The popularity of milk alternatives is booming with a growing number of consumers swapping dairy for varieties like almond, coconut, soy and macadamia. After low FODMAP milk alternatives? Here are your best options.
First of all, why choose a milk alternative?
Milk contains the sugar lactose, which is often referred to as ‘milk sugar’. When milk reaches our stomach, we need to break down the sugar lactase so milk can be digested properly. Breaking down lactose requires help from an enzyme known as lactase. Many people don’t have enough lactase in their stomach, so are not able to effectively digest lactose-containing products. This is known as lactose intolerance, and is believed to affect approximately 10% of all Australians.
Some individuals are allergic to the milk protein itself, and not the lactose. This is more common in children than adults.
Those with IBS may also not tolerate lactose well. This is because lactose is a FODMAP, since it is a disaccharide (the ‘D’ in FODMAP).
Each of the above intolerances/allergies produce similar symptoms when milk and/or milk products are consumed. These commonly include diarrhoea, stomach cramps, nausea, flatulence, and bloating.
But it’s not just intolerances that drive consumers to choose milk alternatives, many opt for non-dairy options if they’re following a vegan diet or they prefer the taste.
Low FODMAP milk alternatives
1. Lactose-free milk
Lactose-free milk has essentially the same nutritional profile as regular cow milk. The only difference is that the lactase enzyme is added, allowing lactose to be broken down. Because of this, you may notice lactose-free milk tastes a little sweeter (since the sugar is already broken down).
2. Soy milk
Soy milk can make a good low FODMAP milk alternative, but only varieties made from soy protein (such as ‘So Good’) and NOT from soy beans. Again it has a fairly similar nutritional profile to cow’s milk, as it is usually fortified with calcium. It has a distinct flavour, sort of nutty, which you generally either love or hate.
3. Almond milk
You may wonder why almond milk is low FODMAP if almonds are high FODMAP in large quantities. The reason is because almond milk contains very little almonds, as little as 2%. The main ingredient is water, so it isn’t as creamy as cow’s milk. It has a nice nutty flavour and goes well in smoothies and oats. Nutritionally speaking it doesn’t offer much in the way of calories or protein – but it is fortified with calcium so serves as a source of calcium, as well as healthy fat and a tiny bit of fibre (almost 1g fibre per 250ml).
4. Macadamia milk
Macadamia milk has a very similar nutrient profile to almond milk, although it is slightly higher in calories/ fat and lower in protein.
5. Rice milk
A low FODMAP serve of rice milk is a bit lower than previously mentioned options, at 200ml (3/4 cup). It has virtually the same amount of calories as lactose-free milk and soy milk, but is much lower in protein and a bit lower in calcium. It has a sweeter flavour which some people enjoy and others dislike. This can be a good option for those who also have nut and/or soy allergies.
6. Coconut milk
A low FODMAP serve of long-life (UHT) coconut milk is half of the others, at 125ml. This small a serving size offers virtually no protein and calories, but provides about 1/3 of a serve of calcium and a bit of fat. This could be a good option to use in overnight oats, given the small serve size required.
Below is a comparison of the nutrient profile of 6 milk alternatives. An average has been taken from a few brands across each of the categories – so keep in mind different brands will vary slightly.
|Milk type:||Serving size (ml)||Energy (kj)||Protein (g)
||Fat (g)||Calcium (mg)|
|Unsweetened Rice milk||200ml||438||0.8||2.2||230|
|UHT coconut milk||125ml||150||0.3||3.4||120|
Lactose-free milk and soy milk take the cake when it comes to their nutritional content. Both provide 7.5-8.5g protein per 250ml serve, and 1 serve of calcium – and of the alternatives they share the closest nutritional profile to cow’s milk. Almond milk is the lowest in calories and low in protein, but does provide a serve of calcium and about 4g healthy fat. Macadamia milk, rice milk and coconut milk were the lowest in protein and had less calcium.
Remember it isn’t always about which has the greatest nutritional profile, as you should enjoy what you eat as well. So if you hate soy milk and prefer almond milk instead that is totally fine. Whilst soy milk is much higher in protein, if you are getting enough protein across the day then it won’t make a huge difference if you prefer a lower protein milk option like almond milk or coconut milk.
Struggling to identify your IBS triggers? Sign up to The FODMAP Challenge to get meal plans, recipe ideas, and regular, expert support to to help you take control of your gut health, improve your symptoms of IBS, and better your quality of life.