Saturday, March 21, 2015

That is tasty! I'll have just a little bit more...

I can certainly not stand before you as a model of how it should be done.  I love food.  I love good bread.  I love toasted -almond ice cream cones… But much of my life I have fought to keep my eating under some degree of control.  But when I eat responsibly I feel more energy.  If I eat well I control my blood pressure, my weight, and heart health.  I enjoy exercise more and maintain a regular energy balance all day.
East coast soft shell crab
If you would like to get a better sense of how much you eat and what you "should" be eating; this is a site recommended by my Kaiser Medical Plan– I like them better than Weight Watchers and they are free! Follow yourself for a day and see what your numbers look like:  Works for me...  I have found that my eating/weight equilibrium comes around 1400 calories a day.

Judy's apple pie!
Genetics sets for each of us a range of life potentials; what can we do to move ourselves toward the longest and healthiest life possible?

Positive responses: 
The vitamins and minerals you eat need to be in the right amount – not too much – not too little… My favorite source of information of vitamins and minerals is this site – click on a food and see what it contains (Plus they have simple awesome recipes):
Borscht soup w/ sour cream
I have a friend at Stanford University whois involved in the research being done on 'Phytonutrients” These are plant derived foods that contain thousands of natural chemicals.  They aren't included with 'vitamins' - but these chemicals are capable of interacting in positive ways with our body cells. Phytonutrients aren't essential for keeping you alive, but when you eat or drink phytonutrients, they may help prevent disease and enhance the functions of  your bodyto make it work more properly. Keep an eye on this group of nutrients; this is a matter of growing scientific studies by some of our leading institutions. ( check google more )
Czech Kolache
But what changes can lead to improving our life? You know the obvious - The most obvious: smoking tobacco is a definite hazard to your health and all those who have to breath 2nd hand smoke.  3 out of 4 smokers will die of a smoking related disease (this number improves rapidly for those who quit.)     Cancer is only one of the medical surprises awaiting smokers...

Tanzania lunch
And what about food?

Judy and I decided that we want to minimized random chemicals in our diet - We try to buy only organic vegetables and only meat without extra hormones or other added chemicals.  

Peruvian soup

There are 3 great evils as far as food is concerted: 

1. Excess fat and other high calorie foods There is massive evidence to support that being overweight relates to a whole number of medical conditions than can drastically shorten life, and reduce the qualities of a “good” life.  My father’s generation worked hard in the fields and needed to eat a calorie rich diet to replace the energy expended.  Many people today still enjoy the same foods – but without the activity they become overweight.  "You can't have it both ways..."  
"If you knew sushi like I know suchi..."
Plaque deposits ( from a high fat diet ) are formed in the blood arteries; and they reduce the capacity of the arteries and leads to cardiovascular disease'
Being overweight  also triggers : asthma, elevated blood pressure, several forms of cancer...
You gotta read this one:
Afghan soup
2. Excess sugar:
We know that the human body did not evolve to use vast amounts of processed sugar.  - And yet its everywhere - and we are addicted to it.  Corn syrup is one of the most ubiquitous forms!

The fat produced from excess energy from sugar tends to be stored in the waist, hips, and thighs.  Excess sugar reduces the effectiveness of our  immune system, 
The presence of sugar in the body stimulates the body to produce insulin.  The insulin stimulates cells to take in and use or store the available sugars.  With a low activity level the energy of the sugar is conversed into fat.  The rate of diabetes in America is at epidemic proportions today due to overeating.  More than 29 million Americans have diabetes; 1 in 4 doesn’t know.

Studies say that we should also limit our intake of fruit juices because they are high in sugars...Switch to whole fruit - the fiber somewhat mitigates the effect of high sugar in pure juice...
Soup from Central Asia
3.  Excess salt:  The amount of sodium in the  fluid  between your cells helps determine the amount of water your body holds. If your sodium intake is high, your kidneys cut back on releasing water into your urine so you can balance out the excess sodium surrounding your cells. This results in an increased blood volume due to water retention.

Blood pressure: The higher the sodium level in your blood, the higher your blood volume, because your kidneys excrete less water in order to dilute the sodium in your blood. The increase in blood volume, in turn, raises blood pressure.

Korean Pho
So how do food scientists know if a food is good for us or not...  how can it be tested?  The ways to test  are limited.  One of the best is to find a population on earth that emphasizes that certain food.  In parts of Japan tofu is a major part of the diet, in France red wine is consumed freely, in parts of America people eat a high proportion of fried foods, traditional Alaskan Indians ate a very high fat diet (blubber). Vegetarians eat no animal flesh (to various degrees).  So scientists study the health of that population  compared to others... 
Backyard buffet
That's a good beginning but with humans nothing is easy.  In addition we need to know about the person’s whole pattern of life:  What is their activity level, stress level, how much water they drink each day, do they eat whole grains or processed grain, how much sugar is in their diet…on and on…

Then we discover that our response to diet is also influenced by our genetic make-up.  People differ in their propensity to produce plaque in their arteries, where and how they store their fat, rate of metabolism, response to alcohol or caffeine … so all of these factors make the study of human diet problematic. 

Thai soup
Another way to explore the effects of diets is to feed the diet to lab. Animals – mice, rats… but we are not mice or rats so while this can be helpful it also raises questions.  Another approach is the more micro approach of examining cells - making small controlled experiments - working with autopsies, building a database from many sources

Remember the bottom line basic fact of science:  "Our knowledge on a topic is not determined by the results of one study - but by the expanded work that grows out of all of the studies.

The problem is that the press may get one result and they publish the idea on the front page as the final word...the latest conclusion.
Mexican chicken soup with condemnts
Science is a process based on creating a hypothesis - testing the hypothesis - supporting or rejecting the hypothesis - sharing your results with others so that they can confirm, expand, or prove wrong the new idea.  Its slow but it works. Scientists don't jump on the results of one test and immediately throw out all other tests...

These are still lots of unanswered questions -  For years egg yolks, have been on the limited food list. Some recent studies challenge this finding – Others say 'no' they are still not prooven safe  Some studies say that artificial sweeteners are just as bad at stimulating stomach fat formation as regular sugars – others disagree.

Moderation seems the best over all answer - Just like for Goldilocks - the answer is "not to much, not to little, but just right"... But how the heck do I tell that to my craving mind when a quart of my favorite Hagendas Ice-cream is just sitting there  inside the freezer?