While health authorities still recommend people drink three glasses of milk a day to boost calcium levels and strengthen bones, more and more researchers are concluding that you might be better off ditching milk and dairy products altogether.
A study published in the British Medical Journal found that people who drank three or more glasses of milk a day did not show a decrease in bone fractures when compared with those who consumed less than one glass of milk a day. Furthermore, people who drank the most milk were twice as likely to die early.
While these findings are a good reason to give up milk, there are several other reasons why more people are seeking alternatives to dairy. About 75 percent of the world’s population can’t properly process the lactose in milk-based products, leading to bloating, gas, and diarrhea. In addition, two to three percent of children under three have a milk allergy. Lastly, with a growing concern of contaminants (antibiotics and hormones), and more people choosing an animal-friendly vegan or ovo-vegetarian diet, individuals that consume dairy are in decline.
If you go dairy-free, you will have to give up more than just milk. Here are seven great alternatives that may help you on your way.
1. Milk substitutes
There is a wide variety of milk alternatives out there, including almond, oat, coconut, rice, hemp, cashew, and flax milk. The nutrient content of these dairy-free milk alternatives can vary substantially. Some are fortified with calcium, vitamin D, and vitamin B12 to mimic the nutrient content of regular milk, while others are packed with added sugars, flavor enhancers, and preservatives. Make sure to carefully read the food labels and pick the ones with the most nutrients and the least sugar and chemicals.
2. Yogurt replacements
Yogurt is packed with gut-friendly bacteria that help promote good health. Going dairy-free doesn’t mean you must miss out on these gut boosting probiotics. Today, many grocery stores offer a variety of probiotic yogurts made from nut and seed milks that are cultured with live, active bacteria.
3. Cheese substitutes
Just as regular cheese, you have soft and hard nondairy cheese. If you are a cream cheese lover, you’ll easily find soy- and nut-based versions that deliver a similar texture and taste. Hard cheeses are more challenging to make, but many companies have come up with dairy-free cheese alternatives that have a similar texture as regular cheese. If you are a Parmesan lover, nutritional yeast is an excellent, vitamin B12-rich substitute.
4. Butter alternatives
Butter alternatives available today are either made from vegetable oils or coconut. Depending on the usage, you could also opt for nut and seed butters such as peanut, almond, or cashew butter.
5. Cream substitutes
If you love creamy soups and sauces or regularly add cream to your tea or coffee, then you are lucky. Today, many grocery stores sell great-tasting nondairy alternatives to heavy cream, whipping cream, and coffee creamers. (Beware of partially hydrogenated oils used in coffee creamers, however.)
6. Sour cream replacements
There is a wide variety of soy-based sour creams available on the market. If you are trying to avoid soy-based products, you might have to look a little bit longer to find a sour cream substitute. If you can’t find any, plain nondairy yogurt makes a good substitute in most recipes.
7. Ice cream alternatives
As the temperatures rise in the northern hemisphere, many people are starting to look forward to a refreshing ice cream. Fortunately, there are many nondairy ice cream substitutes available today. These include nut and seed milk-based ice creams and fruit-based sorbets. Or why not try to make your own? Click here to get an amazing bee pollen ice cream recipe.