What to serve with this week’s new recipe video – Roasted Kabocha and Chicken with Chocolate Enchilada Sauce?
I noticed that I had a head of savoy cabbage that needed a slice and dice. There was 1/2 an apple sitting on the counter waiting for somebody, anybody to claim it. And I had recently roasted some almonds sprinkled with cumin, cayenne and tamari. When I opened the refrigerator and a 1/2 lime kind of scowling at me (angry about being left to dry up is my guess) I thought – duh, let’s make some slaw. Continue reading
My name is Cynthia and I eat potatoes. In fact, I might not be thriving today were it not for this humble inexpensive food. I was very likely one of the top 100 pickiest eaters as a child. True. Let’s swap stories and see. Continue reading
The work for the CPPW (Communities Putting Prevention to Work) grant project is humming along. My colleague, Carol White, and I have five power points and 2/3 of the workbook completed for the ensuing spring and summer workshops (hooray!) titled “Discover. Cook. Nourish: the why and how of whole foods cooking for school food service staff”
A challenge arose in portraying the USDA guidelines in the power point on balanced meals – the crazy quilt pyramid with the android running up the side of it? The one where figuring out which colored stripe means what takes some wild guessing, a magnifying glass or both. We look up close and personal at this chart during my class at Bastyr. The two Triscuits prominently displayed beneath the orange stripe and the quart of milk, pint of milk, and (in case you didn’t get it) glass of milk, dancing within the blue stripe are noteworthy. If you believe these were artistic choices, pull your head out of the Nabisco box.
In the slide for the workshops I chose the soft word “compromised” in describing the pyramid. Not polite to admonish rules for which there are no alternatives. Still, it’s good to add the reminder that the regulations put forth by the USDA are loaded with political punch and financial headlocks.
This morning I read Marion Nestle’s food politics blog where she outlined her 2011 predictions. Apparently a new pictorial USDA food guideline is ready for launch. Ms. Nestle says, “The 2005 pyramid’s rainbow stripes proved impossible to teach and useless to anyone without a computer. I’ve heard a rumor that I will love the new design. I’m skeptical. ”
Amen. Impossible to teach are the right words. How one would construct a balanced meal by staring at the stripes with the product menagerie spilling out of the bottom is beyond me. Too many interest groups spoiled the broth?
10. Same do-gooders
You’re always going to see some dark leafy green on there. We know the greens give us good stuff; we don’t need to see it on another list. And something orange, and something with omega 3 fatty acids and… see? You could make up your own list in 2 seconds.
9. Predictable culprits
Along with the “what’s good for you to eat” list you’re going to get some no-no’s somewhere near THE LIST of GOOD GUYS. Bet you can guess. Me too – cigarettes, alcohol, lack of exercise, too much TV, fast food, sugar. I do wish someone would call out diet soft drinks more. I really do.
8. Empty promises
Including more salmon in our diet is not necessarily going to make your arthritis go away. It could help. It surely could. But many of the lists include notes about the diseases that the nutrient found in the food might prevent. Which is all good and well but often the fact is found with a …
7. Lack of research
Why is there no research? Because you can’t really isolate nutrients away from their WHOLENESS and get results. Nutrients are interdependent. We barely have names for all of the microscopic parts of food, let alone do we understand how they synergistically work together. Plus there are some other factors to be considered such as…
6. Raw or cooked?
Hardly ever mentioned in the list. Foods act differently if they have had some heat or not. In some cases the heat may destroy some of the do-gooder parts of the food. In other cases a little warmth may enhance the healthful qualities, right? I like me some toasted almonds, some blanched broccoli, pickled onions, fermented cabbage. These foods naked and raw can be disturbing.
5. A cup or a barrel
How much for heavens sake! How many acai berries do I need to juice and drink to make that special difference in my health? Without some serving guidance, it’s just another food name on another top ten list. We Americans often believe more is better and that can cause trouble.
4. Trendy trumps tried and true
Turns out that you can get many of the benefits of pomegranate from plain old strawberries. But strawberries aren’t very exotic and mentioning them at the next parent meeting won’t turn a single head.
3. Local schmocal
When it comes to top ten food lists, xenophobia can go out the window. The more strange and unusual the more likely it will show up on a small plate during your next restaurant visit. The new chic produce, though perhaps loaded with anti-oxidants, will be expensive – not just at the checkout stand. Papaya requires travel miles. They add up.
2. Generate expensive products
See # 3. Whatever the latest thing is that we come to believe we need to be healthy, you can bet your bottom dollar it will become an ‘additive”. If delicatta squash makes the list because of a particular phytonutrient, they’ll start adding it to kid’s breakfast cereals. Just so you can keep eating what you have always been eating and not miss out. The trouble is, that makes the recommendation:
1. Out of context
My #1 complaint with the top ten food lists. Like glycemic index, it doesn’t mean much unless you know what else is being eaten with it. What other nutrients are in the WHOLE food that might be increasing or decreasing the benefits? The magic nutrient will not act the same in isolation. Or as Annmarie Colbin taught me – if you eat a food that’s not whole, your body will crave the missing parts.
I am reminded of a lecture I did for a nurse’s continuing ed seminar. I wanted to talk about whole grains and cite research showing the link between whole grain consumption and reduced cardiovascular disease. There was plenty of data, but many times the study included a phrase like this: “The lower risk (of CVD) associated with higher whole-grain intake was not fully explained by its contribution to intakes of dietary fiber, folate, vitamin B-6, and vitamin E. In other words, they can’t isolate certain nutrients and get the same results as they can if the food is eaten in its whole form. Right on.
Which reminds me of that whole debate about whether you should heat olive oil. But I’ll save that for another post.
Please note that this only goes for top ten FOOD lists. Other top ten lists can be awesome. Like most of the ones on the Letterman Show. Send me an awesome top ten list that has nothing to do with food. I’ll email you back a cyber high five.
In the last few years there has been a new and welcome emphasis in nutrition and alternative health care on evidence-based information. That seems logical, right? Health care practitioners need to be able to back up the advice they’re giving their patients with research… yep, that sounds good to me! Until recently, there wasn’t much call for research into alternative therapies and nutritional practices, but that has changed over the past ten or twenty years. Now, not only is the community of research scientists taking note of the demand for complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) but the amount of research into modalities like acupuncture, medicinal herbs and food as medicine (my favorite) is growing exponentially.
The Natural Standard website is a clearinghouse for this research, backed by an extensive and highly qualified editorial board of medical researchers that reviews the evidence for, say, green tea and its effects on leukemia patients and arrives at a consensus on its quality and reliability. Though most of this website is only available to subscribers, there are some great features that are available to all.
The Natural Standard blog publishes summaries of the latest research on foods, nutrients, herbs and even lifestyle factors like exercise. The most recent entry discusses new evidence that omega-3 fatty acids from seafood can have mood-enhancing effects on pregnant women. Get happy with some Orange Glazed Salmon Kebobs. The blog posts announcements for webinars on current topics and registration for these webinars is free for about a month before they are filed away in the archives and become available only to paying subscribers. There are also short podcasts (click on “Audio/Podcasts”) that discuss hundreds of topics such as “Integrative Therapies for Spring Allergies” and “Marinade Does More Than Enhance Taste.”
Natural Standard does a good job of presenting information in language that you and I can understand. It will satisfy your inner science nerd without making you break out a medical dictionary. I’m excited that a resource like this is available to us now – take advantage of it! I know I am.
The YOU docs, Mike Roizen and Mehmet Oz (more likely their associates), submitted a news piece this week claiming that eating greens will make you smarter. The article says “Eating three or more servings of spinach and other leafy greens (such as kale and collard greens) slows mental decline because of aging by as much as 40 percent. Spelled out another way: Leafy greens can make your brain function more like the brain of someone who’s five years younger!” They give the credit for this to the brain-friendly nutrients found in dark leafy greens – carotenoids and flavonoids. Americans are a competitive bunch. We want to be the smartest, richest, thinnest, most beautiful and famous folks on the planet. So we are attracted to “news” stories like this. We eat it up. I sort of feel like – whatever it takes. If this angle works, that’s fine by me. It’s true that simple inexpensive food like flat-leaf Italian parsley is deceptively rich when it comes to nutritional analysis. Vitamin C, A, K and folic acid live with those noids too. Eating leafy greens like collards, nappa cabbage, chard and kale gives you sustained energy, good digestion and pretty skin. They probably improve your sex life too but if I could prove that I’d have made my fortune and wouldn’t be writing this blog. How do you eat your greens? Do you think they make you smarter? Or was it because you were smart already that you chose to eat greens?