The Best Dairy Alternatives

Dairy alternatives, like a milk substitute, provide the benefits of dairy products without the harm dairy can cause some consumers. Products like dairy free cheese are considered vegan and tend to attract populations interested in adopting a vegan lifestyle or consumers with dairy allergies or restrictions.

However, these products are available to everyone and may offer latent benefits. Still, consumers are encouraged to consume dairy products if they are able due to the nutrient-rich qualities of it.

The following sections explain which dairy alternatives are the best in terms of taste and nutritional value to help consumers make educated food choices regarding their dairy products. For instance, in the sections below, you may find a cheese substitute that rivals regular cheese in taste and nutrition. Nevertheless, you are advised to consult your healthcare physician if you suspect you may have a dairy allergy or intolerance.

Milk Substitutes

Non dairy milk can be made from soybeans, almonds, coconuts or other substances. Every milk substitute will advertise the fact that it contains no dairy products and is safe for consumption by those with lactose intolerances and allergies. A list of the most common types of milk substitutes is provided below:

  • Soy milk. This non-dairy product has a creamy flavor, making it a great addition to coffees and cereals. Organic soy milk contains approximately 90 calories, four grams of fat and 10 milligrams of sodium in a single serving (one cup or 240 milliliters). It also has nine grams of protein and five grams of carbs in each serving. Compared to whole milk, soy milk 14 percent more calcium per serving.
  • Almond milk. As opposed to soy milk, almond milk is usually sweet and light with a nutty aftertaste. Consequently, almond milk is often used in desserts and baked goods as milk alternatives, and it is ideal for consumers trying to lose weight. Almond milk has significantly fewer calories and less fat per serving than whole milk. It also is a great source of vitamin E, but it is comprised of mostly water. Brands with higher almond contents may have more nutritional value.
  • Coconut milk. Made from brown coconuts, coconut milk is creamy and sweet with a hint of coconut flavor. This non dairy milk has virtually no carbs or proteins, making it the least nutritious of the dairy alternatives. Additionally, it has a high percentage of saturated fats that may contribute to higher cholesterol levels. Still, consumers can drink coconut milk in moderation without experiencing health effects, and it does contain fewer calories than whole milk and the other substitutes.

Determining which milk alternatives are the best is nearly impossible due to the lack of research available and the varying nutritional needs of consumers. However, the battle for the best substitute seems to be soy milk vs almond milk in terms of nutritional value and taste comparison to traditional milk products. Consumers are encouraged to try both types of dairy free milk to find the appropriate substitute for them. Though, other, less common, substitutes such as oat milk, rice milk, cashew milk and hemp milk may be suitable alternatives as well.

Note: Long-term health effects for milk substitutes are largely unknown, so consumers should take caution when purchasing dairy alternatives.

Cheese Alternatives

Dairy free cheese can be difficult to find and finding tasty vegan cheeses can seem impossible. Some cheese substitute brands you may be able to purchase in grocery stores or specialty stores are as follows:

  • Tofutti
  • MyLife Biocheese
  • Daiya cheeses
  • Damona
  • Vegusto
  • Kite Hill Cheese
  • Parma!

Other cheese substitutes can be made from home. For instance, almond cheese only requires a food processor, a cheesecloth and almonds. After skinning and soaking the almonds, blend them into a fine mixture, place it into the cheesecloth and refrigerate it overnight. Cashew cheeses can be made in a similar fashion. Huffington Post Australia writers have reported that most of the aforementioned cheese brands taste very cheesy and can barely be differentiated from comparable dairy cheese brands after testing various types. Because many dairy free cheeses utilize oils, soy proteins, yeast and nuts, they may still have different flavors than traditional cheeses. However, consumers can find cheese substitutes for nearly any variety of cheese, including parmesan and cheddar.

Note: Results may vary depending on how the cheese is prepared. Some dairy free cheeses may not melt properly to form cheese dips and may solidify in a different manner than dairy cheese.

Ice Cream Alternatives

Ice cream alternatives are made with a milk substitute like soy or almond milk, so consumers should check the ingredients before purchasing ice cream brands to ensure they will like it. Since milk substitutes have fewer calories than whole or low-fat milk, ice cream alternatives are often less fattening than their dairy counterparts. A list of popular dairy-free ice cream brands is as follows:

  • NadaMoo!
  • Dewie’s
  • Steve’s Ice Cream
  • Genuto
  • So Delicious Dairy Free

Consumers can find creative dairy-free ice cream flavors that compete with well-known brands like Ben and Jerry’s and Cold Stone Creamery.

Why should you go dairy free?

Going dairy free may provide you with some health benefits. Whether you choose to consume milk substitutes for personal reasons, medical reasons or political reasons, eliminating dairy from your diet may help you maintain a balanced diet. By default, you will be more cognizant of the food you consume after removing a food group from your diet. Replacing dairy with plant-based alternatives allows you to combat the symptoms of lactose intolerance, dairy allergies and certain dietary restrictions while enjoying the taste and nutrition that dairy can offer. For instance, you may feel less bloated and have fewer stomach issues as a result of dairy consumption.

Though, the diet is not without problems. Some concerns about going completely dairy free include the lack of protein your body may receive. You may also struggle to find enough vitamin D and calcium to support your bones. The USDA recommends adults consume about three cups of milk per day to obtain sufficient vitamin D and calcium for proper bone health. For most consumers, eliminating dairy entirely is unrealistic and unnecessary. Rather, they should reduce their dairy intake by supplementing it with alternatives.

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