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Thursday, August 30, 2007

Prolonging The Magic

I came across the picture above and this link, which give good descriptions of proper storage for various fruits, vegetables, and herbs. The Periodic Table of Produce above is a real gem. It tells where, how, and for how long to store numerous items. For instance, a quick glance reveals that Broccoli should go in the refrigerator, wrapped in plastic, for up to 5 days. Onions, cool dry place, unwrapped, for up to 2 months with a few exceptions. Winter squash is good for a month in a cool dry place. Strawberries go in the fridge in a vented container for 3 days. As the table says in the upper left corner, this would be a great item to print out and hang on the front of the refrigerator for a quick reference guide. I can attest that putting my fresh basil (see Herbs, leafy in the lower right corner) in a damp paper towel in a plastic bag allowed me to use it for a good 6 days instead of the usual 3 days max before it dried out.

One of the things that can make a high-quality nutrition plan even more prodigiously expensive is waste. Throwing away fruits and vegetables, especially if they're organic, can add quite a bit to your food bill. Now that I have this list, that will help me reduce my waste some, but I also have another method of saving produce before it turns into mush: the freezer! When I get down to the last ribs of celery or have a few leaves of basil left or a couple carrots that are going to go bad, I throw them into a Ziploc bag and freeze them and when the bag gets full, I make vegetable soup with whatever else is in the fridge working through its useful life.

And here's a chance for me to talk about farmer's markets again. One of the really beautiful things about reputable farmer's markets (the ones where the farmers actually grow the produce locally) is that the food is much fresher than that at your local grocer. The produce that I get from my local growers was all picked within the last few days and was picked when it was ripe. In The End of Food, Thomas Pawlick talked about the method of picking conventional produce before its ripe so that it doesn't go bad during shipping, then artificially ripening it with acetylene gas to make it look like an apple or a peach is supposed to look, although this method doesn't make them taste like a truly ripe apple or peach.

So there you go. Now you can store your produce with impunity.

Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Book Review: The Omnivore's Dilemma

Last week, I put to rest another book. This time it was The Omnivore's Dilemma by Michael Pollan. I thoroughly enjoyed reading this one and the 400 or so pages flew by. It's not an overly technical read, quite enjoyable. There was really only one point of contention that I had with anything said in the book and that was his mention of "the previously discredited Dr. Robert Atkins" or some such statement. I've never seen any scientific research that can actually discredit Dr. Atkins, but the dogma of today makes him seem like a quack. We can only hope that one day people see the truth about avoiding the types of foods Dr. Atkins advised us to avoid, namely the processed garbage that is the cornerstone of the Food Guide Pyramid.

The book is setup in three parts following four different food chains: industrial agriculture culminating in a McDonald's meal, industrial organic, pastoral organic at Polyface Farm, and a hunted and gathered meal. The first part of the book is both riveting and appalling, with loads of very interesting stats. Pollan describes how two crops are dissected into their constituent parts to be rebuilt into the tens of thousands of food products lining our store shelves. These two crops are corn and soy. Corn provides starch, soy provides protein, and either or both can provide the fat that make up the myriad products that you see in your local supermarket. These two crops are so ubiquitous that corn is in at least 25% of the processed foods in the grocery and soy is in around 2/3 of them. That really puts the $3-4 a box for some junk food into perspective. It's just another mix of corn and soy with some stabilizers thrown in for good measure.

In the first section of the book, we also get an in-depth description of the sex life of corn and Pollan describes the evolutionary changes that maize underwent to become the corn that we know today with its huge kernels and reliance on humans for pollination. We follow a single proverbial bushel of corn to its various destinations, 60% of it into feed for cows, 20% processed into Twinkies and Pop-Tarts, etc. This corn is a particular breed (I think it's called "#2 Corn," but can't recall exactly) that humans don't typically eat directly. Most of it goes into our industrial facilities to be turned into either animal protein or junk food.

Speaking of animal protein, Pollan gives a small but significant synopsis of the issues of corn-feeding cows vs. grass-feeding them. One issue is the proliferation of E.Coli 0157:H7 in the guts of corn-fed cows. This is the nasty virulent strain that causes all kinds of ills to those unlucky enough to ingest it. The way it works is that cows are ruminants, intended to eat grass. When fed corn, the intestinal tracts of the cows becomes acidic, killing off all but the most acid-resistant bacteria. These acid-resistant bacteria are the 0157:H7 strain of E.Coli. So it would seem logical to not feed them corn, but corn-feeding is how we manage to turn out cheap, abundant meat quickly. A corn-fed cow comes to market weight in only 14-16 months, while a grass-fed cow takes several years to come to full weight. But since the high-corn diet makes the cows sick, they have to pumped up on antibiotics and are also fed growth hormones to speed the process. All of this goes into the food we eat, not to mention the poor fatty acid profile of typical feedlot meat, very high in omega-6 fatty acids, with little omega-3 and conjugated linoleic acids. Luckily, farmers are now selectively breeding cows to tolerate a diet of corn. Whew! I almost thought we might resort to something illogical like putting the cows on grass.

But I digress. Here are some other interesting tidbits from this section:
- America produces 17.5 billion pounds of High Fructose Corn Syrup per year. BILLION! That's 8.75 million TONS of a product that didn't exist until 1980.
- Americans consume 158 pounds of added sugars per person per year. That's an increase from 128 pounds in 1985.
- Forty-five of the sixty products at McDonald's contain corn.
- Twenty-three of the thirty-eight ingredients in a McNugget are corn-derived.
- One in three kids eat fast food daily.
- One in three kids will get diabetes (one presumes a large subset of the 1-in-3 that eat fast food daily). For African-Americans, that number is two in five.

Section two is about organic farming, specifically two kinds of organic farming: industrial organic and pastoral organic. First, he explores the industrial organic complex. Think Whole Foods where you can buy organic everything and most of it isn't from your local food producers. Strawberries from Chile, asparagus from California, etc. The ingredients of an industrial organic meal travel an average of 1500 miles to get to your plate. It may be more healthful than a meal of conventionally grown foods, but that doesn't mean it's necessarily more environmentally friendly. Pollan explores the notion of organic TV dinners and the organic farms that sit right next to conventional farms, run by the same people. It is an interesting concept to ponder. On the one hand, eating organic is more healthful for the eaters and doesn't douse the land with petroleum-based fertilizers and pesticides. More land under organic control means fewer chemicals in our land and waterways. On the other hand, is an organic Snicker's any better than a conventionally produced one? We have the power to produce nearly anything organically, but does that make it a good idea to do so? And since organic foods must be trucked or flown in from far away, is it more or less environmentally friendly than eating a locally produced meal of conventional agriculture products?

Pollan's week at Polyface Farm sounds truly intriguing and enlightening. Polyface is a true pastoral farm. They raise cows, chickens, pigs, turkeys, and rabbits on their 450 acre farm, most of which is wooded. The animals are rotated through the available pasture in a precise dance that ensures each animal gets to eat the food most appropriate for it, all of it grass-based. Joel Salatin, the farm's owner, actually calls himself a "grass farmer". He ensures that the grass receives the proper natural fertilization and amount of rest before reintroducing the cows to feed and drop their patties, which the chickens then come behind later and peck through to eat the grubs. The trees are planted strategically to keep the wind from destroying the pastures and are used as a sustainable lumber operation. Everything about this farm, from the way the manure is turned into fertilizer (through the use of pigs) to the way the chickens are slaughtered (open air, viewable by anyone) is sustainable. Little of anything on the farm is brought in from outside and the entire farming operation is produced on-farm by the work of the sun and the animals coordinated in a natural rhythm. And because Salatin believes in buying local, he refuses to ship his products anywhere but the local Virginia and Maryland markets, which is why Pollan ended up there working the farm. One chapter talks about Pollan's internal struggles with slaughtering a chicken and turning the chicken waste into yet more fertilizer.

Next up, Pollan investigates vegetarianism and the ethics of eating meat. He cites Peter Singer, author of Animal Liberation, several times. Singer is a noted animal rights activist and vegetarian. But the really interesting part of Singer's take on animal rights is that he doesn't disagree with responsible farming of the type performed at Polyface. That one of the most vehement opposers of using animals for food can't find an argument against allowing cows, pigs, and chickens to live the lives of cows, pigs, and chickens, only to later be used as food speaks volumes to the responsibility and sustainability of grass-based farming. Aside from the health benefits of eating properly raised animal products, turning away from the conventional agriculture so predominant in our cheap food culture is friendly to the environment and to our animal brethren.

Finally, Pollan goes on his own hunting and gathering expedition to create a completely (or mostly) home-grown meal. His goals are to hunt a California pig and gather chanterelle mushrooms. He meets a fellow that is well-versed in pig hunting and mushroom gathering that agrees to take him out. After he successfully bags a pig, he goes through all kinds of emotions, ranging from disgust at himself for enjoying it to thankfulness for the pig that became part of the never-ending circle of life. The description of mushrooms is absolutely fascinating and I won't give away all of the details here, but thinking of the network growing below the ground, of which a mushroom is only a small little part, is incredible. It is like a brain network within the earth.

All in all, I absolutely loved this book. I give it 5 stars. Sure, not every conventional farmer is like the Iowans he interviewed, but he does a good job of exploring the issues surrounding our food chains, of which we are increasingly removed and which is amazingly opaque. Understanding where our food comes from, how it is grown and processed, and how it gets to us is the best way for returning to a healthful life.

Tuesday, August 28, 2007

Training Room Snacks

So I was off walking around the building this morning (with a goal in mind, not just wandering aimlessly) and I happened to glance into the Training Room as I walked by. They were preparing for their 8am training class and had plates of snacks at each spot. My brief glance noted that the plates were full of small bags of M&Ms, mini candy bars, and other junk food. Is the goal to keep people awake or to give them a sugar coma so it's easier to fall asleep? Why does the food in a corporate environment nearly always have to be garbage?

Monday, August 27, 2007

First, We Have to Render Fat

Last week, I realized that I was running a 15 cubic foot freezer to keep about 2 cubic feet of food cold. Not being a fan of wasting electricity (freezers work harder the less frozen stuff there is in them), I decided to consolidate it all into the freezer with the dog food. While doing so, I found several pounds of beef suet that I hadn't touched since making pemmican for my ski trip in January. So I decided to do something with it....namely, I decided to render it into cooking fat. What you see above is the result of leaving it on the stove for a few hours of melting, occasionally straining it and putting it into the jar. I didn't take a picture of the leftover bits, but when you render fat, the fat turns to liquid and separates from the protein and other parts leaving pure liquid fat and bits of funky looking stuff (industry terminology). These bits of funky looking stuff went in the trash. Harder core people than I may have some use for them, but I just tossed them without searching for any use for them. I now have 2 jars of delicious, healthful, grass-fed fat for use in cooking. I probably could have squeezed another 1/4-1/2 a jar from the leftovers, but I had been at it for 2.5 hours, bedtime was nearing, and I was tired. This fat has a delicious buttery flavor and its high level of saturation (OH MY GOD, I'M GONNA DIE!) gives it great level of stability in cooking to go with a high melting point.

If you do render fat, make sure you are prepared to clean because this stuff is sticky! Going back to that high melting point, it is both a blessing and a curse. The blessing is the stability that it lends to the fat in cooking. The curse is that it I had to run the hot water on full blast to get the fat to melt, give 2 scrubbings of the pot, spoon, and strainer that I used, and lots of work to clean up drips here and there. It was definitely worth it, but it's not the easiest job in the world.

Friday, August 24, 2007

Big Mac Turns 40

"The flavors that come together — it's like heaven in your mouth," said April Kohlhaas, a 31-year-old Chicago resident. "It's just tradition, like American comfort food."

Ok, now I had my fair share of Big Macs back in high school. However, "heaven" is far from a descriptor I would have ever used. Regardless, Americans (and others worldwide now) have been consuming the Big Mac for 40 years. There's no turning back now. Of course, you could be like this guy who has eaten nearly 20,000 Big Macs, one everyday for 30 years except for 8 days, and who was featured in Morgan Spurlock's film Super Size Me. At least he does avoid the fries most of the time...they are the real killers.

The Tools of the Trade

I'm always on the lookout for new, healthful sauces to use in my cooking to spice things up a bit. Aside from the list of usual herbs and spices, which I use lots of (not only for their taste, but also for the nutritional benefits), I make use of several premade sauces that make cooking much quicker and much tastier.

One of my favorites is El Pato mexican tomato sauce. This is tomato sauce with a kick and goes well with pretty much everything. It's not overly spicy, assuming you don't have a sensitive tongue. It works well on spaghetti squash for a nice "spaghetti" fill in and can also be added to your regular pasta sauce. Last week, I sauteed some squash and zucchini and then simmered it in El Pato and chowed down. The Duck is good stuff.

Since I'm a big fan of Mexican food, I like to make sure I have some different sauces on hand. I have been using the Ranchero Red and Viva Verde sauces made by Abuelita Villarreal, but at Whole Foods this past weekend, they were out, so I had to seek out something else. I can across these Frontera Mexican sauces and picked up the Chipotle Garlic sauce. I had it a few nights ago and it is awesome; lower price and more quantity than the Abuelita sauces too, although it isn't as flavorful. Eggs, chicken, and any other protein all do well with these sauces.

I use coconut milk pretty religiously, probably 2-3 cans a week. It is a great source of high quality saturated fats and works for cooking pseudo-Indian or Thai dishes (especially when combined with the chili sauce below). Lately I've been eating a lot of berries and melons, so I'll just fill up a bowl with fruit, cover it with coconut milk and top with cinnamon. Chaokoh is a good brand if you can find cans that don't look like they were used for badminton and I've recently made the switch to Whole Foods 365 brand. It's $.10 more, but it's organic and doesn't contain the sodium metabisulfite.

For a good dose of heat, try the Sambal Oelek crushed chili sauce from Huy Fong foods. The chili garlic sauce and Sriracha are also great, although the Sriracha has a small bit of sugar. I like to saute an onion in palm oil, then add some broccoli and cover to steam the broccoli and near the end of cooking add some chili sauce and garlic. This stuff will give your food some serious spice so use sparingly until you figure out your tolerance.

We all have days when vegetables just don't quite zing our tastebuds. For those days, I keep some wheat-free tamari nearby. It's basically soy sauce with no wheat, although I find the flavor to be a touch stronger. Make sure it actually says "wheat-free" on the front of the bottle, because although tamari is technically supposed to be wheat-free, some brands aren't. I also look for reduced sodium.

And then there is Joyva tahini (ground sesame seeds). I only use this for making salad dressings, but it can also be used to make hummus. For a nice salad dressing, try equal parts tahini and olive oil, with some ginger, curry powder, and pepper (hat tip to Robb Wolf). The tahini really makes it stick to the vegetables.

As I said, I'm always on the lookout for new sauces, so if you have any that you enjoy, tell me about them in the comments.

Sunday, August 19, 2007

Food - America's Foe

A few days ago, Robb Wolf wrote a post about breakfast. In this post, he had one line that stood out for several reasons, not the least of which is that it's in bold and all caps. This line was: "FOOD IS NOT YOUR FRIEND, YOUR SOUL MATE OR THE ANSWER TO YOUR PROBLEMS." I've been thinking about this line a bit since reading his post. Now I know where he was going with this line of thought. Many people turn to food when they are sad or stressed or just plain having a bad day. He's saying to stop expecting food to make your life better, especially since the foods we turn to during these times rarely resemble a spinach and salmon salad. He's saying that Haagen-Dazs isn't going to fix whatever is driving you to need Haagen-Dazs. And I completely agree with him when we're talking about unhealthful foods.

Now I want to look at this quote from the opposite line of thinking. Maybe the problem in America is that we don't treat food as our friend nor as the answer to our (health) problems. In America, we have a very clear love-hate relationship with food. We love eating. We love eating a lot, and we love eating junk food, but we treat food as an adversary, a guilty pleasure, always something to be denied, denied, denied. We battle food for supremacy over our waistlines. And when we can no longer deny ourselves, we turn to foods that make us feel worse about ourselves. We think "My life sucks. I'll just have this bag of cookies and that'll make me feel better," and then an hour later, we're coming down from the sugar rush, cursing ourselves for being weak-willed and indulging, and life still sucks. Maybe it's America's Puritanical roots that force us to think any food that is remotely satisfying is "bad" and only the most bland, tasteless cardboard is "good". We have to make sure nary a gram of fat crosses our lips lest our food actually taste good and satisfy our desires.

What I propose is to start looking at food as your friend. You wouldn't keep friends that make you feel bad about yourself and constantly run you down, so why allow food to do so? Friends should make you feel good. They tell you that you're good enough, smart enough, and doggone it, people like you. If your friends said "Hey Stupid! There's no way you'll get that promotion. You're just not good enough," they wouldn't be your friends for long. We (hopefully) surround ourselves with people that build us up, not with those that tear us down. We should do the same with our nutrition plans. Why do all of our celebrations revolve around the absolute worst food available? Thanksgiving, Fourth of July, Christmas, the list goes on. All of our holidays are bread and sugar fests and then the sleepy feeling after eating is blamed on the turkey, the so-called "Tryptophan Coma", as if the mashed potatoes, rolls, candied yams, and pumpkin pie had nothing to do with it. We should indulge in and celebrate foods that give us energy, not those that make us want to fall asleep.

Why can't food be the answer to our problems? Food is a powerful drug. It is the original drug and one that many people (and all other animals) use to great effect for staying healthy. By taking a proactive approach and indulging in the proper foods, foods that are friendly to your body, we can make foods the answer to many of our problems. A great majority of the health ills of our modern culture are driven from poor diet. In those cases, food is most certainly the answer to our problems. Instead of seeking foods that torment our bodies by causing all kinds of hormonal wackiness (which are often the very effects that make us feel good while eating them), we should proactively seek foods that set us up for a lifetime of health, vigor, and vitality. Sure, no amount of food is going to get you out of debt or get your kids off of drugs, but it may help you feel better so you can deal with the other issues you're facing. Perhaps if we alleviated our health problems with the proper foods, we would find that our other problems are easier to deal with, cookie cake not required. At the very least, clearing away health problems will give you that many fewer things to deal with.

Unfortunately, finding foods that are good to your body necessarily means declaring some foods to be "bad". Obviously there are foods that should not be eaten at all, namely trans fats, and those that should be eaten in extreme moderation, i.e., sugars and processed junk. Since we're thinking about food as our friend, let's look at it this way. Friends should support our life goals and help us further our dreams and ambitions. If we want to have a good relationship with food, we need to pick foods that keep us on track with our goals as well. Few of us have the goal of being overweight, diabetic, and generally diseased, yet many of us continually choose a diet that promotes those very things. I posted David Seaman's Dietary Pursuit of Disease, which touched on this very subject. The foods you pick clearly illustrate your life goals just as the friends you surround yourself with illustrate your life goals.

As Michael Pollan tells us in The Omnivore's Dilemma, a problem that we have in the States is that we don't really have a national cuisine. France, Greece, Italy, Russia, Japan, and India, to name a few, all have a cuisine that guides their food choices. Sure there are regional variations in spices and flavors, but all in all, you know an Italian or Greek dish when you see it, smell it, and taste it. As a young nation of immigrants from numerous nations, we've never had a single food identity. Are pizza, chicken wings, and flavorless light beer the United States' contribution to the world table? Perhaps our lack of a food identity is why we succumb to every diet fad that comes along. Is it low-fat or all-grapefruit this week? Or was it the cabbage soup diet?

So we're left to the whim of the food processing companies that tell us what we should be eating. The newest celebrity (always a beautiful person) calls out from that colorful cereal box, "Everybody who's anybody is eating these new Sugar-coated Chocolate Bombs for breakfast. You don't want your child to be a loser that doesn't have Sugar-coated Chocolate Bombs for breakfast do you? By some breach of the laws of biochemistry, this cereal will actually make your child think clearly." Did you know that there are some 30-50,000 products in a typical supermarket? That number grows yearly as food manufacturers find new ways to combine corn and soy and give us a new taste sensation that is all the rage. And it'll probably cure your Athlete's Foot too. In 2004, the food industry spent $11.65 billion on marketing while the "5-a-day" campaign for fruits and vegetables spent a paltry $9.55 million. That's roughly 1200-fold higher. Is there any wonder that we don't have any clue what to eat? We're constantly bombarded with ads for foods that are our adversaries. We increasingly down food products rather than real foods and then wonder why all of the wonder promised on the package didn't come true for us. "I'm just predestined to be overweight. It's in my genes." And with that, we turn over our responsibility for our health and the stage is set for an adversarial relationship with food.

So how do we decide what to eat? Simple. Walk into the grocery store and pick up an item you normally purchase and ask yourself, "Does this item have an ingredient list with more than one ingredient?" If the answer is yes, put it back and keep going until you find an item that doesn't have an ingredient list or a nutrition panel. You'll typically find these items in bulk foods, produce, and the butcher section. Don't forget the olive oil, bags of nuts, and eggs (these are the "one-ingredient" labels that I was referring to). Health will never come in a package that has to tell you that it's healthful. Isn't it ironic that the most health-giving of foods - the lettuce and broccoli, chicken and beef, onions and garlic, apples and oranges - aren't the ones proclaiming to cure our every ill, yet they are the only ones that will do so? Would you believe a claim on the package for an omega-3 infused, fiber- and vitamin-enriched Twinkie that tells you it's "heart-healthy" or "a good source of fiber"? Stick to the basics: meat, vegetables, nuts, fruit, and, if you exercise intensely, some starchy tubers and squashes. Those foods are your friends. Keep them close and they'll build you up and help you take care of your problems.

Wednesday, August 15, 2007

This Week's Links

Here are some more good reads that I came across this week. Enjoy!

Ross Enamait gave us a new article called The Endless Search imploring us to stick to the basics and never forget that it is the individual that determines the effectiveness of a training protocol (or by extension, nutrition plan), not the protocol itself.

I found this gem on Mark Sisson's site: The Carb Pyramid. Notice the base of greens, colorful, and cruciferous vegetables. That's lettuce, spinach, broccoli and califlower, peppers, onions, carrots, radishes, cucumbers, celery, and kale, collard, mustard, and turnip greens. And plenty more vegetables that fall in that category. Round out your carb intake with some sweet potatoes and fruit depending on your activity level and maybe add in a bit of rice here and there. As Mark shows, bread and sweets are relegated to the uppermost reaches of the pyramid and there's no danger in not consuming these items at all.

Robb and Nicky discussed breakfast. I chimed in with the first comment and my thoughts on breakfast.

Dr. Eades talked about Intermittent Fasting and Inflammation. The charts at the bottom show reductions in IL-6, CRP, and Homocysteine, all markers of inflammation.

Like green tea? Here are the 9 main types of green tea from Dr. Weil's website.

Tuesday, August 14, 2007

A Day of Vittles

I've talked several times about my IF protocol, so I thought I should give some examples of what a day of eating looks like for me. This is my menu from yesterday at about 6:30pm to today at about 6:30pm, when I started my next 24 hour fast. I'll start eating again tomorrow at 6:30pm.


Last night, I broke the fast with a bowl of canteloupe and blackberries covered in ~1/2 can of coconut milk and some cinnamon.

I ate that and then made a salad of 1/2 head of red romaine lettuce, the last of a bunch of purslane, a small cucumber, a carrot, 2 hard-boiled eggs, and 1/4 of a raw onion, along with a few almonds. The dressing was 3 tbsp of olive oil and the juice of a lime with oregano, fresh basil, and fresh-ground pepper. I forgot to take a picture of the salad before I started chowing, so here is one after a bit of eating.

The salad was eaten while my chicken thighs (*gasp* with skin) were grilling. As the chicken was finishing cooking, I sauteed the other 3/4 of the onion and the leftovers of some green beans from Sunday in a skillet with a tbsp of palm oil and some crushed chili sauce. Put it all together and this is what you get (that's 3 chicken thighs).


This morning, I got up and had some watermelon (already half-eaten in the picture above) with the other half of the can of coconut milk and then made lunch while my breakfast cooked. For breakfast, I sauteed an onion in olive oil, then cracked 4 eggs and cooked them sunny side up with the last of the basil and some garlic added at the end. Along with that, I had a can of Beech Cliff sardines and a few slices of the cucumber that went in my lunch salad.


For lunch at work today, I had a salad of 1/2 head of red romaine, a large cucumber (minus the breakfast slices), a carrot, 1 raw onion, 2 hard-boiled eggs, and 3 chicken thighs topped with 3 tbsp olive oil, 1.5 tbsp organic balsamic vinegar, oregano, basil, and pepper. Alongside that, there is a bowl of blackberries and strawberries with coconut.

Dinner Again

My last feeding today was a light dinner of 2 chicken thighs with some verde salsa and a pint of boiled Brussels sprouts with a touch of soy sauce and olive oil. I finished off the meal with some more watermelon.

The tally for 24 hours of eating is:
- 1 head of red romaine lettuce
- 2 carrots
- 2 cucumbers
- 3 onions
- A handful of green beans
- 4 bowls of fruit - blackberries, canteloupe, strawberries, and watermelon
- A bit of purslane
- 1 pint of Brussels sprouts
- Various herbs/spices - fresh and dried basil, dried oregano, cinnamon, garlic, and pepper
- 8 eggs
- 8 chicken thighs (~2 lbs counting bones)
- 1 can of coconut milk and some shredded coconut
- 1 can of sardines
- Olive oil and balsamic vinegar dressing
- Olive oil and lime juice dressing
- A few almonds

As they say, you have to watch those low-carb diets. They don't allow you to eat any vegetables at all. Actually I'm not sure that what I'm eating would really qualify as low-carb due to all the fruit, but it's late summer and I'm taking advantage of nature's bounty. I'm sure there are people out there that will look at this and say "That's not healthy! Look at all that fat and protein. And where are the grains? You have to have some whole grains. Where do you think you get fiber? Ohmigawd, coconut and palm oil....augh! Saturated fats! Chicken thighs? Dark meat is bad for you and you shouldn't eat the skin because that's where the fat is [It's also where the vitamins are]." And to those people I say "Your indoctrination is nearly complete. Keep watching the news for your nutrition information."

Of course the reality is that in 24 hours I probably consumed more vegetables and fruits than 90% of vegetarians and 99% of the general American public. The diversity of produce in one day of eating is likely higher than most people eat in a month. This diet is replete with vitamins, minerals, proper fats, plenty of protein, and a good dose of fiber.

Anybody else want to offer up a run-down of their day's eating?

Monday, August 13, 2007

My New Fasting Regimen

I wrote a month ago about my ad-lib eating/fasting regimen. Soon after that post, I changed things up. With my lack of exercise due to shoulder surgery, I cut down on my food intake since I wasn't supporting any level of exercise. Between not exercising and not eating as much, I quickly shed 12 pounds, much of which was hard-earned muscle put on from Dec-May. One problem was that I went to eating for only about 4 hours a day and was having trouble taking in enough calories to maintain my weight without resorting to sub-optimal foods, which I pretty much refuse to do (outside of an occasional treat). So I'm now doing a 24-on/24-off regimen. I still eat everyday, but the timing of my meals is different. I have been going about 6:30pm to 6:30pm, either fasting or eating. So today I won't eat until 6:30 and what I eat will be a normal-sized meal rather than a gorge-fest of trying to ram in a day's worth of calories. Tomorrow I will have breakfast, lunch, and possibly another small meal before 6:30 hits and I shut down the eating to start fasting until 6:30 Wednesday.

I've been doing this for a couple weeks now and thus far I like it. The main benefit over my previous setup is that I don't have to gorge myself at my evening meal in an attempt to take in enough food. A lowish-carb, moderate protein, high fat diet makes it hard to really go hog wild eating because protein and fat are so satiating. The main drawback is that on Tuesdays and Thursdays ("eat" days), I have to get up early, make breakfast and lunch, and carry lunch to work with me. But it's a small price to pay to not waste away. Now that I'm back to working out with regularity (discharged from physical therapy!!), food intake is going to become more important to support recovery and fuel my activity level. I haven't really noticed any benefits in terms of performance (possibly since I haven't been working out as intensely) or mental clarity, but it is nice being able to eat without stuffing myself and knowing that I can get in plenty of high-quality calories to support my bodyweight and activity level.

Anyone else have any experience with Intermittent Fasting? I love IF, as evidenced by my two glowing posts about it. I'll give you a run-down of 24 Hours of Eating here soon.

Movie Review: Fast Food Nation

Last night, my wife wanted to watch Fast Food Nation. Having read the book a couple years ago, I figured it would be worth a watch. I was wrong! If you haven't had the displeasure of wasting two hours watching this movie, count your blessings and continue on in your life. I understand what the producers were going for. They wanted to turn a documentary into a story, but failed miserably. The story barely skims the surface of the issues that Eric Schlosser goes in-depth on in the book. The movie touches briefly on the poor and dangerous working conditions in meat packing plants, the low quality of the food turned out, and the environmental issues associated with factory farming. Unfortunately, this book was too full of information to be turned into a successful two-hour movie. In fact, had I not read the book and know the truth of the situation described in the movie, I would've thought I was just watching a fictional story, especially since the movie is staffed with actors like Bruce Willis.

Bottom line: Skip the movie, read the book.

Saturday, August 11, 2007

More Farmer's Market Goodness

Today's Farmer's Market trip cost me $39 and netted me:
3 zucchini
1 Magda squash
4 cucumbers
5 onions
1 quart of blackberries - $6
1 pint of Brussels sprouts - $3
1 canteloupe
1 watermelon - $3.25
1 bunch of basil
Kale greens
Green beans
2 dozen free-range eggs - $6
1 small bunch of colorful flowers (maybe 8 flowers) - $3

Unfortunately it's been too hot here for anyone to grow lettuce, so I had to get that conventionally grown at the grocery store. If I were to avoid the higher priced items like the blackberries that I'm really enjoying right now, I could walk out of there for a significant amount less. But I figure I am quite frugal in other areas, so spending a bit on food doesn't bother me.

More Recent Links

Here are three good articles from the past couple weeks.

Art DeVany discussed Science and Staying Young. I would say that the science Art applies to his life is largely similar to The 98% Solution. He focuses on short intense exercise sessions and eating a vitamin-packed, natural hunter-gatherer diet.

Mark Sisson brought us 8 Essential Aging Hacks.

Here is David Seaman's article on The Dietary Pursuit of Disease. He makes a valid point that present behavior is indicative of our goals for the future. If we are knowingly eating things that are damaging to the body, then we are making disease our future pursuit. We all know those people that would rather eat a chocolate bar everyday than be concerned with their health. Don't be one of them.

Friday, August 10, 2007

New Paleo Diet Newsletter

This month's Paleo Diet Newsletter is out. This month Dr. Cordain finishes what he started last month, bringing us the last 4 universal characteristics of the hunter-gatherer diet. He touches on fat intake and composition, potassium vs sodium intake, net acid loads, and vitamins and minerals. He also uses one of my favorite lines (not to say that he stole it from me) regarding enrichment and fortification of foods:

If we have to add a vitamin to a food to prevent it from causing ill health and disease, we shouldn't be eating it in the first place.

I can't get with his demonization of saturated fats and cholesterol, but it's not necessary to agree with everything he says.

Norcal Strength and Conditioning Blog

Our good buddy Robb Wolf and the lovely Nicki Violetti at Norcal Strength and Conditioning have started (or is it restarted?) their own blog. Be sure to check out Norcal S&C's blog for what I imagine will be tons of good information.

Thursday, August 09, 2007

The 98% Solution

This week, on Frank Forenich's GoAnimal newsletter, he talked about The 98% Solution. Frank raises an important point. Too many people focus on the little things rather than committing themselves to the big things. I regularly read guys on the forums that ask about using creatine, protein powders, L-glutamine, and every other supplement under the sun, but most of them haven't taken the big task of getting their diet in order. They want to fix their poor diet (the big thing) with supplements (the little things).

There is a similar focus in fitness on the pretty muscles, the extremities. Most teenage and college age males want "big guns" and "HYYUGE pecs" because that's what attracts the honeys. But few of them put in the work to have a strong, powerful body with the big lifts: squats, deadlifts, overhead press, bench press, and pullups. They're stuck with 15 variations of curls and 6 different cable exercises to hit the chest. But as the saying goes, "you can't fire cannons out of a rowboat". Isolation training produces lots of sizzle, but little in the way of steak. The pretty muscles unfortunately tend to be those in the front of the body that can be easily seen in the mirror: abs, pecs, and biceps. However, the muscles in the back, shoulders, and hamstrings are just as important for overall athleticism. Sprinting requires much more input from the hamstrings than from the quadriceps. You can typically tell which guys focus on the mirror and which focus on true athleticism. The "pretty" guy will tend to have a rounded, hunched look, typical of an overemphasis on the chest with little effort to shore up the back, whereas an athlete has shoulders back and stands tall, chest open and up. This overemphasis on the chest and anterior muscles is not only nonathletic, but also results in muscle imbalances that can be injurious.

So what is the 98%? If you focus on high quality nutrition, plenty of sleep, a low stress lifestyle, and exercising the main movers of the body, you'll be one hellaciously fit person. What would I consider to be the 2%? Supplements (other than fish oil is part of "high quality nutrition"), intermittent fasting, isolation exercises, etc. If you aren't eating a diet focused on whole natural foods, getting 8 hours of sleep per night, taking fish oil, drinking plenty of water, keeping alcohol and sugar intake low, and exercising vigorously, all of the 2% in the world isn't going to help you.

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

McDonald's Tastes Better

According to three to five year olds

Researchers ordered some food from McDonald's - chicken nuggets, hamburgers, fries, carrots, and milk - and fed it to the preschoolers. The catch was that each preschooler received two meals, one containing a chicken nugget, a part of a hamburger, some fries, a couple carrot sticks, and some milk all packaged in McDonald's wrappers and the exact same meal packaged in plain wrappers. Note that all of the food came from McDonald's, the only difference was the wrapping. And the findings:

For example, 76 per cent favoured the fries presented in the branded packaging, compared with 13 per cent who liked the unbranded fries better. And while 60 per cent of the children preferred the McDonalds-branded chicken nuggets, only 10 per cent favoured the nuggets presented in plain wrapping.

These findings really illustrate what many of us already know: the mind controls the body. McDonald's advertising does an excellent job of convincing people that the food is high quality and delicious. I've read studies before that showed that younger children have trouble even distinguishing advertising from regular programming and their trusting nature makes them more likely to believe hyperbolic claims. The children even preferred McDonald's branded carrots over the non-branded carrots.

I've seen a similar instance of the "mind thing" before in a college job as a server at Red Lobster. Most people know that calamari is squid. But I recall more than one occasion where a family came in and ordered some fried calamari (delicious morsels!), which the kids had never had nor knew of. None of us would tell them what it was until they tried it. The general consensus was that it was delicious. Then when we told them it was squid, it suddenly ceased to taste good. Their minds had convinced them that it was repulsive while their taste buds were slapping their eyes silly from the deliciousness.

The mind-body connection is probably how people manage to keep eating foods that make them feel horrible (see: donuts, Twinkies, Ring Dings, etc), or to eat foods that are supposedly healthful but that actually damage health. Because we believe something is healthful or makes us feel good, the mind allows us to ignore the problems that those foods cause.

And here's more good reason to turn off the TV:
The study also found that children in homes with more televisions were more likely to show a preference for the branded meal, suggesting that fast-food commercials exert a strong influence.
Experts have estimated that the food and beverage industries spend more than $10 billion each year to market products to US children.

More TV time equals more advertisements viewed, which gives more time for an influence to be exerted. The industry is spending quantities of money that no parent can hope to overcome to make kids say "I want!" Unfortunately, more and more of us turn over our, and our children's, entertainment to the talking picture box.

My wife mentioned one possible confounding factor though: familiarity. Humans are naturally reluctant to try unfamiliar things, so perhaps the children are just gravitating towards the name they know versus the unknown factor.

Monday, August 06, 2007

This Week's Farmer's Market Trip

As usual, I hit the farmer's market again this past Saturday. If you live in Louisville, get down to the Bardstown Rd Farmer's Market ASAP (The picture is not of my farmer's market). If you don't live in Louisville (most of you), find your local farmer's market and go. You'll find some really excellent stuff there. Here is a rundown of my take from this week:

Stand #1 - $4
- A big bag of kale greens
- Grapes (real grapes with seeds)
- 1 cucumber (still have some leftover from last week)
- 1 zucchini (still have two leftover from last week)
- 1 yellow squash
- 2 apples

Stand #2 - $13 (blackberries and blueberries are expensive)
- 1 pint of Brussels sprouts
- 1 quart of blackberries
- 1 pint of blueberries

Stand #3 - $8
- 2 heads of lettuce
- 1 bunch of basil
- Something else that I seem to have forgot

Various other stands
- A dozen free-range eggs with the orangest yolks I've seen - $3
- A bunch of green onions with the biggest bulbs ever - $1
- 1/3lb of raw blue cheese - $5
- 1 sunflower stem that contained about 6 sunflowers and really brightened up the house - $1

And the real gem of the trip:
- 2.xx pounds of rabbit for $4.50/lb - $9.50

I don't know the exact quantities of most of the stuff, nor was it all priced separately. Prices are approximate. Regardless, I know that I walked out $45 lighter, but 5 bags of food heavier! If you take out the rabbit and cheese, both abnormal purchases, the cost was really very low for a week's worth of produce.

My farmer's market has several people selling pastured chicken, grass-fed meats, free range eggs, and excellent raw cheese. You can't find that in the big box grocery, although most of these farms do sell through the local health food stores. The eggs are even cheaper than getting the good Omega-3 eggs from the grocery. One thing that is really cool at the farmer's market is seeing food that would NEVER be sold in a grocery store because it's too ugly. Grocery store tomatoes are all perfectly red and about the size and shape of tennis balls. The guy selling the berries had the craziest looking tomatoes. One of them was literally about 8" in diameter with a hole through the middle. It had actually grown into a ring. The rabbit/sunflower seller had two butternut squashes that were easily 1.5-2 feet long, one of which was a perfect U-shape. Because these items wouldn't pack well, nor are they pretty, they wouldn't be sold in a grocery store. Of course, the bulbous, ugly tomatoes are usually the most flavorful, but unfortunately, grocery store produce is all about yield and durability, not flavor and nutrition.

So why shop at a farmer's market?

  • Variety: Note the ugly (probably more flavorful) tomatoes and squashes mentioned above; can't find that in the grocery.

  • Freshness: Most of the food at the farmer's market was on the vine/in the ground just a few days before; most of what you purchase in the grocery has been picked before it's ripe (probably at least a week in advance) and artificially ripened (which helps to explain why it isn't as flavorful).

  • Local: Supporting your local economy is always a good thing.

  • Pollution: Whether you believe in human-caused global warming or not, we can all acknowledge that bringing organic grapes from California spews more pollution than bringing grapes from 75 miles away.

  • Seasonality: What better way to eat seasonally than by buying from people who can only grow what is seasonal to your area.

  • Price: With the exception of a few items, my bill from the farmer's market was very low. I don't normally purchase rabbit and cheese, so that's $15 I wouldn't have spent and the berries are probably similarly priced at Meijer.

  • Meet the growers: You can actually talk to the people that grow your food, ask them about their growing methods, and make friends with them. It is nice to know that a human is at the other end of the food chain.

Sunday, August 05, 2007 Again

I wrote once before about by Kevin McKay and wanted to spotlight this site again. Since my first post, Kevin has done a lot of good work to the site. First, the site is much expanded since I last had a good look around. Kevin has added more workouts, improved on the already solid nutrition advice, and provided a list of some excellent reading material, along with a forum. Second, the only complaint I had about the site previously was his use of study abstracts that lay people can't understand. He's taken care of that. SimpleFit is an awesome site for the beginner or the person that just wants to know what to do and when and isn't too concerned with getting overly immersed in the finer points. Following the SimpleFit protocol will certainly get you in excellent shape.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

How to Get Fat Without Really Trying

This video was posted on Ross Enamait's site yesterday: How to Get Fat Without Really Trying

It's 10 minutes long and a good watch. There are quite a few salient points in the video, such as:
- The typical grocery store carries 30-50,000 products, most of which are processed.
- Americans consume 3 times as much corn in the form of sweeteners (high fructose corn syrup, corn syrup, etc) as in other forms, including as a side dish.
- It takes 1 hour of biking to burn off the calories in a soda. They showed a 20oz bottle, but didn't elaborate on the quantity of soda.
- A McDonald's meal (appeared to be a cheeseburger and fries) takes about 6 hours of walking to burn off.
- 25% of elementary school kids have high blood pressure, high cholesterol, etc.

All of those tens of thousands of processed products are specially packaged to entice you to make that impulse purchase. Colorful cartoon characters and celebrities call out to us, tempting us to just try a bite of the garbage they're hawking. To counter the excellent marketing of the food companies, stick to the outer perimeter of the store where you can get your meat, eggs, dairy (if you desire), and produce. If you must walk down a center aisle, pick the one with the olive oil and/or nuts or an aisle that has products you are completely disinterested in. It's hard to be tempted if you don't see the products. Another solution is to shop at farmer's markets as much as possible, venturing into the supermarket as little as possible for essentials like spices, olive oil, and nuts. And get one of the small hand baskets as we tend to want to fill whatever apparatus is at hand...smaller apparatus = less room to fill with crud.

Three times as much corn in the form of sweeteners! That is appalling. Art De Vany had a good post on the I'll run it off mentality.

All of those elementary school kids have the makings of Syndrome X. Unless their dietary intakes are changed, most of them will end up obese, diabetic, and disease-ravaged. All of that sugar depletes the immune system and destroys arterial walls.

Peter Jennings was talking to a marketer about the products that the marketer helps shill. They didn't give a name, so John Doe is our marketer so I can quit writing "the marketer". He asked John if he cares if a product is healthy when he designs the advertising. JD's reply was "I care that the product has a positive role in a child's life." What positive role could Twinkies, Pop-Tarts, Oreos, and Cocoa Puffs possibly have in a child's life? Does he think that insulin resistance and metabolic syndrome are a positive thing? When Jennings pushed him to compare his products to asparagus and broccoli, he actually used the words "so-called less healthy products" in reference to the sugary junk. "So-called"! That's marketing speak for "you're absolutely correct that I'm making a living off of pushing crap to kids, but I won't admit it in as many words." One good way to reduce your and your children's exposure to advertising is to....turn off the television.

Of course, I can't get behind the "blame the food industry" tack. It's all about personal responsibility. Granted marketers have mastered the art of using human nature against us to get us to buy things we know are bad for us. But ultimately, companies are only providing that which people are buying. If people would quit buying the junk, the companies would quit making it. It's not Kraft's fault if you're overweight. Kraft, et al, may be enablers, but in the end you and only you put the food in your mouth.