When Sarita learnt that her younger daughter Priti was lactose intolerant, she was worried. Milk is, after all, considered to be an indispensable part of any growing child's diet. She could not fathom how she would balance her child's diet without it. Then she learnt about how soya milk could be a safe substitute for cow's milk. Today, soya milk is regularly consumed not just by Priti, but even by the other members of her family.
Soya milk is popular amongst people who drink it because of medical reasons or because they have ethical issues about consuming dairy milk. However, millions of people drink it not necessarily as a substitute for milk, but as a tasty and nutritious drink.
What is soya milk?
Soya milk (called soymilk in America) is made from soya beans. Essentially, it is an aqueous extract that is prepared by grinding soya beans that have been soaked in water.
The process of making soya milk was discovered in China where soya beans were originally cultivated and consumed. It was mainly used in the process of making tofu or bean curd. By 1931, calcium-fortified soya milk was being produced in America by Madison Foods in Tennessee.
What are the benefits of soya milk?
Soya milk has nutritional and ecological benefits.
Nutritionally, soya milk is quite similar to dairy milk. Following are some of the reasons why it is endorsed as a substitute to dairy milk.
- The protein content of soya milk is quite similar to that of dairy milk.
- The protein found in soya milk is vegetable in nature. Unlike animal protein found in dairy milk,
vegetable protein prevents loss of calcium through the kidneys. (Much
of the calcium in soya beans is lost during the process of extracting
the milk through the residual pulp which is discarded. However,
commercial soya milk is adequately fortified with calcium.)
- Dairy milk has saturated fats, which can lead to high cholesterol. Soya milk, on the other hand, contains very little saturated fat.
- Commercial soya milk is also fortified with vitamins such as B12. This makes soya milk a substitute for dairy milk for vegans. Vegans are people who prefer not to consume or use any products of animal origin.
- Soya milk has no lactose and can be easily digested by people who are lactose intolerant.
- Allergies due to dairy milk are quite common among children. Compared to this, very few children are allergic to soya milk. Before switching children to soya milk, however, consult their doctor.
- Soya milk
contains prebiotic sugars such as stachyose and raffinose. These play a
role in improving immunity and removing toxins in the body.
- Dairy milk may contain harmful synthetic hormones such as rBGH (recombinant bovine growth hormone) that are used to increase milk production in cattle.
- Certain studies have linked dairy milk
in childhood to the development of insulin-dependent diabetes in later
life, though this has not been conclusively proved. With soya milk there is no such risk.
- Soya milk is exceptionally rich in isoflavones such as genistein and daidzein. These confer certain health benefits such as reducing cholesterol levels, controlling osteoporosis, and reducing cancers of the prostrate and breast. Isoflavones also protect body cells from oxidation.
Apart from its nutritional benefits, widespread use of soya milk may have ecological advantages. This is because soya beans grown on an area of land can produce more soya milk than if the same amount of land is used to grow fodder for cattle. However, as the quality of land required for cultivating soya beans differs from that used to grow fodder, this is a debated issue.
How is soya milk prepared?
Though commercially made soya milk is available, it can be easily made in your kitchen. To do so:
- Take 125 gram dry soya beans and soak them in water for about 8 hours.
- You may remove the hulls to make the process of extracting the milk easier.
- Grind the soaked beans along with a small quantity of water in a grinder.
- Add about a litre of water to the resulting paste and blend.
- Strain this liquid through a cloth and collect the milk.
- Boil the milk for about 5 to 10 minutes.
- After cooling, you can either drink it as it is, or use it as a substitute for milk. It can be stored in the fridge for about three days.
Soya, though traditionally consumed in certain Asian countries, is a comparatively recent entry in the West. As such, the nutritional effects of a diet that is largely based on soya have not been conclusively studied. Some doctors recommend caution regarding excessive consumption of soya-based products.
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- The Indiaparenting Team