Why do we choose the food on our plates? Some of us eat traditional foods from our childhoods, our cultures, or our homelands to connect us with our history and our stories. Others of us may choose alternative menus, to change our story line or to rewrite a troubled or fraught past. In this way, “what we eat proclaims who we are,” even as it nourishes the person we are becoming in the flesh.
Yet the extreme carnivore fat shamers have no problem what so ever in singing the praises of a huge, fat riddled hunk of ribeye steak, preferably rare, and eagerly devoured as a testimony to their peak powers and dominance traits. They often mention bitcoin’s luster or their own wellness ventures if the conversation goes much past hello. I’ve often wondered if the inanimate aspect of the slab on the plate allows them to connect more deeply with their food than they can with an actual human being, who has feelings and might speak back. Better to devour both of these, and stay unaffected by the outer world’s complexities.
However, the world always intrudes. We find no sanctuary, for we tear down the very walls which we build about ourselves. If we choose the extreme course, we’re on a path to self destruction, unless we change our lives. The ancient Greeks were wise to say, “The middle path is safest and best.”
Our choice of menus, diets, or eating plans is also a form of tribal signaling, as we send out signs for others to recognize and to respond accordingly. Fat shaming is a negative form of signaling by those who overvalue outward appearances. Those whose bodies are overly generous in size need to disregard this crowd’s disgust. Instead, discovering their personal value and worth is more important so they can be proactive about their own health. To enjoy life, to live as well as possible, and to be a blessing to our family and the community, is important for each of us.
WHAT IS TRUTH?
With all the competing claims out in the world today, how can we know what is truly healthy for the long haul? Since anyone can get on the internet and make any claim they want, until someone gets hurt and the legal process shuts their scam down, how do we sort out these “Truth Claims?” The accepted way is a RCT, or randomized controlled trial, which enrolls a large number of persons and follows them over many years. This is the “gold standard” of science, rather than “I use it and it works for me, plus listen to these testimonials!” In between is the single paper, not published in a major journal, with only a small sample of 50 to 100 subjects studied for a brief period. (If someone still believes “all these truths are equal,” I may know a friend with a friend with seashore property in Arizona to sell you, but I’d recommend a lesson in logic first.)
The Lancet Public Health Journal, August 18, 2018, published a major prospective cohort study and meta-analysis of dietary carbohydrate intake and mortality. The study followed nearly 16,000 adults in 4 different US communities for 25 years and they added in published research results from 7 multinational prospective studies. They did some big number crunching, so if you want to read the whole paper, the link is at the bottom of the page. It is a real RCT study, and deserves space for commentary.
MORTALITY AND FAT SOURCE
As the wag says, “men live longer if they don’t mention the extra weight their sweet cake is carrying on her hips.” It must be true–Neil DeGrasse Tyson’s photo is connected to this quote (meme worthy, for sure!).
When my mother made meatloaf, it had breadcrumbs and an egg to bind it together. She laid two strips of bacon on top of the loaf in the pan so it would get extra flavoring. Today people wrap the entire meatloaf in two pounds of bacon before they grill it on the outdoor BBQ pit. That pork fat goes into the food we eat and stays in the arteries to clog those vessels. We might be able to live higher on the hog than our parents, but we won’t live longer, not even with a good medical plan.
LIFE EXPECTANCY AND INCOME
Fifty years has passed: we eat worse, exercise less, and we our life expectancy has quit increasing. Back in 1966, men and women could live on average to age 67 and 73. Now those numbers are 76 and 81 in 2016. Back in 1933, men could expect to live to age 61 and women to 65. At least we aren’t going back to those “really good old days” when life was harsh, medicine lacked modern advances, and sanitation was poor.
Today poverty often impacts life expectancy due to food deserts in neighborhoods, lack of health insurance, and low incomes. The wealthy live longer. The poor in some cities — big ones like New York and Los Angeles, and also quite a few smaller ones like Birmingham, Ala. — live nearly as long as their middle-class neighbors or have seen rising life expectancy in the 21st century. But in some other parts of the country, adults with the lowest incomes die on average as young as people in much poorer nations like Rwanda, and their life spans are getting shorter.
CHOOSE YOUR FAT WISELY
This Study of Dietary Carbohydrate Intake and Mortality explored how the source of fat affected deaths in the group. The more meat fat a person ate, the more it impacted their life span for the worse (table 2).
The low-carb group was split into two separate groups:
1. The plant-based low carbohydrate dietary score was associated with higher average intake of vegetables but lower fruit intake (appendix p 11).
2. By contrast, the animal-based low carbohydrate dietary score was associated with lower average intake of both fruit and vegetables (appendix pp 9, 10).
3. Both low carbohydrate diets were associated with higher fat intake in exchange for carbohydrate, although the plant-based low carbohydrate diet had higher average polyunsaturated fat and lower saturated fat intake compared with the animal-based low carbohydrate diet (appendix pp 9–11).
ANIMAL FATS VS. PLANT FATS
People choosing an animal-based diet had an overall, higher, total protein intake. Five foods differed most significantly between the highest and lowest quantiles of animal-based and plant-based low carbohydrate dietary score (appendix p 9):
1. The animal-based low carbohydrate diet had more servings per day than did higher carbohydrate diets of beef, pork, and lamb as the main dish; beef, pork, and lamb as a side dish; chicken with the skin on; chicken with the skin off; and cheese (appendix p 10).
2. The plant-based low carbohydrate diet had more servings per day of nuts, peanut butter, dark or grain breads, chocolate, and white bread than did higher carbohydrate diets (appendix p 11).
3. Both low carbohydrate diets were lower in average regular soft drink intake (appendix pp 10, 11)
DEATH BY GIANT RIBEYE STEAK
Exclusionary diets, unless for medically necessary reasons, are not the best choice. Just because we want to jump off a cliff doesn’t mean we should do this! Someone who wants to eat only white food, as my child did for a time, is going through a phase. An adult who won’t eat anything white is missing out on some food groups, or doesn’t want to spend the time learning about food. If we have time saving machines all around us, why don’t we have the time to care for our embodied selves in this spare time? Do we value our work more than the worker? This devaluation of people is a slippery slope to other ills, not only to self harm but to disparagement of others or outright hatefulness.
1. In the ARIC cohort and in meta-analysis, increased consumption of animal-based protein and fat instead of carbohydrate was associated with a significant increase in all-cause mortality (table 3). Eat more animal fat and die sooner.
2. Alternatively, increased consumption of plant-based protein and fat instead of carbohydrate was associated with a significant decrease in all-cause mortality (table 3). Trade animal fats for healthier plant fats from nuts and seeds, such as olive oil. Use in moderation.
3. The animal and plant-based findings were consistent for cardiovascular and non-cardiovascular mortality (appendix pp 3, 4). Both heart disease and other diseases are made worse by animal fats. Let’s eat leaner, greener, and add more plants into our menus.
4. Similarly, in the meta-analysis, mortality increased when animal-derived fat and protein were substituted for carbohydrate, and decreased when these substitutions were plant-based (table 3). Eating more plants would do us better.
THE SWEET SPOT
The model for carbohydrate caloric intake is about 50% of total calories per day. It seems to be a sweet spot for life expectancy. In the diabetes world, most of us work to control our blood glucose readings by diet, so many of us will reduce our carbohydrates until they’re minimal at best. We may get good readings on our glucose meter, but what about our heart health? We don’t have a home health test for this. Since people with diabetes also have high rates of heart disease, we need to think of our whole body as one interconnected system, and not focus only on one symptom. We are complex and wonderful, so finding a balance for our finely tuned instrument is important.
ALL CARBS ARE NOT EQUAL
What carbohydrates we choose are another factor. If we think a bag of potato chips is equal to a baked potato in calories and nutrition, we have another think coming. Learning to read nutrition labels might cure us of this delusion. In the meantime, avoiding the snack aisle at the grocery store can keep us from bringing this ersatz food product into our home.
In “Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association Clinical,” the trials that used polyunsaturated fat to replace saturated fat reduced the incidence of cardiovascular disease. In contrast, trials that used mainly carbohydrates to replace saturated fat did not reduce CVD.
CHOOSE CARBS WISELY
However, the types of carbohydrate-containing foods were often unspecified and typically included sugar and other refined carbohydrates to maintain energy balance. When carbohydrates from whole grains replace saturated fat, evidence from prospective observational studies indicates reduced CVD. The two best interventions for menu modification are DASH and the Mediterranean Diet.
The other way we can help keep our blood sugar in range is lifestyle modification. This is the most difficult of changes most of us have to make. Exercise, meditation, journaling, adjusting recipes, cooking meals, making menus, and setting a bedtime or wake up schedule all seems like too much at once. Of course it is! And if it were easy, everyone would be doing it, no one would blog about it, and there’d be no great 25 year long studies to tell us not to wrap two pounds of ground beef in two more pounds of fatback bacon.
Actually, Aristotle, the Ancient Greek philosopher, spoke about the “golden mean.” Moral behavior is the mean between two extremes: at one end is excess, and at the other deficiency. Find a moderate position between those two extremes, and you’ll be acting morally, or rationally. This was his goal in life.
If we were to pick only one of these lifestyle modifications per week to work on, then in the next, do another one the best we can, and do on in the following weeks. Soon we’d all be more comfortable with the routine, and all of us would be doing them all without even realizing it. This is how you sneak in your learning! Before you know it, you have a transformed life. No one waved a magic wand over you, but you grew into your grown up shoes slowly but surely.
Best wishes for a better life, with more exercise and more joy!
The Lancet Public Health Journal, August 18, 2018
Dietary Fats and Cardiovascular Disease: A Presidential Advisory From the American Heart Association | Circulation
When I was young, we drank Tang because the it was the beverage choice of astronauts. Now I hear the Trump campaign plans to sell Space Force merchandise and is floating logos, but I keep thinking about Tang Beverage and Space Sticks.
The Trump campaign announced Thursday they’ll be selling Space Force merchandise, hours after Vice President Mike Pence painted a grounded picture of the prospective military branch’s future.
In an email to supporters, Brad Parscale, the campaign manager for Trump’s 2020 bid, said the final design will be open to a vote. While a logo will be on official campaign gear, it’s unlikely that any of them will ultimately be the final design for the next branch, since that decision is managed by the U.S. Army’s Institute of Heraldry.
The sale of merchandise with the final logo will also likely be barred if the Space Force is formally established, since the Defense Department has strict regulations on the use of its military seals. That is, they aren’t allowed to be used in political campaigns.
In other words, any logo bought will be for an “imaginary space force,” not a real space force, much like a vote for an imaginary president, versus a real president.
Like Space Sticks and Tang, two processed foods developed for the astronauts, any relationship with nutrition is fanciful at best. These two items were developed for short term stays, not long term use. They were packed with sugars and fats, or dense nutritional choices in small servings, to take up small spaces in crowded places such as space capsules.
The breakfast drink of my childhood was Tang, since the astronauts drank it. It had the imprimatur of science all over it, just like white on rice. However, just one serving of Tang (about 2 tablespoons) contains 90 calories and 24 grams of carbohydrates from sugar. It had no fat, and no protein. Vitamin enriched Tang gives 100% of your recommended dietary allowance (RDA) of vitamin C. It’s also enriched with vitamin A, vitamin B2 or riboflavin, B3 or niacin and B6. Tang also contains calcium for stronger bones and teeth.
Ironically, Tang only contains a measly 2% of real orange juice solids. Most of Tang’s flavor comes from a cocktail of food flavorings, sugars, and artificial flavors. Quite simply, Tang is not orange juice. But it does provide all the health benefits of orange juice. It’s also extremely good for cleaning off the rust stains inside your dishwasher or washing machines, if you have iron rich water. Just throw the contents of a small container in the bottom, run a cycle with nothing inside, and you have bright and pretty again. (Now think of your insides!)
Orange juice has pulp/fiber, and doesn’t have Maltodextrin, Sucralose, Acesulfame Potassium, and Neotame. Plus it doesn’t have as many calories as Tang. Why didn’t the astronauts carry OJ into space? Tang was a powder and a lighter load to liftoff. Math wins over nutrition all day long.
Space Sticks were products of The Pillsbury Company, which had been lending its support to NASA. It saw an opportunity to catch a little “moon fever” for their company.
A battery of Pillsbury food scientists, led by Dr. Howard Bauman, whipped up an energy stick that was actually edible. The long chewy stick could slide into an airtight port located in an astronaut’s helmet to provide essential nutrition in case of an emergency. Pillsbury released a commercial spin-off of their cosmic creation, imaginatively dubbing the product Space Food Sticks.
Described as a “non-frozen balanced energy snack in rod form containing nutritionally balanced amounts of carbohydrate, fat and protein,” the original energy bars came in several flavors including caramel, chocolate, malt, mint, orange and the ever-popular peanut butter. Aficionados will recall that the Space Food Sticks were wrapped in special foil to give them an added space-age appearance.
While Tang made it to our family table, somehow Tootsie Rolls prevailed over Space Sticks. Sometime in the 1970’s, the product’s profile was further reduced when Pillsbury dropped the Space and distributed them as Food Sticks. The word energy bar hadn’t been invented yet. Slowly but inevitably the fabled Sticks gradually disappeared from supermarket shelves. Then in the 2000’s, they made a comeback when a true believer founded “Space Food Sticks Preservation Society” at Spacefoodsticks.com.
Perhaps we all need to be reminded of a kinder and gentler time when all things seemed possible, and especially of a time when we “asked not what our country could do for us, but what we could do for our country.” We want to think of a time when we could all join together in a common, peaceful purpose and head for the moon, the planets, the stars, and beyond. Perhaps we can still be that people.
If you look up to the night sky from August 10 to 16,you just might catch the magnificent Perseid meteor showers, with the morning of August 11 to 13 at the peak. A country location, away from city lights, around midnight is the best time to see them. If these remnants from the comet’s tail burn up in our atmosphere, they’re called meteors. If they hit the ground, they’re meteorites. Comet Swift-Tuttle has been visiting earth as far back as 188 CE, and perhaps may be the same one which visited on 69 BCE. It won’t return again until 2126 CE. I sure won’t be around for the comet’s next visit, but the Perseid meteor shower happens every year when the earth’s orbit intersects the fragments left behind in the comet’s orbit.
Take a healthy snack and maybe a caffeinated beverage for this late night viewing party. As I recall, the last time I stayed up late for a meteor shower, no one else wanted to see the sky light up with me. I thought, “Where is their sense of awe and mystery?” They were kind enough to wake me with coffee in the morning, however.
Eat well, and live with joy! Love, Cornie
Shark Week always grabs my attention. After all, that’s what sharks do! Or maybe because it’s far too hot to be outside in Arkansas or because my inner child loves to learn new things. I always loved the beach as a child, since the sea breezes kept the heat tolerable. Inland, folks just suffered in the sweltering humidity pods. Thankfully we now have modern air conditioning, an invention that didn’t come to my home until I was a teenager.
When the temperature was 99F at 10 PM, even a ceiling fan wouldn’t make sleeping comfortable. Cooking was out of the question. Daddy would barbecue or we’d eat cold cuts and fruit. Chocolate candy bark didn’t take long to heat on the stove, so it was a treat to make in the cooler mornings. It also reminds me of coral reefs, which Shark Week shows us nightly on the Discovery Channel.
Corals come in a wide array of shapes, sizes, and colors. Some resemble deer antlers, trees, giant fans, brains, and honeycomb. Although many corals may look like plants, they’re actually animals; they’re most closely related to jellyfish and anemones. There are three different types of coral reef formations—barrier reefs, coral atolls, and fringing reefs. Barrier reefs help to protect lagoons and other types of shallow water; coral atolls (which are often mistaken for islands) are made from volcanic remains; and fringing reefs are found right along the coastline.
Coral reefs, which only grow at a maximum depth of around 150 feet, also grow very slowly, at an average rate of just two centimeters per year. This is because their biomes must maintain a temperature of 70 to 85º Fahrenheit. (Shallow water is more easily warmed by the sun.) Strangely, most coral reefs seem to grow on the eastern side of land masses, where the temperature is believed to be warmer than the western side. Stony coral groups are primarily responsible for building up reef structures. Coral reefs grow upward from the sea floor as the polyps of new corals cement themselves to the skeletons of those below.
When I make Shark Week Chocolate Bark, I gather the following dry ingredients in a plastic bag or in a bowl:
120 gram(s) Wonderful Pistachios Roasted & Salted Shelled Pistachios
0.5 cup Dried cherries (tart montmorency)
12 pretzels Splits pretzels—break into pieces 1 inch long (I used the broken pieces in the bottom of the bag).
1 tbsp Vanilla extract —divided into 2 tsp and 1 tsp
12 tsp Coconut Sugar—divided into 8 tsp and 4 tsp
Then I weigh out 571 gram(s) GHIRARDELLI chocolate premium baking chips 60% cacao bittersweet chocolate — divided into 400 grams and 171 grams.
Take the larger amounts of chocolate baking chips first. Take chocolate and put into microwave safe bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds and melt them in the microwave. Stir well. The first or larger amount may need a second 30 second cooking. The hot melted pieces will melt the unmelted ones. Stir after each heating. Bowl will be HOT! Don’t over cook the chocolate.
Remove & add vanilla 2 tsp. Stir. Add 8 tsp sugar. Stir.
Turn out onto parchment paper on cookie sheet. Spread chocolate with spatula. Spread nut and pretzel mix out over it evenly. Gently press it into chocolate.
Take remaining chocolate and put into same bowl. Microwave for 30 seconds. Stir well. The hot melted pieces will melt the unmelted ones. Don’t over cook the chocolate. Add 1 tsp vanilla and 3 tsp sugar. Stir well. Drizzle over the surface and spread out. It will almost cover the whole nut layer.
Put into icebox for for 30 to 45 minutes to harden. Afterward, cut into small pieces about 1” x 1 1/2”. It will keep in an airtight container for about two weeks.
Serving Size: Makes 36 pieces appropriately 1 inch by 1 1/2 inch.
Number of Servings: 36
As you can see, making chocolate bark with broken pretzels, pieces of dried fruit, and nuts comes together much like a coral reef: it gets all the various pieces cemented with a binding agent, which in the kitchen is chocolate. I don’t suggest you go out into the sea and nibble on a coral reef. It wouldn’t be good for the pearly whites.
The Benefits of Coral Reefs
Scientists have discovered that many parts of a coral reef can be harvested to make medications. According to the National Oceanic & Atmospheric Administration, coral reefs are emerging as the medicine cabinets of the 21st century: “Coral reef plants and animals are important sources of new medicines being developed to treat cancer, arthritis, human bacterial infections, Alzheimer’s disease, heart disease, viruses, and other diseases.”
Coral reefs are among the most biodiverse ecosystems on the planet. There are often more types of fish living in a two-acre area of healthy coral reef than there are species of birds in all of North America!
Coral reefs help to improve the quality of the surrounding water. They do this by filtering out things floating in the ocean, which leads to cleaner water. In addition to protecting shorelines, coral reefs are immensely valuable to the fishing and tourism industries. According to the World Resources Institute, the destruction of one kilometer of coral reef equals a loss of between $137,000 to $1,200,000 over a 25-year period. And yet, they estimate some 60% of the world’s coral reefs are currently threatened by human activity.
Dark chocolate has its own benefits to humankind. Without it, some of us aren’t fit for civilized company! We don’t need a massive shark bite full of this calming food to bring us into a harmonious state. This is because chocolate has multiple chemicals that produce positive feelings in us. Phenylethylamine is sometimes called “the love drug”, because it arouses feelings similar to those that occur when one is in love. Another neurotransmitter, serotonin, is a mood-lifter, as well. One chemical that causes the release of serotonin into the brain is tryptophan, found in (wait for it!) chocolate!
If chocolate were a drug, we might need a prescription. Or we might find the law regulating how much chocolate we could have in our candies. As far as I’m concerned, the darker the better, but small children often prefer milk chocolate due to the greater sugar and milk content. Dark chocolate has probiotics and prebiotics, magnesium, iron, copper, and antioxidants. Even commercial dark chocolate bars will have large amounts of sugar, so not all dark chocolate is good for people with diabetes or weight issues. Look for 15 g carbohydrates per serving as a limit. Chocolate is a snack treat, not a meal.
A little afternoon pickmeup or as a side nibble with coffee and a friend, and your mood will be adjusted in no time. Then you can go back to swimming with the sharks and they can’t bite you, since you now have on your impervious dark chocolate shark repellent suit. Enjoy!
Joy and Peace,
Servings Per Recipe: 36
Serving Size: 1 serving
Amount Per Serving
After a NASCAR vacation and a Spiritual Formation Academy, I’ve been off my food plan. Yes, I’ve been living just like the majority of other people. I eat food without weighing, measuring, or knowing its provenance. While I tried to avoid my known risk foods (rolls), often low fiber parboiled white rice was on the menu. Also nitrate cured sausages full of salts, and canned vegetables, also salted, made frequent appearances.
Once again, I was in the wilderness of eating what everyone else eats. Others may not have difficulty with this method yet, but for my prediabetic body, it’s not the mana of God’s providence. It will keep a body going, but it contributes to my gaining weight quickly due to the high glycemic index. The salt was worse for my blood pressure, since I don’t cook with this spice.
I managed to get my steps in on most days, but not being in my own kitchen had its drawbacks. At least I could cook my own meals at the races, but an excellent Detroit pizza in Austin, Texas may have exceeded all of my nutritional goals for several days. Oh well.
This is now water under the bridge and maybe also water on the body. I think much of it was salt induced water retention, since any outside food has more salt. This is by definition, since most commercial kitchens use industry providers as their food sources. While this saves money for them, it causes the customers to spend money on their health complications from high blood pressure and obesity, or from metabolic syndrome.
If we think of the needs of the few and the needs of the many, and the costs of treating diseases, we might rethink the system of “cheap is good” with regard to food. The total estimated cost of diagnosed diabetes in 2012 was $245 billion, including $176 billion in direct medical costs and $69 billion in reduced productivity.
People with diagnosed diabetes incur average medical expenditures of about $13,700 per year, of which about $7,900 is attributed to diabetes.
People with diagnosed diabetes, on average, have medical expenditures approximately 2.3 times higher than what expenditures would be in the absence of diabetes.(Jun 22, 2015, American Diabetes Association)
The indirect costs are—
1. increased absenteeism ($5 billion) and
2. reduced productivity while at work ($20.8 billion) for the employed population,
3. reduced productivity for those not in the labor force ($2.7 billion),
4. inability to work as a result of disease-related disability ($21.6 billion), and
5. lost productive capacity due to early mortality ($18.5 billion).
Metabolic syndrome, number of risk factors, and specific combinations of risk factors are markers for high utilization and costs among patients receiving medical care.
Diabetes and certain risk clusters are major drivers of utilization and costs. Costs for subjects with diabetes plus weight risk, dyslipidemia, and hypertension were almost double the costs for subjects with prediabetes plus similar risk factors ($8,067 vs. $4,638).
When I began to eat more home cooked meals, more low glycemic vegetables, fewer potatoes, less white rice, more whole grains in moderation (portion size), and leaner meats cooked with less oils, not only did I lose some weight, but I could exercise and boost my attitude. Exercise helped control my blood sugar readings too. Reducing salt by omitting processed foods lowered my blood pressure. I spent less time and money at the doctors’ offices, so I could spend more for better quality foods.
If the average person with prediabetes saves about $4,000 per year in medical costs over a person with diabetes, this adds about $75 a week to your food budget.
If money is something you burn every day of your life, you just have more money than you have sense, as we say in the Kitchen. Of course, I was raised by Depression Era parents, so leftovers are always a meal choice (think soup) in Cornie’s Kitchen. Wasting food is wasting money, but that’s a subject for another day.
God bless you, and be well! Cornie.
I ate the traditional Thanksgiving dinner at a family setting Thursday, along with slivers of pies. The pot roast I made earlier got recycled as soup for two days after Thanksgiving. I had baked chicken with leftover carnival squash and roasted eggplant for dinner one night.
You can see the eggplant in the first soup bowl. I added some spinach and mushrooms to the potato and beef soup just to jazz it up and make it different from the asparagus and broccoli variation of the day before, which is below.
For Sunday breakfast I had French toast. I use vanilla, cinnamon, and 2 eggs with Dave’s killer bread. In a hot skillet, I pot 1 Tbs. sweet butter and cook the soaked bread slices until they’re golden brown. Then I add 1Tbs of maple syrup over the top. Using the real thing means I don’t need a lot, and often have some left over.