Christmas letter 2015

December 26, 2016

For several years, we have not sent Christmas letters via traditional mail. With the advent of Facebook and periodic posting of blogs, I assume that whoever is interested will learn of our current activities through these other mediums. Due to observations made by my daughter-in-law (Suzy) and one of my pastors (Jonathan Martin), FB postings aren’t very edifying (including those I post – but there are exceptions from time to time). I am beginning to assume several of my FB friends don’t read what’s posted (I don’t read FB on a daily basis anymore). Thus, I am reverting to my blog, which has dealt mainly with food preparation and healthy living, as my method of sending a Christmas letter.

Besides celebrating our 50th wedding anniversary, which took us from Puerto Vallarta to cruising in the North Seas of Europe with a stopover in Dublin, we also traveled to middle Tennessee and Chicago (with the grandkids), and probably other places I don’t remember. This year of jubilee for Fran and me should have been busy enough, without further activities.

But – I decided this year we would remove the popcorn ceiling in John’s old room, the upstairs hallway, the stairwell, and the TV room (which has also served as our exercise room). All of this meant painting ceilings and walls, new flooring, and rearranging furniture (with some new furniture to boot).

Timing is everything, but our Christmas timing was not well planned. Our final house renovation task arrived 12 days before Christmas, which meant, moving the electronic equipment, furniture, Bowflex and elliptical (and other furniture) to the living room so the new carpet could be installed. While that was happening, we were attempting to have a new copier installed at the office (network and printer drivers involved). Much tension in the air, but thankfully, all of this was completed about two days before we had a terrific visit from cousin Jerry McCracken (Marietta, GA).

Then came Christmas week, which for me involved big cooking projects: the ham and chicken were first cooked at 134 for 3 hours using the Anova sous vide; then placed on the Big Green Egg (the ham) and the Traeger smoker (the chicken). The meat smoked for another 2.5 hours. Both were good, but the ham was over the top in taste and moisture content. By first using the sous vide, I insure the meat to be tender and moist; then I added seasonings to the meat, and smoked them (using pecan wood) on the Egg (indirect fire, at about 250) and the Traeger (225) – this step added smoked flavor and taste.

During the year Fran completed 2 or 3 quilts, all of which were outstanding. A sample of her latest is shown below. She got the quilting pattern from a book she found at a quilting store on Main Street in Stillwater, Oklahoma. We were in Stillwater for my 55th high school reunion in June. The reunion schedule gave us a morning break, so we walked down Main Street and stumbled into the quilting store, where Fran found this book (we also walked around the OSU campus, to our respective fraternity and sorority houses, and through the Student Union, where we had first met 52 years ago).

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Travels usually teach us new things, and the quilting pattern was an introduction to new adventures in quilting for Fran (after this trip, she began taking online courses on quilting techniques).

This fall we were honored to host a house church meeting (one of Sanctuary church’s activities), and these meetings stretched me spiritually and intellectually. This “new awakening in learning” began when one of my pastors (Ed Gungor) suggested I read about the history of the Christian church in the US (which I later expanded on my own to read and learn about the history of the Christian Church, beginning with Pentecost). There were and are (and continue to be) many detours along the way (such as the R. R. Reno book, In the Ruins of the Church and Augustine’s Confessions, both of which are highly recommended). I am still on this journey, which to me is lots more interesting than keeping up with the Kardashians (and other trendy topics).

There’s much more to report, but let me end this letter by recounting how we spent Christmas Eve afternoon. Fran invited Kate, our 11-year-old granddaughter, to help her bake the cherry pies (which we gobbled up later in the day). Mid-afternoon, while the ham and chicken were smoking away, Kate joined me in the sun room, where I pounded away on the piano (not as easy with 9 fingers), hammering the notes to Christmas carols. Kate, who sings – and acts (she will be in the stage production Fiddler on the Roof in three months, as Tevye’s youngest daughter) – took the lead on Silent Night, O Holy Night, Joy to the World, and other carols. To Fran and me, this was heaven on earth. We then adjourned to the TV room, and watched part of The Family Man. All of this made me more aware of the importance of families, during the Christmas season.

The rest of the family (our three children, their spouses and our remaining two grandchildren) joined us thereafter, for the annual Christmas eve meal and sharing of gifts.

None of us are perfect moms and dads or brothers or sisters or children, but for me, having the love of a family is the sine qua non of Christmas. Our families’ gatherings and the accompanying joy, laughter and love shared during this season are but a glimpse of the love God has for us, as He has made us part of His family, through the gift of His son, our Lord and Savior, Jesus Christ.

Merry Christmas

The Beauchamp’s

Sous Vide Tips, Hormones, Bob Hope and another good book

Random notes on cooking:

The Anova Precision Cooker.

black-unit-on_1024x1024

For the past three months I’ve been using the Anova Precision Cooker, a blue tooth controlled sous vide heater, which fastens onto large pots or bins. This is a relatively inexpensive device ($179), which I bought to cook large pieces of meat (brisket, roasts, racks of ribs, etc.). My primary unit, the Sous Vide Supreme Demi, retails for $329, and is still my default unit, because I can reuse the water for several days, before I have to empty and clean it.

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There are many other sous vide cooking devices, but I like the Anova Precision a lot, because the temperature mechanism is very accurate (I have to set my Sous Vide Supreme device a few degrees lower than the recipes call for, since it heats the water more than the temperature gauge indicates). The swirling effect of the Anova blades (slower versions of the blades used in a immersion blender), located and encased at the base of the wand, forces the sous vide bags to stay submerged (the Sous Vide Supreme unit requires use of a metal rack to hold down the bags).

The disadvantage of the Anova is the water level: I have to refill the container from time to time, which I cook meats for a long time period (for example, during my recent brisket preparation, which took about 36 hours, I refilled the container once or twice a day, since the hot water evaporates about 1” every 12 hours). Noting to complain about, really, but something to consider. The Sous Vide Supreme unit does not require refilling, since it has a metal lid.

For the price, however, the Anova unit can’t be beat.

Using butter when cooking sous vide: Lately, I have added a 1” slab of butter to the Food Saver bag, when I cook fish (and I will do this on occasion for other meats), before I vacuum seal the meat (I also add a slight amount of lemon juice to the bag). After the fish cooks for 40 minutes at 134° F, and I remove the fish from the bag, dry it with paper towels, salt it, then add dill and chives to each side. I place the fish in the skillet (which has more melted butter in it), to warm the meat and brown it a bit. When the meat is done, I use the left over juices in the skillet to drizzle over the meat, before I serve it.

Reusing Food Saver and Zip Lock sealable bags. I assume that all who cook sous vide know that the plastic bags can be reused. They simply have to be washed by hand (with soap), and permitted to dry. This works for both re-sealable bags and those that are not “re-sealable”.

I am surprised at how durable the Food Saver re-sealable bags are. The only times I don’t re-use these bags (or any other bags) is when I am cooking hamburger meat and fishes which are smelly. In these instances, the hamburger grease makes the bag very hard to clean (and if the fishy smell lingers, I pitch these bags in the trash).

Your Hormones and You

 Several years ago one of my clients, who was also a physician, asked if I knew any good endocrinologists. To answer his inquiry, I had to do an internet search in order to learn who specialized in that arena, in the Tulsa area. I was surprised to learn that there were very few listed practitioners. But perhaps I should have realized that most general practitioners (those who practice in internal medicine and hold themselves out to be family doctors) treat issues dealing with thyroids, diabetes, and so forth, and that endocrinologists aren’t needed that much. Or maybe my observation on the scarcity of endocrinologists is wrong.

As we grow older, we learn that our glands sometimes are out of balance, so we are not sleeping as much as we need to, we have no libido, we are depressed and fatigued, our stress level has used all of our available cortisol, etc. Life Extension magazine even published an article linking low testosterone to brain impairment. So perhaps the advice of an endocrinologist should be considered.

Admittedly, there are books written on hormones (some by Suzanne Somers, which are surprisingly informative), but mastery of your endocrine system (which deals with glands which secret hormones) is not easy. You will learn this quickly if you visit the website, You and Your Hormones (http://www.yourhormones.info/hormones/cortisol.aspx). The more I read and studied this topic, the more obvious the conclusion: I was getting into deeper water than I should.

So this month’s health tip is to consider visiting an endocrinologist, if your family physician cannot solve recurring medical problems.

Hope: Entertainer of the Century, by Richard Zoglin

Hope Entertainer

 After I learned how to check out digital books from the local library, and after reading the library’s weekly bulletins on new “stuff”, I reserved a copy of Hope: Entertainer of the Century, by Richard Zoglin (2014). A couple of weeks later, the library indicated that my digital copy was ready for download. The following is not a book review, per se, but from my perspective, this book is worthy of reading.

Anytime a novel or nonfiction work is written using a well known backdrop, such as the Second World War, the author has the potential of weaving a very good tale. Herman Wouk did it in The Winds of War, Laura Hillenbrand did it in Seabiscuit, and Zoglin does it in this biography of Bob Hope. I’m not going to recount Hope’s impoverished childhood and his struggles in vaudeville, his radio and movie successes, but rather, I’ll reflect on his life through my formative years.

Since I am technically not a baby boomer (I was born in 1942), I was nonetheless raised listening to radio shows and going to ten cent movies on Saturday mornings. If I ever listened to Bob Hope’s radio shows, which were very popular in the late 1940’s, I have no recollection.

My first Bob Hope memories were when my neighborhood friends, Jim Gray and Bobbie Hargrove, replayed the parts we had seen in the Saturday morning movies we attended at the Mecca Theatre in Stillwater, Oklahoma. As young kids, we delighted in the antics of the Hope movies, and spent most of Saturday afternoon improvising and imitating the funnier parts of the movie. Most of our play was a re-enactment of the Westerns we had seen in the morning (since Westerns were the primary bill of fare), but occasionally a comedy would be shown, and we loved the Bob Hope movies. It was always fun to re-enact movies.

All of this happened after WWII (but pre-Korea), and as a kid, I paid no attention to Hope’s USO shows (which began in the early 1940’s and continued years after my service in Vietnam). Hope did not visit Vietnam in 1970, when I was there, so I missed seeing him with his entourage of singers and dancers and fellow comedians, but I had seen him perform at Oklahoma State a few years before, during my undergraduate years in college, so I had an idea of what his shows were like (Fran, my wife, had met him at a reception after such a show; she said he was not very tall).

Most of the 1950s were times of peace (excepting Korea), and I paid little attention to what went on in Hollywood. If National Enquirer papers were sold in local magazine racks, I ignored the headlines, and I never bought nor read those papers. Glitzy gossip shows (such as ET) were not on the horizon, but my parents did not want me to be troubled with the sordid details about the lives of those who entertained us. Those who survived the Great Depression and WWII wanted their children to enjoy an atmosphere of peace and tranquility.

So I was spared from learning about Bob Hope’s philandering and his increasing wealth. But his national popularity did not wane as he aged, because he worked hard at his craft and promoted whatever enterprise he was in. His work ethic and promotional techniques are de rigueur among entertainers today.

Hope was one of the first comedians to hire lots of writers, and he spent long hours working with them and by himself, to hone his routines. His monologues became industry standards for comedians, as well as the Academy Awards. Whenever he finished a movie or book, or was to appear in public, he worked hard to publicize the movie or event. Though this is now obligatory for authors, TV shows, new movies, and so forth, the Bob Hope technique perhaps forged the models now used by the entertainment industry.

As a young man, I learned that modesty and humility are wonderful traits. As I aged into my 30’s, I observed that in United States, financial success requires and demands self promotion. But I wasn’t able to connect those dots in the life of Bob Hope. Somehow, when he promoted what he was doing, I wasn’t offended. Perhaps he got away with it, because he gave the appearance of liking people, and wanted them to like whatever he was doing. He even remembered names and faces and events, of the places he had entertained, and he would send personal notes to some of the fan mail he received.

This principle of behavior might be summarized as follows: if you become a celebrity, give thanks to your fans.

Hope’s popularity was also tied, in part, to his countless public appearances, especially to those he entertained on the USO Tour. Problem was, life was changing in the United States. The halcyon period beginning in the mid-1950’s came to an abrupt end sometime in the late 1960s, perhaps as early as 1967. The values of our country shifted on their axis in 1968: the deaths of Bobby Kennedy and Martin Luther King, Jr., coincided with the beginning of the sexual revolution (suggested in such films such as The Graduate). The country was divided on political philosophy (some of us will remember the close election between Nixon and Humphrey in 1968). That year, television news captured the worst of human behavior during the Democratic Convention in Chicago, as police collided with protesting crowds; these scenes were reminiscent of what happened in Banana Republics. Now the scenes were replayed in Chicago, USA. Public support of the war in Vietnam suddenly was in the minority, and patriotism was no longer a virtue.

These were major changes in our county, and Bob Hope did not perceive what had happened. As he spoke out in favor of what we were doing in Vietnam, his patrons became protesters and his popularity dwindled. His earlier contributions to our country and its military were ignored as rubble. His image declined each year, and there was little he could do to change the mood of the country.

This theme is well documented in the Hope biography, and as I paged through the events spanning the Vietnam War era, I found myself reliving my own life. My first years in private law practice were narcissistic – I didn’t turn to drugs, but during my early years in Dayton, Ohio, my weekend relief after a week of stress and worry came through a 12 pack of Stroh’s beer. Our kids, Greg and Colleen, were sources of joy, but much like Bob Hope in the 1940’s, they were a backseat item to my legal career, and I didn’t grasp what was happening to my family life.

My friend Jack Wheeler explained it best in his book Touched With Fire: our country did not honor the Vietnam vets, as they returned from their tours of duty. The public distain for military service was a cosmic shift in attitudes, and anyone approving of this war, such as Bob Hope, could not be heard anymore. Though I didn’t expect praise when I returned from Long Binh Post, I was almost mistreated because I was a vet. Bob Hope was somewhat in the same category – occasionally he was jeered when he complimented our troops in Vietnam.

So Hope began to withdraw attempts for approval and appeal, and he became selective on his public appearances. His TV shows (usually 4 a year) were still popular, but he appeared in fewer movies. He made no effort to placate the protesters. He no longer hosted as the annual emcee of the Academy Awards. The country he had known during the Vaudeville era, followed by radio, movies and TV, which spanned from the 1920’s through the mid-1960’s, was not there.

As my law practice changed from trial work to estate planning, and as I met with thousands of families, I had little time to reflect on what was happening on a national basis. Like Bob Hope, and philosophically,  I wanted to live in the country I had been raised in, not the one that greeted me when I returned from Vietnam. Since that was not possible, my primary focus had to be on my family and my clients. Unlike Bob Hope, I was privileged to see my children every day, and still have a good relationship with them (one of Hope’s 4 children, all of whom were adopted, disowned him entirely – probably because Hope rarely saw his kids).

During his latter years (he lived to be 100), he continued having daily massages, and to the extent he was able, he played rounds of golf (or at least practiced on his own 1 hole golf “course”). His TV appearances were limited to the Tonight Show (Johnny Carson). He left the set after his appearance, and those infrequent interludes were all the public knew about Bob Hope. Though he was revered until the mid-1960’s, the generation who appreciated him soon faded in the background, and became dust blown by the wind.

I’m not certain Hope ever adjusted to the cultural changes which became part of the fabric of the US. The same could probably be said of those of us who were born in the 1940’s.

The title of the book, Hope: Entertainer of the Century, certainly fits his career. The book was an entertaining read, and gives a kaleidoscope perspective of life in the US during the 20th century.

Toward a Pentecostal Theology of the Lord’s Supper (Foretasting the Kingdom) 

chris green book

© 2012, By Chris E. W. Green (Ph.D.), CPT Press, Cleveland, TN

I gave this book a five star rating on Amazon; I did so by use of what a psychologist has labeled the “90-10” rule, which basically means, I am concentrating on 90% of the positive things about the treatise, and sublimating (and ignoring) the 10% which might be annoying and distracting. With that reservation, let me give my impressions.

Chris Green is from a Pentecostal Holiness background. He taught in the seminary college at Oral Roberts University, during some of the same years as did David Dorries (Ph.D). I will reference Dorries’ book, Spirit Filled Christology, because both he and Green would agree that Pentecostals have intentionally refrained from formulating any doctrines of their beliefs. The same might be said of Southern Baptists – for example, Hershel Hobbs, former president of the Southern Baptist Convention, who has written much on Baptist beliefs, doesn’t want his fellow believers to reduce to writing their core beliefs: “we (Southern Baptists) are a non-creedal church”.

Unlike Hobbs, however, Green and Dorries believe (correctly) that Pentecostals have, in fact, formulated doctrines (common, accepted beliefs) and practices (“praxis”). As a former member of two Southern Baptist churches, I could say the Baptists also have adopted common doctrines and practices; they just refuse to recognize them as such.

Dorries thinks the Pentecostal doctrine should center around Jesus Christ, and the Dorries’ book gives a wonderful account of what Christians (in general) believe, and adds to it a very interesting history of the gifts of the Holy Spirit (which started long before the Azusa Street revivals, which are the point of beginnings for the Chris Green book under review). At the conclusion of his book, Dorries formulates his own catechism of what Christians believe.

Green doesn’t go that far, but his lengthy work makes me thirst for a Eucharist similar to what is described in the Book of Acts and Paul’s letters. Throughout the Old Testament and New Testament, banquet meals are “big deals” – people are invited, but they can always expect to be well nourished, accommodated, and enjoy what has been provided for them. To support his position, Green doesn’t list every meal mentioned in the Bible, but the concept perhaps begins with Abraham (who entertained and fed three angels, Genesis 18:8). Another meal in which God’s presence is specifically mentioned is recorded in Exodus 24:9, when Moses and the elders feasted in the presence of God . Weekly Sabbath meals, which were part of the Jewish tradition, carried forth this concept. There are even brief descriptions of enjoying a meal in the presence of God in a wilderness setting, which strips away the idea that the meal must be a “catered, formal event”. Jesus fed crowds of 4,000 and 5,000 in the New Testament. All of these events were recorded so that we might know that God was present with men and women and children, some of whom were not believers. The key thought is: God was present at the meal.

So the Eucharist event should be something special, an anticipated weekly meal, where there is fellowship, food, and enjoyment in the company of others. As Christians, hopefully these meals end with the Eucharist, i.e., the taking of the bread and wine, because these elements are part of an encounter with God. Dr. Green concedes that occasionally the participants will not sense the presence of God, but that doesn’t mean He isn’t there. Jesus said when we eat and drink the bread and wine, we are bringing his body and blood into our lives.

Stories of the meals in the bible, feasts, banquets, and the like, were joyous occasions, because God showed up. Those of a secular bent, who have discarded the mystical aspect of the Holy One of Israel, will not understand why Charismatics and Pentecostals are excited about the Eucharist, and I suppose that is to be expected. But Green obviously does not want to lose the excitement of being with God, even though there is an “uncertainty” as to how we will react in His presence. Green doesn’t want us to relegate this liturgy into a stale set of rules. To further illustrate the danger of embracing doctrines etched in concrete (that is, without the living presence of God), let me first quote from some Oswald Chambers writings:

If we are only certain in our beliefs, we get dignified and severe and have the ban of finality about our views; but when we are rightly related to God, life is full of spontaneous, joyful uncertainty and expectancy. Chambers, Oswald (April 29th reading). My Utmost for His Highest, Classic Edition (pp. 86-87). Discovery House Publishers.

Charismatics and the like look forward to Sunday worship services, because of the uncertainty of what God might engineer during those services. That’s a primary reason Dr. Green is correct in wanting Pentecostals to embrace the Lord’s Supper. It is a time of remembrance, reflection, thanksgiving and expectation, because God is part of the services.

Let me use another example, to support Green’s tenets of faith in a Living God. Most Christians believe the “Word of God” to be the printed pages of the Bible. That “limitation” is not part of the Protestant (and Catholic) tradition, and if I may borrow from Bainton’s book, Here I Stand, a definitive resource on the life of Martin Luther, the author distills some of Luther’s thoughts on the “Word of God”, which are much different than what we might think:

“The Word is not to be equated with Scripture nor the sacraments, yet it operates through them and not apart from them. The Word is not the Bible as written book, because the “gospel is really not that which is contained in books and composed in letters, but rather an oral preaching, a living word, a voice which resounds throughout the whole world and is publicly proclaimed.” The Word must be heard. The Word must be pondered. “Not through thought, wisdom and will does the faith of Christ arise in us, but through an incomprehensible and hidden operation of the Spirit, which is given by faith in Christ only at the hearing of the Word, and without any other work of our ours.” More, too, than mere reading is required of us. “No one is taught through much reading and thinking. There is a much high school where one learns God’s Word. One must go into the wilderness. Then Christ comes and one is able to judge the world.”

As Christians, we should long for and thirst after the “hidden operation of the Spirit” – who is a vital part of the Eucharist experience. Yes, there is an uncertainty in encountering God at the Communion Table, but Chris Green hopes the Pentecostal and Charismatic believers could embrace with open arms the opportunities afforded by the weekly taking of the bread and wine, and adopt the Eucharist as part of the liturgy and worship of their church services.

His is a good book – not always easy to read, but well researched, well reasoned and which gives not only food for thought, but also ignites the expectation of being able to celebrate the Eucharist with the Living God.

Footnote: It might help the reader to understand what happened to Fran and me, in Dayton, Ohio, during the years 1976-77. I hope this account places Dr. Green’s “picture” of the Lord’s Supper in context.

We met monthly on Saturday mornings at the home of Wil Schonsheck. There were at least a dozen of us (all adults, from many denominations; our kids were left at home with a babysitter or with one of the neighbors). After sharing a terrific breakfast (furnished by Wil and Helen, his spouse), we would sing a few praise songs, then Wil would give a short teaching, which was sometimes edifying, and sometimes somber. Occasionally there would be discussion about what he said.

When this was concluded, the group went into “ministry”. Since our group ranged in ages (from retirees to teachers, to secretaries and janitors, to sales people to lawyers to housewives and moms), we all had a variety of needs. We spent much time asking about those needs (families with cancer and poor health, in need of money, careers, counsel about children, grandchildren, nieces and nephews, spiritual questions of concern, and so forth). We took time in counseling those who needed it, and in praying for the person seeking help. This was done on a one-by-one basis, and it was not unusual to spend 20 minutes on one person’s needs.

At the conclusion of the meeting, Wil distributed bread, and we celebrated Communion, drinking wine from a common cup. This was a time of elation, for we had experienced God’s presence throughout the morning, and the Eucharist was the culmination of participating in God’s work. We closed with a hymn, and were dismissed (the meetings were 3 or 4 hours long, but since we were somewhat in the cloud of God’s glory, the meetings were not long enough).

Fran and I thirsted for the presence of God in these monthly gatherings. I believe such encounters can (and ought) to take place when believers share in the Eucharist.

 

 

The Hard Stuff

THE HARD STUFF

My high school chemistry teacher, “Vitamin Annie” Johnson, blamed her hunchback condition on poor nutrition while she was young. Though she taught us the fundamentals of chemistry, she taught us a lot about vitamins and minerals (which were not part of the course). Since we were high school kids, most of us did not take her admonitions to heart.

Forty-four years later, as I began my struggles to overcome type 2 diabetes, a physician loaned me a cassette tape on nutrition, entitled “Dead Doctors Don’t Lie”. This humorous and informative presentation suggested I could reverse my diabetic condition by adding chromium and vanadium to my diet. In his lecture, Dr. Joel Wallach blitzed through about 30 other undesirable medical conditions, which required me to re-wind the tape on lots of occasions so I could make notes of what he said. He concluded by suggesting that American foods are deficient in both vitamins and minerals, which causes a host of medical problems.

Dead Doctors Don't lie

Wallach worked as a veterinary pathologist at the St. Louis zoo for many years, and from the autopsies he conducted, he discovered that many of the animals died from mineral deficiency. He soon discovered these minerals affected the life span of homo sapiens. He learned those who lived longest were located in parts of the world where the water content was rich in minerals: the Himalayas, Okinawa, and mountainous parts of Africa and Asia.

As a vet, he understood that adding minerals to the diets of large animals, such as cattle, kept them healthy and gave them longer lives; they also produced better, healthier products for human consumption.

To produce healthy cattle, they were given mineral laden salt licks. This technique and others, are also used by Virginia farmer Joel Salatin; his farming techniques are described in Michael Pollan’s excellent book, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. Salatin’s produce (vegetables, animal, eggs) is probably as nutrient dense and healthy (and tasty) as you will find anywhere in the USA.

Omnivore's Dilemma

Thus, Wallach did not invent the wheel on nutrition for farm critters – Salatin has practiced “healthy” farming for years.

Mineral supplementation has produced surprising results. For example, obesity in the human population, at least in the US, could be curbed (if not cured) if we have an adequate intake of minerals: we will not be hungry between meals. Wallach believes minerals are the solution to obesity.

So where do we get minerals? From the ground (eating dirt will not taste good, but the dirt contains minerals you are not receiving from Rice Krispy’s). When you eat a baked potato, you will receive potassium. Similarly, you receive calcium from milk, phosphorous from fish, etc.

So, what’s the big deal? I have milk with my cereal, I eat fish and chips on occasion, I have beef once or twice a week.

The problem is this: the soils used to grow fruits and vegetables, and wheat for cattle and corn for swine, coupled with the additives given cod and salmon raised in fish farms, are deficient in nutrients. Our top soils don’t possess the nutrients they had 100 years ago, and farmers continue to tamper with fertilizers (nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, pH balancers), which has worked against the soil’s ability to manufacture its proper mineral content.

Soil Mineral Depletion

The potatoes at the super market may look great, but if they are grown in soil which has been stripped of minerals, you will not benefit from eating them. For the average consumer, most fruits and vegetables have little nutritional value.

Tepid soils also affect livestock, because cattle eat wheat and grass (and corn cereal mix). If they eat grasses deficient in minerals, we don’t benefit from the wonderful taste of the steaks we cook. Even if we buy organically grown foods and eat only pasture fed beef, we are not guaranteed the mineral content is sufficient to keep us healthy.

Dr. Wallach’s solution is this: supplement your diets by drinking colloidal liquids, which are rich in minerals. His product line (which are liquids, loaded with minerals gleaned from high altitude rivers and springs) are sold under the “Youngevity” label (http://youngevishop.com). I believe these product lines are pricey, so I personally buy liquid minerals from Swanson’s (http://www.swansonvitamins.com). I have also bought liquid minerals from iHerb (http://www.iherb.com). Both of these online stores offer vitamins and minerals at reduced prices.

Now we segue to the hard stuff: what we ought to know about vitamins and minerals. Let’s begin with minerals.

I will not delve into organic chemistry and biochemistry, but let me simply list the major minerals and the trace minerals:

Major minerals: calcium, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, sodium, chloride, and magnesium.

Minor minerals (trace minerals): iron, zinc, copper, manganese, iodine, and selenium.

In theory, you should not have to supplement your diet by taking extra minerals. But if you have read the blog up to this point, you realize that what you buy at the grocery stores will not do the trick.

Without kicking the “minerals” can down the road on this topic, let me close by citing the benefits of calcium. This vital mineral helps us grow healthy skeletons (in early life) and helps us minimize bone loss in later life. It may be useful in reducing hypertension, lowering blood pressure, prevent osteoporosis, and may play a role in blood cholesterol, diabetes and some cancers (see Understanding Nutrition by Whitney). In retrospect, I regret that Fran did not take more calcium during her three pregnancies – it might have helped alleviate or avoid the arthritis she is now experiencing.

The problem with calcium is absorption: we only absorb 30% of the calcium we ingest. To avoid muscle (leg) cramps at night (which is symptomatic of low calcium), I use calcium-magnesium liquids at bedtime (2 tablespoons). This has all but cured these cramps (there is a local grocery chain, Natural Grocers, which sells bottles of this liquid).

The benefits of calcium are many, but there are lots of minerals besides this one. I’m not going to mention any other minerals in this blog, except to say, if you are mineral deficient, you may be flirting with disaster. You will have to conduct your own research to learn more about minerals.

Now let’s reference vitamins. Unlike minerals, food packages contain “nutrition facts” per serving, so when you buy a sack of walnuts or a box of candy (or other packaged food), you can read the food label, and learn what its vitamin content serving.

Like minerals, vitamins come from soils, which have been depleted over the course of time, and from sunlight. You should plan on supplementing your diets with vitamins.

If you are a numbers person, then your government (the FDA) has determined the Recommended Dietary Allowance, as depicted in the Dietary Reference Intakes, and this table is the “baseline” for both vitamins and minerals. The table includes the B vitamins (thiamin, riboflavin, niacin, etc.), vitamin C (both of which are water soluble), and the fat-soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K.

Most nutritionists and nutritional doctors (such as Joel Wallach), as well as many MDs and DOs, will tell you the government’s recommendations are inadequate for your needs. There is so much written material on this subject, I will give you a short cut. Read the first 60 pages of Nourishing Traditions by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig, which is a short, readable summary on vitamins, minerals, and biochemistry.

A second resource on minerals is found in the book, Dead Doctors Don’t Lie by Joel Wallach and Ma Lan. Although the book is more about minerals than vitamins, the authors worked hard to compile appendices, which list more minerals than I knew existed. The authors explain what minerals do or don’t do for your well being (your homeostasis). The appendix even contains remedies for several hundred ailments (most cures can be reached through purchase of over the counter mineral supplements and specific foods).

Unless your personal physician is a whiz kid in biochemistry and nutrition, you will have to educate yourself. The purpose of this blog is to coax you to do so.

I may re-visit this subject in the future, because of its importance.

RECIPE

For the past couple of blogs, I have dodged my promise to give a new recipe each month. My talents are in cooking meats, which doesn’t require much a degree from the Culinary Institute of America. Second, I rely on using rubs and high tech devices (blow torches are used to brown and heat meats, whenever the meat has been cooked sous vide). This doesn’t require a lot of skill.

With that background, you will understand why I refer you to websites and apps, which I think are noteworthy. This month, the app (and website) is called Yummly (http://www.yummly.com). It is free, and has a terrific characteristic – if you want a low carb recipe, type in “low carb”, and you will be given dozens of recipes in that arena. If you want gluten free, then type in “gluten free”, and you’ll have a different list, but it will be just as long as the list generated for low carb recipes.

I even typed in “sous vide” and got lots of recipes. Though I thought it a waste of time and energy to cook scrambled eggs sous vide, I followed the recipe on the website, which was different from Douglas Baldwin’s suggestions in his sous vide cookbook. The eggs turned out surprisingly good: 25 minutes, 3 eggs (which I blended in a stick mixer), a slice of butter, at 165°. Midway I pulled the bag out of the water and stirred the eggs, then put them back in the water (I did not vacuum seal the bag, but used the water immersion technique to remove unwanted air).

Fran thought the eggs were watery, but I didn’t. Her cure was to microwave them; mine needed no alteration. The eggs were not as fluffy as those prepared in a skillet, but the sous vide method blended the butter into the texture of the eggs, and the taste was definitely worth the wait for “lost time”.

This was the first recipe we’ve tried using the Yummly app, but this is a worthy cooking aide for those of us whose talents are limited.

WORKOUTS

Workouts

For most of the 11 years I have had Type 2 Diabetes, I’ve done some sort of exercise on a daily basis. If you’ve read some of my earlier blogs, you’ve learned that elevated glucose (sugar) in your bloodstream will either kill you or wreck your physiology, meaning, you’ll be in pain (neuropathy), damage your heart, liver, eyes, etc., and in the course of time, you won’t be able to live a normal life. Many of the maladies stemming from diabetes can be avoided, provided you eat properly and exercise. In short, if you exercise, glucose from your bloodstream is driven into your muscles or fat cells, seemingly without the necessity of taking lots of supplements or drugs (except for those who have Type 1 diabetes, who must have insulin injections).

For those who don’t know me personally, let me give you a bit of background. First and foremost, I am not a “jock”. Though no one told me, I have learned, over time, that I am not coordinated. As a kid I didn’t participate in competitive sports (football, basketball, baseball), which meant, I didn’t have to workout to be part of a team. That changed when I enrolled in advanced ROTC during my college years. For some reason, the Army expected me to be in good shape, and during boot camp, the drill sergeants worked me out every day, with all sorts of calisthenics. This came before breakfast, and I hated it, but then, I didn’t like being in the Army either. Pushups and running “in formation”, in combat boots, was not how I wanted to start the day.

After 2 years serving Uncle Sam, I quickly settled into a job, where I sit at a desk or conference table, and spend lots of time in front of a computer screen. After age 30, I noticed that I was gaining weight. Since I am a vain person, I took steps (most of them stupid steps) to fill myself up with foods that had little substance to them, because I thought this would help me lose weight: I ate rice cakes or peanut butter and bread sandwiches for lunch, and drank lots of coffee, in an effort to curb my appetite. This didn’t work. So I bought a rowing machine, which turned out to be a worthless piece of equipment. I tried doing pushups and jumping rope. That was not helpful. Next, I bought a treadmill, and I used it with limited success. That didn’t work very well, either. The only remedy turned up in the fashion industry — pleated trousers came into vogue, and these hid my pot belly. So I coasted for years, and no one could see my jelly belly.

Then catastrophe came: in 2004 and at age 61, I was told I had contracted Type 2 diabetes. At that time, I did not realize the value exercise might have helped me. But now, the family physician told me to join a health club and visit with a dietician. Since my brother-in-law had contracted Type 2 diabetes a few years before, I didn’t consult with a dietician, but rather, listened to my sister-in-law, whose sage advice on eating habits was accurate but I fought it every step of the way. I was not going to give up pizza and cookies.

Fran (my wife) was the family’s chef, and she began adjusting our meals, and also coaxed me to join a health club. My fitness trainer knew lots about nutrition, and gave me hints on the types of food suitable for athletes who work out. Since I wasn’t an athlete, I was stuck with resistance training, using the dozens of weight machines at the gym, and I put my treadmill back into use. In time, using a revised diet and some medications (first Avandia, then Metformin), my blood glucose readings were brought under control.

I now come to the most important part of my exercise routines, which came as a result of using the treadmill. I built a reading stand for the treadmill. The stand permits me to read lots of books while I walk on the treadmill, I have increased my knowledge base on foods, physiology, minerals, and lots of other things. To date, I still use the reading stand, which holds either an iPad or Kindle Fire, and I am entertained and educated while I walk.

 

Reading Stand

One of the first things I learned about exercise were the benefits of aerobic and anaerobic workouts. Gretchen Becker (The First Year, Type 2 Diabetes) advocated aerobic exercise, so that was my “ticket” to success. Problem was, as I read other materials on “beating” diabetes, those who wrote on the topic seemingly insisted that everyone engage in resistance training (anaerobic exercise).

The easiest addition to my walking regimen was to buy an elliptical machine, which had “arm handles”. So I gave my treadmill to my oldest son, and got a Nautilis elliptical machine from Sears. This was a rear wheel driven device, which required periodic repairs, but the elliptical gave me good workouts. Later on, I traded it in for a front wheel driven elliptical machine made by Octane; during the 4 years we’ve owned it, it has never had one repair. Octane products are front wheel drive machines (less moving parts than the rear wheel driven machines made by Precor, Nautilis, and others). I attribute its mechanical design as the reason no repairs have been required.

As with the treadmill, I built a reading stand for the elliptical.

Octane Elliptical

Not long after I joined the health club, and switched from a treadmill to an elliptical machine, I read that glucose either floats in your bloodstream (not good), or it is pushed into fat cells or muscles. It made sense to me that if I increased the size of my muscles, they could absorb more glucose at a faster rate than if I spent 30 minutes on the elliptical. I knew then that I had to do more resistance training.

During that era Bowflex advertised a lot on TV, and I had seen some units at Dick’s Sporting goods stores in Dallas. However, they were big and ugly (not something to go in a living room or a bedroom). Fran wouldn’t like that. And I knew very little about what a Bowflex would do. So I bought a used copy of a book, the Bowflex Body Plan by Ellington Darden, PhD. The author (a former Mr. America) knew his stuff, and I was quickly convinced that a Bowflex would, over time, give me the resistance training I needed. Just think, 15 minutes a day, 3 days a week, and I would be fixed.

Bowflex

I spent lots of time on the phone with Bowflex sales people, and even found that Amazon sold one model. Being the cost conscience person that I am, I opted for the less expensive Amazon model, and after ordering it, the large boxes arrived. Putting this device together is another story (http://www.jhbpc.com/Estate-Planning-In-Depth/composite.htm), but after 4 fours we got it together and started using it.

FYI, I continue to use the Bowflex, three times a week (as well as dumbbells and a chin up bar, which fastens to a doorframe).

So why all of this background? To let you know that I am not some NFL sized linebacker, with rippling muscles and an overbearing personality, who gets in your face with what you have to do to stay in good health. I’m average in size and am prone to being an introvert. But I have controlled my blood glucose levels, and exercise is a key component to how I am doing it.

What about the medical community’s attitude towards resistance training? The medical profession is finally endorsing both cardio and resistance training, not only for people like me, but for those who want to avoid Alzheimer’s, ADHD, Parkinson’s, cardio issues, and a number of other neurological problems. The most outspoken physician on the topic is Brett Osborn, a 43 year old neurosurgeon, who could have been a stunt man for the Incredible Hulk. His book, Get Serious, may be the most comprehensive treatise on resistance training and physiology I’ve encountered.

But let me backtrack a minute. If you follow new books on health related topics, you will have (or should have) learned about Wheat Belly, a 2014 best seller by Dr. William Davis, an American cardiologist, who documented the benefits of eliminating gluten from our diets. Besides the benefits of losing weight and feeling better, the gluten-free diet can eliminate neurological problems, most of which contribute to a host of mental maladies. Davis’ findings were amplified by David Perlmutter, a Florida neurologist, who eschews gluten as the progenitor of Alzheimer’s, ADHD, migraine headaches, epilepsy, schizophrenia, insomnia, and other ailments. Grain Brain is scary reading, if you are addicted to pizza, cinnamon rolls, and bread products.

So there are some pretty good resources on changing your diet, if you are concerned about Alzheimer’s and ADHD.

But in 2014 there was more to come from the medical community. The ink was barely dry on these two treatises when Dr. Brett Osborn published Get Serious, which not only endorses better diets, but advocates that we engage in heavy duty weight training, as the preferred means of avoiding and eliminating all of the ailments mentioned by Davis and Perlmutter. Osborn believes weight training will protect us from arthritis, type 2 diabetes, strokes, spine disorders, and most cancers.

Most of us, me included, will not take the steps Osborn recommends. But let me give you an eagle eye’s view of some of the materials in his book.

The medical industry is very skilled at keeping people alive once they’ve been afflicted with a stroke, had a heart attack, suffer from dementia, broken some bones, and so forth. That is good, because we need solution for physical problems. But is our goal in life to deal with problems after they happen? Can’t we avoid some of these issues?

Osborn says “yes”, and here’s his approach.

  • First, identify the risk factors for future problems. He suggests a battery of blood tests, but also wants you to understand that you are in control of your homeostasis (your body in its “best condition”).
  • At this point, you may disagree with his conclusion, and argue, “I am what I am; I can’t control my DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid)”. To this, he points out that environmental stimuli can “turn a gene on or off”, such as using nutrients to help reduce stress, and build good bone structure through enhanced muscle mass. Osborn believes that “all diseases have an inflammatory component, all of them. And this is where we should focus our efforts primarily, from a preventive standpoint . . . (we need to) limit free radical production and reduce oxidative stress.”
  • So how do we do this? Genes are affected by bad stimuli, such as poor nutrition, tobacco smoke, and a lack of exercise. The collateral damage from bad stimuli will affect your genes, resulting in diseases which could be prevented. But you can rebuild your own genes (remember Dolly the cloned sheep?).
  • Osborn’s starting point begins with understanding the benefits of strength training. When you lift weights, and strain your muscles, your body responds by a tissue repair process, and produces anti-inflammatory cytokines (immune system signaling molecules), which facilitate muscle recovery. These cytokines are “stored”, but are ammunition for whatever inflammation might come your way.
  • When you exercise with weights, your body will release nasty free radicals, and lactic acid will make you sore. But again, your body will generate antioxidants, which neutralize the free radicals. You are adding reserves, which will be used to overcome the free radicals.
  • Exercise also alters the progression of Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease. These “beneficial effects are thought to be related to an augmented antioxidant status, increased cerebral blood flow, and potentially enhanced neurogenesis.” At the cellular level, exercise “works” the brain.
  • Resistance training increases and releases good hormones, such as testosterone and growth hormone. Total body protein stores will also be increased. This improves your capacity to heal, as well as increaseing your immune system reserves.
  • Therefore, start a resistance training program.
  • Now Dr. Osborn recommends a rugged workout, 5 days a week. Squats. Deadlifts. Bench presses. Overhead press. Pull ups. Chin ups. All with weight sets. No dumbbells, bands, medicine balls, or light weight stuff. Nothing but heavy duty equipment.

This exercise routine is more than I can handle, so for the time being, I’ll stick with what I’ve got. But I’m not going to “exercise” anymore. From now on (and for the foreseeable future) I’m going to do daily workouts (and call them “workouts”). Since starting my workout sessions, my BG levels have dropped one half a point, from 6.2 to 5.7 (A1C).

So let me be specific and tell you exactly what I do. On Mondays, Wednesdays and Saturdays, I stretch with dumbbells, then do pull ups and chin ups. After that warmup, I begin the 15 to 20 minute Bowflex session. I follow Ellington Darden’s suggestions: 12 reps per set, and about 12 – 15 sets of exercises. After Bowflex, I workout on the elliptical for about 12 minutes. On those days, and after the evening meal (which is a light meal), I either walk 2 miles outside (weather permitting) or use the elliptical for 12 minutes.

On Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday, I use the elliptical both before breakfast and after the evening meal, until I burn 227 calories (which is about 2.5 miles), during each session. In other words, I walk about 5 miles on the elliptical.

If your back or feet prohibit your use of a treadmill or elliptical, consider the “elliptical recumbent bike”, made by Octane. This “new” technology may provide the benefits of an elliptical, as well as give some resistance training, all while you are in a sitting position.

I’m not suggesting you adopt my routine, but keep in mind, it has improved my blood glucose numbers.

Here’s the warning: Physicians and trainers will tell you never workout (or exercise) until a physician gives you a green light to proceed. I agree. If you have a cardiac condition, or some other prohibitive situation, don’t get carried away with the benefits touted by Drs. Osborn or Darden. But if you can exercise, I hope you’ll get excited at what workouts will do for you.

What to eat?

After I read the Omnivore’s Dilemma, a very good book on foods, I stumbled onto Marion Nestle’s What to Eat. The book was endorsed by Michael Pollen (the author who penned The Omnivore’s Dilemma), so I checked it out from library, then later got it as a requested Christmas gift. It is a keeper.

What to Eat

Nestle is a nutritionist and investigative reporter, and she gave me a quick but much needed education on food choices. For example, I learned there were no universal standards for grading foods as “organic”, nor was there any nutritional difference between white eggs and brown eggs (and sometimes no difference between range free eggs and ordinary eggs).

Rather than read the college text Understanding Nutrition (which I do recommend), borrow a copy of Nestle’s book, What to Eat from your library.

With that book in mind, let me skip this month’s recipe, and make a suggestion for buying meats.

Let’s start with beef, all of which is graded by the USDA as being either prime, choice or select. From a buyer’s perspective, beef is very, very expensive (prime is expensive, and ultra expensive if you buy Kobe beef). Choice is somewhat expensive (choice), and select is “bargain” priced. Those who grade the beef (after it has been slaughtered) look for lots of “marbling” (fat), so the meat will taste juicy and good.

Kobe Beef

Unless last year, neither Fran nor I had intentionally bought prime beef (nor have we bought or tasted Kobe beef). We made the mistake of buying a discount package from a local Tulsa butcher market (that was a bad, bad mistake; the meat, which had to have been “select”, was tough and tasteless). So last fall, with the encouragement of my college roommate (whom I’ve known over 50 years), we bought a prime rib eye steak, and I cooked it on the Big Green Egg.

The first thing we noticed was the tenderness: we didn’t cut it with a fork, but we weren’t distracted by any “chewy” characteristics. Second, the flavor was much better than the choice rib eyes we were used to. Finally, the charcoal flavor of the BGE made this steak a great meal.

The contrast between prime meat and select meat is qualitative, but I was surprised how much better the ‘prime’ cut was than the ‘choice meats’ I was accustomed to eating.

Besides grading of beef (prime, choice and select), cattle are either pasture fed (“grass fed”) or grain fed (“corn fed”). Since cattle don’t naturally eat corn, the chemists from Iowa State (and other places) developed a cereal-like food from corn, which is routinely given to cattle, to fatten them up for market.

Cracked Corn

Americans have become so accustomed to the taste, they think that “corn fed beef” is the preferred type of meat. Nutritionists have a problem with this, however, for our diets are so loaded with corn products that we all have grown fat and sick, because of added calories and nutrients associated with corn. So, for a healthier diet, splurge and buy some grass fed beef.

The final “beef” component deals not with cattle, but with bison (buffalo) and elk, both of which are grass fed. Both meats have less fat than beef, and if the meats are intentionally “undercooked”, the flavor is superior to prime beef (if either bison or elk are cooked to ‘medium’, the meat will be tough and chewy).

The problem with buying pasture fed, prime beef, or bison or elk, is, of course, the price. As a populace, we simply elect not to spend our food dollars on exotic cuts of beef.

However, this month’s recipe is a suggestion: buy some prime rib eye or sirloin, and cook it. At some point in your life, treat yourself to something really, really good.

LIPIDS: NOT THE NAME OF A MUPPET

Lipids: Not the name of a Muppet

Ten or twelve years ago, when I subscribed to Astronomy magazine and read lots of books on that topic, I became fascinated with the concept of light (which consists of particles and/or waves), and the colors which came from deep space objects (stars, nebulas, etc.). I didn’t understand all I read, but maybe that’s how life plays out: we see things or read about them, but probably don’t understand what’s going on.

I bought a cheap prism to help me understand that “light” has many layers: as light enters the prism, it is refracted, and emerges as a rainbow of colors.

Light dispersion illustration.

I can see the results, but don’t ask me to explain how that happens.

Since this blog is about foods, not astronomy, I ask you to segue the concept that “light” can be divided into layers of colors. Foods can too, so let’s divide them into their “layers” (that is, categories): proteins, carbohydrates, and fats (“lipids”). Now that’s a lot easier to understand than explaining how a prism divides light into an array of colors. So let’s stick with the easy stuff, food.

The type of foods I want to explore are “lipids”, meaning, fats and oils (fats may also be referred to as “fatty acids”).

For purposes of discussion, there are only two types of fats:

Solids (which for purposes of this article are classified as “saturated”) and liquids (“non-saturated”). Examples:

Solid: Butter (saturated)

Butter

Liquid: Olive oil (unsaturated)

Extra Virgin Olive Oil

We have been taught that if we eat lots of saturated fats (“solids”), the fats will somehow retain that characteristic and will clog our circulatory system, which blocks the passage of blood. This, in turn, can cause a heart attack or stroke. Similarly, if we stick with unsaturated fats (“liquids”), our “pipelines” will be uncluttered, and we’ll reduce the risk of heart attacks or strokes.

This picture needs correcting, because all fats are not created equal. For example, coconut oil is normally solid at room temperature (it is a saturated fat), but coconut oil is actually a healthy fatty acid. It will not clog your pipelines.

But consider corn oil or soybean oil (both of which are liquids, that is, unsaturated): both are rich in what are called Omega 6s, a subset of unsaturated fats, but Omega 6s are NOT good for you if you don’t balance these oils with other fats containing Omega 3s (which are, again, a subset of unsaturated fats). If you have too many Omega 6s in your system, you might develop blood clots, arthritis and heart disease.

So what makes some unsaturated fats not healthy? Perhaps we should first distinguish between whether the fat is “monounsaturated” or “polyunsaturated”.

There are lots of monounsaturated fats used in our diets: olive oil, almond oil, peanut oil, canola oil, all of which are in liquid form at room temperature. Technical point: this type of fat is a chain of carbon with one pair of carbon molecules joined by a double bond. Thus, it is “mono” unsaturated.

But the other type of unsaturated fat, polyunsaturated, remains in liquid form even when refrigerated (examples: Omega 3, 6, 7, 9, flax seed oil, corn oil). Technical point: Polyunsaturated fats have two or more double bonds between carbon atoms in the carbon chain backbone of the fat. Thus, with two or more double bonds, it is “poly” unsaturated.

There is a risk in eating lots of polyunsaturated fats, because they become rancid or oxidized when subjected to heat, oxygen, and/or moisture. If polyunsaturated fats are bombarded with hydrogen (hydrogenation), they become Trans fats.

 So what? you may say. Trans fats have some positive “benefits”: using them increases the shelf life of certain items (packaged cookies, for example), and they are now solid at room temperature (Crisco, margarine). OK, but is this bad for you? Apparently so, because Trans fats compromise your bodily functions, such as

  •  hormone synthesis immune function,
  • insulin metabolism,
  • tissue repair,
  • increase risk of coronary heart disease, Alzheimer’s disease, breast cancer, diabetes, and infertility, and
  • promote weight gain.

To avoid foods with Trans fats, read the food label on the package. Avoid foods with trans fats.

There are other potential bad guys in polyunsaturated fats, viz., Omega 6s. What are these? They are part of a class of lipids known as “Essential Fatty Acids”. Your body can’t produce them, so your supply comes from the foods you eat. There are a bunch of Omega EFAs: Omega 3, Omega 6, Omega 7, Omega 9, etc.

Let’s first consider Omega 3s: They contain an essential fatty acid called alpha-linolenic acid. Omega 3s are in fish like salmon, sardines and tuna — as well as in walnuts, flaxseed and chia seeds, and have powerful anti-inflammatory capabilities. Research has linked them to a variety of health benefits — most specifically, Omega 3s reduce the risk of heart disease. When you hear the words, “Omega 3”, think: anti-inflammatory. According to Brett Osborn, MD (Get Serious), most of the world’s medical ailments (including diabetes, cancer, heart and cardio issues, mental issues) have inflammation at their root. To reduce inflammation, eat foods which are “anti-inflammatory”.

Contrast this with Omega 6s: these fatty acids contain linoleic acid, which is good. Omega 6s are in seeds, nuts and vegetable oils like safflower, corn and sunflower oil. But they also have arachidonic acid, which causes inflammation. Over time, an excess of arachidonic acid can lead to problems such as blood clots, arthritis, and heart disease. Again, referencing Dr. Osborn, when you think of Omega 6s, think “inflammation.” Not good.

So what should you do? Try to keep your ratio of Omega 3s foods equal to those of Omega 6s. This way, the anti-inflammatory benefits of Omega 3s will offset the inflammatory drawbacks of Omega 6s.

Keep in mind that the typical American diet suggests the foods we eat give us 15 times the number of Omega 6s compared to the Omega 3s we consume. To bring the ratio more in line with the Japanese (who have a 4:1 ratio), here’s what you might do:

  •  Cut back on buying packaged foods (which are prone to be high in Omega 6s and Trans fats)
  • Use less oil (coconut oil is all right, as well as flax seed oil)
  • Eat fatty fish (salmon, tuna, etc.)
  • Take Omega 3 supplements

To conclude our discussion of fats, let me mention triglycerides and cholesterol.

Triglycerides are fats which we make when we don’t use all the calories (energy) we consume. This stored energy can be used to create ATP (energy) when we need it. When you have a regular blood check test, it will undoubtedly tell you about the triglycerides in your blood stream. If they are too high, which is in the 150 to 199 mg/dL range, you run the risk of developing heart disease and stroke, as well as becoming obese, or falling into a state known as metabolic syndrome (sort of a mix of cardio problems and pre-diabetes).

Since triglycerides don’t dissolve, you should take steps to lower the level of these fats by losing weight, avoiding sugary and refined foods. Don’t have a 9 p.m. snack before bed (that includes ice cream). And the list of what to do and not to do is much, much longer, and this one is incomplete; so please do your own research on this topic.

Let’s turn to cholesterol. Cholesterol is a sticky, waxy, fat like substance found in some foods (egg yokes), but it is also made by your liver and other cells. You need it, for your brain and hormone production (including all the sex hormones, i.e., androgen, testosterone, estrogen, progesterone, and DHEA). Hormones help you deal with stress, and protect against heart disease and cancer. Cholesterol also helps produce bile sales, which help you digest food. Since your brain needs serotonin in order for you to feel good, cholesterol plays an important role for the functioning of the serotonin receptors in your brain. It also helps to repair damaged cells, as well as prevent leaky gut syndrome.

That said, cholesterol is beneficial.

According to Mary Enig (Eat Fat, Lose Fat), cholesterol is a “heavyweight alcohol with a hormone-like structure that behaves like a fat, being insoluble in water and in blood. It has a coating of a compound called a lipoprotein, which makes it water-soluble so it can be carried in the blood. Lipoproteins are described in terms of their density . . . High-density lipoproteins (HDL) carry cholesterol away from the cells to the liver, and low-density lipoproteins (LDL) carry cholesterol to the cells.”

Most of us have been told that a high HDL level indicates we are destined “to live long and prosper” (well, maybe not prosper), and that a high LDL level means we might die because our arteries will harden unless we begin taking statin drugs (such as Zocar).

But let’s delve into this, because the numbers may not be what they seem. If you have VAP (Vertical Auto Profile) blood tests, you will be testing cholesterol, lipid and lipoprotein levels. This test, however, segments cholesterol into subclasses. Subtype A is plaque, while subtype B is dense and atherogenic. A standard lipid profile does not differentiate the two. For this reason, it is completely erroneous to assume that elevations in LDL are wholly bad. Your LDL may be composed mainly of subtype A. (quoting from Get Serious, Brett Osborn, MD).

Dr. Osborn explains that subtype A is fluffy and less apt to be integrated into artherosclerotic plaque, while subtype B is dense and atherogenic. Paraphrasing what he said, don’t be too concerned about higher LDL levels, unless the Subtype B levels are high (which might indicate hardening of the arteries).

So now you have it: fats are a source of “immediate” energy (found in short and medium chain fats, i.e., fiber rich foods, butter oil, coconut oil, all of which are absorbed quickly), and long term energy, to be used when you need it (long chain and very long chain fats, such as olive oil, organ meats, egg yolks, butter and fish oils are not absorbed quickly, and are stored). But try to eat the right kinds of fats (those with Omega 3 concentrations, such as salmon and tuna), and avoid foods with long shelf lives (which have more Omega 6s than you need).

I am indebted to all of the authors who have opined on these topics, but especially, Mary Enig, Brett Osborn and Sally Fallon.

 

RECIPE

 With the onset of cooler (and colder) weather, I’ve been combining sous vide meat preparation with outdoor barbecue. I decided to cook pork ribs, which are much too big to fit into my Sous Vide Supreme Demi. To cook large meats (such as brisket and ribs), I bought the Anova Precision Cooker (a less expensive unit than the Sous Vide Supreme Demi).

Let me walk through my experiences, and the lessons learned (Sous vide cooking is an art, not a science, so mistakes will be made).

I started with 3 large slabs of ribs, which I marinated in an expandable Food Saver bag. After I sealed off one end of the bag, I stuffed all three slabs in the bag, then poured two bottles of a mild pork marinade into the bag, and sealed off the open end with my Zip Lock sealer. I kept this in the refrigerator for 30 hours. Note: I am not required to remove the membrane from the ribs, when I cook the ribs sous vide. Some (like my cousin David) have a gift in removing this troublesome membrane; I do not have that gift. So for this Beauchamp, sous vide cooking is the rescue.

We bought a plastic container from the Ikea store in Frisco, Texas, and I clamped the Anova holder unit on one end of this tub. This container (made to hold office files) is a heavy plastic, and holds lots of water. It took many trips from the kitchen to the garage (where the primary cooking would be done), to fill the plastic tub. Next, I inserted the heating unit, and set the temperature to 137° F. It took about 3 hours to bring the temperature to its desired setting of 137°.

Sous Vide side view

The ribs were taken out of the marinade bag, and dried with paper towel. Each rib was put in its own bag, then the bags were sealed off, so that very little air remained in the bags (if there are air pockets in the bags, they will float to the top). I plopped the bags into the water (fortunately, they sank to the bottom; on previous encounters with floating bags, I have added a 5 lb. dumbbell weight, to force the bag to the bottom of the container).

I cooked the ribs for about 30 hours. At 137° the meat was pastured (and safe to eat), though it was a little pink in the middle.

Due to the colder temperature, it took a couple of hours to heat the Big Green Egg to 250° F (I added a soaked piece of pecan to the charcoal, because ribs should have a smoked flavor). I inserted the “indirect” cooking plate into the BGE, then removed the ribs from their “sous vide” bags. We use lots of paper towels in sous vide cooking; the towels are used to dry the meat of most of the moisture. After I got the ribs relatively dry, I added my favorite pork rub Fran had concocted a couple of months ago.

After 30 hours of cooking, the ribs didn’t have the appearance of being done (this is characteristic of all sous vide cooking), so when they are removed from the sous vide unit, many chefs will simply use a Crème Brule blow torch to finish the product. I have done this, too, but for ribs to taste great, they must be smoked. And that’s what I did.

Big Green Egg with ribs

After about three hours in the BGE, the color changed dramatically, and they were removed from the Big Green Egg. They were tasty and moist. I covered them with aluminum foil, and waited until the guests arrived.

My big mistake was keeping the ribs in the oven, which was set on warm. I had forgotten a principle in barbecuing, which is, meat continues to cook after it has been removed from the grill. Thus, the ribs were a bit overcooked when they were served. The taste was still great, but had lost the tenderness, which is the characteristic of good sous vide cooking.

The Anova Precision cooker performed as advertised. Mid-way through the cooking process, I had the good sense to put the Ikea plastic over the tub of water (water does evaporate, and I added a gallon or so during the 30 hour cook).

Sous Vide view from above

I know that sous vide is not for everyone (it is expensive), but since Fran and I are limited in dining choices (not too many restaurants offer gluten free and low carb meals, which is what we are now relegated to). So our “restaurant” meals are at home, and they are superb!

 

The Science of Eating

Punch Card ComputingIn 1964 when I was a systems analyst at IBM – during that era IBM actually sold computers – my job was to program the 1401 and 1440 computers for IBM’s customers. IBM taught me how to do this. To test the programs, we used data furnished by the customers. The customers prepared “input” on IBM punch cards; each card was the size of a 1901 dollar bill. Punch card operators would enter financial information on a large punch card machine, which was a noisy contraption with a typewriter keyboard. The punch cards were gathered and then fed into the very expensive IBM computers, which tallied the data recorded on the cards. Our programs massaged the information and results were printed for the customer’s analysis and review.

Punch CardOur customers were constantly warned that their data – i.e., the input – must be accurate. There were no “correction” tapes on these cards, since the machines would punch a small hole for each character. Periodically, the data entered was wrong (typos), which meant, the computer programs would produce erroneous reports.

We used the phrase “GIGO” to remind the customer that “if your input is wrong, the results of the reports will also be wrong: garbage in, garbage out.”

That phrase might well be the cornerstone of Sally Fallon and Mary Enig’s seminal books, Nourishing Traditions and Eat Fat, Lose Fat. Their premise is simple: if you feed bad stuff in your body, your body will create bad results. GIGO. Garbage in, garbage out.

As a type 2 diabetic, I can attest to that maxim. If I eat food containing loads of carbohydrates, the computers in my body will digest what I ate (breads, potato chips and pies), but my system will produce lots of bad results: the carbs are turned into glucose. Whatever un-needed glucose there is, has nowhere to go, so it simply travels through my blood stream (similar to ethanol in a car engine: using ethanol may void the manufacturer’s warranty, may cause gummy parts, weaken hoses and cause sluggish valves, and impair the performance of the vehicle’s engine) .

Over time, the un-needed glucose might impair my vision, weaken the walls of my veins and arteries, cause pain in my feet (which may create gangrene and loss of toes and feet), and shrink my brain size (which could lead to dementia and other unwanted neurological conditions, such as ADHD, autoimmune diseases, brain fog, etc.). So what must I do to get the unwanted glucose out of my blood stream and into my muscles and liver? Two easy answers: (a) I simply don’t eat bread, products containing HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), sugary foods, wheat products, etc. (such a regimen limits my food choices to eating pure protein and lipids (fats)); and/or I exercise a good portion of my day (the exercise will “burn” the glucose off).

Neither of these choices works for me. I enjoy eating a variety of foods, and I don’t want to exercise all the time. So I sought alternatives, beginning with my food choices. I had to learn more about biochemistry (a topic disdained by medical students – there’s nothing easy about biochemistry), to see if the sciences of nutrition and physiology might provide answers, providing I tweaked the foods I ate.

So I searched for a book that gave easy answers, sort of a “Swiss Army Knife”, an all in one, simple to read and understand treatise on nutrition, physiology and biochemistry. After searching for that book for 11 years, I can only report it doesn’t exist. The closest one I found is a cookbook, Nourishing Traditions, which begins with a thumb nail sketch of biochemistry and nutrition. The authors explain how the food we eat is processed in our bodies, in a concise and fairly easy to understand presentation. Each type of food we eat, whether it is fat, protein, or carbohydrate, produces a different physical reaction.

So let me distill some of what I learned: foods are grouped into 3 basic categories: fats (lipids), proteins, and carbohydrates (each gram of fat contains 9 calories; each gram of protein contains 4 calories; and each gram of carbohydrate contains 4 grams). Think of calories as “energy” — since fat contains more energy potential than carbs or proteins, if I don’t use the energy (i.e., the calories) in the fat I consume, I will gain weight.

Let me define a few terms. “Carbohydrates are simply long chains of sugar molecules, as distinguished from fat (which are chains of fatty acids), and proteins (which are chains of amino acids), and DNA.” (Grain Brain by Perlmutter & Loberg).

What does this mean to me? Let me give an example. Here’s what happens when you eat a slice of pizza: as you may guess, the pizza crust is classified as a carbohydrate. When it reaches your digestive system, the crust is converted to glucose (sugar); when that happens, your liver instructs your pancreas to release insulin into your blood stream. The insulin shuffles (or pushes) glucose into cells and stores the glucose as glycogen (glycogen is stored in your liver and muscles). The liver is also the body’s chief fat-building catalyst, which converts glucose to body fat when the liver and muscles have no more room for glycogen; the fat is stored at various places in your body. (from Grain Brain by Perlmutter & Loberg).

The physiology of those of us with Type 2 diabetes doesn’t work the same as described in the paragraph above: the glucose isn’t shuffled into our cells and stored as glycogen. The glucose has to be burned off (with exercise); alternatively, we take a medication (such as metformin) which re-programs our CPU (the liver), telling the CPU not to release stored glucose back into our blood stream. If that doesn’t work, we take insulin (by injection), which forces the glucose into our liver and other fat storage tubs in our bodies (people who take insulin tend to be chubbier than others).

So where does all of this analysis leave us? Think of your body as an automobile. To start the engine, you need gasoline, which is ignited in the engine and produces power (or energy) needed to move the car. Our bodies need the same sort of energy, so we can move, think, and operate properly. Our energy reserve doesn’t come from gasoline; it comes from something called ATP, which is ignited with oxygen and electrical impulses, and gives us needed energy.

Let’s get a bit more technical. Our stored glycogen is released (by directions from our liver) whenever we need energy (which is all of the time). To produce energy from the glycogen, it must be metabolized into Acetyl CoA (think of this as gasoline which will be turned into energy, through the internal combustion engine of your car).

Metabolic ChartBy default, if you eat a lot of carbohydrates, the carbs will be converted to glucose which in turn will be metabolized into Acetyl CoA, the “gasoline” in your body. But what happens when you have been eating a low carb diet, and have used up all of your glycogen (your glucose fuel tank)? Your body is then required to tap protein and fat reserves, and turn them into Acetyl CoA (which in turn becomes part of the Krebs cycle, and ADP is converted to ATP, and vice versa, which gives “energy”, so you can scratch you head, think, digest your food, walk and run, etc.).  Here’s a neat little chart which explains how this works:

So what does this mean for me? When you shift from eating lots of carbs to eating lots of fats and proteins, the fats and proteins — which are not “long chains of sugar molecules” (as are carbs) — will nonetheless be converted into Acetyl CoA, which in turn will produce energy as needed. This process is known as Ketosis.

Ketosis is a term which describes what happens when stored fat reserves are metabolized into ketones, which are converted back into Acetyl CoA, which is fuel for your cells. If you eat plenty of carbohydrates, you will never enter into ketosis. Instead, your body will simply use all that glucose as a fuel.

Ketosis has earned a bad name, though. For one thing, your body enters a ketogenic state when it starts starving itself. But if you’re eating plenty of calories and sticking to a nutrient-dense diet, you need not fear starvation. Ketogenesis doesn’t destroy muscle tissue, but is rather the process by which stored fat is turned into ketones — a perfectly usable energy source for every major body system. Others object to ketosis because it gets confused with ketoacidosis, a dangerous state in which the body not only becomes ketogenic, but also causes the blood to become too acidic. If you’re still getting your limited carbohydrates from vegetables and fruits, you need not fear ketoacidosis.

So there you have it. If you go on a Ketogenic diet (low carb, high fat), you will lower your carb intake, which will lower your BG readings. In addition, you will not be as hungry as before, since fats take a bit longer to digest than carbs. You now have permission to use butter and coconut oil in your cooking.

I will explain a bit more about fats in the next installment. In the interim, concentrate on eating and digesting short chain and medium chain fatty acids (butter, coconut oil, salmon and other fish rich in Omega 3), because those are easily converted into energy. Some long chain fatty acids (HDA), which primarily come in capsules, are extremely healthy for your brain.

If you can’t wait until the next installment, consider reading Eat Fat, Lose Fat by Mary Enid and Grain Brain by Dr. Perlmutter.

DISCLAIMER: Physiologists and nutritionists and others won’t approve of my slip-shod explanation of the concepts mentioned in this article.  I don’t approve of their splitting infinities or misspelling “alright” (which is two words, all right). But I do disclaim errors in reporting how energy is technically produced. The purpose is to explain that fatty acids can be used to produce energy, and that is a good thing.

 

THE RECIPE

Salmon

SalmonThere are more varieties of salmon than I know about, but let me assume you bought a nice pink salmon filet from the New England coasts, or perhaps from Alaska. Your objective is to cook it so it turns out moist and juicy, producing a creamy taste. Here’s an easy fix for a fish rub, and can be used whether you cook the fish on a stove top or a barbecue unit: drizzle melted butter over the surface, then sprinkle dill weed and chives over the salmon, and then add a few drops of lemon juice to the filet. If you use a skillet to cook the filet, melt butter in the pan before you begin cooking (when it’s done, pour the unused butter over the surface of the meat).

Cook until done. This should be a tasty and nutritious dish.

 

 

TIME TRAVEL

 

The MayflowerEach year I am both surprised and delighted to learn about new authors – “new” to me, but not to others. One such discovery is Nathaniel Philbrick, a gifted storyteller, who recounted the lives and events of those migrating to the shores of Massachusetts in 1620. His book: The Mayflower: A Story of Courage, Community and War (© 2006). If you don’t want to read the book, here is a snapshot of the events of William Bradford and others, as they left Holland for the North American continent.

Philbrick begins with the Pilgrims’ expulsion from England (they knew their Puritan brethren couldn’t reform the Church of England, so they picked up their belongings and moved to Holland). This wasn’t exactly a Southern Baptist congregation splitting from the Mother Ship and moving across town to form a new church. The Pilgrims were most fervent in their beliefs, and were banned by the Church of England to worship as they did. So they escaped to Holland, to find a place of solace and rest, where they might live and worship God as they knew He wanted them to.

The Holland government and church did not jail them or burn them at the stake for their Christian practices and beliefs, so the Netherlands were a safe haven. These Separatists (from the Church of England) were few in number (about 300), but did not plan on making Holland their final destination. They needed time to accumulate finances required to complete their intended voyage to the new world. They saved their earnings for 11 years, while they also honed and refined their habits and strict Christian praxis (for example, they could not attend Christian worship services unless they were conducted by those of like faith).

During their stay in Holland, they gained valuable information from the experiences of John Cabot, John Smith, and other new world explorers, as they planned their own journey. The failures in Virginia (the Jamestown Colony) did not preclude or dissuade them from relocating in an unknown land.

Since they lacked finances to buy staples which would sustain them for a year, they sought outside investors, who would help them hire a ship and crew to make the voyage, and retain a military advisor (one of the investors happens to be an ancestor of mine, viz., John Beauchamp). These outside resources probably provided 40% of what was needed to meet their needs.

To repay the venture capitalists, if we characterize them as such, the Pilgrims indentured themselves for seven years, working 4 days a week for the capitalists (the other 2 days for themselves; no work or play on Sunday, their day of worship). At least that was the plan. The furs, animal skins and cod would be shipped back to England, and profits kept by the investors.

Though Philbrick doesn’t mention it, there was no hope of finding the gold which Columbus sought during his 4 voyages to the New World. “Filthy lucre” might have been an incentive for the Spaniards in 1492 (and thereafter), but not these zealous Christians from England. Religious freedom was their ultimate goal, and as we all know, they achieved it, but not the way they had planned.

Even with outside resources, the funds were insufficient to transport all 300 to the new world. Fifty were selected to make the trip, while the remainder stayed in Holland. The 50 who made the trip nonetheless took their collected savings and belongings and sailed back to England. The investors had located a suitable ship for them to use, and had hired a crew. To the surprise of the Pilgrims, the investors added 50 other passengers who were not of like faith, to add to their mix. Though John Smith, the experienced explorer and cartographer, was available for hire as a military advisor, the Pilgrims selected Miles Standish instead. He proved his worth during the coming years.

Mayflower paintingThey stowed a year’s worth of rations in the ship’s hold, and began their journey in early September. Their voyage was filled with peril, with storms and illnesses, but after fighting the seas for two months, they anchored the ship in a large cove, off the shores of Massachusetts. The length of their journey makes one wonder how Columbus completed his initial voyage in 33 days.

It was now mid-November, the onset of winter in 1620, and the weather was much colder than in England; North America was experiencing a “little Ice Age”. Besides the constant chill in the air, life did not improve once they dropped anchor. They could not explore the region, because they lacked a small sailboat to navigate up and down the coasts. Their shallop had been disassembled and stored in the hold, and had to be reconstructed by the ship’s carpenter and his crew.

Until the shallot was completed, they were delayed in moving from ship to shore; they and their clothes, wares, and supplies were quarantined on board the Mayflower for another month.

While most stayed onboard the ship, a few others rowed in longboats, which were unsuitable for transporting personal belongings. Their initial assessment was that the location was suitable, but they were surprised to learn they were alone: earlier explorers had encountered natives, but these first Pilgrims neither saw nor crossed paths with any other persons.

Once the shallop was assembled, the travelers moved their furniture and clothes and food to their new home, but the winter conditions were not good, and the weather deteriorated. Faced with no shelters for refuge, they struggled to survive, and soon found their own food supplies were inadequate to feed them. As the explorer contingent of their group walked through the forests, they stumbled onto hidden stores of corn (left by the natives), which they decided to keep, so they might be fed. This food proved to be a Godsend and lifeline for all of the passengers and crew. While the regions were being explored, others of their group felled timbers and began building houses and buildings, to provide needed shelter. Most suffered hunger and fought constant illnesses.

In time, they began to sight natives in the distance. As they approached and called to these natives, the natives would flee from the Englishmen. Every effort made to approach them failed. Then, after four months of failing to make contact, a tall native, barren of clothes suitable for cool spring climate, walked a long distance from his initial sighting, straight into their camp, and greeted them with the famous words “Welcome, Englishmen”. He asked for food and drink, which they supplied, and he later took them to his teacher, the English speaking Squanto. Through Squanto, who had been captured by earlier explorers and transported to England where he learned English, then returned to America, the Pilgrims at last had a bridge to the natives. Squanto’s skills in translating proved invaluable as they befriended native tribes.

From Squanto and other natives, the Pilgrims were taught valuable lessons in agronomy. Through bartering wampum with the Indians, they traded for much needed food. Fortune smiled on their affairs as the months progressed, and they achieved a somewhat peaceful accord as the months rolled into autumn. Their first year’s produce (1621) was good, and in September or October of that year, they feasted with the Indians, in what has now been enshrined as a national holiday every November: Thanksgiving. But this once peaceful gathering was not to last.

Ten years passed before the first great wave of Puritan immigrants landed, and a thousand new Englishmen and women and children began populating regions of Massachusetts, Connecticut, Rhode Island and Maine. Land was available for all, but the English intrusions had interrupted the life patterns the Indians had established. This English infusion created new and different conflicts with the Indians, and the conflicts were more frequent. The second and third generations of the Mayflower Company continued in their “monastic” Christian practices, but the Pilgrims were not particularly endearing or gregarious. They had to share their occupied territory with the natives and with their distant Puritan brethren, as the new land became more inhabited by different Christian reformers (Baptists, Quakers, Puritans and others).

The English system of property ownership was now in place. The natives were being coaxed to deed their holdings to the newcomers (a new concept to them), and to adjust their seasonal migrations to accommodate the English settlements. Things weren’t the same as they had been in 1620. One native, given the Christian name Philip, decided to drive the intruders back to England, and he is credited with beginning the 3 year military campaign against the Puritans, the Pilgrims, and the Dutch (who were now in New Amsterdam). This war (King Philip’s War), begun after 50 years of the landing of the Mayflower, was costly for the colonists and the natives (towns were ravaged and burned, as over 600 colonists and 3,000 natives died). The outcome of the war proved pivotal for future generations. Perhaps the muskets fired during that war should rightfully be known as the “shots heard ‘round the world”, because the Indians were ultimately defeated by the English and Dutch. This war was unlikely and unforeseeable in 1621, when the Pilgrims and natives celebrated what is now known as the first Thanksgiving.

Philbrick ends the tales of the Mayflower Company, by reporting the truce reached with the natives. Though there was now peace, the worldviews of the natives and the English community would continue to be antipodal for years to come.

Philbrick’s re-counting these events is entertaining and educational. Since the fourth Thursday in November is a week away, I suggest you treat yourself to a copy of this book (The Mayflower). As a time traveler, you will relive the stories and events of the founders of our country. You will gain a backdoor education you never experienced in school, but will enjoy it more, because there is no final exam awaiting you as you complete this book.

Editor’s note: My mid-month posts are not on topics of health or food, and I may not do this every month. However, I am going to give a couple of tips on food preparation, which are under the label “Recipe”.

THE RECIPE

OK, this isn’t a recipe, but here are a few tips, which deal with sous vide cooking:

If you use Food Saver re-sealable bags (they are much heavier than zip lock storage bags), you can rewash and reuse the bags for future meal preparation. If, however, you cook fish, or add seasonings to the meats before cooking them in the sous vide unit, you may discover the bags will retain the smell, and will probably have to be discarded. In addition, as you re-use the bags, you will also discover they will not last forever, because they will begin to leak.

When I suck the air from the Food Saver bag, I leave a little air pocket in the bag. For some reason, the meats are juicier when I remove them from the bags.

Under normal conditions, I undercook the meat‘s recommended temperature; then, when I remove the meat from the Food Saver bag and add seasonings (I am a proponent of meat rubs), and then sear the meat (in butter or olive oil), the core temperature will reach its desired goal.

If you don’t want to buy a sous vide unit, but want to experience the tenderness of the meat, wrap the meat in aluminum foil and put it in a crock pot for about an hour (at the lowest temperature). Remove the meat, then sear it to the desired core temperature.

pH BALANCE and SOME STRATEGIES FOR CANCER, DIABETES, HEART DISEASE

No one covets the thought of having cancer, or living with someone who does. If you find yourself in this situation, your hope for the future may be undermined by thoughts of death, despair, depression, and hopelessness. You may withdraw from life, and be unwilling to discuss the situation with friends, neighbors and relatives. Once you were in control of your life, but now you aren’t: you are forced to depend on medical resources, and hope against hope that a breakthrough will come.

I assume you have read my previous blogs, and know that we lived through that chapter of life. Though Fran and I knew of my son’s condition though chemotherapy, which was a vicarious awareness, we saw him deteriorate into a thin, bald, lethargic soul. None of this was good.

My ongoing questions during this season of life were, what caused it? Could it have been prevented? Could we (or JD) do anything to help cure his situation? Short answer: we were caught off guard, and did little except pray and take him to his weekly chemo sessions.

So, if you find yourself in this situation, what should you do?

There are many products and publications which can gave you hope: consider reading Suzanne Somers’ book, Knockout, and Tanya Harter Pierce’s Outsmart Your Cancer. You will learn there are physicians who have successfully treated patients for all sorts of cancers. Some cancers can be cured, and this should be welcome news.

We did not have these resources when JD contracted cancer. Obviously, we sought treatment options which did not involve radiation or chemotherapy. During this same period of time, I was trying to rid myself of diabetes. The thought of losing my eyesight, developing neuropathy in my fingers and toes (and possibly facing amputations later in life), and living with a weak cardio system, weren’t what I had bargained for. All I read suggested that it was up to me to control the situation (was I supposed to enroll in med school at age 61, to learn how to control my diabetes?). As I read interesting books on diabetes, such as Julian’s Whitaker’s Reversing Diabetes and the authors of The New Glucose Revolution, the light slowly came to me – I needed a deeper understanding of physiology and biochemistry.

As fate would have it, my son visited with a lady who had beat cancer by changing what she ate. She learned that her pH was out of balance, and once she got her system on track (which took a long time to achieve, and after that, a long time before the cancer disappeared), she discovered “the cure” for cancer.

Our problem was, we didn’t know much about pH “balance”, and we opted for a quick fix (chemotherapy). That said, let’s examine what she was advocating.

There is no standard definition for what “pH” means, but let’s use this concept: pH measures your body’s “potential for hydrogen”.

  • In chemistry “pH indicates whether a solution, fluid or compound is (a) acidic, (b) alkaline, or (c) neutral.
  • pH can be measured in our bodies by testing saliva and urine or blood (pH strips are available so you can test yourself, using saliva or urine).

If you have a heavy concentration of hydrogen in your system, you are “acid based” (which promotes development of free radicals, which in turn can turn into cancer cells).

The pH scale ranges from 0 to 14; to be healthy, you should have slightly alkaline, oxygen-rich arterial blood (7.365 to 7.45 is ideal) – a reading of 7.0 is neutral.

If your body is rich in oxygen (indicating an alkaline based system), the oxygen neutralizes formation of acids which might prove to be harmful (acids do not stop the growth of free radical cells, which are the precursor to cancer; if you have a good intake of oxygen, the acids are neutralized, as are free radical cells).

Most Americans eat foods which leave us with an acid base systems, and acid is destructive. Fortunately, our bodies are chemical labs in action, so our systems combat over-acidity by taking existing calcium and protein from our bones, and possibly other places, so as to produce more alkaline. This neutralizes formation of acids, and for a season, our bodies will be in balance.

After the passage of time, if we do not keep our systems in balance,

  • we become more acid based;
  • our bone formation will be reduced and depleted;
  • and we will lose calcium in our urine (which may lead to kidney stone formation).

Our proteins will breakdown, which in turn causes our muscles to waste away. Our systems will be unable to repair cells, tissues and organs fully, and age at an accelerated pace. More free radicals will be produced, and we will be subject to increased fluid retention, and so forth. None of this is good.

So how do we reverse this situation? We have to change what we eat.

Today’s American diet is built on foods that breed acid-base systems. You must learn what foods to avoid. Consider reading The Acid Alkaline Food Guide, by Dr. Susan E. Brown and Larry Trivieri, Jr., Squareone Publishers, © 2006. There is a list of about 70 pages of foods we eat, and the foods are rated as being either alkaline-forming or acid-forming. The first time I read through their list, I determined that I could not eat any food without running the risk of producing more acids in my system. To remedy this, my choices were limited: I would have to become a vegetarian, or I could eat more dark green vegetables, exercise more, and perhaps mix “green drink” powers with water (these green drinks are pretty nasty tasting; it’s easier for me to load up on kale, collard greens, and other vegetables I either like or can tolerate). So my solution was to eat more green vegetables and exercise more.

So what happens if you continue to eat processed foods, glucose producing foods (gluten rich breads, chewy pizza crusts, Krispy Kreme donuts, etc.), drink lots of Dr. Pepper and Cokes, and so forth? Your body will become an acid based system, which will cause harm in one form or another. Remember this, however: your body will do its best to rid itself of acid forming foods, through its filtering system

First, your lungs supply your body with much needed oxygen (as you breathe in), and dispel (exhale) carbon dioxide (the “burned” waste from your system – an inference might be made that aerobic exercise helps cleanse your system, because it requires lots of heavy breathing, which gives you a double dose of oxygen; in turn the COexpels the oxidized stuff you don’t need). Your job: exercise more.

Second, your kidneys filter unwanted sugars, and other waste products you don’t need (you rid your systems of sugar and other waste products through urine). Your job: drink lots of pure water, which is hopefully ionized or ozone rich. This will help keep your kidneys healthy, as well as supply your body with needed oxygen.

Third, your skin filters out other things, through perspiration (which is also produced through exercise).

Now the bad news, if you do nothing – here’s a partial list of what to expect with an acid based system:

  • Being overweight
  • Developing allergies
  • Undue fatigue
  • Mood disorder
  • Blood glucose extremes (hypoglycemia or low blood sugar, or diabetes)
  • Impotence
  • Infertility
  • Asthma
  • Vaginal infections
  • Respiratory problems
  • Cancer

Most of us don’t like anything on the list. That said, you can control your pH balance. This doesn’t guaranty you won’t have problems, but if your pH level is in balance, you will be healthier for it.

There are quite a few books on how to “fix yourself”. Consider The pH Miracle for Diabetes, Robert O. Young, PhD, and Shelley Redford Young (or the pH Miracle, by the same authors); the Acid Alkaline Diet for Optimum Health, Christopher Vasey; or The Acid Alkaline Balance Diet, an Innovative Program for Ridding Your Body of Acidic Wastes, Felicia Drury Kliment.

pH Test Strips

Where to start: Begin by buying a few pH strips, and test yourself to see what your pH level is. When you wake up in the morning, put one of the strips on your tongue. In 30 seconds the strip will change colors, and you will then compare the color on the strip with the color chart which comes with your testing strips. If it matches the color associated with “7”, then your pH is at a satisfactory level. If your pH level is 4 or 5, your system is acid rich, and is not in balance (your level should be at 7, which is halfway between 0 and 14). Conversely, if your level is 8 or 9, your blood and body fluids have more alkaline than they should.

pH chart

As I conclude this part of the blog, let me tell you about JD’s treatment: he elected not to use the long term pH fix, which had to potential of ridding himself of cancer. Though he avoided radiology treatment, he was given 12 weeks of continual chemo treatment (described in the previous blog on the Big C), and thereafter, he slowly gained the weight he had lost. His hair grew back and is now about the same color as before, but it is curlier. He has given up caffeine (and Dr. Pepper), and watches what he eats (most of the time). He tries to eat “healthy”.

pH color match

This is a test strip I used: note the color is somewhere between 6 and 7 (not particularly good). My BG (blood glucose) reading was not very good (112) when I tested it after checking the pH balance. Too many potato chips the night before.

 

THE RECIPE

This recipe uses kale, a dark, green vegetable (which will help your system to become more alkaline). Keep in mind that kale is high in fiber content. It is also a nutrient dense green food, which is alkaline producing.

kaleTwo years ago when we bought a Big Green Egg charcoal barbecue unit (and mortgaged our house to do so; they are not cheap; and yes, this is a joke), I agreed (after 46 years of marriage) to prepare all meats on the grill (we abandoned the propane Weber grill for the Big Green Egg). When we recently switched to preparing meats using the sous vide technique (described in the blog on Sous Vide), I continued to prepare the entrée as I had done when I barbecued at night. Fran continued preparation of salads and vegetables.

KALE SALAD

2 cups grape seed oil
1 bunch curly kale
Salt
2 Tbls minced shallots
1 tsp Dijon mustard
114th cup red wine vinegar
Dash of Worcestershire sauce
Juice from 1/2 a lemon
1 tsp honey
3/4th cup olive oil
1 bunch Tuscan kale
½ cup almonds, roughly chopped
¼ cup Pecorino Romano shavings

Cut kale into edible bite sized pieces.

Fry ½ the curly kale leaves in grape seed oil about 2 min. to make chips. Transfer to paper towel and salt. In shallow bowl, whisk shallots with next 4 ingredients. Whisk in olive oil and season with salt to taste. Mix the remaining curly kale with the Tuscan kale. Add enough dressing to coat leaves. Let sit for about 10 minutes. Just before serving, toss in the kale chips, cheese and almonds.

 

 

 

Sous Vide Cooking

A couple of months ago Fran and I decided to switch our main meals from evening to noon, for a couple of reasons (to help with my BG (blood glucose) levels, and perhaps to control weight). As kids growing up in the late 1940’s and early 1950’s, we had our primary meals at noon (something the current generation knows nothing about). Our moms didn’t work, and we lived in small towns, where we could ride our bikes home or simply walk home. We were not rushed.

Metabolically, reverting to such a schedule makes all the sense in the world: half of the day lies before us, so why not fill our system with great food (i.e., nutrition) at noon, so we can burn off those calories over a longer period of time?

During the evenings, Fran and I decided to either skip dinner (thus lose weight, so we wouldn’t go to bed after a “giant” meal, and be bloated with calories that do us no good while we sleep) or we simply have a light snack for the evening meal.

The problem with this plan is, how to enjoy a decent meal at noon, which requires time and preparation to produce, while we are away from the kitchen all morning (we are at the office during the morning hours). Should we crock pot all of our food? The answer is, yes, sort of. The technique we now use to prepare and enjoy great entrees at noon, during our truncated lunch break, is to prepare the entrée using “sous vide” (French words, meaning: under pressure – sous vide is pronounced “sue veed”, or if you use the phrase in Paris, then pronounce it “sue vee”).

Sous Vide

Since our noon meals are still an experiment in progress, let me give you an eagle eye’s view of what we are doing: in the morning before I leave for work, meat is placed in a Food Saver bag, then placed in a machine which vacuums the air out of the bag, or the air is sucked out the bag using a hand held device.

Vacuum bags

I then place the bag in a sous vide machine filled with water; the water is pre-heated to a temperature ranging between 130-140°. The meat is then left in the hot water, for 2-4 hours. When we arrive home at noon, the meat is removed from hot water. I open the Food Saver bag, remove the meat, and dry it off with a paper towel. I then season the meat with salt, pepper, and other meat seasonings (such as, barbecue rubs), and put it in a hot skillet. The meat is seared to a suitable color (and its core temperature is elevated), and then it is ready for serving. We add whatever vegetables are needed to round out the meal, and voila, we have a very good lunch with tender, juicy meats and vegetables. The taste of the entrée is not quite what can be done with my Big Green Egg (barbecue unit), except I have saved 45 minutes to an hour, which is required to heat the charcoal and cook the meat.

To pull this off, I had to buy a sous vide machine (not cheap). I had to study the theory of cooking sous vide; I read and continue to read Douglas Baldwin’s indispensable “treatise-cook book” on sous vide (Sous Vide for the Home Cook). I had to buy needed add-ons for sous vide: lots of Food Saver bags and a vacuum machine or hand held unit to vacuum the air from specially built bags which permit use of the hand held unit. Lots of companies make vacuum machines, and these can be pricey, but we bought a Zip lock machine for about $50 at Wal-Mart, and it works fine. We also bought a hand held vacuum unit, while also works fine (I can reuse the bags made for the vacuum unit, which is a cost savings).

Ziploc vacuum bag sealer

After a bit of practice with the sous vide process (some meats didn’t meet my expectations), the entrees cooked sous vide are now consistently juicy, tender, and tasty.

Loading bag in Ziploc vacuum sealer

Back to the Douglas Baldwin book: he always recommends adding a sauce to accompany the meat (which requires additional preparation time, which we don’t have at noon). However, on weekends I have tried some of his recipes, and one in particular was so spectacular I will give you the recipe with my variations. This sauce is comparable to the finest we enjoyed while we lived in New Orleans (during my days at Tulane law school).

And that, in short, is how we transformed a dull noon meal into something we look forward to enjoying, notwithstanding the time limitations.

Post script on barbecue: on weekends I continue to use my Big Green Egg, but occasionally use the sous vide machine in special situations, in combination with the BGE. If I am going to barbecue a tougher piece of meat, say pork tenderloin, I will first “undercook” the pork in the sous vide machine (for example, I will cook the pork tenderloin for 2-3 hours, sous vide, at 120-130°, which is lower than the recommended temperature of 140°). I heat the barbecue to about 225°. The meat is then removed from the Food Saver bag, dry the meat with a paper towel, and season the meat with a variety of barbecue rubs. It can be placed on the barbecue grill at that time, or cooked a bit later. I cook it until the temperature ranges from 135° to 145°. The meat is always juicy and tender (never tough), and tastes . . . well, grand is an understatement.

Big Green Egg

At first, I was offended in tampering with traditional barbecue techniques. However, the sous vide has worked wonders on meats which are tough and/or dry (such as brisket or pork tenderloin), which are barbequed later on.

 


 

THE RECIPE

4 oz. fresh mushrooms, thinly sliced (canned mushrooms also work, but drain the liquid from the mushrooms)

60-100 cherry tomatoes, fresh, sliced into tiny pieces (Baldwin uses a 14.5 oz. can of diced tomatoes, drained)

2 tbsp. unsalted butter

1 clove (3g) peeled garlic, minced or pressed

3 tbsp. lemon juice (or the juice from a fresh lemon); zest the skin, so it can used also

½ tsp. dried thyme (2ml)

Adobo seasoning

Salt and black pepper to taste

Melt the butter in a skillet, medium high temperature

Add mushrooms, turning them as needed, so as to turn color to light brown, texture tender

Reduce heat to medium; add garlic and cook until mushrooms are golden brown

Add tomatoes, lemon juice and some lemon zest (not too much), thyme, ½ tsp.  Adobo seasoning; and cook until sauce is thoroughly heated

Reduce heat to low, add salt and pepper, and cover pan; check it occasionally, turn the mixture, and continue to heat until sauce maintains a liquid state, semi-thick texture. If you have a high quality pan, which will stay heated for some time, you may turn off the heat and let the sauce simmer. Continue to stir it occasionally. The sauce will be ready in about 30 minutes, but you may leave it up to an hour.

This sauce goes well with mahi-mahi, sea bass, beef, chicken, pork, halibut, and lamb.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Big “C”

Grilled Halibut with Cumin and Lime

Find the recipe at the end of this post! Grilled Halibut with Cumin and Lime

I was disinterested in physiology until my youngest son was diagnosed with Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, a form of cancer impacting the lymphatic system. This unwelcome news came on the heels of my having been diagnosed with Type 2 diabetes. The only “happy” event in the interim was having lunch with a fellow lawyer, a Korean War vet, who was being treated by the VA for his diabetes. He suggested I explore the possibility of receiving medical attention through the VA (which ultimately meant I could buy metformin at a discount). Those of us who served in Vietnam drank water laced with Agent Orange, which causes Type II diabetes (one of the “lesser” maladies stemming from Agent Orange). That said, the year 2004 was filled with despair: cancer, diabetes, loss of control over my life and an uncertain future for my 23 year old son.

There had to be a way to reverse what had happened. Bad things shouldn’t happen to good people, as they say.

The medical community gave me no hope for reversing my diabetes, except to grin and bear it with frequent trips to the doctor, to change the type of food I ate and exercise on a regular basis. For my son JD (pseudo name for purposes of this blog), the options were limited, because there was little we could do to stem the spread of his stage 2 cancer. It seemed his only recourse required me to drive him, on a weekly basis, to the cancer treatment facility, where he would receive doses of mustard gas and other chemo medications, all followed by long periods of severe nausea, constipation, cramps, fever, loss of appetite and energy and hair. The Stanford VII program in 2004 (now known as Stanford V) required 12 weeks of chemo treatments. JD’s platelets permitted him to receive all 12 doses, all administered through a drip machine, usually 1 hour per session. Each session was worse than the one before, and by week 12, he was extremely weak (his weakness and nausea required me to drive him to the cancer treatment facility). As I witnessed the transformation of an active, athletic young man wither into a thin, bald, weak and emaciated person, my mind drifted to dire results. He would not make it through the poisons of chemotherapy.

I didn’t like these changes in life styles, because I was no longer in control. I did not want to leave my future in the hands of physicians and dieticians and physical trainers and nurses. They were not trustworthy, from my vantage. I mean, how many success stories are recorded in the annals of oncologists?

Fortunately, I was hard-wired to be a curious person: my heart and soul were fed when I was able to learn as much I could about situations that affected me and my family.

So I started with JD’s situation, and began a journey to learn all I could about cancer, what caused it, how it can be treated, what we can do (if anything) to avoid it. At that time, my sister-in-law was in temporary remission from her bout with ovarian cancer (which had taken her mom’s life, as well as her grandmother’s – it would ultimately take hers a few years later). She gave us sage advice on how to combat nausea after chemo treatments (quoting Kendall: “there are a variety of anti-nausea medicines available; if the one the doctor prescribes doesn’t work, ask him to give you another”), and she encouraged JD to eat, even though food was not appetizing to him. She kidded him about what his hair would turn out to be after chemo: maybe his hair would be red and curly, or blonde and straight. Whatever it turned out to be, it would be different.

During JD’s chemo treatments, I stumbled on to a book by a Pennsylvania radiologist who fought and controlled the continued growth of his own brain cancer, Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life, which was both instructional and biographical. This book was the first readable book I found on the topic of cancer, and it included the physiological aspects of cancer. Among other things, Dr. Servan-Schreiber outlined exactly what cancer was (there were dozens of types), what factors contribute to its development and growth, and information about the many varieties of cancer, each of which require different treatment.

I had never understood the term “metastases”, which he explained to be the spreading of cancer from one part of the body to another. He added drawings and illustrations to aid the reader’s ability to comprehend the ins and outs of the disease.

To overcome his own malady, he changed his lifestyle, which was similar to what was being recommended to me for diabetes: eat differently (adopt a different diet), eliminate sugar and HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), and exercise on a regular basis. The physician’s  cancer (which returned after 6 years of being in remission) was controlled for 19 years, once he adopted a new lifestyle: he changed his diet, exercised, and somehow managed to reduce stress (his second bout with cancer came during divorce, something that always causes stress).

As an estate planner, I was fortunate to hear stories from clients, many of whom were dealing with diabetes, cancer, COPD, cardiovascular problems, and more. I would ask if there was a cause and effect which might have caused their own maladies, and what treatment they had (or were having), to overcome these diseases. These were valuable sessions for me and JD.

Most of my contacts were content to follow the advice of physicians, viz., take prescribed treatments pills and chemo. A few referred me to local holistic resources, which consisted of local vitamin shops owned by quirky people. The contacts who recommended holistic treatment were willing to take extra steps to control their situations, by exercise and changed diets (side note: even vegans contract cancer – so avoiding meats is not an anti-cancer guaranty). Those same persons were in the minority, since most of my friends and clients were adamant in following advice from the medical community. They were simply unwilling to try and control their situations. As a former trial lawyer, I knew first hand that physicians and nurses made mistakes, but I did not argue with whatever treatment they believed in.

So what has been the outcome for JD and me? I don’t want to bait you into visiting this blog next month, but you will have to wait until then. In the meantime, read Anti-Cancer: A New Way of Life, or at least the pdf summary now available on the internet.

This blog is already too long.


 

THE RECIPE

(adapted from http://www.kalynskitchen.com)

Grilled Halibut with Cumin and Lime

Grilled Halibut with Cumin and Lime plated

3-4 halibut steaks or filets

Marinade ingredients:

1/4th cup fresh lime juice
1/4th cup peanut or canola oil
2 T Worcestershire sauce
2 tsp. onion powder or 2 T fresh grated onion
1 tsp. garlic puree or minced fresh garlic
1-2 tsp. ground cumin (or less, if you don’t like cumin)
zest from one small lime (at least 1 tsp. grated lime rind)
½ tsp. coarse ground black pepper
fresh cut limes for squeezing on cooked meat (optional)

Zest the lime (use a grater) in a mixing bowl. Add other marinade ingredients. Mix the ingredients (I used an electric “wand” type of mixer). Put halibut in a zip lock bag or holding container with a snap on lid, then pour the marinade into the bag or container. Refrigerate for 1-2 hours.

Fire up your barbecue unit, and grill the fish until its done (I won’t tell you how to grill, but my technique is to place a non stick barbequing grilling mat or grilling plate over the metal barbecue grill itself (the grates); the mat will keep the fish from sticking). If you use such a mat, drizzle the left over marinade sauce onto the fish. If you don’t use a mat, then spray Pam for Grilling onto the grate, to help prevent sticking.

I use a digital thermometer for checking meat temperature (the fish should be done between 130°-145°; digital thermometers are a must for barbecue). Grilling fish never takes long, so don’t leave your station.

Serve hot. Squeeze lime juice over the fish, if you like. This is a very tasty and savory dish.

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