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Is soy milk as good as cow milk?

Q: My 2 years old son was not having normal milk so I started giving him soya apple milk marketed by Godrej under the brand name Sofit. As soya apple milk has replaced milk completely in his diet (except in the form of cheese and curd), is it good for him in long run?

A:While soy milk doesn't provide the same nutrients as cow milk, it can be an acceptable alternative for kids who are lactose intolerant, allergic to cows milk, observing a vegetarian diet, or not drinking cows milk for other reasons. Soy milk comes in different flavours (you can add your own flavours if you like), and its perfectly safe to give those to your child. Soy is also a good source of protein. Be sure to buy whole soy milk, not the low- or non-fat versions, because fat is important for brain development in children under 2 years old. Also, make sure the milk is fortified with vitamin A, vitamin D, and calcium. You may want to make sure your child's diet contains other calcium-rich or calcium-fortified foods because soy milk contains phytates, naturally occurring substances found in whole-grain foods, legumes, and nuts that can decrease the absorption of calcium and other minerals. For example, while the label on a container of fortified soy milk may say that an 8-ounce glass contains 200 to 300 mg of calcium, the phytates can prevent your child from absorbing that full amount. The body absorbs only about 75 percent of the calcium from soy milk. Calcium-rich or fortified foods include broccoli, dahi, cheese, and calcium-fortified juices, cereals, and cornflakes. Because soy milk is plant-based, it doesn't have any vitamin B12, a vitamin that you get only from animal foods (including cows milk). Pouring soy milk over a cereal fortified with vitamin B12 is enough to ensure that your child starts the day with the right amount of nutrients. Many brands of soy milk highlight the fact that they contain isoflavones. Isoflavones are phytoestrogens, oestrogen-like hormones found in plants such as whole grains, potatoes, dried beans, and apples that may lower blood cholesterol levels in adults. The phytoestrogens found in soy milk are safe for children and adults.

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