I recently discovered that after an entire lifetime drinking milk like it was water and eating cheese like it was candy, I have a dairy sensitivity. In fact, I’m so sensitive to it I probably shouldn’t consume it at all in consideration for those around me, if you catch my…drift.
I’m Not Vegan Cheese
This is part of the reason I started working in a vegan cheese shop; I am not vegan, but I’ve been having a really hard time giving up my lattes and nachos. At this store I work at, we sell several different types of plant-based and nut-based milk along with our cheeses, yogurts and other vegan alternatives. I wanted to know what the nutritional facts had to say when comparing dairy products with nondairy options, mainly milk.
Rise in Dairy Allergies
Like most things that burst onto the market, nondairy milk started in reaction to both veganism and a rise in dairy allergies. It really exploded, however, because of the health assertions about it.
When it comes to protein, nondairy milk doesn’t compare to the real Milk-Coy. In the US it is recommended that the average person consumes somewhere between 50 and 70 grams of protein per day. There are plenty of other alternatives for protein content, namely meat, beans, and nuts so that if you want to or have to give up animal milk, you shouldn’t be missing out on protein all that much.
Calcium is something my mom, in particular, has been missing since she switched to almond milk for health reasons. As an older woman, though, she had had to start taking an intermittent calcium supplement even when she was drinking dairy milk. The good news is that many brands that are producing non-dairy kinds of milk are fortifying their products with added calcium so that it can compete with dairy milk on the market. That being said, if you’re going nondairy for health considerations or veganism, there are plenty of plant-based and natural calcium options out there. Leafy greens, bok choy, tofu, broccoli, almonds and green beans are just some examples of natural foods high in calcium. If you add almonds to your daily diet, you’ll be more than set on calcium and protein even if you’ve given up milk.
Vitamin D gets into your body mostly through sun exposure. Milk is actually high in Vitamin D because it has been added, so if you’re really worried a supplement won’t be much different. Making sure you get outside regularly is also a good bet, eas long as you protect yourself against skin cancer of course.
Almond milk has significantly fewer calories, most of the time, than dairy milk; even though it has lower fiber, protein, and calcium in it, this is great news for those of us looking to boost our health and get off the cow’s…milk. Additionally, dairy milk has high amounts of natural sugars which can be negative if you’re watching your sugar intake for dietary or health reasons like diabetes.
In Defense of NonDairy Milk
Further, in defense of nondairy milk, recent research is indicating that our calcium needs may not be as high as we were once told or once believed. Some research has suggested that calcium intake made the little-to-no difference when it came to bone fractures, bone strength, and bone healing capabilities. Some have said that calcium was associated with higher fracture ris, but that is still not a definitive fact. Many believe that a large part of the world’s population actually lacks, or loses over time, the enzymes necessary for digesting dairy properly. This is what happened to me. I have drunk milk my entire life like most people drink water, that was not an exaggeration above. It has only been in the past two years that I have started to associate individual bodily events and discomforts with my dairy intake, facts which have been further proven when I solidified when I performed a self-evaluation for the allergy by cutting dairy out for an amount of time and then going back on it.
Other Adverse Effects of Dairy
There are other likely adverse effects from dairy milk, like high cholesterol that may be associated with its fat content, and the inherent harmful effects of its sugar content. Some early study results may also be showing a relationship between dairy and cancer growth, but don’t quote me on that. It’s just something to consider if you are looking at cutting dairy out. There are alternatives for calcium and protein, as mentioned above, and these may overall be healthier choices anyway. For me, the hardest transition is cheese; but, I’m finding ways to have my favorite foods without it—tacos with lots of salsa and avocado don’t need cheese. And the people making vegan and non-dairy cheeses are making some great products and they only get better the more they do it. I’ve found that I can barely tell the difference inform the distinction between a healthy plant-based milk and whole milk in my coffee, especially if the product has been processed so that it isn’t chunky and doesn’t immediately separate from the coffee itself. The same goes for lattes, though I can never get behind soy lattes because they just taste weird to me.
I’m not saying do it or don’t do it; I’m just saying, if you do do it, it’s not going to be that bad. Trust me.