Vegetable drinks


The range and variety of plant-based drinks such as soya, rice and almond drinks is constantly increasing. The reasons for choosing these products vary. Be it for health or ethical reasons, but also due to flavour preferences or environmental aspects.

Cereals, pulses and nuts, among other things, are processed in certain manufacturing processes. These can resemble milk both visually and in terms of their possible uses. The addition of oil (often sunflower oil) can increase the creaminess of the drinks and intensify the "milky" colour. Although plant-based drinks are often referred to as "milk" in everyday use, this term is clearly defined from a legal perspective. The correct food law term for drinks made from soya beans, oats, almonds etc. is "beverage" or "drink".


The nutritional composition of plant-based drinks varies depending on the recipe and depends on the type of raw materials used (oats, almonds, rice, soya, etc.), the addition of sugar or other sweetening ingredients and the fortification with vitamins and minerals, among other things.

  • On average, nut-based plant drinks are lower in calories than cereal and legume-based plant drinks
  • Cereal-based drinks, such as rice, oat, millet and spelt drinks, taste sweet without added sugar. This is due to the fermentation process during the manufacturing process. For this reason, the packaging contains information such as "naturally contains sugar" or "no added sugar". However, these drinks can often contain more sugar on average than nut and legume-based drinks. In principle, plant-based drinks can naturally contain as much sugar as products with added sugar or other sweetening ingredients (e.g. agave syrup, maple syrup, rice syrup)
  • On average, soya drinks contain more protein than other plant-based drinks
  • Nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, vitamin B12, vitamin B2 and vitamin E may be added. According to a recent survey, vitamins and/or minerals are added to around a third of the plant drinks analysed. Whether minerals and vitamins have been added or how high the sugar content is can be recognised on the label (nutrition declaration, list of ingredients)

Comparison of plant drinks and cow's milk

Cow's milk and plant-based drinks differ in their nutrient composition. Depending on the raw materials used, plant-based drinks can have higher or lower levels of energy and macronutrients compared to cow's milk. Some plant-based drinks, for example, are higher in energy than cow's milk. The fat content of plant-based drinks is generally comparable to that of cow's milk (as there are also different fat contents in cow's milk). The sugar content is also higher in many plant-based drinks.

Soya drinks are most similar to cow's milk in terms of protein content; other plant drinks contain less protein on average. It should also be noted that vegetable protein is of lower quality (usability) compared to animal protein. Plant-based drinks with added calcium, vitamin B12 and/or vitamin B2 contain approximately the same amount as cow's milk. However, due to the different nutrient composition, plant drinks are not a complete substitute for cow's milk. If you consume plant-based products (e.g. soya drinks) instead of milk or yoghurt, you should opt for unsweetened products with added calcium and vitamin B12.

Comparison of nutritional values: vitamins and minerals

Vitamin/mineral Plant-based drinks Cow's milk 3.5 % fat*
Calcium mg/100 ml if fortified: 120 120
Vitamin D µg/100 ml if fortified: 0.75 - 1.5 0,1
Vitamin B12 µg/100 ml if fortified: 0.38 0,4
Vitamin B2 µg/100 ml if fortified: 0.21 0,2
Vitamin E mg/100 ml if fortified: 1.8 0,1

*Nutritional values: dato Denkwerkzeuge (2023). nut.s science (v1.33.18)[Software]. dato Denkwerkzeuge.

Beverage average energy content (kcal/100 ml)
Cow's milk 3.5 % fat* 65
Cow's milk, low-fat* 47
Natural plant drink based on cereals 47
Natural plant drink based on pulses 39
Natural plant drink based on nuts 28

*Nutritional values: dato Denkwerkzeuge (2023). nut.s science (v1.33.18)[Software]. dato Denkwerkzeuge.


If you prefer plant-based drinks instead of cow's milk, make sure that

  • the drink is unsweetened or has a low sugar content
  • vitamin B12 and calcium have been added
  • the raw materials come at least from Europe (ideally from Austria)
  • use rice drinks more sparingly due to the possible arsenic content (better not at all for children)

Important to know:

  • Plant drinks are not a substitute for breast milk or infant formula
  • Although nut-based drinks have an intense flavour, they usually come from far away

Last updated: 22.03.2024

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