An Overview on Nutritional Aspects of Plant-Based Beverages Used as Substitutes for Cow's Milk

Nutrients. 2021 Jul 30;13(8):2650. doi: 10.3390/nu13082650.


The presence of milk in meals and products consumed daily is common and at the same time the adoption of a milk-free diet increases due to milk allergy, lactose intolerance, vegan diets, and others. Therefore, there is an increasing demand for plant-based beverages, which present variable and, sometimes, unknown nutritional characteristics. This study sought to compare the nutritional aspects of plant-based beverages used as substitutes for cow's milk described in scientific studies. Therefore, we used a review of the scientific literature on PubMed, Google Scholar, Scopus, Web of Science, Google Patents, Embase, and ScienceDirect databases. The inclusion criteria were scientific studies referring to plant-based beverage used as an alternative to cow's milk; published in the English language; present data on the serving size, ingredients, and nutritional composition, containing at least data on energy and macronutrients of plant-based beverages. Ingredients and data on energy, macronutrients, and, if available, dietary fiber and some micronutrients of plant-based beverages were collected. Data were obtained from 122 beverages of 22 different matrices, with soy being the most used (27.87%, n = 34). The variation in the amount of nutrients found was 6-183 Kcal/100 mL for energy value; 0.00-22.29 g/100 mL for carbohydrate; 0.06-12.43 g/100 mL for protein; 0.00-19.00 g/100 mL for lipid; 0.00-4.40 g/100 mL for dietary fiber; 0.00-1252.94 mg/100 mL for calcium; 0.04-1.40 mg/100 mL for iron; 0.84-10,178.60 mg/100 mL for magnesium; 0.00-343.43 mg/100 mL for sodium. Salt was the most commonly found added ingredient in plant-based beverages. Some beverages have reached certain amounts of cow's milk nutrients. However, studies have pointed out differences in their qualities/types. Thus, attention is needed when replacing milk with these alternatives.

Keywords: added ingredients; dietary fiber; energy; macronutrients; micronutrients; nutritional compositional; plant-based beverage.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Beverages*
  • Cattle
  • Databases, Factual
  • Dietary Fiber
  • Humans
  • Lactose Intolerance
  • Micronutrients
  • Milk Hypersensitivity
  • Milk Substitutes*
  • Milk*
  • Nutrients
  • Nutritive Value*


  • Dietary Fiber
  • Micronutrients