It breaks my heart when I see people who are sick from their food. It’s even more heartbreaking when those people don’t have access to the care they need, or physicians who know how to help them.
Unfortunately, many health problems are linked to dairy. Diseases like Crohn’s Disease, IBS, increased mucous production (or thickened mucous and sinusitis rather), and even migraines can all be linked to dairy consumption. Yet as a culture, it has become so ingrained in our diet that the thought of living without it seems impossible. This is an interesting interview with a scientist and author, Robert Cohen, who discusses the problem with dairy.
If you’re looking for reasons beyond health to go dairy free, you needn’t look far. Humans are the only animals that drink another species milk. An interesting lecture on how, historically, we did not consume cows milk, and the health risks as well, check out “The Perils of Dairy,” by none other than doctor McDougall himself. Additionally, the ethical issues involved are stammering- dairy cows are treated incredibly inhumanely. Their babies are taken from them within 24hrs, they’re milked non-stop, to the point that their teets get infected and bleeding and pussing (into the milk, I might add, which is why we pasteurize it), and then when the artificial hormones don’t work on them any longer, they’re sent to slaughter like their children. Factory farm animals are horribly abused, and we should not support such abuse through the dairy industry.
But milk is addictive. It actually has a substance in it called casomorphin, which is why we crave cheese and chocolate. Dr. Neal Bernard discusses this in depth in his lecture, “Chocolate, cheese, meat, and sugar.” Not only is casomorphin addictive so that baby cows continue to nurse, but it causes histamine reactions in humans- which are responsible for inflammation and allergies.
Going dairy free doesn’t have to be hard though. It takes about 3 weeks for it to work out of your system, and you’ll notice right away that your skin clears up if you have acne or eczema, you will be able to breathe better, you won’t be as bloated, and you’ll feel more rested because your sleep quality will be enhanced due to a lack of congestion. And if that weren’t motivation enough, check out this list by PETA of things that are “accidentally vegan” that you’re already eating! Vegan for sure means dairy free. There’s actually a site called Go Dairy Free as well, that is full of recipes and recommendations.
Obvious things you’re going to want to swap out are:
- Cream cheese
- Sour cream
- Creamer (including powdered)
- Any products with non-fat dry milk like pumpkin pie or fudge
Things you might not realize have dairy in them:
- Some spaghetti sauces
- Hot chocolate mix
- Baking mixes like biscuits or pancakes
- Scrambled eggs
- Processed meats
- Soy yogurt
- Soy cheese
- Some crackers
- Packaged seasonings
- Risotto or pilaf mixes
- Salad dressing
- Seasoned chips
- Snack mixes
- Granola bars
Here is a list of ingredients that might indicate dairy, though in most instances, the company is following the law by indicating “Contains milk” after the list of ingredients. Most of them are obvious, but here are a few tricky ones:
- Anything ending with Caseinate: Ammonium Caseinate, Calcium Caseinate, Potassium Caseinate, etc.
- Anything containing Whey: Demineralized Whey, Whey Protein Concentrate, etc.
- Anything containing Casein: Hydrolyzed Casein, Rennet Casein, etc.
- Natural Butter Flavor
- Most words containing “lacto”: Lactalbumin, Lactoferrin, Lactoglobulin, Lactulose, etc.
Not too bad, right? So here are my tips and tricks:
- Plan ahead by making a list of things you need on your grocery trip, including specific items for meal planning and brand names. If you go to the grocery store without this info, it will take you a very long time to grocery shop because you will have to read many labels.
- Keep it simple- lots of foods are naturally gluten free, such as anything in the produce department, potatoes, rice, plain pasta, beans, and tofu. Those should be your dietary staples ANYWAY!
- Keep in mind that your pallet has to adjust. Don’t go straight up having vegan cheese on crackers- mix it up, and instead make a cheesy nacho dip with Daiya. Try vanilla soy milk (I NEVER buy Silk brand milk because the taste is so strong, but I do buy Silk vanilla coffee creamer), instead of plain, or try other types of milk like hemp, almond, or coconut.
- Go artisan- if you have a finicky pallet, look online for artisan cheeses and candies.
- Experiment with a few recipes.
- Play with new ingredients like you would add them to regular food- Soy milk works as a substitute in a LOT of ways, such as in baking and pudding, and cheese shreds work great in things like lasagna.
- Buy pre-prepared food for tricky things you can’t make yourself, such as Amy’s dairy free pizza or mac and cheez.
- Eat out, but call ahead if you’re going to need menu help- most Asian food is dairy free, but a lot of Italian, Greek, and even Mexican food, is not.
- Pamper yourself and prepare for weakness- Keep dairy free cookie dough icecream in the fridge (believe it or not, there’s more than one brand…), or keep chocolate bars or cookies around.
- If you’re invited to a party, ask the host what they’re preparing, and if none of it is dairy free, offer to bring a dish or bring something for just yourself.