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.
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!
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
“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.
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
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
Today the early morning light came flooding into my condo, spotlighting my homage to National Oatmeal Day. I made old fashioned oatmeal on the stove, with cocoa, protein powder, instant milk, sliced almonds, and blueberries. I rarely eat this comfort food anymore due to the high carbohydrate content and the shock to my pancreas. I have insulin resistance, so 78 grams of carbs in one meal is a splurge.
Recommended carbohydrate allowances for a meal are usually 30 grams at a sitting for most people, but others may have more stringent requirements.
Why do we not want to eat our daily carb allotment all in one sitting? Ask yourself, would you want to do 12 hours of work in 3 hours, or would you like to have it come to you more slowly and on an even pace?
If your pancreas could speak, it would scream, “Don’t Be Stuffing an entire day’s worth of food down your gullet and expect me to handle it well! Something’s gonna give!”
A wise person plans their food for the day: breakfast, lunch and dinner, plus a morning and evening snack. If we had 30 grams of carbs at each meal and 15 carbs at each of the two snacks, we’d have a total day of 120 carbohydrate grams. We still have 30 grams to play with during the day or forget them.
Learn to read the nutrition information on the foods you buy. You can google these for fruits and veggies. Once you get practiced in this task, it’ll be second nature. Don’t worry if you don’t hit the number you aim for each day. The point is to be mindful about our eating and to make better choices.
This also prepares us for the stresses of holiday eating. If we acquire new, mindful habits now, we’ll not feel so sick and overwhelmed come a month from now when the rest of America enters the overstuffed holiday eating contest.
Today I’m eating homemade pumpkin pie, made completely from scratch. I’m also recuperating from a heart catheterization, which I had at some zero dark thirty hour yesterday. Since I was instructed to “take it easy,” I thought a little pie extravaganza was in order. If I can’t go Wild in real life, at least I can have some Fun in the kitchen.
First I made the pie crust with whole wheat flour and real butter. This was the first recipe to call for ice water to bind up the dough. I put the rolled out crust in the refrigerator while I made the filling also. Keeping it cool made a difference. It was quite flaky, and not a bit soggy.
I took a cheesecake recipe and melded it with a pumpkin pie recipe because I had extra ricotta I needed to use up before it went bad. Although the container said it was good until January 13, 2018, I didn’t trust this, since it’d been open in my refrigerator for two weeks already. For the pie, I used 4 servings of pumpkin (85 grams each), 4 servings of ricotta (62 grams each), 2 large eggs, 1 1/2 Tbs vanilla, 1 Tbs pumpkin pie spice, 3 Tbs Splenda, and whatever spices were on the leftover pumpkin.
As I was making the filling, I preheated the oven to 425 F.
I used the skin and all, making sure to chop the whole fine, mixing the ricotta well, and then beating the eggs into the whole. Then I added the spice and Splenda and mixed again, before pouring into the chilled pie shell. Once I smoothed over the filling, I weighed out 8 servings of Nestle’s chocolate morsels (112 grams) to spread over the top of the pie.
Then I placed the pie into the 425 F oven, and turned it down to 350 F. It cooked for 40 minutes, at which time a toothpick inserted into the Middle came out clean. I set it on a cooling rack for about ten minutes to setup and finish cooking as it cooled.Then I cut it into 8 equal pieces.