Wednesday, August 23, 2017

To Turmeric or Not To Turmeric

Turmeric, a tasty spice often encountered in Thai and Indian foods, has achieved an almost legendary status as a superfood with impressive nutritional and health benefits. It is widely touted as a powerful anti-inflammatory and beneficial to people with arthritis, heart and circulatory problems. Like its botanical cousin, ginger, it us reputed to be helpful with gastrointestinal disorders. These days the spice is added to all sorts of foods, and people are paying out big money for organic and "enhanced" versions.

Is there any scientific backing for these benefit claims? According to Prevention Magazine some, but not much.

Curcumin is the active ingredient in turmeric responsible for most of its claimed health benefits. It is both an anti-inflammatory agent and an anti-coagulant. With inflammation being at the root of so many of the health issues we face here in the USA, one might think that curcumin has potential. It does.

But according to Mary Beth Sodus, a nutritionist at the University of Maryland Medical Center, turmeric contains only about 3% curcumin. This means that unless you have a cast iron stomach you would never be able to consume enough turmeric to get a therapeutic dose of curcumin.

This is often how marketing works in the food and nutrition industries. Add trace amounts of a beneficial substance and then tout the health benefits of your product. With turmeric, the trace amounts are already added, so claim away!

If you enjoy turmeric by all means use it. But don't expect much in the way of health benefits.

Thursday, June 22, 2017

Well, this is embarassing.....

I'll just come right out and say it. I'm going to share a recipe. Its a first for me, and I doubt it will become a habit as this is not a cooking blog. But I thought this one was just SO good that I'd share it.

There are a lot of benefits to cutting back on our consumption of meat. Red meat in particular, but all meat. Benefits to our health and benefits to the environment. But the problem is, its hard to find meatless meals that actually taste good, fill you up and are as enjoyable as they are good for you.

So here is one to get you started. Its sort of like small, individual lasagnas.



1 medium eggplant per 2 servings
3/4 cup whole wheat flour
2 eggs, lightly beaten
2 cups whole wheat bread crumbs
1 jar of your preferred spaghetti sauce
Shredded mozarella and parmesan cheeses
Garlic, basil and black pepper
Olive oil


Heat the oven to 375deg.
Lightly coat a large sheet pan with olive oil
Place the flour, eggs and bread crumbs in 3 shallow bowls.
Cut the ends off the eggplant and remove the skin; cut into 12 slices.
Dredge each slice of eggplant in the flour, then the egg, then the bread crumbs.
Arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet and bake for 10 minutes.
Turn over the eggplant slices and bake for another 10 minutes.
In a medium casserole dish, coat the bottom with spaghetti sauce and place 4 slices of the baked eggplant in the dish.
Cover each slice with grated mozarella cheese and sauce.
Place another eggplant slice on top of each and cover with mozzarella cheese and sauce as before.
Place the last 4 eggplant slices on top, cover with sauce till it runs down the sides of the stack, and sprinkle with parmesan cheese.
Season to taste with garlic, basil and black pepper.
Bake for about 8 minutes and serve hot.

Eliminating the frying and using whole wheat flour and bread crumbs turns what is usually a fat and calorie bomb into a nutritious meal. Serve with whole wheat spaghetti and steamed asparagus or broccoli.

You won't miss the meat, I promise.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Osteoarthritis and Fiber

You are probably tired of hearing about the health benefits of dietary fiber and the many problems begat by American's chronic lack of it. But here is one more that I had not heard of before. Eating more fiber rich foods such as nuts, fruit, whole grains and vegetables may reduce chronic inflammation enough to reduce the risk of osteoarthritis of the knee and lessen the pain of those who already have the condition.

Researchers from the Boston University School of Medicine, followed over 5,000 osteoarthritis patients annually for 4 years with a follow-up after 9 years and concluded that "greater fiber intake was associated with a reduced risk for symptomatic osteoarthritis". The study results "support the current recommended daily fiber intake for older Americans,” according to Zhaoli Dai, the study's lead author.

How much fiber and what was the benefit?

Those who consumed an average of 26 grams of fiber daily had a 61% lower risk of knee osteoarthritis than those who consumed only 14 grams.

"Increasing dietary fiber is one of the most economical ways to reduce the pain of knee osteoarthritis," Dr. Dao told the New York Times. "And there are a lot of other benefits as well: reduced weight and cardiovascular risk, and reduced diabetes risk as well."

So maybe you are tired of hearing it. But average fiber consumption by Americans is about 16 grams. And by 2020, 6.5 million Americans between the ages of 35 and 65 are predicted to suffer from this painful knee condition. So maybe you ought to pay attention.

Tuesday, June 13, 2017

KFC Sets the Right Example

Yes, KFC. Kentucky Fried Chicken.

No, the largest fast food chicken restaurant chain in the world has not suddenly started selling food that is good for you. But, by the end of 2018 at least, they will be selling food that is better for you. And better for everyone.

The chain announced that it would stop serving meat from chickens that are raised using antibiotics that are "important in human medicine" by the end of next year. This means that they will serve only chickens that have never been given antibiotics that are used to treat infections in humans - such as amoxicillin, erthyromycin and tetracycline.

Antibiotics are often given to chickens - and other livestock - to compensate for the miserable, unhealthy, overcrowded conditions in which they are raised on so-called corporate farms. Such overuse contributes to the emergence of antibiotic resistant bacteria that the UN World Health Organization has called "potentially the most serious health problem facing humanity". In the US alone, about 23,000 deaths are attributable to antibiotic resistant bacteria each year.

Along with poultry giant Tyson Foods, which has pledged to eliminate all use of medically important antibiotics in 2017, KFC's announcement is an important step forward and hopefully will be an example to other companies. I'll never be a big fan of fast food, but let's give credit where credit is due. Good move, KFC!

Monday, June 12, 2017

Lies Are One Thing, Murder for Profit Is Another

Anyone who has been reading my posts is aware that I am, to make a huge understatement, not a fan of the pharmaceutical industry. This is even more true since they started blanketing television with deceptive ads aimed at consumers. But that was nothing compared to the murderous impact of their highly addictive opioid pain killers and the slick, dishonest marketing they use to push them, addicting hundreds of thousands of people and killing - murdering - tens of thousands of them.... annually.

In 2016 alone 60,000 Americans died of opioid overdoses. That is a 16% increase over 2015, twice the number who died as a result of gun violence and more Americans than were killed in the entire 15 tears of the Vietnam War. In Ohio, where deaths have soared 50% over last year, county morgues are renting refrigerator trucks to store the bodies that are piling up. Every year, we lose the equivalent of twenty 9/11s to opioid overdoses.

In the 1990s, the Food and Drug Administration rubber stamped the claims of drug makers that opioids were safe and rarely addictive. Purdue Pharma's marketers told doctors that the risk of addiction to OxyContin was "less than 1%". Today, 20 years later, 2 million Americans are addicted to prescription opioids and at least 1 million more have turned to heroin and fentanyl as cheaper alternatives.

Two decades into this legally created epidemic, lawsuits and - belatedly - the FDA are finally beginning to rein in the sale of prescription painkillers. But for the tens of thousands killed, their families and communities, it is already too late.

We, as individuals, need to resist the "drug culture" created by powerful business interests and get past the comforting but false belief in what Stephen Covey years ago called "the medical rescue fantasy". We can eat crap, not exercise, burn the candle at both ends for years if we like. But the expectation that it can all be undone with a pill is not only false, its dangerous - life threatening even. Because there are large, well-connected, powerful companies out there who are happy to sell you the pills. Even if it kills you.