Killing Me Softly with Fast Food

Picasso: The Blue Guitarist

Strumming my pain with his fingers

Singing my life with his words

Killing me softly with his song

Killing me softly with his song

Telling my whole life with his words

Killing me softly with his song

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

Musick has Charms to sooth a savage Breast,

To soften Rocks, or bend a knotted Oak.

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

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

By Magick Numbers and persuasive Sound.

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

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

Don’t Judge Me!

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Odysseus and the Sirens

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Summary of Hope

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

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

Joy and Peace, Cornie

More information:

Risk Factors for Health Associated With Obesity

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

• High blood pressure (hypertension)

• High LDL cholesterol (“bad” cholesterol)

• Low HDL cholesterol (“good” cholesterol)

• High triglycerides

• High blood glucose (sugar)

• Family history of premature heart disease

• Physical inactivity

• Cigarette smoking

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

Moderate alcohol use for healthy adults:

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

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

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

Wine: 5 fluid ounces (148 milliliters)

Ten percent of Americans consume an average of 10 drinks daily

Ten percent of Americans consume an average of 2.2 drinks daily

Thirty percent of Americans consume no alcohol at all.

Weekly Alcohol Use in America

SOURCES:

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

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

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Starving in the Midst of Plenty

I recently returned from a visit to Israel with my church group. I was glad to be there and walk the pilgrim routes of old. The hospitality was wonderful and we stayed in nice hotels. Our breakfasts and dinners were buffet style, with a good selection of excellent, freshly prepared foods. We had our choice of many Mediterranean type dishes, as well as small, fancy pastries for desert. Since we walked about five miles a day, we had a few calories to spare.

Assorted Salad Items, Israel

HUNGER IN THE MIDST OF PLENTY
I look forward to every meal, for I do enjoy my food. I also enjoy the adventure of discovery and new taste sensations. Some of my traveling companions weren’t so thrilled, however. By the second day away from the states, they were complaining about missing a “good egg and sausage biscuit from McDonald’s.” We had a plate of scrambled eggs, hummus, fresh veggies, and pita bread, plus the best olives I’d ever tasted before us that morning. I listened, but said nothing, since I hadn’t eaten a fast food breakfast in five or more years.

SPECIAL SAUCE
I remembered my own experience with the “special sauce” of the Big Mac. At least once a week, I’d feel the need to eat this burger, as if I were having withdrawal symptoms which needed to be soothed by consuming my fix. The ancient Hebrews were once used to the foods of slavery in Egypt. After they won their freedom, they were in the wilderness.

FLESHPOTS OF EGYPT
“Then they came to Elim, where there were twelve springs of water and seventy palm trees; and they camped there by the water. The whole congregation of the Israelites set out from Elim; and Israel came to the wilderness of Sin, which is between Elim and Sinai, on the fifteenth day of the second month after they had departed from the land of Egypt. The whole congregation of the Israelites complained against Moses and Aaron in the wilderness.

The Israelites said to them, “If only we had died by the hand of the Lord in the land of Egypt, when we sat by the fleshpots and ate our fill of bread; for you have brought us out into this wilderness to kill this whole assembly with hunger.” (Exodus 15:27 – 16:3)

My friends were surrounded by tables groaning with wonderful food, but they bemoaned the loss of their beloved “American McDonald’s fleshpots” with their non kosher pork, cheese, and egg combination. I decided not to eat with them again. No one needs to travel over 5,000 miles to eat the same food as home. Then again, these folks may have been experiencing withdrawal symptoms if they were accustomed to their daily fix. They deserve compassion and a safe place to learn a new behavior, just like any of us who have a bad habit.

JUNK FOOD JUNKIE
Quitting junk food produces similar withdrawal-type symptoms as drug addiction. We common folk have known this for forty years, but now science has confirmed it. I visited my WayBack Machine to find the lyrics for this 1976 Golden Oldie: “Junk Food Junkie” by Larry Groce. The chorus goes like this:

Yeah, in the daytime I’m Mr. Natural
Just as healthy as I can be
But at night I’m a junk food junkie
Good Lord have pity on me!


In the Kitchen, we know food eaten any time of the day or night affects our bodies for good or ill. When I was an art student, I had a roommate who thought fasting during the day and eating in the dark would help her maintain her weight. Half a century ago, we called this theory “unseen calories have zero calories.” She never figured out why she gained weight.

HIGHLY PROCESSED FOODS AND ADDICTIVE EATING
A University of Michigan study confirms what has long been suspected: highly processed foods like chocolate, pizza and French fries are among the most addictive. Moreover, highly processed foods are linked to addictive eating. This is one of studies to examine specifically which foods may be implicated in “food addiction,” which has become of growing interest to scientists and consumers in light of the obesity epidemic.

Previous studies in animals conclude that highly processed foods, or foods with added fat or refined carbohydrates (like white flour and sugar), may be capable of triggering addictive-like eating behavior. Clinical studies in humans have observed that some individuals meet the criteria for substance dependence when the substance is food.

Although highly processed foods are generally known to be highly tasty and preferred, we don’t whether these types of foods can elicit addiction-like responses in humans, nor do we know which specific foods produce these responses, said Ashley Gearhardt, U-M assistant professor of psychology.

UNPROCESSED FOODS
Unprocessed foods, with no added fat or refined carbohydrates, such as brown rice and salmon, were not associated with addictive-like eating behavior. Individuals with symptoms of food addiction or with higher body mass indexes reported greater problems with highly processed foods, suggesting some may be particularly sensitive to the possible “rewarding” properties of these foods, said Erica Schulte, a U-M psychology doctoral student and the study’s lead author.

“If properties of some foods are associated with addictive eating for some people, this may impact nutrition guidelines, as well as public policy initiatives such as marketing these foods to children,” Schulte said.

When my daughter was young, I limited our visits to fast food outlets to Friday nights after my work week was over. Mr. Microwave and Mr. Crockpot provided meals during the week, and we grilled on the weekends. I grew up in a household with food and family at the table as a central part of our life. Food doesn’t have to be fancy, and leftovers were offered at least once a week as “druthers” night. Companionship was as important as the meal itself.

Future research should examine whether addictive foods are capable of triggering changes in brain circuitry and behavior like drugs of abuse, the researchers said. If you plan to try and quit junk food, expect to suffer similar withdrawal-type symptoms—at least during the initial week—like addicts experience when they attempt to quit using drugs.

A study by University of Michigan is believed to be the first of its kind to evaluate withdrawal symptoms people incur when they stop devouring highly processed foods, such as pastries, French fries and pizza.
Previous studies have focused on sugar withdrawal among animals and the literature regarding humans offered only anecdotal evidence, said Erica Schulte, the study’s lead author and U-M psychology doctoral candidate.

HIGHLY SATIATING DESIGN OF PROCESSED FOODS
Processed food scientists design foods to hit a satiety point or “yum factor.” This involves adjusting foods to salt, fat, and sugar levels that meet consumer preferences, as well as enabling enhanced shelf life. Employing scientists to dissect elements of the palate and tweak ratios of salt, sugar and fat to optimize taste, the processed food industry, Michael Moss says, has hooked consumers on their products the same way the cigarette industry hooked smokers on nicotine.

What all researchers can agree upon is that the addictive qualities of tobacco, drugs or alcohol affect the brain similarly and cutting back can lead to negative side effects that can make it difficult to reduce intake. Anxiety, headaches, irritability and depression are some of those outcomes.
Understanding whether withdrawal may also occur with highly processed foods was an essential next step in evaluating whether these foods might be capable of triggering similar addictive processes.

Schulte and colleagues created the first self-report tool to measure the physical and psychological withdrawal symptoms among people, then asked 231 adults to report what happened when they reduced the amount of highly processed foods they ate in the past year.

TWO DAYS WITHOUT JUNK FOOD
The participants reported that sadness, irritability, tiredness and cravings peaked during the initial two to five days after they quit eating junk food, then the negative side effects tapered off, which parallels the time course of drug withdrawal symptoms, the study found.

The U-M researchers did not focus on the method used to change their eating behavior, such as participants quitting “cold turkey” or gradually phasing out junk food. Schulte said future studies will analyze the behavior in real time rather than a retrospective approach as in the current findings.

CHALLENGE OF WITHDRAWAL SYMPTOMS
The study implications suggest that withdrawal symptoms may make dietary changes challenging, which may contribute to people reverting back to bad eating habits, said Ashley Gearhardt, associate professor of psychology and co-author, along with U-M graduates Julia Smeal and Jessi Lewis.

GOAL OF FOOD INDUSTRY
Bottom line is the processed food industry designs their products to keep you eating them. When you hear their siren call, it’s best to put plugs in your ears and row on by. Choose frozen bananas and cocoa powder, with almonds, and add some protein powder if you need a little extra oomph. Enjoy each spoonful slowly. Drink flavored tea. I like hibiscus green tea, mostly decaf over ice. We can do this!

More information: Erica M. Schulte et al. Development of the Highly Processed Food Withdrawal Scale, Appetite (2018). DOI: 10.1016/j.appet.2018.09.013
Provided by University of Michigan

Moore’s book https://www.amazon.com/Salt-Sugar-Fat-Giants-Hooked/dp/0812982193

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2015-02-highly-foods-linked-addictive.html

https://medicalxpress.com/news/2018-09-junk-food-similar-withdrawal-type-symptoms.html

OF ORDINARY MIRACLES

Greek yogurt with cocoa, fruit and nuts

“Fabulous Fermented Foods” have been part of my family’s history for generations back. In the rural antebellum South, folks made cornbread with buttermilk and bacon grease. They didn’t waste soured milk in those unrefrigerated days, just as they used every bit of the pig but its squeal. “Waste not, want not,” was an adage my forebears took to heart, even to my embarrassment of their saving balls of string or aluminum foil for reuse. The latter I thought unsanitary, in my modern worldview, but I’d never experienced great want of any kind as they had.

I enjoyed helping my nanny can food by pickling peaches and cucumbers, but that was a different process than fermentation. My mother did ferment a fruit compote with alcohol, which we all devoured with gusto over ice cream during the holidays. “Is it ready yet?” was as frequent a question as “When can we open a present?”

Of course we ate pimento cheese sandwiches, especially during those long lazy days of summer, but none of us ever connected the cheese making process to fermentation by good bacteria or yeasts. We ate, enjoyed, and never gave it a second thought as we sought the shade or a cool dip in refreshing water. Like many people of our day, we were incurious of the many ordinary miracles which surrounded all of us.

Now I’m well into my seventh decade and understand these trendy (but ancient) foods have potential health benefits. Fermenting foods changes their taste and texture, along with their chemical and biological properties.

Fermented foods may be the oldest “new” food trend around. The process is as old as civilization itself, and fermented foods are consumed in nearly every culture in the world. While researchers attempt to tease out how the changes caused by fermentation actually impact health, many not-fully-substantiated health claims are being made. Let’s take a look at what we know, and don’t know, about these promising (and tasty) foods.

FERMENTATION PROCESS

What is Fermentation? Fermentation occurs when microorganisms (certain species of bacteria, yeast, or mold) feed on starch, sugar, and other food components. This ancient process was originally used for preserving foods, but it fell out of favor in the age of refrigeration and pasteurization.

Many foods and beverages that are commonplace in the U.S. are a result of fermentation. Grains are fermented to make beer and bread; wine is made by fermenting grape juice; and yogurt and cheese are popular forms of fermented milk. Any foods can be fermented, and there are many examples of fermented foods around the world, such as Korean kimchi and the Swedish fermented fish Surströmming.

HEALTH BENEFIT CLAIMS

Behind the Health Benefit Claims. “It is becoming increasingly clear that the fermentation process changes the health-promoting characteristics of foods,” says Jeffrey B. Blumberg, PhD, professor emeritus at Tufts’ Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy.

For example, large studies have suggested an association between consumption of fermented dairy foods and weight maintenance that is not seen with unfermented dairy products, and frequent yogurt consumption is associated with lower risk of type 2 diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and overall mortality.

Some data show kimchi, a fermented cabbage dish ubiquitous in Korean cooking, is associated with anti-diabetic and anti-obesity benefits not seen with unfermented cabbage. Some of these suspected health benefits may result from the presence of the microorganisms themselves, but emerging research indicates that changes those organisms make to the food constituents, and new constituents they create, might have health benefits in their own.

HEALTH BENEFITS INCLUDE

Some of the potentially health-promoting effects of fermentation include:

1. Adding to our gut microbiota. Probiotics are live bacteria that some evidence indicates can confer health benefits when consumed in adequate numbers.

Some bacteria used in fermentation are known probiotics (or are similar to probiotic species). If fermented foods and beverages contain live microorganisms when consumed, a relatively large number of these organisms apparently make it through the human digestive system alive. “During the last decade, the number of studies has exploded regarding gut microbiota and their impact on the health of not only the gut but also the brain, heart, and immune system,” says Blumberg.

2. Changing existing compounds. In fermentation, the microorganisms break down food constituents. This process may have health benefits. For example, in fermented vegetables certain bacteria help convert health-promoting flavonoids into a more readily-absorbed form.

In dairy products, the bacteria break down lactose, making yogurt and cheese easier for lactose-intolerant people to digest.

3. Creating new compounds. Fermentation may create new compounds that have health-promoting actions in the body.

For example, one common result of bacterial fermentation is lactic acid (lactate), which recent research indicates is involved in anti-inflammatory and possibly antioxidant processes.

Other strains of microorganisms actually synthesize B vitamins or vitamin K; discourage “bad” bacteria from taking hold in the gut; or produce molecules not found in the original form of the food that play a variety of potentially health-promoting roles in the body.

4. Deactivating undesirable compounds. In addition to creating (mostly) desirable compounds in foods, fermentation can also remove undesirable compounds. In some plant foods, so-called anti-nutrients like phytic acid bind to nutrients like iron and calcium, decreasing the amount of these nutrients available to be absorbed by the body.

Fermentation can reduce phytic acid levels, which frees up more nutrients for absorption. Additionally, some food components are typically fermented in the gut by gut bacteria. This can create gas and trigger digestive problems. Fermenting foods before consumption leaves less work for gut microbes, and may help ease digestive problems such as irritable bowel syndrome.

5. So far, there is not a lot of clinical data backing up the potential health benefits discussed above, or the health claims often attributed to fermented foods.

But tasty foods like yogurt, hard cheese, the fermented yogurt drink kefir, cabbage-based sauerkraut and kimchi, or the increasingly popular fermented tea kombucha are delicious ways to add nutritional variety to your overall dietary pattern.

Of course when we say “yogurt,” we mean the plain, unsweetened product, to which you control the additional fruits and sugar content. The presugared/fruit purée style is not a healthy choice. Look for a yogurt with more grams of protein than in carbohydrates (Greek usually fits the healthier choice).

The same goes for other milk products, or any prepared food or drink. If it has added sugars, leaving it on the shelf is the best way to keep it from showing up on your own body. If you have a body like mine, these sugar bombs explode in one perturbing place, every single time, as if there were a hidden sugar magnet inside my body! Every. Single. Time.

Yet we can do this! I keep weighing my food, keep a food diary, and exercise. I realize 30 minutes a day doesn’t seem to be enough to lose weight, but it is enough to keep my blood sugar and blood pressure in check. I either have to work less and workout more, or accept 2/3 of my efforts are good enough for someone in the later years of her life.

I’ll probably be working on the last 1/3, just because I can’t rest until I get it ALL. This means I need to cut back on some of my “working.” I’m going to post more monthly on this blog than every two weeks from now on. My Facebook Cornie’s Kitchen page will get more frequent posts.

Joy and peace, Cornie.

Tufts Nutrition Letter, Articles, November 2018 Issue

https://www.nutritionletter.tufts.edu/issues/14_11/current-articles/Fabulous-Fermented-Foods_2487-1.html

Between a Rock and a Hard Place

Almond flour whole wheat berry pancakes

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

CRAVING SWEETS

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

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

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

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

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

WAYBACK MACHINE STATEMENT

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

PLAIN ENGLISH TRANSLATION

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

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


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

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

• Stevia is about 300 times sweeter than sugar.

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

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

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

THE LATEST UPDATE

Artificial sweeteners may damage blood vessels

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

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

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

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

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

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

WHAT WE DID NOT KNOW THEN

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

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

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

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

WHAT WE KNOW TODAY: SOLID GROUND

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

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

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

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

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

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

WEIRD WEDNESDAY: Virtual Gastric Band Surgery

First, it's not surgery, but hypnosis! This is why it's "Virtual" and not actual or invasive, cutting into the body. How do I find out about these things, you ask? My Twitter account gets spammed with folks who follow me because I write about health. They think I might write glowing words about their product. They might think wrong.

First of all, actual surgery makes real changes in the body's hormone and metabolic activity. Virtual or hypnotic suggestion can't do this. It can only help you choose smaller portions or choose to exercise more. This is real science and you'd need to get your health care professional to explain it to you. The words leptin and grehlin are involved, plus your insulin. Hypnosis doesn't work on our chemicals, just on our desires and inclinations.

Second, hypnosis is the go to panacea or cure all for what ails you. It is the original snake oil, as it were! It is the potion with a notion and the vessel with the pestle that has the brew that is true. Whatever name we know it by, hypnosis is the amazing remedy for any complaint. Just imagine, with a few noninvasive sessions, our breasts could be larger! Hypnosis is a miracle working therapy! What shrinks our stomachs can also grow our breasts!

We can even get free lessons delivered to us through the mail, or maybe get them free on the internet today. Unlimited power for good (or ill) could be ours for nothing! If we look into the mirror, for what will we use this awesome power? I would hypnotize everyone i met into loving their neighbor, no matter their race, color, creed, nation of origin, religion, or sexual preference. We don't have to be hating each other on this small blue ball out in the vastness of the cosmos.

The person offering "Virtual Gastric Bypass Surgery" didn't put a price on any of her sessions, but other web sites did: $800. Actual surgery, which is proven and covered by insurance for medically necessary conditions, runs $5,000 and up. Personally, I'd rather spend $800 on a psychologist to get down to my emotional causes for overeating, but that's just me. A lot of us have fears, anxieties, depression, and other unmet needs we attempt to satisfy with food and drink. The rest of us want to be accepted and loved, and when we aren't, we eat and drink. This leads to less acceptance and more eating and drinking. It's a downward spiral.

Hypnosis claims to break this cycle. Getting a community of support will break the cycle too. Intervention with a counselor, accepting medical help with your depression, and getting started on a healthier food and exercise plan will also break the cycle. Accept you are loved.

Listen to my voice, you are worth loving–you are worth loving–you are worth loving–when I count to three, you'll wake up and all you'll feel is LOVE FOR YOUR SPECIAL SELF! 1–2–3! Wake Up!

Joy and Peace, Cornie

SUNDAY SUPPER: Quiche to Die For

Sometimes to calm my spirit, I like to spend time making food from scratch. One, I'm taking care of my body by using calories to make dinner, and second, I know exactly what goes into my food, namely just fresh ingredients.

This doesn't take much time either. I had the pie crust made by the time the oven warmed up and the other ingredients weren't far behind. After all, how long does it take to beat 4 eggs, measure out 4 ounces of pre-shredded cheese, cut a big handful of skinny asparagus into inch long sections and add 3 ounces of spinach to the pan? Sprinkling basil, parsley and a rosemary garlic mixture on top was a breeze.

Then I set the timer for 30 minutes and sat down to listen to Clapton and Cale jam on TV. I gave the pie another 5 minutes because the toothpick didn't come out quite clean enough to suit me, even though I could smell the quiche flavors wafting out from the kitchen.

Let a quiche set just a moment before you cut it, which will give you just enough time to Instagram your famous creation! The pie makes 8 servings, and it's a bit high on the fat side (15 g) because of the cheese and shortening in the pie crust. It is low carb (10 g) however and has over 9 g of protein.

For those of us who who are watching our salt, we have to plan our other menus around this, since one serving has 310 mg of salt. Cheese is notoriously high in salt, and the original whole wheat crust recipe I used called for 1/2 teaspoon of salt. I cut this to 1/4 teaspoon and didn't notice any appreciable loss in taste, but I've trained my tastebuds to enjoy the flavor of lower salt. (This recipe has less than 310 mg salt per serving, but I didn't calculate it.)

This is a filling meal, because it has enough fat for satiety, the whole wheat is lower glycemic than refined white flour, plus it has the fiber and bran the refined flour lacks. I'm not hungry after this meal, whereas if I eat too little fat, I get ravenous quickly! Of course, I don't have a medical need to keep my fat consumption extremely low.

When I get distressed, I tend to eat. One of the ways I can slow my emotional self-soothing is to make the food, rather than to buy it. The time it takes to make it diffuses some of my nervous energy and allows me to get a handle on my nerves. I have time to process my thoughts and feelings rather than just stuff Food into my mouth.

In grad school, I once ate a box of chocolate hostess cupcakes in a week. I've never eaten another since. I was far from home and on my own for the first time in my life. It was scary! I wanted to make sure my money stretched far enough, so I bought the whole box. Then I felt compelled to eat it all, not knowing the shelf life of these cakes was infinity. Now I know this is why God made freezers for the fridge.

We all have our little mistakes and errors of judgement as we learn to eat healthy. We can't let one momentary slip or choice be a reason to give up on a lifetime journey or goal. Tomorrow will be another day, a clean slate, and we can begin again with good intentions and our best hopes.

Plan out a menu that's easy to fix and doesn't require a lot of prep work. Do it the day before, so you know the ingredients are on hand. Then when you get home, take a deep breath, relax, and stay in the present moment. Do only one task at a time. Enjoy the opportunity to care for yourself and your loved ones.

Have a good week! Love, Cornie.

Kitchen Experiments 

When I was a child, I had a science kit. My parents trusted me not to blow up the backyard carport or lose a digit in the process, but I don’t remember them supervising my experiments. In fact, once we children went outside, we were on our own, but I did live back in the late Stone Age. Even I watched my daughter when she was out and about nearly three decades ago. 

I had a deep sense of curiosity, which my parents nourished. As a result, I’ve never been afraid to try something new, to learn things outside of my comfort zone, or to stretch my boundaries beyond the familiar. This includes meeting new people. I’ve always figured a stranger was just a new best friend you haven’t met yet. And yes, I’ve met a few weirdos doing this, but I’ve also met some really neat folks also. 

Encouraging a sense of adventure keeps us young. This may be the attraction of the many meal in a box delivery services offered today. They decide the menu, find the spices and ingredients, get it to your door, and all the cook at home has to do is follow the directions. I like to go to my local grocery, find the seasonal foods, or clean out the remaining foods in my fridge, and see what I can create with them. I consider this a challenge, as if I were on a desert island with limited resources. What could I do with what I have? 

In a sense, all Kitchen experiments are science projects at heart, for all foods have unique properties: heat, time, salt, fat, and moisture all affect the taste and texture of the ingredients and the concoction. Change one and the others change also. Sometimes we add salt at the end of cooking so the food doesn’t toughen up or dry out. Only experience teaches this, for our tendency would be to dump in all our spices at once. After all, we want to taste test along the way. 

An interesting book, SUGAR SALT FAT, by Michael Moss, outlines the science behind the processed food industry. By concentrating fat, salt and sugar in products formulated for maximum “bliss,” Big Food has spent almost a century distorting the American diet in favor of calorie-dense products whose consumption pattern has been mirrored by the calamitous rise in obesity rates. Entire food categories were invented to support this strategy. This is why Resturant meals often have an entire day’s worth of calories and sodium packed into one serving and Lunchable meals (aimed at children) have over 800 mg of sodium each, an amount far too high for little bodies to consume. 

To eat healthy, many of us choose to eat at home instead, for we can experiment with different food combinations and make choices based on our own health needs. I always limit the salt and carbohydrates, due to blood pressure and glucose resistance. This same dish in a restaurant would be drowning in olive oil and much heavier with cheese. Most likely it would also have a grain pasta with it, so the serving size would be both smaller and more calorie dense. It would be off the menu for most people like me. 

The truth is, we can experiment with our recipes, but experiments with our health isn’t a good idea. Folks who overindulge with carbs or salt can damage their bodies. Retaining fluid is a sign of too much salt, such as around the ankles. Yeast infections can be a sign of too many carbs. Eating healthy is a better choice than eating poorly, even if someone else is cooking or cleaning up for you. If this is a novel adventure, step out and try it! 

You might want to try a Vegetable Lasagna, from Cornie’s Kitchen: Squash Lasagna. 

The registration is free, and the site is free. I hope you enjoy it!

https://recipes.sparkpeople.com/recipe-detail.asp?recipe=3272393