I started slowly eliminating dairy from my diet about three years ago. After taking a plant-based nutrition course, my eyes were opened to the potential hazards of consuming additional hormones through drinking ordinary milk. Though, full disclosure, I still allow the occasional splash of organic, grass-fed, and antibiotic- and hormone-free half-and-half in my morning coffee a few times a week.
After I cut back on dairy drastically, I started to notice how much better I felt. I was less sluggish and not as bloated. Plus, I found some really amazing milk alternatives. If you're thinking about ditching dairy, here are some great ways to enjoy milk-like substitutes that aren't actually milk. If you do still drink dairy, here are additional tips to make sure you're getting the healthiest version:
1. Trying making your own vegan mylk.
A great way to replace or decrease the amount of dairy in your diet is to start experimenting with making your own nut or seed milks. This is my favorite way to enjoy mylk — it is rich and creamy and tastes like your grandmother’s rice pudding! Nut and seed milks are low in calories and fat. The leftover pulp can be dried out in a food dehydrator or low oven to be used as a nut or seed flour in baking.
Making your own is much easier than you think. All you need is a high-speed blender, a nut-milk bag (found in any healthy grocery store), and water! It takes only a few minutes. I frequently make cashew or almond milk using 1 cup of soaked nuts or seeds (soak for a few hours), 3 cups of water, 2 dates, ½ vanilla bean or ½ teaspoon vanilla extract, a pinch of sea salt, and ½ teaspoon of cinnamon.
Pour off the soaking liquid and rinse the nuts or seeds in freshwater. Add the nuts/seeds to a high-speed blender with 3 cups of water, dates, vanilla, salt, and cinnamon. Zip it up for two minutes. Strain through a nut bag. This will last in the fridge for three or four days.
2. If you don't have time to make your own, purchase vegan mylk from small-batch brands.
These brands producing nut milk tend to use fewer ingredients — ideally, four or fewer ingredients would be optimal — and are free of carrageenan, which is a popular food additive derived from red seaweed but known to cause digestive upset and more serious conditions. I like Forager and Udderly Nuts brands.
3. Switch to goat's or sheep's milk.
Give goat or sheep dairy a try. Drinking this type of milk might be easier on digestion. These milks are readily available at almost all grocery stores, in the organic section. Goat and sheep milks have more of the A2 beta casein and less of the A1 beta casein. A2 beta casein is easier to digest and is similar to human breast milk.
4. If you're going to drink cow's milk, choose organic, grass-fed, antibiotic-free, and hormone-free .
If you want to keep dairy in your diet, I would recommend milk from cows that are grass-fed, not grain fed. Essentially, you ingest whatever they have ingested. So GMO grain, or grain that has been sprayed with chemicals and pesticides is not what you want in your milk.
Many of the CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operation) dairy farms are creating overproduction of milk for these dairy cows, which can result in infection or mastitis of the cows' udders. The cows are given antibiotics to fight infections, which can be passed down into the milk we drink, potentially causing antibiotic resistance.
Added hormones are also a concern for many. Conventional dairy farms give cows a synthetic growth hormone to help with milk production (rBGH). There is some concern that these hormones can be passed down to humans. If you really want to keep cow dairy in your diet, the best choices would be organic, grass-fed, and antibiotic- and hormone-free.