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Dairy-Free and Gluten-Free Dieters Don’t Get Enough Nutrients

20 April 2010 17 Comments

Haven’t you heard?

A few months ago I was clicking my way from blog to blog, following tantalizing recipes, when I stumbled upon a post that changed my entire path. I don’t think the blogger had any idea how her “kind” recipe post would spur someone to action, but it did.

She was sharing a recipe for what she called “antioxidant” cupcakes, and the story that led to their creation. She was going to an office party where one of her coworkers was dairy-free and another was gluten-free. She noted that “free-from dieters are nutritionally deficient” – specifically stating that dairy-free people do not get enough calcium and vitamin D and gluten-free foodies do not get enough fiber. So her pomegranate-infused cupcakes (still filled with sugar) were somehow going to bring needed nourishment to these poor malnutritioned soles.

Though her intentions were sweet and should be honored (which is why I am respectfully not linking to that post), I was utterly shocked by the incorrect information that is obviously being pushed through our society. The notion that cutting a single food, or two, or three from ones diet would automatically lead them down an unhealthy path. As many free-from dieters know, it is usually the opposite that is true.

Within an instant, I knew my new path. My first step, creating Dairy-Free & Fit to discuss delicious health and living life well. My next step … lets just say there is much more to come on the foodie, fitness, and health front. Stay tuned!

To get the ball rolling on awareness, I would like to clarify that dairy-free and gluten-free diets can be more than nutritionally sufficient – in fact, most free-from foodies I know follow a primarily whole foods diet that is rich in nutrients and light on the cupcakes!

So tell me, whether you follow a vegan diet, a low sugar diet, a primal diet, or some other type of free-from diet – what diet myths and misunderstandings have you come across in everyday life?


  • Rev Stan said:

    Sweeping generalisations like this one really frustrate me. How many people who eat wheat, gluten and dairy are fit and healthy and not nutritionally difficient?
    I used to be vegetarian and gave blood regularly, ran regularly including my first half marathon and had few coughs and colds. When I told my parents I wasn’t going to eat meat or fish my day said ‘well I haven’t seen a healthy vegetarian yet’. I discovered after 13 years I was intolerant to wheat, dairy and soya and so made the difficult decision to start eating meat and fish again.
    I have a healthy, varied diet. I exercise. I’m rarely sick. But that’s my lifestyle choice. I could just as easily live on a diet of dairy/gluten free ready meals stuffed and substitutes stuffed with bad fats and additives or eat chips and baked beans for every meal.
    Any diet is only as healthy as the choices you make of what to eat.

  • Diane (pilateschik) said:

    I follow a gluten-free, vegetarian (moving towards vegan) lifestyle. Most of my family (including my kids) do as well. My children, prior to being gluten free and veggie, were underweight and very short. Since the celiac diagnosis and changing the diet to gluten free, they have each grown more than 12 inches in 1 1/2 years. Changing to the veggie diet has guaranteed they get their veggies. I am not pursuing vegan with them, unless they are interested, just myself, though my daughter is interested (she is almost a teen). If anything, they are healthier than their friends. Most of their friends want to eat here because we have yummy snacks – cinnamon baked apples, for example. The ones that only want chips and fatty foods do not bother coming over. My husband, is active duty Navy and travels a lot So, he eats out when he travels. He eats JUNK. He feels sick because of it and is beginning to acknowledge that fact. He is deficient because of the junk he eats.

  • Valerie @ City|Life|Eats said:

    I have seen this notion spreading more and more lately. Just recently, someone with celiac’s told me I was crazy to be a on a gluten-free diet seeing as I did not have celiac’s and do not have conclusive reactions to eating gluten because not eating wheat means I am missing out on all this fiber and nutrients. Putting aside for a minute that I have various digestion problems that have improved tremendously since going gluten-free, I was mystified by her assessment of gluten and wheat. There are SO many other ways to get fiber in our diets – dark leafy greens, chia seeds, flax, wholegrains.

    I have a diet free from several things (dairy, eggs, gluten, corn, refined sugars, many meats, most seafood and fish save for a couple of wild caught fish) and while the rest of the people around me fret I do not get enough protein, calcium, fiber etc, I have never been healthier, probably because I am more conscious of meeting all these needs. I do take a calcium supplement and have since going dairy-free, but some supplementation is part of good health too.

  • Andrea said:

    This doesn’t relate to a health myth, but I recently read that the taste of dairy-free baked goods is inferior to those made with dairy. (This was stated as a reason to use dairy products.) I know that one’s tastes refine when diet is changed, and flavors are appreciated in a new way, but I also know that vegan baked goods can taste great no matter what one is used to eating.

  • Diane-The W.H.O.L.E.Gang said:

    Great idea! Interesting story. I follow a gluten, dairy and rice free diet. I usually stick to vegan until 5pm and have seafood, chicken as my meat. I do eat beef and pork but keep that to a minimum. I don’t eat a lot of grains, mostly nuts and seeds. Eating like this I feel great. But I have to say this has been an evolution. When I first found out I needed to eat gluten free I was eating a lot of processed foods at the time. All I did was make the switch to the gluten free processed foods. I think I made it my mission to try every one I could find. This resulted in me really not getting enough nutrients because I had bad eating habits. Well that was 3 years ago and now my diet is pretty balanced. I still like a good potato chip but other than that it’s 98% whole foods I cook myself.

    I think we all get into trouble when we make sweeping generalizations like the girl with the life saving cupcakes. I’m prone to it too. I think for some reason we’re wired that way. Maybe it makes us feel better to either belong to a group, or be glad we don’t.

    I think this is a great idea for a blog and a great way to get this information out.

    Here are a couple of tips from me: eat food as close to the natural state as possible, rotate the foods, and enjoy them! Also, a little sun salutation a day is good for us all. http://www.yogasite.com/sunsalute.htm

  • Christy said:

    I follow a gluten, egg, dairy, soy and pork free diet due to serious intolerance that had grossly eroded by health over a period of years. It’s been 14 months since I cut them out of my life and while I don’t think that I’m fully healed, I am healthier now than I was for many years before.

    My sister has recently started going dairy-free because her kids are showing sensitivities to dairy and there’s a lot of misinformation out there about whether kids can be healthy without cow’s milk. I had to point out to her a number of times that the exact same vitamins and minerals are added to the alternative dairy beverages as are added to “real milk” and if a person’s body isn’t able to digest the real milk properly, they’re not getting all the nutrients to start with, so switching can only help.

    There’s so much ignorance in our culture about how nutrition works with our bodies that it doesn’t surprise me at all that someone would think cupcakes could be nutritious. Thanks for shining a light on it!

  • Fiona said:

    I’m healthier without the dairy 😉

  • La Nae Duchesneau said:

    I have just been diagnosed with an allergy to dairy last week. I am in the dark about nutrition really. And I have a question, (forgive my stupidity this is all so new to me), I am concerned that when I eliminate all dairy from my diet (I am starting tomorrow), that I will be nutritionally deficient in something. I know dairy has vitamin D, Riboflavin, phosphorous, calcium and I am sure there is more. One of you bloggers said you will get this from the substitutes for dairy. Is that true? Do I need to look into vitamin supplements on anything that I may be eliminating from my diet?

  • Ashley said:

    I went gluten free and dairy free last March, and became vegan over the summer. I’ve personally never felt better!

    I guess the thing that I run into most often is “so what do you eat?” or “that must be impossible, I could never do that”

    People see the way that I eat as restrictive (my gastroenterologist actually used that very word to describe my diet) but for me it has just become a way of life. I’ve had other people with Crohn’s tell me that I should eat meat once in awhile just so I’m able to tolerate it in case I get sick and need the iron to which I just smile and tell them that eating this way makes me feel good and I will continue to do so until that fact changes.

    I think I eat better than a lot of people as I eat a wide variety of whole foods and have a lot of fun preparing new things in my kitchen!

  • Erin Elberson said:

    As others have alluded to-it’s not a “diet” (way of eating) that’s necessarily more or less nutrient dense-it’s what foods the “diet” consists of. I’d say that the majority of individuals following a standard crappy American diet have poor nutritional status.
    Now, I do think that cutting an entire macronutrient-for example, carbohydrate-can be detrimental in the long run for many various and sundry reasons.
    But I digress. 🙂

  • Graygrrrl said:

    I just started thinking abour food and am following a veggie based diet with little to no meat most days. I also try not to eat much dairy and and if I do, only organically produced.

  • Cherie said:

    Yeah, it really drives me crazy. I’ve been on this lifestyle journey as I like to describe it, for about seven years now. Started out low-carb to lose 50lbs and try to resolve hypoglycemic issues & gallbladder attacks (which it did). But then I went to work for an MD that practices Alternative Medicine & found out I’ve had a Candida Overgrowth problem my whole life. So for the last few years I’ve been doing more ACD, sugar-free, gluten-free and only occasionally organic plain yogurt. I agree with others that eating foods like chia, flax, coconut oil & flour, kombucha tea, maca, occasionally grass-fed meats, greens, almond milk, ect., makes me healthier than anyone I know eating the standard American diet. And they feel sorry for us, ha! I’ve never felt better and have the lab tests to prove it! Thanks for everything!

  • Kim said:

    I am going dairy free for the second time in my life. I must admit, going dairy free was very difficult for me last time and is already proving difficult again. Why? Because I have horrible eating habits! I and my family unfortunately, eat processed foods way to often. So, I need some help! Here is my current problem….I have to go dairy free for my nursing infant, who is intolerant to dairy (very common in infants and children actually.) The last time I did it I lost an extreme amount of weight, and I’m already losing it to quickly again. While I know that may sound appealing to most people, I am already a fairly skinny woman and would rather keep some of my womanly figure than look underweight for my height. Being too skinny is unhealthy, not just being overweight. A question to those posting here, how can I make sure I get enough healthy fats to keep my weight up? I really am new to all of this; any tips would be greatly appreciated.

  • admin said:

    Kim, your concerns are certainly valid and this is a common problem for many. I am not a physician, you should always consult a physician regarding dietary issues. The following is purely for informational purposes and is based upon my own personal research and experience.

    There are many healthy fat sources such as avocados, coconut products, nuts, seeds, eggs and meat (if you aren’t vegetarian/vegan). Also, “healthy” oils can be used in a variety of ways. Some worth considering are flax, hemp, coconut, olive, and sesame oils. Each have their own flavor and place in recipes.

    But, keep in mind that eating fat may not be your primary issue. When people consume a lot of processed foods they are often void of nutrients. Without enough nutrients the body will be malnourished, regardless of weight. If you are having trouble keeping your weight up it could be a sign that your body is either not receiving or absorbing enough nutrients. The fact that you rapidly lose weight when cutting out dairy may indicate that you are not replacing the nutrients you typically get from dairy with other nutrients.

    Getting some more whole foods into your diet (including veggies and fruits)is very important. Combining these with some of the nutritious fat options (noted above) actually helps in nutrient absorption.

    I think you will find Go Dairy Free the book – http://www.godairyfree.org/Go-Dairy-Free-Guidebook.html – very useful as it is a good stepping stone from processed to whole foods. It isn’t extremist, but rather offers transition recipes.

  • Josiah Russell said:

    me and my sister are both allergic to Gluten and we were always on a gluten-free diet ever since we were teenagers. `

  • Mary said:

    Finally, a dairy-free orientation. Make it sugar-free as well and I will be in heaven! If you make it dairy and potato free, my son will be very happy [amazing how potato starch finds its way into most foods, even baking powder, sometimes corn flour.] I eat whole foods mostly and can’t rely on cheeses to add flavor – so often recipes seem to use cheese to make up for other deficiencies. I look forward to your recipes

  • Lori said:

    I was just told by my son’s gastroenterologist that I should try going dairy-free. I am breastfeeding my 6-month-old who has reflux and a very sensitive tummy. If the dairy-free diet doesn’t work, we will move on to soy and other common allergens. Thank you so much for this site. It has a wealth of information that gives me a starting point. I had no idea milk was in so many products.