Dairy-Free Alternatives

September 24, 2015

Did you know that over seven million Canadians are lactose intolerant? Lactose is the sugar found in milk products. People (like myself) who are lactose intolerant lack the enzyme or chemical (lactase) to break down this sugar for absorption. I started to notice an intolerance to milk when I was around 25 years old. It was hard to imagine a world without creamy pasta, milk lattes and trips to Dairy Queen but I eventually accepted reality and began incorporating dairy-free alternatives into my diet. Now, ten years later there is a plethora of choice with numerous daily-free products flooding the shelves of supermarkets.

I recently spoke with Heather Cronk, a Holistic Nutritionist at Calgary Co-op’s Midtown store, about some of the key differences between Almond, Soy, Rice, and Coconut milk.

“These milks are all very different from one another in nutritional content, processing methods, additives and ingredients,” Heather says. “When choosing a milk substitute one must consider their own individual needs and status of health.”

Almond Milk

Almond milk is made by grinding almonds into water and was used as far back as the Middle Ages. It has a slightly sweet and nutty taste and is low in fat, calories, and cholesterol compared to cow’s milk.

“If I had to choose one alternative milk it would be this one due to its naturally high content of both protein and calcium. This milk tastes great and compares well to traditional cows’ milk when ensuring that you’re meeting your nutritional needs.”

Soy Milk

Soy milk is probably the most popular of the bunch and is made by soaking, crushing and cooking soybeans, then extracting the liquid. It has a thick, creamy texture and is great for cooking savory dishes. Unsweetened soy milk can sometimes have a beany taste, so it may be better to get the sweetened variation for drinking.

Soy milk contains about the same amount of protein as dairy milk, is low in fat, and has no cholesterol.

Rice Milk

Rice milk is made mainly from brown rice and is more on the watery side compared to other dairy-free options. It has a light, mild taste and is naturally a bit sweet.

“Rice milk contains more carbohydrates than dairy milk but is high in nutritional content such as iron and B vitamins,” Heather explains.

Rice milk is also a safe option for those who may have sensitivities to nuts or soy.

Coconut Milk

Coconut milk is made from the meat found inside of the coconut shell and then blended with water. It has a smooth texture and a mild coconut-y flavour.

“Coconuts contain lauric acid, antimicrobial lipids and capric acid, which have antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties.”

Heather also says coconuts can contribute to weight loss, improve heart health and give you glowing skin and hair.

*All of these dairy-free alternatives can be found in the same aisle as regular milk at your local Calgary Co-op.

- Leanne Clark

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