“Drink your milk if you want strong bones” is how the saying used to go. Many of us grew up being told that milk made our bones strong, and we needed it to be healthy. Fast forward a few years, and cutting out dairy is now one of the top dietary trends across North America.
Times are changing, and it’s time to rethink dairy. Americans’ consumption habits have been shifting, and dairy, among other foods, is slowly but surely getting the boot. Be it for ethical, environmental, or health reasons, more and more people are deciding to ditch dairy and transition to a non-dairy diet.
The list of benefits that come along with ditching is actually quite extensive (we’ll get to it soon), but as a bonus, saying goodbye to dairy doesn’t necessarily mean saying goodbye to your favorite dairy products. It’s 2021, and along with all the other weirdness going on in the world, there are now things like milk-less milk, cheese-less cheese, and cream-less ice cream. Did we miss your favorite dairy product? Don’t worry; we’re just about positive it has a dairy-free counterpart, too.
What a time to be alive, right? We can have our cake and eat it too ;).
Are Dairy-free and Lactose-free the Same Thing?
Nope! Dairy-free and lactose-free are not the same things; AKA, these two labels are not interchangeable.
Lactose is a natural sugar found in dairy products. “Lactose-free” indicates that the lactose component has been removed during the production process. Everything that is dairy has lactose in it unless the product has been engineered to become lactose-free. (Side note: a surprising number of people think eggs are dairy – they aren’t).
On the other hand, dairy-free is precisely what it sounds like: anything that doesn’t have dairy in it.
To make this completely clear, dairy-free = lactose-free, but lactose-free ≠ dairy-free.
Benefits of Going Dairy-Free
There are many more than six benefits of going dairy-free, but we chose the six most significant ones for time’s sake.
Happier skin. Eliminating dairy can lead to drastic improvements in your skin condition. We’re talking about better texture, tone, hydration, and improved conditions of acne and rosacea. Skim milk seems to be the biggest perpetrator of unhappy skin; it has something to do with the added sugars and pro-inflammatory nature of the added whey protein.
Another element is artificial hormones. Hormones fed to the milk-producing cows end up seeping into their milk. This milk is then consumed by us – us being a human consumer who isn’t supposed to be ingesting a hormone-antibiotic concoction intended for farm animals.
It takes about two seconds to hop on Google and see just how many studies link dairy consumption to acne. More dairy seems to result in more acne, both more of it and worse severity. Have you heard of “pizza face?” Pizza face refers to a face covered in acne after enjoying a cheesy pizza (lots of dairy) the night before.
The good news is people report an improvement in their skin as early as two to three weeks after going dairy-free.
Happier stomach. Even for those who aren’t diagnosed with lactose intolerance, dairy is still a known culprit for upset stomachs and various digestive conditions. Did you know that no other species besides humans can digest milk in adulthood? Generally, milk is designed for babies and babies alone—even the non-human ones.
Lactase is a naturally occurring enzyme in the human body necessary to break down and digest milk. Most people are born with enough lactase-producing ability to digest lactose. However, between the ages of two and five, up to 40% of people stop producing lactase in sufficient amounts. The result is over one-third of Americans with some degree of lactose intolerance.
Going dairy-free often results in more consistent digestion, AKA less bloating, gas, and cramps, and a regulated “schedule.”
Avoid hormones and antibiotics. Dairy farms are no small operation, and dairy farmers are always looking to optimize production and maximize output. Unless indicated organic, many farmers feed their cows growth hormones and antibiotics to encourage higher volumes of milk production. These artificial hormones end up seeping into the milk. We then consume this milk, thus unintentionally ingesting cow growth hormones. Yuck.
These added chemicals can accumulate in the body, and higher levels have been linked to a significant increase in the risk of lung, colon, prostate, and breast cancers.
Lower environmental impact. The dairy industry is harmful to the environment in three ways: land, water, and air.
Dairy farms occupy thousands of acres of land that could be used for other, more beneficial purposes. Further, careless handling of fertilizers, antibiotics, and manure can pollute nearby water sources, harm local animals, and damage their habitats.
Dairy milk requires approximately 120L of water to produce one cup of the final product. Non-dairy milk requires 5L-74L. This considers the amount of water used to grow the crop that feeds the cows, the cows drinking water, and water used in the manufacturing process.
Two words: cow farts. Cows emit a few different greenhouse gases through their farts, but the one to worry about is methane. Methane is 84 times more powerful than carbon dioxide when it comes to trapping heat inside the Earth’s atmosphere. Methane also diffuses into the air more quickly than other greenhouse gases. The result is a quicker, more intense warming effect on our atmosphere. Producing a single glass of dairy milk generates twice the GHG emissions than making one glass of dairy-free milk.
Save the cows. It’s no secret that industrial animal farming generally doesn’t work out too well for the animals; mothers and their babies are often separated at birth, and living conditions rarely have sufficient space for cows to move around comfortably. Further, considering the forceful use of artificial hormones and antibiotics, a dairy cow’s life is far from a happy one.
Guilt-free deliciousness. Even if you already have perfect skin, aren’t lactose-intolerant, and do your part for the environment in other ways, going dairy-free can still just feel better. Something about knowing in the back of your mind that you consciously chose to do better, on a scale larger than just yourself, makes everything taste better. The trick is finding dairy-free products that actually taste good; this way, there really is no sacrifice, just guilt-free deliciousness.
So, What Now?
Well, no one dictates your diet except for you. Take this information and do with it as you see fit.
Whatever your next move is (no pressure, no rush), we’d love to introduce you to some dairy-free products that are truly delicious. Everyone screams for ice cream, right? Cue Eclipse ice cream.
Eclipse has created the first plant-based ice cream that is indistinguishable from dairy ice cream. It’s dairy-free and free from all common allergens – no soy, nuts, wheat, or lactose.
Ready to give it a try? Eclipse classics are always a hit; classic chocolate, vintage vanilla, and cookie butter are fan favorites loved by carnivores, vegans, and dairy-free people alike.
There are so many benefits to going dairy-free; delicious ice cream is just the cherry on top.