24 November 2009

The Best Of TF

In the last few months, you've gotten to know me and my cynical attitude towards current conventional nutrition wisdom. I must admit, I quite enjoy having a soapbox to preach the word on. I'm coming up on 3,000 visitors in five months, which is something I'm quite proud of and was not expecting at the birth of this humble little blog.

Today, I'd like to compile a list of some of my more informative posts or ones that I am particularly fond of to get newer visitors caught up on some of my crazy ideas.

So... What Am I Doing Wrong? - Why the American diet is the way it is

Eat Food? - What you should be eating

What Not To Eat - I can't believe they actually call this food

Exercise Won't Help? Seriously? - Why exercise is only one piece of the puzzle

Silly Studies
- The food industry at its worst

Now it's your turn
- Like my ideas? Take action and write your Congressmen.

My Humble Endorsement of Crossfit - How you should be working out

Disproportionately Affected
- How the high cost of food is actually affecting us all

Wise Beyond His Years... - The father of this whole dang movement

Enjoy them and come back soon!

22 November 2009

At least it's natural...

Can you tell me what all of the following products or ads have in common?

Splenda Artificial Sweetener w/ Fiber

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal w/ Whole Grains
Cherry 7UP Soda w/ Antioxidants


American Spirit Cigarettes w/ Natural, Additive Free Tobacco


All of these products are harmful to your health, no matter what has or hasn't been added to them. In short: if it has a marketing team, avoid it like the plague.

18 November 2009

Waste

My ideas on removing government subsidies for grain crops and finding ways of lowering the cost of vegetable crops are not surprisingly quite radical and unrealistic. There seems to be so much power (read: money) in the food technology and food processing industries that the day broccoli is cheaper than a Big Mac will likely never come. Up until now, I wasn't even sure the best way to go about approaching the situation.

I stumbled across a brand new book written by Tristram Stuart called Waste: Unocovering The Global Food Scandal. The book is an alarming study on the terrible problem of food waste throughout the world. Stuart brings to light the pathetic lack of information available on food waste produced by the industry. Disfigured and blemished vegetables are left to rot in the fields. Slightly damaged packaging from shipping is cause for a frozen dinner to go straight to the trash can. Food that is close to expiration is not sent to shelters, but simply tossed for fear of being responsible for food poisoning the homeless (even though the law protects them from this). It is often cheaper for a company to throw away unsold food than to lose a sale because they've run out. Millions of tons of food are wasted every year at all levels of the farm to wholesale to retail to consumer chain. This is an issue.

Stuart also poses another point later in his book. Why are we not donating that food to shelters or composting it or just simply making less? All these solutions seem to be viable options in solving our problems. They all keep America fed and keep garbage out of our landfills. It also decreases the demand for food and lowers the price because we aren't throwing away perfectly good food. It also decreases the demand for farm land if we don't have to grow as much food to keep up with demand. This allows us to grow the lower calorie (but higher nutrient) vegetables and fruits that we should be eating more of in the first place.

It seems so easy. Just stop wasting food. I'm sure the food industry will soon find a way of keeping this problem quiet, too.

If you are interested in environmental issues, sustainability, and food, you'll find Waste quite interesting. The research, photo documentation, presentation of the fact, and funny English spelling does an incredible job of convincing you to maybe just go ahead and eat that bruised banana.

13 November 2009

But what about fructose??

Here's how it usually goes:

"Oh. So you don't eat carbs."

No. I eat plenty. I am not a "carbophobe."

"Ok. So you eat fruit. What makes the sugar in fruit so different from others?"

Well, this one takes a little more explanation...

The word carbohydrate is the scientific term for sugar. Sugars come in various shapes and sizes. There's the small monosaccharides (like glucose and fructose), the medium sized disaccharides (like lactose and sucrose), and the really big chains of these smaller sugars that compose polysaccharides.
Fruit sugars are predominately fructose. In the end, the body converts all of this sugar to the most basic and efficient form, which is glucose. Take a look at this graph:

When glucose (in the form of sugar, flour, etc.) enters the body, it is immediately sent to the bloodstream to make it available for our cells to use. This is incredibly efficient, but this also causes insulin to surge (giving glucose a high glycemic index), which is something our body just isn't designed to handle. When fructose enters our body, it must be converted to glucose in the liver. The conversion process, along with the fiber in the fruit, slows the stream of glucose sent to the bloodstream making for a much more gentle and natural rise and fall of insulin (a low glycemic index).

Don't let me mislead you though. There is certainly glucose molecules in fruit and vegetables. After all, it is the primary source of energy that life needs to survive. It is the byproduct of photosynthesis in these plants. These fruits just aren't loaded with glucose. What is wheat flour? It is a pile of polysaccharides (read: large sugars) each composed of extremely long strands of glucose molecules. That's it. Straight glucose (and largely insignificant amounts of protein, oil, and fiber...).

Calorie for calorie, fruits also have an abundance of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that grains just can't match. Fruit was designed to be eaten. It is in the plant's best interest to be eaten so you will spread its seeds. I won't even begin to explain my thoughts of the lectins and antinutrients in grain products that are there to dissuade you from consuming them. (That was already done quite well for me here.) They do fine spreading their seeds by the wind, water, and unforunately the hand of the modern American farmer.

--

On a slightly different note, I am happy to report that I received a very personal response to my letter on healthcare reform and food subsidies from U.S. House Representative Virginia Foxx. I will keep you updated on any other responses that I get in the future. If you'd like to read the letter, and maybe send a few yourself, see my post here.


10 November 2009

Chicken Curry & "Rice"

It seems everyone is looking for a short cut or substitutions.

What do you eat instead of bread? What do you eat in place of rice? Chips? Pasta?

I'm not really a big fan of substitutions. We've been conditioned to believe that every meal has to contain a starch of some kind or we have conniption fits. I tend to think that we need to just overhaul our current perceptions of what our dinner plate is supposed to look like.

But I do have a confession to make. Last night, I made my very first plate of "cauliflower rice." This has long been a common recipe in the world of the "paleolithic" and "primal" food movements, but one I had never really given much attention to until now. This stuff looks and feels like rice, and hardly tastes like a vegetable at all.

So how do I make it?


Wash and cut a large handful of cauliflower florets. Place them in a food processor and pulse them until they reach a grain-like consistency. Grease a nonstick skillet with avocado/walnut/coconut oil or butter and add 1 tblsp. of almond flour. Let this mixture cook on medium heat for about 3 minutes. Add in your cauliflower, stir, and continue to cook until the cauliflower becomes a bit soft (about 8-10 minutes). Then, add 1 tblsp. of water, 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon, and 1 tsp. of cumin. Continue to cook until all the water has evaporated. Stir occassionally to prevent too much browning. You won't even know it's cauliflower!

I paired this up with some chicken and shrimp that I simmered in some unsweetened coconut milk (not coconut water), paprika, and spicy curry powder. You should be able to find canned coconut milk in the Asian/Thai section of the grocery store.

05 November 2009

Disproportionately Affected

Take a look at the maps here:


































One of these maps shows the average income per household in each state. The other shows the percentage of the population that is obese in each state. Notice anything? Mississippi and Arkansas have some of the lowest mean incomes and also the most obesity. In fact, the same thing can be said for the majority of the southeast. Now look at states out west like Colorado, Utah, and Nevada or the New England states. They have a much higher average income and much lower rates of obesity. The correlation is remarkable.

Carbohydrates are cheap. Families with lower incomes buy processed, high carbohydrate food. This is the heart of the issue.

Today, I'm including an essay I wrote for an English class last year. I really enjoyed putting this together. Unfortunately, it earned me a B+. Go figure.

"An epidemic is sweeping America. It is not cancer or HIV. It is not even the cold or flu. It is an entirely preventable disease named obesity, and unfortunately, the statistics present another alarming trend: the lower class population is disproportionately affected by it. In 1974, 22.5% of people making less than $25,000 per year were obese. In 2002, this had increased to a staggering 33%. That same year, another 30% of people making between $25,000 and $40,000 were also listed as obese. Numbers for obesity are on the rise in nearly every social, ethnic, and age demographic, but lack of proper nutrition due to cost and availability of quality food makes the low class especially vulnerable.


"The low-income population is without a doubt the most affected by obesity in today’s society and though the low-income status is not limited to one or two particular ethnic groups, the large majority of low-income families in America are of African and Hispanic decent.

"The problem begins with the places the poor are able to shop. Well known chains such as Wal-Mart and McDonald’s are not exactly the ideal places to purchase high quality and nutritious food stuffs. In contrast, franchises such as Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are not exactly catering to the poor population’s wallet.

"Soda and chips are inexpensive. Milk and vegetables are not. The main issue with the diet of low income families is the fact that it relies heavily on cheap, processed foods with a high carbohydrate content and high calorie to nutrient ratio.

"The human body has taken many millions of years to evolve and adapt. It has only been in the last 10,000 years approximately that the agricultural revolution occurred, introducing the human body to grain where before it had relied only on meat, leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and some fruit and berries. This also introduced the human population to a diet high in carbohydrate that it had formerly not been accustomed to (or evolved to digest), which causes a much more dramatic rise in the production of insulin. This excess insulin causes an intense craving for more carbohydrates and sugars to maintain normal blood sugar levels. It is clear to see that this reaction can never be truly balanced and leads to overeating and obesity.

"Many years later, as the population of the modern world exponentially increased, there became a greater need for food and efficiency of farmland. An acre of land producing corn or wheat can provide about eight times the amount of calories than an acre used to raise livestock. Grain became a cheap way to produce massive amounts of food for the world’s (and livestock’s) appetite. Additionally, these grain products had a much longer shelf life than vegetables and meat. The shelf life could be extended further with processing and harmful additives (such as hydrogenated oils and nitrites), which also helped decrease costs even more, making them the most cost effective way to keep families from starving on a budget.

"This reliance on grain-based carbohydrates is unfortunately also supported by the United States government partly due to pressure by agricultural technology lobbyists and a series of outdated studies carefully selected for results that matched their agenda (from scientists desperate for funding). Subsequently, the USDA’s Food Pyramid suggests Americans get the majority of their calories from grain-based carbohydrates, a macronutrient introduced to the human body in large quantities only recently in an evolutionary sense!

"The problem does not necessarily lie in all carbohydrates. In fact, fruits and vegetables are full of them, but there exists a very important difference. Fruits and vegetables are extremely nutrient dense, do not cause dramatic insulin spikes, and are not subjected to processing to make them edible. None of these remarks can be made about grains.

"As previously stated, the poor diet of lower income Americans has a huge impact on their health and wellbeing. The main problem is obesity, but it does not stop there. Obesity can lead to a host of other issues such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, gallbladder disease, and some cancers. Still, diabetes remains the most common byproduct of obesity caused by the high carb, highly processed diet. Insulin production is rarely ever stabilized after the body has received years of a constant barrage of high glycemic, grain-based, processed carbohydrates. The costs incurred from diabetes are not only limited to the physical, but also the monetary expenses associated with the disease. There are constant doctor visits, prescriptions, and quite possibly surgeries. Low-income citizens do not make enough money to pay for healthy quality foods to eat, let alone health insurance or surgery!

"The modern American diet is quite controversial. The recommended nutrition guidelines are filled with political and scientific bias that do little to help the public, but rather boost careers and help secure funding. Canada’s food guidelines provide a much more accurate representation of human biological needs. It suggests that the basis of a healthy diet is colorful fruits and vegetables and then grain products. Lean meats (including red meat) and some dairy also make their way into the recommendations, as do healthy fats like olive oil and nuts.

"A magnificent challenge lies ahead in getting these types of food into the hands of everyone across the country. It could begin with government subsidies of these healthy foods (or no subsidies at all), as well as incentives for quality food chains to open locations in a lower income city or town. Simply reducing food waste could also have a drastic impact on lowering the demand for food and ultimately lower prices. Education and supplies for simple home vegetable gardening would also be of great benefit to those willing.

"Something must be done to help the poor to receive the proper nutrition that so many other Americans take for granted. The government needs to step in to allow them access to quality foods, and take the politics out of the USDA’s Food Pyramid that is misinforming so many. Highly processed, grain-based carbohydrate diets are dangerous to the innocent and na├»ve lower class in our country and ultimately cost us all."

02 November 2009

The Salt Situation, Pt. II

So should you still worry about salt?

Well... Yes.

The amount of sodium in your kidneys is ultimately related to the amount that you eat, though it probably only causes problems when your carbohydrate intake is high as I described in the previous post.

However, there is a common misconception that to reduce your sodium intake, you can simply quit putting salt on your food when it gets to the table. This can reduce your intake, but most people are surprised to learn that only about 20% of our sodium comes from the salt shaker.

Then where does all that sodium come from?

I'm glad you asked. About 80% of our salt intake comes from the processed foods we eat everyday. Crackers, breads, chips, deli meats, baked goods, canned soups and vegetables, cheeses, frozen dinners, restaurant meals, and pickled foods all contribute a terribly high amount of sodium to our diet.

I'll admit that I'm a sea salt fanatic. I put a pinch in my eggs in the morning, in my homemade salad dressings, and on my grilled chicken, but I spend very little time worrying about having too much salt in my diet since I rarely ever consume processed food products.

If there's a single thread that ties all of my posts together, it is to avoid processed foods. Here again, if we avoid processed foods, we also avoid high sodium foods and high carbohydrate foods. Not only does this reduce the risk of hypertension, but also obesity, diabetes, and others.