Karlene Karst, RD
These days many people are allergic to cows' milk protein or are lactose intolerant. Luckily there are many dairy milk alternatives out there.
Milk, the word that reminds us of childhood and home, gives us a warm and cozy feeling inside. But for some, wearing a dairy-milk moustache might not be an option.
Many people are allergic to cows’ milk protein (casein fraction) or are lactose intolerant. In addition to dietary constraints, ethical choices about animal byproducts–and avoidance of the hormones and antibiotics given to dairy cows–have led many to seek out nondairy alternatives.
Going With the Grain
The most popular alternatives include soy, rice, almond, and hemp milk, although nondairy beverages can be made from essentially any grain, nut, or seed. As a general rule, soy beverages have a thicker, richer, and creamier texture than grain- or nut-based beverages. Rice milk has a lighter, sweeter flavour, and many people report it more closely imitates the flavour of dairy milk. Nut-based beverages, such as almond or cashew milk, are better used for sweeter dishes such as curries and desserts. One of the newest dairy alternatives is hemp milk, made from whole hemp seeds, offering a nutty, creamy texture.
Each of these milk alternatives provides a distinct texture, colour, and flavour. There is plenty of variety available in terms of refreshing flavours, too–including plain, vanilla, chocolate, strawberry, and cappuccino.
Cooking Without the Cow
Milk alternatives can be used in cooking or baking in place of cows’ milk; however, you may have to make a few adjustments to find the right one for your recipe. Some nondairy alternatives change texture and consistency when heated, or may not thicken as well as cows’ milk. They also impart a different flavour to the final product.
These beverages are great served chilled or warm–alone, in a smoothie, on cereal, or in your favourite recipe.
Comparing the Nutrients
Nutritionally, soy milk is the closest to cows’ milk interms of protein, but unless fortified will still fall short in calcium and vitamin D. Some nutritionists say that the calcium in milk alternatives is not as well absorbed as the calcium in dairy.
With the plethora of options available, consider one that is fortified with at least 20 to 30 percent of the daily value for calcium, vitamin B12, vitamin D, and riboflavin. Even when fortified, dairy alternatives fall short of cows’ milk in providing certain nutrients, so, as always, it’s a good idea to eat a varied diet.
Soy, rice, hemp, and almond milks are all lactose-free, cholesterol- and gluten-free, as well as low in fat and saturated fat. Hemp milk offers a robust nutritional profile containing omega-3 and -6 fatty acids, all essential amino acids, and up to 46 percent of the recommended daily calcium intake. However, as nutritional labels on many dairy alternatives state, they may not be suitable for use as infant formulas.
Whether you’re looking to replace cows’ milk altogether or considering these options as additions to your already healthy diet, enjoy finding the dairy alternative that is right for you.
Nutritional Comparison of Dairy and Nondairy Alternative Milks
|Beverage [per]||Calories [kcal]||Total fat [g]||Sugar[g]||Protein [mg]||Calcium [mg]||Cholestoerol [mg]|
|Soy milk plain, fortified||100||4||6||7||80||0|
|Soy milk reduced fat, plain, fortified||70||2||6||6||80||0|
Note: Nutrition information will vary depending on brand, flavour, and fortification levels.