Thinking of going dairy-free? Read this first.
Your bones could get weaker
Milk is chock full of calcium, protein, vitamin D, and other minerals important to building strong bones. Most of your bone building takes place in your childhood and teenage years, but you never outgrow the need to keep those bones strong. If you’re on a dairy-free diet, you’ll have to find a way to replace those lost nutrients, says Kelly Pritchett, PhD, RD, CSSD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “Milk has been referred to as being important for bone health because it contains both calcium and vitamin D,” she says. “However, there are other sources of food containing both of these vitamins and minerals. In fact, our best source of vitamin D is from the sun—food isn’t a great source.” Get your daily doses of calcium from leafy greens, fortified orange juice or almond milk, and broccoli.
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You should pay more attention to your blood pressure
Even though its calcium gets most of the hype, milk is also packed with potassium, which helps the body fight the potential blood pressure-raising effects of sodium. The DASH diet, which lowers blood pressure effectively without medication, calls for people to increase fruits, veggies, and dairy, says Isabel Maples, MEd, RD, spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics. “People who just increased fruits and vegetables got a reduction in blood pressure, but when they mixed it with three servings of dairy, that’s when we saw big jumps,” she says. “It’s not just what you take away, but what you add to bolster health effects of better blood pressure.”
Your weight might change
Be mindful if you’re developing a dairy-free diet as a weight loss tactic. While dairy products can add major calories (think: cheese and ice cream) in excess, some studies have shown that milk promotes fullness and helps maintain a healthy weight. “I don’t think there’s conclusive evidence here,” says Dr. Pritchett. “This really depends on the person and what they replace the milk with in their diet.”
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Your skin might clear up
Several observational studies have found links between acne and milk, especially skim milk, but none found a connection with cheese or yogurt. Still, without clinical trials researching skin changes after only adjusting dairy, the American Academy of Dermatology says the evidence isn’t strong enough to recommend cutting out foods to clear your skin. “The evidence suggests that diet does play a role in acne,” Whitney P. Bowe, MD, FAAD, a board-certified dermatologist and clinical assistant professor of dermatology at State University of New York Downstate College of Medicine in Brooklyn has said. “Patients can be their own best detectives in determining possible food triggers for acne.”