Monday, February 29, 2016

Vacation Sensations

Now and then, we all could use a little vaycay (or so I say to my fiancé). It's not that I don't love writing my blog, it's just that when one feels a tender ownership (or stewardship) of, there's an internal pressure of getting it right, maintaining its quality and basically not letting it fall from grace. In short, I suppose my blog is my baby. And vacations (from the aforementioned pressure) are hard to come by. But during the first week of March, I may be taking a little vacation and with good reason... me and my "baby" may be getting a new addition to our family, a YouTube Channel (and a new name).

"I'm wearing Dolce & Gabbana and I'm shinnnning." Oh Kevin Hart, you suck.

I've wanted to change the name of this blog for a long time. While the idea for a blog struck like a blot of lightening, a catchy name was not as forthcoming. In "Eat Your Ego" (the first variation of this blog's name) I tried to convey the struggle that occurs between the head ("ego") and stomach that at least persists within my own body. But after reading that this struggle is often compounded (or initiated) by the added sugars in processed foods, I changed the blog's name to Eat Your Ethos as a way to eat in a style our bodies naturally prefer (sans junk). But, at best, these titles seemed cumbersome with their three words and at worst, patronizing, as if I was telling one how to eat. But at the end of the day, I have fun with my blog and I've always wanted the name to convey that sense of playful mischief that I hope comes across in my writing. So, as I expand my "eating empire" but wish to remain consistent in name recognition, I've decided on a new nombre that I think fits the content of the blog: Eating Natty.

I recently downloaded the Urban Dictionary App. in a rage of frustration after misusing the work "fleek" for the umpteenth time. And while I understood the word "natty" as the college variation of "natural", I looked the term up on the above app. just to be safe. According to the source, natty indeed is a slang term for natural but is also a Rastafarian term meaning, 'good, cool [and/or] elite." And while the first two terms are ones I hope are associated with my blog, the last one I felt could be associated as well.

In America, eating is somewhat of an "elite endeavor". Instead of eating healthy across the board, access to nutritious foods and knowledge of them seem to run along socioeconomic lines, an unfortunate circumstance in my opinion. Because unlike a Dolce & Gabbana dress, nutritious food is something we need as a species, not as a subset thereof. So, with this new name, I'd like to poke some fun at the elitist nature of eating in America erstwhile disseminating  some important information to the Natty Ice crowd which I hope reads my blog. Either way, it should be on fleek. ūüėČ

Friday, February 26, 2016

Spice Up Your Life

In Spice Rubbish, I talked about how grocery chains as well as more specialty shops carry spice blends to the tune of a hefty price tag when such blends can easily be made at home. However, as I began to eat more naturally as stated in Candid-dida, I noticed a need for easy access to spice blends become a bit more prevalent. This being said, I still preferred making them at home. And to keep things relatively simple, I relied on a few tried and true blends to help bring flavor and complexity to what would otherwise be simple, plated foods.

Beyond spices alone, spice blends convey a subtlety in meals that one spice may not do by itself. To some extent, blends, when done right, become more than the sum of their parts. And who better to know so than cultures who have had thousands of years to prefect said blends in an attempt to make food taste a little less redundant (as great as natural foods make us feel, sometimes they don't compare to the taste or chemical stability of a Twinkie). 

Through some experience with eating foods from different cultures (particularly ones that give you free pita bread with your meal) I've become increasingly familiar with Mediterranean and Middle Eastern cuisine, the latter of which possesses its own delicious and unique blends of spices. Herein are a few that have caught my eye:

"Shake it to the left.. shake it to the right." They're obviously talking about your spice shaker.

Za'atar: I wrote about Za'atar in Spice Rubbish when spice blends first began to appear in my purview. I was eating, in fact, at a Middle Eastern restaurant referenced above and was blown away by the flavor of a simple spice blend in oil (given to me, of course, with my free pita bread). Upon asking the waiter about the blend, I quickly learned it was Za'atar, a pleasant medley of sumac, thyme, salt and sesame seeds (or simply a mix of dried herbs) and is as popular in Middle Eastern cuisine as the culture is old. Since I continued using oil on my pseudo-version of the Candida Diet, this spice was (and is) used to turn a bit of oil into a great dressing or dip. 

Curry Spice: Curry takes many different forms (much like the several variations of Za'atar). But unlike Za'atar, curry has always been a little incomprehensible to me. Is is a dish, a spice, a sauce? British chef, Jamie Oliver, posits curry as a dish in his recipe for Jool's Easy Curry Chicken while a contestant on Chopped once impressed judges (and myself) with her homemade curry sauce. Indeed, in my research and eating experience, I have encountered curry in many different ways. But here, I am specifically referring to the curry powder blend. Unlike Za'atar, the spice blend is made exclusively from spices, or elements which are not from a, "green, leafy plant," according to Wikipedia. To name a few components, curry spice carries cardamom, coriander and cumin (to be alphabetical about it) as well as turmeric (a great anti-inflammatory) dry mustard and cayenne... which makes it similar to the foundation of the following blend.

Ras El-Hanout: At the restaurant where I moonlight, we carry a Long Island Iced Tea (what bar doesn't) and a top shelf  Long Island Iced Tea. So, when customers get a bit tipsy (typically after one Long Island) I always suggest the top shelf version (buyer beware...). But the top shelf version of said concoction serves both my own and the customers needs (I rationalize). The higher quality alcohol in the latter beverage increases my tip and makes a drink that is surprisingly smooth taste a little less shitty nonetheless. And as stated before spices, particularly of the "top-shelf" variety, can make food taste a bit less boring.

Ras El-Hanout is yesteryear's version of a top shelf blend, literally meaning, "head of the shop," in its native Arabic. And much like Za'atar, this particular spice blend technically does not carry a defined recipe. Historically speaking, Ras El-Hanout simply indicated one was purchasing the highest quality spices a purveyor had on hand. But, today, the mix has been somewhat codified, often carrying components of the Zingiberaceae Family (ginger, turmeric and cardamom which are known to have medical benefits), as well as cinnamon (to lower your blood sugar) and peppercorns. And while the recipe for Ras El Hanout has become a bit more structured, general variations among several ingredients and the amount these ingredients are used still exist... so if you're looking for the top recipe, I believe the BBC carries it. 

So there you have it. A little spice, for your life and/or food.

Tuesday, February 23, 2016

Candid-dida

I have to be candid about something: I put myself on a bit of a diet (in name only) not for the sake of weight awareness but for the sake of experimentation. The idea for said "diet" came about as I read an article on Into the Gloss looking at how the location of acne on our faces indicates larger problems within the body. According to the article, acne within the T-Zone can come about as the result of stress or poor circulation while the acne which I struggle with on the chin, jaw and neck can often result from starchy foods, processed sugar and/or a curious little factor called Candida. Unsure of the latter element, I googled "Candida" to find it defined as a fungus (more specifically, a yeast). My search also brought me to something called The Candida Diet whose website talked about the fact that as we consume diets high in sugar and are exposed to prolonged periods of stress (my life in a nutshell) the above fungus can often flourish in our intestines and wreak havoc on our mental clarity, immune systems and levels of pain. But like any diet promises, there is a solution: mainly in the form of re-formed eating habits. So I was intrigued and decided to do a bit of experimentation.

Natural foods look and feel great.

As a diet high in sugar tends to produce an environment where the Candida fungus can thrive, cutting out most sugars (including fruits) seems to be step one of the Candida Diet. Introducing probiotics and natural antifungals to the diet seems to be step two and three respectively. And like any well-structured diet, the Candida program supplies its followers with information to assist their efforts before, during and after their endeavors. Similar to the cleanse or "recasting" put forth in French Women Don't Get Fat, the Candida Diet suggests one set aside some quiet, relaxing time to engage in the cleanse. Since (added) sugar is so prevalent in our dietary landspace (think anything from bread to table salt, seriously) the Candida Diet also  specifies foods you can eat and those you should avoid on the program. But unlike the recasting in FWDGF which supports a cleanse centered around the tasty but liquid leek soup, the Candida Diet allows one to consume solid foods from start to finish. So I began thinking: what if I tried eating nothing but whole, unprocessed foods. The idea is not revolutionary, indeed, the Whole30 Program seems to suggest it and our ancestors have engaged in the practice for many years prior but it did make me begin thinking about food in a different way.

As I thought about eating natural foods exclusively (in this case: foods that have not been changed from their original form), it struck me as daunting to leave behind so many ingredients that find their way into my everyday diet. No more soy sauce? Vinegar? Bullion cubes????? The idea of preparing food would have to be overhauled and rethought. So I did some thinking. While I was a bit more exacting in the factors of my experiment for Sticky Situations I became much more general in planning my individual version of the Candida Diet. In general, I allowed myself to consume:

•Whole fruits and vegetables
•Coffee and tea (bought whole and ground or loose leaf)
•Meat, poultry and fish
•Beans (dried or canned)
•Nuts
•Herbs
•Spices
•Honey
•Oil

With the exception of the last component, everything on my list seemed relatively unchanged from its original form and I tried not too be to picky as to whether something was fresh or canned (you have to stop somewhere and, for me, it's usually at my pocketbook). But oil seems a little indispensable... and I'll tell you why.

Looking at my prepared list of adequate foods. I began thinking of ways to enhance their flavors. Gone, for awhile, would be my days of rich dips and dressings to accompany my veggies. So I called on my very limited knowledge of cooking and culture to help me out and after a bit of consideration, I identified two components which add flavor to any dish: 

•Heat
•Spices

Heat and spices can bring out or add flavor to many dishes, respectively. Both are methods which have been employed for ages in the culinary tradition (indeed, before there was the Whole30, there was the whole spice trade). And I thought that if perhaps I could use either or both methods in my cooking, my Candida experiment wouldn't seem so bad. But both heat and spices generally take oil for various reasons and so I kept it in my bag of tricks and went about my business and after a few days... several things became apparent.

While I began my Candida cleanse as a way to clear up some lingering acne (and see just how hard it can be to eat naturally, exclusively) I didn't spend too much time checking my appearance; not in terms of my acne and certainly not in terms of my weight. Instead, several other revelations came into clear view: 

1. You will be tired and hungry: While the above statement sounds horrible, it was actually an interesting phenomenon to see my body, first get tired from a dip in calories... and then hungry as it reset itself after more natural eating. And just as the Candida Diet claims one benefit to be a lack of lethargy, I could tell that my tired state was pretty straightforward and natural, not a sluggish frustration which I've been known to experience. Instead, I found joy in daytime naps and perhaps a slower pace than I experienced while I was consuming sugar. Likewise, I could tell that my body was actually hungry, not longing for the taste of food but for the natural nutrients they carried. To this extent, eating more natural, healthy food led to eating more natural, healthy foods for their nutritional value over their taste.

2. Apparently I've been in a bad mood for the past ten years: As I stated before, when I went on my own version of the Candida Diet, my concern with acne quickly evaporated and new changes which my body was unfamiliar with came into clear view. The most significant change I noticed while on the diet was in my mood. I never really thought about food correlating with mood (indeed, they only sound alike) but it makes sense since food is, essentially, energy and with low energy, we're not at our best. And since I've reintroduced some foods back into my diet, those days that I eat mostly junk are days I can tell my body is fighting to stay awake with little energy left over for social pleasantries. But with a body running more efficiently, I noticed a stabilization in mood and even less anxiety as my energy, hormones, whatever (I'm just guessing here) seemed to be more consistent, rather than shooting towards the moon and then crashing down to Earth.

3. Meat is a must (for me): With three-fifths of my family maintaining a vegetarian status, it's easy for me to forget to eat meat and begrudge the argument that "we became the intelligent species we are today due to our meat consumption." But I know my body needs meat, a fact which became ever more apparent as I ate more natural foods. Referring to point number one, I often came home at the end of the day consistently hungry and knew some shredded brussel sprouts with salt and oil was just not gonna cut it. Enter meat (and nuts). Without the fat (and perhaps unnecessary calories) gained from rich dips and dressings my body really called out for a fat and protein source. And while it may not be part of the cleanse series of the Candida Diet, I gave my body what it wanted. And it felt good.

4. Fruit a'int so bad: When I was in third  grade, we had to draw a picture and write some facts about ourselves so our parents might be able to identify where we sat during back to school night. I remember being unaware as to factors that would reveal my identity but I knew I hated fruit and I wanted my mom to know it too. And, low-and-behold, my mom returned and claimed she knew exactly where I sat after reading that line. And my dislike held true for many years despite my mother's repeated attempts to have us eat healthy snacks. But as I began to forgo all the snacks I ate as a kid (as they say in the Bible, "when I was no longer a child, I put away childish things..."), I realized that: fruit a'int that bad. As I waved goodbye to sugar in my tea, in my snacks and in my general eating habits, fruit appeared as a welcome substitute (particularly when infused in hot water).

5. You will not want to return to your former way of eating: While I had a few tough times on the "diet" I was surprised by how quickly my body adjusted to this new form of eating. It was fun thinking of new foods to eat and new modes of preparation to develop flavors. And while my mind was distracted in thinking of new recipes to try, my body seemed to lock into a new mode of natural eating. I think it hit me like a ton of bricks when I walked into a Starbucks and didn't feel like ordering a venti caramel macchiato with extra caramel and whip, even with a very long day ahead of me. In general, I'm sure anyone would be surprised at how easy it is (physically) to maintain a more natural form of eating. The difficulty seems to lie (at first) in gaining easy access to such foods and/or preparing them. This is where the salad bar at the grocery store becomes your friend. As someone who generally cooks for one, I was formerly intimidated at the prospect of buying fresh foods, preparing them and eating them before they went bad. But I noticed that as my body (naturally) craved more natural foods, an entire head of lettuce, tomatoes and six chicken thighs were nothing for the week as I was more inclined to travel home for a healthy meal over stopping out to get something more "exciting" (or salty). This being said, as my grocery bill went up, my entire food budget began to go down as I bought more natural ingredients and stayed in for meals... a consequence that I quickly and willingly got used to.

So eating more naturally has become a bit of a joy and a learning curve. But learning new things can (literally) become the spice of life. And a few recipes I have learned to love are as follows. Enjoy!

Hummus: Beans, garlic, sesame seeds, oil, lemon juice, divine.

Chili Paste: I love spicy foods and this recipe provides a great way to add flavor to any dish.

Nut butters: As with hummus, the combination of (in my case) cashews, oil and salt makes for a divine creation which can provide you with a hit of protein when needed.


Wednesday, February 17, 2016

The Daily Grind

If planning for our day is playing, "the game before the game," (as referenced in A Balanced Buddy and Moral Arguments) then our daily coffee may represent our consumption of grinds before the grind. Indeed, coffee wakes us up (or shakes one up in my case) but it can also serve as a delivery system for other nutrients before we start our day.

Growing up, I was relatively unfamiliar with coffee, only seeing the pot come out when we had guests. My mother was a big tea drinker and, to an extent, I "got" tea. Simply put some leaves, herbs and/or spices in a tea bag and steep. But the irony of the situation is that while I have understood the "creation" of tea for quite some time, I still struggle to develop combinations on my own which are intriguing and interesting on the palate and which offer a hearty dose of caffeine. Here, consequently, is where coffee comes in.

As I've eschewed electric coffee makers for quite some time, seeing them as incomprehensible, medieval contraptions, I recently bought a spice grinder (which can also grind coffee beans) and a Chemex coffee maker both of which allow me to view the production of coffee from start to finish (which sounds very hipster and overly concerned with food however is simply, for me, a vehicle for understanding). As such, I've begun to make coffee several mornings each week, sparing me the physical and economic "grind" of Starbucks. And, like tea, I've been experimenting with different spice combinations to, well, spice my coffee up (isn't there that article that claimed if you took your coffee black, you were more likely to be a psychopath? I'm just a lowly neurotic thankyouverymuch).

Cinnamon and a chili: a sweet symphony for coffee.

The idea of Mexican Hot Chocolate has always intrigued me. Made of cacao beans, with added spice, it intuitively seems better for you because it's not part of the Western diaspora (indeed it was Europeans who first introduced sugar to the cacao concoction). And unlike sugar, it's true that a hint of spice can be good for us. According to Jace Mortensen (via the Dr. Weil site), chilies, a crop indigenous to Mesoamerica, are able to, promote cardiovascular health and, "[metabolize] fat." So adding the spice to our daily drink, be it hot chocolate or coffee is a great way to get a boost on your metabolic rate before the day begins. Furthermore, the addition of cinnamon, another spice present in the above drink can redouble the body's exposure to a substance which is heart healthy and can possibly, "reduce inflammation," according to WebMD. So I've been making "Mexican coffee" because it's healthy and it's easy.

It's British, stay with it.

I love my spice grinder. I bought it at Williams Sonoma on a whim and never looked back (I'm obviously great with commitments). It's a great way to blend my coffee and spices before putting them into the Chemex. It adds a great flavor and routine to my morning as I watch the water boil (yes, this is hypnotic in the morning), take in the aroma of coffee brewing and let the concoction hit my stomach before rushing me out the door √† la Mr. Bean in his Mr. Bean cartoon. Plus, the addition of said spices seems to keep my body warm as I head outdoors during this last grisly month-or-so of winter. But (obviously) don't trust me. Try this delicious goodness for yourself. The recipe lies below. 
Enjoy!

*Note: I've parceled out the amounts for my Mexican coffee for use with either a Chemex or Keurig coffee maker. As I said before, I'm bad with conventional coffee machines but if you have one, I'm sure you'll be able to fuss with the mix. 

Mexican Coffee 
(makes 1 cup)

  • 2 tablespoons coffee grounds (Swing's G-Street blend is a nod to both D.C. and Mesoamerica.)
  • 1 dried chili (unseeded) (If you wish for a milder taste, deseed the chili or add 1/4 tsp. cayenne instead.)
  • 1 tsp. ground cinnamon
To make:
  • Place coffee grounds, dried chili and cayenne in a spice grinder and grind for several seconds.
  • Place mixture in a reusable Keurig cup or Chemex coffee filter and place in its respective vessel.
  • Pour 6 oz. hot water over the mixture (if using a Chemex maker) or allow the water to run through the Keurig on the 6 oz. or smallest setting (for strong coffee).
  • Allow the coffee to cool a bit and enjoy.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Tea Timing

I recently read in Real Simple or Martha Stewart Living or whatever domestic guilty pleasure I subscribe to, that many women don't leave their cleansers on long enough for them to impart the most benefits possible. Indeed, when I read less domestic magazines, I remember Seventeen suggesting readers leave on their cleansers for several minutes in order for them to take full effect. The irony seems to be, however, that as we (assumedly) increase our readership of domestic magazines as we age, our time to engage in beauty rituals can decrease.

Beauty rituals are not always engaged in as acts of vanity. Indeed, they can be more calming and serve as "schedulers" of our day over flippant indulgences. When we're young (I learned through Anthropology class) we take comfort in nightly rituals such as brushing our teeth ("beauty" for beginners, I suppose) and being told a story before disembarking from our parents for the evening. When we're older, I believe we can take just as much comfort from similar rituals at the beginning and/or end of the day.

In Happy Hour, I talked about how my nightly shower is my time to unwind. I love the heat. I love how no one can talk to me (I don't have kids). So, it's really my time to decompress, listen to some music and in the past, have a glass of wine. It always looked funny but when my appetite was low, a glass (or tumbler) of wine or bottle of beer sat right on my shower caddy next to my shampoo and soap. Of course, now, I'm older and am more inclined to chocolate once again over beer but I sometimes take tea in the shower and as such, have learned the trick of "tea timing" as I wash my face.

Time for tea... and a shower.

I am currently using Shu Uemura's skin purifier to wash my face. It's a cleansing oil: not great but it does the job. And as an oil, it begs to be left on the face and absorbed while it loosens grime. Yet while I could stay in the shower all day, when it comes to leaving products in my hair or on the body, I want them on and rinsed off as soon as possible. Ergo, I developed a small trick which allows me to allow my cleanser to do it's job better...

Within the course of my shower, I've been taking small "tea times" while allowing my cleanser to work its mid-range magic on my face. After applying said cleanser, I allow it to sit while I take a cup of tea. As of late, I've been making Teavana's Youthberry (available at Starbucks) and drinking it for about a minute while distracting myself from the need to rinse, rinse, rinse. It's a welcomed habit that gives me the benefit of tea (Youthberry contains white tea which is high in antioxidants) and the full benefits of my cleanser. So far, it's been sooooo good.

Thursday, February 11, 2016

For Your Heart

With Valentine's Day upon us, I figured I'd offer a post centered on ways to help your heart... with or without a valentine. As my father stated in Second Attempts, being the member of a social unit, be it a relationship, family or friendship can keep us in good mental health which can lead, by proxy, to physical benefits. But solitude has its own place in the world (as expressed nicely by Idalia Candela's illustrations for Bored Panda: seen here) and we can do things on our own every day to keep our hearts in good shape.


My stepmother, Janet Long, served as a Cardiology Nurse Practitioner and Clinical Lipid Specialist for around twenty-five years before her retirement. During her tenure, she saw a lot of patients in a lot of scenarios and learned a lot of things, particularly regarding a healthy diet. Herein she writes about the Mediterranean diet, a form of eating very close to my own heart and something I've been meaning to write about for awhile. Enjoy!

Mediterranean Diet

The Mediterranean Diet was first introduced in the late 1950’s when it was observed that people living in southern Europe had less coronary heart disease mortality.  Since that time, there have been numerous studies that support the cardiovascular benefits of this diet including current guidelines for the primary prevention of stroke. (1) 

February is “Heart Month” and a good time to look at the benefits of diet on the cardiovascular system.  Numerous trials including two landmark studies, Prevenci√≥n con Dieta Mediterr√°nea (PREDIMED) trial (2) and the Lyon Diet Heart Study (3) have shown significant benefits.  The PREDIMED trial was a primary prevention (those without any known history of cardiovascular disease) trial that showed a 30% reduction in vascular events in those participants following the Mediterranean style diet.  The Lyon Diet Heart Study was a secondary prevention study (those with known cardiovascular disease) that showed a 72% reduction in cardiovascular events in the Mediterranean style diet group compared with the control group who followed a Western style diet. 

The Mediterranean Diet consists of:

·         Daily:

o   Cheese, yogurt, olive oil, fruits, beans, legumes, nuts, vegetables, whole grain bread, pasta, rice, couscous, barley, other whole grains and potatoes.  Drink large amounts of water.  Wine in moderation.

·         Weekly

o   Sweets, eggs, poultry, fish

·         Monthly

o   Red meat in small portions

The Mediterranean Diet is not a homogenous nutritional model.  There are varied cultures in the Mediterranean basin with different traditions and dietary habits that result in a wide variation of dietary patterns.  The benefits of the Mediterranean Diet are thought to come from a high consumption of plant based foods and olive oil.  Additionally the benefit of omega-3 polyunsaturated fat from fish and green leafy vegetables and legumes is important. (3)  High amounts of vitamin C, vitamin E, beta carotene, glutathione, phytoestrogens, and phytochemicals from green leafy vegetables, phenolic compounds from wine and olive oil all contribute to the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits and thus a reduction in the coronary vascular disease.  (4)

Inflammation is an enemy to the vascular system, specifically the endothelium, the lining of the arteries throughout the body.  When the endothelium becomes inflamed, it does not dilate or relax normally, and it becomes porous and fatty deposits are able to invade the endothelium. In simplistic terms, this begins the process of cardiovascular disease.  So a diet that is low in saturated fat, high in omega-3 fatty acids, rich in antioxidants fiber and vitamins, has been shown over decades to decrease the inflammatory process and protect the blood vessels.

 
References:

1. Meschia JF, Bushness C, Boden-Albala B, et al. on behalf of the American Heart Association Stroke Council, Council on Cardiovascular and Stroke Nursing, Council on Clinical Cardiology, Council on Functional Genomics and Translational Biology and Council on Hypertention.  Guidelines for the Primary Prevention of Stroke: A Statement for Healthcare Professionals From the American Heart Association/American Stroke Association.  Stroke. 2014; 45:3754–3832

2.   Estruch R, Ros E, Salas-SalvadŌĆ J, et al; on behalf of the PREDIMED Study Investigators. Primary prevention of cardiovascular disease with a Mediterranean diet. N Engl J Med 2013; 368: 1279-90.

3.   De Lorgeril M, Salen P, Martin JL, Monjaud l, Delaye J, Mamelle N. Mediterranean diet, traditional risk factors, and the rate of cardiovascular complications after myocardial infarction: final report of the Lyon Diet Heart Study.  Circulation 1999; 99: 779-85.

4.  Simopoulos AP, Visioli F. World Review of Nutrition and Dietetics Mediterranean Diets. Vol.87. New York. Karger. 2000.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

Second Attempts

I often remix, revisit or make "second attempts" at old posts. But to remix is not always to fix. As stated in Meh-n, I'm an introvert and as such, generally miss smaller details in lieu of the larger picture. I've read this phenomenon is generally true among introverts (if you listen to Alessia Cara's song "Here" she's trying to sound deep but really just sounds like another introvert) and is not better or worse than other forms of thought, just different. This is probably why I'm a minimalist when it comes to clothing. Delicate embroidery makes me crazy but a beautiful cut makes me clam. To offer an example, I'm currently in the process imploring my fianc√© to buy me a crop top and skirt by Elizabeth and James (also the names of my future sister and brother in law) which can be seen here and here respectively (it'll never happen but a girl can annoy, can't she?). So, within my blog, I often look at larger topics which extend themselves into different avenues. A post on the consumption of water can parlay itself into various forms as seen in both BPHeyyy and Tea Timing (in post-production). But here, I'm making a second attempt in order to expand upon information addressed in a former post.

As stated in Meh-n, while I often prize members of the gender for their "minimalist" conversations, it can become an issue when conveying information that is important and has to qualify as a "blog post". So, in order to draw out a bit more information from my father on topics addressed in the above post, I figure I'd conduct an interview. Herein lies both questions and responses. Enjoy!

What intrigued you to go into the medical field? What were some of the aspects you enjoyed about the medical practice and what were some frustrations, if any?

I knew I wanted to be a doctor when I was 5 or 6 years old. Just knew it. Beyond that, there was the desire to help and serve people and to ease their suffering. Plus, I was academically inclined and had a fascination with biology and medical topics. Least of all, but something I was aware of, I knew that medicine would allow for a relatively secure and comfortable economic situation for a family. 

I'm currently reading Always Hungry? by Dr. Ludwig who states that when he was a student, "medical schools focused almost exclusively on drugs and surgery, although lifestyle causes most cases of heart disease and other chronic disabling conditions." Do you agree with this statement? If so, what are some effective lifestyle practices to maintain health in one's life? 

Sounds like an interesting book. He’s correct that diet and lifestyle [have] a profound impact on our health and longevity, in general. Obviously, there are other important factors including genetics, social interactions and who we hang out with (think beer-guzzling, TV addicts versus people who exercise and enjoy nature, friends, and family), and the events and circumstances of life. It has been estimated that 80% of cardiovascular disease could be reduced or prevented by healthy lifestyles. Other diseases which are preventable — or at least reduced — by healthy living are cancer, hypertension, and diabetes. 

Diets should be well-rounded to provide a variety of nutrients. There are a number of medical websites that can provide details.

Healthy lifestyles includes eating fresh foods rather than fast foods and/or salty foods, restricting the intake of saturated and trans fats, restricting sugar intake to 30grams/day, exercising regularly, engaging in social interactions with friends and family — studies show a high correlation of health, including mental health, for people who enjoy and engage in social interactions, trying to avoid exposure to chemicals and toxins in the home, workplace, and in general, no more than one alcoholic beverage per day, not smoking, avoiding illegal drug use, and cultivating and practicing gratitude daily — many studies have shown the benefits of this for emotional and physical health. Serving and helping others is also a shortcut to happiness and well-being. Filling our lives with love and kindness for ourselves and others, rather than with stuff, is important and adds meaning to our lives.

In your medical opinion, what are some preventative techniques people can employ to keep them and their loved ones healthy before medical intervention? Do you think preventative measures need to be increasingly addressed in the medical field? 

First questions is answered above. Second question — Yes.

Any additional comments? 

Taking time for quiet reflection, taking walks and just enjoying the scenery while the mind “wanders”, and meditating daily have also been shown to be of great benefit — both physically and mentally. Unfortunately, the food industry and commercial side of our culture often encourage unhealthy life choices. A person has to decide for themselves whether they will go along with this or choose a healthier way of living. That’s your choice and mine. 

Friday, February 5, 2016

Reading Lists

Within the blog, things have been a little slow-going (to the fault of no one but myself). At some point, I envisioned a website that could link a Twitter account, etc. and maybe something that had more pictures. But I'm partial to my platform. I like its simplicity and its ease of use. To be honest, I'm somewhat of a technophobe. So, instead of tweeting what I'm reading, I figured I'd include a few articles here. It's light to write and light to read. Happy Friday. Enjoy! :)

Why it's so hard to cut back on sugar (and what to do about it): This Washington Post article, written by nutritionist Ellie Krieger essentially points to the fact that sugar acts much like a drug (albeit maybe not a schedule I substance). Creating intense cravings and heavy withdrawals, it reflects something I've experienced for a long time. As stated in Deprivation Sensations, the cessation of eating was painful while the act of eating was pleasurable. I'm not saying I was a full blown addict but let's just say a lot of my money went (and still does) to food (beyond the survival sense). This, for me, was why Salt, Sugar, Fat was such an important book. It was my first glimmer that perhaps my relationship with food went beyond the emotional realm and into the chemical one as food companies sought and still seek to identify concoctions that incite pleasant experiences which leave their customers returning for more. And who doesn't like to throw some blame away from themselves anyways. But, as stated in Meh-n, new dietary guidelines have been released by the Agriculture and Health and Human Services Department which call for many Americans to reduce their sugar intake... no small feat for a government rife with lobbyists for the cartels, err, food companies. It also segues well into article number two.

New Dietary Guidelines Urge Less Sugar for All and Less Protein for Boys and Men: In Cuchillos y Cucharas, I referenced the movie Forks Over Knives which attempted, in part, to debunk the myth that humans must rely exclusively on meat for their protein intake. Indeed there is one scene in which the responses to the question, "why is meat important" turn out to be, "protein", "protein", "protein", "protein" and, "for protein". But this may not always be the case. While I jokingly referred to large food companies (think General Mills, Nabisco, etc.) as cartels my limited education on nutrition has taught me the meat industry (think Tyson and Smithfield Foods) is not any better in their use of influence to affect public policy (indeed, at one point, Tyson Foods was allowed to receive tax benefits as a family farm). Indeed, the article looks at the new dietary guidelines which suggest Americans as a whole limit their intake of (added, refined) sugar and that male adults and male teens reduce their intake of protein. While such a suggestion seems adequate for one's health, it struck me as somewhat of a watershed decision against large business. I'm not against large business per se but I had been sad to read that many of the ones involved in food production often beat out the government when it came to transparency. Through the books Salt, Sugar, Fat and The Meat Racket, the government seemed to lose time and time again when engaging in battles that would ultimately allow consumers to know what they were buying or even should be buying for their health. So I'm happy to see government take a stand, possibly requiring producers to clearly state the amount of added sugars in their products (as opposed to hiding the amount among several, elusive ingredients) and finally telling the public what they need to hear as opposed to what the meat industry wants to hear that we need meat, meat, meat. It's better for our bodies and it's better for the environment... which brings us to article number three.

The Privilege of Eating Wild Food: I've been trying to eat food which is more natural. This is not done as a dieting strategy but as more of a challenge to see how difficult it actually is to eat unprocessed foods over ones of convenience put out by the above companies. Throughout this process, I've noticed that my concerns have gone beyond food which is just healthy and into the realm of how it is produced. Is it organic? Raised in a sustainable fashion? To be honest, these are not as much concerns as much as curiosities and, while I think everyone should eat healthy, I know this realm of nutrition is more of an optional engagement while others have lives to carry on with. But, nonetheless, this article caught my eye, no pun intended. The article (written by New York Times food editor, Sam Sifton) looks a little at the practice and consumption of fish, one of the last wild-caught animals. Engaging in this practice, as Sifton notes, is often looked down upon due to the decreasing availability of the good but is actually a practice which intertwines the fishermen with nature as they must conserve their product's tenuous existence. Indeed, many cooks who work closely (read: slaughter) the animals they serve have noted a certain abhorrence to wasting what they had to work for. An interesting phenomenon to note. It's a good read and also has a good recipe for Cod Cakes.

Always Hungry?: Another book to be discussed another time. Overhauls dietary theory.



Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Greasy Palms

During the Oscars this weekend, I noticed a Cadillac commercial featuring the likes of clothing designer, Jason Wu. It's been awhile since I regularly followed the world of fashion but I know that Wu is an up and coming designer with creations that are as creative as they are gorgeous. (To simply immerse yourself in a fantasy world of fashion, you can visit his website here.) While the commercial doesn't seem to have anything to do with Cadillacs themselves, I noted Wu wore a cool sweatshirt and jeans and, for some reason I started looking him up online.

Rather than looking up his wiki page, I wanted to delve into the world of Jason Wu's clothing. As you can see, Wu has a website devoted to his collections and is also carried as a brand at Bergdorf Goodman. Having only limited products on these sites, I also traveled to Net-A-Porter which carried more "Wu stock" than any of the above locations. It was here though, that I noticed a small window claiming, "It's All About Oils."

Apparently, in the "beauty department" of Net-A-Porter, an abundance of oils are being featured. Showcased in shiny, delicate bottles, such oils bear names which include, "rose bath water", "Huile de Magnolia" and "gypsy water". Marketed between $78 to  $195, I have no doubt these oily concoctions do their job. However, I wondered if we could make similar concoctions at home from items that may not posses magnolia essence but deliver similar benefits to the hair and skin.

When my daily cleanser ran out last month, I began looking up homemade answers to my perpetual skin care questions. In doing so, I came across a blog entitled Wellness Mama which features homemade remedies in response to our general beauty needs. It was here that I was introduced to oil cleansing and its myriad of benefits to the skin. According to Katie, the head-honcho of Wellness Mama, "[t]he basic idea of oil cleansing is to use natural oils in specific combination to cleanse the skin and naturally balance the skins natural oils." In Chemistry, it is noted, "like dissolves like," thereby making oil a natural remedy for oily skin. to make an oil cleanser, Katie informs us to use a combination of castor and olive (or safflower, or coconut) oil in our "cleanser medley." For oily skin, Katie recommends using a 50/50 combination of the oils while normal skin benefits most from one part castor oil to three parts olive (or other) oil. If you have dry skin, you can simply add a small portion of castor oil to olive oil. Once you have your concoction, Katie recommends massaging it onto a dry face for two minutes, leaving it on for ten and then allowing a warm towel to pull out the impurities by placing it on your skin for two minutes. I am somewhat skeptical but I am willing to try.

When looking up the ingredients of Net-A-Porter oils online, I found that many of them contained ingredients which can be found at your local Vitamin Shoppe or grocery store. After realizing the medicinal benefits of foods and proceeding to write a blog about them, I generally assumed this would be the case. Descriptions of the oils included such ingredients as rose water, omega-3 acid and/or lavender to name a few. I'm sure these big-name companies place such ingredients in exact proportion to what your body needs (maybe?) but we really have easy access to these ingredients if they don't already exist behind the door of one's pantry. To note, olive oil, heavily featured in Wellness Mama's oil cleanse is loaded with both Omega-3 and 6 fatty oils which have been shown to reduce the risk of coronary heart disease and dementia, boost the effectiveness of antidepressants and aid in the visual development of infants. In general, if you're looking to save money yet receive many of the benefits of "big beauty" simply look within arms reach of healthy foods within your kitchen.