Category Archives: Diet

USDA Approves GMO Apples

The USDA has approved two varieties of Artic Apples, trademarked by the Okanagan Specialty Fruits Inc. Due to genetic engineering, these apples do not turn brown when cut, as the gene responsible for the browning has been turned off.

I for one am very and truly disappointed for the introduction of the first GMO apples into the apple marketplace. Apples have been one trustworthy food for non-GMO consumers. Apples are highly nutritious and delicious. I do not know of any health hazard accompanying this new GMO product, but my question is, was this really necessary? Is there such an outcry for non-browning apples? Maybe there is, but I for one will not purchase these.

The varieties approved for sale in the US are Artic Golden Delicious and Artic Granny Smith. I doubt that they will be on the markets soon, as Okanagan will have to convince growers to grow their apples and it will take some time for those trees to bear salable fruit.

With more than 70% of our food supply coming from potential GMO sources, the rise of food allergies, digestive problems and autism, it seems to be the wrong path to go happily skipping down. Biotech foods might not be the source of these problems but one has to wonder why the explosion of these problems, can it truly be just processed sugars and salts. I have no idea, but I do know that it is getting harder and harder to put ‘natural’ foods in our diets and into our bodies.

The bear in me

For as long as I can remember, I wanted to sleep through the winter. When the air turns cold and the snow falls, I want to curl up and sleep until spring. I have also noticed that I have a craving for carbs during the cold. I think that, like a bear, my body wants to store up fat for the long sleep or at least insulate me from the surrounding cold. I am not sure, but it might be the decrease in serotonin that happens naturally in the winter months. Carbohydrate rich foods can increase serotonin production temporarily. But I am sticking with the bear analogy.

I am continually amazed at the separate intelligence that our body has. It’s incredible that our bodies regulate temperature, balance salt and water levels, and create cravings in an effort to get what it needs. Even when I sleep, my body continues its thousands, perhaps millions of functions. I don’t have to think about it, yet my brain is constantly busy. I wonder if bears dream. I hope so, sleeping all winter gives you lots of time.

I’ve been trying to combat my cravings for carbs with more protein. It’s working until the afternoon, then the compulsion for something sweet really kicks in. I will admit that I do sometimes succumb to the prodding. Now, how to I set my alarm for early spring?

This Incredible Machine

In my last post I wrote about the magic and wonderment of learning and being in awe of everything around me. I am thoroughly enjoying myself learning about nutrition. Even though I am not vegan, I want to learn about these options and how to apply different diets so that they fulfill the nutritional needs for those who choose them. I am fascinated by the effects of food and our environment has on our bodies, even changing the expressions of our genes. Not only are we what we eat, but everything has an effect on us, good or bad. Learning how our bodies change and react constantly to all the forces on us convinces me that there must be an intelligence behind us. I find these internal mechanisms too sophisticated and beautiful to come about by chance.

Our bodies are incredible machines, evolving and adapting every moment. The more I learn, the more amazed I become. I am not only learning this for my own health and satisfaction, I truly want to share this new found health with those that might be hurting. I am a long way from being able to provide any professional services and I hope that the passion for this does not wane.

Do you want to see something incredible? Look in the mirror. You are an incredible creation. You are an incredible creature adapting and changing every day. I hope that you like where you are today. If not, you can change it. No one knows the future, but it can be more assured if you take the steps to get to the future you want.

I know there can be tough circumstances, we all have had them. But think about how you came through those circumstances, usually stronger and wiser than before you faced them. You are an incredible machine, a living miracle. Have an incredible life. I wish happiness, love and health to you.

Falling off the Ladder

   While I was on vacation, I must have eaten something I hadn’t. I am not sure if it was some old home fries, which I suspect or something from a buffet, which I equally suspect. When I make meals, I know exactly what ingredients go into the meal and how it is prepared. This is never guaranteed when you eat out. Even when you think a food is made a certain way, you still cannot be sure. We started our trip on Monday, by Tuesday late morning my stomach ached as it did when I first started this venture towards healing. It seemed as though I had erased 5 months of healing in just a day or two. I had just started experimenting with introducing a small amount of potato back into my diet. I had been adding just a small amount to my stir fries. That seemed okay, but maybe the home fries were more than I could handle. Who knows? It certainly could have been something else taken from the buffet.

   So to put aright this reversal in healing, I found an Aloe Vera drink at the store. It seemed to help. I have returned to my no grain, no nightshade diet in hopes of restoring the healing that I have lost. This was definitely an important lesson for me. I wish I could be sure of the catalyst for this stomach ache. I will have to experiment further in the future.

   Since I have been avoiding irritants for several months now, I wonder if any reappearance of an irritant creates an even stronger reaction than before. I liken it to those who have partaken of large amounts of alcohol and build up a tolerance to it, and then stop can have an increased reaction if alcohol is re-introduced.

   Anyway. I am back on track. I do feel a little bit better. I am travelling back of the ladder to healing once again.

A Walk in the Park

I was on vacation this week and had the opportunity to take an extensive walk in our local canal park. Our canal park features Holley Falls, Salt Port pond, a playground, pavilions and grass areas for picnics and sunning. There is also a gazebo that features music on Friday nights in July. I have been in various parts of the park before but I took advantage of my renewing health and walked the major paths in and around the canal park.

The length of the trails that I walked was 3.24 miles. My son tells me that it would be rated a moderate to strenuous hike. Except for a small portion on the actual canal, the rest of the trails are hilly. He belongs to a hiking group and visits various parks and trails in Western NY. I sometimes accompany him as his guest. I am slowly building up my strength and stamina for these adventures.

Exercise is important. Even though my current diet was not purposed for weight loss, I am taking advantage of this wonderful side effect. I find that losing additional weight has been easier when I exercise. There have been occasions where hiking with my son wipes out all the calorie intake I had prior to the hike. This helps to speed up my metabolism, strengthen my muscles and add to my energy.

I am fortunate to live in an area with lots of green space. Not only do we have parks in many of the towns, there are trails that follow abandoned railway lines. These create segmented paths between roads establishing very visible start and end points.

Walking the greenways is a calm and relaxing way to exercise. I enjoy looking at all the different types of plants and trees along the path. The sounds of nature surround you. Whether walking alone or with others, you still get the benefits of the creations that abound. It is nice to feel the breeze when it kicks up as it rustles through the leaves. I may even be fortunate enough to see some wildlife.

So put on your most comfortable shoes and take a walk. It will be good for your health. It doesn’t have to be a long walk. If you are not use to walking, then start slow and work your way up. Walk for 10 minutes and then turn around. Do that for a week, then increase the time to 15 minutes out and 15 back. Before you know it, you will have reached the 30 minutes of daily exercise recommended by most health practitioners. Even if it isn’t every day, you can work up to that too.

See you on the trails.

Eating Well – Low Carb and Without Grains

I am often asked, and sometimes volunteer, what I eat on my diet. Of course I eat a variety of things. At first, the thought of eating without grains is foreign to eating a Standard American Diet which stresses carbs from grains, breads and cereals. So what else is there? The next time you are at your market, stand in the middle of the produce section and look around. If you are at a large supermarket like Tops or Wegmans, you will see a vast array of fresh vegetables and fruits. These have carbs but they are usually low glycemic. Your meat section is another area that is generally grain free unless it is prepared and breaded. Frozen vegetables and fruits are another area to add to your diet. Also, the bulk foods area offers many nuts and mixtures that are delightful sources of good fats and proteins.

Breakfast is my favorite meal of the day. I enjoy the standard bacon (2 slices) and one egg breakfast except instead of potato and toast, I eat mine with sautéed broccoli and cauliflower (1cup each sautéed in 1tbsp of salted butter, with dried minced garlic and salt added). This adds bulk and slow carbs to the breakfast. I usually drink a 16oz glass of detox water (2oz Lemon Juice, 1oz Lime Juice, two packets of Splenda and 13oz of water). I also have a cup of coffee, This would seem like a lot, but the total nutrition for this particular breakfast, according to my LoseIt! app, is: Total Calories = 329, Fat = 24.6g (12.1g saturated), Cholesterol = 268.3mg, Sodium = 581.1mg, Carbohydrates = 10.8g (Fiber 5g, Sugar 1g, Net Carbs = 5.8g), Protein = 17.7g. You can lower these even more by using unsalted butter or olive oil, substitute turkey bacon and egg substitute. You can enjoy a satisfying meal that has little calories and is filling.

Another wonderful breakfast I enjoy is sautéed cabbage and vegetables. I usually slice up 4 – 6 cups of Savoy cabbage. I slice snow peas lengthwise into strips that complement the cabbage. I add carrot matchsticks, I also add small zucchini squash cut into matchsticks and shredded red or purple cabbage. I use a garlic and herb sautéing butter which adds wonderful flavor. I may add baby kale at the end and finish it with a sprinkling of lime juice. This makes it bright. For a protein component, I might add ham, sausage or chicken. A plate full of this goodness ranges from 200 to 300 calories, is delicious and satisfying.

Bullet-proof Coffee is coffee with 1tbsp coconut oil or butter added. I use coconut oil. My 16oz thermos of coffee, creamer and zero calorie sweetener with the coconut oil is 165 calories. As coconut oil is mostly medium chain triglycerides that are processed in the liver into ketones, it is great at staving off hunger.

My lunch can consist of 8 cups of fresh baby spinach / baby kale mix that is cooked down with minced garlic and onion in olive oil on top of turkey sausage. This is just under 200 calories. I usually eat a fresh grapefruit for an additional 106 calories. This lunch gives me a good supply of omega 3 fatty acids, plenty of vitamins and minerals, and fiber. I usually have herbal tea with my lunch.

My dinner usually consists of a stir fry using fresh or frozen vegetables and usually steak tips or fajita beef. With about 4oz of meat, vegetables and oil to stir fry, a calorie total is around 450 calories. I will then add some fresh pineapple for the sweetness, fiber and the great enzymes within the pineapple, the ones that disallow its use in gelatin. This meal completes out about 550 calories. I usually have my detox water (0 calories).

You can see that I can get variety, good flavor, and rich nutrition without eating grains. With that being said, I do find it hard to get enough fiber, so I supplement my diet with psyllium husks caps and ground flax seed (I usually add 2tsp to 3oz of low fat yogurt). I also take a multivitamin each day. Many people put no faith in vitamins but I think it is a wonderful insurance policy to get a greater range of vitamins and minerals in my diet.

What’s Up Doc?

There are very few times that you want to see your doctor. My last visit was one such time. I had gotten blood work done two weeks before. I wanted to know the effects of my low carb, high fat, anti-inflammatory diet on my diagnostic health.

I sat, waiting in the private room for my doctor to appear. He asked if I had blood work done, I said that I did. He began reviewing the records. He said that my blood glucose level was good, it was 100. Even with trying to keep my carbs below 100 grams, mostly successful. I was happy to hear that my fasting glucose was good. The then told me that my Total Cholesterol level as 188, the best in a long time, down from 203 in February. This actually surprised me since I was sure that my total cholesterol level would go up with the saturated fat and eggs that grace my breakfast so very often. I have been trying to get 60% or more of my calories from fat. I have been using olive oil, coconut oil along with butter and animal fat. I was very happy. My HDL cholesterol had increased from 40 to 42. My LDL dropped a little from 135 to 127. My doctor was surprised that my Triglycerides fall to 97 from 136. He was very pleased with my progress. My blood pressure was good 118/84.

My doctor then lifted his brows, almost asking, “You have lost 30 pounds. The last time you were at this weight was 6 years ago.” Then after pausing for a moment, he asked “What have you been doing?” I told him that since I had last seen him, I had been on a low carb – high fat, no nightshades and no grains. He asked, “You mean no breads or cereals?” I answered that yes, it meant no breads or cereals. He asked what my typical breakfast looked like. I told him that it could be bacon or sausage, an egg, sautéed broccoli, 3 oz. of yogurt with 2 teaspoons of ground flax seed and bulletproof coffee. Explaining that bulletproof coffee for me was coffee with a tablespoon of coconut oil melted in it.

I explained to my doctor that I was trying to heal my stomach and that the weight loss was a fortunate side effect of the diet. Being my doctor, he was familiar with the stomach problems that I had been experiencing since last August along with my ongoing joint and muscle pain. I proudly announced that my stomach, although not healed, was feeling much better. I also told him that I had stopped taking three of my prescribed medicines, namely the pain killers and acid reducer. I told him that I wanted to stop taking my other medicines as well.

My doctor was quite pleased with my overall results. I explained to him that this has been a miraculous journey for me, that I now have more energy than I ever had before. He remembered when I had to walk with a cane because of my arthritis and neuropathy, but I assured him that I now walk for miles. I even bragged to him that I went on a 7 mile hike with my son.

He was excited for me and told me he looks forward to seeing my progress in August. I am looking forward to that visit as well. I feel like a new person. I have been given a new chance at an incredible life. Life is precious and fleeting. I do not want to take it for granted ever again. I have found my new medicine – it comes on my plate. What I put into my body matters. Listening to my body is important. Pain is a body’s way of saying something is wrong. Doctors are usually great at treating symptoms of problems, but I think it is more important to go to the root cause. My body speaks and I am listening.

Carb Sense

Carbohydrates are essential for good health. They give our body energy. But, we must be aware of how carbs effect our body. There are simple and complex carbohydrates. Simple carbs are absorbed quickly into the blood stream, whereas the body has to work at releasing the carbs in their more complex forms. Both enter the blood as glucose. How quickly they raise blood sugar is behind the Glycemic Index and Glycemic Load numbers.
The increase of sugar in the blood stimulates the pancreas to secrete insulin, which is a hormone that the body uses to regulate the blood sugar by informing your body it is time to store the sugar as glycogen and fat. Simple carbs cause a higher sugar load and causes a higher insulin response.
But aren’t their good carbs? Yes. Eat more fresh vegetables, more fresh fruits and less grains and cereals. Vegetables have sugar but it is harder for your body to get to it and causes a gradual absorption into the blood stream. Fruits have more sugar, in the form of fructose, which usually has a higher glycemic load than vegetables. Nature usually pairs these sugars with fiber.
Fiber is not digested by your body, so these carbs basically pass through you. These can be subtracted from the total carbs to get your “net” carbs, also sometimes called impact or effective carbs. If you eat something with a Total Carb count of 16g, with 4g of fiber, then this food would have 12g of net carbs.
You may notice that the fiber and sugar carbs listed on the label do not add up to the total carb count. For instance, a sweet potato, 5” long (130g) has 112 calories. It has 26g of Total Carbohydrate, 4g of fiber and 5g of sugar. So what is the other 17 grams? Those are complex carbohydrates or starches. It has a medium glycemic load of 11. Foods with a glycemic load of 10 or less are considered to have a low glycemic load. High glycemic load (20 and higher) foods increase blood sugar the most.
Keep your net carb count low by using fresh vegetables, supplemented by fruit. Not only do fresh vegetables offer complex carbs, they are usually packed with lots of nutrients. Foods such as raw cauliflower, broccoli, tomato, and even celery are very nutrient dense, make you feel full and accomplish all this with limited calories.
Happy eating. You don’t have to necessarily count carbs, just realize where they come from. Stay away or limit obvious starches as they quickly turn to sugar and increase your insulin (storage hormone) response. Good health to you.

What’s Different?

What is the difference between my current diet and the ones that I tried before? First of all, only time will tell how successful this diet will be. The purpose of this diet was to improve my digestive symptoms. I am currently in my tenth week of Gluten free dieting which includes a month without any grains. My stomach is finally beginning to feel better.

But one additional effect of this current diet is that I am losing weight. I again, emphasize, this was and is not the main focus of this diet. But, hey, I will take it. Since I need to lose weight anyway, it is a most welcome addition.

My previous diets were just a lessening of the volume of food and calories that I was eating before. Even increasing whole grains and fiber were part of those diets. I now understand the effect of glucose spikes in the blood caused by wheat and other grains. Two slices of whole grain wheat bread raise your blood sugar levels higher than a Snicker’s bar. This in turn creates an insulin reaction that ends up storing the sugar as fat.

Even though I was tracking my calories and eating less of them, I felt deprived. The wheat and grains caused me to be hungry and stimulated my cravings for starchy foods. I would lose weight for a short while, but as soon as I began eating again, the weight would come back on, and sometimes even more. I was caught in the same endless cycle that many people are in.

So what makes this different? Removing the wheat and grain from my diet has caused me to seek out other sources of nutrition, namely fresh fruits, vegetables and meats. Vegetables, especially, are low in calories but high in nutrition. You can consume several cups of baby spinach and broccoli and barely break 150 calories. I have purposely tried to keep my carbohydrates below 100g per day. I am eating between 90 – 150g per day.

Again, what’s different? Because of the food that I am eating, I feel fuller on less calories. I am not hungry as often. Since my blood sugar is being kept stable from the naturally low glycemic effect of most of the foods I eat, I avoid the sugar crash and subsequent cravings that come with it. I am simply not hungry all the time as I was in the past. That is be big difference when it comes to hunger.

My past diets made me hungry or feel deprived. I really didn’t feel much better, even when I did lose some weight. Since I have stopped eating grains, I have experienced many benefits, many unexpected. I knew about the brain fog, as it happened to me before almost after every lunch. I did not expect my energy levels to go up as much as they have. I did not expect my arthritis pain to go away. I did expect my stomach pain to go away, but it did not while gluten free, but is now much improved as I am grain free.

Yesterday, I took a 5.5 mile ‘forced march’ hike with my son. My joints did not bother me. I was a little sore when I got home but it wasn’t arthritis pain, it was a ‘dang, that was a hell of a workout’ kind of pain and it felt good!

Benefits so far: more energy; more alert; no arthritis pain; less hungry; less cravings; fresher foods; cooking adventures; better mood; and better sleep.

When I tell people that I am grain free, they sometimes ask, “Then what do you eat?” That is a very fair question. It is a question that I would have asked myself if someone told me they were grain free. Wheat, corn, soy and rice is in the majority of foods in the American diet. The diversity in the store is actually based on a limited set of ingredients. So once you explore the outside aisles you can begin creating vegetable and meat dishes that are not only delicious but very nutritious and healing to your body.

Is there a difference this time? You bet there is. I am feeling better in so many different ways; it is absolutely amazing how diet affects your overall wellness. Of course we know what you eat is important, but until you experience such a change in your life, you will never understand just how important.

My wish is for a better health, better foods, and a better life for you.

Gluten Free Adventure – Part 2

Like many things in life, plans morph into something unexpected. My overall pain and arthritis pain has greatly subsided on the weeks of avoiding wheat, barley and rye. However, my stomach was still very much bothering me. Always being the inquisitive one, I began seeking information as to why my digestion discomfort continues. On this information search, I discovered a short video as to the number one mistake people make on a gluten free diet. Well, of course, that piqued my interest. The mistake was to not avoid all grains. The doctor spoke of a condition called Leaky Gut, or more clinically, intestinal permeability. Since my gut was not feeling any better on the GF diet, I decided that I would go on a Grain Free (GrF) diet. So I am now making it a point to have no grains, no nightshade vegetables (potato, tomato, eggplant), no peppers, and very limited legumes. I am also cooking all vegetables so that they will be easier to digest.

My current goal is to eat no more than 100 grams of carbs per day, mostly from vegetables and consuming low glycemic index foods.

Is it working? I have been on this diet for two weeks and my stomach has calmed down a little. More time will be needed to see if this is the right path. In the meantime, my wife and I are having an interesting time preparing very low carb meals that are satisfying. What we have discovered though, is that our cravings have subsided. We are less hungry even though we are consuming less calories. A side benefit is that we are losing weight.

Losing weight was not the plan or purpose of this adventure. The plan was to feel better and gain more mobility as well as heal our guts. My wife has digestion issues as well, but not the very same issues. Her gut is actually reacting better to the diet more quickly than mine. I am so very glad for her.

I am becoming more and more convinced that inflammation is generating a large host of problems for individuals. I am glad that the science is beginning to accumulate to help people find the answers they need and are right for them.  Body chemistry differs so blanket answers are difficult to form. Just like persons react differently to medications, the same can be true for foods.

One group of professionals is telling me that they have no answers and yet I seem to be finding them.  The internet is a wonderful tool to seek out those who looked for answers before. Are they all right? No. What works for them might not work for me. What works for me, might not work for you. Each of our bodies is unique. Differing blood types, differing sensitivities, and metabolic profiles require differing approaches. I believe the best way to achieve success is to try these different approaches, paying close attention to what our bodies tell us. There are so many diet ideas out there. The A to Z Diet study compared four popular diets showed that the subjects reacted differently to the same diet. So far, on my current path, my body is reacting positively, so much so, I do not want to do anything to reverse the progress.

I will gladly listen to a hundred differing opinions and seek out a common thread and test it for truth then to listen to just one voice which has already proven to me that it just isn’t working. But even with that said, I want to give thanks to all the friends, family, professionals and internet contributors that are accompanying me on this journey. It isn’t over yet and just may last the rest of my life.