7 Things That Happen When You Stop Eating Dairy
Each year, the average American wolfs down 36 pounds of cheese and 24 pounds of ice cream or frozen dairy products. You wash all that down with 200 pounds of milk and cream, according to the USDA.
It’s safe to say many of us are very fond of dairy. So you may be surprised to know that consumption of all dairy products has been steadily declining since 2005, with 22% of Americans reporting they’ve decreased their intake, according to a survey by the American Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.
The reasons people give dairy the slip are as varied as the number of milk substitutes. Weight loss, clearer skin, disease prevention, and increased energy are just a few of the benefits people associate with a no-dairy diet. But what do you really stand to gain—or lose—when you ditch dairy?
Find out whether milk really does a body good, and what you can expect when you drain it from your diet.
1. You’ll put cracks in your foundation.
Up until age 30, your body builds bone at a faster pace than it breaks it down. After 30, your body chews up bone faster than it’s being built. The best way to fortify your frame? Calcium. And dairy is one of the best sources of the stuff because your body absorbs calcium from dairy better than it does from any other food, says Rebecca Blake, RD, director of clinical nutrition at New York’s Mount Sinai Beth Israel Health. Cut out dairy and you could set the stage for osteoporosis and fractures.
That said, if you’re committed to removing moo juice from your menu, switch to other skeleton-strengthening calcium sources such as leafy greens (collard greens, kale, spinach, broccoli, broccoli rabe), tofu, and sardines. (Here are 10 dairy-free ways to get calcium.) Also, pop a daily calcium plus vitamin D supplement, Blake says. “Be sure to take it with food because the acid in your stomach aids absorption,” she adds.
2. You’ll want to wear less makeup.
No more spackling on the concealer: Milk may be an acne trigger, so going dairy-free could also help you become zit-free. According to research from Dartmouth Medical School, milk contains testosterone-like hormones, which may stimulate oil glands in the skin and contribute to breakouts.
3. You’ll slash your risk of cancer . .
. . . and so will your spouse if he ditches dairy, too. Swedish researchers found drinking more than one glass of milk per day may double your risk of ovarian cancer, while a Harvard study found men who consumed more than two daily dairy servings had a 34% increased risk of developing prostate cancer, compared with those who consumed little or no dairy. Again, dairy hormones are the likely culprits; dairy products boost the amount of insulin-like growth factor in your blood, a hormone that’s been shown to fuel cancer cell growth
4. You’ll need to down more Metamucil.
When you take dairy away, you may unknowingly remove something else from your diet: probiotics. These healthy bacteria—commonly found in yogurt and soft cheeses—have been linked with an array of good-for-you benefits, including keeping you “regular.” A study in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition found probiotics improved “gut transit time” by 12 hours, increased the number of weekly bowel movements by 1.5, and softened stool, making it easier to pass.
The good news: Probiotics hide out in a variety of non-dairy foods including sauerkraut, pickles, and tempeh. (Hack your gut bacteria for easier-than-ever weight loss with The Good Gut Diet.)
5. You’re going to need bigger pants.
Getting rid of butter, ice cream, and whole milk is a surefire way to slim down, right? Maybe not. In one long-term Swedish study, people who consumed lots of dairy fat were more than half as likely to develop obesity over a 12-year period than those who consumed less fat from dairy. “Dairy is a rich source of fat and protein in people’s diets, and [fat and protein] keep you full because your body digests them more slowly,” Blake says. Without dairy, replacing all that hunger-quelling fat and protein can be tough. “You could end up replacing protein and fat with other foods like simple carbs, which can lead to weight gain,” Blake adds. If you’re done with dairy, be sure to stock up on other belly-filling fat- and protein-packed eats such as nuts and nut butters, seeds, eggs, and beans.
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6. You’ll feel bloated.
Blame it on the soy. “When people cut out a food group, like dairy, they tend to seek out substitutes that provide a similar taste or texture,” Blake says. “Dairy products are often replaced with soy-based alternatives.” Think soy cheese, soy milk, and soy butter. The problem is, soy can be difficult to digest—especially if you rapidly increase your intake, Blake adds. That’s because soy contains sugar molecules called oligosaccharides that your body doesn’t digest well, which means they set up shop in your GI tract and cause bloating and gas.
7. You’ll have to renew your life insurance policy.
For each daily glass of milk you drink, your risk of death rises by 15%, according to a study in the BMJ. Scary stuff! Researchers found that women who downed three or more glasses of milk per day were nearly twice as likely to die over the next two decades than those who drank less than one glass daily. Researchers are pointing their finger at galactose, a simple sugar in milk that’s been shown to induce oxidative stress and low-grade inflammation, which set the stage for disease. Interestingly, fermented milk products—including yogurt and cheese—contain little or no galactose. Women who consumed the highest amounts of these foods actually had a decreased risk of death, the study also showed.