As of the time of this blog post, I have been dairy-free for 6 weeks and 2 days, and I feel FANTASTIC. And I mean truly wonderful. Gone are the days of heartburn and post-lunch exhaustion. My skin is clearer, I've lost weight without changing anything else in my diet and exercise regimen, and I have more energy all around.
Although I don't like to go around advertising that I'm diary-free, it does come up sometimes during the day when I'm out to lunch or dinner with friends and coworkers and I inevitably have to ask the server if an item has milk, cream and/or butter in it. Many people I know have some sort of dietary restriction so it isn't much of a surprise to them, but for others, the thought of giving up milk, butter, cheese and all things yummy is just unfathomable (and let's be honest, it kind of is). I almost always get asked the same 4 questions to which I've provided answers to below.
Why Go Diary-Free?
This question is always first, understandably so. In a society where we're raised on "Got Milk?" ads and we associate book clubs with wine and cheese (rightfully so), people generally assume I gave up dairy because I had to as a result of being lactose-intolerant or something like that. Hate to break it to ya, but that's not exactly the case. While I think I am a little lactose-intolerant, I was never diagnosed as much by a doctor, and a little lactose-intolerance isn't enough to make me give up some delicious slow-churned ice cream and double cream brie.
As I wrote in my post on reducing inflammation, giving up dairy is a great way to fight inflammation and that's the main reason I gave up my beloved dairy. My acupuncturist had been hinting at it for awhile, but it took me finally realizing that I wouldn't die without cheese and ice cream before I decided to give it a try. I figured that I would try it for a little while to see how my body felt. Before I knew it, a week had gone by, I hardly missed dairy, and, more importantly, I could already see the positive changes that cutting out dairy had on my body. It was at this point that I started researching why I felt so good without dairy, and I learned how roughly 60% of the population are allergic to the proteins found in dairy (mostly casein, but some whey, too).
At the end of the day, though, it's a personal choice that only you can make for yourself. No judgments, just do what feels best to you!
Does This Mean I'm Vegan?
Nope! Dairy-free doesn't mean you have to be Vegan, and I still eat organic, free-range chicken and fish. I also still eat eggs (also organic and cage free) since they're neutral in acidity (aka no inflammation risk) and not dairy (since dairy technically comes from cows). That being said, it's sometimes easier to just say that you are Vegan to ensure there is no hidden milk, cream, or butter in your food at restaurants. Be warned, though, that you will get some funny looks if you take this approach and then order something with Chicken or Fish in it. Trust me, I've been there :)
How Do You Get Enough Calcium?
Osteoporosis is a serious concern so it's super important that you get enough calcium. But what exactly does "enough" calcium mean? According to the Mayo Clinic, men generally need about 1,000 mg/day while women need between 1,000 mg and 1,200 mg/day. Lucky for us, though, there are tons of foods that give you all the calcium you need! Here are just a few examples:
What Are Good Dairy Substitutes?
There are SO many dairy substitutes, and although it's awesome, it's also a little overwhelming. I've listed my favorite substitutes below, but my general advice here is to be open to new things and try different products to see which ones you like best. And with the handy-dandy Google, you can find a way to substitute just about anything these days, so again, I say there are SO many options!
**You'll notice that I don't include a cheese-substitute because I think they are all pretty gross. I'd rather go without any cheese at all than to dishonor the memory of my beloved cheeses with some poor impostor. If you do feel like you need a fix, though, goat cheese is a pretty safe option and is less acidic than other varieties (read: not as inflammatory as the others)!
A couple words of caution
Still have a question about going dairy-free? Leave a comment or message me directly!
I’m Anahita Reilly, a Type-A, native Northern Virginian, happiness lover. This blog evolved out of my longstanding desire to share this beautiful thing called yoga with others. Click here to read more...