Those who know me know just how much I love food. I'm also always hunting for ways to eat better, more sustainably and yet still enjoy the eating. A recommendation I often make to patients during cold and flu season is to avoid dairy when a cold involves phlegm or mucus. For those with recurring sinus problems, reducing cow-based dairy products are a great way to reduce the amount of mucus the body generates. Our bodies weren't built to process the fat droplets in cow's milk easily. This can result in digestive upset or the production of mucus. In TCM, all foods are given a temperature. Cow's milk is considered a very cold food which can result in the build up of "damp" and "phlegm" in the body. For people who have difficulty with excess damp, such as runny noses and congested sinuses, avoiding these types of foods can be beneficial. The difficulty is that, well.....cheese, ice cream and a big cold glass of milk with dessert taste GOOD. Thankfully many people do not have to completely cut them out of their diet to see a benefit. Many alternatives to cow's milk products now exist, so it is good to try what's out there to see what works for you.
Alternative milks such as almond, hemp and rice milk are easy to adjust to with rice and hemp milk having the added benefit of thickening well when heated. Almond milk will separate, so not a great substitute for sauces. Almond milk is, however, very easy to make at home for those care to try. Soy milk is a common, but complicated option as it actually is as cold as cow's milk in TCM and the question of the potential effect of phytoestrogens in it are still very much under debate. Sheep and goat milk products are also potential substitutes with many cheese and yogurts now easily available. The fat droplets in sheep and goat milk are much smaller than that in cow milk, making them easier to digest.
One area I've personally had difficulty finding a good alternative is in the area of vegan cheese. They can often have a funny, plasticky texture, don't tend to melt well and often don't taste much like cheese. It would seem that a new era is dawning, however with the development of nut milk cheeses. A recent NPR piece looked at these new nut milk cheeses and it seems there may be hope. Read the article here- Hold the Mammal: Daring to make dairy free cheese from nuts
As a fan of nut milks and lover of cheese, I look forward to trying some of these new nut-cheeses.