Be honest, when was the last time you walked into a coffee shop without being asked to specify your milk preference? Between oat, soy, almond, cashew, or coconut, if there’s any food that has risen in popularity over the past decade then it’s dairy-free alternatives. Walk into any grocery store and you’ll be greeted by cases upon cases of dairy-free milks, cheeses, and snacks. In the past, it used to be that only vegans or those with an allergy would adopt dairy-free diets. However, in a world where cutting out dairy is becoming a standard practice for a good fraction of the population, it begs the question: are there real, long-term benefits to going dairy-free, or is it just another trend that will eventually fade away? Here at Basquet, we’re happy to be your go-to resource for all things dairy. As we separate fact from fiction about the milk industry and explore the benefits of going dairy-free, our hope is that you’ll become a more confident and knowledgeable consumer about everything milk-related. Wondering if it’s time to ditch the dairy? Keep on reading!
Many of us grew up believing that dairy is a necessary part of a healthy diet. If you can think back far enough to your elementary school health class, you’ll likely remember that milk occupied its own category in the food pyramid. We were taught that milk is a predominant source of calcium, responsible for strengthening our bones. It’s for this reason that it can sound so radical to eliminate all forms of dairy from our diet if we’re not suffering from an allergy or major dietary restriction. Where are we supposed to make up for all the nutrients and vitamins that we’ll be missing out on? And how could we ever live without cheese? However, the truth is that it is perfectly healthy (and equally delicious) to ditch dairy. Let's break down why:
Dairy plays an important developmental role in childhood as it supports bone strength and promotes a healthy growth trajectory. However, children are also equipped with an abundance of lactase, the digestive enzyme that’s needed to break down lactose. When we get older, our lactase production diminishes which is why we begin to experience indigestion when consuming dairy products. In fact, an astounding 70% of adults are lactase deficient according to the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. That’s over 2/3 of the global adult population! The good news however is that by adulthood we are fully developed, so cutting out dairy isn’t going to harm us. And if we’re looking to incorporate more calcium into our diet, foods like kale, leafy greens, and legumes have comparable if not larger quantities of calcium than dairy.
So what do the symptoms of dairy intolerance look like? The most obvious are a multitude of digestive issues like stomach pain, bloating, nausea, and constipation to name a few. And for sufferers of IBS, dairy has been identified as a major trigger. However, dairy intolerance may also result in skin problems, fatigue, and hormonal imbalances. Bottom line: none are fun to deal with.
Now that we understand the relationship between dairy and our health, let’s chat about the benefits of a dairy-free diet:
- Reduced Bloating (and other symptoms of indigestion):
For those suffering from lactose intolerance (which is most of us to some degree), the primary benefit of removing dairy is that it will tremendously aid your digestion. When we don’t have enough lactase to digest dairy products, the effects of malabsorption are excess gas, bloating, and other uncomfortable digestive issues. Remove dairy from your diet for a couple weeks to see how you feel!
- Reduced Inflammation:
There is an indisputable relationship between our gut and our immune system. Consuming dairy when you have an insensitivity, can stress your immune system and lead to a host of inflammatory responses. Cutting dairy can greatly reduce inflammation and lead to a happier, healthier gut.
- Reduce Exposure to Added Hormones:
US dairy farmers often inject their cows with growth hormones to increase milk production. Unfortunately, these hormones make their way into the milk we consume. rBGH (recombinant growth hormone) is the primary hormone found in cow’s milk, and it is known to increase the levels of IGF-1 (insulin-like growth factor-1) in our liver. If you’re looking to balance your hormones, consider ditching dairy.
- Clear Skin:
Trying to figure out how to maintain smooth, clear skin? The answer may be simpler than you think. Before you splurge on expensive treatments, try removing dairy from your diet for a few weeks. Dairy has been demonstrated to aggravate skin conditions due to the presence of those added hormones. Swap out cow’s milk for your favorite milk substitute, and monitor your skin.
- Environmental Impact:
The milk industry is one of the largest contributors to climate change, second in greenhouse gas emissions after meat production. Supporting dairy-free options is one way to do your part in creating a greener and more sustainable planet.
With all the benefits of removing dairy from your diet, it’s definitely worth giving it a try. And the good news is that with so many incredible dairy-free options on Basquet, you don’t even have to sacrifice taste! Our current favorites? Willa’s Original Unsweetened Oat Milk, Core Rind’s Cashew Cashew Cheesy Sauce, and 88 Acres’ Dark Chocolate Sunflower Seed Butter. Shop the entire dairy-free collection here!
About the Author: Andreina Pardey
Andreina is the lead blog contributor at Basquet. She is a storyteller at heart, passionate about understanding people and the things that connect them. You can find her exploring new restaurants, listening to live music, or at her favorite bookstore when she's not writing. Connect with her on LinkedIn.