I chose to go dairy free around 2 years ago in preparation for IVF treatment. You see we had quite a rocky road to parenthood. After our marriage 4 and a half years ago, our journey began. A few years previous to this, I had inconclusive tests carried out to find out what the hormone imbalances were in my body. I say inconclusive because apparently the levels were all normal, despite me having plenty of symptoms. To mask my symptoms, similar to poly cystic ovaries, I was prescribed the pill. Knowing what I now understand about my body, I can see that this was not the right option. So I continued for many years ignoring the symptoms and then wondered why we were having issues with conception!
At first, nothing happened and then after consulting google, friends, personal trainers and books to basically try anything, I tried a supplement which I believe helped us to finally conceive. Yes there they were- those two little lines on the pregnancy test! Our excitement was dashed 10 weeks later, when I began bleeding and discovered that we had lost our precious baby at 6 weeks. We picked ourselves up and dusted ourselves back off and then had another pregnancy 6 months later only to have the same thing happen again. After two loses we were referred for IVF and sought the help of a functional medicine practitioner to help prepare my body. I learned lots about the different stresses on the body and cut out gluten and dairy from my diet. Although I didn’t have any signs that there was an intolerance in the usual sense (digestive symptoms), the fact that were struggling to hold onto pregnancies suggested my body was under some sort of stress. Our first natural round of IVF was successful and we welcomed our awesome daughter Eloisa into the world last July. I continued to be gluten and dairy free throughout pregnancy and then reintroduced dairy with no adverse reactions a few months ago. After such a long time dairy free, I still enjoy the alternatives that we discovered. The gift I have received from the choice to go gluten and dairy free it that it has certainly made me a better cook!
So why cut out dairy?
Here’s the sciencey bit. Basically the only milk a human should drink is that from its mother! It is designed for humans and comes with all the enzymes required for us to digest it easily. During a recent stay in hospital with our daughter, we were able to feed her breast milk 3 hrs before her general anaesthetic but formula milk had to be fed 5 hrs before. Breast milk is digested more easily than formula because it is designed for us. Some people find that sheep or goat’s milk is a better option for them. This is down to the different sized fat globules in the milk. Goat’s milk has more medium chain fatty acids, which are easier to digest than the long chain fatty acids found in cow’s milk. Another thing to bear in mind is that cow’s milk is designed to raise a 100 pound calf into a 1200 pound adult cow and goat’s milk is designed to raise a 7-9 pound kid into a 100-200 pound goat. Humans are more similar in size to the kid than to the calf. If humans drink cow’s milk it will ultimately put a strain on our digestive and immune systems as our bodies work harder to digest it. Infact, without even considering the fat molecules, cows milk has been altered so much from its natural state during the homogenising and pasturising process, that it doesn’t resemble anything that our bodies would recognise as food! There is more detailed information on the website of this family ran goat farm Mt Capra.
I’ve always been wary of plant based milks not only because I found soya milk on cereal disgusting but because I’d heard about the vast differences in their nutritional value and the extra surprises that some hold in store for us. For example, the fact that soya milk is naturally rich in phytoestrogen, which acts like an estrogen replacement thus reducing testosterone, scares me! I don’t need any MORE estrogen! There is good news though as almond milk actually contains higher levels of calcium than cow’s milk. With rice milk being limited in its nutritional value, my go to has to be the milk of a coconut. High in nutrients, vitamins, minerals and lauric acid which is present in breast milk, coconut gets my vote. But which brand?
Here’s just a few of my favourites:
If it’s milk for use in brews (Thats’s a cuppa if your not from up North!), then I would choose Koko coconut milk. It is widely available in supermarkets so easy to get your hands on. I find that Koko milk also works well as a substitute for most recipes. We love pancakes, biscuits, cakes, yorkshire puddings and much more made with Koko milk.
Now for something a bit more luxurious…
I don’t know about you, but I love desserts and main dishes that have rich creamy sauces so I made it my priority to experiment in the kitchen to achieve some of my favourite meals without dairy. During this experimentation, I discovered Grace Coconut milk (it’s actually like cream). I’m pleased to say that it contains zero chemical nasties to preserve or add to the taste- just coconut and water. Thank goodness you can order it in bulk as I went through a phase of using it in most meals. I did wonder at one point whether we have just go used to the taste of non dairy substitutes but I have heard rave reviews of my creamy fish pie (made with coconut milk), with friends claiming they would never have known if I hadn’t have told them. My trick is to use lemon to take away the coconuty flavour. Sometimes, it is perfectly OK to taste the coconut like when you’re making a luxury hot chocolate! Using this milk has allowed me to create fish pie, lasagne, panna cotta, toffee sauce to name just a few! Recipes will follow soon…
There are also a few treats that you may not know about if you are new to being dairy free. Soya icecream is fine but I much prefer the The Coconut Collaborative Dairy Free Chocolate Snowconut Frozen Yogurt. It is available in vanilla, mango and chocolate. I even discovered their ice creams on sticks covered in dark dairy free chocolate last summer! Most large supermarkets stock it. But don’t buy it all now I’ve told you about it- leave some for me!
Of course you can use Koko milk to create your own milkshakes easily in a nutri-bullet but if you’re looking for a treat to take out and about, my favourite has to be Rebel Kitchen Mylk. It comes in a range of delicious flavours: chocolate, chocolate orange, vanilla and even matcha green tea!
I think it is important to point out that people, restaurants and supermarkets are generally more aware of allergies and intolerances these days so there’s no need to think it’s the end of the world if your body will benefit from going dairy free. I don’t advise eating a lot if processed food but I’m human too and can be partial to a gluten & dairy free treat from the cake section of Sainsburys or Tesco but I must spoil the party by pointing out that they are stuffed full of crap to make them taste and hold together like the real thing. It is possible to make alot of it yourself. In fact there are plenty of simple recipes on our blog for you to try.
I’d love to hear about your dairy free food experiments and adventures in the comments below.