What Makes a Diet Good? The Third Five Principles

When we were little kids at school we were taught whatever USDA food group system that was being promoted at the time. It might have been the The Basic Seven, or the The Basic Four, or the The Food Guide Pyramid, MyPyramid or now “MyPlate” The USDA’s food recommendations are ever changing. But does our body’s needs change? Not at all! We need the exact same macro-nutrients and micro-nutrients our forebearers lived on. Nothing has changed at all … it’s absurd to think it would!

[Read more…]

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Easy Beef Vegetable and Rice Soup

This soup is an easy to make wintertime favorite. If you keep both broth and cooked beef in the freezer you can whip up a batch of this rich satisfying soup in no time flat! I save the bits of meat from soup bones in the freezer just for this dish. Sometimes I have some extra browned ground beef frozen instead. I make it often for lunch when I’m working at home. It’s a pretty satisfying dinner soup too.

It’s also excellent made with a bit of sausage instead of the beef :-).

Easy Beef Vegetable and Rice Soup

Yield

4-6 Servings

 

Cooking Time

30 minutes

Difficulty

Easy

Ingredients

  • 1 lb Cooked Beef (any kind)
  • 1 Cup Rice
  • 4-8 Cups Beef Broth (Use what you have and then use water for the rest)
  • 1 large Onion
  • 3-4 Carrots
  • 1 tbsp Refined Coconut Oil
  • Salt to Taste

Instructions

  • Cut up the onion and carrots.
  • Place in the pot with the coconut oil and cook on high heat till the onions are slightly translucent.
  • Pour in the broth. Add the cooked beef and bring to a boil.
  • Turn the heat down to a simmer. Add the rice. Ensure the liquid covers everything well. If there isn’t enough broth to cover just a some water.
  • Let cook on low heat for about 20 minutes. Add salt to taste.

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What Makes a Diet Good? The Second Five Principles

Interesting chart, huh? Foods are viewed as “body building” or for “energy” or as “protective”. This suggests people should eat plenty of milk, cheese, eggs, fish, and meat along with lots of lard, suet, tallow, butter, bacon and ham and plenty of starchy foods too. Wonder where this chart came from? It was issued by the British Ministry of Food during the Second World War. The chart shown in last weeks post on the first 5 principles of what makes a diet good is a very similar chart produced by the USDA during the wartime years.

[Read more…]

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The Best Fruits and Vegetables You Can Afford

When you think of healthy eating what does your mind visualize? If you’re like most people it is a pile of fresh fruits and vegetables in glorious variety! And, wow does this ever make for a gorgeous picture. Who doesn’t feel inspired to eat well after imagining that? Most likely your mind moves on to imagining beautiful salads along with a few lightly steamed sides with lush sauces. These kinds of dishes are very popular on cookings shows and that makes sense. TV is a visual medium and these dishes look so good you just want to jump thru the screen and grab them :-). So these technicolor dishes made from bold, fresh vegetables and fruits tend to make up the lions share of recipes we see both on tv and in print.

Sounds pleasant enough, right? Could there be any harm from this?

Imagine this …

An average joe watching a tv cooking show and thinking, “Man, I’ve gotta do something about my diet.” Then he goes to the store and heads straight for what section? The produce section of course! So he loads up on asparagus, artichokes, broccoli, carrots, melons, tangerines and those cute little miniature onions. Feeling adventurous he moves on to grab a few unfamiliar things like kohlrabi, bok-choy and Italian cauliflower. All organic since the plan is to get healthy, and hey produce is cheap right? What else to get that’s healthy, our average joe thinks. Hmmm, chicken breast and pasta or rice? Pick some of that up. Then head to the checkout and receive the shock of a lifetime. Your food budget is blown my friend, and you only have enough calories in your cart to keep you going a few days not the 2 weeks you’ll need to make it to your next payday. So our imaginary friend goes home with his produce, makes a couple of meals with it that don’t turn out to be very filling or satisfying. Much of the produce goes bad cause he didn’t feel like making it since the last meal just left him hungry for something else. After that he tells everyone that eating healthy just costs too damn much! If he ate that way every day his food bill would quadruple! And he’d be hungry all the time too on this high produce diet. And so sadly, he gives up on buying healthy food and goes back to his old processed food ways.

This sad tale plays out all too often I think. Everyone and I do mean everyone has gotten the message that a processed food diet is killing them. Lots of folks have tried to do something about it too, but I think the overwhelming message to eat tons of produce is stopping their efforts to change dead in their tracks. And this message is wrong, dead wrong. Veggies and fruits are a part of a healthy diet. They are not the be-all-and-end-all of a healthy diet. Produce should not cost you a hefty part of your food budget and volume-wise they should not be the biggest part of what you eat.

So what part does produce play in a healthy diet then?

Fruits and Veggies Add Flavor and Variety to your Meals

There is really nothing like the tangy zip of a fresh orange, or the mellow rich flavor of a just perfectly ripe avocado. Fruits and vegetables are the little something extra that enliven your meals, giving them new flavors and textures. In a way you could think of them as being like spices :-). And as Sally Fallon Morrell has said on many occasions, “Vegetables are a great vehicle for serving butter.” 😉 .

Contrary to popular opinion fruits and vegetables are not particularly nutrient dense. For instance, Vitamin A can only be found in animal foods. In produce you’ll only find vitamin A’s precursors and not the vitamin itself. In fact all the fat-soluble vitamins are found most readily in animal products. Grains, raw milk and meats are the best sources of B vitamins. And liver has a surprisingly large amount of vitamin C comparable to many vegetable and fruit sources, even citrus. If your goal is to eat a nutrient dense diet too many veggies will actually impede your progress by displacing more nutrient dense food, with the exception of fermented produce. Fermented produce can be very nutrient dense.

Do fruits and veggies have to be fresh to be good?

What about frozen or canned? Many people must travel far to buy vegetables and so need them in a form that will keep for a little while. Freezing I find affects the flavor of many vegetables but by no means all. Generally though frozen veggies have a similar nutrient profile to most grocery store fresh produce. This is because of the long travel and storage times much fresh produce that goes thru the grocery store distribution chains must endure. At the largest chains it’s often easier to find variety in the frozen food section. I found this to be true of the produce at Walmart. If you can find local produce it will mostly likely be more nutrient dense than frozen or grocery store produce.

Commercially canned food is pretty low on the nutrient scale. The high temperatures used in canneries is pretty damaging to both flavor and nutrients. And the BPA issue is ever present with cans. I recommend avoiding them as much as you are able to.

Fermented Fruits and Vegetables are Rich in Flavor and Nutrients

By far the most nutritious way to eat fruits and vegetables is in fermented form. The fermentation process greatly increases the nutrients available in foods and make them more easily digested. And the flavors achieved are remarkable! Many think they don’t like fermented foods but for the most part people haven’t had any fresh, unpasteurized fermented food ever. If they had real sauerkraut or relish I think they could be swayed.

For fermenting you’ll want to find the freshest most chemical-free produce you can get.

Does it Have to Be Organic?

Ideally you will want to buy chemical-free produce, yes. Is that necessarily organic? No. There are a number of problems with organic labeling at this point, not the least of which is the difficulty small producers have in gaining the right to use the label. If you go to a farmers market for instance, you are likely to find few sellers whose items are marked ‘organic’ but many who do not use any commercial pesticides or fertilizers.

Now, if you are buying at a large grocer that organic label is probably all you will have to base decisions on. My feeling is that it just doesn’t tell us enough at this point. This produce comes from all around the world where organic standards may not be what you think they are. A lot of it comes from China which aside from the nutrient loss while traveling you also need to consider the serious problems with food quality control they have in China. Rarely is there a sign to inform you of the source of the produce. Sometimes the food may have a sticker with it’s origin stated. If you want clean organic food you are much better served by buying it locally.

And there is the GMO issue to be concerned about. According to Dr. Mercola’s GMO Shopping Guide only

“Small amounts of zucchini, yellow crookneck squash, and sweet corn may be GM.”

If you are concerned buy organic for these. Personally, I only buy sweet corn from someone I know, or organic at this point.

Should High Quality Produce be the Topmost Priority in my Food Budget?

In a nutshell, no. Good quality fats and oils should be your number one priority. Next high quality meat, fish and dairy. Next comes produce. Keep these tips in mind while buying produce and you’ll have all the benefits of great flavor and rich nutrient dense ferments without breaking the bank.

Getting the Best Vegetables and Fruits for your Budget

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What Makes a Diet Good? The First Five Principles

Do you feel confused about what to include in a good diet? How about what to leave out? Do nutrition facts labels make your head spin round and round with all the different and contradictory things you’ve read and heard about a healthy diet? Do you feel a little sick with confusion when you read the ingredients labels on foods in the grocery store?

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Modern Equipment Makes Scratch Cooking a Cinch!

Is real food scratch cooking just too hard to do? Most people think so. And they’re aren’t talking about some of the more labor intensive or time consuming things you could do as a from-scratch cook either. Mostly people are talking about things a fifties housewife commonly did like bake a cake from a mix, frying chicken, or squeezing fresh orange juice. A depression-era housewife would have done all of these things and more like gardening and canning but without the modern appliances. She would be crazy jealous of all the appliances women commonly had in the fifties. And this fifties era housewife would marvel at all she could get done with the tools we can get at far less expense that a fifties household would have paid.

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Easy to Make Sauerkraut

I live in the Sausage Capital of Texas. Little Elgin, now basically a suburb of Austin with a strong rural feel, is a railroad town in a part of Texas heavy with German immigrants. With the immigrants came the sausage Elgin is famous for and of course, sauerkraut.

Now, I can safely say I’d never really had sauerkraut before I started making it myself :-). All I’d ever tasted was that canned stuff 60’s housewives used to buy for wiener roasts on hot Saturday afternoons. Always hated that stuff. So you may wonder why I ever decided to go thru the trouble to make sauerkraut the old-fashioned way after that experience. Two reasons really, I found out that making sauerkraut is easy and that it is remarkably good for you. [Read more…]

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Granny is a State of Mind

On this website I talk a lot about Granny. I generalize Granny did this or would have done that often. But I don’t know your Granny, or your best-friends Granny or even my husband’s Granny! How the hell do I know what she would or wouldn’t have done? My Grandma was born in the early 1900′s but your Grandma might have been born in the 50′s. My husband’s Grandma was born in Germany but maybe your’s was born in India or Russia … how can we learn anything by generalizing what these totally different women might have done?

I think we can learn a lot, actually. While our Grannys were very different women they do have an awful lot in common. For instance, they were born before the post-modern media dominated environment we live in now. Culture was passed down from generation to generation so the traditional foodways of whatever culture she lived in were what she learned and lived by. Now, not so much. Media and advertising shout so loudly now they drown out traditional cultures the world over. They shout down your Grandma’s foodways in favor of foods that can be branded to seem cool and novel. And these foods are always highly processed with big profit margins for the producers.

Anyway on this site, Granny is more a way of thinking about the world than an actual person.

Granny is a State of Mind

When I talk about Granny what I’m searching for is a way of looking at the world thru your Grandma’s eyes. If we can at least try to see things as we imagine she would it gives us a new perspective on the world. Suddenly things that made sense looking thru our modern eyes seem silly. Things like thinking the foods that have sustained humanity for thousands of years are suddenly very, very bad for us! Things like thinking if we are good and eat as the doctors/specialists tell us and exercise very, very hard we will look and feel young well into old age, maybe right up till the day we die! Or maybe with transhumanism we needn’t die at all. While eating well and exercising moderately are likely to make your old-age a lot more comfortable and maybe even fun it’s unlikely to bring immortality 😉 .

Just as an exercise in broadening your thinking about food, whenever you have a food choice to make pause for a moment and ask yourself “What would Granny do?” or WWGD, for short 😉 . Often the choice is clear like, Granny probably wouldn’t have spent extra money for processed potato flakes when whole potatoes are cheaper and more versatile. If your particular Granny would have jumped for the flakes, and if she was born in the 50′s she probably would :-), adopt an older Granny instead. This little practice makes the choices so much clearer.

Granny Embodies the Wisdom of your Culture

No matter your culture and where you live in the world Granny embodies the wisdom of the foodways of your particular culture. Grab onto that culture and hang on for dear life in the face of the avalanche of false and misleading information about food coming out of the industrial food economy. Your life and your families lives depend on it!

Eating real food doesn’t mean adopting a whole new cultures way of eating. It doesn’t mean you have to give up your favorite comfort foods from childhood in favor of some exotic food served in a culture unknown to you. If you live in India explore the traditional foodways of India rather than feeling pressed to accept the real food recipes produced in a culture like say, Germany. You’ll find the food rather bland most likely, though it would be healthy. Or if you grew up in a dairy culture, it’s unlikely that you’ll love and do well on a diet of legumes and rice.  Too often people feel compelled when adopting a new way of eating to exactly emulate someone else’s or some other culture’s diet! Far better to thoughtfully consider the foods you love and depend on and adapt them back into the real food versions your Grandma knew and loved.

Technology and the Bias Toward the New

Modern culture has an inbuilt bias toward the new. Old ways are suspect and the new is embraced. It seems the knee-jerk response of modern folk is to dismiss anything that comes from an old source.  In modern culture old ideas are automatically bad ideas, discredited ideas. This attitude is deeply ingrained in modern people, but how wise is it?

Now obviously, I’m no luddite :-). I’m writing this on a Macbook Pro and sending it out into the world via the internet. I’ve worked as a programmer all of my adult life. Technology is a wondrous thing, to be sure.  In my lifetime I’m unlikely to ever witness a miracle greater than the internet as far as I’m concerned!

Technology doesn’t have the answers to everything though, especially where biology is concerned. There is so much we still don’t know about the human body.  Using historical proof in the form of thriving populations down thru history seems like a far more robust scientific test of a diet than the very limited kinds of testing we do now. Traditional foodways and the lessons about food handed down to your Granny are the distilled wisdom from that very large experiment.

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Grassfed Beef is Best

Practically everyone eats beef, except vegetarians :-). Most of us have very little idea of how that beef was raised. What I’ve found researching this post is that there is even more confusion than I expected. Keep clearly in mind though that cows are fed and brought to slaughter very differently now than they were in Grandma’s day. Since World War II cattle are generally grain finished, a very unhealthy diet for the cow. And that’s only part of the story.

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