Monday, December 22, 2008

Farming a Wedding, Part 3: interested parties, ins and outs, what have you's

In the last 50 years the food system, like most other industries, has leaped, bounded and thrusted itself into the future.  Fertilizers, insecticides, mega-farming and genetic modification have created a miasma both literally, in the fields and waterways of our country, but also figuratively, in the minds of people worldwide.  

Many have simply forgotten where their food comes from, and how it came to be.  We have forgotten that asparagus shoots up in the spring, strait up, one at a time;  that cows have been grazing on grass and nothing else for thousands of years;  that strawberries taste better in the summer because that is when they are in season.  These simple facts, known to human history for generations beyond memory, are being lost with breathtaking efficiency.

And it is dangerous.  In a 2006 E. Coli outbreak in Dole's bagged Spinach,  104 cases of infection occurred in no fewer then 26 states, and one case in Canada.  Dole, "The world's largest producer and marketer of fresh fruit and vegetables" (according to their website) sells fruits and vegetables in 90 countries worldwide.  It draws from uncountable fields across the globe, spending unheard of amounts of money and natural resources to bring mediocre quality fruits to the American table.  Dole has no reason to determine the sources of its product, if they did perhaps the FDA investigators may have had better luck.  ("they were unable to determine how the contamination originated")

Dole's product, and much of the product distributed to places like Mohonk Mountain House, is very difficult to source.  The food is grown in one place, sent to a sorting factory, mixed with other food of other farms, sent to a packing plant, which may service several brands (this happens very commonly with beef), where it is mixed again, then sent to a distributor to be delivered to stores across the country.  There is no system in place to determine origin.  A section of tomatoes in your local supermarket may contain fruit from the same country, but determining which farm, town, county, or state it came from is literally impossible.  

On the other hand, if a small local farm has an outbreak, the damage is limited to the locale for which it serves, and the ability of regulators to determine the scope and necessary response to the problem is comparatively simple.  The problem can be dealt with efficiently, and the farmer will likely lose her entire operation to lawsuits.  Dole on the other hand, with $6 Billion in annual profits, can afford to pay off hundreds of settlements out of court, not even cracking the ivory tower at the top.

There is simply no comparison in terms of safety.  Small farmers must produce safe and high quality food to stay afloat.  Mega-foods have little or no concern with these pedestrian issues, profit margin is the only concern, as one can plainly see

E. Coli, a relatively rare bacterial infestation, is not the only reason to look to local farms.  Whole unprocessed farm foods have much higher nutrient contents, much lower rates of dangerous bacterium, dramatically different (and healthier) fatty acid ratios, and no refined grain or sugar.  This is a modern recipe for health and longevity.

This is only one reason we have chosen to source our wedding from local farms.  It is one of the most complex and difficult to grasp, as we simply don't understand how the system works, and how it can damage our lives, all in the name of higher profits.  Small farms are about livelihood, family, community, virtues that are often discussed in the upper echelons of american politics, but little concern is actually paid to them.  

We have seen these communities at work, and they are more then just a discussion around a liberal dinner table.  They are the last best hope for our food, our health, and our society.

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Yet another confusing diet plan, but it's so pretty!

It actually doesn't look all that bad.  Although it suggests way too much water, a fine way to tax the kidneys in the long term.  But I like the attempt at dethroning the miserable food pyramid. Sadly the diet seems to be a ruse to get rich folks in Boca to go through an expensive diagnostics regimen with the joyful inventor of the the diet scheme, Dr. Robert D. Willix Jr..

My suggestions?  A bit more complicated, but some ballpark information can be found here, here, and here.

Friday, December 19, 2008

Farming a Wedding, Part 2: Brook Farm

We drove down the long road adjacent to rolling pasture and a rickety looking fence on a cold saturday morning just before thanksgiving.  The Brook Farm Project is a farm which sits directly under the imposing and vast cliffs of the Mohonk Preserve in New Paltz, NY.  We decided to visit the farm with the hopes that they might be able to supply some of the food for our wedding.  The farm actually sits on the Mohonk property, and is used by lease.  Using their food would epitomize the local food movement we are trying to support and sustain.

But as noon approached it was difficult to think of anything but the bone chilling cold that had descended on the Hudson Valley the night before.  
The farm runs primarily as a CSA.  As we walked over from our car, we saw folks picking up a reasonable share of the available (and dirty!) produce from large baskets.  To know what a "reasonable" amount was, a large billboard stated how much of which produce was kosher to add to each member's "share".

We saw Dan immediately, wearing a Dickie's bodysuit that looked as if it were made for a Giant, some beat up work gloves and a furry earlap.  I was jealous, freezing in my ripped bluejeans and felted jacket.  Dan is a very tall man with a deep voice and a warm and engaging disposition.  He chatted easily with his members, showing real and honest fondness for each.  We got his attention and began talking with him about our ideas for the wedding.  As he listened to our plan his eyes glowed with excitement, he immediately jumped on board, the season is perfect (late september), the chefs will be elated, Mohonk needs something like this, so they can really get it.  

Dan is a true believer.  As we talked with him we learned just how powerful community can be.  His CSA is not just a food supply service.  Each member must work a commensurate amount to their share value (full share, half share, student share, see the CSA .pdf), engaging the member in the production, as well as the consumption of their produce, meats and eggs.  The ties members have run very deep, forming a community like those of simpler times, yet fully integrated into the modern world.  This is not an anachronism, it is an efficient, economical and virtuous system that works as well now as at any other time in history.  

Listening to Dan talk about farming and the movement for local and organic (or uncertified, but of higher standard, as Brook Farm is) food is infectious.  We left Brook farm still shivering, but with the assurance that they could provide all of the produce necessary for the wedding reception.  

In return, Dan asked Karina and I to come back in the Spring and work on the farm.  A task we are only happy to accomplish.  

The only trick now?  Make sure Mohonk buys produce only from Brook Farm.  This will likely turn out to be the hardest part: getting Mohonk to do what we want.

We'll see.   But at the moment I am still infected by Dan's optimism and belief in the spirit of his community, so I will hold to that for a little longer!


Thursday, December 18, 2008

Farming a Wedding Part 1

So many changes.   But I love change, so all is well.   Karina and I are getting married next year.   I always thought planning a wedding would be fun, I didn't know it would be this fucking fun!

I have been working on the food.   We are getting married at the Mohonk Mountain House, a colossal frankenstein of a hotel that sits in what must have been an edenic hideaway for the Mohicans 400 years ago.   The house abuts a long lake, surrounded by rocky cliffs. The cliffs themselves are a maze of tunnels, caves, rockfalls, and dwarf pitch pines that have clung to these cliffs far longer then human memory.

But it is the food that is the most important aspect of our wedding.  Mohonk works through a set of distributors, standard practice for a food operation so large.  There are hundreds of guests each day that need to eat, and the menu has to stay fairly steady.  They have made some steps in sourcing locally, but an operation so large cannot be supported by small farms, unless some unifying force brings all the farms together.

That force is us.  We have a unique event of just over 100 guests.  They have to prepare and deliver our food independent of the main kitchen.  We have a unique opportunity to drive the Mohonk staff directly into the local farms of the region.  

Luckily those farms are close by and they are amazing.  So I will be posting about each one over the next few weeks.  

The Farms:

Friday, November 7, 2008

an education

The food system, in 9 pages of Michael Pollan clarity:
Open letter the the next president of the USA

What's next?

President-elect Barack Obama.

"I was just reading an article in the New York Times by Michael Pollen about food and the fact that our entire agricultural system is built on cheap oil. As a consequence, our agriculture sector actually is contributing more greenhouse gases than our transportation sector. And in the mean time, it's creating monocultures that are vulnerable to national security threats, are now vulnerable to sky-high food prices or crashes in food prices, huge swings in commodity prices, and are partly responsible for the explosion in our healthcare costs because they're contributing to type 2 diabetes, stroke and heart disease, obesity, all the things that are driving our huge explosion in healthcare costs."  
- Barack Obama

Friday, October 31, 2008

Sourcing your food

Think it is important to know the sources of your food?   From the NY Times:

Yet another local guide

Local Fork is a guide to all things local.

click here for the NYC guide.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

My on-going love-hate affair with Oprah.

First she and I are together on Faulkner, then Obama, then she does her Vegan Cleanse and I flip out on her, telling her I just can't do it anymore, that she is just too fucking dumb for me.

But Oprah is a clever one, always surprising us when we think of her as the Queen Mum of sycophantic housewives.  

She has come back to food, after unceremoniously getting sued by the meat industry for cutting out burgers after the mad cow scare, with a basic Green eating guide and a new lengthy piece on ethics and industrial animal production by The View's token asian co-host, the adorable reporter Lisa Ling.  It is a lengthy piece, and has some actual reporting in it.  

For some serious information on why CAFO (concentrated animal feeding operations) are the evil empire of food production in America, read this report from the Union of Concerned Scientists.

What a brooklyn gal can do

Meet KayCee and Owen formerly of brooklyn, now running an organic and pasture based farm called Awesome Farm! in Tivoli, NY.

They do eggs. chickens, lamb and turkey, all pastured, and they make Tempeh too!  For you veggie types.

It is about 2 1/2 hours north of New York City, alongside the Hudson and the Catskills further to the west.  Put it on the day trip list and pay them a visit!

be well.

Friday, October 24, 2008

Pasture Meat.

I have written about this before, but it bears repeating, as many still cannot grasp the problem with American Meats.

The History
Until the last half of the 20th Century, our meats, including Beef, Chicken, Pork and lamb, as the four major meats came from animals raised in traditional Euro-Asian ways.  The cows were raised on grasslands, the chickens foraging in those grasslands, and pigs foraging everywhere they could.  In the 17th century in New England, for instance, farmers would turn their pigs out into the woods until fall, when they would go out and round them up, a difficult process for sure, but not as difficult as managing the pigs for the entire spring and summer seasons.  This turned out healthy strong pigs for slaughter.
In the latter 20th Century, after Nixon instituted massive grain subsidies, two things happened.  Farmers began using their pasture land to grow Corn, Soy and Wheat, and a surplus of grain resulted.
The need to use that grain was a necessity or the market would crumble.  So we began feeding the animals with it.  The resultant industry driven animal factories are well documented in previous posts on this blog.

What this means for your health
The meats that are now grain fed are qaulitatively different then the old pasture animals.  They have a much higher ratio of Omega 6 fatty acids to Omega 3 fatty acids.  Human beings need a nice 3:1 ratio.  Pasture animals have a near perfect ratio for our consumption.  Pasture animals, particularly cows, produce milk with much lower bacterial counts then grain fed animals, and pasture animals have much higher levels of essential vitamins and minerals then grain fed animals.  In short they are a far healthier product.
This is not a little thing, our metabolism has developed over thousands of years to function off of specific foods.  It is glacially slow in adjusting to new factors, hence lactose intolerance for 70% of the world's population.  Pasture meats are the perfect food, having all essential amino acids, vitamins and minerals (except vitamin C), along with a perfect inflammation reducing ratio of Omega 3 and 6 fatty acids.  But grain fed animals quickly take on the opposite composition, lacking in vitamin and minerals, and with greatly expanded Omega 6, we are left with less nutrition and higher inflammation.  

Where to get the meats

1.  Farmer's Markets, find your local market or farm here

2.  Delivery, I have recently found two sources.  Fleisher's Gras fed will deliver grass fed meat to your door if you live in NYC or Rhinebeck. They have beef, pork, lamb, and poultry.  
8-O'clock Ranch is an upper NY state ranch that delivers orders as small as 5-6 lbs and as large as halves and wholes (sides of beef!).  I have joined their CSA which gives me 3 months of Beef, Lamb and Pork, from December through February, 10 lbs/month.
The best part - their prime rib cuts are all dry aged, a process that is sadly less and less prevalent, as it delivers meat of the utmost tenderness and flavor.

{Edit: I just found another resource from our friends at the Union of Concerned Scientists.  A paper entitled Greener Pastures: How grass-fed Beef and Milk contribute to healthy eating


I have not had much time for this, as school and work and other concerns have, like Putin, reared their heads.  I have been visiting some farmer's markets here in the city, and so it may be time to get going again.

thanks for reading.

Tuesday, September 30, 2008

Americans demand knowledge of the origins of their food

Here it is.  We have removed ourselves so completely, so decisively from our food's origins that the Federal Government has now stepped in to set things strait.  Of course when approaching problems such as these, the grand gestures of bureaucracy more often then not have the greatest effect upon the least vital elements.  

So what has happened?  According to the fed, food must now be labeled clearly to display its Country of Origin.  This may be via sticker, twist tie, whatever, paint em up if you want, but a $1000 fine will be (sparsely, carelessly) enforced on those that do not label their foods.

This will cause a stir in the food industry, as fruits, vegetables, and meats will need to be segregated for labeling and shipping in situations where they might formerly have ridden together, so to speak.  The reasons for this newfound desire of the Fed to follow your food around like a hawk lie in the recent outbreaks of e. coli, and such among american produce.  

I just don't have the energy for this one.  I know exactly where my food comes from.  If there is a problem I can drag the farmer who sold me the bad product out of his/her tent and onto the long meadow of Prospect Park, beat them senseless, steal their truck, and generally lay waste to the life of myself and any others that get in my way.

If Captain Pathmark, or Jimmy Charger for that matter, has a problem with their food, who are they going to go to for answers?  Even if the little sticker says "Made in Uraguay"  or "proudly grown in the republic of my shitty mc'shit-alot" what then?  Do they drive to the country in question, asking passersby where the farm with the bad tomatoes is?  A "country of origin" label gets you pretty close to the problem if your food comes in from lichtenstein, or Trinidad and Tobago, but what if your food came from Argentina, Brazil, The USA, Canada, China?  How do you find out who fucked the peppers over if your searchable radius is 3000 miles?

There is just no way to legislate integrity.  

Our protections from the perpetration of this wildly overgrown culture of consumption do not lie in the federal fucking government.  Our saving grace is to renew our connections with those that grow and cultivate and process our foods.  I know the farmer who sells me my bacon, my lamb, my steak, my apples, pears, mustard greens, mushrooms, milk, pasta, cheese, bread, and grains.  I know where every vendor lives, because their addresses are written on the signs above their tents.  Or building, in the case of my pasta, which comes from Caputo's on Court st, run by 3 generations of a local family.  Where are these people going to go if they poison my food?  Where can they hide when I drag my sick body and my lawyer into their establishments and hold up the paperwork with "CRIMINAL NEGLIGANCE" written all over it.  Are they going to point sheepishly at a 2 million square mile swath of the republic of god knows where and say "it was THEM"?

The system is juked to protect producers that fuck with your food.  Protect yourself, get back to the real free market economy, in which we police ourselves, and our farmer's produce quality food not because someone tells them to, but because they depend on our business with their very livelihood.  

Eat small.

Friday, September 26, 2008

Choices made easier

Eat Well Guide has put out regional food guides for several metropolitan areas. Check out the New York City Guide.


between the mets, the absurdity of politics, and moving into a new apartment, it has been difficult to think about writing.  but i have returned.  so fear not, new information is on its way.

Although, October baseball and November elections are almost upon us...

Thursday, September 11, 2008

San Francisco goes local

Gavin Newsom is at it again.  First he fought the good fight for marriage equity.  Now he is trying to convert all city meals to local sourcing.  Read all about it here.

Wednesday, September 10, 2008

The rabbit hole: Omega Fatty Acids

I was just talking to a friend who has some troubles with inflammation.  I have been studying metabolism this term, and have finally figured out what exactly these Omega Fatty Acids are all about:

Omega 3's and 6's are the fundemental fats in the production of arachidonic acid.  The concise story on this is that arachadonic acid's actions (via it's offspring) are in regulating inflammation.  

So if inflammation is a major problem, it is likely that your fatty acid balance is off. It is possible that your ratio of 6's to 3's is as much as 3 or 4 times too high. The ratio should be about 3:1 (O6:O3), but the average american has a ratio of about 15:1. This translates to much higher inflammation rates throughout the body.  

low ratio - low inflammation, strong bowel mucosa
high ratio - high inflammation, a host of other problems in the long run, such as atherosclerosis, etc.

Here's the problem:  trying to get back to a healthy ratio basically requires traveling back in time to before industrial farming destroyed the fat chemistry of our foods.  You can get good foods, but you must be vigilant.  

If you are a strait veggie, invest in some flax seed oil (in the dark thick bottles) and have a teaspoon with dinner, or use it in dressing and the like.  This should be kept back in the cupboard, as flax seed oil is touchy when exposed to light.

if you eat eggs, milk and meat, you must only eat from pastured animals (i.e. grass-fed beef/milk cows, and pasture chickens).  When animals are fed grain their fatty acid ratio goes out of whack.  Pasture raised, grass finished beef is the best, as it has a nearly perfect ratio, and it has a lot of great healthy fat.

a lot of people recommend good fish oil also, but this should probably not be consumed in high quantities.  Or just eat some good fish.  

From what I have read, problems with inflammation can be reigned in tremendously by simply altering the O6:O3 ratio.  

So, if you have allergies, constant inflammatory conditions, atherosclerosis, etc etc, you may find some benefit to altering the diet to bring the Fatty Acids under control.  

Where to shop:  Farmer's markets.  The eggs, meats and milk are mostly from pastured animals.  Look here for farms near your area.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

Eat your fats

I was looking for studies on fiber and I stumbled on this one from JAMA.  The framers of the study looked at 147 studies of diet and Coronary Heart Disease in order to come up with a picture of a healthy diet in terms of CHD.
One finding was that "simply lowering the percentage of energy from total fat in the diet is unlikely to improve lipid profile or reduce CHD incidence".

So eat up people.  The total fat intake is not related, as we have been told for generations, to fat intake. There is much to be learned, as we must parse the types of fat to get a better picture.

i will drop some fat guidelines:

1. No hydrogenated fats (trans fats)
2. Cook with Saturated fats - butter, ghee, pork fat, beef fat, coconut oil are all high in saturated fat.
3. Use poly's, but don't cook with them - vegetable oils, avocado oil, sesame oil - great to use, but do not cook in them.
4. Mono-unsaturated is likely the healthiest - Beef, pork and chicken are high in mono, as is Olive Oil. I have been told not to cook with olive oil, but I still do.  I am thinking of switching over to Ghee, but I have to learn to properly make it.

Eat it.

Thursday, August 28, 2008

The best lamb I have ever eaten

I am currently on vacation in the mountains of central Washington State.  Our house for the week is nestled between pear orchards, creeks, and towering mountains.  

Eating here has been a bit tricky.  I haven't been able to find good eggs and bacon, which is unfortunate, but there is fruit and veggies a-plenty in every direction.

When we arrived we checked out the local "natural" foods store.  This is a decent place for shipped foods, but local quality is almost impossible in the Supermarket setting.  However the proprietor of the store gave us a list of folks who might have meats and produce.  This is how we found Eric.  

Eric and his wife Catha live in Peshastin, WA, about a ten minute drive from our house.  They primarily make cheese for a living.  They also raise and sell Lamb.  I called Eric and asked about the availability of some lamb.  He said they usually sell quarters and halves, but he would check for something smaller.  About an hour later he called back and told me he had a 5.5 lb leg in the freezer he could sell me for $7/lb.  I said we'd be over the next day to get it.

Now we are here with friends that are not so trusting of small producers, so I felt I needed a bit more information.  The next morning I called Eric before heading over and started to ask him about his slaughtering process:

"how do you process and such things?"  

"well...I do it.  With a knife.  I slit their throats." 

I laughed, and as he launched into the rest of the story I began to realize that this was what I have looked for.  To go to a town, meet and talk with local food producers, support them with our business, this is the virtue of local eating.  

Eric's operation sounded pretty Kosher.  He waits till the fall, when all the flies are dead.  He slaughters the animals in the lower barn.  Lamb can hang and bleed out without being chilled so carefully as beef.  So he lets them bleed out for a few days before transferring the carcasses to his cutter/packer.  This facility handles the cutting, packing and freezing of the meats, which Eric then brings back home and stores for his customers.   

Upon arriving at the farm, Eric greeted us warmly.  He has short dreaded locks, and was wearing a dirty t-shirt and ripped blue jeans.  He didn't seem like any cheesemaker I could imagine.

About thirty minutes later, we were standing in Eric's cheese making room, waiting for him to return with cheese, wine and crackers.  We told him we weren't going to buy any cheese, but he said we had to try some, and that we could not try it without wine and crackers.  His cheese, a brie or camembert type cheese, was terrific, creamy, smooth, but with stinky flavor.

After showing us the spot where the lamb had lived, and introducing us to his pair of Great Pyrenees and his pigs, we were on our way.  He told us the lamb would likely be the best we ever tasted, if, he cautioned, we did not overcook it.  I told him we would take care of it.

Last night we cooked the leg.  5.5 lbs in a convection oven for about 1 hour and 25 minutes.  I prepare my lamb greek style, with a lemon/olive oil baste every 10-15 minutes.   It was most definitely the tastiest lamb meat I have ever eaten.  It was also satisfying to know that we were eating meat of an animal that was raised and killed within 5 miles of our house, by a small self sufficient family.  It was sold at a reasonable price and the quality of the product was supreme.  

I knew everything about the meat I ate last night.  Comparatively, I have eaten lamb in the past that traveled over 10000 miles to arrive at my plate.  Sure it was good, but not like this.  One of my dinner companions said, "If I were in a restaurant and this was $200 a plate, I would believe it was worth it.  Then again, if I were told it was crap I would believe it too.  That's how different this lamb tastes."  Thankfully he liked the flavor, going back for seconds, and thirds

Monday, August 18, 2008

recall blues

When are we going to get the picture?  Stop eating the fucking industrial meat people!
The store that makes us all feel really good while shopping, Whole Foods, has just issued a massive recall on several of its Beef products. Whole foods is not the only store to issue a recall on beef, several supermarkets across the country have responded to the recall by overall craptastic Nebraska Beef bringing the total to over 1.2 million pounds of beef.

Hold the phone - I thought Whole Foods had standards, that they had better sources of food then the local supermarket.  More importantly, I thought Whole Foods had the kind of ethically sound, natural and organic products I buy to make me forget that I am part of a culture of destructive consumerism.  Well the meat was actually purchased from Coleman Natural, who seem to say all the right things on their website.  Coleman is run by another company, Meyer Natural Angus, who use Nebraska Beef as their processors.  (They also use the absurd phrase "true corn-fed flavor" when talking about the corn feeds they use)  So this web of businesses, 4 in all, leaves us with a lovely gift, the contaminated product.  But it is not just these 4 companies, one of the problems in tracking the contamination is that nebraska beef moves its product to several different distributors.  So it is difficult to determine where the end-product, the food we eat, came from.

The recall was based on E. Coli contamination.  For those of you who do not know what that means, I'll just say it involves sewage.  This isn't the first time Nebraska Beef has gotten in trouble, in fact it was their third recall in 2 months.  How do these bastards stay open?

One reason is politics.  Ben Nelson, the distinguished Senator from Nebraska, received a few bucks from them, $14,000+ in 2006 alone.  Nelson also sent about $7 million in tax breaks to Nebraska Beef while he was Governor in 1998.  

A large processor like Nebraska must kill and process over 2000 animals every day.  This is anywhere from 10 to 100 times more product then a small house will slaughter.  The employees are under far more stress, and are generally less skilled then those of a small house that processes the farmer's market, halal or kosher meat.

Why would a large processor be more prone to e. coli outbreak?  In the case of Nebraska beef it was likely due to unsanitary equipment.  This means the equipment was not cleaned properly or frequently enough.  In a large slaughterhouse, oversight is much more difficult, and standards must fall to meet the higher demand.  In a large chicken facility for example, an inspector will see 1000 birds in the same amount of time that he or she would see 100 in a small house.  Mistakes are not hard to imagine in these factories, and one needs not imagine them, as several were caught on tape at several facilities in California.  Now, companies like Nebraska Beef, Coleman Natural, Meyer and Whole Foods can soak up the costs of an expensive recall and stay afloat.  Particularly while they are reaping the benefits of tax breaks and other types of corporate welfare.  But a small producer would be instantly destroyed by a contamination.  

Imagine the impact of e. coli from farmer's market meats or vegetables on the industry of small local farming.  It would be devastating.  This is an important market factor.  These producers, either organic, bio-dynamic or humane, with their  pastured animals, are finding the best processors they can.  They are paying a tremendous amount to the slaughterhouses and traveling processors per animal, and their final product is their very livelihood.  There is no political bailout, no team of lawyers, no bean counters, there is nothing to protect these small business people.  The imperative is quality product.  This is why you will pay $3-5 more per pound to purchase your meats.  Bacon costs me twice what supermarket bacon costs, chicken 3 times and beef 5 times.  But I am assured of a quality product from clean, healthy, hearty animals with robust immune systems.  And if I need to see it to believe it, my producers allow me to visit any time.  If I tried to get close to a purdue CAFO or processor I would be arrested by men in HAZMAT outfits.  No, I will gladly pay more for products from men and women who must adhere to the strictest quality standards to secure their livelihood.  Not those big companies that can take a hit and keep trucking.  

If only the rest of us would wake up and stop feeding the maw of the disgraceful, unhealhty, and un-american industrial food production business.  Teddy Roosevelt would have a field day with the current food industry.  

Here is my proposal:  Get a bunch of rabbi's to produce a Golem that is subsumed with the soul of Teddy Roosevelt.  Then just sit back and watch as he shows these bastards what America used to be about.

Be Angry.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

The rabbit hole: Diabetes

I was looking around for some info on fiber and I came across this statement from the Diabetes Health Center at WebMD:
"Diabetes Diet Myth 1: Eating Too Much Sugar Causes Diabetes."

Their reasoning?

"How does diabetes happen? The causes are not totally understood.  What is known is that simply eating too much sugar is unlikely to cause diabetes. Instead, diabetes begins when something disrupts your body’s ability to turn the food you eat into energy."

In their entire discussion of causality in Diabetes, the words "Insulin resistance" are not used.  There is also the strange term "unlikely" applied to sugar as a risk factor.  They mention Obesity as a risk factor, however, not considering for a moment how obese people become obese.

Then I went on:

"Diabetes Diet Myth 3: Carbohydrates Are Bad."

Let's see their reasoning on this one:

"In fact, carbohydrates are good. They form the foundation of a healthy diabetes diet – or of any healthy diet.
Carbohydrates have the greatest effect on blood glucose levels, which is why you are asked to monitor how much carbohydrate you eat when following a diabetes diet."

Why is this all a problem?  

The answer begins with Hippocrates.  Any diet recommendations fall under the umbrella of "Preventive Medicine".  Preventive medicine is most profoundly beholden to the Hippocratic oath, which is a lovely statement descrying harmful prescription.  Yet the folks at WebMD are doing just that.  
This has been going on for generations.  

The initial argument was that a high percentage carb diet held a lower risk of heart disease.  Which is true only in select studies, and only very slightly when compared to a high percentage fat diet. (The high carb diet holds a higher risk of stroke and cancer in all studies, but these aspects of diet studies are seldom reported.)

The long tumble down the hill of bad science and medical clap-trap began with this correlation.  (high fat = heart disease)

It was assumed that obesity was also correlated with a high fat diet, based not on data or science, but on intuition.  The syllogism would properly read:  If dietary fat is correlated with obesity, and obesity is correlated with heart disease, then dietary fat must be correlated with heart disease.  But this was not their logic.  Their logic links obesity and dietary fat through heart disease.  It would be as if a man were convicted of killing another man, because he happened to be standing next to the actual killer during the act.

To make matters worse, the chain continued, as Diabetes was brought into the mix.  There is absolutely no evidence that a high percentage of natural dietary fats (saturated, or otherwise, anything but trans fats) have any correlation with a higher rate of Diabetes.  Nor is there any evidence that dietary fats have any correlation with obesity.  But, we assumed, because it seemed to make sense.  

Why did it seem to make sense?
Because MD's and biochemists seldom understand the first thing about physics.  When discussing diet many scientists will hearken to the First Law of Thermodynamics. For those of you who are unfamiliar with the law, it states:

"The increase in the internal energy of a system is equal to the amount of energy added by heating the system, minus the amount lost as a result of the work done by the system on its surroundings."

This law is invoked when talking about Calories.  A calorie is a calorie is a calorie - the mantra of bad dietary science.    They suggest that the amount of calories that is consumed in the diet must equal the output of energy.  Food with a higher calorie rating must require more energy to break down, and thus, the less active we are the less calories we break down.  The idea is based on a positive or negative caloric balance.  But it is an oversimplification of human biology.  It ignores the body's fat storage mechanisms, it ignores defecated waste, it ignores water losses through perspiration.  

1.  Fat storage - before fatty acids are converted into energy they have the option of becoming stored fat.  This process was discussed heavily in my post a few days ago.  If they do this then they will not enter the energy output cycle.  This process is heavily influenced by the content of our diet, not the total caloric quantity.  
2.  Defecation - as any raw foodist will tell you, eating more fibrous foods (cellulose particularly) will increase bowel motility.  The problem with their theory of course is that less nutrients are absorbed...but we'll leave them alone for a bit.  The point here is that if we are defecating more thoroughly we will be releasing more food content.  So bowel variation has a part in food absorption.
3.  Perspiration - when I eat Congee with Pork and Thousand Year Egg I sweat.  I sweat a lot.  When I drink Oolong tea I sweat.  This isn't much, it is not going to tip the scales one way or another, but if it is happening then we know ATP is being manufactured, as heat is the bi-product.  If our food can enable or disable this body function then we must consider it as part of overall metabolism.  

So, thermodynamics when applied to human dietary physiology might look a bit circuitous.  A calorie is a calorie in the stomach, but to the duodenum it is a glucose or a fatty acid;  to the pancreas it is a 'make insulin now' and to the gall bladder it is a "bile - GO!".  Then the liver takes some charge of the situation and the calorie becomes one of several possible outcomes, as outlined above.  It could be energy, as glucose usually is directly after consumption, or fatty acids are most of the rest of the time.  Or it could be fat storage, or it could not be assimilated at all, and defecated.  All these factors must be parsed and counted to have an accurate idea of the effect of different diet components on the body.  This is far too complex for a typical prospective diet study.  

The point of all this is that all calories are very likely not created equal.  Because the foods that the "calorie" ratings are applied to have different actions on the internal mechanisms of the body.  These actions have different effects on metabolism.  

What if there were a car factory that could make a fuel efficient compact, a mid-size family sedan, and a 7 seater SUV, all with the same apparatus?  The operators would simply insert a different blueprint when they wanted one or the other, allowing the machines to do the rest.  

This is what our body does naturally.  What a beautiful machine it is!  It is capable, based on input, of producing such a variety of end products, that it boggles the mind.  The input is our dietary contents.  The output is always different, dependent upon the particular ingredients of our diets.  Different inputs can make us fat, thin, strong, weak, healthy or disease-ridden. 

High fat diets, with low carbohydrate content (not percentage, but overall content) are repeatedly among the safest and healthiest diets found in prospective studies, such as those run by the National Center for heatlh statistics.  The recommendation for "lean proteins" constantly bandied about by the AHA or the ADA are based on no science.  

And yet, on both their websites ( and you find the recommendation for "non-fat dairy" and "lean protein", as well as a foundation of carbohydrates.  

These recommendations have been around for about 30 years.  (or perhaps upwards of 60, but more powerfully the last 30)  In that time we have seen an increased incidence of heart disease, diabetes, obesity, cancer, bowel diseases and dementia.  Thanks to other medical advances, we have seen life expectancy rise amid the deluge of disease.  Americans are living longer with heart disease then they used to.  

So what dietary ingredient has increased since 1970?  According to these USDA statistics, between 1970 and 2005, grain availability increased by 41%, of which 89% went to our diets in refined form; fruits and veggies increased by 19%, and meats by a paltry 7.5%.  This accompanied a growth in US population of 45%.  
If you count sugars and sweeteners you get a further 19% growth in refined carb load.

So, in a period which saw a 45% growth in population, we find a complimentary growth in only one major ingredient:  Refined Carbohydrates.  

If, as many scientists do, we assume that diet has some relationship to disease incidence, we find the only logical culprit for the increased incidence of disease in America to be refined carbs.  All other food types have not been produced and consumed in such quantity as to keep up even with population growth.  

And yet, we are still recommending Carbs as the foundation of a healthy diet.  Sure, they are saying "whole grains" these days, but who actually follows that advice?  

Come on people, wake up and eat your bacon.  Drink your fatty milk, eat your pasture beef, fry those pasture eggs in butter.  

And leave the toast in the bread basket.  You'll thank me when you are 90 and still driving around the neighborhood. 

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

Top Chef tries "healthy"

Every four months I get a couple weeks to chill, Acupuncture school is 3 years, 9 semesters, and the 2-3 week breaks we get are never quite as long as I want them to be.  That said, they do afford me the opportunity to catch up on Top Chef.  

Watching Tom Colicchio rip these jackasses a new one is always a pleasure.  

Anyway, in the episode I just watched, the chefs were to come up with a "healthy" dish for members of the Chicago Police Department.  The producers brought on Sam from Season 2 to be the guest judge.  Sam is a diabetic, and tells the chefs that he often has trouble finding foods that are low in carbs and sugars.  The meal must be "healthy" and "diabetic friendly".  

So I am watching, and "low carb, low sugar" somehow shifts to the common nutritional knowledge of the day "lean protein, fruit, vegetable, whole grain".  Several times in the episode the chefs make mention of the low cholesterol component of their meals.  The douchebag who went to nutrition school makes sure to say at least 6 times that his dish, a tasteless and insubstantial sushi, is healthy by virtue of it being raw.  

Some day we will let go of these erroneous nutritional recommendations.  Lean meats are no healthier then fatty meats, nor do they taste especially better.  Eating entirely raw food is thought by many to be a healthy cleanse, one to be performed for a few weeks, to clear out some toxins.  But it is not an adequate full time and continuous diet.  
For a whole mess of information on that subject, click here.

Perhaps though things are looking up.  The low sugar, low carb theme was more prominent in the episode then lean meat, or low cholesterol.  And the Raw food guy went home.  

Also, my brother wants me to stop using "Be Well" at the end of posts.  So I came up with a new one for him:

Suck it.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

the rabbit hole - dietary fat vs. adipose fat

Dare you come down here with me?  It is all starting to come clear.  But it is a complicated picture.

Let's begin.  

There are 3 basic parts of our foods.  Fats, Carbs, Protein.  Today we talk fats.  

Fats.  Naturally occurring fats are perhaps our best friends in the food world.  It doesn't matter which kind we are talking about.  All fatty foods contain a combination, and all are useful/healthy in their own ways.  I wrote much more about that here.   Fats are responsible for most of our day to day metabolism.  

I.  Our dietary fat is initially metabolized into free fatty acids.  The flow of free fatty acids from our livers (where the acids begin) to the blood (then to the adipose tissue and all other cells of the body) is vital to proper energy management systemwide.  This flow is enabled by most of our endocrine hormones.  It is disabled by one only one, insulin.  If we increase insulin, we push fatty acids into adipose storage, if we decrease insulin, we release the mechanism for fat storage, and fatty acids are free to roam and provide energy.

So, to sum up this first part:  dietary fat is broken down, the liver then sends the resultant fatty acids out to the rest of the body.  Whether this fat gets stored as adipose tissue, or metabolized, is primarily due to 1) the level of insulin in the blood, and 2) the predisposition of each of our hormones to fat storage.  

Let me make sure to state what adipose tissue growth or reduction is NOT due to:  1) the amount of overall calories we eat, and 2) the amount of exercise we perform.

Why not?

II.  Fatty acids can become energy only if they stay in their free fatty acid state.  The body can instead turn them into Triglycerides which are either locked into adipose tissue (via insulin) or they clog up the blood stream (atherosclerosis, when in large quantities).  So how do free fatty acids triple up to become bulbous immovable triglyceride plaque?

The fatty acids must be joined together, this is accomplished by glycerol 3 phosphate.  Gly-3-p is a product of the metabolism of glucose and fructose (refined sugars).  It forms the backbone of the triglyceride.  The process is illustrated nicely by this table.

How then does that plaque become adipose tissue?
The triglycerides are snared by a protein called LPL which pulls triglycerides out of the blood stream, and into adipose storage.  Therefore, the regulation of LPL is vital to the development of adipose tissue.

{Edit:  I significantly simplified the science here.  Let me fix:  LPL actually breaks the triglycerides down first, then transports.  The free fatty acids either go to fat storage or processing for fuel.  The higher the insulin levels the more LPL action moves toward fat storage, the lower the insulin the more the LPL action moves toward muscle tissue for fuel production.}

How do we get fat?
The LPL activity is increased by insulin.  The more insulin, the more fat accumulation.  Insulin is increased most profoundly by refined sugars.  Particularly glucose.  

To sum up the second part:  Fatty acids become fat (adipose tissue) only when combined into triglyceride form and pushed into adipose accumulation.  This entire process is guided by Sugar, via its direct influence on insulin.

The last piece of the puzzle.
Some people get fat, some don't.  The last element seems to be a hormonal imbalance in those that become Obese.  They are especially prone, in the Hypothalamus, to the effects of insulin.  If the (ventromedial) hypothalamus cannot properly regulate insulin then we will fatten.  Fattening will make us hungry, as there will be more need for fuel, and the vicious cycle of obesity will begin.

So, the final sum-up:

Sugars and refined grains raise insulin levels quickly and dramatically, their metabolism produces a bi-product that builds triglycerides.  The heightened insulin raises the amount of triglycerides that get stored as adipose tissue, causing obesity.

Let me again state what does not cause obesity:  Perverse appetite and lack of exercise.

So I guess the only question left is:  Is obesity bad?  


So why eat fats?  Fatty foods are high in nutrients, and if properly raised/produced will have an excellent Omega 6:Omega 3 ratio (as close to 1:1 as possible is best).  This study shows the benefits of a lower ratio.  Beef alone (when raised properly!) contains all essential amino acids and all but 1 of the essential vitamins, C.  C is readily available in citrus, among other foods. (although it may not be as necessary as we think)  Fats also provide lasting energy, and the means for excellent cell communication through the free flowing adipose tissue.  They are also associated with higher HDL and (only slightly) overall cholesterol, but lower VLDL triglycerides in the blood.  This is the structure of health the western medical establishment has embraced.  

The fats to stay away from:  
* Do not cook with polyunsaturated vegetable oils.  They should only be used at room temperature, such as in salad dressings.  
* Eat fried foods infrequently.  I don't know enough about this yet.  If you fry, fry your foods in lard.  Never fry in polyunsaturated oils.  
* Trans fats.  These oxidizing fats became very popular with the villification of saturated fats in the 50's and 60's.  However they go back to 1911, when crisco was invented.  The reason?  The almighty need for greater shelf-life.  They are hydrogenated vegetable oils, and they are to be shunned.

The fats to eat:
All the others!  Chow down!  Get the image of eggs, milk, beef, fatty bacon and heart attacks gone from your minds.  But remember, you must be eating pasture eggs, meat and cheeses to get the proper benefits.  Cows that grew up on grains do not produce meat that is all that nourishing when compared to pasture cows eating mostly grass.  This holds true for all livestock.  Also, hit your fatty veggies, the great beans (NOT soy!) and your flax seed and oils.  Fish oil, fish, chicken, olive oil, this is the food of everlasting health.  

Lastly, don't listen to the establishment.  The american heart association is recommending to this day a diet that is low in saturated fats, cholesterol, both of which have been demonstrated to be associated with higher rates of obesity, diabetes, stroke, cancer, bowel disease, and overall mortality.  But the conventional wisdom is powerful, and the anti-quackery boys are always out in force.

Note on sources:  Most of my information is based on the work of Gary Taubes, from his book "Good Calories, Bad Calories.  Challenging the conventional wisdom on Diet, Weight Control and Disease".  His source material is vast, and I am sitting squarely on his shoulders as I write this.  To learn more about his theories, watch this video:

Slow Foods

That bastion of hope for local food systems, community food production and dinner table eating, Slow Foods International, have completed plans for their first major American Event, Slow Food Nation '08.  It will take place in San Francisco from Aug. 29th - Sept. 1st.  With a tasting pavillion, a community marketplace, various talking events, music and more, San Francisco will be alight with tasty local food.

Check it out.  Hopefully we will get one of these festivals in NY in the near future.

love the fast food.

I found this on 

fail owned pwned pictures

Tuesday, August 5, 2008

Sugar Kills

Anybody who has had a conversation with me in the last month knows that I am on a crusade to vilify refined sugar and flour.  I am working on eliminating these elements from my own diet, and I am telling anyone who will listen to do the same.

The basic idea is this:  Refined sugar (and thus diets that are absurdly high in sugar) is a simple carbohydrate.  It metabolizes so quickly that our system reacts almost violently to it.  Our blood glucose shoots up, and our insulin levels shoot up in response.  Doing this once in a while is not a problem, the body is equipped for small bouts of hyperglucosemia, and Hyperinsulinemia, for that matter.  The problem is that rich european and american culture has been doing it way too much.  Up to 200 lbs per year per American.  200 lbs.  Every year.  Of sugar.  Diabetes and Obesity are increasing in incidence, as is Hypertension, Cancer, Chronic Bowell Diseases, the hallmarks of Western Medical disrepair. 

How do we know sugar is the crucial element?  In countless reports over the last 200 years we have seen the same pattern repeat itself.  Non-european isolated culture group eats diet that is devoid of refined products.  (Masai, Zulu, Pima, Inuit, and many others)  They are healthy, without incidence of Obesity, Diabetes, Heart disease, Cancer.  Yet within one generation of commerce with western countries, the diseases of the west catch and take hold.  The one factor that is ALWAYS present is the introduction of refined grains and sugar.  No other factor (change in environment, environmental stressors;  change in other dietetic elements) is consistent throughout.  So how does sugar do it?

Sugar consumption diverts insulin from the myriad roles it must perform in the body, the body is neglected, chronic illness results.  How can we see this?  Look at Ovarian Cancer, for example.  The major controllable risk factor for Ovarian cancer is Obesity.  Upon diagnosing cancer, many woman will go on insulin therapy to help their conditions, as these will reduce the glucose in their bloodstream, which seems to help.  The ovaries are very delicate endocrine organs.  They are guided each month by the dramatic work of various hormones.  Insulin seems to be somewhat regulatory in the overall work of the ovaries.  

So the picture is:  a woman consumes too much sugar for her system, her insulin is diminished system wide, as it is constantly at work lowering the blood sugar level, and the Ovaries, for this reason, suffer.  More insulin is introduced to the system to help, but this has other problems, as the body can in turn become insulin resistant.  This in fact occurs, as many women who suffer from Ovarian Cancer will become Diabetic in time.  

There are so many more awful elements to the story, but the bottom line is:  wipe it out of your diet.

However, if you don't want/need a nutritional reason, let me appeal to your humanity.

It seems that our friends at Imperial Sugar have had a little accident. A deadly explosion in one of the company's refineries left 13 dead and over 50 injured.  In a sugar refinery a by-product of the process of refining is a fine dust.  If not dealt with properly, the highly combustible dust can explode, which is precisely what occurred at the company's refinery in Port Wentworth, GA in february.  

The Company has been fined over $5 Million by OSHA, as the factory was found to be severely under code, and this was judged to have laid the groundwork for such a terrible and explosive fire.

After the explosion, 5 weeks after, when OSHA went to inspect another of the Sugar Giant's factories, this time in Louisiana, they found that it was similarly under code, and they placed "Imminent Danger" signs at the factory and fined the company another $3.7 Million.  

This is the true face of factory food production.  Each year, thousands of workers are maimed or injured in the american workplace, many of them in food factories.  According to this article the beef industry alone is responsible for 40,000 injuries every year. (this was as of 1999)  

The sad part is that refined sugar is not even a useful or necessary part of the human diet.  We would live longer lives, with less incidence of chronic illness if we eliminated this nefarious simple carbohydrate, and yet we hold onto it like a cross in a sinner's hand.

So what are we to do?  I say, just drop this shit, get rid of it.  Slowly reduce the amount of sugar you use, and you will find, in time, that it gets easier and easier.  I have spent the last 15 years reducing sugar.  First in tea, then in Coffee, then in cold drinks, and finally in eating less of my beloved cookies.  I have found that a slow reduction works tremendously well.  After a while food that is too sweet becomes sickening.  

Additionally, you can use the natural sweeteners, which seem to have far less troublesome effects as refined sugars.  Honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, fruits (eaten in small amounts).  
But the first step is drop the refined.  And no substitutes either, but that is for another time.

Monday, July 28, 2008

where have we been

My computer is currently decomposing.  We will be back, with Gusto, soon.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

Eat your Bacon

Bacon is good for you!

We are so paralyzed by the fat myth that we cannot imagine Bacon as being a nice healthy food to eat. 

Let's imagine first that our bacon comes from pasture raised pigs.  The balance of fatty acids (omega 6 and omega 3) is solid in pasture animals. 
For your supermarket bacon the same cannot be said, and I would stay away from it.

This is now health food.  With nice anti-oxidant saturated fat, a massive amount of mono-unsaturated fat, cholesterol and sodium, as well as good proteins.  This is wonderful, hearty, healthy stuff.  If you want your high density lipoproteins (HDL) to increase and your very low density lipoproteins (VLDL) to decrease, do yourself a favor and fry up some bacon!  I actually save my bacon grease and cook with it.  

Get on board.  Bacon and Eggs is a tried and true breakfast.  Let's enjoy it.  

What to drink, take 2

How much sugar, what kind of sugar, fuck it, it's too confusing.

Let's get started then, it was brought to my attention that a very popular drink block is vitamin water/tea drinks.  First, to clear up some sugar mysteries:  

1 teaspoon sugar = about 4 grams.

So if you are drinking a 6 oz. cup of tea with milk (about 2 oz.) and 1 teaspoon of sugar, you are getting 4 grams of refined sugar and 3 grams of milk sugar.  7 grams total.   Add another teaspoon of sugar and you are looking at 8 grams + 3 grams for the milk.   Bear in mind however, that the milk sugars are not nearly as troublesome as refined sugars.  If you eat raw cane sugar, or use honey or agave nectar and the like, you are far better off.

Now, lets compare that to some popular beverages:

Snapple Iced Tea, lemon.   25 grams sugar, all of it High Fructose Corn Syrup.  The green tea is little better, with 24 grams of sugar.  (Only six cups of tea in one!)

Vitamin Water Multi-V.  13 grams.  Crystalline fructose and cane sugar.  (3 cups of tea here)

I really like Inko's White Teas, the maximum sugar content of their teas is 7 grams, crystalline fructose.  But I actually drink their sugar free drinks now more often then the others. (almost 2 cups of tea, or one cup a heaping teaspoon)

I also like the Honest Tea brand, most of their teas have 5 grams of sugar.  Their Mango tea has 10.5 grams per 8 oz serving, the highest sugar content of their drinks.  

Coca Cola is only a bit worse then Snapple, with 28.5 grams per 8 oz serving.  (almost 7 cups of tea!)

What about the Vitamins?

The beverage companies have been throwing vitamins and minerals back in their drinks for a while now.  Smart Water, Vitamin Water, etc, whenever you see "electrolytes", "anti-oxidents" etc, this is code for, "we put some good stuff back in the drink".  

Vitamins, minerals, electrolytes, what are they all?  Well, we know vitamins pretty well.  We put Vitamin D in milk (though the most important source of Vitamin D is sunlight!), we love our OJ for its vitamin C.  These things we know about.  But what of the others?

Electrolytes - Ions that are important to homeostatic balance.  Sodium is an electrolyte, so are potassium and magnesium.  All of which can be found in a good mineral-rich water source.  My favorite water, Gerolsteiner is mineral rich, containing, Sodium, Potassium, Magnesium, and calcium. 

However, if you look at the ingredients for Multi-V Vitamin Water you find that the water has been de-ionized.  Why would we de-ionize our water?  The answer is likely that the source water is not as high in quality as the Gerolsteiner source.  Perhaps containing too much flouride, or trace amounts of arsenic or anti-depressants.  So the companies purify the water (a very popular practice here in America) then add vitamins and minerals back in.  This does not occur much with american seltzer brands, as adding sodium back in to the water is anathema, due to the mythology that sodium causes hypertension.  

This is the same hoodwink that "enriched flour" embodies.  Food producers strip flour of all its nutrients (white flour) largely because it looked pure and lovely,  (this was primarily a european affectation, white sugar has the same reasoning at its origin), then we find that this is not a great idea, so we put nutrients back in.  Of course we could just use wholemeal flour and none of these shenanigans would be necessary.

Antioxidants - The key to anti-oxidants is what they seem to inhibit, which is oxidation.  Oxidation in the body is primarily important because it hardens (actually closer to the rust process) very low density lipo-proteins (VLDL or triglycerides) as they get themselves stuck to artery walls.  This is a primary patho-mechanism of atherosclerosis.  Oxidation can also produce large numbers of free-radicals,  or Oxygen ions which damage cells and generally wreak havoc on the internal milieu.  
Most Vitamins are antioxidants, as are polyphenols (found in red-wine, from the skin of the grapes), Co-enzyme Q10, Lutein (found in dark green veggies), and Lignan (found in flax, oat, barley and rye).

Hope this helps.

Be Well.

Friday, July 11, 2008

What the hell do I drink?!?

Simple rules:

1.  Water, not too much, your body weight in ounces if you are very active is perfectly good.  A bit less if you are not that active.  
{Edit: it should read "1/2 your body weight in ounces"}
Personally, I get most of my water from Sparkling Mineral bottles, which I sadly must purchase.
the best water out there:  Gerolsteiner.  Try it, you will be converted.
Mineral water in general is the way to go.  Most waters outside of america are left with their minerals intact.  We developed some kind of sideways logic that purified = good.  This may be the case in our polluted city water supplies across the country, but not from good sources.  Minerals should stay in.  They have a fancy name in modern health food jargon:  Electrolytes.

2.  Juices.  They are delicious, I love them, but they have a bit too much concentrated sugar in them, so they are best enjoyed lightly or very moderately.

3.  Sodas.  None.  Just say no!  The concentrated corn sugar is basically Adult onset Diabetes in a can.  Diet sodas are filled with aspartame or sorbitol-like substances - these collect in your capillary beds causing things like retinopathy, neuropathy, nephropathy - you don't want these things, and anyone with diabetes knows that they are at risk for them.  The magic part:  drink diet soda and you don't even need diabetes to go blind, lose nervous control, or have renal failure.

4.  Beer.  See #3 Sodas.  Beer is also loaded with concentrated sugars.  Makes you fat.

5.  Wine.  1-2 servings/day.  Red is better then white.

6.  Liquor.  1-2 servings/day, if not accompanied by wine.  

7.  Shakes/smoothies - don't bother, eat veggies and fruits.

8.  Tea/Coffee - fine if not accompanied by sugar.  Both should be moderately consumed.  Too much coffee is obviously problematic, as it drains your adrenal glands.  I wonder if anyone has looked into an association of heavy coffee consumption and Addison's Disease (hypoadrenal).

Be well.

What the hell do I eat?!?

I have been at this for several months now, and I think I finally have some baseline diet recommendations.  

It is important in making food suggestions to actually suggest food.  I will not sit here and give out percentages of diet that should be fat, calories, whatever the fuck.   No, I will give you actual food suggestions.

Food.  What to eat.

All fats are a combination of saturated, poly-unsaturated and mono-unsaturated content, (see a nice chart on fat content here) the distinctions below are based on the highest content of each type.  The fat content we should be eating can vary greatly.  It is fine to eat very little saturated fat, as well as quite a bit of it.  If we are not eating the hydrogenated fats and not cooking with poly-unsaturated fats we will be fine.
The suggestion that a high fat diet is responsible for Heart Disease, Diabetes, Cancer, etc. etc. is erroneous.

Saturated fats for eating directly:  Red Meat, butter, milk, cheeses, eggs
Saturated fats for cooking:  Butter, Lard, Coconut Oil

{Update:  Red meat is actually 51% mono-unsaturated fat, or oleic fatty acid, 45% is saturated and 4% poly-unsaturated}

Poly-unsaturated fats for eating directly:  vegetable oils, sesame oil.
NOTE:  do not cook with vegetable oils, they are associated with various cancers when used in cooked dishes.  I use only sesame oil, and i use it in the chinese way:  that is, sprinkled on top of a cooked dish after removal from heat.

Mono-unsaturated fats:  Olive oil, avocado, nuts.
NOTE:  nuts should be cooked in some ways, I do not know more then to say that several of my most reliable chinese medical teachers suggest that raw nuts are unhealthy.

Combination fats:  These are foods that spread the fats around, encompassing all three kinds of fats.  Chicken and poultry, fish, fish oil, flax oil.  

On grains:  Grains that are not refined.  Eat whole grains, the quantity is unimportant, as both a high and low content of whole grains has been correlated throughout history with a lack of chronic disease.
NOTE:  Vegetables should, by and large, be cooked.  Cellulose cannot be digested, and it locks in nutrients that cannot be digested unless we start breaking down its molecular structure with heat.

Eat:  Brown rice, whole wheat, whole grains, Oats, high-gluten, low-gluten, whatever, it's all fine.  Unrefined sugars - cane, honey, nectars.

Do not eat:  white flour, white rice, refined sugar.  They have had their nutrients stripped, and repeatedly throughout history have been associated with a higher incidence of all major chronic diseases.  Sugar is the worst.  Stop eating it now.
Sadly, for me, this means limiting the amount of pizza and bagels I eat.  I used to be a 8-12 meals a week guy on those two staples.  But no more. 

On corn:  Sweet Corn is great stuff, but should never be eaten without the vegetables that it has traditionally been grown with:  Peppers, Avocados, Tomatos.  These veggies unlock the nutrients in corn.  
Refined corn should not be consumed.  Although I very occasionally cheat with polenta, which tastes too damn good with olive oil and pine nuts.
Corn accounts for most of our sweeteners these days, and they should all be shunned.   Sodas, candy, etc.  

Protein and fiber and micronutrients
The content of protein and fiber, as well as the micronutrients will sort itself if you are eating a healthy variety of foods.  Veggies, nuts and meats all have protein in them, grains, veggies and fruits have fiber.  They all, if prepared right have gobs of nutrients.

the key for protein is not eating un-fermented soy products.  It is time to cut soy milk, tofu (unless in a meat dish, or with meat dishes), soy protein, etc, from our diets.  Soy, as I have written before, inhibits protein and vitamin and mineral digestion.

Food.  Where to purchase.

Most of my food is now purchased at farmer's markets.  this is the only way to ensure that the growers have been responsible (they must be or they will quickly go out of business) in presenting their wares.  Most farmer's markets have strict standards for quality, if not organic, then equal or better.  this is definitely more expensive then the supermarket, but cuts can come from other places in order to make the farmer's market possible.  For example, I do not use an air-conditioner, saving a decent chuck of change over the summer months.  I also do not buy more then 2-3 new pieces of clothing each year, usually 1 pair of jeans and 1-2 shirts.

The second source of foods I like are specialty markets like the italian deli across the street from my apartment.  Caputo's Fine Foods is a fantastic little market in which the family has been selling their own homemade cheeses and pastas as well as the best imported italian food products for generations.  Stores like this have standards that they have not broken, many, like Caputo's have been around before the food fads, government interventions, and bad medical science intervened in our diets.  
Stores like this can be found all over New York City, and in any other places in which a small ethnic population still clings to its traditions.  Astoria for greek markets, Greenpoint for polish markets, Much of south brooklyn for jewish, russian, italian markets, and many others scattered around the 5 boroughs of NY.  I have found small ethnic markets in many other places around the country, not all of them urban.  

How to eat.

1.  Eat fresh.  though this is not a hard and fast rule.  I like imported foods, like anchovies and San Marzano tomatoes.  These foods are not "fresh" but they are preserved in a way that is not chemically detrimental.  In the same way it is always fine to eat pickled vegetables, fermented soy products, and other fermented products.  
2.  Eat Moderately.  Keeping slim is as much about what we eat as it is about how much we eat.  If we eliminate sugars and refined sugars and eat a moderate amount (2000-2500 calories/day) then we will be strong, slender and healthy.
3.  Eat Calmly.  The digestive system can instantly be abandoned by our blood.  When we eat, we focus a large portion of our blood on the abdomen in order to facilitate the movements of the digestive organs, and the transfer of nutrients.  However, if we eat angry, scared, upset, our Cortisol levels will be raised, Cortisol will divert attention away from the digestive system and toward the muscular, endocrine and nervous systems.  The result will be poor digestion.  So eat calm, and eat without reading or watching television.  It is also beneficial to eat with good company.  This both slows down the process of eating and is a nice adjacent process.  In chinese medical theory the thought and synthesis that goes into conversation is guided by the "Earth" organs of the body, the Stomach and the Spleen/Pancreas.  These two organs are our primary digestive bodies.  The association benefits both processes (digesting and communicating).

When to eat.

1.  Eat seasonally.  shopping at farmer's markets make this possible.  It restores a sense of balance in our diets.  I have been doing it for nearly 3 months now, and I have a much improved respect for our farmers and their products in that short time.  Subjectively speaking, I am feeling great, lots of fruits, veggies, eggs, chicken, fish.  No red meat (with one exception that gave me heartburn) until the late fall.   Pork is a bit of year rounder for me, I love the proscuitto and bacon, both of which are year round treats.  

2.  It is important to eat somewhat regularly.  Anyone who has had a dog or a small child knows that these simpler beings thrive on regularity.  As adults we are a bit more flexible, but it is still better to eat regularly then not.  And it is not a great idea to eat after 10pm.  This flies in the face of the prevailing wisdom in the mediterranean countries I have visited, but they have lifestyle alterations that counterbalance the late hour of their dinners.  We in America generally do not have those counterbalances - long strolls through town, afternoon siestas, etc.

These suggestions are intended as a baseline guide, not a comprehensive diet plan.  Fill in the rest as you go, which is my plan.

Be well.

Sources:  my biomedical coursework, including Pathophysiology for each system of the body; Chinese Medical Dietetic recommendations, mostly from the combined knowledge of my teachers on the subject; Gary Taubes "Good Calories, Bad Calories"; Michael Pollan "Omnivore's Dilemma"; 4 months of research driven by this blog, and my own ideas based on 10 years of conscious eating.

{Addendum:  there are many aspects of food I have not mentioned, mostly in the context of Meat eating.  For information of Omega 3's and the right meats to eat click here}

Fat and the sexes

Of all the hubris, bad science, politics, hand-wringing, strident talk of saving lives and etc that went into demonizing saturated fat and cholesterol in the name of reducing the risk of heart disease, the one that gets me the most is this:

All the studies until 1987 were of men.

When we finally looked at women (through the emerging data at the framingham heart study and several that followed) we found that none of the correlations of men (higher CHD rates and lower overall mortality) of a high fat diet were apparent for women.  Women seem to have a much higher tolerance for blood cholesterol then men.  

Now, the evidence also started mounting that a low-fat diet was associated with higher rates of cancer and stroke.  In fact, from the very start we have found both in tests in which we followed groups (framingham) and in randomized control experiments, that the mortality rate of a high fat diet (>30%) is lower then a low fat diet.  Additionally, test after test has found higher rates of cancer the lower the fat content becomes.

So, we have been recommending to women for nearly 60 years that they significantly lower their Saturated Fat content in their diets (Milk, cheese, red-meat, coconut oil, butter) in order to prevent heart disease.   All along we were finding only that a higher saturated fat diet had a slightly higher association with CHD in MEN.  Additionally we were finding that the low fat diet also had a higher overall mortality rate.  And we never tested women.

A good friend of mine keeps telling me that the medical establishment is filled to the brim with well-meaning, intelligent, caring, incremental thinkers, who are not pushed around by fads and poor data.  

I just don't believe her anymore.  We must look more closely at everything we have come to believe.  

That is just what I did - I looked at the latest framingham data from their website.  Here are some bits:

Probabilities Pts 2-yr - Men, ages 35-74, chance of CHD event (heart attack or stroke)

0 0% 14 1% 28 17%
2 0% 16 2% 30 24%
4 0% 18 3% 32 32%
6 0% 20 4% 34 43%
8 0% 22 6%
10 1% 24 9%
12 1% 26 12%

The chart for women is quite similar, but is separated into menopause groups and non-menopause groups, so I have left it out.  The point system works this way:  Points are assigned to risk factors (high cholesterol, HBP, smoking, etc.)  

What this chart shows us, according the the point assignments on the 2-year risk factor page is that a man or women needs a score of 10 or more to be at risk of a CHD event.  For a 50 year old non-smoking woman, according to framingham, to be at risk she must have a cholesterol level of 290 or above and a systolic BP of 180 or more.  And that would give her an increased risk of 1%.  

{Note:  Doctors will usually medicate a cholesterol of >200 and a systolic of >130}

Look over the figures yourself, those I refer to can be found here.

Be Well.

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Stupidity reigns

We should now give statin drugs to fat kids.   read all about it here and here.

I know where my food comes from, how about you?

“The purpose of the recordkeeping provision of the Bioterrorism Act was to support going back to the origin of food after people have gotten sick when you are trying to find out how the biological agent got there,” said Michael Taylor, a professor at the George Washington University and a former F.D.A. official.  “But the provisions are of little or no value with respect to trace-backs of fresh produce because of the amount of shoe leather and time it would take.”

This is from today's NYtimes which reports on the now 1,000+ people in this country sick from a nefarious salmonella outbreak.  The problem is that we cannot find out where the food is coming from.  Why? Because nobody knows, and the FDA does not require a label of origin on food.

Last week I ate carrots, potatoes, mushrooms, onions and garlic from Madura Farms, Middletown, NY, and chicken from JohnBoy's Farm, Pound Ridge, NY.  I have had sausage and eggs this week for breakfasts, the sausage from Mountain Products Smokehouse, LaGrangeville, NY and the eggs from Tello's (local greenmarket).

If I have any problems I know exactly where each farmer is located and I can go and complain.  This kind of transparency separates small farmers from large agribusiness.  If John Boy's chicken got me sick he would know about it right away, because I would trek over to Pound Ridge and give him a piece of my mind.  

These producers have the burden of quality.  They will go out of business if anything goes wrong with their food.  Their negligence cannot be hidden away by middlemen and supermarket distribution.  Their food has no label because they stand next to it when they sell it.  And I must continue to stand with them.  

I have said it before, and I will say it again:  buying proper food is a political act.  Big agribusiness is standing on the shoulders of corporate welfare, small farms are standing on their own feet.  Let's all stand with them.

Be Well.

Resist! It is all we have left.

Well, not exactly.  But one conservative writer, a philosophy student at Berkeley, has called on conservatives to embrace the Slow Food International ethics for food culture.  He talks about a nice old hippy in berkeley who is bringing farming and cooking into her local middle school.  I love it when conservatives come around to these kinds of causes, smug bastard that I am.

Anyway, here is a quote from the article, the "little platoons" would be schoolchildren who farm and eat their own food at school.

"Hence even the smallest acts of resistance to the hegemony of the present system, where corporate representatives and industry-funded scientists at public universities collaborate with government officials on regulatory policies and nutritional guidelines, are crucial steps in recovering local culture and reconstituting our “little platoons.” This will nurture the ability to govern—or resist being governed."