When you were a child, your mom probably told you to drink your milk for strong bones and teeth. In general, milk is good for babies; however, as you age, you don’t need the milk itself. You only need the nutritious things found in it. Dairy related illnesses and conditions have become more common for both children and adults. Whether due to a health concern — dairy allergy, lactose intolerance, high cholesterol, or for another reason — ethical, environmental, or religious, you may feel the need to adopt dairy-free diet.
Once you decide to give dairy-free living a try, it’s important to stick with it. In the big scheme of things, learning to live without milk and dairy products is a minor inconvenience. Change can be difficult in the beginning, but following this guide will help you get a good start to dairy-free living. The more you learn and work towards your goal, the easier it gets. You might be surprised how much your health improves within just a few weeks.
So, how and where do you start going dairy-free? The best place to start is with the basic terms and concepts so you don’t get overwhelmed. Learn what it means to be dairy-free and how you can begin making the transition without feeling deprived.
Defining dairy and dairy-free
It may seem simple, but the first thing you’ll need to know is what dairy really is. It’s not as obvious as you may think. Dairy is a broad term which refers to cows’ (or other mammals’) milk and its derivatives, including milk-based food products such as cheese, yogurt, butter, and sour cream, cream, yogurt, etc. Dairy also refers to the lesser recognized by-products of milk, which include the proteins (like casein) as well as the fats and sugars (like lactose). To sum it up, anything that has milk, a milk-based product, or a milk by-product in the ingredients contains dairy.
People who follow a dairy-free eating plan eliminate all three sources of milk (dairy) from their diet. A dairy-free lifestyle is milk-free, lactose-free, and casein-free.
In your daily life, it’s easy to identify and remember some obvious sources of dairy like a snack of milk and cookies, a bowl of pudding with milk in the ingredients, or cheese and crackers. You may not be as aware of the buttermilk in your breakfast biscuit or dinner salad’s ranch dressing, the skimmed milk (and sodium caseinate) in the whipped topping on your pie, or the modified whey (whey protein) in your boxed Beef Stroganoff dinner.
The by-products of milk, in parentheses above, are even harder to recognize. They can be found in the skim milk solids and casein used in some processed foods.
Living a dairy-free lifestyle means, you must be knowledgeable, diligent in reading labels, and consistent when finding out about the ingredients in foods.
Why avoid Dairy
You might be surprised at the amount of dairy products you consume. It may be found in everything from a glass of milk in the morning, cheese on our burgers, cottage cheese and yogurt for snacks, and so much more. In fact, humans don’t really need the nutrition that comes from processed cows’ milk. Most of the nutrients, like calcium, can be found in plant-based sources. These types are lower in fat as well, another of the benefits of avoiding dairy.
There are many reasons why someone should avoid dairy. Dairy has been a big part of many people’s lives but for some they may need or want to eliminate it from their diet.
Here are 7 popular reasons people choose to eliminate dairy and opt for a dairy-free diet.
- Weight management. Dairy products contain a high level of fat. Even though it’s labeled low-fat, 2% milk contains 35% fat per serving. A glass of skim milk has 100 calories. One cup of 2% milk has 138 calories. Drinking three cups a day adds 366 calories to your diet. Cheeses and other dairy products can have as much as 77% fat. Butter is almost 100% fat. Ice cream, sour cream and even yogurt all are high calorie. All this fat is unhealthy to the human body, especially if you are trying to maintain a healthy weight.
- Health reasons. Milk products contain unhealthy cholesterol and is the biggest source of saturated fat in the American diet. This is the type of fat that fuels the body to make more cholesterol. This can clog the arteries. Scientific studies have shown that diets rich in dairy products are more likely to have cardiovascular disease or gallstone trouble from high cholesterol. Dairy fat can lead to heart attack, stroke, high blood pressure, autism, migraine headaches, irritable bowel syndrome, acne, Crohn’s disease, and some types of cancer.
- Milk Allergies and Sensitivity. A milk allergy occurs when the body reacts to the proteins in milk. It causes hives, rashes, diarrhea, nausea, congestion and sometimes swelling of the mouth or throat. Milk allergies are most common in childhood. And according to the American Academy of Allergy, Asthma, and Immunology, around 80 percent of them outgrow the allergy before they turn 16 years old.
- Lactose-intolerance. This happens when your body stops producing the lactase enzyme. Lactase is the natural sugar found in milk that causes problems like abdominal cramps, diarrhea, bloating, gas and nausea.
- Environmental concerns. Many people are concerned about the effects in which the meat and dairy industries have on the environment. Many believe mass animal agriculture affects climate change and the over-use of natural resources.
- Ethical concerns. Many people decide to live a dairy-free lifestyle because of their concerns for animal welfare. They are taking a stand against animal cruelty, the use of antibiotics and hormones in animals to make them grow faster and alters their original genetic makeup.
- Reduce exposure to Antibiotics and hormones. Antibiotics are given in large quantities to dairy cows in the prevention of infections. These antibiotics can affect the milk supply. Many people choose to go dairy-free to avoid consuming the antibiotics. The growth hormones given to dairy cows to stimulate milk production increases the levels of IGF-1(insulin-like growth factor-1) which has been linked to increases in certain types of cancer including prostate, colon, lung and breast cancer.
As you can see, there is a wide range of reasons why people choose to remove dairy from their daily lives. However, most people change to a dairy-free lifestyle due to health issues or concerns.
Milk plays an important nutritional role in the essential nutrients it provides. For example it’s rich in protein, has essential vitamins and minerals and a source of needed calcium. You may be worried about staying healthy and getting adequate nutrition when you do away with dairy products.
It’s an unnecessary worry. Download our FREE Report where you’ll find wide varieties of foods that can provide the same benefits as milk.
Here are several ways to replace the missing nutrients in your milk-free diet.
How can I substitute something for whole milk in my child’s dairy-free diet?
How to manage social situations
Dairy-free Eating Out
Cooking Tips and Techniques
Substitutions for Dairy
What can you expect when going dairy-free?
What’s the difference between lactose-free and dairy-free?
Shopping and Food Label Tips
few simple meal ideas to get you started.