ml glass of cow’s milk contains
    8 grams of protein,
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    12 grams of carbohydrates,
    and 2 to 8 grams of fat
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    depending on if it’s skim,
    reduced fat, or whole.
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    That’s approximately 15%
    the daily protein an average adult needs,
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    roughly 10% the carbohydrates
    and 2 to 15% the fat.
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    Most plant-based milks have
    less carbohydrates than dairy milk.
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    They also have less fat, but more
    of what’s often called “good fats.”
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    Meanwhile, the healthy nutrients
    vitamin D and calcium found in dairy milk
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    don’t occur naturally
    in most plant-based milks.
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    Looking more closely
    at our plant-based milks,
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    both almond and oat are low
    in protein compared to dairy.
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    But while almond milk has the least
    nutrients of the four,
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    oat milk is full of beta-glucans,
    a healthy type of fibre.
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    It also has a lot of carbohydrates
    compared to other plant milks—
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    sometimes as much as dairy milk.
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    Soy milk, meanwhile,
    has as much protein as cow’s milk
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    and is also a great source
    of potassium.
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    Soybeans contain isoflavone,
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    which people used to think
    might trigger hormonal imbalances
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    by mimicking the function of estrogen.
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    But ultimately, soy milk contains
    very small amounts of isoflavones,
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    which have a much weaker effect
    on our bodies than estrogen.
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    Depending on individual circumstances,
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    one of these milks may be
    the clear winner:
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    if you’re lactose intolerant,
    then the plant-based milks pull ahead,
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    while if you’re allergic to nuts,
    almond milk is out.
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    For people who don’t have access
    to a wide and varied diet,
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    dairy milk can be the most efficient
    way to get these nutrients.
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    But all else being equal,
    any one of these four milks
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    is nutritious enough to be part
    of a balanced diet.
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    That’s why for many people,
    the milk that’s best for you
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    is actually the milk
    that’s best for the planet.
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    So which uses the fewest resources
    and produces the least pollution?
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    It takes almost 4 square kilometers
    to produce just one glass of cow’s milk,
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    land use that drives deforestation
    and habitat destruction.
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    Most of that is land the cows live on,
    and some is used to grow their feed.
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    Many cows eat soy beans and oats.
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    It takes much less land to grow
    the oats or soybeans for milk
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    than it does to feed a dairy cow—
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    only about a quarter square kilometer
    per glass.
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    Almond milk has similar land use.
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    But where that land is also matters—
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    soybean farms are a major driver
    of deforestation,
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    while oat and almond farms aren’t.
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    Making milk uses water
    every step of the way,
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    but it’s the farming stage
    where big differences emerge.
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    Dairy milk uses the most water—
    about 120 liters per glass,
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    mostly to water cows
    and grow their food.
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    Almonds take second place, at more
    than 70 liters of water per glass.
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    Most of that water is used to grow
    almond trees,
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    which take years of watering before
    they start producing almonds.
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    The trees must be watered consistently,
    or they die,
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    while many other crops can be
    left fallow and still produce later.
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    All told, soy and oats require less
    water to grow:
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    only about 5 to 10 liters
    per glass of milk.
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    Milk production generates some
    greenhouse gas emissions—
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    about 0.1 to 0.2 kilograms per glass
    for the plant-based milks.
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    But for dairy milk, the cows themselves
    also produce emissions
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    by burping and farting out large
    quantities of the gas methane.
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    Overall, each glass of dairy milk
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    contributes over half a kilogram
    of greenhouse gas emissions.
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    So while depending on your dietary
    needs,
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    any one of these milks may be a good
    fit, in terms of the health of our planet
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    there’s a strong case for choosing
    plant-based milks,
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    particularly oat or soy milk.
Title:
Which type of milk is best for you? - Jonathan J. O'Sullivan and Grace E. Cunningham
Speaker:
Jonathan J. O'Sullivan and Grace E. Cunningham
Description:

View full lesson: https://ed.ted.com/lessons/which-type-of-milk-is-best-for-you-jonathan-j-o-sullivan-grace-e-cunningham

If you go to the store in search of milk, there are a dizzying number of products to choose from. There's dairy milk, but also plant-based products such as almond, soy, and oat milks. So which milk is actually best for you? And which uses the fewest resources and produces the least pollution? Jonathan J. O'Sullivan and Grace E. Cunningham dive into some of the most popular milks to find out.

Lesson by Jonathan J. O'Sullivan and Grace E. Cunningham, directed by Anton Bogaty.

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Video Language:
English
Team:
TED
Project:
TED-Ed
Duration:
05:05

English subtitles

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