My Dairy-Free Challenge

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Last Monday, I decided I would go dairy-free for one week.  I think giving up sweets would have been easier, because as I looked through my refrigerator and in my cupboards, practically everything contained some form of dairy (e.g. milk, eggs), and some of them were very surprising.  Other than the obvious eggs, butter,  yogurt, and milk,  I found many unsuspecting food products  that also contained some form of dairy .  They included:

  • Morning Star Italian Herb Chik Patty
  • Morning Star Black Bean Burger
  • Morning Star Grillers Crumbles
  • Progresso  Vegetable Classics Minestrone Soup
  • Progress0 High Fiber Homestyle Minestrone Soup
  • 100 Calorie Chocalate Chips Baked Crisps
  • Krusteaz Honey Wheat Pancake Mix
  • All Ranch Salad Dressing
  • Brownberry Healthy Oat Bread

Up until then, I considered those foods to be relatively healthy and I think they still are compared to other foods, but they proved things aren’t always what they appear to be, and for some there may be hidden dangers. Recently, I have been checking labels a lot to see what the foods I eat most contain, and boy was  I surprised!  They are so many extra ingredients in everyday foods that I can’t pronounce and have never heard of, but that will be another entry.

Dairy has become such a part of our lives.  We put it in our coffee , and don’t we love those  thick and creamy milkshakes from McDonald’s, Steak n Shake,  Baskin Robbins and Dairy Queen.  And what is breakfast without a scrambled egg or milk with cereal?  When we need comfort don’t we turn to mac and cheese,  pizza, chocolate chip cookies, or our favorite ice cream? And how the heck can you make a decent cake, pie, cookie, muffin, or cornbread without butter and milk? Believe it or not, it can be done.  There are numerous people living healthy lives without animal based products and they are called Vegans.  And this week I decided to become one…temporarily.

This is all started last year when my physician advised me to cut down and eventually try to eliminate dairy products, especially cheese from my diet, because among other things,  it is high in cholesterol and saturated fats, and clogs the arteries.  That was disheartening because I ate  low-fat mozzarella cheese just about everyday. I felt like, “Why are you telling me this? I don’t have high blood pressure or high cholesterol.”  My blood pressure was normal and my last cholesterol reading had been well under  200mg/dl (see link on post What Your Cholesterol Levels Mean), but I was overweight and in my 40’s and that worried him enough to mention it to me.  We  also discussed heart disease which unfortunately is prevalent in women  in my age group and especially African-American women.  I left there thinking about the things he said, but still not willing to give up my cheese.  Gradually, I started thinking about my diet, and then I saw  a documentary, Food Inc., that changed my life and set me on a path to better health.  It discusses how a few corporations pretty much control the food industry and how our food is processed and distributed to us.  The graphic depiction of how cows and chickens were treated caused me to give up eating them as meat.  I also gave up cow’s milk. Although, I must confess, I haven’t given up fish and fowl yet.  I still eat turkey, eggs, and  seafood, sometimes.

The reasons why I decided to go dairy-free for a week are:

  1. I wanted to see if I can do it.
  2. I wanted to see if I felt any different (e.g. more energy, less fatigued).
  3. I wanted to see if  I could have a food allergy.
  4. I wanted to see if I could regain my sense of smell.

Well, a week has passed and I managed to make it each day without eggs, yogurt, cheese,or butter, and I’m proud of that!  But I did run into snags that with bread, bakery products, and frozen dinners, for instance. Many of them contained some milk or some derivative. During the past week,  I didn’t ‘t feel as tired as I normally do and  my sense of smell seemed sharper.  For the past few years, my sense of smell has gone in and out and no one can tell me why. I visited an otolaryngologist   (ear, nose, and throat doctor) but she found nothing abnormal.   I read awhile back that zinc and  dairy products from the cow or goat can possibly affect your sense of smell over time. Dairy products  supposedly produce mucous that clog  sinus and nasal passages, and  other orifices, such as a woman’s womb.

I don’t want to bash dairy, meat, or  poultry, but I no longer feel that they are  healthy due to the use of  growth hormones and other additives that animals ingest or are fed, and even the soil that they tread upon.  And this is our fault, because we are supposed to be the caretakers of the Earth and everything in it, and we  have not done a very good job!

What is the next step?  Go organic? Switch to dairy alternative products?  Cut down on dairy?  Cut out dairy completely?  Honestly, I don’t know yet but I do plan to start by cutting down and using alternative /dairy free products.  Monday, I went to my neighborhood health food store and bought Galaxy Nutritional Foods Rice Shreds, an alternative to  shredded mozzarella cheese, and it was  pretty good and actually melted.   I also purchased some yogurt made from almond milk,  and it was okay.  I think I could get used to it though.  More and more medical experts on health and nutrition such as Joel Furhrman,  Mehmet Oz,  and  Mark Hyman are advocating cutting down or eliminating dairy and switching to a plant-based diet.  I would highly recommend reading Dr. Fuhrman’s book, Eat to Live. He really talks about the havoc that the current American diet is wreaking on our health and also lays out the benefits of a plant-based diet, particularly with weight loss. He really  goes in-depth to describe the correlation between meat and dairy products and their relation to heart disease, diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, and obesity.  His book filled with so much insight on eating healthy and he takes the time to explain everything in layman’s term.

This challenge has helped  me to be more mindful of  my dairy intake and  it is another stepping stone on the path to good health. There is a lot to  blogging.  I  have to figure out how to embed links and insert pictures!  But bear with me.  As with anything, the more you do it, the better you get.   Well, as usual, I would like to leave you with something to think about.  You are what you eat. What are you eating?  Something live, colorful, and fresh, or something processed, unpronounceable, and bland?

One last thing from writer/naturalist, Joseph Wood Crutch, “If we do not permit the earth to produce beauty and joy, it will in the end not produce food, either.” Let’s keep producing beauty and joy, not only for ourselves, but for Mother Earth as well. I wish you simosihle and much more!

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