Tuesday, March 30, 2010

One From Column A, Five From Column B

As I was driving home from the gym this morning, I was listening to a news report on NPR about a massive epidemic of type 2 diabetes in China. The health minister stated that one in two Chinese had diabetes. Something may have gotten lost in translation, but one thing is sure, as more people around the world adopt our supersized western diet, we are sadly, all beginning to look alike.

The whole food plant based diet that we endorse, is also one that will help you maintain a normal weight throughout all stages of your life. The primary reason for this, is that these food groups are all high in fiber and nutrient dense. Choosing a wide variety of these high satiety foods, creates a sense of fullness without all the empty calories of refined foods.

The concept of Volumetrics, became very real to us last night, when I was preparing a butternut squash risotto for dinner. Neither one of us has had white rice in quite a while, and had forgotten how much more food one needs to consume, when the fiber has been removed. I would normally prepare around eight ounces of dried pasta or a grain for us. When I measured out the Arborio rice, there was about eleven ounces remaining in the box, so I decided to use that amount, and have some leftovers for the following day.

After preparing the risotto, I dished it out in our usual proportions, and we began to eat. It very quickly became apparent to me, that I was still quite hungry after eating my usual quantity of food. I went back for seconds and thirds, and by the time I felt full, all the risotto was gone. In order for me to achieve my usual sense of satiety, I had consumed fifty to seventy percent more calories than if I had eaten my regular whole grain meal.

If you hadn’t noticed, the theme of overfed and undernourished has become a recurrent one on this blog. I am not trying to demonize the overweight. They need our compassion and help in resisting corporate food interests, whose primary goal, is to encourage us to consume more processed food.

Sunday, March 21, 2010

The Mishuggah Factor

The premise behind the Mishuggah Factor is that the crazier and more preposterous an idea is, the greater is the attraction for many of us.The influence of TMF is most apparent in the health and nutrition world, where a diet of wheatgrass and grapefruit juice can cause some people to gush with excitement.

I remember one such manifestation of this phenomenon which occurred in the mid 80s, when the EST movement was at its height of popularity. Several European Physician members, who had just returned from India, were lauding the health benefits of consuming ones urine. I kid you not. There were many non questioning individuals, who just assumed that this prescription was too bizarre, not to be true. Hey, during those times, it was certainly better than drinking the Kool Aid.

The diet world regurgitates a new and improved version of a variety of cockamamie weight loss diets at an alarming rate. As Dean Ornish has said, ‘’losing weight isn’t the issue; three weeks of chemotherapy will handle that quite well. Keeping the weight off is much more difficult for most people.’’

The Center For Human Nutrition at the University of Colorado established the National Weight Control Registry in 1994. James Hill PHD and Rena Wing PHD were the principle researchers. They have followed over 5000 individuals who have lost at least 30lbs and have kept the weight off for over a year. Their findings weren’t sexy, and won’t titillate us on Oprah or in the National Enquirer. What these successful dieters had in common, was that all exercised at least one hour a day, consumed a lower calorie diet, that was high in fruits and vegetables, and were keenly aware of their weight at all times.

For many of us males, the style over substance issue, has plagued us since we were in high school. It’s the girl of our dreams, going gaga over the dangerous and mysterious Fonzie type, while ignoring us dependable, loyal and boring boys. Nothing has changed.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

The Calcium Wars

During the past year, there has been a great deal of intramural bickering within the Vegan nutritional community regarding the role of calcium and osteoporosis, and the specific needs of vegans for this important nutrient. The origin of the controversy appeared to have begun with the publication of Amy Lanou’s book, Building Bone Vitality. In her book, Lanou implies that calcium requirements for vegans are less than for omnivores. She supports her theory with data from the WHO, which in 2003 suggested that approximately 520 mg were needed to keep most of us in physiological balance.

A more current report from the WHO recommends 1000mg for adults residing in developed countries. This recommendation coincides with the RDA of 1000mg for adults in the US. Their extensive 35 page report examines world wide data in coming to their conclusion

There are many unanswered questions regarding genetic, environmental and geographic differences within populations. It is quite easy to draw inferences from this scant data, but in my opinion there are too few studies of vegans to draw any definitive conclusions that would justify alienating the vast majority of the vegan inclined scientific community who support the federal recommendations.

I generally do not presume that one can really know why people take certain positions. More often than not, when I have done this, I have been totally off base, much to my embarrassment. Having stated the illogic of presuming someone else’s motive, I’m going to give you my best shot in the dark take on the matter:

If there were a hierarchy of suffering in the animal world, dairy cows would be at the top of the ladder. The length of their unnatural confinement, and the intolerable conditions they are forced to live in, would motivate any feeling person to do anything they could to mitigate this situation.

The Dairy Council is one of the most powerful and successful lobbies in the country. Their “Got Milk and Happy Cow’’ campaigns are the envy of the media industry. The established vegetarian organizations have attempted to counter this corporate blitz by evoking the scientific argument that human beings after weaning, don’t require milk, and indeed the majority of the population have some degree of difficulty digesting milk.

In my opinion, some national organizations have spent too much energy on discounting the milk myth and not enough of their resources in helping people meet their nutritional needs from plant sources. They may believe that by setting the bar lower, more people will be able to reach this goal. I agree that getting people to consume more kale,collards and white beans can be a challenge, but it is one that I feel we can meet.

I envision a campaign emphasizing the fact that cows get their calcium naturally from greens and that we should bypass them in the equation, and go directly to the source This approach will be far more beneficial for us, and certainly much better for our beleaguered dairy cows.

Monday, March 8, 2010

Soya Si Leche No

I know there are probably more important things going on in the world right now, but being annoyed often doesn’t follow a logical path. On my petty grievance scale, this is a six, and slowly moving up in the charts. Here’s some history:

I’ve been a big fan of espresso drinks for many years. Up until about ten years ago, whenever I ordered a soy cappuccino, I would be charged the same outrageous rate as your standard cow’s milk consumer. Suddenly, one day, while I was at my favorite caffeine dispensary, I noticed that these greedy capitalists were demanding a twenty five cent surcharge for the soy milk.

Outraged, I quizzed my barista over this matter, but he just muttered something about ‘’ just working here’’, and couldn’t do anything about the situation. His suggestion, was for me to have a regular cappuccino, but when I informed him about being a vegan, he gave me a look that had no habla ingles written all over it.

Over the ensuing years, the twenty five cent stipend has morphed into a seventy five cent charge at some establishments.

Many of you are aware that the dairy industry is heavily subsidized by the Dept of Agriculture, as are soybeans, corn and wheat. What I find particularly galling, is that you and I are supporting both the dairy and the soy bean industries. In this convoluted equation, most of the soy beans grown in this country are consumed by the cattle industry. Only Paul Krugman could figure out the macro economics of all this, but the bottom line is that every time I order a soy latte I feel as if I’m being screwed.