I’ve read my fair share of information regarding dairy consumption. Although credentials differ slightly from source to source—say, a published article vs. social
Those in favor of the milk mustache might argue that dairy intake defends against disease, and that the calcium, potassium, and vitamin D content in milk contribute to bone, muscle, and skin health. However, those against dairy in the diet emphasize that any nutritional benefits found in milk can be gained from better sources.
Calcium can be found in leafy green vegetables such as spinach and collards, as well as beans, oranges, and figs—plus, non-dairy milk (think almond or coconut) contains protein, fiber, and antioxidants, in addition to calcium.
Potassium is packed into tomatoes, sweet potatoes, bananas, and many other fruits and veggies.
Vitamin D is found naturally in only a few foods—mostly fatty fish—but fortified foods and trusted supplements are widely available.
And the “milk grows strong bones” argument? You might be surprised to learn that the cultures that regularly drink little to no milk are actually the ones with the lowest incidences of osteoporosis, a bone-weakening disease that increases the risk for fractures.
Last week, both myself and my co-editor, Samantha, decided to educate ourselves on the effects of dairy consumption by way of firsthand experience: We chose to embark on a three-week dairy elimination diet to see how being dairy-free might affect our bodies—for better, or for worse.
It’s been seven days of dairy detox, and this is what I’ve noticed so far:
>>I’m less bloated.
I used to drink an obscene amount of cow’s milk. I was that person who drank whole milk straight from the jug. I gave up milk during a two-week vacation this past April—mostly because it just wasn’t convenient to buy it—and I found that after a few days, I actually didn’t even crave it. After I returned home, I began buying almond milk instead. I feel less bloated since the switch, and I’ve noticed a reduction in fat around my hips. This feeling has only intensified throughout the last week as I cut out other dairy favorites like cheese, yogurt, ranch dressing, and ice cream.
>>Going out to eat is tricky.
I have officially become that person—to the point that even I am annoyed with myself. For instance: I went out to lunch over the weekend and ordered the Chicken Ranch Wrap, an undoubtedly popular and delicious-sounding choice. However, I had to modify it accordingly: no ranch, no cheese. My server looked at me like I was nuts. “It’s going to be pretty dry,” she said in an equally dry tone. So, I added avocado—which is not only insanely delicious, but also packed with nutrition—and you know what? I felt a hundred times better than I would have had I soaked my sandwich in buttermilk dressing.
>>Grocery shopping is even trickier.
Before beginning this elimination diet, I didn’t realize that dairy is a sneaky, sneaky ingredient. Obviously, I knew the yogurt and the cottage cheese and the coffee creamer would need to stay out of my cart—but I spent 20 minutes in the bread aisle trying to find a brand that doesn’t contain whey protein. No luck.
>>My skin is clearer.
I’ve struggled with my complexion throughout the past couple months, in the way that minor blemishes become major issues that not even makeup can cover. I haven’t been particularly stressed, I generally avoid fried and processed foods, and I wash my face at least twice a day, so I couldn’t quite pinpoint the culprit. However, I’ve noticed a dramatic change in my complexion throughout the past week. My skin is super smooth, soft, and—most notably—blemish-free!
>>My bones and muscles feel fabulous.
I work out every day—both cardio and weight-lifting—so if my bones and muscles were going to take a hit from the lack of dairy in my diet, I definitely would have noticed by now. However, I still feel just as strong and supported. I continue to drink my almond milk and eat a boatload of bananas, in addition to other fruits and veggies.
Stay tuned for Week 2 of the Dairy Detox—during which Samantha and I will add a probiotic supplement to our non-dairy diet.
Erica Tasto is an editor for Natural Solutions and Alternative Medicine and the author of "The Natural Suite" blog. Follow her on Twitter @editorerica.