culture

What Do You Eat In A Week?

My work BFF, Jennifer sent me this link. Check out the photos of families from all over the world (The U.S., Mexico, Japan, Ecuador, Mali…) surrounded by the foods they eat in a week. You can imagine how this looks already, I’m sure: Americans with pizza and potato chips and people in Mali with, well, rice.

If you took a picture of all the food you ate in a given week, what would it look like?

There’s also a table that compares average income, life expectancy, food consumption and amount spent on healthcare among other things in each country. No big surprise here. America has the highest income and spends the most on healthcare (nearly double what Japan, France and the U.K. shell out). Funny thing is people live longer in Japan (#1), France (#2) and The U.K. (#3) than in the U.S. (#4). One thing we do have going for us is we smoke less. The U.S. came in #7 in tobacco consumption. The English take that one.

Interesting stuff.

nutrition information

The Vanishing Youth Nutrient

In this article in Prevention magazine, Susan Allport looks at our typical diet in light of the seasonal eating habits of animals. Her conclusion: we’re storing up for a long, scarce winter.

But we don’t hibernate. And food is never really scarce. She explains… “The base of our food supply has shifted from leaves to seeds, and this simple change means our bodies are storing more fat, leading to obesity and all its associated diseases.”

Allport noticed that animals naturally went  for seed fats with Omega-6 when it was time to hiberate in the winter and plant fats (Omega-3s) for fuel when it was time to migrate or mate in the spring. The Omega-3s speeds up activity in cells, while Omega-6s get stored in the tissues for months when food is scarce.

Between spring and winter animals naturally get both fatty acids and they balance each other out. But for humans that’s hard to do these days. Our Western diet has more than doubled in Omega-6 and Omega-3s are MIA. Why? Corn, soy and vegetable oils (seed fats) are now in nearly everything, from the crackers made with partially hydrogenated vegetable oil, to the eggs of chickens on a soybean diet, to the steak from a cow that’s raised on corn. When our grandparents ate steak and eggs they naturally got at least a trace amount of the inflammation-blocking, blood-flowing benefits of Omega-3s passed along from an animal’s grass-fed diet and not nearly as much Omega-6, which promotes blood clotting and inflammation.

That’s why Allport calls Omega-3 the “vanishing youth nutrient” and links its absence in our modern diet to increased rates of heart disease, cancer, learning disabilities, bad moods and wrinkles.

The key is understanding how the opposing forces of Omega-3s and Omega-6s affect us and to pay attention to the balance in your own diet.

Here are Allport’s tips for achieving a better balance (excerpt from article):
Three ways to increasing Omega-3s in the diet:

  1. Eat More Greens
    Leafy greens, legumes, and potatoes have a better balance of omega-3s to omega- 6s than most seeds and grains. Omega-3s live in leaves as the omega-3 ALA (alpha-linolenic acid). Animals (like us) convert ALA into even more dynamic omega-3s: EPA and DHA. This conversion is somewhat inefficient, however, and that’s why the next steps are so important.
  2. Eat Healthier Meats
    Cows raised on grass produce meat, milk, and cheese with many more omega-3s than their corn-and soy-fed counterparts. Chickens fed a diet rich in flax and greens produce eggs that are as high in EPA and DHA as many species of fish. Some would argue that grass-fed meats are more expensive than grain-fed, but the former come without the very steep medical price tag of a diet high in omega-6s.
  3. Eat Fish
    Fish can also be a sustainable part of our new diet, as moderate fish consumption will be more effective when our diet has fewer omega-6s. Try to eat at least two meals of fish per week. Fish oil supplements can also help, as toddler Lisa’s mother found, though they’re not a long-term solution to this widespread nutritional deficiency.

10 Ways to Decrease Omega-6s:

  1. Replace processed cereal with cereal or oatmeal that contains flaxseed.
  2. Make your own salad dressing with a mix of canola and olive oil.
  3. Eat less fast food because it’s all very high in omega-6 seed oils.
  4. Look for potato chips that are fried in canola oil rather than cottonseed, soy, safflower, or sunflower oil.
  5. Substitute walnuts for other nuts when you can because they’re a seed that’s high in omega-3s.
  6. Make your own baked goods, replacing half the butter with canola oil.
  7. Check food labels to avoid hydrogenated and partially hydrogenated oils.
  8. Avoid omega supplements that contain both omega-3s and omega-6s. You’ll see these labeled with terms like Complete Omega.
  9. Choose grass-fed pork, chicken, beef, or bison whenever you can.
  10. Avoid farmed fish because they are often fed corn and soy.
nutrition information

Lessons From a Caveman: The Anti-Inflammatory Diet

Cavemen had it easy. They didn’t have the temptation of sweet potato fries, or Dairy Queen Blizzards, or margaritas. All they had to eat were nuts, berries and seeds; lean meat; fish and plant foods. Their primitive diet struck the perfect balance of anti-inflammatory Omega-3s and pro-inflammatory Omega-6s. What does today’s “caveman” diet look like? Steak. Potato. Bread. The scales are tipped in one clear direction. In a span of a few hundred-thousand years, from hunting and gathering to the fast food industry, our pro to anti-inflammation ratio has gone from 1:1 to a bloated 30:1. Say, “Do I look swollen?”

It might be another story if McDonald’s got its start selling salmon and spinach Happy Meals. But the reality is most of the foods and fast food we eat are processed and fatty. And the more we eat, the more inflammation builds up in the body. It’s what causes aches and pains and leads to allergies, asthma, autoimmune diseases, heart disease and Alzheimer’s. Of course inflammation speeds up the aging process in general too. Hello, wrinkles. So when you hear of the powerful antioxidents in blueberries, or the wonders of green tea, or the new superfood – acai, or whatever is touted as the next season’s fountain of youth …  it all comes down to the food’s ability to fight inflammation.

The trick is to eat less of the really pro-inflammatory stuff (processed foods, sugar, red meat…) and more of the anti-inflammatory stuff (veggies, nuts, fish, whole grains…). Go primitive. In your diet that is. No loin clothes.
I like to think that if I can strike a balance, I’m in good shape. The good cancels out the bad, right? Do the math: 1 Butterfinger Blizzard + 6 oz. salmon + 1 Spinach salad + 1/4 cup blueberries = 0. That’s a wash. 

Here’s a quick list of some inflammation fighters:
nuts (almonds, walnuts, cashews)
avocados
fish (wild-caught salmon)
olive oil
dark leafy greens (spinach, mixed greens)
whole grains (brown rice)
broccoli/cauliflower
berries (blueberries, strawberries, raspberries)
tomatoes
tea (green)

And some inflammation instigators:
butter/margarine
sugar
full-fat dairy
red meat
high-fructose corn syrup
vegetable oils (corn, cottonseed, safflower and sunflower oils)
wheat flour (white bread)
packaged snack foods
coffee

For a visual, check out Dr. Weil’s Anti-Inflammatory Food Pyramid.

Want more? Read: Jack Challem’s “The Inflammation Syndrome”

exercise

Case of the Mondays?

Word is that fatty foods make you run slower and forget things. A new study found that after just a few days on a high fat diet, rats had more trouble getting to the end of a maze and spun their exercise wheels 30 percent slower. That means just a few days of sin (a.k.a. my weekend) can affect short-term memory and energy level. This brings a whole new understanding to that “Case of the Mondays.”