Well, if you haven't read my posts about "why dairy is scary", that would be the place to start regarding kid's nutrition. If you're still giving your child dairy products, get the real scoop before reading this. But for my faithful readers, I will share with you yet more on nutrition for kids.
Maybe I'll start with how I feed my daughter. She's 3, and she's just as picky as any kid I've met, so relax, she's normal. Like me, she's not a fan of raw veggies, and unlike me, she won't eat many cooked ones either. So what's a mother to do? Make delicious recipes with the vegetables masked by other flavors, or hidden altogether, for starters. Some of those recipes I've posted on my blog, for example, my barley soup recipe with carrots and spring onions. She couldn't find the onions, so she ate them unwittingly, and she actually ate the carrots because the cumin and coriander spices were enough to dilute their taste. In the "Pasta with Greens and Ricotta" recipe, the strong flavor of the greens were overcome by the yumminess of nutmeg and ricotta. So I actually got her to "eat" her greens, again unknowingly.
Did I mention I told her she couldn't watch her video (or play with her neighbor, take a bath, read her new book...) until she ate her dinner? That always helps lots. Although I must say, I never make her "clean her plate". If she eats her dinner but tells me she's full, I believe her, and I save the rest for later. We don't want our kids learning to eat past when they're full, so let them decide how much and when. You can decide what their ultimate food options are. Purchasing power is a beautiful thing.
If you didn't know, kids actually taste more than adults. They have many times more taste buds, which is great when you're eating chocolate, but not so much when it's spinach. Just imagine how spinach would taste with 10x more of the same strong flavor. So give your kids a break. Potatoes really are vegetables (see past blog for more on this), just get them to eat at least some of the skin. And remember, organic foods have many times more nutrients, so if you're going to pick some battles, at least make sure they're worth it. Spend the extra dough on organic produce, and know that even though your child isn't eating 5 a day, at least the 2 or 3 he's eating are ultra-nourishing.
Did I mention there's no nutrient difference between fruit and vegetables? All things considered, they're equal nutritionally. Botanically they have some differences, like seeds and leaves, but when it comes to nourishment, be just as excited if your daugher loves fruit as you would if she loved vegetables. Just try to buy locally grown, in season, vine/tree ripened as much as possible, so she gets all those important nutrients.
Sometimes my daughter won't eat the fruit that is currently in season. Or she'll eat it for one day, and that's it. Right now, that's strawberries. So I put them in a smoothie (see past blog for recipe), and she drinks that smoothie right down. I'm tricky that way. We mothers need to be. You can do this with just about any fruit, fresh or frozen. And it's easy to take on the go.
One thing I've noticed, and I'm thinking this might be true of most kids: they want to eat whatever you're eating. So, this means we have to eat healthy food. All the time. This is actually a blessing in disguise in a few ways. First, we will hopefully clean up our act. Second, your child might eat foods she otherwise wouldn't try. For example, Edie likes her burritos plain - no salsa, no avocados. But when I'm eating burritos with her, she wants some of mine, which has salsa and avocados. So I let her eat as much of mine as she wants, because even though she still doesn't claim to like avocados, she's developing a taste for them, and in a few years or so, she's going to love them. So keep exposing kids to foods (I know you're read and heard this a million times already), without forcing it on them. They're just getting used to looking at it, smelling it's aroma, or tasting it here and there. They're developing a relationship with it, and they don't want to just rush in, so can you blame them?
Beans are a staple for Edie. I don't know what we'd do without them, and thank goodness, they're cheap. Other staples: stove cooked popcorn, soy yogurt with frozen blueberries, oatmeal, all kinds of healthy breakfast cereals, whole grain toast with Earth Balance spread, peanut butter and jelly, whole wheat graham crackers (courtesy of Trader Joe's), potatoes, pizza I make on whole wheat pizza dough (again, Trader Joe's), dried cranberries, dried pineapple, raisins, hummus, pistachios, and fruit. Lately I've been exposing her to macademia nuts, and she's slowly developing a relationship with them as well.
Did I mention sometimes I jumpstart the relationship with "Sure, you can do ___, as soon as you eat these macademia nuts right here"? That helps lots too.
Hope this helps lots for you moms. Feel free to comment with questions or topics you'd like me to cover.
Recipe Du Jour - especially kid friendly, although I like it too
Pasta with Peas and Onions
again from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home
4 medium onions, sliced
1 TBSP olive oil
4 cups fresh or frozen green peas (about 1 pound)
1 pound shell pasta
freshly grated Pecorino cheese (about 1 cup)
Bring a large covered pot of water to a rapid boil. While the water heats, cut the onions in half lengthwise and then cut crosswise into thin slices. Cut the slices in half lengthwise. Heat the olive oil in a skillet or saucepan and add the onions. Cook on medium heat, stirring occasionally, until the onions begin to brown. Add the peas and salt to taste, and cook a few minutes longer. Add 2 tablespoons of the hot water to the skillet, stir, reduce the heat, and cover.
When the pot of water boils, add the pasta, stir and cover until the water boils again. Uncover the pot. As soon as the pasta is al dente, drain it and toss it with some of the grated Pecorino, so that the cheese will melt on the pasta. Top with the peas and onions, and serve immediately.
Oh my goodness! I'm getting so many wonderful comments and am feeling just a tad overwhelmed by the amount of information I want to present on this blog. I mean, I've just begun! For you who want more info on specific topics I've written about, I need your email address to respond to you. Commenting as "anonymous" is fine, but it prevents me from replying to your questions...
Also, I know today's topic is rather "adult" in that it mainly applies to us adults, but mom's, stay the course, because day-after tomorrow I'll write more about kid nutrition. And if you want me to cover anything in particular, make sure to comment.
Okay, back to preventing and reversing hypertension.
Plaque. Lot's of plaque in the arteries slows down the oxygen and blood, causing cell death and heart overload and we measure that in part by our blood pressure. So let's talk about this plaque, like, what causes it? Is it reversible? Yada yada.
"What causes plaque?" is actually a very important question. It's also something most of us know almost nothing about. True, plaque is comprised of "bad fats" like saturated fat, cholesterol and trans-fat, but what makes it form in our blood vessels is a different animal. Plaque is actually our body's emergency "patch kit" to an injury or perforation in an artery. Because we can't sustain a perforation in our blood vessels, our body needs to immediately cover it with something resolute. Something like plaque. Ironically, as soon as this injury heals, the plaque is no longer necessary and broken down. Yet how we eat can cause our arteries to be injured so often that plaque becomes more or less permanent. This is the problem.
So, what is it that we eat that causes such nasty injuries? A strange little-known compound called "homocysteine", for one. Homocysteine is derived mainly from animal protein in our diets, from an amino acid called methionine. The more animal protein - not animal fat in this case - we consume, the more homocysteine our body will produce, the more injuries to our arteries, and the more plaque we will make. Viola. So, the obvious dietary change would be to eat less animal protein. Also, folic acid is a natural antagonist (recall synergistic effects of food) to homocysteine. So the more foods we consume containing folic acid, the lower our homocysteine stores. Folic acid is found exclusively in the foods I'm always rooting for: fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes (nuts, seeds, peas, lentils and beans).
Another common artery-injurer are free radicals. These guys are just bad to the core. They do a whole lot more damage than just this, but for now we'll focus on arteries and hypertension. Free radicals are produced in high volume when we are exposed to toxic chemicals, which is why they're considered "toxic". And yet, even these malevolent little critters have natural dietary antagonists: antioxidants. Antioxidants from food that is. Where do we find antioxidants in food? The same foods where we find folic acid, so recall the last sentence of the last paragraph. Remember that foods that are fresh, in-season, locally-grown, vine or tree-ripened and organic all tend to be much higher in antioxidants than commercially grown.
Finally, eat less of those bad fats that form plaque in the first place. Saturated fat and cholesterol are mainly found in animal-origin foods (do you see a theme here?). Note that even though poultry and fish have significantly less saturated fat than red meat, they have the same amount of cholesterol. Cutting down on saturated fat isn't enough, fight plaque by cutting scaling back on all meats and dairy. Trans-fat comes from partially-hydrogenated oils, mainly in processed foods. Also note: manufacturers are allowed to label foods as having "0 grams trans fat", if the food has less than .5 grams trans fat per serving. They round down. When you think of how small those "servings" are, and how many foods are rounding down, it's best just to avoid all products with partially-hydrogenated oils in the ingredient list.
So there you go. If you have hypertension and make these changes, be prepared to no longer have hypertension. And if you don't have it and make these changes, be excited to never "get" it.
Recipe time: I made this the other day and even my husband and daughter loved it. That's saying something.
Cauliflower Paprikash (25 minutes)
another edited recipe from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home
(note: I often double this recipe)
1 medium onion, finely chopped
1 red bell pepper, finely chopped
3 TBSP vegetable oil
2 TBSP sweet paprika
1/2 cup dry sherry
1/2 cup water
10 oz mushrooms, sliced (about 5 cups)
pinch of salt
1 large head cauliflower
1 cup lowfat sour cream
salt to taste
In a large saucepan or soup pot, saute onions and peppers in the oil for 2 or 3 minutes. Stir in paprika, sherry, and water and cook on high heat for a minute. Add the mushrooms and a pinch of salt to draw out the juices. Lower the heat to medium, cover, and cook for about 5 minutes, while you cut the cauliflower into florets. Mix in the florets and simmer until the cauliflower is tender but still firm, about 5-7 minutes. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the sour cream. Add salt to taste. Cover the paprikash and keep it warm until ready to serve, but prevent it from simmering or it may curdle.
Okay, today I'm going to commence to cover a biggie. But, it's about time. This is a serious disease, and yet entirely preventable. So, allow me to help prevent (and reverse) it. If you know someone with high blood pressure, please forward this to them.
First, some scare tactics. You should know what happens when you have high blood pressure for a while. It kills the cells and tissues in your body. Like your brain cells. That's why one study showed men who had long term hypertension had poorer "brain function" than men without. So over the long term, hypertension leads to Alzheimer's and dementia, because it's cutting off oxygen to the brain.
Cutting off oxygen is a real bad deal. When oxygen isn't delivered regularly, it causes impotence, joint inflammation, macular degeneration (blindness), not to mention loss of mental accuity. Sure, eventually it will lead to heart attack and stroke, but these other nasty problems will come long before.
Yet when most people think of fighting high blood pressure through diet they think of cutting back on salt. Unfortunately, that's not entirely sound nutrition. There's a lot more to the big picture. Salt is an electrolyte, meaning that it helps draw and retain water within the body. It is an electrolyte that resides outside the cells - it's "extracellular" - and therefore retains water between cells but not inside. This is an important function, and we would die without it. The problem is, most of us get loads of sodium, but not enough of the other electrolytes: the "intracellular" ones that is. Three of these are potassium, calcium and magnesium. They are necessary from our diet to retain water inside our cells. When we have these minerals in abundance from our food, we don't need to worry about salt intake, since it will be counteracted by these electrolytes. And when we are able to keep the right amount of water inside our cells we won't develop, or continue to have, hypertension.
Studies show that people with enough potassium, magnesium and calcium in their diets - not supplements - do not develop hypertension even when sodium intake is very high. This is another example of the "check and balance" inherent within the synergistic effects of food (see "why not supplements" for more on this).
So what foods have all these intracellular electrolytes? Would you believe the same foods that are loaded with antioxidants, phytochemicals, vitamins, minerals and fiber? Yes, that's right, fruit, vegetables, whole grains, and legumes (beans, peas, lentils, nuts and seeds). In fact, since vegetarians tend to eat more of these foods, it makes sense that a recent study found vegetarians to have only 1/2 to 1/3 the incidence of high blood pressure. But again, you don't have to go full-fledge meatless, just eat way less - and way more of the good stuff. Or, sure, go meatless. You have my endorsement.
No recipe today. But another product to buy: Earth Balance "buttery" spread. It's not butter, but it doesn't have trans-fats like margarine. And honestly, it tastes better than anything else out there. So enjoy your Friday with some whole grain, yummy toast.
My girlfriend and faithful blog reader suggested I write on this topic, since many people are told when they go meatless they won't get enough iron in their diet.
While it's true, meat does have a lot of iron, ironically, studies show vegetarians are no more likely to be anemic than omnivores. Why? Because vitamin C in food helps make iron more absorbable in the body. This is another example of the "synergistic effects" of food. And because vegetarians tend to eat much more vitamin C (only found in fruits and vegetables), the little iron they do consume is better utilized and retained. So, no, please don't worry about you or your children becoming anemic if you lighten up on the meat.
Another irony (no pun intended): too much iron is a big problem with many people, especially although not exclusively, men. It's called hemochromotosis, and can cause fatal damage to the liver and other major organs. People with this condition often need to "let" their own blood (think back to the "blood letting" by doctors of old). They also need to avoid too much meat for this reason. This is actually more dangerous than an iron deficiency, as well as more prevalent in the U.S.
Also, if iron deficiency plagues you or another adult you know, try cutting back on tannic acid in your diet. Tannic acid is found in dark beverages such as colas, coffee and black tea. Black tea, such as English Breakfast or iced tea, is so high in tannic acid it's actually prescribed for people who have dangerously high levels of iron (hemochromotosis). So if you're tired often and anemic, cut back on these beverages. A good source of caffeine without tannic acid is green tea. It also is good because it's less caffeinated, but will get you by.
If your child is anemic, it's most likely from drinking milk. See my whole spiel on "why dairy is scary" for more on that.
What I'm having for dinner:
Barley vegetable soup
Two cups barley
Three 24oz vegetable broth containers
bunch carrots, sliced
3 spring onions, chopped finely
1 pound fava beans
3 TBSP olive oil
3 tsp ground cumin
1&1/2 ground coriander
salt to taste
Put everything together and cook until barley is soft. Mine's still cooking, so I can't tell you how long... I think 30 minutes. Feel free to add more cumin and coriander if needed. Serve with toast (Earth Balance) is a great non-trans-fat spread.
So if you read yesterday's blog entry, you heard me yapping about getting our nutrients from food, not supplements. And in organically grown food in particular.
It's true, studies show organically grown produce tends to have many times more nutrients and phytochemicals than commercially grown. This is because the soil is more nutrient-replete in organic crops. Because there's no spraying of pesticides, organic crops need to have strong natural immunity to pests and disease, and that comes from healthy soil. Also, since pesticides are off-limits, farmers use other practices to fight pests: from crop rotation, polyculture (vs. monoculture), nitrogen-fixing plants, fallow periods, crop spacing, crop covering, and so on. All of these practices increase the nutrient density of the soil, and therefore what's produced on it.
So yes, please see the extra price on organic food as an investment in your health. You're getting more vitamins, minerals and phytochemicals. You don't need to waste money on supplements any longer. And I don't know about you, but a lower likelihood of cancer is priceless.
That said, you also need to consume produce that is in season, locally-grown, and vine/tree ripened. This is because these crops retain more nutrients. How can you know? The flavor, color and aroma is a dead giveaway. Flavor, color and aroma in plants come from nutrients. The more nutrients, the more yumminess and color. That's why tomatoes at major supermarkets never taste as good as the ones in your backyard. They've lost countless nutrients. They were picked unripe (green, actually), trucked in from far away, and are probably not in season anyway.
When produce is harvested before it's ripe, as most commercial produce is, the crops are not able to produce all the vitamins they are supposed to produce. Minerals will come through, but not vitamins or many phytochemicals. But with agriculture that's imported from great lengths, it has to be harvested prematurely, or those tomatoes/bananas/grapes/oranges/etc. will turn to mush during travel.
Even if a crop was harvested while ripe, and was able to make it to the market before turning to sauce, that time lag (between when it was picked and arrived at the store) caused a bunch more nutrients to be lost. Not to mention extra pesticides were sprayed on it, since it was shipped/trucked for a long time.
Finally, if it's out of season, that produce has most likely been in cold storage for months... losing nutrients. Look at it this way, if there's wax on your apple/orange/cucumber/whatever, it's old. Wax is applied to seal in water, keeping that produce looking good. But the nutrients still diminish at a pretty rapid rate.
So where do you shop? Farmer's markets, local co-ops, and subscribe to a CSA (Community Supported Agriculture). CSA's are local, organic farms that deliver weekly to a nearby location. You can't beat it. To find a CSA near you, check out http://www.localharvest.org/csa/. Just put in your zip code and find a farm. If you live in the Sacramento area near me, I highly recommend Good Humus farm (GoodHumus.com). It's pricier than you might be used to, but produce is picked the day you receive it. It doesn't get fresher than that, unless you grow it yourself. You can taste the difference. And you can stop wasting your money on supplements.
Recipe du jour:
I just made this for me and my daughter. Yum!
(FYI: stawberries are in season)
1 apple, seeded but not peeled
1 frozen banana
2 cups soy milk
2-3 TBSP honey
Blend together. Drink and enjoy.
It's outrageous to people when they find out I, a nutritionist, don't take supplements and don't promote supplements to others. As a strict vegetarian/almost vegan, I do need to make sure I'm getting vitamin B12 in my diet, but that's fortified in my soymilk and most cereals. So no, I don't take one supplement. And neither should you.
For one, nutrients (such as vitamins and minerals) have relationships with one another. They compete for carriers, enzymes, absorption and utilization in the body. In food, where there's multiple nutrients, they arrange a healthy "check and balance" system that actually helps each one to be more absorbable and effective in our body. They also keep one nutrient from being over-absorbed, which could cause a toxicity. This is called the "synergistic effect" of food. That's why there's no better place to find nutrients than in food. They work better, they're more apt to be utilized, and certain nutrients aren't likely to get too high, causing other nutrients to become depleted.
Now, let's talk about supplements - whether it's a multivitamin, calcium supplement, or whatever. There's no natural check and balance for these nutrients because they're not derived from food. That means you're giving yourself very high levels of certain nutrient(s), which are lowering other nutrient stores in your body. For example, calcium is a commonly taken supplement. But studies show women taking calcium tend to have low levels of zinc, iron, manganese and copper. That's because nutrients compete. This would be true for any supplement, even a multivitamin, since multivitamins - contrary to popular belief - don't contain all the nutrients we need to live. So yes, you may be getting certain nutrients, but by doing so in an artificial manner (vs. food) you are very likely developing deficiencies in others.
Also, studies have found some nutrients become very dangerous when consumed in supplemental form. For instance, nutrients known as antioxidants. Beta-carotene, Vit. C & E, selenium are just a few. Studies show antioxidants can become more like "pro-oxidants", causing all the oxidative damage of free radicals - they very thing we want antioxidants to protect us from - when consumed outside food. In that case our supplement may be the cause of cancer, not the prevention. And all nutrients, when in excess, become toxic to our body.
A lot of people ask me if it's true that our soil is depleted of nutrients, and thus, we need to take supplements to compensate. Yes, most produce grown on commercially grown soil is very depleted, but no, we don't need supplements. What we need to to purchase food grown on nutrient-replete soil. Like organically-grown produce. Study after study shows organically grown crops have many times more nutrients than commercially grown, due to the nutrient dense soil. I won't go into detail today (more tomorrow), but basically, if we pay more for our food and buy organic, we can save all the money on supplements, because we'll be getting those nutrients in the safest, more efficient place: food. These nutrients will work so much better and save us from disease later.
You can quote me on this: "Food. The world's best investment".
And now, your daily zen:
Pasta with Greens and Ricotta
Another recipe from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, abbreviated
1 bunch greens of choice (mustard greens, spinach, swiss chard, etc.)
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 TBSP olive oil
dash of salt
1/4 tsp nutmeg
3/4 cup low-fat ricotta cheese
1 pound pasta
chopped fresh tomatoes
toasted walnuts or pine nuts
Bring a large covered pot of water to a rapid boil.
While water heats, rinse the greens well, and chop coarsely. Saute garlic in oil for a minute, until soft and golden, taking care not to scorch it. Add the greens and saute, stirring often, until they are wilted but still bright green. Sprinkle with salt and nutmeg, and remove from heat. In a blender, puree the cooked greens with the ricotta until smooth and evenly colored. Add more salt to taste.
When water bols, stir in pasta, cover, and return to a boil. Then uncover the pot and cook the pasta al dente. Drain the pasta and immediately toss it with the sauce in a warmed serving bowl. Top with tomatoes, and toasted walnuts or pine nuts.
Well, now that I've (hopefully) convinced you how unessential meat and dairy is in our diet, let me show you how incredibly healthful plant-based foods can be. Like, they prevent cancer. Can it be more healthful than that?
Some studies may help convince you further.
One study published in the International Journal of Cancer looked at diet and endometrial cancer risk in Chinese women. It found that women who consumed the most animal-origin foods had nearly 4 times the risk of cancer, compared with those who ate primarly plant-based foods. There was a direct correlation between the consumption of animal protein, fat and cancer. (Meaning, as women ate more animal protein and animal fat, they were significantly more likely to develop cancer).
Another study, in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute, researched the link between postmenopausal breast cancer and a phytochemical (phyto, meaning "plant" in latin: a phytochemical is a compound found naturally in plant-based foods) found in fruits, vegetables, whole grains and legumes. The study found women who consumed the most of this particular phytochemical were 17% less likely to develop breast cancer than the women who consumed the least. In other words, women who ate the most fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes had almost 1/5th less chance of breast cancer.
So there you go. These are just two of hundreds of studies I've seen, all drawing similar conclusions - causing yours truly to draw such conclusions. Animal-origin foods (meat, poultry, fish, dairy, eggs) just don't fare well when compared to plant-origin ones (fruit, vegetables, grains, beans, lentils, peas, nuts and seeds). If you recall, most of the toxins, including pesticides, are in animal origin foods due to bioaccumulation. Animal origin foods don't have any fiber, almost no antioxidants, and of course, no phytochemicals. They also don't have nutrients like vitamin C and folic acid. They have plenty of protein, but if you read my blog on osteoporosis you'll see that too much protein isn't such a good thing, but actually causes bone loss. By the way, the typical American eats 2x the protein he/she needs - mainly from meats and dairy.
So, at this point, you might realize that eating less meat/dairy is a good thing. It might save you from cancer, or cancer remission... or osteoporosis, heart disease, hypertension (more on that later), diabetes, and obesity. But how? you say. I've been eating like this for years, and how, you ask, am I supposed to just throw out meat?
Well, you could start by cutting way down. In many countries of the world, meat is a luxury, and when it's added to a meal, it's more like a flavoring agent than a prominent meal-base. You could start cooking, at eating, more ethnic foods. Like Italian, Asian, Indian, Middle Eastern. There's a lot more spice and flavor, with a lot less, or even without, meat. From falafel to lasagna, it's yummy and healthy.
Also, there are some really good "meat-replacements" out there. For example, the locally co-op where I shop carries some amazing vegetarian sausage (gosh, I know that sounds unsavory, but it's truly delicious). They also have vegetarian pepperoni, lunch meats, ground beef, chorizo, and they're all really good. I even had a Mexican woman who took my class buy the chorizo, and to her family's surprize, they actually liked it better than the real deal. My husband and I recently had friends over for bean and "ground beef" tacos, and they reported liking the "fake" meat better since it tasted good but wasn't as oily.
And then, there are all these fantastic recipes I'm giving ya. Just no excuse to not eat a cancer-preventing diet.
Recipe du Jour:
(what I'm having for dinner that is)
Black Beans over Potatoes
4 cups (two 16oz cans) pressure cooked or canned beans
4-6 cooked potatoes (I pressure cook these too, but oven cooked is also good)
topping: salsa, avocado slices or guacamole, a little grated Pepper Jack, a little low-fat sour cream, chopped tomatoes when in season
Well, I made it a rule to never write on the weekends, but since I'm stuck in a snowstorm at Lake Tahoe, I think I just might.
Again, love your questions and comments. Today I want to address two biggies: "where do I get my protein?" - being that I don't consume much in the way of animal origin food; and "why is the Dairy Council (mind you, now The Fluid Board) promoting dairy as a way to lose weight?"
Let's start with the latter. The Fluid Board has been doing this for a few years, albeit off and on. For a while they even designed one of their commercials to mimic a public service announcement: "eat your 3 a day", sounding just a tad like the "Five a Day" fruit and vegetables the government actually recommends. Good marketing on their part. Bad science on mine.
The last time I researched the claims about dairy and weight loss, I found one study by a university I'd never heard of, which showed a correlation between calcium consumption in milk and BMI (Body Mass Index). Just after that, other studies were done to research this relationship further, some from extremely reputable universities, such as Harvard. These studies found the relationship to be non-existent or even reversely-correlated (meaning the greater the dairy consumption, the greater the BMI).
When I was in graduate school, I learned that a major reason for today's confusion over nutrition by the public is poor journalism. In other words, for researchers to take a "new discovery" (like milk causing weight loss) seriously, they need to see not one, but literally dozens and dozens of other studies resulting in the same hypothesis. This is because each study, no matter how scientific, has significant amounts of bias. Sometimes the bias is in the study design, sometimes by the researchers, sometimes the "control group", and sometimes an overlooked variable... but they all are biased. Thus when journalists are publishing "new discoveries" based on just one study, so much for objective science. This, of course, would especially be the case if the financial sponsors of a study have vested interest in the results, and if they prove satisfactory, that "sponsor" will spend money to draw media to their conclusions. You may correctly imagine this is the case in the current "dairy and weight loss" press. It will take time for contradictory information to be published, and those studies may not be well publicized due to lack of financial backers.
But for now, I must say this is one of the more preposterous nutrition ideas I've heard in quite some time. I mentioned that I lost 20 pounds when I removed dairy from my diet, and I've seen quite a few others have similar experiences. Again, mainly due to the consequent removal of hormones and hormone-mimicking substances found in dairy products.
Another crazy myth is that vegetarians may not be getting enough protein. Let me just say, protein is the most difficult of all nutrients to become deficient in. Studies worldwide, including those countries where many poor people live, have found the majority of protein deficiency exists only where people have a severe calorie shortage, i.e. famine.
Let me explain how this is true. All real (vs. processed, man-made) food contains protein. Most people only need between 40-60 grams of protein a day. This is almost impossible not to get in a diet where one is not starving oneself, or eating Poptarts all day. Also, only 9 of the amino acids in protein are essential, meaning they must come from our diet. It's true that most plant-origin foods do not contain all 9 essential amino acids. But when we are eating a varied, normal diet, we are bound to consume them all. And they don't all need to be found at one meal, or even in one day, but within a week or so. So forget about the worrisome "food combining" of yesteryear.
If for some reason you entered some sort of commitment to only eat bread for a week, you might develop an amino acid, or protein, deficiency. But if sometime in that week you decided to add peanut butter to your bread, you would now have all your 9 essential amino acids. Or, if you decided to only eat corn all week, again, you could develop an amino acid deficiency. But let's say you added some beans at a meal or two, then there goes your problem.
So I guess we could say that some vegetarians could develop a protein deficiency if they were a little nuts. But we could probably say that for non-vegetarians as well.
Would the American Cattlemen's Association want you to think otherwise? I'll leave that notion for you to practice your critical thinking on.
No recipe book here with me in Lake Tahoe, but I'll tell you what I brought up with us to eat for dinner: Tasty Bites and whole wheat couscous. Tasty Bites are vacuum-sealed pre-made meals of delicious Indian food. You heat the package in boiling water for 5 minutes and they're ready to eat. I save Tasty Bite for cabin vacationing, as well as camping trips. I pour them out over couscous which takes 5 minutes to cook as well. Couscous is a type of wheat from Morocco, and you can find whole wheat couscous at most health food stores.
I just gave a great seminar last night on how to reverse high blood pressure through nutrition. It is so wonderful to actually meet the people I teach/preach to. I will write more about hypertension in days to come so keep posted...
For now I want to answer some questions I've been asked by you, my faithful readers. They are common questions, as well as complex. So let this encourage you to send nutrition questions my way, since they'll most likely represent many other peoples' interests as well.
First, what is up with chocolate? We've heard almost all our lives NOT to eat chocolate since it "makes you fat, gives you acne, and is full of sugar", yet now we're hearing it's good for us? Well, in a nutshell, yes. It is good for us. Dark chocolate in particular, since it's not diluted with milk as with milk chocolate, contains myriad antioxidants and fiber. If you recall, plant-sources of food are where we find antioxidants (often referred to as phytochemicals or compounds). Thus, why we hear about the benefits of tea, coffee and wine. All these are derived from plants: be it beans as in coffee and chocolate; leaves as in tea; or grapes as in wine. Plant-sources are also where we find fiber, although beverages such as coffee, tea and wine have very little. Dark chocolate has about 2 grams fiber/oz. Good news I'm thinking. As long as we don't overdo it.
So even though coffee and wine (and of course tea) have beneficial properties shown to lower risk of heart disease and other chronic disease, they aren't quite as innocuous as chocolate. Coffee and alcohol are both strong diuretics, meaning they cause us to pee out more water than we take in, and with that water we also lose electrolytes. Electrolytes are important for our bodies to stay hydrated, as well as to protect against hypertension and osteoporosis. This is why we keep hearing that even though wine and coffee have antioxidants, we need to consume them in moderation. Not to mention that wine (and all alcohol) has a lot of calories, and our bodies don't register calories we drink as satisfying. That means we can consume a lot of wine, but never get full the way food calories make us full. However, we can become quite fat from said calories.
Excess calories from alcohol tend to store in the gut, or abdominal region of the body, if you haven't noticed. This is where we derive our colloquial "beer belly", although it could also be called "wine belly", "tequilla belly" and so forth. This is also the most dangerous place to store fat in the body. Abdominal fat is strongly correlated with diabetes, hypertension, high levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol, and cancer. Interestingly enough, smokers also tend to store more calories in this area, making their risk of chronic disease ever so much greater. But needless to say, we need to not "overdo" wine or alcoholic beverages for this reason as much as any other.
Getting back to a personal favorite of mine: coffee. I drink coffee every morning. You might say I have a "habit" of starting my day with coffee. You might even say I am unable to function without it. Ok, I'm human too. But as a nutritionist, I am very cautious about what goes in my coffee. For example, cow milk and cream never enter my coffee. (See "Why dairy is scary" blog entry as for why). Nor do I buy fancy coffee drinks containing vast amounts of chocolate or flavor shots. Why? Because I know my body doesn't register these calories. They don't make me full, even though there are a lot of them. Neither do they truly satisfy my sweet tooth, as does eating real chocolate (which does make me full). So I just add a little soy milk to my coffee, and if I crave sweets, I eat something sweet along with it. I might even dip it into my coffee if I'm feeling crazy. Biscotti, anyone?
That reminds me, I just discovered a delicious "sweet" the other day at the local co-op. It's called Halvah, and it's made from ground sesame seeds (tahini paste) and chocolate. The brand is "Camel", but I'm betting there are other manufacturers of similar bars. What I liked most was the fiber: 6 grams of fiber per bar! And of course, it's delicious.
Someone asked me recently how I eat. I basically eat all these recipes I write down on this blog. For breakfast, I usually eat one of the cereals I listed previously on my blog, and for lunch I tend to eat lots of hummus and avocado sandwiches on whole grain bread. My daughter who's three eats tons of black beans, garbanzo beans with ketchup (don't ask why), whole grain toast, peanut butter & banana smoothies with chocolate soy milk, homemade pizza, and any kind of potato dish. Lots of fresh and dried fruit too.
Recipe du jour:
Broccoli-Tofu Stir-fry (35 minutes)
via Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home
3 TBSP hoisin sauce
2/3 cup water
3 TBSP rice vinegar or white vinegar
3 TBSP soy sauce
1 TBSP cornstarch
3-4 TBSP vegetable oil
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 small fresh chili, minced and seeded
1&1/2 cakes tofu (about 18oz) cut into 1" cubes
1 large head brocolli, cut into 1'' florets, stems peeled and sliced 1/4" thick
1/3 cup dry sherry
1 bunch scallions, cut into 1" pieces
Combine sauce ingredients into a small bowl. Before beginning to stir-fry, prepare the vegetables and have all the ingredients at hand.
In a large wok or skillet, heat 2 TBSP oil on medium-high heat. Add the garlic and chile and stir-fry for just 30 seconds before adding the tofu. Continue to stir-fry for 3-4 minutes, until tofu is lightly browned. Remove the tofu and set it aside. Add another TBSP oil to the wok, heat for a few seconds, then add the broccoli. Stir-fry for a minute and pour in the sherry. Stir-fry for 3 minutes. If broccoli begins to scorch, add a TBSP of water. Add scallions, continue to stir-fry for a minute, then the tofu and sauce. Stir carefully and bring to a simmer. Simmer for 3-4 minutes, until the sauce thickens. Top with peanuts and serve immediately.
Well, it sounds like this is a topic of interest to you, so let's talk about osteoporosis & bone health today.
First, for those of you who want to switch to soy milk, my favorite brand is Silk soymilk, vanilla flavored. I don't worry about the sugar content, for me or my daughter, because cow milk is also very high in sugar (lactose and galactose). But if you're really nervous about it, there is unsweetened soymilk out there.
Today I bought these yummy ice cream sandwiches made with soy ice cream. I'm not promoting this as a food staple, I just want to share with you that GOOD alternatives exist. The name of the sandwiches is Soy Dream "Lil' Dreamers". Also, since we are talking about good substitutes, I buy a delicious "mayonnaise" that isn't made with eggs. It's called Vegannaise and even a non-mayonnaise person like me gives it five stars.
One more thing before I launch: you may find it interesting that I lost 20 pounds after I took out dairy from my diet. I wasn't looking to lose weight at the time, but I'm not complaining either. It's curious - I was already eating very healthfully, but it was cutting out dairy that made me lose weight. Maybe something to do with all those extra hormones??? (See yesterday for just how many we're talking about).
Ok, some of you may be wondering where I get my calcium from at this point. First, let it be known that almost all dairy alternatives are calcium-fortified these days and have equivalent amounts as milk. But may I just tell you that contrary to popular belief, 1) dairy products are a very poor source of calcium, and 2) we don't need anywhere near the recommended 1,000-1500 mg of calcium a day.
Actually, those two matters have much to do with one another. The reason why it's recommended we consume sooooo much calcium is quite literally to compensate for all the calcium we (Americans eating a typical American diet) are losing due to multiple factors. If we were to lower the amount of calcium we lose, we would no longer "need" so much calcium from our diet.
And what are the major calcium-losers? Would you believe the greatest is excess animal protein in our diet? When we consume too much protein - especially animal protein - it creates an imbalance of uric and sulfuric acid in our blood, forcing our body to neutralize these acids. It does this by releasing calcium from our bones. The calcium buffers the acid, but then is released into our urinary tract, either winding up in the toilet or building up in the kidney (the major reason for kidney stones).
A second major calcium-loser is cola (dark sodas). Diet, regular or caffeine-free, almost all contain high concentrations of phosphoric acid. This acid has an antagonistic role with calcium, and also causes calcium to be lost. Other common calcium-losers are too much sodium, as well as too much alcohol and caffeine.
Studies done in parts of the world such as rural China, rural Japan and rural areas of Africa find elderly women who consume little or no dairy products whatsoever (most of the world is lactose intolerant). Their calcium consumption is also very low, around 300 mg/day. Yet these women have extremely low rates of osteoporosis. This is believed to be due to the very low amounts of "calcium losers" in their diet, as meat is considered a luxury, nevermind soda or Starbucks.
Also, it's been ruled out that osteoporosis or strong bones are mainly genetic, as studies of the genetic relatives of these populations consuming an American diet have the same rates of osteoporosis as do Americans.
Thus, the calcium from milk is competing with the acid production from the animal protein also found in dairy products. Excess calcium from dairy products as well as supplements has also been found to lower minerals such as iron, zinc, magnesium and copper since calcium competes with said minerals for absorption in the body. Ironically, many of these minerals play an essential role in building and maintaining bone. This is also why the number one cause of iron-deficiency anemia in children is too much milk.
Dairy is scary, and completely unnecessary. Please don't let the "Fluid Board" (the new name for the dairy council) tell you otherwise.
Recipe for the day:
Fragrant Rice Noodles with Vegetables (30 minutes)
Another abbreviated recipe from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home
1&1/2 quarts water
2 TBSP lime juice
1/2 cup peanut butter
2 tsp brown sugar
1 cup vegetable stock
1/2 tsp salt
3 garlic cloves, minced
6 oz rice noodles or linguini
vegetables of choice (I recommend carrots, bok choy, brocolli, or whatever's in season)
In a covered pot, bring the water to a rapid boil. Combine sauce ingredients (first 6 ingredients after water) and mix them until smooth. When water boils, add noodles and cook for 3-5 minutes, until tender. Drain and set aside. Cut vegetables and stir-fry in vegetable oil in a wok or large skillet until just tender. Add noodles and sauce when done.
Hey faithful readers, I do appreciate your comments and encouraging words, and I will direct my writing toward your topics of request. Therefore, today, let's talk dairy.
What's the deal with milk, cheese, and yogurt anyway?
First, if you remember my little chat about "meats" and bioaccumulation of toxic substances as they move up the food chain, you'll remember that this happens in dairy products. In fact, mammals concentrate toxins in their milk. So we're getting extremely high levels of... mercury, perchlorate, PCB's, pesticides, dioxin... in milk and dairy. So much for "safe as milk". And you may also recall, I don't feel all that much better about organic dairy, since even though they aren't being fed or sprayed with pesticides, they're still getting toxins through water (a big source), air, runoff from other farms, etc.
If you recall from the same entry, I wrote about how toxins are "endocrine mimickers", meaning they mimic steroid, or reproductive, hormones such as estrogen in humans. So how ironic to avoid soy milk because of the mis-informed hype about plant estrogens and to use cow milk which is absolutely loaded with estrogen mimicking substances. In fact, because of the hormonal properties (not to mention the natural and added hormones) in cow milk, I truly believe this is a primary reason for childhood obesity. I've certainly noticed that children who drink cow milk tend to be much bigger than those who do not. And it makes sense.
But would you believe it's worse than this? Is it possible?
Bovine proteins (proteins found in cow milk), like casein, are really big. Many times our bodies react as if they are antigens and set off auto-immune reactions in response. Thus, when we drink milk and find phlem in our throat. Phlem is nothing more than a bunch of white blood cells, responding as though there is an invader in our digestive tract. This same response causes many children to cough often - especially during sleep. It is strongly linked with ear infections, as well as frequent colds and congestion. It's even associated with Type I Diabetes in very young children.
I would say dairy is downright scary. Which makes dairy products: cheese, yogurt, cream, etc. pretty scary as well.
For the record, my three-year old has never drank cow milk. Her bones are strong (more on that later), she's slender but not too thin, and she's never had an ear infection.
Practical info: soy yogurts have the same healthy bacteria as do "regular" yogurt. There are some great tasting soy coffee creamers on the market by Silk brand. Unfortunately, I can't say I honestly like any alternative cheese as much as the real deal. This is my only weakness! My antidote has been to buy strong flavored cheeses and use small amounts. So for example, when I make my pizza tonight, I'll use a combo of Pecorino and Blue cheeses, but only a sprinkling. With strong flavored cheeses, a little goes a long way. If you don't find a soy milk you or your family likes, try almond milk - yum!
I think tomorrow I'll talk about dairy/calcium/osteoporosis myths if I hear interest from my loyal commentors.
What's for dinner tonight:
Pizza de jour
(that means whatever I can find goes on top)
Crust: two whole wheat pizza doughs from Trader Joe's mixed together
Pizza topping: pizza sauce, Pecorino and Blue cheese, sun-dried tomatoes, olives, and marinated red bell peppers
I bake this using a pizza stone which I heat up prior to cooking the pizza. It makes a great crust. Cook for 10 minutes altogether.
This is a topic of real concern, as many of you are well aware. But would you believe my concern is not that soy products cause cancer in women (or men, or make boy children become feminine), but that so many people think they do. Even worse, the opposite has been found true by so many studies. Science repeatedly finds that the isoflavone compounds in soy beans and soy products actually counteract reproductive cancers.
For example, a recent study in the American Journal of Epidemiology found that women who consumed 3 mg. of isoflavones/day had 44% lower risk of ovarian cancer than those who consumed less than 1 mg/day. That's significant.
The reason isoflavones in soy protect against female reproductive cancers is because they act as estrogen-antagonists when real estrogen levels are at dangerous levels. And because high levels of estrogen in the body is linked with breast, uterine and ovarian cancer, we need isoflavones to help regulate this hormone. When our estrogen levels our dangerously low - leading to increased risk of heart disease and osteoporosis - isoflavones take on estrogen-mimicking properties, reducing our risk of these diseases as well.
Unfortunately, soy products seem to be only known for this estrogen-mimicry, and it's assumed that they always increase estrogen levels: contributing to breast and other reproductive cancer, not protecting against it. Another example of hyper-mis-education on nutrition.
So, soy milk, soy yogurt, edaname, and soy ice cream (indeed, there's a decent one these days), here we come.
Therefore, instead of a recipe today, I think I will instruct you to buy some really good soy ice cream. I know that sounds like a contradiction in terms, but once you try it, you'll be on my side. The brand I like is Soy Delicious' special "Purely Decadent" variety. It's pricey and small, like Ben & Jerry's, but really good. My favorite is cookies-n-cream.
Maybe, if I hear some feedback from some of you, I'll talk about dairy next time? Have a wonderful weekend.
Wow, after writing all these benefits of water yesterday I completely forgot to share perhaps the most important tidbit on water: it has no calories.
How obvious is that? I mean, is there anyone in this weight-obsessed country of ours who doesn't know that? But here's the irony. Most people drink calorie-containing drinks all day long (and especially children), when we should only be getting their calories through food. Food calories make us full, because there's chewing involved, and that mechanism sends a message to our brain that we're becoming satisfied. Whereas, when we drink calories - whether it's from a "healthy" beverage or not - we don't get full, our brains never register those calories, and we get fat. Especially kids.
If you have kids, PLEASE give them the gift of drinking water. I know they may not see it as a gift right now, I know they might cry for their juice or milk, but you are giving them the gift of health and obesity-prevention. So hold out. Be the parent.
And if it's you (and you know who you are) that's the kid, because you cringe at drinking much water, then listen to my sage advice and watch as you start shedding some pounds. In fact, a few years back, my best friend listened to my humble advice and started drinking only water. She lost 10 pounds in a few months. She had more energy. This stuff is for real.
So here's what you do: filter your water at home with a water pitcher, put it in the fridge, and add slices of lemon, lime, or orange. Or add some pepperment leaves. Go crazy, just make it taste good enough that you'll drink it.
Or make herbal tea. That's just naturally flavored water. Drink it cold or hot.
One more comment: diet sodas. Even though they have no calories don't be fooled. Not only do they contain phosphoric acid which is one of the primary causes of osteoporosis in our land, but that artificial sweetener is messing with your insulin. What does your body think it's tasting when you drink a diet soda? Sugar. A lot of sugar, since artificial sweeteners are about 200x sweeter than real sugar. So what hormone gets sent into the blood to prepare for all this "sugar"? No other than insulin. This is so dangerous for all of us, and especially for diabetics. It can create and excacerbate insulin resistance.
Not only this, but artificial sweeteners mess with our appetite. All that insulin sitting in the blood has nothing to do, so it creates an urgent craving for sugar and refined carbohydrates. For this reason, studies show that people who use artificial sweeteners are more likely to gain weight than people who don't use them. So don't use them.
Recipe time! Today's is one of my favorite fallback recipes when there's "nothing to eat". It's also a dish that the whole family loves, for obvious reasons.
Buckwheat Pancakes (15 minutes)
Using buckwheat pancake mix and soy or almond milk, make some pancakes according to the recipe on the mix. Throw in some walnut pieces and banana slices for extra yummyness (and fiber). Serve with real maple syrup.
BTW: 2 pancakes, with the walnuts and banana thrown in, give you about 10 grams of fiber!
Thanks again blog commentors! I am feeling very encouraged by each comment I read. So those of you with comments, write away! Questions, even, I'm here for you.
But first, a question for you my friends. When's the last time you had a sip of water? Really?
I know we all hear how important it is to drink water all the time - it's like one of the Great American Nags: "Drink water." "Exercise." "Eat your vegetables." But most of us don't quite know why water is sooooooo important. Or is it? I mean, there was that ridiculous study a few years ago that supposedly searched all scientific studies ever done and never once found a recommendation to drink "eight, 8 oz servings of water a day". In fact, the summary in that study was that most Americans don't need that much water because we consume so much coffee and fruit and vegetables. Gee, that makes sense.
So here's the deal. Your body is made mostly from water. You need to keep hydrated because it flushes out toxins into your urine, lowering your risk of all types of cancer. You'll also have better circulation, meaning more energy throughout the day. But what really matters to most of us: you'll lose weight.
When we are even slightly dehydrated, two things take place. First, our brain begins to confuse thirst with hunger, so we are inclined to overeat. Basically, we have an artificially inflated appetite. Second, our liver is impeded from metabolizing fat efficiently. In other words, when we aren't drinking at least 64oz of water a day, we're not only more likely to eat more, but we are storing fat we should be burning. That should be enough motivation for most of us to drink water all day long. And that means you (you know who you are).
What's the deal with coffee then? Coffee, as with alcohol, is a major diuretic. That means we pee out more water than we take in. So unfortunately, coffee doesn't count as one of your "water" drinks. In fact, it goes in the debit category, meaning that for every one coffee you need to rehydrate with TWO glasses of water. Same goes for alcohol. With diuretics, you not only lose water, but electrolytes, which are important to stay hydrated. Some of those electrolytes are potassium, magnesium and calcium, which we need to prevent osteoporosis and hypertension.
If you're like most Americans, you get grumpy or tired in the afternoon. Caffeine might help for a short time, but will cost you in energy later. So try less caffeine and more water. For example, an iced green tea. Even iced black tea would suffice. But more water... lot's more.
And now, your daily moment of zen:
Soba Noodle Salad (20 minutes)
Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, again
2 cups snow peas
1 pound soba noodles
2 TBSP miso
1/3 cup water
2 TBSP unsweetened apple juice
2 TBSP dark sesame oil
1/4 cup soy sauce
1 TBSP grated fresh ginger root
2 TBSP rice vinegar
2/3 cup chopped scallions
Bring a large covered pot of water to a rapid boil. Blanch the snow peas, uncovered, for a minute, until tender but still bright green. Remove snow peas with a slotted spoon or strainer, place them in a large serving bowl, and set aside. Cook the noodles in the same water until just tender, about 3 minutes. Drain, rinse under cold water, and drain again.
While pasta cooks, prepare the sauce: In a small bowl, dissolve the miso in the water. Whisk in the apple juice, sesame oil, soy sauce, ginger and vinegar. Chop scallions. In the serving bowl, toss the snow peas, sauce, and scallions with the noodles.
Thank you for the encouragement, those of you who have commented. I especially appreciate being told I'm "the only nutritionist who makes sense" by someone who has seen her share of nutritionists. I'd like to think of myself as a nutritionist with a mission. A mission to keep people from convalescent homes, off dialysis, from premature death, as well as healthy and energetic. I don't know if it's just me, but it seems like every 3rd person has some enormous health problem, such as cancer, diabetes or heart disease.
Which leads us to the second cause of Type II Diabetes. Have you guessed it yet? Fiber, of course.
A lack of fiber (again, from food, not supplements) will eventually give us all insulin resistance. Our bodies need 25-40 grams of dietary fiber a day, and most of us get less than 12 grams. Not only does that cause all types of colon diseases, weight gain (recall my first 3 blog entries), but also diabetes. Fiber is necessary to slow the rate of glucose absorption. What is important is NOT the amount of sugar, or starch in a food, but the amount of fiber since that will determine the rate the sugar is digested. Thus a low-fiber food like white rice will have a much faster rate than brown rice. This will cause blood sugar to spike and fall quickly, vs. the higher fiber foods where glucose climbs slowly, stays within healthy perimeters for a longer period, and slowly lowers.
Eating low-fiber foods, day in and day out, will tax the body's insulin since it will be overworked constantly. Over time, this will lead to what we call insulin-resistance. It just can't do it's job. But wait, change that diet to a high fiber one, and what happens? Insulin is relieved. It's not required to work so hard. The fiber literally acts as a "time release" for blood sugar, so there's never too much glucose for insulin to deal with at once. Oh, and you lost weight? Well, that's not a bad side effect.
So, let's remember that I'm a nutritionist with a mission (read: a gal who's pretty pissed-off with the medical establishment). When I hear my diabetic students tell me they've been told to stay away from lots of fruit and dried fruit, I freak. That's some of the most ridulous nutrition advice in all of history. Yes, yes, fruit and dried fruit has lots of sugar. But what else does it have - of course, fiber. So much fiber that we don't need to worry one bit about our blood sugar, because it will be naturally regulated. So please don't shy away from those delicious dried apricots, mangos, pineapple, cherries, cranberries, raisins... They are your new best friends, considering how much more fiber you're going to eat these days.
A quick reminder of our high fiber food groups: legumes (nuts, seeds, beans, peas and lentils), fruit, vegetables and whole grains.
If you know someone with diabetes, please forward these last two blog posts. Save a life or two.
Now, another favorite recipe...
Hummus (5 minutes)
1 can (16 oz) garbanzo beans (or make them in your pressure cooker)
1/4 cup lemon juice
1/4 cup tahini paste
3 cloves garlic
3 TBSP olive oil
salt to taste
Throw all this in a blender and blend. You may need to add a little water for it to blend completely, and that's OK.
Serve with corn tortilla chips or pita bread. Also, slather it on a sandwich with avocado and lettuce for a delicious lunch on the go.
Well, to be honest, I was going to wait and report on diabetes later on my blog. I thought first I'd draw people in with weight loss, which always tends to appeal to everyone. But then just a few days ago I found myself literally emailing almost everything I know about nutrition and diabetes to a woman who is experiencing neuropathy. I can't help myself, I'm sick of people dying slowly from this entirely preventable disease!!!!
And that's exactly what Type II Diabetes is, an entirely preventable - and reversible - disease.
How is that? It's caused by two simple problems in the body, both diet-related.
First, cell membranes are supposed to be permeable. That's what we learned in high-school biology. But when we eat food full of "bad" fat: saturated fat, cholesterol and trans-fats, our cell membranes become impermeable. That means insulin can't get through - or, so to speak, becomes "resistant". That means blood sugar, or glucose, can't be taken up from the blood and brought into the cell. This, over time, causes plaque buildup in the arteries and cell starvation, and thus cell death (we call that "neuropathy").
When we eat lots of "good" fats, this all changes for the better. Cell membranes become pliable again, insulin works again, glucose doesn't build up in the blood causing plaque and nerve damage... It's really just as simple as this.
So, what are these good fats, and where are they, and the bad fats found in the diet?
Good fats are monounsaturated fat and Omega-3 fatty acids. These almost exclusively are found in unprocessed plant foods: legumes (beans, peas, lentils, all nuts and seeds), whole grains, fruit and vegetables. Yes, fish do have some Omega-3, but plant sources are much healthier. For example, a serving of walnuts, olive oil, and flaxseed all contain more Omega-3 than the richest fish, and no mercury.
The bad fats previously mentioned, saturated fat, cholesterol and trans-fats come from two main sources. Saturated fat and cholesterol comes mostly from "meats" (remember, that's all animal-origin food, including eggs and dairy). Many people know that poultry has less saturated fat than red meat, but few know that all meat - poultry, pork and even fish - have the same amounts of cholesterol. Since high levels of dietary cholesterol make are cells resistant to insulin, we can't just exchange a hamburger for a turkey burger of the same size. We either need to opt for a veggie burger (I really like Boca Burgers), or eat way less of the turkey burger.
Trans-fats come from partially-hydrogenated oils which are mainly found in processed foods. Now that food manufacturers are required to label trans-fat, you may see a lot of foods claiming to have "0 grams trans-fat", yet they still have partially-hydrogenated oil in their ingredients. This is because they are allowed to "round down" to zero when the food has less than .5 grams trans-fat/serving. When you consider how small those serving sizes are, and how many "servings" you're probably consuming, it's safest to read the ingredients over the label and stay away from all hydrogenated oils.
Tune in tomorrow to learn the other mechanism that causes Type II Diabetes. Hint: it's something I covered in the first 3 blogs!
Now, your daily moment of zen.
Lentil Soup (35 minutes)
Another abbreviated recipe from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home.
Once again, I double the recipe for this soup and either eat it throughout the week or freeze half.
1& 1/2 cups lentil
6 cups water
3 bay leaves
4 garlic cloves, chopped
2 slices fresh ginger root, each about the size of a quarter
2 medium carrots (1 cup grated)
1 cup canned tomatoes, undrained
1 small red bell pepper
1 & 1/2 cups chopped onions
2 TBSP olive oil
1&1/2 tsp cumin
1& 1/2 tsp coriander
pinch of cayenne
2 TBSP lemon juice
salt to taste
Add lentils to soup pot with water, bay leaves, garlic and ginger. Cover and place on high heat. Prepare carrots and bell pepper, add them to pot with canned tomatoes. Bring to a boil, stir, reduce heat and simmer, covered, for 20 minutes, until lentils are tender.
While vegetables simmer, saute onions on medium heat in the olive oil in a heavy skillet for 10 minutes. Add cumin, coriander and cayenne, and saute for another minute. Remove from heat. When lentil are tender, remove the bay leaves and ginger from pot. Stir in sauteed onions and lemon juice. Add salt to taste.
Okay everybody, hope you've been able to digest yesterday's blog. I know, I know, the truth hurts. But like I said, better hurt now than later.
So that brings me to my last tidbit of incredibly shocking news on "meat". (Once again, "meat" not only includes poultry, fish, and eggs, but also dairy products - basically, all foods of animal-origin).
Although most of us are familiar with "meat" having lots of protein and necessary amino acids, many of us don't hear that these nutrients can be detrimental in excess amounts. And Americans are eating excess amounts of "meat".
Animal protein tends to have especially high levels of an amino acid called methionine. Too much (average American intake) of this amino acid causes it to convert to a dangerous compound known as homocysteine. Homocysteine is notorious for just about everything bad that we commonly see in humans: heart disease, stroke, hypertension, dementia and Alzheimer's, impotence, cancer, diabetes, arthritis, and osteoporosis, to name a few. Homocysteine acts much like a free radical in the body, damaging arterial linings, which create plaque. Plaque slows down oxygen circulation, which leads to everything bad. In fact, plaque is created in our arteries as a quick repair patch to the damage made by homocysteine. This may give you some idea of just how dangerous homocysteine is.
Plant protein, like beans and other legumes, supply methionine, but not at the same levels as animal protein. Legumes are also the best source of folic acid, a well-known natural antagonist to homocysteine.
This helps us understand why studies are showing us a relationship between high "meat" consumption and cancer risk. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition recently found high animal protein intakes associated with a significantly increased risk of cancer. Incidentally, those with the most plant-based protein had the lowest risk indicators for cancer. So, just like we've learned about "good" and "bad" fats, now we're learning about "good" and "bad" protein.
Now, your long-awaited recipe... BTW: I need some feedback from my readers about if y'all are liking these recipes or what?
African Pineapple Peanut Stew (35 minutes)
Another abbrieviated version of a recipe from Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home
(This is a GREAT way to eat your greens - you can hardly taste them. Also, I usually double this recipe)
1 cup chopped onions
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 TBSP vegetable oil
1 bunch kale, Swiss chard or other greens
2 cups undrained canned crushed pineapple (20 oz can)
1/2 cup peanut butter
1 TBSP Tabasco or other hot pepper sauce
salt to taste
In a covered saucepan, saute onions and garlic in the oil for about 10 minutes, stirring frequently, until onions are lightly browned. While onions saute, wash greens. Cut into 1" thick slices. Add pineapple and juice to the onions and bring to a simmer. Stir in greens, cover and simmer 5 minutes, stirring a several times, until tender. Mix in the peanut butter, Tabasco and simmer for 5 more minutes. Add salt to taste.
Well, I hope you've all had an opportunity to make the pizza recipe I listed yesterday. I made it myself last night, and I have to say, it's probably one of my favorite dishes. When I make it, I buy whole wheat pizza dough at Trader Joe's, roll two doughs into one, and make a nice fat pizza. One slice goes a long way.
Before I share another favorite recipe from my stockpile, I think it's time to share more on why beans are the new meat.
Formerly I emphasized the good characteristics of beans (high fiber, high protein, make us full, an easy replacement for meat...), and now I think it's time to shine some light on just how seriously dangerous meat can be. I don't intend to scare you, but some extremely enlightening studies from Harvard and other top-notch researchers are conveying some frightening information about meat (and other foods of animal origin: poultry, pork, eggs, dairy, etc - therefore "meat" means all types of meat, not just red meat).
One concern many of us hear about is the hormones in "meat". This is a valid concern, researchers believe. Not only because there are more hormones used than ever before - six "common" hormones, to be exact- but because measurable levels are routinely present in the animals’ muscle, fat, livers, kidneys, and other organs. In other words, we're consuming excess steriod hormones. Steriod hormones are involved in cell reproduction and growth, and they seem to be altering our own bodies' steriod levels (estrogen, testosterone), which looks to be making us fat, making our children fat, giving us higher rates of cancer, reducing our fertility, and lowering the age of puberty in children.
Believe it or not, even your "grass-fed", "free-range", and I hate to admit: "organic" meats are going to mess with your own hormone levels, for multiple reasons. For starters, all animals produce endrogenous (their own internal) steriod hormones. Even the most organically raised livestock will still produce natural steriod hormones that you will consume. Also, many of these animals are given antibiotics to make them grow big, fast. Antiobiotics have "endocrine", or hormone, mimicking effects in both the body of the animal and our own. But perhaps the most distressing news of all is a concept taught in the most basic nutrition textbook: bioaccumulation.
Bioaccumulation, simply put, means toxic substances concentrate at higher levels as we go up the food chain. This means that no matter how worried you are about the amount of pesticides on your strawberries, you're getting a lot more in your dairy, eggs and meats. This is why, when hearing about mercury in fish, we're told to stay away from "the big fish", especially shark and swordfish. These fish are on the absolute top of the food chain. As we go down the food chain to anchovies and sardines, we find much lower levels of mercury and other toxins. And this is why we never are told to stay away from seaweed - even though it lives in the same mercury-infested waters - because seaweed is a plant, and plants are at the very safe bottom of the food chain.
All toxins have "endocrine-mimicking effects" in humans, meaning they mess with our steriod hormones the way antibiotics and outside hormones do.
Therefore, you could say that means when we eat meats, dairy and eggs we are getting additional hormones, additional hormones, and additional hormones. Be it mercury, pesticides, polycholonated biphenals (PCB's), dioxin, arsenic, perchlorate, or any host of toxic chemical, we are ingesting it in our food supply, mainly through animal-origin foods. This is one likely reason why vegetarians have only half the risk of dying from cancer as do the rest of us.
Okay, now that you're completely overwhelmed with "bad news", the good news. Another delicious high fiber recipe. But also, let me say that ethically, I would much rather you be "bummed" now by reading my blog than bummed later when you're given a prognosis in your doctor's office. So I'll be the fall guy. Get mad at me if it makes you feel better. Just don't get cancer. And lose some weight in the process.
Spanish Potato Onion Soup (40 minutes)
From Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, slightly simplified
(I always double this recipe)
4 medium onions, thinly sliced
2 TBSP olive oil
4 cups water
3 medium potatoes
2 tsp paprika
1/2 tsp dried thyme
2 large bay leaves
1/4 cup sherry
1 tsp salt
In a soup pot on medium heat, saute onions in oil, stirring occasionally to prevent sticking. While they saute, bring water to boil in a separate pan. Cut the potatoes into 1/4'' slices. When the onions are translucent, add paprika, thyme and bay leaves. Saute for one minute. Pour the boiling water into the onion mixture and add potatoes, sherry, and salt. Return to a boil. Lower the heat and simmer, covered, for 10 minutes or until potatoes are tender. Remove bay leaves and add more salt to taste.
Okay, I'm hearing that everybody's on-board with the high fiber diet (I like to call it the "bean diet", thus the blog name). Y'all just need some recipes and practical tips.
First, some ideas:
* buy lots of dried fruit and nuts, and place them in strategic places like your car, workdesk, gym locker, purse, etc. Change varieties of dried fruit and nuts frequently to maximize your nutrient consumption.
* for those of you looking for particular food endorsements, I'll share the brands of cereal and snack bars currently in my cupboard:
-- Odwalla Bars: "Berries GoMega" & "Chocolate Chip Peanut"
-- Arrowhead Mills: "Sweetened Shredded Wheat" (note: most other brands of shredded wheat cereals are similar)
-- Nature's Path: Optimum Power Breakfast, Flax Plus Raisin Bran, Honey'd Raisin Bran Flakes
-- Trader Joe's Raisin Bran
* Ways I personally incorporate legumes into my diet:
-- Bean burritos with guacamole or avocado slices, and salsa
-- Bean chili (I use chili seasoning and Boca brand "fake ground beef")
-- Bean fajitas: tortillas, sauted bell peppers, tomatos, squash, onions and fajita sauce
-- Bean nachos: corn tortilla chips covered with beans, cheese, guacamole and salsa
-- Bean soups and stews (I'm always trying new recipes I find on the internet)
-- Three-bean salad
-- Split pea soup
-- Lentil soup
-- Asian recipes that call for peanut butter
* Ways I incorporate legumes into my 3-year-old's diet:
-- plain black or pinto beans (this is a favorite!)
-- garbanzo beans with ketchup (again, favorite)
-- lentil soup
-- split pea soup
-- peanut butter and jelly sandwiches
* How I cook my own beans - and remove the gas!
-- soak my beans overnight (this also works well with split peas)
-- add 1 tsp salt per 16 oz dry beans (no salt for peas until they've cooked)
-- cook my beans (but not split peas) in a pressure cooker
-- set timer at 20 minutes
-- let cool
-- add some to a recipe, freeze the rest
* How I almost never run out of food:
I almost always double the recipes I cook. It takes the same amount of time to cook, but I have twice the amount of food. Sometimes it stays in the fridge as leftovers, other times I freeze it. It is so wonderful to have homemade food in my freezer for those days - or weeks - when there's just no time or energy.
* What kind of restaurants I go to:
Anything "ethnic": Italian, Chinese, Thai, Indian, Greek, Vietnamese, you get the picture. These cultures typically have lots of high vegetable, grain and legume dishes. For example, when I go to Greek or "Mediterranean" food I get falafel and hummus. Both falafel and hummus are made from garbanzo beans. At Indian restaurants I'm all about daal (made from lentils).
Now, I plan to include more recipes as we go, but here's tonight's dinner taken from my favorite cookbook: Moosewood Restaurant Cooks at Home, paraphrased by yours truly. This is my favorite cookbook, because it's healthy, fast, AND delicious.
Italian-Style Tofu Pizza (15 minutes)
Choose a whole wheat pizza crust, pizza dough or loaf of unsliced whole wheat bread
1& 1/2 cakes firm tofu
2 TBSP olive oil
2 tsp ground fennel
2 garlic cloves, minced
1/2 tsp cayenne
1&1/2 TBSP soy sauce
1 TBSP tomato paste
1 tsp dried oregano
2 cups prepared tomato or pizza sauce
salt to taste
Preheat the oven according to directions for the pizza crust you are using.
Grate the tofu into small, pea-sized pieces. Heat the oil in a large skillet and saute the grated tofu, fennel, garlic and cayenne for 2-3 minutes. Stir in the soy sauce, tomato paste, and oregano and continue to saute for another minute. Add the tomato or pizza sauce, remove from heat, add salt to taste.
Spread the tofu topping on the pizza crust. Bake. Bon appetit!
So now that we've covered beans (and all legumes), let's talk whole grains, fruit and veggies.
You might be thinking, "what's to learn about eating more grains, fruit and vegetables? I've been hearing that for decades". Oh have you though? Let's just see if we can't discover a few new things under the sun.
For example, despite their horrible reputation (and the fact they're not green), potatoes are indeed vegetables. And even better, they're fiber-bombs. But how can this be, you say? My friend, what do we do to potatoes in our country - besides adding tons of butter and sour cream that is? We peel the poor things. Where is all that beautiful fiber? In the peel! So please, keep eating your potatoes, keep calling them vegetables, just make sure to include that peel. (And try topping it with some black beans!)
Whole grains are fibrous, and most of us know to eat whole wheat bread. But did you know bread can be labeled "whole wheat" when only 25% of the flour is in fact whole wheat? The first ingredient in your bread and baked goods should be "whole wheat flour". If you see "enriched flour" as the first ingredient then the majority of your bread is comprised of white flour. Some bread companies are so desperate that they add refined fiber (cellulose and pectin are a few of the names) to white flour.
What the world needs now is some honesty in labeling - and love, sweet love. Get a bread that is mostly or all whole grain flour and you will be consuming a whopping 3-4 grams of fiber per slice! That means 6-8 grams of fiber in a sandwich, not counting the 3 more grams from the peanut butter between the slices. Or, just for fun, put some avocado on that sandwich (a different sandwich that is, sans peanut butter) to up the fiber.
Yes, avocados have fiber.
Before you tell me avocados are "fattening", let me just say that the fat you'll find in avocados are the "good" kind: monounsaturated and Omega-3. Let me also remind you that due to it's fibrous content you will get very full from eating avocados, making them near impossible to overeat. But yes, one avocado - without the peel that is - contains 6 grams of fiber. So now you have something to give thanks for. So add that fibrous fruit (an avocado is a fruit, not a vegetable) to your salads, your sandwiches, your bean burritos, or just eat them plain. But really, when's the last time a health professional commanded you to eat something so delicious?
Other stuff you might want to know:
* Popcorn is a whole grain. Five cups of it will give you 6 grams of fiber.
* Make sure your breakfast cereal has at least 5 grams of fiber per serving. FYI: Special K is "special" because it has virtually no fiber. Read the labels.
* Brown rice is a whole grain, white rice is not. Brown rice makes you full and delivers fiber not to mention myriad other nutrients. So give it up for brown rice.
* Dried fruit is also fruit. It is ridiculously high in fiber. Don't let the sugar content keep you away: the fiber in the dried fruit will slow the rate of blood sugar absorption, even if you're a diabetic. (More on this later).
So is anyone else craving a potato topped with beans and guacamole?
So assuming you've read yesterday's blog (April 1st, that is), you are wondering how many salads and spinach leaves you'll have to eat to lose weight. That's where most people go when they think of high-fiber foods. Think greens no more! I mean, unless you want to. But what I want you to know is how EASY it is to eat foods high in fiber.
Let's break down our new favorite foods into four groups:
We'll start with legumes. These are your beans - of every kind: garbanzo, kidney, red, pinto, black, white, navy... except jelly. Legumes are also lentils, peas (think split pea soup), nuts of every variety, and seeds of every variety (also nut and seed butters). I always start with legumes for several reasons: legumes are yummy. Even kids like them - because they don't have lots of flavor. They're easy to add to everything, like adding garbanzo beans to a salad or walnuts to pancake batter. Nuts and seeds are delicious by the handful, roasted, salted and all. They are high in protein and Omega-3 fatty acids.
But the best reason to eat lots of legumes is because they make you FULL. Because they are high in both protein and fiber, they're nearly impossible to overeat, and as such they are great substitutes for things like... meat. If you haven't yet noticed, meat is not a high fiber food. In fact, it's a no-fiber food, which means all the calories will be retained. There are some other serious detrimental effects of eating meat regularly, which I'll contend with later. For now, just know that the more you replace meat (and poultry, seafood, eggs) with legumes, the fewer calories your body will digest and absorb, the higher your metabolism will be, and thus the more weight you will lose. Please recall our mathmatics lesson yesterday for a review of how this works.
So, practically, these are the things I'm talking about. Bean burritos vs. carne asada. Lentil soup or split pea soup vs. chicken noodle. Peanut butter and jelly vs. turkey sandwiches. Hummus or bean dip vs. cheese with crackers. Snacking on sunflower seeds (yes, salted and roasted) vs. junk food.
You will be full. Your colon will thank you. The people you share a bathroom with will thank you because your lag time will be sufficiently shortened. You won't feel deprived. And you will start losing weight.
Tomorrow we'll cover the other high-fiber foods. But for now, just remember, beans are the new meat.
I don't want to brag, but I happen to be an expert in weight loss. (Boy, that does sound like bragging though!) It's not just that I am thin, but that I've been privy to helping make thousands of other people much thinner as well. In fact, this is one of my life ambitions: to make millions of people thin. Through information. That may sound overly ambitious and simple, but truth be told, millions of people are fat for one major reason: lack of information. Or better yet, misinformation. You don't believe me: you say it's lack of resolve, willpower, and a society that produces too much processed food, too big of portion sizes, and supersizing. Well, sure. But people KNOW about that. You'd be surprised at what you - even you - don't know.
I will spare you the multiple choice quiz I had in mind... But how's this: we are fat NOT because we are eating too much, but because we are pooping too little. What's that you say? What does being constipated, or having small BM's have to do with being fat? Would ya believe, everything?
Let's start with the facts, unpopular topic though it may be. What is poop? Besides bodily waste that is?
In theory, that waste is carried out in a large BM comprised mostly of FIBER. Fiber is a carbohydrate in food that differs from starch and sugar carbs in that it is indigestable in humans. That means all the calories we eat comprised of fiber (think bean burrito, not Metamucil) cannot be broken down or absorbed. That means those calories make us full, as soluble fiber in food binds with water in our stomach and expands; regulate our blood sugar perfectly, thus preventing insulin-resistance and excessive hunger; AND they go out the back door, only to be flushed away. Not only that, it's been found that every one gram of fiber we eat in food burns about 7 calories while our digestive tract processes it. That means if you're consuming a typical American diet comprised of 12 grams of fiber or less, and you start upping the ante, you will be burning more calories just by eating more strategically. There is also a hormone our body produces when it receives enough high fiber foods on a regular basis (PYY). Studies show this hormone is powerful in curbing even the most voracious appetites and causing significant weight loss.
If that isn't convincing enough, consider this. Our bodies were never designed to retain all the calories we consume. This is evidenced by myriad colon disorders we are developing by low fiber diets. It's also seen in simple math.
If we consider a large apple that has, let's say, 100 calories, we might assume that we're simply eating 100 calories. But when we factor in that apple has 5 grams of fiber, and that fiber is a carbohydrate containing 4 calories per gram, and that those calories aren't digested or absorbed in humans, then we get to subtract 20 calories from the original 100. So now we're only consuming a net 80 calories. But wait, let's recall that every one gram of fiber from food causes our body to burn 7 calories. Now our metabolism is negating 35 more calories (the apple containing 5 grams of fiber). Now we can subtract 35 from 80, giving us a net retention of only 45 calories from our "100" calorie apple.
Harvard University did a study following 2900 people for 10 years. They singled out the quintile of those people who gained the most weight and the least weight throughout the decade. Although they took into consideration the total fat, total carbs, total calories, total sugar and even exercise, they found only one significant factor in both quintiles. Those who gained the least weight had the diets highest in fiber, those who gained the most weight had the lowest fiber diets, kaput. Total calories, fat, sugar, carbs and exercise just weren't significant.
Food for thought. Just imagine if we were to eat foods high in fiber more often. We could finally be full, while losing weight. Not to mention having some great BM's...