Food: there is plenty around and we all love to eat. But unfortunately, a lot of it we are consuming today is really not food. We eat it in the car after purchasing it at our favorite fast food establishment, or in front of the TV and often alone. We grab a bag of some kind of “healthy -sounding” food on the package and we call it lunch and sometimes even dinner.
Michael Pollan wrote a book a few years ago (2008) called In Defense of Food: An Eater’s Manifesto. I highly recommend that every American who eats read this book. He refers to our current food choices as “not real” and describes them as “edible food like substances”. Many come with false health claims promising the same benefits as their “real” counterparts, but as Pollan says: “30 years of nutrition advice has only made us sicker and fatter. In the so-called American or Western diet, these foods are nowhere near being nutritious with their long lists of ingredients that are impossible to pronounce.
“Pollan’s manifesto shows us “how we can relearn which foods are healthy and to develop simple ways to return eating to its proper context -out of the car and back to the table.”
A portion of Pollan’s book In Defense of Food, first appeared in the New York Times Magazine under the title, “Unhappy Meals” and can be found online. The article requires a subscription but does allow a limited number of free articles.
If you want a book full of “straight talk” about our food culture, the book is a must read. The book should be available at reduced used book prices. Check Amazon.
To safeguard one’s health at the cost of too strict a diet is a tiresome illness indeed.
Francois Duc de La Rochefoucauld (1613 – 1680’s) French writer and moralist
“In a study of four countries, food psychologist Paul Rozin at the University of Pennsylvania found the following:
The French are the most food-pleasure oriented and the least health-oriented. In contrast, Americans had the worst of both worlds: They had the greatest worry over their health and had greater dissatisfaction with what they ate. Americans scored the highest on worrying about the fattening effects of food.
Interestingly, Rozin concluded that the negative impact of worry and stress over healthy eating may have a more profound effect on health than the actual food consumed. Indeed, it is widely accepted that stress triggers a biological chemical assault in our bodies, which is harmful to our health.”
“More information about the French reveals that the US currently has twice the incidence of overweight people compared to France for both adults and children. The French have a longer life expectancy, take less medication, and have a markedly lower rate of heart disease. Yet the French eat a diet that appears to be less healthy this is popularly known as the French paradox. Notably, France has the highest per capita dairy fat consumption up of any industrial nation (think cream, butter and cheese.)
Just as important, the French have fewer eating disorders and don’t engage in dieting as much as Americans. It has been speculated that wine consumption and eating smaller portions of food may explain the French paradox, we believe it could be the relationship that the French have with food the French have a more positive attitude toward eating dash it is viewed as one of life’s pleasures not his poison. Food is something to be revered.
Even when the French eat fast food, they take more time to eat compared to the eating pace of Americans.
“According to the calorie control council, 43% of dieters in the United states say that they that snacking too much is the reason they haven’t sustained their desired weight. Unlike north Americans who typically consume as many as three snacks a day, the French don’t usually partake in this between meal ritual this non habit may contribute to the comparatively higher proportion of slimmer figures found in France.
“French children may have an after-school snack which can be a croissant with a hidden dollop of dark chocolate to tide them over until dinner, but regular snacking just isn’t part of the adult French culture. Their substantial lunch often usurps the need for an afternoon snack. Snacks are a novelty in France where in America snacks appear to be a necessity.”
Sources: Steven Jonas, M.D., Sandra Gordon. 30 Secrets of the World’s Healthiest Cuisines, 2000.
Intuitive Eating: A Revolutionary Program That Works, 2012.
NOTE: Although this data may seem a bit dated, the numbers reflect how the French ate a few decades ago. Unfortunately, many of the younger French population has been influenced by a more current French Diet that has incorporated many characteristics of the Standard American Diet leading to a loss of some of original health benefits. For example:
Obesity rates in France are among the lowest in the OECD , but have been increasing steadily. About 1 in 10 people is obese in France, and almost 40% are overweight (including obese). OECD projections indicate that overweight rates will increase by a further 10% within ten years.
Summary: A healthy-plant-based diet was linked to a lower risk of getting COVID-19, and among people with COVID-19 , a lower risk of experiencing severe symptoms.
“….our study suggests that individuals can also potentially reduce their risk of getting COVID-19 or having poor outcomes by paying attention to their diet” says co-senior author Andrew Chan, MD, MPH, a gastroenterologist and chief of the Clinical and Translational Epidemiology Unit at Massachusetts General Hospital.
Want to make your recipes more nutritious – why not? Becoming an expert with food substitutions can save you calories or avoid undesirable ingredients (less healthy) and add better choices for a healthier diet.
For example: Most people do not get enough fiber. “In most recipes you can replace a high percentage of white flour with whole grain or bean flour. Another idea would be to grind up oats and nuts to use in place of some of the white flour. This works well in quick breads, muffins, and pancake/waffle batter.” Delicious, Nutritious, Pam Stuppy, MS, RD, LD in the Asheville Citizen Times, Tuesday, September 21, 2021.
Have we learned anything from Covid-19? I would hope so and that some good will come of it – although it’s hard to believe that it will happen at times as we are still fighting its many battles.
In his latest book, Metabolical, Dr. Robert H. Lustig, MD, MSL, author of the best selling book, ‘Fat Chance, “insists that if we do not change the way we eat, we will continue to court chronic disease, bankrupt our health care, and threaten the planet. But there is hope.” Metabolical: The Lure and Lies of Processed Food, Nutrition, and Modern Medicine. 2021.
The Bottom Line: If (and it’s a big IF), we change our ways even in small steps that reflect a healthier body, we may be able to better withstand the consequences of an infectious disease like COVID. Make sense???
“Conventional scientific opinion says that eating too many calories without doing enough exercise to burn them off again causes weight gain. But this prevailing energy balance model faces a fresh challenge from the carbohydrate-insulin model (CIM) following the publication of a new article in The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition.
The CIM argues that it is the quality of the food a person eats — rather than the quantity — that determines whether a person will gain weight and eventually develop obesity. Consuming large quantities of processed and starchy carbohydrates in particular sustains a cascade of hormonal and metabolic changes that result in the storage of excess energy as fat.
Crucially, the CIM says that the urge to eat too many calories is a result of accumulating excess fat in the body, not its cause. This directly opposes the energy balance model.
So which model is correct? The answer has huge implications for the diets of billions of people, as well as the prospects of overcoming the obesity pandemic.
This week, Medical News Today spoke with several experts from both camps about the merits and shortcomings of each model. There is one thing that both models agree on: the sugars and refined grains that make up 42% of the calories in the U.S. diet should be drastically reduced.
A term used for decades to describe foods that would make one gain weight was the expression of “fattening”.
Moderate avoidance (though not totally responsible) of these foods became the conventional wisdom to help avoid weight gain and became a dieter’s mantra. In fact, food history indicates that body-weight was relatively stable until about the late 1990’s in the United States. At that time, dietary advice had shifted to low-fat diets with the added disadvantage of food companies at the time replacing fat in their food products with more carbohydrate-containing foods.
Keep in mind- basic biochemistry tells us that all carbohydrates (except for dietary fiber) are eventually converted to glucose in the body to be used for energy. We are further reminded that some carbs are referred to as “starchy” (bad) and others as “non starchy” (good ).
The following article further elucidates the term of what are now commonly referred to as “white foods” and refers to their state of processing – refined or unrefined and how they may participate in our current obesity epidemic.
“The liver is a unique organ in that it can regenerate and repair itself. That means there is a lot you can do to prevent and possibly reverse liver disease. There is a troubling trend of an increase in what is known as non-alcoholic fatty liver disease (NAFLD) that is unrelated to alcohol intake.”
“No one – especially if they suspect or know they have liver disease should turn to detox supplements unless they are approved by their doctor. These product are not tested by the FDA, so the purity and amount of ingredients in them are unpredictable. Some may have compounds that may irritate the liver and do more damage.” Why make the liver work harder? CLICK HERE.
How to Take Care of Your Liver, Consumer Reports On Health. September, 2021, Volume 33 Issue 9
The ability of the immune system to fight disease declines with age. As it does, the incidence of infections, cancers, and autoimmune diseases increase and the effectiveness of immunizations decline. In turn, the presence of infections and chronic disease contributes to malnutrition.
Nutrient deficiencies are common in older adults, including deficiencies of zinc, iron, beta-carotene, folic acid and vitamins B6, B12, C, D, and E. Supplements of some of these individual nutrients have been shown to increase certain aspects of the immune response, but have not been shown to reduce mortality from infections. High doses of some nutrients, including zinc, copper, and iron, depressed immune function, so supplement should not contain more than 100% of the daily value. There is little evidence that “megadoses” (over the Daily Value) of any vitamin or mineral is necessary for optimum health.
It may surprise no one that the foods we eat (and don’t eat) affect the way our digestive system functions. For example, too much bread and not enough fiber can lead to constipation rather quickly. If your diet has consistently been undersupplied of certain proteins, minerals, or other needed nutrients, it can create disorder in your system. This isn’t just a problem for your digestive system; it can also cause problems with your skin, immune system, and respiratory system.
Common causes of gastrointestinal (GI) disorders are inappropriate diets, a lack of exercise and inflammation anywhere along the length of the digestive tract. In addition to gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), one of the most common GI disorders is irritable bowel syndrome (IBS). It’s a chronic condition that causes a variety of signs and symptoms, from mild to severe. While there’s no cure for IBS, dietary and lifestyle changes such as avoiding certain foods and decreasing stress levels can ease symptoms. These may include bloating, diarrhea, constipation, heartburn, acid reflux, and nausea.
Because there are so many possible causes of GI disorders, they can be difficult to treat.
How Do Processed Foods Impair the GI Tract?
Processed foods are bad to eat for a number of reasons, including that they can contribute to GI disorders. The problems associated with processed foods include:
Low-fiber content that could unsettle digestion and aggravate existing GI symptoms
High levels of trans fats, which raises bad (LDL) cholesterol levels and increases gut inflammation
Additives like preservatives, sweeteners, bleaches or colorants, which can alter the balance of the microbiome of the gut, causing disease and dysfunction
Fiber is Your Friend
Fiber assists in the movement of materials through the digestive system. Processed foods are very low in fiber – so a diet high in processed foods can greatly increase your risk for GI disorders.
Consuming a high-fiber diet is an easy way to help avoid GI disorders or manage the symptoms of one. A diet with sufficient quantities of fiber – 25 to 30 grams a day is recommended to help normalize the digestive process, increasing the size of bowel movements and softening it.
This reduces the risk of hemorrhoids and small pouches in your colon (diverticulosis). The type of fiber found in foods like beans, bran, and oats (soluble fiber) helps to reduce bad LDL cholesterol levels. In people with diabetes, soluble fiber has shown to slow the absorption of sugar and help improve blood sugar levels. Fiber may also improve heart health by helping to reduce blood pressure and inflammation.
Foods that are high in fiber are more filling. You can eat less and stay satisfied longer, making it easier to obtain or maintain a healthy weight.
Dan Beuttner has gathered some of the top scientists in the world to study these remarkable places called the Blue Zones where many people live to 100 years or more. They not only live long, healthy lives, but serve as teachers to the rest of us on a series of “food rituals’ ‘ that along with other healthy lifestyle factors contribute to this scenario.
In our evolutionary history, we as hunter-gatherers lived at a time where we sought calorie-loaded foods in order to simply survive. Needless, to say, many of us don’t have this added stress to simply feed our families. On the other hand, many of us in the world today are living in a time when obesity is now called a pandemic and we are faced with the possibility of dying from abundance and not scarcity. We refer to our food choices as part of a conglomerate of industries referred to as big Ag, big Food the Standard American Diet or more realistically as the SAD diet.
What Can We Learn and How?
Centenarians in the Blue Zones follow daily rituals around food and meals that help them stay on course – practicing them in your own lives are the keys to longevity. Here is a brief guideline.
MAKE BREAKFAST THE LARGEST MEAL OF THE DAY.
“Include complex carbohydrates, healthy fats and plant or animal protein.
Expand your choices beyond cereal or eggs. In certain Blue Zone countries, some include beans, tortillas, miso soup.”
COOK YOUR MEALS AT HOME.
Plan and prep ingredients for dinner in the morning. Use your slow cooker often, so dinner cooks all day and is ready for you late afternoon.
HARI HACHI BU
Plan to stop eating when you’re close to 80% full, based on a 2500 year old Confucian adage and practiced by the Okinawans. “ Try saying it before a meal by simply pausing for a moment of silence or saying thanks is a way to recognize the appreciation of your food.
“Recent evidence shows that fasting, even for a day, can recalibrate insulin release, temporarily lower blood pressure and lower cholesterol. Research has suggested that calorie restriction may slow aging.
Try eating only two meals a day; a big late-morning brunch and a second meal around 5 p.m.”
EAT WITH FAMILY AND FRIENDS
“Most people in the Blue Zones often have three-hour dinner affairs with a succession of many small courses. They never eat standing up or while driving. Avoid reading, watching TV or using your phone.”
Celebrate and Enjoy Food
“We eat about 1100 meals a year. If we celebrate a couple of times a week and enjoy what we love to eat, that still leaves almost 1,000 meals a year to eat the Blue Zones way.”
Pick one day of the week and make it your celebratory day to splurge on a meal with your favorite foods.”
Diets that use restrictions, limitations or deprivations never work.
Dan Buettner. The Blue Zones Solution: Eating and Living Like the World’s Healthiest People, 2015,