Lactose Intolerance Alternatives: Delectable Non-Dairy Substitutes


Lactose intolerance is the inability to digest lactose (a natural sugar found in milk and other dairy products). Though it’s rarely dangerous, lactose intolerance symptoms include gas, bloating, abdominal cramps, vomiting, and diarrhea. These symptoms can be uncomfortable and, at times, painful. You can control these symptoms by following a diet that limits dairy products.

Lactose intolerance alternatives are mostly substitutes of dairy foods, and they include; 

  • Dairy milk substitute 
  • Dairy yogurt replacement
  • Cheese substitutes
  • Butter alternatives 
  • Ice cream substitutes 

Research suggests that the human population does not have enough lactase to break down lactose. Lactase is the enzyme in the human guts that helps with the digestion of lactose. The conditions start after weaning. 

Lactose is milk sugar, and it is common in most other dairy products. It can also come in various forms, like milk allergy. This condition comes with obvious symptoms like bloating and diarrhea. 

Most dairy products are rich sources of protein. It is almost impossible to neglect lactose-containing foods without a substitute. It is almost impossible due to the numerous benefits present in these food sources. It can cause a significant imbalance in your diet and deny you crucial nutrients. 

Are you lactose intolerant, or do you seek a healthy alternative to lactose-rich foods? This guide provides insight into healthy alternatives to lactose-containing foods. 

What are the Alternatives?

Depending on your symptoms’ severity, you may need to limit your lactose intake (by consuming a low-lactose diet) or restrict it together (by consuming a lactose-free diet).

Low-lactose Diet

If you can tolerate some lactose in your diet, opt for small amounts (60 to 125 mL) of lower lactose foods, such as cottage or ricotta cheese, aged cheese (like Parmesan or Swiss), yogurt with live cultures, sherbet, pudding, or sour cream.

Lactose-free Diet

Choose plant-based “kinds of milk” and derivatives, such as almond milk, rice milk, soy milk, coconut milk, oat milk, or hemp milk. Lactose-free versions of dairy foods are often available as well.

Highlighted below are alternatives to lactose intolerance;

  1. Dairy Milk Alternatives 

Milk is one of the most versatile and nutritious dairy products. It is an active ingredient in lots of recipes. You can also consume it in the form of beverages. 

Besides the versatility of milk as a dairy product, it also has a high nutritional value. Milk contains a significant amount of calcium, proteins, and carbs. It also has a notable amount of lactose. It might be best to stay away from dairy-sourced milk if you are lactose intolerant. But it doesn’t mean you will have to do that without a replacement.

There are certain plant-based alternatives for dairy milk. Plant-based are mostly from grains. They include;

  • Almond Milk: Almond milk is from the common almond fruit. It tastes like regular dairy milk, but it is nuttier. The protein content is also lesser than dairy milk. But it is high in calcium, vitamin D, and fiber. 
  • Soy Milk: Soy milk is the most common non-dairy milk available for consumption. It is also an ideal option for vegans. It has a high protein level and lots of other nutrients like potassium. 
  • Coconut Milk: Coconut milk is another popular alternative to dairy milk. It has full cream, slightly denser than regular dairy milk. It has a lower amount of protein but a higher percentage of saturated fat. 

Although coconut milk is a valuable alternative to dairy milk, you should regulate it. You might have to avoid this alternative or limit it depending on your genetic sensitivity. 

  • Oat Milk: Oat milk is another substitute for dairy milk. It contains high calories, moderate protein, and high saturated fat.
  • Rice Milk: Rice milk is less common than most other milk substitutes. It is low on protein but contains a high amount of saturated fat.
  1. Dairy Yoghurt Replacement

Yogurt is the result of further fermentation of milk. Live bacteria are introduced to milk to form yogurt in fermentation. These bacteria are also beneficial to humans to promote gut health. 

Yogurt is another versatile dairy product with high lactose content. It is best to seek an alternative to it if you are lactose intolerant. 

The alternatives include;

  • Coconut milk yogurt
  • Soy milk yogurt 
  • Almond milk yogurt 

These yogurts are further fermentation of the milk alternative above. Start by processing your milk alternative. Once you get this alternative, introduce the live bacteria for fermentation. 

The resulting yogurt from this process will also provide an alternative to dairy milk options. Coconut milk yogurt contains less protein but more fats and calories than dairy yogurt. 

On the other hand, Soy milk yogurt contains fewer calories, carbs, fat, and proteins than regular dairy yogurts. Almond milk gives a close match for dairy milk in terms of these nutrients. 

  1. Cheese Substitutes 

Cheese falls under two categories. It can either be hard or soft cheese. Either way, cheese is from the fermentation of animal milk. The common animals useful for this process include cows, goats, and milk. 

The milk first undergoes fermentation after the introduction of suitable bacteria. The process proceeds further than yogurt with the addition of acids. This acid causes the milk to form curds and coagulate. The addition of salt follows before storage. 

You can replace soft cheese with nut- and soy-based versions. You can also use blends of pea protein, vegetable oils, and tapioca starch to form a gluten-free, dairy-free, and soy-free option. 

Alternative to hard cheese is slightly more difficult compared to the soft cheese. The complication arises from trying to mimic the texture of hard cheese. The casein in dairy milk protein is responsible for the hardness. 

  1. Butter Alternatives 

Butter is another common ingredient in various recipes. It can serve both as baking and cooking ingredients. Dairy-based butter comes from the continuous churning of milk until it solidifies or hardens. 

The primary alternatives to dairy-based protein are coconut butter and vegetable oil butter. You can also seek almond, sunflower seed, and almond butter options. 

Vegetable oil butter contains comparable calories and fat with dairy-based butter. It also has more protein and carbs. Coconut butter contains higher calories, fat, carbs, and protein. Other types of alternative butter have varying nutrient compositions, depending on manufacturing processes. 

  1. Ice Cream Substitutes

Ice cream is enjoyable, and most people love it as snacks during summer. Dairy-based ice creams give a refreshing taste and flavor. They are also creamy and nutritious.

It will interest you to know that there are several alternatives to dairy-based ice creams. These substitutes give the traditional ice creams a matching run in terms of quality and nutrients. The common alternatives for dairy-based ice creams include;

  • Coconut milk ice cream 
  • Soy milk ice cream
  • Homemade ice creams from frozen fruits (banana and various berries)

These alternatives match dairy-based ice creams shoulder-to-shoulder in most regards. You can also process almond, soy, and coconut milk into ice creams. 

Treatment of Lactose Intolerance

There are ways you can treat and manage this condition. This treatment will allow you to take lactose with little or no implications. The common treatment of lactose intolerance includes;  

  • Use of enzyme supplements to complement lactase.
  • Regular lactose exposure. 
  • Use a regulated quantity of prebiotics and antibiotics.

Factors To Consider When Choosing Alternative For Lactose-rich Foods 

There are several replacements for lactose foods, particularly dairy foods. But it is essential to ensure that these alternatives suit your diet. Some of the factors to consider include; 

  • Sugar contents of the alternative 
  • Protein and other nutritional contents 
  • Fillers and additives 
  • Sensitivity and allergy 
  • Cost and price differences

How Can You Tell if a Food Product Contains Lactose?

If you’re sensitive to lactose, it’s important to read food labels carefully. Ingredients that contain lactose include:

  • Caseinates
  • Nougat
  • Cheese
  • Whey
  • Dry milk solids
  • Milk by-products
  • Butter
  • Cream
  • Curds
  • Cheese flavor
  • Yogurt
  • Dry milk powder
  • Malted milk

Other Reasons Why You Might Need an Alternative to Dairy and Lactose Rich Substances 

Lactose intolerance is one reason you might have to seek alternative lactose-rich foods. Other reasons can include;

  • Milk allergy 
  • Vegetarian diet 
  • Potential contaminants 
  • Sensitivities and other allergies

Frequently Asked Questions About Lactose Intolerance

Even after reading this detailed exposition on this topic, you might have some conflicting questions on your mind. Well, here are answers to some possible queries about lactose intolerance;

1. What helps with lactose intolerance naturally? 

There are no specific natural remedies for lactose intolerance. The best solution is to stay away from lactose-rich foods and dairy products. Try alternatives to these foods and lower your dairy intake. 

2. Are there dairy products without lactose? 

Yes, few dairy products do not include lactose. These products include;

  1. Heavy cream
  2. Probiotic yogurt 
  3. Certain dairy protein powders 
  4. Some types of butter

Please note that it is best to stay away from dairy foods if you cannot differentiate between dairy products that contain lactose and those that do not. 

3. Can you train yourself to stop being lactose intolerant?

Of course, you can work on your body and improve your digestive lactose ability. Start by gradually introducing lactose foods. You can start by consuming half a cup of milk per day. You can also take enzyme supplements and regulate the type of lactose foods to take. 

4. What are the symptoms of lactose intolerance? 

Lactose intolerance has obvious signs and symptoms. These symptoms include;

  1. Bloating and stomach pain
  2. Diarrhea
  3. Constipation 
  4. A rise in the gas quantity 
  5. Fatigue
  6. Mouth ulcer
  7. Joint and muscle pain
  8. Headaches 
  9. Problems urinating
  10. Loss of concentration
  11. Eczema

It is easy to confuse these symptoms with other health conditions. It is best to do a proper test if you suggest this situation. 

A Final Word From Wellness Nova

Lactose intolerance is a common condition in people around the world. It is a shortage or absence of lactase, an enzyme that helps break down and digest lactose. So, it makes it difficult or impossible to digest lactose-containing foods. 

But you can seek alternatives to lactose foods. These options will prevent you from missing out on the immense nutrients present in dairy products and lactose food in general. Most of these alternatives are plant-based without lactose. 

Which of these alternatives will you love to try? Feel free to leave a comment!

Article by:

Wellness Nova Team

Our detailed review has been contributed to by multiple members of the Wellness Nova Review Team to ensure the best research and highest standard of quality. Have a good or a bad experience with one of the products? Please let us know, we love the feedback!

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