Following a dairy free diet is easier than you might think. Once the preserve of wholefood stores, today, healthy dairy substitutes can be found in major supermarkets and delis. When it comes to eating out, dairy free diners are spoilt for choice, particularly when it comes to Asian and Indian cuisine. Upholding a dairy free lifestyle has moved into the mainstream. But why forego dairy in the first place?
Why go dairy free? The Benefits
There are lots of reasons why people chose to give up dairy (or reduce their dairy intake significantly). Perhaps you’re allergic or intolerant to lactose, you’re considering becoming a vegan, or you’d like to lose weight and get healthy.
The terms “food allergy” and “food intolerance” are often used interchangeably. In fact, a food allergy is quite different from a food intolerance. If you happen to be allergic to cows’ milk, for instance, consuming cows’ milk may trigger vomiting, asthma or eczema because your immune system will identify the proteins found in cows’ milk as dangerous, and your body will mobilise its defences. On the other hand, if you’re lactose intolerant, whilst you may suffer from mild dermatological and inflammatory symptoms, it’s more likely that your symptoms will be gastrointestinal, as the sugars present in milk ferment in your gut.
Since the majority of dairy products are rich in “bad” fats and high in calories, following a dairy free diet plan is likely to lead to weight loss, which can be a great motivator for change. Within just a few weeks of cutting out dairy, many people find that their clothes fit better, their energy levels have increased, they feel less anxious and their skin looks fresher and younger. Eliminating dairy from your diet may also help lower your cholesterol and ease any symptoms of insomnia. What’s not to like?
What should I eat and what should I avoid?
Butter, yoghurt, cheese, whey, cream, ghee, ice cream and a large number of processed foods, such as cakes, breads and biscuits, all contain dairy. However, there are a wide range of dairy substitutes available, including “milks” and “butters” made from nuts and seeds, such as almonds and coconut. (If you’re a cheese lover, a number of dairy free vegan cheeses can be found in the ‘Good To Go’ chiller at Cornucopia Restaurant made by Head Chef Tony Keogh.)
Since milk contains several nutrients which our bodies require in order to function, if you are thinking about cutting out dairy, ensure you’re replacing any lost nourishment with nutrients from other sources. High levels of calcium are found in leafy, green vegetables, such as kale, broccoli and watercress, while dietary vitamin D is present in eggs, liver, fish and some fortified cereals.
Remember, many Asian dishes, like hearty coconut curries, wok-fried meat, fish and vegetable dishes, crispy salads and spicy soups, are naturally dairy free!
Giving up dairy: the first step towards a brighter, healthier you?
Sometimes, when we try to change lots of things at once, we find ourselves getting overwhelmed and fall back into bad habits. However, when we concentrate on one thing, and make a concerted effort to stick to our guns, we’re far more likely to succeed.
Since dairy is present in the vast majority of pre-made, processed and packaged foods, just by giving up dairy we can simultaneously cut down on sugar, “bad” fats and harmful additives. When we go dairy free, we’re likely to cook from scratch more often, to eat fresh, and to experiment with new ingredients and recipes.
So, if you want to give your body a break and shed a few pounds while you’re at it, dive into a dairy free lifestyle.