Selecting milk substitutes can be confusing

Sept. 14, 2010 at 4:14 a.m.

By Phylis CanionMy family has recently quit drinking regular cow's milk and my children's allergies and stomach issues have improved tremendously. I am searching for a good substitute that is healthy, but am confused when I start looking and comparing. Can you please give me some nutritional values on milk substitutes?

There are many that are "udderly" confused about milk and non-diary substitutes, so hopefully this will help. The casein in cow's milk is designed to be digested by a calf, not humans, which is why we develop so many digestive problems and allergies when drinking cow's milk.

Soy milk contains phytoestrogens and quite often uses hexan (a toxin) in its processing, which is why it can be eliminated rather quickly as a non-diary substitute.

That leaves almond, rice, oat, hemp and coconut as safe non-diary milk substitutes.

For many, it is a taste choice as each has their unique flavor. If you are looking for the lowest calorie content, almond would be the choice. Per cup, almond milk contains only 60 calories compared to rice milk that contains 120 calories, oat and hemp milk contain 130, and coconut milk contains 552 calories.

Almond also contains the lowest sugar content per serving, 7 grams. While coconut does have the highest calorie content, it also contains the highest iron content, 22 percent, and the lowest sodium content of all non-diary substitutes at 36 percent. Almond and oat milk contains the lowest fat percentage of any of the non-diary products around 2 percent. All of these percentages are approximate depending on the brand and if they are unsweetened, which will drop the total calorie count.

Non-dairy substitute drinks are from natural, raw nuts and seeds and are sold in tetra pak (paper) containers rather than plastic.

While most of the non-diary milk products are lactose free, cholesterol free and gluten-free, I recommend that you do not use non-diary substitutes in an infant formula.

Is there a nutritional value difference between steel cut oats and regular rolled oats?

Serving for serving, they are equal in calories, carbohydrates, fiber, sugar and protein.

The only difference is the fat content which is .05 grams more for rolled oats that steel cut. Both have a low glycemic index (the rate of increase in blood sugar levels after a food is eaten).

Rolled oats are rolled flat while steel cut are whole oats cut into small chunks. Steel cuts oats are chewier, have a nutty flavor and take the edge on processing since they are not steamed like rolled oats are. Steel cut oats take twice as long to cook than rolled oats.

Phylis B. Canion is a doctor of naturopathic medicine and is a certified nutritional consultant, e-mail her at This column is for nutritional information only and is not intended to treat, diagnose or cure.



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