Every day at Mount Currie Coffee Company in Whistler and Pemberton, we’re asked if we have food or beverage products that are gluten-free, dairy-free or vegan, and we’ve seen the popularity of using our alternative milk options for coffee soar in recent years.

The free-from food market was valued at 33 billion US dollars globally back in 2016, and it continues to grow steadily as consumers become more health conscious and mindful of what they’re putting into their bodies. It’s no surprise here in Whistler and Pemberton – an area full of outdoor-loving, wellness-minded folk – that our oat, soy, almond and coconut milks are frequently requested over dairy milk and our gluten and dairy-free muffins can often outsell the regular ones!

The consumption of free-from products has moved beyond just intolerances and allergies, and more towards those concerned about sustainability and animal welfare issues, as well as those that simply enjoy the taste and interesting flavours that alternative options can often bring. Most consumers who buy ‘free-from’ foods are doing so because they’re looking for less processed, more natural foods and have the desire to feel good about what they eat and drink, instead of guilty.

We are proud of our varied selection of free-from products at MCCC – our vegan banana bread is nut and dairy-free and is currently selling out on the daily! We also bake a gluten-free, dairy-free vegan muffin every day, as well as a vegan chocolate caramel tart and gluten-free, peanut butter and dark chocolate cookies – made using ground chickpeas. Other free-from food options in store include our chia seed pudding, curried tofu salad and dairy-free vegan wraps. We’ve also just added oat milk to our dairy-free milk line-up and customers are loving how creamy it is – foaming in a very similar way to dairy milk when heating owing to its canola oil content, which mimics the fat found in whole milk.

So why do people cut out gluten?

A gluten-free diet is a healthier option for people with gluten-related disorders such as celiac disease or gluten sensitivity, but there is little evidence that cutting it our entirely is beneficial for people who don’t have these conditions. However, many people find eating a diet low in or completely free from gluten can feel a lot lighter on the stomach, as well as the body as a whole. Gluten doesn’t actually provide any essential nutrients in itself and those that avoid it can often find themselves eating a healthier diet full of fresher, more unrefined foods.

There are studies showing that gluten can cause inflammation in the intestine and degenerate the intestinal lining, causing negative effects on the barrier function of the intestine and allowing unwanted substances to leak through into the bloodstream. Interestingly, there are also mental health conditions that respond well to a gluten-free diet, including autism, schizophrenia and epilepsy – based on studies which show gluten causes inflammation within the gut that can then spread to the brain. Of course ultimately, whether or not to eat gluten is a completely personal thing and a case of listening to your body to see what works best for you.

What about going dairy-free?

Dairy products can often show more obvious adverse reactions in the body compared to gluten, with a large percentage of the world’s population showing some degree of lactose intolerance – a reaction to the sugars found in milk. If your body decides that dairy is unwelcome, your immune system will fire up each time you consume it and for many people, the reaction is subtle and chronic, but for others, it can trigger an autoimmune flare-up and a host of health issues. Hormones and steroids found in dairy products have also been known to stimulate acne. It’s these hormones and steroids that can also negatively impact female hormonal health, by causing too much oestrogen within the body, and potentially reducing fertility.

Whilst you may want to cut back on milk consumption, soft cheese and yoghurt are actually better dairy options as they contain less lactose but plenty of friendly probiotics which are great for gut health. Butter is also low in milk proteins, and is consequently tolerated well by many people. Whilst we see many customers opting for skimmed milk to avoid excess fat in their diet, consumption of full-fat dairy products has actually been linked to a reduced likelihood of becoming overweight or obese. This is because the saturated fats in dairy prevent overeating by telling your body when you’re full, as well as helping to slow the release of sugars from your meal. Full-fat dairy also naturally contains fat-soluble nutrients such as vitamins A, D, E and K.

Final thought…

A truly healthy diet is all about balance and moderation with all foods, as well as listening to your body in a mindful and attentive way to see what works. Treating yourself to some delicious cake and a full-fat coffee every now and then can make you feel great and help relive stress, which is never a bad thing!

At MCCC, we make sure to prepare all our food in-house so we have control over every ingredient that goes in.