Living a life without dairy has its challenges. What's interesting to me is how different one person's avoidance of dairy can be to the next. For example, a friend of mine is allergic to all dairy, another is vegan and avoids it for different reasons, and I (like many people I know) can't have cow's milk, but will happily enjoy goat, sheep, and buffalo dairy. Because there are so many elements to dairy products that can have an adverse effect on the digestive and immune systems, it comes with its own set of rules. Whey, lactose, casein; they all interact with the human body in different ways. What's important here is for you to figure out what works for you.
I like to experiment. Cooking and food preparation has become my creative outlet. I was almost forced into it because of my own dietary restrictions. Has it been a challenge? Absolutely. But it's been 7 years since I stopped eating cow's milk, eggs, and soy - that's plenty of time for my body to heal itself and to begin experimenting with those foods I've been avoiding. So far, I've been enjoying the occasional fermented soy foods, such as miso and tempeh, without any discomfort. These are much more easily digestible and in fact a great source of protein and phytoestrogens. We really enjoyed a recent meal of balsamic-marinated tempeh, baked to perfection. It has a unique texture, nothing like tofu, so I'd highly suggest seeking some out and experimenting with it too. The important thing to remember is moderation: once in a while, a meal or two will not cause problems. But overloading every day for a week could be an issue.
Take, for example, wheat and gluten. Many people find that if they have gluten-containing foods more than twice a day, they start to notice symptoms, whether that's nasal congestion or digestive upset. But a piece of bread with soup at lunch and no other gluten all day? That's fine. Like I said, trial and error.
At the same time, there are always new and exciting ways to get those tastes you've been avoiding in other forms.
Back to dairy. There are tons of dairy-free (and soy-free) cheese products, but I've yet to find a decent manufactured one (not to mention the fact that they're usually ultra-processed and have little to no nutritional value). In the raw food world, nuts are used to create "cheese" all the time. Cashew cheese is practically one of the major raw food groups (along with green smoothies, avocado, kale chips, and bananas). :)
I'll happily enjoy some nut cheese instead of the real thing from goat or sheep dairy any day of the week! Plus, it gives me an excuse to use up leftovers...
Recently, I made a batch of almond milk and didn't want to waste the leftover pulp. So I made some spreadable "cheese" with it. This is so easy and keeps for several days in the fridge. Use it as you would any other soft cheese: in a sandwich, in a salad, on cucumber slices, or simply on seed crackers. You definitely don't have to label yourself a raw vegan to appreciate the simplicity and delight of this spread.
Almond Cheese Spread
Makes about 1 1/2 cups
- almond pulp leftover from making almond milk
- 1/2 cup extra virgin olive oil
- juice of 1 lemon
- 1/2 tsp Himalayan crystal salt
- 2 tbsp nutritional yeast
- 5-6 cherry tomatoes (optional)
- Combine all ingredients in a food processor and blitz until completely smooth.
- Keep in the fridge for up to 5 days in an airtight container.
Speaking of substitutions, there is an awesome event coming up in London at the Southbank Centre during the weekend of November 25-27: The Free From Food Festival! There will be all kinds of stalls, demonstrations, and information - I can't wait to visit. Get lots more details on Twitter @FreeFromFest. See you there!