Dairy Alternatives: What are the Available Options?
Milk has been an integral part of our diet for ages, and people of all ages consume it regularly. And it is understandable, as it provides us with numerous nutrients like protein, fats, vitamins like vitamin D, vitamin A, and vitamin B12, and minerals like calcium.
But, in the past couple of years, people have started shifting toward non-dairy alternatives. Due to this changing scenario, the dairy market is changing significantly.
Dairy alternatives products are replacements for milk-based products, mimicking cow milk’s nutritional value.
Cow’s milk is not suitable for everyone, and below are the various reasons why people might be looking for milk alternatives.
- Lactose Intolerance: It is a condition where a person is partially or totally unable to digest the lactose (sugar) present in cow milk. Consuming milk or milk-based product may lead to stomachache, bloating, or diarrhoea. This happens when there is a deficiency of lactase, an enzyme that helps in the digestion of lactose
- Milk Allergy: It is an immune reaction caused by the proteins present in animal milk, mostly caused by the casein protein. The reaction can result in symptoms like rashes, severe anaphylaxis, wheezing, vomiting, and diarrhoea. 2-6% of children in their first year of age are affected by cow’s milk protein allergy.
- Dietary Restriction: People are often restricted or restrict themselves from eating certain foods. The reasons may be ethical or health-related. You might have heard about the rising trend of vegan diets; they exclude all animal-related products, including milk. Some people avoid drinking milk due to suspicions over the potential presence of pesticides, antibiotics, contaminants, and hormones.
Best Options Available in the Market
Now, let us list the popular milk alternative options, and fret not, there are multiple non-dairy options available in the dairy alternative market.
Almond Milk is one of the most favoured and known milk alternatives available in the market. You can use it for cooking or add it to your morning coffee. It is rich in vitamin E and lowers in fats compared to cow’s milk. Though, it contains meagre amounts of protein and fibre.
However, those with a nuts allergy should obviously stay away from it.
Soy Milk is one of the most recommended milk alternatives, often recommended by doctors to people who are intolerant or are looking to reduce their calorie intake. It is a plant-based milk alternative. It can be made from soybeans or soy protein isolates and often contains thickeners and vegetable oils to enhance its consistency.
Some people avoid it due to controversies about its effects on the body. This is mainly due to the large amounts of isoflavones present in soy. This can affect our body’s estrogen receptors and affect our hormone balance.
It is one of the best alternatives for cow’s milk as a protein source. Though, people with FODMAP intolerance should avoid it.
In case you may not know, FODMAPs are small-chain carbohydrates. These can cause digestive problems such as bloating and gas.
Coconut Milk is an excellent option in the dairy alternative market. Though the pulp is separated from the milk, instantly reducing the milk’s vitamin, protein, and mineral contents. Cashew milk is not fortified, and the lack of crucial nutrients like calcium is the only setback factor.
Still, I recommend you try it, as the creamy and sweet flavour makes it a great additive to coffees and deserts.
Oat Milk has multiple benefits and is one of the best if not the best alternatives to cow’s milk. It has a high level of carbohydrates and a good amount of protein, though less than milk. The beta-glucan in oat milk helps reduce cholesterol levels by binding itself to it and reducing cholesterol absorption in the body.
On top of that, oat milk is easy to make and cheap to buy from a store. It is a jack of all trades, helping you to maintain a healthy diet.
Rice Milk would be the most preferred option as an alternative, because it is the least allergic of all the other non-dairy alternatives (soy or nuts).
But rice milk is mild and naturally sweet in flavour. It has a high glycemic index and is absorbed faster in the gut, raising blood sugar levels. This makes it not so suitable for people with diabetes.
It has high carbohydrate levels and the highest level of carbohydrates among all the other alternatives.
Some of the other popular options include:
- Coconut Milk
- Hemp Milk
- Flax Milk
- Quinoa Milk