What, really, is health food?

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oldcoot

Senior Cook
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Cut through all the hype, and the bias of those selling "health" foods, as well as those having been suckered in by those folk, and you wonder what is health food, really?

For many years my doctor, widely regarded as among the best of the best, insisted that, by eating a reasonably well balanced diet, supplements and vitamins were unnecesssary. (Excepting for those whose illness dictated them).

Last week, as I volunteered for a clinical study, a reknown doctor retierated the same point: well balanced diet, no supplements needed. And, of course, I've heard it quietlly stated many other times by people who should know.

Vegetarians insist on no animal products. But it is a proven fact that mammals - of which we are one type - require some animal proteins ( which differ from plant proteins) for optimal health.

Somebody, referring to a quite different situation, said "Variety is the spice of life". How true that is! If one eats as wide a variety of foods as are available, it is most llikelly he - or she - will receive all the necessary nutrients needed for good health.

"Organically" grown foodstuffs are fine - except that, in fact, there's no other kind! But I agree that hormone injections, etc., in food animals is probably not a great idea! Still, I've seen no documented evidence it has a deleterious effect on us. "Chemical" fertilizers actually simply are concentrated forms of the same chemicals that the plants obtain from the breakdown of organic matter in the soil: a slower and more iffy soource. Oh, recycling organic matter for use as a nutrient source for plants is the best way to go, certainly - but not the most economical. It's the best mostly because it keeps all that organic material from winding up in landfills where it accomplishes little that is beneficial.

A nice thing about the modern food distribution system is that we obtain foods from a wide variety of locations, tending to ensure that, while some may be deficient in needed minerals, etc., on average we get what our bodies need.

I strongly suspect our nutritional deficiencies have more to do with individual appetites and preferences than with a lack of nutrients in the available foodstuffs.
 

esther

Cook
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Aug 3, 2003
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melbourne, australia, currently in israel
well, i agree with you on a number of points.
about supplements. well, its also proven that many foods are not as rich in vitamins and minerals is they used to be, because of a depletion in soil quality. also, if someone is a bit intolerant to a certain food, which is more common that we think, they may need some extra boosts.
for example, i used to get coldsores. so i went on a muli vitamin and the zinc in it helped and i havnt gotten once since.
anyway, so when they say that variety is the spice of life, they dont really mean health. its more like, its just makes life exciting and interesting, you know?
when you are talking about health food, like, products that you buy, it usually means that its less processed. so many regular processed food contains chemicals, preservaties, sugar, bad oil and stuff. when you choose to eat organic and health food, you are lessening your chemical intake.
i think that when you eat healthy, balance is so important. but you also want the best quality food for your body. that means eating good, unrefined whole grains, lean proteins which are low in saturated fat, lots of fresh greens and vegetables, minimal amounts of processed foods, as little sugar as possible, only good oils, no chemicals (sweeteners, msg etc), no caffeine, alchohol and all that sort of thing.
if i was living at home now, i would make everything. im fine with doing it all my self. i know what im putting into my body. it makes much more sense, but its so hard to find the time.
instead of cereal, its so easy to make your own granola/muesli, just by take rolled oats, some different nuts and seeds, some honey and toasting it and then adding some dried fruit. instead of processed breads, used whole grains; buckwheat, brown rice etc. i really love it that way. it feels good to eat good wholesome food especially when you make it yourself.
oh, and about vegans. soy really is an excellent source of protein. its actually the only legume which is a complete protein and is a great substitute for animal products.
also, its so versatile, soy beans, tofu, tempeh, soy milk, soy flour... there is so much to do with it.
 

oldcoot

Senior Cook
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WHAT? No caddeine or alcohol? Bite your tongue, Esther! It is all very well to devoour healthful stuff like granola, etc., but let's remember there's more to life than simple good health: it's called enjoying life!

My coffee and wine-tequila-bourbon-beer are essential to my enjoyment of life. Not to excess, mind you! And studies have indicated caffeine is, if anything, beneficial. So with alcohol in moderation.

Same goes for refined sugar and salt. Sugar (sucrose) is easily metabolized to blood sugar (glucose), the energy source for our cells. Any excess is stored as fat. And all salt, hving accumulated in lakes and seas, is "sea salt". Both sugar and salt are refined by washing with water to remove impurities. If you don't like "refined" sugar and salt, then use the unrefined stuff (raw sugar and sea salt) contain God-only-knows what imppurities and junk.

And dietary animal fat has been found essential to normal brain function
 

esther

Cook
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melbourne, australia, currently in israel
okay, okay, i admit it, im a bit extreme. im sure little bits of those things wont do you much harm, but they dont do too much good either. true, sea salt is good, we get lots of minerals from it. and i know that if i dont have a lot of salt, then i get low blood pressure.
im not a big coffee drinker, so its not hard for me not to have any caffeine, but caffeine isnt good for you. apparently its especially bad for women. seriously, look it up. there have been some finding which prove some of its benefits, but they are far outweighed by its negative aspect.
alchohol too- drink what you want, i would never tell anybody what to do, but apparently that should be avoided too. out bodies really dont need that much sugar. and what we need, we get from fruit and vegetables and milk (fructose, lacatose etc)
any, i dont dissaprove of what other ppl do. and i agree on enjoying life, its okay to indulge everynow and then. but we should kid ourselves, we are better off without. dont you think?
youd be suprised how much you can enjoy life by substituting natural and healthful products for other not such good stuff. you can do a alot with it. i was at someones place, and they had pankakes and chocolate syrup for breakfast, except that it was all make from spelt, soy milk, carob powder, almond butter, tahini and honey... amazing. i swear, youd never know the difference.
take care
 

kitchenelf

Chef Extraordinaire
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Ok, ok, you convinced me esther - no alcohol here, more fruits but I want my grapes fermented!!!!! :? :roll:
 

'Norma

Assistant Cook
Joined
Mar 16, 2003
Messages
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I agree with you oldcoot!
Fermented hops, grains, and grapes, taken in moderation, can be beneficial to your health! :)
And if God had meant me to eat soy, he would have made it taste good!
 

'Norma

Assistant Cook
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Mar 16, 2003
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:D
Fear of the unknown is something I've NEVER been accused of! LOL!
Actually, SOY SAUCE is one of my favorite condiments/spices/marinades.
And soy can be used in SO many ways....that are good. BUT, soy itself, while nutrious, is :
bland, boring and tasteless. Hummmm, reminds me of an ex-husband!
 

oldcoot

Senior Cook
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Hmmmm, indeed, Norma: are you saying the person who married you had no taste???? :D

As for soy sauce, it goes well in oriental dishes, but beyond that I want no part of it. Otherwise, soy is, as you imply, something God didn't want us to eat. Like parsnips!

Our dear young friend, Esther, obviously is working with immature taste buds.:)
 

kitchenelf

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Mmmmmm.......... I would have to say that my tastebuds are QUITE mature! LOL I love parsnips, turnips, soy sauce, tofu cooked properly which I have now had at a great vegetarian restaurant - tofu is nothing more than the much needed protein in a vegetarian diet and the carrier of whatever flavors you are cooking with. I absolutely love soy sauce, lime, garlic chili sauce and cilantro together as many Vietnamese dishes have in their ingredients.

While esther is but a babe in the woods I find her to be extremely open to everthing culinary and quite refreshing from her piers who think bigmacfrenchfriesandacoke is truly one word. :shock:

oldcoot - you can only pick on carnivore ;)
 

oldcoot

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Me? Pick on anyone? Surely not!! :)

I totally agree, 'Elf, that Esther is a delightful young lady - albeit, like you, evidently, somewhat misguied in terms of taste.(Parsnips? YUCK! - all the other stuff is fine. Oh, and Vietnamese is oriental, you know.)

Like somebody said (was it Carnivore?), varying tastes and flavors is what makes life interesting. I'll try anything at least once (That has included snake, bees, ants, and grasshopper among many other things), but there are some things I won't try much more than that. TOFU is among those! Lke Carnivore, I'll get my protein from animal sources. I'd a lot rather have a steer process all that soy and stuff for me, thereby improving it tremndously!
 

esther

Cook
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melbourne, australia, currently in israel
okay, to norma and oldcoot: DONT PATRONISE ME!!! haha
and to kitchenelf: thanks for the support. anyway, what a cute convo.
well, so i feel the need to defend soy. im not quite sure. ppl even call it manna because of its versatility. you can make veggie burgers and ice cream, dips, snacks, pies.. whatever.
at home when we do a stir fry night we always do tofu aswell (i have a vegetarian sister). we just marinate it in heaps of tamari (healthier soy sauce) and garlic and then do it in the wok. but i like it better at my favourite health restaurant. i think they cook it in a veggie stock and then put it in the oven, with lots of liquid, on low heat for a while, so it gets really well done. at school here they are always giving us soy stuff. patties, stir fries, the whole bit.
oh, and a word in support of parsnips. they are AWESOME.
when grandma does her monthy VAT of chicken soup, she strains it and drops of all the chicken and veggies at our place. the parsnips are the best bit. i used to slice them really really thin and cook them dry in the microwave , and have parsnip chips. they were unreal.
i dont beleive that any natural ingredient is terrible. i mean, you like it or you dont, but theres always someone who likes it. it might be strange to you or not common, but thats no reason to be mean to it, okay?
we have to respect everyone and everything in this world, bc its all got a purpose. but arguing is still fun, right, oldcoot? ;)
y'all have an awesome weekend.
im baking bread tomorrow! i just came back from the bakery where i purchased whole wheat flour. at two in the morning! this place is crazy.
oh, i found spelt in the end, but it was way pricey.
 

'Norma

Assistant Cook
Joined
Mar 16, 2003
Messages
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;)
Yes, esther.......either you like something, or you don't.....( soy is also the ingredient in commercial ice cream that gives it that wonderfully smooth, creamy texture )
Hey, I actually LIKE oatmeal!!! Somebody's got to!
 

Chief Longwind Of The North

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I've got to wade into this topic. I am a diabetic and do require medications to help control my blood sugar.

On the refined sugar topic, much has been revealed through numerous studies about refined sugar's effect on health. All foods are broken down into mainly blood sugar (glucose). This molecule is used by the body as fuel. Without it , we can't function and will die. But, excess glucose destroys the cappilaries that feed our nerve endings, our organs, and muscles. It weakens those vessels and can lead to heart problems, stroke, loss of feeling to extremities, blindness, kidney failure, and poor ability to mend oneself after injury (no blood to the area due to destroyed capillaries). Loss of limbs due to infection is common among diabetics.

Starches, like refined sugars, are converted rapidly to glucose and will elevate glucose levels to dangerous amounts.

Excess glucose triggers the body to produce large amounts of the powerful hormone, insulin. Insulin causes muscle cells to absorb the sugar into them for use as a fuel (good thing). But the downside is that the cells can only take in so much. The excess is converted to triglycerides and stored as body-fat. Not all of the glucose is used up and the remaining mollecules just float around creating dammage to the circulatory system, and that causes all of the failures associated with diabetes.

To control diabetes, and lessen its effects, a ballanced meal with a great variety of foods is required. The more variety, the better. Also, foods rich in refined or added sugar, and/or starch are avoided. Foods that contain high degrees of fiber, both soluable, and roughage should be consumed to lower the rate at which sugars enter the blood stream.

The same diet that's healthy for diabetics has been shown to be good for everyone. Indeed, if that diet had been practiced from birth, and coupled with reasonable exercise, most type-2 diabetics would never have been diagnosed as such.

Diabetes is one of the fastest growing health problems on the planet. It's cause is more related to poor diet than to genetics, though that certainly plays a part.

A good example of a healthy verses unhealty choice:

Potato, somewhat bland, or savory. Contains very high amount of starches, and some sugar. Good vitamin and mineral content, very little fiber. Result on body, some nutrients are given to the body, but mostly starch and sugars. Body is fed too much sugar too fast. Blood sugar level skyrockets. Tryglycerides also skyrockets. Fat is made and stored. Blood vesels are damaged. Pancreas is hard-pressed to create insulin and may lose some of that ability in the future.

Sweet poato - sweet flavor, high in fiber and nutrients. Color is pleasing. Flavor ballances savory dishes. Effect on body, gives good nutrients, minerals, fiber, and flavor. Fiber content helps regulate proper intestinal function, especially colon function, and regulates the rate that its sugars enter the bloodstream. Blood sugar remains fairly stable. Body is fed properly.

I now use whole grains exclusively for breads, pastas, and pastries. I use good veggies and meats. My blood-sugar is in control, without insulin shots. However, as I still have problems eating too fast, I tend to eat larger portions than required and have problems with high tri-glycerides. But I'll overcome that one as well.

Talk to a good nutritionist. They'll help elliminate the confusion.

Seeeeeya; Goodweed of the North
 

subfuscpersona

Sous Chef
Joined
Aug 31, 2004
Messages
561
it is a proven fact that mammals - of which we are one type - require some animal proteins ( which differ from plant proteins) for optimal health.

sorry, but the "proven fact" is simply that humans require protein where the configuration of the 8 essential amino acids making up the protein matches the pattern required by the human body. In a vegetarian diet, this is met primarily by combining different plant foods in the same meal, the most common combination being grain + legumes.

Soy beans are an exception to the general rule that legumes contain incomplete protein. Soy products such as tofu and tempeh have (humanly useable) protein values equivalent to poultry and very close to beef.

Many regions (India, China, Japan, Indonesia, etc) have literally millenia of experience in the creation of highly varied, extremely tasteful vegetarian cuisines.

I'm not a strict vegetarian and I have no moral/religious objection to eating meat/poultry/fish. I drink coffee and tea, enjoy a glass of wine and happily grill a good steak if I feel the urge. I do eat a primarily vegetarian diet but simply because I find it more convenient.

Apologies for the diatribe but with such a wealth of challenging vegetarian cuisines to explore, all of which are increasingly accessible to American cooks, there is no reason a vegetarian diet should be unsophisticated - much less dull.
 

Chief Longwind Of The North

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Please read my post under :Beef; What's your favorite steak. It contains info I recently learned about beef and the health problems it can cause (all you Atkins and low/no carb people take note) :D And the ifo come straight from a major university study and is based on sound science and food chemistry.

Seeeeeya; Goodweed of the North
 

luvs

Master Chef
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Aug 24, 2004
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da 'burgh
okay, i'm kinda gonna join this conversation without reading through the previous responses because i am very sleepy. but i say balance is the way to go. take it from me; i am very skinny. you need to have a little of this, a little of that... basically have exactly what the stomach is growling for, but in moderation. moderation is key, like they say. i really say any food is all right to ingest; i know there are so-called 'health foods', but i'll bet most people who try to go solely on those end up on the couch with a bag of potato chips in the end slurping on a bottle of pop.
reality is key in healthy eating. deprivation is not.
 

bmw

Assistant Cook
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Oct 12, 2004
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Location
Idaho
Long term health enjoyment instead of instant gratification

It seems to me that by sacrificing some of the garbage we eat we'll be better off in the long run.
Sure God made Soy bland but I think he'd be more worried about our overall health rather then if we enjoy a few instant pleasures.

I speak from the perspective of a parent. My son has a liver condition that allows junk food to have adverse effects on him overnight rather then over months and years. Since we've discovered the ailment while he's still young he hasn't developed too much of a craving for the sweet stuff and enjoys oatmeal and other plain foods.

It seems that the more crave inducing the food the worst it is for you such as alcohol, caffeine, white sugar.

Just my point of view.
 
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