It seems like only yesterday when I first met my husband and fell in love. And not too long after discovered that he was lactose-intolerant. His late night cravings for Frosted Flakes with ice cold milk were almost a deal breaker, if you know what I mean. We tried lactose-free milk, but really didn’t enjoy the taste at all. The good news was that we didn’t have to end our relationship – there was an alternative. Soy milk to the rescue!
Soy milk is a soybean-derived beverage that is a popular substitute for cow’s milk. While many vegans and those with digestive problems, like my husband, are forced to drink soy milk, it can actually provide certain nutritional benefits as well. Even though I’m not a vegan and have no digestive issues, I personally prefer the taste of soy milk (especially vanilla flavored varieties) over cow’s milk. I use it in smoothies, in tea and hot chocolate, or drink it just on its own. If you are considering switching from cow’s milk to soy milk, however, here are some factors you’ll want to consider.
Unlike cow’s milk, soy milk has very little saturated fat and no cholesterol. In fact, soy milk can actually help lower your cholesterol level. This is a key factor for me since I hereditarily have high cholesterol levels despite my healthy lifestyle. Soy milk also has roughly the same amount of protein found in cow’s milk. In addition, soy milk has fewer chemicals, low sodium and high levels of manganese, thiamine and dietary fiber. Evidence suggests soy can help prevent hormone-related cancers. Soy can also help ease symptoms of osteoarthritis and menopause. If you have had breast cancer, you may want to avoid drinking soy milk. Soy contains isoflavones, and whether these plant compounds have a positive or negative effect on breast cancer is still under debate.
Lactose and Casein
Lactose is a sugar found naturally in cow’s milk that many children and adults, especially African Americans, cannot digest properly. It results in symptoms including nausea, vomiting, diarrhea and cramps. Soy milk, however, is lactose free and allows the drinker to consume milk without the side effects. My husband and I have been married for almost 13 years, and I must say soy milk has really played an important role in our success.
Casein, a protein found in cow’s milk, is another ingredient that can cause allergy symptoms and immune system malfunctions. It can also cause problems in people with asthma or sinus infections. Because protein is a vital component of maintaining proper health, soy milk is a good option for those who cannot consume cow’s milk.
While soy milk does have some calcium, it is not a good source of the nutrient and does not measure up to cow’s milk. Most of the calcium found in soy milk is attached to the pulp of the bean. The pulp, however, is indigestible in the human body. Calcium is an extremely important nutrient. It is vital in, among other things, maintaining bone strength. Therefore, it is important to find a soy milk that is fortified with calcium. If not, make sure to add calcium in other parts of your diet. Make sure to read the label when purchasing soy milk, since the nutrition content can vary greatly among the different brands. Choose one that is fortified and low in sugar.
One of the major hurdles when switching to soy milk is the taste. While my husband and I prefer the taste of soy milk over cow’s milk, for most it may take time to adjust to the slightly bean-flavored taste. Fortunately, many soy milk brands produce flavored products, including vanilla and chocolate flavor, to help adults and even children enjoy the taste.
As you can see, while soy milk has many benefits, there are also some risks that you may need to consider before making the switch. Overall, soy milk can be a healthy option, if you choose the right type, with similar nutritional content to cow’s milk.