Loving Legumes


The quick answer:  Legumes are the best-kept secret in nutrition.  Americans need to eat about ten-fold more legumes, about one serving daily.  Learn how to do it and you’ll save your health as well as the pocketbook.



Last week I told the pathetic story of how the beautiful wife and I struggled to care for four grandchildren for a few days.  This drove home a hard lesson:  To provide healthy meals to the growing family, busy moms must stay organized and keep things simple.  

Here’s the best simple meal we’ve eaten this week: 

  • Salmon (we try to eat seafood twice a week).  We buy the whole fish, skinned, at Costco, divide and wrap it up in single-meal portions, and place them in the freezer—it’s the best value in seafood short of catching it yourself.  This night we simply fried the fish in olive oil and butter with a natural blackened seasoning mix, and garnished a lemon off tree. 
  • Salad, made from Costco’s 7 Superfoods Sweet Kale mixture (the 28-oz package lasts us most of the week), with some red grapes added.
  • Sweet potato (with a little butter and brown sugar).

This was as simple as a meal can be—I cooked the salmon while the BW made the salad and mic’d the sweet potato—and totally healthy.  The only easier meal is leftovers and we do that too.

Best Nutrition Value

To mark the autumn season, we turn to the humble legume—the best nutrition value on earth and a star in the winter menu. The 2005 edition of the USDA’s DGA recommended 3 cups of (cooked) legumes a week.  Later it was revealed that we’re only eating about 1/3 cup per week.  Based on the gap between ideal and real, the 2010 DGA backed down to 1½ cup.  No reason was given for the change so our own goal is to shoot for 3 cups, or about one serving daily.  Here’s a summary of the reasons to eat legumes daily:

  1. Value:  Legumes are flat out the best nutrition buy for the buck. I walked through the bulk bins of the local Sprouts and saw these bargains:  10-bean mix, $1.29/lb; pinto beans $1.49/lb; black beans, $.99/lb; and green split peas, $.99/lb.  Remember these are dry weight so the cost per pound cooked is a fraction, as low as $.30/lb. 
  2. Fiber:  Legumes are a rich source of fiber.  We should get 25-38 grams of fiber daily, depending on age and size.  A ½ cup serving of legumes may contain 7-9 grams of fiber, or about 1/3 of the daily recommendation.
  3. Minerals: Legumes are a good source of minerals, including calcium and magnesium needed for bone health.
  4. Vitamins:  Legumes are a good source for the B complex vitamins, especially folate (folic acid, or B9), vital to reducing NTD birth defects like spina bifida.
  5. Shelf life:   A lot of toxic stuff is added to factory food to improve the shelf life.  Good stuff, like omega-3 fats, is removed for the same reason.  But traditional dried legumes enjoy a naturally long shelf life and are a good way to store food and avoid preservatives.
  6. Your own shelf life:  In the “Food Habits in Later Life Study,” legumes were the only food group with a proven longevity benefit.  For each 20-gram daily intake (about 1/3 of a serving), the risk of death was reduced 6% (for people 70 or older). 

Well, you get the picture.  Legumes, whatever the type, are high in nutrients and low in calories.  Toss some garbanzo or kidney beans in your salads, or enjoy humus on whole grain crackers.  Or try our recipe for Split Pea Soup with Hambone.  If you want to get fancy, try this recipe for Roasted Salmon with Black Bean-Quinoa Salad, from The Bean Institute.  How about that—the humble bean gets its own institute.

Please comment:  Share your favorite legume recipe, or tell about your favorite legume. 


A Muscular Lifestyle

Tribute to Moms

Our creative daughter went away to a conference, taking her husband, so the beautiful wife and I looked after the four grandkids for what seemed a week or more.  It was actually just three days.  We thought it a simple assignment; after all we had reared six children back in the day.  Well, we totally had forgotten how hard caring for young children (ages 1 to 9) can be.  We were always a step behind and came home exhausted.

The one-year old is at the stage when he can get walk and climb and is full of the non-stop curiosity that leads to mayhem.  For example:

  • He discovered a can of soda in which he somehow created a pinhole leak.  By simply shaking the can he painted most of the bathroom with root beer spray. 
  • At dinner he wasn’t loving the sweet potatoes so I added a little applesauce to each spoonful.  Turning to reach the applesauce I let the first container come within his reach and with a surprisingly strong swing he sprayed sweet potatoes over my slacks and the (formerly white) carpet. 
  • Getting out of the car he explored the front wheel and got black brake powder on his hands and put them on the Beautiful Wife’s white slacks.  She’s still trying to get those black smudges out. 
  • Later, I thought he had injured his head but it was just purple marker ink.  Then I noticed the stains were artfully applied to the back of his shirt and couldn’t figure out how he did that—until I noticed his 3-year old sister nearby with a mischievous smile.

It was three nonstop days of action alien to our usually serene life.  The worst thing was that we didn’t feed them a single healthy meal.  The first night we went to In-N-Out (returning from soccer practice); the next night it was Taco Bell; the last night it was mac ‘n cheese from the blue box.  I know that’s not healthy for the precious grandchildren, but we were tired and the bad stuff is so easy.

The next day at a family dinner I turned to the four young moms and expressed our admiration for how they manage to rear their families, day after day, week after week, without ever a complaint.  Or even a visit to a psychiatrist.

Too Easy?

The Industrial Revolution changed everything—some times for the better, but not always.  It did away with backbreaking labor, for example.  But it also brought a thousand laborsaving devices that each reduced the need to use our muscles.  So now we’re faced with a question that we haven’t adequately addressed:  How much labor is optimum?  How muscular should life be, in the best of worlds?  When do we cancel the lawn service and trash some of those laborsaving gadgets? 

Young moms are pretty strong because they hold growing babies until they can walk on their own.  But most Americans don’t use their muscles enough.  What you don’t use, you lose.  And when you lose muscle, you also lose some of the supporting bone.  We talked about this last year in the post, Be Muscular.  Go back and take another look at the three images showing the amount of fat, muscle, and bone mass in the legs of triathletes and a sedentary person.  The more muscle, the more bone mass.  The less muscle, the less bone mass, and in this case more fat.  Good health requires good muscles.

Be Muscular

So find pleasure in using your muscles, in doing things that are hard.  Using your muscles actually reduces stress and improves mood.  Try doing a few pushups.  Do them regularly and take pride in how many you can do.  When you walk, look for a hill to climb, or some bleacher steps. Be muscular—you’ll feel better and also look better.

Please comment:  What do you do to maintain—and build—muscles.  Have you discarded any laborsaving devices?  Do you feel differently now when you do physical work?


A Better Lunch

The quick answer:  Lunch can be healthy, even if eaten away from home.


Healthy Meals

Word of Wisdom Living can be achieved through 52 Healthy Changes, one for each week of the year—that’s our premise.  The 52 Healthy Changes are based on 13 themes, visited each quarter, of which one is “better meals.”  For example:

  • With Healthy Change #4 we noted that breakfast was the easiest meal to reform, so a good place to start.  Rather than skip breakfast, or dish out heavily marketed cereals that are more like candy in a box, we said: “Eat breakfast; cereal must have more grams of natural fiber than added sugar.”  See our 2012 post for some great reader comments.
  • Thirteen weeks later Healthy Change #17 addressed the family dinner, a disappearing tradition in America.  There was hidden wisdom in the saying, “Eat dinner as a family.”  The idea was that if a family would eat together, they were more likely to cook real food rather than serve purchased stuff.

The Good Lunch

So now we come to lunch, timed to coincide with the start of the new school year.  I took the faded picture above in Central America, some fifty years ago.  We met the young boy walking along the road, taking lunch to his father in the field.  The clay pot contained a "sack lunch."  I loved his happy and wholesome look, complete with cowboy hat over a home-done haircut.  You have to admire his artful pose.  The lunch was simple, beans with homemade corn tortillas.  Fruit, especially mangos and bananas, grew freely in the area. 

Note the homes in the background—traditional bamboo huts with thatched grass roofs—that would trump any modern “green” home contest.  Though I likely thought it curiously primitive, today we would admire this boy’s life as “living off the grid.”  With all our advantages, we can eat as naturally as the boy in the picture.

So here’s this week’s Healthy Change:

Here’s what we said in our 2011 post on this subject:

Budget wisdom:  Here are some affordable ideas for your kid’s lunch “sack”.  Consult the kids; involve them in preparation as part of their cooking education: 

  • Fruits are easy: apple, orange, banana, grapes, dates or dried mangos with nuts, there are lots of choices, you can even make a fruit cup. Fruit can also be added to the low-sugar yogurts.
  • Veggies like carrot sticks, celery, or hummus with cucumbers or cherry tomatoes are all good. 
  • Sandwiches are a little harder but if you use an insulated lunch box with ice packs, there are more choices:  PB&J is a classic, or try PB on banana bread.  Preserved deli meats have been sandwich favorites but limit use to once a week as suggested in this post.    The tuna fish sandwich is another favorite; add lots of chopped celery; the lettuce can keep the bread from getting soggy. 
  • Try sandwich alternatives, like leftovers from favorite foods.  You can also use pita pockets with cheese, or a quesadilla. When winter comes, warm soup in a thermos is comforting.
  • Sweets should be a treat, an exception, not a daily expectation.  Cookies made from healthy recipes also contain a bit of mom's love.

I especially liked the reader comments from this post, which can be seen here.  A favorite idea was lunch in a “bento” box, the little sections can nicely present healthy treats.

Please comment:  Share with our readers your best “healthy school lunch” ideas.  Sharing makes our Word of Wisdom blog community part of the food reformation.


Better Menus

The quick answer:   In the food reformation, there will be back-sliding.  The key is to gather yourself up and recommit to improving your diet.


Food Reformation

Some day, looking back in history’s rearview mirror, upi’ll be able to mark the start of a new progressive movement—the food reformation.  Perhaps the year 2000 will mark this new beginning.  Whatever the year, if you’re a regular reader of Word of Wisdom Living, then you’re part of that reformation.  Congratulations—you’re on the side of the angels. 

We support the reformation with our 52 Healthy Changes—returning to each change year after year until healthy eating becomes so natural there’s nothing of substance left to change.  I’m starting to appreciate that it will take a number of years of steady improvement, marked by occasional slips, to achieve a food reformation in our home. 

Take menu writing, for example.  Healthy Change #3 said:  Write a weekly dinner menu and shopping list.  For Healthy Change #29 we return to this topic, inviting you to improve your menu writing.

A Great Summer

We’ve had a wonderful summer with lots of visitors and happy times at the beach.  We were busy—besides all the guests we managed to publish a book, and landscape the back yard.  It was a memorable summer.  But we just realized one thing:  We probably only wrote a real menu about one week of each month this summer.  That’s a definite “slip.”  I could have seen the effect by just looking at our checkbook—when you’re not using a weekly menu and shopping list you run to the store oftener, and waste more money.

So we’re reminded that repentance is part of reforming behavior and we square our shoulders and resolve to do better. 

Healthy Change #29:  Improve your menu writing process.

This subject deserves more discussion, but we’re getting up early in the morning to drive to little Midway, Utah for Swiss Days and I have to get to bed.  But I promise to come back to this topic if you’ll share some comments on how you have improved your menu writing.  And if you’re in Midway for Swiss Days, stop by the house and say hello—we’re at the corner of 2nd North and 4th West, the Victorian farmhouse with the wooden statue of a man offering an apple.  Our best to you.




(Photo: Todd Plitt, USA TODAY)

The quick answer:  Despite what you have heard lately about health effects of coffee, a major study concludes the more you drink, the sooner you'll die.

USA Today has a fascinating report on long-term effects of coffee consumption.

The Mormon Word of Wisdom proscribes tobacco, alcohol, and coffee.  There’s plenty of evidence that tobacco is bad—about 400,000 deaths each year are attributed to tobacco.  Likewise, there are about 40,000 annual deaths caused by the use of alcohol.  So clearly, this 180-year-old health code was way ahead of its time and those who followed it’s teaching were protected from the twin scourges of tobacco and alcohol.

In the case of coffee, however, the actual harm has been less clear.  Some sources in recent months have claimed health benefits.  So if you abstained from coffee as the nation swooned for their oversized cups of “Joe,” you may have felt like an odd duck—or maybe a wise owl. 

The Mayo Clinic just published an examination of coffee’s effects summarized from the Aerobics Center Longitudinal Study that ran from 1971 to 2002.  The study included 43,727 men and women followed for an average of 17 years—that’s a lot of data.

The conclusion?  Scientists found a higher risk of death from heart disease and other causes for coffee drinkers.  The risk is greatest for women who average four cups daily.  This doesn’t mean four servings—Starbucks’ Trenta contains almost that amount in a single serving.

The effect was worst for younger people.  Death rates for women under 55 drinking at least 32 oz. of coffee daily were a whopping 113% higher than the comparison group.  For men under 55 the mortality was 56% higher.   These are big numbers!

More studies will be needed to clarify the danger and the mechanisms involved.  Because the harm clearly increases with dose, prudence suggests that “none” is most likely healthier than “some.”  To read more, or to get a link to the formal report, go here.



Loving Laguna

The quick answer:  Get your sugar the natural way—the sugar found in Nature won’t kill you.  However the refined sugars added to factory foods, especially soft drinks, breakfast cereals, baked goods, and frozen desserts just might. 


Managing Sugar

In the year’s repeating cycle of 13 themes, this week would normally be about sugar.  Americans love sugar but our consumption—about 100 pounds per year—is destroying our health and the cost of caring for sugar-related diseases (overweight, diabetes, heart disease, etc.) threatens to bankrupt our health system. 

Four Healthy Changes, if followed, could solve our sugar problem:

  • Healthy Change #1 limited sugary drinks—real or diet—to one (12-oz) serving per week.
  • Healthy Changes #4 & 10 set a bar of more fiber than sugar in purchased grain products (packaged cereal, then bread, but other bakery products also).  The ubiquitous nutrition panels on factory foods make the fiber>sugar rule easy to follow.
  • Healthy Change #15 (nicely timed to Easter Week) banned candy by the bag.  A single piece won’t kill you but candy by the bag is addictive and unhealthful.

Please note that our campaign is against added sugarThe sugar naturally found in fruits and vegetables doesn’t seem to be a problem.  Peaches are in season and we love them on our breakfast compote, or as a snack.  Now that we've covered sugar, take a look at Skip's newest book:

Loving Laguna

From time to time I like to write a book.  This is possible because our daughter Brooke is a talented graphic designer (see her blog inchmark).  My big goal is to write a book on the Word of Wisdom that would help family cooks everywhere.  I have the Quixotic idea that the modern American diet (MAD)—so well entrenched in our food culture—can be reformed.  It’s a crazy ambitious dream and this blog was started as an approach to such a book.

But the last 90 days I made a side trip—I wrote a book about the funky little beach town where we live.  It’s called Loving Laguna, A Local’s Guide to Laguna Beach and you can read about it in our local paper or at the book’s website

The idea behind Loving Laguna is that every town has roots, many spiritual in nature, that make it unique.  Laguna doesn’t have a lock on this but it does have an interesting history that seemed worthy of a book.   If you have ties to Laguna Beach, or wish to support Skip's literary hopes, the book is available at Amazon.com.  Thanks for your support. 



And God Divided the Light from the Darkness

The quick answer:  The more you ponder, the wiser you get.  For example, regular “burning of the midnight oil” may not be the virtue we were taught.  Get plenty of sleep, in the dark.



I’m fascinated by the health counsel buried in the first verses of the Bible—starting with chapter 1 of Genesis.  Verse 29 is a simple but life-saving guide to diet.  There’s more wisdom in the creation of light and dark.  Verse 4 notes the benediction given to light—A God saw the light, that it was good . . . .  The word “good” infers that sunshine is beneficial to mankind and scientists are now noting the many ways vitamin D—produced by the action of sunshine on our skin—is vital to health. 

After the creation of light, the light was divided from the dark.  So one might wonder about the benefits of darkness.  When we sleep in the dark, the pineal gland—a sort of 3rd eye—triggers the production of melatonin.  Melatonin, the master hormone of the night, peaks in the 4th hour of sleep and triggers the action of a host of hormones that act over the next 4 or so hours of sleep.  These hormones restore us and prepare us for the coming day.  (For babies, who require frequent nutrition in the first weeks, melatonin production doesn’t mature until the 3rd month, when they’re mature enough to sleep through the night—at last.)

Melatonin is also a potent antioxidant that protects the DNA of your cells from free radical damage.  There are more benefits—scientists have linked some chronic diseases to insufficient sleep, as discussed in the post, Blessed Sleep.  These include depression, hypertension, type 2 diabetes and overweight, heart disease and cancer.  There are also mental effects including dementia and impaired judgment. 

A 2010 University of Chicago study of dieters found that those who got the most sleep were able to lose twice as much fat as those with the least sleep (8.5 Hrs. vs. 5.5 Hrs.).  As excess fat is a widespread problem in America, adequate sleep in the dark may be the cheapest health aid available. 

Industrial Revolution

From my youth the Industrial Revolution fascinated me—my university training was in Mechanical Engineering.  Yet one of the big lessons of my life is that it wasn’t all good—a current challenge of society is to sort out the good from the bad.  For example highly processed factory foods are generally bad, but meals cooked from scratch by Mom—an act of caring as old as mankind—are good for us. 

Ditto for Thomas Edison’s light bulb.  I’m happy to read by my favorite lamp in the evening hours, but the best sleep comes in the dark.  It’s not so easy to find dark anymore.  Our little community doesn’t have streetlights, which is good.  But the benefit is lost if neighbors leave outside lights on at night.  The dark of night enables maximum melatonin production, and that’s good for us.  So enjoy the dark—a gift from our Creator.

Please comment:  Are you able to get adequate sleep?  How much do you need?  Have you experienced sleep-related health issues?  Do you eat better if your sleep better?  What did you do to improve your sleep habits.


Building Strong Bones

The quick answer:  When dealing with complexity, simple rules (like the Word of Wisdom) can be the best guide.


The Value of Simple Rules

Nutrition is incredibly complex.  In fact it’s so complex, scientists won’t figure out an optimal diet in our lifetime and likely never will.  In cases of overwhelming complexity, simple rules can be lifesavers.  Mike Pollan, in his bestseller In Defense of Food, suggested a diet based on just seven words:  Eat food.  Mostly Plants.  Not too much.  Actually, Pollan could have skipped the last three words because if you eat mostly plants, which are filling, it’s hard to eat too much. 

The Word of Wisdom could be paraphrased to this brief statement:  Eat seasonal plants (grains, vegetables, and fruits) close to how they were created, with a little (pastured) meat.  This eliminates the highly processed food-like products of the modern American diet (MAD).  So the simple counsel of the Word of Wisdom remains a reliable guide. 

For most people, the hardest things are to slash their sugar intake and eat more vegetables.  Fruit and grains aren’t hard to eat; it isn’t even that hard to be sparing with meat.  But replacing sugary processed foods with fresh vegetables requires a primal shift in our food culture—and the creative act of cooking.   For that reason, 8 of our 52 Healthy Changes address vegetable intake, and 4 aim to slash sugar intake.


Despite the past practice of broadly prescribing calcium pills to post-menopausal women in the hope of preventing osteoporosis, it’s starting to look like the Word of Wisdom was always the best advice.  In her book Vitamin K2 and the Calcium Paradox, Kate Rheaume-Bleue cites studies showing calcium supplements do more harm than good.  One study, for example, showed that of 1000 patients, three would be protected from bone fractures but six would have a stroke or heart attack as a result of taking calcium supplements.  A bone fracture can usually be healed, but the consequences of strokes and heart attacks are more difficult. 

So what should you do to prevent osteoporosis?  The best advice is to study the subject and consult your doctor.   Patients who come prepared will get better guidance—most doctors plan just 15 minutes for appointments and that limits what can be done with the uninformed and perhaps confused patient.  Consider these Healthy Changes in your preparation:

  1. For best mineral balance, eat vegetables, fruits, and grains rather than processed foods.  Basically, vegetables, especially the dark leafy greens, are rich in bone building minerals, including calcium.
  2. Make strong bones by building muscles through exercise (for more go here). Muscles are attached to bones and both grow in unison.
  3. Get a little noonday sun on your skin to make vitamin D (read more here.)
  4. Eat animal products from pastured animals rich in vitamin K-2 (read more here).  Basically, vitamin K2 helps the body get dietary calcium to the right place—your bones.  Vitamin K1 is found in plants, K2 is found in animals that eat plants—meaning pastured meat and free-range eggs. 

Please comment:  Share you experience with bone-building, whether by exercise or diet.  Have you received helplful guidance from your doctor?  Please share.


Healthy Family Recipes

The quick answer:  Organize and save your healthy recipes as part of your family heritage.


The King’s Food

Before I write about recipes, this week’s topic, here’s a deep thought from a Sunday School class.  The lesson was on the Mormon scripture known as the Word of Wisdom.  This lesson topic comes around every four years in the 30,000 or so congregations (called ‘wards’) of the LDS Church.  The Word of Wisdom (W of W) guides what goes into the mouth—nutrition—and includes both prohibitions and prescriptions.  The prohibitions exclude use of tobacco, alcohol, coffee and tea.  The prescriptions encourage a diet based on vegetables (herbs) and fruit in season, grains as the staff of life, and sparing meat intake. 

The scripture’s easy to read but difficult to live as it goes against our prevailing food culture, the modern American diet (MAD).  Mormons are generally compliant with the prohibitions, which are defined by church guidelines.  The prescriptions are left to the inspiration of each member—there is no social pressure to follow them and in fact those who do so may be considered “different.”   In fact, if you’re a regular reader of this blog, you definitely are “different,” but in a wholesome way.

I taught this lesson in our congregation and had an insight about the “industrialization” of our food supply in the last century.  Today’s white flour came from the invention of the roller mill c. 1880 by separating the wheat germ and bran from the wheat berry.  This was bad for nutrition—weevils couldn’t survive in white flour, even the “enriched” form mandated in 1941. 

Before the roller mill, white flour was made for kings by “bolting” freshly ground whole wheat—using a bolt of cloth as a sieve to separate small particles of the endosperm, the starchy center of the wheat berry.  Only royalty could afford this labor-intensive flour, which was good for the common people as they ate the germ and bran so rich in fiber, minerals, vitamins, and omega-3 fats.  Likewise, in ancient times only kings could afford to eat as much sugar as they wished.

The phrase “king’s food” caused me to think of Old Testament Daniel and his friends who declined to eat the rich king’s food in favor of their traditional pulse, a healthy mixture of seeds, grains and legumes.  You know the story, how after a trial period they were healthier and smarter than the other students eating the richer royal diet.

My sudden insight was this:  The industrial revolution made the “king’s food”—unlimited white flour, white sugar, meat, alcohol, etc—available to all.  In America even the poorest people can be obese, and are more likely to be, unless they avoid the “king’s food” and eat like their ancestors.  So to survive, we need the wisdom and inspiration of Daniel—a Biblical story dramatically more pertinent today. 

I won’t bore you with my Sunday School lesson—you readers will understand what made me more passionate than is generally acceptable—but I did want to share my insight into the blessing of being as wise as Daniel.


It’s crazy hard to create a recipe.  Believe me, I try to do it.  There are an overwhelming number of combinations that must be tried to find the optimum ratio of ingredients.  You do the math—even a relatively simple 12-ingredient recipe has 4096 possible permutations if you test just two levels of each additive. 

If you have a healthy recipe that the family has enjoyed enough times that it’s a favorite in your home—you have a pearl of great price, to borrow a phrase.  These healthy recipes are a treasure, a valued part of a family’s heritage.  When I was young our father would bake his special whole-wheat bread once a week, grinding the wheat on a hand-powered grinder attached to the kitchen table.  He would soak the flour overnight to improve the flavor, though we now know “soaking” helps reduce phytic acid.

After my father passed away in his 90th year we sadly realized that he made his bread from memory—we didn’t have a written recipe.  So I have begun to collect healthy family recipes for a family history I’ll publish some day.  For example, I’ve written down the instructions for what we call “Aunt Kate’s Chili Sauce.”  It’s good with eggs, meat, or whatever. 

Value your recipes as a priceless part of your heritage and give them a proper storage.

Please comment:  Organize your family recipes and arrange to preserve them.  Share your method of saving recipes, even if you just stuff them in your favorite cookbook.


The Staff of Life

The quick answer:  For the best health value, eat a variety of whole grains, (unless you have a tolerance problem).


Sunday School

If you’re Mormon and attend Sunday School, you can count on hearing a lesson on the Word of Wisdom (the scriptural guidance on nutrition) in the next week or two.  This scripture has two parts:

  • Prohibitions:  Mormons are advised not to use tobacco, or drink alcohol, coffee or tea (herbal teas are allowed).  Among the faithful, there ‘s remarkable conformity to these proscriptions—a big reason for Mormon’s better longevity (5 years more life per one study).
  • Prescriptions:   Things “to do” are left to each person’s judgment, but Mormons are counseled to eat herbs (vegetables) and fruits in season (meaning “fresh”), include (whole) grains as the “staff of life,” and eat meat sparingly. 

The purpose of this blog is to help people follow the prescriptions.  This is a big challenge because Mormons typically eat the same as the people in their community, meaning the modern American diet (MAD), which has been described as a “toxic food environment.”  So around the world, as Sunday School teachers approach this lesson, there will be a moment of attention to better eating.  In sum, this is a lot of attention so could be a really good thing. 

But there is one reality here:  Food habits are difficult to change.  It took Food Inc. a century to sell us on over-processed factory food, and it will some time for us to find our way back to healthy eating.  That’s why we spread the Healthy Changes over a year, and repeat them year after year.  Talk is easy; change is hard.

I spoke with a Utah book publisher about a book on nutrition according to the Word of Wisdom.  They were cautiously interested but balked at the idea of needing 52 weeks to undo a century of bad food advice.  “Couldn’t you write a book for a 30-day program?” they asked. 

Staff of Life

Grains really are the staff of life—2/3 of the world population would starve without them.  Depending on the region, rice, wheat or corn are popular forms.  Over the last century health enthusiasts have advocated a return to eating grains whole, rejecting the modern refined form for lack of vital nutrients.  (Whole grains are high in nutrients and low in calories; it’s the opposite for refined grains.)  Society has generally ignored this guidance, preferring the sweetness of refined grains, though this is now changing. 

In recent years advocates of the Atkins, or of the Paleo diet, have argued against grains.  In addition, a small, but growing, fraction of the population do not tolerate gluten so must avoid certain grains (wheat, rye, barley, spelt, karmut, triticale, and sometimes oats).   Celiac disease is a potentially fatal form of gluten intolerance.

The Dietary Guidelines for Americans 2010 recommends eating at least three services of whole grains daily.  The Whole Grains Council notes these proven benefits of eating whole grains, vs. refined forms:

  • Risk of stroke reduced 30-36%.
  • Type 2 diabetes risk reduced 21-30%.
  • Heart disease risk reduced by 25-28%
  • Better weight control
  • Reduced risk of asthma, inflammatory diseases, high blood pressure, and gum disease or tooth loss.

In our home, we eat a variety of whole grains and avoid refined white flour (except for making white sauce or the occasional cake).  Here’s a summary of recent posts about grains:

The Whole Darn Grain:  This was the first post on grain and it introduced the “fiber-greater-than-sugar” rule for purchased cereal products.

Are Carbs Good or Bad?  A post influenced by Gary Taubes’ book, Good Calories, Bad Calories, provided ten steps to a lower, and healthier, glycemic index.

The Bread of Life:  We eat our weight in flour each year; for most less than 10% is whole grain.  This post solicited reader’s favorite bread recipes.

A Few Good Women:  The story of May Yates, a food heroine, who fought for whole wheat bread in England. 

Flour and The Hundred Years War:  Discussed the issue of freshness and preservation of whole grain flours and suggested grinding close to time of use.

The Good Breakfast:  This is the easiest meal to make completely healthy.  See the link to Healthy Recipe #1:  Breakfast Compote.

Waking Up In The Bread Aisle:  This popular aisle visit discussed the practice of “slotting fees,” then examined the bread for sale in a typical supermarket and found just 3 of 70 met the fiber health rule. 

Trouble In The Cereal Aisle:  In this post we spend a Friday evening in the cereal aisle and find just 8 of 128 meet our fiber-greater-than-sugar rule.

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.

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