Hey there everyone! How’s it going out there? Today has been one of those days – lots of work at school, feeling tired due to not getting the best night’s sleep last night, and after yesterday’s warm temperatures, they are predicting a wintery mix for tonight into tomorrow. Things could be worse though, right? Nothing that an awesome workout, a healthy dinner, and a good night’s sleep can’t cure.
As I began to cook some roasted eggplant for dinner tonight, for the first time I did not reach for something I often put on top of it…cheese. In fact, for a little over a week now I have not consumed dairy – and I plan on continuing on that path. Let me explain…
As you may know, regular weight bearing exercise, proper doses of vitamin D and K, a non-smoking lifestyle, and calcium are all necessary components to maintaining healthy bones and strong teeth. Calcium is essential, for the body also needs the mineral to clot blood, send nerve impulses, metabolize iron, regulate heartbeat and other muscle contractions, and reduce the risk of chronic disease.
While dairy is the most believed source of calcium, the vast majority of the world’s population (about 70%) is intolerant to milk’s sugar, lactose. The reason? Our production of lactase, the enzyme responsible for digesting lactose, naturally starts diminishing after age 2, as your gastrointestinal tract matures. As time goes on, incidences of intolerances or discomfort continue to grow. When lactose is not digested properly, it reaches the intestines, where bacteria attack it and try to break it down. During the, “attack,” acids and gases are produced causing the painful symptoms.
As I did further research I found that plant foods are proven to have better bioavailablility of calcium than dairy products. This means our body better absorbs and uses the calcium present in this foods as compared to dairy foods. While dairy foods are rich in calcium, they are also rich in protein which inhibits the body’s ability to absorb calcium. In addition, the human body likes to stay in a narrow range of acidity versus alkalinity, and the largest source of alkalinity in our bodies is the calcium in our bones. When you consume acidic foods such as dairy, animal protein, and refined sugar, your body leaches calcium from your bones to balance the scales.
More and more evidence is beginning to prove that high diary consumption doesn’t protect from osteoporosis and actually exacerbates health issues like asthma, obesity, and eczema. In 2003, the Harvard Nurses’s Health study showed no link between increased milk consumption and bone health. In fact, the countries with the highest dairy consumption rates – Scandinavian countries, New Zealand, Australia, and the United States – also have the highest osteoporosis and bone fracture rates in the world compared to countries with low dairy consumption. A dairy rich diet is abundant in dietary cholesterol and saturated fat, can also cause iron deficiency, and can interfere with iron absorption, causing anemia.
Furthermore, most dairy in the United States is produced by cows living in factory farms. These animals spend most of their time in warehouses and are fed a constant stream of synthetic hormones and antibiotics to keep them from getting sick in the conditions in which they live. The dairy increases growth hormones in our blood which is linked to not only Type 1 diabetes and heart disease but can also increase one’s risk for various types of cancer, including ovarian, breast, and prostate. Now, let me make sure I state that I am not trying to preach or convert others to eliminating dairy, nor do I look down upon or judge those that consume it. Carefully selected, minimally processed, full-fat dairy (in moderation) can be a beneficial component of a healthy diet; however, for someone such as myself who has mild abnormalities and low grade cells, the steroids, genetically engineered growth hormones, antibiotic residues, pesticides, herbicides, fungicides, veterinary drugs, fertilizers, synthetic preservatives, and additives will cause more harm to me than the calcium will do good.
For these reasons, you may have noticed I touched upon in both this post and this post, that I recently transitioned into a vegan diet, and it is for preventative purposes. For now will be getting my calcium from plant-based foods such as those few shown in the chart below and many more.
As with my vegetarian diet, I of course understand that lifestyles are different from mine, and I respect that even if it’s something I no longer chose for myself. As always, if I go out to eat with loved ones, the choice of menu at parties or family gatherings or the choice of restaurants should never revolve around my lifestyle, for I will always be able to find something that I love to eat and enjoy. In addition, if anyone comes over my house for dinner, I have no problem serving non vegan dishes for them and sharing them with you! My philosophy also has not changed, and I still aim to eat food that is as fresh, simple, whole, and unprocessed as possible, the way it was created in nature. I don’t intend to eat faux meats, textured soy, and other products filled with artificial colors, chemical flavorings, and preservatives.
I have been vegan for a week now, and to be honest, at first, the transition was a bit difficult. Dairy contains traces of morphine and is also psychologically addicting due to casein, the primary protein in dairy. It causes the production of casomorphins in your body, and these opiate-like compounds activate a large release of feel-good hormones, causing you to crave more. As time goes on, the cravings thankfully decrease! I never fully realized how many delicious, amazing recipes there are out there and how fabulous vegan food is! Although it has a stigma, many of us eat vegan dishes every day and just never realized it!
Well friends, for those troopers who read this whole post, thank you. As always, whatever your choice for healthy living may be, let’s continue to support and encourage each other to live an active lifestyle, putting quality food into your body that would nourish and sustain you and the environment in the best way possible, body, mind, and soul.
Question of the Day: What is your favorite plant-based source of calcium?
Quote of the Day: “You can never control or change how others think, feel, or act. You can only change how you think, feel, and act, and lead by example.” - Celestine Chua