Recent Blog Articles

Check milk substitute labels to know what you are getting

April 1, 2015

Milk substitutes are among the hot trends on grocery store shelves right now. But finding a substitute with nutritional benefits similar to cow's milk is tricky, reports the April 2015 Harvard Health Letter.

Why drink a milk substitute? Some people want to drink milk, but just not dairy milk. Others have trouble digesting a natural sugar in dairy milk called lactose. It can cause gastrointestinal distress. "They may be lactose intolerant, or just lactose sensitive," says Linda Antinoro, a registered dietitian with Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.

A good alternative for those who have pain, bloating, or other lactose-related symptoms is lactose-free milk. This is dairy milk that has an enzyme called lactase added to it. Lactase helps break down lactose into more easily digested sugars. But it's still important to buy low-fat lactose-free milk. Full-fat milk, with or without lactose, is rich in saturated fats, which increase LDL, or "bad," cholesterol.

Plant-based milk substitutes are another option. These "milks" are actually the fluids strained from a mixture of water and a ground ingredient, such as soybeans, nuts (almonds, walnuts, or hazelnuts), grains (rice, oats, quinoa), or seeds (hemp, pumpkin). But check the nutrition label carefully. Nut, grain, and seed milks don't have as much calcium or protein as dairy milk. Grain milks are high in carbohydrates. And soy milk, while similar in calcium and protein content to dairy milk, has sugars that may cause gastrointestinal distress. Something else to be wary of: milk substitutes with flavors such as vanilla or chocolate, are usually loaded with added sugars.

Read the full-length article: "In search of a milk alternative"


As a service to our readers, Harvard Health Publishing provides access to our library of archived content. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles.

No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.

Free Healthbeat Signup

Get the latest in health news delivered to your inbox!

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Thanks for visiting. Don't miss your FREE gift.

The Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness, is yours absolutely FREE when you sign up to receive Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Sign up to get tips for living a healthy lifestyle, with ways to fight inflammation and improve cognitive health, plus the latest advances in preventative medicine, diet and exercise, pain relief, blood pressure and cholesterol management, and more.

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Health Alerts from Harvard Medical School

Get helpful tips and guidance for everything from fighting inflammation to finding the best diets for weight loss...from exercises to build a stronger core to advice on treating cataracts. PLUS, the latest news on medical advances and breakthroughs from Harvard Medical School experts.

BONUS! Sign up now and
get a FREE copy of the
Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness

Harvard Health Publishing Logo

Stay on top of latest health news from Harvard Medical School.

Plus, get a FREE copy of the Best Diets for Cognitive Fitness.