Dairy's long been a staple of the American diet. But did you know it's pretty hard on your body? Going dairy-free can free you up from a myriad of health problems -- and some pretty wild things happen to your body in the process.
On this page
A gift for you: FREE Ultimate Little Guide to Plant-Based Eating
Can't imaging giving up your fancy cheese plate? We hear you! And we're not going to sugarcoat it -- going dairy-free is tough at first (but it gets easier!)
But day in and day out, eating dairy is really hard on your body. Here’s why:
- It’s loaded with saturated fat, a major contributor to heart disease, inflammation of the brain, higher risk of stroke, and impaired memory. Need a motto? From heart vessels to brain vessels, DAIRY CLOGS.
- Dairy, especially cheese, is also often packed with sodium, which in excess can lead to hypertension.
- Cheese, in particular, has a compound called casein. Too much casein has also been linked to certain types of cancer.
- Full-fat milk is linked to inflammation and chronic inflammation can lead to diabetes, heart disease, cancer, obesity, Alzheimer's disease, digestive issues (like IBS and Crohn's disease), asthma, and more.
Now this is a legitimately awesome list.
The US National Library of Medicine reports that about 65 percent of the human population (as in, humans on the whole planet) has a reduced ability to digest lactose. (Lactose is a sugar in milk and other dairy products, and people need an enzyme called lactase to digest it.)
When you have lactose intolerance, you can feel abdominal pain, bloating, flatulence, nausea, and diarrhea from 30 minutes to 2 hours later.
Cutting dairy out of the loop means less digestive stress on your body, i.e., less bloating. But take note that as your body adjust to less dairy and more plants, you might feel some digestive discomfort. Here are some tips to handle the transition to a plant-based diet.
Dairy products are proven to contribute to acne. In part, this is because milk and other dairy contain hormones that can react with your own hormones. That can lead to increased sebum, which leads to clogged pores.
At the same time, milk products are high in certain sugars that can raise insulin levels. The process is more complicated than this sentence, but essentially the higher insulin leads to more acne development.
When you cut out dairy, and nourish yourself with a plant-based diet, you can see improvements in the look and the feel of your skin.
Milk and dairy products contain a protein called casein. Along with lactose, casein can cause an allergic reaction in some people that affects the brain. This reaction can lead to irritability and confusion.
Another study found that cow’s milk can disrupt the receptors that carry folate to the brain. Low folate levels are associated with depression and “foggy thinking.”
When you cut dairy and eat a plant-based diet loaded with leafy greens, you can raise your folate levels and help protect brain function.
(Ready to cut waaaayyyyy back on dairy? Try the Get Me Started Bundle, chock full of whole food plant-based meals without one speck of dairy!)
Let’s look at cheese for a second. Cheese has a natural chemical called tyramine. If you eat a lot of cheese, the tyramine can contribute to migraines and headaches.
Cutting dairy (and making sure you eat a nutrient-rich diet!) can help lower how much tyramine your body has to deal with.
In 2014, thebmj published a study on milk intake and risk of mortality and fractures in women and men.
Basically, researchers were studying the relationships between drinking milk, the rate of death, and the rate of fractures. The results showed that regularly drinking milk did lead to higher mortality and more fractures. The field still requires more research, but this evidence was clear.
Cutting dairy may help prevent your risk of fracture (and early death!). It’s particularly important to protect your bones with calcium-rich plant-based foods, like our Veggie Loaf.
Less dairy is good. Plant-based is even better!
There are a lot of ways that dairy is hard on the body. Letting it go from your diet can help you feel better and stay healthy.
Worried that if you cut dairy you'll miss out on important nutrients like protein and calcium? By eating a wide range of nutrient-dense plant-based foods you'll be sure to get all the vitamins, minerals, and other compounds you were getting from milk, without the BS (you know - bad stuff).
First, recognize that cheese really is addictive (so it's not a matter of willpower keeping you from giving it up!). Here are our tips for giving up cheese and dairy for good.
Second, get familiar with the different varieties of non-dairy milks and how to best enjoy each variety.
Third, learn how to make delicious creamy dishes, without dairy!
Eating dairy has a long list of negative effects on your body.
Taking dairy out of your diet has a long list of positive effects.
You may feel less bloated.
Hello, clearer skin!
Your thinking can get clearer.
You might get fewer headaches.
You lower your risk of fractures (and early death!)
By Becky Karush
Becky Karush is a writer, copywriter, and family woman. She came up through newspapers and magazines, including Disney FamilyFun and Martha Stewart Whole Living, with road trips to teaching and farming. She’s run BeckyK Creative Marketing since 2012. She hosts and produces READ TO ME, a literary podcast that ends the cult of the critic and surfaces the power and beauty in great writing.