Ask Coach Nicole: Dairy Dilemma
Q: I was thinking of trying to eliminate dairy from my diet and I would love to know more about the pros/cons and options for supplementing etc…
Very cool question. There are several reasons why someone might willingly choose to eliminate dairy from his/her diet.
Why Give Up Dairy?
Possible Reason #1
Some people actually don’t have a choice - they simply can’t digest LACTOSE, one of the sugars found in milk. This is where we get the term ‘lactose intolerant’. Some bodies lack something called lacTASE, which is an enzyme found in the digestive system, required to help break down lacTOSE.
Possible Reason #2
Some people avoid dairy for philosophical reasons. They don’t believe in using animals for food - even if there is no killing involved. They object to the often horrific treatment of dairy cows and refuse to participate in that kind of animal cruelty by eating dairy products.
Possible Reason #3
Other people (myself included) choose to avoid dairy products for health reasons. Dairy causes a lot of problems for a lot of people. If you can look beyond the most ingrained, accepted pro-dairy messaging in our society, you will begin to uncover some very compelling counter-arguments for why dairy isn’t exactly the health boon it’s been made out to be.
Pros And Cons Of A Dairy-Free Life.
You asked me about the pros and cons of eliminating dairy - so I will share some of what I have learned and experienced myself, and then direct you to some other resources, where you can learn more - and fact-check me, if you like!
Speaking personally, the only ‘cons’ I have ever experienced from eliminating dairy were the temporary, fleeting cravings for a nice piece of cheese. Those cravings are long gone. Practically speaking, there is nothing - NOTHING - of a nutritional nature that the human body requires that MUST be obtained from dairy.
But what about Vitamin D?
Well, vitamin D is often ADDED to milk (they call it ‘fortifying’ it) because - surprise - milk does not naturally contain Vitamin D in any significant amount. They are even fortifying your cereal and your orange juice these days with Vitamin D - but it is not naturally occurring there, either. The best source of Vitamin D is the sun.
But what about CALCIUM??
Everybody knows that milk is the most incredible source of calcium, right? We’ve been hearing since preschool that we need to drink milk in order to have strong bones!
Think about it for a few moments. How do COWS get their calcium? Do they drink milk? No. Baby cows stop drinking their mama’s milk once they have been fattened into an adult cow. Then they eat grass and alfalfa hay - which are plants.
On the USDA’s list of the 100 best sources of calcium, cow’s milk does not appear until #57. What’s ahead of it? All kinds of seeds, beans, tofu, nuts, and leafy greens - in other words, PLANTS. There are many, many fabulous and superior non-dairy sources of calcium.
But it has been beaten into my brain that dairy is healthy and important and necessary for my growth and development!
Yeah. I know. It’s really not.
When I chose to stop eating dairy, I felt like my skin deflated - and I mean that in the best possible way. I de-puffed all over. My skin cleared up, my eyes got brighter - and my sinuses?!! Oh, the relief for my poor beleaguered sinuses!
Professional singers have long known that dairy is nothing but MUCK for the throat and the voice. It causes phlegm and congestion - and an all-around gross situation.
I had to have sinus surgery several years back to correct some structural issues, and my own ENT told me that avoiding dairy in the days before the surgery would give me much relief until he could operate. He was right!
Many people have experienced DRAMATIC improvements in their eczema, allergies, ear infections, sinus infections, arthritis pain, and acne just from eliminating dairy.
I’m tellin’ ya - dairy causes a LOT of problems for people and, because we’ve been led to believe that dairy is a ‘wonder food’, we don’t even consider giving it up because we think we won’t thrive without it. You will!
One Final Thought.
Human beings are the only species that drinks the breast milk of another animal. In drinking cow’s milk, we are drinking the milk that was meant to turn a baby calf into a hefty adult cow. Even cows stop drinking cow milk once they are adults. If anything, we should be drinking human breast milk in to our adulthood - but how weird would that be?? And yet we don’t think it’s weird to be human adults, drinking a cow’s breast milk? Say huh?
Awesome Dairy Substitutes.
To my way of thinking, the more natural the better. The less processed, the better. If I can make it myself - even better. With that criteria in mind, I am a big fan of almond milk or other nut milks - because you really can make them yourself with a blender and some cheese cloth (ironic that it’s ‘cheese’ cloth, I know).
That said, I rarely make my own nut milk. More often than not, I will just buy organic almond milk from the health food store and use it on cereal, in tea, etc, etc.
- Rice Milk is my husband’s favorite and is another great substitute on cereal or in smoothies, etc.
- Soy milk is very versatile and is probably my favorite for using in recipes and for baking. I personally try to avoid a lot of processed soy products - so soy milk is not an every day go-to substitute for me, but many people dig it.
- There are a lot of non-dairy creamer items made with coconut milk that can be wonderful in coffee, for those of you who can’t imagine giving up half-and-half.
- Earth Balance is a fantastic butter substitute - as is coconut butter, and good ol’ olive oil.
- My favorite non-dairy cheese alternative is Daiya. It melts great, tastes great and is wonderful for vegan pizzas or quesadillas.
- Non-dairy ice cream has come a very long way. My favorites are the ones made with coconut milk, because they are naturally rich and creamy and don’t contain a lot of added cr*p. Remember - just because it’s dairy-free doesn’t always mean it’s healthy!