The truth is revealed about whether alternatives to common foods are better for you.
Dairy or soy?
There are many reasons why people switch from dairy to soy: lactose intolerance, suspected allergies, excess mucus or ear infections. While some of these are valid, many are self-diagnosed and unnecessary. For instance, if you are lactose intolerant, you can still consume small amounts of dairy. In fact, this maintains the enzyme levels in your small bowel needed to break the lactose down.
If you feel dairy makes more mucus, have you checked that it’s all dairy or just milk? Often it’s only milk that’s a problem, while cheese and yoghurt are fine.
Apart from genuine allergies, the truth is that dairy and soy share a similar profile. Both come in low-fat and full-fat versions (soy drinks are matched to milk’s fat level). Both can trigger allergies and this must be declared on a food label so you can avoid them.
Babies who can’t tolerate cow’s milk are trialled on a soy formula, but many react to that as well.
Dairy is natural. Soy can be made from whole beans or formulated from soy protein extract. Some soy drinks have added calcium, some don’t. Soy is free of cholesterol and lower in saturated fat, but many skim or fat-free milks are these days, too.
Pick soy is if you have a real allergy to milk or are seriously lactose intolerant, or you’re vegan, but milk suits you just fine if you want a natural product with a high content of well-absorbed calcium.
Carob or chocolate?
Carob has been used as a substitute for chocolate for years due to its chocolate-like flavour. But you can spot the difference – that carob bar or hot carob milk drink doesn’t taste as good.
Both carob powder and cocoa powder are nutritious. Compared to cocoa powder, carob contains slightly less fat and less kilojoules but similar levels of B vitamins. One advantage of carob: it’s not as bitter, so you can cut back on added sugar. It’s also free of the stimulants in chocolate – caffeine and theobromine – though admittedly, they’re only in chocolate at low levels. But then, carob doesn’t have the antioxidants found in dark chocolate.
Once carob has been used in a snack bar, it usually contains just as much fat, sugar and kilojoules as chocolate, thanks to the added sugar and vegetable fat. Both are rich, concentrated foods and should be consumed sparingly.
Unless you have a genuine dietary need, these ‘health’ foods won’t make you any healthier. And some of them, like carob, are just confectionary in disguise.