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From soy to almonds: are milk substitutes healthier?

Shavuot is upon us, and like every year, we’ll join family and friends for a feast around a table full of dairy and cheesecake. But what happens when dairy products reach our digestive system?

Adi Zusman, clinical nutritionist, points out that a significant percentage of the population suffers from various sensitivities and dairy products can have a negative effect on them.

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Dairy products such as milk and cheese can cause discomfort

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“Some suffer from irritable bowel syndrome. Others suffer from gas, bloating or irregular bowel movements. Even if you have been diagnosed with inflammation of the digestive system, stomach or intestines (Crohn’s disease, colitis or diverticulitis ), or suffer from reflux and heartburn, you should cut back on dairy products. Remove them from the menu for several weeks and examine how you feel. The recommendation is also good for people suffering from autoimmune diseases such as psoriasis or arthritis ” , according to Zusman.

Lactase, the enzyme that breaks down the milk sugar lactose, is deficient in most of the adult population in the Middle East. Even switching to low-lactose products doesn’t necessarily solve the problem.

“One of the proteins found in every delicacy and cheese is casein, mainly of types A1 and A2. Most of the industrial milk in Israel contains A1 casein,” notes Sussman. “From studies examining the effects of both types of casein on the human digestive system, it becomes clear that the consumption of A1 casein stimulates the immune system to the point of inflammatory developments, such as in inflammatory bowel disease or stomach inflammation. Additionally, consuming milk containing type A1 casein can cause severe discomfort, including abdominal pain and irregular bowel movements.”

Casein A2 is found mainly in goat and sheep milk products. This is probably one of the reasons why sheep’s cheeses are better digested by people sensitive to cow’s milk and its derivatives.

“For those who don’t get along with sheep’s milk, it is advisable to consume hard cheeses and not spreadable cheeses, yoghurts or white cheeses. The harder and richer in fat the dairy product is, the lower the percentages of lactose that ha, so it’s best absorbed in a sensitive digestive system,” says Sussman.

Those who avoid consuming dairy products, whether for health or ideological reasons, often encounter the problem of what to eat instead. In recent years, there has been an increase in the abundance of foods containing flavorful and highly nutritious milk substitutes, which also replace dairy products on the holiday menu. Hagit Dayan, a clinical nutritionist at Hillel Yaffe Medical Center, checks out what their benefits are and if they’re really healthy.

“Legumes, vegetables, fruit, whole grains and unsaturated fats from plants are foods that form an important part of the Mediterranean diet recommended today for the entire population,” says Dayan. “This diet has been shown to improve overall health and reduce the risk of many diseases. These foods are eaten as a substitute for milk in many recipes, both in their original form and low-processed.

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Tofu is a healthy substitute for milk

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This group contains lentils, chickpeas, peas, beans, broad beans and soybeans.

“These foods are high in protein, complex carbohydrates and dietary fiber. They are also a source of high-quality minerals, such as calcium and iron, zinc, potassium and phosphorus, and B vitamins, including folic acid.”

One of the popular legumes is soy, which can be a worthy substitute in dairy recipes. Soy is a popular commodity and comes in many forms, some with a low level of processing such as tofu, soy drinks (dairy substitutes) and edamame and some more processed items, such as soy puddings ( cheese and yogurt substitutes) and soy protein which is a meat substitute.

“Over the years, there have been controversial opinions about soy consumption,” Dayan points out. “Concerns have been raised in the past regarding the high content of estrogen and its effect on our bodies. Studies published in recent years clearly show that not only does the daily consumption of soy have no harmful effects, but there are many advantages of including this food in our menu.

“Soybeans are rich in substances called phytochemicals, including isoflavones, which have protective effects against various types of cancer, such as breast cancer, endometrial cancer and prostate cancer. Furthermore, it has been found that soy helps improve blood lipid levels, blood pressure values, reducing menopausal symptoms and also has a beneficial effect on bone density in the spine,” she explains.

“Today the recommendation is to consume the product in the form closest to raw and with few other ingredients. This category includes foods such as tofu, soy drinks without added sugars and stabilizers, edamame, tempeh, miso, soy flour and seeds It’s also important to have additional proteins on the menu in addition to soy, such as lentils, chickpeas, peas, beans and broad beans.”

Vegetable oils also contain unsaturated fats that have beneficial effects on our health, including, among others, lowering cholesterol and protecting the heart, anti-inflammatory properties, increasing the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins, brain health, improving sugar and maintenance of optimal weight.

“In this group belong foods such as tahini, avocados, almonds, nuts, seeds and olive oil. Almonds and nuts (natural and unroasted) are rich in essential vitamins and minerals, dietary fiber and contain significant amounts of protein,” he adds Dayan. .

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Nuts are rich in essential vitamins and minerals

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“For those who are allergic to milk or who prefer to avoid its consumption for various reasons, today there are many different and even delicious substitutes that can be enjoyed during the festive meal. It is important to note that the consumption of legumes and vegetable oils is recommended all for their proven health benefits and it is desirable to include them regularly on the menu,” he concludes.

Zusman explains, “This is a successful marketing gimmick. To maintain skeletal bone strength, we need not only calcium, but a wide variety of vitamins and minerals found in many sources in nature.

For example, a winning combination of calcium, magnesium, potassium and vitamin C, all of which are essential for strengthening bones, is found in green vegetables such as spinach and chard leaves (preferably steamed), broccoli, green beans and parsley leaves. Calcium is abundant in flour, nuts, almonds and also in soy products (not genetically modified, preferably organic), such as tofu and tempeh.”


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