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Sharp Health News

Dairy alternatives: should you switch? (infographic)

Oct. 5, 2015

Dairy is a good source of protein and calcium, but the lactose and fat content in cow's milk make it an unhealthy choice for some people. The grocery aisle is filled with animal- and plant-based alternatives, but which is the best choice for you? Sharp registered dietitian Ursula Ridens shares facts about these popular dairy alternatives.

Dairy alternatives: should you switch? (infographic). Milk may do a body good, but how about its dairy-free alternatives? We break down what you need to know about animal- and plant-based milks. Cow’s milk. Cow’s milk is a great source of protein and is fortified with vitamin D (to help bones absorb calcium). Some people are intolerant to its lactose, which is milk’s natural sugar. There are 8 grams of protein, 90 to 160 calories, up to 8 grams of fat, and 300 milligrams – or 30 percent of your daily value – of calcium in an 8-ounce serving. Goat’s milk. Goat’s milk is lower in lactose than cow’s milk, so may be easier to digest. However, its fat and calorie counts are higher, though low-fat versions are available. There are 9 grams of protein, 170 calories, 10 grams of fat, and 300 milligrams of calcium (30 percent of your daily value) in an 8-ounce serving. LACTAID. Lactaid is cow’s milk with an enzyme that breaks down lactose. However, some say its taste suffers without the lactose. There are 8 grams of protein, 90 to 110 calories, up to 2.5 grams of fat and 300 milligrams of calcium (30 percent of your daily value) in an 8-ounce serving. There are also dairy alternatives, including the following: Almond milk. Almond milk is lactose- and dairy-free. Choose the unsweetened plain variety to avoid added sugar. Almond milk lacks as much protein and B vitamins as other milk sources. There is 1 gram of protein, 40 to 60 calories, 2.5 to 3.5 grams of fat and 300 milligrams of calcium (30 percent of your daily value) in an 8-ounce serving. Soy milk. Soy milk is also lactose- and dairy-free and is a good source of protein. However, there is mixed research about related cancer and thyroid risks. There are 7.9 grams of protein, 80 to 130 calories, up to 4 grams of fat and 300 milligrams of calcium (30 percent of your daily value) in an 8-ounce serving. Coconut milk. Coconut milk is lactose- and dairy-free and high in calcium. Choose the unsweetened plain variety to avoid added sugar. Take note, though, coconut milk lacks protein. There are zero grams of protein, 45 to 80 calories, 4 to 5 grams of fat and 450 milligrams of calcium in an 8-ounce serving. Rice milk. Rice milk is lactose- and dairy-free. Choose the unsweetened plain variety to avoid added sugar. Rice milk also lacks protein and has high carbohydrate content with 22 to 27 grams per serving. There is less than 1 gram of protein, 110 to 130 calories, 2.5 grams of fat and 300 milligrams of calcium (30 percent of your daily value) in an 8-ounce serving. Dairy alternatives have their benefits, but they’re not necessarily better than cow’s milk, says Ursula Ridens, outpatient dietician at Sharp. It’s a personal choice based on your health and taste preference. Talk to a dietitian about the milk or milk alternative that matches your specific health needs.

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