Friday
Mar072014

Staff of Life

 

The quick answer:  For good health eat your grains whole.  That’s a simple statement—to implement it you must reinvent your food culture and avoid factory foods.

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Tracing One’s Footsteps

I’m a stay-at-home guy but with some encouragement the Beautiful Wife and I are taking a trip to the Derwent Valley in north England.  Derwent Valley is notable for two things:  First, it was the cradle of the Industrial Revolution—the water-powered textile mill was invented at Cromford in 1772.  You can read about it here

Second, the Derwent Valley is where my Hellewell ancestors worked in the textile mills before they immigrated to the Utah Territory in 1853.  So it’s sort of like coming home—we want to walk the cobblestone streets they trod.  (If readers live in this area, please leave a comment, or send an email.)

We’ll also visit the ancient upland village of Todmorden in nearby Upper Calder Valley.  Todmorden is the center of a recent food revolution.  A grassroots sustainable farming movement has arisen here with the goal to become locally self-sufficient for food.  It started because a guy named Nick Green—the perfect name—planted a cabbage and rhubarb garden in a vacant lot (without permission) and posted a sign inviting people to help themselves.  That was the start; now there are dozens of such lots and a local food movement has found traction.  People who didn’t own cookbooks and got their food from packages are rediscovering real food, and cooking.  You can read about Todmorden here.

The Roller Mill

The Industrial Revolution changed everything, including the nature of food.  Not long after Cromford’s textile factory, the roller mill was invented.  The roller mill separated the starch in wheat from the nutritious germ and bran (the latter became animal food).  The benefits were irresistible:  Now you had white flour that was sweet and lasted forever because the perishable nutrients had all been removed.  It wouldn’t even keep a weevil alive.  Soon similar processes were applied to the other grains—polishing for rice, and degerming for corn.  It was a nutrition catastrophe we’re still trying to cure.

Staff of Life

If we didn’t have grains most of the planet would starve to death—grains really are the staff of life but for best health you should eat them whole.  We talked about the importance of this at In Praise of Whole Grains.

 Gluten is problematic for a few people.  Gluten intolerance is hard to diagnose but if you’re in this group you need to heed the guidance of your doctor—it’s a serious issue.  We’re not sure why gluten intolerance is a growing problem but there are two factors:  First, many new wheat hybrids have been developed which contain new forms of gluten to which mankind is unaccustomed.  Second, we have gone from slow-rising sourdough breads to fast-rising yeast breads so there is less breaking down of the gluten before consumption. 

In our home we’re buying sourdough mostly whole wheat bread these days and want to start baking our own.  (We also grind our own flour at the time of use for freshness.)  Does anyone have sourdough experience or a recipe to share?

Healthy Change


Comment:  Whole grains are one of the best food values but we think it best to enjoy a variety.  Please comment on how you include whole grains in the diet of your family, or share a favorite recipe.

Tuesday
Feb252014

Meat Sparingly

The quick answer:  Eat less meat—as in “sparingly”—but better.  "Better" means pastured or wild-caught, with very little cured/processed meat.

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Meat Sparingly

A famous tome on eating—The Original Fannie Farmer 1896 Cook Book—included a month of dinner menus.  Study shows the ideal 1896 meal consisted of meat in the center of the plate, accompanied by potatoes and gravy, an occasional vegetable, and a dessert.  We were a meat-and-potato-eating nation with a growing appetite for sugar and an aversion to vegetables. 

When fast food came along the main change was that meat came from a feedlot, potatoes were deep fat fried, and the sugar was in the drink.  Ouch—trouble was on the horizon.

The Word of Wisdom prescribes a better meal: seasonal vegetables in the center of the plate, flavored by a little meat, washed down with water.  It’s way healthier, and a better value.

Meat and Disease

The main killers of our time are heart disease and cancer.  Is meat to blame?  First of all, these diseases are multi-factorial—they have more than one cause, beginning with too much sugar.  But meat is a factor as shown by these studies:

  1. A Harvard meta-analysis (a statistical methodology that combines the sum of many studies) put the biggest blame on processed meats (bacon, sausage, etc.).  Each 50-gram daily intake of processed meat added 42% to your risk of heart disease. 
  2. The long-term NIH-AARP study (focused on whites>50 years old) found a 20-60% greater risk for lung, colo-rectal, and other cancers from eating processed and red meats. 
  3. Though we worry about pesticides on fruits and vegetables, meat is the primary source of harmful toxic dietary chemicals.  Meat is especially harmful when charred, as often happens with BBQ.
  4. It’s not just about the meat.  There seems to be a “meat-eaters” syndrome—meat eaters eat fewer fruits and vegetables, exercise less, are more likely to be overweight, etc. 

The Meat Prescription

Science has revealed that you do need a little meat in your diet.  Meat products contain nutrients not found in other foods:

  1. Omega-3 fats:  These are essential fats (meaning your body must have them) and come in two groups:  Short-chain (found in green plants, on land or sea) and long-chain (found in the creatures who eat plants such as pastured animals but especially cold-water fish).  Your body can convert some short-chain to the long-chain forms but only a little, for good health you need meat products.
  2. Vitamin B-12:  This vitamin (actually a group of cobalt-based vitamins) is essential to every cell in your body, especially the brain.  Insufficiency of B-12 is common, especially in older people, and a factor in dementia, depression, and fatigue.  B-12 is symbiotically produced by bacteria and found in animal products.
  3. Vitamin K-2:  This family of vitamins, essential to processes like bone formation, is also found in animal product (bacteria produce it from K-1).   It’s in hard cheeses, fowl and beef (especially in organ foods, including liver pate), and egg yolks.  K-2 helps avoid osteoporosis.

Enjoy meat products sparingly, it’s good for your health and improves the taste of food.  But do minimize intake of processed (or cured) meats.  We love BLTs but probably average just one per month; ditto for sausage and cured hams.

What is "sparing"?  I love this term because you have room for your own preferences.  We keep animal protein under 5% of calories, 3-4 servings a week, including 1-2 fish portions.  We also look for sources of pastured animal products and wild-caught fish. 

Whole Food Plant Based

Depending on how you read the Word of Wisdom, meat intake can be “sparing,” mainly in winter, or only in times of famine (which may never happen in the U. S.).  This brings us to a new book by Jane Birch, Discovering the Word of Wisdom.  Birch’s book looks at the W of W from a “whole food, plant-based” perspective.  The phrase “whole food, plant-based” usually means avoiding all meat products, what used to be called “vegan.”  (You could be vegan and eat a lot of processed food so WFPB means whole foods.)

If you’re attracted to very little or no animal products in your diet, you might read Birch’s book, she has real passion for the subject.

Healthy Change #9

You can review the last two posts and the many reader comments here for 2012 and 2013.

Please comment:  Share the ways you feature meat in your diet.  Where do you find healthy meat?  How do you use it as a condiment, rather than the main course?  What do you do to show reverence for the Creation of animals?

Thursday
Feb202014

Wholesome Snacking

The quick answer:  Snacking can be good or bad.  If you eat healthy meals of real food you’ll snack less, and crave more wholesome snacks.  That’s bad news for Food Inc.

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A Foodist?

America is learning how to eat—rediscovering food wisdom lost in the last century.   I’m totally into this search, reading all I can.  My food library is nearing 200 books.  Currently I’m reading Darya Pino Rose’s book, Foodist, Using Real Food and Real Science to Lose Weight Without Dieting.  

I really believe this, that eating real food is the only path to your best weight and better health.  So I guess I’m a “foodist.”   Rose shared a great quote from Mike Pollan’s writing:  “The most consistent predictor of weight gain and poor health is how much processed food we eat.”  Here’s more wisdom from Rose’s book:

  1. Foodists don’t diet.  Hunger will beat will power, sooner or later so dieting is hopeless.  But do make permanent changes to your diet, away from processed factory foods and towards real food.  By doing this you get enough to eat without fattening calories.
  2. Wisdom about will power:  Studies show that people with the best will power use it infrequently.  Sounds backwards, but they use their will power to form good habits, rather than doing daily battle with bad habits.  So abandon factory food for good and make healthy eating your primary habit.
  3. Enjoy three meals each day but minimize snacking.  Keep unhealthy snacks out of your home.
  4. The simplest rule:  Eat more vegetables (and less sugar).  The most neglected vegetables:  legumes (beans, lentils) and roots (carrots, radishes, beets, sweet potatoes/yams).
  5. Enjoy hard cheeses.  They’re rich in vitamin K-2, which protects against cancer, heart disease, and osteoporosis.
  6. Learn “mindful eating.”  Slow down and think about the food (and chew more).
  7. Exercise!  Exercise makes you hungry, but for better food.  Start by walking, with a goal of 10,000 daily steps.  (The BW wears a pedometer.)

Snacks

Snacks are the subject of the week.  They’re typically the worst foods we eat but it doesn’t have to be that way.   If you eat wholesome food at meal times, you’re less likely to snack, and more likely to enjoy healthy snacks.  Here are highlights from past posts:

In Healthful Snacks we cited Mike Moss, author of Salt, Sugar, Fat: How the Food Giants Hooked Us, from a N. Y. Times article that described a meeting of Food Inc. titans.  The addictive nature of factory snack foods via the deft but unhealthy combination of salt, sugar, and fat, was presented and they were likened to the tobacco companies and a call was made to change their ways.  What did they do?  They declined to make changes.

In The Joy of Snacking we proposed a fundamental change to snacking:  Eat real food!  We also listed ten healthy and affordable snacks.

In a post The Snack Plate we noted how a healthy breakfast of whole foods reduced the tendency to snack during the day—snack calories were reduced 81%.  It was also a money saver as snacks are typically the most expensive but least nutritious food we eat.  Like we said above, it doesn’t have to be that way—eating healthy meals of whole foods reduces snacking, and improves the quality of snacks we do eat. 

Please comment:  When we eat regular, healthy meals, we snack less and make better choices.  You can find healthy store-bought snacks but ours are mostly homemade.  The best snacks are minimally processed—whole food snacks are best; we draw the processing line at granola and trail mix.  Please share your favorite snack ideas.

Thursday
Feb132014

A New Paradigm

The quick answer:  The overwhelming complexity of nutrition can be best managed by the combined use of three oracles:  Scripture, Food Tradition, and Science.  This is the new paradigm.

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Two Best Food Authors

The two best food writers, in my view, are Gary Taubes and Mike Pollan.  Neither is a scientist.  Pollan, a U.C. Berkeley journalism professor, sells the most books.  His In Defense of Food is an excellent summary of how nutrition went wrong and harmonizes with the Word of Wisdom prescription.  His seven-word summary of what to do has become a classic:  “Eat food.  Mostly plants.  Not too much.” 

A diet prescription summarized from the W of W might say:  Eat whole grains, vegetables and fruits in their seasons, with a little Nature-fed meat.  That’s double the words, but maybe more helpful.

Gary Taubes was a little known science writer until he started to write about food.  You can see his evolution by looking at his degrees (all from the best schools):  A Harvard B.S. in physics, a Stanford MS in engineering, finished with a Columbia MA in journalism.  Taubes wrote Good Calories, Bad Calories (titled Diet Delusion in the UK) a careful, if tedious, examination of how sugar and refined grains make us fat and unhealthy.

The Three Oracles

Word of Wisdom Living, as you well know, is based on three oracles:  Science, Scripture, and Food Tradition.  This has the rugged stability of a three-legged stool.  In the beginning I thought Science would be the main voice.  But after three years of writing this blog, I find myself more and more relying on Scripture and Tradition.

There was a fascination with Science in the last century that caused society to throw away olden ways.  This was a big mistake though it made a good business for Food Inc.  Perhaps the worst misuse of Science was the anti-fat craze—the idea that fat, not sugar and refined grains, caused heart disease.  Many are still confused by this.

A century later, Science is found guilty of over-selling and under-delivering.  Science knows a lot, but not enough to speak with authority.  Worse, their tentative findings—though always interesting—have been misappropriated by Food Inc and Big Pharma for uses that make money but harm society.

There is a rising group attempting to remedy this great harm.  The practitioners call it Lifestyle Medicine.  This simply means that rather than just getting a doctor’s prescription for the newest heavily advertised drug, you’re likely to also get evidence-based coaching on nutrition, exercise, stress management, or even the importance of love.  We’ll be hearing more about this.

The Limits of Science

So last week Gary Taubes wrote a great article in the N. Y. Times titled Why Nutrition Is So Confusing Basically he called our institutions of science a “dysfunctional establishment.”  The tools of science, powerful as they may be, are overwhelmed by the complexity of nutrition and we have been harmed by their misuse.  A new paradigm is needed, as well as a little humility. 

So here’s an idea:  Because of the complexity of nutrition, mankind should approach it using the combined oracles of Scripture, Tradition, and Science.  Can you see the power of this?

Monday
Feb102014

Antioxidants—Vital to Health

 

The quick answer:  Antioxidants are vital to your health, but you need to get them from a variety of whole plant foods (like the fruits above).

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Biggest Dietary Mistakes of the Last Century

Over breakfast with the Beautiful Wife, I attempted to reduce the nutrition disaster of the 20th Century into four simple but deadly steps:

  1. Whole grains were robbed of their most nutritious parts when the modern roller mill replaced the old stone mills.  (The bran and germ, rich in vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, etc., were removed to make a finer, sweeter, longer-lasting industrial product.)
  2. White sugar became cheap and plentiful so replaced natural sweeteners (honey, maple syrup) that had limited supply.  Our consumption of added sugar addictively increased all through the 20th Century.  (Sugar now provides 15% of the U.S. daily calorie intake.)
  3. Traditional fats like butter, olive oil, and lard were replaced with chemically refined and hydrogenated seed oils.  (Examples:  Crisco, margarine, and salad oils such as soybean oil.)
  4. Packaged convenience foods (think of those cardboard boxes of macaroni and cheese) took the place of whole foods—especially fresh vegetables—and learning to cook didn’t seem that important anymore.

There you have it—the modern nutrition disaster in four steps. 

The Fire Within

Here’s a different way to look at the 20th Century nutrition disaster:  The billions of cells in your body produce energy by burning a fuel derived from blood sugar (it’s called ATP).  The process is by oxidation, it keeps you alive, but there’s a problem—a toxic byproduct called free radicals is released. 

Fortunately there’s a solution to free radicals—antioxidants from a healthy diet neutralize the free radicals so problem solved.  Antioxidants are richly found in whole plant foods (they protect the plant from the sun’s harsh UV rays).  Processed foods are deficient in these vital antioxidants—unfortunately the average American gets 2/3 of their calories from processed foods.  See the problem?

Bottom line:  If you eat lots of whole plant foods, you’ll get plenty of antioxidants, free radicals will be neutralized, and you’ll have lots of energy, be healthier, and look younger.  It’s a virtuous cycle.

If you eat a diet full of sugar and other processed foods, you fall into a vicious cycle and become easy prey for the chronic diseases like diabetes, cancer, heart disease, etc. 

Foods Rich in Antioxidants

Whole foods (fruits, vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts) are a rich source of antioxidants.  (Processed foods, as noted, are not.)  Antioxidants play a protective role in plants, protecting them against UV damage from the sun.  There are many types of antioxidants and more are being discovered.  Here are some common sources:

  • Vitamins:  The vitamins A, C and E, common to plants, are powerful antioxidants. 
  • Minerals:  The minerals in food, like selenium, are antioxidants.  (This may be why Brazil nuts, rich in selenium, are protective of prostate cancer.)
  • Food:  Different food groups produce different kinds of antioxidant so it’s a good idea to eat a varied diet.  The skin of berries, for example, is loaded with antioxidants.
  • Sleep:  The body also produces antioxidants.  Melatonin, produced when we sleep, is a potent antioxidant.

Antioxidants in Pill Form

If the vitamins A, C and E are potent antioxidants, is it good to take vitamin pills?  Recent research doesn’t find a benefit to taking antioxidants in pill form and has even found harm.

The most recent study, testing whether vitamin E could reduce the growth of cancer cells, was a disaster.  It turned out that the vitamin pills helped cancer (in mice) grow even faster.  Read about it here

Comment:  Do you eat whole fruit, and avoid processed fruits (sugary fruit drinks, sugared dried fruits)?  Share your experience with a whole, antioxidant rich, diet.  What fruit goes on your breakfast?  Do you make fruits your snack?  Currently navel oranges are in season, but strawberries are on the way.

Tuesday
Feb042014

Salad Days

The quick answer:  To achieve the recommended goal of 4-5 daily vegetable servings, you’ll need a salad in the center of your dinner plate, and maybe lunch.

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The Ensign Finds Its Voice

The 52 Healthy Changes of Word of Wisdom Living derive from three oracles: tradition, scripture, and science.  In the last century “science” dominated the conversation, often leading us in wrong directions.  A most welcome change of the 21st Century is the rediscovery of the wisdom of olden ways and of scripture

This blog takes its name from the LDS dietary scripture known as the Word of Wisdom but anyone can benefit from this revelation so we avoid Mormon jargon and write for all.  The LDS are known for neither smoking nor drinking, not even coffee.  Now they are rediscovering the forgotten half of the Word of Wisdom, a diet based on vegetables, fruits, whole grains, and a little meat.   

For example, Ensign, the LDS Church magazine just found its nutrition voice with two articles in the February issue.   Here are highlights from each article:

Nourishing our Bodies and our Spirits” made these points:

  1. Religious people, though they smoke and drink less, are more overweight.
  2. To encourage better eating, we are invited to bring healthy foods to Church socials:  “. . . the healthiest desserts are fruits and the healthiest snacks are vegetables”.
  3. As a contrast to the “convenience” foods of the last century, the act of actually cooking a meal is an act of service and an expression of love.

  “A Principle with Promises” reminds:

  1. Four causes of chronic poor health are a) tobacco, b) alcohol, c) inadequate fruits/vegetables, and d) too little exercise.  The W of W, written over 180 years ago, forewarned of this and offered an antidote.
  2. Processed foods and packaged snacks (all commonly found in LDS homes) are deficient in nutrients and high in sugar, refined grains, hydrogenated oils, and sodium so should be minimized.
  3. Soft drinks (especially energy drinks) are low in nutrients and high in sugars or artificial sweeteners so should be avoided.

This is unusual attention to the W of W—though written in the soft tones of the Ensign, it is a clarion call to better eating according to the W of W.  People seem to be listening— visits to our blog doubled the day after this Ensign came out!

Plant Foods

We say a healthy diet is based on whole plant foods (vegetables, fruits, grains) plus a little meat.  It’s easy to eat fruit so it’s the subject of just one Healthy Change.  Vegetables, at least for Americans, aren’t so easy.  So eight Healthy Changes encourage greater vegetable intake.  We start with the counsel to eat salads daily.

Yesterday the BBC published this article:  Cancer ‘tidal wave’ on horizon, warns WHO.  The lead sentence said:  The globe is facing a “tidal wave” of cancer, and restrictions on alcohol and sugar need to be considered, says World Health Organization scientists.  Good counsel, but what to eat instead?  Enjoy a salad!

Salads

Catherine de Medici—queen of France in the 1500s—is said to have introduced salad to the French.  Likely the credit belongs to an unknown chef but if you want to eat like a queen, try her salad found here.  You’ll need pecorino cheese, capers and anchovies.

When I was a kid green salads were less common.  I remember Waldorf salad, a carrot-raisin salad, a macaroni salad with canned shrimp, and Jello salads with canned fruits.  When I married the Beautiful Wife green salads—mostly iceberg lettuce in those days—became a staple in our diet.  Now it’s rare to eat a no-salad meal and that’s a good thing.

Americans eat about one serving of vegetables per day (if you exclude French fries).  It’s a big problem because 4-5 servings are recommended.  Fortunately, salads can add several daily servings.  Salads featuring a variety of colored vegetables are the easiest and cheapest way to eat well.  We’re not raw foodists but there seems to be a benefit to consuming uncooked plants and salads are a good way to do this.

A past post told of farm reformer Wendel Berry and his famous 1981 essay, “Solving for Pattern.”  The idea that patterns could facilitate the daily problem of “what to eat” made sense so we wrote “A Pattern for Salad.”  Visitors shared their salad recipes (look under ‘comments’).

When we shared the recipe for Brooke’s Broccoli Salad readers shared more salad recipes.  The BW makes the salad in the picture above, called Kelly’s Signature Salad.  (Recipe available on request.) 

In the post The Joy of Coleslaw we featured the recipe for Skip's Peanut Coleslaw.

Our most recent discovery is a CostCo product, Sweet Kale, a easy-to-use but very healthful salad kit for when you’re busy.  Shrimp were on sale at CostCo so we bought a large bag (what other size does CostCo offer?), divided them into smaller bags, and put them in the freezer for future salads.  You can’t miss with salad.

Please comment.  Share your favorite salad or dressing recipe. 

Friday
Jan312014

Exercise!

The quick answer: Want to live a full life?  Exercise!

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The Boys in the Boat

I just finished this book, about a group of college boys who rose up against all odds to take gold medals in the 1936 Berlin Olympics.  Their sport was 8-man crew, the traditional sport of the East Coast elite.  But the boys in the boat were from the West, small town kids of humble origins, struggling through the University of Washington during the Great Depression.  They won an epic victory, defeating a Nazi-sponsored boat of older men before a scowling Adolf Hitler.  There’ll be a movie for sure.

The timing was good for me—this post is about exercise.  Thanks to rigorous training the boys lived long lives, except one who smoked and died of lung cancer.  The Boys in the Boat offer a nice segue to this week’s theme—exercise!

 

Jack LaLanne

That’s not me in the picture—it’s Jack LaLanne, the guru of fitness who introduced exercise to America.  LaLanne advocated good nutrition and exercise.  Though he’s best remembered for his birthday endurance feats, he also had an early TV show showing all the exercises you could do using basic home equipment, like a chair. 

Jack is no longer with us.  He passed in 2011 at the age of 96 of pneumonia, though he had done his full exercise routine the day before.  He likely would still be with us if he had agreed to see a doctor, a sad error of judgment.  Still he left an important message:  Muscles are part of good health.

It’s Good to Sweat

Whatever your age or condition, regular exercise will improve your health, and your appearance.  The times are changing—it’s not cool to walk around with a muffin top hanging over your belt.  America had an explosion of overweight and obesity in the ‘80s, after the introduction of high fructose corn syrup (HFCS) that continued into the ‘90s.  Now we’re facing an epidemic of diabetes, which often leads to heart disease.  This is deadly serious business.

So be like the boys in the boat—exercise.  It just might save your life.

Please comment:  You can read the comments from the two prior exercise posts, go here for 2011, here for 2012, or here for 2013.  Please share your best exercise, or tell about the benefits of what you've done.  We should inspire and encourage each other.

Monday
Jan202014

Breakfast and the Fiber>Sugar Rule

The quick answer: Start the day with a wholesome breakfast and you’ll eat better all through the day.  You’ll feel better too.

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Starting the Day

Starting the day with packaged breakfast cereal is as American as . . . dental cavities.  Sadly, they go together.  Another common breakfast is a cup of coffee and a Danish.  Or just skip breakfast altogether and grab some snack food at morning break.  These choices are common to the modern American diet (MAD) and that’s a problem.

In this post we share our breakfast recipe, introduce the “fiber>sugar” rule, and remember a past visit to the cereal aisle of the local grocery.

Yes, I’m Cheap

Ask the Beautiful Wife and she’ll confirm it—Skip’s a cheap guy.  So if I find a healthy breakfast recipe that’s way cheaper than the packaged junk in the store, I’m happy.  And my recipe’s quick; I can make it in 10 minutes:

Skip’s Healthy (& Cheap) Breakfast Recipe

Ingredients (2 servings):

  • 3 T steel-cut oats (I throw them in the spice grinder to speed up cooking time)
  • 1 C hot water
  • 1/8 C flaxseed
  • 1/8 C sunflower seeds (I put the flaxseed and sunflower seeds in the spice grinder while the oatmeal is cooking)
  • 2 tsp turbinado sugar (or other less processed sugar)
  • Cinnamon
  • 2/3 C blueberries (from the freezer)
  • 2/3 C apple, diced

Directions:

  1. Combine and cook oatmeal and water, cook about 9 minutes, adding sugar and Cinnamon.  (My sister, for efficiency, makes a tray of oatmeal once-a-week.)
  2. Grind flaxseed and sunflower seeds and divide between bowls.
  3. Prepare fruit and add to bowls
  4. Stir in oatmeal (I make it a little runny as the seeds absorb water) and serve.
  5. I add heavy cream (because it’s not homogenized, which I consider better) on my cereal; the BW has used orange juice (when Valencia oranges are in season) but is now adding a little whole milk.

We’ve eaten this for several years now.  For variety we follow the cycle of seasonal fruits: strawberries in the spring, peaches in the summer, apples and blueberries in the fall, or winter pears with blueberries.  (With steel-cut oats we don’t seem to get hungry as soon as with rolled oats.)  All this leads us to the "Fiber>Sugar rule":

Fiber>Sugar Rule

In all modesty, the fiber-greater-than-sugar rule is one of my greatest ideas (right after marrying the BW).  It’s a reliable guide for packaged breakfast cereals but also works with other grain products (bread, cookies, etc.).  There's science behind it—the rationale follows recommended daily fiber goals and the AHA limit on added sugar. 

Trouble in the Cereal Aisle

I used the fiber>sugar rule to select the most healthy offerings of the supermarket breakfast cereal aisle in one of our most popular posts: Trouble in The Breakfast Aisle

You can see the application of the fiber>sugar rule using the two cereal boxes below:

 

Healthy Change

Please comment:  Share your healthy breakfast ideas, your recipes, or your timesaving tips.

Wednesday
Jan152014

Olden Ways

 

The quick answer:  To organize a healthier family food culture, write weekly menus.

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Returning Home

After Christmas the Beautiful Wife and I returned to her family roots, high in little Midway, Utah.  The century-old Victorian (shown above) was her father’s childhood home.  The statue remembers her grandfather, or great-grandfather depending on who is telling the story, and was carved from an old tree on the property.  

The weather was crispy cold with occasional snowfalls and we mostly stayed indoors, sleeping at night under thick down comforters.   Each day found me with a book to read.  We listened to music, ate healthy meals (to my surprise I had gained 10 lb. over the Holidays so was keeping a food log), and rediscovered an old treat—dancing together with the lights turned down. It was all very nice.

What was I reading?  Nutrition books, like Mike Pollan’s In Defense of Food (my 4th reading), Dr. Joel Fuhrman’s Eat to Live, Nina Planck’s Real Food (2nd time), Barbara Reed's Food, Teens & Behavior (a remarkable study of criminal behavior change through healthy eating), and Pollan’s Food Rules, An Eater’s Manual.  I also met with Jane Birch, a BYU staff member, and read her new book, Discovering the Word of Wisdom.  (We’ll review of Jane’s book in a few weeks, when we visit the theme of eating meat sparingly.)  

The point of my Midway retreat was to think long and hard about the 52 Healthy Changes.  They’re a work in progress, improving each year as the Food Reformation moves along its forward path.  I was surprised by my feelings—a growing affection for those olden ways of times past.  It seemed to me that there was more wisdom to be gained here than from all that science has discovered—though I enjoy reading about nutrition science.

It was just in the ‘30s that the BW’s father grew up in this house, farming and eating as people had for eons.  The evidence is in the picture.  The shed at the right edge is where they kept the family cow, their source of raw pastured dairy, in bad weather.  In front of it was a large kitchen garden, protected from bugs by their ranging chickens.  Across the street Uncle Coony’s smokehouse preserved hams from their pigs.  There was a gristmill across town for fresh-ground wheat.  The women of the home baked twice a week—everything was whole wheat and because these were Depression times there was little money for luxuries like sugar.  They might have enjoyed a soda pop on a big holiday, like the 4th of July, or maybe Pioneer Day. 

When I wrote his memoirs, the BW’s father recalled all this, noting a winter treat—taking a cold apple from the root cellar, dipping it in the hot water tank of their wood-burning stove to warm it, and then removing the peel with a sharp knife in a single piece.  In this lovely old home, deep in my books and thoughts, I dreamed of a rebirth for traditional eating—and the rise of a healthy Mormon food culture.  Isn’t it true that what can be imagined can be achieved?

Write A Menu

In the Holiday bustle we got out of the habit of writing a weekly menu and started to eat by impulse—more snacks and less prepared lunches and dinners.  Per my confession above, I gained 10 lbs.  By eating healthy in Midway with the discipline of a food log, I shed a pound a day and came home close to my weight goal.  First thing at home we wrote a food menu for the week. 

So we’re back to using a menu, which also saves money because less food goes bad in the ‘fridge.  Last night I cooked blackened salmon while the BW made a kale salad.  I had a slice of sourdough whole-wheat bread and we shared an orange for dessert.  It feels good when you make these mid-course diet corrections.

You can read more about menu writing in the 2012 and 2013 posts. 

Please comment: Sometimes we get busy and fail to write a menu, but then we realize life is less hectic when we do the planning step of weekly menu preparation.  Got a favorite way to write menus?  Tell us about it, or share one of your favorite meals.  In the next post we’ll share our menu for this week.

Thursday
Jan022014

The Worst Fats

The quick answer:  Avoid deep fat fried foods.  Period.  It’s about more than toxic trans fats.

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Food Disasters

If you ranked the food disasters of the last century, the two worst would be excess sugar (whether table sugar, artificial sweeteners, or HFCS) and hydrogenated seed oils.  You could argue about which one caused more premature deaths, but the smart thing is to avoid both.  Last week we talked about sugary drinks (including so-called “diet” drinks); this week we address the deep fat fryer.

The main dietary source of trans fats, after margarine, is the deep fat fryer (they typically contain hydrogenated seed oils full of toxic trans fats).  We recently commented on progress in banning trans fats as proposed by Frank Kummerow, a true hero of the Food Reformation.  (Yes, I’ve started capitalizing “food reformation” because it’s the biggest movement of the time, in my view.)  You can read more about Dr. Kummerow here.

Some day the FDA will finally ban trans fats from food, a long overdue action.  But even after that good day, the factory or restaurant deep fat fryer should still be avoided because no fat can sit for days in a hot deep fat fryer and not be harmful due to fat oxidation and toxic by-products (like AGEs or Advanced Glycation End-products).

The picture above shows typical deep fat fryer products—French fries, onion rings, donuts, and chicken.  These should be avoided. 

But deep fat fryers are now in every commercial kitchen, in the area called the “hot line.”  The hot line is where the final heating is done and includes a grill, microwave, stovetop, and a deep fat fryer.  Of these methods, the deep fat fryer offers the quickest way to reheat food and add a crispy fatty texture.  It gets used a lot.

So now when ordering cooked foods, you have to check that they’re not coming out of a deep fat fryer.  These is especially true in the chain restaurants that use central factory kitchens and just dip the frozen items into a deep fat fryer for quick reheating (and an extra coat of potentially-toxic refined oils). 

Healthy Change #2:

This means no French fries, no onion rings, no corn dogs, no donuts, and especially, no deep-fried Twinkies.  The language of this Healthy Change does leave a door open:  you can cook these foods at home, using healthy oil.  Because this is difficult, in our home we replaced French fries with Oven Roasted Fries and we follow the "golden rule" which means lightly cooked, not heated until they're brown.

Please comment:  We're not opposed to eating fats—they're necessary to good health.  We don't even propose a "low-fat" diet—there was never a scientific basis for avoiding traditional fats.  So enoy healthy fats, and please share your favorite recipes.