Deathbread: A Post on Fun and Family Nostalgia

College student in nutrition discusses the importance of fun with food, and culture

First, let me just say Combichrist song titles make great blog titles, and great carbohydrate puns.

Second:  I am not a baker.  But that did not stop me from making and having fun while making bread.  I was going crazy with doing new things, like a 3-braided loaf, and then a 5-braided rope with cinnamon and sugar.  I think the fun-factor is a component many nutritionist and dietitians miss when discussing food.  Saying I like food is an understatement.  I mean, I am making an entire fucking career out of it.  I like eating new foods sometimes, especially new produce.  But I know not everyone enjoys food as much as I do.

There are many people unable to eat healthy from a mental point.  It could be the flavor of the foods, the stigma behind eating healthy (which does not really seem to exist in urban American West Coast places), or some other reason causing people to be unwilling to do new things with food.  Plus, things like prepackaged or fast foods are quick, cheep, and easy.  The Deadly Trifecta, I call them.

In behavioral psychology, there is Exchange Theory.  In shorter terms, the benefits from doing something must outweigh the costs.  For me, the outcome of having fun while making bread was worth more than the fear of failing to make it correctly, or the costs of materials and time.  For others, not so much.  I think one of the ever-expanding roles a dietitian should try to do is show people food can be fun when opposition arises.  Sometimes it takes a bit of imagination to turn cooking and/or eating healthy something to dread to something to look forward to.

Another thing a lot of dietitians need to be aware of is the culture of the people you deal with.  Foods that are acceptable and palatable in one environment might not even be feasible in another.  An example we had in class was with an Asian woman and a dietitian.  She was seeing the dietitian after being diagnosed with diabetes.  Her meal was very rice heavy, and she had sodas with dinner.  In the “bad” scenario, the dietitian was unrelenting with recommending brown rice instead of white rice, despite her resisting every step of the way.  She was not in charge of making food, only eating it.  He was not aware of her culture, and that caused her to be uncomfortable.

Now, when I made bread, I posted about it online for my friends and family to see.  I was getting notifications left and right from my relatives and friends.  It’s cool that my friends and family appreciate my love of food, but I was NOT expecting to have as wide of a response as I did.

At least with the older generation of people in my family, homemade bread is a big thing.  My grandma used to make homemade bread.  My mother even told me that she had fond memories of breaking into the fresh loaves of bread and eating the end slices with her mother-in-law and eating them with butter.

To wrap things up, I think that medical personnel need to understand that discussing health is not enough.  Sometimes one’s culture makes it difficult to change food behaviors, and sometimes it’s the patient’s own mentality that prevents the change.

What do you guys think?  Any cool food stories?  Any stories about the foods served in your family?  Feel free to comment them below.

The Great Divide: Why Medicine Can Be Confusing

A nutrition student gives some reasoning as to why medicine is confusing.

Imagine this scenario:  Your doctor hands you some papers that you need to read and sign through.  The words are small, so you need to squint to see them.  The page just seems filled with words.  Eventually you reach the bottom where your signature is required.  How many non-medial people think to themselves “what the fuck did I just read?”

Now imagine this other scenario: you talk to your doctor after some blood work.  They talk about several problems, perhaps something with “triglycerides” or “hypertension.”  Not wanting to look stupid, you nod in agreement, despite the fact you have no idea what was just said.

These are issues real enough in medicine, that I am taking a class on how to write a document to the lay-person.  Whose fault is it that there is this breakdown in communication?  Is it your fault that you don’t understand the doctor?  Or is it perhaps the doctor’s fault for not knowing their audience?

Personally, I think it’s the latter.  The class I am taking that teaches nutrition students how to write for a lay-audience discussed that the average reading level in America is 8th grade.  Meaning that there are several people like me who can read a research article, understand what is going on in the study, and then report it back as a summary or as a point of evidence.  There are also several people that struggle with reading materials that are considered “basic.”

How can communication between medical professionals and patients be improved?  For starters, I think documents have more whitespace (the spacing around paragraphs), bigger font sizes, and definitions next to some key words.   Whitespace and larger font sizes improves readability, while definitions help people understand.  If you are unfamiliar with “triglycerides,” on a document, the paperwork can instead say “triglycerides (fat found in blood).”

Doctors and other medical professionals can also use more casual language when talking about health issues.  Instead of telling the patient they have “hypertension,” the doctor could tell them they have “high blood pressure.”  Not everyone understands medical jargon.  Simplifying the language used can help patients understand the issue and how to correct it.

In case you were curious, this blog post has a reading level of 8.9, meaning that someone who is almost a 9th grader most likely can understand this piece.  Some of the reasons it’s higher is I had to use several complicated words to explain my point.  I also have longer sentences with more than one idea, which raises the reading level.

Also, if you feel I am picking on the lay-person, keep in mind I am the lay-person in several topics.  There have been times when friends and family have talked about something outside of the food and nutrition realm and I have been like “huh?”

Any other ideas you guys have for improving the readability of documents?  Any advice a non-medical person can give to a soon-to-be medical professional to make documents easier to read?

Stay Bullet: Why I Don’t Believe in Silver Bullet Miracle Foods

Why I don’t believe the media hype involving certain foods.

Recently, Time magazine posted an article about how the spice turmeric might not be a “miracle spice” after all.  A recent research article reported that there has not been a well-designed research trial done on the spice yet.  So, what gives?  Why is this even a big issue with food?  Can’t people just enjoy their food in peace without some asshole on the internet blogging about it?

To answer the lattermost question:  No, I blog about food, it’s what I do.  Secondly, the term “miracle food” or any derivative gets thrown out there like it’s no big deal.  Anything that might have some semblance of increasing metabolism or being incredibly rich in vitamins and minerals causes media to latch on and blow up its properties to hell.  Even Googling “miracle food” turns up results that things like chocolate are a miracle food.

The issue with proclaiming foods have mystical properties can have a variety of effects.  In the best situation, some foods can be found to be beneficial, in worst cases, it can have harmful effects.  For example, news media lists several health benefits of drinking beer.  A Huffington Post article lists some of these benefits as being high in some micronutrients, such as vitamin B, and healthier aging in women because it might play a role in improving blood circulation.

Now, I love me my local brews.  Being an Oregonian, I have access to several craft beers.  Not a hipster, though, as much as I can sound like one.  However, alcohol does have several downsides.  Alcohol can be addictive, which can lead to alcoholism.  Alcohol can also cause issues with the liver, which for those of you not familiar with human anatomy, the liver is a detoxifying organ.  Alcohol also inhibits a hormone in the body that helps regulate hydration, which means over consumption of this “healthy” beverage is detrimental.

I also hate the term “miracle food” or “silver bullet to combat _____.”  Might be because I am a hypercritical douche, but that’s beside the point.  To me, the terms imply that the food is a be-all-end-all to becoming healthy.  Imagine, a world in which all you need to do is eat turmeric (a spice in curry powder) and drink beer, and suddenly you become the pinnacle of human health!

What do you guys reading this think?  Am I off base here, or is “miracle food” an overused term that overemphasizes the benefits and downplays the negatives of certain foods?

The Name Game: Alternative Names for Sugar

Food labels can be complicated. Here is a reference guide to added sugars.

I had mentioned in a previous post (which can be found here) that added sugars have different names.   This week, I am going to give you a handy guide to finding the sneaky little bastards (as in, grams of sugar) in your food.

Added sugars generally are carbohydrates added to something that are not naturally there.  Foods like fruits, vegetables, and plain milk (as in not flavored milk, like chocolate or strawberry).  So something like unsweetened tea would most likely not have added sugar, but if the tea is sweetened with a nutritive sweetener (as in it provides Calories or energy the body can use) then it has added sugars.

UHDS has these listed as names recognized by the FDA for added sugar:

  • anhydrous dextrose
  • brown sugar
  • confectioner’s powdered sugar
  • corn syrup
  • corn syrup solids
  • dextrose
  • fructose
  • high-fructose corn syrup (HFCS)
  • honey
  • invert sugar
  • lactose
  • malt syrup
  • maltose
  • maple syrup
  • molasses
  • nectars (e.g., peach nectar, pear nectar)
  • pancake syrup
  • raw sugar
  • sucrose
  • sugar
  • white granulated sugar

Now, these are only the ones recognized by the FDA.  More names are appearing on food labels such as:

  • cane juice
  • evaporated corn sweetener
  • crystal dextrose
  • glucose
  • liquid fructose
  • sugar cane juice
  • fruit nectar

So why does all this matter?  Well, the FDA cites that diets higher in added sugars are often lower in nutrient dense foods, meaning the foods with a lot of added sugar have little nutrients.  Often, they are called “junk food” or “shit food.”  Diets lower in added sugar also appear to have less risk of developing cardiovascular disease.  On the new food label, as I wrote about prior, there is a new section dedicated to added sugar, because of this reason.

Have you found any other names for added sugar?  Please comment them below!

Resolution: How to Effectively Set Goals for the Next Year

A health major explains a method to better set goals.

Sometimes these puns come easy, such as talking about new year’s resolutions, and listening to “Resolution” by Emigrate.  Almost like it was meant to be.

Anyway, according to Statistics Brain, the top resolution for 2015 was weight loss oriented.  However, only 8% are successful in attaining the resolution, and 24% never succeed and fail their goals.  Why is this?  I think a lot of people simply do not know how to set goals.  “I resolve to lose weight, what is this Nutrition Punk talking about?  I just made a goal, this asshole does not know what he is talking about,” some might be thinking upon reading my statement.  But that is not an effective goal.  To set an effective one, you need to be SMART.  Fortunately for you, getting smart does not require several thousand dollars being spent on a degree.  SMART is simply an acronym for setting an effective goal.

Specific: This essentially means that your goal has direction.  “Eating healthy” is not specific, since there is no real direction set.  How do you plan on eating healthy?  If you can ask that question, then the answer is the specific part.  “Losing weight” is more specific, since it does have direction to it.

Measurable:  This is how you track progress.  For the goal of “losing weight,” this is easy to measure by using a bathroom scale.  “Eating healthy” can be modified to “Increasing produce consumption,” which is measurable by a number of cups consumed.

Action-Oriented:  This is how your goal “moves.”  The question to ask here is “am I doing anything to make a change?”  If the goal is to lose weight, then how are you?  This can be increasing exercise by going to the gym, or reducing Calories consumed.  This is the part of the goal that should require a change in some way.

Realistic:  Goals should actually be attainable, and not some “pipe dream.”  Continuing with the weight loss theme, the goal should be done in a healthy manner, so the goal of losing “10 pounds a day” is not realistic, since that requires a great deal of metabolic changes that would result in negative health effects.

Time-Oriented:  Good goals have an “end point.”  This gives a chance to evaluate and make changes as needed.  That way, if something is not working, you can change it to make it work.  Usually smaller goals set leading to a larger goal is ideal.

So, why don’t I make an example resolution following the SMART method.  Were I to attempt to lose weight (despite the fact I am fucking skinny), my goal look like this: “I resolve to lose two pounds a week by reducing the amount of junk food I eat until the end of February, then I will evaluate to see if I met my goal.”  It is specific because I have direction for losing weight, measurable because I can use a scale to see my weight change, action-oriented because I am purposely changing my diet to be healthier, realistic because this is a satisfactory amount of weight to lose in a healthy way, and has an end-point to see the effectiveness of the goal setting.

Hopefully this helps out some of you!  Feel free to share what your resolutions in the comments if you feel like it!

Pour Some Mustard on Me: How Condiments Can Affect Your Health

Special thanks to my sister for suggesting this post!

Maybe now that the term is done, I can finally get back to making blog posts, instead of working on research papers, or studying for and taking finals…

Many people add condiments to their food to make it taste better.  Some common examples of this are ketchup and fries, mustard and hot dogs, or ranch dip and vegetables (oh look, a healthier example!).  So, let’s assume that nobody reading this knows what condiments are.  A condiment, as defined by Merriam-Webster dictionary, is something added to food to make it have more flavor.  Examples they gave include ketchup, mustard, and salt.  Now we all know what condiments are, how do they impact our health?

For starters, you might not be aware of what is IN your condiment of choice.  Foods like ketchup might have high fructose corn syrup.  Now, the jury is out on whether it is more or less harmful for you than normal table sugar, but regardless, this brand has added sugar to their recipe.  Mayonnaise is high in Calories due to the fact it has a lot of fat.  Some of these fats are from saturated fat, which is debated as to whether it is of concern or not.  Shoyu (soy and wheat) sauce is pretty popular where I am from when you get something like sushi.  However, shoyu is high in sodium, as in one tablespoon has approximately 36% of your daily allotment of sodium!

So, what can be done to help counteract some of these negative impacts that common condiments have?  One can be to use less.  Reducing the amount used is obviously a way to reduce the amount of the potentially harmful compounds.  Another way is to find different products available on the market.  For example, there is reduced sodium soy sauce available.  While it is still high in sodium per tablespoon, there is less.  Other ketchups might not have high fructose corn syrup, if that is something of concern.  Be sure to read the ingredients panel.  Using plain yogurt might also be a good substitute for mayonnaise, since it has reduced fat, and any sugars in it would be natural (again, read the label for any alternative sugar names).

So what do you guys think?  Any extra advice for improving condiments?  Anything I missed?  Feel free to comment!

Happy Thanksgiving!

College student explains the Thanksgiving sleepiness.

Here’s wishing my  readers that celebrate it a happy thanksgiving.  I know I for one am thankful for the break; these past few weeks have been punching my dick into oblivion with all the classwork.  For everyone else readers, well, happy Thursday to you.

One thing people believe about their upcoming meal of turkey and all the other foods out there is that the turkey meat knocks you into a coma.  It makes sense.  When do a lot of people eat turkey meat?  Thanksgiving.  But, what if I was to say that this thought process is wrong, and it seems to be more the meat is at the wrong place at the wrong time.

The theory on the Post-Thanksgiving Meal Coma is that turkey is high in the amino acid, L-Tryptophan.  Tryptophan (in biochemical terms, the “L” simply means if it is facing one way or another) is a precursor to serotonin and melanin.  Serotonin is the neurotransmitter that helps regulate things like appetite, sleeping, and mood.  Melanin is the neurotransmitter responsible for sleep cycle regulation.  So here is where the misconception is.  Everyone knows turkey is high in tryptophan, which means that eating it causes your body to produce more sleepy-time chemicals.  Case solved, let’s go get hella wasted.  But not so fast, Capt. Drunko, there is more to this case than association.

Foods high in tryptophan include red meat and cheese.  Basically foods that are in almost every single meal in America.  Which is odd, because by that logic, people who eat a cheeseburger should be passing out once they eat their meal.  Huh, interesting.  So after all that biochemical bullshit using words I learned in my biochemistry class, that was NOT the reason why people get sleepy after Thanksgiving dinner?

Well, there is actually a very simple reason that might have been overlooked.  We really need to get to the heart of this.  Or actually, more like the cardiac sphincter.  As in the stomach.  You see, digestion requires energy.  The stomach and intestines actually have muscles that need blood.  When you consume a lot of food, there is a lot of blood needed in this area, and not in others, like your skeletal muscles.  What is a good way to make sure more blood goes to the gut, and not anywhere else?  Immobilize the person.  So essentially, the reason you get tired is because you ate too much.  Kinda interesting to think about, right?