No milk today – Alternatives to dairy
Cow’s milk is considered dietary staple by many. It’s rich in protein and important vitamins and minerals, including calcium, phosphorus and B vitamins.
But some people can’t or don’t drink cow’s milk at all due to personal preferences, dietary restrictions, allergies or intolerances.
2–3% of children under the age of three are allergic to cow’s milk although most grow out of it. The allergy can cause a range of symptoms, including rashes, upset tummies and even anaphylaxis.
Lactose intolerance is very common. Lactose is a sugar found in cow’s milk. People with lactose intolerance cannot digest this sugar so it stays in the digestive tract causing gas and irritation.
Vegans exclude all products from their diet that originate from animals, and some people simply do not like the taste of cow’s milk.
So, what is available for those who prefer a non-dairy alternative?
Soy Milk – Made with either soybeans or soy protein isolate, and often contains thickeners and vegetable oils. It typically has a mild and creamy flavour. It has a similar nutritional make-up to cow’s milk, and works best in cooking, in coffee and on cereal.
Almond Milk (or other nut milks) – This is made with either whole almonds or almond butter and water (cashew, hazelnut and macadamia nut milks are also available). Nut milks have a light texture and a slightly sweet and nutty flavour. They contain fewer calories and fat thank cow’s milk but are also significantly lower in protein and carbohydrates. They can be added to coffee and tea, used on cereal, mixed in smoothies and used as milk in desserts and baked goods.
Coconut Milk – Made from water and the white flesh of brown coconuts. It has a creamy texture and a sweet, subtle coconut flavour. It contains less fat than cow’s milk and significantly less protein and carbohydrates. It can be used on cereal and in smoothies and cooking.
Oat Milk – Made from a mixture of oats and water. It is high in soluble fibre, which is good for gut health. It is naturally sweet with a mild flavour and can be used in cooking in the same way as cow’s milk. It is also good for use on cereal or in smoothies.
Rice Milk – Made from milled white or brown rice and water this is the least likely milk substitute to trigger allergies, which makes it a safe option for those with allergies or intolerances to dairy, gluten, soy or nuts. It is mild in taste and naturally sweet and is nice to drink on its own as well as in smoothies, or in desserts or over cereal. It is not a good choice for children or the elderly because of its low protein content, and it has a high glycaemic index so is not good for diabetics either.
There is no one milk substitute that is ideal for everyone. The taste, nutrition and cost of these alternatives can vary considerably, so it is worth taking a while to experiment and find those that work best for you.
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