Saturday, June 21, 2014

The Main Reason Any Disease Won't Be Cured

Jack is my father, he's 88 years old now and has Alzheimer's.

Now Alzheimer's is one of those "dread diseases" of old age, increasingly common in our society. It's reputed to be something everyone will get if they live long enough, that is, if don't die first from some other cause.

That's the standard medical line.  We only have Alzheimer's increasing because we live longer and don't die sooner from something else. The line becomes a lie when you look beyond that surface relationships though.

Death from Alzheimer's can be a slow, miserable process. In my Dad's case his health otherwise is still pretty good; he can walk pretty well, talk freely and tell stories from 60+ years ago (over and over again endlessly).

He's been a great father, provider, husband and son, a tireless campaigner for causes he believed in, and very, very generous with his resources. Seeing him decline from Alzheimer's has been painful for us, his children and grandchildren.

But when it came time to try to help him stop the decline of his memory, I found he was just too far gone.

He didn't want to change what he eats. And he doesn't have to.

To be 88, have lived a full, satisfying life. Whatever you think about what comes after, that's not tragedy, that's cause to rejoice.

But his next five or ten years could have been better, I'm convinced. If the end of life doesn't have to mean losing most of your memories and mental function at some point, that would be a good thing.

And in rural northern India, Alzheimer's appears to be almost unknown. So is obesity. And cars that make lots of walking all but unnecessary. And sugar. And eating meat. And almost all foods that constitute the main bulk of the SAD diet.

Of course, it always possible that some "magic bullet" that could be turned into a prescription drug could be responsible. Like something in turmeric.

Silly us. We refuse to see  the forest because we're stuck on looking for a comfortable "cure" that makes it so we don't have to change our lives other than take some pills. The trees that obscure our view are our habits and culture.Tough to overcome? You bet. Possible? Absolutely.

People with Alzheimer's deserve a chance to have better lives. My experience tells me it won't happen without broader understanding and support for healthy eating.

Some day. I think it's worth the effort.

My parents at a cousin's Boxing Day party


Saturday, June 14, 2014

Cost Effective, Delicious/Nutritious Greens: Chinese Cabbage Salad

Top 100 nutritarian recipes, Here I Come!

That's how I think of this one. It's a favorite, but I sometimes go months between having it. Whenever I get bored with other, more standard fare, this one is a candidate to come out of the file and transform my dinner table, once again.

It's more important than just a recipe, to show some basic principles:
  • It takes a common, typically least expensive green and transforms it into a delight.
  • It uses more expensive ingredients sparingly for taste, color and texture.
  • It's endlessly variable with different ingredients possible. In fact, you can make a great knockoff without a single identical ingredient.
It saves well in the refrigerator. I find it's great up to four or five days later. The only disadvantage is it's something I'd never freeze (but I might use in a batch of lentil soup, and freeze that!)

It uses less-than-ideal ingredients very sparingly. Nutritarian recipes don't have to be perfect in every regard. Things that would be poison in larger quantities are of great value when they are, literally, the "spoonful of sugar" that helps the much larger quantity of supercalifabulistic nutritional medicine go down.

Who'da thought it, Mary Poppins as the expression of the Nutritarian Code of Ethical Eating - at least of mine;)

Ingredients:
  • 1 large head cabbage
  • 1 bunch green onions
  • 1 cup thin sliced celery
  • 1/2 thin sliced x 1" long green or red pepper
  • 1 cup sliced spinach (1/4" slices)
  • 1 cup sunflower seeds
  • 1/2 cup coarse chopped almonds
  • 1 tsp. chicken base
  • 1/2 cup rice vinegar
  • 1 tbspn. brown sugar

Chop cabbage as for slaw, add chopped green onions, celery, green or red pepper, sunflower seeds and almonds. Blend together the rice vinegar, chicken base and brown sugar. Pour over salad, toss and chill.

The only thing different here is I added 1/2 cup frozen edemame (green soy beans, not in pods) since I had some left over from the prior weekend. We love the color and the taste.

This is also great with lettuce or any other salad greens. One of our very favorite variations is to  replace the rice vinegar with a fruit or berry vinaigrette, and use walnuts instead of sunflower seeds and almonds.

Wow, makes me hungry just thinking about it. Perhaps I'll re-think that top 100 rating, this may be top 10 material.

But beware of standard cookbooks or on line recipes. They mostly all call for significant amounts of oil in the dressing. As far as I'm concerned, oil adds nothing to the taste, and does nothing but ruin the nutritional profile.

The biggest lie here is that olive oil makes it a healthy food. Wow, what a whopper.

All I'm giving up here is heart disease, diabetes, and a bunch of other bad, bad possibilities.

You're welcome.

Saturday, June 7, 2014

Cost Effective Health the Nutritarian Way, part 3

Let's see, last time I made it through the first three of my essential practices for cost effective health eating. Here's more:

4. Grow it yourself. Doesn't have to be a full garden. Even better, grow a single crop of something you'd like to have a constant supply of, grows with incredible abundance in a small plot, useful in a hundred different ways, easy to take care of and harvest and is self is self-renewing instead of picked once and it's gone.

Which brings me to my current ideal meeting all those requirements:

5. Home grown greens (i.e., Swiss Chard and Kale). They're green, They're leafy, they constantly renew, grow in cool weather, warm weather, and are tender and wonderful in salads, smoothies, soups and lots more. Easily harvested by cutting it off about 2 inches above the ground, you harvest again in three weeks or so.

6. With any recipe, substitution of high priced ingredients is my preference. Most often when a recipe calls for something expensive, I substitute something inexpensive but with great nutrition and find it's still wonderful. For example when hummus calls for tahini (made from roasted sesame seeds), I just substitute sunflower seeds. Waaaaayyyyyy cheaper! And it makes a milder hummus, which is my preference taste-wise.

Or if a recipe calls for chia seeds, you'll pay ten times as much for chia seeds as you would for flax seeds, at least where I buy 'em.

7. Which brings me to the hummus principle. Or if you're like my wife, you'd prefer refried beans. Or chili or just black beans. Frankly I love them all. Any recipe qualifies here, as long as it requires using lots of dry beans, and can be used as a dip, a base or just by itself.

So this illustrates another core technique.

8. Flexibility and adaptability. I've never seen a recipe that can't be adapted to taste, to budget, and to make wonderful variations that relieve food boredom.

Take for example the smoothie. It's great stuff, a foundation of what I eat. I love the green base, and sometimes I only eat the greens, but often I add some fruit for sweetness (and to keep my wife happily sharing with me).

For variety, I don't blend it all smooth. I also love the texture, the crunch and the joy of chewing my own food. In fact, at times I just about quit making smoothies. I call them chunkies 'cause they are.

An ingredient I add for interest is mild hot peppers. Banana peppers are a current favorite in my green and fruit smoothies, adding some heat and interest to my regular favorites.

Who knows, maybe next month I'll add some chopped jalapenos. Call me crazy. But I think I can predict I will never, ever add habaneros. Now that'd be nasty! Then again, I acknowledge that one man's nasty/crazy/avoid at all cost taste is another man's food heaven. Which is the basis of this principle, and doesn't preclude great health and great eating.

9. Food foraging.

Now this could be a sensitive topic. For many people, cost effective healthy eating typically means buying kale when it's on sale for, say $2 a bunch instead of $3 a bunch. And there's nothing wrong with looking for sales on great stuff, buying all you can safely use, and doing that over and over forever.

But typical for some means out of reach for others.

By food foraging I don't mean dumpster diving (though some in my family think that's what I do).

To me it means finding unusual sources for high nutrition foods.

Here's a case in point:

For several years now I've been looking for a cost effective source of walnuts. Walnuts grow on trees in people's yards. They'll even invite you to come pick them up, because they've grown tired of picking and shelling.

Most walnuts on people's trees in their yards are, well, tough to shell. Black walnuts are impossible. Most English walnuts are a little to very difficult, (try shelling a pound of walnuts and you'll have a new appreciation for the inherent value of buying 'em at the store).

But the variation called Carpathian walnuts are amazing. They're huge (some are two or three times the size of regular walnuts), thin shelled, and you get lots of nut for your effort. I met someone who introduced me to these, and invited me to pick them up in his yard. Lovely!

Any one of these examples may not be a solution everyone else needs. The point is to keep looking, exploring, and be open to cost effective solutions when they come up.

10. Ground Flax.

Healthy oils are an essential part of the nutritarian plan. You should eat some nuts, seeds or avocado every day, but in smaller quantities. These foods are nutrient dense and have plenty of fiber but unlike the rest of the top recommended food groupings, they're also calorie dense because of the fats in them.

There's not a cheaper source of healthy oils. I have a little most days, and I think it's wonderfully good, and cheap (which means I can do it over and over and over again).

But here's an essential principle of nutritarian eating. Never eat a calorie without it's protective source, as in never consume flax oil without the flax seed. Just like the apple, full of succulent, sweet fructose.

A calorie isn't just a calorie. The calories in high fructose corn syrup have a very different impact on the body than the fructose in an apple.

Not that the fructose is any different. Same chemical, same effect. Too much, too often and without the plant fiber it was born with it's liver poison, very bad stuff, but you have to understand and use it in the right context, then it's truly great stuff.

And no one I'm aware of ever got to be 500 pounds by eating too many apples. It's a physical impossibility to consume that many apples.

Period.