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/

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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 

The Last Best Hope

Finishing Strong!

I completed the Spa 5K Saturday in a record time. It was my personal best, and I was thrilled to finish strong. Notice I had two bicycle attendants and the privilege of my good friend, who is the current president of the local running club, to accompany me on the last leg of the 3.2 mile route.

Admittedly, my personal best was last of all who entered, but I still beat everyone who never entered the race. I also did better than those who didn’t train to walk this distance. We do this by going out for 15 minutes the first week, and adding 5 to 10 minutes extra in each of the weeks to follow. No one does a 5K right off the batt unless a bear is chasing them!

This is the third year I’ve completed the race, and I’ve learned several good tips. First, carry my inhaler so my asthma doesn’t bother me. If I can breathe better, I can walk at a steady pace. Second, carry half a peanut butter and banana sandwich on whole grain bread to eat at the turn. This keeps my blood sugar up so I have energy for the home stretch. Third, hydrate. I carry water because I take medication that causes mouth dryness. If I feel good, I can walk well. My time was 1:07.19.34, with a pace of 21:43/M. I finished 9th in my age group and 291st of 291 women.

Finally, I don’t have to beat anyone else on the course. I only have to finish the race. Each runner or walker has his or her own individual time to beat, their own personal challenge. Of course, someone will cross the line with the best time in each age group, but each person has a personal race within the race. If we want to find good health, we must get up and get moving! It won’t come to our door via Amazon Prime or Dominos delivery service.

Finding ways to challenge our lethargy is tough, for once we begin to sit, inertia takes over. I’ve been there and worn a hole in the cushions of my couch. Sometimes I’ve had to set the kitchen timer to thirty minutes to force me to get up and turn it off. Putting on happy music, setting just one task and giving myself a coffee reward for completing it has helped me get over some of my rougher days. The worst days I had to admit I was depressed and seek treatment.

Depression is a real illness, one often found along side diabetes and heart disease. These are diseases of inflammation and depression seems to be their fellow traveler. It can be treated. We don’t have to live with the struggle of depression. Ordinary life has its own troubles, but we can live with hope and love. We don’t have to win the trophy, we merely need to do our best.

“Again I saw that under the sun the race is not to the swift,

nor the battle to the strong, nor bread to the wise,

nor riches to the intelligent, nor favor to the skillful;

but time and chance happen to them all.” (Ecclesiastes 9:11)

After all, we have a higher purpose in life, for we’re here to be a witness to others. In Japan, the Ginko trees are living fossils, since they aren’t kin to any other tree still alive. When the atom bombs fell, six Ginko trees survived even though all the buildings around them were destroyed. When the trees began to bud, they were named “trees of hope.”

Hiroshima Ginko Trees

Even if we aren’t “much to look at” we can still be an inspiration to others. After all, “Whoever wants to be first must be last of all and servant of all.” (Mark 9:35). You can be the last best hope for someone today, maybe even for your own self. You are worthy. When you’re stronger, you can be a hope for someone else.

Ginko in the Autumn

THE CHANGE HAPPENS OVERNIGHT

Late in November, on a single night

Not even near to freezing, the ginkgo trees

That stand along the walk drop all their leaves

In one consent, and neither to rain nor to wind

But as though to time alone: the golden and green

Leaves litter the lawn today, that yesterday

Had spread aloft their fluttering fans of light.

What signal from the stars? What senses took it in?

What in those wooden motives so decided

To strike their leaves, to down their leaves,

Rebellion or surrender? and if this

Can happen thus, what race shall be exempt?

What use to learn the lessons taught by time.

If a star at any time may tell us: Now.

“The Consent” by Howard Nemerov

Copyright © 1977 by Howard Nemerov.

Reprinted by permission of Margaret  Nemerov.

Source: The Collected Poems of Howard Nemerov (1977)

https://www.poetryfoundation.org/poems/53817/the-consent

More about Ginko Trees—https://e360.yale.edu/features/peter_crane_history_of_ginkgo_earths_oldest_tree

Coffee Makes Me Smarter

How do I know coffee makes me smarter? Is there science behind this statement, or is this just a perception I have? Scientists giving people 200 mg of caffeine—the equivalent of a couple of cups of coffee—found they help the brain identify words more quickly and precisely. I call that “smarter.” Our IQs aren’t higher, but we can use what we have better.

Does it take two cups, or two sips? Perhaps this depends upon a person’s sleep debt. According to the PLOS Journal, “Sixty-six healthy participants age 24.3 years (19–32 years) were randomly assigned to either a caffeine group (n = 33, 9 males) or a placebo control group (n = 33, 12 males).” Do I know these young men were sleep deprived, or is it my best guess? Men average 5 hours, 45 minutes, while women average 6 hours, 9 minute, according to a 2017 study on American sleep habits.

Excessive fatigue during the day and taking too long to fall asleep were the most common reported issues. The recommended amount of sleep is 7 hours. An interesting side note, every 30 minutes of daily exercise adds about 14 minutes of sleep time. I have the blessing of inheriting my daddy’s ability to fall asleep as soon as my head hits the pillow. “Go all day, sleep all night.”

As I was saying, I worked all evening long to fix printer at home. Reason(s)?

1. Power surge last week might have knocked out delicate “air connections” of the software.

2. My iPad crashed and I had to restore it. No telling what happened there! I was fortunate to have backed up just a few days prior.

3. Printer would print from computer & phone, but the iPad would not recognize the printer. I went to bed. Arkansas had lost their baseball game anyway.

4. When all else fails, a good night’s sleep might solve any problem. It will be there anyway and I can try again.

5. Morning and coffee bring new insights. If I was stuck trying to print from email, why not print from another program on the iPad?

6. Print from Word. Spits out a page!

7. Print from Notes. Spits out another page!

8. Now go to email and try again. BINGO! We have a winner! Chicken Dinner!

“Tomorrow is another day,” my mother always told me. “Things will look different when you wake up.” When I was young, I didn’t have her accumulated experiences to understand this wisdom, but the dawn always comes after the dark of night. We can either stay up worrying and exhaust ourselves, or get a good night’s sleep and wake up refreshed and ready to tackle life again in the morning.

I tend to let God handle the world and its troubles while I sleep. In the morning, I thank God for another day to love and serve, and take care of the troubles that come my way. I don’t go looking for trouble, since like most of us, we have enough trouble in our own lives to begin with! And trouble will find us along the way also.

If I could give you one word of suggestion, most problems in our lives would go away if we all slowed down. We attempt to pack 30 hours of activity into a 24 hour day, and then wonder why we’re so tired. Sleep deprivation is the answer, with stress as a corollary result.

The University of Washington Health Sciences concluded chronic sleep deprivation suppresses the immune system, which means people get sick more often when they don’t get enough sleep.

Dr. Nathaniel Watson, co-director of the UW Medicine Sleep Center at Harborview Medical Center says, “What we show is that the immune system functions best when it gets enough sleep. Seven or more hours of sleep is recommended for optimal health.”

Get 7 or more hours of sleep per night, and simplify your life.

Live long and Prosper.

Love, Cornie

Brain and Coffee Study https://www.smithsonianmag.com/science-nature/in-experiments-caffeine-accelerates-the-brains-verbal-processing-113759145/#I44msTiHHXl4DTum.99

PLOS JOURNAL http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0048487

https://www.sleepphones.com/Sleep-Statistics-The-State-of-Sleep-in-America

HOW HOT IS IT? 

If the Lord had a choice, he’d pick another day to make his return. If there’s already weeping and gnashing of teeth due to the heat, who’d know if they were being consigned to the hot place? While it’s true we don’t know when the Lord will return, I’m thinking these dog days of summer are a “bye” for us. 

While we wait, we can always cool our fevered brows and slack our thirsty throats with homemade limeade. I enjoy making mine fresh with my grandmother’s depression era milk glass juicer. I realize juicers now are high tech and will pulverize any vegetable or fruit, but this treasured one reminds me of many a sleep over and breakfast at her home. 

My recipe is simple: juice of two lines, Splenda to taste, and two cups of water. Pour over two tall glasses of ice. Add a sprig of mint if you want a different taste. Take the glass somewhere cool and relax. Don’t think of anything difficult or distressing until the drink is finished. 

In fact, once you finish it, don’t think of those distressing  things at all! Let go of them. You’ve had enough trouble for today. Rest. Let God handle those troubles for a while. Tomorrow you can work refreshed and renewed. 

I’m on the couch now, with the cold air conditioning blowing over my bare feet. I almost feel human again. Every sip I take brings me a bit closer to being able to find the kitchen and supper! It will be cold and fruity, not hot and savory. Enjoy your day or evening. 
Joy and Peace, Cornie. 

COFFEE IN A CRACKED CUP

Goodbye to one of my favorite coffee cups, the mermaid Starbucks cup. I’ve knocked it about often enough in my early morning stupor to cause the glaze at the handle to get a small crack at the seam. My coffee leaketh out, so to speak. Can’t have that! 

As for our faith in Christ, if we keep it all contained so it never escapes into the world, but only feeds us alone, what good is it? Maybe we need to be more of a leaky vessel, or a cracked cup, to share the goodness of God with those who need a pick me up. Coffee for Christ! Christ for the World!

2 Corinthians 4:7–“But we have this treasure in clay jars, so that it may be made clear that this extraordinary power belongs to God and does not come from us.”

COFFEE WITH ABBA JOHN

The sayings of the holy figures of early Christian monasticism were gathered in various collections across the ages. This one is from Abba John the Dwarf, who was small in physical size, but a spiritual giant. 

17. One day when Abba John was going up to Scetis with some other brothers, their guide lost his way for it was night-time. 
So the brothers said to Abba John, ‘What shall we do, Abba, in order not to die wandering about, for the brother has lost the way?’ 

The old man said to them, ‘If we speak to him, he will be filled with grief and shame. But look here, I will pretend to be ill and say I cannot walk any more; then we can stay here till the dawn.’ This he did. 

The others said, ‘We will not go on either, but we will stay with you.’ They sat there until the dawn, and in this way they did not upset the brother. 

While drinking coffee this morning, two scriptures speaking to Abba John’s insight on maintaining good relationships came to mind:

1. Love does no wrong to a neighbor; therefore, love is the fulfilling of the law. ~~ Romans 13:10

2. Do not plan harm against your neighbor who lives trustingly beside you. ~~ Proverbs 3:29

Positive and negative statements together help flesh out our faith walk, for we don’t live in this world alone. Our lives are interconnected: our families, neighbors, communities, states, countries, and even the natural world and its flora and fauna. 

Moreover, we are all connected to God, even those of us who are nonbelievers, for God believes in us, even if we can’t believe in God. We will all believe in something, even if it’s “I believe I’ll have another cup of coffee” or “I believe I can!”

We wouldn’t have our coffee without others in the great relationship chain of grower, producer, buyer, roaster, seller, coffee shop, and barista, not to mention the tree farmer, the logger, the pulp millers, the paper millers, the cup makers, and the truckers who bring all the beans and cups to our favorite java joint. 

We might only believe in another skinny caramel macchiato to get us through our day, but how many of our neighbors have helped us to get this solo cup of solace? If we need to sit, collect our thoughts, stop doing for a while so we don’t get further lost, then I know a good place in my hometown with excellent coffee. Or your own couch or chair would suffice. 

Take a moment to count the connections of the food you eat, the clothes you put on today, the people you meet. We are not alone–we live in God’s world. 

Edward Hopper: Automat, 1927, Des Moines Art Center.