I love dairy products. I guess it’s in my blood. Back in the 1960’s my Dad worked for a company called National Dairy Products Corporation (now morphed into part of Kraft Foods Group, Inc.) And I once met some cows upfront-and-personal on my cousin’s dairy farm where my paternal grandfather was born in County Cork, Ireland. The major lessons gleaned from that experience were:
1. I liked cows better at a distance;
2. Therefore dairy farmers provide an invaluable service.
June is National Dairy Month. I plan to celebrate it whole-heartedly beginning with some chocolate cake and ice cream. If you’ve read any of my posts this will come as no surprise to you.
But what if you have dairy sensitivities of one sort or another? These can include both dairy intolerance and allergies, and according to some sources both are on the rise. Opinions differ about why this is so. The answer may be as simple as having better tools to recognize adverse side effects to foods.
According to Mayo Clinic’s James T. C. Li, M.D., Ph.D most reactions to food are due to intolerance rather than allergy. Intolerance is more likely to make you uncomfortable. The two conditions share many of the same symptoms. Intolerance can be caused by a number of things including food additives like sulfite, food poisoning, the absence of an enzyme needed to digest a food, stress, irritable bowel syndrome, and celiac disease. It makes for discomfort that can range from mild to debilitating. A real food allergy can be life threatening, though. If you or a loved one regularly experience discomfort after consuming a particular food check with your doctor to determine the cause.
If you know you have dairy intolerance or allergies be sure you always read your food labels carefully and do a little research to find out what ingredients are considered “dairy.” Whey, casein, and lactose are fairly obvious, but other ingredients like ghee, lactyc yeast, curds, galactose, and kefir are dairy products too. Many more dairy or dairy-derived ingredients exist and carry names you may not recognize as being dairy. You may also find that dairy products are contained in foods you never associated with dairy like many brands of canned chicken broth (whey,) many types of potato chips (nonfat milk, whey, natural flavor from milk,) and most baked goods. Surprisingly even non-dairy creamer often contains casein! And milk or dairy products are frequently found in processed foods.
If you have been diagnosed with dairy sensitivities or allergies, lots of good food products are available to use as substitutes for dairy products in many recipes. So you can continue to enjoy lots of those dishes. But it’s important to know what is causing the discomfort. If you are lactose intolerant you may be able to eat many other dairy ingredients. But if you are allergic to milk or all dairy, your options may be more restrictive.
Soy cheeses come in a variety of types including nacho, cheddar, mozzarella, parmesan. The vegan varieties don’t contain casein. Vegan, non-dairy rice-based American and cheddar cheeses are also available.
Have you ever tried almond milk or almond cheese? I like them both better than the cow-based kind. Sometimes almond cheeses contain casein, though, so be sure you know if you are lactose intolerant or allergic to dairy before giving them a try.
When you have the time it’s safest to make your own food using recipes that call for unprocessed foods like most of those in our easy cookbook recipes.
For a partial list of dairy ingredients and dairy-free substitutions visit my Healthy Substitutions pages.
Enjoy National Dairy Month with dairy or dairy substitutions.
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