Q & A: What Nutrients Am I Missing on a Dairy Free Diet?

I have shared two nondairy milk recipes this week. I think it’s important to point out the obvious.  These nondairy milks do not replace milk equally in nutrition. I thought it was a good time to answer a question I got recently in my email box. I am planning on trying to answer one question a week.

I get a lot of questions via my contact form. While I read every single one, it is hard for me to personally reply to all of them. I do notice that I get a lot of the same questions over time. So I feel that the best way for me to answer your questions is on my blog. That way others with the same question can hear my answer as well.

But an even greater advantage is that others can also pip in with their answers and thoughts! I appreciate the honor of receiving these questions, but I am just one friend sharing thoughts with another. And I hope that others will feel free to share as well. As always, please read my disclaimer on the right side bar.

Question:

“I’ve enjoyed reading your blog for some time now. I am also gluten free and have recently discovered that dairy also causes me some problems. I understand that your daughter is also gluten/dairy free. I’m curious if you’ve considered what vitamins, nutrients, etc. she is missing from not having dairy, and what you’ve done personally for her in this regard? I’m wondering if I should look into supplementing my diet with other items that have calcium, etc.–basically the good in dairy that I can’t have–to ensure that I have good bone density and that I don’t lose one battle in trying to win another, so to speak. So I was just curious if you’ve done anything for Elena in attempts to “fill in” what she’s missing in fresh cream, butter, milk, and cheeses. I believe Weston A. Price is big on good, grass-fed dairy products, and that they are quite healthy and good for you. Anyway, just curious if you’ve considered that or come up with any solutions. I’m also a mother of a three month old baby boy, and I want to make sure he’s getting all the nutrients he needs to grow into a strong, healthy boy. Any thoughts on the matter would be greatly appreciated! Thanks for all your tips, advice, and recipes!!” – Nicole

This is a really important question because our American diet is very dairy based. When we take it out, in my opinion, we can have gaps in our diet. It would be a rather lengthy process to go into all of the nutrients provided by dairy and how to replace them, so let’s just look at the most important items, starting with calcium.

Getting Calcium in a Dairy Free Diet

How to get proper calcium is by far the most common question asked when going dairy free. I want to make a few points. First, if you are drinking pasteurized milk, you may not be absorbing all of that wholesome calcium anyway.

We have all been led to believe that milk is a wonderful source of calcium, when in fact, pasteurization makes calcium and other minerals less available. Complete destruction of phosphatase is one method of testing to see if milk has been adequately pasteurized. Phosphatase is essential for the absorption of calcium. Source

This means that those drinking pasteurized milk should also not be completely replying on milk for their calcium needs.

By far, the biggest tool I have in my kitchen is “bone broths”, broths made with bones and cooked over a long period of time to release minerals including calcium from the bones. Other traditional diets that don’t rely on dairy often rely on bone broths in their diet. For example, many Asian cultures drink/eat broths and soups at almost every meal of the day, similar to what we Americans do with our glass of milk at each meal.

It’s really quite simple to make chicken broth as well as other broths. There are so many benefits to making your own broths, they can’t all be listed here. But in relationship to our topic, a long simmered broth, especially when a acidic addition like apple cider vinegar is added, has a lot of calcium and other minerals in it.

Other sources of calcium aren’t quite as perfect in the nondairy world. Almonds are high in calcium, but also high in phytic acid. Properly preparing almonds can help reduce the phytic acid which can block your absorption of calcium, but bone broths are still the best bet in consuming easily absorbed calcium. The same goes for seeds like chia seeds and sesame seeds. The bones in canned salmon are full of calcium, but it’s also expensive to buy high quality canned fish in BPA free cans and perhaps not an everyday consumption item.

All to say, I take my cues from Asian cultures and try to include a lot of bone broths in our diet. I have done this very imperfectly, but am resolving this school year to aim for having one meal a day that has broth included in it. This is a challenge, but a good challenge for me and one which my family very much needs.

However if you are concerned that you aren’t getting enough calcium in your diet, you can also supplement. I am a big fan in trying to get as much of your needed nutrients out of your diet, but sometimes a supplement is in order. There are many good sources for calcium supplements, I am sure. One which I have used and am impressed with is Dr. Ron’s calcium supplement. I will be ordering some more for myself and family, in fact.

While there are many nutrients in milk, the last two nutrients I feel important to discuss is vitamin A and D. Grassfed, raw milk is actually a good source of vitamin A and D. However, not when pasteurized.

Pasteurized milk has up to a 66 percent loss of vitamins A, D and E. Vitamin C loss usually exceeds 50 percent. Heat affects water soluble vitamins and can make them 38 percent to 80 percent less effective. Vitamins B6 and B12 are completely destroyed during pasteurization Source

Other excellent naturals sources of vitamin A include caviar from wild fish, fermented cod liver oi and liver. The form of vitamin A from animal sources doesn’t have to be converted for use in the body, which is an advantage. Good natural sources of vitamin D (besides good ol’ sunshine), include fermented cod liver oil, liver, eggs, salmon, trout, and pork lard made from pastured pigs.

That perhaps gives a start on the important topic of a nutritious, dairy free diet. I feel that it is quite easy to be gluten free and get all needed nutrition because wheat, barley, and rye are easily replaced by other gluten free grains. Now I would love to hear everyone else’s opinions and thoughts!

KimiHarris

I love beautiful and simple food that is nourishing to the body and the soul. I wrote Fresh: Nourishing Salads for All Seasons and Ladled: Nourishing Soups for All Seasons as another outlet of sharing this love of mine. I also love sharing practical tips on how to make a real food diet work on a real life budget. Find me online elsewhere by clicking on the icons below!

Comments

  1. KimiHarris says

    Hi Valerie,

    I checked out the film’s site, and also skimmed through the link that Mark shared. I think that it is highly likely that I agree more with the critique than the film. :-) Thanks for sharing though!

  2. Kristen says

    I wanted to add a soundbite for people with dairy intolerance. I’ve discovered that I am intolerant to pasteurized and homogenized milk, even if it’s organic. It really upsets my stomach. But I can drink raw milk like nobody’s business. It’s really strange. Just wanted to put it out there for those who hadn’t tried drinking raw milk instead of store-bought milk. It may be worth a shot.

    • cory says

      I had the same experience when I stopped drinking homogenized milk – though we do still drink pasteurized. Acne cleared up too. Weird.

    • Jessica says

      It could be bc of the A1 – A2 deal. Do a google on it. Sally from NT writes about it as well. Jersey cows are A2. I have 3 kids allergic to dairy but they do fine on raw jersey milk, but w even raw holstien milk they break out in exzema.

  3. says

    How did you hear about Dr. Ron’s Calcium Supplement initially? From your naturopath? I never heard for it before. Also, what brand of fermented cod liver oil do you use? Just curious.

    • KimiHarris says

      Archer,

      I actually met Dr. Ron. :-) And then when I read up about this supplements I thought they were much better than what my ND had me on.

  4. Ginger says

    My son also has an intolerance to pasteurized dairy but can digest raw just fine and our family doctor told us that it had to do with enzymes that are present in raw milk that help us digest it but are destroyed in pasteurization. I haven’t read anything about it personally but have seen a definite difference in my son’s ability to digest.

    • KimiHarris says

      Ginger,

      Raw milk is easier for many people to digest. It still others us some, but definitely not as much as storebought milk. :-)

  5. salixisme says

    I have an allergy to milk (to the casein) so raw milk won’t work for me because it is one of of the milk proteins that I react to.

    What I do is to use good quality milk substitutes – almond milk, soy milk, oat milk, coconut etc. I also take a good calcium substitute along with a multivitamin/mineral pill.

    And I try to get as much as I can from my diet as well. I had not thought about using bone broths as a substitute – will be doing that in future!

    • Sarah says

      salixisme,

      My boys have a reaction to casein as well, but we have found that they only react to the casein in pasturized, homogenized milk. If they drink the stuff from the store 2 or 3 times in a week (not even in a row), they will have ear infections. However, when we drink raw milk, they can drink it every day and not have a problem. I found in my research that the structure of casein is changed by the pasturization and homogenization process & is basically made indigestible. If you haven’t tried raw milk, I would suggest giving it a whirl, you may be surprised.

  6. says

    I have heard that goats milk is easier to digest than cows milk. Our only source for raw milk is goats milk. I don’t have an intolerance for dairy so cannot comment on that personally, but I love the goats milk. I wonder if other readers drink raw goats milk and find that it is easier to digest than raw cows milk or if they are both easily digestible because they are raw.

    • KimiHarris says

      Sally,

      Goat’s milk is easier for many people to digest. I suspect that sheep would be the same. I think it depends on how severe your intolerance to milk is.

  7. says

    My daughter has issues with dairy too. She was dairy free for 4 years, and yes, we do a lot of bone broth! This past year, the farmer who makes sheep’s milk cheese (she could tolerate that) told me about the difference between breeds of cows. She said that the holstien breed has been so overbreed here in America that it has led to a gene that causes problems for some people. Jersey cows and other brown cows don’t have this gene. We were able to find a cheese made with Jersey milk and my daughter did fine with it. We now buy Lifeline brand from Azure standard. They sell organic cheese, some raw milk, all from Jersey cows. It’s delicious and my family loves it.

    • Kristen says

      I posted a note previous about being able to drink raw milk with no problems, but I have a lot of problems when drinking pasteurized/ homogenized, even organic. The raw milk I consume is from a Jersey cow.

      • Jessica says

        Do research on the A1-A2 deal w cows – Sally from NT writes about it as well. Jersey cows are A2. I have 3 kids allergic to dairy but they do fine on raw jersey milk, but w even raw holstien milk they break out in exzema. I have read A LOT on this issue and seen the truth with our children. We were buying milk from a jersey farm and the kids drank the raw milk just fine. We were at a friends and they had a cow that was A1 bred and though it was raw my kids still broke out really bad. Just look for a farm that is PURE jersey and you should be able to handle it just fine. Most of all the families that go to our friends farm is bc someone in the family can not handle dairy but they do great on the jersey milk – I encourage anyone that says they can not handle dairy to try raw pure jersey milk first before going dairy free. There is a lot of truth to this. We saw such results w our kids we got a jersey cow. You can google A1-A2 milk and learn about it.

    • Jessica says

      I thought their milk/cheese was from Brown Swiss cows? we had tried it once and our kids could not handle it, but they can jersey cow milk/cheese. Have they changed from Brown Swiss to Jersey?

  8. Vanessa says

    You can also make your own calcium (plus other minerals) supplement from crushed up egg shells mixed with water and lemon juice. Cant remember where on the internet I found it though. I havent made it for ages because I focus more on the bone broths as well. But its another tool to use if anyone is interested

    • says

      I second the eggshell recommendation, if you don’t have access to or can’t do dairy. I was told to just boil them, then grind them up and sprinkle some in your food or beverage. A lot cheaper than any other supplement and a “good” natural form of calcium.

      Dairy really is one of the more balanced foods on the planet. The ruminant chews and chews and chews on food that we can’t digest and detoxes it and makes wonderful, delicious milk.

      However, due to issues in feeding and management and our own lack of digestive capabilities, sometimes it’s not the best for the individual.

  9. Anne Marie says

    My son and I have a dairy allergy. We tried raw, grass fed organic milk and it didn’t work for us. We are allergic to casein (which in in a lot of labeled “dairy-free” items). I make bone broths, eat dark green leafy veggies, use high quality calcium enriched milk alternatives and take a supplement (being sure to include things with vitamin D-sun and magnesium-coconut juice to help with absorption). I can have “clarified” butter if it is organic (but not conventional due to the GMO grains cows eat). I believe butter fat is extremely high in vitamin A. I use clarified butter for baked goods or cooked items such as mashed potatoes or frying.

  10. says

    Another nutrient of concern is potassium, but eating plenty of fruits and vegetables helps compensate for that. Remember the four cups of vegetables a day goal? Keep that up!

    Given the low levels of vitamin D found in foods, I favor supplementation if you are in a northern climate (low sun angle for much of the year).

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