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File this under things you probably never thought you could do. Give up the tantalizing mouthfeel of smoked gouda melted over juicy summer tomatoes in a sandwich? Forgo fresh mozzarella cradled in the sensual embrace of balsamic and basil? Nix crispy nachos swimming in a whirlpool of cheddar, scallions and tomatoes?

As it turns out, slashing dairy from your diet has numerous health benefits, from improving digestion to lowering your risk of chronic disease. Not to mention dropping weight fast by eliminating the calories and bad fats that dairy can pack. Read on to find out what giving up dairy can do for you and your waistline.

Your digestion will improve

Scary stat alert: Between 60 to 90 percent of the population suffers from lactose intolerance, a gastrointestinal condition in which the body is unable to easily digest lactose, a type of naturally occurring sugar in dairy. Yet countless Americans endure the resulting discomfort anyway. "When you give up dairy, watch your digestion improve," says Julieanna Hever, MS, RD, CPT, a plant-based dietitian, and author of The Vegiterranean Diet and The Complete Idiot's Guide to Plant-Based Nutrition. "It can reduce bloating, gas, constipation, and other digestive responses. Most people in different cultures stop producing lactase — the enzyme required to digest dairy — in adulthood." We are, after all, the only species that drinks another species' milk. So is it all that surprising that we have problems digesting dairy?

Comment: Another reason that dairy products are hard on the digestive system is that they contain casein, which is a protein that is similar to gluten in its effects on the body. Cow's milk proteins have been identified as allergens.
Casein - Does cow's milk mimic gluten

Your bowels will benefit

All ears if you have IBS. "Those suffering from IBS are often recommended to attempt a FODMAP (Fermentable Oligo- Di- Monosaccharide and Polyols) elimination diet," explains Kayleen St. John, RD, a nutritionist at New York City's Natural Gourmet Institute, a health supportive-culinary school. "This would include eliminating all fermentable carbohydrate sources for a period of time including lactose, which is a highly fermentable carbohydrate and considered a FODMAP."

You'll lose weight

With all the Dairy Council advertising and "Got Milk?" campaigns inundating the media, it's no wonder we tend to associate dairy consumption with being slimmer and healthier. But all the moo-related marketing might not be all that it's milked to be: One meta-analysis published in The Journal of Clinical Nutrition, which reviewed nearly 30 studies, found that results don't "...support the beneficial effect of increasing dairy consumption on body weight and fat loss in long-term studies or studies without energy restriction." Simply put: There's no solid scientific evidence that eating dairy will boost weight loss or even help you maintain your weight. (Inside tip: You should always read the fine print of studies linking dairy to weight loss, as they might be funded by the National Dairy Council). In fact, one study of more than 12,000 kids found that the more milk they consumed, the more weight they gained. And given that recent research has concluded that veganism is the absolute top lifestyle for weight loss, going dairy-free might cause your scale to spiral downward.

Comment: Vegan diets are almost completely devoid of certain nutrients that are crucial for physiological function. Several studies have shown that both vegetarians and vegans are prone to deficiencies in B12, calcium, iron, zinc, the long-chain fatty acids EPA & DHA, and fat-soluble vitamins like A & D. Vegetarian diets are tied to generally poorer health, poorer quality of life and a higher need for health care than their meat-eating counterparts.

You'll slash your risk for chronic disease

By giving up dairy, "You'll reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease, type 2 diabetes, obesity, and most other chronic diseases by avoiding saturated fat-laden, cholesterol-containing, hormone-, steroid-, and medication-muddled dairy products," says Hever. And while you're at it, you might want to eliminate additional bad saturated fats (such as those in non-grass-fed beef and full-fat pork) to keep your ticker in top shape. (Here are some examples of good fats that speed weight loss.) "Saturated fat and dietary cholesterol have been associated with these chronic illnesses for decades, and the most common source of them in the modern diet is cheese," adds Hever. Additionally, dairy may be correlated to certain cancers. "Dairy consumption has also been linked via research to hormone-related cancers such as ovarian and prostate, and surprisingly, it's also been linked in some studies to an increase in the rate of bone fractures - the primary concern of osteoporosis," says Alisa Fleming, founder of GoDairyFree.org and a dairy-free living expert. "Moreover, our societal dependence on dairy products such as cheese and cream can create mono-lined diets, which may have a limited range of nutrients."

Comment: The authors are still touting the misinformed meme that saturated fats pose health risks, when recent studies have shown that there is no link between the consumption of saturated fats and heart disease. Trans-fat, not saturated fat is the real culprit in disease. In fact, saturated fats are necessary to maintain health and low serum cholesterol has been linked in numerous scientific papers to suicide, accidents, and violence.

Your body will be A-OK with other sources of calcium

We tend to make a nearly instant association between dairy and calcium, but there are countless plant-based sources of this vital bone-building mineral. "You can get your calcium from nutrient-dense, disease-fighting food sources such as leafy green vegetables, beans, lentils, fortified plant milks, tofu, sesame seeds and tahini, almonds and almond butter, oranges, and figs," says Hever. Although it's easy to fixate on what you're giving up (Dad's famous grilled cheese sandwiches, we're looking at you), think instead about how your palate will become more adventurous. Says Hever: "Moving out dairy products means you can enjoy the vast array of delicious and versatile plant-based products available, from multiple types of milks and cheeses to ice creams, and much more." For more ideas, check out these 10 Ways to Get Your Calcium Outside the Dairy Aisle.

Comment: Beans, lentils and seeds contain lectins which are proteins produced by most plants as a natural pesticide. Lectin proteins do not break down easily. They are resistant to stomach acid and digestive enzymes and can cause alterations in gut function which can lead to colitis, Crohn's Disease, Celiac-Sprue, IBS and gut permeability. Beans, nuts and seeds also contain the anti-nutrient phytic acid which binds to minerals in the body leading to serious mineral deficiencies causing many health problems such as allergies, bone loss, hormone disruption, anemia, digestive irritability and impaired immune function.

Why you should never consume beans and other plant seeds

Tofu is another one of those so-called health foods which in reality poses health risks. Tofu consumption has been linked with accelerated brain-aging and Alzheimer's disease.

Your skin will clear up

Instead of buying expensive products, the simple act of giving up dairy may quell skin flare-ups. "Many dermatologists also recommend going dairy-free as a first course of action against skin conditions such as acne and eczema," says Fleming. "It isn't uncommon for people with even severe cystic acne to report skin clearing and healing when they eliminate dairy from their diet."

You'll benefit from even this minor switch

Can't take the plunge and go cold turkey? (So to speak.) "Sugar-sweetened, conventional dairy that has undergone UHT (ultra-high-temperature pasteurization) is likely the worst kind of dairy for the body—think packaged chocolate or strawberry-flavored milk," says St.John. So focus first on nixing this kind of dairy from your routine. "One 8-ounce serving of chocolate milk can have as much as one tablespoon of added sugar. UHT has been shown to impair flavor of dairy products and may also have an effect on protein digestion," she adds. If you choose to keep consuming dairy, "Do your best to source high-quality products: organic, local, and grass-fed when possible," adds St. John. Interestingly, research has shown that CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), a beneficial fatty acid found naturally in grass-fed animal products can have a protective effect against heart disease and Type 2 diabetes.