Even if you’re not lactose intolerant, many people experience benefits when they switch to dairy-free and plant-based milk. Discover why people may seek lactose alternatives, what those alternatives are, and some of the benefits you may experience.
What Is Lactose?
Lactose is a natural sugar found in milk and milk products. Typically, when we eat a dairy product that contains lactose, our body's natural production of lactase helps us digest the lactose properly. Although, some people are lactose intolerant and unable to digest lactose.
What Are Lactose Alternatives?
Lactose alternatives are often made from legumes, grains, nuts, and seeds. Common milk substitutes include almond milk, soy milk, cashew milk, oat milk, coconut milk, and more! Each alternative offers different benefits and nutrients.
Why People Cut Out Lactose
There are many reasons why people choose to cut out lactose from their diet. Maybe they just don’t like the taste of milk, or they have ethical concerns. Here are a few reasons why people cut out lactose from their diet.
- Lactose intolerance
- Dairy allergy
- Crohn’s, Colitis, or inflammatory bowel syndrome
- Concerns about antibiotics, pesticides, or hormones
Is There a Difference?
With many different lactose alternatives, it can be difficult to decide which one is right for you and your lifestyle. In general, lactose alternative milks tend to have fewer calories, less fat, a higher water content, and sometimes they are fortified with added vitamins and nutrients.
Here are a few differences between some common lactose alternatives.
Made from soybeans, soy milk is one of the few lactose alternatives that packs a punch with protein.
- Rich in omega-3 fatty acids
- Contains all the essential amino acids
- Balanced in carbs & fats
- Many brands fortify their soy milk with vitamin D and calcium
Made from almonds and water, almond milk is a very common dairy-free milk substitute.
- Low in calories & carbs
- Low in protein
- Good source of magnesium & vitamin E
- Often fortified with calcium
- Rich in antioxidants
Cashew milk is a great alternative for people who want the low calories of almond milk but don’t care for the almond flavor.
- Low in protein & carbs
- Often fortified with vitamins & nutrients
- Rich in iron
Although it doesn’t offer quite the same benefits as eating a bowl of oats, oat milk is a nutritious option for dairy-free milk.
- Rich in fiber & Riboflavin
- High carbs
There are quite a few health benefits you might experience when removing lactose from your diet. Here are some of the more common ones:
Aids in Healthy Digestion
Did you know that an estimated 70% of the world’s population has difficulty digesting lactose? If you’re someone who suffers from bloating, stomach cramps, gas, and other digestive issues after eating or drinking milk or milk products, making the switch to dairy-free alternatives may aid in healthier digestion.
Potential Weight Loss
For many people, cutting out dairy can lead to weight loss. Many dairy products (ice cream, cheese, yogurt) contain large amounts of sugar and saturated fat. Reducing your dairy intake, and therefore reducing how much sugar and saturated fat is going into your body, could help reduce inflammation and possible weight loss.
Promotes Stronger Bones
Dairy products have long been associated with stronger bones, but the true hero in bone strength is calcium, not dairy. While several factors contribute to bone strength, including regular physical activity and vitamin D, you can also get your necessary calcium from lactose alternatives.
Will This Change My Eating Habits?
Just because you’ve made the switch to plant-based milk doesn’t mean your favorite meals have to change. Many recipes, like this one for Blueberry Maple Breakfast Muffins, let you use your milk of choice.
Whether it’s a splash in your morning oatmeal or you’re whipping it into some fluffy mashed potatoes, you can use your dairy-free milk alternatives for just about everything!
Try lactose-free milk by opting for these vegan alternatives and experience the difference yourself.