Dairy-free has been on the rise over the past few years although it’s more prevalent than ever. Going into a coffee shop has become ever so complicated – not only do you have to decide the type of coffee, the shots required and what syrup flavouring you desire but now you’re also given a range of milks which could include old school cows milk (semi, skimmed or full fat), soya, coconut, almond, oat, rice and even the likes of cashew and hazelnut in some places. Honestly some eateries may as well offer a separate ‘milk menu’.
Is the rise of the dairy-free simply just a trend or is there more to it? What implications does going dairy free have on our health a0nd should we be cutting it out for good?
Let’s begin by looking at how dairy can improve our health…
Dairy products are rich in protein which is required for cell regeneration, muscle growth, healthy skin, hair and nails and hormone function to name a few. Dairy can be a particularly great source or protein for vegetarians who are limited in their other animal protein sources.
Dairy can contribute to a healthy micronutrient profile and contains some of the following nutrients…
Dairy is a great source of Vitamin D which is limited in other sources in the diet and as a result a large proportion of the UK population are deficient in Vitamin D. This is because the main source is the sun which we don’t see very much of in this country!
As children many of us are bought up being told that milk is good for our bones. Calcium is essential for bone growth and development as well as nerve and muscle function. However, dairy isn’t the only source of calcium. For individuals who are lactose intolerant or avoid dairy due to ethical reasons you can also find calcium in other foods such as green leafy vegetables, broccoli, nuts, almond butter and fortified milk alternative products.
Milk is also high in iodine, magnesium and vitamin B12.
Dairy foods such as yoghurt and kefir provide the gut with proboitics which promotes the development of a healthy gut bacteria. For individuals who don’t consume dairy it is essential to consume foods such as fermented vegetables, fresh fruit and vegetables and kombucha to promote a healthy gut function.
So why has ‘dairy-free’ become so popular?
More people nowadays are aware of their dairy intolerance. Individuals with a dairy intolerance are unable to digest lactose (the milk protein) which is found in dairy products. As a result this may cause gastrointestinal discomfort as the undigested lactose can cause gas, bloating and pain. It may also manifest it’s self in acne or skin disorders. However, it is important to note that some people with lactose intolerance can tolerate hard cheese and yoghurt.
Reducing Saturated Fat Intake
Some dairy products particularly cheese may contribute to an increased intake of dietary saturated fat. Consequently, minimising dairy (particularly cheese) in the diet can help to lower saturated fat intake which may contribute to a reduced risk in cardiovascular diet.
As dairy is a derived from animals some individuals chose to avoid it for ethical reasons which people are more aware of in today’s society.
In conclusion, milk does have its health benefits however, fortified plant milks may also provide you with similar micronutrients therefore it comes down to personal preference as to whether you prefer your latte in the dairy, oat, almond, rice or coconut variety!
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Thorning, T. K., Raben, A., Tholstrup, T., Soedamah-Muthu, S. S., Givens, I., & Astrup, A. (2016). Milk and dairy products: good or bad for human health? An assessment of the totality of scientific evidence. Food & nutrition research, 60(1), 32527.