Dairy Free Diet Guide: Foods You Can and Can’t Eat
Do you have milk? What about strong bones? These two dairy-themed mottoes have been an integral part of marketing dairy products to the masses for years. But do we really need dairy products in our diet? Is it perhaps better for you to try a dairy-free diet?
Many of us lose the ability to break down lactose, the main constituent of milk, as we grow older. This seems to be as good an argument as the fact that dairy products are not essential for a healthy adult diet, as it is estimated that 65 percent of the world's population is lactose intolerant and only humans drink another animal's milk into adulthood. But even if you do not suffer from intolerance, you should ask yourself: is milk an integral part of a healthy adult diet or is it just so marketed?
If the answer is indeed "no", we do not need dairy products to be healthy, what are the possible side effects of eating cheese, milk and (yummy) ice cream?
If you notice an allergic reaction after eating dairy products, you may want to be lactose free. But even if you do not have allergy or intolerance, there may be other signs of a diet that is loaded with too much dairy. People who consume too much milk may suffer from bloating, tiredness and even sinusitis, which never seems to go away.
A high-milk diet can also lead to internal and external inflammation, which can lead to skin diseases such as acne and eczema. Do you feel lazy or tired all the time? Dairy could also have something to do with it.
Whether you are dealing with intolerances or allergies or just wanting to be the best and healthiest version of yourself, a dairy-free diet could be beneficial to you. We made nutritional experts think about who should consider a dairy-free diet, what it actually contains, and what the pros and cons of that diet are.
What is a dairy-free diet?
In simple terms, a dairy-free diet is a lactose-free diet. Lactose is found in foods such as milk and cheese – basically everything contained in the "dairy" category of the food pyramid.
"Lactose is a sugar that is contained in milk. Some people do not break down lactose because they have no lactase. This is the enzyme that breaks them down, "explains Vanessa Rissetto, MS, RD, CDN of Vanessa Rissetto Nutrition.
Dairy-free diets mean you omit the following:
- ice cream
- sour cream
- cottage cheese
- Baked goods containing milk
While these may be the immediate foods that come to mind when wondering what dairy products are, there are also a few other foods that you may not know about, as they contain lactose.
"Foods like margarines, shortenings, non-dairy creams, and salad dressings may also contain lactose, so it's best to read labels," says Rissetto.
Although we know that the major players in the dairy – cheese, milk, yogurt, etc. – could be dairy or lactose even in the most unexpected foods. How do you know what to look for?
Other ingredients to watch out for, according to Rissetto:
- Milk by-products
- Dry milk solids
- The quark mass
- non-fat dry milk
- Dry milk powder
For an ultimate list of avoidable ingredients, see this list courtesy of nutritionist Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN, creator of BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read it before you eat it: Bring it from the label to the table,
- Casein, casein hydrolyzate and caseinates
- cottage cheese
- The quark mass
- Lactose and lactulose
- Recaldent (in gum, mints, even toothpaste)
- Rennet casein
- sour cream
- Whey (in all forms)
Is a dairy-free diet the better option?
If people really do not need dairy products in their diet, it makes sense to be better off without them. Could it really be a better option?
"Nothing bad will happen if you do not eat milk," says Rissetto.
In fact, Rissetto says that after switching to a dairy-free diet, you may notice some positive changes in your body. After all, it is no secret that dairy products have been linked to skin conditions such as acne and eczema, as well as other internal forms of inflammation such as flatulence and gas.
"Dairy products are a major cause of oils in the body and inflammation. [It’s] It's known to make acne worse, "says Rissetto. "[You might also experience] Better digestion, as many people have lactose intolerance … Although dairy products provide calcium, there are also studies that prove that too much milk can cause broken bones. "
For whom is the dairy-free diet good?
While there are no real drawbacks to switching to a dairy-free diet – apart from having to forgo delicious things like cheese and ice cream – you should consider whether this diet is right for you before you fully introduce it. Rissetto says if you have lactose allergy or want to avoid animal by-products (vegetarian or vegan), this diet may be a good choice.
However, cholesterol is not necessarily a factor. "People with high cholesterol need not avoid dairy products because they can have low fat variations," says Rissetto.
If I'm milk-free, am I vegan?
Not really. In a way, yes, because vegans are usually dairy-free, but veganism involves a few things other than just cutting out dairy products. Because vegans generally do not eat animal by-products, honey, eggs, meat, fish, and poultry, as well as foods are cut out with gelatin and rennet.
Of course, you can be dairy-free and still eat meat, fish and poultry. Remember: it is important to choose the right diet for you. So do not think that you have to follow a diet that does not meet your individual nutritional needs and desires because you are free of dairy.
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Which non-dairy alternatives should I buy?
Do not panic if you are new to dairy. While traditional cow's milk (and goat's milk) and cow's milk cheese, yogurt and ice cream are off the table for the dairy-free diet, this does not mean that there are no options for you. Of course there is. Welcome to the word for milk, cream, ice cream and more soy, nut and coconut based!
"When looking for non-dairy alternatives, I try to make sure that these alternatives contain calcium and vitamin D," says Taub-Dix. "Almond milk, for example, is an excellent source of calcium and vitamin E and a good source of vitamins A and D. Almond milk is also a good source of almond milk [fewer] Calories as milk. "
Of course, you can also make your almond milk at home with almonds (or nuts of your choice), filtered water, dates and maple syrup as a sweetener.
While almond milk is a nutritious option, lactose-free milk (or "mylks") is also produced, either on a coconut, cashew or oat basis. There are also many lactose-free ice creams made from either soy, nuts or coconut.
Which nutrients do dairy-free diets need more and how do I get them?
People who eat milk free could be worried about losing certain nutrients from the milk. Rightly so! If you are worried about getting enough calcium or protein, there are many other areas where you can get these nutrients. It may also be worth consulting a nutritionist to make sure you get the nutrients you need.
"There is as much calcium in a broccoli stalk as there is in a glass of milk," says Rissetto. "As for the protein, [there’s] More in a 4-ounce piece of chicken – about 47 grams – versus 12 grams in a glass of milk. "
There you have it – we've been searching for calcium in the wrong places all the time. Who would have thought that broccoli contains just as much calcium as milk?