Generational health disaster?

Monday, January 15, 2018

More scaremongering is being churned out about going dairy-free but is it justified?

The Daily Mail published yet another article that seems to be aimed at parents and grandparents in an effort to make them terrified about their younger family members ditching dairy.

The dietitian they quote, Sophie Medlin, seems to have it in for vegan diets and plant milks so it’s no surprise she’s happy to publicly condemn people giving up dairy. Last year, she said that a vegan diet was complicated and most people couldn’t do it so it’s best not to try. So rather than giving useful advice, the Mail chose to quote someone who would happily rant about plant milks. Very useful!

Well, Viva!Health are here to help people go and stay vegan and make it plain sailing. It’s really simple!

The article mentions that if we go dairy-free we’ll miss out on calcium and iodine. Well, even the National Osteoporosis Society says we don’t need milk for calcium and healthy bones. No milk, no problem! Apart from plant sources of calcium, such as green leafy vegetables, almonds, sesame seeds, dried fruit, pulses and tofu, most plant-based milks (check the nutrition label) are fortified with calcium and so are many plant-based yoghurts and desserts.

The other nutrient that’s been a hot topic lately is iodine. People in the UK tend to get enough but as its levels in food vary, it’s good to pay a bit more attention to it.

The level of iodine in plants depends on iodine content of the soil in/on which they are grown. The closer to the sea, the more iodine - therefore vegans can get enough iodine from plant foods but there's no guarantee. Seaweed, growing in the sea, is always a good source as it absorbs iodine from seawater - nori, laver, dulse and the kelp family (kombu, arame, wakame). However, kelp absorbs a lot more than the other seaweeds and you can get too much iodine from it. So, whilst seaweed consumption is encouraged, kelp should be used only sparingly. It’s best to use a kelp supplement so you know how much you’re taking – it’s cheap, you’ll have a reliable source of iodine and won’t have to worry about having too much of it.

The iodine in cow’s milk and dairy products is not a natural component of these foods, it comes from iodinated cattle feed supplements, iodophor medication, iodine-containing sterilisers of milking equipment, teat dips and udder washes. Milk is neither a natural nor the best source of iodine, so we can happily leave it off our diet.

In many countries, iodised salt is commonly used to ensure iodine intake. UNICEF says 91 million newborn infants worldwide are thought to be protected yearly from a significant loss in learning ability (iodine is essential for nervous system development) as a result of the increased use of iodised salt.

A vegan diet can easily provide all essential nutrients and milk is no miracle food. The tabloids and vegan-phobic ‘experts’ would do better if they tried to educate rather than scare people but that would make for less sensational headlines. We have plenty of freely accessible resources so don’t forget to have a look if you need reliable vegan health information.

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