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What I Learned from 21 Days Dairy-Free

What I Learned from 21 Days Dairy-Free

With every New Year, rather than attempting to stick to a New Year’s resolution of “eating healthy” or “losing X pounds” I like to experiment with cutting out something from my diet. I generally try to eat healthy and avoid fattening foods (at least during the week) so this is a way for me to see if there’s a certain type of food that is an integral contributor to my lack of weight loss.

The Experiment

I have always said that no matter what diet I go on I could never give up cheese – pizza to be more specific. I’m Italian and I praise my heritage’s food with overconsumption on a weekly basis. This overconsumption led to me to challenge myself to the one thing I said I could never live without. For 21 days, I decided to give up dairy. I tracked my progress and emotions below.

Disclaimer: Every person is different and every body reacts differently to different foods. My 2009 experiment of a month without bread or sugar resulted in a total of one lost pound – the result (hopefully) would not be the same for you. This experiment was to teach me about the effect dairy has on my body. This experiment could go very differently for yours.

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The Timeline

Day 1 – 2: I eased into my transition. I didn’t necessarily eat healthy but I avoided dairy (to my knowledge). This gradual transition helped me avoid giving up.

Day 3: One of my favorite snacks is pesto and matzo – try it, you’ll see why. While diving into my daily fix, I took a look at the ingredients for pesto…which included Parmesan cheese. I quickly, and very reluctantly, returned the pesto to the fridge to wait out the duration of my sentence.

Day 5: I had a minor panic attack. In my research of all things dairy, I almost thought I had read that olive oil had dairy in it. It was then that I wanted to give up. I felt like dairy products were secretly hidden in almost everything. After taking a deep breathe and reading on, I discovered that (duh) olive oil does not contain dairy. To my ignorant surprise, I also found out that eggs are not considering dairy. This is a common misconception, considering eggs are found in the dairy aisle, but are free of dairy, nonetheless.

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Day 6: Second day in a row with a migraine. Is it possible to have withdrawals from cheese?

Day 7: My daily breakfast is a protein shake. It did not occur to me until I was a full week into non-dairy to check the ingredients of my protein powder, which contain whey protein concentrate which next to it says (milk); as do my protein bars I keep on reserve for “hangry” instances. In trying to find a breakfast replacement, I discovered that dairy-free yogurts and protein bars supplement lack of milk with high sugar content, albeit healthy sugars (like those found in fruit). This was a very interesting find.

Day 10: I lifted a 24-pack of water over my head onto the top of my fridge with ease. Meanwhile, I’ve never been able to lift my suitcase on to the top of airport bins without assistance. Am I getting stronger?

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Day 14: I’m in a groove. Although it is frustrating not being able to even walk into an Italian restaurant, eating dairy-free isn’t too difficult anymore. Going out to eat, in general, is stressful. You can’t be sure that any menu item isn’t cooked with butter. However, I’ve made it this far and I’m excited for the home stretch. The last two weeks went by relatively fast and were not nearly as depressing as I had always imagined them to be.

Day 21: Give me cheese, please! Oh, and a side of ice cream. It’s not like I was necessarily craving it, but what’s a challenge without a reward?

Overall, I never felt too different being off dairy. I felt stronger, but not necessarily healthier. In total I managed to lose 3 pounds, about one per week, which seemed easy considering I never really felt like I was on a strict diet. After all, I could still eat bread and – fun fact – Oreos are dairy free. I wasn’t unhappy with my weight loss but it wasn’t overly exciting either.

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The Lesson

This experiment overall taught me how many foods secretly have dairy in them (and how thankful I am that I don’t have a dairy allergy). I learned that, moving forward, there are certain things that I can keep dairy out of, specifically coffee and salads.

This experiment was something I’m glad I did, but not something I would necessarily enjoy doing again. I appreciate pizza even more than before and I will enjoy my cake, and eat it too.

More than learning that I should stay away from dairy, I learned how easy it really is to cut out a food you thought you could never live without. It truly is all about your mindset and not letting yourself give in to giving up. That’s all it really takes to make eating healthy a habit. Once your mind is in the right place, the opportunities are virtually endless.

If you don’t believe me, try it out for yourself and please share your experiences with me!

Featured photo credit: diapicard via pixabay.com

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What I Learned from 21 Days Dairy-Free

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Last Updated on August 12, 2019

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

12 Best Foods That Improve Memory and Brain Health

Nutrition plays a vital role in brain function and staying sharp into the golden years. Personally, my husband is going through medical school, which is like a daily mental marathon. Like any good wife, I am always looking for things that will boost his memory fortitude so he does his best in school.

But you don’t have to be a med student to appreciate better brainiac brilliance. If you combine certain foods with good hydration, proper sleep and exercise, you may just rival Einstein and have a great memory in no time.

I’m going to reveal the list of foods coming out of the kitchen that can improve your memory and make you smarter.

Here are 12 best brain foods that improve memory and brain power:

1. Nuts

The American Journal of Epidemiology published a study linking higher intakes of vitamin E with the prevention on cognitive decline.[1]

Nuts like walnuts and almonds (along with other great foods like avocados) are a great source of vitamin E.

Cashews and sunflower seeds also contain an amino acid that reduces stress by boosting serotonin levels.

Walnuts even resemble the brain, just in case you forget the correlation, and are a great source of omega 3 fatty acids, which also improve your mental magnitude.

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2. Blueberries

Shown in studies at Tuffs University to benefit both short-term memory and coordination, blueberries pack quite a punch in a tiny blue package.[2]

When compared to other fruits and veggies, blueberries were found to have the highest amount of antioxidants (especially flavonoids), but strawberries, raspberries, and blackberries are also full of brain benefits.

3. Tomatoes

Tomatoes are packed full of the antioxidant lycopene, which has shown to help protect against free-radical damage most notably seen in dementia patients.

4. Broccoli

While all green veggies are important and rich in antioxidants and vitamin C, broccoli is a superfood even among these healthy choices.

Since your brain uses so much fuel (it’s only 3% of your body weight but uses up to 17% of your energy), it is more vulnerable to free-radical damage and antioxidants help eliminate this threat.

Broccoli is packed full of antioxidants, is well-known as a powerful cancer fighter and is also full of vitamin K, which is known to enhance cognitive function.

5. Foods Rich in Essential Fatty Acids

Your brain is the fattest organ (not counting the skin) in the human body, and is composed of 60% fat. That means that your brain needs essential fatty acids like DHA and EPA to repair and build up synapses associated with memory.

The body does not naturally produce essential fatty acids so we must get them in our diet.

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Eggs, flax, and oily fish like salmon, sardines, mackerel and herring are great natural sources of these powerful fatty acids. Eggs also contain choline, which is a necessary building block for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, to help you recall information and concentrate.

6. Soy

Soy, along with many other whole foods mentioned here, are full of proteins that trigger neurotransmitters associated with memory.

Soy protein isolate is a concentrated form of the protein that can be found in powder, liquid, or supplement form.

Soy is valuable for improving memory and mental flexibility, so pour soy milk over your cereal and enjoy the benefits.

7. Dark Chocolate

When it comes to chocolate, the darker the better. Try to aim for at least 70% cocoa. This yummy desert is rich in flavanol antioxidants which increase blood flow to the brain and shield brain cells from aging.

Take a look at this article if you want to know more benefits of dark chocolate: 15 Surprising and Science-Backed Health Effects of Dark Chocolate

8. Foods Rich in Vitamins: B vitamins, Folic Acid, Iron

Some great foods to obtain brain-boosting B vitamins, folic acid and iron are kale, chard, spinach and other dark leafy greens.

B6, B12 and folic acid can reduce levels of homocysteine in the blood. Homocysteine increases are found in patients with cognitive impairment like Alzheimer’s, and high risk of stroke.

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Studies showed when a group of elderly patients with mild cognitive impairment were given high doses of B6, B12, and folic acid, there was significant reduction in brain shrinkage compared to a similar placebo group.[3]

Other sources of B vitamins are liver, eggs, soybeans, lentils and green beans. Iron also helps accelerate brain function by carrying oxygen. If your brain doesn’t get enough oxygen, it can slow down and people can experience difficulty concentrating, diminished intellect, and a shorter attention span.

To get more iron in your diet, eat lean meats, beans, and iron-fortified cereals. Vitamin C helps in iron absorption, so don’t forget the fruits!

9. Foods Rich in Zinc

Zinc has constantly demonstrated its importance as a powerful nutrient in memory building and thinking. This mineral regulates communications between neurons and the hippocampus.

Zinc is deposited within nerve cells, with the highest concentrations found in the hippocampus, the part of the brain responsible for higher learning function and memory.

Some great sources of zinc are pumpkin seeds, liver, nuts, and peas.

10. Gingko Biloba

This herb has been utilized for centuries in eastern culture and is best known for its memory boosting brawn.

It can increase blood flow in the brain by dilating vessels, increasing oxygen supply and removing free radicals.

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However, don’t expect results overnight: this may take a few weeks to build up in your system before you see improvements.

11. Green and Black Tea

Studies have shown that both green and black tea prevent the breakdown of acetylcholine—a key chemical involved in memory and lacking in Alzheimer’s patients.

Both teas appear to have the same affect on Alzheimer’s disease as many drugs utilized to combat the illness, but green tea wins out as its affects last a full week versus black tea which only lasts the day.

Find out more about green tea here: 11 Health Benefits of Green Tea (+ How to Drink It for Maximum Benefits)

12. Sage and Rosemary

Both of these powerful herbs have been shown to increase memory and mental clarity, and alleviate mental fatigue in studies.

Try to enjoy these savory herbs in your favorite dishes.

When it comes to mental magnitude, eating smart can really make you smarter. Try to implement more of these readily available nutrients and see just how brainy you can be!

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Featured photo credit: Pexels via pexels.com

Reference

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