If you have celiac disease (CD) or gluten sensitivity and are on a gluten-free diet, you already know how life changing special diets can be. Many individuals with CD or another gluten-related health issue discover they are also intolerant to dairy products.
Good-bye milk, cheese, butter and yogurt!
But NOT eggs. Hello, eggs. Remember, just because they are sold in the dairy section of the grocery store doesn’t mean eggs are dairy. Eggs are protein.
A dairy product is a food produced from the milk of a mammal. You can see all the foods the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA) consider dairy products here.
Note: If a doctor tells you (or your child) you have a dairy allergy, just to be sure, verify your specific allergen(s). Ask if your allergy is to milk (casein, the protein in dairy products) or to eggs, or both. Even doctors sometimes get this one a bit confused.
At first, it can be a challenge eliminating all dairy from the diet; however, research indicates doing so, regardless of food sensitivities or food allergies, can improve our overall health and daily performance.
Once you learn the basics, dairy-free living is simple, affordable and may actually extend your life!
Why Go Dairy Free?
According to the National Institutes of Health, an estimated 65% of the world’s population is lactose intolerant, meaning they cannot digest milk or milk products. While this is not a serious health risk, consuming dairy products causes extreme discomfort for lactose intolerant individuals.
The most common symptoms of lactose intolerance are:
- abdominal pain
Other Health Problems caused by Dairy
In addition, dairy products contribute to a variety of health issues such as:
- sinus problems
- ear infections
- type I diabetes
Research also links dairy to:
- increasing the risk of cancer
- increased risk of heart disease
- potentially exacerbating the symptoms of autism
- worsening iron deficiency anemia (by inhibiting iron uptake, and I have personal experience with this one!)
With all these negatives, why are we so convinced that we must consume dairy?
2 Common Dairy Myths Revealed
Let’s take a look at the science behind two common myths about why we need dairy in our diet.
Myth: Calcium is vital to strong bones and fracture prevention.
Fact: Vitamin D is more critical than calcium in preventing fractures.
Most Vitamin D-rich foods are animal products like salmon, shrimp, cod, and hard-boiled eggs.
Vegans and raw foodists can get over 7% of your daily requirement of Vitamin D by simply adding 1 cup of raw Shiitake mushrooms to their diet. No dairy required!
Myth: Milk is good for your skin.
Fact: Milk can cause acne. The anabolic steroids and growth hormones in a mere two servings of milk per day can increase the chance of severe acne by 44%!
On the other hand, a diet of lean meats and fish, fresh fruits and vegetables, and whole grains leads to clearer skin and a lower risk of acne.
Are you ready to give dairy-free living a try?
Product Substitutes for Your Dairy-Free Life
The three most common forms of dairy consumed are milk, cheese and butter. For each, there are delicious substitutes that will have you living a longer, healthier, dairy-free life in no time!
Of course, there are various soy- and nut-based products available as dairy substitutes. Our focus, though, is on products that fit our soy-free, nut-free lifestyle, too.
Rice, coconut (my preference is unsweetened coconut milk), oat, hemp and flax milks are some of the more common milk substitutes available.
Milks made from hemp and flax have a stronger flavor than those made from rice, oat, or coconut.
These milks have a sweeter, milder flavor.
Rice and coconut milks seem to be more palatable for adding to breakfast cereals, while those with strong flavors can add depth to recipes like breads and muffins.
For dairy-free buttermilk in baking, use this homemade version.
For substituting heavy cream, canned 100% coconut “cream” (also called canned coconut milk) is a great alternative. For example, you can make fluffy, light and delicious whipped topping like this!
There are a variety of cheese substitutes on the market and the one you prefer (if any) will be based on your individual tastes, so I recommend trying a few to see how you like them. I find Daiya brand more palatable than others, and rice milk based products least palatable. You can read more about the ingredients inside Daiya cheese substitutes here. Of course, many soy-based and nut-based products are available, and you can even make your own nut “cheeses” if you do not have a nut allergy.
I love using Nutritional Yeast (not baker’s yeast!) in cheesy dishes, too. It has an earthy, cheese flavor that really works to food the taste buds. Example: this amazing nutritious vegan dairy-free cheez sauce… use it liberally on all things! :)
Again, a variety of products are available. Earth Balance is an entirely plant-based butter substitute. It comes in tubs and sticks, so measuring is convenient regardless of the type recipe you’re making. I do find Earth Balance products make batters more “wet” than dairy-based fats like butter and quite salty for my tastes, so keep this in mind as you use it in your recipes.
Many opt to forego the substitute products and use an alternate solid fat like coconut oil, which is also a great alternative. Depending upon the type coconut oil you use, you may get a mild coconut flavor in your baked goods and dishes. Unrefined virgin coconut oil, the least processed, is recommended but this is also the type that has more coconut flavor. The more refined the coconut oil, the less the coconut flavor. (I prefer this one.)
Keep in mind, most of the recipes here on GlutenFreeGigi.com are 100% dairy-free as written, and those very few that are not are written with easy dairy-free substitute options for you.