If you are one in 20 Caucasians who suffer from lactose intolerance, you are more likely to have nausea, gut problems, vitamin deficiencies, or osteoporosis. These symptoms exist because your gut cannot fully break down lactose, a type of sugar that you get from milk and dairy foods. Therefore, your body absorbs fewer nutrients than it needs to stay healthy.
Depending on how severe your symptoms are, dietitians would normally advise to either limit the amount of lactose you consume each day or avoid dairy at all costs. You will also be required to make changes to your diet to prevent nutrient deficiency.
Fortunately, there are many dairy alternatives for lactose tolerance that may help improve your quality of life and ensure your body still receives its recommended daily intake of nutrients.
1. Soy Milk
Made from soybeans, soy milk is a great alternative to cow’s milk because it is lactose-free and contains Vitamins E and B12. Although it does not naturally contain calcium, some brands have found a way to fortify it with calcium and Vitamin D to keep your bones and teeth healthy.
One cup of soy milk contains 90 calories, 7 to 9 grams of protein, 4 grams of fat, and 4 grams of carbohydrates. People who have lactose intolerance and vegans turn to this milk alternative because it is obviously rich in high-quality protein that’s almost at the same level as cow’s milk.
Based on research, soy protein intake may help preserve the total Bone Mass Density (BMD) in both young and perimenopausal women. This means soy milk could be an excellent addition to a dietary plan for people who want to improve their bone health and prevent osteoporosis, whether it is caused by lactose intolerance or other diseases.
2. Coconut Milk
If you are lactose intolerant and allergic to soybeans, coconut milk might just be the dairy alternative you are looking for. It has a creamy consistency, tastes sweet, and only contains half of the fat found in cow’s milk.
Coconut milk is also rich in medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs), a type of saturated fat that may suppress appetite and reduce blood cholesterol levels. It will not only help you deal with lactose intolerance but also help you with your weight loss goals.
However, coconut milk contains the lowest carbohydrate and protein content amongst non-dairy kinds of milk. So, individuals who are looking to increase their protein intake will need to find other sources.
3. Cashew Milk
A popular choice amongst vegans, cashew milk is often used as an alternative for cow’s milk in baking, breakfast, and desserts because it tastes less nutty yet sweet and has a thin consistency.
Cashew milk is also low in calories and unhealthy fat so it is safe for daily consumption, even for people with diabetes. It also contains a lot of Vitamins A and E, which are powerful antioxidants that can slow down the ageing process.
However, cashew milk is low in protein so it may not contribute much to your daily protein requirement. Even so, it is still a great source of vitamins and healthy fats that can make your desserts and baked goods nutritious.
4. Macadamia Milk
Popular in Australia, this milk is made of 3% macadamia nuts and water. It has a smooth and creamy flavour, which makes it an excellent sweetener for your smoothies and coffee.
One cup of unsweetened macadamia milk gives you 55 calories, 5 grams of fat, 1 gram of carbohydrates and 1 gram of protein. Like coconut milk, macadamia milk also contains a generous amount of monounsaturated fats, which have shown promise in reducing blood cholesterol levels according to research.
Macadamia milk contains less fat and calories than soy milk. If you are watching your carb intake and don’t exactly like the taste of coconut flavour in your smoothie, macadamia milk would be a great option.
5. Fermented Cheese
Most types of aged cheese have fewer amounts of lactose in them compared with their unripened counterparts. The latter generally contains additional milk and curd, which contributes to their high lactose content while the former undergoes a cheese making process that allows for a smaller amount of lactose to remain.
Based on a 40gram serving size, parmesan has the lowest lactose content at 0.0 gram while Swiss style, cheddar, camembert and cream cheese all contain 0.04 grams. You may want to avoid unripened types of cheese like Ricotta and feta because they may contain 2 to 5 grams of lactose per ounce.
For best results, consider sticking with aged cheese instead of younger and fresher ones. If you need to eliminate dairy from your diet altogether, you may want to check out vegan cheeses that are made from nuts and plants. They are mostly dairy-free, non-GMO, gluten-free, and without any artificial preservatives.
6. Dairy-free Yoghurt
Yoghurt is the go-to source of probiotics of many people with lactose intolerance because it is easy to digest. Each day you let your yoghurt sit in the fridge, there will be less lactose for you to digest as the live microorganisms break it down for energy.
Some brands now also sell dairy-free yoghurts, which would be perfect for those who cannot completely digest lactose. These products are usually made of fibre, probiotics, nut-based milk like cashew milk, soy milk and almond milk, and plant-derived proteins like potatoes and peas. Alternatively, you may also opt to create your own dairy-free yoghurt recipe if you want to make them taste better and keep things economical for the long term.
7. Lactose-free Sherbet
Dairy-free and high fibre sherbet do not only offer a good alternative to less flavourful yoghurts, but also a great addition to your dietary plan. Fruits are lactose-free so you can easily mix them with your own choice of milk substitute.
However, if your goal is to reduce your lactose intolerance symptoms like bloating and constipation, you might as well blend fruits that are rich in potassium and soluble fibres like banana, kiwi and papaya. These fruits can help regulate your sodium levels and fight constipation.
After blending your fruits, pour them into your ice cream mixer bowl and churn to your satisfaction. Top it off with a coconut milk-based whipped cream, and then freeze for a few hours.
A Few Reminders
When buying dairy alternatives, read the labels carefully. Look for a product that has less sugar in it because that would mean it also contains less lactose. Stay away from those that contain added ingredients like sugars, starch, preservatives, thickeners, and flavourings.
When trying these substitutes, start with a little amount first to find out if you are able to tolerate it. Taking note of any reactions your body may have after ingesting these dairy alternatives will help you and your dietitian make informed decisions regarding your dietary plan.
Need Our Help?
Book an appointment with an accredited dietitian or nutritionist by phone on (07) 3071-7405 between 8am and 6pm Monday to Friday or send us an enquiry. Alternatively, find out more about lactose intolerance.
- Lactose Intolerance – Nutrition Australia
- Soy foods: are they useful for optimal bone health? – NCBI
- Do MCTs or CLA help with appetite reduction? – Examine.com
- Medium-chain fatty acids decrease serum cholesterol via reduction of intestinal bile acid reabsorption in C57BL/6J mice – NCBI
- Serum lipid effects of a high-monounsaturated fat diet based on macadamia nuts – NCBI