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Posts tagged ‘nutrition’

Healthy Eating: A Hierarchy of Needs

pexels-photo-949070.jpegDo you eat cereal? I was thinking about having a bowl of cereal for desert, as I was craving sugar. Most commercial cereal is so unhealthy it is a desert, yet it is touted as a healthy choice. But then it occurred to me that in many, many households, it is the healthiest choice they make, and how much boxed cereal improved the nation’s health when it was introduced, simply because it is vitamin fortified. That led me to think of how relative healthy eating is.

While some of us worry about whether our produce is organic, if our food is locally and humanly raised, or if it is the healthiest of competing eating plans, while many people here in the United States don’t even know, or chose not to know, what they should even be worrying about. There is a vast distance between the  “haves and have-nots” of nutritional awareness. Many people think fried chicken and biscuits are suitable to feed a child. Most Americans have no idea how much refined grains and sugar they are consuming, or the correlation between that and type 2 diabetes.

 Don’t romanticize the past.  While I do believe much of our obesity problem is because of the food industry, eating like your ancestors doesn’t guarantee healthy eating. The one thing I disagree with author Michael Pollen about in his book, “In Defense of Food” was his contention that people in the past ate better. Some did, most didn’t. We may be dying from an overabundance of sugar and calories now, but people died from pellagra, beri beri, scurvy and rickets in the past. Poverty and poor availability of food were extremely common. People in the rural south at corn, but, unlike the Native Americans, they didn’t know to soak their corn in alkali to make its niacin content digestible, which caused rampant pellagra. They also liked it “degermed,” taking more of the B vitamins out. People, for some reason, like their food white and mushy. So rice was also degermed, making it “white.” Rich people ate white bread because it cost more and was “finer”,  that made everyone want it. People abandoned whole wheat as being too rural or poor, which we now know was a huge mistake.

Poverty was a driving force. People took advantage of each other, bakers put sawdust, chalk or alum in the bread, spices covered the smell of spoiling meat, they watered down and chalked the milk. People ate what they could afford, which might be good, like collards or beans, or bad, like fat back, white bread and mayonnaise sandwiches. The ultimate hierarchy of good eating for most people in the past was simply getting enough food to not go to bed hungry.

Education was spotty or nonexistent in the past. Who was teaching about food? The local grange or cooperative extension? Home Ec. class in school? What did they teach? Did they just focus on food safety or how to follow recipes? Or did lessons of nutrition get taught? Did you only get this education if you were middle class or higher? I’ve read some grange and home ec. material from the 40’s and 50’s, and most of it was very sound. Even back then they recommended to not eat cake often. However, then, as now, people had to seek out information, and most didn’t.

Cereal was invented as health food. At the time commercial  cereal was invented, rich people ate whatever they liked, without regard for whether it was good for them or not, poor people ate whatever was cheap.  Having read writings from the past, there was a lot of common knowledge that vegetables were good for you. But then, as now, cake tasted better. People went to spas and sanitariums as they do now, to lose weight and feel better. The sanitariums, for the most part, fed them vegetables and whole grains. It was out of these sanitariums that the cereal industry was born. Those early cereals weren’t too bad; they were whole grains that weren’t overly sweetened. Boxed cereal was affordable, so the poorer people bought it too.

The government got involved. The government later demanded fortification in response to widespread health deficiencies. Bread and flour was fortified with B vitamins in response to pellagra and beri beri, milk with A&D against night blindness and rickets, salt with iodine to prevent goiter. The government also passed food safety laws. While I’m no fan of overreaching governmental influence, those things have made a huge difference.  Not every parent can parent, and if you can prevent a child from having a low IQ from serious deficiencies, they at least stand a chance.

You know, but you don’t know. Now we know better. As a society we are being educated to eat fruits, vegetables, whole grains and lean meats. That’s why no one eats hot dogs on buns anymore. Fried chicken has been completely taken over by grilled. And when was the last time you saw a french fry? Ok, so my sarcasm is over the top here. But seriously, do we know? Then why is there a whole aisle devoted to soda? Why is sweet tea still the national drink of the south? Why are white flour breads, rolls and cookies still out there in abundance? Judging by the success of the fast food industry, the amount of donuts brought into work, the aisles of junk in the supermarket, we still have a very, very long way to go.

Getting back to my cereal. For me, it’s desert, for someone else, the healthiest choice of the day. If the choice is between cereal and a donut, cereal doesn’t look so bad. For those of us who worry about our diets and try to eat for health more than taste, try to remember “The perfect is the enemy of the good”. Many people will not give up what tastes good, in spite of being diagnosed with diabetes, heart disease, metabolic disorder or the host of other ailments that can be prevented or mitigated with diet. If we can make some of those foods healthier, or steer people away from the worst offenders, we’ll have still made a difference.

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It’s Not 99%, That’s for Sure

close up of a cows nose

mmm, nummy.

Have you heard about “nose to tail”? That is another movement to change how we eat. It is really simple, in theory. If you are going to eat meat, you should eat all of it, and not waste it. In our modern culture, this is rather silly, in that few of us will butcher and process our own meat.  In light of what we now know about good nutrition, it isn’t even sound, since that is why our forebearers made all that yummy, yet unhealthy sausage, to use up the less appetizing bits. The idea behind this is the idea that there are so many of us, and it takes so much land to raise meat, that getting us to use every bit is better ecologically.

Learning about this made me think about all the different movements out there to get us to eat healthier, help the earth, prevent global warming, or in some way live a more mindful life. I don’t think we need to go to the extremes that some movements promote.

We don’t even agree on what we need to do. I do think we all agree on recycling, unless the energy it takes to recycle creates to much carbon. We agree on using less, unless the economy suffers. We agree on using renewable resources, unless that renewable resource is controversal, like ethanol. Oh, but we do agree on green energy, unless they are putting a wind farm in your neighborhood. Sigh.

I have a friend who is convinced if she can get us all to go vegan, the world would be a better place. I don’t know that she’s wrong, We’ll never try it to find out. I won’t even do it. Do I think that eating less meat is a good thing? Of course. Meat should be the side dish, not the veggies. I had some shrimp tacos at Red Lobster that were out of this world. I gorged myself and probably ate 10 shrimp. The rest was veggies and bread. However, I live with a raving carnivore. I have gotten him to eat smaller portions, and occasionally have chicken, fish,soup or something other than straight red meat at a meal, but he still thinks two hamburgers is a serving. The funny thing is, there is a significant portion of the health community that would see bread as the problem, not meat.

My chiropractor just gave my husband some info on the paleo diet. I have a bunch of clients going gluten free.  I applaud people for taking steps to control their health, I just wonder why everything has to be so extreme. Just eating healthy is extreme enough. Put down the crueller and have fruit and oatmeal for breakfast. Have the Southwest Salad instead of the Big Mac. Have a small coffee with one cream and sugar instead of the latte, frappe whatever. Have pudding for desert instead of ice cream. Better yet, have a yogurt parfait, with homemade strawberry rhubarb sauce. Ok, that’s it, I’m outta here. There’s some of that in the fridge calling my name. I put some in my salad this morning and it was really good.

My Love Affair with Kale is Still Going Strong

Head of dark green kale.

A thing of beauty

How could it not?

Look at this. This was harvested from my garden on December 19, 2012. It’s still growing! Granted, this is an extremely mild winter so far, we’ve only had two hard frosts and a dusting of snow. The rest of the garden has long since gone to sleep. The broccoli might have survived, but I pulled it all up when it bolted so badly.

In case I needed reasons.

How can you not love a vegetable that is so hardy and productive, and so good for you? I had expected to be using what I had frozen by now. I have so much in my freezer that I can’t find other things. I have used some of what I froze, I made a lasagna with chopped kale instead of spinach. Believe it or not, my husband even liked it! In any case, this one vegetable, planted in a ring around the garden, has fed me every day since last spring. I have become addicted to kale added to my oatmeal. I did try the frozen in it, but it is not as nice of a texture, so the fact that those little powerhouses are still going strong makes me so happy. If it was a bad year, the deer would have eaten them all. The two days we did get snow, they immediately came in the yard and topped the whole back of the garden. I harvested a whole bunch then, assuming I was salvaging what I could before they got it all, but they haven’t been back and the rest are still growing.

Just a reminder

In case you can’t figure out why kale makes me so happy, here are some reasons, I copied this from an article on webMD:

One cup of kale contains 36 calories, 5 grams of fiber, and 15% of the daily requirement of calcium and vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), 40% of magnesium, 180% of vitamin A, 200% of vitamin C, and 1,020% of vitamin K. It is also a good source of minerals copper, potassium, iron, manganese, and phosphorus.

Kale’s health benefits are primarily linked to the high concentration and excellent source of antioxidant vitamins A, C, and K — and sulphur-containing phytonutrients.

Carotenoids and flavonoids are the specific types of antioxidants associated with many of the anti-cancer health benefits. Kale is also rich in the eye-health promoting lutein and zeaxanthin compounds.

Beyond antioxidants, the fiber content of cruciferous kale binds bile acids and helps lower blood cholesterol levels and reduce the risk of heart disease, especially when kale is cooked instead of raw.

Ok, so maybe I should be eating more cooked kale, but I have the rest of the winter to do that.

Does God Care What we Eat?

Alert! For those for whom Christian conversation is offensive, quit reading or be prepared to be offended

From time to time, when I talk about nutrition, I get a backlash of “But who would want to  eat that stuff” or “But I hate vegetables.” I think this is sad. As I am a Christian, I believe food is from God, and how we eat directly is correlated to how God would like us to live. My purpose of this post is to demonstrate that, and to possibly persuade the anti-health food crowd to reconsider.

To begin, God has told us what to eat in His word:

pretty veggiesGe 1:29 ¶ And God said, Behold, I have given you every herb bearing seed, which is upon the face of all the earth, and every tree, in the which is the fruit of a tree yielding seed; to you it shall be for meat.

We were not given meat to eat until after the flood:

Ge 9:1 ¶ And God blessed Noah and his sons, and said to them, “Be fruitful and multiply, and fill the earth.

2 The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth, and upon every bird of the air, upon everything that creeps on the ground and all the fish of the sea; into your hand they are delivered.

3 Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; and as I gave you the green plants, I give you everything.

4 Only you shall not eat flesh with its life, that is, its blood.

frighttened lynx

The fear of you and the dread of you shall be upon every beast of the earth.

I would take this to mean that vegetables, nuts, seeds and grains were our original food, later, we added meat. Thus, I would say that the modern injunction to eat mostly plants, but not necessarily to be vegetarian, would be in line with God’s word.

Daniel reemphasizes this with his reluctance to eat the rich food of the king’s court:

Da 1:5 And the king appointed them a daily provision of the king’s meat, and of the wine which he drank: so nourishing them three years, that at the end thereof they might stand before the king.

6 Now among these were of the children of Judah, Daniel, Hananiah, Mishael, and Azariah:

7 Unto whom the prince of the eunuchs gave names: for he gave unto Daniel the name of Belteshazzar; and to Hananiah, of Shadrach; and to Mishael, of Meshach; and to Azariah, of Abednego.

8 ¶ But Daniel purposed in his heart that he would not defile himself with the portion of the king’s meat, nor with the wine which he drank: therefore he requested of the prince of the eunuchs that he might not defile himself.

Da 1:12 Prove thy servants, I beseech thee, ten days; and let them give us pulse to eat, and water to drink.

13 Then let our countenances be looked upon before thee, and the countenance of the children that eat of the portion of the king’s meat: and as thou seest, deal with thy servants.

14 So he consented to them in this matter, and proved them ten days.

15 And at the end of ten days their countenances appeared fairer and fatter in flesh than all the children which did eat the portion of the king’s meat.

16 Thus Melzar took away the portion of their meat, and the wine that they should drink; and gave them pulse.

Mmm-mmm-love that “pulse”. (Actually translated as grain.)

What have we done with this?

We have taken the food God created, and replaced it with ersatz food, fake food. Some packages you read have no real food items in them. God gave us the intelligence to do this. He also gave us the intelligence to realize that this is harmful. If we know something is harmful and we do it anyway, what are we saying to the One who created us.

Ro 1:25 Who changed the truth of God into a lie, and worshipped and served the creature more than the Creator, who is blessed for ever. Amen.

Ro 1:23 And changed the glory of the uncorruptible God into an image made like to corruptible man, and to birds, and fourfooted beasts, and creeping things.

1Co 6:19 What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

1Co 6:20 For ye are bought with a price: therefore glorify God in your body, and in your spirit, which are God’s.

What is the purpose of the food you eat?

Yes, there is a social aspect, and food is tied to culture and emotion. But foods primary purpose is to nourish our bodies, to give us strength and health. If your food isn’t doing that, try doing it God’s way. All the most popular diets that work come back to the same principles- eat real, whole food. Eat lots of vegetables, some fruit and grain, less of milk and meat. If you truly hate vegetables, try some of the smoothie recipes out there. Grind them up and add them to your meatloaf, add more to your soups, or casseroles. Choose foods based on their health benefits

If you are at the doctor’s office, and he is saying: 1. You need to lose weight. 2. Your blood pressure is too high. 3. You have type II diabetes. 4. You have metabolic syndrome. 5. You suffer from constipation or other bowel issues, maybe it’s time to reevaluate what you are eating and why. Look at all the plants God put on this earth, and try to fit more of them into your diet, without smothering them in oil, or deep fat frying them. Do you have trouble with heart burn? How many food related medicines are you taking?

Php 3:19 Whose end is destruction, whose god is the stomach, and whose glory is in their shame, whose minds are fixed on the things of the earth.

If taste is the overriding factor in your choices, ignoring the health effects of those choices, maybe it’s time to ask “Is this really how God wants me to live?”

BTW, the answer to the question “Does God care what we eat?” is yes and no. Yes, he wants us to treat our bodies with respect, and eat the food he gave us. No:

Mt 6:25 ¶ Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?
Lu 12:22 ¶ And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on.

In Praise of Spice

samples of spices and herbs.I was adding the spices to my oatmeal, and thinking about how many spices I took on a daily basis for my health, so I thought I would share. Spices and herbs are wonderful, they make food taste better and improve your health. I hope by now you all realize there is little distinction between food and medicine. Everything you put in your mouth is either for your health or against it. Just like sugar increases inflammation, many herbs and spices reduce it. Chronic inflammation is the root of many, many maladies, including heart disease.

First, the difference between an herb and a spice- herbs are leafy, often woody plants. If you are eating  a leaf, you are eating an herb. Think basil, oregano, rosemary, bay leaves, and parsley. Spices are the nuts, seeds, bark or root. Usually dried and ground. Think turmeric, cinnamon, nutmeg, allspice, cloves, and ginger

Herbs and spices appear to be universally helpful to health. They have been used in folk medicine for thousands of years. Some have very specific uses, especially in concentrated form. Oregano oil is an antibiotic, turmeric reduces inflammation, and cinnamon reduces spikes in blood sugar. We have been taking “Zyflamend” which is a concentrated form of many herbs to reduce joint pain and inflammation. It does appear to be working.

This makes herbs and spices a win-win item. By increasing seasoning in your food, you can increase the flavor without fat, salt or sugar and do something good for your health at the same time. I love Indian and Asian food, and they are not shy with the spices. I made Thai red curry last night, using a blend of several recipes, and it was delicious. Both cuisines use tons of chili, turmeric, garlic, basil, ginger,  lemongrass, and curry, which is a blend of spices in itself.  I was googling around, looking for a picture and I got this from stirlaughrepeat:

The information below is provided by McCormick.  

Oregano – 1/2 tsp. has as many antioxidants ad 3 cups of spinach – Sprinkle 1/4 tsp. onto grilled cheese.
Garlic Powder – 1/2 tsp. has as many antioxidants as 1/3 cup zucchini – Stir 3/4 tsp. into 4 cups mashed potatoes.
Black Pepper – 1/2 tsp. has as many antioxidants as 1/2 cup chopped tomatoes – sprinkle 1/4 tsp. onto scrambled eggs.
Cinnamon – 1/2 tsp. has as many antioxidants as 1/4 cup blueberries – sprinkle 1/4 tsp. over anything from hot cocoa to oatmeal and fruit salad.
Ginger – 1/2 tsp. has as many antioxidants as 1 cup cucumbers – sprinkle onto carrots, acorn or butternut squash and sweet potatoes.
Cayenne Pepper – 1/2 tsp. has as many antioxidants as 1/4 cup honeydew melon – sprinkle 1/4 tsp. into hummus.
Thyme – 1/2 tsp. has as many antioxidants as 1 med. carrot – sprinikle on steamed or sauteed asparagus along with a twist of fresh ground black pepper.
Rosemary – 1/2 tsp. has as many antioxidants as 1/2 cup watermelon – sprinkle the tops of your favorite ready-to-bake rolls with olive oil, rosemary and sea salt before baking.
Turmeric – 1/2 tsp. has as many antioxidants as 1 cup broccoli – Sprinkle onto steamed rice.
Chili Powder – 1/2 tsp. has as many antioxidants as 1/2 cup cantaloupe – stir 2 Tbsp. chili powder, 1 tsp. ground cumin, 2 cans diced tomatoes and 1 can kidney beans into 1 lb. cooked ground beef for quick chili.
Cloves – 1/2 tsp. has as many antioxidants as 1/2 cup sweet cherries – perk up applesauce by stiring 1/2 tsp cinnamon and 1/4 tsp. ground cloves into 2 cups applesauce.
Cumin – 1/2 tsp. has as many antioxidants as 1/2 cup pineapple – sprinkle into soups, such as lentil, black bean and butternut squash.

In case you are wondering- the oatmeal? Cinnamon, nutmeg, cloves and, mace. Turmeric on occasion, just for it’s health benefits, I wouldn’t recommend it in oatmeal otherwise. Walnuts for the omega-3’s, cranberries for the taste and antioxidents. Molasses as the sweetener- look at the label, probably the only sweetener on earth with vitamins and minerals in it.

If you need any more ideas, just google herbs or spices, and there is a bonanza of great sites, talking about both the uses and benefits. Bon appetit!

Nutrition 102

For some reason, laziness comes to mind, I don’t get voicemails in a timely fashion. So I got one from my son, asking about shopping choices well after the fact. All I can say is a really hope he reads my blog.

There are a lot of gray areas in eating. This is why they can publish a dozen “Eat This, Not That” books every year. Most of your choices are a question of quality. This is ok, that is better, this is best. Choices of good, better and best are based on your nutrition needs and limitations. Are you vegan, lactose intolerant, gluten intolerant, pregnant, or growing? Are you eating for your bones, your heart or to prevent cancer?

With all of this in mind, I still think I can safely say there are some foods that are superstars, or always good choices, and some foods that should be relegated to the garbage can. The three “macro nutrients”, protein, carbs and fats, all have their good and bad choices.

Protein: Think lean protein. Good guys are chicken, fish, turkey, beans, and low fat dairy. The bad boys on the block are hot dogs, lunch meat and any kind of highly processed food. Turkey deli meat might be an exception, but it is often processed, more then just cooking and slicing. Red meat falls in the gray area. It is loaded with vitamins and protein, but too much isn’t good for you. I’ll talk more about it when we get to fats.

Carbs: Carbs are not evil. If anyone tells you a carrot is bad for you, tell them to go stick in their ear. Vegetable are your superstars of carbs. Green leafys, like spinach, kale, collard greens, beet greens and lettuce should be on your plate as often as possible. Even lettuce can be cooked. Brightly colored veggies are loaded with phytonutrients and vitamins. Squash, beets, carrots, cabbage, broccoli and sweet potatoes are often listed as having more nutrients than the average veggies. Corn, peas, green beans are ok, just not as power packed. Fruits have more sugar,but it is sugar packed with fiber, vitamins and water. Don’t run from fruit, but don’t make it the center of your diet. Whole grains are the last of the good carbs. While many now disagree with the food pyramid about 6- 11 servings, I think it is safe to say you don’t have to go low carb to lose weight. The list of things you just simply should not be eating in carbs is long. Any store bought baked good has a good shot at being a no-no. White flour isn’t good, all the good stuff is stripped out of it. Your starch on your plate is best if it is whole wheat, or even better, quinoa, millet, amaranth or brown rice.

Fats: Fats are not your enemy. They can make you feel full, they make food taste better, and they are essential to your body. This is one area where the official advice is still changing. Saturated fat used to be the enemy, now studies apparently are making this less clear. The advice on dietary cholesterol is changing as well, it appears that dietary cholesterol has less impact on your heart than the cholesterol you make. Having said this, fat still has 9 calories per gram, vs the 4 in carbs or protein, so it can wreak havoc on your weight loss attempts, and being overweight still appears to be the worst component for heart health.  Trans fats are the current enemy #1. To be safe, I would still choose low fat dairy, and not eat red meat more than two or three times a week. I personally don’t eat a lot of eggs or butter. Coconut oil has been rehabbed into being a good oil, in spite of it’s saturated status. Despite this, I would be cautious, especially if you have heart disease. I would stick with olive oil, canola, safflower and other unsaturated oils for themajority of my diet.

Last, if something in the store is labeled healthy, chances are it’s not. Protein bars, breakfast bars, cereals and beverages are notorious for making bogus health claims. The healthiest foods don’t have labels- fruits veggies and real meats. Your best beverage is water. If you don’t like that, coffee and tea, black, are good choices, or with real dairy. Right now everyone is on the stevia band wagon. Every other alternative sweetener had it’s heyday, followed by an “oops, we didn’t know this was bad about it”. I would just stick to sugar, molasses and honey to sweeten, and just keep those as low as possible.

I know this has gotten really long. Last thing is a web site I like a lot, Fooducate.

Just Venting

Indulge me for a moment. I have probably written about this before, but it really bothers me. To begin, I joined a discussion of breakfast on facebook, bemoaning what people consider breakfast food. I was thinking about that this morning, and it brought our church’s fellowship time to mind.

In our church, between the two services, we have a fellowship time where we serve what amounts to breakfast. It is largely donated, but we do buy some bread and coffee. What is donated is often the worst things anyone should be eating. Cookies, cakes, donuts, and assorted pastries. We had some discussions about it, especially since we had a weight loss class going in church. The larger consensus was that it was up to people to police themselves, and make their own choices, rather than ask people to not bring goodies.

I don’t think that makes sense. Our church would never have alcohol at any of our events. Not because we think it is evil, but it is the concept of the weaker brethren, so many people have trouble with it, and the evil that brings to them and others. How is offering an overabundance of sweets different? So many people have trouble with over eating, that leads to physical evil, rather than spiritual. How is causing physical misery any different than causing mental and spiritual misery? Almost no one has will power in the face of food. If you wave one of my favorite treats in my face, I will eat it. It appears to me that we are enticing people to overeat.  I see some of these kids that are already bordering on obese with their plates piled with goodies. How is our behavior helping them?

One of the other rationalizations that is being used is that one meal a week isn’t going to make that much difference. Those with problems will still overeat the rest of the week, so why deny the rest, or make a big deal of it? Again, I would argue, try making that argument with alcohol. Or try this: “Oh, kids will get cigarettes somewhere, I might as well let them smoke.” Also, just because you are not overweight, doesn’t mean you should be eating garbage.

picture equating cupcakes to cigarettes

How do you see it?

I was listening to “Two Fit Chicks and a Microphone” this afternoon, and it made this post more fitting, in my mind. They were interviewing a women who had gastric bypass surgery. She said she was addicted to food. Her experience was heart wrenching. Should we make things harder for people like that? Granted, we all like sweets, and people with food addictions cannot avoid food. It isn’t like staying out of a bar. But wouldn’t a responsible and prudent action be to offer more nutritious, less enticing choices? Put out a tiny amount of sweets, or none. Breads are delicious, and better than cake. We do offer some healthier choices, but with the abundance of tantalizing goodies, who can resist?

I hope that anyone reading this will comment. Obviously, most people disagree with me, or else behavior would change. I welcome your efforts to change my mind. Then I won’t feel so aggrieved by behavior I can do nothing about. Am I making too much of this? Or am I tying the physical and spiritual together incorrectly?

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