MonthSeptember 2014

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.

Tasty Foods and Restrictive Diets

Salmon

Find the recipe at the end of this post! Preparing Salmon

From time to time, all of us are annoyed when someone makes a categorical statement or generalization, such as, “everyone should avoid junk food”, or “all rednecks are stupid.” These types of proclamations demean us as human beings – let’s face it, all of us are different. So please don’t dump anyone in a category without considering the circumstances in they find themselves.

With that admonition in mind, I am going to make some categorical statements, maxims, touchstones, etc. dealing with health, but will start with a delightful topic, perhaps on neutral ground: tasty food. The sub-topic is, tasty food for those with diabetes and those who are gluten intolerant.

Ten years ago, when a chubby physician who smoked lots announced that I had Type 2 diabetes, I felt the curtains of life had dropped on my stage. Henceforth, I was marred, charred, and scarred forever. My self worth sagged, and I was again reminded that I had once again failed in life. But I try not to quit, so I fought the notion that I could no longer eat tasty food, such as Krispy Kreme donuts, pizzas, breads of all types, mashed potatoes, bananas, pineapples, and the like.

So what did I do? Lots, but let’s cut to the chase and fast forward 10 years, and get to the point: I changed what I ate, and in the process, discovered that I could eat tasty food, and control my blood sugar along the way. The road to being a sugar-free gourmand has not been a straight one: along the way, Fran (my wife) developed gluten intolerance, which has changed my eating habits, again.

I am not switching topics (OK, I am), but I am going to add a bit of science, which is useful information in formulating diets choked full of tasty foods. You have to learn a bit of physiology in order to understand what you can get away with, in your eating habits. Since I’ve studied physiology, I’m giving you my most useful resource on the combined topics of physiology and nutrition, Advanced Sports Nutrition by Dan Benardot. From this treatise, I learned that the human brain requires 130 grams of carbohydrates per day to function properly (note: he probably meant 130 grams of glucose, which come from carbs, converted protein and fat reserves). Now one of the principles of a diabetic diets is: avoid carbohydrates; so should we follow the advice of Dr. Bernstein, David Mendosa, the South Beach diet, the Atkins diet, and so forth, or abandon the carbohydrate ship?

Let’s not answer that question, but focus on ingesting a minimum of 130g of carbs a day. We need to feed our brains (our brains like foods that have a high concentration of carbs). All carbohydrates turn into glucose, so eating foods with carbs has to be a good thing. However, there are good carbs (e.g., those found in plums) and bad carbs (those found in white potatoes, white rice, white bread). What then is our goal? To eat food that does not produce too much glucose into our system at once. Foods that spike our blood glucose levels are classified as those with a high glycemic index. Foods that don’t spike our sugar levels (those having a higher level of fat and protein) have a low glycemic load.

For openers, let’s consider breakfast. Your day’s work ahead of you will cause your body to burn off carbohydrates ingested at breakfast, so you might consider what some dietitians scorn: eating toast and jam.

Breads normally turn into glucose pretty quickly, so we are told to avoid them. However, one of the “freebies” in eating breads is sour dough bread, which may have 15 carbs per slice, but doesn’t convert into carbohydrates quickly (i.e., its glycemic index has a “slow load”). Fortunately, we live close to a Panera bread store, and can buy loaves of sourdough bread regularly (the sourdough offerings of Wal-Mart and other grocery stores doesn’t work well for me, for their breads spike my glycemic load).

So everyday (or almost every day), I have sourdough toast, and add butter, sometimes add sugar free orange marmalade or other sugar free jellies or jams (which also have abundant carbs), or mayo and fresh tomatoes, and voila: good food, but minimal glycemic load.

But breads contain gluten, which can cause disastrous results if you are gluten intolerant. There is a bright spot, however, because merchants are offering more and more gluten free breads (as well as pizzas, and even some breakfast rolls). However, for a person with diabetes, there is a downside: these breads are made from such things as white rice flour, which have lots of carbs and are high on the glycemic load index. And these gluten free products, loaded with carbs, can cause you to gain lots of weight, if that is an issue for you.

In summary, you can “cheat” on certain breads. However, don’t overdo it.

That’s enough for today.

THE RECIPE

Rose colored fish, summer food with lemon wine marinade

Salmon is sold fresh from the butcher, or in a frozen sealed package (similar to what I recently bought at Whole Foods). It is rich in Omega 3’s, low carb, and when prepared properly,  it’s hard to beat its creamy,  rich taste, however you prepare it. If you don’t do it right, however, the meat can be smelly and dry. So here’s my suggestion, to produce a juicy and non-fishy smelling entrée:

Sprinkle fresh basil over the top (or dried if that’s all that is available). Add a sprinkling of chives, then a bit of lemon zest (for a different taste, add Adobe seasoning to the mix). If you prepare the meat using the sous vide method  (a topic to be covered in later issues) add at least a tablespoon of lemon juice to the bag. Vacuum seal the salmon in a Food Saver bag (or something of that type, that’s suitable for sous vide cooking), and cook it for 45 minutes to an hour, at 134-137 degrees. If you don’t eat the salmon immediately, put it in an ice bath (half water, half ice) for half an hour, then move it to the freezer. When you are ready to eat, put the bag back in the sous vide device at the same temperature, and heat it for at least 15 minutes. The skin is edible, and you won’t notice the fishy taste, because of the lemon juice you have added.

The preferred and more tasty method is barbecue (charcoal if you have it; I use the Big Green Egg). I like to cook it at 225 degrees, and depending on the thickness of the filet, you can use a digital thermometer to determine if it’s done (normally 130 degrees), or look at it: the fat will turn white, in little droplets (or even cut it open a bit).  The skin will normally fall off, or can be easily removed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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