Non-Dairy Milk Substitutes For Vegans And The Lactose Intolerant

By:    Published: October 8, 2011

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Dairy milk or cow's milk has been a staple in the American diet for years. However, concerns over antibiotic use, an increase in greenhouse gas emissions from raising cattle, and a general interest in healthier beverages has sparked an increase in the number of dairy milk alternatives available. Below is a list of non-dairy milk substitutes with some helpful tips on the choosing the right alternative for you.

Soy Milk

Soy milk is derived from ground soy beans and is considered to be one of the healthiest non-dairy milk substitutes. It contains the same amount of protein as dairy milk but has fewer chemicals, saturated fat and cholesterol. Furthermore, soy milk has high levels of magnesium, thiamine, and dietary fiber. Research has shown that soy milk may promote good health. Consumption of soy has been associated with a lower incidence of heart disease and hormone-related cancers. Furthermore, it has been suggested that soy may ameliorate some symptoms associated with osteoarthritis and menopause.

Overall unflavored soy milk is relatively low in calories, as an eight ounce glass has 70-to-140 calories. However, flavored soy milk may contain added sweeteners and can have as many as 210 calories. Although soy milk is rich in a wide array of nutrients, it is not a good source of calcium. Therefore it is important to either consume soy milk that is fortified with calcium or ensure that your diet is enriched with foods that are high in calcium.

Almond Milk

Almond milk has been used for centuries as an alternative to dairy milk. When compared to skim milk, almond milk has fewer calories per serving and contains no cholesterol and sugar. As such, almond milk may be a good option for those trying to lower their cholesterol levels, diabetics and dieters. Moreover, almond milk is rich in calcium and vitamin D, both of which are essential nutrients that help to build healthy bones.

Almond milk is also a good source of magnesium, manganese and phosphorus. Although almond milk contains less protein than skim milk (1 gram per serving versus 7 grams), it is enriched with riboflavin, omega fatty acids and iron. In fact, almond milk contains four percent of the recommended daily intake of iron. Overall, almond milk is a healthy substitute to dairy milk, except for those that may have a nut allergy.

Coconut milk

Coconut milk is derived from coconut meat. When compared to dairy milk, coconut milk contains far more calories and fat. One serving of coconut milk contains 51 grams of saturated fat, which is 254 percent of the recommended daily allowance of saturated fat. As such, the United States Food and Drug Administration (FDA) and the World Health Organization do not advise consuming large quantities of coconut milk.

However, despite the high content of saturated fat, some studies have shown that coconut milk may actually be heart healthy. Coconut milk contains increased levels of lauric acid, a medium chain fatty acid that has been shown to increase the amount of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, while lowering the amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol. Reduced fat versions of coconut milk are available in which some of the saturated fat is removed.

Like almond milk, coconut milk contains high levels of iron, with one serving providing 22 percent of the recommended daily allowance. Furthermore, coconut milk is rich in calcium, vitamin C, and magnesium. Although coconut milk contains a number of nutrients that are beneficial to your health, it is best to consume it in moderation due to its high content of saturated fat.

Rice Milk

Rice milk is a type of grain milk that is made from brown rice. Unlike dairy milk, rice milk is not a significant source of protein or calcium. However, many brands of rice milk are fortified with calcium as well as vitamin B12, vitamin B3 and iron. Overall, rice milk is a significant source of carbohydrates whereas dairy milk is a significant source of protein. Rice milk is a good option for those that are lactose intolerant, allergic to soy, or have a nut allergy.

Oat Milk

Oat milk may not be an obvious choice for this list of non-dairy milk substitutes, but it does offer some beneficial health effects. Unlike dairy milk, oat milk is a significant source of fiber, which helps to bolster healthy digestion, regulate cholesterols levels, and promotes a feeling of fullness. Additionally, oat milk is high in protein and potassium, providing 16 grams and 350 milligrams for every 100 grams of oat milk respectively.

However, oat milk is also a significant source of calories and fat. It contains approximately five times more calories and 30 times more fat than dairy milk. As such, oat milk may not be a good alternative for those who are trying to reduce their fat and caloric intake.

Lactose Free Milk

Lactose free milk is a good alternative for those who are lactose intolerant. Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose, a sugar found in dairy milk. It is caused when the small intestine does not make enough of lactase, the enzyme required to degrade lactose. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include abdominal pain, bloating and nausea. Lactose free milk is dairy milk supplemented with the enzyme lactase. Therefore, like dairy milk, lactose free milk is a good source of calcium and protein.

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