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    Archive for the ‘dairy’ Category

    Big Dairy’s Latest Smear Tactic

    There was a time, not too long ago, when one’s milk options were relegated to different varieties of cow’s milk (i.e.: full-fat, reduced-fat, skim, lactose-free).

    Times have changed. Soy was the first plant milk to “go mainstream” in the mid 1990s, and now multiple varieties are on supermarket shelves, including almond, coconut, hazelnut, hemp, oat, rice, and sunflower seed.

    Much like an only child who is the center of attention until a sibling comes along, Big Dairy has started to lash out. “Alternative milks” are no longer relegated to the vegan world; vegetarians and omnivores also purchase and consume plant-based milks. Bad news for Big Dairy (AKA The California Milk Processor Board).

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    Nutrition Lies and the Lying Food Industries That Tell Them

    Four of the biggest food industries — dairy, beef, soda, and cereal — will stop at nothing to sell their products, whether by downplaying negative health effects, making misleading claims, or simply stating false facts.

    What follows is a cornucopia of misleading and untruthful statements I have encountered.

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    Thinking Organic? Think Beyond Fruits & Vegetables

    When it comes to organic food, the vast majority of attention is focused on fruits and vegetables.  The Environmental Working Group, for example, provides their handy “dirty dozen” and “clean fifteen” guides every year — the former details the fruits and vegetables one should aim to buy organic if/when possible (due to their high pesticide loads); the latter lists produce that contains minimal to low pesticide loads and is therefore less concerning.

    Considering the fact that the average conventional apple is sprayed with 36 pesticides — and grapes with up to 34 — it certainly makes sense to prioritize organic choices.  However, too often, other foods are left out of mainstream organic “conversations”; foods that people may consume more often — and in higher amounts — than fruits and vegetables.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Omega 7

    product502Do you have any insight on Omega 7?  Someone told me it was good.

    — Marie-Rose Nduku
    New York, NY

    Before we get to the actual answer, I think it is worth reminding everyone that only two omega fatty acids — omega 3 and omega 6 — are essential.  In the world of nutrition, an “essential nutrient” is one we must obtain from food since our bodies are unable to manufacture it.  This is why cholesterol is not an essential nutrient.  Our bodies produce it on a daily basis, so one can be perfectly healthy without ever consuming a single milligram of cholesterol.

    Omega-7 is not an essential fatty acid, no matter how crucial manufacturers of omega-7 supplements make it seem.  Let’s learn more about it, though.

    There are two types of omega-7 fatty acids: palmitoleic acid and vaccenic acid.

    Palmitoleic acid is a monounsaturated fatty acid manufactured by our bodies from other fatty acids in the diet, but is also found in decent amounts in fish and macadamia nut oil.  Though research on it is very limited, we do know that it raises the body’s levels of LDL (“bad”) cholesterol.  This is quite an anomaly, since most monounsaturated fatty acids raise HDL (“good”) cholesterol.

    And so we come to the problem of isolating nutrients, rather than considering them within their respective food matrix.  Unfortunately, the mainstream media loves to isolate nutrients and attempt to incite unnecessary hysteria.  The fact that palmitoleic acid raises LDL levels does not mean fish and macadamia nut oil are now “unhealthy”.

    Foods are a combination of fatty acids.  In the example of fish, palmitoleic acid makes up a small amount of the total fatty acid percentage.  Even in the case of macadamia nut oil, palmitoleic acid only makes up about twenty percent of its fatty acid profile (almost two-thirds of it are comprised of heart-healthy oleic acid).

    Vaccenic acid — the other omega-7 — is a healthful naturally-occurring trans fat found in full-fat dairy products (and, to a smaller extent, in reduced-fat products).  I know, I know; all this time you have heard trans fats be vilified.  However, the trans fats nutritionists declared Public Enemy #1 were man-made, artificial trans fats.  Natural trans fats (like vaccenic acid and conjugated linoleic acid) are a whole other story.

    Vaccenic acid is an isomer of heart-healthy oleic acid (“isomer” is science-speak for “not identical, but very very similar to”).  Research on vaccenic acid has also been rather scant, but it appears that it is converted into conjugated linoleic acid by the body, thereby providing some cardiovascular-protective benefits.

    So, what are our takeaways?

    • The only fatty acids we must get from food are omega 3 and omega 6 (though, as regular Small Bites readers know, omega-6 consumption in the US is too high).
    • When examining a food’s fat content, it is important to consider the entire fatty acid profile.
    • There is no reason to shy away from full-fat or reduced-fat products.  The fat-free phenomenon of the 1990s caused more harm than good.  It led to an increase in added sugar intake (sugar replaced fat in processed low-fat and fat-free convenience foods) and reduced our intake of healthful compounds found in foods that naturally contain them.  For this reason, I find that two-percent dairy products are a better choice than fat-free ones.  Even in the case of your morning latte, I see absolutely nothing wrong with getting it with whole milk.
    • What if you don’t consume dairy products?  No biggie.  Vaccenic acid is simply one of many fatty acids that provide heart-healthy benefits.  As long as most of your fats come from the right foods (avocados, olives, walnuts, coconut, flax, fish, sea vegetables, etc.) you have no reason to be concerned.
    • As for the “age defying skin complex” statement on the accompanying supplement image’s bottle: omega-7 has been found to be effective as a topical solution for certain skin conditions.  The specific omega-7 associated with skin conditions is palmitoleic acid — the one our bodies manufacture from other fatty acids!  There is no need to spend money on a supplement.
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    Grading the Gurus: Walter Willett

    0901p88c-walter-willett-lWHO IS HE?

    Dr. Willett is the Fredrick John Stare Professor of Epidemiology and Nutrition in the Department of Nutrition and Epidemiology at Harvard’s School of Public Health, a Professor of Medicine at Harvard Medical School, and has been chair of the Harvard Department of Nutrition and Epidemiology since 1991.

    He is also the author of 2005’s Eat, Drink, and Be Healthy and 2007’s Eat Drink, and Weigh Less.

    WHAT IS HIS MAIN MESSAGE?

    Dr. Willett’s main points are:

    • Healthy fats should not be feared; they are an important part of a healthy diet.
    • A diet that gets more than 30 percent of calories from fat is perfectly okay as long as those fats are plant-based.
    • Potatoes and table sugar are essentially the same thing.  Potatoes should be limited, much like refined grains.
    • Nuts and legumes are preferred sources of protein.
    • Many dietary recommendations are based on politics (i.e.: “for calcium, eat dairy”) rather than a comprehensive understanding of science.
    • Exercise and physical activity are the foundation of health.

    Dr. Willett created his own version of the food pyramid, which perfectly illustrates these — and a few other — viewpoints.

    WHAT I LIKE:

    Dr. Willett is not afraid to think outside the box and, armed with substantial research-based evidence, question standard dietary advice (i.e.: “dairy is the best source of calcium.”).

    I greatly appreciate his strong defense of healthy fats, emphasis on whole grains and plant-based protein, and the importance he places on daily physical activity.

    Compared to other well-known male doctors who delve into nutrition matters, Dr. Willett is in no way gimmicky, does not endorse or partner up with questionable famous “experts”, and, in my opinion, is the one who most stays true to his convictions.  Refreshing — and admirable!

    His research experience is substantial; throughout his career, he has published approximately 1,100 articles dealing with nutrition and health matters in various peer-reviewed science journals.

    WHAT I DON’T LIKE:

    I wish Dr. Willett were more specific with his fat recommendations.

    For example, he groups all plant-based oils (including soy, olive, and peanut) in the “healthy fats” group.

    This troubles me because there is a clear hierarchy.  Soybean, safflower, and sesame seed oil are very high in omega-6 fatty acids and therefore not as healthy as olive and peanut (high in monounsaturated fat) or flax oil (high in omega-3 fatty acids).

    Similarly, Dr. Willett classifies all saturated fats equally, even though those in coconuts and cacao are healthier than the ones in full-fat dairy and red meat (especially from cows that subsist on corn).

    My main gripe with Dr. Willett’s dietary advice, though, is his view on potatoes.

    Per his food pyramid, potatoes are placed in the same “use sparingly” category as white bread, white rice, white pasta, soda, and sweets.  I find this to be grossly inaccurate and misleading.

    BOTTOM LINE:

    Dr. Willett is very familiar with — and knowledgeable about — nutrition issues.  Like Dr. Marion Nestle, his epidemiological background enables him to analyze and apply clinical studies appropriately, and his consideration of the relationship between food politics and dietary advice adds a powerful “oomph” to his message.

    Although I find his views on potatoes unnecessarily alarmist and extremist, his overall nutrition message is interesting, multi-layered, and scientifically solid.

    GRADE: A-

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    You Ask, I Answer: Giving Up Dairy

    lecheI’m seeing a nutritionist who has given me a regimen to follow. I’m a little skeptical of it, so am researching each of the items one by one.

    One of the items is forgoing milk. She said cow’s milk is particularly bad because it’s pumped full of antibiotics and hormones, and our stomachs aren’t meant to digest the milk of another animal.

    If I must have some milk, she recommended small amounts of goat’s or sheep’s milk (or cheese), because those animals aren’t fed as many antibiotics and hormones as cows are. (This last part makes me think that organic milk would be no worse than goat or sheep milk, but anyway…)

    I know many people are lactose-intolerant because we aren’t meant to digest milk after childhood.

    However, if I’m not lactose-intolerant, is it still possible that milk is affecting my digestive system negatively? Do you ever recommend to your clients that they drop dairy entirely?

    Should I care that all of the substitutes for dairy milk (soy, almond, rice) are highly processed and don’t really occur in nature?

    — Meredith (Last name withheld)
    (Location withheld)

    Wonderful questions, Meredith.

    First of all, not all cow’s milk is pumped full of antibiotics and hormones.

    While, sadly, that is the norm, it is possible to purchase organic milk from cows that have not been fed either of those two things.  You can also purchase milk from grass-fed cows (that have also not been pumped with antibiotics and hormones) in most health food stores.

    As for the arguments that our stomachs aren’t meant to digest the milk of another animal — it depends.  That is certainly true for some individuals, but not for others.

    For information on the digestibility of goat’s milk (it goes far beyond lower lactose levels!), please read this post.

    Bottom line: if you are not lactose intolerant, there is no reason why dairy products would affect your digestive system negatively.

    I would never recommend that a client of mine who is able to digest dairy products completely eliminate them (I do think it is a good idea for omnivores to get calcium from a variety of different foods and not rely solely on dairy, though).

    Similarly, I would never tell a vegan client (or one who is lactose intolerant) that their diet is inferior because it does not include dairy.

    The mere presence — or absence — of dairy does not make a diet any healthier.

    From a purely nutritional standpoint, there is nothing wrong with having it or eschewing it.

    Ultimately, your body knows you best.  There are people who, while not allergic or intolerant to dairy, feel better without it in their diet.  Others feel better when they consume dairy on a daily basis.  Both experiences are valid.

    In terms of dairy milk substitutes — I enjoy making different nut milks at home.  It’s easy, inexpensive, and less processed than some products out there.

    That said, if you are buying unsweetened varieties that consist of two or three ingredients, you don’t have anything to worry about.

    FYI: One of my favorite home-made nut milks is cashew milk.  In a blender, mix a  half cup of cashews, two cups of water, a pinch of salt, and some vanilla extract.  This makes two cups of cashew milk — delicious by itself or over cereal.

    For a chocolate version, add a tablespoon of cacao powder!  You can also try substituting cashews with almonds, pecans, Brazil nuts, or hazelnuts.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Food Exchange Lists

    3607-1I know that 1/8th of an avocado is considered one serving of fat but considering it’s also a vegetable, does it have a vegetable exchange as well?

    If I were to add a serving of avocado to my sandwich, is that a serving of vegetables in addition to a serving of fat?

    I’m confused about exchange lists.

    — Cate (last name unknown)
    (Location Unknown)

    Here’s some good news — unless you have diabetes (or provide nutrition counseling to diabetes patients), you don’t need to be familiar with exchange lists.

    Exchange lists group foods by nutritional composition rather than by the nutrients they offer (which is how the food pyramid classifies foods).  They were especially formulated to ease meal planning for people living with diabetes, who have to carefully monitor — and distribute — their intake of carbohydrates, fat, and protein.

    Exchange lists classify foods as:

    • Starches
    • Fruits
    • Vegetables
    • Very lean/lean/medium fat proteins
    • Non-fat/low-fat dairy
    • Fats

    Nutrition students often times get tripped up when they first learn about the food pyramid and exchange lists, since they can be easy to confuse.

    In the food pyramid, for instance, an avocado counts as a fruit serving (it is not a vegetable).  In the exchange lists, avocado is considered a “fat”.

    Similarly, while a slice of Swiss cheese falls under the “dairy” category in the food pyramid, the exchange lists classify it as a “medium-fat protein”.

    Why?  Cheese, ounce by ounce, has a similar protein and carbohydrate content to meat.

    In the exchange list, a “very lean” protein is one that, per serving, offers 35 calories and no more than 1 gram of fat.  Lentils, egg whites, and turkey breast all fall into this category.

    When figuring out what category the foods you eat fall into, go by food groups, not exchange lists.

    In your case, half a cup of avocado is considered a fruit serving.  Avocados are not considered part of the food pyramid’s “added oils and sugars” tip since an avocado contains a whole lot more than fat — it is also a wonderful source of vitamins, minerals, and phytonutrients.

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    Survey Results: Calcium Education

    calcium-richThe latest Small Bites survey asked visitors if they perceived mainstream advice on calcium-rich foods to be too focused on dairy products.  Ninety-two percent of the sixty-seven respondents said “yes.”

    I certainly think consumer knowledge and awareness of non-dairy sources of calcium in the United States — and other Western nations — is practically non-existent.

    Although dairy products certainly offer calcium, so do some leafy green vegetables (bok choy, kale, mustard greens, and collard greens), canned fish (salmon with bones, sardines), chickpeas, tempeh, and almonds.

    Part of the “problem” is that the majority of educational materials on calcium are paid for — and distributed — by the National Dairy Council, which not only plunks down $100 million annually in advertising, but also doles out as much money in the way of research grants.

    I recently conducted a small-scale research project which, among other things, examined calcium awareness among vegans and non-vegans.

    One part of the questionnaire respondents were asked to fill out included a food frequency questionnaire which included 41 foods that were high, moderate, or low sources of calcium.

    A subsequent question asked respondents to list any foods in that list they were not aware contained calcium.  Almost two thirds of those surveyed were surprised to see broccoli, kale, mustard greens, bok choy, chickpeas, and tempeh make the list.

    Hey, PETA, how about giving the silly publicity gimmicks a break (you know, like your campaigns to have breast milk in Ben & Jerry’s ice cream or change the name of the Pet Shop Boys to The Rescue Shelter Boys?) and investing a significant amount of money in educational materials for the general population on non-dairy sources of calcium?

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    Shame On You/Say What?: Intruder Alert!

    A reader by the name of Rachelle recently left a comment on this blog notifying me about author John Gray’s foray into nutrition.

    If the name sounds familiar, it’s because Mr. Gray is the author of the “let’s make cultural norms seem like biological qualities” pop-psychology book Men Are From Mars, Women are From Venus.

    Despite a lack of nutrition credentials, Mr. Gray now considers himself knowledgeable enough to dole out nutrition advice. Oh, joy.

    Perhaps it is the “PhD” after his name that gave him this confidence, although that credential has been severely questioned.

    In any case, Mr. Gray offers nutritional cleanses retreats (red flag, anyone?) and hawks — are you ready for it? — Mars & Venus shakes.

    According to Mr. Gray, these shakes offer the “ideal balance of nutrients” for men and women. Don’t you love vague pseudo-science catch phrases?

    You do? Great, because here’s another one: “the shakes are designed to assist the brain in functioning in a more balanced and harmonious manner.”

    Mr. Gray also claims these shakes get you to your ideal weight. If you need to lose, you will lose. If you need to gain weight, you will gain. I would love to see the randomized double-blind control trials that confirm this (because I’m so sure he conducted them.)

    Despite having the exact same ingredients in different amounts, Mr. Gray claims the Mars shake produces more dopamine in the brain, while the Venus shake produces more serotonin.

    Huh? Both shakes contain a protein powder. Protein-rich foods cause a surge of dopamine. So, how then, does the Venus shake differ?

    If you’re looking to lose weight, Mr. Gray has you covered!

    All you have to do is buy his shake powder (of course!) and have it as your breakfast and dinner.

    For lunch, you can eat a salad “with as many raw vegetables and avocado as you wish” as well as some form of protein, all topped with olive oil and either lemon juice or vinegar.

    Although Mr. Gray claims the “effortless weight loss” (15 pounds a week, he claims!) is due to the magic ingredients in his shake, it’s clear that the “magic” is simple caloric deprivation.

    How can you NOT lose weight if your only solid meal of the day is a salad and your other two meals each consist of one scoop of powder and eight ounces of water?

    Despite all the fantastic claims, the small print at the bottom of his website reads “John Gray’s Mars & Venus LLC does NOT guarantee weight loss.”

    Hmmmm… interesting how he never mentions that in his breathless infomercials where he mentions how “life changing” his shakes have been!

    Now we come to my favorite part — the head-scratching nutrition-related statements:

    * The weight loss cleanse prohibits the intake of any dairy, yet the shakes — which are a significant part of the cleanse — contain whey protein!

    Newsflash, Mr. Gray, whey protein is a dairy protein!

    * Mr. Gray on Omega-3’s: “A couple of tablespoons of flaxseed [have as many Omega-3’s] as a meal of salmon.”

    Firstly, how big is a “meal of salmon”?

    Additionally, can you say “back to Nutrition 101 for you”? The Omega 3’s in flaxseed consist of alpha linolenic acid, whereas salmon offers Docosahexaonoic acid (DHA) and eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA).

    It is not an equal comparison!

    * Mr. Gray hates soy, mainly due to its phytate content, which blocks mineral absorption.

    Had he bothered to research the topic, he would have realized that although phytates interfere with the absorption of some minerals, they also offer a variety of well-documented health benefits.

    Tannins in coffee and tea interfere with iron absorption, but that doesn’t mean coffee and tea are “bad” beverages.

    * Mr. Gray refers to a food that contains a certain amount of cholesterol as one that provides “3% of the daily requirement.”

    Wrong again! There is no daily requirement for cholesterol; it is not an essential nutrient. The 300 milligram figure is considered a “limit,” not a requirement.

    * Mr. Gray claims coconut is the only food that contains lauric acid.

    Not so! Goat’s milk, cow’s milk, and palm kernel oil also contain the fatty acid.

    These examples merely scratch the non-sense surface.

    As I said in an earlier post — enough is enough! The last thing anyone needs is more inaccurate nutrition advice from individuals who don’t possess even the most basic knowledge!

    This Earthling is not amused.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Sugar in Yogurt

    My 3 year old daughter doesn’t like milk, so yogurt is one of her sources of calcium.

    When I buy yogurt for her, though, I don’t know how to determine which brands have too much sugar.

    One brand has 24 grams of sugar for 6 ounces. Is that too much?

    — Terri Korolev
    San Francisco, CA

    Dairy products’ food labels take some extra skill to analyze since manufacturers are not asked to differentiate between naturally-occurring sugars and added sugars.

    In this case, “naturally-occurring” sugars refers to lactose, the inherent sugar found in all dairy products.

    Unlike added sugars’ empty calories, naturally-occurring varieties co-exist with nutrients (the same can be said for fructose, which is present in fresh fruits.)

    When shopping for yogurts, keep in mind that 6 ounces of yogurt contain 12 grams of naturally-occurring sugars.

    This means that the yogurt you refer to contains an additional 12 grams (1 tablespoon) of added sugar.

    I am of the school of thought that children and adults should get no more than 10 percent of their total daily calories from added sugars.

    In the case of a 3-year old, that means no more than approximately 10 grams of added sugar a day.

    As a healthier alternative, see how she likes eating plain yogurt along with sweet fruits like bananas and pineapples.

    You can even make it fun for her by storing fresh banana slices in a Ziploc bag, freezing them, and mixing them in with her yogurt.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Soy Cheese

    This weekend I had brunch at a vegetarian restaurant.

    Since I am lactose intolerant, I asked the waitress if they had any vegan cheese.

    She told me they had soy cheese, but it wasn’t vegan.

    It was very busy and I didn’t want to keep her, but that didn’t make sense to me.

    In the end, I decided not to get it. I am not vegan, but I was afraid the cheese they had was some sort of soy and lactose mix.

    Does that make sense to you?

    How can soy cheese not be vegan?

    — Jaime (last name withheld)
    (city withheld), MI

    A good number of soy cheeses contain casein, a milk protein.

    This is usually done to better emulate the dairy-based product’s texture and taste.

    Although perfectly acceptable and appropriate for someone with a lactose intolerance like yourself (all soy cheeses are lactose free), the same can not be said for vegans, who omit all animal byproducts — including casein — from their diets.

    In the event that your request was related to veganism, she had your interests in mind. Good for her.

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    Celebrity Diet Secrets: A Steaming Pile Of… Goop

    Last September, Gwyneth Paltrow launched a lifestyle and wellness website named Goop, which she describes as a “collection of experiences [of] what makes life good.”

    Well, wouldn’t you know it, in her latest newsletter, “Gwyn” talks about… detox diets!

    “I like to do fasts and detoxes a couple of times during the year, the most hardcore one being the Master Cleanse I did last spring,” she writes.

    Turns out the the A-lister’s detox specialist — who I refuse to name in this post since I do not want to promote him with yet another Google hit — told her the Master Cleanse wasn’t healthy because it doesn’t adequately meet the liver’s nutritional demands.

    Forget the liver, how about the fact that it simply doesn’t provide much of anything in the way of nutrition and that there is absolutely no reason to believe that lemon juice, maple syrup, and cayenne pepper play any role in detoxing?

    I digress.

    Gwyneth then proceeds to share her own “detox-doctor approved” seven-day elimination diet to “help decrease the amount of work your digestive system has to do.”

    If it’s any consolation, she will “be suffering along with you to kickstart [her] year a bit lighter.”

    Before going into detail, she shares tips from her detox-doctor, including:

    “If your bowel movements get sluggish, you can accelerate things by drinking half a cup of castor oil or using a mild herbal laxative. Bowel elimination is paramount for correct detoxification.”

    Well, yes, bowel elimination is paramount to overall good health, as it is one of the body’s ways of removing waste material.

    That said, the castor oil and herbal laxative suggestions are ridiculous and, in my opinion, are tacked on in an attempt to make this detox plan seem special.

    Whatever happened to simply speeding up digestive transit by consuming a higher quantity of fiber-rich foods?

    Anyhow, you can see Gwyneth’s week-long detox plan here. Disturbingly, the average day barely adds up to 1,000 calories!

    For the record, “there can be no dairy, grains with gluten, meat, shellfish, anything processed (including all soy products), fatty nuts, nightshades (potatoes, tomatoes, peppers and eggplant), condiments, sugar and obviously no alcohol, caffeine or soda.”

    Which makes me wonder:

    * What are examples of non fatty nuts?
    * What about those four nightshade vegetables makes them detox “enemies”? I would just love to hear her “detox doctor” explain this one.
    * If sugar is banned for this plan, then why is the Master Cleanse — which calls for cups and cups of maple syrup (sugar!) — considered such a pinnacle of health?
    * If dairy is banned, why do some of Gwynth’s recipes call for whey protein powder?
    * If sugar is banned, why do some of Gwyneth’s recipes call for agave nectar?
    * If “anything processed” is banned, why is almond milk used in some recipes?

    Above all, why do celebrities with no health credentials think they are authorities on nutrition?

    Thank you to Kristin MacBride for passing along the newsletter link.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Calcium & Weight Loss

    What are your thoughts on the belief that high calcium intakes help with weight loss?

    — Flor (last name withheld)
    Buenos Aires, Argentina

    Since the public loves the idea of magic bullets and fat-burning foods, the notion that a little extra calcium in the diet results in more effective weight loss really struck a nerve.

    A few years ago, the dairy industry began advertising the claim that three glasses of skim or low-fat milk a day were more than just a good source of calcium — they also helped with weight management.

    Truth is — there is no concrete science to support those statements.

    The vast majority of clinical trials looking at calcium and weight loss fail to demonstrate a link between high intakes of the mineral and higher rates of weight loss.

    Notice that even the “calcium helps you lose weight” campaign ultimately came down to calories. After all, consumers were encouraged to drink low-fat or skim milk, not whole.

    If calcium in and of itself were a miraculous fat burner, it technically wouldn’t matter if the product containing it were fat-free or not.

    I encourage everyone to always be suspicious of specific foods or nutrients marketed as “fat burning,” and instead keep in mind that weight management is more about general dietary patterns.

    Drinking six cups of green tea a day isn’t going to do much in terms of weight loss if your total caloric intake is 1,000 calories higher than it should be.

    Similarly, chugging down a glass of skim milk along with a 450 calorie muffin isn’t going to produce any amazing results.

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    You Ask, I Answer/In The News: Vitamin D requirements

    I read today that the recommended amount of vitamin D has doubled due to a new study.

    I thought most people get enough of it.

    How much vitamin D do we get from dairy as compared to being out in the sun?

    –Hemi  W.
    Via the blog

    Vitamin D deficiency is a worldwide problem; most people certainly do not get enough (especially in the United States).

    The issue of Vitamin D requirements being too low has actually been a hot topic in some nutrition circles for years.

    According to current recommendations, children and adults up to the age of 50 should get at least 200 International Units, adults 50 to 71 years of age should aim for 400 IUs, and anyone above the age of 71 should be taking in 600.

    The new guidelines you are referring to bump up the 200 IUs figure to 400 IUs.

    Even so, many researchers think everyone should aim for at least 1,000 IUs a day!  Others go further and think the minimum daily intake from supplement should be 2,000 IUs (there is plenty of research to back that up, by the way).

    Our bodies can produce up to 10,000 IUs from sun exposure.  After 10,000 IUs, the body stops producing vitamin D.  So, really, you can consider 10,000 IUs the Upper Tolerable Intake.

    The best source of Vitamin D is the sun, but this can get complicated.

    After all, we get this vitamin from exposure to UVB rays, which are not as powerful in winter months and have a harder time getting through on cloud-covered days.  In fact, anyone who lives north of Atlanta, Georgia (regardless where in the world that may be) is unable to produce vitamin D from the sun between the months of October and April due to the sun’s rays not being powerful enough.

    Additionally, the massive use of moisturizers and creams that block out UVB rays prevents many people from absorbing a good deal of “solar powered” vitamin D.

    Some fortified foods (i.e.: cereals, soy milks, and dairy milk) provide vitamin D, while others (tuna, salmon, and… ugh, cod liver oil) do so naturally.

    Despite this, it can be very difficult to meet the Vitamin D recommended intakes without some sort of supplementation.

    For example, a cup of fortified dairy milk provides a quarter of a day’s worth of Vitamin D (using 400 IUs as the goal).

    Not bad, but unless you’re planning on downing four glasses of milk a day, you will come up short.  And, even then, the new recommendations are not possible to meet through food alone.

    Keep in mind, too, that many dairy products (like yogurt, cottage cheese, and ice cream) are NOT fortified with vitamin D.

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    You Ask, I Answer: Dairy Controversies

    What are your thoughts on milk?

    Specifically about the fact that the dairy industry has convinced millions of people, thanks to a very expensive campaign, that milk is the best source of calcium and vitamin D?

    There are other ways to get calcium, including broccoli and other greens, so why does milk always show up as the best source?

    Humans are also the only species to drink milk as adults. Don’t you find that odd? Doesn’t the fact that millions of people are allergic to milk mean that it’s unhealthy?

    Also, I read that there is an addictive component in milk (I think casein?) that keeps people coming back for more, including babies.

    Am I healthy if I don’t drink milk? What if I do?

    — (Name withheld)
    Brooklyn, NY

    Quite a lot of questions. Let’s take them piece by piece.

    My thoughts on a milk? It is a beverage that, depending on the variety, can be a healthy or not-so-healthy choice.

    A glass of skim or low fat milk with your breakfast? Great source of calcium, phosphorus, magnesium, riboflavin, and protein.

    An extra large latte with half and half? All you’re really getting is a boatload of calories and saturated fat (half and half contains very little protein and calcium.)

    Is the milk lobby a powerful presence in Washington? You betcha. Why else do you think the “dairy” group in the food pyramid is now called the “milk” group.

    That is one change I am very unhappy about, as it takes away attention from other healthy options like yogurt, and cottage cheese.

    That said, dairy products truly are a good source of calcium. Not only is the quantity of said mineral rather high, it is also among the most absorbable.

    As for vitamin D — it is not naturally present in milk, but is rather there as a result of fortification. Cereals, orange juice, and soy drinks are also fortified with just as much Vitamin D, so I do not consider dairy to be the “go to” food for the sunshine vitamin.

    Besides, a glass of milk provides approximately one tenth of the daily Vitamin D requirement, so the best way to get the sunshine vitamin is to soak up about 20 minutes of sunlight a day and, in my opinion, pop a supplement.

    Can you get sufficient calcium without dairy? Absolutely. Nowadays, with calcium-fortified juices and soy products, there is no reason for the word “vegan” to mean “calcium deprived.”

    There are also a variety of non-dairy foods that naturally contain calcium: tofu, tempeh, and soybeans among them.

    Keep in mind that some leafy green vegetables (spinach, beet greens, and rhubarb) contain oxalates, which bind to calcium and greatly reduce its absorption.

    If you’re looking to get some calcium from vegetables, opt for collard greens, bok choy, and kale.

    Seaweed also happens to be a great non-dairy source of calcium.

    As for the argument that humans are the only species to drink milk as adults (and therefore some sort of natural aberration), it’s one of those leaps of logic that makes absolutely no sense to me.

    Other animals don’t have the choice to drink milk as adults.

    After a certain time, their mother’s milk supply is gone, and they certainly don’t have supermarkets to shop at, or other species to cuddle up to and start suckling from.

    The “humans are the only animals to drink milk as adults” argument isn’t even true.

    I can tell you from personal experience that if I pour cow’s milk into a bowl, my cat will happily drink it without any prodding on my part.

    Human allergies with milk have nothing to do with its status as “healthy” or “unhealthy” food. Many people are allergic to peanuts and shrimp, two very healthy foods.

    As for there being an addictive substance in milk, I haven’t seen that mentioned anywhere in the literature. The reason why babies “keep coming back for more” is because their mothers are feeding it to them.

    I firmly stand in the middle of this issue. I believe a perfectly healthy diet can be milk-free just as I believe that milk can be a nutritious beverage.

    Personally, I am partial to organic milk from grass-fed cows.

    For the record, I have no issues with pasteurized milk. I don’t see any reason to start seeking out raw milk (remember, we don’t need digestive enzymes from food, so the fact that these enzymes are killed when milk is pasteurized means nothing.)

    What I find horribly messed up is that the milk from a cow that eats nothing but grass and is not pumped up with any Franken-hormones (the ONLY milk available at one point in time) is now a “luxury” high-cost product. Ugh.

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