Choosing Lactose Free Products

Reasons for Choosing Lactose Free:

People have various reasons for choosing lactose free products, including vegan diets, lactose intolerance, milk allergy and some don’t believe in drinking milk. Whatever your reasons, it is important to choose a lactose free product that will meet your nutritional needs. Some are low in protein and calories while others are high in sugar and contain little nutrients. People with lactose intolerance who like milk might be happy to learn that many people can tolerate lactose in small amounts especially if taken with meals. Also keep in mind that despite the many claims in the media, Canadian milk is hormone free and safe to consume.

Grocery store shelves and fridges are lined with a number of lactose free milk products ranging from lactose free milk, to Almond Milk all the way to flax seed milk! It can be confusing and frustrating trying to find a product that compares nutritionally to milk.

What to Look For

Using the Nutrition Facts Table and the ingredient list can be helpful when trying to choose a product that is right for you. Use the nutrition facts table to compare the protein, sugar and nutrient content of different products.

The ingredient list can help to identify the nutrients and additives added to milk such as calcium, vitamin D and sugar. Fluid milk is an excellent source of nutrients like calcium, vitamin B12, and vitamin D. Although it is not mandatory for companies to fortify milk alternatives many now do with at least calcium and vitamin D but check the label and look for the words ‘fortified’ or enriched then check the nutrition facts table for the amount of nutrient.

The ingredient list is also helpful in identifying additives like sugar, carageenan and guar gum typically used in milk alternatives. Carageenan, a thickener derived from seaweed, is added to products like almond and soy milk because it acts as a thickener, and as a binder improving the texture. Many products also rely on sugar to enhance the taste; particularly in flavoured beverages like vanilla and chocolate. Because ingredients are listed in descending order, look for sugar closer to the end of the ingredient list or better yet, buy unsweetened products.

A Summary of Lactose Free Products

Lactose Free Milk: Made from milk but with the lactose removed. Contains all of the same nutrients as milk including; protein, vitamin D, Calcium, and Vitamin B12. Unless purchasing a flavoured variety, has no added sugars and the sugar indicated on the nutrition facts table is naturally present in the milk.

Soy Milk: One of the most common milk alternatives and the only one with the same good quality protein content as regular milk. Check the label and see if the Soy Milk is enriched as on its own it is not a significant source or nutrients like calcium or vitamin D. Also note that many types of soy are genetically modified so if that is a worry make sure to choose organic varieties.

Almond Milk: Becoming increasingly popular for its low calorie content. It is not a source of protein or fat and therefore is not appropriate for people who need more calories in their diet, particularly children under the age of 2 years. Many people now try to make their own almond milk by soaking almonds then pureeing them and straining through a cheese cloth, although this is a great way to eat naturally and avoid certain additives, this form of almond milk is not fortified meaning it is lacking important nutrients like calcium and vitamin D.

Coconut Beverage: Different from the coconut milk purchased in cans and typically used in Thai cooking, coconut beverage is lower in calories then canned coconut milk. It is also high in Medium Chain Fatty Acids (MCFAs) which are more easily absorbed then long chain fatty acids. Like almond milk, coconut milk is low in calories and is not a source of protein. Check that the brand is fortified and compare calcium content as some are higher than others.

FlaxSeed Milk: A newer product on the market, made from pressed flax seeds and water, is low in calories and contains heart healthy omega 3 fatty acids. It also contains no protein and make sure to check the ingredient list for fortification with vitamin D and calcium.

Rice Milk: One of the oldest alternatives to milk is suitable for those with soy, milk or nut allergies. Again make sure it is fortified as many products are not a source of calcium or vitamin D. In addition, rice milk is low in calories and contains no protein.

 Conclusion

Whatever your reasons for choosing lactose free products, be mindful when making your choices. Please remember that full fat milk is recommended for children up to the age of 2 years (and preferably beyond) and therefore many milk alternatives are not appropriate. Also always check the sugar content on products and try to choose products with little or no added sugars. As mentioned above, milk is an excellent source of protein and many of the milk alternatives fall short in protein content. Protein is an important nutrient that helps build lean muscle tissue and also contains calories that help in managing hunger.

Resources:

Nutrition Facts Table Health Canada

BC Dairy Association

Practise Based Evidence for Nutrition

 

 

 

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