CategoryRecipes

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.

 

 

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.

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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