I am and still am a connoisseur of all things dairy. I was raised on blue cheese, spent most my adult life searching for the perfect charcutier board, and up until a few days before January, I was a daily habitual eater of the finest cheese one could find amongst the grocery store aisles. I don’t think I went a day without a dairy product, matter of fact, it was in every meal starting with the half and half in my morning coffee. The truth is, I can make a killer alfredo that would make the chefs at Olive Garden drool, and while a huge believer in reduction of carbohydrates, the easiest snack to grab was always a few slices of cheese.
I’ve never felt any other way about dairy, nor had I any reason to. I used to think about all the poor fools that were lactose intolerant and how horrible life was to never drink milk. 2 years ago, during one of my health kicks I decided to try this hashtag that was circulating on the internet: #nodairyfebruary. I went to the local health food store, ransacked their vegan alternatives to the staples in my house. I took pictures, I documented my attempt at this challenge, and I proceeded to open every tub of vegan cream cheese, plant based shredded cheese and sour cream I could find. I had 3 different creamers for my coffee, weirdness upon weirdness, and as I started tasting all these alternative options, I realized something…Nothing was as good as the real thing.
My No Dairy February Challenge lasted 5 days. Fast forward 2 years. I’ve lost weight, I’m a personal trainer, I coach people of all ages on health and nutrition, and I see February approaching. I was at the local Whole Foods store chatting with a lady about being dairy free and she said she had the best experience with it clearing up her acne, removing dairy changed her life. I told her the mini version of why I struggled with the alternatives, and she said there are some new options, and I should try again. I had heard so much about why we shouldn’t consume dairy, but I had also known why we should. At this point I would like to note that most challenges I do are so that I can tell my clients how it worked for me and share the experience. Was I truly thinking #nodairyfebruary was about to change my life for good? No. There is something about personal experiences that help others mitigate their own lives and so with that in mind I continued my quest. With, after researching a little about the effects of dairy, here are some of the positive and negative.
Dairy has excellent sources of nutrients such as calcium, vitamin D, potassium, and protein According to the USDA, diets that include dairy are associated with a lower risk of both cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes in adults As a valuable source of calcium, dairy products also support bone growth and density, while helping to fight the risk of osteoporosis. Then we have gut health to think about too. Yogurt is a natural probiotic and supports a healthy gut. Probiotics are live bacteria that enhance the immune system and promote healthy digestion. The potassium, sodium and calcium in milk, cheese and yogurt also offers electrolytes, which help keep the body balanced to sustain hydration.
Now the not-so-great stuff. Cow’s milk contains on average about three times the amount of protein than human milk does, which creates metabolic disturbances in humans that have detrimental bone health consequence. 75% of the world’s population are lactose intolerant. This commonly results in symptoms of gassiness, bloating, flatulence, stomach pains, gut issues and can even cause more drastic symptoms of nausea, diarrhea, vomiting or constipation. Milk and dairy products are pro-inflammatory and mucus producing. Which is one reason your mom never let you drink milk when you were sick with a cold. Milk also increases the risks of respiratory conditions and allergies. It has been linked to the development of arthritis due to joints becoming inflamed.
So where do we go with this? Where did I go? I took the advice of the friendly girl at Whole Foods, I bought so many different types of shredded cheese, cream cheese, sour cream, creamers and milks and I marched straight home to tear them open and try them all. 2 years later I’d like to report I have not found an alternative cheese I don’t like. Kite Hill cream cheese is so good I eat it straight from the container just like I used to with my old cream cheese. Forager sour cream can trick anyone in my family, and my kids have still yet to realize their grilled cheese is not actually cheese because the melting is so spot on. I’d be hard pressed to find anyone that could argue it wasn’t plant based. Do I feel different? No. Do I miss dairy? I don’t. Maybe I am one of the lucky few that isn’t intolerant, but chances that there is one in my household that is, is plausible. For me, what keeps me going with it, is the feeling that I am removing some extra calories from my diet, adding in some more plant nutrients, and have you ever had a glass of cold unsweetened almond milk? It is heaven on a hot day.
O’Keefe, kevin. (2017, August 30). Dairy products pros and cons. Medical Associates of Northwest Arkansas. Retrieved February 9, 2022, from https://www.mana.md/dairy-
:, G. D. (2021, August 6). The Pros and cons of dairy. A Healthier Michigan. Retrieved February 9, 2022, from https://www.