Dairy – sometimes it feels like it’s everywhere!
Dairy is often the first thing people try to tackle when going vegan, and for great reason! Dairy is not designed for us to consume, it causes many of us health issues such as bloating and IBS… but there are so many delicious alternatives out there too, so it’s a great place to make a change.
NB: for cheese cravings, head to the bottom of this post.
Don’t We Need Cow’s Milk For Calcium?
Thanks to clever marketing and ‘research’ paid for by the dairy industry, many people believe that we need to drink cows’ milk to get enough calcium into our diet. This is not true at all! Dairy can actually do more harm than good. High intake can increase the risk of prostate cancer and possibly ovarian cancer. Plus, dairy products can be high in saturated fat as well as retinol (vitamin A), which at high levels can paradoxically weaken bones. Ironic!
Many independent studies have found no stand-out link between dairy, calcium and bones at all. One large-scale Harvard study followed 72,000 women for two decades and found no evidence that drinking milk can prevent bone fractures or osteoporosis, for example.
Dairy is not designed for humans. A mother cow produces it for her young, and just like human breast milk, it’s unique to the species and even the individual baby. A cow’s breastmilk is specially designed to grow a tiny calf into a huge cow, which is why 60% of people are lactose-intolerant – it simply wasn’t made for our bodies. It’s actually a little strange to drink the milk of another species, when most of us are weaned from our own mothers as children.
To briefly address the animal cruelty side, dairy is an extremely distressing process from start to finish. Female cows are forcibly impregnated on all but the smallest of farms, and kept in a perpetual state of pregnancy until they don’t produce enough milk to be seen as economically productive. They are then ‘disposed’ of. The resulting calf is either shot at birth or raised for cheap veal. Either way, mother and child are separated shortly after birth, and pine for each other. All so we can steal their milk. Sounds crazy, but there’s a whole industry trying to convince us that we need dairy. Marketing is really heavy around dairy!
The great thing is, there are so many foods out there containing the nutrients we get from dairy, but none of the side effects or cruelty.
So Where Do Vegans Get Calcium?
(the average adult should consume 1000mg calcium per day)
- ½ cup firm tofu – 850mg
- 1 cup almond milk – 516mg
- ¼ cup whole sesame seeds – 280mg
- 1 cup spinach – 245mg
- 1 cup kidney or pinto beans – 145mg
NB: there are also many milks, cereals, breads and juices that are fortified with calcium, so you can grab extra this way. It will say on the label if they contain additional calcium, and how much. I also have a dedicated post on Basic Vegan Nutrition – so do check it out if you need more ideas!
As you can see, it’s really easy to get enough calcium in your diet as a vegan. But what about finding those dairy substitutes?
What Is Dairy?
Good question! Basically, it is any food made from the milk of mammals. Traditional dairy products include:
- Milk from cows, goats etc
- Dairy chocolate
- Snacks and processed foods that contain milk in the ingredients list
- Whey, casein and lactose – all derived from dairy, and found in cheese and processed foods. Whey is particularly common in protein powders, but there are plenty of alternatives such as pea, soy, hemp.
- Please note that Lacto-free brands such as Arla are NOT vegan. Watch out for them in the ‘free from’ fridge section.
NB: you may have seen the wording ‘may contain‘ eggs/milk etc underneath the ingredients list. This is simply a warning that the product was made in the same factory as other foods containing them. For example, if an item says ‘may contain milk’, it is still safe for vegans to eat (as long as the actual ingredients are ok!), but was present in the same factory.
How Do I Start Ditching Dairy?
If you’re new to dairy alternatives, think about where you consume dairy frequently. For many of us, it’s in tea and coffee, or cereal. Start buying cartons of plant-based milks and experiment with your drinks and breakfast. You can also begin by exploring the ‘free from’ refrigerator section of the supermarket, as that contains many kinds of vegan cheese, yoghurts and creams. Find a starting point that works for you.
Plant-based milk is full of calcium, other nutrients and it can be cheaper than dairy too. You can buy organic (YEP, ORGANIC) soy milk from Tesco for £1 per litre, or 59p for regular soya. Here’s a tip – grab it from the long-life section, by the tea and coffee, as it’s cheaper and lasts longer meaning you can buy in bulk. Don’t like soya? Next to it you’ll find almond, hemp, coconut, cashew and a load of other milks. If you’re an environmentalist, oat milk is one of the best for the planet. Grab one of each and see what you prefer. Start using it in your cereal, tea and baking. You’ll never look back once you find one you like – I promise!
Lastly, be kind to yourself. If you need to make small steps, that’s fine. You can replace one thing at a time if needed.
Would you like to know how to specifically get rid of those cheese cravings? I have a fantastic video right here – give it a watch and let me know if it was useful!
If you found this post useful, but feel like you need personal motivation, accountability to keep you on track, expert one-to-one advice regarding specifics – consider Vegan Coaching! It saves time, effort, research and is a great way to reach your goals more quickly.