Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


What is a milk allergy?


I can’t believe I haven’t written a post since August! I was naive to believe that I would have time to keep up with things like blogging with a newborn. Even as I type this I’m nursing her and it will probably take me a couple of days to finish writing this post. I’m not complaining, it’s just that my priorities have changed and feeding this little nugget takes up most of my time. However, feeding her has also prompted me to write this post. She has a suspected cow’s milk allergy (suspected because they won’t do allergy testing on infants) and by the comments I’ve gotten from people it seems that there’s a lot of misunderstanding about this allergy.

Food allergies in general are reactions to proteins found in foods. In the case of a cow’s milk allergy, that reaction is to either the whey and/or casein protein found in milk. Babies with a cow’s milk allergy will react to the protein passed to them through breastmilk as well as to the protein in most infant formulas. This means that breastfeeding moms must remove dairy from their diets. For some moms this may just mean obvious sources of dairy such as milk, cheese, and yoghurt (note: eggs are not dairy – I actually read an article by a doctor listing eggs as dairy *face-palm*). More sensitive babies may require complete removal of all dairy-containing foods from their diets, even foods in which a milk product is a very minor ingredient. Babies who are formula-fed will require special hypoallergenic formula in which the proteins are broken-down so that they can digest them.

A cow’s milk allergy is not the same as lactose intolerance which is a reaction to the lactose which is a milk sugar, not a protein. Lactose intolerance is actually extremely uncommon in infants as lactose is present in breastmilk. Generally, lactose intolerance is something that develops as children age. This means that lactose-free dairy products are unsafe for people with cow’s milk allergy and mom’s who are breastfeeding babies with this allergy.

Some people with cow’s milk allergy may tolerate goat’s milk. Goat’s milk contains casein but a slightly different version than that found in cow’s milk. However, the similar structure means that some people who are allergic to cow’s milk will also react to goat’s milk.

In things that I never thought would be an issue: I can’t tell you how many times I’ve asked if a baked good is dairy-free and received the response that they contain gluten. Huh? I’m not sure if this is indicative of people genuinely not knowing what dairy and/or gluten is or if it’s a result of avoidance of both these things being trendy. For those who genuinely may not be aware: dairy is products made from cow’s milk such as ice cream, cheese, yoghurt, milk, and butter. Gluten is a protein found in some grains, wheat being the most commonly consumed.

Do you have a food allergy? I’d love to hear your stories of ignorant comments below.

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Picking protein

I get a lot of questions about protein. Hopefully this post will address at least a few of them.

Protein is a part of every cell in your body. It’s important for growth and cellular repair, as well as satiety. Protein is composed of amino acids. There are nine essential amino acids. These amino acids cannot be produced by your body and must be consumed through dietary sources.

Most of us consume more than enough protein in our diets. The average person only needs about 0.9 grams of protein per kilogram of body weight. That would mean an average man, weighing 182 lb, would need about 74 grams of protein a day. The average woman, weighing 153 lb, would need would need about 62 grams of protein a day.  Despite the perception that protein comes only from meat and alternatives, we actually get protein from nearly all of the foods we eat. Although the amounts will vary, as will the ratio of the essential amino acids.

If you aren’t getting enough protein from food you may wish to try protein supplements. People who are most likely to be lacking sufficient protein in their diets include: athletes, vegetarians, vegans, women, those who are injured or ill, people who are dieting or attempting to lose weight, people suffering from anorexia or alcoholism. How do you know which supplement is best for you? If you’re going for things like protein bars check the labels. Make sure that the calories are appropriate for your daily needs. Some protein bars provide the appropriate number of calories for a snack while others serve more as a meal supplement. You should also check other nutrients that are of concern to you, such as fat, sodium, and sugar as these can vary widely.

As for protein powders, there are a lot of different types available. From ones with added probiotics to fibre and varying amounts of protein. Check the manufacturer out online before you buy to ensure that they’re reputable. Unfortunately, these products are not well-regulated in Canada so you should know that you may not be getting what you’re paying for.

I took a recent trip to the grocery store to check out a few. I did a comparison of vanilla flavoured products (Proteins+, Vegan Proteins+, and Manitoba Harvest Hemp Protein). Initially, it appeared that the hemp protein was inferior to the other proteins as it had more calories and sugar but only a third the amount of protein. Then I realised that there was another hemp protein product (70) that contained the same amount of protein as the Proteins+. Which one is the best? It really depends on what you’re looking for and what you prefer. The Proteins+ contains slightly more protein than the other two (25 grams per serving, versus 20). The serving size for the Proteins+ was also slightly smaller so you’re getting more bang for your buck. It also contained the least number of calories, 110 versus 140 for the hemp and 118.5 for the Vegan Proteins+. However, it was also the only one that contained a caution stating: “Do not use if you are pregnant”. That makes me a little nervous. All three products contain all the essential amino acids. Although I was unable to find the exact ratios for any of them so one might be superior to another in that regard. Beyond taste, another factor to consider is digestibility. Despite the addition of digestive enzymes to the whey protein (i.e. Proteins+) some people find whey protein hard to tolerate. You might fare better with a vegan formula if that’s the case. One thing I did find a little confusing about the Vegan Proteins+ was that one scoop was 30.7 grams but the nutrition information was based on 35.5 grams. Make sure you read the label carefully before you make your choice.

Here’s my little comparison chart for the products I was referring to above:

Protein Powder Brand Serving size (g) Calories Fat (g) Saturated Fat (g) Sugars (g) Protein (g)
Proteins+ 28.3 110 0.2 ? ? 25
Vegan Proteins+ 35.5 118.5 1.5 ? ? 20
Manitoba Harvest Hemp Pro 70 30 140 4.5 0.5 2 20