An increasing percentage of people are following dairy-free diets and this can be for a variety of reasons. Some may have stopped consuming dairy for medical reasons, others due to veganism.
What is ‘dairy-free’?
While it may seem illogical at first, the term ‘dairy-free’ – as used legally, medically and commercially – does not mean free from all milk; it applies only to cow’s milk in particular.
Realistically, anyone who is lactose-intolerant will react to all animal milks. However, those who react to the proteins found in cow’s milk may be able to consume goat, sheep or buffalo milk with no adverse effects.
What foods contain dairy?
Dairy is found in a great deal of foods, many of which you wouldn’t expect. Somewhat unsurprisingly, butter, milk and cream contain dairy, but it is also present in foods including biscuits, cakes and chocolates.
If you’re looking to follow a dairy-free diet then it is important for you to check the ingredients list on products, but remember that it may not be listed as “dairy” or “milk” .
Anything that is listed below is a dairy product, and if found in the ingredients of a product should be avoided for a dairy-free diet.
- Butter and buttermilk
- Cheese including cream, curd and cottage
- Cream – all varieties
- Creme fraiche and fromage frais
- Ice cream
- Lactalbumin, lactic acid (E270)
- Liquid milk of all kinds
- Milk solids and skimmed milk powder
- Whey/whey protein/sugar
Why is calcium important?
Dairy products contain a large amount of useful nutrition, so it is important that dairy is replaced properly by alternative products. By far the most prominent of essential nutrients found in milk is calcium.
Calcium is vital for overall health, as nearly every cell in the human body uses it one way or another. A calcium deficiency can cause weak bones and eventually lead to osteopenia or osteoporosis.
Alternatives to dairy
There are a number of alternatives to dairy available. If you are able to consume the milk of animals other than cows then these will serve as adequate replacements for the dairy products that you will be cutting out.
There’s no cause for concern if this is not the case though, as there are many products available designed precisely for this purpose. These include:
- Soya based products
- Rice milk
- Oat milk
- Coconut milk
- Dairy free spreads
It is also possible to replace the nutrients missing from a dairy-free diet with alternative foods, for example calcium can be found in broccoli, nuts and other leafy green vegetables.
A large amount of the nutrients found in milk can also be found in fish, most notably iodine and vitamins. Other vitamins can be found in whole grains, potatoes and brown rice.