Foodland Chronicles is a weekly blog focused on topics related to good health and yummy foods. Doctor Grandma and her team are strong proponents of the Mediterranean Style of Eating - advocating a shift from animal-based foods to plant-based foods and a shift from processed foods to whole, real foods.
Winnie the Pooh was so right when he said, “How lucky I am to have something that makes saying Goodbye so hard.” I’m so blessed that I have had something interesting and motivating that makes saying goodbye so hard. For those of you who are frequent readers know, I still have an active imagination. I have imagined you learning some useful nutrition information. I do wish that I had gotten to meet some of you. It’s been fun imagining who you are.
In my ‘retirement’ I’m not sitting around sipping tea and nibbling on crumpets. I’m not giving up on writing; but opening a new door. You might say, I’m starting the next chapter in my life. I’m hoping to get going in earnest on writing a book and the only way I can see enough hours is to use my “blog hours.” So, I’ve decided to close my ten-year blogging chapter.
I hope you had a laugh or two, and in addition, gained some helpful insight into the world of nutrition from the blog. And if multiple wishes be granted, I also hope that you’ll remember what you’ve learned and it will impact your life in a positive way.
Fare Thee Well, my imaginary digital nutrition friends,
Reading this title, you’re probably thinking that continued unusual amounts of snow here in the mountain west of the US, has gotten me thinking about escaping to Hawaii. And you’d be wrong if that’s your guess. Despite the snow, warm temperatures and days, and parts of days of sun, are bringing plants to life. I am loving the opening of gardening season. But in reality, the title came from an intriguing Big Think headline that recently caught my eye; it reads: Where you live affects how long you live. If we want to live longer, should we be moving to Hawaii, California, Minnesota, Connecticut, Massachusetts, New York, Vermont, Colorado, New Hampshire, or New Jersey (the top 10 for longevity)? Forget the rest of them! We should we be packing up for Hawaii? Don’t forget your sun lotion, swim suit and checkbook! If you enjoy life, this is a worthy thought; as there is more than a 6-year longer lifespan between Mississippi (the shortest) and Hawaii (the longest).
I recognize that there are lots of ways to die, traffic accidents, suicide, getting shot by a random shooter, an airplane crash, but I’m thinking about what causes most of us to die.
Heart disease – just under 650,000
Cancer – just under 600,000
Preventable injury – about 160,000
Chronic lower respiratory disease – over 155,000
Stroke – just under 150,000
Alzheimer’s disease – over 230,000
Diabetes mellitus – over 75,000
Influenza and pneumonia – a tiny bit over 50,000
Nephritis – about 50,000
Suicide – under 50,000
The bar chart displaying the leading causes of disease – if you clicked in that link -- is visually striking in explaining why so many people are dying at younger ages in the worst states than in the best ones. Heart disease (almost 650,000) and cancer (almost 600,000), are the top two causes of death; and they are linked with our lifestyle. If you add those two together (1,250,000) most of the remaining major causes of death are about one tenth. We could add some of the deaths from stroke and diabetes; as many of those deaths are a function of our lifestyle choices. You can probably guess where I’m going with this; I’m trying to point out that how we eat and exercise are a major contributor to when we die. Certainly, if you unfortunately get the flu and die from it, it was probably not how you ate; unless, of course, you were so malnourished that your immune system couldn’t help you. By far, our lifestyle choices have an enormous impact.
The Big Think authors go on to try to explain why people are dying in the worst states by suggesting poverty is behind the higher death rates. They use counties within the states to make their argument. This argument doesn’t negate what I’m seeing. In study after study, poverty is linked with poor eating habits. Unlike in the past, when being in poverty meant being undernourished; today’s poverty often translates into eating too many inexpensive calories – still poorly nourished, but providing too many unhealthy calories – leading to overweight, obesity, and diabetes. This, of course, is a huge problem that needs the attention of national nutritional programs and experts.
Right after I saw the “where you live” map another map that I’m familiar with popped into my mind – the obesity map of the USA. Overweight and obesity are not just found in the areas of the USA with extreme poverty – be sure to check out the county maps in the Big Think article; or just go to the market; or the mirror to discover that there’s plenty of overweight all around our country.
In my mind, maybe we should stay put (not move from our friends, families and homes) but make efforts to control our weight. Sure, save for the Hawaii ticket; surf; get a little tan; eat tropical fruits and veggies; have a great time and go back home. The Big Think headline was such a fun example of erroneously using epidemiological data to establish a cause and effect relationship. Where you live will probably not cause you to die early. But what you choose to eat is a lot more likely to impact your lifespan. If you eat and exercise like your neighbors, and that lifestyle is not the best, maybe you should consider trading up for a Hawaiian or California eating/exercising lifestyle. Good lifestyle choices can be made in any state.
Have you ever been responsible for a three to five-year-old? It’s been many years for me, but I still remember the Potty Mouth stage when just the word poo could instigate a tad of hysteria. It actually was an amusing phase. I can’t remember the subsequent phases that may have included increasingly vulgar words which weren’t so socially acceptable – or how I parented that. But I’m wondering if my blanking out on the vulgar words is linked to my not addressing the common bowel problem – constipation. Yes, I’m going to actually write about the difficulty and/or infrequency of bowel movements. Diet is definitely involved in a big way; but constipation is a rarely discussed condition.
As so often happens, I get an idea for an article when someone asks a question (in this case a neighbor, called about a grown granddaughter). Unfortunately, in this case the individual has colon cancer and pain from constipation. But the information about ending chronic constipation is the same for ordinary constipation. I don’t want to leave this paragraph without addressing the fact that constipation deserves your attention and sometimes the attention of your physician (who likely doesn’t talk about it either.) If you ignore constipation, it can progress to hemorrhoids, bleeding, diverticulosis/diverticulitis, fecal impaction, and colon perforation. The point is that ignoring constipation can lead to serious and painful complications.
The four most important issues related to avoiding constipation and its complications are the following:
Fiber – now I’m not talking about a tablespoon of all-bran sprinkled on your Captain Crunch Cereal. What I’m trying to say is to eat and enjoy real foods containing fiber. If you restrict yourself to whole grains most of the time (think brown rice; 100% whole wheat; old fashioned or cut oats; and so on); beans, seeds and nuts; and lots of vegetables and fruit; then you’re on the right path. One publicly available database for dietary fiber is from Tufts’ Jean Mayer Research Center; or if you just want to get a quick idea of how much fiber you’re getting, you may prefer the Mayo Clinic chart. The National nutrition guidelines recommend 21 to 25 grams per day for women and 30 to 38 grams per day for men.
It’s really best to get the fiber from real food and not from supplements, in part, because real food has many nutrients in it besides fiber and those nutrients help to keep us healthy. If you’re not eating many refined and highly processed foods, it generally means you are getting the fiber you need. The two types of fiber (water soluble and insoluble) help protect your body in two independent ways. Water soluble fiber takes on water in the intestine and increases bulk – which is great for moving things along. And water insoluble fiber adds bulk and helps speed the passing of the stool. If you’re eating a varied diet you will naturally get the two major types of fiber. Fiber, of course, is food for the gut microbiome. The fiber in food contributes to our health, not just keeping us from the ravages of constipation. The bacteria help by transforming fiber into nutrients we need.
One last word on fiber: if you’re transitioning to a higher fiber diet, it may take a little time to get where you need to be. You may need to take some psyllium fiber supplement – the kind you mix with water, for a while until you’re able to form a large, soft, bulky stool from just food. Don’t try to fix the problem with laxatives; as your body can become dependent upon them.
Water – staying hydrated is critical to steering clear of constipation. This is not as difficult as you may think. All you have to do is to drink enough liquid to maintain light-yellow to clear urine. It’s that simple. Obviously, if there is insufficient water in our body, the fiber can’t absorb enough to bulk the stool to make it easy to pass.
Exercise is the third factor that greatly impacts constipation. Our bodies like to move and moving our bodies on the outsides, helps the insides do its job.
Feeling the urge – Don’t ignore it! If you put it off, the normal nerve reflex that helps you to pass stool easily is stifled. Repeated postponed bathroom trips can lead to chronic constipation.
Now having said all the above, there are medical conditions that can impact your gastrointestinal tract. So, if you’re having difficulty and it didn’t resolve with exercise, fiber and hydration, you should go to a medical doctor to rule out a medical condition. One common problem is medications and your physician will clarify in the event that medications you are taking are contributing to constipation.
While bathroom habits can seem to be an unusual subject for a site dedicated to nutrition, it’s not so funny if you’re stricken with constipation. But if all is well and you just want to enjoy a cute laugh, find a 3 to 5-year-old and just say poo.
Sometimes I think, “It would be so nice to have a simple answer to a simple question.” If someone asks me the seemingly simple question, “Are vegetables better cooked or raw?” I’d like to be able to just say one or the other. But the fact is that the answer is not simple. Now having said that, let me share a bit of information and strive to decomplicate it a bit.
We all know that vegetables are a powerhouse among foods; they not only provide fiber, protein, complex carbohydrates, vitamins and minerals; they provide thousands of phytonutrients (plant nutrients). If you’re wanting to glean the most from your vegetable intake, then you may ask the above question – cooked or not?
Here’s the snag: Cooking reduces the levels of some nutrients; for example, the water-soluble vitamin C, the B vitamins and certain of the phytonutrients. But at the very same time, as you’re decreasing those nutrients by cooking, you’re increasing the availability of carotenoids, like beta carotene and lycopene.
Some nutrients will be lost with any cooking method, but striving not to cook too long or at too high a heat, or in too much water, can protect more of the water-soluble nutrients. Steaming is one of the best ways to cook veggies because it preserves the nutrients by avoiding the leaching of the water-soluble nutrients and limits the exposure to too much heat. If you’re making soup or sauces this is not such a worry; because you consume the broth or sauce with the food, you’re not just enriching the drain. When you’re microwaving, blanching, sautéing, roasting, or steaming, you’re not using so much water and conserving the water-soluble nutrients. If you’re boiling vegetables, one way to protect the nutrients, is to save the liquid and use it to make broths or sauces that will be consumed.
As I mentioned above, if you eat all your vegetables raw, you will limit the amount of some nutrients, like the over 600 carotenoids that exist naturally in nature. Some vegetables that are great sources for carotenoids are: tomatoes, zucchini, asparagus, cabbage, spinach, carrots, broccoli, peppers and mushrooms. These vegetables definitely supply more carotenoids when consumed cooked.
In my mind, the very most important aspect of vegetable consumption is to do just that, consume them – eat them either raw or cooked. If you’re doing both, you’ll end up getting a variety of nutrients. If you enjoy them more, cooked or more raw – do that. Getting more into your body is far more important than worrying about whether a too-small amount is cooked or uncooked.
Cooked or raw? Not an easy answer, but my advice is to pay the most attention to figuring out how to eat plenty of them.
When I was a girl I loved fairy tales; but as an adult dietitian I find food and nutrition fairy tales frustrating. Many people are getting their nutrition advice from unqualified sources and it often leads to less than optimal nutritional status. Be careful to whom you turn for nutrition advice; see my recently published MDs and Nutrition, that shows having an MD does not assure nutritional literacy, but it encourages guesswork based on flawed information. The following are a collection of eleven popular counter-productive nutrition ideas:
I’ll start with my very favorite. I have to admit an embarrassing event. I was waiting in line to check out, by myself at Sprouts, where I buy my vegetables and fruit, and then it hit. I got ambushed by a little laugh attack. Right by the end cap of the checkout aisle were gigantic organic candy canes. The person in front of me turned a little to see why I laughed out loud. I said something quick about the idea of the word ‘organic’ being plastered on a candy cane. They gave me a cursory smile, they probably thought I had some sort of psychological problem, and then turned around. Let’s face it, organic cheese puffs, the three flavors of organic Pringles – ready for flavor stacking, and organic potato chips are still junk food, regardless of all their organic ingredients. Is there not something just slightly humorous about the ingredients of organic candy bars with the first ingredient - organic dried cane syrup? Or is this only comedy for dietitians?
Shopping Only the Perimeter of the Store
Holy Mackerel! This one drives me absolutely crazy. How would you get the whole grain pasta, the brown rice, the canned beans, tuna, nuts, seeds and very importantly the spices that make foods taste so good, if you didn’t allow yourself to go to the aisles?
Deciding to eat gluten-free; then eating calorie and sugar-laden gluten-free cookies, gluten-free candy, gluten-free cake, and gluten-free bread. Check out the ingredients. Often tapioca or rice flour is added to make the breads or pastries taste more like the original version. The products often have more sugar and more fat than the gluten containing version. If you don’t have celiac disease or non-celiac gluten sensitivity, you may be decreasing the nutrition in your diet, when you choose to go gluten-free.
Although it’s been known for a long time that good fats (think olive oil; canola oil, avocados; nuts, seeds) are beneficial to our health; some people are still trying to cut back drastically on fat. But don’t forget my 2010 article Revisiting the Snackwell Syndrome. The point of that old article is that many processed foods that are low in fat are high in sugar. As with either of the above choices (gluten-free and fat-free) you may give yourself license to eat more. There are still calories and often increased artificial ingredients – nutritionally empty calories, like sugar.
You all know I embrace the Mediterranean Diet (or eating style, as I often call it). But there’s even a possible problem with it. Just because it includes the beneficial foods that contribute to health, doesn’t mean that you can eat unlimited amounts of those foods. For example, whole grain pasta, albeit a healthy choice, still has 159 calories for a cup. If you switch to extra virgin olive oil, wonderful, but olive oil has about the same calories as any oil – it is fat. Nuts are great, but keep in mind that they average about 800 calories per cup. The point is that portion control is an important aspect of healthy eating.
Eating vegetables is so often an admonition on this site, but some people decide to become vegetarians and then head to the soda cracker aisle of the market. If you’re eating white rice, mashed potatoes, fruit juice, lots of cheese, but no animal flesh, you may be shocked that you are headed down the way of malnutrition or at least, undernutrition. The crazy fact is that you may be doing that while increasing your calorie intake. A vegetarian diet can be very healthy, but you need a balance of foods – pasta, bread and juice are not going to do the job.
Have you heard that you should start juicing? Drinking only juice will leave you short of calories (and you’re thinking that’s good) unfortunately, it can also leave you short of nutrients that your body needs to function optimally. Let me remind you that your body has a wonderful self-cleaning system. If you’re consuming vegetables, whole grains, fruits, nuts, seeds and other fibrous foods and liquids, your self-cleaning system doesn’t need a juice cleanse.
It appears that Americans love the buzzword superfoods. The fact is that the superfood may be a healthy choice, but they are often no healthier than ordinary foods that you’ve eaten your entire life. Do you ever see oranges on the super food list? Me neither. But what a powerhouse of nutrition, not to mention flavor!
No Good Foods and No Bad Foods
This is a common statement by those not deep in real nutritional understanding. Get real! A 3 Musketeers Bar is not equivalent with a serving of spinach. Steering clear of frequent intake of saturated fats, simple carbohydrates – especially sugar and lots of processed foods is just plain smart. It’s a fact, that some foods are unhealthy. Now having said that, you know that I don’t believe in forbidden foods; I do strongly believe in controlling your environment (2016 – Down-Shifting Hedonic Hunger) and keeping them out of your mouth frequently.
Honey and Raw Sugar
Sure, use a little. But do know, sugar is sugar. The code words for sugar are summarized in my 2011 list of sugar in Getting Off Your SoFAS. If you’re counting your grams of sugar a day (24g for women – 6 teaspoons; 36g for men – 9 teaspoons) be sure to include all the syrup, honey and raw sugar – sugar is sugar, but by a thousand names.
Avoiding Fruit Because of Sugar
Yes, fruit has sugar, but it is mixed with fiber and a tremendous number of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. The sugar in fruit is not a processed sugar, like the type of sugar I’m referring to directly above. Like most everything …… all things in moderation. You don’t need 10 apples; but enjoy that juicy, tangy Honeycrisp.
If you’ve read this, maybe you too have discovered that you’ve out grown nutrition fairy tales.
Are you struggling to stick with the goal of diet improvement?
I get it! It’s much easier to stay with your old eating habits and take the supplement you just learned is related to better health than to go through the considerable effort (with its tasty, enjoyable, often beautiful, and healthy results) to eat the types of foods that supply the whole wide range of nutrients you need. Although I understand your rationale for picking the pill, I also know that it is a flawed rationale. Let me just choose magnesium to make my argument.
Magnesium is a metal and oxidizes easily. It may be silver-white. Magnesium salt tastes bitter. Too much can be harmful to your health. Why would anyone think of eating a magnesium supplement instead of choosing foods that contain it? Other supplements are like this; you wouldn’t think of eating them as a food, but scientific studies say they help the body in some way – mysterious until really costly and difficult research shows how a mineral or other supplement actually gets into the body the right way, in the right amount, and helps the body.
There’s some well-done broad-brush research that shows that people with higher magnesium intake have a lower risk of type 2 diabetes. It’s a useful kind of research that says that eating foods containing magnesium is beneficial, but it doesn’t even tell us that the magnesium was what made the difference. None the less, I can imagine, if I knew that there was type 2 diabetes in my family, I’d be tempted to hop in the car to go pick up my bottle of magnesium supplements. Heaven knows, I would want to do what I could to avoid joining the 100 million or more in the U.S. with diabetes or prediabetes. The CDC reported in 2017 that 9.4 percent of the U.S. population – have diabetes (30.3 million) and another 84.1 million have prediabetes. It’s no secret that uncontrolled diabetes raises risk for cardiovascular disease, strokes, skin problems, nerve problems, kidney problems, eye problems, some cancers, higher risk of infections, gastroparesis (delayed emptying of food from the stomach) and possibly Alzheimer’s disease. So clearly, I’d be motivated to avoid diabetes. But in reality, I do have relatives with type 2 diabetes, and I didn’t hop into the car. Read on to find out why not.
Losing weight and exercising more can lower your risk of type 2 diabetes; but getting more magnesium, in the right way and in the right combination with other things, and in the right amount, might help too. The snag of the study cited above, which involved 17,130 incident cases of type 2 diabetes over 28 years of follow-up is that the magnesium was coming from their food – not supplements. This type of study only makes a connection between a food containing the nutrient suspected to cause the effect. It may be magnesium or maybe not. The magnesium might help beta cells in the pancreas secrete insulin or it may make the cells in the body more sensitive to insulin, so the cells are more responsive to insulin. Those are just guesses. It would take well-designed studies to really know for sure. The study just cited provides no evidence that taking a magnesium supplement would help. There have even been studies showing that taking a single publicized nutrient as a supplement can makes things worse, not better.
One reason for this finding, in the case of magnesium, is that foods known to be rich in this nutrient have thousands of other nutrients as well. Good magnesium foods include green leafy vegetables, beans, nuts, seeds and whole grains. Obviously, these foods have many other nutrients in addition to magnesium. If you take magnesium supplements rather than the whole foods, you may miss out on what total set of nutrients in those foods is really causing, all together, the lower risk of type 2 diabetes. Moreover, you may also get the bad side effect of diarrhea. The great thing about getting magnesium from foods is that the risk of getting too much is essentially nonexistent. In addition to avoiding possible diarrhea, you can also avoid wasting your time, money, and effort if it proves to be some other micronutrient (a different mineral, vitamin or phytonutrient (which number in the thousands) – or some combination of them. Not only that, maybe it is magnesium, but perhaps the magnesium needs some phytonutrient to work with it. Or it’s involved with the plant fiber that is in the food. Being well-nourished is far more complex than popping some supplements. And with the whole foods, you are getting the magnesium in the very context that the study investigated –eating the magnesium-containing foods!
There are lots of good reasons to keep working on improving your diet and not trying to rely on supplements. Stick with your resolution to improve your diet this year. Keep chipping away at that worthy goal even though seems to take more effort than taking a small, but bitter, pill. It can be done.
The other day, in the course of having a little conversation with a friend, she told me that she takes supplemental enzymes orally that help her health. She believes that when she swallows the enzyme supplements that the enzymes do whatever they normally are supposed to do if they were injected into the bloodstream. She absolutely believes that this happens in her body and it improves her health. Frankly, I was surprised; but then I started thinking about it a bit and realized that supplement companies and cosmetic companies profit in a big way as long as people keep believing in this fallacy.
First, I began thinking about the skin care businesses that touts taking collagen supplements to improve the skin’s appearance. People buy the idea because we know that collagen is what keeps skin elastic and smooth. When you look in the mirror and discover that little lines are appearing all over, you may begin to spend a few more moments at the cosmetic counter or on the internet trying to discover how to make those lines go away. Heaven knows, we’d all like to fix the fragmented, frayed collagen that our older bodies perpetuate, especially those of our face. It would be nice if our collagen-making cells would perform like they did when we were young.
Unfortunately, we cannot simply eat brains if we want to become smarter; or heart if we want to have more courage; eating insulin will not make our blood sugar go down nor will our diabetes go away; eating collagen will not result in a smooth, young face. There is an important bodily function to understand that will help protect each of us from the charlatans.
When you digest protein, all proteins, whether they’re collagen, enzymes, insulin (a hormone, but still protein) they are broken down into two or three amino acids. We call these peptides. Peptides and amino acids can be absorbed across the intestinal wall, into our blood. Then, each group of specialized cells of our body uses the amino acids from the peptides to build the proteins, enzymes, hormones and connective tissues like collagen that those cells are designed to produce for us from the peptides.
Did you ever wonder why people with diabetes have to use a needle or a pump to get insulin into the blood? Why can’t they just take it orally? That’s because the insulin would be digested into peptides and amino acids and would not turn back into insulin; unless the cells of the pancreas work well enough to take the amino acids from all food and supplement sources to make the insulin from scratch. Note: Sometimes people get confused that oral medications that can help lower blood sugar or improve the ability of cells to absorb sugar are insulin. No, there are medications that cause the liver to produce less glucose (blood sugar), or improve the sensitivity of the cells to whatever insulin is still produced by the pancreas. These are NOT “oral insulin”. Metformin and other orally administered drugs that help keep blood sugar under control are not insulin.
The system of making all the protein-containing parts of our body is beautiful to to contemplate -- it even seems somewhat miraculous. That system is a fairly complex system, like most things that happen in the human body, with all kinds of regulatory systems governing it. But the take-away lesson is fairly simple. If we realize that taking protein like chicken, fish, beef, the protein in nuts, seeds, vegetables, and grains; or insulin; or collagen from a jar, or enzyme supplements –all of these are broken down into amino acids and peptides. Once we have learned this lesson, we will not allow supplement producers or anyone to swindle us.
We all have to eat; and if we eat a healthy diet containing protein, and with a few exceptions, most foods (not just meat) contain protein. Protein from all kinds of foods will give us the protein building blocks (amino acids) to make your enzymes, collagen, and all the rest of you. It is a mistake to pay the price of buying supplements.
For me, one of the most upsetting aspects of this type of fraud is the knowledge that some people who are spending money on this type of supplement, could buy better food with the money. They’re being led to believe, erroneously, that the protein supplements will assure them of better health or beauty. People are wasting their money.
We have presumably left behind the beliefs of the Dark Ages, when people believed that you could eat brain to be smart; and heart to have courage. Now we must leave behind he equally uninformed notion that we can eat enzymes and other specialized proteins and have the same benefit as if it were like insulin, injected into the bloodstream.
The human body and nature itself never cease to amaze me. It’s fascinating to me that so many times that we humans learn about something that is involved in human health, we end up thinking that we know more than we actually know. Our knowledge of our gut microbiome (formerly called gut flora), is the microbe population living in our intestine. The European Society of Neurogastroenterology & Motility reports it to contain tens of trillions of microorganisms, including at least 1000 different species of known bacteria with more than 3 million genes (150 times more than humans, who have less than 20,000 genes). Just the sheer number of microbes and genes is enough to lead us to believe that we’re just at the beginning of understanding our microbiome.
An intriguing recent story which came out of a study done in Israel and published in the journal Cell in September 6, 2018 has caught my attention. Many of you will want to read the study, but let me give you a quick layman’s idea of what was learned. The researchers were trying to learn if taking probiotics after being medicated with antibiotics was effective or not. They randomly assigned 21 healthy adults to three groups after a week on antibiotics. The three groups assigned to were:
They would get no additional treatment (the control group)
The second group got a fecal transplant, which was made from their own microbiome before they took the antibiotics
The third group took a probiotic for four weeks. The probiotic contained eleven of the most commonly used bacteria in the probiotics market.
Now here’s the interesting outcome:
The microbiome of the control group returned to their initial composition after four weeks.
The fecal transplant group was no different from its original composition just one day after transplantation.
The probiotic takers didn’t return to normal. “They had microbiome characteristics that were suggestive of pathological states, such as low bacterial diversity and sustained microbiome imbalance;” said Eran Elinav, a professor of immunology at the Weizmann Institute of Science where the research was done.
At first glance, you may say; obviously the fecal transplant is the best choice. But that is not something that you do at home after recovering from your infection and the antibiotic that cured it. Even more interesting is the fact that the researchers continued to test the probiotic group for six months after the course of antibiotics and that group’s microbiome never returned to normal. Although the researchers do not know what the changes mean for health, they believe that it’s not likely to improve it. Elinav was quoted by Nutrition Action Newsletter as saying; “Contrary to the current dogma, which says that probiotics are harmless and benefit everyone, our results point out that consumption of probiotics following antibiotics can delay the restoration of a person’s microbiome. If our intent is to restore the microbiome to its initial state, probiotics are clearly not the preferred means to achieve it. We need high-quality studies to further assess this potentially alarming adverse effect of probiotics after antibiotic use.”
I look forward to the results of the further research with larger and more diverse samples that should come from this work. Some questions that pop out of my head are:
What about populations that eat probiotics as staple foods? Certainly, many of them were eating the foods long before antibiotics were discovered. If this is all verified it seems that it opens a huge can of worms that need to be addressed.
A related question is: What about those that ate probiotic containing foods prior to the antibiotics?
If we eat a fairly common American diet, should we avoid live culture yogurt and cheese, after a round of antibiotics?
Some foods that contain probiotics are:
Yogurt with active or live cultures (all yogurt starts with live cultures, but sometimes in the processing the bacteria are killed. Note: Some yogurt is loaded with high amounts of added sugar.
Kefir is a fermented probiotic milk drink
Sauerkraut is fermented cabbage – nutritious, but very high in salt; pasteurized sauerkraut kills the live and active bacteria
Tempeh is fermented soybeans
Kimchi is spicy Korean fermented cabbage
Miso is fermented soybean paste, Japanese seasoning
Kombucha is fermented black or green tea
Pickles (that are fermented in salty water) it does not include those with vinegar, as vinegar kills bacteria
Buttermilk that is fermented (popular in India, Nepal and Pakistan) American cultured buttermilk does not have probiotic benefits
Natto is another fermented soy product popular in Japanese cuisine
Some types of cheese, including cheddar, mozzarella and gouda
Although the results of this study offer many questions, the small-sample research was well conceived and well done. If these results hold up with larger samples, it is more than worth-while knowing about the results, so the next time your physician says to load up on probiotics after a round of antibiotics, you will know to ask if he/she is familiar with this study.
The English Poet, Thomas Tusser is credited to have said; “Make hunger thy sauce, as a medicine for health.” I think what that is meant to denote is: if you’re hungry enough you’ll eat what is served no matter how plain it is; also, eat to provide the nutrients that keep you healthy, not for pleasure. I have quite a bit of English ancestry; but probably slightly more French (especially if you count the “English” that resulted from the Norman Conquest.) But back to sauce! Let’s face it, the English are known for many wonderful things, but cooking is not the top of the list. English food is often delicious, but simple and hearty. Daniel Boulud, a famous French chef and restaurateur in America and around the world, said; “Sauce is certainly ancestral to French cooking. The technique is very tricky, but it’s also very fundamental.”
There seems to be various stories of where mayonnaise began (even the ancient Egyptians and Romans); and there doesn’t seem to be any consensus about which story is fact. For those of us who have appreciated the culinary skills of the French, I’m going to err on the side of the French as to where mayonnaise began. One of the stories goes clear back to 1756 when the French were celebrating a victory over Mahon a city on an small Mediterranean island a little southeast of present day Barcelona, Spain. The story goes that the Duke’s chef had no cream and substituted olive oil, naming the sauce “Mahonnaise.” Some time around 1800, Marie-Antoine Careme, “The King of Chefs and the Chef of Kings,” created a lighter version of mayonnaise using vegetable oil instead of crème.
The funny thing about the history of mayonnaise is that in America it takes a big twist to a 1903 German emigrant to New York City. Richard Hellmann’s wife made the mayonnaise used at their deli and people enjoyed the mayo so much that he began selling the mayo in wooden boats – eventually selling it in jars. From 1912 to today, Hellmann’s was acquired by Best Foods, Inc., and Best Foods Inc was eventually, acquired by Unilever, an enormous Anglo-Dutch multinational corporation, in 2000. However we got mayonnaise, I’m full of gratitude for all involved.
Sure I know that there are lovers and haters of mayonnaise; and even those that are afraid of its fat; but if you’re a cook having mayonnaise in a jar is quite the time saver.
Of course, there are sauces unlimited that can be purchased today as ready to use: (spaghetti sauce; Hollandaise sauce; Alfredo sauce; soy sauce; hot sauce; applesauce; marinara sauce; Tabasco; Worcestershire sauce; curry sauces; catsup; tartar sauce; cocktail sauce; Béchamel; Veloute; sweet sauces; brown sauces; butter sauces; white sauces and of course, secret sauce. That’s a start.) But mayonnaise is a parent of sauces; so let me share a bit about it.
Because mayonnaise is an emulsion, it requires whipping and whipping to make a sizable batch. If you’re not a cook, you may have never felt the burn in your bicep. Cooks have been celebrating the ease of opening the jar for over a hundred years; since the first days that mayonnaise could be purchased. But now days when many people own food processors; there’s no worry about running out of mayonnaise. You can whip up a batch of mayo in minutes. Like Daniel Boulud said, it is a little tricky; but if you know the tricks you can make it the way you like. The biggest trick is not to add too much oil in the beginning because your mayo will “split” or “separate.” Splitting can also happen in the fridge, if you don’t completely emulsify it. What that means is that it kind of curdles into a lumpy mess. You can maybe save your split mess, by blending again with a few drops more lemon juice or water. But if you follow directions you probably won’t have to deal with this problem.
The cool thing about making your own mayo is that you can find egg-free recipes, if you’re a vegan; olive oil recipes, if olive oil is your oil of choice; or maybe avocado oil; or some combination of mustard and mayo; or have actual control of the eggs used in making the mayo.
There are many recipes and YouTube demos for making mayo. I’m only going to include three here:
The second is famous chef Gordon Ramsay’s (award-winning famous British chef) method – also using a food processor.
The last is Jamie Oliver’s method (another famous chef and restaurateur); whisking it by hand with vinegar or both lemon juice and vinegar.
Did you think that I would never make it to a few words about the nutrition of mayo?
Sure, you can get low fat mayo; my taste buds rebelled; but maybe the 15 calories instead of the regular 90 to 100 calories per tablespoon is worth the loss of better flavor for some. The mayos with 60 calories have a better flavor. You’ll have to experiment with your own taste buds. You can still get the flavor of the full fat mayo, by replacing part of the mayo with lemon juice; pickle juice or Greek yogurt.
If you’re a vegetarian, but not really a vegan; or you’re trying to not consume too much cholesterol, you may be tempted to buy the egg-free vegan version of mayo. But check out the amount of egg in the regular mayo before you spend extra at the market for less egg. There’s only 5 mg of cholesterol in a tablespoon of the full fat and egg recipe of Best Foods/Hellmann’s. Oil and water are the first ingredients in the mayo (mostly oil and water, then eggs). One large egg has 185 mg of cholesterol. So, one egg makes 37 servings of commercial regular mayo; by the way there are only 30 servings in the one jar of mayo.
If you’re concerned about how the chicken is treated that produces the one egg that makes 37 servings (81% of one egg that makes one jar). Some mayo brands like Kraft (who plaster on the front of the jar: “Made with cage free whole eggs.” commit to only use 65% cage free eggs of that 81% of one egg. Just under a half (49%) of one cage free egg per jar.
If you’re trying to keep your saturated fat under control, realize that mayo only has about 1.5 grams of saturated fat (for the full fat version) per serving. It’s mostly oil and water, with a little egg, vinegar or lemon juice (if you make it yourself) and salt. The salt is surprisingly low; most brands are between 70 to 130 milligrams – not bad. Even the added sugar is less than half a gram per tablespoon, which is so insignificant that it shows up as zero added sugar on the label.
One cool thing about mayo is that the usual oil is soybean; and that, of course, is an unsaturated fat. If you’re choosing mayo made with avocado oil (usually a small jar [12 oz.] can cost between $7 to $10); or canola oil; you have to be fairly dedicated to that purchase because of the price. Two thoughts: One, check the label; some state in great big letters on the front of the jar, an oil you might recognize as expensive; then on the back is the additional fact that it is blended with another cheaper oil. Don’t forget that the first item on the list is, by weight, the most abundant ingredient in the jar. So if it’s blended with soy oil, you’re probably getting mostly soy oil anyway. Second, think about your application. If you’re just using a couple of teaspoons (2/3 serving) of mayo on your sandwich; is it really worth the extra money? I use some of my homemade pickle relish and some store bought mayo to make tartar sauce; I don’t think the price of the bit of oil in the specialty mayo is worth the price difference. The same goes for whisking a tad of mayo into your homemade salad dressing to add a little creaminess and emulsify it a bit (keep it from separating/splitting). In this circumstance, it’s really not worth the extra price – in my mind.
Lastly, mayo is actually a helpful ingredient in egg salads and chicken salads. Contrary to popular folk tales, the vinegar in mayo lowers the pH and makes the food safer than without mayo. Yes, you can use straight vinegar or lemon juice to accomplish the same thing.
I guess that my last word is that mayo does have calories and you naturally will want to limit how much you use – just to keep the calories under control.
But all in all, a jar of mayo is freedom from sore biceps as a result from all the whisking. As a final word, in the spirit of the French chef, Daniel Boulud, it’s “fundamental” to cooking. Mayonnaise – you’re the sauce!!!
February is dedicated to the emotional heart and, certainly The American Heart Association has not missed the chance to connect the emotional heart and the physical heart. That said, I think I’ll follow their lead and use the Valentine Day Month as a good time to share some information about the physical heart – heart health.
Learning that heart health was definitely related to our lifestyle and especially to what kind of fat we ate began clear back in 1947 when Ancel Keys observed seemingly healthy men dying of heart attacks in America. He took a sabbatical from Oxford and headed for Italy; because a colleague claimed that the Italians rarely had heart attacks. That was the beginning of the Seven Countries Study - SCS (USA, Finland, Netherlands, Italy, Greece, Former Yugoslavia, Japan). Out of this early work a recognition of an eating pattern central to the promotion of a healthy heart was accepted and became known as The Mediterranean Diet (just this year found to be the best diet of 2019.) The SCS were in essence all observational studies; the data did not PROVE anything – but, it was a great place to start figuring out what to prove. In the past seventy years, hundreds of studies have been conducted that help us recognize that eating too much saturated fat is a big problem for our heart (now we’re also learning that saturated fat consumption affects other diseases too). Interestingly, clear back in 1965 when the original studies were being analyzed it was beyond a reasonable doubt that replacing saturated fats with mono and polyunsaturated fats, resulted in a substantial lowering of cholesterol and ultimately improved heart health.
Nutrition Action Newsletter posted a quote from Frank Sacks, professor of cardiovascular disease prevention at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health. “If you look at the four highest-quality trials together, they provide direct evidence that replacing a diet high in saturated fat with a diet high in polyunsaturated fat prevents heart attacks and strokes.”
Nuts, seeds, olives, fatty fish, avocado and poly and mono unsaturated fats – yea Love it!
Cheese, butter, heavy cream – Limit it!
Artificial trans fats, hydrogenated oils, and tropical oils (coconut oil) Lose it!
It’s interesting to me that beef, a food that provides so much saturated fat to the American population is not listed in the “Love it; Limit it; and Lose it” list from the American Heart Association. My first guess is this may be because there are cuts of beef that are low in saturated fat e.g. eye of the round. Since the list is only addressing saturated fats, that may be the reason to leave beef off the list. But, unfortunately, there is a stack of evidence that beef consumption is related to heart disease and even some other health risks. But it may not be the saturated fat alone, so the cause of increased risk is sitting in the “wait and see” basket.
As almost always, I focus on food/nutrition, but the fact is that we need to move our bodies in addition to eating healthily (lots of veggies, fruit, whole grains, nuts, seeds, and fish – and limiting saturated fat, sugar, and red meat). For optimal health, we must also be physically active; get sufficient sleep, manage our weight and maintain positive social connections.
Being kind to our hearts and the hearts of those whom we love has a potential for a truly big payoff. We only need to observe our friends and family and the heart-breaking disabilities that come with heart disease to realize that protecting our hearts on the front end, through diet, exercise, and social connections is worth our effort.