In the first part of this series, I touched on some of the major issues with dairy. How it can possibly harm our health, and that of our children, as well as the animal welfare issues that lurk in the industry’s shadows…You can read more here.
This time around I want to explore the ins and outs of calcium, as well as dairy alternatives AND how easy it is to make your own nut milk!
Calcium is an important mineral required for the development and maintenance of normal bone health. It also plays an important role in the functioning of our heart and nervous system. The recommended daily amount is 1000mg for adults younger than 50, and 1200mg 5o years and older. If we’re not getting sufficient amounts of calcium our body has a unique way of putting itself back into balance by drawing from it’s reserves (that means from our bones!). Our bodies are so incredible like that! This is why it’s so crucial that we build up our calcium reserves when we are young so that we minimise issues of reduced bone mass later in life.
It’s estimated that by age 30, the cells responsible for building up our bones can start to slow down as we reach peak bone density. So, it becomes even more important to help balance and maintain the calcium stores, rather than focus solely on intake. In other words, when you eat foods that compromise absorption of calcium such as drinking alcoholic or caffeinated beverages, or if there is too much sodium intake (which increases exertion of calcium through urine and perspiration), you would have to compensate for the loss by consuming more calcium. But if you’re able to retain intake (definitely achievable through a healthy whole foods diet), then the requirements are obviously going to be lower.
So we know calcium is important. But is dairy? There’s no denying milk is a great source of calcium, but there are still healthier ways of getting that goodness, plus more, into our diets without having to consume it. I’m talking leafy greens, legumes, nuts and seeds. My favourites in particular, are kale, broccoli, asian greens, tahini, chickpeas, almonds, figs and spinach. To help put this into perspective, just one cup of kale is equal to approx. 90-100mg of calcium! Throw that into a smoothie and you can sneak that in pretty easily throughout the day. Tahini is also such a great source and an ingredient I’ve become pretty excited about. Mix it into salads, raw desserts or make it into a creamy dressing and there’s an added serving right there. Likewise chickpeas are a great source and can be thrown into salads, or made into hummus…with tahini!!
It’s no surprise a well planned diet with a variety of fruits and veggies will ensure you are getting enough calcium, as well as the important vitamins and minerals to aid in absorption. Just like a soccer team needs a striker, mid fielders, defender and goal keeper to win a game, calcium absorption relies on other nutrients such as vitamins C, K, E and magnesium for its success. Vitamin D is said to be the most important player in bone health and ensuring calcium is absorbed properly. That’s just 1omins in the sun each day! We mustn’t forget the importance of exercise too. The age old rule of 20-30mins of movement a day still remains true. If you are not sure whether you are getting enough calcium in your diet, make sure you speak to a professional healthcare advisor.
So how can I live without dairy?
Whilst I am not suggesting that you cut out all dairy immediately, I do think we owe it to ourselves to look at the findings (as I outlined in part 1) or do your own research and consider that it may not be as essential for us as we have been led to believe. For those of you who grew up in the 90’s like me, you might recall the famous ‘Got Milk?’ ads in the States with celebrities and their milk moustaches? Well, interestingly not long ago when the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) asked the USDA to investigate the science behind the claims, the panel of experts found the ads to be misleading and untruthful. So, we can’t always believe what we are told. But that’s nothing new.
It’s also worth considering that all minerals originate in the ground, and enter animals through plants. We know that plants have an abundance of important minerals such as iron, zinc, copper, calcium etc. And when was the last time you heard of a major health related issue because of eating too many fruits and veggies? (Aside from human contamination). It seems that we have just become so accustomed to donning a glass of milk in order to get the touted benefits, without a thought for our health in the future and trusting what we have been taught is truth/fact.
My final point for consideration is why we as humans feel we need to drink the milk of another species, long after childhood. Even a calf does not continue drinking milk after it has been weaned. This is because after a certain age, it does not have the enzyme lactase to digest the milk sugars. And as studies have shown, the same can be said for more than 70% of adults…ergo lactose intolerance.
As mentioned earlier, almonds are another good plant based source of calcium. So why not make it into milk?! Pure genius and I haven’t looked back after discovering how quick and easy this really is. Yes, I am nuts for nut milk!
- 1 cup almonds (soaked overnight)
- 3 cups water
- 1 -2 medjool dates (pitted), depending on your preferred level of sweetness
- pinch of vanilla powder
- tsp cinnamon (optional)
- Put all ingredients into a high speed blender and blend for 1-2 mins until you get a smooth milk consistency.
- Pour the milk into a nut milk bag or muslin cloth, inside a bowl or jug.
- Using your hands squeeze the milk through the bag like you are milking a cow!
- Squeeze as much of the milk out until you have just the almond meal remains.
- Pour from bowl into a glass bottle or jar and store in the fridge up to 3-5 days.