"Milk"—Not Just From Cows

IMAGE The next time you ask someone if they "got milk," the answer may surprise you. "Sure, we have soy, rice, almond, multigrain, oat, and potato. Would you like vanilla, carob, chocolate, strawberry, or plain?" Milk sure has changed. And for many people, that change is welcome news. According to an article published in the American Family Physician, up to 100% of Asians and American Indians, 80% of blacks and Latinos, and 15% of people of northern European descent have trouble digesting lactose.Lactose, a milk sugar found in dairy products, is digested in the intestines by an enzyme called lactase. If someone does not produce enough lactase, the result is a decreased ability to digest lactose, or lactose intolerance, which can result in bloating, gas, diarrhea, and stomach cramps. There are different degrees of lactose intolerance—some people may be able to handle moderate amounts of milk before feeling the effects of too little lactase, while others may only be able to handle a very small amount, or none at all.

Saying No to Milk

Not everyone who shuns cow's milk is lactose intolerant. In its whole state, milk has both saturated fat and cholesterol that people are trying to avoid. Some people are concerned about the environmental impact and animal abuse associated with milk production. Others have religious convictions or other personal reasons for avoiding cow's milk. Fortunately, nondairy milks are abundant and now found in many supermarkets. Not only can you buy milk made from soybeans, rice, nuts, oats, potato, and combinations thereof, you also can pick your favorite flavor, fat content, and various levels of nutrient fortification. And with such a great selection, it is important to read the ingredient and nutrition information to help you select the best products for your needs.

Oh Boy, Soy!

Soy milk is the most common of the nondairy milk beverages. Each soy milk on the market has its own texture, taste, and consistency, and in general, is thicker and creamier than other nondairy milks.Soybeans are the main ingredient in soy milk, followed by soy protein isolate—a concentrated soybean protein. Some soy milks contain tofu, but most soy milks are made from organic soybeans, although not all are free of genetically engineered beans. Soy milk is available in both liquid and powder forms.

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