Thursday, March 31, 2011

ADHD and Diet

Check out this interesting article on the relationship between ADHD and diet. (Disclaimer: I was so excited about blogging about this, I haven't done a thorough check on all the sources or read all the studies myself.) Here is a link to the abstract of the Lancet study. There was also an interview with NPR.

From the article: 'In the NPR interview, Dr. Pessler did not mince words, "Food is the main cause of ADHD," she said adding, "After the diet, they were just normal children with normal behavior. They were no longer more easily distracted, they were no more forgetful, there were no more temper-tantrums." The study found that in 64 percent of children with ADHD, the symptoms were caused by food. "It's a hypersensitivity reaction to food," Pessler said.'

In the world of food, cosmetic, and pharmaceuticals, the FDA has a long list of chemicals that are "generally regarded as safe" or GRAS. These can typically be freely used in formulations for food or drugs, even if extensive long-term studies have not been performed on them.

I remember reading, in a book by Jane Goodall, the case study of a prison system, where all the inmates were switched over to a diet of whole foods rather than the white bread and grade-F meat and junk food that had been available previously. There was a significantly marked decrease in violent behavior amongst the prisoners.

I love this quote, too: "Call me old-fashioned, but changing your child's diet seems a lot "simpler" than altering his or her brain chemistry with a daily dose of pharmaceuticals.". I agree that ADHD is a complex condition, and not all children are going to respond the same way. Also, it is the American way to consider a magic bullet approach to treating disease. But wouldn't you want to try the most natural approach for your children before resorting to the brain-altering chemicals?

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

A Good Time for Soup

My boyfriend was sick last week; I refused to not spend time with him, so now I've come down with whatever virus he had. Blah! What I hate the most is the first couple of days, when my throat becomes totally inflamed and it hurts to eat, drink, or perform any ordinary swallowing of any kind. I can tell that I'm fairly ill, too, because I'm not eating. This morning I managed a clementine and two bites of egg, then I just couldn't stomach any more.

Thank goodness for leftover soup! Typically when I make a batch (because any soup recipe is going to make much more than a single person can consume in a few days) I will put at least one serving in the freezer. It's so handy for those occasions when I don't have the time or ingredients to pack a lunch in the morning. I'm hoping that when midday comes around, I'll be able to handle a little lentil & chard stew.

The virus has also gotten to my brain, since I forgot my purse this morning. D'oh! The most immediate annoyance is that I don't have any lip balm. The secondary annoyance is that I'll have to drive past the grocery store to get home in order to obtain my wallet so that I can drive back to the grocery store in order to buy juice. I'm thinking now that, likely, I'll drive home and take a nap, and then take care of business once I've had a little rest. At least I'm not completely useless at work today.

Related to soup, I've discovered another food blog to follow: Heartland Renaissance. I was lured in by a recipe for Homemade Vegetable Bouillon. Totally on my list of things to try, especially since the ingredient list is so simple. Then it would be ready, in the fridge, for the next time boyfriend or I have a cold.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Farmers' Market Haul

Had a great trip to the Farmers' Market in San Mateo on Saturday. I had to do some tricky driving and scheduling to get it done, but I wanted my farm-fresh produce! It was so totally worth it.

Eggs, kale, lacinato kale, chard, cilantro, potatoes, carrots, asparagus, dates, raisins, mixed dried fruit, almonds and walnuts. My bag was overflowing with goodness.

An exciting surprise: Aryeh Frankfurter was performing out there! I stalk him, wherever I find him with his nyckelharpa. He's a fantastic musician and a nice guy, and he gets bonus points for playing traditional Swedish tunes when I ask him to. (You see, the nyckelharpa is the instrument of Sweden.) Now all he has to do is remember my name.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Sugar and Your Neutrophils

What are neutrophils, you ask? From Wikipedia, "Neutrophils are the most abundant type of white blood cells in mammals and form an essential part of the innate immune system. ... During the beggining (acute) phase of inflammation, particularly as a result of bacterial infection, environmental exposure, and some cancers, neutrophils are one of the first-responders of inflammatory cells to migrate towards the site of inflammation. ... Neutrophils have three strategies for directly attacking micro-organisms: phagocytosis (ingestion), release of soluble anti-microbials (including granule proteins) and generation of neutrophil extracellular traps." Considering the essential role they play in the body's immune defense, you'd rather not have them impaired, eh?

Enter the "Role of sugars in human neutrophil phagocytosis". This paper was published in 1973 in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. Volunteer subjects were dosed with 100 grams of carbohydrate following a 12-hour fast (basically not eating overnight), then blood samples were taken at intervals afterwards and examined. While a number of blood conditions did not change, most notably the number of white blood cells present in the samples, there was one interesting change. Here's a sentence from the abstract giving you the result:

"Oral 100-g portions of carbohydrate from glucose, fructose, sucrose, honey, or orange juice all significantly decreased the capacity of neutrophils to engulf bacteria as measured by the slide technique." Also, "The greatest effects occurred 1 and 2 hr postprandial, but the values were still significantly below the fasting control values 5 hr after feeding."

Blood sugar has an effect on your immune system? This is not news for diabetics, but these volunteers were all healthy individuals. Now, this was a small sample size (about 10 people), being fed carbohydrates in an isolated form, and with the exception of honey or orange juice, presumably a form not to be found in nature. As with a number of nutritional studies, these factors must be taken into account when interpreting the results in a real-world setting. However, I find these results very interesting.

Friday, March 25, 2011


As I was packing my lunch this morning, I looked at it and thought about how fortunate I am to eat so well. There's an issue in the SAD which relates to the varieties of food consumed in one day--most people tend to eat the same few ingredients every day. I decided to break down my last four meals (breakfast, lunch, dinner and snack) into their components to see what sort of variety I'm eating. Divided into logical categories, here we go:

Nut and legume--peanut, almond, walnut, lentil, lima bean

Grain--oat, rye, wheat

Fruit--date, raisin, apple, pear, clementine

Vegetable--onion, garlic, carrot, celery, tomato, collard green, red cabbage, beet, pumpkin

Dairy--cow milk, butter, yogurt; egg; goat cheese

Other--cinnamon, clove, honey, chia seeds, herbes de provance, thyme, bay leaf, baking powder, sea salt

Some good variety, I think. Of course, I wasn't eating massive quantities of all of these. When you break down a pumpkin cookie, for instance, there's only a tablespoon of actual pumpkin in it. When you use a bay leaf for flavor in a stew, you don't end up eating the actual leaf. However, that small amount is still providing essential goodness, doing its job for your overall nutrition.

Give this a try! Think back over your last day's meals and separate things out into their original components. See whether you have as much variety as you'd like, and think about which categories could use a few additions.

Regarding the no sugar challenge I'm on, I have noticed one of the typical side effects of not eating refined sugar: I'm not having the usual problems with my complexion. Even with my current hormonal roller coaster, my face hasn't broken out lately. It's so nice. Maybe there's some truth after all, in the old wives' saying along the lines of "don't eat junk food--it'll make your face break out."

Scarf knitting project is moving right along. One yarn has gone from black to gray to black, while the other is moving from purple to bright blue slowly back to purple. Sometimes knitting does this to me: I want to keep going and going just to see how the color change/lace pattern/two-color pattern will turn out.

Really looking forward to the farmers' market tomorrow!

Thursday, March 24, 2011

Like a Deer in a Puddle

In case you don't live in or near the Bay Area, it's been cloudy, cold, and raining for the past week. The next interval of merely being "partly cloudy" is not until Sunday. (It's going to be "mostly sunny" on Monday. Hurrah!) Since I am a bit of a cold wuss, I have not been able to get out for my usual running around after work in many days. However, after reading an article about how adults need to play more (thanks, Sarah!) combined with a few rays of actual sunshine while I was driving home from work, I was bound and determined yesterday to get outside for a hike.

I love hiking. I love it. I get out on the trail, and I suffer from prolonged, spontaneous intervals of grinning. I love to swivel my head around, looking up at the trees all around me, listening for animals as they move through the underbrush. My boyfriend has nicknamed me "Walks-on-dirt".

I arrive home, change into some suitable clothes, pump air into my bicycle tires, strap my Amphipod around my waist, and I'm out the door. Then, after wrangling my bicycle through my tiny house, along the narrow walkway, and down the steep driveway, I'm actually on my way to the park.

My thinking was, "It hasn't rained since this morning. The ground will have had all day long to drain, so it won't be muddy." In actuality, since there was 1) a lot of rain and 2) very clayey soil, the result was that the ground had been draining all day, and hadn't let up yet. It was quite muddy. But no matter! I was on the trail, hiking up at a fast pace, running whenever I felt like it.

A little over a mile out, it started sprinkling. No matter! It was but a little water, gently dropping from the sky. That was, until I headed over a rise, and the cold wind buffeted me, determined to show its might. I simply laughed in its face and kept on running down the path. As the trail curved around to head back, it started really raining. Okay, not so bad, I was mostly under the trees by then. About 50 yards from the end, it started really pouring. I ran for the nature center building and huddled under the overhang, taking this opportunity to stretch my calves. (Always take any opportunity given to stretch your calves. Or your pecs. Seriously.) Five or six minutes later, it had tapered off enough that I could run for my bike and begin the cold journey home. Thankfully my blood was pumping enough that my hands didn't freeze to the brake levers.

Of course, battling the elements just made me feel more unbeatable, so all the wet and cold was a bonus. However, like all bonuses, better to have too few than too many, just so you don't get tired of them. :)

I whipped up a delicious iron and protein-rich dinner: sauteed onions, garlic, clams and green beans in lemon butter, with a side of roasted sweet potato and a glass of white wine. One of my honey-sweetened pumpkin cookies rounded things out for dessert. Mmmm.

Looking at my diet right now, where basically everything I eat confers some real nutrition, I am amazed to think about the SAD (standard American diet), where at least 25-50% of calories are "empty", from refined sugar and carbohydrates. Just like any machine, I think the body can only run so well on inferior fuel.

So I challenge you, gentle readers, to make something new and nutritious. Actually try out that recipe that you marked, thinking at the time "this sounds good". It could be anything, from a stew to a salad to a fruit compote. Maybe use an ingredient you've never tasted before, or a new herb, or a new cooking method. Caramelize those onions! Roast that corn! Mince some fresh rosemary! Then tell me all about what you made and how fabulous it was to eat.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Stew and porridge

Stew was last night's dinner, porridge was this morning's breakfast.

Since I had the wherewithall to get the beans soaking the previous evening, when I arrived home from work last night I was all set to make Chard and White Bean Stew, courtesy of Smitten Kitchen. (If you've not been to that blog before, go check it out. It's methodical food porn. I love it.) Naturally, as I was the one cooking, there were many deviations from the printed recipe. I used collard greens instead of chard, a combination of lima beans and lentils cooked from dry instead of the canned white beans, regular white onion instead of shallots, and a can of Trader Joe's tomato sauce in place of the 1 C pureed tomatoes. And I don't think my white wine was very dry.

In any case, the results are delicious! I topped it with a bit of strong, hard goat cheese, so there was no need for additional salt. Now that I've made this recipe twice, I can cook it up without really thinking, and it's going to be my go-to stew. My favorite part is cooking the mirepoix in white wine--adds a certain depth of flavor. I'm thinking that there are many ways to do variations, such as red wine and a few mushrooms with red beans.

My bowl of oat porridge this morning was especially tasty. You'll soon find out why. As you might expect, it all started with a mixture of 1/2 C oats, 1/2 C milk, and 1/2 C water. As this was simmering on the stove, I thought, "chocolate cherry coconut!" The triple threat! So I mixed in 1 T cocoa, about 3 T chopped dried cherries, 1 chopped date, 1 T coconut, 1/2 T chia seeds, and about 1/2 T peanut butter. Boy, was it energy-dense. All the ingredients brought their own nutrition, so even though there was a significant amount of calories, it was all from real foods.

I noted in my journal yesterday that there are people out there who probably can conceive of spending one to two hours in the kitchen every night, doing food prep and cooking. Yes, it takes time, but I get something very significant out of it: wholesome, nourishing food. These generic people probably spend at least one to two hours watching television every evening--something I, lacking a TV, do not do. What is gained from spending hours that way?

As for the knitting I mentioned yesterday, how I wasn't sure the two purples would work together, I looked at it in natural light and decided it wasn't what I wanted. Since I'd only knitted a few inches, it was the work of minutes to take it out and start over. It's awkward because one skein is being knitted from the inside out, the other from the outside in, so I have to do more yarn wrangling. However, now I get a purple and black combination, that is transitioning into bright blue and gray, so it's pleasing me.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Red Cabbage

After mentioning rotkohl yesterday, I actually went home and made some! At least I cooked up a dish in which the main ingredient was red cabbage. The recipe came from the back of The Jungle Effect, by Dr. Daphne Miller. Many of the recipes for cooked red cabbage are very similar: cabbage, vinegar, apple, onion, spice. Mine lacked onion, however as I was reaching in the fridge for the cabbage, I came across some forgotten beets. In they went! Leery as I was at first, using ground cloves in the dish, once I stirred everything and started cooking, all the flavors came together and cloves really were the right thing to do. Here's how it ended up:

1 small head red cabbage, shredded
1 mealy Fuji apple, diced
3 small beets, chopped
1 Cup apple cider
3 Tablespoon apple cider vinegar
1/2 teaspoon cloves
1 Tablespoon butter

Put everything except the butter in a medium to large saucepan, bring to a boil, and simmer for about 45 minutes. Take off the heat and stir in the butter as it melts.

I like things more sour, so next time I'll use a bit more vinegar, or my stronger red wine vinegar. Since my butter was lightly salted, I didn't find any need to add any salt to the dish. I think a little freshly ground pepper on top would also be a great addition. This was an excellent side to my sardine salad and a glass of white wine. Plus it was exceptionally filling! (Though I did find room for a honey-sweetened pumpkin cookie square.)

Started a new knitting project last night: a Noro silk garden scarf. There's a trick you can do, using two balls at once, alternating two rows of each, so two color changes are happening at once. I made something similar for my brother once, in a 1x1 rib, but this one is more of a 2x2 seed stitch, as I want a thin fabric. I'll have to check the layout of the colors--right now I've got two purples going at once--to make sure that I like the contrast.

Monday, March 21, 2011

Things I want to make

The Polish in me is itching to bake this: Deb's Black Bread. Then I want to make my own yogurt cheese, blend it up with dill, and spread it on the bread. Then I think a side of Rotkohl will finish things off nicely. There might have to be just a tiny glass of vodka involved.

Thinking of these foods makes me miss my Grandma. She passed away in '03. She grew up in New York--one of many Polish-American Catholics there. Of course, when I knew her, out in Southern California, traditional Polish foods were not a big part of her life. :) When she was living with my parents for a couple years at the end, we noticed the way she'd put a thick layer of butter on her bread. I remember visiting her at one point, I must have been a young teenager, and she made macaroni and cheese from scratch. Having grown up with only the boxed version, mac 'n' cheese made from actual macaroni and cheese was so amazing! She loved to play cards, and taught us kids so many different poker variations.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Oh, the cravings!

As the afternoon progressed yesterday, I noticed that the clouds were moving away and there was actual sunlight outside. Joy! I bolted out of work right at 5 o'clock, raced home to take care of a couple of things, then hopped on my bike to head for the park. My tires were a little low, I'm not a strong cyclist, it's basically all uphill to the park, but, darn it, I was going to get some hiking in. After searching all over for a place to lock up my bike (incidentally, it's past all the parking lots towards the picnic area), I finally was able to get on the trail. One mile up, dodging mud, and one mile back, dodging the same mud. Then the easy ride home. Ahhhh.

Like I've said before, I've given up refined sugars for Lent. With the exception of girly drinks last Saturday ('cause, yeah, fruity girly cocktails at mainstream Southern California restaurants tend to be sweet), I've really been sticking to it.

Yesterday evening I met up with a friend for dinner, at a little mini-mall Mediterranean place in San Bruno. It's called Cafe Grillades. I had the spinach salad, "baby spinach with sun-dried tomatoes, roasted bell pepper, goat cheese, artichokes, and toasted walnuts" in a balsamic vinagrette. Plus a pot of pear-flavored green tea. The salad was very nice: plenty of roasted peppers on mine, not too much dressing, the spinach was fresh, and all the flavors blended together quite nicely. I would go back there to try some of the other things on the menu.

(Incidentally, the table right next to ours ordered various dessert crepes, so I had to wait for my salad while sitting next to a plate of delicious sweet crepes, caramel sauce, and whipped cream.)

When I arrived home, my body decided to tell me that it really wasn't satisfied, and wanted more food. Okay, here you go, have some almonds and cacao nibs.

"No," it said, after nomming the nuts, "I want sugar."

Well, I said, you're not going to get any sugar. Even though I have a ziploc bag full of oatmeal raisin cookies in the freezer, which I am going to give away to my boyfriend so they don't tempt me further, I'm not going to give you any cookies. Or any sweet chocolate. Or even any more dried fruit.

"Wahhh!" my body cried.

Okay, I said, here's half a cup of apple cider. And that was all it took. Hopefully the desire for sugar truly will diminish over time. I'll just have to wait and see and make sure I always have healthy options for sweetness at home.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Vegan R.D.

I'd like to share the link to a post written in Nov 2010, by a woman and registered dietician named Ginny Messina. Do Ex-Vegans' Stories Make the Case Against Vegan Diets? It was written in response to the apparently viral post, A Vegan No More, which I wrote on some weeks ago. Ms. Messina calls attention to the attention-grabbing aspects of the other post and it's vehement language in lauding animal flesh. I agree. And I think I really agree for the following reason.

After hearing for years, "you should at least have some fish now and then", and reading for years about the beneficial Omega-3s found in fish, and really wanting to experiment with naturally treating my fatigue with real foods, I ate some sardines last night. I ate some canned, cooked, headless, gutless, finless little fish bodies. Fish that had, at some point, been swimming around in the ocean, living like little fishies do.

I felt guilty. My body wasn't suddenly suffused with a bright light, I didn't feel the power of meat flooding my veins. It's far too soon to tell the overall health effects of this dietary change.

While I ate my sardine salad, on red leaf lettuce dressed with a little mustard vinagrette and some grated carrot, I said, "Thank you, little fishes, for allowing me to eat you so that I can be as healthy as I can." I said this more than once. Because I am thankful. I am thankful for all the good food that I eat, whether it is cheese from goats, honey from bees, greens from the dirt, or clams from the seas. All of these foods are working to nourish me so that I can run out on the trails, knit baby hats for my friends, or just cuddle up on the couch with my boyfriend.

It's interesting the way that people are so adamant about their diets, especially the alternative ones. Vegans, Paleos, both ends of the spectrum. Look at religious converts--sometimes they turn into the staunchest proselytizers. Just you watch me: soon I'm going to be the die-hardest Locavore you ever did see. :) Or maybe I'll start decrying sugar as White Death.

Thing is, I can't agree with anyone who says that a vegan diet is natural for humans. Why? Because no historical culture followed one. Look at any native peoples around the world throughout history. Guess what? They're omnivores. And I think there's a reason for it. Yes, people can be healthy and happy on a properly planned vegan diet, blending up their spinach and banana smoothies, taking those Vitamin B12 supplements. More power to them for doing something they believe in. I don't want to take industrially-produced supplements. So I'm going to do what I believe in, as I've always done.

Water is Life

While driving to work this morning, I saw a van pull out from a McDonald's parking lot. It was a commercial truck for some company called "Skinny Water". Of course, this concept irked me, so I had to find out more about it. I'm not going to link to their corporate website, because that would be acknowledging their existence. Feel free to search for it on your own.

It's just like all the other "diet" water drinks out there: purified water mixed with electrolytes, some vitamins or phytochemicals, flavors, colors and presumably artificial sweeteners. Different flavors offer different "benefits", such as "antioxidants", "natural energy", and, get this, "appetite control". My favorite bit is a quote from Emily Mitchell, MS RD CSSD CDE. "After reviewing the ingredients, I believe Skinny Water is an excellent, sugar-free and healthy alternative to traditional, high-calorie carbonated soft drinks."

I appreciate her qualification here, that this brand of colored water is a better alternative than soda. Likely she would agree with me, that ordinary clean water is the best option of all. Why pay someone for the privilege of drinking a bunch of chemicals when you can drink purified water for nearly free? (Yes, figuring in the cost of tap water and a Brita filter.) Why think that a freakishly pink drink is going to hydrate you better than water?

Ah, but you say, "I just don't like the taste of normal water." Then you have a couple of great, all-natural options. Do like my clever former roommate and add a splash of juice to your water. Cran-grape, apple, orange--they'll all add just a touch of flavor and some natural electrolytes while providing just a few calories. If a post-workout recovery drink is what you need, there's a great recipe over at No Meat Athlete, based on dates (great source of potassium), citrus fruit, and sea salt. Or tea. Black, green, or herbal: all have been drunk for centuries, and provide all kinds of interesting phytochemicals. Check for organic varieties.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Totally Off-Topic Rant

It's my blog, so I can say what I want. Before I go nuts, however, just a quick status report on the no sugar thing. It's going pretty much okay so far. I totally broke it in order to have fruity drinks with the girls on Saturday, but now I'm convinced that I can make a better cocktail using straight-up mango juice and alcohol of choice, rather than anything involving syrups. I don't mind my cocktails a bit fruit-sweet, but I can't stand them totally syrupy-sweet. Yesterday was a very fruity day: raisins and dates in my breakfast, an apple at lunch, dried cherries for a snack, and applesauce after dinner.

Now for the rant. According to FB, my cousin's wife gave birth to a baby girl and they named her Logan. Logan is a boy's name. In fact, my own brother is named Logan. How can our mutual cousin give his daughter the same name as my burly, hairy, manly brother? Would they name their son Melissa?

I am prejudiced against strange masculine names for girls. Names like Sydney, Mackenzie, Schuyler, Taylor, and now Logan. I actually have less of a problem with anachronistic names (not surprising, given my predilection for historical pursuits) than crazy names. And the Mormons are well known for crazy names. Just look it up on Google.

Friday, March 11, 2011

Oranges and Sunshine

I had a lovely dessert last night, courtesy of Dr. Daphne Miller's book, The Jungle Effect.

Peel an orange (using a knife or your fingers) and cut crosswise into rounds. Arrange these prettily on a plate. Drizzle with honey (maybe 1 teaspoon) and sprinkle with cinnamon. Chill, if desired. I added a sprinkle of unsweetened flaked coconut, which was another layer of delicious. I also used one orange and one tangerine, and alternated the fruits on the plate. A blood orange would be a wonderful striking contrast. Really, use any variations on oranges you like. Sweet, spicy, and refreshing!

I've been thinking a bit about many of the women amongst my circle of friends. Some are on their way to being happily married, some are on their way to being mothers (for the first or second time.) I don't want to be married or pregnant, but at the same time I feel as though I'm missing something special, and their lives are so much better than mine. They're living the perfect feminine dream.

Then I think about how utterly awesome my life is. For example, after work yesterday I got to enjoy a vigorous hike in the nearby county park--spotting not one, but two hawks, and a rabbit, plus a deer. Then I got to share a delicious and tasty meal--dinner, wine, and dessert--with the dear, supportive man in my life. Tonight I'm headed down to Los Angeles to enjoy a weekend with friends I haven't seen in months. Keeping my hands warm are little wristers that I knit myself, using yarn left over from a pair of socks I knitted years ago for my mum. Despite one or two little projects (I'm working on them), I'm enjoying very good health.

A very wise woman (who is one of the friends I will get to see tomorrow) once told me that you can't judge other people's lives according to your own impression of them. One man may be in a marriage that seems perfectly happy, yet he's sometimes afraid that his strong, independent wife doesn't approve of his alternative career choice. One woman may appear to have her entire life perfectly ordered: neat job, great apartment, international travel, yet she's afraid of the fact that she doesn't own a house and doesn't have a nest egg for retirement.

And, of course, the glowing, shining pregnant ladies will have to deal with poop and spit-up while I get to kick back after a long day's hiking and have a handsome man bring me custom cocktails and rub my feet. Yep; it's great to be me.

Wednesday, March 9, 2011

Just something I noticed

I find it interesting that fruits and vegetables are widely used in advertising, as they symbolize "healthy". Just now, at the Journal of Nutrition website, there's two pomegranates, two acorn squash, four tangerines, and a bunch of red grapes. At the CalTrain station in downtown San Fran, there's a place to buy Subway sandwiches, the lower counter of which is covered with a banner full of peppers, tomatoes, heads of lettuce, etc.

Of course, fruits and veg are bright and shiny and colorful and highly photogenic. You never see a pile of wheatberries, or a big pyramid of flour or cane sugar, or a bowl full of corn syrup.

I think someone should do a photo shoot reflecting the raw materials in an average American's daily diet. There's something vaguely resembling an interesting infographic contained in a blog here, but I can't trace it back to the origin. And what's all that dairy doing there, in a population that allegedly doesn't drink milk anymore? I think, also, that the chart should be corrected for water content, as a pound of lettuce has a lot fewer calories (less than 100) than a pound of sugar (almost 2000).

I'm just ranting today, especially since I've been reading a lot of dietary studies, and am highly skeptical of many of them. Too small a population, too short a time, too much averaging. While you don't want to look at individual data points necessarily, they can indicate interesting things. For example, on a study of mice who had access to different % fat diets, there were individual mice on a 6% fat diet who had a body composition of 25% fat, while there were individuals on a 75% fat diet who had a body composition of 10% fat. Scroll through a bit. So while you can make general, sweeping conclusions, it's still important to check out the raw data. After all, I'm an individual, not an average.

Monday, March 7, 2011


In light of one of my recent posts (A Necessary Evil?), it was an interesting turn of events that I came upon this blog entry: A Vegan No More.

She is much better than I am at writing, so go there and partake of her words if you like. As I read it, my brain was in total agreement. Certainly, I'm having none of the severe health effects that she had, and I haven't transitioned to eating a fully omnivorous diet, but it was just so reassuring to read that someone, somewhere out there has had to deal with the same ethical dilemma that I've been dealing with.

Last Monday, I made some clam chowder. Onion and celery, potatoes, clams, and soymilk. There was enough for dinner Monday and lunch for the next two days. Has the amount of heme iron I picked up in those three days made a difference? It's too soon to tell, I think. I have been feeling more upbeat and energetic over the past few days, though this past weekend I was all tuckered out after a 2 hour hike on Saturday and a 1 hour walk on Sunday.

What is most difficult, on any subject matter, is to come to the realization that what you've been told (or what you've been telling yourself) all your life is not correct. The concept, for me, that a grain-based vegetarian diet is not the healthiest thing for myself or for the planet. If I were to eat locally, using the food that is available at my local farmers' market, I would be eating the foods that are laid out in the popular "Paleo" diets: fruits, vegetables, tubers, honey, nuts, eggs, pasture-fed meat and seafood. The only grains that show up are processed into bread, cookies, pies, and pastries. I stand corrected: one farm does offer wheat berries and their own milled flour. That is one booth out of four rows of them in a college parking lot.

Right now I've added some things to my diet: butter, yogurt, cottage cheese from pasture-fed cows; cheese from pasture-fed goats; and eggs from free-range local chickens. Plus I'm working to reduce my consumption of refined grains, increasing my consumption of potatoes and sweet potatoes to satisfy my carbohydrate needs. For Lent this year, I will be repeating what I did last year, giving up refined sweeteners. (Honey I do not consider to be a refined sweetener, since it's a product of bees rather than an industrial process.) The only exception will be dark chocolate, and since I tend to eat the darkest of dark chocolate, that amount of sugar is minimized.

Let's see how this works for me over the next many months.

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Quote of the Day

Just found a new blog that I'd like to read more of: Whole Health Source. Today's quote comes from an old post, from June 2009, discussing studies on the Mediterranean Diet.

Stephan writes, "Mediterranean countries don't need industrial goop to avoid a heart attack, and neither do you."

I think this could be carried over to the concept that you don't need industrial goop to lose weight. Quite the contrary. I remember an acquaintance who was trying to lose weight, and on a particular day she was snacking on some kind of Atkins-style commercial drink. (Incidentally, on that same day, I decided to eat 12 servings of fruits and vegetables.) The drink had a long, long list of ingredients, all of them artificial and processed. How can your body do anything good with those?

As always, I feel it's whole foods for the win.