Milk and Milk Alternatives
What is the best milk substitute if you are experiencing perimnopause and menopause symptoms?
To dairy or not to dairy
That is the question.
There are so many questions around nutrition as we age. Then you throw in unexpected weight gain, fatigue, and brain fog. All common symptoms during perimenopause and menopause. Everything is more confusing! Fret no more. This article will help answer some of the most common questions regarding cow’s milk and its alternative options.
Nutrition in cow’s milk
What is it that makes it good for women in perimenopause and menopause?
Cows milk is the gold standard as the milk of choice. An 8 oz glass of milk and a 6 oz portion of plain Greek yogurt provides a solid 8 grams of protein. Also providing 30% of the daily recommendation of calcium. Calcium is a necessary mineral for strong bones to prevent fracture risk and is fortified with vitamin D.
Due to metabolic changes during perimenopause and menopause, women are often low in protein, calcium, and vitamin D nutrients. These both occur with the constant , wild swings of hormones. In summary, cow’s milk provides a big punch of nutrition in a conservative, calorie-moderated serving size.
However, with the rise of popularity in plant-based eating and increased dairy intolerances and allergies, milk alternative products have flooded the market. As a result, plant-based milk alternative sales have increased 14% over the previous two years. With an expected increase of another 10% through 2024. In contrast, cow milk consumption has steadily declined the last few years (1).
Nutrition of plant-based milk alternatives
What is in there that makes it good for women in perimenopause and menopause?
In contrast to cow milk, milk alternative products vary widely in their nutritional content. However, the alternative milk product will match the nutritional content of the plant it came from. As an example, soy milk is the only non-animal-based complete protein plant found in nature. Hence, soy will have a naturally high protein content, comparable to cow milk at 8 grams per 1 cup. In addition, there is no need to fear soy and cancer risk. Several recent studies support the use of whole food soy (such as tofu and edamame) to benefit women. These studies suggest no increased risk of cancer diagnosis or development.
Almond milk has a higher vitamin E content. Vitamin E is an antioxidant that can help lower inflammation, which may improve stress and sleep. In addition, it can help with hot flashes and the prevention of weight gain (2). However, there is very little protein in almond milk, with only about 1 gram per 1 cup serving.
Coconut milk is naturally a good source of magnesium. There are several benefits of magnesium to women in perimenopause and menopause. These include improved sleep, bone health, and decreased depression and anxiety (3). However, coconut is also very high in saturated fat and fat, hence very high in calories. The high-fat content of coconut could affect overall heart health if you are at risk of heart disease. Lastly, in regards to protein, it has about 5 grams of protein per 1 cup serving.
How to choose the best milk for you?
Follow these guidelines
Are you a bit confused about what milk to pick? Unfortunately, not all types of milk are created equal. Below are some helpful guidelines to ensure that whatever milk you choose is overall a good choice.
- Choose unsweetened varieties. Most milk alternatives will have some natural sugars in them, contributing to the total sugars. Look for 0 grams ADDED sugar on the label.
- 7-8 grams of protein per 1 cup serving
- Fortification with Calcium and vitamin D
- 140 mg or less of sodium per cup
Use the guidelines above. Relax. You can fret no more in the milk aisle, and confidently choose the choice that is right for you.
What about lactose-free dairy milk?
How is it different from all the other kinds of milk?
Let me add one last note on lactose-free dairy milk. Gas, bloating, and diarrhea result from an intolerance to dairy. These ailments are caused by the inability to digest the lactose molecule in the milk. The symptoms of lactose intolerance occur most frequently when someone tries to drink or eat a regular milk product. In addition, dairy products can exacerbate these manifestations in some women during perimenopause and menopause.
Milk alternatives can be used in cases of lactose intolerance and cow milk labeled ‘lactose-free. If you prefer cow-based milk, lactose-free dairy milk is a great choice. It matches the nutrition profile of regular dairy milk. The only difference is that lactose-free dairy milk has the addition of lactase. Lactase is the enzyme needed to break down lactose in the milk. Hence, it is a viable option for lactose intolerant individuals.
Lastly, I receive questions about consuming yogurt and cheese with lactose intolerance. Yogurt and cheese made from cow milk are usually able to be tolerated with lactose intolerance. These foods contain naturally occurring bacteria that break down the lactose in the milk products. However, it can be different for everyone; traditional cheese and yogurt may still need to be avoided.
However, if you have a lactose allergy, you should consume no cow milk products at all to avoid an allergic reaction. In the case of a lactose allergy, all milk-type products consumed need to be from plant-based or alternative sources.
Choose what you like and need
The best milk is the choice that fits your nutritional needs, tastes good to you, and is something enjoy.
If you need help deciding the best milk products for your life, send me an e-mail with your questions. I welcome the opportunity to help you.