Is it real milk? Does lactose-free milk have health risks?
If you’re lactose intolerant and have avoided dairy like the plague, the words “lactose-free milk” seem highly suspicious.
We’re here to demystify this for you.
By the end of this article, you’ll know all about this type of milk, including any lactose-free milk health risks, and dairy-free alternatives you can choose to drink instead.
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So, what exactly is lactose-free milk anyway?
Lactose-free milk is real milk that may have additives to help you digest lactose or may have its lactose removed.
In some forms, manufacturers add lactase to help your digestive system break down lactose. It isn’t actually “lactose-free,” but you shouldn’t have any issues drinking it.
Other forms of lactose-free milk do not contain any lactose. This removal happens through an elaborate process. Milk processed this way can be more expensive because the removal method is complicated.
Does this stuff taste the same as the real thing?
If it looks like regular milk, does it taste like regular milk?
That is a good question.
People often say that there is a slightly different taste.
The added sugars in the lactose-free milk tend to be a bit sweeter than its counterpart. Its sweet flavor is also partially due to the lactase added to these dairy-free versions that break down lactose into glucose and galactose.
Hold up, is this safe?
You may be wondering, “is all this processing safe?”
Lactose free milk typically has the same health risks that regular milk has.
The one caveat is that lactose-free milk tends to have added sugars.
When you take the lactose out of the milk, you take out some of the milk’s natural sugars. Manufacturers replace this sugar during processing.
What do added sugars do?
It can make you crave more sugary things. If you need to watch your sugar intake, this could be a bad thing.
Another general health risk associated with drinking excessive amounts of milk is that the drink tends to be highly processed. Manufacturers add chemicals to make the product safe to eat.
It isn’t healthy to consume too many processed foods. While the difference isn’t significant, lactose-free milk is processed more than regular milk.
In general, excessive dairy products can elevate one’s risk of cancer and heart disease.
Whether you are lactose intolerant or not, you should consume dairy in moderation to maintain a balanced diet.
If you have a dairy allergy, lactose-free milk is still a no-no. Lactose-free milk is 100% dairy and will set off your allergies. That is no Bueno!
So, if I don’t want to drink cow milk, what else can I drink?
There are plenty of alternatives if cow’s milk isn’t your thing. There are tons of plant-based milk on the market. Maybe even too many to choose from!
The best alternatives to cow’s milk are options that have great flavor, texture, and health benefits.
If you’re head is spinning trying to figure out which alternative is the best, here are some pros and cons of different types of plant-based milk products:
Soy milk is produced by soaking and grinding soybeans, then boiling it and filtering out the remnants. Its texture is generally a little bit thicker than cow’s milk, but it usually has a neutral taste.
You can buy it sweetened, unsweetened, or flavored.
The benefits of drinking this type of plant-based milk are that it has the highest protein levels out of any substitute drink. Most soy milk has between 7-12 grams of protein per glass.
There may be risks to drinking soy milk. Some studies link soy milk to breast cancer in rats. However, the evidence doesn’t show that this happens with humans so far.
Soymilk can also negatively impact thyroid function, interfere with metabolism, and is a common allergen. However, iodine can reduce the adverse thyroid effects.
Another alternative is almond milk. This nut-based milk has a creamy texture and a slightly nutty flavor. Its delicious taste makes it a top-selling plant-based alternative to milk.
It is generally an excellent vitamin E source that is fortified with calcium and vitamin D. At only 39 calories per cup, it is less caloric than other milk types.
If you buy the unsweetened version, it is also naturally low in sugar, with only two grams per cup.
However, potential downsides are that it is low in protein, with only one gram per cup, and may contain additives for flavor and texture. Commercial almond milk can have thickeners, preservatives, and flavorings.
Like soymilk, you can buy it at various sweetness levels. Sweetened or flavored versions may have a high amount of sugar, which can cause many chronic health issues.
This plant-based milk doesn’t have soy or nuts. Oat milk comes from blended steel-cut or rolled oats that have been soaked in water and strained. In the past few years, this type of dairy-free milk has been growing in popularity.
Like its plant-based counterparts, consumers can choose from a variety of sweetness levels and flavors.
This drink is packed with nutrients and is an excellent source of vitamins, minerals, and fiber. Commercial oat milk is typically fortified with vitamins A, B2, B12, and D and calcium. It can be great for bone health and possibly lower blood cholesterol.
Other benefits of this drink are that it doesn’t have as many allergens as other drinks.
However, this drink isn’t perfect. Commercial oat milk can be high in sugar. It is also not certified gluten-free, so if you have a gluten sensitivity, this could be a problem.
It is also relatively lower in protein than regular milk and soy milk. It tends to be pricier than its counterparts.
Are there any benefits to drinking lactose-free milk over milk substitutes?
While it can be beneficial for lactose-intolerant people to drink plant-based milk, there are still benefits to drinking lactose-free dairy.
Plant-based milk often does not have all the protein and nutrients that real dairy does.
By drinking dairy in moderation, you get high vitamin D levels, potassium, B12, vitamin A, magnesium, zinc, and B1. It is tough to find plant-based milk with this much nutritional depth.
It is also more versatile in cooking and baking.
Lactose-free dairy is relatively safe to drink in moderation. The health benefits of this delicious drink generally outweigh the risks.
If you do not want to drink any dairy, there are many great dairy-free alternatives out there. Each one has its benefits and downsides.
It is up to you to decide what option is best for you at the end of the day.