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Lactose Intolerance and 3 Delicious Dairy Milk Substitutes to Try

Lactose intolerance is called when the body is unable to digest lactose. Lactose is a sugar found in milk and other dairy products. There is no treatment that would help your body with lactose intolerance symptoms, except by altering your diet. That way you can manage your symptoms. Below you will find 3 plant-based milk substitutes you can try.

What is lactose intolerance?

Lactose intolerance is a condition in which the body cannot digest lactose, a sugar found in milk and other dairy products. Symptoms of lactose intolerance include bloating, flatulence, diarrhea, and abdominal pain. People with lactose intolerance cannot drink or eat dairy products. However, they can eat vegan cheese and other plant-based substitutes for dairy products.

When lactase is deficient, lactose passes into the large intestine (colon) undigested. The symptoms usually begin 30 minutes to 2 hours after eating or drinking foods that contain lactose.

What causes lactose intolerance?

The cause of lactose intolerance is a deficiency of the enzyme lactase, which is responsible for breaking down lactose, the main sugar found in milk and other dairy products.

Lactose intolerance can develop at any age, but it most often begins in adulthood. It’s estimated that about 65 percent of people worldwide have some degree of lactose intolerance.

Symptoms of lactose intolerance

There are different degrees of lactose intolerance. Some people have only mild symptoms while others have severe symptoms that make it difficult to consume any dairy products.

Here are some of the symptoms of lactose intolerance that can occur:

  • gases
  • diarrhea
  • bloating
  • tummy pains
  • nausea

The severity of symptoms depends on how much lactase the person has and how much lactose they consume. Some people with lactose intolerance can tolerate small amounts of lactose in their diet, while others cannot tolerate any at all.

3 plant-based milk substitutes

There is no cure for lactose intolerance, but the condition can be managed by avoiding dairy products or taking lactase supplements before eating them. With proper management, people with lactose intolerance can enjoy a variety of foods and drinks without symptoms.

Dairy milk is a staple drink in a lot of households but people having lactose intolerance are advised to avoid it. Luckily there are several milk types, made from plants.

Soy milk

Soy milk is a high-protein milk substitute. Many soymilks on the market include a hefty list of ingredients. Read the labels if you want to find something as clean as possible.

The following three are a safe bet as they are made from water and soybeans only: Edensoy Unsweetened Organic Soymilk, Pacific Foods Organic Unsweetened Soy Plant-Based Beverage, and West Soy Organic Unsweetened. 

Oat milk

This plant-based milk is made from water and oats. Some brands get fancy and add a bunch of beneficial vitamins and minerals. That can be beneficial to your nutrition intake too.

Oat milk is higher in carbs, compared to other plant-based kinds of milk. It also has more calories than almond or coconut-based kinds of milk. Elmhurst Milked Oats has won the taste challenge at thekitchn. It’s great in smoothies, cereal, and coffee.

Coconut milk

Coconut milk is great to add a slight coconut flavor to your recipes. It’s also good to remember to choose brands that don’t add sugar. Silk Unsweetened Coconut Milk is one of the most popular ones out there. 

If you are going to explore different types of plant-based milk substitutes and are worried about calcium, you can choose milk with calcium added to the beverage.

Where can I get calcium if I don’t consume dairy?

Calcium is an essential mineral for the body and is necessary for the development and maintenance of strong bones and teeth. Dairy products are often the primary source of calcium in most diets, but there are other options for those who follow a vegan diet or have lactose intolerance. Below are some good plant-based sources of calcium.


Tofu is made from soybeans and is a good source of protein as well as calcium. One-half cup of tofu contains approximately 350 mg of calcium.

See also: What is Tofu? Everything You Need to Know About It (Plus 5 Popular Recipes!)


Broccoli is a dark green vegetable that is high in vitamins A, C, and K. It also contains calcium, with one cup of cooked broccoli providing approximately 180 mg.


Like broccoli, kale is a dark green vegetable that is high in vitamins A, C, and K. It contains slightly less calcium than broccoli, with one cup of cooked kale providing approximately 90 mg.


Oranges are a good source of vitamin C and also contain calcium. One large orange contains approximately 60 mg of calcium.


Almonds are a good source of protein as well as calcium, with one ounce containing approximately 75 mg.

Key takeaway

If you think you might be lactose intolerant, talk to your doctor about getting tested. In the meantime, try eliminating dairy from your diet for a few weeks to see if your symptoms improve.

See also: Do Vegans Drink Milk? The Uncomfortable Truth About Dairy

Petra profile image

Hi, I’m Petra and for most of my life, I was an omnivore. A vegan couple made me curious about veganism, so I did some research. What I found out about the animals, our planet, and the health benefits of a vegan diet made me go vegan overnight. It’s been 5 years now and it’s been one of the best decisions of my life.

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