While the dairy industry would like to have us convinced that milk does a body good, there is plenty of compelling evidence to the contrary. Milk has only been in the human diet for a few centuries, and many Eastern cultures do not consume dairy at all. Tons of people suffer from lactose intolerance and dairy allergies, and milk and milk products are high in cholesterol. Additionally, if you are consuming non-organic dairy products, they are often ridden with hormones and antibiotics. Finally, corn-fed cows emit methane gases which hurt the ozone layer (grass-fed cows do not, but the vast majority of commercial dairy is from corn-fed cows.) I was a hard-core dairyist, with a particular weakness for cheese and cream-based desserts, until I finally decided it was hypocritical of me to shun meat yet support the dairy industry, in which cows are often treated badly and male calves are slaughtered for veal. Within a few days of eliminating dairy, I felt more energetic, my digestion improved, my sinuses cleared, and within a few weeks I dropped about 10 lbs.
If you're interested in reducing or eliminating your dairy
but feel it would restrict your diet excessively, here are some
non-dairy alternatives which are tasty, often as rich in calcium as
milk, and lactose- and cholesterol-free.
Uses: can be substituted for dairy milk in pretty much any scenario, from coffee or cereal to cooking, baking, puddings, etc.
endless, flavored, sweetened, unsweetened, zillions of brands. Ideally,
go for an unsweetened organic variety which is GMO free.
easily obtainable (even grocery stores in low-income areas are starting
to carry it and bodegas now commonly have it as an option for coffee, as
does Starbucks), high in protein, calcium and vitamin D enriched,
extremely versatile, very long shelf life even after opening.
Cons: can be hard on the tummy if you drink it constantly, sometimes has a weird aftertaste.
Uses: can be a dairy milk substitute in almost any scenario, although I've found it doesn't thicken well in puddings.
there are a few brands, and most of them have the down side of using
some sort of starch to thicken the milk, which can be unpleasant or
clumpy in coffee. The brand I prefer is Almond Breeze, which has the
fewest additives and comes in unsweetened, vanilla, and chocolate
Pros: versatile, light, very tasty, relatively easy to
find, most varieties vitamin D and calcium enriched, also naturally high
in vitamin E
Cons: not appropriate for those with nut allergies, low in protein
Uses: ok for coffee, cereal, drinks. Not the best for cooking
Varieties: plain, vanilla, chocolate
Pros: light, easy on the tummy, relatively easy to find
I personally think rice milk is watery and has no taste. If you are
allergic to nuts and soy, however, it is a viable option and is usually
Uses: absolutely delicious in
coffee. In my opinion, too rich for anything else. Varieties: generally
only plain, which is quite rich and tasty
Pros: yummy, high in several vitamins and minerals, calcium enriched
hard to find (you really have to go to a health food store for this
one), not terribly versatile. I like to get it as an occasional treat
for coffee use. Also somewhat higher in fat than the first three items.
Uses: I feel that hemp milk is good for smoothies and that's about it. It is WAY too rich for coffee or cereal in my opinion.
Varieties: plain, unsweetened, vanilla, chocolate
Hemp is a complete protein with all essential amino acids, although
hemp milk has a lower protein content than soy milk. Also naturally rich
in magnesium, potassium, iron, and a host of other vitamins including
calcium and D.
Cons: It has a rather high fat content (still less
than whole milk and no cholesterol), which in my opinion renders it way
too rich for a beverage by itself. If you liked a thick, creamy whole
milk though, this might be a good option for you, and it makes a
terrific smoothie or milkshake. It can be found mostly in health food