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Non-Dairy Food Products: What to Watch For

By Sara Butler

There are a ton of alternative dairy products out on the market these days. That's great news for all the folks who are lactose intolerant, allergic to dairy or choose not to eat it. But with all the alternative products out there, what you should be looking for to keep your health a priority can become a bit confusing. As you navigate the world of dairy alternatives, it's important to remember that plant-based does not always equal healthy. That's why you need to know what to look for as you choose your non-dairy products.

Sugar

Dairy naturally contains sugar which makes it sort of sweet. Companies that are looking to recreate that in non-dairy form often add sugars to their products, so it's important to keep a keen eye on the amount of sugar a product contains. Check the nutritional label for added sugars and opt for unsweetened products when you can.

Is it Fortified?

Alternative dairy is often fortified with important vitamins and minerals, especially Vitamin D and calcium. Remember, these alternatives don't have the same nutritional profile as cow's milk, so they must be fortified if you want the product to replace dairy in your diet. Make sure to check the label for essential nutrients.

Consumption of Coconuts

Many vegan products made to be an alternative to dairy contain coconut milk. That's perfectly fine except for the fact that coconuts are very high in saturated fat. The jury is still out on whether or not these fats are good or bad, but it's best to stay safe and limit the amount of saturated fat in your diet -- even if the source is not animal-based. If you already get a lot of saturated fats in your diet because you eat meat, then you may want to lay off the coconut-based products.

What Not to Worry About

There are some ingredients in foods, especially ultra-processed foods, that give people pause. But if you're partaking in some alternative dairy there are two things you don't need to worry about:

  • Carrageenan - This is a seaweed extract that is used to thicken and emulsify foods. The FDA considers this product safe in the amounts it's currently added to foods. It's easy to avoid if you still don't feel comfortable eating it as many companies have removed it from their products anyway.
  • Gums - Added gums such as acacia and guar gum are used to add texture and thicken products. Some people may be allergic or sensitive to these products but if you're not one of them, then there's no need to avoid them.

There are lots of great dairy alternatives out there. Feel free to try them as long as you know what to be on the lookout for!

To learn more about your health, wellness, and fitness, see your local chiropractor at The Joint Chiropractic in Orlando, Fla.

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