Hello everyone! I hope you had a great Thanksgiving. The inspiration for today’s post all started with a cake. The day after Thanksgiving, my family and I celebrated my dad’s birthday. For dessert, my mom got this incredible vegan chocolate cake, and I’ll tell you, it was pretty incredible. Without using milk, eggs, or any other sort of animal product, the makers of the dessert had more or less entirely replicated its non-vegan counterpart. The frosting had still had a rich, sort of buttery consistency, and the perfectly moist cake had a great texture as well. I honestly couldn’t tell the difference…
A while back I wrote a post on oat milk and how it had really become a solid substitute for animal milk. After tasting it, I immediately began to wonder how in the world a drink made mainly out of oats had become so much like animal milk. That same feeling popped up as I chewed on the chocolate cake. I knew that vegan foods likely went through at least some processing, but to what extent, I had no idea. As someone who had been eating foods with animal products for a long time, I had suspected that it would be pretty hard to trick my pallet and my brain into thinking that foods without these ingredients could taste the same as the ones with them. It turns out, I was right. Because a trying to go vegan is a big change, our taste buds will naturally be comparing these new, “fake” foods to the ones that we’ve been eating for years. Any differences or any irregularities will certainly be noted, so while a company might do a good job of replicating the taste of a certain animal product, they might fail to completely satisfy the consumer if they don’t do a good job of replicating other parts like the fat, or the blood (the “juice” in meats). My dad told me once, jokingly, that if I look at the ingredients list on a product and don’t know what some of them are or can’t even pronounce some of the names, then it might not be the healthiest food. I did some research and sure enough, I found out that the meat engineers at Impossible Foods use an ingredient made from soybeans called leghemoglobin to serve as the “blood”. Now, I’m sure that leghemoglobin isn’t like a super bad ingredient (after all, lots of people eat the impossible burger nowadays), but after reading up on it, it makes me question the true nutrition in some of these vegan foods. It’s very hard to recreate some of our most consumed products without the use of animal products, but given that once accomplished, creators will most likely be met with an influx of customers, one could imagine the lengths that companies will go to produce such a food. In a rapid market full of promising businesses trying to do exactly this, the ingredients that go into these “fake” foods may not matter as much compared to just getting something out there to sell.
Going back to something I said more at the beginning, let’s take a look at Oatly, more or less considered America’s #1 oat milk brand. Simply put, Oatly has its pros and its cons. It tastes absolutely delicious with its silky, smooth texture, and that allows it to also substitute into many dishes/drinks that require normal milk (Starbucks uses it regularly). Many think of it as the closest thing to animal milk there is, in fact. On the flip side, however, studies have shown that Oatly is actually not as nutritious or healthy as we think. First, compared to other plant based milks such as almond milk, Oatly has more calories, fat, and carbs. These extra carbs, also mean, unfortunately, extra sugar, which is a big problem for a lot of people. In addition, oat milk brands in general have been discovered to contain less protein, calcium, and certain vitamins. Secondly, we have the problem that is oil. Oil is often added to vegan drinks in general to improve the texture as well as act as a fat. As you may imagine, the latter of those two statements is where all the debate is. Fat, especially trans fat, in large consistent/large amounts can have long lasting health effects on a person (heart related issues). Canola/rapeseed oil, something that often contains these trans-fats, is what is added to Oatly. To clarify, these oils are made through plants that have gone through artificial breeding, which may be where the problem resides. Technically, there is a difference between canola and rapeseed in that the latter contains more trans-fat, but since both labels are used interchangeably, they’re more or less the same. The fact that canola/rapeseed oil contains trans-fat combined with the fact that they are not as natural of oils compared to other types is definitely concerning to some people. At the end of the day, Oatly is a great drink, especially at this stage in the vegan foods industry, but it’s definitely not perfect, or as healthy as you might think it is.
To sum things up, when it comes to vegan alternatives, we are often going to have to choose between nutrition and taste. And this is a tough decision, especially for those who went vegan just for health reasons. I respect all vegans, and I wouldn’t want to be telling you what to eat, but since this dilemma likely won’t be completely gone for a while, I guess I’m just encouraging everyone to pay a little more attention to what they’re eating, and more so, what goes into what they’re eating. It really can’t hurt. These substitutes are absolutely phenomenal, there’s no doubting that. It’s just that, they can be tricky at times… they’re a mystery.
Here is the link to a new brand of oat milk called NotCo. It was introduced to us by our friend Uncle Dave. NotCo oatmilk may not taste as good as Oatly, but it doesn’t contain canola/rapeseed oil, which is a big positive for lots of switching consumers. Check it out!