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From Stockton, California, USA:

My 14 year old stepson, who has type 1 diabetes, has recently been ill and had a fever for nine days, ranging from 100 to 104 degrees. He is very thin and has a history of illness prior to the diagnosis. I am a true believer in nutritional support and feel that a dairy free diet (for our whole family ) would be very beneficial. We also have a 7 year old son and 12 year old daughter. My wife feels that children must have dairy products to provide essential nutrients. I feel that soy and tofu is much better for all of us, with the proper nutritional supplements included. Can you provide additional information on this subject?


In the wake of any serious illness, extra attention to nutrition, to help rebuild body stores of essential nutrients and regain lost weight, is advisable. In addition to the actual foods and nutrients consumed, it is important that your son's diabetes control be kept fairly close to normal during this recuperative period. Only then will the body be able to put the extra foods to the rebuilding use intended.

You don't say exactly why you're interested in eliminating dairy products from your family's diet. If it's a concern about the saturated fat content of milk and cheese, low-fat or fat-free products would be an option. On the other hand, many people world-wide consume a nutritionally adequate, dairy-free diet. This demonstrates that dairy products, per se, are not vital to human health. Rather, it is specific nutrients that should be attended to. Dairy has been a part of the typical and traditional meal plan in North America (among us immigrants, anyway) as the main source of calcium and, with fortification, of pre-formed Vitamin D for many years. Dairy products are also a rich source of protein. In societies where the consumption of dairy products is not traditional, you will find other sources of calcium and vitamin D in the diet. For example, the limestone metate which corn was ground to make tortillas added calcium to the diet in Mexico and people from temperate climates, who get ample exposure to sunlight throughout the year, don't require pre-formed vitamin D.

Regardless of whether you totally eliminate, just cut down, or change the type of dairy products consumed in your house, your idea of adding soy products to your family's diet is a valid one. Soy is a veritable nutritional powerhouse. In addition to its protein content, it can be a good source of calcium (depending on the method used to process it (check the Nutrition Facts label to make sure) and preformed vitamin A. More importantly, it contains isoflavones which are associated with a variety of positive health benefits. There is a fairly strong science base suggesting that a rich intake of soy products is associated with lower rates of both certain cancers and of heart disease and can be of great value to peri- and post-menopausal women as a source of phytoestrogens.

Keep in mind, though, that the nutrients in any food are only of use when they're actually eaten. Some folks just don't like tofu or soy milk. There are big differences in flavor among brands. I'd suggest a phasing out or blending process while you find acceptable ways to add these foods to the family's favorites. In other words, don't throw out the dairy products all at once and expect people to smack their lips over the soy just because it's good for them. Instead, try adding them in first. When they are well-established in people's daily intake, it will be easier (and not have a negative effect on overall nutrient intake) to moderate the intake of dairy.

Other possible dietary sources of essential calcium include the small bones of fish (like canned salmon), and certain dark green leafy vegetables, but it takes a lot of collards, for example, since this form of calcium is not very well absorbed.


Original posting 5 Jan 2001
Posted to Meal Planning, Food and Diet


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Last Updated: Tuesday April 06, 2010 15:09:18
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