I love getting email – from this column, my radio show and TV appearances. I read as many as I can. With that in mind I’d like to share two letters with you, with some of the more corrosive words edited just a bit.
Dear Dr. Zorba: You really upset me with your (expletive deleted) comments about putting kids on vegetarian diets. You called it goofy and strange. You’re wrong. Dead wrong. You said it lacked protein and calcium that infants need. Plant-based vegan diets are best for our planet and best for our kids. I’ve lost so much respect for you and your advice. Get informed or butt out.
— Upset Mom
Dear Upset: Please accept my apologies and let me clarify my position on this. Vegetarian and vegan diets (vegan diets eliminate all animal products, meaning no milk, cheese or eggs) are traditional in many cultures. Handled the right way, you can raise a healthy child.
I worry about kids and nutritional deficiencies since the macrobiotic diet fad of the 1980s left some kids suffering from scurvy, a vitamin C deficiency that we thought we had wiped out in this country back in the ’20s. Severely limiting nutrition that a growing child needs is just as unhealthy as feeding them chips and soda.
So with that in mind, let me give you the bottom line on child nutrition and a plant-based diet – calcium and protein. Your child can easily get calcium and protein by drinking soy milk or almond milk, both very comparable to cow’s milk. Make sure you pick the vitamin D-fortified kind. And to boost your child’s protein, add legumes such as beans and peanuts as well as lentils, an inexpensive alternative to rice that my kids used to love.
Dear Dr. Zorba: I am a professor of dairy science at UW-Madison. When I heard you advise patients that if they were lactose intolerant they should avoid cheese, I almost dropped my jaw. When cheese is made, most of the lactose is removed. Hard cheeses, such as cheddar and Gouda, have hardly any. So most who are lactose intolerant can tolerate that. Can you correct this?
— Dairy Prof Bill
Dear Prof: As my wife’s Grandma Else used to say, “You learn something every day.” Thanks for clearing this up. Thanks to you, I’m more up-to-date. What you say will clearly boost the economy of Wisconsin. Kudos.
Dear Dr. Z: You recommended Zumba dance for folks with osteoarthritis. Why didn’t you mention the down side – knee injuries? One day, as I was doing Zumba and pivoting, I heard a snap in my knee. Two surgeries and six months later, I still have knee pain. My local YMCA now offers Zumba aquatic classes, easier on the aging knee. Wish I had heard that before.
— Dancing Sally
Dear Sally: Arthritis is the pits, isn’t it? One day you’re fine and then snap, crackle and pop. Bummer. Water classes, stretching, aerobics and dance are a boon for more “mature” adults. And you don’t need to know how to swim because they take place in shallow pools – awesome for non-swimmers who would love to get their tootsies wet. I’ll be sure to mention this next time I talk about Zumba, unless I have a “senior’” moment.
Thanks folks. Keep those emails a-comin’.
Dr. Zorba Paster is a family physician, university professor and author. He also hosts a call-in radio program at 3 p.m. Saturdays on WBFO-FM 88.7. Reach him by email at zpaster@ wisc.edu.