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Exploring Dairy and Dairy-Free Alternatives: A Guide to Your Options

By Kristin Bogdonas

June is Dairy Month, a perfect time to explore the wide variety of dairy and dairy-free options available. Whether you enjoy traditional dairy products or prefer plant-based alternatives, there's something for everyone to enjoy. Let's dive into the delicious world of dairy and dairy-free options and see how they compare nutritionally. 

Traditional Dairy Products

  • Milk: Milk is a staple in many households, providing essential nutrients like calcium, protein, and vitamins D and B12. You can choose from whole milk, low-fat milk, or skim milk, depending on your dietary needs and preferences. Some people prefer goat milk for better digestibility and less gastrointestinal discomfort (goat milk contains less lactose than cow milk). It has a rich flavor and is an abundant source of protein, niacin, riboflavin and vitamins A and B6. Those that are lactose intolerant can drink lactose-free milk as a healthy alternative. 
  • Cheese: Cheese comes in countless varieties, from creamy brie and tangy cheddar to crumbly feta and rich blue cheese. Each type offers unique flavors and textures, making cheese a versatile ingredient in many dishes.
  • Yogurt: Yogurt is not only delicious but may also contain probiotics, which support digestive health. Enjoy it plain, with fruit, or as a base for smoothies. Greek yogurt, known for its thicker consistency and higher protein content, is a popular choice. Like milk, yogurt can be made from cow, goat, and even sheep milk! The latter is something my family has been enjoying lately. 
  • Butter: Butter adds richness and flavor to cooking and baking. It's a natural source of fat-soluble vitamins like A, D, and E. For a slightly different flavor, try ghee, which is clarified butter used in many Indian dishes.

Dairy-Free Alternatives

For those who are lactose intolerant, vegan, or simply looking to try something new, there are many dairy-free alternatives available.

  • Plant-Based Milk: Options like almond milk, soy milk, oat milk, and coconut milk provide a range of flavors and nutritional profiles. Almond milk is low in calories, soy milk offers a good amount of protein, oat milk has a creamy texture, and coconut milk adds a tropical twist to recipes. Check out the nutrient comparison chart at the link below to see how these dairy-free alternatives stack up to cow and goat milk. 
  • Vegan Cheese: Dairy-free cheese has come a long way, with options made from nuts, soy, and coconut oil. Nutritional yeast, a popular ingredient in vegan cheese, provides a cheesy flavor and is rich in B vitamins. Look for varieties like vegan cheddar, mozzarella, and cream cheese.
  • Non-Dairy Yogurt: Made from almond, soy, coconut, or cashew milk, non-dairy yogurt offers similar textures and flavors to traditional yogurt. These yogurts are often fortified with calcium and vitamins to ensure you're not missing out on essential nutrients.

Whether you stick with traditional dairy products or explore dairy-free alternatives, there are plenty of options to suit your taste and dietary needs. Both dairy and plant-based products can offer delicious flavors and essential nutrients. As we celebrate Dairy Month, take the opportunity to try something new and discover your favorite dairy and dairy-free options. Enjoy the variety and versatility that both worlds have to offer!

Source : illinois.edu

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