Wednesday, October 20, 2010
I wake at 4:30 am nearly every weekday, drink a big glass of water and I’m at the gym by 5:10. I pack everything I need for the day the night before so it’s a simple matter of load and go. There are showers at work, so I leave straight for the office when I finish at the gym at 6:00 am, missing all the traffic, eating overnight-soaked oatmeal or buckwheat with raisins and cinnamon. I’m at my desk at 7:20.
My routine at the gym includes time on the elliptical trainer which I program for interval training so my heart can work at 140 bpm and then drop to 120 bpm for eight repetitions over 35 minutes. I always cool down until my heart rate is 108 beats per minute before I start a short weight training circuit.
I usually wear a heart rate monitor when I train at the gym for two reasons: 1) I can run hands-free on the machines and the machines will pick up the signal from the chest monitor and display the bpm’s on the screen, and 2) I can measure at what rate my heart starts skipping beats or double beats. This helps me stay just under that threshold, which, the last time I tested myself 4 months ago was at 150 bpm after about 10 minutes. Fortunately, there is no discomfort when this happens, but I think it would be dangerous working at this level for too long so I don’t do it. Maybe I’ll test myself again in a month or two.
At work, I walk on my lunch break for two miles. If I have time, I’ll do it twice.
I tried to hike every weekend over the spring and summer, which was fantastic. We have a medium difficulty trail that provides a nice nine mile round trip which just invigorates the body. My heart rate rarely got over 120 bpm, but a few hours of that really makes you feel good for days afterward. Hiking is the best!
Eleven months of eating vegan and steady training has reaped some benefits. My resting heart rate is 48, my blood pressure is currently 125/74, and my weight stays the same at around 134 when I weigh myself in the morning.
On 05/26/2010, I went in for blood work. These are the results:
Total cholesterol : 173
VLDL Cholesterol (calculated): 31
LDL Cholesterol (calculated):110
HDL Cholesterol: 32
Cholsterol/HDL ratio: 5.44 (average risk)
LDL/HDL ratio: 3.44 (average risk)
High sensitivity CRP: <0.2 (tough to beat that)
Thinking about what I was eating, I was taking in much too much sugar, mostly fruits like bananas, but even some crystallized ginger. On my no fat diet, there is no fat to slow down the sugar spikes, so it’s no wonder the numbers are off.
Changes were in order. My doctor suggested I take a low dose statin, to which I said no, though I’m sure it would force the numbers down. After some talk, I did agree to a baby aspirin and fish oil. So I take two krill capsules daily. He suggests more. And every now and then I’ll take in some avocado. Still no animal and no added oils other than the omega 3 krill capsules. I cut way back on fruit, especially bananas, and dropped the crystallized ginger.
Then on 09/29/10 I went in for an echocardiogram stress test. That’s as close as I’m willing to go to an angiogram to evaluate the condition of my heart. I’ll get to the test in a moment, but first I’ll disclose the results of the blood work done a couple of days prior.
Total Cholesterol: 174
VLDL Cholesterol (calculated): 31
LDL Cholesterol (calculated):102
HDL Cholesterol: 41
Cholesterol/HDL ratio: 4.2 (Below average risk)
LDL/HDL ratio: 2.49 (average risk)
High sensitivity CRP: <0.2 (not taken)
So the reduction of the fruit, elimination of the sugary crystallized ginger and the introduction of the krill oil did have an effect. It dropped my LDL and raised my HDL, just like my doctor said it would. I’ll test again in six months and see what happens.
In the meantime, it looks like my total cholesterol is hovering at around 173, and my “industry calculated” risk is dropping. I could always make a few more changes in my diet choices.
Back to the stress test. Fully wired, I walked on a treadmill that gained in elevation every two minutes or so for a total of 11 minutes. Then I immediately laid down on my left side so the assistant could perform an ultrasound of my heart to measure throughput, I am assuming. Once she finished, I sat up, the doctor smiled, shook my hand and said, “Good job!”. That’s it. Nothing else.
I called a couple of days later and asked for results, and I was told, ”The doctor said everything was normal”. Ok, I can live with that.
Friday, November 27, 2009
It's one last day before we need to consider meal preparation at home and a last opportunity to wish those well who have come from around the world to fight the good fight for their physical health with the best tool available - the immune system of their own bodies. And I can't forget to again thank the staff - the doctors, cooks and even the housecleaning crew - who have all made it clear that they each are committed to the well-being of all of us, while making you feel like you mattered the most.
I have a fleeting fantasy of being well to do enough to hire our own professional cook, one who would shop for us and prepare each meal just the way we need. Then it would no longer be an issue carefully planning and always having enough healthy snacks around for everyone to eat, even packing delicious food for times when wer're in town and the fast food smells call. As truth sets in, the dream fades, and I come back to the reality that the responsibility to eat the right food must be owned by me and delegated to no one else - whether it be food for the soul, the body, the mind or the spirit. It all matters and it's all tied together. I must care for each of these areas to be fully alive. We all owe ourselves that much.
Thirty-three days I will have been here. Looking back on my first day seems like an eternity ago and forever since I've been home. I look ahead and no sooner do I end my day of rest, that Monday morning comes all too soon and I start work at a new place. New life begins.
I've gained about eight pounds since my low of 123, and my blood pressure, though much lower and considered in the normal average American range, will continue to drop with time and continued adherence to the right foods. It fluctuates a bit which baffles everyone here, but the trend is still downward. I need no drugs. It may be a few months before it figures out where it wants to settle. For many people on this food plan (which rids the body of hidden sources of sodium), 90/60 is not uncommon. But everyone is a little different. There is no definitive and safe way to gauge the degree of progress in the clearing if the artery, and I still feel slight symptoms occasionally. I'm a work in progress, and there is till steady clearing going on, so time will tell.
Overall, I feel fantastic. I have never been this calm inside. I am well rested with 6.5 hours of sleep. All agitation is gone. I think more clearly and calmly, I don't feel a need to get anywhere in a hurry when I drive, and I notice the little things. I am more sensitive to the kinds of things that can tear me down, and I recognize and gravitate almost intuitively to those things that promote my well-being. Moments of joy come easy and last longer. These unexpected results alone were worth every day of this experience. It was worth every dime, too, though money could never buy it. The help I gave my physical body was just a bonus.
I'll continue to post occasionally items of interest that I discover in material I have read once I know the material to be true and sound and can help us all make better food choices. I have no desire to listen to or quote the mainstream media headlines as it pertains to health advice, as over the years they have misled and confused us all with their contradictory headlines and outright false and misleading news quips, proving time and time again, they don't do their homework and buy whatever they are fed because they're just flat lazy. The majority of us a long time ago hopelessly just threw our hands in the air, gave up on all of it, and went back to eating whatever the heck we wanted to.
I've just tossed into the garbage a brand new book that I spent a few extra dollars for because it was available only in harcover. Even giving it away seemed like murder to me, so straight to the trash it went. Thinking that with such a promising title it might contain some life-saving information that could help others who just want to live, I read through it cover to cover looking for signs of intelligence only to find that he did not do his homework, but merely quoted the same tired headlines and pushed the same old lies, and decided anyway that it was clearly in his own best self-interest to make a quick buck and write yet another money-maker on the same failed "breakthrough" diet plan and to do his ignorant best to teach trusting readers everywhere just how easy it is to commit suicide in tasteful culinary fashion.
This "revolutionary" plan continues to kill Americans at the same rate as Atkins, The Zone, blood type, and South Beach diets do. You won't buy an extra day on these diets. And the author is a cardiologist! And what diet is this? The high-fat, low activity, high calorie American version of the so-called "mediterranean" diet. Don't do it. You are not from post-WWII Crete and neither is your food and the facts speak clearly against the headlines. Throw the meat to the dogs, dump the oil down the sink, and eat from the garden. The rest is fine tuning. There - I just saved you $23.99 plus shipping.
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
There are two simple rules for reading labels.
Rule #1) NEVER, EVER believe ANYTHING on the front of ANY package. EVER.
So why can’t you believe the front of the box? Simple. The box is designed to sell the product. Period. Nothing else. There is simply NO value to the front of the box except to get that box or that can or that package into your cart. They don’t care if you eat the whole box and have a heart attack. Of course, if the box says organic, at least you’ll have the distinct advantage of having an organic heart attack!
Rule #2) Always read the nutrition facts label and the ingredients list. Always.
The number one reason to stay vigilant? Because the ingredient list changes as the product line (especially small companies selling a decent product) is bought and sold from month to month, behind the scenes, faster than bubble gum trading cards. Need to turn a quick profit on that overpriced product line you just bought? Keep the brand and use cheaper ingredients. And don't tell anyone. Use these cheaper ingredients in manipulated quantities to over-stimulate consumer demand. What you, as the consumer, read last month, and now take for granted because the packaging still looks the same, could have a whole new list of ingredients that are way off the mark. You need to know what’s in there.
Let’s talk about three of the heavy hitters, fat, sodium and sugar, the unfair deceptions used to market products, and what to look for to make better decisions. This is in no way inclusive.
Fat – The body only needs 3-5% of its calories from fat. That’s it. All fat necessary is easily attainable through plants (omega-3) and a very small amount of nuts and seeds (omega-6).
So a safe number of total fat for optimal health is no more than 10-12%. This low number has been shown to reverse heart disease and provide protection from cancer (when the diet is plant based and wholesome, of course), according to the best studies, including the China Project. The guideline established by our government is closer to 35% of total calories from fat, which is not health promoting at all, but a compromise between the decision makers, their food industry $ponsor$ (dairy, cattle, agri-business), and the fear they have that if the truth be told, we’d immediately and systematically start lynching our representatives, the economy would turn on it’s head, the earth would spin backwards and we’d all fly off. OH, that and they’d lose their jobs. Because we’d fire them. Now that part would be true…
Trick #1 – Use fat percentages by weight rather than fat calories per total calories. Our food regulators have never advocated reducing fat by volume because it means nothing. The only meaningful measurement has always been determining a “safe” limit of fat by comparing fat calories to total calories. It is way too high by any other standard but their own, but at least it’s honest.
Here’s the rub about fat content shown on the box. The front of the box may say ‘Only 2% fat’. This is not 2% of the total CALORIES from fat, this is 2% of the total WEIGHT, which means absolutely nothing. This is done for every product (it’s even one of the nutritional numbers on the back to further confuse you!) ever packaged, with the intent to make the product look healthy - and it makes it even easier for manufacturers to claim “now with 20% less fat” by simply increasing the water content! Did the product really change?
Take a 12 ounce can of water as a simple example. Add 2 tablespoons of oil. Any oil, they all have the same amount of fat. Percentage of fat by weight? Negligible. Therefore, listed as zero. Percentage of fat by calories? Anybody guess 100%? Correct! Is this lower than the recommended optimal amount of 10%? They could actually put on the front of the can of pure fat-water “0 grams fat”. Milk? 2%? – by weight that looks good. By calories? 32% of all the calories in 2% milk is fat! Whole milk - which is only 4%, derives a remarkable 48% of its total calories from fat. Will that get anyone the health they want when optimal is 10-12%?
Trick #2 – They change portion size. Manufacturers do not have to list the fat if there is less than .50 grams per serving size. The front of the box can even say, “0 grams of fat per serving size”, and according to their own twisted guidelines, they aren’t really ‘lying’. Did they tell you a serving size was one cracker? If there’s .49 grams of fat in one cracker, and you feed your child 8 crackers (that’s not unreasonable, who can eat just one), can you do the math here? But the box said “0 grams of fat” on the front! Even if you ate one a day until the box was gone, you’ve taken in 75 grams of fat that you did not need, and after you choke on the list of ingredients, you’ll discover it to be the worst fat you can put into your body!
Cooking spray? It says 100% heart-healthy olive on the can AND it says 0 calories! How can this be? Easy - A serving size is a spray that lasts 1/3 of a second. In that third of a second, out comes .49 grams of fat. Can you spray a pan with 1/3 of a second’s worth of spray?
Trick #3 – They label the product ‘Heart healthy oil”. This trick is designed to lull you into thinking you don’t need to look at the back of the package AT ALL. If you did look before, now you don’t need to because this oil is ‘Heart Healthy’! We’ve got your back, smart shopper! I’m not even going to cover what I think of ‘heart healthy’ oils bought off the shelves again – check one of my previous entries.
Trick #4 – Don’t call it fat. That’s nasty! Instead, put these on the ingredients list.
· canola oil
· peanut oil
· avocado oil
· olive oil.
Saturated fats and Trans fatty acids:
· animal fat/oil
· baking margarine
· hydrogenated fat
· butter fat
· milk solids
· palm oil
· coconut oil
· coconut cream/coconut milk
· cocoa butter
· soybean oil
· safflower oil
· corn oil
· sunflower oil
· grape seed oil.
How to determine true fat content? It is EASY.
Find the food label. Find total calories per serving. Find total fat per serving. Fat / calories = fat percent. If you come up with more than .12, and and you want to make a difference in your health (as far as fat goes), find a better product.
Sodium. The upper, upper limit established by the most reasonable guidelines is 2300 mg per day. For optimal health, you need only 300-500 mg at the most per day – all found in whole foods. It does not need to be added to any food product you eat. How many people do you know who have attempted to lower their blood pressure by tossing the table salt only to find it made no difference or sadly discovered it actually went up?
That’s because only five percent of the total sodium consumed in the typical American diet comes from table salt! Where does the rest of the sodium come from?
Trick #1 – Call it ‘Low Sodium’.
Never believe this. The packaged products – especially the ones labeled ‘Low Sodium’, are the drivers of hypertension this country has ever seen. But it is easy to determine the correct amount in a product to determine whether it is safe or not.
On the back is the total sodium. Also listed is the total calories. Are they the same number or close to it? Don’t consider the units, just the number. A 1:1 ratio is as high as you want to go. That’s the upper, upper limit! Even then, the portion size can be so small that it wouldn’t fill a mouse. So you eat the whole can of “safe” soup just to get a meal and still wind up taking in 5000 mg of sodium. Homemade vegetable soup, in contrast, is 120 calories and 5 mg sodium. It’s ridiculous! Sodium is one mineral that you’ll never have to worry about getting enough of. It’s found everywhere in the plant kingdom. If you shake the salt shaker once or twice just before you eat your homemade soup (assuming it is made entirely from only whole natural ingredients, of course), fine. Just remember, salt stimulates the desire for more salt and before you know it….
Packaged vegetable broths are a real problem here. Never trust ‘organic’ or ‘low sodium’. They mean nothing. Read the label on the back. Julie just bought one of those cartons of ready to pour organic vegetable broth that said ‘low sodium’ on the front. She then read the back of the box after she got home and found it had 120 calories per serving and 640 mg of sodium! That’s almost three times higher than the high limit using this simple test. How they came up with ‘low’, I will never know. They can say anything they want. Back to the store these went. Now we’ll be making our own and freezing it.
You, too, can make it for next to nothing and freeze it by the gallon. It’ll taste better and you’ll know exactly what’s in it. It will have no fat and only a small amount of sodium from the vegetables and be perfectly good for you. You can use it as a base for an infinite number of recipes. I’ll share the directions for it in a separate blog entry so it will be easy to find.
Sugar. How much sugar do you need? In a packaged product – none. What we need are complex carbohydrates in their whole form. No one needs packaged simple sugars in a box, can or bottle. It has no value. Have a piece of fruit or use fresh fruit juice right from the fruit to use as a sweetener.
Agave nectar, which I thought would be a better poison, instead stands proud among the best. Its’ chemical structure dictates that it is nothing but an even more concentrated form of high fructose corn syrup, which is absolutely foreign to the body. It cannot be converted to blood glucose for energy to be used by the muscles like fruit sugars can in their whole form. It instead shows up as elevated triglycerides in the blood stream and stored body fat. Elevated triglyceride levels lead to cardio-vascular disease by causing inflammation in the arteries.
So here is the rundown of some of the sweet benefits of this totally man made product and all high fructose corn sweeteners - While high fructose corn syrup won't spike your blood sugar levels quite as much as plain old sugar, it can kill a diabetic quicker than sugar can. The fructose will cause: mineral depletion, liver inflammation, hardening of the arteries, insulin resistance leading to diabetes, cardio-vascular disease, obesity, and may be toxic for use during pregnancy.
So who is most at risk? That’s right - our kids - with every juice box and fruit rollup and sugary snack. Pancake syrup comes to mind. Add this to all the rest of the junk called food. You have diagnosed heart disease at 50 like me? Your children and mine stand to get the same diagnosis or worse ten years earlier, or sooner. Watch the news. We now have kids on Lipitor – for life.
Trick #1 - Manufacturers avoid listing sugars as the number #1 ingredient.
Why? We’re not THAT stupid! Sugar listed as the number one ingredient is, in the eyes of most savvy consumers, provokes an immediate sub-conscious rejection. We may actually even think twice about buying it. How do manufacturers avoid product suicide? Easy. Since the ingredients must be listed in descending order by weight, use a lot of different sugars so no single sugar outweighs the refined pixie dust they pass off as oat flour as the main ingredient.
Again, as a manufacturer, this is what you do. If only one type of sugar were used, it would outweigh the flour. Easily. Throw in some other sugars and you can spread the weight of these sugars around all over in the ingredients list and no one will be the wiser. Now, this month’s version of the product is so much BETTER than last month’s version because the main ingredient is now ‘oats’, which makes this product, according to the box, ‘Heart Healthy’, AND it has, as a free gift to you, a ‘New, Improved Taste!’, because now it can have more sugar than ever. And it’s probably saltier. If it stays crunchy, even in milk, you’ve just made a customer for life.
So now when Little Johnny screams for his favorite brand, which is strategically placed on the shelf that is at HIS eye level (it’s a higher profit item), you’ll actually feel good about buying it!
You just earned yourself a nifty bonus and a key to the executive men’s room.
Trick #2 - There are so many different names for essentially the same end results.
Check these out – mix and match any way you like. As a manufacturer, just keep any one sugar from becoming your heaviest ingredient!
· barley malt
· beet sugar
· brown sugar
· buttered syrup
· cane-juice crystals
· cane sugar
· carob syrup
· corn syrup
· corn syrup solids
· date sugar
· diastatic malt
· ethyl maltol
· fruit juice
· fruit juice concentrate
· glucose solids
· golden sugar
· golden syrup
· grape sugar
· high-fructose corn syrup
· invert sugar
· malt syrup
· raw sugar
· refiner's syrup
· sorghum syrup
· turbinado sugar
· yellow sugar
The bottom line here is, when it comes to packaged foods, even if the product passes the fat, sodium and sugar test, is there really any nutritional value in it? Most of the time, a handful of chemical vitamins are irresponsibly sprinkled on the final product and held there by lots omega-6 fats called preservatives to keep it all ‘fresh’. And it has no vitamins because it’s had the living daylights cooked out of it to the point of being totally unrecognizable next to it’s original, wholesome source.
Our bodies need real fuel and nutritionally-based disease protection to go the distance. Eat as much fresh, unprocessed foods as you can, prepare your meals from scratch at home, pack a picnic basket of those same foods and head for the park every chance you get.
I gleaned much of this information from a DVD lecture entitled, “Health Food Versus Healthy Food”, by Jeff Novick. I did not find this entertaining and informative lecture on his website, but it appears he does have at least one DVD for sale entitled “ Lighten Up! Weighing in on the Weight Debate”. May be worth the purchase. He is very informative with a great delivery.
His website is: http://www.jeffnovick.com/JeffNovick/DVDs.html
Saturday, November 21, 2009
From the outside it looked like a nice earth-friendly type cafeteria, with it's absence of in-your- face signage and the use of subtle, warm colors in the painted wall displays.
So we walked in and sure enough it was just that. Never run from earth-muffin ambience, my friends - it can have a calming effect on the soul and puts the mind in a better mood, if you are willing to set aside the stiffness of structured life and drink it in just a little bit. This place is laid back, but not in a gonja-loving reggae style at all and we couldn't really smell the incense in the back of the store.
We walked to the counter and were handed a couple of menus and asked if we'd like to hear the question of day.
"Sure!". Hey, I like trivia.
Then the question, "Who do you most appreciate today?".
No brainer, but not trivial. Julie has supported me and prayed for me and asked others to pray for me through my toughest days here and still does pray for my complete healing. The appreciation I have for her is beyond words. I am thankful for everyone who has prayed for me - and mom sending me something nearly every day, the many emails, friends calling and lifting my spirits - but I was only asked for one person, and she's gone through it all with me, even fasting with me for a time, and kept our home together.
After we had chosen our lunch items, we were politely asked to order the item not by what it was, but by what it was called on the menu.
Every name was a self-affirming label, with names like "I am Grateful" or "I am Blessed" or "I am energized" or "I am Barney Fife". Kidding - I just made that last one up. Don't try to order that...
But every name was very affirming and that's how you ordered just about everything. When you hear yourself say these things out loud, you start to feel better, though it's sounds funny at first. Just think - if every word that we uttered was carefully ordered before we opened our mouths to be affirming to the hearer, even when it is ourselves, how much better our relationships - especially during the tough times.
So it might sound like there's a bit of a nirvanian, impossible hope wafting in the air. Wishful thinking by the founders, maybe? Or a forgotten truth?
Then came the food. Julie ordered a pesto pizza (nothing like what you think) and I ordered the taco salad. I asked for no olive oil on or in anything and our server willingly obliged. Remember, theres no meat or animal products in anything. Nada. These lunch items were as healthy as they come, but I probably got my week's worth of guacolome in the taco salad.
Healthy is one thing. Tasty? Filling? That's always on the mind of the manly meat eater - I completely understand and sympathize. True on all counts, guys.
After eating four days of the best simple foods on the planet at the center, I expected, at first, more of the same. I took a bite of the taco salad. Then I took a bite of the pizza. This is the best way I can describe these items, especially the pizza.
Remember the movie Rattatouie where, towards the end of the movie, the hardened soul was melted forever through the pure sensory experience of this forgotten favorite as the loving memories of his childhood came flooding back? It was like this for me.
I don't have childhood memories attached to either of these two dishes, but when I took those first two bites, I felt just like that guy! I have never, ever eaten anything on my plate that brought out any emotional response except, "That was good. Am I full yet?". This quite different.
This is the only eating experience I have ever had in my life - and I jest not - call me a girlie-man, I don't care - that brought tears to my eyes without hot sauce or chili peppers.
It was just that wonderful. It overwhelmed me. I'll do my best with my limited vocabulary to describe the sensations.
I was not really all that hungry when I got there, but no sooner had I begun my first bite and started processing these foods, the flavors in the food began unlocking a dozen taste sensations in the mouth all at once, each sensation having the 'soul' purpose of subtly, yet powerfully enticing each taste receptor in the mouth, no single sensation having advantage over another, all delivered and expressed in perfect harmony to the pure delight of the palate. I really know nothing about food except out to eat it and throw a few simple things together, but it was the finest eating experience I've ever had in my life. Allow me to explain why before you think I'm just some self-indulgent, epicurian cutthroat culinary critic just living from one gastric distress to another searching for the non-existent perfect meal. I saw more.
Put yourself here for a moment. Remember when this happened? Perhaps in prayer, a walk in the woods. I bet it wasn't while you were eating lunch, but think back....
This was the kind of meal where you actually wanted to chew the same bite forever, each bite prompting a deliberate pause - thoughts begin to slow way down. On that first bite, a signal is given to halt every errant thought, grind the clock speed to a crawl and provide an opportunity for Eternity to settle in for as long as He wants. The outside looks no different, but on the inside, time takes a nap and all inner senses become peaceful, centered and fully awakened. The desire to rush even a second is gone and your full and undivided attention turns not to the next bite, though you keep eating, but to the one who sits next to you - and then the real magic happens.
Ok take yourself out and put me back....
Julie, in perfect time, unbeknowest to her, reaches for some oversized cards on the table, which carry on them simple questions that you could ask each other. Simple questions, like "What are you thankful for?" and "Name five things you love about the other person?".
Normally, this is just fun stuff, but at this moment, these answers require no thought but instead just pour out from my secret places and I willingly lay them down in front of her just as they are. No effort, no insecurities, no walls. I'm not even going to tell you what I said, partly because I don't remember and partly because the things that come from this place in the heart are, by design, meant for the hearer only. Sorry.
So can food really have this effect? No, not on its' own. It is excellent food, but food it is. But I was allowed to rediscover an old word today - Gratitude. It is not a word to describe the impatient moment spent in the ten second mandatory prayer that Uncle Ben fires up to heaven from his bowl of instant rice on Thanksgiving day. Gratitude is an eternal state - it is in the moment and stays in every moment for as long as we decide to live in it and until we decide to walk away from it. It welcomes all. It is a gift of God.
When in us a Seed is planted to make us aware that we have a God who loves us and has always loved us and will always love us regardless of whether we are asleep or awake, whether we feel like loving Him back or not, and even when we honestly admit we don't know Him, we also begin to understand that He has shown us and will continue to show us how much He loves us and won't stop inviting us into His rest until the very last moment. This is the beginning of the understanding of this eternal gratitude. It never ends, because He never stops. We start to see that all blessings from every source are a gift of God. We start to come into His rest.
And in His perfect timing, He sometimes gives us a glimpse into this reality, and slows us down long enough to take a deep breath and take inventory. If we hold on to that glimpse, as our eyes begin to see the extraordinary in the ordinary, even during our most mundane days when we just feel like there's nothing new under the sun, we can sit back and see the blessings of God unfold more clearly and more often, all around us. And this brings us to that special holiday in November with a new Thanksgiving feast not found on the table, which lasts until the next meal, but in the thankful heart, which has no end.
Friday, November 20, 2009
My weight was at 123 lbs, the same weight I wrestled at in high scool as a sophomore. Now that I'm at my fighting weight again, I'd like to show that 16 year old whipper snapper from 1976 a thing or two in the ring in my fancy red full-length santa tights with the white diapers....until he immediately takes me down, pummels me into next year (which will take about ten seconds) and hands my head to coach on a silver platter. I wouldn't have a chance - and back then I wasn't that good!
Tuesday was day 15(?) and was the hardest day I've had, physically and mentally. I had a tough day one other time around day 8, but this one was a real drainer, which usually indicates the body is working especially hard doing what it needs to do. Amazingly, these days last about a day so by the time you wake the next morning, it has run its' course. In the body that packs an abundance of toxins, there will be more rough days, but it always pays huge dividends when you stay the course, don't give up, and see it through to the end.
I started on veg/fruit drinks Wednesday morning and tolerated the first drink. Barely. Most people do well on the mix, I'd had enough in the days preparing for the fast. It was so unpleasureable to me that I instead asked for a stalk of celery and some watermelon (which was in the drink) and eating these as whole foods made all the difference in the world. It wasn't much volume or calories, but there;s enough sugar to effectively switch the fasting body from fat burning to carb burning in very short order. And, of course, the sleeping giant of digestion must be awakened gently.
Yesterday there was a coup in the kitchen. My Israeli roommate had had enough of the blandness and invited himself into the kitchen and cooked up a bunch of hummus with all the appliances and I don't think the chef was pleased.
The result was tasty and I nursed a little at a time so by the end of the day I had taken in two teasponfuls, chewing deliberately and slowly, mixing with plenty of saliva. But he used what seemed like alot of raw garlic, and though it went down well, pretty much chemically roasted the lining of my mouth, which I did not feel until evening. I still feel it a day later. Now it's more of just a garlic-y aftertaste that masks the true flavors of just about everything I eat. It's very, very mild, no real damage, but obnoxious. It should be gone tomorrow. Because of the fast, your senses are so alive that the smallest amount of hot makes a huge impact. I tasted two, count them, two, specs of red pepper in the mix.
The last time this happened was on the fourth evening following a ten day fast, except this time is was garlic and peppers in a tomato paste based lettuce wrap. It seemed like just a little bit. Delicious! Within twenty minutes my whole body burned all the way to my fingertips and stayed burning for three days. And no wonder, I had just about no protective mucous lining built up in my intestinal tract to act as buffer. My mouth actually molted. I couldn't taste anything! Before that meal, I could tastes every molecule.
Now in a couple of months I'll be able to enjoy these types of hot, but I think I'm backing off of the raw hot for good. Who doesn't like roasted peppers? Sweetens them right up!
I was concerned about getting the full beneft of the garlic into my bloodstream, but research indicates that if the clove is crushed or sliced and left to sit on the cutting board for just ten minutes, you can start cooking with it and retain 70% of the good stuff. That will work for me.
Ahhhhh...fun with fasting.
Monday, November 16, 2009
They're both essential fatty acids, meaning they cannot be manufactured in the body - you absolutely need to bring them in through diet. Skirting the chemistry, they are best known in the food industry by their ability to remain stable (or not). Omega-6’s are very stable, omega-3’s are not. Omega-6’s coagulate, 3’s tend to be very fluid. Omega-6’s are used in the body as part of the inflammatory process and Omega-3’s are called upon to halt the inflammatory process when the healing is finished. They work together and must be in balance for good health. When 6’s are too high, you get inflammation that will not stop – In the joints, arteries, anywhere in the body.
From the food industry standpoint, Omega-3 oils are difficult to process and expensive to market – but you can find them in health food stores in the refrigerated section in a very dark container with a very tightly sealed lid. They are highly reactive to the environment and go rancid quickly.
Both types of fatty acids are polyunsaturates, but because 6's are more stable in the environment (less affected, by heat, light, and oxygen) before going rancid, manufacturers dump truckloads of it into every packaged product in the form of preservatives to increase shelf life. If the omega-3s in the product are difficult or too costly to remove, more 6’s are dumped on in the hope of slowing the onset of rancidity. Omega-3 fatty acids are the bane of the industry and there is an ongoing search to extract them out of every product to our detriment.
Not only are they adding these 6’s, they pursue relentlessly new ways of removing 3’s from the source by genetically modifying or hybridizing the plants that go into our everyday products. This applies especially to the oils found on the shelf – a more favorable ratio of 6’s to 3’s found by testing five years ago will not be the same as what you’ll find in the same oil today – I wouldn’t depend on a study done as recently as six months ago!
So are 6’s bad? Certainly not! They’re just horribly out of proportion in our diet. They are both absolutely necessary, but we are getting PLENTY of 6’s and not near enough 3’s. Our ratio currently is probably close to 100:1 when it should be ideally 4:1. When it’s 4:1, our body does it’s magic and provides our cells with a perfect 1:1 ratio. See – I’m skipping chemistry class again!
Here’s an important fact about 6s and 3s: They don’t share, they compete. If you take in too high a ratio of 6’s, they win for a place in your body. You take in 3’s, they win. So you can’t take in six tablespoons of oil and expect the bowlful of salad that it is buried under to balance or counter the 6’s in the oil. It just doesn’t work that way in the body. You want more 3’s, leave the oil on the shelf at the store. No, not even those fancy salad spritzers. Read the label.
Now here’s a little background on nature’s use of 6’s and 3’s that will make the rest of the text easier to digest. Both acids are found abundantly in nature. You could safely say there are more 3’s than 6’s far a wide margin. Where are they most found in the food supply? You’ll find the most 3’s in green plants (they are required for photosynthesis) and the most 6’s in seeds (stored food supply for the plant).
Let’s take the cuddly marmots of Montana for example. When studying the diets of marmots and their hibernation triggers, researchers observed that these little varmints sought out the densest foods they could find – seeds and nuts. So they’re becoming loaded with proportionately high omega-6 fats (Now they’re ready for the winter – one can sleep REALLY well on the slow moving omega-6 fats). They awake in spring when the reserves are spent and if conditions are favorable, low and behold, what’s for dinner? All those high-6 seeds have miraculously sprouted into high-3 greens! Now they are loading up primarily on 3’s. Since 3’s are nice and slick, metabolism picks up, brain activity increases, fat burns faster and mating starts to sound pretty good…oh, and if one needs to compete for a mate and is loaded with 6’s and hasn’t been eating the greens like all the other studs, fuhgetaboutit! It’ll be another cold, lonely winter because you got handed your cute little tail on a platter!
So why is this important to us? There are a number of reasons why we should increase plant consumption while reducing meat and fat consumption, but let’s focus on these two fats.
As another example: Take the early Eskimos, eating nothing but cold water fish meat and whale products with all the delicious innards - heavy on the fat, please. High cholesterol - clear arteries, no disease. Cholesterol numbers meant nothing to their actual health. But please get yours checked, you don’t eat like this, I can bet. Why were they so healthy? The omega-3 fatty acids are incredibly abundant in cold-water fish and in the proper ratio to 6’s, so much so that nosebleeds once a week were common – that’s the nature of 3’s – keeps body fluids very, well, fluid.
Where did the fish get all the omega-3s? They either ate the sea plants that are incredibly high in 3’s or they ate the creatures that ate the sea plants. This all changed, of course, once Wallyworld moved north and introduced them to the typical products that kill the rest of us. Now they die for the same reasons and at the same rate as we do – they’re still eating the fish and whale, but they’re dying from all the rest.
So let’s look at the ratios of 6’s to 3’s in common oils. Bear in mind, I don’t know when these ratios were established, but you can bet they are going to favor the 6’s more as time goes on as better science removes more of the 3s. Also remember, all oils and fats are saturated to varying degrees. Saturated fats and trans fats are no good for the body. ALSO keep in mind - if you cook with them, all bets are off (all fats are affected by heat, light, and oxygen), you’re dealing with poison at the point. Last but not least, fat has 9 calories per gram, and the body only needs 3% of that energy to transfer this fat directly to storage. Anyone plan to be hibernating this winter?
Flaxseed or linseed 0.2:1
Canola (for light frying) 3:1
Wheat germ 8:1
Hydrogenated soybean 13:1
High oleic sunflower 19:1
Less than 60% linoleic sunflower 200:1
And the winner is (drum roll please):
Safflower oil infinity:1 (there are no 3’s)
Read the labels and you’ll see ‘heart-healthy’ everywhere. Don’t believe it. Wild animals don’t need it, our animals don’t need it and we don’t need it. My brother and stepdad hunt and I bet they’ve never seen a fat-choked heart in any wild animal they’ve ever taken. Leave the oil on the shelf and stir-fry with vegetable broth. Tastes just as good, maybe just not as slick, it takes 30 seconds of the first meal to get over that.
I realize I’ve just made enemies with every Mediterranean diet lover on the planet. Want a little history on how this diet was determined to be so healthy? A study was done in 1950 (post-WWII) on the island of Crete (maybe because researchers noticed they looked so darned healthy and lived a long time compared to the rest of the region), after years of nazi-blockade in WWII. The researchers focused entirely on the diet. Now, nothing was imported or exported. So the locals worked with what they had to survive. They walked for miles up hills every day tending livestock, growing produce the old fashioned way and scraping by. Life was hard. So the diet was very simple, and it included a small amount of olive oil - all out of caloric necessity.
So someone decided this was the greatest diet on earth, completing forsaking the lifestyle as equally important, and started writing cookbooks to make a fast buck and thus began the mania to tout olive oil as the life-saving panacea that it never was. This caught on the world over. The fact is, the people from this island were healthy, not because of the omega-6’s in the oil or the oil itself, but because they ate sparingly of a diet of vegetables and a small amount of meat and were compelled by necessity to hump hills rain or shine, and had no access to the dietary sins of the world. They were healthy in spite of the omega-6 oil, not because of it.
Go there now and find the landscape in stark contrast. My, how it has changed – they are suffering just like the rest of us and taking in more oil than ever, just like the rest of us, convinced by the media that the oil is a dietary salvation that will remedy and counter their sedentary lifestyle and nutritionally bankrupt food choices. And this is not just happening in Crete, but in all countries. We rave about it here, and make a loose adaptation of it once a month, merely adding it to the rest of the month’s junk thinking it should cancel out last night’s six-pack while we reach for the meds on the nightstand after dinner. That’s no way to live.
So what should we do about this dilemma? One sentence – slam the greens at every opportunity and dump the oil. Eat the greens raw, steam them, put them in soup, casseroles, and use every variety you can find. Try something new and eat all kinds of vegetables.
If you’re already a vegan, you can try these steps:
- Back off on the nuts, eat some rice or potatoes or some quinoa instead as your filler. Remember, as an unsprouted nut or seed, omega-6 is loaded in the seed to protect the building blocks of life until conditions are right, which could be years – even centuries for some seeds. It has a purpose, but not as a major food source for people who don’t hibernate and never get enough omega-3’s. Here’s a thought: It seems reasonable to me to assume that you could sprout the seeds and change the ratio. Maybe not to the level of the plant itself, but the ratio should be greatly improved. I’d love to see a study on this.
- Add some ground flax seed twice a day to your meals. I doubt you’ll get so much your nose will bleed like the Eskimos of a generation ago, but it sounds like a good idea. I understand, however, that increasing flax to a high level can inhibit the absorption of some vitamin B6, and I don’t know if eating lots and lots of greens like we do makes this a moot point or not. It’s something to look into, but the 3’s are definitely there in flax.
If you like your meats and can’t give them up, you can still make healthful changes that won’t hurt a bit.
- First and foremost, cut back on your portion size. Meat is meat, and will always be top heavy in omega-6s. It is proven we don’t need as much protein as the FDA used to say we do. The amount posted is dropping steadily with time, and someday we’ll see amounts closer to the actual number proven over 50 years ago, only to discover we were getting plenty in the plants we were eating.
- Eat wild game. They eat right from the earth and as a result, their meat is naturally higher in omega-3s. And this applies to all meats - don’t fry, bake. Doctor it up a bit if you have to, but bake it.
- Eat grass-fed beef, no steroids, no antibiotics. But don’t they eat corn and oats in the feedlots? Yes, and what are these two products? Seeds! Very high is omega-6s. It quickly fattens up the meat just like 6’s are designed to do (along with all the other things added to it) for a higher market sale and meat marbleizing. Problem is, it marbleizes your muscle tissue and arteries exactly the same way. You feed a cow too long on this diet and their meat will be rancid on the hoof and you’ll know it upon your first bite. You’ll think the butcher switched cows on you!
- Eat cold-water fish. Baked wild salmon is a good choice. Sardines are a good choice and are even lower on the food chain. If you can’t get fresh, then packed in water or tomato sauce is far better than oil-packed. Of course, the start of all food chains on earth is always the plant, so why not skip the middleman and go to the source as often as you can? And avoid tuna, it can contain high levels of mercury, and that toxin tends to build up in the tissues.
- Eggs can actually be ok, if the chickens are free range on your neighbor’s farm and can scratch around for grasses and bugs every day and are rarely fed scratch, which is primarily corn. It changes the ratio of 6’s to 3’s in the yolk dramatically. Cholesterol in your body is not an issue when the ratio is right, but it must be right in your entire diet, not just for breakfast, otherwise all bets are off. The store shelves are looking promising as now, for a little more money, you can buy eggs with a higher omega-3 content - but they must clearly say this on the package. Otherwise, it will just be a plain old egg with a fancy label. Saying organic means nothing in this case. The question I have is, how much is it improved and how are they doing it??
- Chicken can be improved the same way, it’s all in the feed.
- Fish oil can be helpful. Just be sure it’s purified from a cold-water fish and contains no omega-6 fillers designed to keep the product stable or any other oils in it whatsoever. And if you take it in the form of gel-caps, open the first one you pull out and smell it, if it smells rancid, it is – take it back to the store, get your money back and try a different brand.
You can find all this information and more in a great book titled, “The Queen of Fats”, by Susan Allport. Fascinating read.
Much of the concepts are substantiated by Anthony Coppolo in his book, “The Great Cholesterol Con”. But even after reading it, I'd certainly not stop all medical treatment for a condition I already have and continue to pay close attention to the numbers if I were eating the typical American diet. Then I would take dietary steps to reduce the numbers - adhering closely to a plant-based diet. From personal experience I know this approach works. Be diligent and patient and you'll see the same results.
Having high cholesterol numbers and clear arteries is not possible in this country except in the case of great, great Uncle Silas who lived off bear tallow and hominy grits back in the Ozarks and lived to be 110. It would preposterous and presumptous to assume even for a second that we can depend on any perceived genetic predisposition in the hope that it will carry us into a ripe old age in good health with the foods we’re eating and the lifestyles we are leading. Our supermarket food sources just aren’t that great and just flat out ouf shape. Our supermarket choices are designed to taste good, not necessarily to be good for you. If it is good for you, it’s a happy accident.
Remember, though - all sales are market driven and most sellers want to fill the needs of the marketplace. If we demand changes in our food supply and honesty from our suppliers (that's a tall order), the marketplace can change to meet this demand.
Friday, November 13, 2009
· 1 cup baby spinach
· 1 raw zucchini
· 1 celery stalk
· ¼ red bell pepper
· ¼ avacodo
· (optional) Cilantro, garlic, lemon juice
· (optional) try with rice paper and butter leaf lettuce leaves for salad wraps
Chop all ingredients in a food processor with the ‘S’ blade to desired consistency.
Here’s a great dressing:
· Firm tofu
Blend together in vitamix or blender
· Garbanzo beans (or any beans, for that matter)
· Cashews – small amount – it doesn’t take much
· Lime or lemon
· (optional) roasted garlic, roasted eggplant, roasted red pepper
Blend in vitamix or a blender for a creamier texture or food processor for a more granulated texture
· Chili beans (or beans cooked with tomato paste, celery, onion and red pepper)
· Crushed corn tortillas (bake on open oven rack on both sides until brown - watch carefully!)
· Salad dressing
Chop / shred salad ingredients to desired consistency and mix in chili beans, crushed corn tortillas and use hummus as dressing, if desired.
Raw Kale Salad
· 1 bunch raw kale
· 1 red onion
· 1 bell pepper
· 1 bunch dill
· 1 tomato
· 2 ears of corn (raw, cut off cob)
· Juice from 1 lemon
· 2 cloves pressed garlic
· 1-2 avocados
Chop salad ingredients by hand or in food processor, add raw corn and avocado then mix together with your hands until flavors have all blended together.
You can beef up any salad by adding rice, beans, and corn tortilla chips.