Ever felt tempted to defy the prevailing wisdom surrounding dairy, such as “milk: it does a body good?” While dairy does have a lot going for it, such as high-quality protein and a red carpet lineup of vitamins A, D and B-12, plus the minerals phosphorus, magnesium, potassium, zinc and calcium, for many people dairy is not all it’s cracked up to be.
In fact, there are several compelling reasons for giving up dairy: From animal cruelty to growth hormones, milk may be more suspect than its goody two-shoes reputation would have you think. Here are three wholesome things that could happen when you switch to a dairy-free diet.
1. Clear up your complexion
Milk may trigger acne, so a perk of giving up dairy may be its effect on your skin. According to research from Dartmouth Medical School, the naturally occurring hormones in milk may increase the likelihood of acne. According to dermatology professor Bill Danby, author of the study, every individual has a different hormone “threshold.” If the level of hormones in the body surpasses the individual’s threshold, the body begins to overproduce the chemicals that cause acne. According to Danby, eliminating dairy from an individual’s diet can pull hormone levels below the threshold, limiting acne from developing.
2. Improve your digestion
Roughly 65 percent of the population suffers from lactose intolerance, which means the body can’t easily digest lactose, a type of naturally occurring sugar found in dairy. Think you may be one of them? One sure fire tell is if you experience digestive symptoms—such as bloating, diarrhea, and gas—after eating or drinking milk or milk products. The main reason people become intolerant: For many people, the production of lactase—the enzyme required to digest dairy—gets switched off after weaning. Yet many Americans continue to drink their milk, putting up with the resulting discomfort anyway. (For people who suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, the digestive consequences of consuming dairy are even more pronounced.)
3. Weight loss
Research has linked dairy consumption to weight gain: In one study, children who drank the most milk gained the most weight. Although this study is by no means conclusive, dairy does tend to be present in many foods rich in fat—to whit butter, ice cream, cream and cheese. People who follow a dairy-free diet are often pleasantly surprised to see their waist size whittle down.
Ready to quit dairy, but not sure of your replacement strategy? Here’s how.
Milk is one of the easiest swaps you can make as you begin to phase out dairy. Starbucks just recently added almond milk to its roster of milk alternatives, in addition to also offering soy and coconut milk.
Try soy, nut, rice or coconut milk in your coffee instead of whole milk.
Enjoy almond, hemp, rice milk in your cereal.
Instead of yogurt, use coconut or almond yogurt with your granola.
Substitute coconut milk instead of cream in soups.
Plant-based spreads are tastier than you might assume, and you may come to prefer them to butter or cream cheese.
Use almond, peanut or cashew butter on your toast or bagel instead of butter or cream cheese.
Instead of a cheese in a sandwich or wrap, try swapping in hummus.
With a little creativity, you can find dairy-free food toppings that hit the spot—and are just as rich and creamy as the dairy equivalent.
Try a dollop of guacamole on top your burrito, fajitas or tacos instead of queso and sour cream.
Garnish baked potatoes with avocado, coconut oil or tahini instead of butter or sour cream.
Use cashews to thicken sauces instead of cream.
As you embark on dairy-free living, keep an open mind, stay motivated, and be prepared to discover a whole world full of exciting tastes and textures that will make the taste of dairy but a distant memory.