Thursday, November 27, 2014

Feeling Lousy after Thanksgiving? Tips to Make you Feel Better

Feeling stuffed, gassy or bloated? Got acid reflux? A few tips from someone who suffered from upper GI problems for years:

  • Go for a walk. Don't strain yourself--a leisurely stroll is fine. If your blood sugar is up, a little exercise can help lower it, and walking helps your GI system get things moving. 
  • Take an antacid if you have a sour taste in your mouth. If your throat is burning, mix a half teaspoon of baking soda in a glass of water and drink it. (This is also an antacid.) If this happens to you often, you should probably cut back on the carbs. 
  • If you're gassy, it'll just have to wear off. Again, though, if this happens often, eat fewer carbohydrates. Dietary fat doesn't produce gas, protein produces a little or no gas, but carbohydrates can produce a lot of gas. 

Why do so many people feel lousy after Thanksgiving dinner? Partly, it's from eating too much. But as I've written before, Thanksgiving is a carbohydrate orgy. Not everyone is suited to eating a lot of carbohydrates--we evolved on a diet where meat (not grains) played an important part (see this and this). For some people, too many carbs cause GI problems and wonky blood sugar.

What to do if you don't want to feel lousy and gain weight through the rest of the holidays? Get a book on low-carb diets, read it through, and follow it to the letter. My favorite is still Dr. Atkins' Diet Revolution from 1972; the latest edition, though, is The New Atkins for a New You. Why do you need a book if you just need to cut back on carbs? Low-carb diets don't work with standard low-fat, low-salt, low-calorie diet advice. You need fat and salt (among other things) on low-carb--and you don't have to count calories. A good book by someone who treats patients can also help you troubleshoot problems.

What would you eat at a holiday meal? Any kind of poultry with the skin. Any other kind of meat with the drippings. Buttered green beans, olives, pickles, and celery with cream cheese. Coffee with heavy cream for dessert. If the meal is a joint effort or you're hosting it, there are many recipes out there for low-carb desserts and rolls. I've now enjoyed five low-carb Thanksgivings without acid reflux, a stomach ache, needing a nap, or leaving the table hungry, and without the carbage. I don't feel like I'm missing anything. 

Monday, November 17, 2014

Inexpensive Grass-Fed Beef? Yes!

People tend to complain about the cost of grass-fed beef and other high quality food, but I recently bought aged, grass-fed Angus from Sun Prairie Beef in Yuma, Colorado for $3.60 a pound. The catch: it was the bits box.

The bits box--my order was for back ribs, cheek, tongue, shank and soup bones--has actually been a great deal. I've cooked everything but the soup bones, and it's all been better than supermarket beef. In fact, my new favorite cut is tongue--a favored part for hunter-gatherers and a delicacy in some cultures. I threw it in the pressure cooker for an hour with water, tamari and pepper and had a wonderful dinner an hour later. Just peel off the skin when it's done; it has the texture of meatloaf and tastes like a roast, but moister. I had leftovers, too: the tongue weighed 3.11 pounds. And it made the best beef broth I've ever had.

The cheek had a unique texture--the fat turned soft and creamy in the pressure cooker. It tasted a little gamey, but some vinegar and thyme improved the flavor. (Hat tip to Scandinavian Classics by Niklas Ekstedt.)

The shank tasted really beefy--not strong or gamey, just more flavorful: beefy beef. The ribs were great--it's hard to believe they were odd bits. I sprinkled both the shank and ribs with Worcestershire sauce and roasted them at 350 until they smelled done.

Liver and heart are also available for the bits box.

If you're in Colorado or a neighboring state, give the bits box a try if you're adventurous or need to save some money.

Saturday, November 8, 2014

Girls: Eat a Steak!

One study after another over the past few years has shown low-carb, high fat diets to be good for correcting weight and lipids. Other studies have found iron deficiency is very common in women. So why do so many young women in the paleo community advise limiting red meat (high in iron) and animal fat and eating lots of vegetables instead?

They remind me of the Intelligent Design crowd: people who recognize intellectually that the creation story in Genesis is a myth, but emotionally aren't ready to abandon it or make waves with friends and family who still believe. Some of the authors say (credibly) that they have or had an eating disorder; others seem to want to keep on being nice girls who don't eat too much or too richly and don't want to lead others astray. At least, that's how it comes off to me, someone from a blue collar family who grew up in the 80s when priss was an insult and a lot of girls went to McDonald's for lunch.

What no nice paleo girl would eat--even if it didn't have corn oil or milk.
But given how many women are iron deficient and have bad skin--just look around--advice to limit red meat isn't helpful. I know what it's like to have both: seeing nothing but blemishes when you look in the mirror, and being in the prime of your life with the energy of an old woman. The answer is to eat some red meat (among other things). If you want to pull out all the stops, have some liver or pate (dairy-free if you have acne--there's a great recipe in Freakin' Fabulous by Clinton Kelly). Click to enlarge the picture--it shows 120% of the percent daily value of Vitamin A--which is great for your skin and the basis of some acne medications--and 25% of iron in just two ounces. It's also chock full of other vitamins and minerals that you won't get from a salad.

Animal fat is cheaper than "good" vegetable fat, too. I last paid $2.99 a pound for pastured lard--and $10 a pound for coconut oil and a buck apiece for avocados.

Lard is healthy: the town of Roseto, Pennsylvania saw practically no heart disease back when lard was their go-to fat. (Authorities chalked up the Roseto "paradox" to their close-knit community. Never mind that close-knit communities don't seem to help Indian reservations, or that one person's close-knit community is another person's town full of gossips and busybodies.) ETA: This doesn't mean that lard is protective--but given all the "paradoxes" of groups of people who eat high-fat diets and have low rates of heart disease, the diet-heart hypothesis isn't the slam-dunk it's made out to be. In any case, young women are unlikely to have a heart attack. And as recent studies have shown, high fat diets that aren't high in carbs won't make you fat--they'll help correct weight.

The evidence about the benefits of vegetables is mixed. 

Plant-based diets are often touted as healthy, and yet many plants contain clever protective chemicals, carefully crafted by evolutionary forces over millennia, to serve the needs of the plant, rather than to nourish the human body. Many of these compounds are potentially toxic to animal cells, and include naturally-occurring pesticides, mineral chelators, and antibiotics.

See this video by Dr. Georgia Ede.

Little Shop of Horrors? The Risks and Benefits of Eating Plants — Georgia Ede, M.D. from Ancestral Health Society on Vimeo.

Mixing low-fat and vegetarian myths with paleolithic science seems to have created the Reformed Church of Vegetarianism. It may be better than the old beliefs, but given the lack of nutrients and false foundation, it ain't science and it ain't optimal.

Monday, November 3, 2014

GMO Initiative, or Right to Know Colorado Law: More Paper Pushing, More Risk?

The owner and operator of Denver Urban Homesteading, a small farmers market where I shop, opposes the proposed food labeling law:
Obviously Denver Urban Homesteading and its farmers do not support the use of genetically modified food. And we support the concept of labeling. However, this law has no exception for small markets. We will have to follow the same rules as multi-billion dollar supermarket corporations what with labeling, keeping affidavits, etc. AND WE CANNOT DO IT! Anyone who has come into our market knows we operate on a shoestring, and we fear that the shoestring will break if we are forced to hire another person to make sure we comply with this law. Or maybe we should just give up the free Chicken Swaps, Honey Festival, etc. so I can spend my time labeling instead. Additionally, a violation is a criminal offense. That's a lot of risk for a husband-wife team. Those who have followed our travails know that we challenge government over raw milk issues, re-use of egg carton issues, and now (for the last four years) intellectual property issues, and we do it to benefit our customers and to benefit society. But this law will give a vengeful bureaucrat one more tool in his or her arsenal to use against us when our next challenge comes up. 

BTW, I have spoken to the owners of several small ethnic markets where we shop who are opposed to this law. Obamacare doesn't kick in until you have 50 employees, and the ADA until you have 15. But this initiative will require labeling by every blessed soul who sells food in this state. Maybe it is time to come up with a labeling law that will not crush the many small markets in this state, otherwise we risk driving markets like ours out of business leaving us to rely even more on giant supermarkets and big agriculture. My Russian wife, who was born and raised in the USSR, told me that even the Communists didn't try to regulate farmers markets. - James Bertini
ETA: the initiative failed by a wide margin.

Friday, October 31, 2014

Soothing Stimulants

Does "soothing stimulants" sound strange? It shouldn't--consider that ritalin and adderall (medications for attention deficit hyperactive disorder) are stimulants and that exercise can make you feel refreshed. And it works the other way, too: intense inactivity can be stressful. I've heard a few different people talk about breaking into tears on meditation retreats, along with many of their classmates.

I've had a stressful few weeks, and I've found for me, there's nothing like caffeine and heavy metal to make me feel better. And I've found a music player to replace iTunes (which won't let you put in metadata) and Amazon (slow and clunky) on my Mac: VLC. It imported all the files from both music players and lets you put in data like song titles, artists, genre and album titles. It's free, too. Now I can put in the metadata for all my Japanese heavy metal and rock that iTunes doesn't recognize and won't let me relabel.

Here's a bit of music from someone who probably loves Halloween:


Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Not Only Cheaper, But Easier

A while back, I wrote about saving money on break time coffee and snacks. I haven't done very well putting it into practice. But a post by James Clear today got me thinking about it again: Warren Buffett uses a two-list system to prioritize things. Check it out--and follow the instructions.

Using Buffett's two-list system, two of the goals I ended up with were taking care of myself and saving $400 more per month than I already am. As I said, I've been wanting to save money, and the system made me really focus on this. I came up with 11 money-saving ideas, six of which had to do with food.

  • Buying hamburger in bulk. Ranch Foods Direct sells one-pound packages of 80% lean pastured ground beef in bundles of 20 for a lot less than Whole Foods. Sprouts only carries super-lean beef that's grass-fed, and it's more expensive, too. 
  • Not driving to Whole Foods. Whole Foods is out of my way, and saving a weekly trip saves gas.
  • Coffee at home, tea at work. Tea is free at work; so is the coffee, but it isn't very good. No more coffee shops unless it's a social situation.
  • Filtered water instead of mineral water. Bye-bye, San Pellegrino. 
  • Buying cases of diet soda instead of going to convenience stores. Yes, filtered water would be cheaper, but I don't want to give up soda. Hey, even Warren Buffett drinks them.
  • Homemade protein bars instead of Atkins. My biggest savings--those things are expensive!

What surprised me is that most of these measures will be less work: one trip to buy 20 pounds of meat, no trips to the coffee shop (unless I want to take my tea down there--it's an open, lobby-type area), no lugging bottles of water home. All that should more than make up for making protein bars.

Now for the savings (click for larger image):

That adds up to $1,788.72 per year. Putting that in a savings account for 10 years at 1% interest, you'd have $18,805.01 in 2024. Invest it in stocks, assuming 10% returns, and you'd have $30,536.90. (See this calculator.) Not bad for taking some steps that are, overall, time and effort savers.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

Want a Magazine-Style Kitchen with Plenty of Room?

I have found the secret:

  1. Get rid of everything you don't need. Everything. Toaster? Brown your grain-free bread under the broiler. Countertop can opener? Use a hand-held model--get a battery-powered one if needed. Anything that cuts things? Use a knife. Anything you haven't used in a year? Get it out of there. 
  2. Put away everything you don't use daily. Containerized clutter is still clutter. Clean clutter is clutter. Clever clutter is clutter. Get it? A block of knives, a cutting board, a coffee pot, soap, and maybe a juicer or blender should be about all that's left on your counters. Cookbooks can stay, but likewise, clear out cookbooks you rarely use.
  3. Clean it up. Now that your kitchen is de-cluttered, this should be a snap. You know how it's harder to get ready to paint than it is to actually paint--because you have to paint around things? Same with cleaning: there's nothing hard about moving a paper towel or a soapy sponge  around. The hard part is getting the clutter out of the way, cleaning where the clutter was, cleaning the clutter, then putting the clutter back.

Think you don't have enough room to put all your stuff away? You don't need a big, country-style kitchen to get organized or cook fabulous meals:

Galley of the Orient Express. Image from
Galley of the Maharajas Express, where they make... like this. See more images at
Home cooks in Paris likewise turn out great meals with few gadgets and little space.

It's taken me 45 years to figure this out. Why don't cleaning and organizing gurus tell us this instead of, say, putting on shoes? You can't build an enterprise on advice like this. You can't sell containers if there isn't much to contain. And like a lot of good advice, it isn't easy to take. People would rather hear they can keep all their stuff, shop for more, and still have a place that looks like something out of a magazine.