**By Millie Padula, Dietitian and Nutritionist of KOJA**
Whether you're lactose intolerant, allergic to dairy, follow a plant-based diet or just choose not to include dairy in your diet for whatever reason, it's important to give careful consideration to the nutrients you might be lacking. This is because dairy foods such as cheese, milk and yoghurt are incredibly rich in a range of essential vitamins and minerals, in particular - calcium, vitamin B12, phosphorus and vitamin D.
Calcium, phosphorus and vitamin D all play a key role in keeping our skeletal system healthy - i.e maintaining our bone health. This is why you see dairy companies boasting the benefits of consuming their products with strong teeth and bones.
There is also evidence to suggest that vitamin D assists in supporting our immune function. We can all probably attest to the fact that taking a walk outside in the sunshine (with safe exposure of course) is sometimes all we need to pep us up again when are feeling a little 'under the weather'.
Achieving adequate levels of vitamin B12 is important for normal brain function, nerve function and the production of red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen around the body which keeps us feeling energised. B12 is found in animal-based products such as dairy, red meat and fish.
So how do I ensure my diet is still jam-packed with these nutrients without consuming dairy?
Include calcium-rich food sources in your diet, such as:
- Firm tofu
- Almonds, brazil nuts & un-hulled tahini
- Dark green leafy vegetables such as kale, spinach, silverbeet and bok choy
- Oily fish with edible bones (if you consume animal products of course), such as salmon and sardines
- Fortified plant-based milks (almond, oat and soy) and aim for at least 120mg of calcium per 100ml. You can find this information in the Nutrition Information Panel which is usually located on the back or the side of the carton/bottle.
Include vitamin B12-rich food sources in your diet, such as:
- Fish (especially salmon & tuna)
- Red meat
- Fortified plant-based milks, again - choose varieties that contain 1ug per 250ml serving (almost half of your daily requirements!)
- Fortified nutritional yeast
Include phosphorus-rich food sources:
- Nuts, seeds and nut butters or products made predominantly for these foods such as a KOJA Peanut Butter Bar
- Lentils & legumes
- Certain whole-grains
- Fortified cereals
- Fortified plant-based milks (tip soy milk tends to have higher amounts as soybeans naturally contain phosphorus)
Practise safe sun exposure:
- According to the Cancer Council Foundation, a few minutes of mid-morning or mid-afternoon sun exposure to both your arms and hands on most days of the week during summer, should ensure adequate levels of vitamin D
- During late autumn and winter, the Cancer Council Foundation recommends being outdoors (ideally in the middle of day) for a few hours per week.
Here at KOJA, we adopt a 'food-first' approach, but completely recognise that depending on your dietary requirements and preferences, meeting the recommended dietary intakes for certain nutrients can be difficult with food alone. In this case, a supplement may be the best option for you.
If you’re concerned about your intake of any of these nutrients or suspect a nutritional deficiency, please seek professional guidance from your GP and Dietitian.
Millie is the resident Dietitian and Nutritionist at KOJA Health. She is passionate about helping women around the world improve their relationship with food through balanced nutrition and a positive mindset. Millie hopes that she can help to clear the confusion about nutrition and make healthy simple!
KOJA’s absolutely delicious Oat Bars featured in our spring ‘Embrace’ retreat. To shop with KOJA, visit www.koja.com.au and use discount code RYEMBRACE for 20% off, minimum spend $50, until 28/02/23.