Food For Thought: Smorgasbord

Tuesday, September 01, 2009

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Today’s entry in the week-long Food For Thought series is a veritable smorgasbord of assorted food-related topics:
  • Finding locally-produced foods can sometimes be a bit difficult, especially if you don’t live in an agriculturally-diverse area.   Two websites that can make locating local farmers & growers much easier are Local Harvest and Eat Well Guide.   Both are online directories of sustainable food suppliers, searchable by location, where you can just enter your Zip Code and get a list for your area.

  • Did you know that the crust is the best part of bread?   It not only contains 8 times more antixodants, but is also rich in dietary fiber, which can help prevent colon cancer.   So, don’t trim the crusts off of your kids’ sandwiches!

  • The typical American breakfast of cereal, lowfat milk, & orange juice — often recommended by dietitians & doctors alike — is a nightmare!   According to some, the processing involved with the manufacture of much of our food riddles it with oxidants known to cause degenerative diseases such as cancer, heart disease, brain dysfunction, and cataracts.

    For example, naturally-occurring cholesterol in fresh dairy products is used by your body to build & strengthen cell membranes, muscles, brain & nerve tissue.   But the drying process in making powdered milk — which is commonly used as a thickener in skim & lowfat milk — oxidizes the cholesterol which, once oxidized, can longer be used but instead collects along the walls of arteries.

  • If you cook, you’ll want to bookmark the Cook’s Thesaurus right now!   It’s a kitchen encyclopedia that covers thousands of ingredients & tools with pictures, descriptions, synonyms, and pronunciations of each.   But what’ll bring you back — and just may save a holiday meal — are the suggested substitutions.

    (Who knew you could substitute 3 tbsp. mayonnaise, ¼ cup of applesauce, or half a mashed ripe banana plus ¼ tsp. baking powder for each egg in a recipe?)

  • Honey can be a surprisingly effective, easy, & inexpensive solution for some allergy sufferers.   Ingesting small amounts of the airborne pollens that are also contained in the honey helps your body to build up a natural resistance to the allergens.   So adding a couple of teaspoons of local, pure, wildflower honey into your daily diet can decrease (and possibly even prevent) seasonal allergies.

    However, this is typically not what’s found in the cute little bear-shaped jars in the supermarket because mass-produced honey is stripped of its medicinal value via processing & heat sterilization.   And commercial bees are often fed corn syrup rather than their own honey, which diminishes the health of the hive as in addition to decreasing the nutritive benefits of the honey.   So look for locally-harvested (try within a 50 mile radius of your house), unpasteurized, unfiltered, 100% pure wildflower honey — the kind that you commonly find at farmers’ markets or produce stands.

  • For complete nutritional data on honey and a whole host of other health-promoting foods, visit the World’s Healthiest Foods.   This website, run by The George Mateljan Foundation (a not-for-profit foundation with no commercial interests) aims to discover, develop, and share scientifically-proven information about the benefits of healthy eating.

  • Foster Farms, a California poultry company, created the Say No To Plumping campaign.   Plumping is the practice of needlessly injecting chickens with saltwater, stock, seaweed extract, or other fluids to radically increase sodium content, weight, and price — which the USDA estimates costs Americans up to $2 billion annually!

  • High fructose corn syrup has become so abundant & incredibly cheap that manufacturers sneak it into practically everything.   HFCS is used liberally even in foods that have no need for any sweetener in them.

    But if it isn’t bad enough that so much of our foods are secretly loaded with the stuff, we now we find out that HFCS is contaminated with mercury.   Two studies recently found significant traces of the toxic metal in 30-50% of sampled foods containing HFCS.   So if you weren’t sufficiently convinced of the evils of HFCS before, it’s high time to reconsider!
Do you have some interesting morsel of food-related goodness to share?   Be sure to leave a comment to be entered in the book giveaway at the end of this Food For Thought week!

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Posted by Rob at 5:23 AM 6 comments links to this post

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How Am I Unlike a Turnip?

Monday, May 26, 2008

Well, for starters, you can get blood from me.   In fact, I give the stuff away fairly often.

I’m a big proponent of donating blood.   Giving blood is a simple & very charitable gesture; a single pint of blood given by a donor can help to save the lives of as many as three people.   But Shelly Tucker over at This Eclectic Life reminded me of another great reason to give blood...

Before any blood is collected, you must first complete a brief medical history questionnaire.   It’s also at this time that a mini-physical is performed, during which your blood pressure, pulse, temperature, and your hematocrit (the number of red cells in your blood) level are checked to ensure that you’re a eligible candidate.   And of course, after your blood is drawn, it’s thoroughly screened for diseases.   During these pre- and post-donation steps, sometimes conditions you were previously unaware of, like high blood pressure, for example, can turn up.   In Shelly’s case, she was shocked to learn that her blood tested positive for Hepatitis C antibodies, though (thankfully!) negative for the virus itself.   While this is certainly not news she would’ve wanted to hear, she now knows to alert her doctor to keep a close watch out for liver damage during future checkups.

Similarly — although much less seriously — I was alerted to an unknown problem when I went to give blood earlier this year.   I was turned away because of a low red blood cell count that was revealed during the pre-donation mini-physical.   I promptly made an appointment with Dr. Perlman for a follow-up on this and the initial bloodwork indicated internal bleeding.   After a number of tests and visits with Dr. Perlman and my bariatric surgeon Dr. Davenport, I was able to breathe a deep sigh of relief — they determined that I’ve developed pernicious anemia, caused by serious vitamin B12 & iron deficiencies due to malabsorption.   This type of anemia is readily treatable; I’ve been on corrective supplements for over 2 months now and have since been able to donate blood again.

Please note:   Blood donation screening tests are not diagnostic and are no substitute for routine annual physicals!   For your own sake as well as that of potential recipients, please don’t use blood donation for the purpose of screening!   If you suspect that there’s a problem, please see your doctor first!

This isn’t necessarily easy for everyone, of course.   Giving blood can cause queasiness & cold sweats and just the needle-stick alone is quite difficult for some people to tolerate.   However, you can take comfort in knowing that giving blood not only helps others but may also benefit you as well.   In fact, it stimulates the generation of red blood cells and there’s some evidence that suggests that giving blood may lower cholesterol and reduce the risk of heart disease.

So, what’s your take on this?   Do you donate blood?

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Posted by Rob at 7:32 AM 3 comments links to this post

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Slip, Slop, Slap, Wrap

Tuesday, May 20, 2008

Sid the SeagullIn 1981, the Cancer Council Australia launched their very successful Slip, Slop, Slap skin health campaign.   Ads featured the program’s mascot, Sid the Seagull who encouraged people to "Slip on a shirt, slop on sunscreen, and slap on a hat" when going out in the sun to reduce the risks of skin cancer.

The slogan was later extended to Slip, Slop, Slap, Wrap or "Slip on a shirt, slop on the sunscreen, slap on a hat, and wrap on some sunnies" to also promote the use of sunglasses.   (Even though this very effective campaign has resulted in far fewer incidences, Australia still has the highest rate of skin cancer in the world.)

It might seem a bit early to be talking about summertime skin care here in the middle of May, but with the forecast already calling for triple-digit temps, it’s pretty appropriate.   So as you gear up for outdoors activities, remember the "Slip, Slop, Slap, Wrap" slogan to protect yourself!

Sadly, despite best intentions, many of us will still end up sunburned at least once during the Summer months.   If you find yourself looking rather lobester-esqe, head over to WiseBread for some cheap & simple sunburn remedies that really work!


Posted by Rob at 6:41 AM 1 comments links to this post

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Go Nuts in March

Thursday, March 13, 2008

National Peanut Month is upon us!   What began as National Peanut Week in 1941, expanded to a month-long celebration in 1974.   And it’s probably no coincidence that March is also National Nutrition Month because the lowly peanut is quite the nutritional powerhouse!

peanut graphicWhile peanuts aren’t actually nuts — they’re legumes, related to peas, lentils, chickpeas & other beans — they’re loaded with healthful goodness, with almost 8 grams of protein per serving and feature lots of dietary fiber, vitamin E, niacin, folate, & manganese.   They’re also a good source of heart-healthy monounsaturated fats and two high-powered antioxidants: p-Coumaric acid & resveratrol, the highly-touted component found in red grapes & wine.   In fact, peanuts pack in more antioxidants than either apples or carrots!

And you can easily get your fill of those healthful morsels by indulging often in what Lindsey Knerl calls The Poor Man’s Protein or what chef & writer Florence Fabricant refers to as "The pâté of childhood."
Yup, good ol’ peanut butter!

So, grab up a PBJ and lift a cheer for National Peanut Month!

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Posted by Rob at 6:24 AM 1 comments links to this post

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Me, Metrosexual?

Tuesday, June 05, 2007

At the end of May each year, Pat Fierro’s students in the Odessa College Massage Therapy program have an internship period during which they amass 50 hours of (wait for it...) hands-on experience in preparation for becoming registered massage therapists.   Karen W. tipped me off about this a couple of years ago.   So each Summer, I look forward to taking advantage of the opportunity for a great massage (or two!) at an incredibly reasonable price.   And over the past weekend I did just that.   It was well worth the wait!
metrosexual cartoon
Likewise, over the past few years, I’ve also become accustomed to getting a pedicure every 4-6 months to alleviate ingrown toenail problems.   So, a few weeks ago, Dede & I visited MCM Eleganté Getaway Spa & Salon for some pedis.   As is customary, Christy did a fantastic (and pain-free) job at whipping my gnarly dogs into tip-top shape for Summer.

And of course, I suppose that I’ve gotta come clean about getting my hair cut at a "salon."   Our pal Jen over at The Palms Salon has been doing my "do" for several years now and I couldn’t possibly keep up my stylish coiffure without her skillfull scissor support.

Not to mention that I moisturize after showering each morning.   Oh, then there’s also the fancy Crest Spinbrush for cleaning & brightening my choppers.   And don’t forget the goo-spitting electric razor & nifty little Wahl beard trimmer...

Sheesh, I’d never really considered all of this cumulatively, but it sure all adds up to a lot of, um, fussy primping & preening for just an average guy.   Sure enough, I’ve unconsciously been a lot more mindful of my general appearance & health since my gastric bypass surgery almost 3 years ago.   Now I’m pretty secure in my manhood, but I started thinking...   This could have me bordering pretty close to metrosexual...
metrosexual   (met-roh-SEK-shoo-ul)   n   [coined by Mark Simpson, 1994.]
A usually urban heterosexual male who has a strong aesthetic sense and/or an inordinate interest in appearance and style, similar to that of heterosexual females or homosexual males.
Ack!!   Could it be true?   Am I becoming metro?   Well, hopefully not, but at least I can take solace in knowing that I’m not nearly so extreme or clichéd as the metrosexual hipster doofus pictured above.

Update:   I had a tough time chasing back down the source for the cool cartoon, but Dede finally nudged me in the right direction.   (She is the Google guru, y’know.)   "Nutless Tendroid" and many, many other hilarious "Bane of My Existence" cartoons by Rod Filbrandt can be found at Chowderhead Bazoo.

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Posted by Rob at 8:21 PM 9 comments links to this post

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Subway Wrap Rap

Thursday, March 29, 2007

How disappointing — just when Dede & I got thoroughly hooked on Subway tuna wraps, the powers that be foolishly opted to get rid of their chewy, whole-grain, low-carb wraps!   Yup, according to Jimmy Moore over at The Livin’ La Vida Low-Carb Blog, a Subway representative has confirmed that the "Carb Conscious Wraps" have been discontinued earlier this month and replaced with a white flour tortilla wrap at all North American Subway franchises.

What a travesty!   The "Carb Conscious Wraps" had only 5 net carbs yet featured 8 grams of fiber & a whopping 14 grams of protein!   The crummy replacement wraps have over 20 net carbs but less than 1 gram of fiber — and no flavor!   Ack!

What will we do now?   Are we without recourse?   Well, maybe not.   For starters, when visiting your local Subway franchise restaurant, tell the owner you want the old-style Atkins-friendly, low-carb, goodness back!   You can also fill in the Subway Customer Service Form to send a signal, loud & clear, that we all want the "Carb Conscious Wraps" back!   So get with it, people!   Let’s make this happen!

Update:  David Turner, owner of the MCH Subway franchise we frequent, added that Subway made this change without franchisee input.   He recommends calling Subway at (800) 888-4848 and telling them that you prefer the original "Carb Conscious Wraps."

Update #2:  Subway must be listening.   Only days after Dede & I sent website feedback and emails, the MCH franchise brought back the chewy, whole-grain, low-carb wraps that we love!   Power to the people!

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Posted by Rob at 6:26 AM 1 comments links to this post

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A Year of Kickin' Butts

Monday, January 01, 2007

Today marks an exciting & significant anniversary. Dede's been kickin' butts for a whole year! She put down the smokes on Dec. 31st, 2005 and hasn't picked 'em up since. It was a conscious & deliberate decision — she still has an unopened pack of cigarettes in the freezer.

According to Wade Merideth's article What Happens To Your Body If You Stop Smoking Right Now on, there are some remarkable & fairly immediate benefits for those who kick the habit. In the first year a former smoker's risk of heart attack will have dropped by half!
Suck on that, Marlboro Man!!

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Posted by Rob at 12:33 PM 3 comments links to this post

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On the Other Side

Friday, July 30, 2004

My gastric bypass surgery on Tuesday went well and I’m back home.   I miss the reassurance of having a nurse a few feet away if something comes up, but being back on home turf is wonderful!

Overall, my surgery and post-op days were blessed.   I’ve experienced very little pain, just the kinds of aches and soreness that I guess you’d expect with abdominal surgery, some unusual sensations, and a general sense of fragility, which I’m sure is more perception & paranoia than anything else.

The opening from my new stomach pouch into the newly attached small intestine had some swelling that prevented the x-ray contrast from passing through for the better part of a day, which certainly gave us all a bit of a scare.   There was a chance that Dr. Davenport would have to go back in and make an adjustment, but patience triumphed and we all breathed a big sigh of relief when we repeated the test this morning and the contrast just slipped right through like water.

A tremendous "thanks" goes out to everyone who sent such nice notes of encouragement and especially the visitors who came by to offer morale support and comfort.   And I can’t say enough about how great Dr. D was about making sure that I was well-informed all along the way.   I really appreciated his visits — which never felt rushed — and felt like he’d gone out of his way to make quality time for Dede & me.

I’d be remiss if I didn’t also praise the MCH 6C nursing staff, especially Mona, Brad, Hope, & Shawna.   They were patient and supportive and, well, just everything I needed and more!

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Posted by Rob at 6:45 PM 0 comments links to this post

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The Big Day

Tuesday, July 27, 2004

Prepping to leave for MCH for my Roux-en-Y Gatric Bypass surgery this morning, I dared one last look at my home scale.   Whether it was teasing me by being optimistic or I’ve done better in the weeks pre-op than I had thought, I can’t decide, but the silly thing claims I weigh 366.8 lbs today.

I’m not too nerve-wracked...   I’m taking slow deep breaths, saying lots of silent prayers, and drawing great comfort & resolve from knowing that so many people are wishing me well and keeping me in their prayers.   I’m blessed to have so much enthusiastic support.   Thanks and I’ll see you on the "loser’s bench!"

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Posted by Rob at 4:33 AM 0 comments links to this post

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Scheduled For Surgery

Wednesday, July 14, 2004

More than 2 years of thoughtful consideration, research, discussion, & prayer culminated last month in a life-altering decision — my decision to undergo weight-loss surgery.

My decision to have Laparoscopic Roux-en-Y gastric bypass is a major one.   It’s a choice that I took seriously & willfully, with an ever-increasing awareness of the potential pros and cons.   This procedure isn’t an "easy way out" but more simply it is...   a way out.   Out of what?   Limits.   My lifestyle is littered with limits imposed by my weight, peaking recently at more than 380 pounds.   And without a radical change, the future promises more of the same.   These limitations physically made it difficult to do things I need to do, much less things that I want to do.

Being large and/or heavy invades your mental processes also — gradually your thought patterns shift from "what would I like to do" to "what will I be able to do?"   Someone would invite Dede & me to go to a movie, for example, and my first thought was not about whether it’s even a movie I’d like to see — it was whether the theater where the movie is showing had tolerable seating.

Being "morbidly obese" — a sickening term that I’m embarrassed to admit applies to me — puts limits on daily routines.   Random and increasingly more-frequent arthritis flare-ups have made even minimal walking a real challenge some days, although I thankfully still had many more good days than bad.   But joint problems have been altogether debilitating at times, causing multiple missed days of work — two years in a row, I was hobbled with intense knee swelling right at Christmastime when we’ve had friends visiting and wanting to enjoy our company.

And other heath issues are certainly at hand.   The looming fear of cardiac problems has been on my mind frequently.   Granted, I know of seemingly trim & fit guys who’ve had heart problems, so that isn’t a threat unique to someone of my size, but being this overweight is surely tempting fate.   Dr. Perlman advised me that I was on the brink of Type II Diabetes back in June, which certainly served as yet another strong incentive for a permanent weight-loss solution.

So, the die is cast.   I’m scheduled for surgery with Dr. Davenport on July 27th.   Beyond that, hopefully, the sky’s the limit!

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Posted by Rob at 8:20 PM 0 comments links to this post

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