Nourish Your Heart and Soul

Nowadays there’s a lot of talk about “real” food. What is “real” food? It’s food that has not been processed, refined, stripped, polished, fortified, enriched or otherwise modified. It’s basically fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts, seeds, grains, fish, eggs, dairy products, and meats, like poultry, beef, and game, and including all the wonderful variations of these things that our brains are capable of inventing. If it’s not food, then it’s manufactured calories. This post is for helping you figure out how to tell the difference. 

It’s not that you can’t eat any manufactured calories; it’s just that they don’t nourish you. I want you to be a well nourished soul who sometimes likes to be entertained by edible items that aren’t really food. But I don’t want you to take anyone else’s word about which is which, so here are the guidelines I teach my patients.

First, if it’s real food, then you probably don’t need to be told. As in “processed American cheese food.” Talk about truth in advertising. If you have to be told it’s food, it probably isn’t. 

Products with names that have nothing whatsoever to do with food are also food-like items. Miracle Whip comes to mind. Or Cool Whip. These food-like products contain a variety of substances that are anything but food. And they aren’t just in food-like products. A while back, I was stunned to discover a food-like substance in the ingredient list of a container of brand-name cottage cheese. The offending agent? Food starch. See above.

Why is there food starch in cottage cheese? It makes cottage cheese thicker, and thicker seems richer, which is especially important if the cottage cheese is made from low-fat milk. You can also find food starch in Cheerios, long touted as a healthy breakfast choice. It even has a reputation as an ideal snack choice for babies who are working on their hand-eye coordination. As you can tell, I am not a fan.

What’s my beef with Cheerios? Check the ingredient list. First is whole oats. [‘Whole,’ ‘hale,’‘heal,’ and ‘health’ come from the same root word.] So far, so good. Then comes — food starch. Uh-oh. Then modified food starch. What’s the difference between “modified food starch” and regular “food starch”? Though common sense tells you they are similar, food manufacturers actually differentiate between them. Plus, if they were not separate, there would be more food starch than whole oats, and food starch would have to be listed first, which would be bad for business. The fourth ingredient, incidentally, is sugar. 

Many words have been coopted to make processed, manufactured food-style products more appealing. Like “buttery,” “creamy,” “chocolatey.” When were butter, cream and chocolate replaced by flavor substitutes with similar but not identical names? It’s no accident that America’s favorite after-dinner pastime seems to be cruising the kitchen cabinets. That’s what happens when your body isn’t nourished by real food.

Real food hasn’t changed in at least a millennium or two, so ask yourself if your great-grandparents would have recognized a product as food. Peanut-butter crackers? No. But peanut butter? Yes, absolutely. Coffee whiteners and “liquid delights”? Never.

The list of “convenience foods” is long and scary. What does that term even mean? But cheese sticks, nuts, apples, sunflower seeds, snow peas, pumpkin seeds? Perfect. And dried fruit, the ultimate convenience food? Delicious, nutritious, and portable. Don’t worry about the sugar content unless you are diabetic. Fruit is not what’s driving the obesity epidemic in this country.

Should I Be Drinking Whole Milk?

After medical school, my friend Brian moved to Baltimore and became a pain management specialist. He wrote to ask my opinion about the newly re-constituted controversy about whole milk vs. skim milk. In Brian’s pain management practice, he has noticed that diabetic and pre-diabetic patients seem to struggle with more pain and arthritis than patients without these diagnoses.  

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Food for Kids

Today we’re talking about food for kids. Some years ago a friend from medical school, Julie Kardos, joined forces with another pediatrician, Naline Lai, to launch an award-winning blog for parents called “Two Peds in a Pod.” All three of us have serious concerns about the food-like products that are marketed to young ones. I had mentioned to them that when my adult patients used to show up with children in tow, I would often see the little ones’ rounded bellies shrink to normal size as their families began to purchase, prepare, and eat more nourishing food. When Dr. Julie heard that, she said “The adults you treat are the ones packing the lunches of the kids that I treat.” Right. Continue reading

Reply to Kirsten

Comment: I am reading that you eat potato salad in the morning. I was surprised…not much protein in that ? But my question is…in the Calgary Herald there was an article about breakfast, which mentioned you and oats. How do you prepare steel cut oats ? Soak overnight w how much apple cider vinegar ? And do you rinse it off in the morning or eat the vinegar? Thanks! Kirsten

Hi Kirsten

I’m not sure which potato salad you’re referring to because there are a few. Can you give me the posting date? Perhaps you’re referring to the Simplest Salad that I posted just a few weeks ago on April 30th? If so, the ingredients include a potato, cucumbers, tomatoes, sunflower seeds, olive oil, salt, and fresh herbs. Although it’s certainly not what I would characterize as a high-protein meal, it is a highly nourishing one, with tons of phytonutrients, fiber, vitamins and minerals, and nourishing fats of more than one kind, along with enough protein to get me through til lunch. So give that a try, and don’t measure its value by protein content alone.

With regard to the oatmeal, I was not aware that Calgary Herald had quoted me, but they left out an important bit of information. The recipe is 1/2 cup steel-cut oats, 1 cup water, and 1/4 tsp. vinegar (cider or white). Mix and leave on the counter at room temperature all night. No rinsing required. In the morning the oats will be cooked (by the acid), and a short heat-up in the microwave will be all that stands between you and breakfast. You will not taste the vinegar at all. Feel free to add raisins, milk, butter, honey, or anything else you would add to your oatmeal if you had cooked it on the stove for 30 minutes.

Thanks for reading YHIOYP.

YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Lemon-Sesame Kale Salad

A kale celebration for kale lovers everywhere (!). If you don’t happen to have any kale right now, you can still make this salad with any other greens growing in your garden or sitting in your fridge. Radicchio is a good addition, too. Do I post a lot of recipes for kale? Maybe. But I know hardly anyone who eats enough green, leafy vegetables. What’s the deal with green leaves? They’re basically a nutrition powerhouse, with loads of vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients, fiber, you name it. Exactly like taking a multivitamin. But without the constipation.

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YOUR HEALTHY PLATE: Thanksgiving Brownies Times Two!

It’s holiday season! And you’re probably trying to figure out how you’re going to get through them with more success than in years past… Here’s one way. Make these recipes, bring these recipes, serve these recipes. I’m not a fan of self-deprivation. Enjoy everything on the table, and know that these brownies are not only entertaining (like all good desserts), but also nourishing. I LOVE beautiful orange sweet potatoes, rich creamy tahini, thick delicious almond butter, and CHOCOLATE! I’m sure you will find something that you love, too, in the recipes below. Enjoy, and have a happy Thanksgiving! Continue reading

Fun is Fine, But it’s Not Food

There’s a big difference between nutrition and entertainment. Food is nourishing. It’s what we’re eating when we choose stuff that’s loaded with color and fiber, such as vegetables and beans, nuts, fruits, seeds, and whole grains. Fun, on the other hand, is nothing like food. Fun items (which we tend to call by interesting names like “junk food” or “fast food”) are made with products like white flour, white rice, corn syrup, corn starch, commodity oils (soy, corn, cottonseed) and, of course, sugar, which you find in practically everything that’s ultraprocessed. Continue reading

I Like Patients Vertical

If I can help it, I like patients vertical, not horizontal. I want to make sure that nobody gets a disease that could have been prevented. Sure, accidents happen. And illnesses show up every day in the lives of patients and their families who did nothing to deserve them, and who could have done nothing to prevent them. But not all illnesses. Continue reading

When My Friend Bob Turned His Health Around

A while ago, I ran into my old friend Bob, and I was delighted to see a much slimmer, trimmer, happier-looking guy than I had seen the previous time. He and I had had a conversation about six months earlier, and I had suggested increasing the protein in his breakfast, and switching out the soda for unsweetened iced tea. That’s all. We hadn’t talked since. Continue reading