Category Archives: Health

Low And Slow May Be The Way To Go When It Comes To Dieting

Reposted from NPR’s food blog article. I’m curious what readers’ favorite low-glycemic foods are. Let me know!

Eating low-glycemic foods, or foods that take longer to digest, may help you feel fuller for a longer period of time.

Eating low-glycemic foods, or foods that take longer to digest, may help you feel fuller for a longer period of time.

If you’re dieting, you know you’ve got to count calories, carbs and fats. But if you really want to take off the weight and keep it off, you might want to pay more attention to the glycemic index, which is essentially a measure of how quickly foods are digested.

That’s because high glycemic foods cause a surge in blood sugar, followed by a crash. That biological reaction releases hormones that stimulate hunger and, according to David Ludwig of the New Balance Foundation Obesity Prevention Center at Boston Children’s Hospital, actually lower metabolism, adding up to a dismal recipe for people who want to lose weight and keep it off.

“One of the unfortunate aspects of weight loss maintenance is that it takes fewer and fewer calories to just stay the same,” Ludwig says. “As the body loses weight, it becomes more efficient and requires fewer calories,” making it harder and harder to continue losing and making it difficult to maintain weight loss without continually dieting. By some estimates, only 1 in 6 Americans who lose weight are able to keep it off after one year.

But Ludwig and colleagues recently published a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association that offers some tools you might use to fight back. Researchers compared the low-carb, low-fat and low-glycemic diets to see which one burned the most calories per day. The low-carb diet was the clear winner. The low-fat diet was the loser. But it was the diet in the middle, the low-glycemic index diet, that Ludwig suggests is more promising. It burned more calories per day than the low-fat diet and proved easier to stick to over the long term than the low-carb diet.

Mike Rogers, 43, was a participant who managed to keep off the 40 pounds he lost. He says the difference in the three diets was “enormous,” adding that “the low-glycemic diet reminded me of the way my mom and grandmom cooked while I was growing up; I felt far better on the low-glycemic diet than on either of the other two.”

Still trim, Rogers now eats far more fruits and vegetables than he did in the past, and, when it comes to carbohydrates, he opts for those with a lower glycemic index. That means brown rice versus white, whole grain pasta and steel cut oats instead of “quick-cooking” oats. He pretty much stays away from all processed foods.

Highly processed and refined foods, like packaged items, white bread, white rice, prepared breakfast cereals and crackers have a high glycemic index. “The body can digest these foods into sugar literally within moments after eating,” says Ludwig.

Low-glycemic foods tend to be natural foods like most vegetables and fruits, nuts, beans and whole grains. They actually wend their way slowly through the body’s digestion system, using up more energy and burning more calories in the process. And, best of all, says Ludwig, they actually “increase the metabolic rate and decrease hunger, giving us a biological advantage” in losing and maintaining weight.

Ludwig is quick to caution that his study was short and not conclusive. He’s working now to design a long-term study that looks at diet and weight loss maintenance over a number of years.

Registered dietitian Joy Dubost, a spokesperson for the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics, says the low-glycemic diet is hard to follow. In large part, that’s because there are many factors that affect how the body digests food, including the combination of food we eat, food preparation, whether vegetables and fruits are ripe, and our individual differences in how we digest food.

And eating too many low-glycemic foods that are also high in calories, sugar or saturated fats can be problematic.

Dubost urges moderation of carbs and fats. But equally important, she says, is a “part of the equation often ignored”: exercise. She points to research that shows people who were successful in maintaining their weight a year after losing it added a significant ingredient to their daily regimen: at least 60 to 90 minutes of moderate exercise every single day.


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Top 10 GMO Foods to Avoid

Too busy this week to come up with some original material, this article from caught my eye. This is for all of us foodies out there that want to avoid genetically modified foods (GMOs). Notice one corporation keeps popping up on the list. I consider Monsanto to be one of the most evil corporations in the world, and I don’t use the word “evil” lightly.

Article by Elizabeth Renter

Genetically modified foods have been shown to cause harm to humans, animals, and the environmental, and despite growing opposition, more and more foods continue to be genetically altered. It’s important to note that steering clear from these foods completely may be difficult, and you should merely try finding other sources than your big chain grocer. If produce is certified USDA-organic, it’s non-GMO (or supposed to be!) Also, seek out local farmers and booths at farmer’s markets where you can be ensured the crops aren’t GMO. Even better, if you are so inclined: Start organic gardening and grow them yourself. Until then, here are the top 10 worst GMO foods for your “do not eat” GMO foods list.

Top 10 Worst GMO Foods for Your GMO Foods List

1Corn: This is a no-brainer. If you’ve watched any food documentary, you know corn is highly modified. “As many as half of all U.S. farms growing corn for Monsanto are using genetically modified corn,” and much of it is intended for human consumption. Monsanto’s GMO corn has been tied to numerous health issues, including weight gain and organ disruption.

2. Soy: Found in tofu, vegetarian products, soybean oil, soy flour, and numerous other products, soy is also modified to resist herbicides. As of now, biotech giant Monsanto still has a tight grasp on the soybean market, with approximately 90 percent of soy being genetically engineered to resist Monsanto’s herbicide Roundup. In one single year, 2006, 96.7 million pounds of glyphosate was sprayed on soybeans alone

3. Sugar: According to NaturalNews, genetically-modified sugar beets were introduced to the U.S. market in 2009. Like others, they’ve been modified by Monsanto to resist herbicides. Monsanto has even had USDA and court-related issues with the planting of it’s sugarbeets, being ordered to remove seeds from the soil due to illegal approval.

4. Aspartame: Aspartame is a toxic additive used in numerous food products, and should be avoided for numerous reasons, including the fact that it is created with genetically modified bacteria.

5. Papayas: This one may come as a surprise to all of you tropical-fruit lovers. GMO papayas have been grown in Hawaii for consumption since 1999. Though they can’t be sold to countries in the European Union, they are welcome with open arms in the U.S. and Canada.

6. Canola: One of the most chemically altered foods in the U.S. diet, canola oil is obtained from rapeseed through a series of chemical actions.

7. Cotton: Found in cotton oil, cotton originating in India and China in particular has serious risks.

8. Dairy: Your dairy products contain growth hormones, with as many as one-fifth of all dairy cows in America are pumped with these hormones. In fact, Monasnto’s health-hazardous rBGH has been banned in 27 countries, but is still in most US cows. If you must drink milk, buy organic.

9. and 10. Zucchini and Yellow Squash: Closely related, these two squash varieties are modified to resist viruses.

The dangers of some of these foods are well-known. The Bt toxin being used in GMO corn, for example, was recently detected in the blood of pregnant women and their babies. But perhaps more frightening are the risks that are still unknown.

With little regulation and safety tests performed by the companies doing the genetic modifications themselves, we have no way of knowing for certain what risks these lab-created foods pose to us outside of what we already know.

The best advice: steer clear of them altogether.

Additional Sources:


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A Victory For People Who Prefer Real Food

Beef Products Inc., the company that manufactures beef product known as “Pink Slime,” announced that they would close three of their four manufacturing plants that make what they refer to as “Lean Beef Trimmings.” According to the petition that brought attention to the Pink Slime controversy, “’Pink slime’ is the term used for a mixture of beef scraps and connective tissue (formerly used only for pet food and rendering) that is treated with ammonia hydroxide to remove pathogens like salmonella and E coli.” After treating the mixture, it is blended into ground beef and hamburger patties.

To quote the company: “We are making significant progress in setting the record straight and are encouraged by recent market research which shows that consumers are very interested in consuming high quality, safe lean ground beef – which is exactly what we have done for the last thirty years. We continue to stand by our lean beef as 100% wholesome, safe and nutritious, and we will continue to defend Beef Products, Inc. against the mischaracterizations and irresponsible misrepresentations that led us to take these actions.”

This is a prime example of missing the point. If you have to process meat scraps with ammonia to make it “safe”, can we really call that real food? Do you think anyone would buy this if they put it out for sale at the grocery store? Of course not! Then why is it okay to use this in filler in our fast-food burgers?

And why do they have to treat “bits” of beef with ammonia anyway? It is because warehouse cattle are fed a diet consisting primarily of corn, which doesn’t agree with their systems and makes them vulnerable to diseases such as E Coli. Interestingly enough, beef that are fed grass, their natural food, can recover from disease. Of course, why not just feed them grass to begin with? Simple. Beef fed with grass are much more expensive to raise, while corn, which is heavily subsidized by the federal government, is much cheaper. If you’d like to have your eyes opened about the corn industry, see the documentary “King Corn”.

And my final question: What are beef “bits”? They are the part of the beef that are not recognizable as a cut of meat, but are rather, the beef “byproducts”. Why would anyone want to eat that?

Sources for this writeup:

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The Power of Music on People With Dementia

I heard a wonderful piece on NPR yesterday titled “For Elders With Dementia, Musical Awakenings”. It highlights the story of an elderly man named Henry who is in the advanced stages of Alzheimers who is typically unresponsive, yet comes to life when music from his youth is played to him. (You can read more at NPR’s site here and be sure to watch the video at the bottom of this post.

The more I learn about the brain (a hobby of mine) the more fascinated I get about the power of music on brain function and cognition. The process of listening and remembering music engages many different regions of the brain in a complex way and imprints or hardwires these relationships. Although it is possible for people to appreciate new types of music throughout their lifetimes, most musical tastes are fashioned during the teenage years.

For those with dementia, it is no wonder that hearing music that was enjoyed in a formative age would reactivate these hardwired relationships in the brain which then in turn would reengage cognitive functions in these areas.

My parents are 88 and 86 and we are noticing early stages of dementia–you know, those “senior moments” when a parent loses track of which child they are talking about during a conversation. The NPR piece makes me wonder what effect a playlist of my parent’s favorite music would have on them during these earlier stages of random forgetfulness.

I have a few ideas of what kinds of music they loved when they were young–Glenn Miller comes to mind. But, I realize that the time to find out what would be in their favorite playlist is now.

How about you? Do you know what your parent’s favorite songs were when they were young? Perhaps now is the time to find out. I would love to hear your stories.


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The Hand Problem: 3 Years Later and the Effects of Stress on Healing

It’s hard to believe it’s been almost three years since I really buggered up my right hand. I have a chronic condition called Ulnar nerve impingement. Essentially, it means that somewhere along Ulnar nerve (see picture), there is something that is putting pressure on it. The Ulnar nerve is the only nerve in the body that is unprotected by muscular-skeletal infrastructure.

I just happen to have one that is shorter than most people, so all it takes is a little pressure to aggravate things. Typically, it presents as aching, numbness, or tingling in the ring and little finger as well as the back part of the wrist and the “funny bone” in the elbow. I had an MRI and found that there is a little bit of compression in the Cubital Tunnel, which is that little notch on the inside part of the elbow (i.e. toward your body). But overall, I have found that the biggest culprit is inflammation anywhere along the path.

I initially traumatized it via strenuous outdoor work. First, several years ago when I split a cord of maple, then five years ago when I pulled out shrubs to make way for building a new deck. And finally, three years ago when I pressure-washed and stained our new deck. The first two times, I recovered somewhat quickly. The last time, it took over a year to recover from the worst of the symptoms. I had to take a six-month leave from work and eventually was terminated (by mutual agreement).

I am happy to say that, most days, I live symptom free. Ironically, the hand is acting up today, possibly because I’m thinking about it, or because I spent most of yesterday doing computer consulting.

I have always wondered why it took so long to recover the third time. Without any other information, I assumed it was because I had a pretty intense project at work that required putting in long hours on the computer for several weeks right after the injury. The best therapy for this type of condition is rest, and I didn’t get any.

But the more I learn about the brain and the body, I realize there is more to this story. Not only did my project require long hours, but I was under the gun. So, it was both long hours and high stress. By this point, I was miserable in my job, doing work I didn’t like for a micromanaging boss that–how do I put this nicely–was indifferent about how to best utilize my creative strengths–in other words, I was a cog in the machine. If I don’t have at least some creative freedom in my work, I wither.

When the body encounters stress, a hormone called cortisol is released. A little is okay. But chronic stress leaves cortisol levels elevated and  causes, among other things, lowered immunity and inflammatory responses in the body, slowed wound healing, decreased bone density, and decrease in muscle tissue. The “inflammatory response” gets stuck.

It’s clear to me now why it took so long for me to heal. I was a stressed out mess!! That’s why rest was the best medicine along with therapies to address the inflammation.

Here are some articles you can read to learn more about the effects of chronic cortisol: 

If you are developing chronic Ulnar nerve issues, the very best advice I can give you is do whatever you can to reduce your stress. If you are in a high-pressure job like I was, especially if it also involves a lot of repetitive motion, stop immediately! Use all your sick time or take a vacation. You need to unplug and let your body decompress so it can start the healing process. And be sure to take whatever supplements are helpful for healing and reducing inflammation.

You can read my other blog posts about my journey here:

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Do you have a lot to lose?

It’s that time of year again. I’m noticing a rash of weight-loss commercials on the TV this morning. On the Today Show they had a segment about willpower where they interviewed an expert on the subject, Kelly Mcgonigal, PhD, a health psychologist and yoga teacher at Stanford university, who happens to have a book out: “The Willpower Instinct”.

Perusing a little on her website, I am seeing themes reminiscent of some of the insights I learned from Dr. Daniel Amen’s work. The brain is crucial. If there’s something off in the brain, achieving lifestyle-change goals will be more difficult. But information IS power and, although I struggle with some issues like ADD, addressing the brain chemistry issues has enabled me to turn the corner on my heath and lifestyle goals.

Dr. Mcgonigal’s work adds the psychological dimension including the importance of self-compassion and strategies for using and building self-control. I will write more about her work as I research it. Meanwhile, here is a great article from her website:

For your convenience, here is one section from the article that I found fascinating, but you really ought to read the whole thing when you get a chance.

From Mindless to Mindful Eating

According to Susan Albers, PsyD, author of Eat, Drink and Be Mindful (New Harbinger 2009), mindless eating is a major factor in weight gain and a saboteur of weight loss. “In many cases, it’s not the meals we eat that cause weight gain. It’s the snacking, the mindless eating while watching television, when we’re on autopilot and not really aware of what we’re eating.” And it’s not just the environment or distractions that trigger automatic eating. Emotions play a big role. “The majority of food decisions people make have nothing to do with hunger. They have to do with stress, anxiety, sadness or frustration.”

This is where mindfulness comes in. Mindfulness is the process of paying attention, both to inner cues (thoughts, emotions and sensations) and to your environment. When applied to eating, this can mean the difference between one more failed diet and lasting change you can live with. “When clients address their mindless eating, they often naturally lose weight,” Albers says.

Albers breaks mindful eating into three components:

  • Mindful Eating in the Moment. This means getting rid of distractions like reading, watching television or eating on the go. It also means being aware of the sensations of eating—really tasting, smelling and enjoying the food as you eat it. Finally, it means knowing what it feels like to be hungry or full, and learning to honor those signals. “Mindless eaters have so lost touch with the feeling of fullness. But with practice you start to realize, if I eat any more, I’m not going to feel good. ”
  • Nonjudgmental Awareness of Eating Habits and Beliefs. Albers encourages her clients to keep a food journal to get a clear sense of their eating habits, and to pay attention to habits like where they keep food in the house or office and how they go about food shopping. It’s also important to notice how you talk to yourself about food. “Be mindful of the voices in your head, the messages Mom might have given you about food.” Common self-defeating beliefs include not wanting to waste food, putting foods into black-and-white “good” and “bad” categories or trying to show people you love them by sharing rich comfort foods.
  • Nonjudgmental Awareness of Environmental and Emotional Triggers for Eating. A bakery case full of French pastries may trigger a craving that was not there a moment ago. That craving has nothing to do with the body’s true needs and everything to do with the eating environment. A mindful approach can help you become aware of the difference between hunger and craving. And when you are aware of your personal triggers, it is easier to avoid them or to pause and make a conscious choice. Stress is another common trigger for overeating, but it’s not just negative feelings that trigger mindless eating. “Positive feelings can prompt automatic eating, too,” Albers says. “You want the happy feeling to continue, so you celebrate with food to hold on to the joy.” Mindfulness can help you recognize when you are eating for emotional reasons and can allow you to develop other strategies for self-soothing or celebrating.



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Full Circle Farms vs. PCC

We recently signed up for produce delivery from Full Circle Farms, a provider of organic produce. Last week we received our first box. As promised, it was on our porch before 6AM on Thursday morning.

The “standard” size box costs $37 delivered. I could have opted to pick it up from a nearby location on Wednesday afternoons and save $3, but I never know where I’m going to be from 4 to 9 on a Wednesday and it is more convenient for me to have it delivered. Since it’s just two of us, I am having the produce delivered every other week, so we’re talking $74 a month on average.

After seeing what we got for $37, I was curious to see what it would cost to buy comparable produce at my local PCC market. Here are the results:

As you can see, I could have purchased the same produce for about $8 less if I had made the 5 mile round trip to the store. I was a bit surprised that it was only $8 difference, but organic produce is expensive. One question for me is whether having it delivered is worth the extra money. From a convenience standpoint, this question becomes pertinent if I have no time to shop for food.  As it turns out, even with a one-month computer consulting gig that I am starting tomorrow, PCC is on the way home, so shopping at the store is not inconvenient, at least for me, but it is nowhere near Merrilyn’s commute route.

Another factor is whether we can consume the amount of produce delivered in enough time before it starts to spoil. That remains to be seen, as this has been a very busy week, we have had the produce for a week, and still have 2/3 of the box to get through.

And finally, there is the issue of the produce itself. For example, how is the Circle Farms chard compared to what I could get at PCC? The Fuji apples in the box were small compared to what I would normally buy. Same with the avocado and other fruits. Of course, taste is a factor. The verdict is out until we get through all the produce. I am cooking up a broccoli beef stir fry for dinner this evening, so I’ll be using up the broccoli and maybe the Romano beans. I’ll write a followup post. Until then, Bon Appetit!

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I Love PCC!

Yes, I am rather fond of our local natural food chain, Puget Consumer Co-Op. I believe they are the best in the country. I went there for lunch the other day after my workout. They always have a nice variety in their soup bar. The one in Kirkland is the second store they opened and is one of my faves. I wrote about this elsewhere, but there are certain places that just enhance my mood. Just look at the magazine rack! There have to be a few publications in there that review wellness-related music. I need to send them a copy of Passage and see if they’ll review it.

Can you think of any magazines about wellness, health, mind/body, spirituality, etc. that review relaxation music? If so, I would love to hear your suggestions. Namaste! (Sorry, couldn’t resist.) :-)

The Houghton (Kirkland) store.

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I have one of those “pill minder” thingies that I put my daily batch of vitamins and other supplements in. Once a week, I have to refill it, and once I pulled out all the bottles, it just sort of shocked me how many different supplements I am taking. I simply had to take a picture:

I feel like these are making a difference for my overall energy level. Although I must say, nothing quite gives me the energy of a bright sunny day, something I don’t expect to see much of for the next six months. I’m thinking of doubling down on my D. (Alliterative of me, don’t you think?)

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Need a Hand?

I do. Like most, I rely on my hands to make a living. So, not only do I need a hand, I need a hand that works. Unfortunately, due to shorter than normal Ulnar nerves that can easily get aggravated, I can become incapacitated like I was yesterday. I was happy and proud to have a highly productive day on Wednesday, getting most of my to-do list done. But somewhere along the way I overdid it and yesterday I paid the price.

The most effective way of recovery for me is rest. Stay off the computer, off the piano, no yard work or any other activity which involves gripping and holding onto something–a rake, a paint brush, a bicycle handlebar, etc.

Beyond that, there are various therapies. One important one I discovered when trying acupuncture (which in itself does not help me) is a Chinese herbal patch. The acupuncturist turned me on to these, and every few months or so, I buy some more from her. It is a naturopathic anti-inflammatory hot/cold treatment and it helps open up the nerve path. When I have a flare up, I cut a patch in half, put on half over the Ulnar nerve path on my wrist (see picture) and the other at the top off my shoulder.

These are distributed by a place called Qualiherb.

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