You may have heard friends, relatives, and even celebrities claim that giving up dairy provided them with many health benefits. Some credit giving up dairy with helping them lose weight, clear up their skin, and improve their energy levels. However, before eliminating an entire food category from your diet, it is helpful to be aware of both the positive and negative effects of such an act. Furthermore, you may be surprised to learn that some of the possible health benefits associated with ditching dairy may actually come from the ditching the foods you consume along with dairy.
10. Positive: Weight Loss
Some individuals find that giving up dairy products helps them lose excess pounds. Cutting out dairy means giving up fudgy bowls of ice cream, fat-saturated pats of butter, and heavy cream. Cutting out the extra calories associated with overindulging in high-fat dairy products will lead to weight loss. However, this weight loss may come from consuming fewer calories each day, rather than from eliminating dairy in particular. Furthermore, ditching cheese may mean passing on items such as calorie-laden pizza slices. In this case, giving up dairy also means forsaking processed meats, white flour, and sodium-laden tomato sauces.
9. Negative: Weight Loss May Not Be Permanent
Cutting a major calorie source out of your diet and refraining from replacing those calories with other foods can lead to weight loss. However, you may find this weight loss is not permanent, especially if you let other calorie-laden foods creep into your diet. Furthermore, studies suggest that consuming full-fat dairy products as part of a wholesome, nutritious diet can actually contribute to weight loss. Perhaps cutting out an entire food group isn’t as healthful as consuming appropriate amounts of a wide variety of healthy foods.
8. Positive: Less Bloating
If you are lactose intolerant, giving up dairy products may provide you with relief from bloating. Lactose intolerance refers to a body’s inability to manufacture the enzyme lactase, necessary for digesting lactose in milk or other dairy products. According to the National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases, other symptoms of lactose intolerance may include diarrhea, gas, nausea, and stomach pain. You can purchase tablets or drops containing lactase to enable you to consume dairy products. However, removing dairy products from your diet can also provide relief from the discomfort of lactose intolerance.
7. Negative: Decreased Gut Health
Completely removing dairy from your diet may have a negative effect on the beneficial bacterial flora of your gut. Foods such as yogurt, certain cottage cheeses, and kefir are dairy products that contain helpful probiotics, which keep your gastrointestinal system running smoothly. To maintain a healthy gut microbiome when you have given up dairy, try foods such as kombucha, sauerkraut, and pickles. Salad dressings made from apple cider vinegar contain prebiotics, which also support healthy gut bacteria.
6. Positive: Clearer Skin
Some individuals find that giving up dairy clears up their acne. An article in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology reports on a link between the consumption of skim milk and increased acne in teenagers. While skim milk may increase your risk of acne, consuming whole milk does not seem to have the same effect. This may be due to the increased presence of whey proteins in skim milk. Organic milk may carry a decreased risk of acne, as hormone-treated cow milk may be more likely to trigger the inflammation of acne.
5. Negative: Bone Loss
Ditching dairy may have a negative effect on the health of your bones. Dairy products are rich in calcium, phosphorus, and vitamin D. These nutrients are critical to maintaining strong and healthy bones. Studies suggest that consuming milk or other dairy products improves bone density, prevents bone loss, and decreases the risk of bone fractures. You can also improve your bone strength by engaging in weight-bearing exercises such as walking, hiking, or dancing. Resistance exercises using weights can also strengthen your bones.
4. Positive: More Energy
Removing dairy from your diet may infuse you with more energy. This may be due to the effects of also ditching the heavy, calorie-laden, nutrient-deficient foods that contain dairy. Examples of these foods include pizza, creamy pasta dishes, and gooey grilled cheese sandwiches. Removing these items from your diet makes more room for nutrient-dense, energy-promoting foods such as lean proteins, fiber-dense vegetables, and antioxidant-rich fresh fruits. To maintain steady energy levels, refrain from sugary sodas, sweets, and baked goods, which provide a sugar rush followed by a slump.
3. Negative: Weakened Immunity
Unfortunately, depriving your body of the many nutrients contained in dairy products can decrease your ability to fight off infections. One cup of whole milk contains 18% of the recommended daily value of vitamin B12. Vitamin B12, along with vitamins A, B6, and E, is important for maintaining a healthy immune system. B12 is also involved in manufacturing the red blood cells and DNA that keep your body running smoothly. According to Harvard Health Publishing, we obtain vitamin B12 only by consuming meat, yeast extracts, or dairy products. Therefore, removing dairy from your diet can leave you susceptible to illness.Related: Milk Varieties: What’s Right for Your Heart?
2. Positive: Fewer Headaches
If you are lactose intolerant, you may find giving up dairy decreases your risk of headaches. In fact, food allergies may increase your risk of migraine headaches. According to Enzymedica, a study of 76 children with migraines found that 39% had headaches triggered by cow’s milk. Dr. Ronald Hoffman of Intelligent Medicine asserts that the caseins in milk and dairy products may be responsible for dairy-related headaches. Whey is another component of milk that may trigger an allergy-induced headache.
1. Negative: Deficiency in Certain Nutrients
In addition to fats, dairy products also contain critical nutrients such as vitamin D, calcium, phosphorus, potassium, and riboflavin. If you choose to give up dairy, be sure to consume other nutritious food sources of the vitamins and minerals it contains. Sardines, spinach, kale, and chia seeds are non-dairy sources of calcium. You can obtain vitamin D from fatty fish such as salmon, tuna, and herring. Egg yolks also contain this crucial vitamin. Phosphorus-containing foods include nuts and seeds, whole grains, and seafood.Related: How to Keep Milk at Its Freshest