Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.

Mark's Daily Apple

19 Jun

Ten Awesome Carbs

Here are ten delicious, natural, smart carbohydrates we enjoy at the Sisson household. For comparison, I’ve included unhealthy but popular items that I think these smarter choices can replace. The flavor and texture components aren’t a perfect match by any stretch, but I think there’s enough similarity that you’ll find it painless to switch to the healthier selections.

10. Baked, buttered, and salted acorn squash instead of french fries

9. Butternut squash instead of spaghetti

butternut

This is Mindgraph’s Flickr Photo CC

8. Sweet potatoes instead of potatoes (amazingly, a much lower impact on blood sugar)

7. Grilled eggplant instead of breaded chicken

eggplant

This is Moria’s Flickr Photo CC

6. Portabello mushrooms with soy sauce instead of hamburgers

5. Raw heart of palm instead of fried mozzarella sticks

palm

This is Lana Stewart’s Flickr Photo CC

4. Tempeh with chili sauce instead of white rice with jug “teriyaki sauce”

3. Green peas with shredded parmesan and olive oil instead of macaroni ‘n cheese

peas

This is Himachal’s Flickr Photo

2. Artichoke hearts baked with a bit of cheddar instead of fried chicken nuggets

1. Caprese salad instead of pizza

caprese

This is Avlxyz’s Flickr Photo CC

Further Reading:

My Carb Pyramid

More Top Ten Health Posts

Carbs Are Not the Devil

What are your favorite healthy alternatives to refined carbohydrates?

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18 Jun

Organic Is the New Natural

Organic is a loaded term that has different meanings for different people. I think most of us assume it means food and food products produced without the use of chemicals, inhumane living conditions when animals are involved, or environmental damage. But as we blogged in a post called Semantic Salmon, defining the label “organic” could mean that wild salmon – arguably one of the most natural, nutritious foods on the planet – would not pass muster.

So, what does organic even mean? After all, the USDA is considering opening the organic umbrella so far, seeing the word “organic” on a product will have about as much impact as seeing the word “natural” on a can of 7up.

7up

While I’m at it:

My previous rant on 7up.

And Coke.

And Coke again.

(Sorry, the USDA link is a subscription-only but does show a worthy snippet. I’ll fish around for the whole thing in a sec…)

UPDATE: Here’s the USDA’s own report.

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18 Jun

…But We’ll Still Sell Them

Kellogg’s plans to modify its unhealthy products aimed at children, such as Pop Tarts and some of their breakfast cereals. In Kellogg’s own estimation, at least half their products are missing important nutritional marks. To address the childhood obesity epidemic, Kellogg’s will be reformulating these unhealthy processed foods…except where consumers do not like the taste change, in which case, they’ll just stop marketing those products to kids.

Hmm. They’ve read a page from the failed New Coke playbook, as this article explains. I understand that Kellogg’s doesn’t want to upset or turn away its core users (intentionally loaded term), and I suppose ceasing marketing to children is a decent compromise. But I wonder how long it’s going to be before companies start taking more responsibility. We’re just selling what people want… And so, they dance around the problem – make the product slightly more healthy, or just market it to adults. Eliminating the problem would mean radically changing the products, likely ruining the brand and killing off the company. The company’s products are the problem.

Kellogg’s could announce that they’re completely abolishing all the beloved unhealthy products and will henceforward only be producing nutritious, high-fiber, lightly-sweetened, naturally-made, ethically-produced foods. They could create a campaign enjoining the public to get behind their huge risk, their about-face, their earnest attempt to change the world by caring about children’s health. Can you imagine the promotions, publicity and the wallop of terror to their competitors? Well, more likely, the cackles of glee, because Kellogg’s would never do this, nor would any other big food producer.

The products are the problem, sure. But people do like their Pop Tarts. Someone has to make the first move…

Kellogg’s, from the article:

“It means we have a lot of work to do,” said Chief Executive David Mackay. “If we can’t make those products taste just as good as they do today and make them as appealing, then we won’t reformulate them and we won’t advertise them.

More on Kellogg’s products (Has MacKay had a change of heart?)

Lean is in the eye of the marketer (scroll down to point #4)

HT: Cardio Blog

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18 Jun

I’ll Show THEM!

I’m curious: Is there a survival benefit conferred to us by being stubborn, or is it just immaturity? (Or any one of a litany of emotional and psychological issues.) I’m starting to think there must be a benefit.

It’s amusing, this human lust for proving others wrong, this need to be justified. It’s as if “they” all witness the brain’s imaginary blotter of record and are apprised of how the points of personal justice add up. Ever caught yourself imagining “they” are watching?

Who are “they”, exactly, and why do we want to prove “them” wrong?

It’s obvious enough in the embarrassing daily scenes with which we have verbal feasts, our gleeful elation barely concealed (“Honey, you are not gonna believe what just happened with this guy at the bank. Total meltdown…”). It’s having the last word with the insouciant hot dog vendor. Arguing with the airline attendant for the sake of satisfaction. Debating automated service technology with the hapless phone rep.

Ah, to bathe in the hormonal rush of stubborn! We know such reactions are immature at best, rude at worst. Often, stress has pushed a sane and polite person to the brink. But gosh, sometimes it just plain feels good. He who has not sinned, pick up the first numbered line ticket (or press 1 for English).

But proving “them” wrong goes beyond insecure displays of frustration with trivialities to major life choices. We all have stayed in relationships, romantic or otherwise, that don’t really “fit”. We chew on situations that have long since expired. We cling to a role that no longer serves anyone, least of all ourselves. We stay, and stay, and stay. Why? And to play my own devil’s advocate, is this really so bad?

(A caveat: Though I am a proponent of change, I’m not saying anyone has to change a less-than-ideal situation – only the individual really knows the reason, or reasons, for staying. We’re all controlled by forces and emotions of which we have yet to become aware. Getting into the many reasons people don’t change would make for a very tedious post, and it’s Monday and I know we’re all just getting perked up at this point. Also, I hope it’s clear that I’m not talking about persistence and diligence. Those are admirable qualities, and in this instant-gratification culture I think there’s too much giving up. I’m talking about harmful pride and stubbornness.)

I think that beneath all the “reasons” – both the superficial good ones and the comfortable lies – the root issue is simply that we are determined to prove “them” wrong. I’ll show them! Because when you’re wanting to prove “them” wrong, you’re really just wanting to prove yourself wrong. “Mistakes” cut into the old ego like the dickens. We’d rather save face.

Now we’re at the real question: why do we want to prove ourselves wrong?

We’re all blessed with instincts, some stronger than others. But from an early age, we’re taught to suppress our instincts. Authority knows best; the rules are always right; if it looks good on paper it must be good. As a result, we give words a chance when actions are not commensurate. We believe pundits, politicians, mass marketing, cheating lovers. We doubt ourselves before others (and it’s the last people who ought to doubt themselves who are the first to do so).

They say when you ask for advice, you already know the answer. I believe when we try to prove others wrong, we’re really just trying to prove ourselves wrong, because we already know the answer. And we’re loath to make a mistake. We’ve been taught that mistakes are bad.

I believe in the the maxim “a wise man keeps his own council” – but what confidence this takes! Ignoring our instincts is not only a recipe for an unfulfilled life but exerts a harmful level of physical stress that is probably cumulative and maybe more destructive than all the pizza and Twinkies we worry about. So why is living this way – it’s more like just-barely-existing – so commonplace?

A bit of a qualifier: I’m assuming you believe in the power of instinct as I do (if not, go read Malcolm Gladwell’s Blink). And I’m asserting, rather unoriginally, that proving “them” wrong is just psychological projection – whether in the form of tirades, meltdowns, lectures, denials, reproach – because we’re uncomfortable with experiencing our own feelings or confronting what we know to be true deep down.

Is suppression of instinct mere social conditioning, a necessary evil for the good of the group, or does it benefit the human species in some deeper way? Remember, a “benefit” in evolutionary terms is not always rosy. It would seem the evolutionary mechanism at work, if there is one, is a harsh one. While I don’t go in for the “America causes cancer!” fear-mongering, I do think it is clear that our modern lifestyle is grossly out of step with our genetic blueprints.

So, I really doubt there’s an evolutionary benefit to being stubborn (denying the truth to yourself). In fact, being an idealistic science nut, I believe the opposite: flexibility and willingness to change are the things that keep you alive, keep you healthy, and push the limits of longevity. And I believe that’s why we have instinct. Instinct is the evolutionary mechanism, not saving face for the good of some abstract lofty social notion or some emotion like fear.

Proving ourselves wrong: though it can feel “good” in the short term, in the long term, it just hurts everyone. It slices at your self-esteem. It beats you down. Many have been doing it so long, they don’t even realize what a battering they’ve subjected themselves to. I don’t think it’s natural, I don’t think it benefits anyone, and I don’t think it’s necessary to keep society churning. I think it’s an outdated social superimposition. Even if it is “natural”, aren’t we innovative enough to find a way of living that is both beneficial to society and the individual? Ignoring what we know to be true creates a dissonance, and projection is bound to result. This festering reactivity tears the individual down, turning adults into unsatisfied, miserable infants.

We’re going to have to move away from the hierarchical structure that teaches people to subvert their own intuition for some supposed survival benefit or “the good of all”. It’s fear-based, and it’s just not healthy. “Keeping people in line” with guilt, shame, and regrets may have been effective in the Middle Ages, I guess, but we don’t need it. That was society out of balance with nature, yet we’re still clinging to it psychologically.

Stop proving yourself wrong – it’s not benefiting anyone, least of all you. I don’t believe that life is a Hegelian zero-sum game. I believe we’re smart enough to make life a win-win.

Foibles. Scruples. Mistakes. Welcome to life: don’t let the regrets hit you on the way out.

More Monday Moments:

Why Partying Is Healthy

Why Nervousness Is Good

Do You Mean What You Say? Big Deal.

The Devil You Know…

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15 Jun

Mineral Makeup, Michael Moore and More

WORKER BEES’ WEEKLY BUZZ

8 Glasses of Water a Day? Theory Springs a Leak

Thanks to Calorie Lab for mopping up this “urban legend”. (Dartmouth Medical School)

Mineral Makeup Is Mostly Made of Marketing

We blogged about this earlier this year, and now WebMD has just come out with a thorough analysis of mineral makeup (popular brands include Bare Escentuals and Bare Minerals). The verdict? Not only are these “minerals” no different from the minerals that have always been used in makeup, there’s absolutely no proof of any health benefit.

There’s a Culture with No Word for ‘Worry’?

It’s always valuable to gain some healthy perspective on our own culture by learning about another. See why “worry” and “want” aren’t essential to your vocabulary. (via Vital Votes)

High-Carbohydrate Diets Linked to High Blood Pressure

Brian of That’s Fit notes this news piece. (Though he writes that diets high in carbs are high in monounsaturated fats, which cause high blood pressure. This is a bit of a garbling, as refined carbs are not typically high in monounsaturated fats, and in fact that’s the problem: these fats are very healthy. Think olive oil and nuts. Oops, Brian!) (Reuters)

Pharma and Michael Moore: Clash of the Cooties

Big Pharma is none too thrilled with Moore’s latest celluloid polemic, Sicko.

The Future of Medicine: the Internets!

You were just learning about Web 2.0, and along comes Web 3.0. Or you have no idea what we’re talking about. Scoot over to this interesting post detailing the exciting technological future of online health.

Court Must Decide if There Is Autism-Vaccine Link

Now that’s a fun job. No pressure. Check out the news, then visit our favorite autism blog, Autism Vox, for a good perspective.

Get a Room: FDA and Drug Companies Are Cozy

And you thought Dick Cheney met with the energy corporations a lot. It turns out the FDA and drug companies meet so frequently, it’s one big campfire kumbayah.

Introducing Nanofood

Forget “natural” (so 80s!). And “lite” (hello, 90s). “Organic”? Whatever. The really hot food is nanofood.

Alli Folly

Mark has blogged about the unsafe, ineffective, we-really-need-a-blockbuster-drug Alli from GlaxoSmithKline. It’s hitting shelves, so educate yourself.

FDA Cracks Down on Body Part Harvesting

The dark side of funeral homes. Unbelievable. (Note: sensitive viewers may want to skip this one.)

Possible Link between Genetically Engineered Foods and Allergies

The debate continues.

Better Than Bypass: the Expanding Gelatin Blob

Our friends at Diet Blog chat about the hilarious implications of this ball of industrial goo.

New blog: Burning the Scale by Claire

Mark will be in later answering your health questions. Have a great weekend, Apples!

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