Are you one of the many who can no longer tolerate dairy?
All is not lost because you can still enjoy milk in your coffee or with your oatmeal – just milk of a different kind. Many people consume dairy products all their lives without even realizing that they have such an intolerance. The problem is that we can lack the necessary enzymes to break down dairy and the intolerance can creep up on you gradually as you age, often starting during the teens or early adulthood.
While it can be a genetic problem, lactose intolerance can also be brought on by other causes such as infections, chemotherapy, penicillin reactions, surgery or pregnancy.
Having insufficient enzymes to break down dairy is called a lactase deficiency
So you need lactase to break down the lactose. Here are some healthy alternatives to dairy that you can buy in your local health store or even your grocery store but check the brands and the ingredients to ensure you are getting the natural and organic versions. Otherwise you can make your own quite easily.
1. Oat milk
will take 1 cup oats mixed with 4 cups hot water (not boiling) before refrigerating overnight In the morning, blend and strain so that it is ready to use. What could be easier than that? Apart from being dairy-free, oat milk has other advantages being cholesterol and lactose free with high levels of vitamin E and folate acid. This non dairy milk is especially well tolerated by anyone who suffers from lots of allergies but might not be suitable for those who need to have a gluten-free diet. The commercial versions may well have added sugar so watch out for that. Oat milk is a good source of phytochemicals which are those naturally occurring chemicals in plants that help fight diseases such as cancer, heart disease and stroke. Oat milk has a thinner texture so not suitable to use in baking. Conventionally grown oats can be high in pesticide residue, so do make sure you buy organic.
2. Almond milk
is very popular but can be rather expensive with many considering almond milk to be the very best tasting alternative milk. You can make your own by soaking 1 cup of almonds in 2 to 3 cups of water for a day or overnight. Then mix nuts with 1 ½ cups of water, blend, strain and repeat a second time, adding enough water to cover the pulp. The advantages of almond milk include being a rich source of magnesium, manganese, selenium and Vitamin E. Selenium is particularly good for our immune systems as well as helping in reproduction, and in the metabolism of the thyroid. Making your own will mean that it has no added sugar but of course there are ready made versions to buy. Be wary about commercial almond milk coming with added preservatives and thickeners. Obviously it is not suitable for anyone with a nut allergy.
3. Rice milk
is the most hypoallergenic all the non dairy milks. It is also very nutritious and you can make your own by bringing 8 cups water and 1 teaspoon natural salt to the boil before adding 1 cup organic brown rice. Reduce the heat to a simmer and leave to cook for 3 hours. Take small amounts and blend half of the rice mixture with half fresh water before straining and then you are done. High in heart healthy nutrients, rice milk has unsaturated fat from its rice bran oil along with niacin and vitamin B6, helping to lower your blood cholesterol if needed. You might need to count the calories with rice milk which is high in carbs and low in protein. Rice milk is considered to be a healthier alternative as long as it is organic but rice is naturally high in sugar while thickeners and oils are often added for texture and taste. It is relatively inexpensive.
4. Coconut milk
is readily available but you might like to try your hand at making your own if you have access to mature coconuts. Drain out the milk and keep to one side before scooping out half of the hard coconut flesh. Blend together with as much water as necessary to get a lovely thick, coconut consistency that is gluten-free, cholesterol-free and nut-free with a healthy good fat content. Coconut milk has lots of vitamin B12 and is also rich in lauric acid, a substance also found in human milk, with excellent anti-viral and anti-bacterial properties. If you like the taste of coconut, you are going to love coconut milk. Of course coconuts are not grown everywhere so any coconut products you use tend to increase your carbon footprint.
5. Chia milk
is an ancient super seed and comes loaded with healthy nutrients. The unusual and interesting fact about chia seeds
is that when soaked, they become a gel like substance. This is tasty on its own or you can add water, blend and strain for your own alternative milk product. Chia milk will also mix well with a heavier nut mix. You will need 3 tablespoons chia seeds soaked in 2 ½ cups water overnight to make a substantial batch.
6. Hemp milk
is an excellent healthy alternative and made from hemp seeds which are full of omega fatty acids. Mix 1 ½ cups hemp seeds with 2 ½ cups water and blend. You may prefer not to strain hemp milk because you get a richer and nuttier result without affecting the smoothness. Sadly, it is still illegal
to grow hemp in the USA but it is imported from Canada. A good alternative for anyone with soya and nut allergies, hemp milk is also cholesterol and lactose free, low in saturated fats and of course rich in healthy omega fatty acids. Hemp milk is also an excellent source of protein with a thicker consistency than many other plant-based milks. Hemp seed milk is a zero cholesterol beverage but it can be expensive and more difficult to obtain.
7. Sesame milk
is the final suggestion and can be made by dry grinding 1 cup raw sesame seeds in a blender. Add 2 cups water, blend again and strain. For a really amazing taste, add some date puree and a pinch of cinnamon.
If you have that bloated stomach feeling often with the symptoms of flatulence, irritable bowel syndrome or gastrointestinal stress, you could be milk or other food intolerant. First stop is to try a week without dairy and if you are intolerant to dairy, you will see positive results within just 3 to 4 days.