No Dairy? But where do I get Calcium?

Between lactose intolerance, dairy protein allergies and anti inflammatory diets, dairy is slowly being consumed less and less.  
Our nutrition programs begin, in part, by eliminating dairy and gluten.  Some folks choose to put it back in their life, while others feel so good they can’t imagine returning to either on a regular basis.  
Most often, people accept no gluten.  Our cultural norm accepts that gluten is bad for you, and I don’t get too many questions about why we should avoid gluten (although a few).  Dairy, on the other hand, gets people fired up.  Why no dairy? I don’t have lactose issues.  Where will I get my calcium??  All good questions and points.
As we age, we produce less of the necessary enzyme, lactase, that will break the lactose.  This can result in bigger particles moving through your digestive tract resulting in gas, bloating, cramps or diarrhea.  Not pleasant.  Dairy products contain varying amounts of lactose and so some people can tolerate some dairy products.  Phew, I can still eat my cheese.  Not so fast.  The main protein in dairy products, casein, has been shown to be inflammatory to our digestive tract and disruptive to several other systems in the body.  A quick point about inflammation in your gut.  Make no mistake, the immediate bloating or discomfort you feel may subside within a few hours, but the lining of your gut which is the delivery port for all your vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, and all other necessary nutrients, remains compromised absorbing less, and in some cases letting through big particles that then get where they don’t belong. Your gut is also involved in serotonin production, and if it is not healthy, your serotonin production is out of whack. (low serotonin has been connected to anxiety, irritability, insomnia, impulsivity, aggression and low self esteem- interestingly enough, an overlapping list of ADHD among other diagnosis on the rise).  This is the tip of the iceberg with inflammation, and while anti inflammatory diets may seem extreme and an over reaction, our guts our often neglected with what we ingest.  The gut gets injured slowly over time and can lead to a host of bowel and digestive disorders.
While I’m not Tom Brady level of anti-inflammatory diets, I avoid dairy primarily because it is inflammatory.  The source of the dairy is questionable, the products can be highly processed, and I’m not getting a whole bunch of nutrients.  If I do choose dairy infrequently, I am sure to source my dairy from a local farm where I can see the cows roaming freely and eating grass, or I get imported cheese from a country with good cattle practices.  Much of the US dairy is sourced from cows in feed lots that are given a grain based feed (not healthy for their guts) and other practices that can create an unhealthy product.  We were never meant to drink cow’s milk, but we do.
If I can’t have dairy, where I am going to get all my calcium?  Good question. Calcium is a mineral that is found in soil.  Plants bioaccumulate calcium, and we eat them.  Some of the best sources of calcium are green leafy vegetables, like spinach, kale, swiss chard and collards.  Most vegetables and legumes are an excellent source of calcium. Another way to ingest calcium is through smaller fish, as we ingest the small calcium containing bones. Some of these well known fish have a powerful and distinct taste, sardines and anchovies, and can turn people away with their pungent tastes, but canned salmon packed as a whole  fish also fits the bill.  Canned foods are subjected to high heat upon canning, and this helps to soften the small bones.  We easily chew these most often without realizing.
I used to make a very flavorful and delicious salmon burger that called for a host of different herbs and ingredients.  My kids loved them, but the measuring, mixing and pan searing made them a dinner choice that took some significant prep.  I recently tweaked (eliminated some herbs and ingredients) to make a quick salmon burger, and no one really knew the difference.  Hats off to Nicole and her inclusion of Greek Seasoning from Penzeys – a real time saver!
Quick Salmon Burger
Sockeye Salmon – 1 can (14.5 ounces)Egg – 1Greek Seasoning – 1 TTapioca Flour – about 1/4 cupCoconut Oil – 2 T
Begin by heating coconut oil over medium high heat in a skillet.  Drain and rinse salmon while in the can, then strain.  Combine salmon, egg and Greek seasoning in a bowl and mix well crunching up any visible bones.  Add about 1/8 cup of the flour to the mixture and place the other 1/8 cup on a plate.  Form 4 balls and then flatten into patties.  Use the flour on the plate to coat the patties in tapioca flour, and then add to the hot oil. Pan sear the burgers for about 3-4 minutes or until golden brown on each side. Remove and serve.  I like to serve this over a bed of greens.
HELPFUL TIP: Double or triple the recipe and freeze for later.

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