Alternative milks to cow's milk for children

The so-called vegetable milks are preparations to drink made from soy, nuts or cereals, generally processed in water, although sometimes in oil, and to which different preservatives, sweeteners and / or additives are added. Can we offer them to children as substitutes for cow's milk?

- In particular, the almond milkUnless it is fortified with proteins, it barely provides one gram per cup, since, generally, a cup does not include more than 4 almonds, accompanied by sugars or sweeteners. If it is unsweetened, it provides fewer calories than cow's milk, and it is free of lactose and cholesterol, but to provide calcium and vitamin D these must be added artificially. Obviously, children with allergies to nuts or a family history thereof, should avoid it until their tolerance is verified.

- Rice milk It is the richest in carbohydrates of all, even if they are complex carbohydrates. Its main advantage is that it does not usually cause allergies. As main disadvantages, in addition to the amount of carbohydrates, is that calcium and vitamin D have to be added artificially to fortify it. It is also a very low source of proteins of low biological value as it lacks lysine, an essential amino acid.

- The coconut milk, is rich in saturated fat, almost in the same amount as cow's milk, although it is still low in protein and carbohydrates, the lowest in carbohydrates of all the options available on the market. This is by far the worst alternative to choose, as it has all the disadvantages of whole cow's milk and none of its benefits.

- Soy milk it is the one that is most widely consumed. It provides similar amounts of protein as milk, and its calorie content is similar to that of skim milk. It contains neither lactose, nor calcium, nor cholesterol, but it provides vitamins A, B12, D, potassium and isoflavones. It is usually contraindicated when there are alterations in the thyroid gland, and some studies have shown, however, possible alterations in fertility, especially in men, due to consuming high amounts of soy in any of its varieties. On the other hand, and because the vast majority of world soybean cultivation is of genetically modified varieties, if you want to avoid it you will have to consume only organic products.

In general, the vast majority of these beverages contain very high amounts of sugar, well above the lactose content of cow's milk, and much lower amounts of protein, vitamins and minerals. In addition, they usually contain preservatives and artificial additives, generally thickeners, and some of them contain carrageenans (E407), an additive that can cause irritability and inflammation in the gastrointestinal tract. On the contrary, they tend to be healthier in terms of their fat and caloric content, as long as they do not have added oils.

Soy, almond and rice drinks are the preferable among the vegetable options, always looking for your options with no added sugar, sodium free and fortified with calcium and vitamins D and B12.

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