Plant-based milk is having a moment. And if you walk the aisles of any grocery store, you’ll see there is no shortage of dairy milk alternatives on the market today. Anything from rice, nuts, and even oats can be made into a tasty and healthful alternative to dairy milk. But why should you drink them?
Cow’s milk can make a number of health conditions or symptoms worse. Plant-based milk, however, can be a great alternative if you have any of these health conditions. Not only do they help you to avoid dairy, but plant-based milks are also packed with health promoting nutrients.
Consider switching to plant-based milk if you have one of these five medical conditions:
1. Lactose Intolerance
If drinking regular milk leads to cramping, gas, bloating, diarrhea or any combination of these symptoms, you may have lactose intolerance. It wouldn’t be surprising as up to 30 million Americans have some degree of lactose intolerance.
Lactose is the natural sugar in dairy milk. Lactose intolerance is the inability to break that sugar down, leading to symptoms that can be mild to severe. The lactase enzyme is missing or limited in people with lactose intolerance.
Some companies sell milk that includes this enzyme to help you break down dairy sugar. You could also take an enzyme pill when you drink milk to break the lactose down for you. Or, you could listen to what your body is telling you and switch to a plant-based milk that you can naturally digest.
If you suffer from constipation, switching to a plant-based milk might be the solution. The proteins in dairy could be the cause.
Hard or infrequent bowel movements are sure symptoms of constipation. You may experience belly pain, bloating, and decreased hunger. Over time, constipation can lead to hemorrhoids, bowel incontinence, and an increased risk for colon cancer.
In one study, there was a significant improvement in constipation symptoms when children were switched from dairy to soy milk. Choosing a plant-based milk over dairy could help you to have more regular bowel movements.
In addition to avoiding the proteins that cause constipation, plant-based milk often contains fiber. Fiber is an important nutrient that helps promote regular bowel movements. Oat milk has this highest amount of fiber in plant-based milks, often providing you with 2g per cup.
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3. High Cholesterol
High blood cholesterol is one of the leading risk factors for developing heart disease. Reducing the amount of saturated fat and trans fats in your diet can help lower blood cholesterol levels. And most plant-based milks have zero trans fats.
Dairy milk, like other animal products, contains saturated fat and cholesterol. While skim milk has the fat removed, it still lacks heart healthy nutrients. You can find these health promoting nutrients in plant milk.
Plant-based milks like soy or oat milk contain nutrients that can actually help to lower blood cholesterol. With up to 2g of soluble fiber per cup, these plant based milks help to absorb cholesterol in your body and get rid of it before it has the chance to clog your arteries.
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If you struggle with acne, you’re not alone. It’s estimated that up to 50 million American’s are affected by acne. While there are several possible causes of acne, drinking and eating dairy could be making your acne worse.
It might be the kind of dairy milk you’re drinking, or just dairy in general that your body is reacting to. One study with almost 50,000 participants found that women who drank 2 or more glasses of skim milk daily were 44% more likely to have acne than those who chose other beverages.
Another theory is that the hormones naturally found in milk can make acne symptoms worse. Dairy milk contains natural growth hormones and steroids to help calves grow. When consumed by humans, these hormones can cause acne to flare up.
Switching to a plant-based milk could help improve your acne. Try eliminating dairy and switching to oat or almond milk to see if your breakouts improve.
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5. Breast Cancer
If you have a family history of breast cancer, you may want to switch to plant-based milk. Research in the past year has found a correlation between dairy milk consumption and breast cancer risk.
Out of 53,000 women who were studied, those who drank even 1 cup of cow’s milk per day had a 50% increased risk of developing breast cancer. The risk increased even more with 2-3 cups per day. Switching to plant-based milk could help to reduce your risk of developing breast cancer.
In conclusion – When to Consider Switching to Plant-Based Milk
If you have lactose intolerance, constipation, high cholesterol, acne, or an increased risk for breast cancer you may benefit from switching to a plant-based milk.
If you’ve tried one and didn’t like it, keep trying! There are so many varieties and flavors to choose from. Just be sure to choose a plant-based milk without added sugars for a truly healthful alternative to dairy.
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Kelsey is a Registered Dietitian, freelance writer, and plant focused food blogger. She’s passionate about making plant focused eating accessible, fun, and delicious. In addition to geeking out over nutrition science, Kelsey is an herbal enthusiast and loves to experiment with homemade and natural alternatives in the home and spending time with her two small kiddos and husband.