Here’s why your dairy-free diet may be dangerous

Here’s why your dairy-free diet may be dangerous

If you’re eating a dairy-free diet, you’re setting yourself up for a myriad of health issues as you age.

That’s according to the National Osteoporosis Society (NOS), whose recent survey of more than 2,000 individuals found that four in 10 adults between 18-24 years of age have tried avoiding dairy, gluten, grain and sugar. They also found that more than 20 percent were drastically restricting their milk and cheese intake.

With 70 percent of surveyed 18-35 year olds reporting having been on a diet at some point, the NOS says partaking in these restrictive fad diets is a recipe for disaster later in life.

Restricting dairy intake may lead to osteoporosis, a bone disease characterized by the body producing too little or losing too much bone, causing weakened bones that easily break.

The International Osteoporosis Foundation says that more than 200 million people worldwide are affected by osteoporosis—that’s a number the Foundation expects to grow more than 200 percent in the next 30 years.

Dr. Anupama Ananth, hospitalist at Advocate Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill., says you should speak with your primary care provider before making any dietary changes.

“That includes a dairy-free or vegan diet,” she says. “This is to ensure you are meeting your nutritional needs.”

“Although milk and other dairy products such as yogurt are some of the most calcium-rich sources, soy yogurt or soy milk are enriched with a similar amount of calcium. Surprisingly, kale and sardines offer almost a similar amount of calcium as dairy products.”

Dr. Ananth also says there are less fortified alternatives available as well, such as watercress, bok choy, okra, broccoli, pineapple and almonds.

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  1. I hear the advice about eating green leafy vegetables in place of dairy, but I never hear how much you need to eat to match the calcium value in a glass of milk. From what I’ve looked up online, it appears that approximately 3 cups of kale contains the same amount of calcium in 1 cup of milk. Please advise.

    • I think it’s more important to look at the bio-availability of the calcium in the food that you eat. I personally don’t drink much milk, I find it to be disgusting, but when you replace milk with plants calcium you reduce the bio-availability – similar to eating red meat versus eating spinach for iron. While these plants have several benefits aside from calcium, if your main goal is to obtain that one nutrient then you end up having to eat more of the vegetable. This is because milk contains lactose and is usually fortified with vitamin D, both of which help you absorb calcium, while plants contain oxalate or phytate which reduce the bodies ability to absorb calcium. If you are adamant about removing dairy from your diet the suggestion in this article should be to eat fortified food, as they typically have a similar absorption rate to milk.

  2. Heather Armstrong May 9, 2017 at 11:30 am · Reply

    Are dairy substitutes OK to drink and eat

  3. So in other words, there are many other alternatives to replace the consumption of dairy products. Therefore, the first line in the article is misleading. “If you’re eating a dairy-free diet, you’re setting yourself up for a myriad of health issues as you age” should read “If you’re eating a dairy-free diet, make sure your diet consists of calcium-rich sources such as calcium-such sources such as calcium-enriched soy yogurt or soy milk, as well as kale, watercress, bok choy, okra, broccoli, pineapple and almonds to prevent the possible onset of osteoporosis.”

  4. Wendy Gottberg May 9, 2017 at 2:04 pm · Reply

    I think this is very misleading. I do not eat meat and eat very little dairy. Dairy was designed for baby cows, not humans. We are the only species that drinks another species breast milk. I have way more energy than most and my body is very healthy. I eat a lot of fruits and veggies and work out everyday. You can get everything you need in food (except B12 and I take that)and not use animals to do it. Please do a bit more research on milk before putting out an article that makes people think they need to drink fattening milk. As long as you get the calcium you need, there is no need to drink milk or any other dairy foods.

  5. Elliott Slutzky May 9, 2017 at 2:10 pm · Reply

    Read the Campbell book :” The China Study” You will learn that animal protein
    from cows milk , unlike plant protein increase the acid load in the body and in order to neutralize the acid the body pulls the calcium FROM bones . This increases the risk of fracture.

  6. Joseph Crowther May 11, 2017 at 4:54 pm · Reply

    Wendy Gottberg, you say, as others have, that we are the only species that drinks another species breast milk. The implied “therefore” is that we should not drink cows’ milk. By that logic, we should also not cook our food, nor refrigerate it, nor wash with soap, etc. etc. You can’t easily escape your humanity.

About the Author

Holly Brenza
Holly Brenza

Holly Brenza, health enews contributor, is a public affairs coordinator at Advocate Health Care in Downers Grove. She is a graduate of the University of Illinois at Chicago. In her free time, Holly enjoys reading, watching the White Sox and Blackhawks and playing with her dog, Bear and cats, Demi and Elle.