Killing Me Softly with Fast Food

Picasso: The Blue Guitarist

Strumming my pain with his fingers

Singing my life with his words

Killing me softly with his song

Killing me softly with his song

Telling my whole life with his words

Killing me softly with his song

These are the opening lines of “Killing Me Softly,” a song by Roberta Flack, written by Norman Gimbel and Charles Fox, from back in the 1970’s. Other artists have covered it since, but this is the one I remember best. The ancient British poet William Congreve wrote in a play, The Mourning Bride, in 1697, a saying oft misquoted:

Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,

To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.

I’ve read, that things inanimate have mov’d,

And, as with living Souls, have been inform’d,

By Magick Numbers and persuasive Sound.

Today we say “Music has charms to soothe a savage beast,” but we no longer think of ourselves as people needing soothing, yet we’re also a society who have high levels of use of alcohol, drug use, and other substance abuse. Much of this activity is a means to dull our pain or calm our inner emotional states so we can interact with others and not cause “a scene.” Unfortunately, when we may use a small amount of any substance at first to make this change, we then discover we need more of the same stuff to cause the same outcome. Then the real drama begins.

After a hard day at work, we face a difficult commute home, a big pile or four of laundry, and a whole family screaming the moment we hit the door, “I’m hungry! What’s for dinner? I could eat a horse! I can’t wait!” And we remember Mr. Crockpot was too sleepy to roll out of bed and get the veggies chopped and get himself plugged in. We might have to fire him or get him an alarm that he can hear in the morning. As we secure our seatbelt for the crawl home, we notice how many fast food joints line our route: McDonald’s, Wendy’s, Burger King, KFC, not to mention Taco Bell.

Don’t Judge Me!

As an Arkansan, I can relate to this recent study: If you pass by many fast-food outlets on your daily commute, weight gain might be the result, new research shows. People tempted by more fast-food restaurants going to and from work tended to have a higher BMI (body mass index) than people who didn’t. The study involved more than 700 female elementary school employees living in and around New Orleans.

The investigators also found an association between higher BMI and a larger number of supermarkets, grocery stores and fast-food restaurants clustered near people’s homes. Conversely, having a greater number of full-service, sit-down restaurants near your home was associated with a lower BMI, according to the team led by Arizona State University researcher Adriana Dornelles.

The study couldn’t prove cause and effect, but it found “a significant relationship between BMI and multiple food environments,” Dornelles said in a university news release. “In our daily lives, we are exposed to several healthy and unhealthy food choices, which has an impact on BMI. The availability and variety of fast-food restaurants along our commute create endless opportunities for a quick, cheap and unhealthy meal, which results, on average, in higher body mass index,” she said.

In the study, Dornelles’ team tracked the number of supermarkets, grocery stores, full-service restaurants and fast-food restaurants within about a half a mile of the employees’ homes and workplaces.

So much for my summer—Starbucks, since I’m doing home repairs

The researchers also pinpointed the number and type of food stores within a half a mile of the shortest-distance commute path between each employee’s home and workplace. BMI tended to rise along with the number of fast-food outlets and other food sources around a person’s home or on their commute, according to the study published online Aug. 7 in the journal PLOS One.

Two experts in nutrition and weight management weren’t surprised by the findings. The “takeaway” from the study is that, “the larger the number of these [food] establishments, the greater the BMI of the population of the people who live or commute in this area,” said Katrina Hartog, clinical nutrition manager at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City. Michelle Milgrim is manager of employee wellness at Northwell Health in New Hyde Park, N.Y. She said the new findings should remind people of the pull fast-food has on nutrition choices made every day.

Odysseus and the Sirens

Several ways we can avoid the “siren call of fast food satisfaction” are

1. Change your route home so you don’t see these tempting food cues.

2. Bring a healthy snack from home to eat before you leave for home or go to the grocery store.

3. Practice meal preparation so you have vegetables to microwave, and small portions of precooked meats to reheat.

4. If the kids are hungry, serve dinner in four courses: vegetables, starches, protein, and desserts. Let them share stories from their day as you bring the rest of the meal, but no media at the table.

5. If you eat and cook for one, have some carrots and hummus with a large glass of iced tea. Rest on the couch with your feet up. Then get your meal together, using #3 or #4.

6. Remember, there’s no commandment against eating dessert first, just not the whole pie.

When we’re stressed for time, trying to please others, and attempting to do 37 hours of work in a 24 hour day, we sometimes feel like we’re burning the candle at both ends and the middle both. If we listen to the horrifying events of the news of the world, we wonder how some people can do such terrible acts that cause such harm and come from a deep well of hate. This causes us to feel distressed and anxious, which isn’t pleasant. We don’t sleep well, we’re irritable, and we aren’t the happy campers we think we should be. This causes an existential pain, so we seek relief. Some of us choose talk therapy, exercise, and medications if we have a diagnosed need. Too many of us, however, choose mood altering substances instead. Some of these, such as alcohol and food, are legal, but can be used to excess inappropriately. Others are illegal and problematic from the outset.

No matter what substance we choose to relieve our inner pain, most of us suffer and use substances to relieve one or more of the following issues:

1.Relieve stress—Relying on a substance, which first produces feelings of pleasure, to reduce daily life stressors can impact the likelihood of developing an addiction,. However, frequent use builds tolerance, requiring you to consume more in order to achieve the same effects.

2.Feel good—Consuming a mind altering substance can provide some people a break from reality. It offers a sense of relief from underlying issues your mind may be trying to escape from. However, continual use to get through the day or week can turn into a serious problem.

3.Cope with loss—Losing a family member or friend can take a toll on you emotionally, physically and mentally. A substance, even food, can ease the grief you are feeling and is used to get through difficult times. Depending on it, even temporarily, can spiral into a serious problem.

4.Overcome anxiety—Some people are naturally anxious, causing them to perpetually worry. Using substances that raise endorphins or lower an individual’s inhibitions can make them more comfortable in social situations. Over time though, this can lead to addictive behaviors.

5.Lack of Connection—Many people use because they don’t feel adequately connected to others. They believe that the substance will either fill the void or possibly make it easier for them to forge new bonds. However, the opposite typically ends up being true.

6.Shame—Shame is one of the most difficult emotions for many to cope with, and it is also one of the most traumatic. While alcohol or drugs can temporarily mask shame with false feelings, it also causes many individuals to engage in reckless or foolish behaviors that can later cause them to feel even greater shame, which can cause a downward spiral.

7.Trauma—Treatment experts are seeing some type of trauma in virtually every patient that they treat. There are many forms of trauma, but they are all painful events, in which the victim didn’t have an empathetic witness. For many, treating unresolved trauma is the key to their recovery.

Summary of Hope

If we can recognize a problem, we can take steps to solve it. Sometimes we try to bury our feelings instead of dealing with them. After all, if we can drive through a fast food provider, we can get a tasty treat. We’d like for our problems to be solved just as quickly. Our problems are more complicated than a Big Mac or a Cinnabon—they’re often passed down from generation to generation. We need time, prayer, reflection, and self compassion to rebuild a new, more positive self image.

We are always a people of hope! We have help from a positive community who’ll help our goals come to pass. Ask for help from a caregiver, rather than a second helping of dessert or another round of drinks. Our new life can begin as soon as we want it to.

Joy and Peace, Cornie

More information:

Risk Factors for Health Associated With Obesity

Along with being overweight or obese, the following conditions will put you at greater risk for heart disease and other conditions. Also, a person can have weight appropriate for their height and build, but still have these risk factors due to a poor diet or family history/genetics.

• High blood pressure (hypertension)

• High LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol)

• Low HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol)

• High triglycerides

• High blood glucose (sugar)

• Family history of premature heart disease

• Physical inactivity

• Cigarette smoking

The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on weight and health. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/educational/lose_wt/risk.htm

Moderate alcohol use for healthy adults:

Women of all ages and men older than age 65—one drink a day

Men age 65 and younger—up to two drinks a day

Examples of one drink include: Beer: 12 fluid ounces (355 milliliters)

Wine: 5 fluid ounces (148 milliliters)

Ten percent of Americans consume an average of 10 drinks daily

Ten percent of Americans consume an average of 2.2 drinks daily

Thirty percent of Americans consume no alcohol at all.

Weekly Alcohol Use in America

SOURCES:

Michelle Milgrim, R.D., manager, employee wellness, Northwell Health, New Hyde Park, N.Y.; Katrina Hartog, M.P.H., R.D., clinical nutrition manager, Lenox Hill Hospital, New York City; Arizona State University, news release, Aug. 7, 2019

https://consumer.healthday.com/vitamins-and-nutrition-information-27/obesity-health-news-505/fast-food-joints-on-your-way-to-work-your-waistline-may-widen-748957.html

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IS COGNITIVE DECLINE INEVITABLE?

My mind goes often to this non planet

If I knew where my mind was, I’d be able to find it. 
My mind goes to Pluto at the drop of a hat. 
What did I come into this room to get?
And where did I park my car?

As we age, we lose brain cells. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it. My mother claimed we kids were responsible for the early grey in her hair and its white was the result of the loss of brain cells, which she attributed to our wild ways driving her crazy. Neurons in the brain do die every day, but the brain grows new ones into a person’s seventies. 

Previous research suggests cognitive decline doesn’t begin before the age of 60, but this view isn’t universally accepted by scientists, much less the common public. We all have met people who’ve quit growing intellectually in their 30’s, while some have flexible minds and continue to learn new ideas and adjust their previously held thoughts when new information is presented. Some people’s capacity for memory, reasoning and comprehension skills (cognitive function) can start to deteriorate from age 45. 

Happy Birthday—Don’t return the favor.

This is why 40 was once considered “over the hill,” but folks today think of 50 as that apex. When my brother decorated my desk with dead plants and black balloons for my 40th birthday, I’m sure he meant it with tongue in cheek. However he might have been also alluding to my well known “space ranger” wandering mind. I don’t think I had cognitive decline; rather mine was more imaginative daydreaming, also known as “not paying attention.”

When I was 60, I watched a program on dementia and cognitive decline. The difference between forgetfulness and cognitive decline is the first happens occasionally and the latter affects your daily living negatively. On my recent vacation I forgot to bring toothpaste. I bought a tube at the grocery store. Cognitive decline is when you forget how to brush your teeth, you get cavities, and don’t make dentist appointments anymore. Then you lose the teeth and get dentures. Most likely someone also has to remind you to use the bubble cleaner on them and rinse them before they go in your mouth again. 
Since understanding cognitive aging will be one of the challenges of this century, especially as life expectancy continues to rise, we have to ask, what can we do to for our whole health? 

As easy as popping a pill sounds, a large recent review of studies found no solid evidence that vitamin and mineral supplements have any effect in preventing cognitive decline or dementia. The whole internet is full of health claims for this and that supplement, drink, bar, or detox tonic. While B vitamins; beta carotene; vitamins C, D or E; zinc, copper or selenium may be needed in your diet for other reasons, none of these have proved effective in preventing cognitive decline. 

How can you prevent cognitive decline? Try this combination strategy:
Four steps can improve your mental skills, even as you age—
1. following a healthy diet, 
2. getting regular exercise, 
3. socializing, and 
4. challenging your brain.

The results of the Finnish Geriatric Intervention Study to Prevent Cognitive Impairment and Disability (FINGER), which is the latest and most impressive study, goes a step further by suggesting that if you follow all four practices, you may even reverse lost mental capacity. The FINGER study indicated those who did so not only kept cognitive skills from declining, it also improved their reasoning skills and speed in performing mental tasks.

The volunteers were randomly assigned to two groups. One set of participants—the study group—received personal nutritional counseling, exercise instruction from physical therapists, and cognitive training. They also underwent seven medical exams during the study period. They frequently met in groups for cooking classes, cognitive training, or exercise instruction. The other participants—the control group—had three medical exams, during which they received general health advice. Both groups were given mental function tests again at the end of the study.

Dr. Scott McGinnis, a neurologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women’s Hospital and author of The Harvard Guide to Coping with Alzheimer’s Disease, says “Healthy lifestyle behaviors can benefit people of all ages. But to have the greatest impact on late-life mental function, get started early.” 

The FINGER study’s results should offer additional encouragement to pursue a healthy, active, engaged lifestyle with regular exercise, a Mediterranean diet, and challenging mental activities because these can help preserve your mental acuity. Moreover, the FINGER study reminds us it not only helps to combine these practices, but it also helps to enjoy them as we do them. 

This wasn’t a quick fix, either. The FINGER program lasted for two years and the participants stuck with it because they were enjoying themselves. They also had become friends with others in their training groups. Although the experiment was demanding, only 12% of participants dropped out. Plus, these folks worked at their exercise—attendance was over 85% at training sessions, which included three to five exercise sessions a week, as well as 10 to 12 sessions of nutrition counseling and 144 cognitive training sessions over two years.

If you’re having trouble making healthy changes, a cooking or exercise class may help you get started and open a new circle of friends. Volunteering as a tutor, joining a community choir, or working on a political campaign can offer new intellectual challenges and social engagement. The key to making lifestyle changes is in finding a way to enjoy making them—and that is often among a group of companions who are striving for the same goal. 

Fresh vegetables and Chicken breast in Olive oil

We all make a choice in our lives. If we want good health, but don’t want to give up our television programs, we either need to pick an exercise time outside of our favorite TV shows, or hit a gym with screens. For instance, I still eat fried chicken, but only on my vacation. I eat uncured bacon on Saturdays rather than every day, and pancakes once a month. I haven’t given up my favorite foods, but I’ve put a limit on the most unhealthy ones out of respect for my body. This gives me some room for when I feel the need to self medicate with two scoops of ice cream, as when my computer died last month and I had to replace it. Making a big decision is definitely an ice cream moment for me, but I don’t need it every day anymore. 

One of my goals at Cornie’s Kitchen is to learn new skills and information to benefit the majority of persons in our world today: half of Americans and 30% of the world’s population are obese or overweight, and the cardiovascular diseases associated with obesity are increasing worldwide also. Since our children are also impacted by this health risk, we have to change our way of looking at food, exercise, time, stress, life, work, and our means of balancing the competing and complex needs in our world. 

If I can’t wave a magic wand over you, say a magic spell, or cast a potion of power over you, then at least I can help you burn through a few brain cells. They’ll grow back. Grey hair is a sign of power and wisdom.  

Joy and Peace, 

Cornie 

RABBIT! RABBIT! Welcome 2019!

Can you believe it’s already 2019? Time sure flies when you’re having fun. When I was a child, the days seemed interminable, but now I’m a seasoned senior, I can’t seem to find enough hours to do everything I have in mind. I’m either slowing down or time is moving faster. I’m thinking it’s the former! Or there’s some weird Doppler effect that falls around our aging bodies, but doesn’t affect the younger generation among whom we live. Then again, I may have just decided to live at a slower pace because I want to and I no longer am constrained by outer forces such as schedules, paychecks, or responsibilities.

CAN WE TEACH AN OLD DOG NEW TRICKS?
A new year is always a good time to turn over a new leaf. Contrary to popular myth, a dog’s capacity for learning generally doesn’t decline during the aging process. In fact, older dogs may have a more developed attention span than puppies, which can actually make the training process a little faster. They might need extra training to unlearn bad habits, but they can acquire good ones in their place.

KUNG FU MASTERS
Since human beings are smarter than dogs, we can all change behaviors that drive us or our loved ones to distraction. As a survivor of decades of broken resolutions, I think picking one specific behavior on which to focus is better than choosing a general goal, such as “I’m going to get healthy this year.” This overgeneralized goal has too many moving parts to it. Bruce Lee, or some Kung fu master, might be able to pick a whirling ninja throwing star out of thin air in mid spin without slicing off any bodily appendages, but we ordinary mortals will be riding in a speeding ambulance, hoping for a five star surgeon at the end of the route.

SHORT TERM GOALS
When I sold insurance, I would focus each week on a specific goal. For one week only, I would be the best cold caller, and the next I’d give the best service, followed by the next week of setting the most future appointments, and the next week of closing sales. In a month, I’d hit every skill and then I’d repeat the cycle. I was always fresh, always excited, and had a short term goal to accomplish on the way to the long term goal of making a living helping people while being paid on commission.

MAKE LONG TERM GOALS INTO SHORT GOALS
Many of us work in occupations with long term goals. These are difficult to meet, but having short term goals along the way to celebrate helps us keep our attitudes positive. When we look at the long year looming ahead, we might be overwhelmed. It we take one day at a time, or a week at the most, Life is more manageable. If we want to “be healthier,” we can chop this goal into several parts:
1. Sleep 7-8 hours per night
2. Drink 8 glasses of decaf non-sugared liquids a day (half water)
3. Eat more fiber, vegetables, and whole grains
4. Eat less processed foods and more home cooked foods
5. Exercise 30 minutes to an hour daily or a minimum of 150 minutes weekly
6. Reduce our sugar intake (sweetened beverages)
7. Quit smoking or reduce our nicotine use
8. Limit our alcohol to 1 drink daily for women or 2 drinks for men

SURVIVOR ISLAND
If we were to attempt this entire change all at once, we might last at most a week, unless we were under lock and key, or offered a giant reward in some “Survivor: New Year’s Resolution Island” spin-off. However, we could achieve at least one of these goals if we worked on them just one week at a time. If we make to week 8, we can feel comfortable adding in some of the other week’s behavior goals, but not all at once, when we go for months three and four. The whole purpose is to change and transform a person, not to institute a structure from the outside which they will resist or reject the moment life gets in the way.

THE ART OF PICKING A GOAL
Trust me, at some point in 2019, life will throw a monkey wrench into the best laid plans of everyone. It always does. This is when we discover if we’ve made new habits, or if we’re just play acting. By Valentine’s Day, 80% of New Years resolutions will lay beside the road of good intentions. I think this isn’t because we are failures, but because we pick the wrong resolutions. Pick a small, achievable, and measurable goal instead.

“Losing weight” is a lesser goal, since it is measurable, but it may not be achieved in a healthy manner. Drinking red pepper water isn’t healthy. Eating only 500 calories a day isn’t healthy. We have to eat enough to cover our basic metabolic needs.

“Writing an hour a day” is measurable and attainable, and it serves a purpose. We don’t have to be paid for everything we do. Our spiritual and mental health may depend on this hour well spent! Whatever goal you pick, give yourself permission to come close on most days and to try your best on all days.

GOALS AND GRACE
Some days the monkey wrench will mean 25% is all you can give as your best. Give yourself permission to celebrate achieving that much, pick yourself up, and try with God’s help for better tomorrow. We always get a fresh start at the dawn of a new day, for each sunrise is a new beginning, as if it were the first day of the rest of your life. Therefore, every day is a little new year, for there’s 365 days to follow it! Rabbit! Rabbit! Happy New Year!

Joy and Peace, Cornelia

Archaic Torso of Apollo
By RAINER MARIA RILKE, 1908

We cannot know his legendary head
with eyes like ripening fruit. And yet his torso
is still suffused with brilliance from inside,
like a lamp, in which his gaze, now turned to low,

gleams in all its power. Otherwise
the curved breast could not dazzle you so, nor could
a smile run through the placid hips and thighs
to that dark center where procreation flared.

Otherwise this stone would seem defaced
beneath the translucent cascade of the shoulders
and would not glisten like a wild beast’s fur:

would not, from all the borders of itself,
burst like a star: for here there is no place
that does not see you. You must change your life.

Rilke was secretary to the artist Henri Rodin in 1905-1906.

From Ahead of All Parting: Selected Poetry and Prose of Rainer Maria Rilke, translated by Stephen Mitchell and published by Modern Library. © 1995

This is the Japanese zodiac year of the Boar. Instead of my usual rabbits, I’m celebrating with a poem in homage to Ancient Greek art as well as Japanese art with New Year themes.

https://komabatimes.wordpress.com/2015/07/13/junishi-the-unknown-aspect-of-the-japanese-zodiac/

Toyohiro Utagawa: Tai no yume Ebisu no soroban or The red snapper’s dream: Ebisu using an abacus.

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

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Almond flour whole wheat berry pancakes

Sometimes we find ourselves between a rock and a hard place, or as the literary types like to say, between Scylla and Charybdis. Trust me, Odysseus, Aeneas, and Jason of the Argonauts all found this crucial spot. When we have to make a difficult choice or deal with dangers in our lives, having a hero who’s gone before us helps to handle these difficulties. Sometimes both choices might lead to a harm, although a different type depending on our choice. Then we have to “pick our poison,” as another saying goes. This applies to sweetening agents, either real or artificial.

CRAVING SWEETS

“The best thing about pie is ice cream” is one of my family’s oldest mottos. Everything is better with a bit or a lot of ice cream on it. And don’t give me the fake stuff I “get to eat a whole pint” of that doesn’t feel right across my tongue. I want a little bit of real things infrequently, rather than a Lot of Not.

One concern about artificial sweeteners is they affect our body’s ability to gauge how many calories we consume. Some studies show sugar and artificial sweeteners affect the brain in different ways. The human brain responds to sweetness with signals to eat more. By providing a sweet taste without any calories, however, artificial sweeteners cause us to crave more sweet foods and drinks, which can add up to excess calories.

That is, if we stoke the flames of fire’s desire, but don’t give it fuel with zero calories diet food, we have to eat something extra anyway. Who among us hasn’t justified the extra cookies with the diet cokes we’ve swilled all day? I always drank black coffee so I could have apple fritters—for the fat, sugar, carbohydrate trifecta. Mind games!

At the University of California-San Diego, researchers performed functional MRI scans as volunteers took small sips of water sweetened with sugar or sucralose (Splenda). Sugar activated regions of the brain involved in food reward, while Splenda didn’t. It is possible, the authors say, that sucralose “may not fully satisfy a desire for natural caloric sweet ingestion.” So, while sugar signals a positive feeling of reward, artificial sweeteners may not be an effective way to manage a craving for sweets.

As we say in the Kitchen, That ain’t good. This means all our eating and drinking of artificially sweetened is just setting us up for the desire to have the real thing.

WAYBACK MACHINE STATEMENT

A 2011 statement from the American Heart Association and American Diabetes Association concluded that when used judiciously, non-nutritive sweeteners (including very low-calorie sweeteners, artificial sweeteners, and non-caloric sweeteners) might help with weight loss or control, and could also have beneficial metabolic effects. The statement also points out, however, that these potential benefits will not be fully realized if there is a compensatory increase in energy intake from other sources—ultimately saying that at this time there are insufficient data to make a conclusive determination about using non-nutritive sweeteners; more research is needed.

PLAIN ENGLISH TRANSLATION

Using low or no calorie sweeteners with good judgement and in moderation for a short time duration might help with weight loss or control. However, if we replace our “saved calories” with “other calories,” we might cancel out all our good efforts. Since we can’t keep people in a managed food program and monitor everyone’s calorie intake and exercise expenditure 24/7/365, “more research is needed.” If only there were an alarm bell on the chocolate pudding cups in the ice box, I wouldn’t be able to sneak them out under cover of the dark of the night.

To date, the FDA has approved the use of six artificial sweeteners; each one is far sweeter than regular sugar. They include:


One natural low-calorie sweetener, stevia, has not yet been evaluated by the FDA.

• Stevia is a non-caloric sweetener made from the leaves of a shrub that grows in South and Central America.

• Stevia is about 300 times sweeter than sugar.

• A number of major soft drink companies have begun launching stevia-sweetened beverages, sometimes combining stevia with erythritol, a sugar alcohol.

• There are no long-term studies of the health effects of stevia.

Sugar alcohols
Erythritol and xylitol are sugar alcohols, a class of compounds that have been used for decades to sweeten chewing gum, candy, fruit spreads, toothpaste, cough syrup, and other products. Newer, cheaper ways to make sugar alcohols from corn, wood, and other plant materials, along with their sugar-like taste, are fueling their use in a growing array of foods.

THE LATEST UPDATE

Artificial sweeteners may damage blood vessels

I think everyone has at least one friend who will not eat carbohydrates or sugar in any form, as these are forbidden food choices on their meal plans.

Many modern PALEO and KETO diets all but ignore the foods studied in the science based random controlled studies (the gold standard). Some folks go whole hog any avoid anything white, just on principle. This will get you in trouble later on. Trust me. Hang in there.

THE SCIENCE PALEO DIET: The principal components of this diet are wild-animal source and uncultivated-plant source foods, such as lean meat, fish, vegetables, fruits, roots, eggs, and nuts. The diet excludes grains, legumes, dairy products, salt, refined sugar, and processed oils, all of which were unavailable before humans began cultivating plants and domesticating animals. Remember “White isn’t right?” And I said that would get you in trouble?

Notice the big food group avoided here—dairy. One cup of milk, a thick slice of real cheese, and a cup of yogurt meets your calcium needs. An 8 ounce glass of Almond Milk rings up 20% of your calcium, while cow’s milk has 30% RDA. Coconut milk has only 10% calcium. Or 2 1/2 Cups of almonds at 2,041 calories will get your RDA in. This is 5.9 pounds of almonds, or 2 giant bags from Sam’s Club for a whopping expense of $28 in one day.

Probably a stomachache bill the next day also, but this is just “Dr. Cornie,” talking. Remember, I’m not a real doctor—I only act like one when I’m teasing you about dumb diet tricks we all have tried in the past. Now we’ve survived, so we can laugh about it.

Observational studies of modern-day Paleolithic types of populations support a conclusion that a Paleolithic diet prevents obesity and metabolic syndrome. The main ingredient lacking in a Paleolithic diet is calcium, which must be supplemented to prevent bone mineral loss. (I would add also these people spend significant amounts of time in exercise to acquire their food, do labor intensive subsistence work to provide for their families and communities, and have few, if any modern transportation devices.)

WHAT WE DID NOT KNOW THEN

One song with two verses got sung over and over again in the church preschool because the kids couldn’t get enough of it. In education, I learned to read with phonics, the next generation went to whole words, a few more theories came down the pike, and then phonics came around again.

The same cycle of thought has hit our nutrient groups, partly because we’re still building on the knowledge gained by previous generations. While our grandparents may have known enough to get through their world, they were eating out of their own gardens or bought food from those who brought it in from a local farm.

My grandmother’s laundry in the garage had a hand cranked washing machine with a washboard on it. We lived in the city and thought we were fancy pants because we had this tool. It replaced the old double wash tubs in the same building. I counted myself privileged when I got to stand on a chair to turn the crank in the cool darkness of the old place because I was big enough to help.

Now we have washers that look like they belong on spaceships. These can do intimates or work jeans with equal ease, and dry them in the companion contraption next to it. If only they were self loading, I would be in hog heaven. I can still remember hanging wet clothes out on the lines out back behind the garage when I was a girl. Just as our laundry chores have changed, research on food has come a long way.

WHAT WE KNOW TODAY: SOLID GROUND

We now know sugar, consumed in large amounts, increases the risk of a range of health concerns. Artificial sweeteners may also have similar consequences, but through completely different biochemical pathways. So, which is safest: sugar or artificial sweeteners? Is this the rock or the hard place?

1. Excessive sugar intake has been conclusively paired with obesity, diabetes, and cardiovascular disease — all of which are now solidly tied to the overconsumption of sugar.

2. As sugar’s sweet reputation grew steadily more sour, artificial sweeteners took the opportunity to rise to fame. We now have evidence consuming large amounts of these chemicals could also lead to obesity and metabolic disorders.

But “all that glitters is not gold.” Increasingly, I read studies published that reject artificial sweeteners’ whiter-than-white image. I’m convinced enough by this evidence to begin reducing my own intake of Sucralose.

I’m not replacing it with any natural sweetener, just halving my use. I already limited my soda intake to a single serving per day for bone density health, so I won’t miss those. I’ve added decaffeinated herb teas to my iced tea mix for extra sweet flavor, so the less sweetener doesn’t seem drastic. If you decide to limit your intake, I suggest a tapering off, since you need to get your tastebuds adjusted to the new sensation. Also, your brain needs a chance to rewire itself.

Next week, I’ll take a fresh look at sweeteners. I hope you have a good week, friends. Love, Cornie

Tide Pod Donuts—NO.

NO. Tide Pods Challenge transformed into Edibles.

A doughnut shop in Missouri has gone with the stream and made a themed treat after the Tide Pod Challenge. As a proponent of healthy eating, I don’t think two wrongs ever make a right. The doughnut isn’t a poison, like the laundry detergent, but for some of us, it remains a toxic food.

For persons with metabolic syndrome, glucose intolerance, diabetes, PCOS, or any other insulin resistant condition, the doughnut’s combination of fat, sugar and flour and high carbohydrates is a dangerous pill to swallow. When I was young, I could eat these treats.

As my body has aged, my pancreas no longer responds to a high carbohydrate diet. I find I can’t lose weight if I have 40 grams of carbs at one sitting. This cancels out pasta, one of my favorite foods. Instead, I’ve been making pasta from zucchini and summer squash, two very low glycemic vegetables. I limit pasta to once a week treats.

I keep a food diary, so I know what is working. I only make one change at a time, so I can tell if it makes a difference. I keep things simple. Also, it’s less stress to change one thing and get it part of your lifestyle before you make another change. For those of you who are all or nothing folks, my guess is you went on a “complete whole change” on January First, and are back at square one now. That’s why this practice is called all or nothing—it usually winds up as nothing.

Small, consistent changes over a long period of time will prove out for steady results, which will hold up for the duration. It takes an average 66 days to build a habit. Some folks take as many as 254 days to get in the groove. We’d like for it to be 21 days, which is the common myth, but like eating Tide Pod Donuts, the sweet thing isn’t always the right thing for us.

TWELVE DAYS OF CHRISTMAS TREES

Some of us toss out the living room Christmas tree on December 26th, because it’s been up since Thanksgiving Day. Christmas Day begins the 12 days of Christmas, a celebration that ends on January 6th with the visit of the wise men to the baby Jesus’s birthplace. You can make variations of the Christmas tree with pancakes and eat them for supper or breakfast.

Make them with whole wheat flour and get the whole grain benefits. Cornie’s BASIC PANCAKE RECIPE is at the link below. SparkRecipes requires a free account to login, but it gets you access to a recipe calculator. This is a handy tool you can use to input your own recipes and figure the calories, carbs, and protein figures of your meals.

https://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=2829882

In the new year, we can be more conscious of our health by knowing what we eat and how it affects our health. I reworked my traditional family recipes to cut the fat, salt, and carbohydrates so I could avoid the diabetes which runs in my family. This isn’t something a person can do cold turkey or make the change all at once, but by cutting back these three things a little at a time over a period of a year, my tastebuds adjusted to the new normal.

Best wishes for the days to come! Better health for all of us!

Love, Cornie