A work colleague of mine some 15 years ago scoffed when I asked him why he didn`t eat dairy foods. "Milk is for baby cows" was his pointed retort, and after working with food intolerances since that time, while his rationale might not be entirely convincing, he may just have a point. 

`Lactose intolerance` is greatly affected by genetics and ethnic background. Just 3% of the Swedish population have this affliction, while a massive 73% of USA African Americans have the condition. There`s an enzyme in the human stomach called `rennin` which helps digest the milk. This enzyme decreases in most children by age eight which makes it hard for the human stomach to digest the milk. In addition, the enzyme ‘lactase’ which is needed to break down the milk is deficient in most adults. 

As with most digestion imbalances, the severity of the intolerance varies from person to person, with some patients able to consume up to 2 glasses of milk per day, provided it is taken with other foods. The biggest concern for those who have a lactose allergy, or severe intolerance, particularly females and athletes, is what to eat to ensure you are getting the appropriate amount of nutrients to bridge the gap created by removing dairy foods from your diet. Calcium and magnesium are the big two in this list. 

Athletes I have worked with have reported that they have lost the "pop" in their muscles when going dairy free, which can be a sign of either calcium or magnesium deficiency; so there is a much bigger issue than what you`re going to have with your coffee when determining what to substitute for dairy foods. 

Milk Alternatives 

Soymilks are a valuable source of calcium and have almost as much protein as cow`s milk. Each brand is slightly different in make up, so check the ingredients, especially coeliac sufferers as some contain barley in their formula. 

  • Almond milk is a great source of calcium and protein, but beware of the high fat content. 
  • Rice milk has less protein, and despite tasting quite sweet, has no added sugar and a very low carbohydrate content (4g/100g). 
  • Oat Milk is another alternative, and while I`ve had no experience with it due to my gluten intolerance; it is a good source of fibre, carbohydrates, and low in fat. 
  • Goats milk is the closest milk to breast milk, and 60% of the world`s population use this as their milk source. The taste is quite "unique" and one that I can`t really get used to. 
  • Non-Dairy Alternatives 

If milk itself doesn`t play a big part in your life, make sure you use plenty of these calcium and magnesium rich foods when putting together your dairy free regime: 

Calcium – Broccoli, salmon (canned with bones), tofu. Figs, almonds, brazil nuts. 

Magnesium – dark leafy green vegetables, bananas, legumes, brown rice, millet, soy products. 

Happy eating! 
 
Article submitted by Mark Richardson

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