A milk substitute is a liquid meant to replace the milk from a mammal. It is a whitish liquid that resembles milk and is often packaged as a powder to be mixed with water to yield a liquid that resembles milk. Milk substitutes usually contain milk powder in varying proportions of 30 to 80%, with the remainder consisting of other ingredients including whey, palm oil, coconut oil and similar vegetable extracts. Due to their composition, milk substitutes tend to have a longer shelf life and can withstand higher temperatures than milk, without spoiling.
A milk substitute is often used to replace dairy milk in tea, coffee, or a recipe. Milk substitutes include plant milk (including soy milk), which is used by those who want to avoid animal products for health or ethical reasons, including vegans, or because of taste preference.
Some milk substitutes are marketed to consumers as healthier than cow's milk, because they may be lower in saturated fat and, if they are entirely free of animal products, cholesterol-free. When milk substitutes are lacking in vitamins or dietary minerals present in dairy milk (such as vitamin B12 or calcium), they are usually fortified.
Humans consume milk because of its nutritional value, especially minerals like calcium, vitamins such as B12, and high protein content, but also due to taste preference, as all human babies are weaned on mother's milk or similar infant formula, which leads to positive taste associations later in life. Therefore, any milk substitute is usually expected to meet such standards, though there is no legal requirement for it to do so. This also results in more additives being put into milk substitutes to compensate for their lack of natural vitamins, minerals and proteins.
The examples and perspective in this section deal primarily with the United States and do not represent a worldwide view of the subject. (September 2017) (Learn how and when to remove this template message)
In the United States, dairy milk is required by federal law to contain a certain amount of vitamins A and D. However, there is no such requirement for milk substitutes. In Germany, milk substitutes tend to contain 30% milk powder, with the remaining 70% consisting of whey and cheaper vegetable extracts, especially palm oil and coconut oil.
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Substitution products for milk were created due to consumer demand. Customers worldwide wished for healthier beverages tasting and looking like milk, and a way of obtaining the same nutrients as in cow milk, but without the often present antibiotics, growth hormones, and painkillers caused by modern factory farming. Also very important is the fact that such substitutes allow vegans, and people who are seriously ill (gout, PKU, rheumatoid arthritis etc. require the avoidance of foods with high protein content because of the purine levels, among other factors), lactose intolerant, or allergic to dairy protein, to enjoy all commonly cow milk based foods without health problems or ethical concerns.
Soy milk is possibly one of the most popular non-dairy milk products on the shelf. It is made from soybeans and it contains about the same amount of protein as dairy milk. Although it is claimed by some to contain twice as much sugar and saturated fats however, when enriched by the manufacturer it may be a source of calcium and vitamin D and some B vitamins such as B12, however this is not in all brands of soy milk.
Almond milk is produced from almonds by grinding almonds with water, then straining the pulp from the liquid. This procedure can be done at home. Almond milk does not contain high amounts of saturated fat or calories.
Rice milk is mostly used for baking because of its sweet taste, but in case of a nut or soy allergy a grain milk processed from rice may be preferable. When fortified, this milk can be a source of calcium, vitamin B12, and vitamin D2.
Hemp milk is made by grinding hemp seeds with water, which are then strained to yield a nutty creamy flavored milk. Hemp milk is naturally rich in protein and amino acids.
Coconut milk is made by mixing water with the freshly grated white inside pulp of a ripe coconut. It is also a source of calcium and vitamins C, E, B1, B3, B5 and B6. Coconut milk is usually very high in fat and calories, but low in protein, which makes it a good substitute for cream, as it can be whipped up in a similar fashion to decorate baked goods or desserts.
In yeast-derived milk products, sugar is mixed with yeast and the resulting fermentation process creates the whey and casein proteins (which are identical to those found in milk). This is then combined with plant-based sugars, fats, and minerals to reproduce the milk, which can then be used like regular milk, including cheesemaking. Milk substitutes, produced in this way do not require the use of animals and (compared to regular milk production), it is thus more efficient, produces fewer greenhouse gases and utilizes less land (as no animals need to be fed, medicated, impregnated, milked, and slaughtered when no longer productive). 
Lactose is the major sugar found in milk. Lactose intolerance occurs when an individual is deficient in the enzyme lactase, which breaks down the lactose in the intestine. Bloating, cramps, constipation, or diarrhea may result when an individual who is lactose intolerant consumes a dairy product. A variety of products are available which contain milk substitutes, so those foods are still able to be consumed by individuals with a lactose intolerance. Food products which have been manufactured with milk substitutes include milk, yogurt, whipped topping and ice cream.
A lactose-free food, such as non-dairy ice cream, may require a different process during manufacturing. For example, traditional dairy ice cream is made with a combination of milk products that contain lactose, but non-dairy ice cream may be synthesized using hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated vegetable oil (coconut oil, palm kernel oil and soybean oil) along with emulsifier, protein, sweetener and water. Some not yet widely prevalent synthetic ice cream products are claimed to have a similar flavour and texture to traditional dairy ice cream.
However many smaller scale, organic, gourmet or slow food focused non-dairy ice cream manufacturers create all their products using traditional, natural and only slightly altered methods. The preferred base for non dairy ice creams are often coconut milk or plant cream, due to the higher fat and lower water content preventing the formation of ice crystals.
Breast milk substitutes are available for infants if breast feeding is not an option. Infant formulas made of cow’s milk can be a supplement to breast milk or as sole source of nutrition before solid food is introduced. It is vital that the formula is fortified with dietary nutrients optimised for babies and toddlers, such as iron, to ensure survival, growth and health of the baby. Those wishing to avoid animal products can use soy-based or rice-based infant formula.
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