If you love decadent ice cream, flavorful cheeses, or creamy yogurt, it’s hard to imagine a life without dairy, but a dairy-free lifestyle is becoming more and more commonplace. Whether it’s a compulsory shift due to either a lactose or casein (milk protein) intolerance or a voluntary change, eliminating dairy from your diet can produce numerous health benefits. Certified naturopath nutritionist Pamela Reilly makes a strong case for this special diet, saying, “Let's face it we are not cows, so it may be difficult to digest milk from another species.”
For people who are not dairy intolerant, but experience from other health issues such as seasonal allergies, asthma, or acne, taking it out of their diet may help ease their maladies. Reilly explains, “Dairy is known to increase mucous production in the body, so eliminating dairy is often very helpful for those with asthma, seasonal allergies, etc. There is also a direct link between dairy consumption and acne, so eliminating dairy often creates much clearer skin.”
Besides helping people who have sinus or skin issues, removing dairy from the diet of a completely healthy person may prevent future diseases. Nancy Guberti, certified nutritionist, presents yet another reason you should avoid dairy. “According to the book The China Study, dairy has been linked to breast and prostate cancers,” warns Guberti.
The primary concern people have when they stop consuming dairy is that they will not get the calcium that they need. According to Reilly, this is not something to fret about, because dairy is not even the best source of calcium. She recommends instead integrating calcium-rich foods such as dark, leafy greens, nuts, and seeds, particularly chia and sesame (or tahini). To get your daily-recommended amount of calcium quickly and easily, Guberti recommends juicing two heads of lacinto kale, a lemon, a carrot, and an apple for a delicious and nutritious drink.
There are dozens of alternatives to replace the usual cow’s milk-based milks, butters, cheeses, and yogurts that you use every day. Juliano Brotman, chef and owner of the organic, raw, vegan restaurant and health store Planet Raw in Santa Monica, uses nut cheeses instead of dairy. He explains, “The reason behind using nut and seed cheeses as opposed to other dairy-free cheeses is because since they are water based, they are the most natural and easy to digest. Nut and seed cheeses are also an excellent source of "fats," which we use as fuel.” Soy, almond, coconut, and hemp-based (Reilly prefers hemp because of the higher protein and Omega-3 fatty acids content) products can be found in most grocery stores, but the widest variety will most likely be found at your local Whole Foods, Trader Joe’s, or independent health food store. On your next grocery shopping excursion, stop by one of these places to pick up these items and begin your journey to health by going dairy-free!