Navigating Milk Alternatives

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If you decide to give up dairy milk, what will you pour over cereal, pair with a freshly baked cookie, or put in your morning coffee? Milk serves many purposes for the average American, so if dairy is out, we need alternatives. Fortunately, your problem isn’t finding an alternative to cow’s milk; rather it’s navigating through the sea of options! Read the rest of this entry »


Best Non-Dairy Calcium Sources

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Most Americans are brought up to believe that milk and other dairy products are essential foods, due in part to the calcium they contain. Yet many other cultures consume little or no dairy, and often live longer, healthier lives than Americans on average. Read the rest of this entry »


How to Avoid Hidden Dairy

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Lactose-intolerant individuals can make a concerted effort to remove dairy products from their diets, yet still occasionally experience uncomfortable symptoms after a meal or beverage. What gives? It turns out that going dairy-free involves more than just eliminating the obvious suspects like milk and cheese. Many food products─even “non-dairy” items─may contain dairy-derived ingredients, such as:


This milk protein is used as an emulsifying and binding agent in many processed foods, including “vegetarian” cheeses and supplements. Other forms of casein used in food processing include ammonium caseinate, calcium caseinate, casein hydrolysate, iron caseinate, magnesium caseinate, paracasein, potassium caseinate, rennet casein, sodium caseinate, and zinc caseinate.

Lactalbumin and lactoglobulin

Lactalbumin is the albumin component in milk. Albumins act as emulsifying and binding agents in a wide range of processed foods. Similar to lactalbumin, lactoglobulin is a whey protein which functions as a gelling and stabilizing agent. It often lurks in unlikely places, like sports beverages.


According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Disorders, lactose is often added to prepared foods, including bread, muffins, cakes and other baked goods, breakfast cereals, instant potatoes, soups, breakfast drinks, margarine, lunch meats, bacon, sausage, and hot dogs, salad dressings, many types of snack chips, mixes for pancakes, biscuits, and cookies, and numerous forms of candy.

Whey and Whey Protein

Whey, a by-product in cheese-making, shows up in a variety of prepared food products. Whey protein─which is composed of lactalbumin and lactalglobulin─is found in both foods and nutritional supplements in many forms, including sweet whey, whey powder, whey protein concentrate, and whey protein isolate, which is typically lactose-free.

What’s the take away here? Well, it appears that the more processed a food is, the more likely it is to contain additives, often dairy-derived. You best strategy is to stick to fresh, whole foods as much as possible, as well as healthy prepared foods with relatively short, safe ingredient lists. Your vigilance will serve you well!


Best Non-Dairy Treats

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If you, or someone you love, is lactose intolerant or allergic to cow’s milk, you may have declared your home a dairy-free zone. If so, you’re probably working on safely reconfiguring family meals, snacks, school lunches, holiday feasts, and of course, desserts.

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How to Raise Kids Dairy-Free

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Does milk “do a body good?” Maybe not, if one is lactose intolerant. This is a major issue for many people─especially those from certain ethic/racial groups such as African-American, Jewish, Native Indian, and Asian-American.

As you may know by now, lactose intolerance is a condition in which the body can’t digest lactose, the milk sugar present in dairy products. The side effects that may occur if dairy is consumed include stomach pain, gas, and diarrhea─all of which can be especially troubling for children. Read the rest of this entry »


The Truth About Lactose Intolerance

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While most people are familiar with the term lactose intolerance, not everyone is sure exactly what it means. Learning more about the topic can help people who may not respond well to dairy products in their diets, without clearly understanding why.

Lactose is a type of sugar found in milk and other dairy products. In most people, the cells lining the small intestine produce an enzyme called lactase, which breaks lactose down into a form that can be absorbed by the blood. However, not everyone produces enough lactase to properly digest lactose, which means it passes through the digestive system. This can cause unpleasant symptoms such as abdominal pain and discomfort, gas, and diarrhea.

30 to 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant, with some populations disproportionately affected. For example, 75% of all African-American, Jewish, Mexican-American, and Native Americans are lactose intolerant, as well as 90% of Asian-Americans.

Lactose intolerance may also be known as lactase deficiency. Although there is no specific treatment to improve the body’s ability to produce lactase, symptoms can be reduced by minimizing or eliminating dairy products from your diet. This is far easier now than in years past, given the wide array of dairy alternatives in literally every category, from milk and cheese to sour cream and yogurt.

What if your pediatrician encourages dairy even if your child is lactose intolerant? Some physicians may do so, since the American Academy of Pediatrics revised their guidelines for treating lactose intolerance in 2006. In the past, it had been recommended that eliminating dairy products from the diet was the best way to treat lactose intolerance. However, the new guidelines support the use of dairy foods as an important source of calcium for bone growth and maintenance, as well as of other nutrients needed for development in children and adolescents─even if kids can’t tolerate lactose.

You’ll have a sense of what’s best for your children, but you can rest assured that if you do choose to relieve their discomfort by cutting out the dairy, there are many other foods rich in calcium and other essential nutrients, as well as children’s vitamin supplements to fill in gaps as needed. Here’s to feeling great, with or without the dairy!


Dairy-Free Shopping Tips

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June is National Dairy Alternative Month, acknowledging the growing number of Americans who choose a dairy-free lifestyle. Although we’ve all heard the advertising slogan “every body needs milk,” it turns out that not every body can actually tolerate it.

According to the National Institutes of Health, between 30 and 50 million Americans are lactose intolerant─especially certain ethnic/racial populations. This includes up to 75% of all African Americans and American Indians, and 90% of Asian Americans.

If you or someone you love needs to go dairy-free, it’s easier now than ever. Dairy alternatives are widely available, particularly in upscale markets and natural food stores. Ready for a game plan?
These tips can help:

Determine what you need to replace

Some families consume more categories of dairy products than others, which should be considered when seeking alternatives. Do you want high-quality, dairy-free milk, butter, and cheese? How about yogurt, sour cream, cottage cheese, and ice cream? Whatever you and your family rely on, you’ll find a range of replacement options─many so good that you’ll never miss the dairy.

Check for hidden sources

Dairy items like milk and cheese are easy to target and replace, but we should also consider less obvious sources of dairy, as they can still create problems for people avoiding lactose or casein (milk protein). Dairy ingredients come in many different forms, which you’ll catch if you scan labels closely. Look for terms like whey, ghee, casein, rennet, lactose, lactulose, whey and casein hydrolysates, lactalbumin, and lactoglobulin.

Focus on fresh, whole foods

Scaling back on dairy can also be a golden invitation for you and your family to consume more fresh, whole foods like fruits, veggies, unrefined grains, beans and legumes, as well as nuts and seeds. Not only are these über healthy foods packed with vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, fiber, and more, but unlike many prepared and processed items, you can easily determine that they’re dairy free! Fresh produce is especially varied in the warmer months. Check out your local farmer’s market and see what’s in season now.

Assess your options

Many companies offer alternatives that make minimizing dairy deliciously easy. Earth Balance has a wide array, including soy milk, “butter” spreads and baking sticks, dressings and more, plus a new non-dairy mayonnaise. Blue Diamond has perfected the art of almond milk, including a new almond-coconut version. Other brands with dairy-free options include Van’s, Lundberg, Amy’s, Nature’s Path, Santa Cruz Organic, RW Knudsen, Pacific and more. Also, health food store employees are often quite knowledgeable about dairy alternatives.

So, here’s the suggested strategy: prioritize your replacement needs, starting with basics like milk, butter, and cheese. Check out your options at local markets and natural food stores. Scan labels carefully, especially in prepared/processed items. Incorporate more fresh whole foods. And finally, relax and enjoy! You may find that along with feeling better, you’re in for a whole new culinary adventure.