How to Go Dairy Free
There’s a lot of controversy and debate in the health and wellness world on which foods are ‘good’ for you and which foods are ‘bad’ for you. Food, despite whether it is considered ‘healthy’ or not, can fall into a spectrum of healthiness where it can be beneficial for some and harmful to others. So there is no black or white answer when it comes to dairy, unless you have a known allergy i.e. lactose intolerant, are vegan, or have auto-immune disorder. What it really boils down to is what works best for YOUR body, which requires experimentation and paying attention to how certain foods makes you feel.
Dairy products contain casein, whey, and lactose, and any one of those three may cause problems within the digestive system. The problem with conventional dairy is that the protein called beta-casein found in dairy known as A1 and A2. A1 casein dairy comes from cows that may have gene mutations after thousands of years of cross breeding. This is one of the main factors to dairy sensitives that include inflammation in the body and digestive issues. Furthermore, conventional cows are fed corn instead of grass and their milk is pasteurized, homogenized, and the fat is removed. Many times, the dairy isn’t the actual issue, it’s what is done to the cow and the milk that causes sensitives to the end result dairy product.
If you’re looking to go dairy free or have a known dairy allergy, the good news is that these days there are tons of alternatives available. Products which you will avoid include: any cow-based dairy products including milk, cheese, cheese varieties, sour cream, pudding, ice creams, frozen yogurt, and yogurt. You might also avoid goat based, sheep-based, and camel-based dairy products including milk, cheese, ice creams, and yogurt. I will however point out that while you may have an intolerance to cow-based dairy, that might not be the case for goat or sheep-based products. Again, that will require experimentation!
Here is a list of some alternatives that do not naturally contain casein, whey or lactose:
Dairy Milk Alternatives:
Other nut milks (Walnut, pistachio, etc.,)
Dairy Butter Alternatives:
Earth balance vegan spread
Dairy Yogurt Alternatives:
Dairy Cheese Alternatives:
Rice milk cheese slices
Almond milk cheese
Daiya is a popular vegan choice
Mykonos offers vegan cream cheese and other cheese based alternatives
Dairy Ice Cream Alternatives:
Almond ice cream (Almond Dream)
Coconut ice cream (So Delicious brand)
Rice ice cream (Rice Dream)
Soy ice cream
Frozen bananas, berries, pineapples, etc., make great alternatives if you have a high speed blender)
Other Dairy Alternative Items:
Puddings – there are dairy free alternatives out there or you could make your own with coconut milk
Creamers – Soy and coconut-based at most grocery stores
Sour cream – Soy-based versions available
*Note that soy and nuts are also common allergens, so be mindful if replacing dairy products with these alternatives.
For me, I personally don’t have any known autoimmune disorders or direct sensitives to dairy products. I eat dairy in moderation such as pizza, cheese, yogurt, and butter. However, when I do buy dairy products, they are 100% grass fed and/or organic full-fat when possible. And no, there is no reason to worry about consuming high quality full-fat dairy products despite the low-fat craze of the 90’s. I’m a big believer in paying attention to how your body feels from food and honoring certain foods in moderation. For instance, I usually back off from dairy if I’m suffering from a cold or allergies, since for me, dairy products create more mucous. At the same time, I love making nut milks – cashew and coconut are my favorites – and also love making cheese alternatives too to switch things up!
If you have digestive challenges, an autoimmune disorder, or you’re just curious about the effects that dairy has on you, it may be worth experimenting with a dairy-free diet for 7-14+ days, then reintroducing it in small amounts to your diet. Common signs that you are intolerant to certain foods can include skin breakouts, hives, gas, bloating, fatigue, digestive stress, and so forth.