Archive for December, 2007

Commonsense eating: I am not you.

One human being is not like another.

You with me?

(Yeah, I know, cue the silly song.)

But it’s self-explanatory, right? The fact that we aren’t clones?

So why is it that in all the fussing and fighting about nutrition, nobody seems to pay attention to this obvious fact?

The food one person needs to eat is not necessarily the same as the food another person needs to eat.



Why do the “experts” act like we’re interchangeable?

Yes, yes, I realize the USDA launched to much fanfare not long ago. But guess what? For those of us who aren’t pregnant or breastfeeding, there are only 12 possible “food patterns” recommended by that system. And all 12 suggest the same mix of foods—they vary only by the number of calories “allowed.” That’s not individualized, folks. (I have a lot of other biting things to say about the USDA recommendations, but I’ll save them for future posts.)

So, what does a person need to know about herself to get a sense of what foods are good for her?

Let’s see…

Ancestors. What did your ancestors eat before industrial food took over? (We evolve with our food, remember?) You don’t need to re-create some mythic ancestral diet, just pay attention to the broad strokes. Say your ancestors were Japanese—they probably didn’t drink much milk. So it might be best to skip the daily 2-3 cups recommended by the USDA. (Of course, it’s likely your digestive system already let you know about that via “lactose intolerance.”)

Don’t worry about this if you’re a mongrel like I am. (Cornwall? Potenza? Donegal? Normandy? Prague? And those are just my mother’s ancestors!) See “the bottom line” below.

Constitution. Someone asked me about her diet recently. She said she ate a “good diet”—mostly salads, fish, and yogurt. But she still didn’t feel well. Thing is, she has a cool constitution. Salads, fish, and yogurt are all cooling foods. So she was giving her body exactly what it didn’t need.

Do you run hot? Tend to irritation and inflammation? Eat cooling foods like, um, salads, fish, and yogurt! Do you tend to cold? Feel drained and depleted? Eat warming foods like spiced broths and braised meats. Tend to dryness? Eat moistening foods like flax and barley, and make sure you get enough fat. Does your body tend to feel damp and “bogged down”? Drying foods like bitter greens are in order, and be sure to go easy on grains. Notice a pattern here?

It goes beyond the traditional hot/cold, moist/dry constitutional categories too, of course. Some people just need more of certain foods than other people do. (Again, see “the bottom line” below.)

Climate. Live in a dry climate? You need more moistening foods. Hot climate? Cooling foods. You get the point. The same goes for seasons in temperate climates. Salads in the summer, soups in the winter. (You know this already, don’t you? Yep, see “the bottom line” below.)

Lifestyle. So, if you’re a logger you can probably afford to eat more grains and other carbohydrates than someone who types all day can. Hell, you need to eat more of everything. Your body will tell you. (You guessed it—see “the bottom line” below.)

The bottom line. You know better than any “pyramid” or diet book (or blog post!) what your body needs. Really, you do. Just pay attention.

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Commonsense eating: basics.

There were questions about nutrition after my posts on lard and schmaltz. So this is the first post in a series on Commonsense Eating.

I’m really rather conservative when it comes to food. Here are my basic principles:

Food is edible; industrial byproducts are not.

Remember how crisco was invented? That should have been a clue to the fact that it isn’t food.

Food comes from farms, not from factories.

So, it should be obvious, but Confined Animal Feeding Operations (CAFOs) are not farms. They are factories. The meat they produce may look like meat, but it’s not food. (Sneaky, I know.)

If your (or someone else’s) great-great-great-grandmother wouldn’t recognize it as food, it probably isn’t.

This is a good way to avoid industrial “food.” (What would the grandmothers have thought of those all-vegetable “chicken nuggets”? Probably not much.)

Best to respect food traditions.

Humans are mammals, and we evolve with our food. We don’t develop food traditions in a vacuum. Remember the tragedy of pellagra? That happened because our ancestors depended on the native food (corn) without the native tradition (nixtamalization).

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Simple gifts: Yogurt and green tea facial scrub.

dscf1264.JPGI don’t like to buy skin care products. They tend to be either ridiculously expensive or full of sketchy industrial ingredients (yes, even the ones in health food stores).

The thing is, it’s really easy to make very high quality skin care products from things that you already have kicking around your kitchen.

Today I made a lovely yogurt and green tea facial scrub. I think I’ll be using this one for a while. The ingredients? Yogurt and green tea. Yes, that’s all. Just grind up some green tea and mix it with enough plain yogurt to get the consistency you want. You can add a pinch of vitamin C powder if you have it, or a drop of essential oil if you want to scent it (though I like the fresh green tea smell, myself).

I use this concoction as a combination facial scrub / mask. I rub it on with circular strokes, letting the little bits of green tea do the scrubbing. I leave it on for a few minutes to give the lactic acid and cultures in the yogurt a chance to work on my skin. Then I just rinse.

The combination of yogurt and green tea is soothing, cooling and gently exfoliating. It’s wonderful for sensitive, irritated skin. (Some of the most expensive skin care products on the market are based on green tea or lactic acid. This homemade version is cheaper, fresher, and better.)

If you put this stuff in a little jar and put a ribbon on it, you have a great Christmas gift. (Just make sure the recipient knows to keep it refrigerated.)

Here are some other simple facial scrubs / masks (and potential quick-and-easy gifts):

Honey mixed with ground almonds and a bit of oil. (A nourishing scrub.)

Milk and honey and powdered rose petals. (Moisturizing and soothing.)

Yogurt and chopped mint leaves. (Cooling, soothing and stimulating.)

Yogurt and ground basil. (Soothing and invigorating.)

Oat flour and plantain infusion. (Incredibly soothing and healing.)

Oat flour and rosemary infusion. (Healing and stimulating.)

You get the idea. Why not make up your own recipes?

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