Milk Alternatives for the Lactose Intolerant: Almond, Rice & Soy Milk

What is Lactose Intolerance?

Lactose is a large sugar molecule that is found in cow’s milk. It is made up of two smaller sugars, glucose and galactose. When people lack the ability to break that larger sugar down into the two smaller sugars, they are said to be lactose intolerant.

Lactase is what breaks lactose down into the two smaller sugars. People can be lactose intolerant when they are born without lactase or they can develop it later in life for two reasons.There are some diseases that damage the lining of the intestines where lactase is which renders the person lactose intolerant.

The third and most common cause of lactose intolerance is due to the fact that as we age, our bodies are programmed to make less of the lactase that is needed to break down lactose. The body begins this process in childhood.

Who Is Lactose Intolerant?

Whether or not you are lactose intolerant depends largely on your race. Dr. Praveen K. Roy of the American Gastroenterological Association writes in Lactose Intolerance that an estimated 25% of white Americans are lactose intolerant. Contrast that figure with 75% to 90% of black, Asian, and Native Americans.

While males and females are equally affected, 44% of lactose intolerant women regain the ability to break down lactose during pregnancy.

Milk Alternatives

The good news for the lactose intolerant is that there are several alternatives to milk. They can all greatly vary in taste, variety, availability, nutritional content, and their ability to be substituted in recipes. Here is the breakdown.

Almond Milk

Availability: Almond milk is available in stores but can also be made at home. By mixing water, sweetener, and sweet almonds in a blender, you can filter the resulting solution and enjoy your homemade almond milk. Be cautioned that you must use sweet almonds. When bitter almonds are mixed with water, they form the deadly poison, cyanide.

Nutritional Content: Unsweetened almond milk is a great alternative to soy milk and is lower in calories than soy milk. Unlike cow’s milk, it contains no cholesterol. Even though it is made from a nut with plenty of protein, almond milk has less protein than soy milk. Eight ounces has 70 calories and two grams of protein. Store bought versions have added vitamins and minerals.

Substitution for Cow’s Milk in Recipes: Almond milk can be substituted for cow’s milk in most recipes.

Rice Milk

Availability: Rice milk comes plain or flavored. It can also be low fat or fat free. It’s available in stores but like almond milk, it can be prepared at home.

Nutritional Content: Unlike cow’s milk, rice milk has no cholesterol. Store bought versions have added vitamins and minerals. Rice milk has less protein than soy or almond milk. Eight ounces has 80 calories and one gram of protein. While it’s lower on protein, it’s higher in sugar than almond or soy milk and it’s not as thick.

Substitution for Cow’s Milk in Recipes: Rice milk can be substituted in most recipes.

Soy Milk

Availability: Soy milk is widely available in stores and comes flavored and unflavored. If you want soy milk without the added preservatives, you can purchase a machine to make it at home.

Nutritional Content: Soy milk gets great marks for protein because it has almost as much as cow’s milk. Eight ounces has 80 calories and 6.7 grams of protein. Most varieties are fortified with vitamins and minerals but all are not.

Substitution for Cow’s Milk in Recipes: Soy milk can be substituted in most baking recipes.