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The Skinny on Non-Dairy Milk Substitutes

By Sara Butler

Dairy is important in the diets of many people. But if you can’t or don’t want to eat dairy, where should you turn? There are many different dairy alternatives on the market today, but how do they compare nutritionally? Here’s the lowdown on dairy alternatives you might want to give a try.

Why Substitute Dairy?

There are many different reasons why someone would cut dairy from their diet. The most common reasons include:

  • Allergies – Milk allergies impact about 3 percent of children under the age of 3. It can cause many symptoms such as stomach upset, hives, and in the worst cases severe anaphylactic shock. But many kids outgrow this allergy by the time they reach their teens.
  • Lactose intolerance – A whopping 75 percent of people in the world have some degree of lactose intolerance, meaning their body doesn’t make the enzyme needed to digest milk sugars.
  • Special diets – Vegans and some vegetarians choose to forgo dairy products.

Milk Substitutes

Milk is full of important nutrients such as protein, calcium, and carbohydrates. There are many plant-based milk alternatives available today that are comparable nutritionally. Some are fortified with calcium and Vitamin D to make them more like milk, while others leave it out. Be aware that many milk alternatives also contain more sugar to help improve the taste.

One cup of regular whole milk has 146 calories, 8 grams of protein, 8 grams of fat, and 13 grams of carbohydrates. In comparison:

  • Soy milk – Has 109 calories, 7 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat, 8 grams of carbohydrates.
  • Rice milk – Has 120 calories, 1 gram of protein, 2.5 grams of fat, 24 grams of carbohydrates.
  • Almond milk – Has 60 calories, 1 gram of protein, 2.5 grams of fat, 8 grams of carbohydrates.
  • Coconut milk – Has 80 calories, 0 grams of protein, 5 grams of fat, 7 grams of carbohydrates.

Be on the Lookout

You will have to do a lot of comparison shopping to find the right substitute for your needs, but in general, you need to be aware of these pitfalls in non-dairy substitutes:

  • More sugar – Many products have more sugar to enhance flavor and texture.
  • Fillers – Some nondairy products have additives to improve texture.
  • Protein – Plant-based dairy replacements aren’t going to provide the same quality of protein as dairy milk.
  • Intolerance – Some people won’t be able to tolerate the ingredients of some nondairy alternatives such as nuts or soy. Fillers such as inulin can cause problems for some people too.

Now you have it. If you're looking for a dairy alternative, these are the facts you can take to the bank -- err, store! 

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


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