Month: June 2007

Grubs, Part 2

Last week I outlined my basic philosophy of nutrition, informed by my evolutionary biology knowledge. Or, as I call it, Primal Health. The lifestyle is simple: peer into the past at how our robust ancestors lived and take some notes from the DNA handbook (well, I’ll do that part).

Before the advent of agriculture, before the industrial revolution, and certainly before the modern era of fast food, long commutes, and sedentary office jobs, humans had evolved into the amazing creatures that they still are. To say we’re amazing isn’t anthropocentric – all creatures are amazing in the sense that they are finely tuned to survive in their niche. We are no different. For the delicacy of our skin, eyes, and bones, the susceptibility to environmental and emotional stress, and the infectious side effects of communal living, we are remarkably resilient. But it’s really our intelligence that has gotten us this far. Are we powerful? Well, not really, compared to apes. Sturdy? Again, nope. Our young take longer than just about any other mammal to mature (and also come with tuition bills). But brains? We have massive, enormously complex brains.

My Primal Health philosophy is really a marriage of ancient and high-tech. I believe we should harness the power of our knowledge, tools and intelligence to maximize human health and longevity. And the place to start is in our ancestral blueprints – our DNA – which haven’t changed in 10,000 or more years.

Great, Sisson. What does this mean for dinner?

Early humans were omnivorous (though in fact, there’s a bit of scavenger in the old DNA as well). I don’t consider my diet the Caveman Diet, as that’s a bit of a misnomer anyway. Rather, my “diet” is simply the very natural lifestyle I adhere to based upon what our genetic composition (that DNA blueprint) tells us about our highly successful evolution and adaptation. I attribute many, if not most, of our health problems – including mental health conditions – to a diet and lifestyle that’s severely out of sync with human physiology. I’ll be discussing the implications of this for exercise and stress in further articles, but today, let’s talk about the tastier aspects of primal health: what’s for dinner?

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Healthy Tastes Great!

This delectable pairing of salmon and vegetables grilled over an open flame is perfect for those warm summer nights. Go on. Get “Primal” with your diet.
Grilled Salmon

Grilled Vegetables

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[tags]grilled, barbecue, salmon, vegetables[/tags]

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Why Are Potato Chips More Expensive Than Filet Mignon?

Potato chips are one of the most popular American snacks and are our favorite “vegetable”. We spend nearly 3 billion a year on these fried starch crisps. The health issues associated with chip consumption are well-known. What you may not realize is that, pound for pound, potato chips often cost more than the choicest cut of premium beef.

Why eat this…

This is Slice’s Flickr Photo (CC)

When you could eat this?

This is Bruce Lee’s Flickr Photo CC

Relatively ridiculous pricing goes beyond chips. We groan about gasoline being expensive, but salad dressings, sauces, sodas and even bottled water cost far more. And how about a gallon of toothpaste? Hundreds. Most processed foods, beverages and household items are relatively inexpensive to manufacture. We’re not paying for ingredients, we’re paying for the marketing of those ingredients.

Another reason to eat food, not food products.

I’m sure we could come up with dozens of “cheap” snack and household products that in truth cost more than seemingly expensive foods. Anyone up for a little arithmetic?

[tags] potato chips, food production, beverages, processed foods, agriculture [/tags]

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Chicken Cutlets Are Not Out to Get You

It’s just your kitchen they’re after.

Sara here. Calling all germophobes! Specifically, that sub-species of kitchen clean freaks with a special loathing for dealing with raw chicken.

As many of you know, I’m pretty much the world’s worst vegetarian. Better not ask me what I’m eating…this week…because I’m not even sure. But, I will say, carnivorous concerns aside, handling anything beyond fish severely interferes with my clean-counters-or-else philosophy.

Enter this cool kitchen gadget:

The Sensor Soap Pump from Simplehuman

Now, a lot of kitchen gadgets I’ve purchased have been cause for regret. There was the special avocado slicer. The garlic press degunker thingy. I’ve managed to cull my culinary compulsions down to a top-drawer assortment of knives worth more than my graduate degree and an indefatigable hand-held mixer. But I love, love, love this automatic pump! How many times have you cracked an egg all over your hands, gone to wash your digits, and gotten raw chick goo all over the soap pump? (Hey, that’s what it is.) A simple attempt at preventing germ cross-contamination turns into yet another squeamish edition of Wash the Soap Dispenser.

Whether collecting yoga mats or pondering the grand benefits of plastic caps, I don’t normally like to recommend purchasing products. I think humans are better off when they simplify. I’m a bit of a tree-hugger. And blogs that promote new products, especially the health and fitness blogs for women, glaze my eyes faster than a rerun of Family Guy. Oh, wait, first run. (One not-annoying example of such bloggery is the delightful and engaging FitSugar, a bigosphere blog I pretty much devour on a daily basis. Still, Miss Fit tends to promote a whole lot o’ shopping. Nothing wrong with that, but I like to save my cash for what I see as the more important things in life, like artisan goat cheese.)

Simplehuman Sensor Soap Pump: highly recommended. What kitchen gadget would you be lost without?

[tags] sensor soap pump, gadget, kitchen appliance, gizmo, Simplehuman [/tags]

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Mold: Why, It Tastes Like Chicken! (and other mystery ingredients)

Welcome to 2007, where people eat food products full of interesting chemicals and fascinating representations of flavor. This is your food supply – and mold is just the beginning. 10. Ice Structuring Protein (ISP) Sounds harmless enough, right? ISP is used in many ice creams these days, especially light and low-sugar varieties. Translation: “genetically-modified fish ‘antifreeze’ proteins from the blood of ocean pout”. Hey! (Source) 9. Phosphoric Acid This tangy chemical is in so many foods – particularly carbonated beverages – no one thinks much of it anymore. It’s cheaper than real ingredients like ginger and lemon. Folic acid, citric acid, phosphoric acid – acid is good, right? Translation: Phosphoric acid is an efficacious, plentiful and cheap industrial chemical. In all but the most modest amounts, it’s corrosive and dangerous. Phosphoric acid is a terrific rust and stain remover – just pour Coca-Cola on rust and wait a day. Now, just imagine what it’s doing to your bones, tooth enamel and digestive tract. (Source) (We don’t have osteoporosis because we’re lacking in calcium, though Big Moo would love you to believe that. We consume more calcium, in the form of dairy, than many cultures – particularly those in Africa and Asia. Yet despite all our chugging, osteoporosis is a persistent American problem. It’s the soda!) 8. Butylated Hydroxyanisole (BHA) It’s been linked to heart disease and cancer, but evidently…whatever. BHA and BHT are both actually antioxidants, hence their use in preserving processed fats. But these antioxidants aren’t the happy sort you want in your body. Their safety has not technically been “proven” per se – the FDA has simply approved them because, like any other food ingredient, they’ve gone through the standard approval application process. This means that the burden of proof has fallen on industry. You can guess what that means. (Source) 7. High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS) I believe HFCS is one of the most destructive food ingredients humans have yet to invent. There’s nothing “natural” about this ingredient. It’s a highly refined industrial product. HFCS is linked to diabetes, obesity, anxiety and many other prevalent health conditions. Avoid it at all costs. This incredibly cheap sweetener nicely deals with the surplus corn issue in our country (since we inefficiently continue to subsidize corn farmers according to outmoded 1970s models of production). From wikipedia: “High-fructose corn syrup is produced by milling corn to produce corn starch then processing that corn starch to yield corn syrup that is almost entirely glucose, and then adding enzymes that change the glucose into fructose.” Wow, I’m drooling already. (Note: Plain old fructose is not the same thing as HFCS. Fructose, though incredibly sweet, comes from fruits and honey. Though fructose consumption will produce an appreciable rise in blood sugar, it is metabolized more slowly than HFCS. I don’t recommend that you consume sweets and flavored beverages – including juice – but modest amounts of fruit or honey are certainly acceptable for most people. I eat berries nearly every day, and I often … Continue reading “Mold: Why, It Tastes Like Chicken! (and other mystery ingredients)”

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What to Eat at the Gas Station (and Why It Beats the Cheesecake Factory)

Your local 7-11 has more to offer in the way of health than most popular dining establishments. True, quick marts are a landfill of trans sprinkles and grease crisps, but if for no other reason than portion size, you can often fare better in the linoleum aisles of the corner gas station than in the extra-wide banquettes of chain restaurants. Even seemingly healthy items like salads and vegetable omelets are typically two or three times more than the average adult’s caloric needs (read all about sneaky sauces and oils in “healthy entrees”). While fresh is infinitely better than fried, canned, packaged or pickled, you can make out pretty well in even the most forlorn and dusty of gas stations. Road trip? No sweat!

What to pick:

Jerky is a surprisingly lean, healthy choice. Don’t get the teriyaki or flavored kinds – they contain a lot of sugar. While it’s not grass-fed meat, this beats a hot dog or burger and will fill you up.

Trail mixes are always a smart bet. Whether you pick one with dried fruit or not, make sure you’re going easy on the salt. Tip: avoid the mixes with coated peanuts or candies. “Yogurt” covered nuts are nothing more than a sugary, trans-fat coated nutrition disaster.

Nuts. Try to go for almonds or even seeds over cashews and peanuts (which are not actually nuts, as you all know by now from my endless admonitions on this unhealthy legume). Watch the salt, friends.

Water. Yeah, yeah, obvious choice. But no one’s holding a gun to your head making you buy soda! (hmm…that may, in fact, be a terribly tasteless joke. Sorry.)

What to skip:

Everything else.

Exhibit A: Why the gas station beats the Cheesecake Factory.

Even chain restaurants’ salads, stir fries and chicken dishes are larger than your average body builder’s biceps. If you dine out, split the portions, go “dry” with the sauces and oils, or pick smart sides like fresh steamed veggies and grilled fish.

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What other smart compromises can be found in convenience marts? I’d like to hear your tips.

[tags] convenience food, gas station, Cheesecake Factory, what to eat on road trips, healthy snacks [/tags]

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