Wednesday, 26 December 2012

Food: Healthier options for milk in my diet

Today's post is about milk. I love milk and all it's dairy forms. I love to drink it straight up, shakes, hot and cold cereals, creamy sauces, ice cream, yogurt, cheese in Strombolis and on pizza... oh my goodness pizza, butter and cheese in potato-au-gratin and other casseroles, cheese on pasta dishes, butter on toast, cream cheese on toasted bagels and one of my all time favourites - cheese in tuna melt sandwiches (called a tuna toastie in the UK)... whatever you call them, these are some of the yummiest foods!

Let me give you a bit of background info before I get to the point. I was a picky eater as a child and in some ways I still am now. One of the things that my mom had a difficult time getting me to eat was meat. I just wouldn't eat it. At first I wanted to, but I couldn't. Meat is generally very tough in Cameroon. I can't go into too many reasons why meat in Cameroon is tougher. I understand that the livestock we farm are probably different breeds from those farmed in Western countries and elsewhere. Also, most animals except for pigs, are almost totally free range, goats and sheep are usually tethered in fields, chickens and ducks scavenge for their own food and cattle are transported over great distances on foot.

We do cook meat to death, with the exception of fish. Beef, poultry, pork, mutton, veal and all the other game meats. We also eat parts of meat that are very tough or chewy, like the skin, joints, entrails, bones and tough muscle cuts. As a child, I often found it very difficult to tackle a piece of beef that was part skin, part muscle, part bone and a whole lot part ligament! It was more like work for me, so I started giving away my beef to anyone who wanted it. Chicken, I could handle if it was not fried. The typical Cameroonian fried chicken can be like chewing on some very spicy piece of plastic! At parties I would stick to doughnuts and chin-chin. Game meat is usually some wild animal that has been caught in an animal trap or shot by a hunter. Most of the villagers who hunt wild game are unable to preserve the meat for any length of time so they either have to sell it right away, or they try to preserve it by a process of smoke drying the meat. Very often, when meat is smoke dried, it becomes tougher and requires a much longer cooking time than normal and sometimes it will still be a little on the tough side. The other problem I encountered with smoke dried game is that the meat is usually on the verge of spoiling, or parts of it are totally inedible (or should I say "shouldn't" be eaten, since people eat it regardless). A picky eater pays attention to minute details about food. Things other people don't notice at all. I could and still can smell the gaminess in a bowl of soup and even when I was very hungry, I'd settle for bread and butter over anything that had to do with game meat.

Now in my 30s,  I don't like most meats except for chicken and some lean pork. Over the years, my main source of protein has been milk and other dairy products, beans (red kidney beans and bean sprouts), nuts (almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, cashews, peanuts), and seeds (egusi) here and there.

The point of my post today is that I developed an intolerance for lactose in my teens and this has made it a little more difficult to maintain a high protein intake. Interestingly, I didn't figure out what the problem was until I turned 20. The problem is more noticeable if I ingest dairy products in large quantities, but they are sometimes very significant even with just a splash of milk in a cup of tea. I found out recently that a close friend of mine has also developed an intolerance for lactose in her 30s.

Though some children are born lactose intolerant and have to substitute dairy milk and even breast milk for fortified soy milk right away, most people who do eventually develop lactose intolerance do so from around the age of eleven years and up. This is very common in countries where dairy is not a staple in the diet of adults. Overtime, the body just stops producing the enzyme responsible for digesting the lactose sugar that is found in milk and other dairy. Some of the symptoms experienced include nausea, painful cramping, bloating, diarrhea, and flatulence. This condition can be very difficult on the body, and inconvenient for normal daily function. There is no set age for when a person can develop it. I noticed it at the age of 20, my friend, 34 and other people I know first noticed it in their 40s and 50s. If you experience any or all of the symptoms and you have done a diet elimination test for lactose intolerance, you should speak to your doctor to make sure that something else is not the matter with you, then you should do research on healthy alternatives for dairy products.

In the past, I have substituted most dairy for lactose free versions and I keep a bottle of super lactase enzyme pills in my handbag for when I eat out and can not get a lactose-free substitute. The pills don't always work, so I'm usually taking a gamble each time I give in to a non-lactose free dairy craving! I've also had to find other sources of probiotics such as acidophilus pills because I can not comfortable eat yogurt

Recently (the last 3-4 months), I seem to have developed a bad case of adult acne with persistent eczema and a slight touch of vitiligo (still to be confirmed by a doctor)! I've had to up my game on make up to hide the scars and dark spots left one on top of the other, the dry patches and the speckles of whitening skin! It has been horrendous! The skin on my face seemed to have opened it's own excessive oil factory (I may or may not be exaggerating)! 

I read a long time ago that dairy may have some influence on acne and other skin problems. I never paid any attention because it was never a problem for me before, but at this point, I have totally panicked and have decided to completely go off dairy... at least until I can get a handle on the situation with my skin. I plan to see a doctor about what appears to be vitiligo and or eczema. I sure hope it is treatable because I really hate having to wear a lot of makeup. 

I've started drinking a glass of water with one tablespoon of organic apple cider vinegar and one teaspoon organic honey, every morning and evening. This on it's own seems to have worked wonders on the acne, but I'm still keen on eliminating anything that might be acting as a trigger for skin blemishes in general.

For anyone who loves the taste of milk and is looking for a substitute either because of lactose intolerance, acne or any other health reasons, two tasty alternatives include soy milk and coconut milk. They are easy to find in the refrigerated dairy isle or the long life milk isle in most grocery stores. Other alternatives I've tried include almond milk and rice milk. I seriously did not like either of these two. I found their flavours and textures too overwhelming and somewhat odd. My brain kept saying "what's that? It's not milk"! I'm still weening myself off the taste of real milk and so far it hasn't been too difficult with soy and coconut milk. Will do a post on vitiligo, or whatever these other strange skin changes are that I'm going through as soon as I see a doctor. Hope this was helpful to someone.

Left to right: Soy milk (comes in a sweetened or an unsweetened option) and Coconut milk.


  1. This was most helpful to me and I completely relate. I used to think lactose intolerance was some American BS. I hit 30 and my body started rejecting dairy. I don't listen to it and I pay for it with acne, tummy aches and I have to take acidophilus to help with the bloating . I have greatly reduced my cereal intake cos of it. at the moment I'm working on almond and coconut milk. I bought some gelato and ice cream and its a combination of pleasure and then regret. This might be my last batch of ice cream for a while- but you know we don't waste food, so I have to finish it... Not cos I want to, of course not... It's because I must.

  2. LOL... ashia my dear. I know the feeling. I see ice cream and just go in my head "oh, hell" before I give in!

  3. Thanks for sharing such a good opinion, paragraph is pleasant, thats why i have read
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