Real reasons to skip milk
More and more people are switching to drinking plant-based milks such as soy or almond milk because they have a food allergy, dairy intolerance or because they generally lead a plant-based lifestyle. (According to the American College of Allergy, Asthma & Immunology, milk is one of the most common food allergies in children.)
A true milk allergy, the body’s reaction to a protein in cow’s milk, can be life-threatening in some cases. Others are lactose intolerant, meaning your body lacks an enzyme that helps you digest dairy products; this causes stomach upset and can cause diarrhea. Still others avoid dairy for health reasons or because they want to avoid all animal products.
That’s why people need to avoid — or choose — dairy for a variety of reasons, says Purvi Parikh, MD, an allergist and immunologist at the NYU School of Medicine and Allergy & Asthma Network in New York City.
How milk hides?
Whatever your reason for avoiding dairy, it’s not always as simple as avoiding milk and cheese. Many dairy ingredients find their way into foods you’d never expect, like non-dairy cream (really).
“Reading labels is so important because these items can be in foods you wouldn’t suspect,” says Bonnie Taub-Dix, RDN and creator of the website and blog BetterThanDieting.com and author of Read it before you eat it: taking you from the label to the table. In addition to scanning ingredient lists for any kind of milk, cheese, or butter, she says, she should also look for casein (a milk protein that can cause allergic reactions), caseinate, lactate, lactic acid, lactalbumin, and lactylate.
Ingredients are listed by weight, so the higher up on the ingredient list they appear, the more a product contains (important for those who can tolerate small amounts of dairy). Read on for some surprising dairy looters and learn about decoding food labels.