Archive | August, 2011

Hippocrates

23 Aug

We have all heard his name.  Hippocrates.  But who was he?  Why is he relevant?  Where have we heard that name?  Is it that we have heard the “Hippocratic Oath” being quoted?   Well, being a foodie that is passionate about wellness, I know who he is.  I would love to share some of his wisdom with you.

Hippocrates was Greek.  A Greek physician in fact.  He is referred to as the father of medicine.  He was considered a great healer.  There are conflicting accounts of his life, but one thing is for certain.  He was dedicated to studying not disease, but the person that had a disease.  By many accounts, he took the mind, body spirit approach to healing.   His first course of action when treating disease was typically diet and exercise. There is a very important lesson in that.  Consider the following quote:

Walking is a man’s best medicine“.  Now that doesn’t sound too threatening does it?  It sounds downright gentle, achievable, and motivating!  Walking is medicinal?  Cool!  Most everyone can take a walk before work, after a meal, or with the children.  Anything to get moving.  That is the key…just movement.

Maybe having a really boring greek mythology teacher in High school turned you off to everything greek.  I had Mr. Moore (better known for his white patent leather shoes and spitting when he spoke…but that’s a story for another day!)!  But modern society does have some roots hailing back to ancient times.  Hippocrates believed in wellness and the natural healing properties of food.  And I totally believe in that as well.  Just note the following-

“Let food be your medicine and medicine be your food.”

— Hippocrates

This is a great quote.  Food is healing.  Or perhaps he meant that if you enjoy good sensible eating you won’t need medicine (meaning drugs to heal).  So can the socializing that goes along with meals.  The whole package, I call it…good food, good conversation, and even good wine at times.  There are so many tools to use to achieve a balanced diet, and all we need to do is open that door and go through.  Pull out those cookbooks!  Dust off that stove!  Lollygag in the produce section of the grocery and get inspired!  Start enjoying the health benefits that whole foods have to offer.

Make a commitment to take one small step.  Then another.  Change can be gradual.  In fact, that’s the best way to make some life long changes…slowly.  Start off with taking a walk every night after dinner.  A few weeks later, start adding more fruits and vegetables into your day.  Let that become a habit, then start enjoying more meals with friends and family.  Socialize over meals.  A support system is key to any change.  And no one has to know you are making these healthy changes.  To quote Nike….just do it!  Let food be your medicine!

Nuts!

19 Aug

I have been working in clinical nutrition for a long time.  Some days I feel like I have seen it all.  And other days I see things that make me scratch my head, things that seem to defy the odds, wonders of nature.  Hippocrates, the “father of modern medicine” believed in increased activity and healthy food as the first line of defense against disease.  I believe that too.  Food heals.  Healthy balanced diets lead to better health.   There is a Chinese proverb that can be paraphrased like this “If you don’t make time for good food, you must make time for the physician”.  One food that I have seen work wonders in some folks is nuts.

Nuts come in many forms.  They are a good source of protein and oils but can make us all a little…shall we say…gassy.  None of us want to admit it, but its true.  Sometimes a little helping of nuts is followed by a little bout of the farts.  No matter what form nuts come in, they can produce that unattractive side effect.  But why?

Peanuts are actually from the legume family.  Think dried beans.  We all know that beans, the “magical fruit”, can be gas producing.  Nuts are also high in fiber.  As we all know, fiber makes us gassy too.  Fiber is not digested, instead benefitting our body by dragging junk out with it when it goes.   All while producing that lovely flatulence.  But don’t let that deter you from enjoying nuts.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved this package label “qualified” health claim for nuts in 2003:

“Scientific evidence suggests but does not prove that eating 1.5 ounces per day of most nuts, as part of a diet low in saturated fat and cholesterol, may reduce the risk of heart disease.”

Nuts are a great part of a balanced diet.  The most healthful way to enjoy nuts, in my opinion, is to alternate them.  What does that mean?  It means enjoy walnuts on Monday, peanuts on Tuesday, almonds on Wednesday, and so on.  While peanuts are lumped in with legumes, other nuts are actually a plant fruit and in the nut and seed category of the USDA Food Pyramid.  Nuts are healthy, transportable, they are versatile, and widely available.  But how much is too much?

A serving size for nuts, some professional dietitians like to say, is about a handful.  That translates to roughly 1/3 of a cup.  I have to really hold myself back with this serving size, because I can sure put away more nuts than that in one sitting!  But I always try to be mindful of appropriate serving sizes to get the most healthful benefit from foods.  Nuts can be eaten at any time of the day.  Walnuts are yummy sprinkled onto cereal, cashews are delish when added to teriyaki chicken and broccoli, and a “handful” of peanuts is always a good crunchy treat any time of the day!

Now back to my original point.  Working in the field of nutrition and with so many nutrition professionals sparks many debates about food.  The good, the bad and the ugly.  But I swear, I think some people can live forever on nuts.  I have seen this food offer so many benefits to some folks, and it leaves me wondering about them.  I have seen people who have more than a handful of nuts a day, far exceeding a good serving size, and have low cholesterol and normal lab work.  Even folks whose diets aren’t quite balanced or deficient in other areas seem to defy the odds and stay healthier than a nutritional professional would expect with a regular dose of nuts.  So I say deal with a little bout of the gassies and have a handful any time of the day!