The Road Less Traveled

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Author: Sandy Sue

This was originally posted in June of 2011, four months before my dad died.  Not surprisingly, the prayer I offered for him at the end of this piece was never answered.

I see a lot of myself in Dad.  He’s always been a Glass Half Empty kind of guy, his thoughts and opinions naturally traveling down the darkest highway.  A card-carrying pessimist, his words of wisdom to us kids always carried a bit of the crypt.  If we complained about doing our chores, he would say, “There are a lot of things in this world you have to do whether you want to or not” or “Get used to it, life is hard.”  Since the time I was in high school, I’ve listened to him bemoan every change in his aging body, never at peace with the natural adjustments any adult male has to make, never able to reconcile himself to the thirty-five year old he thinks he still should be.

I understand this fantasy thinking.  I understand the draw of the past and refusing to live in the present.  I’ve traveled his dark highway and know all the shortcuts.  I’ve watched my dad sit at the Table of Life and accept only scraps, convinced that’s all that’s being served.  He prides himself on being fun-loving, but his jokes and teasing carry a sharp edge that has more to do with defense than humor.  My dad was never a teacher, never had the patience to explain, but I learned his road map well.

When I’m with my dad, I try to poke holes in his perception, counter the negativity with perspective, try to do for him what I must do for myself.  But after a lifetime of indulging his world-view without question, his defenses are solid.  At times I see him struggle to consider the possibility of an alternate route.  If I hammer hard enough, he pauses in his argument to say, “Is that so?”  But, it’s exhausting work, and I can’t keep it up.  And I can’t make him willing.

The desire to turn off the dark highway  comes from within.  It comes from noticing flickers of light on the side of the road, glimpses of intriguing pathways and crossroads.  It comes from taking a risk and swerving off the black pavement for once.  Then, doing it again.  And it takes willingness to ask for directions from people who keep different kinds of maps in their glove compartments.

Father’s Day is tomorrow.  My gift for Dad is a simple prayer—to get the chance to take a side road.  I pray he finds the strength to stand on a bright lane with grass waving green and high on either side, a glass half full in his hand.


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Barrell Whiskey: It is VERY intriguing!

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Author: wbobrow

I’m intrigued by high end, brown liquors.  One of the very most intriguing that I’ve tasted in recent memory is the Barrell Whiskey, Batch One.  
This may well be one of the best whiskies I’ve ever sipped. 
What this whiskey says to me is out of the ordinary, not like the others that clog the shelves in this price range. 

The Barrell Whiskey, #1 speaks through a carefully orchestrated series of tastes, some spicy, some hot, some sweet and of course- sophisticated. 
Taking used Bourbon barrels and adding a melange of flavors like rye, corn and malted barley – letting them rest for a period of time, then marrying them into something more akin to a well crafted bowl of soup takes experience.
Barrell Whiskey has solved this equation.  They are unique in the whiskey world because they make something that doesn’t taste like the typical.  It does not try to imitate, nor postulate a known ending.
What Barrell Whiskey does to your palate is anyone’s guess, but I just get thirsty when thinking about it. 
I think about a Tongue Sandwich with Chopped Chicken Livers on Rye from my favorite Deli down in Newark, NJ… Hobby’s Deli. 

Last week I spent a bit of time in the far reaches of my memory.  There was whiskey involved, certainly not as fine as what sits in front of me.

I’m pretty sure that whatever it was that passed my lips, well- let’s just say that the quality level was nothing like pouring my own drink.  With my own bottle of Barrell Whiskey.

There are many misnomers in the world of brown sprits.  Some are good, some are ugly and some are way beyond the vividly imaginative.   That product made from ethyl alcohol with cinnamon flavoring comes to mind. 

That stuff is not what I want to be writing about.  So I won’t!

Barrell Whiskey is not included in this veritable stew of incompetence that says cheap.  Because Barrell Whiskey is not cheap, but what it is for your hard earned dollar is of great value.  

It may well be the best whiskey I’ve ever tasted. 

No, it is not bourbon- why?  It’s not aged in New American Oak.  They use once used oak that formerly held bourbon… that is for certain.  And it is not rye, why?  Because it is not 51% rye.  Nor is it 51% corn. So it cannot be called Straight Rye, nor Straight Bourbon.  It just doesn’t fit the rules. 

But I really don’t like to follow the rules.  They are certainly meant to be broken!

What this is- is something special.  And Barrell Whiskey begs the question.  Where may I get this exotic brown liquid?

Start here leafhopper  Drink up NY appears to have Barrell Whiskey.  And you really should tempt yourself with unctuous notes of brown butter and toasted honey coated nuts spun with sea salt, stone fruit gelee and wet stones. 

There is plenty of cornbread in each sip, along with the everpresent 122.5 heat. 

No, it is not meant to be cut with too much water, just a sprinkle will do please.  And if it is branchwater- well- all the better.

What is branchwater?  That stuff that bubbles up from the ground over there.  Protected spring if you will.  Or you can always buy it.  Old Limestone bottles what I consider to be the very best bottled water for whiskey.  It’s soft, silky across the tongue and darnnit, it’s authentic!

Are you interested in buying my three books?  It’s always appreciated!  http://www.qbookshop.com/authors/17884/Warren-Bobrow.html


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the month of pretty much not cooking… a few of my favorite meal hacks

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Author: The Full Plate Blog

Another fabulous school year wrapped up for the kids. 
The errands have been run. We’ve stocked up on books. 

I’ve been {humorously/pathetically} trying to re-learn my high school exchange student German in anticipation of a big family adventure. 
The kids are relishing a lack of schedule {and the house is pretty much a complete wreck as I try to settle into summer mode}. 

This month’s been hard, as I worked through excruciating physical therapy and navigated anti-inflammatory meds that made me bloat up, feel down and just want to nap. And so began the month-of-not-cooking… 

Who knows if this “month” will extend all summer. But we all need to eat, and I like to feed my family well– even if I don’t feel up to cooking– so here’s a peek into some of my mealtime hacks:
For lunches on the go, I’ve become a big fan of Green and Tonic‘s Summer Roll. My older son’s favorite is the Burrito Bowl. And I’ve been known to pick up two Soba Noodle Salads, pair them with a protein and call it dinner. 

I’ve been keeping at least two tubs of this Eat Well Embrace Life hummus on hand for easy, protein-packed snacks. Good stuff. Our local market, Walter Stewart’s, carries a bunch of different kinds and friends out West echoed their love for this stuff, so you should be able to snag a few tubs by you too.

Mrs. Green’s Market in New Canaan sells a variety of tamales {handy when you’ve got both vegetarian and meatatarian kids and want to make one family dinner}. I keep thinking “some day I’ll make a bunch of tamales and stock my freezer with them…”, but for now, these do the trick. Big hit around here. I recall also seeing tamales at Trader Joe’s, but am not sure if that’s a seasonal thing, or if they’ve become a permanent item? Anyone know?

For the few meals I have cooked this month, I’ve kept it super easy.

Rainy Day Roasted Asparagus

Asparagus
Olive Oil
Salt and Pepper
Lemon Zest
Parmesan

Preheat oven to 400. Snap tough ends off asparagus. Place asparagus spears on rimmed baking sheet, drizzle with olive oil and shake to coat. Sprinkle with salt and pepper. Roast for about 10 minutes, until spears start to turn golden brown at tips and are fork tender. Remove from oven and sprinkle asparagus with lemon zest and Parmesan while warm. Serve warm or room temp. 

Tomato Basil Mozzarella Stacks


Beefsteak Tomatoes, thickly sliced
Fresh Basil
Mozzarella
Salt and Pepper
Lemon Zest

Stack. Easy. 

And one time I forgot to say, “no” and found myself needing to bring a homemade app to a gathering. After kicking myself, I thought back on what’s simple and crowd pleasing for young and old alike. A riff on this one.  You can see I just mixed the pesto into the cheese mixture and topped each one with a half a cherry tomato this go round. Everyone loved them. 

So, from running into a bunch of you around town, I know I’m not the only one who’s given up cooking either in the short term or for the summer. Do you have any favorite meals you’ve been picking up or cobbling together? Come chilly weather, we can all gather in our kitchens again and stock those freezers with goodness. Until then, let’s hear your favorite mealtime hacks.

This post contains affiliate links. 

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My All-Time Favorite Strawberry Recipes

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Author: lrodrigues

Strawberry season is in full swing and I am making the most of it from baking my favorite treats, preparing preserves and eating them fresh from the basket.  It was hard to narrow down my favorite uses for these versatile sun kissed berries but I am pretty happy with the selection.  Have your tried any of these strawberry recipes? If so, what did you think? Let me know in the comment section below.
No Bake Strawberry Shortcake
Recipe from My Greek Kitchen

No bake strawberry shortcake is as easy as whipping cream – literally, that’s all the work you have to do for this recipe.  Whipped cream is mixed with vanilla pudding mix and layered with slices of store bought sponge cake and fresh strawberries.  It is simple, easy and delicious.

Strawberry and Goat Cheese Spinach Salad
Photo Credit: CCHARMON

Strawberries are wonderful in savory recipes as well as sweet.  Fresh strawberries, spinach and goat cheese come together beautifully in this simple salad.  I love the idea of incorporating strawberry jam in the dressing because it adds sweetness and intensifies that strawberry flavor.    If you want to turn this salad into a main course, a grilled piece of chicken would be lovely.  I think you will be impressed by how well these flavors marry together.

Roasted Strawberry Sundaes
Photo Credit: Cascadian Farm

Roasted strawberry sundaes are an easy way to spruce up your typical bowl of ice cream.  Fresh summer strawberries are roasted with balsamic vinegar and honey to create a dynamic and intensely flavored sauce.  The strawberry balsamic jam is drizzled over ice cream to provide a perfectly balanced dessert.  Feel free to add other ingredients like chocolate chips or toasted almonds.

Strawberry Cream Cheese Tart
Recipe from Beloved Green

Celebrate strawberry season the right way with a delicious strawberry cream cheese tart. A homemade buttery crust is filled with cream cheese, sugar, strawberry preserves, and fresh strawberries.  This recipe only requires a few ingredients so you really want to use the best strawberries you can find to really highlight that fruity flavor.  This strawberry and cream cheese tart is the perfect example of sensational seasonal baking.

Strawberry Bread
Photo Credit: Ginny

This irresistible strawberry bread will put a spring in your step in the mornings.  Sweet slices of strawberry and mixed in a standard quick bread that is flavored with cinnamon and chopped pecans.  Fresh or frozen strawberries would work in this recipe.  Spread each slice with a thick layer of cream cheese and strawberry preserves for a berry good breakfast.


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Melancholia

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Author: Sandy Sue

Aches to FeelOriginally one of the Four Humours in ancient medical practice, the word melancholia comes from the Greek for “black bile.”  Someone with a melancholic temperament presented as despondent, quiet, analytical and serious.

Whole eras could be melancholic (The Dark Ages).  Movements in music, literature and philosophy grew around it—Germany’s Strum und Drang, William Blake’s art and poetry, Edgar Allen Poe in general.

Later, melancholia became synonymous with major clinical depression, but went out of fashion as a medical term.

My personal experience of melancholia contains a wistful element—a hole that can’t be filled, an undefined longing.  There’s a nostalgic flavor to it, an almost remembering.  It’s that feeling of waking out of a dream right before an answer is given, before arriving at the destination, before the consummating kiss.  Something very important slips through my fingers, only I can’t remember what it was.  I miss someone terribly, but I don’t know who.

Across the wide spectrum of my bipolar mood swings, this is the place I can tolerate the best.  I’m not surprised that poets, painters, musicians and philosophers created from this saturnine state.  I experience it as deeply romantic and full of movement—Catherine in Wuthering Heights, crying out for Heathcliff on the moors.  For me, this mood easily attaches itself to story, character, fictional angst and all things heart-wrenching.  I can use this form of depression.  I can’t say that about most of my other states.

It still requires mindfulness.  Melancholia’s longing draws in sorrow and angst from outside of me, be it real or fictional.  I dare not watch The Road or Atonement.  And after I finish that intense reunion scene with my short story characters, I’d better go watch funny kitten videos on You Tube.

Having a hole that can’t be filled creates incredible vulnerability.  The longing to fill an aching, raw void leads to desperate acts.  So, while this humour visits me, I will feed it art and words of love and belonging.  If I’m very lucky, I might even start to remember that nothing is missing at all.


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Toxic headlines vs wholesome broccoli

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Author: Tim Crowe

A funny thing happened to me last week: a blog post I wrote went viral. Wait, I need to amend that. What I really meant was a blog headline I wrote went viral.

Last week was a big week on the interwebs for me. A little blog post I wrote titled Broccoli is bad for you, like, really toxic bad attained a life of its own. Over 10,000 shares on Facebook and 220,000 page reads later, I have learnt a lot about how people digest their nutrition and health information online.

Intended to be a satirical piece on how nutrition research can be corrupted to suit the agenda of someone building a case why a certain food is harmful for you, it seems many people didn’t make it past the headline. Consequence of this: many comments of disbelief, amazement, and even some of joy from the vegetably challenged.

This headline is true; this one isn’t

Headlines grab our attention. It is the first impression that sets the tone for what we expect to read onwards. A headline can affect what existing knowledge is activated in our mind. If headline content agrees with your world view, you are more likely to read on and absorb more information.

A headline claiming broccoli is toxic is incredibly jarring to read, as it goes against almost everything you think you know about what is healthy. Any wonder many people stopped reading there and irately hit up the comments box.

The headline was intentionally misleading only to illustrate a point. Yet picture if my intentions were nefarious? That I really wanted to prove that broccoli is bad. All as a clever way of creating controversy and driving traffic to my site to perhaps….sell you something. Perhaps something like this.

I Quit BroccoliCredit: Fiona Rossi-Mel

Bad news headlines connect with us. The average click-through rate on headlines with negative superlatives is over 50 percent higher than headlines written in the positive. Compare: ‘Why eating 5 different coloured vegetables a day is good for your health’ with ‘How your current diet is giving you cancer’. I rest my case.

So the wrap up message here is that it is a normal human trait with our distracted attention spans to be influenced by headlines. Many people will go no further than the headline, and more still will be lucky to make it through one screen of text.

My broccoli post was my first foray into well-intentioned ‘click bait’, and is likely not something I’ll be repeating any time soon. There is enough confusion about food and nutrition already. I’ll leave the deceptive marketing and biased agendas to those selling you books, 12-week lifestyle programs and affiliated products.

Consider the amount of nutrition and health messages you’re absorbing daily from the media and through your social media feeds. Some of it is good; a lot of it emerges from deep dark rabbit holes of woo. How do you know what to believe? Just read the last few paragraphs of my Toxic Broccoli post. The link even takes you straight to the relevant bits, and you can bypass the headline entirely.

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Our Town

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Author: Sandy Sue

One People

Today I watched a police officer escort a homeless family out of HyVee’s café.    They had been in the booth behind me, so quiet I never even knew they were there—a mother, a father, a little boy about six and a baby in a stroller.  I didn’t see them bother anyone or cause a disturbance.  They were just resting, watching the big screen TV.

The young officer wasn’t mean, but he wasn’t kind either.  He asked what they were doing.  He asked if they were staying at The House of Compassion (our homeless shelter), then he got them up and out the door.

I don’t blame him—he was doing his job, I guess.  But I’m furious at whoever made the call to the police in the first place.  The family looked poor, but clean.  They didn’t smell drunk or seem high on street drugs.  The breakfast rush was over, so taking up space for paying customers couldn’t have been the issue.  Maybe the sight of the sleeping mother was offensive.  Maybe the whole idea of homeless people in plain sight was offensive.

I’m sure it never occurred to the complainant to ask if the family needed help or breakfast.  Or to call their pastor instead of the police (because anyone who needed to call the police must own a strong sense of morality and, thus, have a pastor).  And I’m positive they didn’t understand that a homeless shelter is far from restful, especially for adults who must protect their children.  Leaving a shelter exhausted in the morning is the norm.  Poverty is exhausting.

When I left HyVee, I spotted them far down the road—the dad pushing the stroller, the mom lagging behind with the little boy.  Even at 9:30, the morning was hot and humid.  I wondered where they would find a welcoming place to rest.  I wondered if that was possible in this town.


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Life on Speed

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Author: Sandy Sue

CrackheadSay No to Drugs.  That’s been my mantra for the past five years.  After trying every psychotropic pharmacology had to offer, which either had no effect or made my bipolar symptoms worse, I chose to manage my illness drug-free.  I take a sleep-aide when insomnia pops up, because that can mess me up fast and hard, but that’s it.  I had to get over my dream of a Magic Pill.

A year or so ago, I also gave up the dream of losing weight.  I’d used every kind of diet and non-diet, mindfulness training and behavior modification, but compulsive eating always won in the end.  I felt it was time to shake hands with that old nemesis and accept it in the pantheon of players.  Better to accept all of me, I thought, than keep bullying the parts that didn’t behave well.

I’d never talked about my compulsive eating with the nurse practitioner at my psych clinic, but this spring I did.  It was part of my bi-annual check-in, a commentary on my relationship with myself.  But she had a different take on it.  Sarah said I was a poster child for Binge Eating Disorder, and that there was a drug that might help.

Was I leery?  Yes.  Skeptical? Of course.  One of the things I love about Sarah, though, is how conservative she is about medication.  She’s my loudest cheerleader, and our brief sessions usually consist of her grilling me on what new tools I’m using to manage drug-free.  I know to keep an open mind when Sarah makes a suggestion.  So, we talked about Vyvanse being a “clean” drug—it’s in your system or it’s not, no lingering effects, no weaning on or off it like the psychotropics.  Any side effects should present themselves right away.  We would start with the lowest dose and work our way up to find a level that would (ideally) curb the compulsion without throwing me into mania or insomnia.  I said, yes, let’s give it a try.

I tried not to have any expectations.  I turned down the volume on The Song of the Magic Pill.  I didn’t want to set myself up for another round of disappointment and failure.  Sarah encouraged me to focus on changes in the compulsive thinking and my feelings, not weight.  I created a chart for the back of my journal to keep track of those parameters.  I was ready.

Three weeks in and I’m cautiously, furtively whispering, It’s a miracle.

The first thing I noticed was the sensation of fullness.  I never felt full when I ate, not even after bingeing for hours at a time.  What allowed me to stop was a weird click in my head, like a timer that said I was done.  Feeling full was a totally alien concept, and I was astonished at the minuscule amount of food that produced the effect.

I also noticed when the Vyvanse wore off and the compulsion returned.  It was like fire ants scuttling over my brain, a swarm of nattering food-thought—What do I want? What do I need? Where? When? How much? What else?—that hadn’t been there a moment before.  It was fascinating.  And it helped me identify the compulsion more clearly.  I could see the difference between the frenzied drive and habit.

Habits are the things normal people deal with—popcorn at the movies, a snack with TV, a trip to Dairy Queen to celebrate.  I found that without the engine of compulsion pushing my habits, I could brush them aside.  I spent a couple of hours reading without eating.  I watched a movie without a snack.  Habit carries its own power, so I have to be intentional and mindful, but now mindfulness actually works.  I still overeat and make crappy choices otherwise.

With time and attention, habits can be changed.  This is my hope.  I went to Starbucks the other day and stopped before I ordered.  I thought my regular Venti latte might make my stomach uncomfortably full.  I was perfectly satisfied with the Grande I ordered instead.  I can’t adequately express how weird and wonderful that little triumph felt.  With nary a fire ant in sight.

I’m on an Adventure.


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Broccoli is bad for you, like, really toxic bad

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Author: Tim Crowe

An alternative title I had for this blog was: “Don’t believe everything you read on the Internet to do with nutrition”, but I wager this one was more effective in getting your attention.

If you have a small amount of scientific nous, it is super easy  to mount a case for any food or nutrient being harmful and toxic by selectively quoting scientific research. Grains, soy, gluten and even sugar are the current favs here.

The Internet proliferates with opinion pieces quick to vilify particular foods and nutrients as being ‘the cause’ of many of our health problems by over-cooking (see what I did there) one side of the research evidence. To show you how this is done, I present for you today a masterclass on this art form. I’ll also give you some practical tips on how to spot when it is being done.

So read on as I lift the lid on the toxic chemical soup that is broccoli, and explain why every mouthful you eat is pushing you ever faster to an early grave.

Toxic broccoli

You’ve been told since you were a child that eating broccoli is good for you. Sorry to break it to you, but your parents lied to you. Have you ever stopped and questioned on what basis this advice comes from? Broccoli certainly gets the health-halo for being a green vegetable, but when you start to dig a bit deeper, an alarming picture emerges.

DetoxToxic by Daniel Go. CC BY-NC 2.0

To start with, broccoli is a well-described goitrogen. Goitrogens are chemicals that suppress the function of the thyroid gland by interfering with iodine uptake, a key mineral needed to make thyroid hormone. This blocking of iodine uptake causes the thyroid gland to enlarge; a goitre is the end result.

Broccoli is loaded with goitrogens, particularly one group called thiocyanates. The consequence of eating these thiocyanates is the potential to develop the very serious condition of hypothyroidism. What is hypothyroidism? Well, do you or have you ever experienced any of these symptoms?

  • Fatigue and low energy levels
  • Unexplained weight gain
  • Depression
  • Slow heart rate
  • Intolerance to cold temperatures
  • Fatigued and aching muscles
  • Dry, coarse skin
  • Puffy face
  • Hair loss
  • Constipation
  • Problems with concentration

If you said yes to any of these, then you’re a candidate for being hypothyroid and I would be looking at broccoli as the prime candidate for causing this.

And it is not just goitrogens you need to be worrying about. Broccoli is loaded with formaldehyde, a natural by-product of oxidation and which is known to cause cancer in rats. Formaldehyde is used in the manufacturing of plastics, foam insulation, fungicides, mirrors, insecticides, petroleum, resins and industrial chemicals. No one in their right mind would eat any of these things so when you see this list, just add broccoli to it as well.

PesticidesPesticides by Dauvit Alexander. CC BY-NC-SA 2.0

But the biggest thing you need to know about is what I like to call the ‘dirty little secret’ of the organic food industry. Organic food is good for you right because it doesn’t contain any pesticides? Wrong. Broccoli is overloaded with natural pesticides as part of the plants natural defence system against harm. And what you’re not being told by Big Organic is that half of those pesticides when tested on laboratory animals have been shown to cause cancer.

Well at least organic broccoli doesn’t contain any human-made pesticides I hear you say? Sorry, but organic growers are able to use if they wish ‘natural’ pesticides and they are not required to tell you about it. Many of these natural pesticides are actually more toxic than synthetic pesticides. To make things even worse, there is no national monitoring system for these natural pesticides as is the case for the system in place for synthetic ones. Organic broccoli: you may as well be using Round-up for your salad dressing and get your toxic cancer-causing pesticide hit in one go rather than eat it.

And remember those thiocyanates I mentioned earlier? Well those too can cause bladder cancer in rats. We have graphic warning signs about cancer on cigarette packets, so why do health authorities continue to sit on their hands and take no action against broccoli?

Reality check

Okay, so back to our normal programming. Broccoli is awesome and is super healthy for you and I rate it (along with other cruciferous vegetables) as one of the best foods you could be eating. It contains a host of nutrients linked to reducing cancer risk. On top of that, it is high in fibre, low in kilojoules and is packed with lots of nutrients such as vitamins C and K, and is a good source of vitamin A, folate and potassium.

So what about all those alarming health concerns I wrote about? Ignore them. Most of them are theoretical as lack any context of dose. Just about anything will cause cancer in rats if you give it in high enough doses. If you had low iodine levels and were at risk of hypothyroidism though, you would be wise not to be eating several kilograms of raw broccoli per day though.

Organic broccoli is good for you. Conventional broccoli is good for you. There are a million other things you could worry about to do with your health than tiny doses of natural or synthetic pesticides. Even though there are some hypothetical risks from eating to much broccoli, they are more than outweighed by the health benefits. That is what matters here: the overall balance for what it means to your health.

By selectively quoting research, you can build a case for or against any food if that was your agenda. Throw in some emotive language, and you’ve got yourself a winner for getting the public’s attention. You can then make quite a bit of money out of doing this too from book sales and building up a large social media following.

Take soy for example. You’ll find opinion on the Internet vilifying it for its endocrine disrupting ability. Yet the research to support these claims are overplayed compared to the many health benefits linked to its consumption. In some cases, too much soy could be a problem such as for women with estrogen receptor positive breast cancer undergoing active cancer treatment. But eating it as part of a varied diet is a health win. Just like broccoli. And grains. And fruit. And dairy. And legumes. And…you get the picture.

Let’s hate on nutritionists

Cars were once designed to be big and heavy like a tank to stand the impact in the event of a crash. We now know that the safest way to design a car is to make it able to crumple to better absorb an accident impact. Yet nowhere are there loud social media voices calling out the credibility of car designers because they ‘got it wrong’ some decades ago. Would you really want the safety design of your car left to Google University experts?

Same in medicine. Medical treatments are always advancing as new research emerges. Yet we don’t trash the whole profession because some decades ago treatment of stomach ulcers was done by diet and stress management when it was a bacterium that was the culprit and antibiotics are the effective cure here.

Facebook ExpertFacebook Expert by mkhmarketing. CC BY 2.0

Yet here we have it in the field of nutrition that credible nutritionists and dietitians are routinely lambasted. All because some aspect of dietary advice given in the past is different to today. And worse still current advice is not instantly changed the minute a new publication on the benefit of Fad Diet X comes out.

The voices of experts are just as credible and just as valid to listen to today, and they get it right far more than they get it wrong. Expertise is not the ability of someone to repeat blog opinions and quote a few sentences from scientific papers that agree with their point of view. Expertise is also not proportional to the number of a person’s Facebook, Twitter or Instagram followers.

Learning from the people who have nailed it

So how does a person know if what they’re hearing or reading is going to be credible information rather than a biased con job like the one I pulled about broccoli? Well, you could undertake a PhD in nutrition and learn how to do it like the pros (not to be recommended) or you could take the easy option and just see if passes the following 3-point test.

  1. Is the advice you’re reading also repeated consistently by the voices of credible nutrition professionals, researchers and peak health bodies? If yes, go to 2.
  2. Is the end result of following this advice pointing you in the direction of eating more plant-based foods and less highly processed foods and sugar without banning any foods or food groups or labelling certain foods as toxic? If yes, go to 3.
  3. Eat foods that you like eating and you know that agree with you and that fit within the themes of the advice.

Old Sardinian ManOld Sardinian Man by Jean Bajean CC BY-SA 2.0

If advice passes this basic test, then you’re on the path to following in the steps of the dietary patterns of some of the healthiest and longest-lived people on the plant. They eat a mostly plant-based diet, and incorporate daily, natural physical activity into their lives. They also do not overeat and learn to stop eating before they feel full.

Long-lived people don’t avoid dairy foods, or soy or gluten. They don’t calculate the glycaemic index of their meals. They don’t ruminate on if the grains they are eating are stopping the absorption of other nutrients. They don’t take supplements. They eat. They move. They enjoy. They socially engage with their community in person. They live.

Yet even between the different long-lived communities, there is diversity in the foods they eat showing there is no one single ‘right’ way to eat, only flexible guidelines. Choosing mostly seasonal fruits and vegetables, and a variety of beans, nuts, seeds and grains is the cornerstone of their dietary pattern.

Get the basics right and you can hit the snooze button on needing to ever again pay attention to anything you ever read or hear in the media or from populist nutrition gurus again. And you also get to enjoy eating broccoli too.


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Of Tribes and Farty Pants

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Author: Sandy Sue

Gathering at Barb's

This weekend I got to spend time with some of my Tribe.  These are folks who have travelled The Seeker’s path with me, going to workshops and intensives to learn how to be more conscious and mindful.  The four of us who get together in Des Moines for meditation are part of this larger community, called Foundation, as are people all over the country.

It was hard for me at first.  It always is when we come together.  I’m so used to being solitary, that more than two or three people can be overwhelming.  But I can say that to this group, and they hear me.  I’m safe with them.

I have history with these particular people, who knew me before electroshock.  Some of them hold parts of me I’ve forgotten.  Their memories of me are such a gift—like filling in holes with beautiful light.  Their prompts help me remember the person I was and, in many ways, still am.

Part of our tradition is to share meals together.  Food flows non-stop.  Many of us are trying special diets—vegetarian, vegan, Paleo, gluten-free, diets for blood type or a particular illness—so we’re not easy to please.  But we always have glorious, delicious meals.  It always works.

When we get together, we meditate and we talk.  Everyone is engaged, whether we study quantum physics, yoga or sacred dance; whether our lives are settled or are in chaos; whether we lead with our intellect or our heart.  Friction happens, which creates the best opportunities for mindfulness.  We get to watch how we react to each other and follow those reactions to the source—expectation, judgment, pattern.  Then, we discuss all that, too, if we want.

Often, our work together allows personal issues to surface—fears, anxieties, grief.  In the safety of the group, we can be vulnerable.  We can feel what we feel and be held by the group with compassion and genuine love.

And genuine laughter.  I never laugh so hard or as long as when I’m with these folks. Especially when Sandra whips out the Fart App on her phone.

Sandra's Fart Ap

Sandra and her Farty Pants app (I’m the one keeling over).

We gain so much from each other—not just the book lists we tend to generate, or the theories we throw around, or the practices we share.  We connect and are enriched by the connection.  We know each other on a deep level even if we don’t know each other well personally.  We really are We.

I drove back and forth from my home in Marshalltown to Des Moines each day, which takes about an hour.  While all my friends in Des Moines offered to keep me overnight, I wanted to drive.  I knew I’d need time alone to rest after being with a big group, and I wanted to be as functional as possible.  Driving home from Barb’s for the last time on Sunday, I felt in my bones that while I may be an introvert and solitary, I’m never alone.


All of these texts are owned by its respective writers and are published here under a Creative Commons License.