Comment on “How To Make Healthy Eating Easier On The Wallet? Change The Calculation” reported on Morning Edition on May 17, 2012 where I describe the most nutritious way to prepare beans for a meal. I also describe how we should be choosing our foods for their chemistry because that is what our bodies do when it signals hunger. I go into much of the chemistry of specific foods and why we need each of the components. I explain how food chemistry can be used to get rid of toxins. I found that if you put together a meal based upon what you need chemically, you will create really delicious and very satisfying meals without stuffing yourself.
NPR reporter Allison Aubrey interviews Andrea Carlson who, with others at the USDA, looked at 4,000+ foods, comparing price per calorie (food energy), price by weight, and price per average amount consumed. She and her colleagues found that fresh produce, especially vegetables, are actually less expensive than the less-healthy foods (potato chips, processed cereals, and foods high in fat like cookies and pies), because “you get more bang–like vitamins and minerals–for the buck.” She suggests eating legumes (lentils and beans) because they can be very cheap. She also says to check labels for sugar because many foods have added sugar (yogurts sweetened with jam, sugary cereals, and granola bars). She also found that the cheaper meats often have more fat in them. Fat melts away when the meat is cooked, leaving less meat than the “more expensive” but leaner meats. If you weighed the cooked meat in each, you will find that the “cheaper” meats may end up being more expensive. Furthermore, she suggests to buy veggies frozen because you get the same nutrition but you do not have to eat the entire package all at once.
My Comment Posted at NPR
It’s not that foods with a lot of sugar in them are more expensive, as Alison Aubrey suggests. It’s because they are PROCESSED food. Processed foods of all types, in cans, boxes, and bags tend to cost a lot more than unprocessed foods or foods bought in bulk. Home baked cookies are always best, since the store-bought kind are usually stale to keep them “fresh” longer on the shelf (meaning less moisture means they are less likely to be invaded by bacteria), and you can substitute ingredients for what is best for you. The recipes here on NPR are really good. For more of my comments on eating healthy for cheap along with suggestions for preparing dried beans for fast cooking, see my blog post “Recipes for Healthy Eating” at https://marthalhyde.wordpress.com/2012/05/24/recipes-for-healthy-eating/.
More of My Ideas
Generalizations About Nutrition
Many people have advised us about what we should eat, and there are many generalizations they make that just do not apply to everyone. In fact there is probably not a single person who can eat meals based upon all the generalizations made and stay healthy. The generalizations encompass statements about:
- portion size
Sugar in yogurt or granola bars is not necessarily bad for you, only if that is the only breakfast you have. I strongly suspect that the generalization that sugar in foods is bad for you will change once we learn the role of sugar in the transport of specific components of foods, like proteins. At some point you have to add sugar to your meal. You just have to learn when. We cannot assume that all who have sugar in their diet are eating unhealthy meals, and that all added sugar will cause you to gain weight. In fact, many healthy people also eat some highly sugared chocolate every day and do not gain weight.
Stating that we have to avoid foods with sugar in them and eat only lean meats oversimplifies the complex problem of nutrition. We eat healthy when we eat what our bodies need, and not necessarily what a medically authorized diet dictates when it is standardized for all who are overweight. The causes of obesity are many, complex ,and vary with every person, ranging from emotionally traumatic associations with foods to differences in physiology (not “genetics” as many would have you believe) based upon damaged tissue. The damaged tissue may be found in the brain or anywhere in the body, and most probably includes the very fat cells we are trying to get rid of but can’t. They may include cells specialized for producing insulin to handle sugar. They may include all cells in the hypodermis (where all fat cells are, along with other types), making them too damaged to produce the energy we need from metabolizing sugar. Most importantly, all cells use sugar to get energy.
Just what are nutrients? Nutritionists will mention that there are macronutrients (what we need a lot of) and micronutrients (we need less of these). Generally macronutrients include proteins, fats and carbohydrates, and tend to be discussed as the biochemistry of our food–meaning components of compounds made by living organisms, like lipids, starch, sugar, amino acids, enzymes, and hormones. Micronutrients are made up of individual chemical elements, and inorganic compounds found outside the body. The emphasis of nutrition knowledge is on the organic and biochemistry of the body, and less on the individual chemical elements. It’s not that nutritionists know nothing about the inorganic chemistry, they just emphasize it less. They also tend to lump some of this inorganic chemistry into the category of “minerals” like calcium, boron, magnesium, silica, all of which form compounds readily in the body, and are often absorbed as compounds, and not in their ionic form.
We need proteins to build muscle, bone, and all other organs of our body, so they are critical for growth. However, no one mentions the different roles that animal and plant proteins have in our bodies, a distinction critical for understanding what we our nutritional needs are. Proteins are necessary for formation of enzymes needed at all levels of organization in our bodies from inside the cell to tissue, organ, system, and inter-system levels. Some animal and plant proteins share the same amino acids, but not all. The differences are very significant. The animal amino acids that are critical to us include proline, lysine (also found in quinoa), cysteine, glutamic acid, and tyrosine. Even though Wikipedia lists some of these as non-essential, it readily admits that all are essential at some time in our lives, thus this categorization is arbitrary, reflecting an earlier history of nutritional opinions.
The standard amino acids only found in plants include: arginine, asparagine, and aspartic acid. All of the rest of the 22 standard amino acids are found in both plant and animal. The strictly plant amino acids are not critical to life but help the cells to produce more enzymes and other metabolites than they would normally. So under periods of heavy activity or stress, illness, and healing of damaged tissue, plants with these amino acids would help us greatly. The plant foods with these amino acids are asparagus, fiddlehead ferns, and turnips. You can imagine now that these amino acids may be responsible for the distinctive flavors of these foods.
The amino acids found most readily in animal protein (leucine, lysine, alanine, glutamine, glycine) are those necessary for the maintenance, repair and growth of connective tissue (in particular, cartilage, tendon, ligament, loose connective tissue, and bone). Other critical amino acids are also found most readily in animal tissues (tryptophan, valine, and tyrosine). These are important because they help make important hormones that animals need.
Therefore, a vegan can get most of the amino acids needed for life from a diet that is exclusively from plants, but often it means eating much more of a plant than wanted or could hold in one meal. Vegans need a lot more education about their food than omnivores do. Furthermore, highly active people will not be able to repair as quickly on a vegan diet.
Just as we need both plant and animal proteins, we need both plant and animal fats. There doesn’t seem to be a need for carbohydrate of a particular origin. What is the difference between plant and animal fats? Both are made up of lipids. Both include triglycerides and diglycerides (fatty acid chains bound to a sugar alcohol). Animal lipids are made up of mostly triglycerides–a 3 chain fatty acid bound to a glycerol. Plant lipids are made up of mostly diglycerides–a 2 chain fatty acid bound to a glycerol. Both are used by cells to make cell membranes which are composed of a single chain fatty acid and phosphate.
We need animal fats because they are always associated with manganese which we tend to need in high amounts when repairing blood organs (bone marrow, spleen) and the cardiovascular system. The fat helps to transport the manganese through the highly acidic environment of the stomach to the small intestine where manganese gets absorbed with lipids. Manganese supplements would be useless since most of the manganese would be lost unless we get it in meat with some fat. Vegans tend to need more manganese than omnivores because there are few plants with manganese (asparagus, fiddlehead fern, spinach, are the most common).
The animal fats found in all seafood tend to have associated with the fat the most chemical elements needed by our bodies, like calcium, boron, magnesium, and sodium, so fish is a pretty good substitute for beef, although some fish have more manganese than others. Salmon, mackeral and other “fatty” fish tend to have the most manganese. However, none approach the level found in terrestrial animal meat. If you take fish oil capsules or liquids, you will also get animal protein with the fats and a lot of these associated minerals.
Some of the best plant fats are found in oils. I am not referring to canola or safflower oil, the most commonly used oils in prepared foods. They are cheaper than olive oil but do not confer the nutrition found in olive oil. Coconut oil has been found to have a lot of beneficial effects both internally and externally on the body (see Tropical Traditions for more of the research on it).
I will discuss some tips on cooking healthy foods here. I will refer to reports in the news where relevant. I will also refer to how I was able to come up with great meal ideas using Muscle Reflex Testing (MRT, MRT 1.0: Using MRT (Muscle Reflex Testing) to decide the quantity of ingredients and method of cooking that was best for me. MRT was especially helpful when I have to control the chemistry inside my body while removing toxins. I suggest you listen to the report on “How To Make Healthy Eating Easier On The Wallet? Change The Calculation” on Morning Edition for May 17, 2012 for more information. I will also comment on some of what was said there and on other reports in the future updates of this post.
Most nutritionists think the following are the “healthy foods”:
- Nuts (treat raw peanuts like a bean without pre-soaking them. An entire dish could be made up of mostly peanuts cooked with carrots, corn, tomatoes, rice and bell pepper with the right spices).
- whole grains
- fresh veges
- fresh fruits
Note that all are unprocessed and need some work by you to prepare for eating. The combinations of ingredients found in boxes that you use as a basis for your meal, to which you add your favorite cut of meat, the breakfast cereals with flavorings, salt, sugar added or ground up into a flour that is baked as bite-sized pieces, the frozen dinners, the deli meats, salads, sandwiches you buy in the grocery store, or fast food items you grab at a restaurant are not “unprocessed”. Ingredients other than the obvious are essentially hidden to you because you did not make the item at home. If you only eat meals from foods like these, you become completely separated from the processing of the basic food items you eat and become less aware of how your food affects you.
I also add to this list the following, even though it includes processed foods:
- Other Additives
Always buy your beans dried–not frozen or in a can. Freezing and canning ruins them, both for taste and texture. Dried beans are only slightly processed–they are harvested, shelled and dried. That’s all. Don’t run away from them because you think it takes all day to cook them and canned beans are so much easier to prepare for dinner. In fact, all dried beans cook in 10-15 min (depending upon your pot) if you prepare them correctly and only cook them to a “just done” state. Never cook beans to the point that they fall apart (unless you want creamed split pea soup). A bit of firmness is important because your brain then can estimate the amount of calcium in them and best suggest a good portion to eat in a meal. The texture of the food has a HUGE effect on how much you eat, so if your food is overcooked, you will tend to want to eat more. It is amazing how much your food tastes better when the beans are cooked to a perfect state of firmness. You will never go back to canned beans after this.
The single best method for preparation of beans is to pre-soak them. On a hot summer day, split green peas in water will swell up to their greatest size in less than 3 hr, chickpeas, black-eyed peas, lentils, black beans and pinto beans in 4 hr, red kidney beans and lima beans in 5 hr (all will fill up the container pretty much when done). For all varieties, you put them into a container about 1/3 the way full (you don’t have to pre-soak any lentils or urad dal), add water to fill the container and let sit, shaking periodically (especially if you use square containers and big beans). Sitting all afternoon, they will be ready to cook for dinner. If they sit out for longer than the suggested times on a hot day, they might ferment, so put the containers into the refrigerator. You can pre-soak in the refrigerator from the start–they will just take a bit longer to fully swell. I have left beans to soak in the refrigerator easily for up to a week with no loss in nutrition, taste, texture or quality. In winter when the kitchen is usually the coldest, beans take a bit longer to swell up to the max, usually 5-7 hr. Thus I usually keep at least 3 different types of beans in the refrigerator soaking for several days to a week, while I eat up the beans that I had cooked.
Bring beans and the water they soaked in to boil in large pot (foam will set up and boil over if you do not). You may have to add water to make sure that boiling beans can move easily and still stay under water. When finished cooking, don’t be afraid to throw out water the beans were cooked in. You do not lose nutrients if you do, as long as the beans are pre-soaked. You don’t need a lid on the pot either, except to shorten the time it takes to bring the pot to a boil, but always check to see if it is going to boil over. Cook at low boil for 10-15 min (slightly higher than a simmer), stirring periodically to break up the foam (it’s just carbohydrate that breaks down to CO2 and H2O, which will disappear into the steam), and move the beans around in the water. All beans are done when you bite into one and it is still a bit firm, but not too hard or rubbery. Check with your brain using MRT (Muscle Reflex Testing or Applied Kinesiology) to be sure of when the right moment is if you need to.
If your peas are on the yellow side (they should have the color of a fully mature, fully watered, very lush green lawn grass when ripe), they were probably picked prematurely and will take forever to cook (and won’t taste as good). I have discovered many online sites where the majority of the peas you buy are not ripe. You need to get rid of the bromine that is in these immature peas to be successful. I keep a bottle of magnesium oxide powder in my refrigerator in the summer for this purpose. Magnesium soaks up the bromine during the pre-soak and cooking time. The peas will cook in a reasonable amount of time, but since they are too immature, will not have the natural sweetness of ripe peas. Sweet potato/yam helps to give the peas some of the natural sweetness of mature peas. Add 1 tblsp of the magnesium oxide powder and 4 slices of sweet potato/yam per quart of peas to the pre-soak. (Always check with MRT to see if you need more than this. Taste the water first). Shake container thoroughly to get the powder dispersed. It will make the water very milky in appearance. Add another tblsp to the beans when you put them on the stove/bean pot/slow cooker, adding another slice of sweet potato/yam in with the beans. You will have to wash these peas when they are finished cooking to get rid of the clumps of white magnesium-oxide that will form.
You can keep cooked beans/peas in the refrigerator for as long as 2 weeks before they get old, unless you open the refrigerator door a lot. I prevent mold by putting a small container full of vinegar on the bottom shelf. A small margarine tub with a plastic lid with a few holes punched in with a knife will prevent spills, and lower the pH of the refrigerator to prevent the growth of most molds (BUT NOT ALL!).
Nuts are an excellent source of healthy fats, proteins and carbohydrates, along with vitamin D, E, manganese (walnuts, pecans), calcium (all of them), boron (walnuts, cashews), and magnesium (walnuts, sunflower seeds, pecans). It is difficult to get fat on eating raw nuts. If you do, then I would check on the ability of your fat cells to metabolize fats. However, you can overdo it on the manganese in walnuts and pecans. You will also find that you get satisfied pretty easily because of the calcium content, so it is less likely you will pig out on the nuts. I only know of people who do who eat them for the salt, honey, or other additive to the nuts. That is why I prefer raw, unsalted nuts.
The only nuts you have to roast or cook before eating it are the peanut, candlenut and macadamia. The peanut and candlenut are technically legumes (or ground nuts). You can add them to your dinners while cooking the vegetables. If you cut them up right, most veges only need 2-5 min to fully cook, and peanuts only need 2 min to cook thoroughly. In most cases, veges only need to cook just enough to kill off harmful enzymes and most have no harmful enzymes. Tougher, fibrous veges need a longer time (sweet potatoes and yams, sliced up into small “sticks” will cook in 8 min). When cooking several different veges, start with the ones needing the longest cooking times, and add each of the other ingredients in succession, the last one being the one needing the least amount of time.
All nuts have trace minerals that are essential to the body, like selenium. Some nuts have iron (hazelnuts/filberts), sulfur (peanuts), iodine (walnuts). Cashews and almonds are truly some of the most helpful to the body. All animals and plants carry calcium in the form of calcium gluconate and cashews have the most of this form of calcium of all the nuts. It is the form used by the heart for contraction. All plants and animals also carry other forms of calcium, e.g. calcium malate, -lactate, -carbonate, -phosphate, -galactate.
I found that the cost of nuts in the shell is more expensive than those that were shelled. Most nuts occupy only 44-48% of the total weight of the nut + shell. To compare prices in the store, do the following on your cell phone calculator: Suppose you see a 4 lb bag of almonds in the shell for $20.00. This would come out to $5.00/lb of almonds still in the shell. Only 44% of the 4 lb would actually be edible and the real cost per lb of edible almonds amounts to $11.36 (0.44 x 4 lb x 16 oz/lb = 28.16 oz, which costs $20.00 so that $20/28.16 oz x 16 oz/lb = $11.36 per lb). If you find shelled almonds, for less than the calculated cost as above, e.g. $11.36 per lb (very likely), you should avoid the almonds in the shell, unless you want the in-shell variety for some other reason (decoration on holidays). Then just buy what you need of the in-shell nuts for the decoration.
I usually buy nuts from online sources which often have coupons or free shipping days (see my favorite sources under “References”). I put the numbers (including shipping costs) into a spreadsheet so I get to see an instantaneous readout of the cost per lb so that I can compare the costs from different websites and different amounts of nuts, in shell and not, sold at each site. Some bean varieties are not available in local stores, so I also have to turn to some of the same sites, or others, for these (e.g. dried chickpeas/garbanzos or urad dal, the former for the boron, the latter for the calcium).
This means seeds of wheat, barley, rye, rice, corn, sunflower, millet, triticale, quinoa (pronounced kee-nwa), oats, and other seeds that are not spices. Pasta, couscous, bread, crackers, cookies, pastry (including that pseudo-pastry, donuts), cereal foods (in various shapes like o’s and biscuit-like, animals, little people), grits, are all made of processed grains.
Why whole grains? Because they usually include the seed coat, endosperm and germ (embryo). Most of what you eat in corn is endosperm, high in starch, but usually low in protein. Most of the wheat flour you buy in the grocery store is endosperm. Flour mills usually save the germ for making protein additives for other, processed foods. They can also sell the wheat germ for more per lb, so why waste it on the flour? Most of the time, the seed coat is discarded, or saved to make bran. Bran is high in non-soluble fiber, and thus has little nutrition for us. Most people use it to increase fiber in the food they eat, making it easier to pack waste material in feces. The best source of fiber is soluble fiber and whole grains have a lot of that in the endosperm. Soluble fiber can do the same as non-soluble fiber but it can also be absorbed across gut epithelium, contributing to the maintenance of good blood flow, and as a supply of protein when broken down completely. Therefore, eating foods made of whole grains (e.g. brown rice, whole wheat breads) gives you the most nutrition from the grain. But that doesn’t mean you should restrict your diet to foods made only with whole wheat or brown rice. The difference in nutrition is not that significant, unless you have a physiological condition that requires higher fiber.
Fresh Veges and Fruit
In this group, I also throw in dried fruits and vegetables as well, since, when dried properly, they keep the vitamin content and enzymes intact. Both get lost when the vegetable/fruit is canned, cooked in any way, or frozen. The only antioxidants that are still present in frozen, canned or cooked fruits and vegetables are polyphenols which are only found in what are technically fruits (including the fruits you normally think of as fruits, along with the “fruits” of vegetable plants such as tomatoes, squash, and bell peppers). However, only berries, guava, papaya, and mango have the anti-oxidant compounds called polyphenols. No food that we normally think of as a “vegetable” has them. You have to realize that saying that food like potatoes is high in vitamin C and A will mean nothing to you, nutritionally. Few people eat raw potatoes because the enzymes in them can make you sick. Carrots are high in all B vitamins and vitamin A, an anti-oxidant, but only some of the B vitamins remain intact in frozen or cooked carrots.
Both fruits and vegetables have valuable enzymes in them. Plant enzymes are helpful for breaking down compounds with elements that would be toxic if allowed to flow loosely in the intercellular fluids of the body. They are also helpful in catalyzing reactions that combine these toxic elements to substances that will carry the toxins to the kidney and colon. The best fruits for detoxifying us from certain chemical elements like excess sulfur, lead, zinc, and all elements with an atomic number higher than 40 are the tropical fruits (mango, pineapple, kiwi, papaya, guava). Other fruits and vegetables provide bromine that combines readily with metals like iron, zinc, aluminum (tomatoes, oranges, mangos, cherries, grapes).
Vegetables with enzymes that help us to digest other vegetables notable for tough fibrous content, are the beans, and beets. These enzymes tend to remain intact through the cooking process. Squash has enzymes that help heart cells break down compounds needed for cellular reproduction–a process critical for repair. Heart muscle needs repair constantly because it is contracting 24 hr a day. The same enzymes help to repair other muscle, but clearly is not needed as much as the heart does. Most of the enzymes needed by other muscle types can be made by the cells themselves in adequate amounts and as often as needed. Our hearts can use extra help at times, especially if we are very active.
Spices and Other Additives
The list of spices I strongly suggest you keep for use when removing toxins and repairing tissues are, at the least:
- curry powder
- chile powder
- dill weed leaves
- basil leaves
- whole coriander (cilantro) seed
- garlic powder or fresh cloves
- ginger root (powder or fresh)
- black peppercorns
- whole cumin seeds
Other spices that may come into use for special circumstances, e.g. removing a rare toxin, healing certain damaged tissues:
- lemon grass leaves
- whole fennel seed
- whole mustard seed
- oregano leaves
- poppy seed
- whole sesame seed or oil
I also suggest that you buy a small coffee/spice mill, used only for grinding spices up. I have a dedicated pepper mill that only holds whole coriander seed for fresh ground spicing–it is especially important when you need to detoxify.
Other condiments/additions to your meal in small amounts include:
- soy sauce, either tamari or wheat-free soy
- various bottled sauces you buy in a grocery store upon recommendation from using MRT. (I found that I desperately needed a Maui Mountain brand of Hawaiian teriyaki, Australian honey barbecue sauce and a sesame-soy mixture as sources of lithium when I needed it in huge quantities to get rid of a very painful toxin).
- lemon juice
- lime juice
- orange juice
- cherry concentrate juice
- blueberry concentrate juice
- pomegranate juice
- all kinds of nuts (see below)
- many different kinds of fruits, fresh and dried
- sunflower seeds
- coconut and olive oils
Using MRT to Determine Your Chemistry
Some of my favorite internet sites for buying nuts, seeds, grains, dried fruits, oils, and other foods in bulk are below:
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© Copyright 2014 by Martha L. Hyde and https://marthalhyde.wordpress.com.