Are You Moving Toward Non Dairy Milk?

July 17, 2018 in Foodland Chronicles, Health, Uncategorized by Joyce Bunderson

This is definitely the age of non-dairy milk. Options are more plentiful than a dietitian’s wildest imagination. My imagination can be pretty wild, but I still see a range of options that include both good and bad choices for different individuals. Having all these choices can be nice, especially if you have lactose intolerance; you’re a vegan, or have a casein or milk allergy, but making the choices wisely takes some time and a little knowledge.

May I share one caution right off the top? Whenever we substitute a food from a completely different category of foods, we generally will be changing the nutrients that the original food supplied. People very gradually learned to stay healthy eating certain combinations of foods (This commonly took millennia.) and when we switch or modify the food, we’re at risk of developing a deficiency.

If you think about the sailors who got on ships for months/years and stopped eating fresh fruits or vegetables, oooops! - they ended up with scurvy. Fortunately they did not have to wait until vitamin C was discovered in 1930; about 200 years earlier Dr. James Lind, discovered that something in citrus fruits would keep the sailors from getting scurvy. Thus some sailors came to be called limeys.

So if you’ve been drinking milk, well, for forever and now you want to consume non-dairy milk and be kind to the planet or have some other reason to switch to a plant-based milk, you should think about it a bit.

Issues to consider:

  • Does the non-dairy milk that you’re considering have at least 30% of the Daily Value per cup of calcium? Since we’re talking about calcium, you will probably want to see if calcium is being added to the product and how much. Some of us are at risk of forming kidney stones with too much added calcium; and others are at increased risk of hip fractures and prostate cancer. So watch how much is added.
  • Also look for at least 25% of the Daily Value of vitamin D per cup.
  • If you need to count the protein from milk toward your daily protein intake, you’ll realize that a cup of dairy milk supplies 8 grams of protein. Unaltered almond, coconut, cashew, flax, rice, and other nut milks typically have less than 1 gram per cup.
  • Some non-dairy milks have gone over the top with added sugar. So check out the label. Some rice and oat milks have as much a 20 grams of sugar. Dairy milk has 12 grams (about 3 teaspoons) of naturally occurring lactose (the milk sugar that some people do not have the enzyme lactase to metabolize.)
  • Two types of non-dairy milks are usually not a good choice; rice milk because of the arsenic (a human carcinogen) and coconut milk because of the saturated fat.
  • Pea protein is known to have a taste much like real dairy and deliver sufficient protein.
  • If you really want creamy milk, without the saturated fat and cholesterol of real dairy, you may want to consider the creamy nut milks. You’ll have to spend some serious time investigating, however. Some of the nut milks don’t add calcium or vitamin D. In addition, some keep their calories down by using scant 4 to 6 nuts per cup.

To add to the complexity of the relatively new and rapidly growing market of non-dairy milk, there seems to be a jillion blends. So instead of jumping in, without a thought, my suggestion is to spend a little time to ensure that you’re accomplishing what you want to accomplish – a milk substitute that doesn’t remove what you need and add what you don’t need.