Exploring the sense and nonsense of food and health

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Lessons from Modern Hunter Gatherers

Even though we cannot realistically adapt our lifestyles back to hunting and gathering for our daily food intake, there are sensible lessons to be learned from those populations calm down the debates on which diet is optimal for our health and longevity.

Granted, they do not live longer than we do but do seem to avoid some of the ravages of chronic diseases we experience even often in midlife. We ultimately spend a lot of our later years debilitated and sick from the diseases of civilization, i.e. longer lifespans, less healthy years.

One interesting point in  the article was about the association between variety in the diet and what is called “sensory specific satiety.” I never thought of it that way. Anyway, it seems to make some sense which is what we need when it comes to our current diets and are trying to find reasons for our current obesity epidemic.

I found a great description of our current  food supply: “foods that are engineered to be irresistible even when we are not hungry.” And we find these foods at almost every street corner during our daily activities (hunting or gathering). One may wonder if the food industry is involved with this phenomenon – probably so? We  can still hunt or gather healthy whole foods in our supermarkets, but are often lured off track into the la-la land of processed foods loaded with irresistible sugar, salt and fat.



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Vitamin D: Who Needs It? Update


Lately there has been a strong message primarily from the supplement industry that we all need more vitamin D, the sunshine vitamin. But do we all need a lot of it? The article below describes the current  thinking on supplemental use of the vitamin, which is actually considered a hormone in the body.

Groups that may need supplemental vitamin D: 

  • Breast-fed babies  (breast milk is low in vitamin D) for the first few days of life or until they are consuming about 4 cups of day of vitamin D fortified formula or milk daily.   Please don’t rely on the internet but consult your doctor or a licensed registered dietitian for amounts recommended since high doses can be harmful to the heart and kidneys.
  • All non-breast fed babies, children and adolescents who do not get regular sunlight exposure or do not ingest at least 4 cups of vitamin D fortified milk or formula a day.
  • People who do not drink milk or consume dairy products, older adults with dark skin pigmentation or persons with limited sun exposure (home bound, wear robes and head coverings for religious reasons, or work in occupations that prevent sun exposure).

 Recommended Intakes

The RDA for vitamin D is  expressed in International units (IU) and micrograms (ug). One IU is equal to 40 micrograms. The RDA for children and adults 70 and under and pregnant and lactating women is set at 600 IU or 15 ug/day. The elderly over 70 years of age have reduced vitamin D activation at the kidney and less efficient synthesis in the skin so the RDA is set at 800 IU (20 ug. There is no RDA for infants less than 1 year old due to insufficient data so an adequate intake (AI) for infants 0 to 12 months is set at 400 IU (10ug) per day. Please do not practice what many may consider prudent of “if one is good, maybe two are better”.  Always inform your primary care physician on what kind and the amount of dietary supplements you take daily.

There are limited foods that contain decent amounts of vitamin D:

Salmon (3 ounces) for example meets the RDA. Other foods include eggs (2 large) beef liver (2 oz), fortified milk (1 cup), plain low-fat yogurt (1 cup) and cheddar cheese (1.5 oz).


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Bioengineered Foods Labeling?

Consumer attitude and marketing studies show that, given information about irradiation, half or more will choose irradiated foods. A minority object to irradiation and will never select it.

In a 1995-96 study, after seeing a 10 minute video describing irradiation, interest in buying irradiated foods among California and Indiana consumers increased from 57% to 82%.   Center for Consumer Research, June, 2017.

The same may be said about GMO.  Consumers will decide whether they accept or reject. With that said, there is a need for greater understanding  about the safety of both irradiation and bioengineering.  In the case of GMO, it is often difficult to separate the biases associated with both sides of the safety issues.

It will be interesting how shoppers will react to Bioengineered Foods labeling. Will it fuel the debate as to their safety or calm it down?


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Dietary Fiber: How Much Do We Need?

Due to the recent attention to the ketogenic diet and other low carbohydrate diets, the issue of getting enough fiber has been questioned.

Just where is the fiber found?  For example, eating a bowl of Raisin Bran with a half-cup of strawberries for breakfast, a sandwich on whole-wheat bread with lettuce, tomatoes and an apple for lunch, eggplant Parmesan for dinner and popcorn for a snack will provide about 26 grams of fiber.

The following table will help to see just where the fiber lies.

Food/serving High Fiber Medium Fiber Low Fiber
Fiber per serv. 4-5 g 2-3 g 0.5-1g
Bread (1 slice) Whole wheat, rye White bread, bagel (1/2), tortilla (1/2), English muffin (1/2), graham crackers (2)
Cereals (1/2 c) All Bran, Bran Buds, 100% Bran Flakes 40% Bran, Shredded Wheast Cheerios, Rice Krispies
Rice and Pasta (1/2 c) Whole-wheat pasta, brown rice Macaroni, pasta, white rice
Fruits (1 med or 1/2 cup Berries, prunes Apple, apricot, banana, orange, raisins Melon, canned fruit, juice
Vegetables (1/2 c) Peas, broccoli, spinach Green beans, carrots, eggplant, cabbage, potatoes with skin, corn Asparagus, cauliflower, lettuce, tomatoes, zuchhini, peppers, potatoes (no skin), onions
Beans (1/2 c) Pinto beans, red kidney beans, black-eyed peas, chickpeas, black beans



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Improving Memory

Alzheimer’s disease is becoming one of the leading causes of death in the U.S. So far, research has produced no effective drug therapy for this devastating disease.

A new paradigm of preventive strategies or delay in symptoms is emerging involving lifestyle medicine.

Want to improve your memory? One of the components of this approach is diet and guess what should we expect? Eat more fruits and vegetables, of course.  Read about the latest study.


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Why Organic?

There are some very simplistic reasons to choose organic when you can. But it is important to keep in mind that this article appears to be written by the organic food industry.  Common sense rules when it comes to this debate as both sides of the argument are obviously biased. Cost is never mentioned and of course  common sense tells us that it is an important factor in the food budget. Just know the facts and make your own decisions when it comes to buying organic – don’t opt out on healthy conventional fruits and vegetables – the differences in nutrition between the two in my opinion, is negligible.


For information on what organic actually means, CLICK HERE.

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What are Fermented Foods?

Homemade Sour Dough Bread

What are fermented foods? It is important to realize what benefits they may have for health and also that if you have digestive issues like irritable bowel syndrome, they may have to be consumed in moderation or as part of a FODMAP diet.

For a very comprehensive article on fermented foods: