For today’s edition of Dear Mark, I’m answering four reader questions. First we have a question about an inadvertently fasting 11 year-old girl whose mom is concerned. Should she force the issue and convince her to eat breakfast, or let her do her thing? Second, what’s the real story behind rinsing raw meat? Does it actually remove bacteria and reduce the chances of food-borne illness? Third, is glutamic acid, or glutamate, really a health concern for everyone? MSG is one thing, but what about glutamate found in real, otherwise healthy foods like meat, sardines, and aged cheeses? And finally, I discuss whether or not hitting the snooze button is good for you.
I have a question about IF & children. My daughter has always had a natural tendency to extend her fast from dinner through the better part of the next morning (sometimes until lunch time if I don’t say anything).
In the past, I’ve practically force fed her breakfast because CW says “it’s the most important meal of the day.”
My daughter is 11 now and I’m still not sure I’m convinced it’s ok for a child to skip breakfast. What do you think? Should I just let her listen to her body’s hunger cues & not push the issue? Or do you think a growing kid needs to chow down, or at least eat something, before tackling the day? (I wanted to mention that we homeschool, so it’s not like I’d be sending her off on an empty stomach. She has the opportunity to break her fast whenever she’s ready. I just thought I’d throw that out there in case your advice might be different for a child who wouldn’t have the same opportunity to eat whenever they want.)
I often fast through the breakfast hours, so I completely understand the tendency to be disinterested in breakfast. I don’t want to be a hypocrite, just raise a healthy kid. 🙂
Thanks for answering (fingers crossed),
That’s a tough one. I’m inclined not to force a kid to eat when they don’t want to, for two reasons:
1. Their body knows best. If they don’t want to eat, they probably don’t need the food. Kids are usually less “corrupted” by years of living in the modern world, and their satiety mechanisms are more likely to remain intact. However, this may not always be the case.
2. Forcing a kid to eat can create a difficult relationship with food that lasts well into adulthood. This would be bad. Food fights, unless you’re talking about the dinner scene from Hook, usually end badly.
But there’s some evidence, albeit just epidemiological, that children who regularly skip breakfast are at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes. I’d say as long as your kid doesn’t have the other characteristics associated with type 2 diabetes, like being overweight, having no interest in physical activity, and/or getting lots of screen time on a daily basis, and skipping breakfast isn’t leading her to gorge on junk food when she actually does eat, you don’t have to worry much.
That said, kids often do well with breakfast. Mine certainly relished theirs and really seemed to thrive with breakfast. She may be doing fine, but what if she’s even better with a solid meal for breakfast? As you say, they are growing and they do need the nutrients and if they’re unable to squeeze them in on a truncated eating schedule, breakfast could really help.
You might try eating breakfast in front of your daughter on a regular basis. Just eat something delicious and make it clear that you’re enjoying your food. Bacon, omelets, fruit, Primal pancakes (assuming she’s Primal), just eat something good. You probably don’t even have to explicitly offer the kid any; she’ll want to do what mom’s doing. That’s how (many, perhaps most) kids work.
Mark, would like your opinion on the topic of washing raw meat before cooking? Proponents claim it removes bacteria while opponents claim it spreads the bacteria on the surfaces where the water splashes. Is it really necessary? Thanks.
It’s totally useless. The USDA, who are usually real sticklers about food safety and tend to err on the side of so much caution that it ruins good meat, recommends against rinsing meat. It’s worse than useless, even; rinsing meat absolutely can and does send bacteria spraying all over your kitchen. Besides, for it to really remove all the bacteria, you’d have to use soap and get it all sudsy, which is really disgusting to even imagine.
The cooking is enough. You’re worried about surface bacteria, right? Any surface bacteria is killed during the application of heat. You sear a steak on both sides and the bacteria (if there any actual pathogens to worry about in the first place) is nullified.
And from a culinary standpoint, it’s counterproductive. The last thing you want to throw on the grill is a wet, soggy, sodden piece of chicken or beef. Get that sucker as dry as possible and skip the rinsing.
First I’d like to say how much I appreciate the quality and professionalism of your blog. Among its many functions, MDA serves as an exceptional aggregate of valuable information, and for this reason it’s the first place I go when looking for nutritional guidance.
How should we treat glutamic acid?
There’s quite a bit of anecdotal information on the internet supporting a move away from it, but is it truly a concern? And what does this mean for overall protein consumption? It’s present in relatively high quantities in protein powders, as you know, but also in my favorite food: sardines.
Thank you so much,
Thanks, Kellan. Glad to hear the blog is working for you! I’ll make sure to keep it up.
Glutamate (or glutamic acid, as you say) is a naturally occurring amino acid found in lots of our favorite foods. Meat, fish (especially fish sauce or as you said, sardines), shellfish, mushrooms (which is why they make fair meat substitutes), and dairy (especially aged cheeses like pecorino romano or parmesan or gouda) all contain appreciable amounts of glutamate, which provides the umami, or savory/meaty flavor we find so appealing.
Our guts really like it, too. Literally: glutamate is an important energy source of the cells lining the gut. Whether it comes from our food that was spiked with MSG in the kitchen, we dipped our chicken skewers into fish sauce, or the partial digestion of the protein bonds in the meat we just ate yielded up some glutamate, our guts are set up to detect and utilize free glutamate. Most human studies involving large oral doses of MSG are unable to increase plasma glutamate levels because the guts cells are consuming the bulk of it before it can go anywhere else. If we weren’t ever meant to consume glutamate or foods that naturally contain glutamate, we wouldn’t have such a natural appetite for it.
Plus, there are definite benefits to glutamate.
It can increase appetite and improve digestion, especially in chronic gastritis patients with low appetite and poor digestion caused by impaired gastric secretion. And that’s using MSG, the “evil” stuff.
But perhaps the coolest way to use glutamate is as a training tool to condition people to like novel flavors. Splashing some fish sauce onto bitter greens can help people learn to enjoy the greens, even after the source of glutamate has been removed. Any parents with picky kids want to give this a shot and report back?
I think there are glutamate-sensitive populations who may need to limit the amino acid, though.
Autism: Researchers have identified an imbalance in the brain levels of glutamate and GABA — too much of the former and not enough of the latter — in many autistic subjects, and some parents of children with autism have noticed beneficial changes after removing concentrated sources of glutamate, like MSG or fish sauce.
Migraines: Glutamate is a common migraine trigger. If you suffer from migraines, give a low-glutamate diet a shot for a month or so. Can’t hurt, right?
Obesity: The appetite stimulating effects which help gastritis patients can go too far, of course, at least when you’re talking about isolated MSG:
Glutamate is an indicator of protein, a valuable nutrient. When glutamate is divorced from the nutrient it’s supposed to indicate, the appetite may be excessively stimulated — as the above studies suggest. As long as you’re actually getting protein when your body senses glutamate, I see no reason to avoid it.
I wouldn’t worry, honestly. If your favorite food is high in glutamate, and you presumably consume your favorite food regularly without ill effect, keep on doing it. I’m not a big fan of worrying about “silent damage” without considerable supporting evidence. It does more harm than good.
Really hoping you can settle a debate between me and my girlfriend. We are both aware of the importance of sleep, and most days we are lucky enough to wake up without an alarm clock. But she does one thing that drives me up the wall: on those days where she needs to get out of bed earlier than normal, she will intentionally set her alarm way before that time, then hit the snooze button multiple times (sometimes as many as 10!) before finally getting out of bed.
I’ve tried to convince her to just set the alarm for the latest possible required wake up and on the idea that deep sleep is more restorative than repeatedly falling into light sleep and being startled awake. But am I actually right? Is there any chance that her “interval sleeping” is as restorative as a longer sleep?
Thanks for all that you do.
The problem with the snooze button is that every time you hit it and return to slumber, you’re restarting the sleep cycle. You’re not picking up where you left off (which is why falling back asleep to continue that awesome dream never works out), you’re going to bed all over again. And that means you never hit the restorative part of sleep. Instead, you’re being woken up by the alarm over and over again in the part of the sleep cycle that’s hardest to wake up from.
Of course, that’s also why hitting the snooze button feels so dang good. You get to fall back asleep when it’s the hardest to stay awake — when you’ve just woken up. One early wake-up when you’re not prepared to get up is bad enough. Ten early wake-ups each morning is pure misery and sends the wrong message to your body. Each time you wake up from the snooze, your body has to “wake up” all over again. This type of sleep fragmentation reduces wakefulness the rest of the day.
It’s understandable why we like the snooze button so much. In those early waking moments between sleep and full alertness, our executive functioning — our decision making skills — is impaired. We’re more reliant on our lizard brains, so even if we know that the snooze isn’t good for us in the long run, we punch the button because it feels good in the short term.
Congratulations, Terrence. You’ve won the argument. But unless you plan on exclusively using the bedroom for sleep, I recommend against celebrating too publicly.
That’s it for today. Thanks for reading, everyone! Take care.