Tuesday, December 28, 2010

Happily eating in India

I just returned from a wonderful trip to Delhi, India, to visit my son who is studying there. A big concern of mine was eating carefully to avoid "Delhi belly". But how to do this and enjoy the street food that my son lives on?
A few years ago I had success treating an unhappy digestive tract with probiotic bacteria in Turkey, and decided to try it prophylactically this time. Every day I took 2 capsules from NOW Foods, called 8 Billion Acidophilus & Bifidus- I like NOW products because their quality and safety are verified.
The result? No digestive complaints.
Of course I did avoid all raw vegetables, and only ate fruit that I could peel myself. Breakfast was banana and red papaya with lime that I bought at a stand each evening. I was able to feast on aloo tiki (spicy fried potato pancakes), paratha, and even chow mein, all cooked to order before our eyes.
The probiotic may have had nothing to do with my happy experience of course. I'd be interested to hear from others who try this strategy- does it seem to help or not?

Saturday, November 27, 2010

There is no such thing as will power. There is only the quality of what you are eating.

A quote from Jerry Seinfeld goes: “There is no such thing as an attention span. There is only the quality of what you are viewing.”*
My version of this is: There is no such thing as will power. There is only the quality of what you are eating.

For me, high quality food is not merely good for you, but it tastes good and is filling. Choosing high quality food over junk food does not require will power.
Picture this scenario- you open your fridge and see some homemade chili, rich with nutritious beans, beef, tomato, onion, and all sorts of chili peppers. And on the counter is some homemade cornbread, made with whole grain cornmeal, olive oil, and juicy kernels of fresh corn.
It doesn’t take will power to choose these foods and to decide not to go to McDonald’s. It just takes cooking with filling and healthy ingredients like olive oil, beans and grass-fed beef.
*“The Attention-Span Myth”, NY Times Magazine, 11/21/10, p. 22.

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Did Paleolithic Humans Eat Bread?

Our ancestors thrived and evolved while eating a so-called Paleolithic diet, loosely interpreted as foods that could be hunted and gathered, foods that were around before industrialization, processing, refining and packaging. It’s easy to imagine that the Paleolithic diet would have included meats, seafood, eggs, vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds, but what about small amounts of whole grains? Did it include bread?
If you are personally trying to adhere to a Paleolithic diet, you probably experienced more than a little joy upon hearing the news that “Paleolithic Humans Had Bread Along With Their Meat” (from the New York Times, 10/19/2010). Sorry to be a spoilsport- but what researchers think was actually eaten 30,000 years ago was stone ground starchy plants made into a flat bread.
Our ancestors probably ate starchy plants like potatoes, and they probably gathered a little grain, but bread and rice were not thought to be staple foods eaten in large quantities. A Paleolithic diet still involves asking the waiter to take back the bread basket. Maybe you should go outside, gather some tubers, and find a grinding stone.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

What’s your cat eating?

Have you read the ingredient list on your cat’s food? For any packaged food for humans or pets, that’s where you’ll get the most valuable information- not from the Nutrition Facts table.

What you want to see at the beginning of the list is real food ingredients that a cat might actually choose to eat such as chicken, fish, or beef, not by-products. And I can’t imagine that cats evolved to eat large amounts of wheat, soy, or corn.

After trying many dry cat foods, my current favorite is Core Wellness Adult Cat & Kitten Food. I don’t know whether it’s the turkey and chicken, small amounts of potato and tomato, or the probiotics (live bacteria), but my cat loves it (and he is as picky as they come) and his coat is softer and healthier than ever.

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Coaching to help you exit the diet cycle

I believe that eating natural, unprocessed, good-tasting food is the best approach to good health, and that strict diets rarely succeed over the long term. If you need help exiting a frustrating cycle of dieting, binge eating and feeling guilty, you might check out Sylvia Kurpanek, a Palo Alto based coach who helps people learn to trust their instincts in an approach very complementary to mine. She’s giving an informational seminar Tuesday evening, 8/24/10 at 7 pm (web site).

Sunday, August 8, 2010

Mediterranean cooking- try some new recipes

Once you learn how to cook a few basic dishes, you can eat healthily for the rest of your life. Mediterranean cuisine contains lots of nutritious veggies and is delicious, so it’s a good place to start. Try a few recipes from my friends’ website, Mediterranean Cooking. I’ve eaten the Baked Scallops with Tomatoes and Pistou Sauce so I know it’s wonderful, and I can’t wait to try the Spaghetti Squash with Sage and Walnuts. Mediterraneancooking.net

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Vegans Beware

Over the past few years, two major areas of misinformation about nutrition have been gradually clearing up in the public mind and people don’t look at me like I’m crazy when I give talks about these subjects. Most people are now aware that “good” fats (oils, mayo, nuts) are actually good for you and are aware that we need some sun exposure to make vitamin D.

There is another urgent topic that will probably make it into the media and into our doctors' attention in a few years, and that is our need for animal products to get vitamin B12. We can get protein and iron from beans, but vitamin B12 is found reliably only in animal products such as meats, eggs and milk. Vegan sources such as tempeh and seaweeds can’t be counted on for B12. If you don’t get enough you’ll be okay for a few years, but then your nerves will start dying, and your legs, arms, and brain won’t work very well.

I found a great source for information on this topic on the VeganHealth.org website. This is written by Jack Norris, a Registered Dietician, President of Vegan Outreach, and apparently a thoughtful reader of the scientific literature. If you are a vegan, take supplements or eat fortified foods.

Thursday, February 18, 2010

Been told your health problems are all due to being overweight?

Many clients come to me for weight loss, having been told by MDs that their health problems are all due to being overweight. For example, their knee pain is automatically attributed to their excess weight, with the unfortunate consequence that other possible causes are not investigated and treated.

There is a lot more to good health than just being thin, and there is a lot more to a complete medical examination than just being weighed and measured. Some tests that are very informative are blood sugar, blood cholesterol, blood pressure, and cardiovascular fitness (how you do on a treadmill test). People who score well on these tests live longer than thin people because good health comes from eating well and exercising, not from being skinny.

Why does this distinction matter? Because if your goal is good health rather than weight loss, you are more likely to succeed. For example by focusing on increasing your energy level, you will feel more like working out. By investigating medical approaches to healing your knee, you will be better able to exercise. This will be much more effective than beating yourself up for not being able to resist eating food. I like to help clients navigate areas of overlap between nutrition and medicine in the most constructive way.

Tuesday, February 9, 2010

Don’t have time to cook- or is that just what you’ve been told?

A former commissioner of the FDA, David Kessler, joined faculty and students at Stanford University for dinner on 2/4, followed by a thought provoking talk on “the insatiable American appetite”.

If everyone were given access to lots of cheap cocaine, we’d probably have pretty high rates of addiction, right? Well Dr. Kessler thinks that restaurants and food companies have managed to find the perfect combinations of sugar, fat, and salt to make many foods affect our brains just like addictive drugs do, inducing dependency. And since these foods are cheap, found absolutely everywhere, high in calories and engineered to be easy to chew and swallow, we eat a lot and gain weight.

What can we do about this? Go back in time to when the foods we had around were not addictive? The solution is easier than time travel- buy some meat or beans and vegetables and cook your own dinner. With a little practice, it takes less time to whip up an omelet or to heat up some lentil soup that you made on your day off than it does to drive to a restaurant.

The problem isn’t a lack of time to cook, it’s that ads for restaurants and frozen dinners have brainwashed us into believing that we don’t have the time or skills to prepare food. We’re out of the habit of cooking- once you get back in the habit you’ll see how easy it really is.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

A vitamin deficiency that causes osteoporosis is common- are you okay?

News flash- data show that you, as a typical American, are likely to be deficient in a vitamin, and that this deficiency causes weak bones and muscles, joint pain, osteoporosis, and having white blood cells that can’t kill the tuberculosis bacterium. Wait- there’s more- groups of people who don’t get enough of this vitamin also have more breast and prostate cancer than people who get plenty.

Must be a new, unusual, and expensive vitamin? Not at all, it’s free actually- all you have to do is to get a little sunshine (without sunscreen) and your skin can make vitamin D. You can get a teeny little bit from milk, and a small amount from pills, but when you get 10 minutes of sun on your legs (30 minutes if you’re dark skinned) you’ll make tons of vitamin D. Therapy for tuberculosis used to be sun baths- doesn’t sound so dumb now.

Good health is all about the happy medium- drink enough water but not too much, eat enough food but not too much, and get enough sunshine but not too much. Just because you can kill yourself drinking too much water doesn’t mean that your doctor is telling you not to touch a drop. The same should go for sunshine. It’s natural.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Can nutrition help a stiff neck?

No, but a chiropractor can. Oh my god my neck and shoulders feel so much better after seeing fantastic Dr. Jack. Why did I wait this long? (http://www.drjackbourla.com/)

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Eat beans, no bread, and live longer??

Have you heard about the diet experiments in which animals can be made to live longer than their normal lifespan? The only problem is that the diet used is essentially a starvation diet- the animals are fed much less than normal for their entire lives. Personally I am not looking forward to the discovery that a starvation diet will also allow humans to live longer.

But there is hope- cutting out one little nutrient (while eating normal amounts of food) also allows animals to live longer lives (and be thinner), and that nutrient is methionine. Methionine is an amino acid, one of the building blocks of protein, and it is essential for life, but perhaps in smaller quantities than we usually eat.

Now for the type of wild speculation that I usually make fun of- would it be good for us to eat less methionine and how would we accomplish this? Methionine is high in grains and seeds, moderate in animal foods (milk, meat, eggs) and corn, and low in beans, nuts, soy, and peanuts.

Would it make a difference to cut out grains (wheat, rice), eat less animal products, and eat more legumes? You would not be able to achieve the low methionine intake that has been found to work in animals, and amazing results in animal experiments almost never translate to useful recommendations for people, but it’s something to think about.