milk-220496_640Did you know that up to 65% of the population is believed to be lactose intolerant to some degree? This ranges from around 20% in Western Europe and the USA, tho up to 90% in some parts of Africa and the Far East. Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose, which is a sugar found in milk and in smaller quantities in dairy products. Caused by a deficiency of lactase, the enzyme that breaks down lactose within the digestive system, lactose intolerance can cause a range of unpleasant side effects that mainly relate to digestive problems.

Thankfully, there is a wide range of non-dairy milks available, though their nutrient content tends to differ from cow’s milk. Some are high in protein, others higher in fat or lacking calcium, and some are enriched with vitamins and minerals to bring their nutritional value close to cow’s milk. Per cup (approx 245g), whole cow’s milk contains 8g of protein, 8g of fat (2g if you’re drinking 1% fat or skimmed milk) and 10% or more of your daily value of nine essential vitamins and minerals, including calcium, phosphorus, vitamin D and riboflavin. So how do non-dairy milks measure up?

Almond milk 
With just 30 calories and 2.5 grammes of fat per cup, unsweetened almond milk is a great low calorie option. As almonds naturally contain vitamins D and E, it provides a source of these minerals; but the protein content still ranks low with just one gram per cup. However, it’s worth checking the label carefully, because UK almond milk brand Alpro contains just 2% almonds with the main ingredient being water, though it does contain added vitamins B12, E , D and riboflavin.

Soy milk
Soy milk comes the closest to cow’s milk in protein content, with between 6 and 8g per cup. It also provides potassium, vitamin B6 and magnesium, and enriched versions often contain added vitamin D and calcium.

Rice milk
With 130 calories and only one gram of protein per cup, rice milk doesn’t sound good at first, but it has just 2.5 grammes of fat and no saturated fat per cup. Enriched rice milk has calcium, vitamin D, and B vitamins added. Make sure you read the label though and buy “unsweetened” varieties – other types can have up to 12g of sugar per cup!

Hemp milk
Hemp milk contains 110 calories per cup, and 7g of fat, but only half a gram of that is saturated fat, and it is a good source of omega-3 and omega-6fatty acids. Hemp milk is generally enriched with vitamin D and calcium, and it is a natural source of iron as well as containing 3g of protein.

Coconut milk 
Unsweetened coconut milk drinks have just 45 calories per cup, though 2.5g of saturated fat and very little protein. However, fortified versions will contain vitamins D and B12 and calcium. Coconut milk, which is the liquid from grated coconut, however, contains around 550 calories per cup (230 calories per 100g) and 37% fat, of which almost all is saturated fat; though it is very rich in manganese and contains smaller amounts of many other vitamins and minerals. The verdict – best stick to coconut milk drinks and keep the actual coconut milk for a special treat!