What’s the Deal with Dairy?

Recently I’ve been posting photos of food made with dairy products on my Instagram page. That’s because lately I’ve been eating my fair share of this amazing food. And since I’ve received quite a few questions about why I’m eating dairy again, I thought it would make sense to discuss it here on the blog!

Now, when I say a food is “amazing,” I mean that it is amazing for me. As I’ve mentioned before, I believe we are all biochemical individuals with different and varying bodily and dietary needs. In fact, I was happily dairy-free for a very long time. Most of the recipes on this site are dairy-free and all of the recipes in my third book, Paleo Cooking from Elana’s Pantry, are dairy-free as well. So why am I eating dairy again? Well, there are three basic reasons:

  • Calories –I wanted more high fat calories and less high carb calories
  • Emotional –I did not want to give up another food group without getting one back
  • Coconut –I was eating too much coconut and was showing a slight allergy to it on some bloodwork

The first reason I chose to bring dairy back into my diet was for the calories! I started a very low carb diet (VLCD) in 2014 and found that I functioned much better mentally and had a brighter outlook on things overall. In eating lower carb I gave up another food group –most fruit and desserts. Sure, I still make dessert for my family, but I rarely eat it myself, and when I do it’s something that is very lightly sweetened and high in fat, like this Chocolate Chia Pudding recipe, sweetened with stevia, or a square of 90% dark chocolate.

The second reason I added dairy back into my diet was emotional. I did not want to feel deprived. Swapping sugar (even natural sugar) for dairy has worked out very well for me. I feel much better maintaining a diet that is low-carb and high-fat. I’ve followed a strict grain-free diet since 2001. I haven’t had a bite of quinoa, rice, or potato since then. No joke. I follow this diet for health reasons so maintaining it is very important for me. It allows me to be on the lowest possible doses of various drugs and have a very high quality of life while living with the following diagnoses:

  • Multiple Sclerosis
  • Hashimotos Autoimmune Thyroiditis
  • Celiac Disease
  • BRCA

There are other health issues, but I will leave that for another place and time! I don’t follow the grain-free diet halfway. I don’t eat a piece of gluten-free bread now and then. I bake all of my own grain-free bread from scratch. When we grab dinner at our friend Thomas’ amazing burger joint, Larkburger, I get mine with a lettuce “bun” and skip the fries. I’ve given up loads of foods, but I have a very high ROI by following an incredibly strict grain-free diet. When I went on a VLCD in 2014 my dietary gains increased once again.

Emotionally though, I was not feeling super happy about giving up more food groups. Enter dairy. Now that I’m mostly sugar-free I don’t experience any issues with consuming dairy. I do stick to organic dairy. I love splashing heavy cream in my Dandelion Coffee, I find full fat yogurt absolutely delicious, and I am enjoying eating cheese again –by the way, have you seen my Pizza Muffin recipe?!

The third reason for bringing dairy back? Coconut. I was eating far too much coconut, more than my body could handle and it was simply time to give my body a rest from it. I’ve brought it back slowly. I do not eat it every day and seem to be doing ok with it.

So there you have it folks. My dietary habits. I urge you all to eat whatever makes you feel best. I initially figured out which foods work and which don’t by doing an elimination diet and I highly recommend it if you’re stumped in assessing which foods you have trouble assimilating. The elimination diet is as good as any blood test you could ever get, and it’s free!

I imagine that some will want to know if I think dairy is Paleo. For this question, I will provide the answer that my older son (now 17) has given for the last few years. When this subject arises in our house, he says, “Mom, do you think cavemen ran around after wild yaks trying to milk them? No!” Frankly, I’m not super concerned with what a food is called, or which category it falls into. I’m more interested in how it makes me feel when I eat it. That’s enough of a barometer for me.


67 responses to “What’s the Deal with Dairy?”

  1. What actually qualifies as dairy products? I always thought all milk was & anything made from it, like cheese, but evidently that’s not the case. Is dairy only in milk/milk products that come from animals?

    • Brittany, all milk derived products that come from animals including milk, cream, yogurt, cheese, sour cream, ice cream, cream cheese, etc. are considered dairy.

  2. Hi! Just found your blog and am reading through for recipes. Glad you’re enjoying milk! I recommend you check out the research on A1 vs A2 milks as a possible reason why dairy affects some people so badly. A2 dairy for the win – it’s the nearest thing to paleo milk! And most farms that produce it are already organic/unhomogenized/low-heat pasteurized.

    Thanks for the recipes I can eat!

  3. Hi Elana, I am so thankful for all of your recipes! I have a question. In a number of your posts you provide a link to all of your stevia sweetened recipes but when I click on it it takes me to an article on stevia, not your recipes. Is there any way to provide a correct link? Thank you so much!

  4. Have you ever tried a nutrition response tester. No blood test needed. Natural Health Center of the Rockies in Fort Collins is amazing at finding out what foods your body likes and which organs need attention through diet.

  5. Hi Elana,
    I have been following your blog for some time. I just wanting to comment on the diary thing. I thought that I was lactose intolerant until I started drinking raw milk. I do very well with raw jersey cow’s milk, but found that I do even better on raw goat’s milk. That lead me to purchasing my own milk goats and now I am practicing the art of raw cheese making. Not only does it not bother me, but I have found a new creative outlet.

  6. I was wondering if you have heard of the plexus products? They are a completely natural plant based group of products that have helped MANY people with the same health issues as you have! Their probiotic is amazing and helps with leaky gut, which is where MANY diseases come from! This probiotic also has an enzyme in it that gets rid of the bad guys, while putting good in your gut!! If you are interested in looking up more about it, you can go to YouTube and look up plexus worldwide and there are MANY videos with testimonies and product info! Or you can message me clhelmuth@gmail.com and I would love to answer any questions you may have!:)
    Thank you!

  7. I have Crohn’s Disease, and my body feels really good with Kefir!! We eat mostly a paleo diet, but I make my own Kefir at home and it has added so many good bacteria to our diet and my stomach/intestines feel so good on it. We put it into smoothies, and the whole family drinks it for breakfast. My husband and i like to make a meal out of it and add protein powder. We feel very full the whole morning. I don’t do as well with unfermented dairy like cow’s milk,etc, but have done very well with the fermented dairy like Kefir and yogurt. Favorite yogurt is the Fage Green Yogurt. It’s got a ton of protein in it and my body is able to tolerate it.

  8. We practice functional medicine in or practice and I can’t even begin to explain all the reasons you should NOT add back in dairy to a healthy diet, but here are a few:
    1.Most of our patients are intolerant to milk and milk products on blood tests.
    2. We are the only animals on the planet that eat a food designed for another species and the only animals that continue to drink mild/eat milk products after we are weaned. It is not a natural food and should be avoided at all costs.
    3. Mucus producing/inflammation: Our patients never get “sick” again after giving up dairy.
    4. CALCIUM! This is not the right bio-available calcium for your body to utilize, so what does your body do with calcium from this form? It CALCIFIES your organs/veins/etc. Thus the Calcium score for cardio-vascular disease, many cancer tumors including breast are made of this calcium, kidney stones are made of calcium, etc etc.
    Kathi Kotelko, RN

  9. Hi Elana,
    That is also my daughter’s name :-)
    I am wondering if you find goat or sheep yogurt and cheese a better choice that dairy from a cow.
    Also, I was torn between vegan and Paleo (quite different!), and recently chose Paleo in my quest to normalize my blood pressure. Have you heard of anyone lowering their blood pressure through Paleo?
    Be healthy and enjoy!

    • Hi Lee, I stick to fermented dairy and I’m fine regardless of the source (goat, sheep, cow). I don’t ever drink milk, raw or otherwise. I have very low blood pressure so strategies for reducing it are not on my radar at this point. Though I have heard weight loss can help with lowering blood pressure. Best of luck to you and yours and thanks for stopping by :-)

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