Does soya milk count as a dairy for a balanced diet?

A glass of soya milk

I’m lactose intolerant and so drink soya milk. Does this still count as a dairy when I’m thinking about what makes for a balanced diet?

BHF dietitian Victoria Taylor says:

Strictly speaking, soya milk isn’t a dairy food, but it is commonly used as an alternative to milk for people who suffer from lactose intolerance or dairy allergies, or for vegans who exclude all animal products from their diets.

Although soya milk does not naturally contain calcium, it’s often added to it so, if you’re using it as a milk substitute, it’s important to choose this type. Getting enough calcium in your diet (from two to three portions of dairy foods a day) is essential to maintaining your bone health.

Getting enough calcium in your diet is essential to maintaining your bone health

Soya milk tends to be a bit lower in energy (calories) than whole and semi-skimmed milks and similar to one per cent fat milk. It also contains healthy polyunsaturated fats, so it can be included as part of a heart-healthy diet, but remember to choose unsweetened versions, so your soya milk doesn’t come with added sugar.

Similarly, other types of non-dairy milks are now readily available from supermarkets and include nut milks (almond, hazelnut), rice milk, oat and hemp milks. These are all suitable non-dairy alternatives to cows’ milk, as long as they are fortified with calcium. Rice and hemp milk tend to be more watery than other types and therefore trickier to use in cooking and baking.

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