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Lactose Intolerant? Try One of These Alternatives to Cow's Milk


Nutrition experts recommend three glasses of low-fat milk a day to meet an adult’s calcium needs. Many adults do not reach this goal because they believe themselves to be lactose intolerant. Whatever your reason for avoiding cow’s milk, there are plenty of alternatives available to meet the daily calcium goal of approximately 1,000 milligrams for most adults.

Soy milk
The best known and most popular milk alternative is soymilk. Traditional soy milk is made from pressed, mature soy beans mixed with water and a sweetener to mask the slightly bitter taste. Some soy milk is also available flavored, such as vanilla or chocolate.

Calorie content of soy milk varies by manufacturer and whether or not it has added sweeteners. Most contain about 100-140 calories per cup, but are slightly lower in protein than cow’s milk. Soy milk is naturally low in saturated fat, and because it’s plant-based, it’s cholesterol free. Because soy is naturally lower in calcium than cow’s milk, most manufacturers fortify their products with calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients found in cow’s milk so they end up having a similar nutritional profile.

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Rice milk
Rice milk is a mixture of partially milled brown rice and water. The best known brand name is Rice Dream, and the original and vanilla flavors have about 120-120 calories per serving. Chocolate varieties contain more – about 150 to 160 calories. Rice milk is mostly sold in shelf-stable aseptic packages, but a few, like Rice Dream, are also now making refrigerated versions.

Rice milk is higher in carbohydrate and much lower in protein than either cow’s milk or soy milk and can be a little watery or chalky tasting. For those with food allergies, rice is often the best choice for alternative dairy because rice allergies are extremely rare.

Almond milk
Almond milk is made from finely ground almonds mixed with water. It is also available both sweetened and unsweetened, flavored and unflavored. Like soy and rice milk, almond milk is mostly water by weight, so its consistency is thin. Like rice milk, it is much lower in protein than cow or soy milk. A popular brand name is Almond Breeze, who has also begun offering Almond milk in both shelf-stable and refrigerated versions.

Hemp Milk
Hemp milk or Hemp seed milk is made from the seeds of the same plant used to make marijuana. The seeds, and the products that are made from them, contain little to no THC, the psychoactive substance of marijuana, so it is safe to consume. Hemp milk is available both plain and in vanilla and chocolate flavors, and is primarily available in shelf-stable packages in health-food or larger grocery stores.

The milk, only available in the US since 2007, is more creamy and nutty than soy or rice milk and is thicker than rice or almond milk. The milk from the hemp seed is rich in both omega 6 and omega 3 fatty acids and also includes magnesium, phytosterols, and other vitamins and minerals. Some brands contain up to 46% of the daily calcium intake on one serving. The milk contains 10 essential amino acids as well.