Monday, October 31, 2011

What to Do with All those Pumpkins?

Waste not, want not. -English proverb

"I don't like pumpkin pie, but this is delicious. What is it?" Various people commenting on pie made with fresh pumpkin

Pumpkins and other squash are used so much for decoration that people seem to forget they're edible. The flesh and seeds are a little on the carby side, but the seeds are full of minerals and pumpkin flesh is full of beta carotene, vitamin C and potassium.

If pumpkin doesn't sound appetizing, you're not alone: I never considered eating it until I was in my 30s. My mother makes a gooey, sugary concoction that desecrates acorn squash and we threw out jack-o-lanterns on November 1 when I was a kid. Pumpkin pie was made from canned goop. Forget all that. These are savory recipes I think you'll love, and they don't take much hands-on time.

How to Roast a Pumpkin
If you think you don't like pumpkin, maybe it's because you've never had anything but the canned goop. Here's how to roast a fresh pumpkin.

Stab the pumpkin a few times with a steak knife. Place it on a cookie sheet and roast it at 350F for 60 to 90 minutes, until it feels a little spongy. Take it out of the oven and let it cool. Cut it in half, scrape out and save the seeds, and scrape the flesh from the skin. Discard the skin and mash the flesh. Refrigerate or freeze.

Pumpkin-Sausage Soup
Even though pumpkin tends to be used in sweets, it isn't sweet on its own. This is a meaty, savory soup.

1/4 pound sausage
1 clove garlic, crushed
3 c chicken stock
1/4 t pepper
1/2 t salt
1/2 t dried parsley
1/2 t thyme
1-1/2 c roasted pumpkin
2 T butter
2 T coconut flour
1/2 c cream

In a large pot, fry the sausage over medium heat. When done, add the garlic, then the chicken stock, pumpkin and spices. Bring to a boil. Transfer to another pot. In the first pot, add the butter and melt over medium heat. Stir in flour, scraping the sausage from the bottom of the pot. Add the soup and stir in the cream.

Fried Pumpkin Seeds
This tastes similar to popcorn or roasted nuts. Soaking the seeds helps eliminate the anti-nutrients.

2 c water
1 T salt
1 T vinegar
Seeds from one pumpkin
2 T butter

Dissolve the salt in the water and add vinegar and seeds. Soak overnight. Rinse, melt the butter in a pot on medium heat and add the seeds. Cook, stirring occasionally, for an hour to an hour and a half. 

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Stomach Ache? Fight Fire with Fire

People seem intrigued by quirky, counterintuitive ways of eating. Here's mine: spicy food for an upset stomach.

The horse pill sized antibiotics I've been taking for my sinus infection are giving me a stomach ache of equal  proportion. The cookies and brownies my employer set out today for recruits looked tempting, but I know from bitter experience that starchy, sugary food doesn't absorb stomach acid. Back when I was on Body for Life, a few years into the program, my stomach was constantly upset. Probiotics and herbal medicines didn't help: I ended up on prescription acid blockers. Once I stopped eating six servings of carbohydrates a day, the stomach problems evaporated--as long as I followed a few rules.

1. No wheat.
2. No fruit.
3. Limited carbohydrates--around 50g per day (net).

A few months ago, I watched a friend of mine eat a breakfast of juice, yogurt and fruit (in other words, a breakfast of sugar), get a stomach ache, eat some more sugar, and get another upset stomach. Yes, I gave her a solution of baking soda and tried to tell her what her problem was. But no, food that tasted good couldn't possibly have been the cause of problems, according to her. She didn't put it that way, but that's what it amounted to.

I'm still following my rules, but what to do for a special situation like this? The probiotics are helpful; so are tablets with DGL (a form of treated licorice). And for whatever reason, hot, spicy food hits the spot. As with anything quirky, your mileage may vary--a lot. It might not be a good idea if you have an ulcer; it's definitely not a good idea if you have acid reflux. Salty broth may be better in your case. In any event, avoid the sugar and starch: their healing power is an illusion.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Safe Starches? Whatever

Doris Day, on a movie plot suggested by Tony Randall: "You mean, I leave Rock Hudson for you? Forget it!"

From left: Doris Day, Rock Hudson, Tony Randall.

Have you heard about the Perfect Health Diet? It's the one where you eat a pound of safe glue starches a day--foods like potatoes, sweet potatoes, rice, and some others I've never seen in a grocery store, even though I do my shopping at a few different grocery stores in a city of two million people (Denver). You also eat one-half to one pound of meat a day. There's more to it, but that's the general plot: a mostly paleolithic diet with a boatload of starch.

Some people are reacting as if someone came up with the chocolate diet. I don't see what all the fuss is about. The diet cuts out or cuts way down on most neolithic foods because they have irritants and antinutrients, but we already knew that. It encourages eating natural fats, organ meats and fibrous vegetables because they're nutritious, but we already knew that, too. 

In practice, if you're already on a low carb diet, the Perfect Health Diet replaces some of your bacon cheeseburgers with rice. The Jaminets, the authors of the diet, report that some people felt a lot better with more starch in their diets. Perhaps they just needed a potassium/magnesium pill instead of a bunch of sugar, which is what starch breaks into in your digestive tract. If there are any other nutrients in rice or root vegetables that I can't get from a salad, I'm afraid I don't know what they are.

I've had extremely good results on a low-carb diet: GERD gone, shoulder pain gone, bloating gone, four-hour naps gone, dental plaque gone, over 20 pounds of fat gone, midafternoon slump gone, and so on. I don't see a reason to dump Rock Hudson for Tony Randall.

Monday, October 10, 2011

The Sinus Infection that Just Won't Die

Yesterday I was at a restaurant when I ran into one of my dance partners and promised to see him at the dance that night. Three hours later, I was lying in bed, sick, too tired to move, the furnace turned up to 75 degrees, regretting my promise. Even after two rounds of antibiotics, my sinus infection never really left.

At my mother's urging, I saw the doctor today. In idle conversation, my doctor described modular robots during our visit: tiny robots that regroup on their own if they're broken apart. Sounds like an apt metaphor for this sinus infection that has held on for two months through two rounds of antibiotics.

The next step: amox-clav, an antibiotic with penicillin (amox) and an extra ingredient (clav) to knock down the infection's resistance to penicillin.

As I've said before, proper diet is great for promoting good health, and I believe cutting out the megadoses of zinc has helped me. But if it's true that a lot of paleo people died of trauma and infection, then even they'd have needed some help in this spot.

Update: It's Wednesday, October 12, and although I'm still coughing, I have more get-up-and-go than I've had in a quite a while. It's a lot easier to get up in the morning, and I'm flying through my work.

Saturday, October 8, 2011

Denmark's Solution in Need of a Problem

Have you heard that Denmark has slapped a tax on foods that are a causing a public health crisis of obesity, heart disease and diabetes? Well, not exactly a crisis--Denmark enjoys low rates of these conditions. Maybe the Danes just like to nip problems in the bud. The foods are those that contain more than 2.3% saturated fat--foods like butter and bacon, "foods you think of when you think of Denmark," according to this BBC video. In other words, traditional Danish foods, which seems to have made Danes a pretty healthy group, according to this World Health Organization table.

I have in my possession a package of one of those menaces that are suddenly making a few Danes fat and sick:

Just one ounce (think of a skimpy grilled cheese sandwich) has 6g of protein, 15% of the RDA of calcium and 8% of vitamin A. For those of us who don't run well on carbohydrates (read: sugar), it has no carbs, 10g of fat and 6g of saturated fat. For those of us whose livers don't make much cholesterol (mine's 140), it has 35 mg of the stuff. Some of my ancestors were from the German province of Schleswig-Holstein, which borders Denmark, so this is ancestral food for me. And the Danish people. (By the way, my saturated fat fest made me drop over 20 pounds and get rid of a gaggle of health problems.)

They're importing our dumb ideas about dietary fat, and exporting havarti dill cheese. I'm thinking I'm on the good end of this deal.

Thursday, October 6, 2011

This Just In: Real Butter is Better than Margarine

Overheard: a couple of 20-something accountants in the break room talking about margarine:

"I just put 'I Can't Believe It's Not Butter' on my toast because it's heart-healthy. Any oil that's made of vegetables has to be good for you."

"'I Can't Believe It's Not Butter'? I can believe it's not butter."

Young people making fun of fake food: this is progress. I may bring in some Organic Valley or Kerrygold butter to help end this margarine scourge at the office.

Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Cavity Healing Diet Six-Month Update

Back in mid-March, my last dentist told me I needed a bunch of fillings. I declined to get them, embarking on a cavity-healing diet instead. Today, I saw a new dentist--the one my best friend saw when she lived here in Colorado. Since he never gave her a filling, I assume he's not a drill-and-fill eager beaver.

The 16 x-rays he took (yes, sixteen) didn't show decay on the teeth the last dentist wanted to fill. He also said I had a good jaw and more than enough room for all my wisdom teeth--something he said he rarely sees. As he went about cleaning my teeth as if my mouth were the Sistene Chapel, he remarked that my teeth didn't seem sensitive to cold despite some roots showing. Yes, I've observed that too: my teeth are no longer sensitive to temperature or vinaigrette, as they once were. And my TMJ problems and nighttime tooth grinding unexpectedly disappeared since I started the cavity healing diet. So even though Dr. Michelangelo (not his real name) insisted that cavities don't heal, my teeth and gums feel remarkably better than they did. My teeth look a lot better than they did, too--they were a lot whiter even before the cleaning.

He did find two tiny cavities between my front teeth and the teeth next to them: they showed up as two tiny dark fuzzy spots between the teeth. I put off having them filled, wanting to see how they look in six months. Thanks to Dr. Michelangelo, I now know enough about reading x-rays to see the results for myself.

Since vitamin D is important to cavity healing, I've ordered another mail order test from ZRT Laboratories to check my level.

I've checked my dog's cavity lately, and I really can't tell if it's made any progress.

If you'd like to see photos of good teeth on primitive diets v. bad teeth on modern diets, see Nutrition and Physical Degradation by Weston Price, DDS. You can read it online here.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Paleo/Low Carb Calamari Rings

If you love onion rings but you're avoiding wheat or watching carbs, give this a try. It's my own creation. They're a little softer and chewier than onion rings, but still tasty. I wouldn't recommend them otherwise.

2 cleaned calamari tubes, cut into rings
2 T coconut flour with a pinch of thyme, oregano, salt and pepper
1 egg, beaten
1/4 c almond flour
1/4 c olive or coconut oil
Lemon wedge

Heat the oil on medium high heat. Dredge the calamari in the coconut flour, then the egg, then the almond flour. Using tongs and oven mitts for safety, fry for a few minutes, turning frequently, until they look done. Sprinkle with lemon juice.

Edited to add: It looks like onions, gram for gram, have only a tiny bit more carb than calamari, so using onions shouldn't add add much more carbohydrate. (You could try small mushrooms, too, for *very* little carb.) It's the almond flour vs. bread crumbs and coconut flour vs. wheat flour where you'll really cut down on the carbs.