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Skip The Dairy: A List Of Non-dairy Substitutes For Your Daily Milk, Butter, Cheese & More

| Reviewed By Arya Krishnan

Dairy is one of the most commonly consumed foods around the globe, making it a key element in many people's diets. Some of the most consumed foods such as milk, butter and ice cream are all dairy products, however, did you know there are DAIRY-FREE alternatives for all dairy products?

Going dairy-free can change not only your diet but also your life, in all good ways. Most dairy products now have dairy-free alternatives or non-dairy products that you can make yourself at home or grab from your nearest supermarket.


Reasons Why People Choose Dairy Substitutes Over Dairy Products

There are several reasons people might be looking for substitutes for dairy and some of the common ones are as follows [1]:

  • Lactose intolerance: More than 75 per cent of the global population does not produce lactase the enzyme needed to digest the milk sugar lactose. This, in turn, causes them to have symptoms including bloating, gas and diarrhoea upon consuming dairy [2].
  • Vegan diet: One of the most popular diets, the vegan diet has taken the world by a storm. The cruelty-free, conscious way of consuming food excludes all food and products that come from animals [3]. People who follow an ovo-vegetarian diet also skip dairy but consume eggs [4].
  • Milk allergy: Although most kids outgrow milk allergy, some of them will continue to have it [5]. This can cause a range of symptoms from hives and stomach upset to severe anaphylaxis.
  • Apart from these reasons, people also skip dairy products due to the potential contaminants present in conventional milk and dairy products, including hormones, pesticides and antibiotics [6][7][8].

    As studies point out, reducing or eliminating your intake of dairy products is one way to improve your mental and physical wellbeing [9].


1. Non-dairy Substitute For Milk

A lactose-free substitute to cow milk, plant-based milk or vegan milk is commonly made from almond, cashew, oats, rice or coconut [10]. Also termed as mylk, plant-based milk is not just cruelty-free but also possess various health benefits such as improving digestion, preventing acne, promoting weight loss, improvement in metabolism and energy levels and does not cause any inflammation that would lead to the growth of unhealthy gut bacteria linked to some chronic diseases or conditions including leaky gut [11][12].

Here are some of the best nondairy kinds of milk you could try:

Soy milk: It is the most nutritionally-balanced of plant-based milk alternatives [13]. Made from the beans of soy, the type of milk is suitable for those who are lactose intolerant.

Almond milk: The second popular option in vegan milk, almond milk is made by soaking almonds in water and then blending and straining away the solids [14]. Unsweetened almond milk is low in calories and is low in carbohydrates - making it suitable for a low-carb diet [15].

Oat milk: Naturally sweet from the oats, oat milk is nutritious and contains soluble fibre. Enriched with vitamins and calcium, the milk has a low saturated fat content [16]. Oat milk has the highest amount of calories and carbohydrates and always opt for gluten-free oat milk [17].


Non-dairy Substitute For Milk

  • Hemp milk: Made from ground, soaked hemp seeds, hemp milk do not contain the psychoactive component of the Cannabis sativa plant [18]. High in protein and omega-3 and omega-6 unsaturated fats, hemp milk is naturally carbohydrate-free [19].
  • Coconut milk: This type of milk is made from the white flesh of a coconut. In comparison to other plant-based milk types, coconut milk contains small amounts of beneficial medium-chain triglycerides that are beneficial for one's overall health [20].
  • Rice milk: Made by combining partially milled rice and water, rice milk has a sweet flavour and comes in a variety of flavours [21]. As it comes from a grain, rice milk has a high carbohydrate content [22].

2. Non-dairy Substitute For Butter

While plant-based margarine is commonly available, such as dalda, recently there has been an increased demand for natural replacements. You can use the following instead of butter when you stir-fry those vegetables next time.

  • Coconut oil: It is already available at your home and is an easy replacement for butter in most recipes [23].
  • Nut butter: As the name suggests, nut butter is made by grinding nuts into a paste. Nut butter includes almond butter, cashew butter, hazelnut butter, peanut butter, pistachio butter and many more [24].
  • Olive oil: One of the other healthier switches from dairy butter is olive oil.
  • You can also use avocados and banana paste instead of butter.


3. Non-dairy Substitute For Cheese

There is a wide range of alternatives for cheese, for both hard cheese and soft cheese [25].

For soft cheese, you can use soy and nut-based versions of cream cheese, as well as a dairy-free, gluten-free and soy-free versions made from a blend of vegetable oils, tapioca starch and pea protein [26].

For replacing hard cheese, the store-bought cheese alternatives are best as it can be difficult to replicate the texture of these types of cheese [27]. Nondairy hard cheese is usually made by crumbling tofu.


4. Non-dairy Substitute For Yoghurt

In addition to being a breakfast and snack food, yoghurt is a versatile food that can be used in salads to dishes. For non-dairy substitutes, the yoghurt is made from nuts, seeds, coconut and soy [28]. They also contain added probiotic bacteria [29].

Some of the common nondairy yoghurt types are as follows [30]:

  • Coconut milk yoghurt
  • Almond milk yoghurt
  • Soy milk yoghurt
  • Hemp yoghurt
  • Since nutritional composition can vary greatly between brands, be sure to read the label.


5. Non-dairy Substitute For Ice Cream

There are several nondairy ice cream options such as the following:

  • Sorbets, which should not be confused with sherbets (which often have dairy in them).
  • Homemade ice-cream-like desserts made from frozen bananas, avocados etc.
  • Ice creams made from nondairy milk, including coconut milk and soy milk.
  • One of the plus points of nondairy ice creams is that they are often lower in calories and fat [31].


Things To Keep In Mind While Choosing Nondairy Substitutes

It is vital to understand that just because something is plant-based, it is not automatically healthy [32]. Make it a habit to check the labels of dairy alternatives to look for any added ingredients or other factors.

Keep in mind and look out for added substances such as the following:

  • Added sugars
  • Added starch
  • Thickeners
  • Added flavouring
  • Preservatives

On A Final Note…

We are not stating that consuming dairy is unfavourable. However, going dairy-free can help improve your overall health, such as having more energy and better digestion. Given that almost 75 per cent of the world's population struggles to digest lactose - why not take the easier and healthier option.

Also, considering the environmental impact of the massive dairy industry, eliminating dairy not only helps you but also the earth we all love so much.

Arya KrishnanEmergency Medicine
Arya Krishnan
Read more about: dairy milk vegan cheese
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