The Health Benefits and Risks of Non-Dairy Alternatives
There is much controversy surrounding dairy. Most of us grew up drinking gallons of milk throughout our childhoods. It gave us calcium for strong teeth and bones and a lot of protein to help us grow.
But then conflicting sentiments throughout the nutrition world caused many adults to give up dairy and seek non-dairy alternatives. But what is the real truth about dairy? Is it good for us or is it not good for us?
Well, recent research conducted at McMaster University in Canada suggests milk is indeed good for us. The researchers followed over 35,000 people from 21 different countries and found that dairy was associated with a lowered risk of cardiovascular disease. Other studies have found that dairy is beneficial for skeletal health and may lead to fewer bone fractures as a person ages.
The truth is, cow’s milk is packed with nutrients and is an excellent source of protein. Some studies have even linked the consumption of milk intake to a lower risk of obesity in both children and adults.
Now, if you are someone that is lactose intolerant, these studies may not be very compelling for you, as your body simply cannot adequately digest dairy. In this case, you need to find non-dairy alternatives. Finding healthy options was quite difficult in the past but there are a number of healthy options on the market today.
Whether it’s almond milk or cashew milk, this dairy-free milk option is made by grinding nuts into a pulp that is mixed with water. Once the solids are strained off, the liquid that is leftover becomes “nut milk.”
The positives of nut milk are that it’s generally lower in calories than regular full-fat milk and it’s often fortified with vitamin D that is naturally found in cow’s milk. Obviously, if you have a nut allergy then this would not be a good option for you. Some varieties on the market also contain added thickeners such as carrageenan or guar gums, which can be hard to digest for certain individuals. And the flavored varieties often have added sugars. So read those labels!
Soy milk is made by soaking, crushing, cooking, and straining soybeans, leaving behind a high protein liquid. The pros of soy milk are that it is high in protein as well as iron, magnesium, and often fortified with calcium and vitamin D. The cons are that it’s not suitable for those with a soy allergy and often contains thickening agents and added sugars.
If you do have nut or soy allergies, rice milk is a good option. It’s typically used by processing brown rice and is usually fortified with vitamin D and calcium. On the con side is the fact that it’s fairly low in protein and high in carbohydrates.
The bottom line is…
If you are not lactose intolerant, you may want to just stick with regular milk, as it offers a lot of health benefits. But if you do need a non-dairy alternative, nut milk, soy milk, and rice milk are good options.
Megan Dozler is a Certified Holistic Health & Wellness Coach.
She can help you establish realistic goals and show you how to stick to them through education and 1-on-1 consults.
Schedule your 20 minute complimentary coaching consultation today! 707-387-7603