As someone who has only recently realized I may be lactose intolerant, I’ve been looking more and more into what a healthy, dairy-free diet looks like. Some things are easier to cut out, while others (like chocolate) have been harder to leave behind. I have never been a big cheese person, but even I find it hard to obtain cheese-less versions some of my favorite foods.
Some people who experience lactose intolerance symptoms can still eat things like hard cheeses or yogurt without negative side effects. If you’re someone who is looking to reduce dairy, it takes some experimentation to figure out what might give you cramps and what might not. For example, I can eat yogurt and feel fine, but I NEED soy in my Starbucks.
People cut out dairy for a wide variety of reasons. Some of us have always had a lactose intolerance, while some have what’s called a lack of lactase persistence. Lacking lactase persistence essentially means you could drink milk without adverse effects as a child but have since developed a mild to severe lactose intolerance.
Many people also choose to cut out or reduce their dairy intake for other health benefits as well. One great benefit is clearer skin. There is strong evidence that cow’s milk, which contains skin-aggravating fats and sugars, can cause acne. Some dermatologists even recommend going dairy-free to achieve clear skin.
If you’re thinking of cutting out dairy, or have already done so, it’s important to remember that there are good things in dairy that you want to keep consuming. Below are two of the most important benefits of dairy, and how you can substitute them with dairy-free foods.
Calcium is incredibly important for bone strength, especially as we get older. Dairy is one of the biggest sources of calcium because the body absorbs the mineral from dairy better than it does with other foods. That being said, there are several ways to still get a healthy amount of calcium in other dairy-free foods.
Kale and bok choy are two of the best leafy greens that provide a substantial amount of calcium. Other leafy greens, such as spinach, technically have calcium as well, but they also have oxalic acid. This acid can interfere with calcium absorption so you end up getting less of the mineral. Other great sources of calcium include almonds, salmon, tofu, soymilk, and chia and sesame seeds. This is only a small list, so try doing some research and finding the best sources of calcium for you!
Probiotics are healthy bacteria found in mostly in yogurt and soft cheeses. They help a lot with intestinal health and can aid in keeping bowel movements regular. Though finding non-dairy sources of probiotics may be a little more difficult, there are a handful of foods that contain the bacteria.
Great news for many people in Eugene: kombucha is a fantastic source of probiotics. Not only does kombucha contain a lot of healthy bacteria, but also carries B vitamins and the detoxifying glucaric acid.
Other sources of probiotics include sauerkraut, miso, kefir, and sour pickles. Some stores even carry non-dairy yogurts made with substitutes like coconut milk.
So now you know. The next time you want to dive face first in some dairy, remember the health benefits and remember that there’s definitely a substitute for that.