It is estimated that around 2 to 3% of the population have a dairy allergy. 50% of children with cow’s milk allergies were also allergic to other foods. Additionally, a recent study by Hindustan Times highlighted that almost 60% of the Indian population had a lactose intolerance. Dairy allergies are more common than you may think and it becomes necessary for a large section of people to opt for dairy-free diets. In a land where milk and its allied products are considered next to God, the prospect of adopting a dairy-free diet seemed unthinkable even to us. But in practice we have realized that it may have been a God-send to not consume dairy after all – especially the milk which is far from its pure, Godly form that it once used to be. Maybe there are some solid benefits of a dairy free diet.

Yes enough research has been done to show that milk and the related products contain several nutrients that are good for the body and especially for the growth and development of children. But there are ALTERNATIVES and milk is not as essential as it is made out to be. A dairy-free diet can be healthy, nutritious and with some good planning can stand up to all the goodness and more that can come from including dairy in your diet.

What does Dairy-free truly mean?

Before getting ahead of ourselves and focussing on the benefits of a dairy free diet, let’s lay out once for all what exactly constitutes dairy and what needs to be eliminated from your diet if you choose to go dairy-free. Dairy means milk and a whole host of other products. It stuns people that dairy can mean so much more and that the most random foods can sometimes contain dairy. Case in point – that one brand which decided that Tomato ketchup needs to have milk solids as a key ingredient. *mind-blown moment*. So dairy free means the elimination of these products/ingredients (not talking of food items here, because a lot of food items can throw up some nasty surprises once you start reading the ingredient list)

  • Milk (obviously) – but any animal milk be it from cows, buffaloes, goats, camel, A2 milk etc. Surprisingly breastmilk was perfectly safe for our cow’s milk protein allergy son. But there are also cases where even that can be a big hazard as is the case in the condition called galactosemia.
  • Butter
  • Yoghurt – regular or Greek or hung curd.
  • Cheese – of all kinds and made from any animal’s milk.
  • Cream – regular or double cream or sour cream
  • Condensed milk
  • Ghee – the opinion on Ghee or the Indian clarified butter is still undivided on whether it causes allergic contraindications or is the ghee making process one that eliminates the nasties from it. However if you are choosing to go the dairy-free way then it makes sense to watch out for ghee.
  • Milk solids
  • Dairy whiteners or milk powders
  • Whey protein or Casein and hydrolysates (casein, milk protein, protein, whey, whey protein) or rennet casein
  • Lactalbumin, lactalbumin phosphate, Lactoglobulin, lactoferrin, Lactose, lactulose 
  • Anything that reads as lact-something on the ingredient list – put that back!!

Is a dairy-free diet healthy?

Milk, we have learnt is essential for human nutrition. This is the reason why mothers are able to create breastmilk for their babies, so that babies can be fed right from birth. Nor are babies born with teeth that they can start consuming the normal human diet of solid foods. Milk provides valuable nutrition to the growing infant right from the early days of colostrum to the immunity building regular milk that comes in gradually.

However I have a view that if milk was so critical to human nutrition then the mother would have produced milk for a much longer period of time – imagine 10 years? So that her growing baby, nay the child could benefit from the ‘essential to life’ nutrition. But this is not the case is it? So is milk all that critical and essential after all?

Milk we do know provides valuable protein, calcium, amino acids, Vitamin D etc. but these are not exclusive to milk alone. There are many other foods, plant based or animal based, which can fulfil the gaps that may come in from following a dairy free diet.

Blog graphic - the benefits of dairy free diet, dairy-free, vegan diet, no milk

What are the benefits of a dairy free diet?

Many people, including me, have seen the immediate benefits of a dairy free diet. When I eliminated dairy from my diet while I was breastfeeding my child I do remember all my joint pains vanished, I felt more active and energetic – the lethargy just disappeared, my skin and hair felt happier. But any food items or product impacts people differently so don’t assume you will feel the same as I did. But I do know of people in our immediate circle who have eliminated dairy and are in fact living a vegan life-style who have kicked severe auto-immune disorders in the rear and are living their best lives today.

Adopting a dairy free diet can bring many health and additionally environmental benefits –

  1. Better health – all the nutrients that one draws from milk and dairy products can be found in alternate sources. Much of these sources are plant based and from the natural environment (as opposed to processed in a factory.) Therefore a well planned dairy free diet can certainly contribute to keeping healthy. Going dairy-free is much easier than it seems. I promise đŸ™‚
  2. A healthy gastrointestinal system – say goodbye to the constant gas, bloating, water retention, diarrhea, migraines and more.
  3. Good skin – Freedom from Acne and relief from stubborn eczema are two of the most visible benefits of a dairy free diet.
  4. Relief in several auto-immune disorders such as arthritis, Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis (a type of thyroid disease) to coeliac disease – while dairy free diets do not cure these conditions, it does provide considerable relief from the symptoms of the same.
  5. Reduced risk of cancers – studies have shown that going dairy free or even better, going vegan, can reduce the risk of certain types of cancers.
  6. Reduced inflammation in the body – Dairy has been known to cause inflammation in the body. Going dairy free has several benefits to offer.
  7. Benefits for the environment – cattle rearing for production of milk and consumption of dairy products, including meat, has resulted in the production of harmful emissions which are damaging the environment. Not to mention the destruction of natural resources required to feed and house the animals. A concerted reduction in dairy (and meat?) consumption may lead to decrease in this risk.

In my upcoming posts, learn more about alternatives, some great recipes, some faux-pas and maybe take that plunge you have been thinking of?

This blog is part of the #BlogchatterA2Z Blogging Challenge and my theme is Our Dairy Free Life