To Add or Avoid Dairy?
There are some food choices in the world of nutrition that seem to spark a lot of debate. In my 20 plus years of immersing myself in the world of nutrition as part of my work as a Registered Dietitian, I’ve seen trends come and go, as well as foods being touted as “healthy” versus “unhealthy”.
At Metabolic Living, we believe that you find your ideal diet through a combination of factors, including how well you are able to maintain your body composition or achieve your body composition goals, as well as how easily you are able to keep your SHMEC in check. We talk a lot about SHMEC in our blog posts, but if you aren’t familiar with what SHMEC stands for, it is the following: sleep, hunger, mood, energy, and cravings.
The best diet for you is one that keeps your SHMEC in check while allowing you to achieve your weight loss or body composition goals. Unfortunately, sometimes the foods you love and enjoy most don’t work so well for your body. Not only may some of these food choices throw your SHMEC off, but they may also lead to the inability to lose weight or body fat.
One of the food categories that often comes into question is dairy. This includes things like Greek yogurt and cheese. When it comes to dairy, you’ll find lots of mixed opinions as to whether or not it is best to avoid foods containing dairy or if it is ok to keep them in moderation.
Experts will often admit to being confused about how dairy fits into one’s diet as well. Part of the reason for this confusion relates to the idea that not all dairy products are created equally. For example, some may be able to digest fermented dairy, such as yogurt, while having a harder time digesting things like milk or cheese.
It is important to consider the source of your dairy, including how it was “made” or where it originated from. You may find that grass-fed dairy works well for your system, causing no reaction at all, but other sources of dairy, such as something from cows being fed corn and soy, leads to digestive discomfort or SHMEC going out of check.
Keep in mind that you may have a dairy sensitivity without having true lactose intolerance. Although dairy sensitivity can produce symptoms similar to lactose intolerance, a dairy sensitivity may surface due to an immune response once milk antigens, the protein structures found in milk or milk products, are ingested.
Why are some able to tolerate dairy while others find it throws their SHMEC off or leads to a lack of body composition change? Dairy appears to cause an inflammatory response in some people, but not everyone. Symptoms of an intolerance or dairy sensitivity may be dependent on your own personal threshold, or the maximum amount you can ingest without noticing a change in the way you are feeling physically, or how stable your SHMEC is.
Others seem to have no issues with dairy, eating Greek yogurt for a high protein snack, having some cheese on their salad, or using regular milk to make a protein shake. To better assess how dairy may impact you, particularly if you’ve been incorporating it for a period of time, take all dairy products out for 2 – 4 weeks (at least), and then slowly reintroduce dairy products one at a time.
This is where the detective work comes in! For some, eating dairy leads to havoc in some way or another. For example, the day after having a little frozen yogurt for your Saturday night treat, you may wake up with a few newly sprouted pimples. Or, within a matter of minutes, you may start to feel bloated, gassy, or simply uncomfortable.
Once you begin the reintroduction of dairy, there are some common symptoms of a dairy intolerance or sensitivity that you may notice as you choose to bring dairy back into your diet.
It is super helpful to keep a food journal during a time of intentional avoidance versus reintroduction to help you better understand how you are feeling along the way.
Look for subtle changes in the way you are feeling. For example, I notice that when I completely avoid dairy, I feel great overall, and once I have dairy products for 2-3 days in a row, my scalp becomes itchy. It’s not overly concerning, but it is annoying.
There is no denying that dairy does have some nutritional benefits, providing your body with calcium, vitamin D, and possibly even probiotics, but you can find these health-promoting vitamins, minerals, and nutrients in other foods. For example, if you are concerned about how you’ll get enough calcium while avoiding dairy, we’ve put together a blog post of foods specifically high in calcium that you can find here.
If you need some help with finding tasty dairy-free recipes, we have you covered! Check out our YouTube channel for more help with making delicious meals and snacks that won’t leave you feeling deprived of dairy-based products or goodies.
So if you’ve been wondering if you have a sensitivity or intolerance to dairy, let’s put your metabolic detective skills to work! Try a period of elimination, then reintroduction, and see how your body responds in comparison to each phase!
Photo by NeONBRAND on Unsplash