Sunday, March 22, 2015

Hives aren’t always for the bee

   I’ve been away from the blog for a few weeks. But, I wanted to give the readers an update. Within the last week, I developed hives on my hands. Never having hives before, I wasn’t sure exactly what it was. My hands were painful to touch, swollen and covered in red welts. A visit to the urgent care center confirmed that it was indeed hives. The next thing was to figure out what substance caused the allergic reaction. My wife helped me to remember everything we had eaten the day before the hives appeared. We tracked it down to either tomatoes or soy lecithin. I didn’t have any tomatoes for several days but the hives were not subsiding. Unbeknownst to me, soy lecithin can be found in many products. Once I understood that, I stayed away from anything that contained soy lecithin. At the end of the day, my hives were beginning to subside. This puts another twist to my dieting.

   Why did I suddenly have a reaction? I’m not really sure but I suspect that I accidently overloaded on soy lecithin on the day before the hives appeared. I have eaten so many of the foods that have soy lecithin, but I do not think I ever had so much within a 24 hour period. Once my hives have cleared, I will have to do some testing.

   My doctor told me that allergies can appear anytime. Things that may have never bothered you before can suddenly cause an unpleasant reaction. Learning what I can and cannot eat and listening to my body is a slow process but it is worth the reward of good health, fitness and long life.  When I think hives, I immediately think bees, but I suppose that hives aren’t always for the bees. I certainly would rather let the bees have their hives, then for me to have mine.

   Take care, stay well, eat healthily, and live long.

Sunday, February 15, 2015

USDA Approves GMO Apples

   The USDA has approved two varieties of Artic Apples, trademarked by the Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. Due to genetic engineering, these apples do not turn brown when cut, as the gene responsible for the browning has been turned off.

   I for one am very and truly disappointed for the introduction of the first GMO apples into the apple marketplace. Apples have been one trustworthy food for non-GMO consumers. Apples are highly nutritious and delicious. I do not know of any health hazard accompanying this new GMO product, but my question is, was this really necessary? Is there such an outcry for non-browning apples? Maybe there is, but I for one will not purchase these.

   The varieties approved for sale in the US are Artic Golden Delicious and Artic Granny Smith. I doubt that they will be on the markets soon, as Okanagan will have to convince growers to grow their apples and it will take some time for those trees to bear salable fruit.
   With more than 70% of our food supply coming from potential GMO sources, the rise of food allergies, digestive problems and autism, it seems to be the wrong path to go happily skipping down. Biotech foods might not be the source of these problems but one has to wonder why the explosion of these problems, can it truly be just processed sugars and salts. I have no idea, but I do know that it is getting harder and harder to put ‘natural’ foods in our diets and into our bodies.

Thursday, January 15, 2015

The bear in me

   For as long as I can remember, I wanted to sleep through the winter. When the air turns cold and the snow falls, I want to curl up and sleep until spring. I have also noticed that I have a craving for carbs during the cold. I think that, like a bear, my body wants to store up fat for the long sleep or at least insulate me from the surrounding cold. I am not sure, but it might be the decrease in serotonin that happens naturally in the winter months. Carbohydrate rich foods can increase serotonin production temporarily. But I am sticking with the bear analogy.

   I am continually amazed at the separate intelligence that our body has.  It’s incredible that our bodies regulate temperature, balance salt and water levels, and create cravings in an effort to get what it needs. Even when I sleep, my body continues its thousands, perhaps millions of functions. I don’t have to think about it, yet my brain is constantly busy. I wonder if bears dream. I hope so, sleeping all winter gives you lots of time.
   I’ve been trying to combat my cravings for carbs with more protein. It’s working until the afternoon, then the compulsion for something sweet really kicks in. I will admit that I do sometimes succumb to the prodding. Now, how to I set my alarm for early spring?

Sunday, December 21, 2014

Gluten-Free Christmas Gift

   My sister-in-law, knowing that we are gluten-free, sent home-made coconut macaroons and almond macaroons. This was a very thoughtful and delicious gift.

   It can be difficult to eat gluten-free around the holidays. Even though the holidays are filled with candy, cookies, cakes, breads and rolls, there can be still foods to enjoy when you are avoiding gluten. One favorite is chocolate, and who doesn’t like chocolate. Naturally gluten-free deserts, like the macaroons my sister-in-law sent, are great and can be enjoyed by anyone.

   Although I am not a fan of most gluten-free substitutes for wheat flour treats, they can be a special addition for a holiday celebration. Our families do not eat gluten-free but we still bring something to the gatherings that is, not only for ourselves but also to show that eating gluten-free might not be the supreme sacrifice they may imagine.

   Besides gluten-free substitutes for wheat flour treats, there are a number of salads, both vegetable and fruit, which are delicious and can satisfy guests. Many meat dishes prepared at home can round out the meal for a full menu.
   A meal that I might put together might look like this: Smoked turkey breast; spinach, kale, red and green chard tossed salad with fresh onion; sweet potato with currants and apple; and pro-biotic yogurt with fruit for dessert. A gluten-free and satisfying meal.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Sugar in Healthy Foods

   I am looking forward to watching the movie called “That Sugar Film” by Australian film maker, Damon Gameau. When I first read the title, I thought, sure, sugar is bad and more and more studies are uncovering the risks and dangers of too much sugar. But what caught my interest the most is that Damon was not eating candy, ice cream, and drinking soda. He consumed foods that are perceived to be healthy such as low fat yogurt, granola bars, cereals, 100% fruit juices and sports drinks.

   I was surprised at first, but when I thought about it, it made sense to me. When food makers make a low fat version of something, they usually up the sugar to make it taste good. He consumed 40 teaspoons of sugar per day. This amount eventually impacted his physical and mental well-being. He very quickly developed fatty liver disease.

   I do not think sugar is necessarily evil, but too much is definitely not good. It is hidden in so many of our foods and comes in many forms. There are added sugars in foods where it is not immediately evident, such as tomato soup. You may be surmised where added sugar hides in our foods.

   The movie will be released in Australia in February 2015. A USA release has not yet been announced.
The Fox News article can be found here. An interview with the film maker can be seen on You Tube here.

Wednesday, November 5, 2014

The Blessings of International Commerce

   Our forefathers ate much better than we do today. Their food was less processed and fresher. They enjoyed fresh vegetables and fruits in season, and preserved what they could to get them through the winter. We can do the same today, but we are blessed with the gifts of international commerce. We can get fresh fruits and vegetables throughout the entire year because of the differing growing seasons around the world. Just think, it would have been difficult to have orange juice or a banana for breakfast 150 years ago. I live in upstate NY which is rich in farmland and orchards. My wife and I enjoy many fruits and vegetables throughout the late spring through autumn. The farms here produce many wonderful edibles. But, you would be hard pressed to find pineapple, mango, papaya or citrus fruits from our local farms. Commerce brings these sought after products to the cool northeast.

   And the country and world around us benefits from the apples, peaches, pears, cabbage and other produce that our area grows. Our area also produces lots of milk, which of course is turned into so many other dairy products.

   Commerce also allows us to experiment, if we wish, with so many international and ethnic foods and dishes. I think it is wonderful the vast diversity that commerce allows us to experience in our stores. Our local supermarket proudly displays their selection of produce, cheeses from around the world and lots of natural and organic foods and produce.
   Often, people look at commerce as evil and greedy. There may be some of that, but we also gain some incredible blessings from it. I wish you all good health and an energetic life.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Reading the Label – How much fat?

   The labels on food give us information that we need and give us the information that the manufacturer wants you to have. For instance, you might be trying to watch your animal fat intake, you know, cutting back on saturated fats. If you are looking to use ground beef in your meal, you might gravitate to the more lean packages. They are usually numbered 73/27, 75/25, 80/20, 85/15, 90/10, 93/7, 95/5 and 96/4. The first number is the amount of lean meat by weight in percentage, the second number is the amount of fat by weight in percentage. 73/27 would be 73% lean meat and 27% fat.

   So, armed with that knowledge, you would definitely go with the package that shouts out, “I’m 90% fat free.” You even select the ground sirloin. You walk away confidently knowing that you picked the one that was 90% lean. You would have gone with the 96% lean but you know that the flavor is in the fat, so you compromise at 10%.

   The numbers may vary slightly, but a serving of 90/10 natural ground beef sirloin weighs 4 ounces or 112 grams. Total calories for this serving is 200. The amount from fat is 100. Cool, the amount of fat is just 50% of the calories. Wait a minute, that’s half!! I thought this was 90% fat free? Shouldn’t it be 20 calories from fat, I mean that’s 10%, right? How does that work? Half the calories are fat. Let’s check the label. The total amount of fat by weight is 11 grams. Okay, 11 is 10% of 112. But I thought I was being good. 11 grams of fat is 17% of the Daily Value of a diet based on 2000 calories. Of this fat, 4.5 grams is saturated fat or 23% of the Daily Value. But it is very low sodium and it has 22 grams of protein.

   At least, you think, I drink 2% milk. I mean, that’s a lot better than whole milk right? It’s 98% fat free, how can that be bad.  It’s a good choice. It’s low fat. At least I think so. Let’s look at the label. Again, the numbers may vary slightly. The serving size for 2% milk is 1 cup (240ml, or 244 grams). The total calories is 130. The calories from fat is just 45. Hey, that means that 35% of the calories come from fat. The total fat is 5 grams, and that is 2% of 244 grams. It has 15% of the Daily Value of Saturated Fat, 3 grams.

   Whole milk is about 47% of calories from fat. However, fat free milk is actually fat free. There are many alternatives to cow’s milk. There are nut milks, soy milk, hemp milk as well as combination milks such as Coconut Almond milk. Some of them are quite good, especially if you wish or must avoid dairy.

   Marketers use fat by weight for their labels. This is how they can claim such low fat content even though fat might make up a substantial amount of the calories. It is easy to be captivated by the claims on the packaging. Check the label. If you are trying to limit your fat intake, you may want to use a calculator to figure out the percentage of fat that is coming from your foods. Be warned that the information is on the label, it just isn’t necessarily easy to read.

   Fat is not bad, but you may want to watch your total intake of saturated fat. Certain saturated fats, such as coconut and avocado are very good for you, much better than animal fats. I still eat meat, but I use it now more for flavoring.
   If you are concerned about where your calories are coming from, read the label. Do not trust the marketing on the package. The package is designed to attract your interest and prompt you to buy the product. You may still buy the product, but now you can arm yourself with the information you need before you consume it. Good health and a great life to you.