When Lactose is Not Your Friend

When lactose is not your friend

Does the thought of a cheesy dish send you reaching for your Immodium? Have you eliminated foods like ice cream from your diet for fear of their effects on your digestive system? For me it’s all a twisted, unrequited love affair when it comes to dairy. Name ONE thing that doesn’t taste better with cheese. Bet you can’t. I love it so much, and yet, it has never loved me back.

According to the Ohio State University Medical Center, 30 to 50 million Americans (adults and children) are lactose intolerant. Additionally, minorities are disproportionately affected. “Seventy-five percent of all African-American, Jewish, Mexican-American, and Native American adults” have the intolerance and “more than ninety percent of Asian-American adults” sufferas well.

With all of these dairy problems, though, I’ve come to learn quite a bit about dairy alternatives. Having an issue with lactose doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy some milk in your smoothie or with some cookies. Here are some great alternatives to cow’s milk that will satisfy your cravings and add some extra nutritional benefits as well. 

Bonus tip: Be sure to choose UNSWEETENED versions of your favorite dairy alternative for the best low-calorie payoff.

almond milkAlmond Milk
This popular cow’s milk alternative usually comes in sweetened and unsweetened with an optional vanilla flavoring. Great for smoothies and morning cereal, one 8-oz. cup of almond milk also includes significant amounts of bone-fortifying magnesium and manganese, as well as the anti-aging properties of vitamin E. Magnesium also helps to breakdown the food we consume into energy, while manganese aids digestion by activating important enzymes.

For an 8-oz. (1 cup) serving of Blue Diamond brand Unsweetened Vanilla Almond Breeze (Milk):
Calories: 30, Fat: 3g, Fiber: 1g, Protein: 1g, Carbs: 2g, Sugars: 0g, Sodium: 180mg

silk lightSoy Milk
Soy milk is a great source of natural protein and is naturally lower in sugar content than regular milk. In comparison, soy milk has about 7 grams of sugar versus the 12 grams of sugar per cup in cow’s milk. The unsweetened version of soy milk has only 3 grams of sugar per serving. Also, monounsaturated fatty acids in soy milk can help block your intestines’ absorption of fat, aiding in weight loss. The omega-3 and phyto-antioxidants in soy can effectively protect your blood vessels and prevent cholesterol deposits as well.

For an 8-oz. (1 cup) serving of Silk brand Light Original Soy Milk:
Calories: 60, Fat: 2g, Fiber: 1g, Protein: 6g, Carbs: 5g, Sugars: 3g, Sodium: 110mg

coconut milk walmartCoconut Milk
Although naturally higher in fat than almond or soy milk, coconut milk has the lowest sodium content of the three, as well as a great natural flavor. The fat in coconut milk isn’t all bad, however. Lauric acid, makes up a large part of the natural fats in coconut milk, and has been found to exhibit antibacterial, antifungal and antiviral properties. It can also help boost the immune system and provide a high level of iron, which can help with anemia. Additionally, coconut milk is said to help lower blood pressure and reduce joint inflammation.

For an 8-oz. (1 cup) serving of So Delicious brand Original Coconut Milk:
Calories: 70, Fat: 5g, Fiber: 1g, Protein: 0g, Carbs: 7g, Sugars: 7g, Sodium: 15mg

Cashew Milk
cashew milk walmartPerhaps the creamiest option of all, cashew’s smooth mild taste works great in everything from cereal to chia pudding. It’s easy to see why this milk is used to make vegan cheeses and cream sauces due to it’s silky texture. I love it with my protein shakes too! Just one cup has 50% of recommended daily Vitamin E, which is excellent for your skin! Perhaps best of all, cashew milk has no natural sugars (unlike cow’s milk), making it great for regulating carbs and sugars in your diet. Tip: The Unsweetened Vanilla Version is delicious!

For an 8-oz. (1 cup) serving of Silk brand Unsweetened Cashew Milk:
Calories: 25, Fat: 2g, Fiber: 0g, Protein: <1g, Carbs: 1g, Sugars: 0g, Sodium: 160mg

Which of these is your favorite dairy alternative? Do you have another that you prefer? Share in the comments below!

Milk images via Walmart.com. This is not a sponsored post.  |  A previous version of this story appeared on EliteDCmag.com

[Updated 2/29/16]

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