Friday, March 11, 2011

FAQs: PART 2--Calcium and Other Nutrients

My family has a good doctor.  I get a lot of parents (moms mostly) who question my decision to go with a family doctor instead of a pediatrician for my kids.  Those moms believe that a pediatrician is the responsible choice for all kids.  But I disagree, and here's why:  my family has a good doctor.

Our doctor is great at giving thorough exams, about spending the time needed to discuss issues and questions and concerns.  He takes the time to explain his diagnosis and medications.  He talks to us about our overall health and well-being.  He refers us to specialists when needed.  He sees multiple family members in the same appointment (saving us a ton of time scheduling).  He cares about my job, Eli's swimming, Gracie's verbal skills and my husband's cholesterol levels.  He asks each time for an update and then listens to what we say.  I trust him.  And that's why I sat down and talked to him about the health questions I had before starting this vegan diet. He had a little advice, but mostly he had encouragement and support and a big happy smile that my family is doing this.  He said he wished more and more people would consider going vegan because it would make his job a whole lot easier.

Our doctor was not one bit concerned about us not getting enough protein, calcium, iron (and other nutrients) or fiber.  He told me to vary the diet, to eat lots of colorful veggies and beans, and to try to eat more brown grains than white.  He said it is the perfect diet for a swimmer/athlete, and he said we will see a big improvement in performance once we eliminate animal fats from our diet.  His only real recommendation was for each of us to continue using a daily multi-vitamin.  That's it.  (Oh, and he said if I had any questions that I should peruse the Mayo Clinic web site and/or talk to the nutritionalist at Hy-Vee.)

I highly recommend all of you go to and plug in your age, height and weight.  It will give you a good idea of what you should be incorporating into your diet on a daily and weekly basis.  (It's not as much as you think.)  It takes me two or three days to get all the veggies/fruits required for a week on that chart.  I add soymilk to my coffee in the morning, and top off my oatmeal with a little more.  My family loves beans and nuts, and we eat them on a daily basis.  We eat brown rice, quinoa, barley, and whole-grain breads and pastas.  My family easily gets the daily requirement of fiber, protein, calcium, vitamin D and other nutrients needed because we have a varied diet. I think that most people don't get what they need because they are filling up on the wrong types of foods or just one type of food. Then they just aren't hungry for the health foods.  (I'm working on "A Day in the Life" that spells out a day of eating for me, and will post that soon.)

For me, I get my daily calcium by adding 1/4 cup soymilk to my coffee (usually 2 cups each morning) and then by making my oatmeal with another 1/2-1 cup.  I take my vitamin for another 45%.  The remainder needed for a day is covered in the leafy greens, red beans, tofu and variety of veggies as well as by the soymilk (or rice milk) I add as I cook.

Here is a quick comparison from the nutrition labels of Skim Milk and Soymilk. I'm not sure why people think Soymilk is not as good for you as cow's milk, but that is a comment I get quite often. Please remember that this is not a scientific paper and not to be used as ultimate proof for anything.  I'm just reading some labels and sharing some information with you. But it shows that they are comparable in most nutrients, and that Soymilk actually offers more nutrients than cow's milk.  Some people say the soymilk tastes bad.  I agree that soymilk used to taste bad, but there have been significant improvements in recent years on the flavor.  It does taste different than cow's milk, but my family actually likes it.  Also, test different brands.  There are a few that I really don't like.  Our family likes the Silk Very Vanilla for drinking and adding to sweet things, and I use the generic store brand of the unsweetened soymilk for cooking.  (I don't have any rice milk, almond milk or others in the house to compare right now.)  Anyway, I would encourage you to try different options and find the ones that work for you.

1 cup Fat Free Skim Milk:
80 calories, <5mg Cholesterol, 120mg Sodium, 12g Carbs, 0g Fiber 11g Sugars, 8g Protein
Vitamin A 10%, Vitamin C 2%, Calcium 30%, Iron 0%, Vitamin D 25%

1 cup Unsweetened Organic Soymilk:
70 calories, 0mg Cholesterol, 120 mg Sodium, 350 mg Potassium, 4g Carbs, 2g Fiber, 1g Sugars, 7g Protein
Vitamin A 10%, Calcium 30%, Vitamin D 30%, Thiamin 6%, Niacin 2%, Vitamin B12 50%, Magnesium 8%, Copper 10%, Vitamin C 0%, Iron 8%, Vitamin E 25%, Riboflavin 40%, Folate 8%, Phosphorus 8%, Zinc 8%, Manganese 20%

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