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Best Dairy for Weight Loss

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The importance of getting enough dairy into your day has likely been drilled into your brain thanks to the slogan, “Milk does the body good.” Dairy helps support muscle growth. It provides nutrients like vitamins, minerals and amino acids. It helps maintain bone health. It reduces your risk of heart disease, types 2 diabetes and blood pressure.

Dairy can be a tough arena to navigate, though, when you’re trying to lose weight. You may avoid it because of its fat content. A gram of fat yields 9 calories, compared with 4 calories per gram for carbohydrates and proteins. High-fat dairy products also have long been thought to raise the risk of early death—particularly from heart disease, stroke and cancer—because of their high levels of saturated fat.

However, high-fat dairy products may not be as awful as they’ve sometimes been made out to be. In fact, in one large review, consuming high-fat dairy was associated with a lower risk of weight gain over time. And a more recent analysis yielded some conflicting results, indicating that dairy seemed beneficial to circulatory health relating to the brain, and cheese yielded some surprisingly good results; however, milk itself was still associated with a greater risk of death from heart disease.

Confused? So are the experts, who say the jury is still out on full-fat milk and other dairy products.

But, one thing is certain: Dairy contains good nutrients and, with its protein and fat content, can contribute to satiety—that feeling of fullness that lasts a while. If you eat dairy in moderation and consume mostly low-fat dairy, you can enjoy it while also watching your waistline.

Here are some of the best dairy products to help promote weight loss.
Regular yogurt
Yogurt helps turn up your body’s fat burn. Both low-fat and regular-fat yogurts contain probiotics. That’s the friendly bacteria that may help reduce how much fat your body absorbs. Cells containing calcium also burn off more fat than those that don’t have it. This yogurt-containing orange creamsicle smoothie is the perfect choice for breakfast, dessert or snack time.
Greek yogurt
Delicious and creamy Greek yogurt increases levels of hormones that promote fullness. It’s made by removing whey and other liquids, creating a creamier and richer yogurt. Regular yogurt, especially flavored varieties, contain hidden sugar and additives. Plain Greek yogurt boasts plenty of protein. (Just be sure to opt for ones with little to no sugar.) Its tangy flavor goes well with nuts or berries, which also increases its mineral, fiber and vitamin content. Or, use it as a substitute for sour cream in sauces and dips. It’s made by removing whey and other liquids, creating a creamier and richer yogurt. This green smoothie will replenish nutrients and works for breakfast, lunch or a post-workout snack. The healthy fats and protein in the avocado and yogurt will keep you feeling full for hours.
Cottage cheese
You may think you have to give up cheese to lose weight. However, studies suggest that the calcium in cheese can help ward off fat. It prevents cellular changes in your body that cause fat stores. A study in Appetite found that cottage cheese’s filling effects are similar to those from eggs. Cottage cheese is an excellent source of protein and low in calories, too. It’s packed with nutrients like B vitamins, calcium, phosphorus and selenium. Even better is that it’s a great no-cook way to get some energy. It’s usually high in salt though, which isn’t good for your health and can make you thirstier. Seek low-sodium options. Looking for a low-fat snack? Try this Sweet Cottage Cheese recipe. Or whip up this Whole-Wheat Vegetable Lasagna. Veggie lovers will enjoy the fact that it has plenty of vitamins, protein and other nutrients thanks to its mixture of vegetables and cheeses.

Low-fat chocolate milk
Your childhood beverage of choice may do your waistline some good after a hard and long workout. A report found that chocolate milk is a great post-exercise recovery drink. It contains twice as much protein and carbs compared to regular milk or popular sports drinks. The combination of carbohydrates, protein and electrolytes in the milk helps your muscles recover faster. Because chocolate milk is high in sugar, stick with unsweetened milk at other times.
Portioned cheese spreads
A thin slice here, a thick slice there. It can be difficult to control how much cheese we’re eating. Portioned cheese snacks like spreadable wedges eliminate that portion control guesswork. Just don’t overdo it on the crackers.

Will Ditching Dairy Help You Lose Weight?

It’s the weight-loss trick celebrities such as Khloe Kardashian and Jessica Alba have credited for helping them slim down. By forgoing diet staples like cheese, milk, and yogurt, dairy-free advocates swear cutting out cow’s milk has helped them shed those unwanted pounds.

But is cutting out this entire food group really the magic factor to help you lose weight for good? Eat This, Not That! asked Jim White, RD, ACSM, and owner of Jim White Fitness and Nutrition Studios to get the lowdown on this dairy-ditching trend.

Why Cutting Out Dairy Might Help You Lose Weight

You’ve likely heard anecdotal evidence of people dumping dairy and seeing results. Khloe Kardashian has famously said that ditching milk products helped her lose 11 pounds in just a month and a half without making any other changes. Additionally, when panelists on the Zero Belly Diet gave up dairy for six weeks, they saw dramatic results; participant Martha Chesler said she lost 7 inches off her waist! Additionally, So, what’s the magic behind ditching dairy and weight loss?

You Changed Your Caloric Intake

Although some people may have found success losing weight after giving up dairy, it likely has more to do with a combination of healthy eating habits and a decrease in calories than giving up cow’s milk specifically.

“A cup of skim milk has 90 calories. If you’re really trying to watch your calories, doing something like unsweetened almond milk that has 30 calories, yeah, you can decrease the number of calories you take in on certain products like that,” White explains.

So if full-fat dairy makes up a significant portion of your daily caloric intake, yes, cutting out the stuff will help you lose weight because you’re reducing calories.

You Cut Out An Allergen

Additionally, eschewing cow’s milk may help flatten your belly by making you feel less bloated, especially if you are one of the 65 percent of US adults who are lactose intolerant. Not being able to digest dairy properly could lead to bloating, gas, cramps, and other GI issues. Leaving it off the menu will alleviate many of these belly-widening issues.

It’s Not Because of This Myth

Although giving up dairy to lose weight has resulted in some success stories, White says some of the purported health benefits of cutting out the food group are largely exaggerated.

Some people assume dairy is inflammatory, similar to foods such as sugar and trans fats that trigger inflammation in the body, which can lead to weight gain and chronic disease. Turns out, it’s only true for people who are lactose intolerant.

A 2013 study published in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found that “dairy product consumption does not exert adverse effects on biomarkers of inflammation in overweight or obese adults.”

Why Keeping Dairy In Your Diet Might Help You Lose Weight

Dairy Fat Increases Satiety

In fact, keeping milk products in your diet could actually help you lose weight; a study published in the Scandinavian Journal of Primary Health Care found that high intake of dairy fat was associated with a lower risk of belly fat. Experts believe the fat content of dairy products can extend feelings of fullness and minimize total caloric intake, which helps keep belly fat at bay.

Dairy Protein Builds Muscle Mass

Another study that year from the journal Nutrition & Metabolism found that milk protein might actually help improve your metabolism by helping to build lean muscle mass. More lean muscle mass means your body burns more calories at rest, which will help you slim down.

Bottom Line: It Might, But It’s Not Necessary

Ultimately, it’s a personal decision whether or not you want to keep dairy as part of your overall diet. White explains that dairy does come with countless health-related benefits: “There are so many benefits of having dairy such as calcium, which acts as an electrolyte, and vitamin D, which of course is a major deficiency in the U.S. It also has protein.”

However, If you’re lactose intolerant or just don’t enjoy the taste of milk products, you can still have a perfectly healthy diet and lose weight without it. Just make sure you’re eating other calcium-rich foods and getting your recommended 1,000-1,500 milligrams a day.

At the end of the day, losing weight requires a combination of lifestyle choices including eating more fresh food, cutting calories, and increasing activity and sleep. While cutting out an entire food group may help you lose weight, it’s because of the decrease in calories; ditching dairy itself isn’t the magical answer.

“Overall, I believe that dairy should be an important part of the diet, especially if you get into those calcium-rich nutrients,” White concludes.

How to Keep Dairy In Your Weight-Loss Diet

If you’re trying to lose weight and want to keep dairy in your diet, White recommends paying attention to the type of dairy you’re consuming; Greek yogurt is better than regular because of the rich protein content. Full-fat dairy can also have a place on the menu—especially because fat can help absorb vitamins better—but low-fat and fat-free options are better for people who are looking to cut calories. You can enjoy up to three servings a day, he says. That will give you the 1,200 milligrams of calcium you need.

“There’s a big reason why people gain weight and it’s eating too much food, and it’s eating unhealthy foods,” White says, adding that it’s just not realistic to cut an entire food group especially because of all the good dairy does.

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ᐅ Is Dairy Bad For Weight Loss?

Dairy can have a huge impact on your weight loss and if you’re trying to lose weight, you may want to reconsider your dairy consumption. A lot of people have been reaching out to me asking about dairy and whether or not it is bad for them. I’ve mentioned that I have given it up and so many are wondering why and if they should give it up as well.

The information on dairy can be conflicting, and we are told that to get enough calcium we need to drink more milk. Remember the got milk campaigns? They had us convinced that dairy has to be included in our diet for us to be healthy. Even the food pyramid that we all grew up with had a place for dairy, recommending that we had 2-3 servings a day for optimal nutrition and to keep our bones strong and healthy. But how true is this?

For years I thought that the dairy I was consuming was good for me, but little did I realize how much it was having an impact on my health. As it turns out, my consumption of dairy is one of the foods that was making it so hard for me to lose the weight and once I realized this, I cut it from my diet.

Getting dairy out of my diet wasn’t easy, and it took some time. I found it difficult just to go home and throw it all out. I loved drinking milk, and I really loved cheese (who doesn’t?!), and I didn’t know how I was supposed to just stop consuming it. It was almost like I was addicted to in, and in part, I was. I found comfort in the milk the I drank every day and the cheese that I was adding to my food. I enjoyed the yogurt I was eating, the very one I thought was helping me lose weight. For me, dairy was a food I turned to because it made me feel good, and I felt like I was being good to my body by consuming it.

At the time, I didn’t know how wrong I was. And if you are on one of my Custom Meal Plans or have downloaded my free Approved Foods Guide, then you have probably realized that I don’t include dairy on either of these.

I’ll tell you why…

Once I removed dairy from my life, I was amazed at the results I was getting. I was dropping the weight faster than I could have imagined. I had no idea that my dairy consumption was holding me back as much as it was. Not only was I feeling better on the inside, but I was beginning to see the changes taking place on the outside as well.

In this blog, I’m going to teach you…

  • > What dairy is and why eggs don’t count
  • > Effects that dairy can have on your health
  • > The reason dairy may be impacting your weight loss efforts
  • > My top tips to be dairy-free
  • > Some dairy alternatives you can use instead of milk

What Is Dairy?

Just like there is a lot of confusion on just how healthy dairy really is, and the impact it can have on your weight loss, there is also a lot of confusion as to what we mean when we talk about dairy, and it is actually pretty simple.

Dairy is anything that is made from milk. That means this does not include eggs, which are often mistaken for dairy products. The reason people tend to lump eggs in with dairy products is that they are often found in the same section of the grocery store.

The most common dairy products include:

  • > Milk
  • > Cheese
  • > Yogurt
  • > Butter
  • > Ice Cream

Is Dairy Bad For You?

As you can probably guess by now, dairy is not as good for you as you may have once thought. In fact, the majority of the world’s popular cannot even digest milk because they don’t have the ability to break down the lactose in it . This is the sugar that is found in milk and milk products. If you are lactose intolerant, then dairy products most likely make you sick, unless it is a fermented dairy product like yogurt or butter, which most people who are lactose intolerant can have.

Even if you are lactose intolerant, there are a few reasons why you should start to ease off of dairy products.

So why is dairy bad for you?

We are all told that we need to drink milk for stronger bones, but in reality, studies show that countries that consume the least amount of dairy and calcium, actually have the lowest rates of osteoporosis. These studies even suggest that adding calcium to your diet may not have any effect on increasing bone density and preventing fracture, but rather it is vitamin D that helps support strong bones (2).

We are also finding out that dairy products may be contributing to the development of cancer, as research shows the consumption of dairy increases a man’s risk of prostate cancer by 30-50% (3).

Dairy consumption also spikes insulin levels due to their composition of amino acids and in some cases, drinking milk can cause your insulin to spike just as much as white bread, impacting your ability to lose weight (4, 5).

If you are drinking milk and consuming dairy because you think the calcium that it contains helps keep you healthy, then you may want to reconsider your reasons for keeping this food around.

Is Dairy Bad for Weight Loss?

If you are trying to lose weight, dairy is not going to be your friend and something you start considering removing from your diet. Consuming dairy can actually cause you to gain weight and destroy any efforts of losing weight to get healthy.

One reason is that dairy is high in calories and consuming too much of anything can make you gain weight. One cup of whole milk has about 146 calories, with half of these calories coming from fat, and after a few cups of milk a day, this can quickly add up.

In fact, over 4% of these calories come from the sugar content in dairy. We don’t often think of milk as being full of sugar, but it actually contains a rather high amount. This sugar not only causes weight gain, but it is also the reason many people can’t drink milk, to begin with.

Consuming milk can also lead to bloating, which can make you feel and look heavier than you actually are. This is especially true if you are lactose intolerant as your body is unable to digest the lactose, the sugar that is present in the milk.

People who are lactose intolerant lack the lactase enzyme, or don’t make enough of it, which is used to break down the lactose. This causes the lactose to ferment in the intestines, causing your belly to swell and “bloat,” along with other unpleasant side effects such as diarrhea and gas.

Another reason that dairy can make you fat is that, as mentioned above, it can cause your glucose to spike and this can lead to storing more fat. When your glucose levels spike, your body stores energy, rather than burning it off.

How to Go Dairy-Free and Lose Weight

I never realized the impact that dairy was having on my life or the fact that it was preventing me from losing the weight I was trying so hard to get rid of.

I hit a point where my progress stalled, and I stopped seeing results. This stunt in weight loss hit me hard, and I didn’t know what I was doing wrong. I was eating healthy and exercising, which had always worked for me in the past, but suddenly I just couldn’t lose any more weight. I felt stuck, and I didn’t know what to do.

⚡️Learn Ways You Can Keep Track of Your Results Without Stepping on the Scale

As I did research and I talked to people who were into fitness, I began to realize they all had one thing in common and that was they didn’t consume dairy, and at this point, I was willing to give it a try.

So, I began to cut dairy out of my life. I removed the cheese I was eating and began to lay off the milk.

It wasn’t easy, as milk was something that I always enjoyed, so I decided I was going to wean myself off of it, much like I did with soda. I started by drinking 2% milk instead of whole milk and then began to cut milk and other dairy products from my diet, every week and every day consuming a little bit less.

It was around this point I began to invest in dairy alternatives, swapping out my milk for almond milk. I even got my whole family on almond milk instead of cow’s milk, and we couldn’t be happier for the change.

Here are a few of my tips for going dairy-free:

  • > Throw out the milk, cheese, and dairy in your house. If you think it has dairy in it, throw it out, or give it away. Just get it out of your house so that you are not tempted.
  • > Replace your dairy products with dairy-free alternatives. For example, instead of a glass of milk, reach for a glass of almond or coconut milk. You can also use these in recipes that call for milk. They also make almond and coconut yogurt alternatives so you can still have your yogurt and feel good about eating it.
  • > If you are worried about being able to cut out dairy, get on a Custom Meal Plan and let us do it for you. We will make sure the foods you are consuming are free of the dairy you shouldn’t be.

Top Dairy-Free Alternatives

  • > Almond Milk
  • > Coconut Milk
  • > Cashew Milk
  • > Hemp Milk
  • > Rice Milk
  • > Pea Milk
  • > Soy Milk (although not recommended)

If you decide to drop the dairy from your diet, there are plenty of alternatives out there. The most common alternative is almond milk, which can easily replace milk in most recipes. It is also healthier and provides an extra dose of protein. You can drink it straight or use it anywhere milk is called for

Another common alternative is coconut milk, and though it has a distinctly different taste for it, it is often substituted in foods that call for milk. Unlike almond milk, coconut milk has a sweet taste to it that can sometimes be overpowering for some people.

Let’s Sum Dairy Up…

Losing weight can be difficult. I know first hand, and while the decision to lose weight was easy, the journey was one of the hardest things I have done, but because I have done it, I know that it is possible if you really want it.

If you want to lose the weight once and for all, you are going to have to learn to give up dairy. And if you are trying to lose weight and nothing seems to be working, chances are it is the dairy that you are still consuming.

I cut dairy from my life during a time where I couldn’t lose any more weight. I tried, I ate right, and I exercised more and more, but the weight wouldn’t come off. Once I discovered how dairy was holding me back, I cut it from my life, and the next 50 pounds seemed to melt off.

I didn’t realize just how big of an impact milk had on my ability, or rather inability, to lose weight. I expected it to help me drop a few more pounds, but cutting dairy ended up boosting my weight loss and got me back on track.

Remove dairy from your life. Trust me, you’ll feel better, and you’ll begin to drop more weight. Don’t let this one thing hold you back from the goals I know you can achieve. And, if you need support to cut dairy from your diet, then please reach out to me on Instagram or sign up for a Custom Meal Plan and let me show you exactly what you should be eating every day to lose more weight fat.

About Possible Pat

Hi, I’m Pasquale Brocco and I’ve lost A LOT of weight. When I started my journey to lose weight, I weighed 605 pounds. After visiting the doctor, I realized I had to make a change. I started with a simple plan and within 60 days, I lost 100 lbs. So far, I’ve lost over 307 pounds. Now, I’m sharing a simple message with you, “Anything is possible.” If you can put on the weight, you can lose the weight.

Cheese Addiction? How to Give Up Cheese For Good

Quick Synopsis

Want to eat plant-based but can’t seem to give up cheese? You’re not alone! Cheese is actually addictive! But good news: you can break free! Keep reading to get our pro tips for giving up cheese for good.

The Full Story

Food addiction is a very real problem in today’s society. For example, have you ever tried to give up dairy only to cave after a few days because your cheese cravings just got the best of you? It turns out, it can feel like you have a cheese addiction because cheese is an addictive food — it’s essentially dairy crack cocaine.And you’re certainly not alone in your love for cheese; the average American eats 23 pounds of cheese a year. And consider that’s three times the amount of cheese consumption in the 1970s, it’s getting worse.

This is all thanks to the dairy proteins inside cheese. Cheese and other milk products contain a protein called casein. When casein is digested it releases opioid compounds. According to Dr. Neil Barnard, founder, and president of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM),“ attach to the brain’s opiate receptors to cause a calming effect in much the same way heroin and morphine do.”

Why would these opioid compounds occur naturally in milk? Barnard researched and wrote all about it in his book, The Cheese Trap: How Breaking a Surprising Addiction Will Help You Lose Weight, Gain Energy, and Get Healthy. He explains, “Imagine if a calf did not want to nurse. Or if a human baby was not interested in nursing. They would not do very well. So, along with protein, fat, sugar, and a sprinkling of hormones, milk contains opiates that reward the baby for nursing.” Simply put, these opiates, called casomorphins, are highly addictive, so the analogy of “dairy crack” is more than figurative.

How much casein/casomorphin is really in cheese? Barnard says, “A cup of milk contains about 7.7 grams of protein, 80 percent of which is casein, more or less. Turning it into Cheddar cheese multiplies the protein content seven-fold, to 56 grams. It is the most concentrated form of casein in any food in the grocery store.”

Yikes.

Along with these casomorphins, cheese is loaded with saturated fat, a major contributor to heart disease. Fun and/or scary fact: Harvard reports that pizza and cheese are the biggest food sources of saturated fat in the American Diet! Cheese is also packed with sodium, which in excess can lead to hypertension.

Too much casein has also been linked to certain types of cancer.

And while we could stand here and list all the reasons you may want to give cheese the boot, most folks don’t struggle understanding why cheese isn’t a health food— they have trouble breaking their habit.

The good news is you can embrace a non-dairy lifestyle and leave cheese in the dust! Here’s how to give up cheese for good:

1. Wean off cheese

Can’t go cold turkey? That’s ok! If you’re the type of person who puts cheese on basically everything, start small. Pick a few days a week where you go cheese-free. Then as the weeks go by, add more and more days without cheese until eventually, your entire week is cheese-free.

2. Try nut cheese

There are some plant-based cheese alternatives, but first, it’s good to understand these alternatives are not cheese. Nut cheeses are not made from dairy and giving them some distance from the cheese you grew up with will help fend off disappointment and allow you to enjoy nut cheese as their own delicious food group.

Also, if you follow a whole food plant-based diet, beware of some of the store-bought vegan cheeses, which can be loaded with sodium, oil, and preservatives. For store-bought: Treeline has some nice oil-free french-style nut cheeses. And for a cheese sauce, you can’t go wrong with MamaSezz Mama’s Mac Sauce.

3. Get yourself some nutritional yeast!

One of the best things a cheese lover turned plant-based eater can do is go out and buy some nutritional yeast, or as vegans often call it, “nooch.” Found in the spice aisle at most grocery stores (and definitely at natural food stores) this deactivated yeast doesn’t expand so you don’t have that a loaf of bread will bake in your stomach after consuming. Nutritional yeast is a great addition to your spice rack because it gives your food a nutty and cheesy flavor.

Again, giving any plant-based alternative a little distance from the “real thing” is best, but if I were going to compare nutritional yeast to any kind of cheese, it’d be parmesan. Great for sprinkling on pastas, soup, tofu scrambles, on popcorn, on steamed veggies. You can’t go wrong with nooch.

4. Cook with non-dairy creamy textures

Worried you’ll miss the creamy texture melted and soft cheese can bring to a dish? You can still get creamy textures in your pasta, pizza, and rice dishes without using dairy. Look to avocados, soaked and blended raw cashews, dairy-free milks (oat, almond, soy, coconut, etc.), blended cooked potatoes, blended white beans. Or try our Lazy Lasagna and we promise, you’ll be in creamy dreamy pasta heaven.

5. Explore other flavors

Up until now, you may have relied on cheese to flavor your food. Americans have a habit of putting cheese on everything! So now that you’re cheese-free, food may taste bland. But it doesn’t have to be this way.

One of the coolest things about going dairy-free and transitioning to a whole food plant-based diet is that your cooking options actually expand (contrary to popular belief that eating this way is restrictive). All the sudden, you’re going to look to your spice cabinet, and not a slice of cheese, for flavor. Have fun! Explore, look up recipes, glean Pinterest. Make dinnertime an adventure. Want some tried and true dairy-free recipes? Check out MamaSezz plant-based recipes from Chef Caroline for inspiration.

6. Be patient!

Change doesn’t always happen overnight. Take it one day at a time. If you end up eating some cheese at a dinner party, no worries. Just get back on the cheese-free horse at your next meal or snack time. Have some empathy for yourself — it’s hard to cut out bad habits but within a few weeks it’ll get easier until eventually, you won’t even miss it. In fact, our taste buds can change drastically in just two weeks. You can cut the dairy crack out of your diet, and leave cheese protein behind. You’ve got this.

Key Takeaways

  • Wean
  • Try nut cheese
  • Use nutritional yeast
  • Cook with non-dairy creamy textures
  • Explore other flavors
  • Be patient!

What you should do now

  1. We have been where you are and we’ve helped thousands of people (just like you) transition to eating a plant based diet. If you are looking for a guide that can help you with some of the big questions, and dramatically reduce your stress, this FREE Ultimate Little Guide to Plant-Based Eating is a great place to start.
  2. If you’d like to learn about plant-based living go to our Heartbeet Journal where you can read hundreds of “How To” articles. If you’d like to learn about plant-based cooking go to our Recipes Section for easy step by step favorites.
  3. If you’d like to work for us—or see why our team members love working for us—then contact us at [email protected] and tell us about yourself.
  4. If you enjoyed this article, then so will your friends, so why not share it on LinkedIn, Twitter, Facebook and Email

Why It’s So Hard to Give Up Cheese

The following is an excerpt from The Cheese Trap: How Breaking a Surprising Addiction Will Help You Lose Weight, Gain Energy, and Get Healthy, which was released by Hachette Book Group.

Which foods do you find most addictive? That’s the question University of Michigan researchers asked. The idea was, which foods lead you to lose control over how much you eat? Which ones are hard to limit? Which ones do you eat despite negative consequences? The researchers surveyed 384 people and here is what they found:

Problem food #5 is ice cream.

Problem food #4 is cookies.

Chips and chocolate were tied for #3 and #2.

But the most problematic food of all was—drum roll, please—pizza. Yes, gooey cheese melting over a hot crust and dribbling down your fingers—it beat everything else.

And here is what matters: The question was not, which foods do you especially like, or which foods leave you feeling good and satisfied. Rather, the question was, which foods do you have a problem with? Which ones lead you into overeating, gaining weight, and feeling lousy? Which foods seduce you, then leave you with regrets?

So, why did pizza top the list? Why are we so often tempted to dig in and overdo it?

Three reasons: salt, grease, and opiates.

As you have no doubt experienced, salty foods can be habit-forming. French fries, salted peanuts, pretzels, and other salty foods are hard to resist, and food manufacturers know that adding salt to a recipe adds cash to the register. A Lay’s potato chips commercial in the 1960s said, “Bet you can’t eat one”—meaning it’s impossible to eat just one. Once the first salty chip passes your lips, you want more and more.

Your body does need some salt—about a gram and a half per day, according to U.S. health guidelines. In prehistoric times, however, salt was not so easy to come by. After all, potato chips and pretzels had not yet been invented. So people who managed to get their hands on salt were more likely to survive. Your neurological circuitry is set up to detect it, crave it, and jump in when you’ve found it.

As you will remember from fifth-grade biology, your tongue is very sensitive to the taste of salt. And brain scanning studies show that your brain is extra attuned to it, too. Deep inside the brain, in what is commonly called the “reward center,” brain cells make the feel-good neurotransmitter dopamine, and in certain situations it floods out of the cells, stimulating neighboring cells. If you find a particularly abundant source of food, your brain rewards you by releasing some dopamine. If you were to have—shall we say—a romantic, intimate encounter, your brain has a similar reaction. It gives you more dopamine. Dopamine rewards you for doing things that help you or your progeny to live on. And scientists believe that dopamine plays a role in our desire for salt.

So is there really a lot of salt in pizza? A fourteen-inch Domino’s cheese pizza has—catch this—3,391 milligrams of sodium. Just one slice delivers 400 milligrams. It’s in the crust and in the toppings, and there is a lot in the cheese. So salt is one of the reasons that pizza attracts us.

Pizza is also greasy, and that greasy-salty combination seems to get us hooked, too, just as it does for chips, fries, and onion rings. But pizza has one more thing. It has cheese, and cheese not only contributes its own load of salt and grease. It also contains traces of a very special kind of opiate.

Casomorphins

, I briefly mentioned casein, the protein that is concentrated in cheese. And casein has some secrets to tell.

If you were to look at a protein molecule with a powerful microscope, it would look like a long string of beads. Each “bead” is a protein building block called an amino acid, and, during digestion, the individual amino acids come apart and are absorbed into your bloodstream so that your body can use them to build proteins of its own.

So the calf digests the proteins in milk, breaking apart the chain of beads and using these amino acids to build skin cells, muscle cells, organs, and the other parts of the body.

However, casein is an unusual protein. While it does break apart to release individual beads, it also releases longer fragments—chains that might be four, five, or seven amino acid beads in length. These casein fragments are called casomorphins—that is, casein-derived morphine-like compounds. And they can attach to the same brain receptors that heroin and other narcotics attach to.

In other words, dairy protein has opiate molecules built right into it.

Opiates in dairy products? What the heck are they doing there, you might ask. Well, imagine if a calf did not want to nurse. Or if a human baby was not interested in nursing. They would not do very well. So, along with protein, fat, sugar, and a sprinkling of hormones, milk contains opiates that reward the baby for nursing.

Have you ever looked at a nursing baby’s face? The infant has a look of great intensity and then collapses into sleep. Of course, we imagine that to be the beauty of the mother-infant bond. But the fact is, mother’s milk delivers a mild drug to the child, albeit in a benign and loving way. If that sounds coldly biological, it pays to remember that nature never leaves anything as important as a baby’s survival to chance.

Opiates have a calming effect, and they also cause the brain to release dopamine, leading to a sense of reward and pleasure.

A cup of milk contains about 7.7 grams of protein, 80 percent of which is casein, more or less. Turning it into Cheddar cheese multiplies the protein content seven-fold, to 56 grams. It is the most concentrated form of casein in any food in the grocery store.

Call it dairy crack. Just as cocaine manufacturers have found ways to turn an addictive drug (cocaine) into an extremely addictive one (crack), dairy producers have found their own ways to keep you coming back. In the Middle Ages, cheese makers had no idea that cheese might concentrate milk’s addictive qualities. But today’s cheese industry knows all about cheese craving and is eager to exploit it. It is doing its level best to trigger cheese craving in vulnerable people.

tags:

  • Casein
  • Dairy

5 Ways Giving Up Dairy Changed My Life

Bright green broccoli in an ice cream cone with sprinkles. Juj Winn/Getty Images

A few years ago when I went home for the holidays, I asked my mom if Santa could bring me some TUMS. She raised an eyebrow. I explained that lately, after each meal, I was taking a TUMS. Or two. Maybe three—tops.

My mom is a yogi and a health nut. Naturally, she suggested I change my diet, specifically that I consider giving up dairy. (After all, dairy *can* be difficult to digest for some people—more on that later.) I would feel better if I ate the right foods, she told me. (Related: Is Dairy Healthy? The Pros and Cons of Consuming Dairy)

I’ll admit it: My diet wasn’t perfect. While I exercised regularly, limited my drinking, and had a mostly balanced diet of veggies and meat, I also splurged—a lot. I’d always got cheese. At a Mexican restaurant, I’d never say no to queso dip. I thought my exercise routine would take care of the dairy slip-ups, but unfortunately, that wasn’t working (you can’t out-exercise a bad diet, nor should you try).

Not only was I bloated, lethargic, and acne-prone (food can be an acne trigger), I had also gained nearly 10 pounds. My 5’4″ frame was holding almost 165 pounds. I was uncomfortable. (BTW: Weight gain isn’t *always* a bad thing—these 11 women have gained weight the healthy way and are happier than ever.)

So I took my mom’s advice in giving up dairy and decided to do Whole30, which calls for you to cut out dairy, booze, refined or processed sugars, legumes, and gluten for 30 days, then gradually add those foods back into your diet and see how your body responds. (Related: 20 Whole30 Recipes for Breakfast, Lunch, Dinner, or Snacks)

For the most part, everything went smoothly. After 30 days, I added wine and rice back in and felt fine. It wasn’t until I had a protein shake with skim milk in it that I noticed a huge change. After drinking it, I vomited.

See, lots of people are sensitive to lactose—a sugar present in milk and anything made of milk. And after seeing a doctor, I found out I’m intolerant to it. (Related: 5 Genius Dairy Swaps You’ve Never Thought Of)

About 30 million Americans are lactose intolerant, which means they develop bloating, gas, and diarrhea when they eat lactose because they lack the enzyme needed to digest lactose.

Of course, lactose intolerant people don’t always need to give up dairy *entirely*. Yogurt and hard cheeses contain very little lactose, for example. Some lactose intolerant people can even consume a serving of dairy without symptoms, says Susan Barr, Ph.D., R.D., a professor of nutrition at the University of British Columbia.

But that day after the protein shake, I gave up dairy.

Giving up dairy hasn’t been easy, but the changes in my body (I’ve lost 25 pounds!), energy levels, and overall life have been incredible.

Of course, this is just my story. “People should not eliminate any food unless they have really good reasons,” says Paige Smathers, R.D.N., a dietitian based near Salt Lake City, UT. “If you’re cutting something out, you should really know it’s essential and not a guess because it’s potentially setting you up for some difficulties nutritionally and otherwise.”

That said, there are four big ways giving up dairy has made me healthier.

I’ve lost weight and never bloat.

Smathers says there’s some research suggesting that dairy products are actually helpful with weight loss (think: protein-rich Greek yogurt, even cheese). Plus, the calcium in dairy can be crucial if you’re trying to drop pounds. “As you lose weight, you can also lose bone,” says Barr. “If you have sufficient calcium intake during weight loss, that can reduce the impact on bone density.” Of course: “You do get calcium from broccoli or kale,” adds Barr. And these amazing sources of calcium perfect for vegans can also fill you up.

Plus, a few years ago, I was so bloated could barely wear jeans. Over the course of the day, my stomach would expand so much from everything I ate (wake up feeling bloated? Here’s what to eat). Since giving up dairy? My tummy stays pretty flat all day long—even after lunch. While I used to grab a half-sandwich and soup, now I make sure my lunch has lean meat, veggies, and fruit.

I kissed PMS goodbye.

Awful period symptoms before my cycle started used to be something that happened on the reg. My breasts would also swell up—perhaps due to the estrogen in most milk and cheese products (after all, dietary choices *can* be one of the things making your PMS worse).

While it might seem insane to think that giving up dairy and my beloved Brie could make such a difference in my lady parts, these days I rarely have PMS. In fact, I’m often surprised when my period comes because everything stays just the same.

I look forward to the gym.

By the time 6:30 p.m. rolled around in years past, I would find myself feeling pretty gross, and I’d often find excuses for why I didn’t want to exercise. Even if I did make it to the gym, I wouldn’t give 100 percent and I hated how I looked.

After giving up dairy? I also got rid of that feeling I used to have at the end of the day. Now I work out five days a week—and I actually look forward to it. I fell in love with boxing (it *can* be life-changing), boot camp-style, and high-intensity interval training classes, and I’ve mastered the yoga headstand.

My strength is up and so is my confidence: I make it out on more dates, I’m always up for a 5K with friends, I don’t need my knees to do push-ups anymore, and I love the way I feel drenched in sweat. (Related: 10 Ways to Fall Back in Love with the Gym)

My acne is gone.

I’ve always had acne-prone skin, and though I went on Accutane a few years ago, I’d still suffer occasional breakouts (BTW, these are the spot treatments derms swear by). I never really thought much of it, until giving up dairy. Then, I noticed I’d get a breakout once a month—if that.

By letting go of my cheese-and-meat-and-crackers snack and trips to the frozen yogurt shop, I’ve been able to wear less makeup, and I’ve even noticed my blue eyes to be even brighter.

I’m happier.

One of the best realizations that has come from giving up dairy? How great I feel when I put the right things into my body—and how terrible I feel when I don’t. While we all splurge now and then (we’re human, it’s allowed!), I don’t crave unhealthy food as often as I did before. And though there are things I miss—hot fudge sundaes and steak and cheese quesadillas, ahh—I love how I feel without them more. (Related: 6 Foods to Fix Your Mood)

Additional reporting by Julie Stewart.

  • By Lindsay Tiger

I Went Dairy-Free Like Khloé Kardashian And This Is What Went Down

As some of you may have noticed, I’ve been very much about fad diets lately. I did my own tea cleanse that ended in disaster, dehydration and a burning assh*le.

But that did not deter me. So here I am, back again with another wild endeavor. This time, I’m going a healthier route. I promise.

I’m not overweight, but I have trouble maintaining my weight. I gain it very easily and can never seem to lose enough. Recently, Khloé Kardashian admitted in an interview that the reason her body has been looking so fierce lately is because she gave up dairy. She lost 11 pounds in a month just by not having milk products! It sounds so easy, right?

What Saint Khloé says goes. I would trust her with my life. So, I, too, am going dairy-free.

According to Diet Doctor (this website may not be an actual doctor), cutting down on dairy is essential to losing weight when you’ve plateaued. Dairy could actually be the culprit behind your slowing weight loss:

Dairy products all contain a varying amount of lactose (the milk sugar), which slows down weight loss. What’s more, part of the protein in milk generates an insulin response, which can have the same effect.

Unfortunately, I have an intense addiction to cheese, chocolate and essentially anything with dairy in it. I’m already gluten-free, a side effect of being a basic white girl, so cheese has always been a kind of comfort food for me.

But as the old saying goes, “Why have cheese when you can, instead, be sad?” Come with me, little ones, on my journey down a cheese-less, chocolate-devoid existence as I attempt to lose weight and to get just a little bit closer to the goddess Khloé.

Disclaimer: I want to lose weight for my own personal reasons but in no way do I feel that anyone else needs to lose weight, and also probably no one should emulate me ever.

Week One, Day One

Step one was eliminating the delicious half-and-half I put in my coffee each morning. Goodbye, sweet angelic cream.

Bae and I spent about 500 hours in the dairy section of our bargain grocery store looking for almond milk. Every time I picked up a carton and read the ingredients, I would say to anyone who could hear (sorry, Mike): “What the f*ck is this?” Because all the f*cking almond milk was full of bullsh*t sugar. You think you’re being healthy when you drink this? Well, you’re not.

So when we finally found one that said ~unsweetened~, I felt satisfied.

The milk was actually quite palatable. It tasted just like two percent milk, even though it made my coffee look like Porta-Potty water on the third day of Coachella.

The stuff we get at Elite Daily is mad sweet and gross, so I was pleasantly surprised that giving up my half-and-half for my coffee wasn’t hell on earth.

The cheese cravings, though. I was just waiting for them to begin. You can take the girl out of the mozzarella, but you can’t take the mozzarella out of the girl, ya dig?

Week One, Day Two

Bae and I went out to dinner and quickly realized that f*cking everything has dairy. I could not have the appetizer I wanted, because asiago is a cheese.

I asked our server if the asiago-crusted crostinis were dairy-free, and she looked at me like I was a crackhead who had wandered off the street. So I went with the steak.

This restaurant is one of my favorites. They have this dangerously good apple pie à la mode. I felt super blessed to not be able to have it.

Saint Khloé, you better be right about this, because I just spent $106 on a meal without having apple tart à la mode.

Week One, Day Six

During lunchtime, I had a hard time deciding on salad because I go to a place where I get five toppings for $10. I have my go-to salad: chicken, tomatoes, avocado, almonds and mozzarella.

I couldn’t have moz because of this dairy-free bullsh*t, so I spent my entire time in line trying to figure out what to get. Making a salad is an art. It’s as delicate as navigating foreign policy. I couldn’t simply replace the moz. I had to completely rethink my choices.

In the end, I ended up doing OK for myself. I went with chicken, egg, avocado, chickpeas and roasted red peppers topped with olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

I was surprised at how light I felt after. I was full, but not weighed down. I felt like I was still functioning at top performance levels, not at all falling subject to that dreaded midday food coma.

Week Two, Day One

I decided to be a masochist and started Googling pictures of cheese.

I just had to look at them. I needed to remind myself of what I couldn’t have. I’d been making a lot of vegetables. I was getting really sick of f*cking vegetables.

Week Two, Day Four

After two and a half weeks of dairy-free life, my abs were more defined. I felt like the intense ab workouts I’d been doing six times a week were finally showing. I saw the line down the middle of my belly becoming more defined. It really was encouraging.

It might have been because I was cutting down on extra calories overall, but I really started to believe they hype this day. Milk definitely slows down weight loss.

Week Three, Day One

Cream, cream, beautiful delicious creamy cream.

At this point, I missed the cream in my coffee more than I’d like to admit. Drinking it black was OK, but I didn’t exactly like it.

Almond milk was still not readily available, and when it was, it was the sugary kind. I certainly didn’t trust the curmudgeons at Starbucks to keep sugar out of their coconut milk. So black was essentially the only way to go.

I really wanted chocolate. Like so badly. The kind of chocolate cravings you only get when you’re on day three of your period and that sh*t is raging.

For the last three weeks, I’d been vacillating between moments of clarity and complete dairy desperation.

Week Three, Day Four

What was in the fridge at work this morning but UNSWEETENED ALMOND MILK? I literally jumped for joy when I saw it. I made my coffee. I was so excited to have it.

But alas, it was so unsatisfactory. It wasn’t creamy enough. It made me sad.

Week Three, Day Five

Last night, I had my first sex dream about cheese. Mozzarella, to be exact. I was thinking about hot, dripping melting moz on fresh cut tomatoes just oozing into my mouth. I’m getting wet just thinking about it now. Oh cheese, I miss you so.

Fresh and sharp. On toothpicks. Waiting to be devoured.

Week Four

During the final seven days of my perilous, cheese-less, chocolate-deprived diet, I was actually feeling great. My clothes were looser, my abs were more defined, and I was finally used to almond milk. I was even enjoying it.

Unfortunately, forgoing my cheese addiction led to my developing another addiction to compensate. It came on during week three, but I didn’t recognize it was a problem until later.

I became hopelessly obsessed with Amazon.

Over this last weekend, I spent $500 on bullsh*t I did not need, and payday was still 12 days away.

Why did I need three new crop tops, two leotards, a blender, headphones, a fanny pack (I don’t want to talk about it, OK?), three berets in various colors and a bunch of bralettes that wouldn’t even fit over my D-cup titties? I don’t know, but I did. I bought it all.

Conclusions

When all was said and done, I lost five pounds over the four weeks I went dairy free. Khloé definitely did not lead me astray. While losing a few extra pounds was great, it was hard AF.

I ate my weight in ice cream as soon as I found a spoon. Yes, I bought ice cream to have for breakfast after I was finished killing myself, OK? Don’t you judge me. Don’t you DARE.

I plan to stay away from cheese and milk as much as possible in the future, but cutting dairy out completely for the rest of my life just sounds like a miserable way to live. Give me ice cream or give me death.

March 20, 2012— — “Good Morning America” is teaming up with Reader’s Digest on a special series, “13 Things Experts Won’t Tell You.” This month, Reader’s Digest unveils the secrets to weight loss, as outlined in the new book, “The Digest Diet,” a new, healthy-living plan that lists foods, exercises, and lifestyle tips that help you release fat fast.

1. You have to eat fat to beat fat.

While too much of the wrong fat (certain saturated fats in highly processed meats and trans fat found in some cookies and crackers) is bad for your health and waistline, a diet rich in the right fat — good unsaturated fats — can help both.

Good fats, like monounsaturated fatty acids (MUFAs) in olive oil, nuts, and avocados have proven to be powerful reducers of belly fat. Other sources of good fat are the polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs); found in fish and its oil, and in many nuts and seeds, PUFAs help release fat, too. A Dutch study found that consumption of PUFAs lead to a higher resting metabolic rate (the calories used just to live), as well as a greater DIT, or diet-induced calorie burn. PUFAs are also burned faster than saturated fats in the body.

What’s more, fats help you feel full—they have 9 calories per gram compared to 4 for protein or carbs. So a small nibble of something yummy, like a handful of nuts or some peanut butter on whole wheat crackers, can help you feel full for hours.

2. A daily dose of chocolate can trim your waistline.

If you’re like us, you welcome any new excuse to add more chocolate into your life. To release fat, here’s the trick: Go heavy on the cocoa and light on sugar. Cocoa contains more antioxidants than most foods and is good for so many things, including — when consumed in moderation — weight loss.

In a June 2011 study from the Journal of Nutrition, researchers looked at the effect that antioxidants found in cocoa had on obese diabetic mice. (Since a diabetic’s lifespan is, on average, seven years shorter, they were looking for any antiaging promise that increasing dietary intake of this flavonoid might give.) Their findings: The mice lived longer. The cocoa reduced degeneration of their aortic arteries, and it blunted fat deposition.

To add more cocoa into your diet, buy unsweetened cocoa and add it to shakes, coffee, and other recipes.

3. Dairy promotes weight loss.

Unfortunately some myths persist that dairy sabotages weight loss, but science proves this couldn’t be further from the truth. Research shows that those who have deficiencies in calcium hold a greater fat mass and experience less control of their appetite. What’s more, studies have found that dairy sources of calcium — like yogurt, low- or nonfat cheese, and milk — are markedly more effective in accelerating fat loss than other sources.

In one study out of the University of Tennessee, researchers showed that eating three servings of dairy daily significantly reduced body fat in obese subjects. If they restricted calories a bit while continuing with the same dairy servings, it accelerated fat and weight loss.

4. Losing weight early and fast is best.

Besides giving you a great psychological boost right out of the gate, losing weight quickly may also help you keep it off longer. To those of us who are used to hearing that slow and steady wins the race, this news is a little shocking and counterintuitive.

In a 2010 University of Florida study, when researchers analyzed data on 262 middle-aged women who were struggling with obesity, they demonstrated that shedding weight fast lead to larger overall weight loss and longer-term success in keeping it off.

5. Exercise alone is not an effective weight loss tool — you have to pair it with the right diet.

Thinking you can eat whatever you want as long as you work it off later is actually a pretty dangerous mind-set, particularly if you look at the current research. Exercise alone leads to a very modest decrease in total body weight: less than 3 percent!

I learned this lesson the hard way. From 1998 to 2006, I was the executive editor of Fitness magazine. Studying the fitness research and trying the trends were all part of my job. For years, I believed that I could eat anything I wanted because I was exercising so much. But the more I exercised, the hungrier I was. And the more I ate, the more I needed to exercise to maintain a healthy weight. Here’s what happened: I saw a steady increase in my body weight of a pound a year.

6. The difference between being overweight and a healthy weight may boil down to one move: fidgeting.

Research shows that people who are naturally lean—you know the sort: They seem to eat all day, whatever they want, and never gain a pound or an inch—automatically, even subconsciously, find ways to move to make up for any extra calories they may be ingesting.

Believe it or not, spontaneous physical activity (SPA) like fidgeting, bending, brushing your hair, doing dishes, etc. can burn 350 or more calories a day, according to Mayo Clinic research.

7. Ditch the long cardio sessions. The best way to burn fat is with interval training.

Nod your head if you do the same workout over and over. You just hit that treadmill, elliptical, or jogging path and you put in your time. Unfortunately, this exercise strategy can actually backfire when it comes to weight loss and fat burning.

Aerobic exercise demands that you increase your energy output. Because our body is always trying to stay in balance, this type of movement may actually act as a biological cue to make you eat more, which can sabotage weight-loss efforts.

Besides that, research shows that continuous aerobic exercise isn’t nearly as effective a weight-control strategy as surprising your body with aerobic interval training (short bursts of heart-pounding work, also known as HIIT, or high intensity interval training) or strength training (push-ups, squats, anything that builds muscle and power).

8. TV time is OK — but make it a sitcom.

We’re not recommending you ditch your exercise routine and sit on your couch popping handfuls of chips. But TV isn’t the weight loss devil that many experts make it out to be, particularly if you use it to make you smile and laugh.

Here’s why: Stress takes an enormous toll on your health (research shows it can increase belly fat and slow down weight loss), and laughing is the perfect stress-relieving, fat releasing antidote.

What’s more, it’s a pretty potent calorie burner in its’ own right. When British researchers looked into the number of calories burned by intense laughing and compared it to the calorie burn of other daily activities (strength training, running, even vacuuming), they found that an hour of intense laughter can burn as many calories—up to 120—as a half hour hitting it hard at the gym!

9. The real reason you’re craving junk food? You’re thinking too hard!

If you’re like many office workers, your desk job gives you a double fat increasing whammy: Not only are you sitting, inactive, at a desk for most of the day, but this type of mental, knowledge-based work actually makes it more difficult to control appetite and may make us eat more calories and fat.

Research suggests that because brain neurons rely almost exclusively on glucose as fuel, intense mental work leads to unstable glucose levels. Since the work requires glucose for maximum brainpower — well, we naturally reach for more fuel.

To outsmart this fat increaser, it’s important to fuel up on hunger-fighting foods high in filling fiber, protein and calcium. So the next time you feel that hunger pang, reach for a fat-free Greek yogurt or baby carrots with a tablespoon of peanut butter instead of a bag of chips.

10. A glass of wine a day is an effective fat releaser!

So many people have asked me if it’s okay to have a drink when trying to lose weight. Good news: Many studies clearly show that a small glass of red wine a day is good for your health. Now numerous animal studies are highlighting its great promise as a fat releaser.

In one large study of more than 19,000 middle-aged women of normal weight, those who were light to moderate drinkers had less weight gain and less risk of becoming overweight than those who drank no alcohol. And in another separate animal study done in 2006, the researchers found that resveratrol, a powerful antioxidant found in red wine, improved exercise endurance as well as protected against diet-induced obesity and insulin resistance, a precursor to diabetes.

11. All sugar isn’t evil when it comes to weight loss.

It’s no secret that America has a sugar problem: According to the American Heart Association, we eat 22 teaspoons a day on average. (They recommend six for women and nine for men.) While cutting back on sugar consumption all around is a smart, healthy move, you should also consider swapping some of your sugar for honey.

Honey has also shown great promise in animal studies for reducing weight gain and adiposity (fatness) when substituted for sugar. It’s a nutritious fat releasing alternative that also boasts antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties. It may improve blood sugar control, is a great cough suppressant, and it boosts immunity.

12. Skimping on sleep can negate your calorie cutting.

How long you sleep directly affects your body mass. One study found that dieters who got 8 1/2 hours of sleep nightly lost 56 percent more body fat than they did when eating the same diet but got just 51/2 hours of sleep a night. Other Columbia University research revealed that people may eat 300 extra calories a day when they get a few hours less sleep than usual.

Sleep deprivation interferes with the hormones leptin and ghrelin that regulate appetite. That means you’ll feel hungrier and are more likely to indulge in poorer eating behaviors. Also, you may look for more energy in the form of unhealthy snacks!

13. Your secret weight loss weapon may be a good HEPA air filter.

More and more research reveals that the toxins, chemicals, and compounds riddling our food supply and self-care products are contributing to the nation’s collective fat creep.

And air pollution is a particularly bad fat increaser: A 2011 study from the College of Public Health at Ohio State University found just that: Exposure to fine particulate matter (air pollution) induced insulin resistance, reduced glucose tolerance, and increased inflammation, leading researchers to mark long-term exposure to air pollution as a risk factor for diabetes. And as we know, diabetes and obesity are close cousins (80 to 85 percent of those diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes are obese).

for more information about weight loss from “The Digest Diet.”

Read more “13 Things …” from Reader’s Digest

Benefits of Going Dairy-Free

There are a lot of diet plans, old and new. We want to take some time to explore the healthy options out there. The Real Reasons is a series designed to help you navigate the maze and find your best nutrition plan.

Many of us grew up believing that milk was a necessary part of a healthy diet. We were told that milk and dairy products, in general, give us strong bones and keeps us healthy. Yet, a trend is growing in America of completely avoiding dairy.

What is this trend about? Is it healthy? Do doctors recommend it? What are the reasons to go dairy-free?

We don’t need dairy

As it turns out, it is completely healthy to go dairy-free.

Though dairy has some benefits, we don’t necessarily need it in our diets, even though it is often listed as a major food group.

Many of the health benefits found in dairy can be found in other foods.

This may take a bit of mind-stretching to change the way we think about what we eat, but here we’ll present facts and let you decide whether dairy is right for you.

Americans are drinking less milk

Looking at major food trends, the US Department of Agriculture finds that Americans drank 6% less milk in April 2017 than in April 2016, and this trend has been going for several years.

That’s about 78.8 million fewer pounds of milk in a single month.

The USDA also reported that the number of Americans drinking milk “decreased significantly” in 2010 compared to the 1970’s. Meanwhile, dairy substitutes like almond milk and soy products are growing. Plus, with the growth of veganism and diets like the Paleo diet, the trend of going dairy-free is only growing.

But before digging into the facts on dairy, let’s look at the dairy-free lifestyle and what it means.

What is Dairy-Free?

Dairy consists of all milk and its derived products.

This means cutting out not only milk, but cream, half-and-half, ice cream, yogurt, cheese, sour cream, butter, and kefir. Don’t forget about goat or sheep milk.

Many baked goods contain butter or cream, so it is important to check the ingredients when going dairy-free. Also, ask about the ingredients at restaurants if you are dairy-free. Many dips and sauces also contain dairy.

For some reason, many believe that eggs fall under dairy, probably since the idea of dairy products makes us think of farms. Eggs are not dairy, however, those many avoid eating eggs for their own reasons.

Dairy provides important nutrients, such as calcium, so avoiding it may require you to supplement your diet with other non-dairy high-calcium foods. Eat a lot of dark green leafy vegetables like collard greens and kale. Also eat sea vegetables, sardines, and salmon with the bone.

If you love dairy but want to go dairy-free, you may be worrying that you’ll miss some of your favorite dairy products. There are plenty of alternatives. You can use olive oil instead of butter, oat milk instead of regular milk, avocado instead of sour cream, or sorbet and banana ice cream instead of dairy ice cream.

Tofu is a great substitute for cheese, and mushrooms could take the place of the cheese on your pizza. Try using almond or soy milk as a substitute for animal milk, such as in smoothies.

The Truth About Dairy

For a long time, we have been told that dairy is good for you–even that it’s an essential part of your diet. Much of what we’ve heard about dairy has been so ingrained into us that it’s hard to separate fact from fiction. So let’s sort out the myths and find out what is true about dairy.

The USDA food pyramid is way outdated

Whatever your stance is on dairy, the food pyramid set forth by the USDA is not scientifically sound. Though it was embraced for years, many have called into question whether we really need three glasses of milk a day.

Dr. Walter Willett, M.D., Ph.D., head of nutrition at the Harvard School of Public Health and the second-most-cited scientist in all of clinical science, is a huge critic of the USDA food pyramid. He even goes so far as to call it “utterly ridiculous.”

The fact is, many of the “experts” who put together the food pyramid actually worked in the dairy industry. Thus they had their industries, rather than the public interest, in mind.

If you’re looking for some guidance, check out MyPlate instead- It is basically an updated version of the pyramid, but provides a more practical and accurate representation of what we should eat.

Dairy is not the magical answer to strong bones

Though the idea remains a popular belief, drinking milk will not guarantee the disappearance of the risk of you breaking your bones! In fact, the Nurses’ Health Study did a 12-year study on over 77,000 women setting out to prove whether drinking 2 or more glasses of milk, instead of 1 glass, helps reduce bone fractures. They found the opposite was true. Those who drank more milk were 50% more likely to get bone fractures.

Although components of dairy, such as calcium, are believed to gives us strong bones, many parts of the world where dairy is consumed much less–like Asia and Africa–have the lowest incidence of osteoporosis.

Now that we’ve uncovered some facts about dairy, we’re left wondering what are the health benefits of going dairy-free. So let’s take some time to delve into the dairy-free diet and see how it can improve one’s health.

Cutting dairy could lead to weight loss

A lot of foods fall under dairy. Ice cream and milk chocolate all the way to fat-free cottage cheese are dairy. So will cutting it entirely cause weight loss? The answer is yes.

Though many of us enjoy a filling slice of cheese, it’s little secret that cutting dairy will lead to weight loss. Especially cutting treats like whole-milk products and replacing them with nut milk will greatly increase your chances of burning fat and losing weight.

If you absolutely must have some dairy in your diet, make sure to avoid full-fat milk. We talked about saturated fat last week, something to limit and avoid if you can. Saturated fat leads to unhealthy cholesterol. Whole milk contains lots of saturated fat, so we recommend going for skim or fat-free milk.

Going dairy-free may clear your skin

Many studies show that increased dairy consumption can actually lead to more acne in the skin, especially in teens. A lot of people report that their skin clears up after they cut dairy from their diet. Why would dairy affect the presence of acne? Some believe it’s the presence of growth hormones in milk, while others point to the spikes in sugar and insulin upon consuming lactose.

Most people are lactose intolerant

Chances are, if you’re reading this, you’re lactose intolerant. According to the NIH, 65% of the world’s population has a reduced ability to digest lactose after infancy. If you are one of them, consuming dairy could cause you to have gas, bloating, cramps, or diarrhea. But what is lactose intolerance, exactly?

Lactase is an enzyme in your body that helps you digest lactose, the primary sugar found in dairy. Lactose intolerance is a result of having enough of the enzyme lactase to digest dairy correctly. So if you are lactose intolerant, it’s worth avoiding dairy altogether.

Consuming less dairy may help your digestion

Many suffer from lactose intolerance, so it’s understandable they would want to avoid dairy. But even for those without lactose intolerance, lactose can have a huge impact on irritable bowel syndrome. Not fun. Many report stomach bloating and cramps drop significantly when cutting dairy.

If you can’t live without dairy, many products are much lower in lactose than others, such as aged cheese. Some dairy products are even infused with the enzyme lactase to make it easier to digest.

We should also point out that dairy is very low in fiber. Ever heard the story of the person who ate way too much cheese and was constipated for a week? There is some truth to the urban legend. It turns out that fiber greatly helps your body digest. So when you consume large amounts of dairy and less of fiber-full foods, you’ll likely find it hard to digest.

Milk can be full of growth hormones and antibiotics

Often, the farmer gives cows growth hormones so that they will produce more milk. They also use antibiotics on the cows. This seeps into the milk they produce, which we then consume. Unfortunately, this could lead to antibiotic-resistant diseases in the long run. Not to mention increasing the number of unwanted chemicals in our food.

If you do drink milk, go for organic. It’s free of antibiotics (to keep the milk clean) and growth hormones (to treat the cows humanely). Organic farms take a stand for healthy food and against unfair treatment of animals, so we’re fans.

Veganism calls for a dairy-free diet

We give a round of applause to the vegan lifestyle. Veganism is avoiding the use of all animal products in order to promote the humane treatment of animals and help the environment. This means not consuming any meat, eggs, and of course, dairy.

Going dairy-free is easier than you think

Did we mention that 75% of the world has a natural, adverse reaction to dairy? That means if you want to go dairy-free, there are already 5.7 billion people who are already lactose intolerant. Much of the world has stayed away from dairy already. It’s not too hard!

There are so many non-dairy substitutes out there, as we’ve already mentioned. We think that if you choose to go dairy-free, you’ll be surprised at how easily it left your life.

In Conclusion

The benefits of the dairy-free lifestyle are immense. In addition to losing weight and clearing your skin, you could be helping the environment and saving animals.

We believe it’s a possible journey for you, should you wish to take it. If you can stomach dairy and choose to keep it in your diet, go for raw, organic products. These are healthier for you and the environment. We always recommend checking the ingredients. A lot of yogurts, especially, have added sugar.

Whatever decision you make, we hope you always choose to eat fresh ingredients and keep yourself healthy.

Hopefully, you learned a lot about dairy and are now equipped to make the best choice for yourself and your diet.

Dennis Gross, a celebrity dermatologist to stars such as Rosie Huntington-Whiteley and Zoë Kravitz, said though studies cannot conclude there is a link between the two, he has seen patients whose skin have improved after scaling back dairy consumption. “There is no clinical data that shows that consuming dairy has any negative impact on the skin,” said Gross. “However, anecdotally in my career, I’ve heard people say that skin-care issues such as eczema have improved after limiting dairy consumption.”

New York–based dermatologist Ellen Marmur’s patients have also seen the benefits of cutting out dairy. “Food sensitivities are intimately connected to your skin,” she said. “Swelling and inflammation of the GI tract and its surrounding interstitial fluid can cause acne and other rashes like rosacea.” The connection between internal organs and your skin has also been raised in traditional Chinese medicine; the face-mapping technique outlines what could be wrong with your body based on where breakouts are located on the face. Unsurprisingly, my two problem areas, the forehead and chin, are both linked to digestion and the stomach.

While quitting dairy may help end stubborn breakouts, it may not prove an effective cure-all for everyone. Marmur suggests tracking food intake and monitoring how the skin reacts, a process that can shine light on the real root of the problem. Gluten and even fruits or lettuce can also be dietary triggers for acne, she said. “You might see acne flares one to two days after you ingest a trigger food like dairy,” Marmur said. “If you detect a repeated pattern of milk consumption with acne developing shortly after, and you notice a pattern of clear skin when you avoid dairy, then you’ve answered your question.” She also said food sensitivities can change or develop as the body changes, especially after pregnancy, therefore it’s best to monitor when and how acne flare-ups occur.

However, if your skin’s main issue is with dairy, like myself, how it reacts also varies from person to person. Gross said it depends on how much—and what kind—of dairy each person is consuming. “Dairy consumption does, in my experience, affect a certain, selective number of people, but not everybody,” Gross said. “I think it might make a difference if someone is consuming organic milk versus milk where the animals are fed hormones. It’s possible those added ingredients can make it into the blood stream of my patients and induce acne.” In general, fresher cheeses contain more lactose than aged cheeses, which means cheeses like feta and ricotta, my old favorites, are higher in lactose, and now my enemy.

Today, even though my skin is still far from perfect—occasional flare-ups still occur!—I at least know what the main culprit is. Since embarking on my dairy-free quest, my skin has managed to stay relatively calm. I’ve learned dairy is actually hidden in a lot of foods—like in an innocent hummus or salad dressing, for instance. Sometimes, it’s completely unavoidable, even in a vegan-friendly place like New York City. (My skin is still recovering from a parmesan fiasco a few weeks ago—and it was barely a dusting!) And though I have yet to be officially tested for dairy intolerance, which can be determined via a hydrogen breath test or blood sugar test, my skin’s violent reaction to it continues to be a good enough diagnosis for me.

No matter how trying it may be, making a conscious choice to forgo that much-beloved whole milk latte every morning is a small price to pay for a clearer complexion. Almond milk is my new best friend. And if I ever feel the need to sneak in a bite of cake or, god forbid, cheese? I at least know what that slipup will be getting my skin into—and that’s something I can finally live with.

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Since I first got hormonal acne in eighth grade, I’ve tried three-step skincare programs like AcneFree and Proactiv. I’ve slathered on prescription creams like Retin-A and Aczone. I’ve taken three rounds of oral antibiotics and the hypertension drug spironolactone (which can also be used to treat hormonal acne). I’ve even done the natural thing like washing my face with honey and coconut oil every day.

I tried it all. And nothing really helped.

Amanda Becker

My acne struggle completely consumed my life. My daily mood was determined by the number of zits on my chin each morning. I wouldn’t go anywhere without my powder foundation and concealer brush (for touchups throughout the day), and I’d get very anxious if I didn’t have a mirror on-hand to glance at my face every minute.

Things went on like this for a long time. Then in 2016, I read an article in which the author cut out dairy (along with soy, coffee, and high-glycemic foods) to try to control her hormonal acne. I was really impressed with her results—and wondered if that was something I should try, too.

‘Was my dairy addiction causing my acne?’

Courtesy of Daley Quinn

In the article, the author discussed how part of her success came from working with a San Francisco-based acne clinic called Skin Salvation—which works with its clients to treat acne through skincare and lifestyle changes.

When I called up Skin Salvation, the clinic’s founder and esthetician, Kimberly Yap Tan, delivered a bombshell: She recommended I cut out dairy.

Tan says that the hormones in cow’s milk could be messing with the hormones in my body—which in turn was likely triggering my acne. It would first cause inflammation, she said, followed by the actual acne cyst that would pop up four weeks later.

There are a few caveats to this, though. While some research has shown a connection between some kinds of dairy (particularly skim milk) and acne, it’s not clear what’s behind the association—although Tan’s theory about hormones is shared by some dermatologists. And dairy doesn’t flat-out cause acne in everyone who drinks it. It generally just seems to make acne worse for people already prone to it.

Because it takes at least a month for new pimples to form, Tan recommended cutting dairy (and coffee, which can have a similar inflammatory effect) for at least three months. That way I’d have a better sense of how much my skin was truly impacted by what I ate.

‘Fake cheese is the worst.’

I was really dreading cutting out dairy. Because…I love dairy. Cheese was a regular part of my diet (same with yogurt and creamy pasta dishes).

But because I wanted acne-free skin so badly, I forced myself to make it work. And after a few weeks, I discovered that the foods I was eating weren’t so bad. Here’s an example of a day in my diet:

  • Breakfast: Instead of my usual latte and Greek yogurt, I’d eat eggs with smoked salmon and capers on an English muffin with an English Breakfast tea.
  • Lunch: Instead of adding cheese to my soup or sandwich, I’d go without. Or I’d try takeout from Asian and Mediterranean restaurants, where the cuisine isn’t so focused on dairy.
  • Dinner: This was the easiest meal to tweak, because I found that coconut milk did a good job at replacing cow’s milk. I discovered a dairy-free, creamy smoked salmon pasta recipe (I love smoked salmon, can you tell?) that called for coconut milk and nutritional yeast instead of heavy cream, and I could barely taste the difference between the dairy-based and dairy-free alternative.

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Starting off #friyay with fish and some new friends👌🏻@deenybopper @justkallmekarin @thesmithrestaurant

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The hardest part: eliminating cheese. There aren’t a lot of great alternatives. Yes, there are soy- and nut-based cheeses available on the market, but they’re either too hard to find or just taste weird and rubbery. I usually preferred to just order pizza without the cheese than to get one that had the fake stuff—that’s how much I dislike cheese substitutes.

‘I totally overhauled my skincare routine, too.’

Cutting dairy and coffee weren’t the only changes I made. At Tan’s suggestion, I also looked up the ingredients on all my skincare and makeup products on Skin Salvation’s comedogenic ingredient search tool.

This might seem excessive, but I ended up having to get rid of a lot of my favorite products—because they were actually filled with ingredients that could clog my pores. Some common culprits were coconut oil (I feel so betrayed!) and sodium lauryl sulfate, which is the stuff that makes shampoos and body washes foam.

After my huge beauty product purge, I decided to only use products with ingredients that were non-comedogenic (a.k.a. non-pore-clogging). I did my research and started using some of Skin Salvation’s line of acne-safe products, as well as some PCA Skin products, too.

‘It’s been two years—and now I rarely ever get acne.’

It took time, but after about three months, I started to notice the difference in my skin. I wasn’t getting any new cystic pimples on my chin, and my post-acne redness was drastically fading. My face also seemed to look a lot less red and inflamed all the time.

Other, non-skin-related perks: I felt surprisingly less lethargic and sluggish (even though I had given up coffee, too). The difference in how I felt about myself and my skin was incredible, too. Because I didn’t have new pimples, I wasn’t so focused on getting rid of them all the time—or hiding them with makeup. It was freeing.

Courtesy of Daley Quinn

I have been mostly dairy-free for a little over two years now, and I’m still amazed by the fact that, after having at least one pimple on my face at all times while consuming a dairy-filled diet, I now very rarely ever suffer from cystic acne.

Sometimes I will get a whitehead after trying a new foundation or moisturizer that doesn’t cooperate with my sensitive skin, but they go away quickly and are never as painful as the cysts I used to get.

And while I occasionally indulge in some dairy-filled mac and cheese (the heart wants what it wants!), I now don’t get too upset when I see a pimple pop up a few weeks later—because I know where it came from.

This whole experiment really showed me how powerful food is. I’ve learned to listen to my body when it’s crying for better treatment. I know cutting dairy isn’t the solution for everyone. But if you’re anything like I was two years ago, it might be a game-changer for you, too.

Daley Quinn Daley Quinn is a Connecticut-born, Texas-bred beauty & wellness writer living in New York City.

Dairy Free Diet for Acne

The subject of whether dairy is a contributing factor to your acne problem is open for scientific debate, and it’s still controversial. While most experts will agree that acne can be irritated by traditional milk, how exactly these two are connected is something they haven’t figured out yet. But, is that really important to you? Does it really matter how, if this way or another you need to say goodbye to everything that contains milk… And, that’s everything?! Yes, I feel your frustration. Why all the things that are truly sooo gooood, must be soo bad for us? It’s a major life decision and includes a lot of sacrifices. So, will it be worth it? Let’s find out.

Are Dairy Products the Cause of Your Acne?

Yes, they can be. The truth is, acne is a condition that can be affected by so many factors, and each skin is individual – genetics, hormones, lifestyles, and other personal, unique elements affect your complexion. You can’t know for sure unless you decide to experiment, go without dairy for a while and see how your skin will react, and whether there will be an improvement.

However, across the internet, the anecdotal evidence of people swearing they cured their acne by giving up dairy, is overwhelming.

The reason why dairy products may be triggering your breakouts is because of the high amount of hormones in the milk. Cows are treated with artificial hormones that affect their milk supply. And, even without the artificial hormones, just like human’s, cow’s milk is a liquid product produced from the mammary glands while the cow is pregnant, intended for the cow’s baby. Because we are not cows, and certainly not babies, milk can have an adverse effect on our body. For one thing, it’s high in saturated fats and cholesterol, which leads to obesity, heart disease, and type 2 diabetes. Some studies have linked it with prostate cancer in men, and with ovarian cancer in women. And now, new evidence is piling up, showing that the consumption of cow’s milk correlates to the prevalence of acne in girls and boys. It doesn’t help the fact that according to some surveys, up to 75% of the world’s adult population is intolerant to lactose. This means that if your body is intolerant to lactose, your face is surely taking some of the tolls.

Can Cutting Out Dairy Clear Your Skin?

No one can tell you for sure unless you try it and see for yourself. The good thing is, today we have so many tasty alternatives like almond milk, and the internet is exploding with information and mind-blowing recipes that taking time off dairy won’t feel like a sacrifice. But, again, is it worth the effort? Here is what some people experienced, and then you can see what the research has to say.

According to the Insider, some dermatologists advise against milk consumption. For example, Sarika Snell, a dermatologist in Washington DC stated: “Cutting dairy improves skin texture, skin tone, and acne.” Rachel Lapidos shares her story in Wellandgood, “The benefits definitely outweigh the taste—I feel healthier, and I’ve been trying to get clear skin for years. I’ll do anything to maintain this glow.” On the other hand, some people have had different experiences, like the one Erin Lukas shares in Instyle: “After three months of abstaining, I started incorporating dairy back into my diet after coming to the conclusion with my dermatologist that I needed an oral treatment to properly control my hormonal acne.”

What Does The Research Say?

Anecdotal evidence is great and all, but is there some truth in all of it, or people just want to believe it? Well, a number of studies support the idea that milk is connected with acne development. For example, one study from 2005, found that there was a correlation between acne breakouts and the total intake of milk and skim milk in teenage boys and girls. An article on the correlation between diet and acne published by the US National Institute of Medicine in 2010 advises more experts to study this connection since dermatologists can no longer dismiss the association between diet and acne.

Another study, made on a sample from the Malaysian population has found that milk and ice cream consumption are related to acne vulgaris. The theories and explanations behind these findings are that the growth hormones present naturally in milk can provoke acne formation. Another theory argues that, because of the high amount of hormones in the milk, it can throw your own hormones off balance. Yet, another theory presents the idea that when you combine milk with refined foods and processed sugars, the skin becomes more prone to acne.

How Long Until You See Results?

Some people swear they saw dramatic results after just one week of skipping dairy. Others give it more time, from 21 days to even three months. But, when we ask the experts they agree that one week is not enough. Approximately, it takes three to four weeks before you see improvements. Leave time so your body can detox and push the effects from diary out of its system. There’s no way around it -, patience is key when fishing for new skin treatments. But, hey… one month is nothing compared to a life of clear skin – if truly milk is responsible for your pimples.

Milk Alternatives Good For Acne

If you decided to give it a try, don’t despair. There are many alternatives today, that you won’t even notice you are off milk. Yes, you can even experiment with different flavors and find your best fit. Our personal favorite is almond milk. Why? Well, first it’s simply too tasty! Second, it has similar nutritional content to cow’s milk, just without the saturated fats. Third, it’s rich in vitamin E, which actually does wonders for the skin. You can go and read our article on almond milk for all the benefits you will get, or you can directly go to your local supermarket and give it a try.

Other Causes For Acne Breakouts

You went off dairy and nothing changed, so now you are confused? I’m sorry to tell you that if dairy was the only problem, acne would have been a thing in the past. But, unfortunately, there are many reasons why someone is breaking out.

Genetics

Unfortunately, acne prone skin is found to be hereditary. This means that if your parents had acne, you are more likely to suffer from frequent acne outbreaks too.

Hormones

Hormonal changes, like puberty, menopause, or PMS may be responsible for your acne. Don’t forget that sometimes, certain medications, deficiencies, diseases or other conditions can also cause a hormonal disbalance and make your skin prone to acne.

Stress

The link between milk and acne may be controversial, but the one between stress and acne is not. The more you stress, the more your skin will suffer. This is because sebaceous glands have stress receptors. When our body is undergoing some stressful situation, these receptors are triggered and the glands start producing sebum. An excess amount of sebum leads to clogged pores and more pimples.

Environment

The location and conditions in which you live have a profound effect on your skin’s health. Sun exposure, high humidity, extremely cold weather, polluted air, and other factors can make the skin more prone to acne. If you live in a place with unfavorable skin conditions, find a way to protect your face.

Makeup And Skincare Products

You must have heard about this one. Makeup and abrasive skincare products can do more damage than good, so be careful. Always look for non-comedogenic products, and if your skin is oily and prone to acne, avoid oil-based cosmetics. This goes without saying – never go to bed with your makeup on! Always, clean your face well, before hugging your pillow.

Dirt

Are you confused about this one? No, we don’t mean actual dirt. We mean, your hands, your mobile phone, your pillowcases, and everything else you let touch your face. You may not even notice it, but a lot of acne-causing bacteria comes from our own destructive habits. To be safe – avoid touching your face, and desensitize your phone.

Final Thoughts

Anecdotal and science-based the evidence that milk can be responsible for your never-ending breakouts is abounding. It’s still controversial though because the underlying reason is not as clear as some people think. At the end of the day, every skin is distinctive, and acne is a condition that can be caused by many different reasons. This means you have to try to know for sure. The good news is, there are no side-effects. What can you lose by going dairy-free for a month or two? Nothing, and you can always go back if you are not happy with the results. If you do make the decision, don’t miss out on the tasty alternatives.

12 Things That’ve Happened Since I Stopped Eating Dairy 4 Years Ago

It could be worth it.

By Jenny Sugar

As a young animal lover, I stopped eating meat when I was 13 years old, and dairy was an absolute staple. I didn’t think anything was wrong with it because it wasn’t like the cows were being killed, right? Wrong. So wrong.

It wasn’t until four years ago, when I watched the documentary Vegucated, that I found out how inhumane the dairy industry is. I had no idea! Cows are artificially impregnated at an alarming rate, and after they gave birth, their babies are brutally taken away from them immediately and hooked up to a machine to give their milk to us. I was sobbing watching a farmer drag a newborn calf away from its mama while she screamed and tried to chase after it as they held her back.

I live in Vermont, where the joke is that there are more cows than people. I spoke to tons of small family farms to find out the truth. They all nodded. I was shocked that one very well-known organic farm explained, “The reason we separate the calf right away is so they don’t bond. Already you can hear the moms and calves mooing to each other, and it’d be much worse if they stayed together.” It made me sick.

As a mother of two, my heart ached, and I felt compelled to give dairy up overnight.

Aside from feeling good about not supporting the cruel dairy industry, I had no idea how dramatically my life would improve over the past four years. Here are the amazing health benefits I experienced after going dairy-free.

1. I Lost Weight

I pretty much lived on pizza, ice cream, and chocolate, so when I gave up dairy, in just two months, I was able to lose some of the extra weight I was carrying around. My clothes felt looser and I felt more confident in my skin.

2. I Lowered My Cholesterol and Blood Pressure

Even though I was a vegetarian, my doctor was already worried about my unusually high cholesterol (close to 240!) and high blood pressure. I had a family history of heart problems — my grandfather died at age 54 from a heart attack. At age 37, my future wasn’t looking so good.

Instead of eating saturated fat, I focused on more unsaturated fats like nuts, olive oil, and eating plenty of this creamy pesto pasta made with avocado. My doctor was shocked at how within a few months of ditching dairy, I got those numbers under control. Four years later, my stats are still looking great.

3. I Felt Instantly Less Bloated

I should admit that I’m lactose intolerant in a MAJOR way. I had to take Lactaid pills every time I ate, or my bathroom would pay the consequence. Even when I took those pills, I was in a constant state of bloat. My body couldn’t digest dairy, and I was forcing it to. I should have listened to what my body was trying to tell me all those years.

4. I Ate Less Sugar

Before ditching dairy, vanilla Greek yogurt with fruit and granola was my go-to first meal of the day. I realized it was packed with sugar, and it just made me crave sugar all day long. Instead of switching to a dairy-free yogurt, I started eating foods that were lower in sugar like this banana-and-almond-butter-stuffed roasted sweet potato. Dairy is also in so many sugary treats like cookies and cakes, which I was eating tons of, and I felt much better not eating them.

5. My Skin Cleared Up

I suffered from terrible acne all throughout high school, and it continued through my 30s. It wasn’t until I gave up dairy and decreased my sugar intake that my skin cleared up and even had a soft glow.

6. My Allergies Disappeared

Within my first year of college (more than 20 years ago), the same time I discovered I was lactose intolerant, I also developed allergies and asthma. I was now allergic to the cats I had grown up with, and I was also now dealing with seasonal allergies. I was so congested that even after more than a year of antibiotics, my sinuses were so clogged that my ENT recommended sinus surgery.

I was constantly catching colds, had a lingering cough from postnasal drip, and had to sleep with a cough drop in my mouth and a box of tissues and an inhaler next to my bed. I couldn’t exercise intensely or I’d have a coughing attack. All it took was eliminating dairy, and within a week I could breathe easier. Four years later, I haven’t needed allergy or asthma meds — it’s amazing!

7. I Ate Healthier

Since my main food group was cheese, I had to look to other foods. Going dairy-free forced me to eat more veggies, beans, fruit, and whole grains — the foods I knew I should have been eating all along as a vegetarian, but was too busy eating grilled cheese. On a side note, all that fiber made my digestive system very happy, which also helped prevent belly bloat.

8. I Kicked Ass in My Workouts

Eating healthier and not feeling foggy-headed and bloated gave me so much energy! I could run faster and farther, lift heavier, hike higher, and had more than enough peppiness to play with my kids, which meant the world to me.

9. I Found a New Passion

With no ice cream, no mac and cheese, and no pizza, I was forced to get creative with recipes. People would buy me vegan cookbooks as gifts, and it totally ignited a passion for cooking I never knew I had. The kitchen is my new happy place, and feeding my family and friends nutritious foods feeds my soul (and so do these chocolate salted caramels!).

10. I Was Inspired to Meal Prep

With such a limited diet, finding healthy, delicious meals is nearly impossible. So now I’m always prepared. I make a week of mason jar salads for lunch, keep cut-up veggies and cooked whole grains, on hand for quick dinners, and always bring a veggie-inspired dish like vegan lasagna made with tofu ricotta when invited to dinner. Prepping meals in advance ensures that my daily diet is packed with nutritious foods.

11. I Tried New Foods

Growing up on pasta and bagels meant that I wasn’t exactly adventurous when it came to eating. Trying new foods actually scared me! But with such a limited diet, I had to break free from my comfort zone and try new foods like tofu, tempeh, quinoa, farro, jackfruit, and avocado (yes! I hadn’t tried one until four years ago!).

12. I Helped Others Become Healthier

People are shocked when I tell them a food I’ve made is dairy-free, like this vegan mac and cheese, made with cooked carrots and cashews. I’m able to show others that dairy-free foods can taste delicious, and it inspires them to eat less dairy, and to reap all the health benefits.

PopSugar provides informing, entertaining, and inspiring action through multi-platform content across entertainment, fashion, beauty, fitness, food, and parenting.

This article was originally published at PopSugar. Reprinted with permission from the author.

Benefits of Giving Up Dairy

Benefits of Giving Up Dairy

If you have digestive issues, skin problems, or overall health and diet issues, you may
have come to the realization that it could be from the large amount of dairy you
consume. If you’re curious to learn more, here are a few benefits of giving up dairy.

Your Cancer Risk Drops Massively

Believe it or not, a benefit may be that you reduce your risk from cancer. Researchers in
Europe have been able to predict cancer in patients, noting that adult women who drink
more than a glass of milk a day increase their chances of getting ovarian cancer by
more than half. That would be bad news for anyone, but it’s particular troubling for
families that have a history of cancer. In men, instances of cancer increase by more
than a 3rd, so if you or someone you know has a history of cancer in their family, then
you might want to let them know their options. There are a variety of great milk
replacements on the market that are delicious and marginally more expensive.

It Reduces Stress on Your Body

Researchers have linked milk to different forms of oxidative stress on tissues of the
body. These minor issues won’t be a problem right away, but they can slowly erode your
general health by laying the ground for the possibility of disease. Some figures suggest
an increase in deaths as high as 13%. Currently it’s thought to because by a type of
sugar found in the milk. These agitations of your system can cause flare ups of chronic
diseases, like Crohn’s. Acidity and other pH issues can also cause aggravation that can
even damage the DNA in cells, which can result in cancer.

Your Skin Might Clear Up

A lot of people have low level allergies to certain foods, and milk is among the most
common food items to trigger such a muted response in people. Many people
experience some form of dairy intolerance and shrug it off due to the benign nature of
the symptoms. Few recognize that gas and bloating are signals that tell you something
in your digestive process isn’t functioning properly, but some allergies can be confused
for normal things like acne. For some, the presence of dairy can cause their skin to clog
with excess fats that make you a perfect breeding ground for all sorts of acid producing
bacteria. Cutting back or eliminating milk can reduce much of the appearance of the
blemishes and allow your body to deal with fats more efficiently.

Dairy and weight loss

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