Collage of many X-rays in very good quality.

Dairy (milk, yoghurt, cheese) and Meat – Why Immigrants Need to be Careful

When you walk into a typical Canadian supermarket, you will notice that there’s a lot of milk products and meat. Many immigrants are happy to see that meat seems to be cheaper than in their home countries. They also hear that milk, cheese and yoghurt are healthy and so they start buying more meat and milk products than they used to do before immigrating. Their diets change but, unfortunately, so does their health – many years later they develop common ‘Canadian’ health problems: heart disease, cancer, diabetes and osteoporosis.

Osteoporosis is when your bones are weak and can break easily. An estimated 1.5 million (10%) of Canadians age 40 and older reported having been diagnosed with osteoporosis. Yet, Canadians eat more yoghurt and cheese and drink more milk than people in many other countries. Milk contains calcium so Canadians should have very strong bones – but they don’t. Why? The problem is that milk and all the milk products create a highly acidic environment inside the human body. In order to get rid of that acidity, your body will draw the calcium OUT of your bones.

A little bit of yoghurt sometimes (not every day) is good for your body. But be careful: too much yoghurt, too much milk and too much cheese will make your bones brittle.

If you live in Canada already, you will see the advertisement and commercials on TV and in the magazines and newspapers about ‘Canadian milk’. You need to know that in Canada, farmers are subsidised by the government (the governments gives them a lot of money – billions of dollars). So, the government wants you to buy Canadian milk, yoghurt and cheese, and will tell you that it is healthy.

It is true that milk products contain calcium but too much of them in your diet will have the opposite effect from what you want – milk can actually make your bones weaker because of the acidity it creates in the body.

Everybody knows that calcium is important for strong bones. Yet, some Canadians don’t know that many vegetables contain calcium. Unfortunately, Canadians often don’t like to eat vegetables or don’t know the facts, for example the fact that one cup of cooked kale (green leafy vegetable) contains almost the same amount of calcium as one cup of milk (245mg vs. 300mg). And if you eat beans, tofu, almonds or canned fish, you have enough calcium in your diet – you don’t even need milk or yoghurt!

 

As an immigrant, the best thing you can do for your health is to continue eating the same amount of fruit and vegetables as you used to eat in your first country. The same can be said about meat. How much meat did you use to eat in your country? Keep it the same. The Canadian barbeque tradition is great, but that is also a recipe for heart disease and obesity if you eat that much meat all the time. Again, you will probably hear ‘Canadian beef’ advertised on TV – remember that the farmers are subsidised and the government wants you to go and buy it.

Many Canadians don’t know that if they go to a restaurant and order, for example, a small steak or a chicken souvlaki dinner, it contains more protein than their body can digest and use at one time. The portions are simply too big!

Many Canadians believe that meat is the only source of protein. They often don’t know that beans (like soy) and lentils, grains (like rice), nuts (like peanuts), seeds and vegetables (especially sea vegetables) all contain protein as well.

Another problem with meat is that regular meat (not organic) usually contains growth hormones and antibiotics. Growth hormones make the animals grow faster and bigger. And, when people eat that meat, their bodies can also grow faster and bigger. It’s not good for your children especially, so make sure your family don’t eat too much meat.

_________

As an immigrant, if you are healthy now, the best thing you can do for your health is NOT to change your diet much. Keeping it rich in fruits and vegetables and going low on milk products and meat will ensure you enjoy a better quality of life in your new country.