Don’t Worry Aaron…

I’ve got your back.

If you are a Packer fan, you have undoubtedly heard the news: Aaron Rodgers has crossed over to the dark side in his quest for optimal health. Aaron (are you ready for this?) has given up DAIRY.

After lengthy research, and talking with the team’s nutritionist and  other players around the league, he decided he could extend his career and become healthier by abstaining from dairy.

When the “news” first broke, I braced myself for the fallout. Sometimes people get kind of defensive when food is involved. But I was pleasantly surprised. A local news station interviewed several fans (this should give you an idea of the lack of news in the greater Green Bay area) and all were supportive. After all, how could you fault someone for wanting to be healthier and extend their playing career?  Especially when it’s Aaron Rodgers?!

So I relaxed.

I was relieved others respected his personal decision of doing what he felt was best for his body. Hallelujah! Amen!

I lived in that happy little world for almost 24 hours.

Then it got ugly.

(Normally, I’d avoid jumping into any discussions of this sort like…well…like A-Rod avoids cheese. It’s not a secret that I follow a vegan diet, but I understand that what works for me, may not work for others, so I understand the importance of not becoming “judgy”.)

The Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board got me hot and bothered.  Now, according to their website, their goal is “to increase the sale and consumption of Wisconsin milk and dairy products.”

Now I don’t want to suggest that your health is not at the forefront of their minds, but your health most likely is not at the forefront of their minds.

They were not supportive of Aaron’s decision. Not supportive at all.

After all, “Cheese is a natural source of high-quality protein and among the richest dietary sources of calcium.” (Wisconsin Milk Marketing Board)

I don’t disagree; a one ounce cube (think a pair of dice) of cheddar cheese contains 7 grams of protein. However, that one ounce cube of cheese also contains 29 mg of your daily allowance of 300 mg of cholesterol.

Good thing you can also find protein in these plant based sources. (And plant based foods contain 0 mg of cholesterol):

  • lentils (9 grams of protein per 1/2 cup…PLUS 15 grams of fiber)
  • tofu (10 grams of protein per cup PLUS 25% of you RDA of calcium)
  • tempeh (12 grams per cup PLUS it’s rich in probiotics)
  • black beans (8 grams of protein per 1/2 cup PLUS a rich source of antioxidants)
  • quinoa (8 grams of protein per 1/2 cup PLUS all 9 essential amino acids)
  • green peas (8 grams of protein per cup PLUS rich in leucine)
  • spinach (5 grams per cup PLUS 56% of your RDA of vitamin A)
  • hemp seeds (13 grams in 3 tablespoons PLUS an excellent source of iron)
  • chia seeds (5 grams of protein per 2 tablespoons PLUS tons of dietary fiber)
  • tahini (8 grams in 2 tablespoons PLUS rich in iron)
  • peanut butter (8 grams in 2 tablespoons PLUS it tastes good on everything)
  • nutritional yeast (8 grams in 2 tablespoons PLUS a good source of fiber)

And just how much protein do you need?

Well, recommendations from the Institute of Medicine (IOM) of the National Academies (United States) is 0.8 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight, or 0.36 grams per pound.

Not that you need to worry. Adequate protein consumption doesn’t seem to be a problem. I mean, have you ever heard of Kwashiorkor? No? It’s the disease caused by protein deficiency. See my point?

I could go on and on and on ad nauseam, but I’m sure you get the picture.

Now what about calcium?

The problem with calcium, is that the absorption rate of calcium is dependent on many factors. For instance, sodium increases the amount of calcium that is lost through urination. Therefore, highly processed foods adversely affect calcium absorption. Likewise, the phosphoric acid in soda hinders absorption of calcium. And some foods, like spinach, may be high in calcium, but only a fraction is absorbed by the body due to the presence of oxalic acids. Prescription drugs also impact calcium absorption.

Regardless, recommendations are for 1,000 -1,200 mg if calcium a day. A cup of milk contains about 300 mg, while an ounce of hard cheese contains 200 mg. But, believe it or not, you can get calcium from plant based sources. Who knew?

  • collard greens (350 mg per cup)
  • turnip greens (100 mg per 1/2 cup cooked)
  • kale (180 mg per cup, cooked)
  • broccoli (100 mg per 1/2 cup cooked)
  • amaranth (275 mg per cup)
  • blackstrap molasses (400 mg per 2 tablespoons)
  • tempeh (215 mg per cup)
  • fortified non-dairy milk (200-300 mg per cup)
  • fortified orange juice (350 mg per cup)
  • figs (120 mg per 1/2 cup)
  • tahini (130 mg per 2 tablespoons)
  • navy beans (125 mg per cup)
  • tofu (200-400 mg per 1/2 cup, depending on how it’s processed)

Plus, plant sources of calcium come with benefits. Leafy green vegetables are also rich in vitamin K,  (which, btw, just so happens to support healthy bones). Potassium and vitamin C also support healthy bones.

Additionally, there is a group of scientists who believe other factors (like exercise) have more to do with bone health than calcium intake does.

At any rate, once the cheese hit the fan, it was open season on Aaron’s decision. One fan even tweeted that he (Aaron) was disrespecting his fan base.

Really?  What would he be eating (or drinking for that matter) if he respected his fan base?! I mean, we are talking Wisconsin here. Our obesity ranking is 16th in the nation.

Besides, nobody asked me, and I’m a fan.

Granted, abstaining from dairy requires nutritional knowledge and conscientious food choices, but shouldn’t that apply to everyone, regardless?

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