The more you know the better you do, right? In the past decade, food allergies, intolerances and dietary restrictions have been discovered to be the cause of a great number of ailments. Irritable Bowel Syndrome, which is irritated by dairy, gluten, and even some fruits and vegetables, is one of the most common disorders affecting consumers today. I, for one, use to suffer through hours of painful bloating after eating some of my favourite foods, only to discover my discomfit was caused by my lactose intolerance. 

There are number of intolerances people suffer from, and over the next few weeks, I’ll be dishing up the deets on what alternatives work best for each dietary requirement. There will be information about identifying symptoms of intolerance or allergy, as well as what products you should reach for when going grocery shopping and recipes you can try in your kitchen.

This week, I’m tackling dairy-free alternatives.

 

WHAT IS LACTOSE INTOLERANCE?

We are all born with intestinal enzyme lactase that helps us split milk into sugars, glucose and galactose. This makes digesting the milk we get from our mother’s breast possible. Naturally, after childhood, the lactase enzyme disappears or lessens because our bodies no longer need breast milk. Our digestive systems have matured to a stage where they can handle solid food.

Human beings are the only creatures in the world that regularly consume another animal’s milk. Which is weird when you consider that, as a species, our bodies have not evolved to a stage where they can comfortably digest milk that is not their own. This is why as much as 65% of the population suffer from lactose intolerance. Certain people’s bodies no longer possess the milk-splitting enzyme called lactase. Dairy ends up being an irritant to the lining of their intestines.

 

SYMPTOMS:

The primary symptoms are, though may not be limited to, indigestion, abdominal pain or cramping, gas, bloating, diarrhea and nausea. If you notice that you, or a loved one, experience one or more of these after the consumption of dairy, you should see a doctor as soon as possible. It is imperative to note that your intolerance may not exhibit itself the same way it does another person so rather than comparing your symptoms, head to the doctor’s office to be sure.

Treating lactose intolerance

Though there is no cure for the condition, there are ways to avoid aggravating your intolerance (you might not have to quit dairy all together). Keeping a food diary is great way to isolate which dairy items aggravate your condition. My digestive system can’t handle cream, milk or butter but I can handle cheese. My best friend, on the other hand, can’t stomach any form of dairy.

Dairy-free alternatives

Because more than half the population is lactose intolerant, there has been an emergence of delicious alternatives so no one feels left out. Though some are marketed as nutritious, others are calorie dense and packed with ingredients that do more harm than good. Here’s a breakdown of which substitute are safe to consume and which ones you should stay away from:

MILK

Quinoa Milk

Health fanatics are always on the hunt for the next superfood, and in 2013 this grain joined the ranks. Quinoa is packed with protein and releases carbohydrates slowly, ensuring you stay fuller for longer. The milk is made by cooking the grain then blending it with water, making it even more easier to digest. Though quinoa and quinoa-based products are good for your body, they aren’t so kind to your pocket. Rice milk or barely milk are just as effective but are less costly.

Chickpea Milk

Get your fair share of Vitamin B6 and C, potassium, C, folate, manganese, and magnesium from this creative milk substitute. The latte looking liquid also serves up a healthy amount of Omega 3 fatty acids. Good for those with diabetes, the fibre in chickpeas help regulate insulin and blood sugar levels.

Hemp Milk

Drink sparingly. At 140 calories, 7 grams of fat and 20 grams of carbohydrates per cup, it’s twice as fattening as flaxseed, almond and cashew milk. Having said that, organic hemp milk contains no sugar, no cholesterol, and is free of soy and gluten. In a single cup, you get half your daily calcium requirement too. Hemp milk is also easy to make at home.

Nut Milks

Almonds are said to be rich in a number of vital vitamins and minerals including: Calcium, Potassium, Vitamin E (which is a known antioxidant) and Copper.

Shop our site for nut milk makers and nut milk bags, and how to make your own at home.

CREAM

Orley Whip

This imitation cream is a dream if you want to whip up a dairy-free dessert, but it has very little nutritional value and a short shelf life. A complete indulgence, Orley Whip is quite fatty as it is made from vegetable oils, stabalisers and starch. It’s heavily processed and contains an alarming amount of sugar fructose.

Silken Tofu

This soy-based superfood is low in calories and is an important protein source for vegans and vegetarians. Be warned, tofu contains phytoestrogens which is a plant-based estrogen. Some scientific research has shown soy has the potential to ‘feed’ breast cancer cells in certain individuals. This all depends on how much soy you consume. People who currently have, are in remission, or have breast cancer in their history, should avoid tofu completely.

YOGURT

Coconut Yoghurt

Another belt-busting alternative coming in at 180 calories, 14 grams of fat, 1 gram of protein and 12 grams of carbs per cup. But before you write this substitute off, consider that coconut yoghurt has up to 30% of your daily calcium and magnesium requirement – which is essential to your bone health. Coconut yoghurt is full of antioxidants and Vitamin B12 which is essential for red blood cell production. Inflammation associated with illnesses like IBS are soothed with coconut milk, and it combats many yeast infections.

Shop our site for yogurt makers.

 

CHEESE

Almond Cheese

Unless you are soaking almonds in water overnight, and blitzing them in a food processor to get a cottage cheese substitute yourself, I’d suggest you avoid this one. There is dairy is almond cheese, so it isn’t 100% dairy-freee. Almond cheese isn’t as fatty as dairy cheese, it’s got very little cholesterol too, but again, if you’re not making it yourself you’ll have to pick from heavily processed products.

Nutritional Yeast

This antiviral, antibacterial alternative is perfect if you’re craving parmesan cheese. Yeast has a nutty cheesy flavour and can be purchased as granules or flakes. Sprinkle the immune-boosting condiment on your pasta dishes or thicken sauces with it. Yeast contains folates, thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, selenium and zinc, as well as Vitamin B6 and B12, making it a great superfood!

Shop our site for a cheese making kit.

 

ICE CREAM

Sorbet

This frozen dessert contains very little other than water, sugar and flavouring which makes sorbet low in calories but equally low in nutrients too. Try using natural ingredients as opposed to syrups and flavourants. Lemon sorbets tend to be healthier because lemon is a great source of Vitamin C, it’s an antioxidant, and it makes your skin glow.

Frozen Banana

Dairy- and gluten-free, you can make a number of different ice cream flavours when using frozen bananas as a base. These fruits are packed with potassium and provide the same thick consistency and any double-cream ice cream or gelato. Bananas regulate blood pressure, diabetes and digestive health. I regularly make a blueberry cheesecake ice cream using frozen bananas. Get an easy recipe for banana ice cream here

Avocado

Another safe fruit to use as the base for your ice cream is avocado pear. You’ll get a healthy portion of good fats and fibre. Eating avocado also lowers cholesterol and Triglyceride Levels. Avocados give you up to 26% of your recommended daily intake of Vitamin K, which aids in bone and heart health, blood clotting, brain function and metabolism.

 

Make sure you check out all our dairy alternative products.

Next week, I’ll tackle gluten intolerance. I’ll investigate which products that are currently on the market will help you and uncover which ones are actually hurting you.