Best Dairy Substitutes for Lactose Intolerance

The main sugar found in milk and other dairy products is called lactose. If you have lactose intolerance, you cannot digest the lactose well, due to the fact that your small intestine does not produce the enzyme needed to digest lactose.

This can create uncomfortable symptoms, which may be mild or severe. People who are lactose intolerant can experience gas, cramps, bloating, diarrhea and nausea between 30 minutes to two hours after eating a product with lactose. The most common foods with lactose are dairy products such as milk and ice cream, though it can be found in packaged foods like breakfast cereals as well. Finding foods without lactose can be challenging for people who have recently developed a sensitivity to these products. If you are lactose intolerant and had to give up dairy products, you can try one of the dairy substitutes available currently.

Milk Substitutes

Cows’ milk is a staple of many people’s diets, but individuals with lactose intolerance cannot digest this form of dairy. You may be wondering what you can consume as a substitute for milk as there are several products available on the market today. The milk substitute you choose depends upon other allergies you may have or simply from your preference for one taste over another.

Soy milk is one of the most popular milk alternatives. It is made with either soybeans or soy protein isolate. It often contains vegetable oils and thickeners to improve the consistency and taste. Typically, soy milk has a creamy flavor but the taste can differ depending on the brand you buy. Soy milk is ideal as a milk replacement to put on your cereal or in a cup of coffee. Nutritionally, it contains a similar amount of protein as cows’ milk but has about half the calories, carbohydrates and fats.

Coconut milk is made from the white flesh of brown coconuts and water. The coconut milk you can put in a cup of coffee or tea is different than the creamier coconut milk commonly used in Indian cooking. The latter usually comes in cans, whereas the former is sold in cartons in the milk section of a supermarket or store. Coconut milk contains half the fat of cows’ milk and one third of the calories. One of the downsides to consuming coconut milk is the lack of carbohydrates and protein found within this dairy substitute compared to the content found in conventional milk.

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The least allergenic of non-dairy milks on the market is rice milk. It is made from milled brown rice or white rice and water. Each version of rice milk often contains thickeners to improve the taste and texture of the product. It is naturally sweet and mild in taste, making it a perfect substitute for dairy milk. It contains a similar number of calories as found in cows’ milk but has almost double the amount of carbohydrates. Additionally, rice milk contains considerably less fat and protein than cows’ milk.

There are other milk substitutes available too. They include:

  • Almond milk, which is made with whole almonds or almond butter and water.
  • Oat milk is made from oats and water. Manufactures often add ingredients to oat milk, such as salt, oils and gums and you may want to thoroughly inspect the ingredient list before settling on one brand over another.
  • Cashew milk is made from either cashew nuts or cashew butter and water.
  • Macadamia milk is made mostly from water and approximately 3 percent of macadamia nuts.
  • Quinoa milk is made from water and the edible seed quinoa.
  • Hemp milk is made from the seeds of the Cannabis sativa hemp plant.

Yogurt Substitutes

With so many types of milk-substitute available, you can often find replacement foods for other dairy-based products, such as yogurt. Many of these dairy-free yogurts are made from seeds, nuts, soy and coconut. These yogurts are made by adding probiotic bacteria to reproduce the same active ingredients commonly found in leading yogurt brands. Depending on the type and brand of lactose-free yogurt, the nutrition content can vary. Types of non-dairy yogurt you can purchase include:

  • Soy milk yogurt.
  • Coconut milk yogurt.
  • Almond milk yogurt.
  • Hemp yogurt.

Cheese Substitutes

You can find both soft cheese and hard cheese substitutes for dairy cheese, but there are more products available for soft cheese substitutes. It is easier to mimic the flavor and texture of soft cheese, which allows manufacturers to develop better substitutes for consumers. For cream cheese replacements, you can find nut-based and soy-based versions. Soy-free cream cheese substitutes are available if you cannot consume soy. These are made from a blend of tapioca starch, vegetable oils and pea protein isolate. Many people make homemade cream cheese or soft cheese as opposed to purchasing alternatives at the store. You can use nuts like macadamia, almonds, Brazil nuts and cashews to create your own soft cheeses. If you want to make a substitute for the texture of ricotta and cottage cheeses, you can use crumbled soft tofu.

Although it is difficult to make a substitute for hard cheeses, manufacturers do produce non-dairy hard cheeses in limited quantities. These contain proteins, gums and fats. Many brands use nuts or soy protein as a base, but you can find soy-free and nut-free hard cheese substitutes made with vegetable oils and pea protein or pea starch as well. For a Parmesan cheese substitute, many people use nutritional yeast.

Butter Substitutes

There are many non-dairy substitutes for butter available and these are commonly made from vegetable oils or coconut oil. You can butter alternatives made from seeds and nuts, such as sunflower seeds, cashews and almonds if you are looking for a sweeter alternative. Be wary of vegetable-oil-based margarines though, as many still contain derivatives of dairy products, such as whey.

Ice Cream Substitutes

If you are lactose intolerant, you may be seeking an alternative to your favorite ice cream brand. There are several substitutes for ice cream available in most grocery stores, and many of these products have the same taste and texture as ice creams produced with real dairy. Most are made from soy milk, almond milk and coconut milk but you can find ice cream substitutes made from rice, cashew nuts and even avocados. These ice cream alternatives are often lower in calories and fat than dairy ice cream, proving to be a healthier option without sacrificing the taste you have become accustomed to with dairy-based products.

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