person holding sliced vegetable
Nutrition and Food, Personal Care

New Course Alert!

I’m so excited to announce that my first educational course, Getting Started on a Plant-based Diet, is here!

I designed this course with you in mind. It’s designed for everyone because everyone can benefit from adding more plants to their diet. As a Registered Dietitian you know I’m passionate about evidence-based practice and this course has been designed to be equivalent to a 1:1 session with me. It covers macro and micronutrients, supplementation, and so much more!

So what are you waiting for? Check out my Teachable content and let me know what you think! What should my next course be? Comment below or send me a message!

Nutrition and Food, Product Reviews

Vitalura Labs Pre-Workout Review

Pre-workout is a supplement that I had never tried. Vitalura Labs sent me their new strawberry sorbetto and limoncello flavored pre-workout supplement. I’m an affiliate with Vitalura Labs, however my thoughts and opinions are 100% my own. If you’re new here, I’m a Registered Dietitian with a passion for nutrition and wellness.

What is Pre-Workout?

Pre-workout supplements are used with the intent of maximizing your performance during your chosen activity. They generally contain caffeine and electrolytes to give you a boost of energy, enhance performance and improve your focus. Some pre-workout supplements have ingredients like creatine added to them to also jump start your recovery process.

The Details

  1. First timers: This was my first time trying a pre-workout supplement. I’ve always had coffee in the morning before my workouts so I never felt the need. My schedule has been a little all over the place lately so I went ahead and tried the pre-workout. Don’t make the same mistakes I did the first time I tried them. I’ll explain as we go.
  2. Flavors and ingredients: There are two flavors, strawberry sorbetto and limoncello. Both have a bit of a salty taste but are overwhelmingly the flavors of strawberry or lemon, respectively. Ingredients include vitamin C and B12, sodium, potassium, caffeine, l-theanine, rhodiola extract, theacrine and l-methylfolate calcium. This supplement is vegetarian and vegan friendly.
  3. Caffeine: There is 150mg of caffeine per serving. If you are caffeine sensitive you’ll definitely want to pay attention to your total caffeine intake for the rest of the day. I’m someone who is caffeine sensitive and gets very jittery if I consume too much. The days I drank pre-workout I only had 1 coffee that day instead of my usual 2.
  4. Suggested use: 1 scoop of pre-workout mixed with 4 oz water about 30 minutes before your workout/activity.
  5. NSF: like all of their other products, the pre-workout is NSF certified so you can rest assured that you’re consuming what’s listed on the label and nothing more or less. 

Drink Up

If this is your first time taking pre-workout pay attention: don’t plan on savoring and sipping this like you would your morning coffee. I mean, I guess you could if you really want to, but I mistakenly made a tall glass and savored mine the first time.  I’m a little embarrassed to admit that I failed so hard on my first taste test, but if you’ve never taken pre-workout it’s an easy mistake to make! I thought maybe this product isn’t for me. Not every product or experience is for everyone, right? I’m so glad that when the Vitalura Labs Dietitian, Kylie, reached out to me that I wrote back and asked for some tips. She definitely delivered. I followed her advice and it made for an awesome experience and changed my mind about the product.

Know that you really only need 4 oz of water and not a full glass. I suggest using cold water, mixing 1 scoop well and then start drinking, don’t savor. The flavor on your tongue ends up being mostly the sweet tasting strawberry or lemon instead of the salt added for electrolytes. Treat it more like you would a shot of alcohol and drink up.

My Experience

Each time I’ve consumed the pre-workout was first thing in the morning on an empty stomach. I was a little nervous about drinking 150mg caffeine on an empty stomach but 30 minutes prior to when you plan to workout is perfect. Each time that I’ve used the pre-workout I definitely noticed a nice perk-up effect starting about 20 minutes after drinking. 

1 serving of pre-workout

The best part is that I never felt regret for my empty stomach- I haven’t experienced any jitters, nausea, or other unwanted side-effects. No crash, either! I felt energized and awake, ready for my workout. I even noticed that my focus was improved and I felt better connected to my muscles and attention on the muscle(s) I was exercising. My mind had that same focus I get from drinking coffee! And since I only needed to drink 4oz I didn’t have a bunch of liquid sloshing around in my stomach; an unpleasant experience I’m sure many of us have had after drinking too much fluid before a workout.

Strawberry or Limoncello?

I prefer the strawberry sorbetto flavor to the limoncello. Both are perfectly named and taste like you would expect, but the strawberry one has a sort of energizing taste and smell that I like more than the limoncello. It’s difficult to describe but after having both I feel like the strawberry one just tastes better to me. If you’re not sure I recommend you try both to start; they’re of the same quality and ingredients and once you chose a favorite you can add that to your supplement subscription so that you never run out.

Final Thoughts- Is Pre-Workout Essential?

Is pre-workout for everyone? No, it’s likely not. If you’re pregnant definitely check with your Doctor before taking any supplements to make sure it’s safe for you and your pregnancy. Pre-workout is definitely a nice to have supplement and not something that is required to achieve better results. If I had to choose only 1 supplement to take I would likely take creatine daily and skip pre-workout.

You can read my other Vitalura Lab supplement reviews including creatine and protein (whey and plant-based) to help you decide your optimal supplement routine. You can shop through my links or go directly to the Vitalura Labs website. Make sure to use code “SARAHMILLER” to get free shipping on your order!

Need help deciding what supplements to use or skip? Consider working with a Registered Dietitian to optimize your nutrition and wellness plan! Start here if you’re not sure why a Registered Dietitian is an expert in all things nutrition.

Nutrition and Food, Product Reviews

Is Creatine Worth Supplementing?

I’ve always been very choosy with my supplements both for safety and quality reasons but also for financial. There are many supplements on the market that can be overkill when someone is eating a balanced diet that result in creating expensive urine.

Why would I spend extra money on something that I’m already getting plenty of in my dietary habits? Additionally being picky has meant that many supplements just didn’t appeal to me since they didn’t have the third- party certifications I look for.

Except that I’m probably not getting plenty of creatine because of my choice of diet. I follow a vegan diet, and as I’ll explain later this means I would likely benefit from supplementation of creatine. It’s also worth noting here that creatine monohydrate is vegan-friendly. If you follow a vegetarian diet of any type you’ll also want to keep reading.

If you’re new to supplements or don’t really know the quality/safety specifics I recommend checking out my previous post Let’s Chat: Supplements to learn more.

Some Science

Creatine is a naturally occurring substance. Your body makes creatine in the liver, kidneys and pancreas and converts it into creatine phosphate (or phosphocreatine) and stored in your muscles where it can be used for energy. When you engage in short duration, high intensity bursts of activity (think HIIT, sprinting, weight lifting) phosphocreatine is used in your body.

Despite there being numerous studies looking at creatine’s ability to improve athletic performance, not all bodies are the same and therefore not everyone’s body responds to creatine the same way. Dietary intake of creatine can also influence your body’s response to supplementation. Some individuals may have more naturally occurring creatine in their body from their diet and therefore not see the same benefit from supplementation as someone who has a lower storage amount.

Vegans and vegetarians are a population who tend to have lower overall creatine stores; likely because of the omission of meat and fish from their diets. It has been demonstrated that increasing creatine through supplementation may be more beneficial for vegetarians (all types who avoid meat and fish) when compared to non-vegetarians.

Some studies have demonstrated that creatine supplementation can be helpful for people with muscle weakness due to illness. However, the majority of people interested in taking creatine are here because they want to improve their athletic performance.

It’s important to reiterate that creatine has been demonstrated to improve exercise associated with high bursts of energy in short durations and not necessarily in endurance based exercise. Study results looking into its ability to improve endurance based activity performance has been mixed.

My Experience

My first time trying creatine was honestly because Vitalura Labs released one. I immediately bought theirs to try, one because I practice what I preach and I want to support this amazing company, but two because I knew it would be top quality. Every product in their product line has been top notch with NSF certification so I knew their creatine would be no different.

Scoop size next to a coffee cup for reference.

I started taking it about 7 weeks ago. Honestly, at first I didn’t notice much. It was easy to mix into just about anything since it’s a small amount of powder.

But like any change it takes time to notice anything, good or bad. I kept with it and have now been taking it regularly for a little over a month. By about week 5 of taking 5g creatine daily I noticed a significant development that kept me going on the creatine train.

What I Found

While doing my usual lower body routine one day I decided to try increasing the weight stack, just to see if I could complete a rep or 2 at the higher weight. To my surprise, not only was I able to complete 2 reps, I was able to do my entire planned set at that higher weight. The weight isn’t a lot when compared to body builders and hardcore weight lifters, but it was a weight level that I have never successfully been able to lift for more than 1 set of 3 reps. Let me tell you, I was so excited that I immediately checked the weight stack again just to be sure that I wasn’t hallucinating.

Of course there’s a bit to unpack here. Obviously I’ve been very consistently working out and working toward a specific goal. I’m not belittling the effect that consistent strength work can have on your ability to lift more weight. What I think is important to share here is that I didn’t experience the expected and usual fatigue that would set in so quickly whenever I had previously tried to lift the same amount of weight. That ability to push more is where I give the creatine credit.

Another side effect that I did notice was a slight increase in my body weight, very likely due to water retention. This is a known creatine side effect and not one to fear. Water weight gain isn’t real mass and will leave when you stop using it. My own experience of stopping creatine to see if the water retention disappeared worked and I was at my “normal” weight within a week.

It’s important to note that the amount of water retention someone experiences is also relative and different for everyone. The water retention level that someone experiences will depend on their muscle mass and the type of muscle. The majority of creatine is found in your type II (aka fast twitch) muscle. Logically this makes sense as creatine has been found to improve athletic performance for shorter bursts of power. So if you’re someone who is powerful for shorter bursts of time you may find that you also retain a little more water.

As always I want to disclose that I’m an affiliate with Vitalura Labs. I was super excited to find that they sent me my own bag of creatine to try about a week after I bought mine. Thank you to everyone who shops through my links; if you missed it this post might help you understand how important you are.

Are you ready to try creatine with me? You can shop all things Vitalura Labs and even set up subscriptions of their products so you never run out. Use code “SARAHMILLER” for free shipping.

Nutrition and Food

Vegan on a Budget

Food budgeting is a common household need, regardless of what type of diet you follow. There is a common misconception that eating vegan or plant-based is inherently more expensive. This post is here to help you navigate your local grocery store and show you that eating more plant-based doesn’t have to mean eating more expensive.

Beans

Beans are one of the most inexpensive sources of protein you will find at your local grocery store. I recommend purchasing dried beans in bulk to prepare as needed, or canned with no added sodium. Dried beans also have a long shelf life so you’re likely to reduce your total food waste.

Nutritional Yeast

A common way to impart umami flavoring for savory dishes, nutritional yeast is a vegan source of protein that is also a great source of vitamin B12. You can find this at most grocery stores and even online.

Not sure what nutritional yeast is or how to use it? Read more about this awesome product and why you should consume it while following a vegan diet.

Lentils

Tired of beans? Lentils are an excellent source of plant-based protein that can be used in a myriad of ways. If you have a Trader Joe’s (TJ’s) near you, they also sell ready-to-use lentils to save you time. You can find them in the refrigerated section near the produce at most TJ’s locations.

Seitan

This meatless alternative is super versatile and has a similar texture to meat. It is made from wheat gluten so if you have celiac this is NOT a product for you. For individuals who don’t have a wheat allergy this is an excellent and inexpensive source of protein. You can even find many different recipes to make your own seitan using a few items you may already have in your pantry.

Tofu

Tofu is probably one of my favorite foods. Tofu is made using soy beans which have all 9 essential amino acids, so it is classified as a complete protein. Depending on the type of tofu you buy the protein content may vary. Many Asian markets sell tofu for much less than a traditional grocery store, too, so I recommend seeing what shops are in your area and comparing prices.

Many people who don’t care for tofu have honestly not had it prepared correctly or in a way that they like yet. The texture and ways to best prepare tofu are determined by the type that you choose to purchase. For “beginner” tofu eaters I generally recommend eating the firmer varieties as the squish of softer, silken tofu may put some people off to its mouth-feel.

Note: tofu is similar to chicken, meaning that it has practically no taste on its own. Eating plain tofu is another behavior I would consider more “advanced” and not recommended for newbies. Most people who enjoy tofu will tell you that marinating and sauces go a long way with this versatile protein source.

Fruits/Vegetables

There’s a common misconception that fresh fruits/vegetables are always the most superior form, when compared to frozen or canned. However, frozen fruits and vegetables are harvested and processed at their peak meaning that many times they are better tasting and at peak nutritional value when compared to fresh produce.

Like any food product there are some options that are more healthful than others. I generally recommend avoiding frozen produce that has large amounts of added sodium and/or added sauces. This way you still have control over the spices and additives in your fruits/vegetables.

If canned is your preferred or only available option, try to choose varieties of fruits/vegetables that have no or minimal added sodium as well as avoiding fruits in added syrups. This will help limit your intake of added salt and sugars. I also recommend rinsing canned vegetables and beans to help remove some of the sodium that may have been added.

Shop the Sales

Another great way to stay within your weekly grocery budget is to try and make meals based on the items on sale that week at your local grocer. This strategy can sometimes be a bit difficult for fresh items, but definitely one you want to use when shopping for pantry staples and shelf stable food items.

Happy Shopping

Hope you found this information helpful! Check out this previous blog post for tips on transitioning to a plant-based diet.

Personal Care

An End to Ads, 1 Click at a Time

This morning I decided I wanted to find a recipe for an easy, vegan caramel date sauce. A friend had sent me one a few months ago, but alas I couldn’t remember where it was or which site she had sent. Of course there are a million recipes online, so like most people I simply clicked on the first one from my Google search. That’s when my frustration began.

Ads. Every site you visit is so over run with advertisements that it’s almost impossible to actually read or use the content the person created. Eventually I gave up with that first Google hit and went back to select the next. And you know what? More of the same. So many advertisements and pop-ups that I couldn’t even read the recipe.

Rather than having this be a purely negative post, I decided I wanted to take this opportunity to thank all of you. I understand that I’m in a privileged position choosing to avoid pop-up ads and other annoyances that help monetize a site so that the creator can get paid. A big part of why I can do this is because of you.

Every time you “buy me a coffee”, make a purchase through one of my affiliate links, pass along my promo code(s), or refer a friend to me for Dietitian services I get paid. Some of these options obviously return more than others, but ALL of them are ways to help me keep this site advertisement and tracker free. And YOU make that possible.

So thank you; from the bottom of my heart. I truly appreciate your contribution to keeping this site and my brand how I envision it to be: a safe space where people can come to find evidence-based, credible information from a professional who is truly passionate about nutrition for health.

Nutrition and Food, Product Reviews

Meal kit face-off Hello Fresh vs. Purple Carrot

Meal delivery services and kits are one of the greatest ideas to have evolved in the last decade; especially for people who have a super busy schedule. Not only do these services take care of the grocery shopping but the mental fatigue involved with deciding, “what should we have for dinner” is also happily handed off.

I’ve always been curious about meal kit services but never tried one. Since I follow a pretty specific diet I wasn’t able to find a service that would meet my dietary requirements when they first came out. Luckily most delivery kits have some sort of plant-based option(s) available making cooking for me in my multi picky eater household a little easier. There are many out there to choose from but I decided to give Hello Fresh and Purple Carrot a chance.

Hello Fresh

I decided to try Hello Fresh when a friend of mine passed along a discounted trial coupon.

Pros of Hello Fresh

  1. No grocery shopping- huge time saver
  2. App was easy to use to modify and make changes to my delivery
  3. Meals designed to be crowd pleasers 
  4. Priced well
     

Cons of Hello Fresh

  1. Not enough vegan options 
  2. Menu was a bit boring and repetitive

Ultimately the deal breaker for me was the lack of vegan options. This meant I had to micromanage our delivery every week to make sure I was either choosing things I could later veganize, were already vegan, or needed to skip. Their menu options of plant-based items usually involved dairy, which is great for some people but a no for me. Price point was pretty good and I did feel that Hello Fresh is one of the best priced options available. If you follow a lacto-ovo or lactovegetarian diet then Hello Fresh might work better for you than it did for me. 


Purple Carrot

I can’t even remember anymore where I first heard of Purple Carrot. The decision to try came from a random day of me looking up new recipes to cook at home. One of the recipes was from the Purple Carrot website and next thing I knew I was signing up for a trial box.

Pros of Purple Carrot

  1. Entirely plant-based vegan menu- no need to micromanage delivery
  2. Exciting recipes and variable flavor profiles
  3. High quality ingredients
  4. Also offers a pre-made meal option and “plantry”

Cons of Purple Carrot

  1. A bit more expensive than Hello Fresh

The only con I’ve experienced is that Purple Carrot is a tad more expensive than Hello Fresh. However, the price point is on par with what you would pay at the grocery store for the week’s worth of groceries. And you didn’t have to go to the store, plan the menu, or micromanage the meals arriving in the box. Purple Carrot even offers pre-made meals and a “plantry” so you can include extras you would’ve picked up at the store.

Winner: Purple Carrot

If you’re vegan or vegan curious, or follow a mostly plant-based diet  I highly recommend Purple Carrot. The menu selection is huge- and it’s all vegan. All of it. There’s no need to micromanage or worry that you’re accidentally forgetting to swap an ingredient. The recipes range from easy to more advanced both in flavor profile and cooking skill. They even started including some produce items pre-chopped making it even quicker for you to make dinner on a busy night. Purple Carrot is great for people who like to taste new flavors- every meal I’ve made has been delicious. The recipe developers are amazing. 

 

Nutrition and Food, Product Reviews

Vitalura Labs plant-based protein powder review

I love to workout, but I have always struggled with consuming enough food post-workout to optimize my recovery. I’m a dietitian, I know how important it is, and yet more often than not I’m either skipping my post workout fuel or struggling to make sure I’ve consumed enough to give my body the fuel it needs to rebuild.

Part of the problem for me has always been the taste of protein supplements. Most of them are gross. Especially vegan protein supplements. They’re usually chalky, taste like dirt, or have way too much stevia to try and trick you into thinking you’re eating something that tastes like a dessert.

Enter Vitalura Labs

Anna Victoria, CEO of Fit Body Love Group and NASM certified personal trainer, released a plant-based vegan protein powder this week and being an FBG girl and dietitian, I had to try it. The thoughts below are my own, I paid for my own product.

I did my hamstrings and glutes workout today and for the first time ever I was looking forward to my post workout protein. Not just thinking about what I’d eat to refuel, I was legit looking forward to it. Let me tell you why.

Product breakdown

  1. Taste- it honestly tastes like the name. I ordered the vanilla gelato flavor and I have never tasted a protein supplement, plant-based or whey, that tastes as good as this flavor tastes. I blended mine with some frozen banana and unsweetened soy milk and topped with rainbow sprinkles. It’s like drinking a vanilla shake post workout. I have a huge sweet tooth and am still shocked that this product has somehow hit that craving for me AND provided nutrition. There are currently two flavors available: vanilla gelato and chocolate gelato.
  2. Quality- this protein powder is the “cleanest” I’ve seen on the market to date. The ingredients list is short and they’re NSF certified so you know that their product doesn’t have hidden ingredients or missing ingredients. They use organic pea protein and include rice and pumpkin seed protein to make sure you’re getting an optimal amino acid profile. I was nervous when I saw that it has stevia leaf extract, simply because I generally detest the aftertaste of stevia, but this protein powder doesn’t have that weird after taste I’ve come to expect with stevia sweetened products. 
  3. Nutrition- they nailed it. In 1 scoop of powder, you get 100 calories, 0g saturated fat, only 20mg sodium (this is amazing!), 0g added sugar and a whopping 25g protein. Read that sentence again and let it sink in for a moment. That is truly a magical recipe that they’ve created. The majority of protein powders don’t hold a candle to the nutrition punch the new Vitalura Labs protein powder gives you. It’s also plant-based making it acceptable to a wide audience, and when compared to many whey protein products on the market it still reigns supreme in its nutrition profile.
  4. Cost- some may think that $60 is a lot for a protein supplement. And yes, if it was one of the other brands currently on the market I’d agree with you. But this protein powder is of a superior quality, flavor, texture, and NSF certified. It is 100% worth that $60 price tag. Especially if you consider that there’s 30 servings in every container. That’s $2/serving. I can’t even get a gallon of gas for that cheap. 

Final thoughts

If you’re interested in trying Vitalura Labs new plant-based protein powder for yourself, here’s a link to purchase, use code SARAHMILLER for free shipping!

I would definitely recommend this product to anyone looking for a good post workout protein supplement or anyone who has higher protein needs than they’re able to meet through their diet. 

Jars Containers Zero Waste Vegan  - Jasmin_Sessler / Pixabay
Nutrition and Food

Nutritional Yeast

A significant source of some B vitamins, nutritional yeast is a great way to give foods a cheesy or savory flavor. Some brands are fortified with vitamin B12, making this a staple in many vegan households. I personally love the flavor of nutritional yeast and started using it years before I was eating vegan. 

Nutritional yeast can also be helpful for people who want to give their food a cheesy flavor but are on a low sodium diet. One serving (1 tbsp) of nutritional yeast has 25mg of sodium while one serving (1oz) of cheddar cheese has 174mg.

One serving of nutritional yeast provides 9g of complete protein and is made from a single-celled organism called Saccharomyces cerevisiae. It is dried and inactive and therefore doesn’t grow like active dry yeast does, so you can’t substitute it in place of yeast in your bread recipes. Nutritional yeast is technically made from the same species of yeast as active dry yeast, but it’s a very different product.

But you can use nutritional yeast to amp up the flavor of many dishes including soups, sauces, egg substitutes (like this tofu scramble) or even as a popcorn topping. The umami flavor of nutritional yeast is from the amino acid glutamic acid. But don’t worry, this is a naturally occurring amino acid and is not the same as the additive monosodium glutamate (MSG). 

NPR has a great piece on the history of nutritional yeast including it’s many rises and falls in popularity.

Cow Meadow Nature Cattle Landscape  - Ben_Kerckx / Pixabay
Nutrition and Food

Hormones and Dairy

It’s an unfortunate reality that our modern lifestyle exposes us to many possible cancer causing things daily. My intention with this article is not in any way to cause fear. This is simply to raise personal awareness and challenge some of our perceived norms. I’m here to provide information; what someone chooses to do with that information is entirely up to them. My hope for you is to learn something new here today or at the very least challenge your own view/beliefs and cultural norms related to dairy products. Because when we stop talking about issues we can become complacent and start to pretend they aren’t there. And I love talking about food. ????

Quick note about me

I’ve mentioned before that I was lacto-ovo vegetarian for almost a decade before finally eliminating eggs and then dairy products from my diet. The decision to eliminate both of those products was very personal and caused a lot of internal reflection as well as research- not only to understand the nutritional implications, but also the environmental, animal-welfare, and potential long-term health effects. A lot of my decision was based on the environmental and animal welfare aspect of this topic. Nutrition was somewhat easy for me because the alternative products on the market today taste good, can provide similar nutrient profiles, and are accessible to me (not only because I’m a Dietitian). I recognize that I’m fortunate and privileged to be able to say that; not everyone is.

Dairy products can be part of a healthy diet. If you’re debating your milk stance I recommend reading my article Dairy Dilemma to get a little more background on dairy and how it can fit into a healthy diet. The article also discusses alternative dairy products and a brief explanation related to living a vegan lifestyle.

Quick thoughts on The PCRM

Several studies have linked the consumption of cheese and dairy products to an increased risk of breast cancer. On September 22, 2020 The Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM) filed a lawsuit against the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) because of the FDA’s failure to respond to their petition asking for a warning label to be added to dairy cheese products

To be fully informative I think it’s important to point out that The PCRM is not what it sounds like from their name. At their core they are an animal activist group, not necessarily a collection of Medical Doctors. There is a lot of much information out there both for and against this group.

Rather than focusing on one group we should focus on what the science tells us so far and where we are falling short. I also think it’s worth mentioning that many groups, businesses, and the like have colorful pasts. But that doesn’t mean that they can’t or don’t contribute useful insight and information. Many of the nutrition handouts available on The PCRM website are full of helpful, evidence-based information.

What some of the science says

According to the authors of several studies, insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) and other growth hormones may be responsible for the increased incidence of breast cancer in women consuming the most cheese. It’s well established that following a vegetarian diet pattern is associated with lower risk of many chronic diseases, including cancer.

This study, published by Loma Linda University Adventist Health Sciences Center, found that dairy milk consumption could increase women’s breast cancer risk up to 80% depending on how much they consume. This study evaluated the dietary intake of almost 53,000 North American women who were all initially free of cancer. Study participants were followed for ~8yrs during which time they were required to complete food questionnaires and diet recalls. Participants also completed a baseline questionnaire to provide information related to their demographics, family history, alcohol consumption, and other factors that the authors deemed relevant for the purpose of the study. Researchers found that consumption of dairy foods was associated with an increased risk for cancer. The data collected also predicted a marked reduction in risk associated with substituting soymilk for dairy milk.

Possible explanations

The main author, Fraser, went on to explain that possible reasons for these associations between breast cancer and dairy milk may be the sex hormone content of dairy milk. The female cows producing the milk are lactating, and often about 75% of the dairy herd is pregnant. Breast cancer in women is a hormone-responsive cancer. Intake of dairy and other animal proteins in some reports is also associated with higher blood levels of a hormone, insulin-like growth factor-1 (IGF-1), which is thought to promote certain cancers.

“Dairy milk does have some positive nutritional qualities,” Fraser said, “but these need to be balanced against other possible, less helpful effects. This work suggests the urgent need for further research.” 

The Canadian Academy of Sports Nutrition raises several good points related to hormones and antibiotics in our food. Specifically they point out that some protein hormones given to cattle are water soluble. During digestion, your stomach would break down any consumed, water-soluble proteins.

However, the use of protein steroids is different. Steroid proteins are fat soluble. They can remain intact even with heat applied. They can even survive stomach acid! Potential risk of cattle and cow products treated with steroid hormones then causing changes to the human consuming them has room to be further studied. Because there is a lack of strong, reliable data this topic is pretty controversial. There is data supporting all sides of the argument, and no firm stance established by the professional Dietetics or Medical Community (that I was able to find anyway).

What now?

I have to agree with Fraser- dairy milk does have some positive nutritional qualities like protein, carbohydrates, and vitamins/minerals. But don’t we have a right to further investigate possible links between our food supply and rates of cancer? To understand the possible long-term effects of our food choices? Do you think certain foods should have a warning label? We put warnings on alcohol and cigarettes, should food be different? The Surgeon General warnings are there to raise awareness. Adding a warning label to certain foods might also help consumers make informed choices based on their own personal risk factors. 

Every day it feels like we’re reading headlines stating that another study has found higher incidents of cancer in today’s youth compared to 50 years ago. The more solid scientific research we have related to hormones in the food supply, the more educated and evidence-based our food choices become.

Further Reading

Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM)- Let’s beat breast cancer

Winchester Hospital- Controversy over added hormones in meat and dairy

skeleton full of candy
Nutrition and Food

Study finds Vegan diets more than double the risk of a broken hip- Here’s what you need to know

By now I’m sure many of you have seen the headline making news this week about a study following more than 50,000 British people over two decades finding that vegans were 43% more likely to suffer a fracture compared to people who ate meat and fish. You can read an article summarizing the study here.

Without analyzing the data and doing a complete deep dive on everything the study found, including any potential flaws, the methods and limitations, it’s important to take a moment to recognize that yes, following a vegan diet will require some planning to ensure that you’re meeting your micronutrient needs. Honestly, most any diet in today’s modern food system that meets all of your nutritional needs is going to require some level of planning, so don’t let that discourage you from making the change to eating more plant-based.

Ways to meet your needs

Lucky for today’s vegans and other dairy-free individuals, many products on the market are fortified with important vitamins and minerals that can be lacking in a vegan diet. A few commonly fortified nutrients that can be lacking in a vegan diet include vitamin B12, vitamin D, and calcium.

Vitamin B12

The only source of vegan vitamin B12 comes from fortified foods, supplements, and nutritional yeast. Vitamin B12 is found almost exclusively in animal products including meat and dairy products. I recommend requesting to have your Physician monitor your vitamin B12 levels when you first begin a vegan diet to establish if your levels are optimal and then monitor annually after that to ensure that you’re continually meeting your needs. The general recommendation is for anyone following a vegan diet to take a vitamin B12 supplement. I personally have had a low vitamin B12 level which is embarrassing to admit because I’m a nutrition professional. But we’re all human and it can happen to anyone. Having your vitamin B12 levels out of range can cause permanent damage if not rectified, but luckily your levels increase pretty quickly with supplementation or the use of B12 shots, if indicated. Your Physician or Registered Dietitian can provide you with more information regarding vitamin B12 specific to your needs and lifestyle.

Calcium

Calcium is another nutrient that can be lacking when following a vegan diet and doesn’t always get as much attention as vitamin B12. Calcium is tightly regulated in your body and is required for a ton of processes including vascular contraction and dilation (think blood vessels constricting or expanding), hormone secretion, and muscle function. The level of calcium in your blood does not fluctuate with dietary intake changes which makes it sometimes challenging to find a calcium deficiency because there aren’t any obvious symptoms in the short term. Most low calcium levels result from other medical conditions such as renal failure or use of certain medications. Instead of not having enough calcium to function, your body will steal calcium from its massive reservoir: your bones and teeth. This can be problematic for your bone mineral health if your body keeps leaching calcium out of them. According to the FDA, “adequate calcium and vitamin D as part of a healthful diet, along with physical activity, may reduce the risk of osteoporosis in later life.” 

The nuances involved with bone health and remodeling are much too involved to include in this post. The short story is that calcium and vitamin D in conjunction with phosphorus work to keep your bones healthy. If any of these end up out of their recommended range it can have a detrimental effect on your body. A sedentary lifestyle lacking weight-bearing exercises and resistance training can also negatively impact your bone mineral density (BMD). Your body individual ability to maintain calcium balance is based on a lot of factors that you have no control over including calcium excretion in your urine and feces and calcium absorption in your intestines as well as your dietary intake of calcium.

There are many vegan foods fortified with calcium, such as vegan milks, but most people limiting or avoiding animal product consumption will need to have an awareness of what plant foods can also help them meet their daily needs. If you continue to eat dairy products these foods can provide you with calcium and vitamin D. Plant-based sources of calcium include fortified orange juices, chia seeds, tofu, fortified cereals, raw broccoli, cooked kale, bok choy and supplements. Here you can find more vegan sources of various nutrients.

The RDA (recommended daily intake) is the average daily level of intake that is sufficient to meet the needs of nearly all healthy individuals. For a healthy individual between the ages of 19-50 years old, the RDA for calcium is 1,000mg daily. This number changes for women due to hormonal changes that affect their bodies but stays pretty consistent for men until they’re 71+years old. Vegetarians and vegans should also keep in mind that their absorption levels of calcium may be slightly lower due to increased intake of oxalic and phytic acids from plants. Don’t start stressing about having another thing to keep track of. This just means you need an awareness of your intake since oxalic and phytic acids block your bodys ability to fully absorb calcium. That being said, it’s also important to note that more isn’t always better. You can consume too much of a good thing.

Hypercalcemia (elevated calcium)

Excessively high levels of calcium can cause problems including soft tissue calcification, renal insufficiency and even kidney stones and constipation. Make sure to discuss your personal calcium needs with a Registered Dietitian if you have any questions or concerns related to your calcium needs. 

Further Reading

Interested in reading more? Here are some links to credible sources you can trust:

NIH on calcium

NIH on vitamin B12

NIH on vitamin D

Meeting Calcium Recommendations on a Vegan Diet from The Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics