Archive for the ‘nutrition’ Category

My drug of choice …

August 4th, 2012 1 comment

pu-erh… is Pu-Erh tea. I drink a cup, and I become productive. I’m not antsy or nervous, just calmly productive. I just do what needs to be done.

Sure, it’s gotta be the caffeine, but it must be modulated well-enough to clear the mental fuzz without driving me nuts, and there seems to be no crash or anxiety associated with it. In the evening, I have a cup of Celestial Seasonings Sleepytime (Hare Krishna! Hare Krishna!) or Chamomile tea, and I’m good. The ups and downs are mild enough to be unnoticed. I don’t do this every day, just when I’m out of whack either way: too up or too down.

I suppose that the more natural the source of the stimulant or relaxant, the less disruptive it may be to the system; and the more human intervention in the substance, such as the addition of chemical additives, the more disruptive the substance. This leads us to something worth pondering: if we ingest a natural substance that is safe to ingest (not a poisonous mushroom, for example), and it has an effect, is the desired effect the restoration of homeostasis?

In other words, if we’re all hyped-up, or if we’re logy, is it healthy to ingest a natural substance that (respectively) calms us down or wakes us up? I believe so, based on the assumption that we are beings of nature and natrual substances can help maintain and restore our natural functioning. But I think that this is necessary: we need to know our bodies well enough to know when we’re out of whack; to know when we’re too wired or too fuzzy. This comes with experience, paying attention, and a knowledge of where our baseline is when we’re healthy. Only then can we make an accurate assessment of when we’re not quite right. If we’re generally in a state of poor health, our knowledge of our baseline is skewed. So we need to get healthy first, then maintain and improve. Refine and Repeat.

(Of course, your mileage may vary, and I’m just Some Guy on the Internet.)

Time for another cuppa.

Categories: East meets West, modern life, nutrition Tags:

Diet Drink Sweet Tooth

March 5th, 2012 No comments

The Globe has just published another article on artificial sweeteners.

I find it dismaying how many people would defend an inanimate substance, such as white/brown sugar, chocolate or artificial sweeteners, when none of those are necessary for our health. Similarly, I find it dismaying when I see my diabetic friend guzzling diet pop. Why not water?

Sure, sweets taste good, and eating sweets make us feel good when we’re eating them. Afterward? Maybe not. But every now and then … sure. I’m not going to get pissy about a decent lemon tart every now and then.

But the real nastiness is in sugary drinks, which have become the drink of choice for post-breakfast drinks for many, no? I used to drink them all the time: fruit juice, pop (soda) and iced tea. Water was something I only had when there was no other option, or if I was really hot. It seems strange now — my normal drink, my regular ingested fluid was basically sugar water. It wasn’t a treat, it was a staple.

So. Diet drinks are for those people who want sugary drinks as a staple, but don’t want the sugar. Now if they drank water regularly as a staple, would they drink diet drinks as a treat? Now that would be a cure for the diet-drink sweet tooth …

… because really, diet drinks taste like crap once you really taste them. And after that, what’s left?

Categories: a little clarity, nutrition, rants Tags:

Big day at the Globe

August 29th, 2011 No comments

A number of articles caught my eye in The Globe and Mail today:

Here’s a good piece by Sarah Hampson on the way people handle the last days of life. It’s neither schmaltzy nor grim.

This article on kids and boxing remind me of a friend of mine who practices Shotokan karate. Like many who practice (or dabble in, as is my case) martial arts, we wonder about the realism of it all: contact, no contact, headgear, no headgear …? In the case of my friend, head shots are winners in competitions, and although he won the competition, I have to wonder about the poor fellow he stunned with a solid head shot — with no padding, no headgear. In the end, the more I read about concussions, the more I realize how fragile we are.

Here’s a review of some post-workout drinks. We should keep in mind two things if we consider partaking: (1) the goal of business is to make money, and the world of the consume is filled with unnecessary products designed to make money, and (2) though a product may have a unique name and appear “indie”, it’s probably owned by a giant conglomerate such as Coke or Pepsico.

I’ve often found that a concept can be sharpened in the mind by studying its opposite as well. Here’s a little piece on The Six Habits of Highly Ineffective People. Better get off the computer ….

(No, the Globe doesn’t pay me to write this. I just get the paper. It’s not perfect, and it isn’t immune to the current tendency of the mainstream media to accept the way politicians and pundits frame the issues … but it’ll do for now.)

(Mental note: look up “article” in the Thesaurus.)

Miss non-congealiality?

January 31st, 2011 No comments

(Boy, that headline’s a stretch.) Anyway, Rebecca, a Chinese friend of mine says that if we drink cold drinks after or during a meal, it’s more likely that the fat in the meal will congeal in our stomach. This is one of the reasons why Chinese drink tea at meals — to prevent the congealing. (I thought it was because the water in China was so unhealthy it had to be boiled … go figure) So Rebecca says “drink more tea. Hot, but not too hot.”. If you know Rebecca, you know Rebecca knows.

It also works for me because I have a low body temperature, and cold drinks tend to make my hands and feet cold. So I drink more hot tea, and feel great, Pu Erh being my tea of choice, but I’m cool with a lot of them, including Earl Grey. Pu Erh takes a bit of getting used to, but it seems to be smoother if not oversteeped. I just had some nice smooth stuff at Crown Princess restaurant in Toronto. Nice place.

So there you go. More tea for thee?

Categories: nutrition, secrets of youth, weight loss Tags:

Secrets of weight loss #1

December 12th, 2010 No comments

Over the past year and a half, I’ve been losing weight. Hopefully, I’ve only lost fat, but I don’t think the loss has been so extreme as to worry about losing muscle mass. I don’t think that losing twenty to twenty-five pounds over a year is very drastic, but I suppose that keeping is off is pretty nice. Over the next little while I’ll share with you some things that worked for me, because I’ve lost fat by doing them, but also because I’ve gained a bit back by not doing them.

Case in point: Know the difference between staples and treats.

Mentally, we often view staples as forming the bulk of the meal, while we see the treats as the dessert: the “fun” part. I seem to recall that the staples were characterized as meaty and salty, while the treats were sweet. Many of us have taken our cues from restaurants that package their meal that way. For example, a fast food meal would include burger and fries as the staples, a coke as the drink (gotta hydrate!) and a sundae or fruity pie as dessert. There: a complete meal. For those of us who either grew up that way or came to survive that way post-secondary school, we may have come to believe that you package a meal that way.

Burgers and fries = staple.
Sundae = treat.

From a taste-bud perspective, considering that many of us grew up associating “sweet” with “treat”, it makes sense. However, for your consideration, may I present a different way to categorize “staple” and “treat”:

Healthy = staple.
Tasty, but not so healthy = treat.

In other words, a staple is something that keeps us healthy. The body needs it. It doesn’t hurt the body. We don’t need to compensate for eating it by working it off at the gym, nor do we need to insert something healthy into the meal to balance the guilt. Anything that a good nutritionist would recommend is a staple, in my opinion. We eat staples often, and often begin the composition of the meal with a staple. Treats, on the other hand, we eat for taste, not nutrition. We eat treats less often than staples, hopefully.

Here’s how it works: to get healthier, we change many of our former staples into treats. For example, a hamburger might have been a staple beforehand, but if we want to be healthy, it has to become a treat. Why? Because a) we like the taste, so it’s a treat b) it’s not very healthy, so it’s not a staple and c) we should eat less of it in order to get healthy. One result of this, in my situation, is that instead of grabbing a quick McDonald’s for dinner when I’m in a hurry (which could add up to three times a week) I now indulge in a Johnny’s hamburger maybe once every two weeks when I visit Scarborough. So now, a hamburger has become a treat.

(Note that a great situation would involve eating tasty staples (such as an apple as a treat), and a lot of the healthiest people live that way, where the treats taste good and are good for the body. It’s a process, though — one step at a time to help ensure the new habit sticks.)

As we make this change, we become more discerning, where more and more food items that previously were staples become treats. For example, we can “treatify” pancakes (once a breakfast staple), muffins, danishes, lattes, deli sandwiches, anything on white bread, butter, lasagna, pasta with cream sauce, anything with gravy and so on. Imagine how many restaurant meals are presented as staples (implicitly, where “main course” = staple) but are best approached as treats. Try that the next time you’re reading a menu. Of course, there can be a sliding scale to this, where the “stapleness” or “treatness” could be determined by the food’s (admittedly qualitative?) health value … or where it stands on the scale between “medicine” and “poison”. But more on that potentially incendiary topic later.

At any rate, besides the potential for weight loss, an upside of all this is that we would now place more responsibility on the hamburger to behave like a treat: it better be good. When it was a staple, it didn’t have so much pressure on it to satisfy our taste buds. This leads to the possibility that we might actually figure out what that burger really tastes like … and it might not be as good as we thought it was.

But not Johnny’s, of course. It still remains a tasty treat, for an old Scarborough boy, at least.

(But it ain’t no staple.)

Categories: nutrition, weight loss Tags:

The Fasting Track

August 15th, 2010 2 comments

While tidying up today, I ran across a copy of Utne Magazine from 2007. Before tossing it, I was caught by a headline: Detox Diets DEBUNKED.

Here’s the online version, but for you loyal readers, I’ll quote a sentence of interest to RnR:

It sounds boring … but plain old moderation, exercise and clean living will go farther toward improving your health than fasting.

Naturally, I haven’t done exhaustive studies on the worth of fasting. However, as is true with many of the arguments I make, I support this one because it is difficult to argue against. I believe that many people do a detox to allow them (in their minds) to consume those toxins the rest of the year: consume and detox, consume and detox. Now there must be some toxins in our environment that are difficult to eliminate (air pollution, for example), but when it comes to food, I believe we can eliminate much of those with a change in diet from processed foods to real foods.

As for the historical validity of fasting, I believe that its roots are spiritual. The fasting ascetic attempts to lose attachments, achieve some kind of focus, experience humility or reaffirm a devotion to his/her spirituality. That’s all well and good, but I don’t think it has anything to do with detoxifying, because in the past a) today’s toxins weren’t present in ancient diets, and b) can you see the average non-ascetic person with an unpredictable food supply actually fasting for health reasons? I can’t.

Oh, and the Utne article makes another good point:

We were born with our own detoxification systems: our liver and our kidneys.

So why not just eat right and let them do their job, I wonder?

Categories: a little clarity, nutrition Tags:

Garbage in, garbage out

July 29th, 2010 No comments

According to a recent story, the principal at a Wisconsin high school reduced fighting, weapons-carrying, and general lack of focus and discipline in the school by changing the menu.

Here’s the article.

Categories: modern life, nutrition Tags:

Stop!! Don’t drink that!

May 24th, 2010 4 comments

Here’s a good advertisement for water. Really, once we started thinking that “treats” were “staples”, this became inevitable.

I used to drink a lot of fruit juice, iced tea and pop, but this stuff is so much worse.

FYI: their recommended substitutes may be sponsored. And though they recommend “diet” sweet drinks, I recommend weaning off the sweet drinks entirely and going for water when you’re thirsty. Sweet drinks are treats, in my opinion, requiring some kind of physical activity to counter their effects.

Categories: nutrition Tags:

If you were stranded on a desert island for a year …

April 8th, 2010 No comments

I thought it would be spinach. Most people (42%) thought it would be bananas.

The answer is: hot dogs or chocolate. They have protein, fat and carbs, necessary for survival. Of course, we keep in mind that we’re just talking about a year, and survival. I’m not going to start eating hot dogs again, or gorge on chocolate, but I’m going to take a closer look at balancing my diet.

Ostensibly, the point of the study by food psychologist Paul Rozin is to reveal our attitudes towards dietary fat, “good” food and “bad” food. Here’s a little more (and here), though I wish I could find a detailed article on the study. Hm. Anyway, it’s mentioned in Michael Pollan’s In Defense of Food. Recommended. His seven-word manifesto is “eat food, not too much, mostly plants.”

(The spelling errors in the “essay answers” link are cute.)

Categories: nutrition Tags:

If you were stranded on a desert island for a year …

April 5th, 2010 2 comments

… and you had only clean water and one other food, which food would be best for your health?

a) corn
b) alfalfa sprouts
c) hot dogs
d) spinach
e) peaches
f) bananas
g) milk chocolate

(If you know the study, you’re disqualified!)

I guessed wrong, by the way. Answer on Thursday.

Categories: nutrition Tags: