Tuesday, March 23, 2010

The Magical Grain

Quinoa is my favorite grain, pasta, tuber, and starch; it is non of these, but can easily pass for all four of them. It is a grain-like crop, or a pseudo-grain, known for its edible seeds. The one exception is that it is packed full of protein and contains all nine essential amino acids which is rare in a plant food. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. There are twenty. We only need nine because the other eleven are synthesized by our own amazing bodies. Most importantly, Quinoa is delicious!

Ignoring its great taste and versatility, Quinoa’s nutrient profile alone is enough to write home about. Perhaps that’s why it has been Peru’s staple food which they have relied upon for all nutrients. In addition to its amino acid content, it has 37% of the daily RDA for iron, plenty of vitamin C, fiber, and 12 to 18% protein. Furthermore, it is gluten free which is beneficial given the rapidly growing population of Celiac’s Disease, gluten intolerant, and those with inflammatory bowel disease (Chrohn’s Disease, Ulcerative Colitis) in industrialized countries.

Its history is fascinating enough to write a book about, so I will only choose one of my favorite tales. The Incas revered the crop as sacred. They went so far as to sow the first quinoa seed of the season using golden instruments. After the South American conquest, Spanish colonist regarded quinoa as “Indian food” suppressing its consumption and agriculture. The primary reason for the delectable fruit’s scorn was it’s revered status in a non-Christian society and the ceremonies surrounding the crop. It became forbidden and the Incas were forced to grow corn, instead.

A favorite stew recipe invented by Sheldon:

Olive oil

Tony Cajun



Cilantro, chopped (as desired)

Green onion, chopped (as desired)

1 large (or 2 small) Russet potatoes, cubed

1 half red onion, chopped

3 cloves garlic, minced

1 can kidney beans, drained and rinsed (or 12 oz soaked)

1 can diced tomatoes or 1.5 cups fresh

1 cup corn, frozen or fresh

1 cup (unprepared) quinoa, rinsed

2 1/2 cups veggie broth

2 cups water

Saute red onion and garlic (1 min after onion) in olive oil and seasoning. Then add tomatoes and stew for about 3 minutes.

Add Potatoes, broth/water, and bring to a boil

Once potatoes are almost tender, add the quinoa

Once potatoes and quinoa are cooked, add kidney beans and corn, then return to boil until they are heated throughout.

When soup is finished and everything is tender, turn off heat, then stir in green onion and cilantro

Monday, March 22, 2010

Dueling Evils: The Final Struggle

Has HFCS been defeated? Princeton researchers have found that HFCS results in weight gain and obesigenic characteristics. Unlike the previous studies funded by PepsiCo and the USDA, they compared low levels of HFCS and table sugar. This makes sense because while HFCS is biochemically similar to sugar, it is chemically different. HFCS lacks the glycosidic linkage which means that it is not a disaccharide (like sugar), but two monosaccharides (glucose and fructose). This recent evidence reveals that while no refined sugar is good for you, HFCS appears to be significantly worse.

The princeton study was the first of its kind as a long-term, well-planned, and unbiased study. Currently, a UCDavis research team is conducting similar research. I can't wait for their results.

Which sweetener would I choose if I could not just say no. I do not have a solid answer why, yet, but I would never choose HFCS. Earlier I posted that HFCS is not the new transfat; however, I have always been inclined to believe that it is worse than sugar. If you can, avoid them both. It looks like I'm not alone in this opinion.

See you in the water aisle.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Fast Food Frenzy

I am not a friend of fast food. Unfortunately, this is not a popular opinion. I realize that many people are not going to stop eating at these places; however, I do not expect people to recreationally eat simply because of a “meal deal.” There are plenty of healthy people who occasionally eat fast food without falling into the traps of the .99 cent menu, road sodas, free refills, and super sizing.

If you must fall victim to fast food, treat it as you would any deli, or sandwich shop. Order one entree, eat it, finish your beverage, and leave... empty handed. Many people fall prey to super-sizing their meal, because it is “economically smarter” than ordering the smaller size. Many people order two Jack in the Box tacos for .99 cents when they only feel like eating one. If the food is that cheap, think about its quality. Is it really economically smarter when you will be paying higher prices in health bills?

If you can't choose healthy, at least eat like you normally would; don’t fall for the fattening traps of super-sizing, free refills, and meal deals. They aren’t coincidental. These corporations have spent many hours strategizing and designing these traps to make us bigger, crave more of their food, and buy more of it. Ultimately, the bigger we become, the more valuable we are to them. Don’t refill your soda for the road just because you can.

See you at Panera Bread.

Saturday, March 13, 2010

St. Paddy's Day 10K Run

This was a really fun event and a beautiful run around Fiesta Island, as seen in the map below (from my RunKeeper app). There were some very interesting, Irish-themed costumes! How anyone can run 6 miles in a wig is beyond me, but there were plenty of people doing it. High quality, craft beer was served at the finish line. Unfortunately, so was Domino's Pizza, but I will take the good stuff where I can find it.

Anyway, I encourage more people to sign up for this event. If you aren't a runner, there is also a 2 and 4 mile walk/fun run. This event benefits Children's Hospital of San Diego. The more money they raise, the better. Maybe, they will be able to get rid of the McDonald's located in their lobby. It's truly a travesty of health when a hospital, let alone a children's hospital, has a McDonald's on their campus.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

Dueling Evils: Part II

Other than a simple dash of olive oil and lemon juice, Newman’s Own Balsamic Vinaigrette is, by far, my favorite salad dressing. Newman’s Own is a relatively decent brand compared to most, yet sugar still lurks in the ingredient list. I continue to use it with certain salads; it is a delicious dressing. It just confirms that sugar is being added to everything we eat. Like salt, sugar does enhance flavors, but not always. Sugar is added to compensate for the lack of fat in a “reduced fat” product, resulting in a new version with the same amount of calories as the original.

The process implemented to convert sugar cane into table sugar involves two main stages:

Milling Phase: The milling, washing, chipping and shredding of the sugar cane occurs and is then treated with an alkaline chemical to adjust the pH to 7. It is then clarified, centrifuged, concentrated under a vacuum and treated with sulfur dioxide to bleach the color-forming impurities resulting in a crystal sugar. This stage produces the popular natural crystals “Sugar in the Raw” that dissolve by the time your first born goes off to college.

Refining Phase: Raw sugar is then treated with phosphoric acid and calcium hydroxide to precipitate the calcium phosphate. This stage removes any other discoloration. Then this white refined sugar is decolorized through active carbon. The sugar crystals are then centrifuged to separate the molasses in order to produce granulated sugar (table sugar).

The food industry uses sugar to capitalize on consumer ignorance. Just because a product uses sugar instead of HFCS does not make it “natural.” If you want something natural, skip the grocery store.

See you at the farmers’ market.

Monday, March 8, 2010

The Longest Run

I ran ten miles on a treadmill, today. It was awful. The longest I’ve ever run on one of these machines has been for 30 minutes, so this is quite a feat (for me). I've read about people who have run the entire length of a marathon (26.2 miles) on a treadmill. These people generally live in places like Minnesota, Wisconsin, or another very cold place. I wanted to see if I could run a ten-miler on one of these things. It was a really boring run and one I’ll likely never repeat, but I did it! It made me realize how lucky I am to live in San Diego.

On another note, I only burned approximately 1000 calories. My boyfriend, who is twice my weight, burns 1000 calories in half the time. It just reiterates how much of a role weight plays in the amount of calories that are burned. The less you weigh, the less you burn. “Plateauing” is a myth. You simply need to factor in your weight, and readjust the quantity you eat, based on how much you lose.

See you outside.

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

Is it "Let's Move" or let's eat?

Dairy is a heavily debated and controversial issue in nutritional science. Michelle Obama is pushing cow’s milk like it’s going to single handedly conquer obesity. We are the only specie that drinks milk past infancy. While some scientists have linked milk to weight loss and health, one of the lead scientists was publicly reprimanded by the International Journal of Obesity for publishing these studies without stating his bias; he was funded and patented by The Dairy Council of America.1,2 Many legitimate scientists found milk may possibly link to calcium loss or neutral effects.3 Growth hormones (rBGH) and antibiotics don’t do a body good, either.

This post is about the food industry’s hand in this campaign. The Dairy Council of America helps define the USDA. The United States Department of Agriculture was created for agriculture. This campaign intertwines closely with the USDA. It is going to try (unsuccessfully) to revamp their very flawed food pyramid. The food pyramid will always be flawed due to the American Meat Institute and The Dairy Council of America’s lobbyists crying to the USDA at every suggestion of smaller meat and dairy portions in former food pyramids.4

If you don’t like milk, don’t drink it. There is no scientific proof that you will suffer without it or benefit from it. If you can’t tolerate milk, you don’t need Lactaid. It’s just another product profiting off of an ailment that many people suffer from.5 This campaign is supposed to send the message of eating less, eating healthier, and moving more. I worry that its involvement with the USDA will impinge upon that message. The Dairy Council of America is claiming to fight obesity. How? With their deplorable Raise Your Hand for Chocolate Milk campaign. It’s okay to remove soda from schools, but not chocolate milk? If children do not like regular milk, they can drink water.

In my pediatric nutrition class, the Raise Your Hand for Chocolate Milk campaign caused an intense debate. Some students in the class promote giving chocolate milk to children to “trick” them into drinking milk. I was shocked. Milk is not the only source of calcium. Most of the world is lactose intolerant, yet they have fewer rates of osteoporosis than the dairy gulping Westerners.

Despite these expected grievances, I am still thrilled about the attention that has been given to childhood obesity by the campaign. You may think it has been a well-known issue for quite a while now, but only in certain groups. This campaign makes it more widely known. I also applaud the initiative to remove the junk food from the school vending machines. This campaign is being heavily debated and addressed in my program. Naturally, I love the controversy. Most of the feedback is negative. My opinion is that it might not work and it definitely won’t solve the issue. But it won’t hurt. However, I do hope the First Lady remembers: Let’s Move! The last administration reduced my niece's physical education program. Reinstate daily physical education and emphasize the importance of exercise and eating healthy.

See you on the soccer field.

  1. Schardt, David. Milking the Data [Action News Letter]. Center for Science in the Public Interest. (2005) 11.
  2. Kalman, DS., Calcium and weight loss: letter to Editor. (2005). International Journal of Obesity. 29, 1302-93.
  3. Lanou, AJ., Berkow, ES., Bernard, DN. Calcium, dairy products, and bone health in children and young adults: a reevaluation of the evidence. (2005). The Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics. 115, 736-743.
  4. Draft U.S. dietary guidelines hit by National Dairy Council. Food Regulation Weekly March 20, 2000:10-11. National Dairy Council commends new dietary guidelines (press release). Rosemont, IL: National Dairy Council, May 30, 2000.
  5. Ty, MJ. The Myth of lactose intolerance. (1997) Nutrition Bytes. 3 (1).