How to Work Dairy Into Your Diet and Dairy Challenge Updates

May 16, 2015
So in our article analyzing whether or not we should be consuming dairy, we went through research for metrics such as:
  • Saturated fat
  • Calcium content
  • Full-fat vs low-fat dairy
  • Lactose intolerance
  • Casomorphins
Through the information presented the question is not answerable with a simple yes or no for everyone. Does cutting out dairy mean that you’ll no longer consume whey protein? Will you still have butter? There’s varying extents to cutting out different dairy products in your life. That’s why I recommend if you haven’t tried this already, to cut out dairy and slowly phase it back in as you see fit. If you’ve been drinking milk and consuming dairy your entire life, you could have no idea if it’s affecting you negatively.

Cutting out milk to test for lactose intolerance

Referring to the original infographic from the previous article, there’s a good chance you are somewhat lactose intolerant.  Lactose is the sugar found in milk, so one simple way to test for lactose intolerance if you’re a regular milk drinker is to cut it out for a period of time - and of course replace the calories appropriately in your diet - and monitor the effects.
As babies and maybe still now we produce the lactase enzyme, which breaks down lactose in the small intestine. If you don’t have enough of lactase to break down the lactose sugar, it ends up fermenting in your large intestine and causing symptoms of lactose intolerance
This is a great place to start on deciding how and what dairy products you’ll include in your diet. If you find you’re better off not consuming milk, or you decide you’ll continue consuming it, either way it’s a useful test to see if it’s adding value to your diet and making your goals easier. If your small intestines aren’t breaking down the lactose properly then you aren’t absorbing all of the potential glucose and galactose energy from the milk.

What about cutting out butter?

Following our definition of lactose and it being the root cause of lactose intolerance, you won’t find a lot of the sugar in butter. If you really want to go full on with a dairy removal challenge, go ahead and cut out on the butter for your test duration - but I really don’t see any reason to cut out this staple source of saturated fat.

Low-lactose food options to introduce back in to your diet

With a dairy challenge, these low-lactose options are going to the first dairy products you want to phase back into your diet to construct your dairy arsenal. Here are some common foods and their lactose levels:
  • 1 Tbsp butter: 0.01 grams
  • 1 oz Swiss cheese: 0.02 grams
  • 1 oz mozzarella cheese: 0.02 grams
  • 1 oz Parmesan cheese: 0.04 grams
  • 1 oz cheddar cheese: 0.07 grams
  • 1 oz brie cheese: 0.13 grams
  • 1 oz reduced-fat cheese: 0.15 grams
  • 2 Tbsp (1 oz) half & half: 0-1 gram
  • 2 Tbsp (1 oz) fat-free half & half: 1-2 grams
  • 100-percent whey protein powder: 1-2 grams per serving
  • 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese: 3 grams
  • 1/2 cup vanilla ice cream: 4.9 grams
  • 1 cup plain Greek yogurt: 8-9 grams
  • 1 cup plain low-fat yogurt: 13 grams
  • 1 cup goat milk: 9-10.5 grams
  • 1 cup cow’s milk: 13 grams
As you can see, almost negligible levels in butter, and all cheese products which have most of the watery byproduct whey (which contains most of the lactose) removed in their processing.
So once you’ve cut out milk, and you want to phase back in dairy products to see how you react - start at the top of the list and work your way down. I know cheese is an exciting and easy way to spice up a meal, and if you stick with some of the harder cheeses with less whey (and therefore lactose content) then you should have no problem with lactose effects.

Designing the steps to your own dairy challenge program

Like I said, since there is no cut and dry answer for everyone since we all have different lactase production in our system, you really need to make your own process to test and see which dairy products will work for you. Here’s my outline for designing a program:

1. Select a timeframe that you’ll perform the challenge for - between 2-4 weeks seems like a reasonable amount of time to get a feel for your results.

2. Decide what you’re cutting out, and when and what you’ll phase back in - I would say to for sure cut out milk and yogurts, you could choose to continue consuming butter and hard cheeses.

3. Throughout your experiment keep your calories and exercise levels constant - document your mood and feelings, weight, body fat, skin health, and overall wellbeing. 

4. When the challenge is coming to a close, decide based on your results if you want to phase any dairy products back in, and which ones you want to start with. Refer to the lactose list above if you need an idea of where to start.

5. If you felt similarly as you did before throughout your experiment and you feel that diary has a place in your diet for your goals, continue to consume it as you would.

6. If you’re feeling better while not consuming high-lactose content foods, you may have an intolerance that you weren’t aware of. Stick to lower lactose content options to make sure you’re getting the glucose and galactose energy out of the lactase you are able to produce.

My test results so far from my dairy challenge

Week 1
To be honest I didn’t notice too many changes in this period. It wasn’t difficult to stop drinking so much milk and I didn’t experience any cravings. My lifts increased as usual while maintaining my weight.
Week 2
In this week I started to feel a little less puffy overall - my bodyfat has been reducing while remaining at the same bodyweight with my lifts progressing standardly. Skin is looking healthier.
Week 3
Similar response to week 2, bodyfat still dropping slightly while everything else is continuing as usual. I have to say I’m feeling quite good, I’ll have to see how next week goes to decide if I continue to be dairy free or not.
At this point, I have a week left to go. I’m thinking that I will phase back in butter, and still drink milk from the farm I help at. I won’t be purchasing any milk from the store, so my intake would be limited to around a half gallon per week. This implementations will take place after the 4th week barring any new findings, and I will continue to monitor past then.
It’s been an interesting challenge for me, and to be honest I was expecting some more changes. My take is that I have a good enough lactase enzyme production to consume large amounts of dairy products. I do enjoy dairy, and it’s an easy way for me to add calories to meals. Butter is also one of my favourite cooking fats, so it’s here to stay. Until next time!
About the author
Scott Wolowich is an advocate of the natural lifestyle, and anything to do with a barbell. He went to the University of Guelph in Canada, and was a competitor on the varsity wrestling team during his time there. In recent days, he focuses on strength training, olympic lifting, and tweaking his diet for max performance. Follow Scott's posts for a dose of real experiences mixed with scientific evidence for optimizing the Paleo lifestyle for athletic performance and everyday life. Scott also writes about nutrition and fitness at

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