Learning (or working out yourself) that you are lactose intolerant can be distressing. Suddenly you are confronted with the decision of what to use as a milk replacement. There are so many different kinds of non-dairy milk available now and the choice of lactose intolerant milk can be overwhelming. What milk is best when you are lactose intolerant?
Should you look for an alternative form of animal milk or one of the nut milks or perhaps a grain milk? Or should you simply just use ‘lactose-free’ cows milk? And what exactly is A2 milk? These are all questions to consider.
Lactose intolerance is not the same as a milk allergy.
People who are lactose intolerant lack the enzyme needed to break down lactose, the sugar in milk, so it can be absorbed. Normally your body breaks down the lactose with an enzyme called lactase. When this is lacking or deficient your body cannot break down the lactose. It then passes through your gut in a completely undigested state. When it meets the bacteria in the lower intestinal tract gas is produced and you experience all the painful symptoms.
LACTOSE FREE MILK
For many lactose intolerant people and not allergic to dairy foods, the simplest option may be to switch to lactose-free cows milk. In this the lactose, or milk sugar, has been changed to a state that the gut is able to process.
In lactose free milk the enzyme your body lacks, lactase, is added to the milk to break down the lactose for you, into smaller molecules that you are able to absorb. You don’t experience the symptoms associated with digesting normal milk.
One difference to normal milk is that lactose-free milk tastes much sweeter because the sugar is already broken down.
However those reducing animal fats in their diet prefer to switch to vegetarian alternatives.
Soy milk is made from soy beans and water. It is low in saturated fat but rich in a range of essential nutrients including protein and potassium. It is also high in antioxidants which are a great benefit to your health.
Because so many soy crops are genetically modified it is vital that you only drink ones labeled as GMO free.
Select ONLY those brands that are made from whole soybeans. They will be labelled as such, even if just in the ingredient list.
This is really important with soy milk. If the milk is made from soy isolates, as more than half the soy milk in Australia is, AVOID IT. Also, check your soy milk is unsweetened as many brands add sugar.
Soy milk has quite a creamy consistency. There’s great difference in the quality and taste of soy milks so you may need to test a few to find one you like.
There is evidence that soy can improve your blood profile and help prevent strokes and heart disease. The phytoestrogens in soy can help balance hormone levels in postmenopausal women and reduce the risk of prostate cancer in men.
Almond milk is made from ground almonds and water. Some brands contain very little almonds, but the one I use has 10% content. It’s just a case of seeking out a quality brand.
Although almonds are a good source of protein, almond milk is low in protein. But it provides all the antioxidant benefit provided by almonds. It’s cholesterol free and has been used to lower blood-sugar levels. Some brands are fortified with calcium, vitamin D and vitamin B12. Many brands are sweetened.
Almond milk has a nutty flavour and light, creamy texture. It can be used in everything, from cooking to smoothies or drinking. Almond milk however is not suitable for anyone with a fructose intolerance or nut allergy.
Almond milk is quite easy to make for yourself. It contains far more almonds than packaged varieties and can be made using organic almonds and pure water. Plus you know it won’t be loaded up with agave or other sweeteners.
HOW TO MAKE ALMOND MILK
- Simply soak 1 cup of almonds I water for at least 6 hours or overnight to remove phytates and enzyme inhibitors.
- Remove, and for a less gritty flavour and lighter colour milk remove the skins.
- Rinse and drain, then blend the almonds with 4 cups of filtered water. For a thicker milk you can reduce the quantity of water.
- Strain through cheesecloth or a nut milk bag, which you can buy or make simply yourself.
- You can blend in cinnamon, honey or other flavourings.
- It keeps in the fridge for up to a week.
You could also make this recipe with macadamia or hazelnuts. Milk made from any nut is always simple to make for yourself. If you drink milk rarely or only use it for cooking just make small quantities as you need it. You can get creative with your home-made nutmilks by adding ingredients like chia seeds.
Coconut milk is a great alternative to cows milk for thickening or creating a creaminess in soups, stews, curries or for baking. It can even be whipped up and makes a great replacement in desserts for normal cream.
Coconut milk contains a special sort of fat called medium chain triglycerides, that are metabolized differently to other fats in your body. They boost metabolism and give a burst of energy, rather than get stored in the body as fat.
Coconut milk is made from the coconut flesh and is rich and thick. Don’t confuse it with coconut water which is the liquid from the centre of the nut.
Unlike most liquids coconut milk contains lots of fibre because it is made by grating the flesh. One cup contains over 5 grams of fibre, one sixth of your daily requirement.
If you want to make coconut milk yourself just add young coconut meat to the blender, cover with filtered water and blend. Add more water until you reach the consistency you desire.
Any leftover coconut milk from cans can be frozen in ice-cube trays.
If you choose to eat wholefoods in your diet you may prefer nut milk to other lactose-free options because they undergo less processing.
For more lactose intolerant milk options continue reading…
All information and opinions presented here are for information purposes only. They are not intended as a substitute for professional advice offered during a consultation with your health care provider. Do not use this article to diagnose a health condition. Speak to your doctor if you think your condition may be serious or before discontinuing any prescribed medication. Please consult with your health care provider before following any of the treatment suggested on this site, particularly if you have an ongoing health issue.