Lactose Intolerance Has Milk Alternatives Hitting Grocery Store Shelves

Over the past 5 years, a sizable collection of non-dairy milk alternatives have cropped up on grocery store shelves to compete with cow’s milk. As a result, it’s even easier for vegans and the lactose-Milk Substitutes - Barnes-Jewish Hospitalintolerant to have milk with their cereal in the morning.

If you’re shopping for a milk substitute, it helps to understand the differences between one choice and another. Use our quick cheat sheet to help guide your milk-alternative buying decisions and make the best choice for your needs.

Soy Milk

Soy milk is a plant-based milk made by soaking dry soybeans and grinding them together with water. It has a thicker, richer texture than cow’s milk. Both soy milk and cow’s milk contain similar amounts of protein, making the soy-based product a good replacement for animal proteins in some diets. When compared to all other milk substitutes, soy milk’s nutrition profile is the closest to cow’s milk and is the most common and popular choice for people seeking non-dairy substitutes.

Pros
• Has little saturated fat and no cholesterol, making it a heart-healthy drink
• Has essential fatty acids that are believed to lower “bad” cholesterol in the body
• Is easy to find in grocery stores
• Has 7 to 10 grams of protein, depending on brand, per one-cup serving; cow’s milk has 8 grams

Cons
• Has high sugar content (similar to cow’s milk)
• Provides less than one third of the calcium of cow’s milk
• Not a good choice for those with soy allergies
• Flavored soy milks can be loaded with sweeteners and calories

Almond Milk

Made from ground almonds and filtered water, almond milk has a creamy consistency similar to soy milk. It also can have a nuttier taste making it a great option for cooking.

Pros
• Is rich in nutrients, including fiber, vitamin E, magnesium, zinc, potassium, iron, copper and calcium
• Is gluten- and cholesterol-free
• Per serving, has fewer calories than cow or soy milk, meaning it’s generally lower in fat and sugar

Cons
• Not a good choice for those with nut allergies
• Flavored almond milks can be loaded with added sweeteners and calories
• Not a significant source of protein

Rice Milk

An unsweetened grain-based milk, rice milk is the best milk alternative for those with soy and nut allergies. Rice milk can be harder to find in grocery stores, but, when available, comes in a number of flavors. It’s one of the better substitutes for use in cooking or baking.

Pros
• Most hypoallergenic milk alternative because it’s free of soy, gluten and nuts
• Low in fat and generally has a neutral flavor
• Has a more watery texture, which makes it good for baking

Cons
• Contains more carbohydrates than cow’s milk and doesn’t offer a lot of additional nutrition
• Contains no protein and little calcium

Newer Non-Dairy Alternatives

As consumer’s demand for milk substitutes grows, so do the number of available non-dairy alternatives. Following is a short list of milk alternatives that are gaining in popularity. In addition to these, look for oat, hazelnut and flax milks to make their way to the market soon.

Hemp Milk
Made from hemp seeds that are soaked and ground into water, hemp milk is a creamy, nutty-flavored beverage. It’s low in sodium and rich in nutrients, including magnesium, beta-carotene, calcium, fiber, iron, potassium and phosphorus. It also contains a relatively high fat content and is harder to find in most traditional grocery stores. Hemp milk has about half the protein as cow’s milk, but much more than rice or almond milk. It’s not a significant source of calcium. This is another good alternative for those allergic to soy, nuts and gluten, however it does have a distinctive flavor that sets it apart from the other alternatives available.

Coconut Milk
Made with grated coconut fiber and mixed with water, this alternative is similar to cow’s milk in texture and consistency. It’s free of soy and gluten, and contains a significant level of nutrients. However, coconut milk contains almost four times the calories of cow’s milk and has a high concentration of saturated fat per serving. Its protein level, like hemp milk, is about half the amount found in cow’s milk and offers very little calcium to the consumer.

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Category: Nutrition

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Barnes-Jewish Hospital at Washington University Medical Center is the largest hospital in Missouri and the largest private employer in the St. Louis region. An affiliated teaching hospital of Washington University School of Medicine, Barnes-Jewish Hospital has a 1,800 member medical staff with many who are recognized as "Best Doctors in America." They are supported by residents, interns and fellows, in addition to nurses, technicians and other health-care professionals.

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