A Guide to Dairy Alternatives
Posted on Wednesday, February 27th, 2013 at 8:00 am
Including dairy in our diets is important because it is a great source of calcium and other helpful nutrients. However, some are lactose intolerant, and others can’t consume it because of dietary restrictions or choices. Whether you’ve already switched or are thinking of switching to a non-dairy alternative, understanding the difference between all of your options is pretty important. The most popular choices include soy milk, rice milk, and almond milk. Let’s take a look at the differences and health benefits of each:
Soy milk is made from soy beans and has a thick consistency. When compared to cow’s milk, soy milk has a similar amount of protein and fat, but little to no saturated fat or cholesterol. It’s also low in carbohydrates, sodium, and sugar. Many varieties are fortified with calcium since it doesn’t occur naturally in soy.
The downside to soy milk is that many are allergic to soy. It’s also heavily processed and soybeans often feature a lot of GMOs. Soy is a controversial plant in the diet world due to its high levels of estrogen. In some studies, soy has been linked to infertility and is also believed to cause cancer in high doses.
Rice milk is made primarily with brown rice and filtered water. It usually features a watery consistency and is a bit sweet to the taste. Rice milk actually contains more carbohydrates than cow’s milk, but has very little amounts of calcium, protein and cholesterol. Most brands are fortified with vitamins and minerals such as calcium, vitamin B12, and iron.
While rice milk is a great alternative in coffee or cereal in terms of taste, its major disadvantage is that it contains little nutrition overall and can often be loaded with sugar. While it’s low in calories and fat, there are other alternatives low in fat and calories that are packed with nutrients to keep you feeling good.
Almond milk is made with mashed up whole almonds and filtered water. It has a naturally sweet flavor, but can come in sweetened varieties. When compared to cow’s milk, almond milk is significantly lower in calories and sugar and is free from cholesterol and saturated fat. While it isn’t a great source of protein or calcium, it is loaded with heart-healthy fats and vitamin E. It’s often fortified to contain calcium and vitamin D.
The sweet flavor is one disadvantage to almond milk if you’re looking for something with a more milky or neutral flavor. Studies have also show that almond milk can interfere with the thyroid gland and is not recommended for anyone with lower functioning thyroids.
Which is Best?
The truth is, deciding which milk alternative is best is really a matter of dietary needs, possible allergies and taste preferences. While cow’s milk still contains more calcium than its alternatives, it is higher in fat and calories. Choose which option is best for you and enjoy!
Also confused about the difference between cage-free, free-range, or organic eggs? Check out our blog here!