Dropping the Dairy
by Tammie Ortlieb
I am not a baby cow. I’m not even a baby human. At forty-six, I do not nurse from my own mother so why would I want to drink the milk from another, especially the parent of a baby animal. We are the only creatures who drink the milk of another species. We, also, are the only species that drinks milk past early childhood. Many Americans, in fact, are lactose intolerant. Our bodies naturally produce less of the enzyme lactase, needed in the digestion of dairy, as we outgrow the need for breast milk. Lactose intolerance can produce symptoms such as gas, diarrhea, abdominal bloating, weight loss, and nausea. According to the American Gastroenterological Association, as “many as 75 percent of all African-American, Jewish, Native American, and Mexican-American adults, and 90 percent of Asian-American adults are lactose intolerant. The condition is least common among people of northern European descent.” For more resources and information on the negative impact of dairy consumption to your health and the environment, check out www.milksucks.com.
Why drop dairy?:
- Addictive – Milk products contain a protein, casein, which breaks down in the body to form casomorphins. Casomorphins produce an opiate effect on the body. This is why we feel we HAVE to have our cheese. This is why we have that blissful feeling after downing a bowl of ice cream. For those trying to go vegetarian, dairy is often the last product dropped from the diet. For more information, take a look at Dr. Neal Barnard’s Breaking the Food Seduction.
- Contributes to weight gain – Cows’ milk is designed for baby cows. These calves can grow up to be 400 pound adults! Packed with fats and protein, milk is made to pack on the pounds and to put them there fast.
- Linked to allergies – Symptoms such as rashes, runny noses, ear infections, asthma, and dark circles under the eyes can be seen in children after milk is introduced into the diet. The body recognizes this milk as being that of another species and fights it off as an invader.
- Weakens bones – A Harvard study that followed more than 75,000 women for 12 years suggests that dairy shows no protective effect on bone health. In fact, those who relied mostly heavily on dairy, turning to it as their primary source of calcium had a higher risk of fractures than those who got their calcium from other sources.
- Interferes with hormones and pubertal growth – Dairy cows receive hormones that allow them to produce up to 20 times the amount of milk they would normally produce. For the majority of the time, these cows are kept pregnant and producing. The hormones can make their way into our systems when we drink even a simple glass of milk. Dairy consumption, consequently, has been connected to reproductive cancers and early puberty due to excess estrogen present in the body.
- Contributes to heart disease – Dairy is packed with saturated fats and cholesterol, both of which clog arteries leading to the heart. Findings published in the Journal of Internal Medicine suggest that these saturated dairy fats contribute to death rates from heart disease.” For additional resources and product information, check out www.notmilk.com.
Tips to kicking the dairy habit:
- Avoid relying on cheese substitutes – While meat alternatives taste yummy and can be incredibly similar to the real thing, cheese substitutes often fall short of expectations. Attempts to recreate favorite dairy-laden dishes can end in disappointment and frustration with this new lifestyle. Explore different brands to find your favorites.
- Experiment with soy, rice, and nut milks – There are so many options currently on the market for dairy alternatives. My personal favorite is Silk Plain Light soymilk. Silk also produces chocolate soymilk, silk nog, and creamers, among others. Those with soy allergies might try Rice Dream Enriched rice milk or any number of milk alternatives including almond milk, oat milk and hemp milk.
- Create new, fun dishes rather than rely on old dairy-laden favorites – Rather than getting frustrated with re-done dairy entrees, flex your culinary muscles and create new and colorful dishes that will please your entire family. Whip up a stir-fry, mix a little pasta marinara, throw together a hearty white bean soup or concoct the ultimate sub sandwich on crusty whole grain bread. Not feeling the creative juices flowing – Turn, then, to one of the many vegan cookbooks stocking bookstore shelves. Try Vegan Soul Kitchen by Bryant Terry, Vegan Yum Yum by Lauren Ulm, Great Chefs Cook Vegan edited by Linda Long, or Dreena Burton’s Eat, Drink, & Be Vegan.
- Transition those cheesy recipes – If you just can’t part with a family favorite, check out some of the excellent vegan cookbook titles for a little help — Rory Freedman and Kim Barnouin’s Skinny Bitch in the Kitch, Erin Pavlina’s Vegan Family Favorites, The Garden of Vegan by Tanya Barnard and Sarah Kramer, and Veganomicon by Isa Chandra Moskowitz and Terry Hope Romero.
- Stock up on dairy alternatives – Keeping a supply of dairy alternatives will help smooth the transition to a vegan diet. Eventually you will want to wean yourself off of these processed foods and go with a more natural approach, focusing instead on fresh fruits and vegetables, nuts and seeds, whole grains and legumes. For those ice cream lovers, check out the vegan recipes in Wheeler del Torro’s The Vegan Scoop and Cathe Olson’s Lick It!
- Try new toppings – Think outside the butter tub! Try some olive oil and garlic on that baked potato. Spread toast with a bit of nut butter and agave nectar. Let veggies wow you with their natural goodness or dash of pepper and simple herb. Soon you will lose that dependence on the butter fat taste.
- Taste first before adding dairy-like products – Burritos, for example, can scream excellence even without sour cream or shredded cheddar. Try my version of a naked burrito: Start with a bed of brown rice. Top with a scoop of black or pinto beans. Add a little corn, some scallions, and desired amount of salsa.
- Study up on hidden dairy products – Look for hidden dairy ingredients such as casein and whey in the products you buy. Go to >a href=”http://www.godairyfree.org”>www.godairyfree.org for a complete list.
- Find your favorites – Not all dairy alternatives have the same yum factor. Explore different brands to find your personal favorites. Check out the list below for my top picks!
- Be kind to yourself when you slip – Nobody is perfect. Sneaking a piece of cheese in a moment of weakness or grabbing a lick of your daughter’s melting ice cream cone because you forget that you don’t do that anymore does not mean that you aren’t vegan. It means that you’re human. Start over. Try again. Case closed.
Brands to try:
These are personal favorites. The best way to find what you like is to get bold and experiment. Realize, too, that different brands have very different tastes. If you try one cheese alternative, for example, and just don’t care for it, try another.
- Cheese – Follow Your Heart
- Sour cream – Tofutti Better Than Sour Cream
- Cream cheese – Tofutti Better Than Cream Cheese
- Butter – Earth Balance
- Ice cream – Turtle Mountain’s Purely Decadent
- Ice cream treats – Tofutti Cuties
- Yogurt-Whole Soy, Turtle Mountain’s SO Delicious Coconut Milk
- Nondairy creamer-Silk Vanilla, Hazelnut, or Original
- Milk alternatives – Silk Plain Light, Rice Dream Original Enriched – For those allergic to soy, Rice Dream is an excellent alternative. There are also a number of tasty nut, grain, and hemp milks on the market.