Dairy plays a large role in a lot of people’s lives, it’s parts of a major food group that a lot of us - including myself - grew up on. As of late, however, the question as to whether dairy is actually a necessity or even good for us is one that has sparked a lot of controversy.
With the rise of veganisim and changing dietary preferences, dairy has taken a back seat and entered a much needed state of criticism. Over the course of several years in particular, I’ve had many friends jump on the bandwagon and nix dairy all together. As I watched some try and fail and others try and succeed, the major consensus I received was that going dairy free had a tremendous amount of benefits.
As curious as I am, I decided to try this theory out for myself and see what really happens when you cut out something as big as dairy. Now before we explore my findings I want to preface this article by saying, that I was never a huge fan of dairy to begin with, which made it a lot easier for me to ditch the dairy. I don’t like cheese and I only drink milk if it’s in cereal or coffee. Although it was hard avoiding foods with “milk products”, I would argue it was probably easier for me to avoid than the average person.
In addition, this article is not meant to persuade you to ditch dairy but to simply express my experience. Everyone’s body is different and what works for me doesn’t necessarily mean it will work for you. So if you're thinking of giving it up, make sure it is for the right reasons and it's right for your body.
Without further ado, here is what happened when I ditched dairy for a month.
I Hardly Ever Felt Bloated
Before I had decided to nix dairy, I had a huge problem with being bloated on a regular basis. I felt like a balloon on steroids, crop tops were my worst nightmare and working out was just plain uncomfortable. I didn’t necessarily attribute my bloating to dairy, but from hearing my friends talk about their success with reducing bloating with the elimination of dairy, I figured I'd give it a try.
The first days I eliminated dairy I’ll admit I was still somewhat bloated. It wasn’t until about a week of being dairy-free I noticed little to no bloating, which was actually quite liberating. Instead of ice-cream I’d grab dairy-free sorbet and notice that I’d still feel slender after two scoops - something that wasn’t possible with regular dairy based ice-cream. Additionally in the morning, after having a bowl of cereal with 2% milk my stomach would double in size. This would usually lead to me feeling “heavy” and having to lie down to simmer the pain. When I switched to almond milk in my cereal, my meal felt lighter and I wasn’t as sluggish as I was with regular milk. Being dairy-free made me feel more comfortable in my skin by reducing/eliminating the amount of bloating.
I Started to Analyze Ingredients
Before I decided to go dairy-free I wasn’t really the type of person to analyze the ingredients on a cereal box or menu item. However, I knew if I was going to attempt to be dairy-free I had to do it right, which meant making sure that anything and everything that I was eating was completely dairy-free. This meant certain types of granola, crackers, chocolate, pre-made meals, and basically anything at a restaurant that is buttered or creamed had to be cut from my diet. Talk about intense.
Although it was difficult and painfully annoying at first, I realized after the month that eliminating dairy made me a more conscious shopper. After a month of I found myself looking at more ingredients as opposed to just dairy. Words I couldn’t pronounce or “Non GMO” became a focus, and I realized within that month I was shopping for foods that were better for my health.
My Nutritional Intake Increased
There’s a huge myth that has gone around stating that you need milk in your diet because milk is your only source of calcium and that if you want strong bones you need it. However, according to Harvard “milk isn’t the only, or even best, source of calcium” in fact, “dairy products can be high in saturated fat as well as retinol (vitamin A), which at high levels can paradoxically weaken bones.”
With all the misconceptions out there it’s important to know that dairy ISN’T the only way to consume your daily vitamins - something I learned with my trial. When I cut out dairy I knew that I would need some sort of replacement because my eating habits weren’t the best. I supplemented with VEGA powder and honestly, I would suggest you try it even if you still eat dairy. I had shortness of breathe and suffered from a lot of anxiety, by eliminating dairy and taking a high nutritional value powder, I eliminated both those side effects, have way more energy and just feel ten times healthier than when I was consuming dairy.
If you’re not into supplements or taking vitamins, Harvard suggests calcium replacements such as “collards, bok choy, fortified soy milk, baked beans, as non-dairy sources of calcium”.
My Acne Disappeared
I’ve struggled with acne on and off my entire life. It’s always been something that I’ve been very insecure about and that I’ve tried relentlessly to eliminate. From using acne products, to dousing my face in tea tree oil, to constantly drinking tea, I’ve tried every “remedy” in the book and up until I eliminated dairy - nothing worked.
It was actually a complete shock to me the first week of being dairy-free. I had been using the same products I always use and continued to wash my face twice a day when I noticed my chin and forehead were gradually clearing up. It wasn’t until 2-3 weeks of eliminating dairy that my entire face was acne-free. This was the moment I swore off dairy for good and began to feel more comfortable than ever in the skin that I was in - it was a major game changer for me.
Acne was such a big part of my life that not having it opened me up to a whole new way of looking at my face. This is probably the biggest reason why I would suggest anyone go dairy-free.
I Found Out There Are A Lot of Places That Have Dairy-Free Substitutions
As a Toronto girl, I always knew that my city was flexible with dietary options, however, I didn’t know just how flexible it really was. Mix in the veganism trend and making the adjustment to a dairy-free diet was probably the easiest thing.
From restaurants to grocery stores, cities are starting to incorporate a wide variety of option for people with dietary restrictions that aren’t just raw food but food that is typically made with dairy. Sometime, by taste, you can't even tell the difference of what has dairy and what doesn't. From roaming Toronto and finding a plethora of restaurants and shops with dairy-free options, I’ve started to write down a list of places to go, so when my friends want to go out and grab a bite to eat it’s super easy to make a suggestion.
I Hated the Taste of Milk After The Month Was Up
Growing up drinking milk everyday, having cheezy pizza and eating ice cream by the tub, I never thought that I would ever not like dairy. After a month of completely cutting it out of my diet, I remember tasting my friends iced coffee with cream and almost throwing up in my mouth. After the month was up my taste buds had completely change, it tasted so heavy and had this revolting after taste. At the moment, what I thought was just a bad iced coffee turned out to be much bigger. I absolutely hated the taste of milk and started to prefer vegan cheese on my pizza as opposed to regular cheese. What's more, because I had gotten into the habit of being a conscious shopper, it carried with me after I was done and I continued to avoid dairy products.
After being dairy free for a month and seeing the pro’s and con’s of both sides, I’ve officially decided to nix dairy for good. Not only was it a great health learning experience (I actually ended up doing a ton of research after the fact to learn more) but it also helped me better understand my body and it’s needs. For those interested in following in my footsteps, I highly suggest doing some research and even seeing a health care professional to see if it's right for your body.