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3 Disadvantages of a Dairy Free Diet and How to Solve Them

by Penny Crowther(more info)

listed in nutrition, originally published in issue 255 - June 2019


Many people are cutting dairy foods out of their diets. The reasons are varied; the desire not to eat any animal produce, allergies or intolerances, wanting to lose weight or simply personal preference. All of these reasons are completely valid and it IS perfectly possible to eat a dairy free diet and be very healthy. Dairy foods are not an essential part of the diet, even though they are ubiquitous in Western diets.

Here comes the BUT.....if you are dairy free, it’s really important to find other sources of these 3 super important nutrients which if in short supply, could compromise your health:


Crowther 255 Disadvantages of a Diary Free Diet


  • Iodine is a lesser known nutrient which is found in dairy foods. Plant based milks are not usually fortified with it. Iodine is needed for making thyroid hormones which regulate body temperature, weight and energy. In women, the breasts and ovaries have an increased need for iodine and have high concentrations of this mineral. Some preliminary study data suggests a link between iodine deficiency and breast cancer.[1] Iodine is also essential for a well-functioning immune system, alkalizes the body and has powerful antioxidant and detoxifying properties.  Pregnant and breastfeeding women need additional iodine;
    Best food sources; seaweed such as kelp, nori, kombu, and wakame. You can buy these seaweeds dried in health food shops to add to soups, casseroles or salads or sprinkle over rice dishes. Fish such as mackerel, cod and haddock & shellfish are another good source. Eggs contain some;
  • Calcium is so important particularly for women, young and older, for maintaining healthy bones. Best non-dairy food sources; Almonds Brazil nuts, hazelnuts, sesame seeds, chickpeas, soya yoghurt, fortified coconut yoghurt, dried fruit and green vegetables.   It can be a challenge to get enough on a daily basis though and you need to eat nuts and seeds ground rather than whole, to help absorption;
  • Vitamin A “proper” (retinol) is only found in dairy foods, fish and meat.  Its cousin, beta carotene is found in plant foods, particularly orange and yellow fruits and vegetables.  The body converts beta carotene to vitamin A. So, in theory, if we eat fruit and vegetables which contain beta carotene we should be getting a plentiful supply of vitamin A. However, the truth is that whilst plenty of people do manage this conversion efficiently, there are many who don’t, leading to inadequate vitamin A levels.  Dry skin or eyes, cracked dry heels, acne, brown spots on the skin, frequent infections and diabetes can be signs of vitamin A deficiency. Supplementation should be done under the guidance of a practitioner. Most multivitamins  contain beta carotene rather than vitamin A.

Whether it is dairy free, gluten free, low carb or vegan, diets which exclude foods or food groups have never been more in vogue.  As a nutritional therapist, my advice if you are following any of these diets, would be to see a practitioner.  This means you can learn about any potential deficiencies and strategies for how to optimise your nutrition in order to prevent future health problems.




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About Penny Crowther

Penny Crowther DN Med BANT NTCC qualified as a nutritional therapist in 1997 and has been in clinical practice ever since.  She has seen hundreds of clients at her practices in London SW15 and online. She has written for Positive Health, FamiliesGreen FarmHealth Matters, The Health Times and contributed to articles for the Daily TelegraphThe Times Literary  supplement,  Pregnancy & Birth, Marie Claire, has been featured in the Daily ExpressDaily Mirror and on local radio.

She is registered with professional bodies BANT (British Association for Applied Nutrition and Nutritional Therapy) and CNHC.

Penny now specializes in nutrition for women in their 40s and beyond, particularly around peri and post menopause. Her approach to health is holistic, and takes into account emotional, mental and environmental factors as well as nutrition. She studied many complementary therapies before training as a nutritionist which provides a broad foundation of knowledge. She is dedicated to personal and professional development and frequently attends lectures and seminars to keep up to date with the latest scientific nutrition research. Penny may be contacted on Tel: 07761 768 754;

Please note that nutritional advice is not a substitute for medical advice and treatment or visiting your GP or Health Professional.

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