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.
“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!