Rabbit! Rabbit! Welcome to April!

Spring has Sprung

“April showers bring May flowers” is a bit of bunny weather wisdom passed down through the generations. Another bunny adage is “if you don’t like the weather, wait a bit and it will change, but you might not like that either.” When I moved to Arkansas, I was warned by every bunny not to put up all of my seasonal clothes just because of a warm or a cool spell, since the weather would change back soon enough. I’m currently switching back and forth from the heat to the air conditioning in my condo.

The weather caught Mark Twain’s attention back in December, 1876, as he spoke to The New England Society’s annual dinner at Delmonico’s restaurant in New York City, as recorded in the New York Times newspaper.

“In the spring I have counted one hundred and thirty-six different kinds of weather inside of four and twenty hours. [Laughter.] It was I that made the fame and fortune of that man that had that marvelous collection of weather on exhibition at the Centennial that so astounded the foreigners. He was going to travel all over the world and get specimens from all the climes. I said, “Don’t you do it; you come to New England on a favorable spring day.”

Dressed for the Weather

I told him what we could do, in the way of style, variety, and quantity. [Laughter.] Well, he came, and he made his collection in four days. As to variety—why, he confessed that he got hundreds of kinds of weather that he had never heard of before. And as to quantity—well, after he had picked out and discarded all that was blemished in any way, he not only had weather enough, but weather to spare; weather to hire out; weather to sell; to deposit; weather to invest; weather to give to the poor. [Laughter.]

The people of New England are by nature patient and forbearing; but there are some things which they will not stand. Every year they kill a lot of poets for writing about Beautiful Spring.” [Laughter.] These are generally casual visitors, who bring their notions of spring from somewhere else, and cannot, of course, know how the natives feel about spring. And so, the first thing they know, the opportunity to inquire how they feel has permanently gone by. [Laughter.]”

This spring had a strange feel for us bunnies, for it’s the first in our great national experience of the coronavirus pandemic. Actually, it’s a worldwide experience, so it’s not just within our borders, but a disease that respects no person or bunny, no matter their age or social status. Yet life goes on, we bunnies must eat, governments must address this crisis, hospitals must treat the sick, and critical workers must show up to keep supply chains going. The bunnies who deliver bread, grocery items, and drive trucks never seemed so important than now.

An Easter Tradition

In the midst of our dislocations, we see signs of spring—trees leafing out and flowers blooming. Always before we bunnies have seen these as signs of hope, and we have no reason to change. Every year the earth renews, even if the spring is late or early. The season’s timing isn’t up to us or even to a date on the calendar, but it comes when it’s ready. “For everything there is a season, and a time for every matter under heaven,” the writer of Ecclesiastes 3:1 reminds us. Phillip Larkin’s poem “The Trees” expresses a similar sentiment:

The trees are coming into leaf
Like something almost being said;
The recent buds relax and spread,
Their greenness is a kind of grief.

Is it that they are born again
And we grow old? No, they die too,
Their yearly trick of looking new
Is written down in rings of grain.

Yet still the unresting castles thresh
In fullgrown thickness every May.
Last year is dead, they seem to say,
Begin afresh, afresh, afresh.

DeLee: Trees Along the Greenway

The great season of renewal in the Christian Church is celebrated on Easter. However in ordinary times, the bunny most in need of new life on Easter is the pastor, since the Energizer Bunny can’t hold a candle to a pastor in the usual throes of Holy Week celebrations in the Christian church. The great Bon Jovi, rock god and patron saint of all clergy once said, “You get to sleep when you’re dead.” The clergy are usually on a mad dash toward Easter and all its attendant excitement, not to mention the extra Holy Week services preceding the celebration of the resurrection of Christ. Therefore, I bring my bunny friends some very strong Turkish coffee, espresso roast, for your delight and fortitude.

Next Year in Jerusalem!

The usual madhouse in the Christian church leading up to Easter Sunday is often filled with the adult choir cantata and the children’s musical program, plus the community Easter egg hunt, not to mention additional services weekly during Lent and more services for Holy Thursday, Good Friday, Easter Sunrise, and Easter Day. Then the energizer bunnies add in the food baskets for the home bound and the poor. In the small towns where I served, the family holidays often brought on added counseling, since some families put the “fun back into dysfunctional behaviors.” By the time we got to my Easter Sermon, often it was fueled by adrenaline and an excess of caffeine, and then I crashed for a day afterwards. My bunny battery had finally run out of juice.

Energetic Energizer Bunny

A group of wild rabbits living together is called a fluffle or a colony. They aren’t solitary creatures, nor are we humans. Perhaps this is why bunnies are so easily anthropomorphized. Not only do we have Peter Rabbit from Beatrice Potter, but we have Bugs Bunny of Walt Disney fame. In the age of coronavirus, however, our meeting together in person has gone to the wayside for the sake of our health. After Mardi Gras on February 25, Louisiana reported its first case of covid-19 on March 9, and then we learned Arkansas’s first case of coronavirus in Jefferson County, confirmed on March 11, had been in New Orleans for Marci Gras. New Orleans is now a regional hot spot, and Louisiana has been declared a disaster area due to the novel coronavirus.

Peter wasn’t feeling well, so his mother gave him chamomile tea.

Even before the Arkansas Governor’s declaration of a public health emergency on March 11th and his order to close the schools and public meeting places on March 15, 2020, an Arkansas church held an event for children on the weekend of March 6-8. Many who attended became ill with the virus, including the deacon and pastor, according to a Facebook post on behalf of the church. As of March 29, three church members have died of the coronavirus. At the time of the event, however, the state had no confirmed cases of coronavirus. Staying home as much as possible will help prevent future spread of the coronavirus, which is highly contagious and can be spread by persons who don’t appear to be symptomatic.

How will we bunnies celebrate the resurrection this year? Perhaps it’s best to see our empty church as a symbol of the empty tomb—just as the tomb could not hold the resurrected Christ, the church can’t hold the renewed Christian body. We are still the body of Christ even if we aren’t inside the church, and Christ can use our hands to change the world for the sake of his kingdom.

The Resurrection by Matthias Grünewald

As we face a troubled time, we can still experience the disciples’ loss of hope when they saw their leader taken away, imprisoned, and crucified. Even when they saw the empty tomb, they didn’t believe in the resurrection, but only that Jesus was no longer there, for someone had removed him. The disciples went into hiding, or went back to their old gigs. Only the women believed in his resurrection, because they saw him and heard him.

In this day and age, every bunny may have times of lost hope. They’ll “hang the crepe,” as my nanny would say, in preparation for the impending death to come. “Things will never be the same again!” There will be bunnies who wail and moan, as they gnash their teeth and predict the end of life as we know it.

Perhaps life as we once knew it needed to change! All living systems change, if they want to live on, so we will also change and live. Were there injustices of economics and access in the world before coronavirus? Just as in the pre Dust Bowl era, some workers had few protections in dangerous industries, now some workers have few lifelines due to the gig economy. If we can’t protect our most fragile bunnies, our whole fluffle will be harmed. The good we can wrest from this bad situation is to reassess our vulnerabilities and strengthen our communities for the future, for we bunnies are best when we all pull together.

Care for those who provide labor in our economy.

If this year we forego the fluffle gathering around the family ham, and instead share ham sandwiches over FaceTime, let’s share a blessing over this meal too. If we insist on family togetherness, we might all be in the hospital together, and run the risk of sickening those who care for the community. We can Easter egg hunt at thanksgiving, if we just have to, or maybe Labor Day. The coronavirus will pick the timeline for our traditions.

Remember your family systems teachings: when the in laws and out laws start putting their two cents in, don’t have unreasonable expectations of harmony. This leads to unfulfilled desires, tensions, and meltdowns worse than a marshmallow peep on a hot stovetop.

My measured guess is we bunnies don’t sleep enough to have our brain cells fire completely, or we aren’t drinking good enough coffee. More sleep and good coffee might cure most of our stress. Not trying to force square pegs into round holes would solve the rest.

I hope my clergy pals in the bunny world scheduled some time off after Easter. You deserve it! For myself, I keep the same schedule seven days a week, even if I’m retired. I work on my creative projects in the mornings and do errands and housework in the afternoon. Keeping an orderly life, eating regularly scheduled meals, and staying engaged with the world for the sake of Christ and his mission helps me keep a steady perspective on life. I hope each of you take the time to reflect on what will work for you.

Stay healthy, my bunnies, I love you.

Joy and Peace,
Cornelia

Basic Rabbit Facts—https://rabbit.org/basic-rabbit-facts/

Mark Twain Weather Speech—http://www.twainquotes.com/18761223.html

The Isenheim Altarpiece—https://www.atlasobscura.com/places/the-isenheim-altarpiece-colmar-france

OH REALLY? But is this a HEALTHY idea?

The angel debates the devil

Scientists say “Eating dark chocolate may reduce depression risk.”

I’m all over this idea! My first question is, “How much chocolate and how often?” Then I listen to the better angel on my other shoulder, who whispers, “You know the cinnamon and blood sugar connection? A sprinkle of cinnamon doesn’t move your sugar in the right direction. It takes large amounts—like a horse pill’s worth!”

That horse pill is 1 gram of cinnamon, which if taken for 30 or 60 days in a controlled double blind trial, still had no effect on blood sugar for persons with type II diabetes. Other studies using 2 grams of cinnamon per day did lower blood sugar. Cinnamon used as a food ingredient, sprinkle, or taste enhancer is generally regarded as safe to use, but it doesn’t lower blood sugar. I still sprinkle my Greek yogurt and fruit with cinnamon every morning, but that’s because I like the taste.

Greek yogurt with cocoa and cinnamon

If you want to begin taking cassia cinnamon supplements, talk to your physician if you have liver disease, diabetes, or you’re pregnant. Cassia cinnamon has the potential to interact with a variety of different medications, including those used to control diabetes.

I can hold out for a magic potion and keep the fanciful notion of one simple pill to cure my ills, or I can accept diabetes and metabolic syndrome as complex conditions that are affected by my genetics, the food I eat, the quality of my sleep, my life stressors, and even the exercise I get daily. In truth, I do want a magic potion, but I’d really like magic Twinkie dust: why can’t my condition just be wiped away? I need a fairy godmother, one who’ll bring the dark chocolate in buckets when she comes to visit.

Magic Chocolate Cupcakes

As a personal experiment, I’ve tried Twinkie Dust in the form of chocolate cupcakes. When I was in grad school, I can attest if an afternoon Hostess Chocolate Cupcake made me happy, having one for breakfast and dinner made me really happy, or at least it did for several days. After five days, the thought of another chocolate iced cupcake with cream filling inside began to make my stomach churn and my lip curl. After choking down one small cake for breakfast, and looking inside the box to count the number still left, I wondered if I’d gotten my money’s worth. That is, could I toss these ever expanding treats in the trash and not feel bad? My frugal angel was debating with my don’t waste food angel. My frugal angel won—I kept hearing my parents saying, “people are starving in China.”

I’m happy, how ‘bout you?

A recent study at the Nutrition Resource Center claims individuals who ate dark chocolate appeared less likely to exhibit clinically relevant depressive symptoms, according to findings recently published in Depression & Anxiety.

“Previous studies have not adequately controlled for variables that may potentially confound the association between chocolate and depression, such as socioeconomic status. Moreover, previous studies have not examined the association with depression according to the type of chocolate consumed,” Sarah E. Jackson, PhD, CPsychol, of the department of behavioral science and health at University College London, and colleagues wrote.

They reviewed National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey between 2007 to 2008 and 2013 to 2014 and Public Health Questionnaire-9 scores from 13,626 adults 20 years of age and older to fill in this research gap.

Chocolate helps elevate the mood

Jackson and colleagues found that 11.1% of those that were studied reported eating any type of chocolate and that 1.4% reported consuming dark chocolate.

“Individuals who reported any dark chocolate consumption had 70% lower odds of reporting clinically relevant depressive symptoms than those who did not report any chocolate consumption.”

In addition, analysis showed that after adjusting for dark chocolate consumption, those who reported eating the most chocolate — between 104 g (3.67 ounces) and 454 g (16 ounces) a day — had 57% lower odds of depressive symptoms than those who reported no chocolate consumption.

When I read this statement of how much dark chocolate the 1.4% (191) of the 13,626 adults studied were consuming, my first thought was, “How much chocolate does the average American eat per year?” After all, 4 ounces seems high, but a pound of chocolate is humongous.

Americans consume 2.8 billion pounds of chocolate each year, or over 11 pounds per person, or 14.67 ounces per month. The Swiss, the world’s top consumers, eat 8.8 kilograms of chocolate each year (19.4 pounds).

Death by Chocolate

This amount of chocolate the small group of super consumers in the aforementioned study eats is (slightly less than) 4 ounces to 16 ounces daily. A normal serving of chocolate is 28 grams or 1 oz.

Fortunately, the median lethal dose for humans is 1000 milligrams per kilogram of body weight. That means that an 80 kg (176 pounds) human would have to eat 5.7 kg (12.6 pounds) of unsweetened dark chocolate at one sitting for it to kill them (going by a theobromine content of 14 milligrams per gram of dark chocolate, although it varies).

Two day Survey

Another fact was the researchers only recorded for this study the participants’ food intake for two 24-hour periods. It’s easy to argue that this might not reflect someone’s standard food intake over a week, let alone across months or years.

I wonder if some yahoos in the group were goofing with the information: “You want to know what I eat?! Ha! How bout a pound of chocolate!” Of course, not one of Cornie’s Kitchen peeps would ever do any such silly or sophomoric thing in a scientific study. Of course you wouldn’t!

Chocolate as a Mood Booster

Chocolate is a Mood Booster

“The present results are in line with the majority of experimental studies, which have shown benefits of chocolate consumption for mood, at least in the short-term,” said the researchers.

Individuals who ate dark chocolate appeared less likely to exhibit clinically relevant depressive symptoms, according to findings recently published in Depression & Anxiety.

Of course, it’s also not realistic to make a 1% sample represent the masses. After all, if this were true in real life, we common folks would all vacation at Martha’s Vineyard and the Hampton’s, rather than camping on Lake Hamilton or in our backyards.

Benefits of cocoa

Antioxidant effects of cocoa may directly influence insulin resistance and, in turn, reduce risk for diabetes. Cocoa can protect nerves from injury and inflammation, protect the skin from oxidative damage from UV radiation in topical preparations, and have beneficial effects on satiety, cognitive function, and mood.

As cocoa is predominantly consumed as energy-dense chocolate, potential detrimental effects of overconsumption exist, including increased risk of weight gain. Overall, research to date suggests that the benefits of moderate cocoa or dark chocolate consumption likely outweigh the risks.

Where else can you find flavanols?

Dark chocolate and cocoa are not the only foods that contain flavanols. Many fruits and vegetables are rich in flavanols, including apples, red grapes, broccoli, cherry tomatoes, beans, kale, and onions.

Perhaps it’s no coincidence that a healthy diet is typically one that is high in fruits and vegetables and, as a result, high in flavanol content as well. However, studies examining the relationship between specific fruits and vegetables, dietary flavanol consumption, and brain function have not yet been performed.

Overall Wellness Recommendations

Remember, not all chocolate is the same. Dark chocolate and cocoa have high flavanol levels, while milk chocolate and white chocolate have much lower levels. In addition, many types of chocolate are high in sugar, fats, and calories. So, even if dark chocolate turns out to be good for the brain, it’s unlikely that doctors will recommend a Godiva bar a day.

As for preventive measures, the best recommendations are those your doctor would make anyway, such as regular exercise, choosing a healthy diet, maintaining a normal blood pressure, not smoking, and drinking only in moderation.

Tim Allen School of Personal Experience

Also, from the Tim Allen school of personal experience, I can guarantee an occasional cupcake is preferred to a dozen per week, or even a daily cupcake. The same goes for chocolate! I get my fix from 5 grams of cocoa stirred into my yogurt in the morning. Moreover, when we read these scientific studies, we can dig a little deeper to see if we should get excited about their conclusions or if they seem a tad exuberant for the results.

If you have feelings of hopelessness, a sadness that doesn’t go away, or difficulties with daily life or relationships, ask for a referral to a counselor from your family doctor. Talking about your feelings is better than keeping them bottled up inside.

NOTES:

Dark Chocolate and Depression

https://www.healio.com/family-medicine/nutrition-and-fitness/news/online/%7Bbe1d2457-ae6f-41a1-9d8d-c5636a7a0016%7D/eating-dark-chocolate-may-reduce-depression-risk

Chocolate

Hasanzade, Farzaneh et al. “The Effect of Cinnamon on Glucose of Type II Diabetes Patients.” Journal of traditional and complementary medicine vol. 3,3 (2013): 171-4. doi:10.4103/2225-4110.11490

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3924990/

Death by Chocolate

https://lostinscience.wordpress.com/2012/10/11/death-by-chocolate/

Cocoa and Chocolate in Human Health and Disease

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4696435/

Is there a link between dark chocolate and depression?

Tim Newman

https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/325944.php

Your brain on chocolate

Robert H. Shmerling, MD

https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/your-brain-on-chocolate-2017081612179

Double Chocolate Pudding Pie

I made pie for our condo game night party. My inspiration was the fruit kool-aid cool whip pie. Then my penchant for chocolate sent me to the chocolate pie recipes from the New York Times Cook Book and Epicurious for more inspiration. Somehow the lime kool-aid wasn’t exciting my fancy.

Best Pie Ever!

While I wasn’t about to do the double boiler chocolate and cream pudding thing for the pies baked from scratch, the spices in these recipes intrigued me. I also thought 0% fat Greek yogurt rather than skim milk for the instant pudding mix I had would be a healthy way to get extra protein into the dessert. If a little chocolate is good, more chocolate is better, I always say. I added 3 T cocoa and 1 tsp cinnamon plus 1/2 cup of coffee leftover from the morning to the mix. I had everything on hand but the crust and the cool whip or heavy cream, so I made a jaunt to Kroger. The cool whip was going to take too long to thaw, so I bought whipping cream, even though I don’t have a hand mixer.

Once I got home, I realized I was tired from the heat and the antibiotics I’m on weren’t helping me. But I had a party at the condo, and I wanted to be out and about, at least for a little while. So there I am, mixing all these ingredients with a fork in a large mixing bowl. Then I set it inside the refrigerator while i worked on the whipped topping. By this time, a tall glass of cold water with lemon slices and the air conditioning was reviving me.

Ingredients:
44 grams Chocolate fudge SF FF jello instant pudding or 1 box total
3 tbsp Hershey’s Cocoa 100% cacao Special Dark
0.5 serving 1 cup decaf coffee or 1/2 cup total
1 tsp Cinnamon, ground
8 oz Fage – 0%, plain (8oz) Greek yogurt

This was the easy part.

Whipped topping:
Whipping the cream might have gone as planned if I’d actually used the heavy cream I just purchased, but no—I left this in the plastic sack and used half and half instead. Perhaps I wasn’t as completely revived as I thought I was! About 10 minutes of hand whisking got the cream to soft peaks, and I slowly added 1 tsp vanilla extract and 1/4 cup Splenda to it. Then I whisked some more and gave up. I decided it would pass muster after a time in the freezer.

Ingredients:
16 tbsp KROGER half & half or 1 cup
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
12 tsp Splenda or 1/4 cup

Beat cream liquid until soft peaks form, then add slowly the vanilla and Splenda. Continue beating until combined. Fold cream mixture into the chocolate mix. If you use the half and half, you’ll never get stiff peaks. Don’t over-beat the heavy cream or you’ll get butter.

Ingredients:
168 grams Kroger chocolate graham pie crust or 1 whole pie crust
1 ounce of pecan halves

Once I folded the vanilla cream mix into the chocolate mix, I poured all of it into the crust, smoothed the top with the back of a spoon, and set the pie inside the ice box. I set the ounce of pecan halves around the edge to make it pretty. Ninety minutes later, it wasn’t set stiff enough for me, so I put it into the freezer for 20 minutes. This firmed it up fine.

You can make whipped cream even without a hand mixer or electric beater.
Use a well chilled glass or metal bowl much larger than one cup. If you use real heavy whipping cream, you’ll get the stiff peaks. Half and half doesn’t have enough fat to make that happen even if you whisk or beat all day long. Note the difference in calories, fat grams and cholesterol in the nutrition photos. If you’ve been on a lower fat meal plan for a while, the half and half is mighty rich tasting. You can make this pie both ways and see for yourself.

Nutritional Comparison of Half and Half vs. Heavy Cream Recipe

FINAL NOTES:
The chocolate pie was a hit, mostly because of the hints of coffee and cinnamon, but also because the tart Greek yogurt balances out the rich cream. It was also easy to make, and I was glad it was a forgiving recipe. Not all creative substitutions survive so well into the tasting experience.

This is a great summer dessert, since no cooking is required. It does need to set up in refrigerator for about 2 hours or go into the freezer for 45 minutes. Cut into 8 or 16 evenly sized pieces and eat immediately.

List of Ingredients:
44 grams Chocolate fudge SF FF jello instant pudding or 1 box total
3 tbsp Hershey’s Cocoa 100% cacao Special Dark
0.5 serving 1 cup decaf coffee or 1/2 cup total
1 tsp Cinnamon, ground
8 oz Fage – 0%, plain (8oz) Greek yogurt
16 tbsp KROGER half & half or 1 cup OR 1 cup heavy cream
1 tsp Vanilla Extract
12 tsp Splenda or 1/4 cup
168 grams Kroger chocolate graham pie crust/1 whole crust

Tools:
0. Large mixing bowl
0. 4 cup metal or glass bowl for chilling
0. Fork, large spoon, wire whisk, spatula
0. Measuring spoons & cups

Serving Size: Makes 8 regular sized pieces or 16 “tasting” sized pieces.

‘Stranger Things’ and Ice Cream

Stranger Things Upside Down Sundae

The star of Stranger Things, David Harbour says season three of the will be “lighter,” while also promising “all the dark stuff that we’re kind of known for.”

The two new flavors the Canton, Massachusetts-based chain plans to unveil are Eleven’s Heaven, a waffle cone-flavored ice cream with chocolate-coated sugar cone pieces and a chocolate-icing-flavored ribbon, and Upside Down Pralines, a chocolate ice cream with praline pecans and a chocolate-caramel flavored ribbon.

For those unfamiliar with the show, Eleven is the name of one of the key characters on Stranger Things, and the Upside Down is an alternate dimension on the series.

Baskin-Robbins and Netflix are also partnering to create a Scoops Ahoy ice-cream truck, a reference to the ice cream parlor that’s on the show. It will serve fans on the West Coast in June.

I’ve included the nutrition link for these specials. They’re entire meal portions in their own right. As snacks, they’d best be shared by two persons, so like don’t be strangers.

Upside Down Sundae —a sundae made with Upside Down Pralines, but built upside down with the toppings on the bottom

Demogorgon Sundae —a waffle bowl sundae that looks like a Demogorgon monster

Eleven’s Heaven Cone

Byers’ House Lights Polar Pizza Ice Cream Treat — a chocolate chip Polar Pizza crust with Snickers ice cream, topped with strings of fudge and M&Ms, Christmas lights, a reference to the lights hung up in the Byers’ home on the show

USS Butterscotch Quarts —butterscotch flavored ice cream with butterscotch toffee and a toffee ribbon

Stranger Things Pizza and Pints

Elevenade Freeze — a drink made with vanilla ice cream and Minute Maid lemonade

“When Netflix originally approached us about a partnership, we immediately recognized a number of fantastic synergies between Baskin-Robbins and ‘Stranger Things,’ including the fact that Steve Harrington was going to have a summer job at an ice cream shop,” said Dave Nagel, senior director of consumer engagement at Baskin-Robbins, referring to one of the show protagonists.

The ice-cream chain also will sell exclusive “Stranger Things” merchandise, such as a Steve Funko figure, 1980s-inspired magnets and sticker sets, and Stranger Things T-shirts. Fresh-packed ice cream also will be sold in four limited-edition take-home containers with show-related designs.

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