We are told from early on that milk and other dairy products are key components of a healthy and balanced diet and that reduction or exclusion of these foods will result in nutrient deficiency and poor health. However, there is evidence to support the reduction of dairy products even if you are not allergic to them.
When is milk not really milk? When it has been processed within an inch of its life! The industrialization of our food system means that hormones and antibiotics are used to produce greater yields from animals. Enzymes that are naturally found in milk are destroyed by pasteurization. Commercial milk is now literally a ‘frankenfood’!
For these reasons if you do choose to drink milk it is essential to buy organic or biodynamic milk from local dairies in your area whenever possible.
Lactose is a sugar that is naturally found in milk and lactose intolerance is a term used for people who cannot easily digest lactose. The enzyme lactase is present on our intestinal lining and assists in the digestion of lactose. However, the levels of lactase enzyme begin to decline after infancy. Common symptoms associated with lactose intolerance include abdominal pain, gas, cramping, bloating, diarrhoea or constipation. The onset of symptoms may begin as soon as one hour after ingestion or a few days after dairy consumption. Various dairy products have also been linked with a higher incidence of allergies, eczema, dermatitis, acne and sinus problems.
Certain ethnic groups are more likely to have a problem with lactose intolerance. Up to 90-95% of Asians, Africans and Indians have lactose intolerance, 85% of Aboriginals, 60% of Maoris and around 15% of Caucasians.
Milk and other dairy products contain casein, a protein which is difficult to digest. True milk allergy to casein will only affect a small number or people, approximately 3% of the population. It seems as though true dairy allergy is associated with the Casein A1 fraction of milk. Individuals with a dairy allergy may therefore benefit using an A2 milk as an alternative.
What about calcium?
We all know about the importance of adequate calcium intake for healthy bones and teeth. It is also essential for proper nervous, cardiovascular and muscular system function.
Key non-dairy foods for calcium intake include: dark green leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds. Other factors affect our calcium balance also, such as caffeine, alcohol, smoking or poor absorption due to a deficiency of stomach acid which is common in the elderly or those with digestive diseases.
Going Dairy free and reading labels
Ingredients To Look For On Labels (lactose or milk proteins)
Lactose, lactoglobulin, butter, casein, margarine, lactalbumin, cheese, sodium caseinate, cream, yoghurt, whey, milk solids, non-fat milk products and skim milk powder.
Rice milk, almond milk, soy milk (organic and malt free), goat’s milk and sheep’s milk. (Sheep and goats milk products do contain lactose however it is present if much lower levels than in cow products. Quite often those with mild lactose intolerance are able to tolerate small amounts of these products. People with cow’s milk protein allergies or sensitivities will also often be able to tolerate these products.)
Yoghurt /Dairy desserts
Sheep’s yoghurt, goats yoghurt or soy yoghurts or desserts.
Goats cheese, goats fetta, sheep’s cheese and soya cheese.
Dairy free gelati, frozen fruit sorbet, soy desserts and soya ice-cream.
Dairy free chocolate bars, some dark chocolate and carob bars.
Ready made sauces
Make fresh sauce using corn rice flour and soy milk
Butter and spreads
Olive oil, flax oil, macadamia oil, sesame oil, soy cream cheese, nut butters or spreads, avocado, tahini, homous
Buttermilk, Butterfat Ghee,
Coconut milk, coconut cream or copha.
Handy Tips For Dairy Free Eating
Most large supermarkets and health food stores stock a wide range of dairy alternatives, from milk to cheese.
Find out what is in your food – You must read the labels!
The majority of restaurants are more than willing to modify meals or have suitable dairy free dishes available to meet your requirements. Let them know in advance!
Personally I am not a huge fan of soy, unless it is in its traditional forms such as tofu and tempeh. Some soy cheeses may also contain casein, so be sure to read the label!
Mayonnaise and salad dressings traditionally are made dairy free, however many pre-prepared ones do. Read the label or even better, make your own tastier version!