What is a Healthy Food?

Defining words in your own way is difficult. See what a nutrition student thinks about healthy food.

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A lot of my friends and family ask my opinions on different foods.  Sometimes, it’s something like “is this good for me?” or “is this healthy?”  My response to either of these questions is a shrug of the shoulders and a “I dunno, what do you want from your diet?”  If I have not made my stance on foods clear, I try and focus on what the person wants from their diet, rather than what many other sources (some with a severe lack of credibility) think.  Today I am going to discuss some aspects of what makes a food “healthy” in my opinion.

What/How many nutrients does it have?

Every food has nutrients, but different foods will have varying quality and quantity of things like vitamins and minerals.  Some foods are more nutritious (like fruits and vegetables) than others (like packaged snack foods).  For optimal health, it’s recommended to eat foods like fruits and vegetables over prepackaged meals.  These prepackaged meals can be high in fat, sugar, and/or salt.  While these are

My rule of thumb is fruits, vegetables, beans, and lean proteins are generally very nutritious.

What is the capacity for the food to do harm?

All food has the capability to kill you.  However, this capability is not equal in all foods.  Some foods are high in nutrients that can be toxic to you.  One example we learned in my biochemistry class is liver in some species of animals can contain enough vitamin A to give you vitamin A toxicity.

Other foods have a link to certain diseases.  Ingredients like refined sugar, alcohol, salt, and other food additives have been scrutinized and examined for many years now to see what sorts of effects they have on the body.  There is a lot of inconclusive research, so for now my non-professional advice is to limit these.

Is there any symbolism to the food?

The irony here is that I said earlier that foods high in fat and sugar is typically unhealthy.  However, ice cream can be healthy.  In a blog about eating disorders, the writer mentions that for her, buying and eating ice cream was a victory.  She had gotten ice cream and ate it, despite some of her struggles she faces with her eating disorder.  I would say that this is a case where ice cream is healthy, despite what previous health advice says.

I would not worry about what you eat too much, unless you need to.  Eating fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein foods are always a good way to go.  However, I still indulge in a lot of foods that are not considered “healthy.”  I’d rather enjoy good food on occasion, rather than worry about every single macro- and micronutrient.

What do you guys think?  Feel free to comment them below.

Fat Country: A General Guide for Different Fats

Food and nutrition can be confusing.  One such way is with fats.  There are so many types out there, and debate about if they are healthy or not.  Thanks to its poorly-moderated nature, the internet has all sorts of misinformation out there.  Today I am going to be making a short-hand guide to hopefully help you be a better educated consumer!

 

FAT:  This is a general term for boring biochemical stuff.  It comes in one of three forms in foods (I know there’s a lot of different ways this stuff can end up before or after being eaten, but this is a general short guide for any of you science people out there who want to criticize me for overly simplifying this!).  It can be found in saturated, unsaturated and trans-fat varieties for cooking.  Other forms are used in the body for various functions

SATURATED FAT:  This is the kind that doctors call “unhealthy fat.”  It plays a role in increasing blood cholesterol, which can cause damage to the blood vessels and heart.  It’s found in foods like butter and other animal products.  Typically, this is found in a solid form at room temperature.

UNSATURATED FAT:  This is the kind that doctors call the “good fats.”  It can help lower bad cholesterol in the body.  These are found in liquid form at room temperature.  Foods like nuts and avocados are high in saturated fat.

TRANS-FAT:  These are most commonly found as synthetically made fats (they can actually exist in nature, but they are pretty rare).  Essentially some food chemist does their mumbojumbo science stuff to some unsaturated fats, and it becomes solid at room temperature.  They are also more shelf stable than other kinds of oils.  However, they also increase the risk of developing heart and vessel issues.  In fact, the FDA removed it from the “generally regarded as safe” list!  This means that foods with trans-fats in them must undergo reviews to ensure consumer safety.

TROPICAL OILS:  These are things like palm oil and coconut oil.  Many people think coconut oil is a healthier option when compared to butter.  Unfortunately, this type of oil has A LOT of saturated fat.  More so than butter!  Some websites proclaim this as a healthy oil, but so far my research does not indicate that.

 

Any comments, questions, or anything else you would like to say?  Leave them below!

Happy fcuking birthday: My One Year Blog Anniversary

I hit a milestone of one-year of blogging!!

Well, it’s been one year (and one day, because classes prevent me from having too much fun!) since I started posting to this blog.  This started off as a project in one of my nutrition classes (I actually submitted the first post as an assignment!).  Since then, I have kind of built up my blog further.  It’s been interesting for me.  I never thought that I would ever get this kind of exposure!  I’ve had friends and family discussing and sharing my blog with others.

To celebrate, I am going to write up a summary of what I have learned during this year.  There were many changes for me, in all works of life.

Make Adversity into an Advantage:  The blog was done as part of an assignment in one of my nutrition classes.  However, during this time, I was facing some problems.  Because of several issues with class scheduling, I wound up being a year behind schedule.  Meaning I had to take another year, with most terms having too few credits for me to keep my funding.  Instead of bitching about it, I opted to take on a minor.  I enjoy writing (if that wasn’t evident enough), so I decided to take a few extra writing classes to boost my schedule.

Strive for Improvement:  I push for personal improvement in life.  I have a hard time really feeling satisfied with what I am doing.  On assignments, I usually get to the point of saying “fuckit” and turning in what I have done.  I know that I am going to consistently miss small details here and there, and with the stresses and time constraints.  I do take criticism with stride, though.  I try and take the feedback received by classmates and professors alike to improve my own work.  I also look at test scores as a sort of feedback.  If I am hot satisfied with a grade I got, I examine the habits I have and try to improve them to get the score I want.

Have fun:  Life is one of those interesting things.  Life can be incredibly fun and you can love everything that is going on.  But life also can be a huge drag and bore the hell out of you.  On top of this, it can change on a whim.  One moment, you can be having the time of your life, and then suddenly be bored or stressed or some other negative emotion.  So, what can be done about things?  Well, I try to maximize the amount of times I have fun.  I love learning (otherwise I would have not gone to college), and I love putting my knowledge to use.  I am finally at the point where classes are less knowledge cramming for tests, and applying the knowledge I learned.  Instead of viewing what I have to do for classes as chores, I view them as something fun.

This was one helluva year to say the least.  I am not going to get into too many personal details that are irrelevant, but I am glad I started working on this blog.  Here’s to another year of blogging!  I can’t wait to have more stories to share!

Spirit: Understanding Your Alcohol

A brief overview of some alcoholic beverage terms, and some cautions.

Wow, yet another blog post title that wrote itself!  Thanks Ghost!

Alcohol is one of the beverages I enjoy in moderation (might have to do with the fact I am still young).  When I drink, I typically have are beer, vodka, and whiskey.  I sometimes drink tequila if I feel like spending a bit more.  Talking with my peers, I am unique in the fact I take my drinks straight.  I don’t add anything to them, just add the liquor into a glass and drink it.

Instead of discussing my choice of poison, I am going to give some loose definitions for different kinds of ethanol-infused solutions.  My information comes from a few quick searches online, and from one of my nutrition classes.

Alcohol Proof:  This is how “strong” the drink is.  Proof is measured as twice the alcohol by volume (ABV) amount in America.  Meaning a 100-proof drink is 50% ethanol.

Beer:  This is an alcoholic drink made with fermented grains with hops added for flavor, and slowly fermented with yeast.  A typical serving of beer has somewhere between 5-9% ethanol.  A standard serving is 12 fluid ounces.  Some beers are stronger, so keep that in consideration when drinking, as these have a much smaller serving size.

Wine:  This is a fermented grape drink.  Sometimes other fruits are fermented to make different wines, but this is a looser interpretation of wine.  Wine typically has 12-17% ethanol.  A serving size is 5 fluid ounces.

Spirits (liquor):  These are drinks that are made, and then distilled to have a higher proof/ABV.  Any alcoholic beverage with more than 20% ABV is considered a spirit.  Drinks like vodka, tequila, and whiskey are considered spirits.  A serving of these is 1 to 1.5 fluid ounces.

Some of you might be wondering what is considered a “safe” amount to drink.  One drink a day for women, and up to two drinks a day for men is considered safe, according to mayoclinic.com.  Now, this does not mean you have to drink this much.  It is healthier to drink as little as you can.

Ethanol, even when drank responsibly can pack a lot of Calories, as 1 gram of ethanol contains 7 Calories (compare this to 1 gram of fat with 9 Calories).  This is not even considering mixed drinks, which have even more stuff added that increases the number of Calories per serving.  Not to mention there is an age restriction in the United States, so anyone under the age of 21 probably should not drink alcohol anyway.

What kind of drinks do you guys out there enjoy (if you are legal, that is)?  Anyone abstain from drinking alcohol at all?  If so, would you like to share why in the comments, provided it’s not too personal (don’t want to make things awkward for you guys!)?

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?

What the F**k is Wrong with You?: The problem with Self-Diagnosing

How Googling symptoms can lead to unexpected problems

A lot of people often use online sources to find out what their problems are.  Hell, even I have done web searches to find out some illnesses I’ve had.  The problem with doing this is that you probably are not a doctor (unless you actually are a doctor of medicine, in which I shall shut the fuck up and let you do your job).  Using the symptom checkers can often lead to conclusions that are not quite logical for the situation.

For example, let’s say you ate a whole can of beans for some reason.  Hours later, you have a belly ache.  There is some pain in your abdomen, so you look up the symptoms.  It’s a sharp, moderately severe pain with a feeling of fullness.  Using the symptom checker, this person can have issues that are relatively severe, including diverticulitis (sacks that develop in the colon which then get filled with bacteria and poo), dermatomyositis (rare disease which causes muscle pain, weakness, and blotchy patches), or, quite simply, gas pains.

While it is important to monitor your health, sometimes a doctor is not needed.  If you are just farting a lot due to eating a whole lot of beans, there probably is not much a doctor can recommend, save for some anti-gas medications that you can get over the counter.  In more severe cases, like if you wound up having some blotchy patches in addition to the pain, then yeah, maybe see a doctor.

Looking up symptoms can also lead to hypochondriasis like conditions, and I know I have fallen into such trap.   An example is thinking the slight discomfort from eating the beans is a sign of severe gastrointestinal cancer.  Thinking the most severe situation after a short duration of time can lead to unnecessary doctor visits, which can add up financially when insurance gets involved.

Now, I am not saying to forgo going to the doctor for ailments, I am simply saying to be smart with it.  If the pain came from eating a whole can of beans, or if you have a sore, runny nose and it’s cold season, then it probably is not a severe gastrointestinal issue, or even nasal polyps.

So what do you guys think?  Has online symptom checkers helped find diseases you never knew you had, or did it lead to a trip to the doctor that was not needed?

 

Learn On My Own by Emigrate: Odd Analogies I Have Learned in Human Health Classes

Knowledge comes in many forms, and sometimes education comes in unexpected ways.

Sometimes, education is weird.  I signed up for a class on one topic, and instead I wind up learning more than what I paid for.  Sometimes these are deep, dark things about myself or others, simply based on observations and questioning.  Other times, things get put in perspective for me.  These are all “truths” I’ve found during my time being educated, which is a majority of my life.  Feel free to disagree with me on these, because everyone’s life experience is vastly different.

  1. People are like digits and limbs: What I mean by this is that relationships work so long as things are healthy.  If things become disconnected, then there is a problem.  Fortunately, like a severed body part (except for the head, at this point and time in science), sometimes things can be reattached and things are good.  However, people can also be toxic or drag you down.  This is when they become like gangrenous limbs; the need to be removed.
  2. Much like your organs, everyone has a purpose: In the body, it’s pretty fucking stupid to expect your heart to do digestive functions, or your liver to maintain conscious thought.  That being said, it’s pretty fucking stupid to expect certain things of people, if they have shown a certain nature.  I have found that some people I can go ahead and ask for advice, and their two-cents are really valuable.  Others, the advice they give is terrible.  However, those that don’t give good advice might be better at something else.  Some of my friends I can rely on for academic help, or companionship, whereas others, they would not be as valuable, but can offer me perspective.
  3. Bad attitudes can spread like a virus: Everyone has shitty days, amongst the good. It’s a normal part of life.  Hell, the bad days make the good days even better, because without the bad days, the good days start to become mundane.  However, there are just those who like to bitch and complain about everything.  The smallest issue can easily turn into an hour long conversation for whatever victim can be found.  I have become the “host” for this virus on several occasions.  Some of the people that I talk with just sometimes spew their infectious attitudes on me, complaining about something minor that really should not have been taken issue with.  Normally, I move on once this conversation is done, much like your immune system can fight of certain infections.  However, sometimes it can’t, or multiple exposures overrun you, and finally, you have the bad attitude.  Fortunately, I find beer makes a great cure-all.
  4. An ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure: With dietetics, the main goal is to either prevent or delay some illnesses or diseases from occurring using prevention.  Delicious, delicious prevention.  This applies to peoples’ actions as well.  Telling people what pisses you off, or controversial topics before they start to address them, or even telling people what they did was unacceptable during a neutral moment, you can save yourself aggravation in the future.  Let me tell you, being pissed at friends and family fucking sucks.  Letting them know that there is an issue, and offering solutions to it, might cause some conflict in the beginning.  However, that little bit of conflict can save more hair pulling in the future.
  5. Much like a chronic disease, you must accept things the way they are: There are ALWAYS issues you can find with people once you’ve known them long enough.  Maybe they are a stubborn asshole who likes to swear all too fucking often (yes MOM I fucking know I have a potty mouth!!).  So here, the real question is:  am I going to change?  Hell no!  This is who I am.  Fucking deal with it.  Other people will also have negative attributes or vices that might cause issue.  However, some people will not change.  This ties back to my first point of people being like severable body parts.  If their issues become too much, then it’s time for them to go.  However, if their issues are something that can be looked past, then the best course of action is live and let live.

 

This is a topic I might revisit in the future, as I learn more and more and advance more and more in my nutrition education.  Or if I think of anything more.  Does anyone out there have their own analogies?  I think it would be interesting to see what other people have figured out.