While the core of truly living a plant-based and plant-smart lifestyle is cutting out all foods that include animal products (or byproducts), I thought it could be useful to narrow in on the specific benefits of a dairy free diet. If you've not yet made the decision to jump fully into a vegan lifestyle, starting by simply cutting out dairy foods from your diet may be a good first step.
5 Benefits of a Dairy Free Diet:
- Dairy has been known to cause bloating and digestive upset. You are probably aware of lactose intolerance, which is essentially a specific allergy to lactose - a sugar present in milk and other dairy products; but did you know that even those among us who are not "lactose intolerance" can still experience the negative side effects of consuming these products? Only a relatively small fraction of the population experience lactose intolerance to a degree where it will really negatively impact their lives (as in, cause substantial sickness and pain). However, even more minor side effects can be bothersome. Fortunately, it's becoming increasingly easy to move away from dairy products and onto dairy free alternatives such as products based with soy (soy milk, soy cheese, etc.).
- Dairy products can cause skin irritation and acne. While there are massive markets for skin care and acne solutions, have you ever thought about how your diet may just be impacting your appearance? A dairy free diet can help alleviate many negative skin conditions. In the least, if you are someone who constantly struggles with a common condition like acne, wouldn't it be worth it to at least try a dairy free diet for a month or two to see if your acne will clear up on it's own, in a very natural way?
- Dairy products are associated with weight gain, going dairy free can lead to weight loss! A core component of many athlete bulking diets have been dairy products. It is hard to argue that dairy products have a tendency to taste good, but it is becoming increasingly known that things that taste good are not always good for the body. The attraction to milk and other dairy products by bodybuilders has been the high caloric values which stem heavily from fats and sugars. In the past, I found for myself that it was too easy to overindulge in these types of foods as well.
- Dairy products can lead to congestion. Here in Pennsylvania, seasonal allergies start to hit in the Spring time and don't let up until the Fall. At times, these allergies can be brutal. But did you know that all throughout the year, feeling congested could be directly linked to the dairy you consume? It is thought that the cause is casein, the naturally occurring protein in dairy products. As pointed out here, casein is commonly used to make adhesives like glue, bottle labels, and wood glue. It's an interesting piece of information that may play a role in whether you decide to keep dairy as a part of your diet.
- A dairy free diet is more sustainable for the environment. As someone who has chosen to live a plant-based, vegan lifestyle, it is difficult not to see the negative impacts the dairy industry has made on our planet. I would imagine your average person does think about this, as the immediate consequences are not always apparent when picking up a gallon of milk at the grocery store. Unfortunately, ignorance doesn't make the situation better. It has been scientifically shown that milk production leads to poor air quality (through greenhouse and nitrogen emissions), poor water quality (resulting from fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics, hormones, etc. all used in the production of dairy), and degrading soil quality in areas where milk and dairy products are produced.
There are many reasons to quit dairy products in exchange for a vegan diet. Scientific research is really only beginning to take notice of the reality that milk and other dairy products may not be as healthy as we once thought. Like many things, it can be difficult to break a cycle that is so ingrained in our society. For myself, I know going on a dairy free diet, and taking it a step further towards full on veganism, has been powerful and very influential in my life. I believe that it could change your life, too!