VEG 101: Not Milk? Guide to Milk Substitutions

Despite the National Dairy Council and the USDA’s push for cow milk consumption,  did you know that 60-75% of all African Americans cannot digest milk products? Why you ask? Well, according to Tracye Lynne McQuirter, MPH, it has a lot to do with lactose and lactase. Lactose is the anme for sugar in milk, it is made up of two sugars: glucose & galactose (which makes it a double sugar). Naturally, our bodies have a hard time digesting double sugars so the sugar is separated into two simple sugars for easier digestion by the enzyme lactase. Well that settles it right? Not so fast…Infants produce lactase from birth but after ages 4 or 5, the body naturally stops produces the enzyme. It’s time for the child to stop nursing. We define this as “lactose intolerance” but in reality, it is abnormal for any mammal to consume milk after infancy. Adult milk consumption often leads to cramps, gas, bloating, diarrhea, and other problems. So what kind of milk should you drink? Check out Uptown Soul’s list of cow-milk alternatives:

Almond Milk: Almond milk is made of ground almonds. It contains NO cholesterol or lactose.  It contains no soy and is good for those who have soy allergies. Almonds are rich in vitamins and minerals, so almond milk doesn’t need to be fortified. Because almond milk is low in fat and calories, and high in many essential vitamins and minerals, it is a great milk substitute for those who would like to lose weight. Popular brands include: Silk Pure Almond, Blue Diamond Almonds, and Pacific Organic Almond Milk.

Soy Milk: Soy milk is the most popular of the alternatives. Soy foods are the only plant-based complete proteins. One cup of unfortified soymilk contains almost 7 grams of protein, 4 grams of carbohydrate, 4½ grams of fat, and no cholesterol. Although soymilk supplies some B vitamins, it’s not a good source of B12, nor does it provide a significant amount of calcium. Look for soymilk that that is enriched with calcium and other essential vitamins, like Vitamin B12. Popular brands include: Silk Milk, 8th Continent, and Soy Dream.

Rice Milk: Rice milk, one of the thinnest of the alternatives, is usually made from brown rice. Although it is free of many allergens, rice milk is low in protein. Since rice milk doesn’t contain a lot of protein, those who use rice milk as a milk substitute must plan to include more protein in their diet through other means. Most commercial brands of rice milk, however, are fortified with calcium. Rice milk is probably used as a breakfast cereal milk. Popular brands include: Rice Dream, and WestSoy Rice Milk.

Other cow-milk alternatives include hemp milk, coconut milk, and non-dairy powdered milks.


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