Many people enjoy a cold glass of creamy milk, but not everyone can drink it – either because they are lactose intolerant, sensitive to it or may avoid it for other health reasons. Lactose is the sugar found in milk products. People who are lactose intolerant are missing an enzyme called lactase that is responsible for breaking down the sugar. The lactose is then able to get into the colon undigested and cause gas, bloating, diarrhea, and abdominal cramping. According to the Canadian Digestive Health Foundation, this is a condition that affects over 7 million Canadians.
So for those who don’t or can’t consume milk, but still would like to enjoy this creamy white liquid, you can try one of the following great alternatives:
1) Soy Milk
2) Coconut Milk
3) Rice Milk
4) Almond Milk (or other nut milks)
Soy milk offers quite a few health benefits. First of all, it is free of saturated fats and cholesterol, contains plenty of healthy unsaturated fats, and is naturally high in protein.
The omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, as well as the antioxidants in soy, can bind to blood vessels and protect the lining from free radical damage and cholesterol deposits. This binding also makes the vessels more flexible so that they can better withstand blood pressure changes. Also, regular intake of soy milk can help to lower triglycerides and LDL in the blood, while raising HDL. This makes soy milk very beneficial for anyone who has high cholesterol or any history of heart disease.
Soy milk is also beneficial for weight loss because it is so low in sugar and calories. It contains about 7 grams of sugar per cup and only about 80 calories. Moreover, it also contains fiber so that you feel full for a while after consuming it and the fiber is helpful for digestion.
Soy’s phytoestrogen content can be beneficial to both men and women. In men it has the ability to lower testosterone production, which, although not always a good thing, can be helpful in reducing the risk of developing prostate cancer. In women it can help to alleviate post-menopausal symptoms by mimicking the estrogen that is suddenly lost. This can help with depression, mood swings, insomnia, hot flashes and even conditions such as diabetes, heart disease and obesity. Moreover, the phytoestrogen can help to facilitate calcium absorption and help to maintain bone density.
Although soy does sound pretty impressive here, it is important to keep an eye out for a few things. Firstly, many soy products these days are genetically modified. These are unnatural to the body and can cause a number of problems. When buying soy products, look for the “non-GMO” label to be safe. Also, for some people it may go down smoothly, but as usual it isn’t for everyone. If you have difficulty digesting soy then consider some of the other milk alternatives mentioned below. Keep in mind, whether you can drink soy or not, moderation and variety is key, as with everything.
Coconuts are an extremely healthy food. The entire fruit can be eaten, including the meat, water, oil and milk. The milk is made by shaving the meat, blending it and then straining it with a cheese cloth. It is a rich source of healthy medium-chain triglycerides, which are also helpful in lowering cholesterol and keeping the arteries clean. In addition, coconuts are full of vitamins and minerals with a number of benefits: these include potassium for lowering blood pressure, magnesium for relaxing nerves and muscles, and manganese for controlling blood sugar. Coconuts are also naturally low in sugar and high in fiber – great for maintaining an ideal weight and optimizing digestion.
Another unique benefit of coconut milk is that it has anti-bacterial, anti-fungal and anti-viral properties. It is also high in vitamin C so it is very beneficial for strengthening the immune system and fighting off a number of diseases. Moreover, coconut milk is an excellent source of iron. One cup of the milk gives you a quarter of your daily need.
Coconut milk often comes in a can, which is not great because of the BPA in the lining. You could buy it in a carton to avoid this, but an even better idea would be to make it yourself. It is cheaper, and besides, homemade always tastes better. All it takes is to blend 1 cup of unsweetened dried shredded coconut with 3 cups of hot water for 2 minutes. You can strain it through a cheesecloth or drink it as is and voilà you have fresh coconut milk.
Rice milk is another good option that you can use to substitute for cow’s milk in your diet. It contains slightly fewer calories than cow’s milk and less than half of those come from fat, with none of them being saturated fat. In addition, rice milk contains no cholesterol since cholesterol is only found in animal products, such as cow’s milk.
Rice milk on its own doesn’t contain a lot of vitamins and minerals, but fortunately most brands are fortified with niacin, vitamins B12, A, D and iron. The phosphorus content in rice milk is two fifths the amount that cow’s milk contains, making the small amount of calcium that it does contain more beneficial to the body.
A milk alternative that tends to be more popular and is very easy to make yourself, is almond milk. Almond milk offers even more nutritional benefits than rice milk. It too contains no cholesterol or lactose. It is very low in carbohydrates and calories, making it a great option for people who are looking to lose weight. The sugar content in almond milk is low as well, being only 8 grams per serving, while the fat content that comes from the almonds, is healthy, unsaturated fat. This type of fat contributes to more pliable cell membranes and cleaner arteries.
As for the calcium content in almond milk, it provides 30% of the recommended daily value. What’s more is that it also provides 25% of Vitamin D. These two nutrients work as a team to build and maintain strong bones.
Another potent vitamin in almond milk is Vitamin E. This has powerful antioxidant properties to protect our bodies and maintain glowing skin. It also helps our bodies to better use the Vitamin A that almond milk contains, to support our eyesight. Almond milk is not a huge source of protein, but it does contain B vitamins and iron, which provide us with energy and support for our muscles.
Almond milk is very simple to make yourself and tastes even better than store-bought varieties. The basic recipe is shown here, but you can easily add dates, stevia or any other sweetener to it, as well as vanilla or cacao to flavour it to suit your tastes. You can also substitute a different kind of nut instead of the almonds, and make milk in the same way. One variation that tastes great is hazelnut milk.
Almond Milk Recipe
1 cup whole raw almonds, soaked in water overnight
3-4 cups water
Drain and rinse the almonds after soaking for at least 6 hours
Blend almonds and water in blender until well blended
Strain through a cheesecloth
*lasts in the fridge for 3-4 days
If you found this article helpful, help us spread the word about good nutrition with your friends and family. Also, if you make any of the milks above we would love to hear about it in the comment section below. Happy milking!!
Book: The World’s Healthiest Foods by George Mateljan
www.livestrong.com / www.livestrong.com