If you're considering a dairy detox to try and improve your health, make sure that you're not removing essential nutrients from your diet. Dairy contains a variety of essential vitamins and minerals. It's also an important source of certain omega-3 fatty acids for vegetarians.
Dairy and Healthy Diets
Most people eat or drink dairy on a daily basis. The Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that people consume about 3 cups of dairy products each day. Dairy products come in many forms, including milk, cream, cheese, yogurt and ice cream.
Dairy is important, as it's a good source of a variety of essential minerals, like calcium, phosphorus, potassium, zinc, magnesium and selenium. It's also rich in essential vitamins, like vitamin A and B-complex vitamins. Many products are also enriched further with vitamin D.
The Dietary Guidelines state that dairy's nutritional benefits include improved bone health. According to an October 2013 study in the Journal of Urology, dairy products can also lower your risk for kidney stones, while a February 2016 study in the_ American Journal of Clinical Nutrition_ found that dairy consumption can prevent weight gain.
Choosing a No-Dairy Diet
Although dairy has a multitude of health benefits, dairy products may not be suitable for everyone. An August 2015 study in the_ American Journal of Clinical Nutrition_ found that dairy consumption may be linked to an increased risk of prostate cancer.
Dairy can also have side effects. For example, a July 2016 study in the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology and an August 2016 study in the Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology both found that dairy products can increase acne in young people.
Certain dairy products, like cheese, are also tied to headaches. According to a 2017 interview with registered dietitian and certified LEAP therapist Jan Patenaude, RD, CLT, in Bustle, "Aged cheese is a common migraine trigger for people with migraines or histamine intolerance."
If you're considering giving up dairy due to side effects like these, it's possible to consume a no-dairy diet and still be perfectly healthy. People who are vegan, lactose intolerant or simply doing a dairy detox can easily eat plant-based alternatives in place of dairy. The Dietary Guidelines even categorize soy products as dairy equivalents, as long as they have been fortified with vitamins A and D.
Consuming a Healthy, Dairy-Free Diet
If you're trying to follow a dairy detox or want to follow a no-dairy diet long term, the first thing to do is make sure you're not leaving out any essential nutrients. You may want to consider replacing the 3 cups of dairy you should consume each day with fortified soy products.
Although other plant-based alternatives are not equivalent to dairy, dairy-free alternatives can still provide you with important nutrients. For example, rice and almond milk provide calcium. If you're not a fan of these alternative products, you can also obtain essential nutrients like calcium from leafy greens, certain legumes or canned fish.
You should also make sure you're keeping an eye on your vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and iodine consumption. Iodine is found in foods like seaweed, prunes, enriched grain products, eggs and fish. Vitamin B2 occurs in foods like fortified cereals, mushrooms, almonds, seafood and meat products.
Although other plant-based alternatives are not equivalent to dairy, foods like coconut yogurt and nut cheese will still provide you with a variety of important vitamins and minerals. Just make sure that you're not consuming too much saturated fat. While certain nuts are low in saturated fat and rich in unsaturated fats, coconut products are likely to be rich in saturated fat. Too much saturated fat can affect your cholesterol and heart health.
Dairy Detox Without Reducing DHA
Removing dairy from your diet actually eliminates saturated fat from your diet — a heart-healthy choice! However, dairy contains healthy, unsaturated fatty acids too. These unsaturated fats are actually essential to obtain through foods, as your body is unable to produce them.
If you're a vegetarian and are considering following a no-dairy diet, monitor your consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids. Meat eaters and pescetarians can obtain these fats from a variety of sources, especially fish and shellfish. However, it can be hard for vegetarians to obtain enough of certain omega-3 fats, like docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA), in their diets.
Dairy products aren't usually considered rich in omega-3 fats, but they are often a major source of DHA in vegetarian diets. Fortunately, you can also find this essential fat in fortified juices or soy milk. Eggs are also often fortified with omega fats and can provide valuable amounts of both DHA and EPA.
Withdrawal Symptoms From Dairy Products
If this is the first time you're attempting a dairy detox, you may find that giving up dairy has side effects or comes with unexpected cravings. A February 2015 study in _PLOS One _found that certain fatty and processed foods are addictive — in fact, these foods are as addictive as some commonly abused drugs.
The PLOS One study found that dairy products like cheese and ice cream, as well as products with dairy as a major component (like pizza, buttered popcorn and cheeseburgers) were some of the most addictive foods you can consume. While pizza ranked as the most addictive food tested, ice cream was ranked third, cheeseburgers were ranked seventh and cheese was10th.
Given that each American consumes about 42.5 grams (1.5 ounces) of cheese per day, which is equivalent to a third of the recommended dairy intake, you may find that your cravings for foods like these make a no-dairy diet more challenging than expected. If you're doing a dairy detox, it's even possible that you may experience mild, withdrawal-type symptoms.
Is This an Emergency?
- European Journal of Nutrition: "Cheese Consumption and Risk of Cardiovascular Disease: A Meta-Analysis of Prospective Studies"
- PLOS One: "Which Foods May Be Addictive? The Roles of Processing, Fat Content, and Glycemic Load"
- BMC Nutrition Journal: "Effects of Supplementing N-3 Fatty Acid Enriched Eggs and Walnuts on Cardiovascular Disease Risk Markers in Healthy Free-Living Lacto-Ovo-Vegetarians: A Randomized, Crossover, Free-Living Intervention Study"
- NIH: "Omega-3 Fatty Acids Fact Sheet for Health Professionals"
- American Heart Association: "Saturated Fats: Why All the Hubbub Over Coconuts?"
- NIH: "Iodine Fact Sheet for Health Professionals"
- NIH: "Riboflavin Fact Sheet for Health Professionals"
- British Heart Foundation: "Keeping a Dairy-Free Diet Balanced"
- ChooseMyPlate.gov: "Non-Dairy Sources of Calcium"
- Bustle: "11 Surprising Things That Can Happen When You Stop Eating Dairy"
- Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology: "Consumption of Dairy in Teenagers With and Without Acne"
- Journal of the European Academy of Dermatology and Venereology: "Acne and Dairy Products in Adolescence: Results From a Norwegian Longitudinal Study"
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Dairy Products, Calcium, and Prostate Cancer Risk: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Cohort Studies"
- American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: "Dairy Consumption in Association With Weight Change and Risk of Becoming Overweight or Obese in Middle-Aged and Older Women: A Prospective Cohort Study"
- Health.gov: "Dietary Guidelines for Americans, 2015-2020"