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Going without

February 14, 2013 — Leave a comment

Living in a developing country there are lots of things you get used to not having:

  • Hot water
  • Electrical appliances (namely washer and drier)
  • A stable (and fast) internet connection
  • Toilet paper
  • Many food items

Arguably, one of the hardest things to get used to is the lack of food items. Be it good wine, coffee, snacks, or otherwise. There are just a lot of things that you cannot buy in many parts of the world, or the cost of importing makes them prohibitively expensive. Going without isn’t necessarily a bad thing either; it forces you to adapt to the local norms, and you end up appreciating your home so much more.

photo by law_keven

photo by law_keven

My diet in Sri Lanka is quite devoid of meat and diary products. I’ve become a circumstantial vegetarian. At most I take meat (primarily fish) once a day, and I’ll eat a dozen eggs over the course of a week. Cheese isn’t widely available, and most milk is sold either in powdered form or in a tetra-pack. I also eat curd (think Greek yoghurt, but made from buffalo milk) a few times a week, its delicious.

Last week was unusual for me in two ways, I bought a liter of milk and I ate beef while in Colombo. Its been about two months since I last ate beef, and I ordered it at a Korean restaurant. I felt awesome afterwards. I didn’t realize how devoid my diet was of protein, but I had a surge of energy following the meal and into the next day. Its been about five months since I drank a glass of milk, after consuming a small glass I became ill for the rest of the evening and into the next day. The day following the glass of milk I was still popping imodium like tic-tacs.

I thought it was odd how my body reacted to two previously common items of my diet. After eating a couple of pieces of lean beef I slept great and felt energized. After drinking a glass of milk I was sick. Just a few months without regular milk consumption was enough to make me go sick. My body’s response to milk makes me think that maybe I shouldn’t try to get back into the habit.

When was the last time you went without something, or tried modifying your diet? It wasn’t until I went abroad, and was forced by circumstance to drastically alter my diet. Given how my body responded to milk I don’t really see a need to consume much of it in the future (save for ice-cream).

What about calcium? As it turns out some vegetables contain as much calcium as milk. I’ve included a few choice examples from nutritiondata.com:

  • Arugula, 1 cup = 32mg
  • Spinach, 1 cup (cooked) = 245mg (almost as much as a cup of milk)
  • Spinach, 1 cup (raw) = 30mg
  • Broccoli, 2 cups (cooked) = 188mg (about the same as 1 oz of cheese)

There are some interesting studies out there which claim milk and cheese actually deplete calcium from your body, as they are processed as acids and your body neutralizes them with calcium salts from your bones. (interestingly, fermented milk products such as yoghurt and sour cream are a neutral food) Its a hotly debated issue, but even Harvard’s School of Public Health advises you to drink less milk.

If not for going abroad I would have never cut milk out of my diet.