A milk substitute is a liquid that replaces milk in a diet or recipe. This overlaps with but is distinct from the group of milk-like liquids called "milks" because of their similarity to the liquid produced by mammary glands.
Lactose intolerance or a milk allergy can prompt the use of milk substitutes; they are also consumed by vegans. Some milk substitutes are more healthy than milk, by being lower in cholesterol and/or saturated fat. When milk substitutes are lacking in vitamins or dietary minerals present in milk (such as vitamin B12 or calcium), they are sometimes fortified.
The two most common categories of milk substitutes are grain milk and plant milk. The most common grain milk is rice milk, while the most common plant milk is soy milk. Other examples include hemp milk, coconut milk, almond milk, and peanut milk. Gluten-Free Milk substitutes are also available.
Lactose is the major sugar found in milk. Lactose intolerance occurs when an individual is deficient in the enzyme lactase; which breaks down the lactose in the intestine. Bloating, cramps, constipation, or diarrhea may result when an individual who is lactose intolerant consumes a dairy product. A variety of products are available which contain milk substitutes, so those foods are still able to be consumed by individuals with a lactose intolerance. Food products which have been manufactured with milk substitutes include milk, yogurt, whipped topping and ice cream.
Lactose Free Manufacturing
A lactose free food, such as non-dairy ice cream, requires a different process during manufacturing. For example, ice cream is made with a combination of milk products that contain lactose, but non-dairy ice cream is synthesized using hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (coconut oil, palm kernel oil and soybean oil) along with emulsifier, protein, sweetener and water. Synthetic ice cream product has a similar flavour and texture to traditional dairy ice cream.
Varieties and Brands
Almond milk is a popular substitute for dairy milk.
Coconut milk can be used in most recipes that call for dairy milk.
Soy is a popular alternative to dairy products containing lactose. Soy beverages are developed by extracting the liquid from ground up soybeans. It comes in a variety of flavors and can be used as beverage, on cereal, or for cooking. “Soy Milk” must be fortified with calcium, vitamin D, B2, A and zinc in order to be used as a substitute for cow milk.
Rice milk is prepared from pre-soaked rice or from dry rice. Rice milk contains more carbohydrates and less protein than cows milk does. Rice milk is fortified with calcium, niacin, vitamin B12, vitamin A, vitamin D and iron to make it a more nutritious substitute for dairy milk. Rice milk can be easily made at home, but then does not contain the same nutrients as it would if it were fortified.
Other Milk Substitutes
Breast Milk Substitutes are available for infants if breast feeding is not an option. Infant formulas made of cow’s milk can be a supplement to breast milk or as sole source of nutrition before solid food is introduced. It is essential that the formula is iron-fortified for optimal growth and health of the baby.
- Doris E. Pitz. Lactose-Free Synthetic Ice Cream. United States Patent No: 2,643,90, February 17, 1987. http://patft.uspto.gov. Retrieved November 8, 2011.
- What are the health benefits of soy?, Dietitians of Canada. (September 2010). http://www.dietitians.ca. Retrieved November 8, 2010.
- What is Rice Milk and is Rice Milk Good for You?, FitDay. Retrieved November 8, 2011.
- The Benefits of Organic Hemp Milk, Global Healing Center. http://www.globalhealingcenter.com/natural-health/benefits-of-hemp-milk/, Retrieved April 29, 2013
- Feeding baby infant formula. Government of Alberta Health and Wellness. http://www.health.alberta.ca. Retrieved November 8, 2011.
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