Dairy-free and plant-based protein
• Why should I take Dairy-free, plant-based protein?
Protein intake is one of the most important things to focus on in the diet. We know it is essential for so many of our body’s functions, such as enzyme production, hormone production, muscle maintenance, recovery from workouts, and immune system boosting.
Alongside the importance of this macronutrient, plant-based eating has increased in popularity in recent years, with one study showing 28 per cent of people reporting eating more plant-based protein sources since 2019.
Taking these factors into account, a dairy-free, plant-based protein is ideal for those who want to increase their dietary protein intake but who also meet any of the following criteria:
- Those who follow exclusively plant-based diets (vegan)
- People who avoid eating dairy for ethical reasons
- Those with dairy allergies
- Those with an extremely low tolerance for lactose
• How do I know if I have a dairy allergy or intolerance?
A dairy allergy is very different from a dairy intolerance, as it’s much more severe and can be life-threatening.
A dairy allergy is when your immune system responds to the proteins in milk as if they are dangerous invaders to your body. This can result in mild symptoms such as a rash or more severe symptoms such as breathing difficulties, anaphylaxis and loss of consciousness.
If you suspect a dairy allergy, it’s essential to seek help from your GP and an allergy specialist to confirm this.
However, if you have lactose intolerance (the naturally occurring sugar in dairy), this results in gut symptoms such as bloating, wind and diarrhoea. This is because your body doesn’t create “lactase”, the enzyme to break down lactose.
These symptoms are uncomfortable; however they are not life-threatening, and they are also dose-dependant.
Dose-dependant means that if you have lactose intolerance, you don’t necessarily have to avoid all dairy; you have to work out how much lactose you can tolerate. Things with less lactose, such as butter and hard cheese, are usually fine for people with lactose intolerance to consume in moderate doses. This is best worked out with the help of a dietitian.
• What are the benefits of plant-based protein?
If you choose not to eat dairy for any of the above reasons, then you may be missing out on a range of essential amino acids (protein building blocks) for your body, immune system and muscles, as dairy is such a great protein source.
To make up for this low intake of dairy and prevent a protein inadequacy in your diet, taking a plant-based protein each day could be a good idea.
Protein powder is best timed for post-workout or for a time in the day where you don’t eat enough protein. This could be morning time with breakfast or between meals if you don’t have any snacks.
If you don’t go to the gym every day, you can still take a protein powder every day to ensure you are reaching your protein needs.
Taking a protein powder helps control appetite and cravings, which is vital for those on a diet. Having enough protein intake is associated with stronger bones and muscles, a better immune system and digestion, and better overall health.
For more information on why protein is so good for you and how to distribute it across the day, read our blog here.
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Accredited Practising Dietitian