As a young millennial living in New York City, eating well and prioritizing my health has been easier said than done.
Whether I was grabbing a late-night slice of pizza or staying in with a pint of Ben and Jerry’s, I didn’t always put myself first the way I knew I should. Despite being a vegan restaurant owner, private chef, and self-proclaimed foodie, I had my struggles with food.
Ultimately, I realized that I look to food to sustain my health, my happiness, and my livelihood. I found that having a better understanding of what I put in my body ultimately helped me form a better relationship with my health — and food in general.
Which is how I decided to give up dairy.
The typical reaction when someone is told to eliminate something from their diet — something they love — is often disappointment and denial. Our food habits are so engrained and reforming those habits can be challenging, but the way we handle that challenge is what helps us develop.
Within the last year, I stopped eating dairy. I gave up my beloved Ben and Jerry’s!
Was it hard? It required some trial and error, but wasn’t nearly as difficult as you might expect. Was it worth it? Absolutely. I’ve seen significant changes in my skin, hair, digestion, mood, overall energy, and even weight. My skinny jeans are thanking me — along with every part of my body.
Here are five key reasons I decided to switch to a dairy-free diet. And if you're interested in making the switch yourself, I've included my downloadable 7-day dairy-free meal plan at the bottom, filled with delicious recipes and everything you need to get you started!
I’ve had acne for years. Since being dairy-free, my skin has never been clearer. Acne is an inflammatory condition. Oil gets trapped in pores, causing bacteria to grow in the follicles. It then causes inflammation, which turns to acne.
Dairy is a major cause of oils in the body and helps inflammation grow. Many factors can aggravate acne — dairy isn’t always the cause. Experimenting with diet is worth a try and a trip to the dermatologist can also help rule out more serious issues.
My digestion became much more consistent — no more bloating or cranky gut issues. When your body can’t break down lactose, gas and bloating are often the result. If you consume too much lactose, it can inflame your large intestine and diarrhea can develop.
A tip: Don’t buy ultra-high-temperature pasteurized milk that never goes bad. That’s not natural and probably not something you want to put into your body.
3. Weight loss
Eliminating dairy can help with weight loss. Milk, plain yogurt, and other unsweetened dairy products contain lactose, a natural sugar, while other dairy products may contain added sugar.
If you’re trying to lose stubborn belly fat, eliminating all sugar can really help. While weight loss wasn’t a personal health goal for me, I’m now day 4 of no sugar whatsoever.
Dairy products are mucus-forming and the protein in dairy has been found to increase inflammation in vital parts of the body such as the thyroid gland and digestive tract.
Since cutting dairy, I’ve noticed improvements in my metabolism and energy levels — which can both be linked to thyroid health. I also drink fresh-squeezed celery juice daily on an empty stomach to help alkalize my body and as a preventive measure for thyroid issues.
Dairy is among the foods to avoid if you have or you’re at risk for Candida overgrowth. Dairy has been shown to cause inflammation, which may promote the growth of unhealthy gut bacteria linked to some chronic diseases or conditions including leaky gut.
The milk we consume is pasteurized and homogenized, and synthetic vitamins are typically added. These unnatural additives can cause yeast overgrowth linked to Candida. Inflammation-causing foods like dairy — when they cause problems in the digestive tract — can lead to diarrhea, headaches, and fatigue.