Editor: Dominique Beaumont
Design: MODE Studio
There has been a great debate in recent years about the health benefits or otherwise of dairy milk. And with greater awareness of how the milk is produced there has been a growing level of sensitivity about the welfare of the cows themselves. But milk plays a major part of our diet so what’s to be done?
It seems that more and more people are discovering that they are lactose intolerant. The likelihood is that in the past a larger portion of the lactose intolerant public just did not know that they were suffering from it. The symptoms probably just got accepted as part of a general ailment such as hay fever, the cold, or regular migraines.
Whole communities, such as people from west sub-Saharan Africa are clearly known to be lactose intolerant because fresh dairy does not form a substantial part of their diet. In Europe, dairy forms a much higher part of the population’s diet, and yet even there, there are those that have suffered and continue to suffer from the upset stomach and other issues that soon follow once they consume dairy milk, or more specifically, cow milk.
The United States produces over 217 billion pounds of dairy milk each year. This milk is used in restaurants, coffee shops, and for home cooking and consumption as well as for industrial food manufacturing.
Dairy milk costs less than non-dairy and is dense with nutrients like vitamin D, potassium, and calcium. Dairy has 8 grams of protein per glass but non-dairy usually has around 1 gram. Also dairy milk has 103 calories per cup. Dairy milk has lactose which gives it a sweet taste. Non-dairy milk usually has added sugar or sugar equivalents to obtain the same level of sweetness. But over the last decade or so, as the healthy eating industry has exploded, the non-dairy milk sector in particular has grown at probably even a faster rate.
So what is the problem with dairy? We are born with the ability to digest the lactose of human breast milk. Lactose is a form of sugar that is digested in the small intestine with the help of an enzyme called lactase. So babies naturally produce lactase for this digestion. Lactose is broken down by lactase into the monosaccharides galactose and glucose so that they can be absorbed by the body. Galactose is moved to the liver which then turns it to glucose. Glucose is of course used for energy production in the body.
Humans, like most mammals, do not suckle on their mothers forever. After the baby is weaned and no longer drinks milk from the mother, lactase production begins to drastically reduce. The reduction in lactase production continues with age and in some populations the reduction is so much that the adults are no longer able to digest lactose. Symptoms for those that become lactose intolerant include cramps, diarrhea, and bloating. Some people actually have an allergy to lactose rather than an intolerance caused by inability to digest it. Luckily there are now a growing range of tasty alternatives to dairy milk.
Alternatives to Dairy Milk
Lower in calories than cow milk at 30-45 calories and 2 grams of fat per cup. Almond milk is high in Vitamin E and is popular for cooking and use in coffee. Of course if you are allergic to nuts you will want to stay away from this one.
Like almond milk, cashew milk is also known to have lots of vitamin E and has approximately 30 calories per cut. However, this milk is not a noticeable source of protein.
Coconut milk is low in carbs and high in fat at about 4grams per cup. It is often used in the kitchen for Eastern dishes such as curries and overall is a very versatile and well-loved milk. Another advantage of this is that it is a good alternative for those that are allergic to nuts.
Hemp milk has 7 grams of fat and is about 80 calories per cup. It also has lots of omega-3 fatty acids and has an earthy and nutty flavour. And don’t worry, you are not likely to be getting high on Hemp milk since the cannabinoids is in lower concentrations than the marijuana strains of the Cannabis sativa plant. In any case, most of the cannabinoids is concentrated in the flowers and not the seeds from which the milk is made by blending with water. This milk is nut free so should be suitable for those with nut allergies.
A growing popular option in non-dairy milk is oak milk. This is made from oats, water, oil, and thickeners. The milk is usually fortified with several vitamins and has approximately 4 grams of protein per cup. It is nut free, however, it does have a higher carb content with up to 100 calories per cup.
Rice milk has a thinner consistency and as well as being lactose free, it is also nut free. It’s a good alternative for those that do not want to use soy but it does have one of the highest carbs and calories count at 130 calories and 3.5 grams of fat per cup. Protein content is negligible.
Soy milk is perhaps the best known and most widely distributed dairy milk alternative. It is used for virtually everything that dairy milk would normally be used for and has 90 calories, 4 grams of fat, and 9 grams of protein per cup. Unfortunately, some people are allergic to soy so would have to avoid it.
As you can see, if you want to explore alternatives to dairy milk you now have a wide and growing list of options. You should experiment to see which of these options fit best with your particular needs and that best satisfies your taste buds.
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