May 26, 2022

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Lactose: A Background

Lactose is a sugar found in milk. It's made up of glucose and galactose, which are two types of sugar. Most mammals produce an enzyme called lactase that breaks down lactose into these two simple sugars so they can be absorbed into your body. However, most humans stop producing enough lactase after infancy and are unable to digest lactose as adults—lactose intolerance is very common.

Lactose is a type of sugar that naturally occurs in all mammals. This means it's not only found in dairy products, but also meats and eggs. It is digested when broken down by an enzyme called lactase, which is found in our small intestines. Most adults produce about 25 grams of lactase every day, which allows them to break down 30 grams of lactase per day, according to Ohio State University. But for others, consuming dairy products can cause nausea or other gastrointestinal issues due to undigested lactose moving through their systems too quickly. This condition is known as lactose intolerance.

Dairy Milk Alternatives

Though you won’t often see them on store shelves, there are plenty of dairy milk alternatives that are just as nutritious as dairy milk. One of these is nut-based milk, which can be made from almonds, cashews, peanuts or other nuts. Soy-based milk and those derived from rice or oats are also popular options for those who want to avoid or reduce their intake of animal products in their diet. You can get creative with your alternative milk too; a few ingredients can help you make your own at home. When choosing between various types of non-dairy milk, though, one important thing to remember is that they’re not created equal—different varieties have different nutritional values and taste profiles.

Coconut Milk

The rise in popularity of Coconut Milk is partly due to its rich and creamy taste, but also because it has other nutritional benefits. Most coconut milk contains between 30 and 50 calories per cup, along with 2 grams of saturated fat. In comparison, skim milk has about 100 calories per cup along with only 1 gram of saturated fat. Coconut milk is also lower in sugar than many dairy products; as a general rule, if you can enjoy more than two tablespoons without your stomach rumbling then you're consuming too much sugar! The rise in popularity will likely continue because coconut milk often contains beneficial minerals like manganese and copper that dairy milk doesn’t have.

Almond Milk

Made by grinding almonds and water together, then straining out nut meat and adding a little bit of sugar, almond milk makes for a dairy-free alternative to cow’s milk. It’s easy to make at home but is also readily available at grocery stores. It is relatively low in calories but does contain some fat, so those looking to shed pounds might want to choose to skim or unsweetened varieties. But there are other possible benefits too: Almond milk may reduce the risk for heart disease and diabetes due to its high potassium content. Keep an eye on how much you’re consuming though; most brands have about 60 calories per cup. And with only one gram of protein, it’s not exactly good post-workout grub. 

Rice Milk

Although rice milk is a healthy choice for vegans or people on a lactose-free diet, it’s not ideal for anyone else. This milk alternative has a fairly bland taste and doesn’t have as much calcium and protein as dairy milk. Also, if you don’t mind drinking milk that has been stripped of most nutrients through processing and fortification, soy milk is likely to be better for you. Rice milk has too much sugar and other unnatural additives to be healthy. Plus, much rice milk contains more chemicals than actual rice!

Other Milk

Even if you aren’t lactose intolerant, chances are you’ve tried some alternative milk. Soy milk is a staple in many health-conscious kitchens, while almond milk has become more common as it continues to gain popularity among vegans and those who wish to avoid dairy. But even within these two food groups, there are numerous varieties. Coconut milk may be thick or thin, unsweetened or flavoured with a variety of vanilla extracts. Almond milk can come as low fat or nonfat, plain or sweetened with vanilla extract or other flavourings; depending on its brand and flavour, soy milk is usually sold in light (or original) and regular versions.

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