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If you have symptoms like abdominal cramps, bloating, diarrhea, or nausea after drinking cow’s milk or other dairy products, you’re probably lactose intolerant to some degree. Fortunately, plant-based milks like almond, hemp, and rice milk are good options for people with lactose intolerance or a dairy allergy, says Alissa Rumsey, R.D., C.S.C.S., spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition & Dietetics. Some brands are fortified with calcium and vitamin D to help match the nutrients in cow’s milk.
Coconut milk is higher in calories, but most of these calories come from fat, not protein, so be mindful of that if you start to add unwanted body fat. Another alternative is soy milk, which provides 8 grams of protein per cup. Some bodybuilders believe soy can increase estrogen and tamp down testosterone levels, though a 2010 meta-review published in the journal Fertility and Sterility found no impact on T from soy.
You can also try lactose-free milk, which has added lactase, an enzyme that breaks down lactose, the natural sugar found in dairy that can cause gastro- intestinal distress. Lactose-free milk still has good amounts of protein and calories, comes in 2%, 1%, and fat-free selections, and even tastes a little sweeter than regular milk. Mix your protein powder with these alternative milks to help you reap the benefits of your gym efforts.
Low in protein and calories but has heart-healthy monounsaturated fat. Usually enriched with calcium and vitamins A and D.
High in saturated fat with 5 grams per ounce. Contains vitamins C, E, and B, plus lauric acid, an antifungal and antiviral medium-chain fatty acid.
Nutty, creamy, and good for those with nut or soy allergies. Hemp milk has 10 essential amino acids and has good levels of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids.
Contains more fiber than other milk substitutes. It packs lots of phytonutrients, has a sweet, grassy taste, and is free of saturated fats and cholesterol.
We suggest leaving rice milk on the shelf, as it doesn’t naturally have much nutritional benefit unless it’s been fortified.
High levels of isoflavones, protein, vitamins, and minerals. Avoid brands with carrageenan, which may cause stomach problems and inflammation.