Have you noticed the increasing types of milk substitutes available on the market today? Some of the major types include: soy milk, almond milk, hazelnut milk, oat milk, hemp milk and coconut milk. How do these compare nutritionally to regular milk? Why might you choose a substitute over regular milk? Today’s post aims to give you the information you need to decide which product is best for you. So here we go!
Lactose Intolerance and Dairy Allergies
The market for milk substitutes is driven by the increasing number of people who either are lactose-intolerant or have a milk allergy. Contrary to popular belief, these two things are different though it is possible for a person to have both a milk allergy and be lactose intolerant. Lactose is the natural sugar found in milk. It is present in varying amounts in all dairy products, and requires the enzyme “lactase” to be digested. Almost everyone is born with sufficient amounts of lactase to digest breast milk. Over time, our bodies slowly stop producing the enzyme, some faster than others. You may notice symptoms (gas, diarrhea, bloating, reflux, etc.) start to develop and get increasingly worse as you age because your body is producing less and less lactase enzyme. The bottom line: lactose intolerance can occur at any age and the only way to treat it is to take the lactose out of your diet or to introduce more lactase enzyme (like the product Lactaid pills). Lactose-free milk like Lactaid is similar in that they have added lactase enzyme to the milk to break down the lactose for your body. Note: Lactase enzyme pills and lactose-free milk does not completely get rid of the lactose in the product and does not relieve symptoms in all people.
A dairy allergy is different from lactose intolerant. Dairy allergies are when a person has an immune system reaction to one of the dozens of proteins present in cow’s milk. Just because a person is allergic to cow’s milk, does not mean that he or she is allergic to other types of milk like goat’s milk or breast milk.
Other Reasons Why People Choose Milk Substitutes:
Some people believe that drinking milk from animals doesn’t make a lot of sense. By nature, cow’s produce milk to help their calf’s grow into 1000 pound cows. Similarly, other animals produce milk to promote health and growth of their young. No other species on the plant consumes another animals milk like humans do. Some research also suggests that milk causes inflammation in the body, a pre-cursor to disease.
Low-fat cow’s milk is without a doubt, full of nutrients. 1 cup of 1% milk is about 100 calories, 8 grams of protein, 30% calcium, 30% Vitamin D and 10% Vitamin A. But, with the above considerations in mind, you may want to consider a substitute. So, let’s look at the nutrition breakdown of some popular substitutes. I will rank them by nutrition and taste.
How do they make these milks? Generally, the nuts, beans or grains (whatever used) are soaked in water and ground. Combined with more water and you get “milk”.
Eat Simply’s Ranking by Nutrition:
|Type of Milk||Pros||Cons|
|1. Hemp Milk||Good source of protein, omega-3 fatty acids, plant sterols and vitamins and minerals||Expensive, taste isn’t great|
|2. Almond Milk||Good, natural source of calcium and vitamin E, low-fat||Low in protein|
|3. Oat Milk||Good source of protein, low-fat||Good for those who have nut allergies, can be gluten-free|
|4. Soy Milk||Great source of protein, low-fat, good source of calcium||Almost all soybeans are genetically modified and many people have allergies/sensitivities|
|5. Hazelnut Milk||Great in coffee||Expensive, low in protein|
|6. Coconut Milk||Taste||Contains saturated fat|
|7. Rice Milk||Taste||Can be gluten-free, virtually no natural nutrition, everything is fortified|
Eat Simply’s Ranking by Taste:
1. Soy Milk (many brands available, most versatile milk)
2. Almond Milk (great in cereal, oatmeal, smoothies or coffee)
3. Hazelnut Milk (love this in coffee)
4. Coconut Milk (awesome in smoothies, coffee)
5. Oat Milk (good in cereal)
6. Rice Milk (watery, neutral taste)
7. Hemp Milk (Personally, I find this to be the worst tasting. It is very grassy)
A Personal Note:
I am both lactose intolerant and soy-sensitive. I used to drink Lactaid milk because I am a huge fan of a bowl of cereal any time of day or night, but I still had symptoms. I also hold the belief that it is not necessary for human’s to drink cow’s milk, and a primarily plant-based diet is best. So, I stock almond milk for my cereal, coconut or oat milk for my smoothies, and Hazelnut milk for my coffee and I am completely satisfied that I am getting in the nutrients I need.
People have strong feelings about milk and I appreciate that mine, is one perspective. I would love to hear how you feel as well as which milk substitutes taste best to you. Please share your comments below.