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).

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Office Job Dangers

In a time where we face over-nourishment instead of under-nourishment, the office is a dangerous place. We earn our livings sitting on our butts instead of working in the fields. What this means is that even if we exercise, our jobs may cancel out that exercise. This article Stand Up While You Read This explains the problem well.

The solution offered in the following YouTube video is great! Too often my fellow students complain that they cannot exercise due to our studies. I manage to squeeze in necessary treadmill time by taking my study material to the gym. This is an even better strategy. Office jobs offer little physical activity and coworkers frequently bring in fattening treats to share. Many offices are even stocked with free soda and snacks; weight gain is the only cost.

Skeptical Sources

I was reading the New York Times nutritional version of Myth Busters and this one gave me the chills. I didn’t think anyone actually believed this. Then I remembered the New York Times Bestseller I read a few years ago, Skinny Bitch. I hate to deride any book that promotes a plant based diet, but it’s necessary. Despite the silliness of the book, there is a large amount that I agree with; unfortunately, it has three fatal flaws.

Agave Nectar
The authors rant about the audacity of sugar, HFCS, and artificial sweeteners. Agreed. However, they militantly promote Agave Nectar (over 90% fructose) as a sweetener despite the numerous studies associating high intakes of fructose with uricemia and metabolic problems. Their reason is that sugar is too refined; it is, but so is Agave. Agave also has a low glycemic index, thus it is appealing to diabetics. However, that low GI comes with potential consequences. Fructose is fine if it is consumed from fruits - the quantity in fruit is miniscule and the benefits of fruit are crucial. Caloric sweeteners (sugar in the raw, date sugar, etc.) all have the same amount of calories per serving and some level of processing. There is no magic alternative. Eat less.

When to Eat Fruit
The authors maintain that fruit eaten with any other food takes longer to digest and it will ferment in the stomach. Oh, my. Well, as the New York Times piece states, HCL and the length of our digestive tracts say their statement just isn’t so. Eat fruit whenever you want, with whatever you’d like. Just eat it.

Foods to Eat
Their book ends with a laundry list of packaged foods and processed meat alternatives to live off of. You will survive, but I wouldn’t call it living. It baffled me because the majority of their book criticizes the food industry and processed foods. Morbid curiosity prevailed and I bought their “cookbook.” None of the recipes interested me, but they did intrigue me. Most of their recipes called for some sort of processed ingredient (each of which had about twenty of its own ingredients).

This is a nation in dire need of higher intakes of fruit and lower intakes of processed foods and sweeteners. While I may have dismissed the book as a silly read, others have taken it seriously. This book may not be solely responsible for the myth of “fruit fermenting in the stomach”, but it made me realize something about myself. I am not inclined to ignore the flaws of a book, or a journal article, simply because I agree with its tenets. If I ever do, I will have become fatally flawed. Most importantly, before you buy into any type of diet book, check the references and do your homework!

See you in the library.

Saturday, February 20, 2010

Bill Clinton: Don't Eat Like Me

Political Hotsheet reports that Bill Clinton blames his recent heart troubles on the way he ate as a child. He realizes that this trend is still continuing in today's children; it will affect them as adults the same way it affected him.

"I ate too much fried food, too much ice cream, too much everything," added the former president.

Speaking of former Arkansas governors, Michelle Obama is to appear on Mike Huckabee's Fox News Show to discuss Lets Move!. I may find Huckabee politically repulsive, but I greatly admire him for saving his own life when the doctors told him he was eating himself into his grave. He was diagnosed with Type II diabetes and ten years to live. He began to eat less. When enough of the weight came off, he became a runner and then a marathoner! He is now a health crusader and wrote the book, Quit Digging Your Grave With a Knife and Fork. It's great to see people put aside politics to discuss an issue that affects everyone.

See you in Arkansas.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Dueling Evils: Part I

Grown not Made is the trade marked phrase on this jar of Heinz 57. I think they reversed that because Made not Grown would be much more accurate. The HFCS alone involves the following controlled enzymatic processes1:

  1. Liquefaction via amylase to produce dextrins
  2. Saccharification via fungal enzymes to produce glucose syrup
  3. Isomerization via glucose isomerase to produce a 42 percent fructose HFCS

Don’t get me wrong. There is a scientifically processed, man-made creation that I will not be caught dead criticizing: microbrew. Not the preservative laden, additive enhanced excuse for a beer such as Budweiser. I’m talking about a decent, craft beer. However, beer comes with a warning label, not an excuse to guzzle it by the gallon. Beer is made from barley, hops, water, and yeast, but the artists do not try to bully us into “drinking our grains.” Instead, they warn us of the potential side effects.

Ketchup manufacturers try to convince us that we are eating our vegetables. In reality, it is sweetened tomato paste. In other words, extra, empty calories in which to dip your greasy french fries. Luckily for me, I hate the taste of ketchup. If you like it, enjoy; I love my occasional chocolate chip cookie. Just do not think you are boosting your antioxidant levels. Now blood glucose levels are a different story... Where is that side effect warning label?

See you at the brewery.

1. Murano, SP. (2003). Understanding Food Science and Technology. Wadsworth.145.

The McOlympian?

NPR featured an excellent blog describing McDonald's audacious involvement with the Olympics. This has been a long standing frustration of mine. I'm glad that frustration is shared.

Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Unnecessary Evils

High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) is not the new trans-fat - that job is held by the artificial sweeteners (sucralose, aspartame, and saccharine). HFCS is chemically similar to sugar, and just like sugar, it contributes to empty calories and weight gain.

HFCS is not high in fructose. It’s approximately 50% glucose and 50% fructose, as is sucrose (table sugar). As a result, a war has developed between the sugar industry and the corn refiners. It is a battle between two evils. On one side is the sugar industry, on the other side is the HFCS industry. Americans have become the casualties of this war. Junk food sweetened with sugar has started labeling their packages as “HFCS-free.” As a result, sugar is viewed as more “wholesome and natural.” On the other hand, the corn refiners have retaliated with their “it’s just sugar” commercials, and then add that it comes from corn (after a lengthy process of enzymatic reactions). In turn, this has people viewing HFCS as “natural.” Cocaine comes from the coca plant; it’s not something I would consume.

Both products are useless; the less we eat, the better. The makers of King Corn say it perfectly with this video:

Friday, February 12, 2010

Meals Worth Preparing

Cooking. Teaching children to cook is crucial and it's something I don't think about. My only experience with children has been with my niece and nephew. They have been able to hold their own in a kitchen since they were able to reach the stove. I assumed that was normal. Apparently, not all kids are raised this way. Sadly, many cannot even correctly identify whole fruits and vegetables. Then they grow into adults who rely on TV dinners, packaged cereals, and fast food for fuel instead of cooking their own food. Don't get me wrong. I love to dine out, occasionally, but to depend on a stranger's cooking every day is... strange. However, I have seen those close to me succumb to the convenience of fast food and then watched them crumble. It's time to learn how to use all of our fancy kitchen equipment, once again. Every day.

This is just one of the many great points made in Jamie Oliver's TED presentation. It's a twenty minute video, but well worth your time. Nutritional diseases are preventable. There are no more excuses. We can only place so much blame on the food industry; the rest falls on our shoulders. Thank you for the link, Pedro.

See you in the kitchen.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Battling Childhood Obesity

It's here! Let's Move! is Michelle Obama's year long, well-researched campaign to fight childhood obesity. This campaign (involving Mrs. Obama, researchers, and pediatricians) is addressing a problem that targets both ends of the political spectrum and everyone in between. Many issues contribute to childhood obesity (and many problems result from it). Children are no longer able to walk to school due to increased societal dangers. There are ways around this issue, but they aren't convenient. The food industry makes a more practical opponent. This is one of the areas the First Lady hopes to address, as indicated in the New York Times:

“The truth is, our kids didn’t do this to themselves,” Mrs. Obama said. “Our kids didn’t choose to make food products with tons of fat and sugar and supersize portions, and then to have those foods marketed to them wherever they turn.”

Food companies are lobbying hard in Washington. Soda taxes were not mentioned for a reason. These big food companies will not go down without a fight. Michelle Obama truly has a battle ahead of her, but she also has a plan and I wish her luck! I don't expect change to occur anytime soon, but this is the most hope I've had in a long time.

See you on the front lines.

Saturday, February 6, 2010

Leaving Leftovers

Satiety cues were brought up during my most recent pediatric nutrition class. A fellow student was presenting and mentioned that babies have satiety cues, but those cues disappear along with infancy. Always the skeptic, I had to refrain from raising my hand to interject. Instead, I let it slide and then researched it at home. Sure enough, parents and the food industry are to blame.

Humans were born with the innate ability to determine when they were full and then stop eating, regardless of what was on their plate. In Americans, this ability disappears during early childhood. Other cultures, such as the French, do not lose this ability. Clinical trials reveal that children who were rewarded for cleaning their plates, increased their food intake (eating more than they needed). Conversely, those who were taught to stop eating when the hunger subsided had significantly less food intake.1 We’ve taught our children to become obese. The food industry takes it a step further with their oversized plates and king sized candy bars.

I’ve never understood the obsession with “cleaning your plate.” I hate wasting food, but I love the proverb, “it’s better to let it go to waste, than to your waist.” If you stuff yourself beyond capacity, you are doing harm. It’s going to become waste either way, but one of those paths will lead to more harm than good. The dictionary contains two important words: tupperware and leftovers.

On that plump note, I was impressed with last week’s State of the Union address. Michelle Obama’s childhood obesity initiative is actually what caught my attention. Whatever your political views may be, you cannot deny that this is a problem in need of a solution. Once and for all.

See you at the Container Store.

1. Ello-Martin et al. The influence of food portion size and energy density on energy intake: implications for weight management. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. 2005. 82 (1): 236S.

Friendly Foe

This isn't a real sign, but it is really true. Says-it.com is a website that allows you to generate your own signs (and make fun of fast food companies). It might come in handy for anyone else who disdains the fast food industry.

Book Recommendation: Fast Food Nation by Eric Schlosser. An oldie, but a goodie. It might even become a classic. It could do for modern day slaughterhouses what The Jungle did for the famous Chicago stockyards.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Embracing an Addiction

I recently stumbled across an article in the New York Times which responded to New York’s push for salt reduction; it hit close to home. I became conflicted. Many people eat poorly and have health problems all around, including hypertension. They should limit their salt intake as much as possible. People who are in good health, but have high blood pressure, need to watch their intake.

On the other hand, there are people who have very low blood pressure and eat a heap of salt (sweating most of it out during exercise). I am one of them. Should we be punished, too? Unlike many people, my salt intake does not come from processed food. Like the article states, processed foods contain so many chemicals that additional salt is a necessity, otherwise, they would taste horrible. The article mentions that chefs have a heavy hand with salt. Well, I love to dine out. I also love to cook and I will admit that my salting hand weighs a bit more than my left hand. Salt brings out a symphony of flavors that might not stand out, otherwise.

A heavy weight now rests upon my shoulders. Should I condone babysitting the unhealthy, at the healthy’s expense? Yes. I would fully support a “junk food tax” and I LOVE an occasional chocolate CHUNK cookie. The truth is that I am slightly uncomfortable with the idea of regulating any ingredient involved in a chef’s culinary creation. But... I still support the Big Apple in The Battle of Sodium Chloride. Heavy handed? Those laboratory results make me wonder if chefs use a ladle to add in the salt. Furthermore, this will also make it easier for those who are genetically hypertensive (many of whom regularly exercise and eat healthily) to enjoy dining out. The rest of us will just have to cozy up to the salt shaker; salt is much easier to add than remove.

See you in the salt mines... or not.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Thirsty? Drink Water.

The overuse of sports beverages is a growing trend and pet peeve of mine. Someone who has just finished a gym workout that consists of 30 minutes on a stationary bike while reading their favorite book, does not need a Gatorade afterwards. In fact, they would drink back all of the calories they just burned (and then some).

Parents are now concerned enough to give their children gatorade after simple activities such as baseball, or t-ball, where most of the child’s time is spent waiting for their turn to bat or catch. Other than running bases, baseball is not very aerobic. Soccer... another story, especially if it is hot outside. Sports beverages contain plenty of sugar and are very hard on teeth (eroding the enamel).1 If you still insist on providing it for your children, dilute it with water - they will easily receive the electrolytes they need, without as many unnecessary sugars.

Despite these issues, I also understand the importance of electrolyte replacement; however, this is mainly an issue for serious athletes who engage in continuous exercise for well over an hour. If you’re out in the sun all day working in a climate comparable to Phoenix, Az., you probably also need electrolytes; however, you can still get away with watering down your gatorade. Hyponatremia is deadly and can occur during long bouts of exercise from over hydration when blood salt (required for many physiological functions) becomes too low. Sadly, many athletes have died from it. For some people, salt is not the enemy. Salty foods, salty water, or diluted gatorade have sufficed in the past. The sports drink, Gatorade, was invented based on the chemical make up of sweat: sodium and dihydrogen monoxide... also known as salt + water. It was a great idea, but in order to become marketable, they added sugar, artificial colorings, flavorings, and preservatives.

G2 enhances the chemical smorgasbord by adding the chemical sweetener, sucralose, to cut back on its plentiful calories. It still has high fructose corn syrup for that quick, useless energy burst; therefore, it’s not a calorie free beverage, it just has one more chemical added to the mix.

A peek at the ingredients (reminds me of an old chemistry assignment):

Water, High Fructose Corn Syrup, Sucrose Syrup, Citric Acid, Salt, Sodium Citrate, Natural and Artificial Flavor, Monopotassium Phosphate, Ascorbic Acid, Niacinamide, Sucralose, Calcium Disodium EDTA, Calcium Pantothenate, Alpha Tocopherol Acetate, Acesulfame Potassium, Pyridoxine Hydrochloride, Red 40, Blue 1.

Water’s ingredients: Water.

See you at the drinking fountain.

1. SM Hooper, JA Hughes, RG Newcombe, M Addy, and NX West. A methodology for testing the erosive potential of sports drinks. Journal of Dentistry. 2004. (33) 4.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Food 101: Michael Pollan on Oprah

Michael Pollan talks about his point of view regarding food and discusses his book Food Rules. Food 101 needs to be a required course for everyone here in the United States. The documentary Food Inc., is also discussed and I highly recommend it. Everyone wants to deny what is going on in our food industry. They especially want to ignore the cruel and brutal practice of factory farming because they enjoy the convenience and taste of cheap, fast food. It's time to face facts and take a look at the high price of cheap food.

Monsanto: Genetically Unethical

Monsanto (agriculture giant) has made the list of the Twelve Least Ethical Companies... and they won first place. Genetically modified foods are a hot topic in the controversial field of nutrition and food. My point of view is that they already lead to a myriad of existing problems and more will continue to present themselves. Monsanto not only designs frankenfoods, they unfairly sue small farmers who try and grow food ethically. Even if the suits are not successful, by the time the small farmer is through paying their lawyers, they are finished, thus achieving Monsanto's goal.

Book recommendation: The World According to Monsanto by Marie-Monique Robin. This is also a documentary.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Food Rules for a Fool

Guest Post by Sheldon Woytek

I hear the name Michael Pollan quite often. Along with, “Marion Nestle said...,” I hear his name almost daily. Despite this, I’ve yet to read a book of his (or Nestle’s) - unlike Alely, I am not a harbinger of health. I’m sure I’ve heard quotes from his previous books, none of which I remember. And I’m sure some of his principles on eating have been subconsciously passed onto me through Alely’s passion - though, I’ve never been an adherent. It wasn’t until his most recent book, Food Rules, that I was able to get a clear picture of what Pollan is trying to say.

Pollan isn’t a dietitian, nutritionist, or a food scientist - he definitely dislikes the latter. He doesn’t work for the health department, a hospital or the Food and Drug Administration - he’s more honest than the latter. Pollan is an investigative journalist and a journalism professor at UC Berkeley. I didn’t know this until I was researching a trip for Alely to visit Berkeley at the end of 2009. Her goal was to attend a lecture given by Marion Nestle on food politics. While planning her trip, I found that Nestle was scheduled to be a guest speaker for Pollan’s journalism class. The two seem to be quite good friends on the food front. I’m not sure what spurred Pollan to tackle food, farming, eating and health, but he finally caught my attention with his latest book.

Alely introduced me to Food Rules in mid-January. It’s a condensed version of Pollan’s In Defense of Food, written for non-nutritionists. This is not a diet book; it’s a way of life. In mid-December, I had recently made a resolution to join the health coup. January one was a few weeks away, but why wait? I decided to start burning calories through light exercise, but I had no interest in eating less or eating healthy. At Borders one day, Alely mentioned picking up Pollan’s new book. While she went off order a tea and read a magazine, I set out for the computer section. Before I returned to my tea-sipping sweetie, I decided to find her a copy of Food Rules. As I sat at the table, among the dozens of other reading patrons, I began to flip through an eater’s manual.

The subtitle is most fitting. It’s a common sense, why didn’t I see it that way before, kind of manual. The first thing I noticed was that the book is set up in bite-sized rules, rarely more than a page long. Each rule resides in one of the book’s three parts: What Should I Eat?, What Kind of Food Should I Eat?, and How Should I Eat? The first section lays out what is, and is not, food: “Eat foods made from ingredients that you can picture in their raw state or growing in nature.” The second section sets the rules to determine which “food” is food: “Don’t eat breakfast cereals that change the color of your milk.” The final section covers how to eat - this section contains one of my favorite rules: "Stop eating before you’re full.”

It’s my favorite rule because of its explanation, which follow several of his one-sentence rules. As a forced student of French, I learned the French way of saying, “I’m hungry.” Pollan explains that the literal translation of the French phrase is, “I have hunger.” When the French are done they are not full, they have no more hunger. This rule alone made me realize that the American way of eating is simply ignorant. I was always asked as a child, “are you full?” Why eat until we can’t eat anymore. Why not eat until our hunger is satisfied, then stop - that is after all, how we quench our thirst.

We all Need a New York State of Mind

Trans fats, smoking, calorie posts, soft drinks, now salts!

New York was the first state to regulate trans fats in restaurants and fast food chains. It also launched the first anti-smoking campaign and required restaurants and fast food chains to post calorie counts on their menus. Recently, they have launched a campaign discouraging soft drink consumption called Don’t Drink Your Self FAT. Today, they’ve begun the battle against salt! If this battle is won, restaurants and fast food chains may be required to lower the amount of salt in their meals by twenty-five percent. More battles are necessary to win the war; so far, it looks like New York just might lead the rest of the nation to victory!

See you in The Big Apple.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Stretching my Miles

Running is my thing. Some people cycle, attend yoga classes, lift weights, or engage in another specific activity of choice to keep fit and have fun, but running is my favorite. I love it for its simplicity and low cost. You can run anywhere - all you need is a pair of sneakers. Most of all, I just love that “runner’s high.” I’d run everyday, but my knee won’t allow it. I cross train in many different activities, especially hiking, rollerblading, swimming, and spin classes. I enjoy them all and soon I hope to add mountain biking to this list. This still is not good enough.

Throughout history, cardiovascular fitness (mainly in the form of running!) has been part of our daily lives. It began as a necessity and progressed into a leisure activity as humans faced less danger. We used to have to chase after our food, run away from becoming food, and run for transportation (Pheidippides’s 26.2 mile run that begot the marathon). Similarly, strength training was part of our everyday life. Exercise patterns have diverged and we choose a physical activity based on enjoyment instead of survival.

Although there is an enormous variety of physical activities practiced, they can each be categorized as one of three basic forms; strength training (weights, resistance), cardiovascular (running, cycling), and stretching (palates, yoga). It is ideal to engage in all three, but most of us gravitate towards one kind. This is a bad trend. Some form of cardiovascular fitness is crucial, even for someone who is slender and wants to gain muscle mass. The heart is a muscle; the best way to give it a work out is through cardiovascular fitness. Stretching prevents injury and promotes balance. Strength training helps prevent injuries, tones and strengthens muscles, and improves performance.

Strength training is not my thing, but I do it. Stretching... well, I could work on incorporating a few yoga classes into my week. We all need to embrace each form of physical fitness for optimum performance and injury prevention.

See you on the yoga mat.

Runner's High

A recent trip to Sierra Vista, AZ., made me realize how truly fortunate I am to live in San Diego. Running in Sierra Vista is not pleasant and I found myself wondering how I would die first; hit by a driver high on methamphetamines, attacked by an unleashed dog, or eaten by javelinas. Here in San Diego, my biggest worry is which beach to visit!

In an earlier post, I touted the benefits of the RunKeeper app. Well, here is a peek at today’s run at the harbor, including photos. If you follow the blue link below, you can simply click on a “polaroid” icon and scroll to look through all of the photos.

San Diego Harbor

My San Diego Rave Runs:

San Diego Harbor (featured in above link)

Fiesta Island

Crown Point

Lake Miramar

Balboa Park

Balboa Park Trails

Lake Murray

Mission Bay

Book recommendation: Born to Run by Christopher McDougall

Monday, January 18, 2010

Where the West Went Wrong

The Western diet is a nutritional calamity. It began with racism that stems from the days of European settlement in the United States. White immigrants wanted to disassociate themselves with any non-european immigrants. This began with food. All of the non-european immigrants’ meals were plant based and any meat involved was incorporated as a mere seasoning. Furthermore, their meals consisted of stews or a blend of ingredients. Thus began the racist westerners’ creepy concoction of a hunk of meat with a side of starch.1

Back when eighty-percent of the United States were farmers and physically active twelve hours of the day, this diet wasn’t that detrimental; unfortunately, this is no longer the case and we grow larger by the decade. Even worse, this diet has spread to fast, easy meals known as fast food. Fast food then expanded to formerly healthy countries whose citizens are now expanding.

What should we eat instead? For some reason, this is a common question. If meat is not the center of my plate, what on earth will I eat?! The answer is vegetables, legumes, or anything that grows from the ground. My recommendation for the novice plant eater is to throw out all of your cookbooks and buy some ethnic cookbooks. Basically, if you cook an ethnic, non-western meal, you can’t go wrong. Cook a Western meal and you will fail, then get fat, fast.

We are a nation that is in protein overload. Everyone thinks the more protein, the better. Unless you are a patient in a burn unit, or in severe injury recovery, that’s not the case. Our kidneys work extra hard to remove the nitrogen from the larger protein unit. Many people who have undergone the notorious “Atkins Diet” have encountered kidney problems. Likewise, many people who consume the notorious Western Diet are encountering kidney problems. Contrary to omnivorous ignorance, vegans and vegetarians get more protein than they need. Unless you are living off of white rice alone, you are not in danger of Kwashiorkor. Kwashiorkor is the protein deficiency of third world countries who survive solely on white rice, resulting in bloated bellies. Even unprocessed, brown rice contains many essential amino acids.

Meat and the environment... well, that’s another entry.

See you in the produce aisle.

1. Shortridge and Shortridge, The Taste of American Place.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Mushrooms: A Love Affair

I love mushrooms! There are so many species and they carry such versatility: Shiitake Burger, Portabello Fajitas, Wild Mushroom Stroganoff, stuffed mushrooms. I could go on forever. It’s a mystery how a food so simple can be so satisfying and satiating.

They are also fascinating. There are so many species of mushrooms encompassing every color of the spectrum. Some mushrooms are prettier than the most lovely flower, while others are uglier than a mandrake. They can kill you, almost kill you, make you hallucinate, or land the starring role in a gourmet meal.

A friend once said to me, “I don’t believe in eating anything that doesn’t have any nutrients.” I cringed. First of all, this came from a girl who drinks diet soda, a product intentionally void of nutrients and loaded with man-made chemicals. Secondly, my favorite fungi may be low in macronutrients (a good thing during an obesity epidemic), but it does have them. Two grams of protein and two grams of carbohydrates, to be specific. That’s a grand total of 16 calories per serving (70 grams). Lastly, they boast significant amounts of micronutrients. Many species are high in fiber and provide thiamine, riboflavin, niacin, and biotin (all of which are B vitamins), along with minerals such as selenium, potassium, and phosphorus.

As if I haven’t touted enough reasons to become a mushroom enthusiast, they also provide entertainment. It is a dream of mine to become a successful, avid hunter. A Mushroom Hunter. Mushroom hunters are not gatherers and should never be mistaken for one. It is a daunting, physically and mentally taxing skill that can be highly lucrative (wild mushrooms are expensive) and always rewarding. However, it can also be very dangerous. Identifying edible mushrooms (and avoiding their deadly analogs) is something that must be learned from an expert and they do not give away trade secrets readily. Hunters are very territorial over their treasure-yielding areas and often become aggressive and violent. Despite the dangers, engaging in such challenging work, even if I come home empty handed, is highly appealing. The two species which I am interested in hunting first are Morels and Chanterelles. Someday I will work myself up to truffles.

See you in the forest!

Wild Mushroom Stroganoff:

Olive Oil

1 Small yellow onion, diced

2-3 cups dried, wild mushrooms, reconstituted (chanterelle, porcini, shiitake, cremini)

1 bottle white wine (chardonnay or sauvignon)

1 Tablespoon whole wheat pastry flour

4 cups espagnole sauce

1/2 cup soy sour cream

1 Tablespoon ground mustard

Kosher salt

Freshly ground pepper

Reconstitute Mushrooms in 1/2 bottle wine plus water. Saute onion (with salt) in olive oil, then add mushrooms and saute with salt and pepper. Once onion and mushrooms are sauteed, sprinkle in flour and cook to a paste. Add the sauce espagnole and cook at a slow simmer for about 20 minutes, stirring frequently. Mix the soy sour cream and mustard together. Pour into the sauce and heat throughout. Drink rest of wine while cooking.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Resolve to Exercise for Life!!!

The gyms are packed with people who have resolved to lose weight. They arrive in shiny new shoes, gym bags, and attire. I am jealous of their enthusiasm (and new clothes), but annoyed at the space they take up. As a result, I spend the majority of January running, rollerblading, and hiking outdoors. I rest from strength training and avoid the gym until the third week of January.

I do not completely dislike these new year’s fitness fetuses. As a strong proponent of physical activity, I root for the 1% who stick with their resolution, find exercise addicting, and become life-long exercise enthusiasts. In fact, I would like to recommend two iPhone applications that may appeal to new, and seasoned, athletes.

The first application, my favorite, is RunKeeper. As a runner, I like to visually see my route and how far I ran. This application is great! It gives you verbal updates on your miles and pace. I’ve never been a runner who has kept track of my pace, at least not since high school cross-country. That’s a bad thing, but now that I do know my pace, I push myself accordingly. This application also allows for a “street team." This is a group of friends who provide motivation and support. You don’t want to skip a work out that your friends will know about. Lastly, you can track hikes, bikes, skates, and even your gym work-outs, as well as notes (kind of like a runner’s log). You will find yourself working out harder and longer, in order to see that increase in your monthly miles!

The other application is Lose It. While the name and icon (a scale) imply that it’s a weight loss application, it is useful to keep track of your work outs and nutritional intake, in general. Almost every device and dietary guideline largely overestimate a person’s caloric needs. What impresses me about this application is that it accurately estimates a person’s daily caloric intake.

See you on the streets!

Monday, January 4, 2010

Lentils: A Dose of Health and Deliciousness

Lentils are one of my favorite foods. This versatile staple is featured in a plethora of delectable dishes in cuisines across the world: Indian, Persian, Mediterranean, French, and many, many more. Lentil consumption is finally picking up, again, here in the United States. They have been a “poor man’s staple” in the United States for a while, but now, despite their extremely low cost, they are popular among all classes. They also make a great ingredient in the many, savory “pocket pies” around the world. These pies include Sambusas (East Africa), Samosas (South Asia), Empanadas (Spain, Portugal, South America), and Pierogies (Eastern Europe).

In addition to this fascinating tale, they’re quite healthy. They’re low in calories, fat and are packed with fiber. They contain complex carbohydrates - carbohydrates which contain three or more glucose (simple sugar) molecules and are highly branched providing the cellulose structure in plants. Foods with complex carbohydrates are higher in fiber, and the body breaks down the carbohydrate more slowly. High fiber results in higher levels of satiety, staving off hunger!

Furthermore, they’re high in protein. They contain all of the essential amino acids (those which the body does not make) except for methionine and cystine. However, when they are eaten with rice, or another grain, this is not an issue. And sprouted lentils do contain all essential amino acids including methionine and cystine. Lentils provide one of the least expensive protein sources to many people around the world.

Their iron content is another great nutritional quality. One serving contains 60% of the daily iron recommendation. The iron is in the form of non-heme iron, which is also not an issue because the majority of lentil dishes are made with lemon, or some form of citric acid, which converts non-heme iron to heme making it completely available to the human body.

The plant, itself, is feisty and durable so it grows easily and abundantly throughout the world. My favorite legume ranges from red to yellow to green to brown and even black. The lens-shape (for which they’re named) makes lentils one of the most versatile legumes in our kitchen. They do not require pre-soaking and easily cook in twenty minutes.

I have about a hundred recipes that involve lentils, but my favorite is this lentil soup recipe:

Lentil Soup with Spicy Yogurt Topping

2 TBSP Olive Oil
2 Lg onions, finely chopped
4 Celery stalks, sliced
2 Small jalepeno peppers, minced
1 Medium potato, cubed
5 Mushrooms, sliced
1 Lemon, juiced
4 Cups veggie broth (about 3 3/4 is best)
2.5 Cups brown lentils
2 Tsp ground cumin
2-4 Tsp salt
1 Tsp oregano
1/4 Tsp pepper
2 Bay leaves

Using a large stock pot saute celery and onion adding kosher salt four about a minute. Then
add the jalepeno and mushrooms last. Add the lentils and saute for about a minute.

Add water to broth to make 8 cups total. Add to pot along with cubed potatoes, lemon
juice, cumin, salt, pepper, oregano, bay leaves.

Stir to blend ingredients, bring to a boil, then reduce heat to low to simmer for 45 minutes

When potatoes and lentils are tender, blend with blend stick until consistency is met

Spicy Yogurt Topping

8 oz plain soy yogurt
2 tbsp chopped cilantro
1 tsp cumin
1/4 tsp ground red pepper
1/8 tsp salt

Combine ingredients and refrigerate

Nutritional Info:
Kcals: 288
Fat: 6g
CHO: 43g
Protein: 17g