Friday, May 30, 2008

Oprah, stupid and uninspired...again.

So Oprah has gone on a 21-day Vegan cleanse.  She has decided to cut out all animal products, as well as Caffeine, Refined Sugar, Gluten and Alcohol.

the frustration and silliness of our current government and war, of our national obsession with pharmaceuticals, of our uninformed, ignorant and isolationist culture, nothing seems to rankle as much as the vanguard of lifeless talking heads, Oprah, going on about inner consciousness.

Could somebody please direct all the Tolle fans to the fucking philosophy section of the library?  I guess I should explain for those not paying attention:

Oprah has been reading this book by Eckhart Tolle, she has become inspired.  She is still fat.  She wants to stop bouncing back and forth like a child in a demented horizontal blow-up castle between fat and less fat.  She has enlisted the help of yet another in a long line of illustrious culture leaches, Kathy Freston.  This vile NY Times bestselling author has told her to become a "Conscious Eater".  How?  Eliminate the evil foods:  Meat, Gluten, Alcohol, Caffeine; and step into the light of veganhood.  Here is Oprah, getting teary eyed, I assume:  "How can you say you're trying to spiritually evolve, without even a thought about what happens to the animals whose lives are sacrificed in the name of gluttony?"

What, I ask you, dear reader could be more divine?  Oprah completely bypasses her (and her audiences) problem (gluttony) by attributing it to animal raising, killing and eating.  

But the animal thing is at least debatable.  There are stimulating and valid arguments for and against animal husbandry and consumption.  

But Gluten?  This national fad is intolerable.  Gluten (a protein in Wheat, Rye, Barley and Oats) is the key element of the ascendence of our species, Homo Sapien.  The innovation of Gluten cultivation is the single most profound technical discovery in the history of this planet by a species.  Until gluten was cultivated by Homo Sapien, no single species had even come close to dominating the geo-ecological systems of the earth.  

So why is gluten demonized?  

0.3% - 1% of first world populations are Intolerant of Gluten.  These folks hold the genetic remnants of the non-gluten eating neanderthals of western europe.  Gluten intolerance was responsible for many infant mortality cases in europe (evolution at work, sadly) up until very recently.  What has resulted is a small population that suffers from Celiac Disease, a wearing away of the intestinal flora, by gluten.  

Let me repeat - 0.3% - 1% of the population of the first world suffers from gluten intolerance.  

To give some perspective:  the Dutch have the world's lowest incidence of Lactose intolerance, at 1%.  About 12-15% of Europeans, on average, are lactose intolerant, 23% of African American children, 50% of indians, 93% of Chinese, and 100% of Native Americans.  

So why are we tearing Gluten down if the incidence is lower then the lowest national incidence of Lactose intolerance?

Then there is Alcohol, which in study after study has been shown to be a healthful addition to our diets, if we consume an average of only 1 drink/day.  This study shows that alcohol consumption actually slows the onset of dementia.  Consumption of up to 1 serving per day of course, no more.

Caffeine, in moderate portions is also fine.  Green Tea, a darling of the health food quagmire, has anywhere from 25% to 50% the caffeine of Coffee, dependent upon brewing methods.  An intake of up to 100 milligrams of Caffeine per day (an espresso, for instance) is not a problem. 

But Oprah, O dear sweet Oprah.  You don't have a care for any of this.  You are all about master strokes of bland culturalist myopia.  Thank you for your absurd worldview, your stupid mass appeal, and your idiotic 21 day "cleanse".   

I think it is time for my 1 drink of the day.

Be Well. 

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Finding your food.

here is another resource if you are looking for good food from good sources. It is called Eat Well Guide, and allows you to punch in your zip code and get all the local restaurants, CSA's, Farms, Bakers, Butchers and a whole lot more.

It is getting easier and easier to find healthy, tasty, sustainably produced foods in the area, now is the time to make those changes people.

Be Well.

NY Times apes my opinions again

I wrote this piece on raw food diets a while ago. The key to the argument being that Raw food nutrients are unlocked by cooking (not frying, sadly).

The times has chimed in with an article in the Science Times that says pretty much the same thing. Though it shows that Vitamin C is a flighty little bird indeed. read more here.

Saturday, May 17, 2008

Friday, May 16, 2008

aren't you glad... don't  live in LA? 

San Francisco apparently has the best farmer's markets

According the NY Times San Francisco is a mecca for fresh whole foods at farmer's markets.  I cross referenced with Local Harvest and found two of the markets highlighted in the article.   Ferry Plaza and Crocker Galleria.

I guess there are some advantages to a temperate climate.
Be Well.


look for a new voice

My friend Nita will be contributing occasionally to the blog.  She is a Vegetarian in the far eastern mold and will bring a fresh and alternative voice to the pages.  I hope you look forward to her posts as much as I do.

guilt free eating and drinking in NYC

Slowfoodnyc has come up with a list of restaurants that meet their high standards for Quality (taste), Authenticity (local and seasonal), and sustainability.

These establishments are sourced as much as possible from local farms and food producers.  The only one I have tried thus far is Cookshop and it is terrific.  Brunch Is especially good there.


Tuesday, May 13, 2008

NY times Ed. piece parrots all my opinions!!

this article is a nicely worded call for local food systems and a new farming movement that involves more people, less machines, less oil, and better tasting food.  I could not agree more.  

Be Well.

Saturday, May 10, 2008

Fighting the Good Fight for Fat

I have talked with many folks around me about Cholesterol, Saturated Fats and our diets.
I know it is confusing, but here is the skinny.

The mythologies:

1. High Cholesterol is BAD. It causes Heart Disease.
the truth?  High levels of High Density Cholesterol are either good or a non-factor in atherosclerosis.  Low Density Cholesterol is at worst a "marginal risk factor" for heart disease.  And Very Low Density Cholesterol (or more importantly, the Lipoprotein shell that holds it) may be a bigger risk factor for Heart Disease.  A 2005 study showed a 22% decreased risk of Heart Attack after 5 years of a high dosage of statin therapy (lipitor), a therapy that targets VLDL cholesterol.  But VLDL is a very small portion of total cholesterol, and "total cholesterol per se is not a risk factor for Coronary Heart Disease at all".   read Gary Taubes' NYTimes article for some great information on the subject.

2.  Saturated Fat causes Heart disease by raising Cholesterol levels in the blood.
this ties in with the previous myth, and has much the same value, that is: not much.  Saturated fat is usually well processed by the body.  We have storage places for the material we cannot process if we over-eat.  These places are generally not the blood, but adipose tissue.  The underlaying myth here really is that saturated fats (animal fats) are harder to break down and more likely to make us FAT then poly-unsaturated fats (vegetable oils).  This is not the case.  But I will not belabor this point with this post.  That is for another time.  The important thing to note is that Cholesterol from food intake does not cause Heart Disease.  (read Taubes' article for more detail)

So, what causes Atherosclerosis, and in turn Heart Disease?

Lipids (lipoproteins specifically) in the blood can and do clog up the arteries.  But only if two co-factors are at work.  The first is Dyslipidemia, usually a hightened level of lipids in the blood.  The second is raised Intima Media Thickness, which refers to the relative thickness of arterial walls.

So, what common factor causes a rise in both Lipid levels and IMT, and as a result the risk of Heart Disease?  Smoking?  Fatty Foods?  High Cholesterol diet? 
According to this study none of these were significant factors in raised IMT levels.  Meaning:  Fatty foods do NOT cause higher lipid counts in the blood.

No, the common factor is Cortisol.  Cortisol is a steroid produced in the adrenal cortex.  In order to release cortisol into the system, the adrenals need a molecule of cholesterol.  This cholesterol is produced and sent to the adrenals by the Liver.  

Why is cortisol produced?  
It is our most fundamental fight or flight stress chemical.  When we are frightened or angry or spoiling for a fight, cortisol levels increase.  The raising of Cortisol is vital to human survival, and it is healthy in small doses.  What scientists have discovered is that Cortisol levels are increasingly hightened in western society, to a constant rate in many cases.  This perma-fight/flight state causes increased IMT levels and Hperlipidemia (high lipids in the blood).  

Some studies that show this correlation:  

"How corticoids, growth hormone and oestrogens influence lipids and atherosclerosis"

So, to sum up.  Stress causes Cortisol levels to rise.  Cortisol in the system causes lipid levels to rise uncharacteristically, and it causes the hardening of the walls of the arteries.  These two factors are the first and second factors in the Number 1 cause of death in the US:  Heart Disease.

Eat and Be well.

Preggers? take note. take two.

the folks at Eat This! highlight the benefits of eating dark chocolate in the third trimester. read more here.

Thursday, May 8, 2008

High Fat for Seizures

A study in Britain found that a Ketogenic High Fat diet is tremendously successful in preventing Seizures among epileptic children, read more here.

the Food Pyramid, a bit more.

What I did not get especially involved with when I talked about the food pyramid was the servings, and the politics behind them.  If you look up at the pyramid you see plainly the biggest group is "Bread, Cereal, Rice & Pasta".  6-11 servings per day.  

Why were grains so heavily touted by the Pyramid?  The answer is tied up in Government Subsidies, primarily to the BIG 4 crops, Corn, Soy, Wheat, Rice and the resultant abundance of these crops.  The abundance, in order to not drive prices down to the basement, must be utilized.  So what have the agribusiness companies that produce these crops done?  They have recommended 6-11 servings of their bumper crops.

The incredible part of all this is that the subsidies have done nothing for actual farmers, instead they have lined the pockets of big businesses such as Monsanto and the big ol' CAFO producers (your friends, Cargill, ConAgra, Tyson and Smithfield).  Timothy Wise of Tufts University has a fantastic study that exposes the Oligopoly, check it out here.

Here's the kicker:  In the original food Pyramid, devised primarily by Dr. Luise Light, grains were only recommended at 3-5 servings.  It was fruits and veggies that the USDA should have recommended if they were to follow the advice of their own nutritionists.

Instead they allowed the entire structure of the Pyramid to be hijacked by big agri-business.  

Dr. Light writes all about the filthy mess here.

Be Well.

the local food system...Red Hook Style

Though many of the self-important yuppies currently pricing self-important ME out of my Carroll Gardens haven do not know about it, there exists right in our collective back yard the perfect object to allay rampant white guilt. the Added Value Farm.
Edible Brooklyn is a nice Slow Food centered magazine that has a really good piece on the farm. read all about it here.

Monday, May 5, 2008

“We’re mining the cow.”

Harper's Weekly has gotten into the Raw Milk discussion, read all about it here. If you are not feeling like reading the whole thing (which I recommend, btw) here is some commentary by Ezra Klein..

Be Well

Sunday, May 4, 2008

whosamuwhatshould I eat?

Let's talk about what we should be eating in terms of portions and servings per day and all that confusing stuff.

To start, the federal government has some recommendations for you:  That's right!  it's your friendly neighborhood Food Pyramid.  What does it say?  Well, it has changed a bit.  The one that many folks my age grew up with is the link above.  But the USDA has since come up with a vague new chart, which is basically the same as the original, but with a pretty new graphic.  The Harvard University School of Public health has its own version which is quite similar to the USDA version but with the added element of exercise.  Hmm.  

The biggest winners in all of these pyramids are Whole Grains and vegetables.  The biggest loser?  the much maligned Red Meat and Butter.  Now, I like whole grains and veggies, but what is wrong with red meat and butter?  

The answer is that the industry is what's wrong with red meat and butter.  Our processing systems have thrown off the balance of fatty acids in our animal products.  I wrote a bit about that here.  Butter and Meat from pasture farms is far different in chemical structure then their industrial counterparts.  The cows have far more robust immune systems, and have a more varied and rich diet of grasses, which produces leaner meat and healthier residuals such as milk, butter and cheese.  These products are studied far less these days, as they are scarce.

So what should we eat?  The seven group food pyramids of the USDA or Harvard University?  What are the alternatives?  Raw?  Vegan?  Vegetarian?  

I won't get into the fad diets either.  Atkins is so silly as a full time diet it is not worth discussing, the others are far too numerous and strange to list.  

Who knows?  We have to find a source we trust.  I like Weston Price, a Dentist and Nutritionist who studied the diets of various cultures throughout the world. His findings were interesting, finding very low incidence of common american medical ailments in cultures that were eating a fully indigenous diet. He also found that once these groups assimilated the processed foods of the American Diet they quickly developed many of these ailments in far greater numbers.

The result was the recommendation of returning to a simpler whole foods diet.  Pasture raised animals from integrated farms, whole grains, etc.  These foods do not need pasteurization or preservatives, as they are clean and local, by nature.  Pastuerization was needed due to urbanization of milk production in the turn of the 20th century.  Preservatives are only needed in a land of industrial foods, in which excess is the driving force behind food production.  Traditional methods of preservation, smoking, salting, fermenting, are slowly being lost in favor of chemical and Soy/Corn based preservatives.  In a local food system, no preservatives are needed.

So again, what should we eat?  I will try to do more with this question soon, but to start read this talk.  Bill Sanda of the Weston A. Price foundation discusses food groups, fatty acids and much more.

Be Well.

food mythologies

The Weston Price Foundation has a nice list of standard american food myths.  Saturated Fat vs Polyunsaturated fat, salt, cholesterol, Red Meat, eggs, and several other foods are discussed, read more here.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

Preggers? take note.

Regina Wilshire, who writes a lovely blog on nutrition, has a review of a recent study on pregnant women in India, and the effect of their diets while pregnant on their children over the first 6 years of life.

The findings:  A high folate, low B12 diet, or in lay terms, a high vegetable, low animal product diet while pregnant produces children who by age 6 are both extremely high in Adipose tissue content (not heavy, but with a high percentage of body fat) and who are already at a high stage of insulin resistance (pre-curser to Type 2 diabetes).

read more here.

read the full study here.