Friday, December 01, 2006

No Milk?

Guillermo and I have just heard that our adorable 2-yr old niece is suspected to have milk allergy, not to be confused with lactose intolerance. The former is a reaction by the body's immune system while lactose intolerance is caused by inadequate amount of lactase enzyme to break down lactose. Allergy to milk is often difficult to detect and many doctors and health specialists recommend going dairy free as an initial test when a food allergy is suspected. Her parents are understandably distressed because she loves her milk and unsurprisingly obtained most of her required nourishments from it.

We were surprised by the prognosis because she is a healthy and active child. While cow's milk does contain over 25 different molecules which have the potential to elicit an allergic reaction, I have urged the parents to seek a second opinion just in case they had run into one of those misguided doctors who among other things, also believe in feeding a spoonful of sugar a day to babies six-month onwards. Meanwhile, we are trying to learn as much as possible about what this allergy entails.


Nowadays few would dispute the benefits of breast feeding; however, it is still contentious among mothers as to when the appropriate time is in weaning their children off their breasts. Surprisingly, many mothers feel it is unseemly to continue breast feeding older babies, especially boys. Just how removed from nature have we, human beings, become?

The World Health Organization recommends that babies are breastfed for the first two years of their lives if possible. Doctors are also recommending babies weaning from breast milk to go onto formula first. Both are helpful measures as up to 85-90% of infants allergic to cow's milk will outgrow the allergy by the age of 3.

Another important issue is added E-Numbers (E-colours) in food. It is well known that many of them act as allergens and such additives are often present in dairy products targeting pre-teen consumers. Most yoghurt and dairy based dessert products currently on sale in Argentina contain additives and preservatives. I was shocked by and had subsequently spoken out about the artificial pastel hues of pouring yoghurt which, unfortunately, is a popular choice among Argentine mothers.

As in all cases of allergies, the most effective treatment is avoidance of the allergen. While it is possible to avoid artificial colouring and preservatives, one still has to beware of "non-dairy" products which may not only contain additives and preservatives but casein, a milk allergen which may be hidden in many processed meats including pepperoni, salami, and hot dog sausages which are popular among children.

Without milk in the diet, the nutritional needs of the body have to be met through other sources. The milk myth has always intrigued and amused me but indoctrinated minds take time to understand little known facts. The recommended daily allowance of calcium depends on the age of the individual; excellent sources of calcium include sesame (as little as 30g contains about 300mg, the equivalent of a full glass of milk), dark green vegetables such as broccoli and kale, fish such as salmon and sardines, and seafood such as oysters and shrimps.


Calcium-rich Salmon and Spinach Baby Pasta
2 tbsp salt
1 tsp white peppercorns
2 bay leaves
4 x 200g salmon fillets, skin off
400g risoni, ( or small pasta shapes)
1 cup peas (can use frozen)
Zest and juice of 1 lemon
100g baby spinach leaves
¼ cup freshly chopped flat-leaf parsley
1 tbsp freshly chopped dill
2 tbsp olive oil
1/2 tsp caster sugar

Place the salt, peppercorns and bay leaves in a large, deep frying pan with 1.25l (5 cups) water and bring to the boil.

Cook for 5 minutes then remove from the heat. Add the salmon, cover and leave for 15 minutes. Remove the fish from the stock and flake into pieces.

Cook the risoni in a large saucepan of lightly salted water according to packet instructions or until al dente, adding the peas and lemon zest for the last 2 minutes of the cooking time. Rinse under cold running water and drain well.

Place the risoni and peas, salmon, baby spinach, parsley and dill in a large bowl. Whisk together the lemon juice, olive oil and sugar. Add the dressing to the salad and gently toss to combine. Season with salt and pepper.

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