Soymilk or Almond Milk: Not for Everybody's Dairy-Free Diets

For some people, going dairy-free isn’t as easy as it is for others because of health restrictions. They may have allergies or other intolerances to foods commonly used to replace dairy products, such as milks made from soy or almonds.

Soymilk is one product that’s especially tasty, nutritious, and versatile to use in place of milk. And other soy products, including tofu, soy-based cheeses, soy coffee creamer, and soy ice cream are all great nondairy substitutes for dairy products, too.

Unfortunately, soy isn’t the best choice for everyone. Some people are allergic to soy. People with soy allergies may develop symptoms such as abdominal cramps, nausea, or diarrhea if they eat foods containing soy. The level of intolerance varies from person to person. A few tablespoons of soymilk or soy creamer in a cup of coffee may not bother one person, but the same amount may cause severe symptoms for the next person.

Individuals with soy allergies should follow the advice of their healthcare providers or figure out through trial and error how much soy they can successfully include in their diets without causing discomfort. If you’re allergic to soy, you may need to use other nondairy products that don’t contain soy.

Like people with soy allergies, some people are allergic to tree nuts, including almonds. As a result, these individuals have to avoid almond milk, a product that’s appearing more frequently in supermarkets as an alternative to cow’s milk. They also have to avoid other nondairy products made from almonds, such as nondairy cheese and ice cream.

Fortunately, people with tree nut allergies can use many other nondairy products. Rice milk, for example, is hypoallergenic and can be used in place of almond milk.

If you need help navigating your choices when you have food allergies, you may want to get individualized counseling from a registered dietitian or your healthcare provider.

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