Why Some Paleo Followers Are Adding Dairy Back

Could you say goodbye to refined sugar, grains, legumes and dairy? A growing number of people today are going Paleo – following a lifestyle that’s based on the concept of eating like our Paleolithic ancestors. They believe if a caveman didn’t eat it, you shouldn’t either.  

While many nutritionists praise the idea of eating less sugar and processed foods, there’s been a growing concern that the diet plan is too restrictive and lacks essential nutrients – especially calcium and vitamin D. One of the tenets of the Paleo diet is to eliminate dairy, which is one reason why it didn’t stack up against other diets evaluated by U.S. News and World Report. The rankings site evaluated popular diets based on multiple factors such as easy to follow, nutritious, safe, effective for weight loss and protective against diabetes and heart disease.

The role of dairy has been debated among the Paleo community, and milk alternatives are often encouraged. Almonds are considered compliant with the diet, for example, but is almond milk Paleo? Typically, almond milk does not meet Paleo guidelines because it often contains added sugar and stabilizers and emulsifiers like locust bean gum, sunflower lecithin and gellan gum. While some Paleo followers abide by the strictest rules that forbid dairy, many others are choosing to join the Lacto-Paleo movement. This adaptation of the original plan adds flexibility for dieters who miss dairy products and want to add them back into their diet. They’re following the basic tenets of the Paleo diet while adding back the dairy products they enjoy with no added sugar and packed with high-quality protein and a powerhouse of nutrients.

One reason dairy was eliminated on the Paleo diet was the concern over allergies and lactose intolerance. Yet, true milk allergies are rare (only 2 to 3 percent of young children, many of whom likely will outgrow it), and most people with lactose intolerance can tolerate the amount of lactose in a glass of milk when paired with a meal according to the National Institutes of Health. Another option is lactose-free milk.  

Additional Paleo arguments against dairy aren’t necessarily true. For instance, milk does not cause a spike in insulin levels. In fact, “intake of dairy products is also associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease and type 2 diabetes, and with lower blood pressure in adults,” according to ChooseMyPlate.gov. 

If you’re considering a Paleo lifestyle, or already following one and miss the milk, consider this advice:

5 Ways to Milk Your Paleo Diet

  • Find the milk that’s right for you. The dairy case offers a wide range of milk products, so check out the varieties that appeal to you – including whole milk (3.25 percent milkfat), organic or lactose-free.
  • Swap out your plant-based milk. Use real dairy milk in place of almond, coconut or rice milk. You’ll get 8 grams of protein compared to just 1 — along with calcium, vitamin D and other essential nutrients. Plus, almonds and other nuts may get the Paleo stamp of approval, but almond milk typically contains added sugar and other processed ingredients.
  • Try plain Greek yogurt. You may be skipping the flavored yogurts with added sugar, but it’s easy to add your own fruit or other ingredients to plain varieties, or try making your own yogurt with milk.
  • Make a Paleo pudding with milk. Create a Paleo-approved dessert, such a chia pudding or other puddings made with milk without added sugar.
  • Fortify your breakfast smoothie. If you’re making a fruit smoothie in the morning, add real dairy milk to add more protein. Try this protein-packed Berry Burst Smoothie recipe.