Dairy can be a hotly debated topic and often I can question I get asked by people is whether they should eat or ditch dairy.
There are pros and cons to dairy.
I think dairy can be a good addition to someone’s diet. There are pros to eating dairy like yogurt and kefir because it can be a great source of probiotics. Plus dairy can often be an easy source of protein for people.
On the other hand, there are a lot of people who have issues with eating dairy. Generally, there are three big reasons why someone might need to avoid dairy: if someone has an allergy, a sensitivity, or lactose intolerance. I recognize that there are other reasons why someone might ditch dairy that are outside of these reasons but I am not touching on those reasons here.
Do you notice a difference when you eat different dairy foods?
If you have a food sensitivity to dairy you might notice is that you might have a different response to different types of dairy products. For example, you might notice you tolerate yogurt better than cheese or ice cream. Everyone’s different with how they tolerate different dairy products. Most often people find which dairy products work best for them and how much and how often they can eat them without experiencing any symptoms.
If you have lactose intolerance and not a dairy sensitivity you might be able to tolerate foods that are naturally lower in lactose like hard cheeses, butter, kefir, or heavy cream. There are also products out there that have the lactose removed like lactose-free milk or cheeses.
But I love cheese. What about cheese?
Cheese is probably everyone’s favorite dairy food. If you are lactose intolerant or have a sensitivity to dairy I suggest trying hard cheeses (this is because hard cheeses have less lactose) or finding dairy-free alternatives that are nut-based like cashew and almond cheeses.
If dairy is completely out of the picture for you but you still want some cheesy goodness then let me introduce you to nutritional yeast. Nutritional yeast looks pretty boring (if I’m being honest) because it’s just yellow flakes but these flakes pack a cheesy flavor without the cheese. Nutritional yeast would be great for making nacho cheese! Bon Appetit has a great review of nutritional yeast and what to do with it.
When you first go dairy-free there are things you might want to consider.
One of the hardest parts about eliminating dairy is that a lot of people’s favorite foods can have dairy (hello, ice cream). It might also feel like you’re giving up convenience because string cheese and yogurt are often snacks that many people will rely on during their work day.
Plus, let’s be real, just because you might eliminate dairy doesn’t mean you just automatically stop liking the taste and some dairy-free alternatives don’t have a great taste.
Another common concern about going dairy-free is the lack of calcium or protein. There are plenty of other calcium and protein sources out there. Check out this post here Everything you need to know before ditching dairy https://manitobaflax.com/know-before-ditching-dairy/
There can be hidden sources of dairy that you might not even realize.
Would you suspect a bag of almond cheese to have dairy in it? I wouldn’t. But guess what? It could have dairy in it even though the food is literally called almond cheese. This example is actually a true story with one of my clients. Once we turned the bag of almond cheese around we saw that dairy was listed as one of the ingredients.
Dairy can show up in places you might not even realize, like the almond cheese example, which is why it’s important to read food labels. This is critical to know if you have a dairy allergy or are avoiding dairy during your elimination diet.
There are quite a few ways that dairy can pop up in your food. If a food label says “vegan” then it’s a good chance that there is no dairy in the food. Here are some other popular ingredients that can mean there’s dairy present in that food: casein, curd, ghee, hydrolysates, rennet, whey.
Dairy can be part of a healthy diet but if you suspect dairy might be a problem (because of lactose intolerance or sensitivity) I recommend eliminating it for a week and then reintroducing it to see if you notice any differences. If you are allergic to dairy then dairy should always be avoided.
If are dairy-free or just want to explore dairy-free options there are many out there! Below is a round-up of some dairy-free recipes you just might want to try today!
Amanda is a pizza loving registered dietitian nutritionist specializing in mindfulness and gut health. She quickly realized that gut health goes beyond the gut; it is also about honoring our gut feelings. She is the creator of The Mindful Gut™ which uses science and strategy to help people improve their gut health.