Starving in the Midst of Plenty

I recently returned from a visit to Israel with my church group. I was glad to be there and walk the pilgrim routes of old. The hospitality was wonderful and we stayed in nice hotels. Our breakfasts and dinners were buffet style, with a good selection of excellent, freshly prepared foods. We had our choice of many Mediterranean type dishes, as well as small, fancy pastries for desert. Since we walked about five miles a day, we had a few calories to spare.

Assorted Salad Items, Israel

HUNGER IN THE MIDST OF PLENTY
I look forward to every meal, for I do enjoy my food. I also enjoy the adventure of discovery and new taste sensations. Some of my traveling companions weren’t so thrilled, however. By the second day away from the states, they were complaining about missing a “good egg and sausage biscuit from McDonald’s.” We had a plate of scrambled eggs, hummus, fresh veggies, and pita bread, plus the best olives I’d ever tasted before us that morning. I listened, but said nothing, since I hadn’t eaten a fast food breakfast in five or more years.

SPECIAL SAUCE
I remembered my own experience with the “special sauce” of the Big Mac. At least once a week, I’d feel the need to eat this burger, as if I were having withdrawal symptoms which needed to be soothed by consuming my fix. The ancient Hebrews were once used to the foods of slavery in Egypt. After they won their freedom, they were in the wilderness.

FLESHPOTS OF EGYPT
“Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees; and they camped there by the water. The whole congregation of the Israelites set out from Elim; and Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.

The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (Exodus 15:27 – 16:3)

My friends were surrounded by tables groaning with wonderful food, but they bemoaned the loss of their beloved “American McDonald’s fleshpots” with their non kosher pork, cheese, and egg combination. I decided not to eat with them again. No one needs to travel over 5,000 miles to eat the same food as home. Then again, these folks may have been experiencing withdrawal symptoms if they were accustomed to their daily fix. They deserve compassion and a safe place to learn a new behavior, just like any of us who have a bad habit.

JUNK FOOD JUNKIE
Quitting junk food produces similar withdrawal-type symptoms as drug addiction. We common folk have known this for forty years, but now science has confirmed it. I visited my WayBack Machine to find the lyrics for this 1976 Golden Oldie: “Junk Food Junkie” by Larry Groce. The chorus goes like this:

Yeah, in the daytime I’m Mr. Natural
Just as healthy as I can be
But at night I’m a junk food junkie
Good Lord have pity on me!


In the Kitchen, we know food eaten any time of the day or night affects our bodies for good or ill. When I was an art student, I had a roommate who thought fasting during the day and eating in the dark would help her maintain her weight. Half a century ago, we called this theory “unseen calories have zero calories.” She never figured out why she gained weight.

HIGHLY PROCESSED FOODS AND ADDICTIVE EATING
A University of Michigan study confirms what has long been suspected: highly processed foods like chocolate, pizza and French fries are among the most addictive. Moreover, highly processed foods are linked to addictive eating. This is one of studies to examine specifically which foods may be implicated in “food addiction,” which has become of growing interest to scientists and consumers in light of the obesity epidemic.

Previous studies in animals conclude that highly processed foods, or foods with added fat or refined carbohydrates (like white flour and sugar), may be capable of triggering addictive-like eating behavior. Clinical studies in humans have observed that some individuals meet the criteria for substance dependence when the substance is food.

Although highly processed foods are generally known to be highly tasty and preferred, we don’t whether these types of foods can elicit addiction-like responses in humans, nor do we know which specific foods produce these responses, said Ashley Gearhardt, U-M assistant professor of psychology.

UNPROCESSED FOODS
Unprocessed foods, with no added fat or refined carbohydrates, such as brown rice and salmon, were not associated with addictive-like eating behavior. Individuals with symptoms of food addiction or with higher body mass indexes reported greater problems with highly processed foods, suggesting some may be particularly sensitive to the possible “rewarding” properties of these foods, said Erica Schulte, a U-M psychology doctoral student and the study’s lead author.

“If properties of some foods are associated with addictive eating for some people, this may impact nutrition guidelines, as well as public policy initiatives such as marketing these foods to children,” Schulte said.

When my daughter was young, I limited our visits to fast food outlets to Friday nights after my work week was over. Mr. Microwave and Mr. Crockpot provided meals during the week, and we grilled on the weekends. I grew up in a household with food and family at the table as a central part of our life. Food doesn’t have to be fancy, and leftovers were offered at least once a week as “druthers” night. Companionship was as important as the meal itself.

Future research should examine whether addictive foods are capable of triggering changes in brain circuitry and behavior like drugs of abuse, the researchers said. If you plan to try and quit junk food, expect to suffer similar withdrawal-type symptoms—at least during the initial week—like addicts experience when they attempt to quit using drugs.

A study by University of Michigan is believed to be the first of its kind to evaluate withdrawal symptoms people incur when they stop devouring highly processed foods, such as pastries, French fries and pizza.
Previous studies have focused on sugar withdrawal among animals and the literature regarding humans offered only anecdotal evidence, said Erica Schulte, the study’s lead author and U-M psychology doctoral candidate.

HIGHLY SATIATING DESIGN OF PROCESSED FOODS
Processed food scientists design foods to hit a satiety point or “yum factor.” This involves adjusting foods to salt, fat, and sugar levels that meet consumer preferences, as well as enabling enhanced shelf life. Employing scientists to dissect elements of the palate and tweak ratios of salt, sugar and fat to optimize taste, the processed food industry, Michael Moss says, has hooked consumers on their products the same way the cigarette industry hooked smokers on nicotine.

What all researchers can agree upon is that the addictive qualities of tobacco, drugs or alcohol affect the brain similarly and cutting back can lead to negative side effects that can make it difficult to reduce intake. Anxiety, headaches, irritability and depression are some of those outcomes.
Understanding whether withdrawal may also occur with highly processed foods was an essential next step in evaluating whether these foods might be capable of triggering similar addictive processes.

Schulte and colleagues created the first self-report tool to measure the physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms among people, then asked 231 adults to report what happened when they reduced the amount of highly processed foods they ate in the past year.

TWO DAYS WITHOUT JUNK FOOD
The participants reported that sadness, irritability, tiredness and cravings peaked during the initial two to five days after they quit eating junk food, then the negative side effects tapered off, which parallels the time course of drug withdrawal symptoms, the study found.

The U-M researchers did not focus on the method used to change their eating behavior, such as participants quitting “cold turkey” or gradually phasing out junk food. Schulte said future studies will analyze the behavior in real time rather than a retrospective approach as in the current findings.

CHALLENGE OF WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS
The study implications suggest that withdrawal symptoms may make dietary changes challenging, which may contribute to people reverting back to bad eating habits, said Ashley Gearhardt, associate professor of psychology and co-author, along with U-M graduates Julia Smeal and Jessi Lewis.

GOAL OF FOOD INDUSTRY
Bottom line is the processed food industry designs their products to keep you eating them. When you hear their siren call, it’s best to put plugs in your ears and row on by. Choose frozen bananas and cocoa powder, with almonds, and add some protein powder if you need a little extra oomph. Enjoy each spoonful slowly. Drink flavored tea. I like hibiscus green tea, mostly decaf over ice. We can do this!

More information: Erica M. Schulte et al. Development of the Highly Processed Food Withdrawal Scale, Appetite (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2018.09.013
Provided by University of Michigan

Moore’s book https://www.amazon.com/Salt-Sugar-Fat-Giants-Hooked/dp/0812982193

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-02-highly-foods-linked-addictive.html

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-09-junk-food-similar-withdrawal-type-symptoms.html

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RABBIT! RABBIT! WELCOME TO MAY!

“April showers bring May flowers,” the old weather wisdom says. In these modern days, more rain might water our May flowers. Here in Hot Springs, thoroughbred horses ran the $1 million Arkansas Derby before a rain-drenched crowd of 45,000 at Oaklawn. Folks did not wear their fancy hats, as in the past. The infield crowd was finely turned out in rain ponchos, rain coats, and golf umbrellas instead. The winning horse, Omaha Beach, returned to Hot Springs from his California base, to handle a muddy track and to post an impressive victory nonetheless.

FANCY HAT FOR A LADY BUNNY

The Kentucky Derby kicks off the month of May on Saturday, the 4th. You don’t have to attend the festivities, but if you’d like to wear a fancy hat and drink a mint julep, the traditional recipe is to make a simple syrup by boiling 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar. Remove from heat. Add 1 1/2 cups whole, clean, fresh mint leaves to hot liquid and let cool to room temperature. Pour liquid into covered container. It will keep up to a week in the refrigerator.

When you get in the party mood, take a mint julep glass, add 1 scant ounce minted simple syrup, 2 cups crushed ice, and 2 ounces good bourbon. Then stir well. Add crushed ice to fill glass. Use a fresh mint sprig, for garnish. Some rub mint leaves over the rim of the glass to express the taste of mint oils for an extra zing. This drink is 218 calories and 27 grams of carbohydrates as made. Two of these would be a good limit for women, and 3 for men, since they are highly alcoholic in content. For people limiting carbohydrates, these would represent a large snack or a whole meal.

An alternative recipe for Mint Juleps uses Splenda or stevia. For each glass use 1/2 teaspoon Sucralose Based Sweetener or Sugar Substitute. Add 1 tsp Tap Water and dissolve. Add 6 leaves Peppermint (Mint). Crush the mint lightly with the handle of a wooden spoon. Fill glass with crushed ice. When frost forms on the glass, slowly pour in 2 fl oz (no ice) Bourbon. Stir. Garnish with a mint sprig. This has no carbohydrates and 141 calories, from the bourbon only.

On the same day, you may be more inclined to other cult traditions of the more modern cinema sort. If so, haul out your Star Wars light sabres and dust off your best lines from the eight installments of this long running saga. You might want to drink Luke Skywalker’s Blue Milk on this day and greet all you meet with a cheery, “May the Force be with you!” Bonus points if you grocery shop in costume.

May the Fourth be with you!

Blue Milk Ingredients:
• 1 cup low-fat milk
• ½ cup blueberries (fresh or frozen)
• Natural plant-based blue food coloring (optional)
• 2 teaspoons unrefined sugar or non nutritive sweetener
• 3-4 ice cubes (optional) for thickness
Directions:
Step 1: Place all ingredients in a blender; process until smooth
Step 2: Pour into two glasses and drink immediately while cold

Cinco de Mayo commemorates the Mexican army’s victory over the French army at The Battle of Puebla in 1862. The 5th of May is a good day to add black beans and brown rice with avocados to your dinner menu. Mexican food is more than tacos on Tuesday, since it’s a seasoning or taste experience. Salsa comes in varieties as well as heat.

This holiday has its roots in America dating from our great Civil War, when France entered the conflict to create a Mexican state friendly to the confederacy, as well as to recoup Mexico’s debt to France. It’s a reminder for us today that even a century and a half ago, countries exercised global influence to gain world power and obligations.

“By the time [Latinos in California] heard about the news of the battle, they began to raise money for the Mexican troops and they formed a really important network of patriotic organizations,” says Jose Alamillo, a professor of Chicano studies at California State University Channel Islands. “They had to kind of make the case for fighting for freedom and democracy and they were able to link the struggle of Mexico to the struggle of the Civil War, so there were simultaneous fights for democracy.”

As the Confederacy collapsed, U.S. leaders were able to shift resources to resisting French intervention in Mexico and to deploy troops along the Texas-Mexico border. U.S. pressure, combined with Mexican resentment and military success against Emperor Maximilian ultimately compelled French Emperor Napoleon III to end his imperial venture in Mexico.

On the 5th at sundown, Ramadan begins. It’s the holiest month of the year for Muslims, who’ll fast from food and drink during the sunlit hours as a means of learning self-control, gratitude, and compassion for those less fortunate. If health or age make this discipline unwise, a person can limit the hours of the fast or can feed a poor person each day instead. Work days are shortened during this time and traffic is monitored more carefully, since hunger and dehydration reduce performance.

The ultimate goal of fasting is gaining greater God-consciousness, in Arabic, taqwa, signifying a state of constant awareness of God. From this awareness a person should gain discipline, self-restraint and a greater incentive to do good and avoid wrong.  In commemoration of the revelation of the Qur’an, Muslim’s holy book, which began during the month of Ramadan, Muslims attempt to read the entire book during Ramadan and gather nightly at mosques to hold special prayers during which the entire Qur’an is recited by the end of the month.

Most religions have a tradition of fasting to come closer to god and to depend less on material substances. In the dieting and health world, intermittent fasting is one of the latest fads to take hold. This ranges from a 12 hour window (7-7), which sounds like normal eating, to a 6 hour window (12 noon-6 pm), which would leave me hangry as all get out, due to hypoglycemia issues. I eat every 2 or 3 hours, but divide up my calories so I don’t overeat during the day. This is a discipline all unto itself, since I have to plan, shop, and cook. The days I have to take snacks out for away trips also involve planning.

Some people treat these diet plans like a religion. They are zealous for their weight loss journey and share it with everyone. Every body is different, so what works for one may not work for another.

What happens if you fast all day and then eat a meal? Muslims have learned to have a small, sweet snack of dates first, and then a light meal, but nothing heavy or fried. After dinner and fellowship, sleep, and early rising before sunrise to eat another meal. This is the month of Ramadan for the faithful.

On the May 11, we can Eat What We Want, and I’ll have chocolate, thank you. Remember to treat your Mother right on Mothers’ Day, or remember her blessed name.

By the end of the month, we’ll be ready to Carry a Towel on May 25, in honor of The Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy. This book/movie is a lighthearted romp through the space time continuum, complete with initial disasters and intermediary mayhem before finally providing the answer to all of life’s questions, which is 42.

If we survive this, we’ll drag out the grill and cook us some good old burgers to celebrate Memorial Day Weekend, or as our modern world calls it, the first weekend of summer vacation. This holiday began as an effort to bind up the wounds of a battered nation. First called Decoration Day, then Memorial Day, loved ones honored the graves of America’s bloodiest war ever. Today we honor all warriors who died in the service of their country as we shoot off a bunch of fireworks and burn some burgers on the grill for the start of the summer holidays. A century and a half has dulled some memories, but not all. We still have reconciliation work to be done and wounds to heal, not to mention a lost cause to put to rest.

Speaking of conflicts, many hold claim to the hamburger. One of the most colorful is Charlie Nagreen of Seymour, Wisconsin. At the age of 15, he sold meatballs from his ox-drawn food stand at the Outagamie County Fair. Business wasn’t good and he quickly realized it was because meatballs were too difficult to eat while strolling around the fair.  In a flash of innovation, he flattened the meatballs, placed them between two slices of bread and called his new creation a hamburger.  He was known to many as “Hamburger Charlie.”  He returned to sell hamburgers at the fair every year until his death in 1951, and he would entertain people with guitar and mouth organ and his jingle:

Hamburgers, hamburgers, hamburgers hot;
onions in the middle, pickle on top.
Makes your lips go flippity flop.

I would most likely buy a burger from Hamburger Charlie, just for the entertainment value. I hope you enjoy the Month of May—we get 31 days of fun, food, and foolishness, so how can that be bad?

Joy and Peace, Cornie

SPECIAL DAYS IN MAY 2019
4—Kentucky Derby Day—Hats and Mint Juleps
4—Star Wars Day—May the fourth be with you!
5—Cinco de Mayo—An American holiday to celebrate Mexican culture
5—Ramadan begins at sunset
11—Eat What You Want Day
12—Mothers’ Day
25—Carry a Towel Day/read Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy for bonus points
27—Memorial Day Observance celebrations
28—National Hamburger Day
31—Memorial Day celebration

$1,000 Mint Juleps for Charity at the Kentucky Derby
https://www.courier-journal.com/story/entertainment/events/kentucky-derby/festival/2019/04/10/1-000-woodford-reserve-mint-julep-ingredients-age-churchill-downs-for-kentucky-derby/3244985002/

Ramadan in the UAE
https://www.thenational.ae/uae/ramadan-2019-faqs-what-you-need-to-know-about-the-holy-month-in-the-uae-1.853719

Ramadan in the USA

Ramadan Information Sheet

Junk Food Addiction

Quitting junk food produces similar withdrawal-type symptoms as drug addiction. We common folk have known this for forty years, but now science has confirmed it. I visited my WayBack Machine to find the lyrics for this 1976 Golden Oldie: “Junk Food Junkie” by Larry Groce. The chorus goes like this:

Yeah, in the daytime I’m Mr. Natural
Just as healthy as I can be
But at night I’m a junk food junkie
Good Lord have pity on me!

Trigger Image for Junk Food Junkies

In the Kitchen, we know food eaten any time of the day or night affects our bodies for good or ill. When I was an art student, I had a roommate who thought fasting during the day and eating in the dark would help her maintain her weight. Half a century ago, we called this theory “unseen calories have zero calories.” She never figured out why she gained weight.

A University of Michigan study confirms what has long been suspected: highly processed foods like chocolate, pizza and French fries are among the most addictive. Moreover, highly processed foods are linked to addictive eating.

This is one of studies to examine specifically which foods may be implicated in “food addiction,” which has become of growing interest to scientists and consumers in light of the obesity epidemic. On my recent visit to Israel, we were eating wonderful Mediterranean foods at every meal. Some of my tour companions were “lusting for the flesh pots of Egypt,” or wishing they had a sausage and egg biscuit from McDonald’s on the first morning out. I chose not to eat with them again. No one needs to travel over 5,000 miles to eat the same food as home. Then again, these folks may have been experiencing withdrawal symptoms if they were accustomed to their daily fix.

Processed Foods

Previous studies in animals conclude that highly processed foods, or foods with added fat or refined carbohydrates (like white flour and sugar), may be capable of triggering addictive-like eating behavior. Clinical studies in humans have observed that some individuals meet the criteria for substance dependence when the substance is food.

Despite highly processed foods generally known to be highly tasty and preferred, it is unknown whether these types of foods can elicit addiction-like responses in humans, nor is it known which specific foods produce these responses, said Ashley Gearhardt, U-M assistant professor of psychology.

Unprocessed foods, with no added fat or refined carbohydrates like brown rice and salmon, were not associated with addictive-like eating behavior.

Cornie’s Kitchen Chicken Soup

Individuals with symptoms of food addiction or with higher body mass indexes reported greater problems with highly processed foods, suggesting some may be particularly sensitive to the possible “rewarding” properties of these foods, said Erica Schulte, a U-M psychology doctoral student and the study’s lead author.

“If properties of some foods are associated with addictive eating for some people, this may impact nutrition guidelines, as well as public policy initiatives such as marketing these foods to children,” Schulte said.

When my daughter was young, I limited our visits to fast food outlets to Friday nights after my work week was over. Mr. Microwave and. Mr. Crockpot provided meals during the week, and we grilled on the weekends. I grew up in a household with food and family at the table as a central part of our life. Food doesn’t have to be fancy, and leftovers were offered at least once a week as “druthers” night. Companionship was more important than the meal itself.

Nicole Avena, assistant professor of pharmacology and systems therapeutics at Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York City, and a co-author on the study, explained the significance of the findings. “This is a first step towards identifying specific foods, and properties of foods, which can trigger this addictive response,” she said. “This could help change the way we approach obesity treatment. It may not be a simple matter of ‘cutting back’ on certain foods, but rather, adopting methods used to curtail smoking, drinking and drug use.”

Future research should examine whether addictive foods are capable of triggering changes in brain circuitry and behavior like drugs of abuse, the researchers said.

If you plan to try and quit junk food, expect to suffer similar withdrawal-type symptoms—at least during the initial week—like addicts experience when they attempt to quit using drugs.

A study by University of Michigan is believed to be the first of its kind to evaluate withdrawal symptoms people incur when they stop devouring highly processed foods, such as pastries, French fries and pizza. Previous studies have focused on sugar withdrawal among animals and the literature regarding humans offered only anecdotal evidence, said Erica Schulte, the study’s lead author and U-M psychology doctoral candidate.

Processed food scientists design foods to hit a satiety point or “yum factor.” This involves adjusting foods to salt, fat, and sugar levels that meet consumer preferences, as well as enabling enhanced shelf life. Employing scientists to dissect elements of the palate and tweak ratios of salt, sugar and fat to optimize taste, the processed food industry, Michael Moss says, has hooked consumers on their products the same way the cigarette industry hooked smokers on nicotine.

What all researchers can agree upon is that the addictive qualities of tobacco, drugs or alcohol affect the brain similarly and cutting back can lead to negative side effects that can make it difficult to reduce intake. Anxiety, headaches, irritability and depression are some of those outcomes.
Understanding whether withdrawal may also occur with highly processed foods was an essential next step in evaluating whether these foods might be capable of triggering similar addictive processes.

Schulte and colleagues created the first self-report tool to measure the physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms among people, then asked 231 adults to report what happened when they reduced the amount of highly processed foods they ate in the past year.

The participants reported that sadness, irritability, tiredness and cravings peaked during the initial two to five days after they quit eating junk food, then the negative side effects tapered off, which parallels the time course of drug withdrawal symptoms, the study found.

The U-M researchers did not focus on the method used to change their eating behavior, such as participants quitting “cold turkey” or gradually phasing out junk food. Schulte said future studies will analyze the behavior in real time rather than a retrospective approach as in the current findings.

The study implications suggest that withdrawal symptoms may make dietary changes challenging, which may contribute to people reverting back to bad eating habits, said Ashley Gearhardt, associate professor of psychology and co-author, along with U-M graduates Julia Smeal and Jessi Lewis.

Bottom line is the processed food industry designs their products to keep you eating them. When you hear their siren call, it’s best to put plugs in your ears and row on by. Choose frozen bananas and cocoa powder, with almonds, and add some protein powder if you need a little extra oomph. Enjoy each spoonful slowly. Drink flavored tea. I like hibiscus green tea, mostly decaf over ice. We can do this!

More information: Erica M. Schulte et al. Development of the Highly Processed Food Withdrawal Scale, Appetite (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2018.09.013
Provided by University of Michigan

Moore’s book—

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-02-highly-foods-linked-addictive.html

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-09-junk-food-similar-withdrawal-type-symptoms.html

FAST FOOD FAST

Louisiana is still knee deep in Mardi Gras beads and King Cakes, at least until Ash Wednesday, which is the official beginning of Lent. When March 6 comes around, all the feasting turns to fasting, at least for the faithful. When I was a child, we gave up candy or soft drinks for Lent, while our parents gave up alcohol. I’m not sure who had the more difficult task, but the appearance of chocolate Easter bunnies in our straw baskets made us very glad to search for the hidden eggs out in the yard. Our parents were nobly relaxed and convivial while they urged us on. Somehow they always knew where the rabbit had hidden those eggs.

EASTER CANDY BASKET

If we went to the local hamburger joint in the 1950’s, a soda was 7 ounces, the burger was 4 ounces, and the fries were about 2 1/2 ounces. We call these the “child’s menu” now, but this is actually adult servings, rather than the supersize menu items we order.

In the United States, 61% of an adult’s total diet comes from ultraprocessed foods, or foods that contains ingredients such as flavors, colors, sweeteners and hydrogenated oils, emulsifiers and other additives that you wouldn’t cook with at home. This type of processed food is the main source of added sugar in the U.S. diet. Meanwhile, Americans get less than 1% of their daily calories from vegetables.

in Canada, ultraprocessed foods account for 62%, and in the UK, that proportion is 63%. Yet research also indicates that eating ultraprocessed foods can lead to obesity, high blood pressure and cancer, the study authors say.

“Ultraprocessed foods are manufactured industrially from multiple ingredients that usually include additives used for technological and/or cosmetic purposes,” wrote the authors of the French NutriNet-Santé Study, an ongoing cohort study that launched on May 11, 2009, and performed a follow-up through December 15, 2017 (a median of 7.1 years). It was published recently in the journal JAMA Internal Medicine. “Ultraprocessed foods are mostly consumed in the form of snacks, desserts, or ready-to-eat or -heat meals,” and their consumption “has largely increased during the past several decades.”

This trend may drive an increase of early deaths due to chronic illnesses, including cancer and cardiovascular disease, they say. The quick and easy comfort foods and snacks you love are chipping away at your mortality, one nibble at a time, according to new research from France: We face a 14% higher risk of early death with each 10% increase in the amount of ultraprocessed foods we eat.

FRESH VEGGIES

PARAMETERS OF STUDY

To understand the relationship between ultraprocessed foods and the risk of an earlier-than-expected death, the researchers enlisted the help of 44,551 French adults 45 and older for two years. Their average age was 57, and nearly 73% of the participants were women. All provided 24-hour dietary records every six months in addition to completing questionnaires about their health (including body-mass index and other measurements), physical activities and sociodemographics.

The researchers calculated each participant’s overall dietary intake and consumption of ultraprocessed foods.

Ultraprocessed foods accounted for more than 14% of the weight of total food consumed and about 29% of total calories, they found. Ultraprocessed food consumption was associated with younger age, lower income, lower educational level, living alone, higher BMI and lower physical activity level.

Over the study period, 602 participants died. After adjusting for factors such as smoking, the researchers calculated an associated 14% higher risk of early death for each 10% increase in the proportion of ultraprocessed foods consumed.

Further studies are needed to confirm these results, the authors say. Still, they speculate that the additives, the packaging (chemicals leech into the food during storage) and the processing itself, including high-temperature processing (frying), may be the factors that negatively affect health.

However, “ultraprocessed” is a huge category of foods, and by lumping so many things together, the researchers lost sensitivity in their results and cannot pinpoint what exactly is causing the effect seen in the study. Sugar may be implicated also, not just fried foods.

People who said they ate the most processed foods, which the surveys defined as soft drinks, salty snacks, cakes, pizza and frozen meals, also showed the highest intake of added sugars based on the sugar content of these foods. Nearly 90% of the average source of added sugars, in fact, came from processed foods.

Overall, processed foods contained eight times more sugar than less processed foods such as breads, cheese and canned foods, and five times more sugar than unprocessed or minimally processed choices such as meats, fresh fruits or vegetables, grains and milk.

WHY DO PEOPLE EAT MORE PROCESSED FOOD TODAY?

First of all, we live in urban areas, and garden plots are scarce, unlike our rural ancestors, who had room to grow their own food. We live in a fast world, and people are looking for convenient solutions. We’re always stretched for time. Many people today have long commutes, so the time for preparing an evening meal isn’t there. People look for quick solutions and a quickly made meal.

When selecting food, taste may be the No. 1 factor for most consumers, but price and convenience are also important. With ultraprocessed foods, that convenience factor is probably top of the list: grab and go, ready to eat. In food deserts, convenience food outlets prevail and grocery store foods are either overpriced or nonexistent. Some residential properties have rooms, but no cooking facilities. Fast food becomes an economic necessity for impoverished families and this not only aggravates their health, but depreciates their ability to move up in society.

WHAT CAN WE DO?

We should look not only at the front of a package when we buy ready-made meals, but also at the back. Look at the ingredients list. Do we understand all those ingredients that go into our foods? Buy only those products with the least number of ingredients and with ingredients we understand.

Reduce the amount of fast food we eat, if possible, and eat more “plain food” made at home. Rice, baked potatoes, salads and oil and vinegar dressing are easy to prepare, along with a baked chicken or pot roast in a crock pot.

If we can’t buy fresh foods, fresh frozen foods without seasonings are also good. Read the ingredients to avoid salt and added sugar. The same goes for canned foods. Many low or no sodium vegetables are available, which can be used for nutritious soups and stews.

Moreover, if we’re responsible for the donations to food pantries, we should consider the quality and types of food we provide to our people: more protein and fewer carbohydrates would be a start toward healing poverty induced diseases, rather than the need to fulfill as many calories as possible. This latter only leads to more disease and a greater burden on the person and the health care system.

Easter Sunday is April 21—we have six weeks or 40 days in Lent, not counting the Sundays, to practice a FAST FOOD FAST. Do you think you could do this? How would it change your life? Would you have to put a priority on your and your family’s health or would you let work and activities be more important? Is food for the body a last minute decision or is it foundational for life? What is our spiritual understanding of the body?

Think on this as you consider the questions above:

He will transform our humble bodies, so that they may be conformed to his glorious body, by the power that also enables him to make all things subject to himself. ~~ Philippians 3:21

Read the French Study in JAMA—https://jamanetwork.com/journals/jamainternalmedicine/fullarticle/2723626

Americans and Processed Food—http://time.com/4252515/calories-processed-food/

Spicy Sweet Nut and Seed Mix

Cold and grey weather in December makes me want to bake in the kitchen. I must have my mother’s DNA for sure, since some of my fondest memories are of her up to her elbows into a giant mixing bowl as she stirred together the various candied fruits and nuts for the fruit cake cookies and loaves she produced in mass quantities every Christmas.

This recipe also had a significant amount of cheap whiskey in it, so when I was preaching in small towns in Arkansas, I usually let one of the ladies of the church know of my need. “Don’t you worry,” they’d tell me, “we’ll make sure this gets covered.”

A few days later I’d be invited over to this kind lady’s home for lunch. She’d have a Christmas gift for me. Inside the colorful bag would be a small flagon, double wrapped in a brown paper bag. “You don’t have to tell anyone where you got it. That’s a secret, just between you and me.”

I’d nod and smile. Christmas has always been time for secrets. My parents would hide presents up in the attic until we got big enough to pull the rope for the hidden stairs. Then they hid the gifts in the trunk of my daddy’s black Pontiac. I never knew why we weren’t able to find the keys. When we were truly old, my folks managed to keep the Christmas secrets by gift wrapping the presents at the store before we came home from school.

One of the mysteries of Christmas I discovered along the way was Santa could write as elegantly as my daddy, but I never told anyone else. After all, I had two younger siblings and I wouldn’t want to spoil his visits for them! This recipe makes a Spicy Sweet Nut and Seed Mix for snacks. You can vary it infinitely and even use it as a base for a Chocolate Bark recipe. It’s great for a share party.

Fresh out of the oven!

Ingredients

4 cups unsalted, roasted whole nuts (almonds, pecans, pistachios, and walnuts)

1 cup seeds (I used pumpkin, quinoa, and sunflower)

1/4 cup agave

1 tablespoon unsalted butter

1 teaspoon red-pepper flakes

1 Tbs brandy

227 grams chocolate chips (1 cup)

1 teaspoon kosher salt (divided)

1 teaspoon turbinado sugar

Red pepper flakes from three chili peppers

Step 1

Heat the oven to 325 degrees and line a large baking sheet with parchment paper. In a large bowl, combine the nuts and seeds.

Step 2

In a microwave-safe bowl, combine agave, butter, red-pepper flakes and ½ teaspoon salt. Microwave until the butter has melted, about 30-40 seconds. (Alternatively, you can melt the mixture in a small saucepan on the stove.)

Step 3

Pour the butter mix over the nuts and seeds, and stir until well coated. Dump onto the prepared baking sheet and spread in an even layer. You want the nut mix spread out as much as possible.

Step 4

Bake, stirring occasionally, until the nuts are tacky and look and smell toasted, 20 to 25 minutes. Remove from the oven and immediately sprinkle over the remaining 1/2 teaspoon salt and all of the turbinado or dark brown sugar. Let cool on the baking sheet, then transfer to a bowl and serve (or transfer to an airtight container, where they’ll keep for up to 4 days).

Nutrition information for 1 serving (24 total servings)

Thankful for Health

As I enter yet another decade of Thanksgiving, I’m most thankful for my health. Once a person enters “senior status,” good health means “managed diseases.” My young friends often whine about the difficulty of taking a single prescription per day. I just laugh, for they don’t know what truck will hit them after age 50! Most people my age have pill minders or get theirs in daily prepared packaging ready made.

One health condition that can’t be standardized is the blood glucose reading, unless you qualify for a new 24 hour wearable monitor. Otherwise you do the stick and read at different times of the day. If you’re like me, keeping track of the blood sugar readings gives you a window into your body’s response to your food choices and your commitment to an exercise plan.

I have prediabetes, so I measure my glucose in the morning and before I go exercise. My doctor says the morning should be under 100 and the preexercise reading needs to be over 100 if I’m going for anything more vigorous than a gentle walk. I don’t yet have the high readings because for 14 years I’ve eaten a Mediterranean diet and exercised daily. I still eat around 2000 calories per day, so I’m not starving myself, since my BMR is 2060.

Would they like me to lose weight? Yes, and so would I, but my blood pressure is finally normal without medication, my arteries are clear, and my depression is in remission due to medication and lifestyle commitments. We have to pick the battles we want to fight. If our weight is fat, our bodies will metabolize food differently than if our weight is muscle. Weight bearing exercises such as walking, lifting weights, or climbing stairs, will build muscle over the long haul.

When I first started walking, I couldn’t make the whole way around a city block without stopping for breath, I was so out of shape. I set a smaller goal, mastered it, and made a bigger one. I can walk a 5K now, and even if I’m the last to finish, I still am faster than everyone who didn’t enter the race. Keep a positive attitude!

Health isn’t a number on the scale or a size of clothes into which you fit. Health is more about reclaiming your positive attitude towards food as nourishment for your body, rather than as a sedative for your emotional distress. I’ve been in this place myself. I never met a chocolate donut that wouldn’t soothe my inner angst, only to give me eater’s remorse afterwards. It was a downward, addictive spiral, for I’d eat again to feel better, only to feel icky once more.

Health is also about leaving behind the bad habits that bought on high blood pressure, high blood sugar of type 2 diabetes, and prediabetes: stress, excessive caffeine, and processed foods. These foods are the heart killer trifecta of the Standard American Diet—fat, salt, and sugars. These show up in our processed meats, dairy products, and bakery goods, not to mention our condiments and desserts.

Thanksgiving Feast and Desserts

Just as we learned negative habits, we can learn positive behaviors. We don’t have to change everything all at once, but we do need to begin somewhere, sometime. Perhaps the holidays seem to be the worst time, with all the extra cooking and treating surrounding us. If we pick one behavior each week, such as measuring our food portions this week and not eating second helpings the week of Thanksgiving, we’ll be on the way to a healthier lifestyle!

Cooking a Thanksgiving Feast

Remember the words of Paul in 1 Thessalonians 5:16-18–

“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing,

give thanks in all circumstances;

for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you.”

SEE SLIDES ON WHAT AFFECTS YOUR BLOOD SUGAR READINGS

https://www.webmd.com/diabetes/daily-control-17/slideshow-blood-sugar-swings

OF ORDINARY MIRACLES

Greek yogurt with cocoa, fruit and nuts

“Fabulous Fermented Foods” have been part of my family’s history for generations back. In the rural antebellum South, folks made cornbread with buttermilk and bacon grease. They didn’t waste soured milk in those unrefrigerated days, just as they used every bit of the pig but its squeal. “Waste not, want not,” was an adage my forebears took to heart, even to my embarrassment of their saving balls of string or aluminum foil for reuse. The latter I thought unsanitary, in my modern worldview, but I’d never experienced great want of any kind as they had.

I enjoyed helping my nanny can food by pickling peaches and cucumbers, but that was a different process than fermentation. My mother did ferment a fruit compote with alcohol, which we all devoured with gusto over ice cream during the holidays. “Is it ready yet?” was as frequent a question as “When can we open a present?”

Of course we ate pimento cheese sandwiches, especially during those long lazy days of summer, but none of us ever connected the cheese making process to fermentation by good bacteria or yeasts. We ate, enjoyed, and never gave it a second thought as we sought the shade or a cool dip in refreshing water. Like many people of our day, we were incurious of the many ordinary miracles which surrounded all of us.

Now I’m well into my seventh decade and understand these trendy (but ancient) foods have potential health benefits. Fermenting foods changes their taste and texture, along with their chemical and biological properties.

Fermented foods may be the oldest “new” food trend around. The process is as old as civilization itself, and fermented foods are consumed in nearly every culture in the world. While researchers attempt to tease out how the changes caused by fermentation actually impact health, many not-fully-substantiated health claims are being made. Let’s take a look at what we know, and don’t know, about these promising (and tasty) foods.

FERMENTATION PROCESS

What is Fermentation? Fermentation occurs when microorganisms (certain species of bacteria, yeast, or mold) feed on starch, sugar, and other food components. This ancient process was originally used for preserving foods, but it fell out of favor in the age of refrigeration and pasteurization.

Many foods and beverages that are commonplace in the U.S. are a result of fermentation. Grains are fermented to make beer and bread; wine is made by fermenting grape juice; and yogurt and cheese are popular forms of fermented milk. Any foods can be fermented, and there are many examples of fermented foods around the world, such as Korean kimchi and the Swedish fermented fish Surströmming.

HEALTH BENEFIT CLAIMS

Behind the Health Benefit Claims. “It is becoming increasingly clear that the fermentation process changes the health-promoting characteristics of foods,” says Jeffrey B. Blumberg, PhD, professor emeritus at Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

For example, large studies have suggested an association between consumption of fermented dairy foods and weight maintenance that is not seen with unfermented dairy products, and frequent yogurt consumption is associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and overall mortality.

Some data show kimchi, a fermented cabbage dish ubiquitous in Korean cooking, is associated with anti-diabetic and anti-obesity benefits not seen with unfermented cabbage. Some of these suspected health benefits may result from the presence of the microorganisms themselves, but emerging research indicates that changes those organisms make to the food constituents, and new constituents they create, might have health benefits in their own.

HEALTH BENEFITS INCLUDE

Some of the potentially health-promoting effects of fermentation include:

1. Adding to our gut microbiota. Probiotics are live bacteria that some evidence indicates can confer health benefits when consumed in adequate numbers.

Some bacteria used in fermentation are known probiotics (or are similar to probiotic species). If fermented foods and beverages contain live microorganisms when consumed, a relatively large number of these organisms apparently make it through the human digestive system alive. “During the last decade, the number of studies has exploded regarding gut microbiota and their impact on the health of not only the gut but also the brain, heart, and immune system,” says Blumberg.

2. Changing existing compounds. In fermentation, the microorganisms break down food constituents. This process may have health benefits. For example, in fermented vegetables certain bacteria help convert health-promoting flavonoids into a more readily-absorbed form.

In dairy products, the bacteria break down lactose, making yogurt and cheese easier for lactose-intolerant people to digest.

3. Creating new compounds. Fermentation may create new compounds that have health-promoting actions in the body.

For example, one common result of bacterial fermentation is lactic acid (lactate), which recent research indicates is involved in anti-inflammatory and possibly antioxidant processes.

Other strains of microorganisms actually synthesize B vitamins or vitamin K; discourage “bad” bacteria from taking hold in the gut; or produce molecules not found in the original form of the food that play a variety of potentially health-promoting roles in the body.

4. Deactivating undesirable compounds. In addition to creating (mostly) desirable compounds in foods, fermentation can also remove undesirable compounds. In some plant foods, so-called anti-nutrients like phytic acid bind to nutrients like iron and calcium, decreasing the amount of these nutrients available to be absorbed by the body.

Fermentation can reduce phytic acid levels, which frees up more nutrients for absorption. Additionally, some food components are typically fermented in the gut by gut bacteria. This can create gas and trigger digestive problems. Fermenting foods before consumption leaves less work for gut microbes, and may help ease digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome.

5. So far, there is not a lot of clinical data backing up the potential health benefits discussed above, or the health claims often attributed to fermented foods.

But tasty foods like yogurt, hard cheese, the fermented yogurt drink kefir, cabbage-based sauerkraut and kimchi, or the increasingly popular fermented tea kombucha are delicious ways to add nutritional variety to your overall dietary pattern.

Of course when we say “yogurt,” we mean the plain, unsweetened product, to which you control the additional fruits and sugar content. The presugared/fruit purée style is not a healthy choice. Look for a yogurt with more grams of protein than in carbohydrates (Greek usually fits the healthier choice).

The same goes for other milk products, or any prepared food or drink. If it has added sugars, leaving it on the shelf is the best way to keep it from showing up on your own body. If you have a body like mine, these sugar bombs explode in one perturbing place, every single time, as if there were a hidden sugar magnet inside my body! Every. Single. Time.

Yet we can do this! I keep weighing my food, keep a food diary, and exercise. I realize 30 minutes a day doesn’t seem to be enough to lose weight, but it is enough to keep my blood sugar and blood pressure in check. I either have to work less and workout more, or accept 2/3 of my efforts are good enough for someone in the later years of her life.

I’ll probably be working on the last 1/3, just because I can’t rest until I get it ALL. This means I need to cut back on some of my “working.” I’m going to post more monthly on this blog than every two weeks from now on. My Facebook Cornie’s Kitchen page will get more frequent posts.

Joy and peace, Cornie.

Tufts Nutrition Letter, Articles, November 2018 Issue

https://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/issues/14_11/current-articles/Fabulous-Fermented-Foods_2487-1.html