We haven’t actually talked about being dairy free on the blog yet, so it’s probably time to start talking because it was a very important part of the restaurant concept . As you may already know, all of our food and drink items are dairy free, with the small exception in our Tulum restaurant where we offer an organic cow’s milk option to have with the coffee selection.
Apart from this, everything on the menu is completely free from all dairy, and where dairy would normally feature, we have substituted with fresh, homemade coconut milk. Coconut milk is the perfect compliment to dishes which require a creamy base, as when made fresh it has a very subtle coconut flavour, so can actually be used in many different dishes. The Real Coconut menu is also undeniably Mexican in style, so coconut fits in perfectly with our flavour portfolio.
It can also however be successfully used in more broad spectrum cooking, such as for our homemade batter for the TRC Fried Chicken Bites, as you would not know that coconut had been involved when sampling the finished product. However, if you do want the coconut flavour to come through then you can intelligently combine the accompany ingredients and flavours so that the coconut shines through. This can be sampled in our coconut milk ceviche, which although is abundant in other intense flavours (like chile, passionfruit and lime) they act together to compliment one another so that every ingredient sings.
So for us going dairy free has been easy, especially as the coconut literally grows on trees all around us in Tulum, making it inexcusably easy to source and to take full advantage of.
There are various reasons we decided to go dairy free all of which coincided with our philosophy of providing food and drink that is nourishing to the body and planet. Dairy is a known problem food for many people and has been shown to cause digestive issues in many sensitive individuals.
Lactose intolerance is the most well known problem people have with dairy, this is due to someone not being able to properly digest the lactose which is a type of sugar found in milk. Lactose (the milk sugar) is normally broken by lactase (an enzyme) into the building block sugars glucose and galactose, so that they can be properly absorbed into the bloodstream. However lactose intolerance means that a person cannot produce enough lactase to break down the milk sugars, which leaves them undigested in the intestines where they start to ferment.
On top of that you can also be allergic to other molecules in dairy such as the casein and whey which are the milk proteins. The body can identify them as bad and the immune system then targets them as something to be dealt with i.e.neutralised and removed from the body which essentially means that the immune system attacks them. This activates your immune system which creates inflammation and can lead to lots of unpleasant symptoms such as bloating, vomiting, diarrhea and nausea.
MODERN DAIRY FARMING
Modern dairy processing also means commercial dairy is pasteurised and homogenised which further removes it from its natural state, something we try and avoid where possible. The pasteurisation process is often necessary when selling dairy commercially as it ensures that harmful bacteria are killed, as raw dairy was responsible for spreading many harmful diseases in the past. This did however also come down to poor health and safety regulations around the processing and transporting of dairy which would have meant diseases were spread easily anyway. It is possible to still buy raw dairy from modern farms, but they need to be specially licensed to do so as the farms need to demonstrate exemplary hygiene standards. However pasteurising milk also eliminates the lactase enzyme from the milk, which is necessary for its proper digestion, perhaps contributing to increased intolerance.
Homogenisation is however something that is not always necessary, but is something is done to standardise the milk and make it easier to process and sell. Normally whole milk would separate and you would see the cream rise to the top, but homogenisation prevents this. The homogenisation process is a mechanical process where the fat globules are broken down so that they become smaller in size and stay suspended in the milk without separating. This changes the molecular composition of milk and is perhaps another reason why people can find it hard on the digestive system.
On top of that there are the ethical issues around dairy that so many people are currently becoming aware of. Although we offer foods sourced from animals we have made every effort to ensure that we source everything from farms that still use traditional farming methods which ensure the highest welfare for the animals. We will always source from farms where the animals are still put out to pasture, are grass fed (if relevant), and organic wherever possible. Dairy however is not an animal product we have chosen to use as we do not feel it is necessary from a nutritional point of view, or in terms of being a contribution to the menu.
OUR FAVOURITE SWAPS
Our main focus has always been food that makes you feel good and is easy on the digestive system. Dairy has too many possible side effects to warrant it being an option and we feel that the coconut provides us with a much more sustainable and ethically more appropriate alternative to offer at large. Our menu is full of dairy free options that have been perfectly filled in with the coconut and have quickly become classics. Some of our favourites being the live coconut milk yogurt; coconut milk smoothies; coconut milk flan; ice cream; Buyah Cafe; Rich Cacao Milk; Tumeric & Ginger Latte and so many more….
RHIANNON BAKER | HEALTH & WELLNESS AUTHOR