~and why you should, even if you aren’t lactose intolrant~
Going Lactose-free isn’t just for people with lactose intolerance. It’s for everyone. Over the last few years, milk alternatives have grown in popularity and number. My personal journey to get rid of the lactose in my diet began to around four years ago. And, I have tried everything. Keep reading for a comparison of the most common lactose-free alternatives and for my recommendations.
When considering a lactose-free alternative, there are a few key factors I look for. First, how expensive is it? Often times, the price difference is too great to justify switching products. Second, how does the taste compare? Is it gross? Is it just different? Personally, I prefer items with a similar taste to the originals. And lastly, do they make up for the loss of lactose by adding more sugars and ruining the health benefits? The point of eliminating lactose is to create a healthier gut, not to increase our sugar intake.
But first, What is Lactose?
Lactose is a type of sugar that is commonly found in milk and other dairy products. These include cheese, yogurt, ice cream, and pretty much anything that uses milk as one of its main ingredients. You’ve most likely heard of lactose intolerance, which is the body’s inability to process lactose. The kicker is that EVERYONE is Lactose Intolerant. See this article for more information. For the majority of people, their body develops a tolerance for lactose, and they never have problems. But, one can develop an intolerance at any time. By removing lactose from your diet, you can provide relief for lactose intolerance, prevent lactose sensitivity, save money, and promote your overall gut health.
In the case of milk alternatives, there are tons of different options. There are coconut, lactose-free, almond, goat, and soy kinds of milk, and within each of those categories, there are numerous brands. The options seem overwhelming and endless. For the sake of a fair comparison, the nutritional values are per 100 grams of each product and are compared to whole milk. This is a comprehensive analysis and highlights the pros and cons of each option. Also, please keep in mind that brands often don’t use pure milk, so be sure to check the nutritional label before purchasing.
Coconut milk is the most “keto” milk alternative. While 100 grams of standard milk contains around 3 grams of fat, 100 grams of coconut milk contains around 24 grams. The main nutritional compromise lies with calcium intake. While whole milk provides a good source of calcium and vitamin D, coconut milk contains neither and instead has a higher concentration of iron. The taste of coconut milk, to me, is very watery (as it is not true milk) but pleasant. Coconut milk cannot be used as a milk substitute when cooking. In terms of price, the least expensive brand for coconut milk is Great Value at $3.56 per half-gallon. The popular brand So Delicious runs much higher at $9.36 per half-gallon. I believe coconut milk is the way to go for those on the keto diet.
Almond milk is the low-calorie alternative. It contains around 1/4 the number of calories of whole milk and has virtually no sugar. The downside is that it also provides very little in terms of nutrients. Like coconut milk, almond milk is not true milk, meaning it cannot be used as a milk substitute when cooking. However, unlike coconut milk, almond milk is generally a thicker consistency. In terms of price, the Great Value brand is around $5.00 per half-gallon whereas the popular Silk Unsweetened Almond Milk is closer to $9.00 per half-gallon. For those looking to cut calories, almond milk is the best route.
Goat’s milk is the most similar alternative to cow’s milk. Nutritionally, the two are practically identical, and goat’s milk can be used when cooking. That being said, goat’s milk is my least favorite alternative because oftentimes, it still contains lactose. I also find the taste to be offputting, and in terms of price, 1 quart is around $4.00. This means a gallon would be $16.00and a half-gallon would be $8.00. Goat’s milk is one of the more affordable options and is an excellent source of nutrients. This is a great option if you are not sensitive to goat’s milk.
Soy milk is also nutritionally similar to cow’s milk except it lacks the nutrients calcium and vitamin D. Instead, it is a good source of Magnesium. The biggest downsides are that it cannot be used in cooking and the taste, to me, is the worst of all the alternatives. Some brands will combat this by upping the sugar content, but I prefer to avoid that too. In terms of price, 1 quart of the popular Silk Unsweetened Soy Milk costs $6.70, meaning a gallon would be $26.80 and a half-gallon would be $13.40. Soy Milk is by far the most expensive alternative and is not one I would suggest.
Lactose-free milk is made by filtering the lactose out of regular cow’s milk. Therefore it shares the classic taste, nutrients, and can be used when cooking. The Great Value brand costs $3.24 per half-gallon, Lactaid is comparable at $3.88 per half-gallon, and Fairlife is slightly more expensive at $4.17 per half-gallon. That being said, Fairlife contains increased calcium and protein with decreased sugar. Out of all the options, Lactose-free milk is my personal favorite.
Regardless of which brand or alternative you choose to go with, here are some tips and tricks. Firstly, the Great Value or other generic brands are almost always cheaper and have the same nutritional values. Why pay extra for a name brand? Secondly, PLEASE read the nutritional labels when making a purchasing decision. Not all brands are equal. Be especially aware of the sugar content. And lastly, pay attention to the expiration dates. Normally, lactose-free products will keep for much longer than standard milk. This, for me, helps to justify the price increase because no product goes to waste.