© Jolie Bookspan MEd, PhD, FAWM
Welcome to my web site DrBookspan.com, a large free site for you to be stronger, fitter, smarter, healthier, and happier. I am a research scientist. My work is evidence-based sports medicine, and laboratory work in environmental medicine and physiology of the human body in extremes of heat, cold, altitude, underwater, g-Forces, physical work, conditioning, and injuries.
This Healthier Nutrition page gives education and ideas for healthier food including where and how it is grown and transported, fun healthy preparation, and better understanding of claims and studies. Keep scrolling to read all the different fun articles about healthier nutrition.
I make these summaries available on my web site for a better world, with a wealth of knowledge still to give. Come for appointments and classes with me and read my books for more. More about me in Adventure Medicine.
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What's On This Page
- Many Parts To Healthier Nutrition.
- Food Preparation - A Time For Fun Health.
- Simple Healthy Alternatives to Commercial Packaged Food.
- Emotional Eating - Don't Practice It Or Teach It To Kids.
- An Introduction to Gastrointestinal And Skin Immune System, Probiotics, Prebiotics, and Fermented Food, Including How To Make Your Own.
- Free, High-Nutrition, Tasty Food Item - Dandelions.
- More Free, High-Nutrition Food With Simple Foraging.
- Edible Flowers.
- Good Body Movement For Nutrition as a Lifestyle - How you move when you prepare and eat food is part of your health.
- Is Your Health Food Unhealthy?
- High-Fat Diet Reduces Endurance.
- High-Fat Meals Reduce Lung Function.
- Recycling and the Movie "Garbage Dreams."
- A Little About Metabolism.
- Do You Need Meat and Dairy To Be Healthy and Active?
- Mr. America Urges Goodness And Responsibility In Training and Nutrition.
- Keep Good Bone Density. Some Drugs Increase Incidence of Osteoporosis And Hip Fractures.
- Common, Missed Cause of Musculoskeletal Pain - Your Drugs.
- FDA Orders Suicide Risk Warning for Common Back Pain and Migraine Drugs, Depression Drugs, and Others.
- Skipping A Meal.
- Recognize And Avoid Products Sold By False and Exaggerated Claims.
- What Is A Primary Source? A Secondary Source?
- Safe Drinking Water - A World Health Issue.
- Bottled Water - A Marketing Success, Not A Fitness Success.
- Healthy Nutrition Includes Where Your Food Comes From.
- My Long-Requested Healthy Cooking Book.
- Hungry Minds Need Nutrition Too.
Many Parts To Healthier Nutrition
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
Fitness that is healthy fitness does not mean to do the latest fad, or some exercises on machines that burn electricity, while watching television of gossip shows and bad behavior, wearing clothing labeled for fitness but unnecessary for any true health, made by underpaid people in unhealthy sweatshops. In the same way, healthy nutrition does not mean supplements and engineered packaged sports food, pricey "health" food which may have no benefit to health, and those marked "organic" whether they are organic or not.
A part of creating healthier society is not being manipulated by it. This page gives tools to help you think, and to remember that corporate food producers often pay a great deal to supply you with misleading statistics about health or worth of their foods, or conceal unhealthy production practices. Instead, there are many simple ways to keep food and production of food healthier for you, the people who produce and transport the food, and the world.
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Food Preparation - A Time for Fun Health
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
Many television cooking shows seem to teach that food preparation means yelling, insults, and impatience that generates stress chemicals that damage heart and blood vessels, then serving that to yourself or family.
Instead, keep food preparation healthy and classy for brain, body, and mind.
Try the idea that meals are the process of making something nice, together or alone. Don't miss this healthy time. Meals don't only begin when you finish stressing it onto a plate.
It's not cool to bicker. Can you relate to someone without small talk and one-upmanship? Try real conversation. Or quiet and smiles.
Instead of focus on the product - rushing to serve polluted food and atmosphere - the preparing itself is a time for:
- Healthy body positioning for reaching and bending.
- Breathing normally as you cut and wash food.
- Standing comfortably upright at the counter.
Then you don't need extra time for meditation; your life is meditative.
- Make your reality show for your meals the way life really can be. It takes the same time to stand well and smile as slouch and make conflict.
- Cutting and washing goes more easily without tight shoulders and repeated unhappy thoughts.
- No stress-filled yelling, slouching, tightening your neck and shoulders to do the washing, cutting, and preparing.
- Alone or with loved ones, have a fun time of joke telling, singing, breathing, and standing well, enjoying that you have food to prepare and a roof over your head to prepare it.
Examples of healthy standing and good bending during food preparation. More below. Keep scrolling and reading.
Thank you Dale Gillard for good body position cooking photo,
To my student David Demets demonstrating good bending to get dog food,
and our friend Kunyai (Grandmother) of Northern Thailand showing how she squats to wash her dishes.
Simple Healthy Alternatives To Commercial Packaged Food
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
Healthier Fitness Water
Trendy vitamin water for exercise is big business adding cost, litter, and sometimes dyes, synthetic isolated vitamins, and questionable sweeteners. Instead, easily make your own sweet, whole-food vitamin water for pennies:
1. Put clean water in a blender
2. Add a few grapes with the skin and seeds and blend well
3. Carry it with you in healthful containers
Grape skins and seeds contain compounds that are healthy. Think of the money you just saved on expensive grape seed oil products making similar claims.
For a different light flavor, squeeze in some fresh lemon. Helps keep the container cleaner, too. If you like tea, put a tea bag in the container. No need for hot water. Try a few strawberries with the green tops, watermelon with the seeds, or some raw sweet red pepper to make a variety of light, vitamin water drinks.
Experiment and have fun.
Healthier Sports Shake
My father and grandfather (and great-grandfathers/ grandmothers+) were ice swimmers. We all swam all year in open water including several over 20 miles (32km). My grandfather's "sure-power" recipe was an oily mixture (for future articles). When I raced competitively, I swam from 5 to 7 miles a day, 35 to 40 miles a week (up to 64km per week). The coach pushed the common fad of eating Jello(R) powder. As a vegetarian, I skipped it, and later learned it would not have helped. Since then I have watched other vogue sports food assumptions come and go. Best is real food.
Here are ideas for quick, good tasting sports shakes - cheaper and healthier than store-bought.
Mix in a blender or other mixer:
- Clean water
- Peeled banana
- Peeled orange with the seeds
- Some of the well-washed orange peel
- Raw walnuts or other favorite
- Some cooked brown rice left from a meal
- Sweeten with raisins or a prune softened in clean water. Molasses optional. Adds many minerals.
- Cinnamon powder to level blood sugar
For the day of an event, you can substitute tea for the water.
Experiment with amounts to get preferred consistency
If you want a chocolate shake, add a scoop of unsweetened cocoa powder (unsweetened non-dutched baking cocoa). People with migraine can leave out the cocoa.
Don't junk it up with sugar, artificial sweeteners, commercial sports powders.
If you use a juicer, put the solids and pulp back in, or you will be drinking sugar water and throwing away the point and the nutrition.
Try different fruit - Persimmons, mangosteen, pineapple, melon, berries, your favorite. Raw red beets are an overlooked sweet fitness food good in shakes.
- For flavors, add a small slice of unpeeled ginger root, washed mint leaves.
Homemade Sports Food - Nut and Seed Butters
For clean, healthy, fresh energy food for hiking, exercise, and sports, here is easy peanut butter and other nut butters you can make in your own kitchen:
1. Put fresh raw peanuts, or other favorite like walnuts or almonds, in a bowl and crush them for arm exercise with any kitchen pounding tool. Or use a chopper, grinder, blender, coffee grinder, or other processor.
2. Crush to powder, depending how chunky you want it.
3. Cut an apple into small chunks to make mashing easier and mash with the ground nuts to make creamy sweet peanut butter. Spice with cinnamon if you want.
Vary the combination - try almonds mashed with pears. Sunflower seeds or walnut and banana. Sesame seeds and figs.
Spread on slices of apples, carrots, and other fruit and vegetables. Stuff inside raw sweet green and red peppers, in sandwich and wraps (non-grain eaters can make tasty wraps from leafy greens). Use for toppings.
Make these with a friend for healthy social fun. Exercise your imagination for healthy sports food.
If you are allergic to nuts, seeds like sunflower seeds and flax seeds can be useful.
Sprouts are an easy, good tasting, healthful food you can grow yourself in your kitchen.
Sprouting seeds can be fun to do with children, or anyone else, to teach them many things about food, a bit of self-sufficiency, biology, and more.
Mung beans are a good easy bean to start with:
1. Spread a bunch of dry beans on a plate. Add enough water to wet the beans. Leave out on a sunny counter.
2. Rinse beans and plate daily, and return beans to the plate with fresh water.
3. Within a week, you will have fresh sprouts.
Many ways to cook sprouts:
Sauté lightly in a pan with balsamic vinegar, a slight amount of olive or grapeseed oil, and season with any variety of healthful spices that you like - curry, pepper, fresh lemon, etc.
You can scramble the sprouts into whatever vegetables or other good food you are cooking.
When to eat them:
If you eat the sprouts when they are barely sprouted, it will taste nuttier. If you wait until the sprouts have grown long, they will taste more like greens.
Sprouted sunflower, clover, broccoli, radish, lentil, mung bean, and pea sprouts taste good and have many vitamins and disease-fighting phytochemicals. Sprouting seeds and grains reduces the amounts of phytates in the food, which in turn, increases absorption of minerals like calcium.
Sprouts contain sulphoraphane, which activates the normal cancer-fighting enzymes that are supposed to be working all the time in your own cells throughout your body, making sprouts healthy not only when eaten, but when used as part of homemade sunscreens.
This is an easy, custom, portable, fitness tea - quick and inexpensive, no need for hot water:
1. Put clean (or filtered) water in your own healthy bottle.
2. Put a tea bag in the bottle. The tea will brew on its own in a short time, no need for hot water.
3. Choose your favorite tea or experiment to find your favorite. Mix several together to make your custom brew - for example mint and lemon (all non-caffeine), or ginger plus green (half and half), or green and black tea together (extra interest). Or a whole bunch of flavors.
This makes a fresh drink, no preservatives or coloring, no hype or purchased throw-away bottles. It easily transports with you to work, school, gym, exercise, and biking.
Add water to make more throughout the day. At the end of your day, remove the bags and wash the bottle for another custom tea tomorrow.
Make your own herbal teas using edible flowers - more about edible flowers below.
Deserts and Holiday Centerpieces
Food doesn't have to be packaged or unhealthy to be a treat. Healthy meals should not be food that is tiresome or expensive to make. Part of the health is enjoying some quick creativity.
A holiday centerpiece can be quick to do, fun, and without packaged or junk food to be sweet. The photo below shows one example of many:
My Academy student Jessica Lattouf made this photo set for the Healthier Nutrition certification. Ms. Lattouf writes, "First photo shows a bad food choice like commercial burger and fries (chips) while the lower photo shows a healthy easy and inexpensive recipe of salad which is popular in my country, we name it 'fattouch.'"
Ingredients for one person portion:
4 leaf romaine lettuce torn into bite-size pieces
1 diced cucumber
1 diced tomato
1 chopped onion
1/4 cup chopped fresh mint
1/4 cup chopped fresh flat-leaf parsley
1 cup chopped purslane (scroll down to the Wild Foraging section below to see more about purslane)
1/2 green pepper
1 samll bread toasted and torn into small pieces
For the dressing:
1 teaspoon olive oil
1 lemon juice
1 clove garlic minced
1 teaspoon sumac
salt to taste
Emotional Eating - Are You Practicing It or Teaching It To Kids?
Be aware of "rewarding" kids or yourself with unhealthy foods and behaviors, especially for a sad or difficult event. Beside directly making it unhealthy from eating junk, you are instilling and teaching "emotional eating" without awareness of how to recognize what you are feeling, and what healthy ways there are to positively deal with it. Make sure that food and unhealthy behaviors of any kind are not your only coping tool.
Treats - Good Tasting, Healthy, Fun
For regular meals and special events, show that food can be delightful and healthy at the same time. Also show that you don't automatically turn to food to deny feelings, or escape from dealing with them, or because they don't have a positive activity to feel good doing instead.
Academy Student Jessica Lattouf writes:
"There is a bad habit from the parents to give candies for their children as a recompensation for anything, because of their sweetened and nice flavor. The children like them and will be happy when buying for them. That why the children think that their parents don't love them or they are punishing them when don't allowing their children to eat candies.
"Instead of cake and candies, we can make something looking good which attract children - something made from colorful fruits which tastes good like making fruit salad, or making a nice shape from dried fruits and nuts, almonds."
Another nice way to make meals with a positive touch is with flowers. Many flowers are edible. They make beautiful interesting healthy food. Scroll down below the section on Wild Foraging to the section on Edible Flowers.
Thank you UberHumor for HappyFood photo
A Quick Introduction To Gastrointestinal And Skin Immune System, Probiotics, Prebiotics, And Fermented Food
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
Your Immune System and Your G.I. Tract
A large portion of your immune system is your gut (gastrointestinal tract) and your skin. You need beneficial germs and bacteria both inside your body and outside on your skin as part of your natural defenses and production of healthy substances. Healthy germs on your skin and inside your digestive tract help you digest food, extract nutrients, produce a variety of by-products necessary for physical health, mental health, and to fight infection. Over-using anti-bacterial soaps and antacid drugs, and not eating varieties of foods with healthy microbiota have been creating a growing public health problem where many people do not have the healthy bacteria in their body that they need. There is increasing evidence that many illnesses, some serious, are related to this. Several of the recently burgeoning diseases, allergies, and conditions seem to be in populations growing up in increasingly sterile environments, and those which eat processed foods.
A biome is the naturally occurring community of biota (life) occupying an area. The biome in your system is called a microbiome, even though it is not a small thing. It is estimated that there are ten times more bacteria than human cells in your body. You have more bacterial DNA than human DNA in your body. DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) is the carrier of your genetic information.
Fermented Food and The Digestive Tract
Fermentation specifically means the chemical change of a carbohydrate by bacteria, yeasts, or other microorganisms. It occurs naturally in food and in you - both inside and outside your body.
Fermentation of food is a naturally occurring process of increasing microbiota. Fermented foods have been eaten for thousands of years. It is only in relatively recent human history that sterilization and food processing practices have left common foods without the previously available microbiota.
The microbiota lining your entire digestive tract and on your skin are determined by your long term diet. The biota that live inside your entire G.I. system produce their own products that are associated with health or disease. Your biome composition is called an enterotype. Certain enterotypes are associated with certain diseases, which is why avoiding junk food and eating healthy food is important to your health.
Fermenting Creates Probiotics, Increases Nutrient Availability, Reduces Competing Unhealthful Microbes
Bacteria and yeasts are naturally all over surfaces, our skin, and our food. Some are favorable to our systems. Others make food spoil. Fermenting increases favorable microbes (with many other general and specific names including biota and bugs) and reduces ones associated with food spoilage and some food-bourne illnesses. That is one reason fermented food has long been used; to store it longer without spoiling. Another is to change the taste.
The chemical changes in foods through fermenting increases several nutrients. One example is that bacteria ferment carbohydrate to make short-chain fatty acids that are hoped to be helpful to cardiovascular and immune health. More about this below in "Pre-biotics - feeding your biome."
Fermenting also creates the probiotics that people pay a lot for in stores. Eating simple, inexpensive, easily made fermented food, vegetables, and drinks, builds in probiotics to your daily life. It is part of nutrition as a lifestyle.
Include Microbiota When Assessing Nutritional Guidelines
Hospitalized people and aging populations in institutions may have "nutritionally adequate diets" as determined by existing guidelines, but not adequate from a biota standpoint. The food they are given, in reality, is hurting them because it lacks food-based probiotics, even though the guidelines says it's nutritional. It's leaving out the largest part - the gut biota. Processed foods and several medications also work against the good biota, reducing needed amounts.
From babyhood, the immune system needs to be colonized and educated by beneficial microbes (and not harmful ones). Check your practices with babies and children. Don't overly-limit their microbial input, or you will be depriving them of needed healthy development, the same as if you didn't let them learn or explore. My own idea is that is why babies are programmed to put so many things they encounter, even poop, in their mouths - which colonize the immune system all along the digestive tract. Children have been consuming probiotics for centuries, from touching many things they encounter then putting hands in their mouths, even nail-biting at grimy, dirty, fingernails. Mothers have been passing immune enhancing biota to their children for centuries through the birth canal, with nursing, pre-chewing food, mother's saliva for incidental cleaning and kissing injuries and boo-boos, and with exposure to environmental fermented foods, germs (within ranges) and many other substances. We have to examine how much we are limiting that, and return to healthier practices of exposure to "friendly" microbes, (and not infectious pathogens).
Early exposure to specific microbes and components of foods that interact with the immune system is necessary to avoid later allergies to that food. Children who were not exposed early on to certain foods may later rally defenses against them unnecessarily, and so become allergic. Peanut allergy is a common example.
This does not mean to let babies get bad infections or eat poisons. Too much is obviously not smart or safe. One example of many is measles. Measles binds to and destroys immune cells (B- and T-cells), suppressing your immunity to other diseases that you spent a lifetime building. You are more susceptible to many other diseases for several years following measles. Polio risks a lifetime of paralysis. Beside potential damage from diseases themselves to the sufferer and people who you may transmit them to, some infectious disease pathogens harm later in life, for example, chickenpox. Having chickenpox means you are at risk of shingles for the rest of your life, because the virus remains living in your nervous system. Shingles is painful and debilitating. It does not occur unless you had chickenpox. Immunizations teach your immune system to produce protective antibodies that prevent these diseases, without exposure to the actively infectious pathogen.
Mental Health and Microbiota
A neurotransmitter is a chemical released to send (transmit) signals across nerves. Certain neurotransmitters are produced by bacteria in various parts of your brain and body. Several neurotransmitters are associated with behavior and mood, such as norepinephrine, epinephrine, and serotonin, among others which regulate different aspects of anxiety, depression, or happier mood. Studies are also finding there are common medications and common foods that work against your biome and mood.
You Can Change Your G.I. and Skin Microbes
You can change your biome through nutrition to a "happier" biome, up to a point. Fermented food alone or supplements of probiotics alone will not change your system long term. Your daily diet of healthy or unhealthy food, and your habits of drugs, medications, exposure to nature, and other practices determines your biome.
The food you eat regulates the actual gene transcription of the microbes that live in your system, turning on or off their healthful and unhealthful by-products.
Fecal Transplants (Transfaunation). There are experiments with fecal transplants (transfaunation) from healthy adults to microbially deprived adults with various diseases to try to give the ill people the organisms they lack. Several different results were hoped for. It is investigated in some cases of hospital-acquired antibiotic-resistant infection where standard therapies fail. Interest also peaked in the public hoping for obesity management on the idea that a healthy biome would manage food intake in healthier ways. It was not intended as a cure, as you still have to change eating habits thereafter. The idea of fecal transplant is not new. A bacterial strain originally cultured from a very small amount of Escherichia coli Nissle intestinal flora (and from there grown on gelatin) was being used in 1917, orally in a product called Mutaflor, as a probiotic for intestinal illnesses.
Like any transplant, you need to check that you are not also transferring harmful or disease-resistant organisms which cause new problems. In June 2019, the FDA suspended clinical trials and issued a safety warning after two fecal transplant recipients contracted antibiotic-resistant infections and one died.
There are other ways to transfer microbiota without the risk of transferring possible diseases of the donor, along with the good. For the general population, the aim is to prevent the need for this by providing their own healthier gastrointestinal micro-flora through healthy food and lifestyle. No need for expensive commercial processed "health foods." A regular diet of fruit, vegetables, beans, peas, legumes are associated with positive changes in the DNA of the biome. Healthy eating cannot alone cure the very serious problem of infections like C. difficile infection - Clostridium difficile, a bacterium that can be life threatening. Standard treatment for C. difficile infection is oral antibiotics but some hospital-acquired strains are antibiotic-resistant.
If you want to learn more about some of the studies behind the encompassing topic of changing your biome, look for the work of Dr. Robert Baldassano. Here is a link to a PubMed literature search of his studies:
About Fermented Foods
Fermentation makes food into generally healthier food. Different fermented foods can usually be found in commercial stores at increasingly exotic prices. They are also mostly easily home-made. Making your own fermented food is part of basic simple kitchen skills. It can be part of healthy eating every day.
Fermented foods are made by giving microbes, bacteria, yeasts, and healthy molds the right conditions to grow. There are different types of fermentation. One is lacto-fermentation by Lactobacillus bacteria which converts sugars in vegetables and other foods to lactic acid. Lacto-fermentation does not only refer to dairy. Another is yeast fermentation by yeasts that eat sugars. Many of these yeasts live all over most things, including the skins of vegetables, and even float around in the air.
Fermentation was used to prevent or delay food spoiling for thousands of years before refrigeration was invented. Fermented foods are thought to have been made by humans since the Stone Age, and probably sought out before that in naturally occurring forms, like ripening fruit and berries that ferment from microbes in the air, called wild fermentation. Throughout the season, fermenting tree sap attracts animals who come to drink it. Each autumn, fruit starts falling from trees and bushes, ferments, and attracts animals who eat the sweet mild-alcohol-mash it creates. Various fermentation changes in foods may have been discovered throughout history as ancient peoples traveled, carrying food and drinks in sacks that probably were warmed and bumped along, then opened later to yield tangy interesting new foods and drinks. Every traditional society and cultural group has their own fermented foods.
Making your own fermented foods saves you money over purchasing commercially made foods and probiotics, and is mostly safe to do. Fermented food can taste good - some are better than the original. Fermenting allows you to safely store food longer, and uses leftovers that would go to waste.
Some Common Fermented Foods
Almost any vegetables, including the stems, can be fermented.
Making sauerkraut - fermented cabbage. In the photo above, I have started cutting red cabbage, and in the photo below, put the sliced and squeezed cabbage into jars with carrots, garlic, lemon balm, and spices. Some people prefer green cabbage for sauerkraut. It is up to you.
Pickled cucumbers, peppers, sauerkraut, and kimchee are examples of fermented vegetables. The word "pickling" means to preserve any vegetables, not only pickles made from cucumbers. That means you can have pickled carrots, pickled radish, beets, peppers, and so on, and all these are often just called pickles.
Not all pickles are fermented; some are preserved in vinegar without fermenting. When purchasing, check which process is used, so you get the one you want.
Common Japanese Fermented Vegetables. Miso, tempeh, natto, fermented tofu (there are many unfermented kinds of tofu and soy products too, so make sure to know which you are choosing), fermented bean paste, amakaze which is a lightly fermented rice drink, and many more.
Making your own fermented vegetables. In general, put cut, washed, unpeeled vegetables in jars or pots, cover with brine (brine is water with a bit of non-iodized salt), add spices for the taste you like, close with a lid, and leave them to ferment over several days, or longer depending on surrounding temperature and the taste you want. Bacteria naturally present on the vegetable skins are the fermenting agents. Different good cultures form at different stages which is why leaving fermenting food longer allows more and varied products. Salt in the recipe inhibits microorganisms that are unhealthy to us, and favors beneficial Lactobacilli growth. Beneficial bacteria exists all the time on the vegetable skins, plus many vitamins. That is why it is important that you don't peel if you are fermenting. Not peeling can also be healthier when preparing non-fermented vegetables.
Here is a simple example to make picked carrots (or other vegetable): Cut carrots into sticks short enough to fit in your selected jar with some space left at the top. Stuff many carrot sticks in the jar with garlic cloves, a small amount of salt, a bay leaf or two, and spices like peppercorns, fenugreek, mustard seeds, cumin, and others you enjoy. Bay leaves are supposed to keep the vegetables crisper. Cover with clean filtered water. Filtered water has the chlorine removed. Chlorine is live-saving in public water to stop many bad germs until the water can get to you. Since chlorine also removes fermenting microbes, filtering the water to remove chlorine before using it helps the fermenting process. Close the lid and leave on a countertop or room-temperature place (not air-conditioned). Keep vegetables submerged under the brine so good bacteria will develop, and mold and other harmful by-products are discouraged by keeping oxygen away from the ferment. Release developing carbon-dioxide bubbles by loosening the lid daily. There are many recipes, and so many different vegetables you can use.
Fermented cabbage is known as sauerkraut (sour cabbage) in many places in the world. In Dutch, it is zuurkool (soured cabbage), and so on. In many Slavic countries it is simply called fermented cabbage in all the various languages. There are many of varieties of Korean kimchee including those made with cabbage. Early explorers took fermented cabbage with them to prevent scurvy, among other diseases.
To make sauerkraut by fermenting cabbage, slice a cabbage thinly and place, with salt, in a bowl large enough to get both your hands into. Squeeze and crush the cabbage pieces with your hands to release the juice - should be a lot if you squeeze strongly enough. Pack the cabbage in a jar with your choice of flavorings, for example garlic cloves, shredded or grated carrot and/or apple for a sweeter recipe, herbs. Keep an inch or two of the juice between the top of the vegetables and the air to prevent mold. To make a Kimchee style, add hot chili peppers, grated ginger, and mushroom broth to the base recipe. Non-vegetarians add fish. Loosen the jar lid daily to release accumulating gas.
Beside eating fermented vegetables and fruit directly, you can use them to make sauces, toppings, fillings, garnishes, and other parts of your regular meals.
Beer, wine, mead, kvass, hard cider, fermented fruit sodas, vinegar, and kombucha are common fermented drinks made by yeast fermentation. Tea leaves, coffee seeds, and cacao pods all undergo various amounts of fermentation before becoming tea, coffee, and chocolate.
Fermenting gives drinks a bit of healthy quality. The alcohol content also lets the drinks store for longer without spoiling, as alcohol kills some of the germs. It can't kill them all so don't count on fermenting and alcohol for sanitation. Obviously, there are non-healthful qualities of alcohol in large doses, and from smaller doses for some people.
Here are some of my kombucha jars with SCOBYs and their brew. My scobys grow so fast they sometimes outgrow their jars and start climbing out. Their hats are paper towels tied around the rim to keep out insects while allowing in air. We have since added little party hats to top off their jars. Why not have a festive kitchen? I hope to add more photos here of my kvas, vinegars, meads, and other fermented drinks and baking.
I wasn't there when wine making was first developing eons ago (no matter how old my students think I am), but my conjecture is that the practice of squashing grapes with the hands or feet to release the sweet juice was more than feet being a convenient fun tool. Microbes from the skin and soil contributed to the fermenting processes. Later, presses were developed that could do a more thorough extraction than by using feet or hands. Wild-fermentation, meaning the microorganisms were from whatever is in the air and soil, often makes poor-tasting fermented drinks. Over time, people figured out which strains of yeast made good wine, which made good beer, and which the best mead. They isolated and bred specific strains for different taste wanted, and introduced sterilization steps for the drink-making process to kill competing strains. Modern scientists in that field specialize in making yeasts for specific tastes and results.
Fermented drinks like beer appear to have been popular eons ago with our nomadic ancestors for portable hydration and calories for activity and survival. It is also possible that some of the health benefits reported over centuries for tea, were that drinks made from boiled water, with the tannic acids of tea leaves, were safer than some of the lake waters with worms and germs and animal poop. People who didn't have clean fresh water from streams and wells uncontaminated from industry or something upstream that died of cholera may have given us the drink toast:
"In wine, there is wisdom,
In beer, there is strength,
In water, bacteria!"
Beer is made from fermented grain, usually barley, with different kinds of hops (a vine plant) to make the sweet barley mash (the malt) more bitter. Variations in beer making combine or substitute wheat or other cereal grains with barley.
Wine is made from fermented fruit, usually grapes. Modern commercial wine makers no longer rely on grape variety and yeasts and containers alone to develop and change flavor, acidity, thickness, and the many factors that influence buyers. They use many dozens of chemical additives designed in ongoing scientific advances. At home, you can make your own quick fermented fruit soda-wine from fruits like pears or peaches.
Fermented fruit soda. Most fruits can be mashed and put in jars with some water, sugar, yeasts, favorite herbs, and left for a few days to make light fizzy fermented fruit sodas and ciders. Different flavors come from adding ginger, herbs, lemon leaves, and others. You can let the mash ferment from yeasts normally present in the air, or use a packet of commercial yeast. There are many kinds and each is developed to help with different flavors.
Peaches mashed with herbs and a little ginger. The mash will go into jars for a day or two to make an easy bubbly soda.
Sugar is added for the yeasts to eat and provide fermentation. Yeasts convert the sugar to carbon dioxide bubbles and alcohol, acids, vitamins, minerals, and enzymes. Loosen the jar lids to release bubbles every now and then to prevent your jars from bursting. Little to no sugar is left, depending how long you let the yeasts do their work to ferment. After the yeast eats all the sugar, they go dormant and fermenting stops. The longer you let the fruit soda ferment (until all sugar is eaten), and the more sugar you started with, the more fermented (mildly alcoholic) it becomes, up to a point. After a certain low alcohol level is reached, it kills the yeast, so fermenting stops there also.
Drink it fresh, or put the soda in the refrigerator when it is the hardness you like. You can drink the finished fruit soda, use it for sweetening baking and other mixes, even make popsicles by freezing the finished fermented fruit sodas. Some people strain the pulp and discard or compost it. I like to leave mine in the drink. I like a shorter ferment when the drink is more of a sweet tangy fruit juice. Leaving it another day turns it to fruit wine. Some people think fermented sodas are always healthier than fruit juice. However, for some people, for example people who want to avoid alcohol, a hard drink is not for them, even if it is called soda.
Mead is fermented honey, sometimes called honey wine.
Adding yeast to our honey and water mash. Then we cover with an airlock stopper which lets produced gas out. It will ferment over the next weeks into sweet mead.
Hard Cider is fermented cider from apples.
Vinegar is a sharp-tasting fermented liquid that comes from letting air get into dilute alcoholic liquids like cider and wine (most common types), or barley malt or sugar syrups, allowing oxygen and acetic acid bacteria (acetobacters) to change it to vinegar. The English word "vinegar" comes from the Latin vinum ‘wine’ + acetum 'soured,’ meaning "wine turned sour." It became shortened to acetum. Your concave hip sockets that cup the upper leg bone is called the acetabulum, from the words acetum ‘vinegar’ + -abulum, denoting a container. It was named because it looked (to the people naming it) like a vinegar cup.
Some people make vinegar by accident from their wine and juice-making experiments and storage. Other people specialize in making many kinds and flavors of vinegar for tasty mixed drinks. You can carbonate it or add fruit, berries, and herbs that you like. If you make a batch of home fruit soda-wine and you don't like the taste, you can cook with it or let it turn to vinegar. Apple cider vinegar is the same process of letting apples ferment in jars of water for a week or two, then straining off the apples, and letting the resulting cider age until the taste you want.
Tea. Tea leaves undergo various amounts of fermentation to make different kinds of tea. For example, green tea and white tea are stopped from fermenting fully, leaving them lighter in color, but still with high concentration of phenols, which are antioxidants. Some black teas are made from fully fermented tea leaves. There are also post-fermented teas, very dark, different from black tea. A lot of interesting processes to find out about.
Coffee. The process of making coffee beans (fruit/ seeds) into drinkable coffee varies greatly from region to region, and involves different amounts of fermenting, resulting in different tastes.
Kombucha is a tea drink fermented by colonies of bacteria and yeast. Kombucha is made by putting plain brewed tea (not herbal tea), sugar, and a living kombucha culture in a jar (or bowl or other non-metal container). The culture is sometimes called a mushroom, although it is not a real mushroom, it just looks like a large flat mushroom cap (to some people). The culture is also called a SCOBY (Symbiotic Community Of Bacteria & Yeast). The SCOBY eats the sugar to make its starchy home that floats at the surface of the container. After decanting the finished kombucha in about a week (or more depending on the taste you want - longer for letting the SCOBY eat all the sugar and make stronger Kombucha, and less for sweater tea), the SCOBY is given more sweet tea to eat and make into the next batch, and the next, and so on, the same as keeping some yogurt or sourdough as a starter to make each successive batch. It is a tradition among the healthier fermenting communities to share, not sell, starters and cultures, keeping fermenting socially healthy as well. As with other fermented drinks and food, kombucha is not new, even if it is a pricey fad now. It has been made for centuries, with stories of origin in early China and Eastern Europe, with most households making ongoing batches, often called mushroom tea (for the appearance of the scobys) in jugs along with their other fermented foods. I learned about making kombuchas and kvas drinks and others from my Grandmother when I was small. Some sources say that the benefits are only that it is (very) mildly alcoholic. Others say that some benefit comes from the acidity, like a better tasting vinegar drink that has biotic activity. Articles saying it is dangerous are (at time of this writing) based on a case report of two people who died after drinking kombucha that tested to be the same strain. Here is a CDC report. No other reports list reasons for problems (that I know of, keep me posted). Composition of flora of each SCOBY varies with the various wild organisms that are in your kitchen when you prepare it. SCOBYs and kombucha drink can occasionally go bad; if you see mold growing on your batch, discard the Scobys and all the liquid (everything) in that batch, the same as you would any food that gets moldy. Enjoy kombucha if you like it. Rinsing your teeth with water drinking kombucha has been recommended, the same as after any acidic drink (while brushing is said to be better avoided, as it may scrape off enamel softened from the acidic drink). Remember that claims for high and exotic health benefits are more than the actual evidence.
Kvas is fermented soda made in many Slavic countries. Traditionally, pumpernickel bread (or rye bread) is fermented with herbs and raisins to make a dark, bubbly, and barely alcoholic drink. It was commonly made at home and sold by street venders. Since then, other fermented drinks have come to be called kvass. One story is that in the rise of Western cola drinks and kvass imitations coming into Eastern Europe after the political change in the 1990s a Russian company, whose name is pronounced (in Russian) as Not Cola (Nikola), advertised their own Kvass as "Anti Cola-nisation."
Fermented bread, for example sourdough, is made by fermenting dough using lactobacilli (lacto-fermentation), wild yeasts, and aceto-bacteria (depending what kind of final taste and texture bread the baker wants).Yeasts ferment sugar into alcohol and carbon dioxide which makes bubbles that make the bread rise. The alcohol burns off during baking. Sourdough uses a longer fermentation process than baker-yeast breads. Some people say that the long-fermentation of sourdough baking tastes better (to them), and the product more digestible. Most societies have their own traditional fermented bread and bread products. Pancakes, muffins, biscuits, even pizza dough, can all be made with fermented sourdough.
By contrast, unfermented bread is made without fermenting yeasts. The dough is expanded by gas bubbles created by ingredients other than fermenting yeasts, and is baked quickly after mixing. There is no time for chemical change in the starches.
Gluten-Free Fermented Breads
You can use fermenting on non-gluten grains to make gluten-free fermented breads.
There is long-recorded history of societies throughout the world soaking, fermenting, and sprouting grains to reduce a natural substance called phytic acid, which can inhibit some dietary mineral absorption.
Fermented oatmeal is one of many Christmas foods in the Lemko Region, called keselyca, and is a holiday soup in Poland sometimes with bay leaves, minced garlic, potatoes and mushrooms. Fermented oatmeal is often considered a Slavic meal, but porridges of many kinds are probably fermented by many groups around the world.
Making your own fermented oatmeal: For ordinary use as a meal or cereal, fermented oatmeal can be made easily by letting oatmeal stand on a countertop in a covered bowl or jar with starter yeast and enough water to soften, or using yogurt as starter if you eat dairy. Barley is sometimes recommended as a helpful ingredient to further reduce phytate, depending whom you ask about this topic. You can make any variation of sweet breakfast meal or savory soup. Save the liquid or some of the already fermented oatmeal as starter for the next batch, or start anew each time, up to you.
Fermented dairy is made by lacto-fermentation. Beneficial kinds of lacto-bacteria act on the milk sugar called lactose to produce lactic acid, which causes milk protein to thicken, and lowers the pH. Lower pH (more acid environment) reduces bacteria that is unhealthy for us. That is why yogurt stays fresh longer than milk. It is thought that the fermenting process which reduces lactose content makes dairy more tolerated by people lactose intolerant, and provides a healthier source of dairy. Several kinds of lacto-bacteria exist. Their use and combination make the different tastes of different kinds of yogurts. Cultures from each fermented batch are used to make the next batch.
To ferment specific cheeses, bacteria and healthy molds are added to cream or milk.
Yogurt is fermented milk. So is whey-kefir, lassi, and cultured buttermilk. Armenian fermented milk is matzoon. Persian fermented milk is called doogh. Nordic countries have Filmjölk. Most societies have their own traditional fermented milk products.
If you purchase yogurt, check that there are live cultures. Pasteurizing after culturing kills the cultures (that is the purpose of pasteurization - to kill microbiota - but good ones are destroyed also).
Making your own yogurt. Make your own live culture yogurt by mixing previous yogurt culture (or a commercial packet of live culture) into warm milk. Pour into covered containers and leaving in a warm place overnight or until desired thickness. For varieties of flavor, add unsweetened un-dutched baking cocoa powder, or vanilla, cinnamon, or fruit, and you can make many flavored yogurts without sugar or additives.
Fermented Non-Dairy Yogurt Substitutes
You can use yogurt cultures to ferment mashed nuts, rice, soy, or coconut to make non-dairy drinks. Make them the same as above for dairy yogurt.
Fermented Sauces and Condiments
You can ferment ketchup, mustard, salsas, and your favorite condiments.
The cocoa tree is a tropical tree that produces seeds, commonly called cocoa beans. (not coca the drug, but cocoa, where you get chocolate products). The beans are fermented to make cocoa powder, which is used to make a variety of chocolate products. Fermenting is supposed to be part of what gives some of the healthy properties to the cocoa.
Easy quick kitchen uses for unsweetened un-dutched cocoa powder are to add it to blender drinks and your baking. Sweeten with crushed fruit. Mash together with a frozen banana and blend until smooth and it will taste like chocolate ice cream. Use this unsweetened product instead of commercial chocolate with oils and sugars added, making it candy, not health food.
How Long Does It Take For Food To Ferment?
It usually takes only a few days to make many of the quicker fermented drinks and vegetables for daily use. Other foods like sauerkraut and kimchee are left to ferment in jars for a week to many weeks, even months, depending on desired outcome. Longer still for some delicacies. DIfferent varieties of biota accumulate in the ferment over time. Chinese preserved eggs called "hundred-year egg" or "thousand-year egg" are left buried or in preserving pots for weeks to months. Cocoa to make chocolate is an example of longer fermentation that is usually done in commercial and plantation venues. Mead may age for many months. Wines for months to many years.
Do You Need Expensive Fermenting Equipment and Heritage Starters and Paraphernalia?
The examples on this page of making simple fermented vegetables, yogurt, and sodas are general concepts for the simplest of practices. Of course there are more intricate ways of fermenting to yield varieties of outcomes. Do what suits you. Adding increasingly complicated steps, ingredients, and tools may be for a love of the exact science or practice, or the artistry of producing subtle variations, or the need for consistent results through exact measurements. As with so many practices, some people take it to extremes, or succumb to the fad of needing material things to prove how simple they are, or may be a most common downfall of making an originally positive concept into destructive dogma.
Learn all you can. Have fun building on your knowledge. Don't fall prey to exaggerated claims, rituals, or pressure groups (people who sell the equipment or courses).
Must You Eat A Lot of Commercial Ferments Every Day or Take Pills? A Little About PRE-biotics.
A simple amount of fermented food is common in most societies in each meal. It was one of the ways they preserved food for longer time. But do you need large amounts of fermented food every day? Must you spend much time making large quantities in your kitchen and purchasing many expensive commercial products?
Purchased probiotics, which are currently a huge commercial marketing tactic, are not the only way you get fermented by-products of bacteria.
Your gut biota eat what you eat. Growth of biota that is beneficial to you, or those that correlate with specific diseases, depend on your diet. The food you eat is PRE biotic.
Pre-Biotics - Feeding Your Biome
One of the jobs of your gut is to ferment some of the fiber that you eat and make its own probiotic products and more good bacteria. Along with eating a small amount of fermented food, eat healthy foods with fiber (fruit and vegetables, seeds or nuts, and legumes), and you can feed your own resident intestinal good bacteria (beneficial microbes) what they need for you to avoid a number of illnesses and diseases.
By contrast, if you eat an unhealthful diet, competing microbes increase, along with their by-products. One example is trimethylamine oxide, a large factor in cardiovascular disease (more than cholesterol). It is produced by your bacteria when you eat meat and not when you eat vegetables.
Another example is when your bacteria don't get the healthy carbohydrate they need from fruit and vegetables to make short-chain fatty acids, which are important to cardiovascular. gastrointestinal, and immune health. In that case, the bacteria mutate to be able to digest your intestinal wall linings instead, causing some of the modern inflammatory bowel ailments. That is a large reason why fruit and vegetables are important to both heart and G.I. health - for the fiber the bacteria need to make by-products healthy for the heart, and not injure the G.I. tract trying to do it. Meat has no fiber.
No Need For Supplements
Your own production is important. Many expensive supplements are made unavailable from stomach acid before they ever reach your digestion.
Your diet matters for probiotic activity after you eat probiotics. Remember, when you eat, you are feeding your microbes. The metabolites of good or bad biota can predominate to produce health or disease.
You usually don't need probiotic supplements for ailments. They do not undo the effects of unhealthful diet. Cultures needed are strain specific - what works for one disorder does not work for another. Even if you pay a lot for supplements claiming strains for specific ailments, supplements are not regulated and do not have to do anything claimed on the label. They may have no active amount, or highly different portions. They may not disperse in the GI system, even if claimed to. Large amounts of one may compete unfavorably with others you may need.
Any Downside to Fermented Food?
Some people find they get headaches from some ferments. For some people it is a migraine-like response to tyramine-rich foods like chocolate, wines, and aged cheeses and pickles. For others, it may be more of an allergic and histamine response. Still others get headaches from the food-grade sanitizing agents required for many commercially bought ferments, and in making ferments that are strain-specific. Some people get depression from certain fermented foods and not others. Gut biome is linked to mood. There is a popular but unhealthy fad belief that feeling terrible when trying some new diet or fad means "bad chemicals are coming back out of the body." The short answer is that it does not work that way. If you feel bad, then that is not good. Don't continue with things (or people) that make you feel worse.
You don't have to eat lots of ferments to be healthy. Check the ones you like. Don't worry about "band-wagon" thinking that you must always eat gourmet ferments, or ones that make you feel bad.
Antacid Drugs and Risk of Osteoporotic Fracture
Anti-acid drugs are a contributor to risk of debilitating fractures. For more about this, scroll down a few articles after this one to read more in "Keep Good Bone Density. Some Drugs Increase Incidence of Osteoporosis and Hip Fractures."
One thing to try instead? Fermented food, especially varieties of cabbage, seem to work well for some people to reduce or stop causes of some acid problems. Commercial anti-acid drugs reduce beneficial microbes in your gut, creating a continuing problem of not having beneficial flora your own body needs to stop causes of the acid problem itself.
To help reduce risks of fractures, keep active to build bone strength, and check for the several contributors that reduce bone strength and bone density (separate conditions) - smoking, use of steroid drugs, rheumatoid arthritis, lack of physical activity, poor diet, and others.
Beside problems of antacid drug on your biomes above, many other drugs require a type of microbiome to produce the right metabolites. Consuming different drugs for different ailments can result in competing changes, rendering one system less effective, or unhealthy in other ways.
Ode to Commercial Food, in Limerick Format
by Jolie Bookspan
They make sure your biome's ignored
and conventional dogma inured
They care no iota
for microbiota and
sell pills that leave you uncured
Lots To Learn
The science of fermentation is known as zymology. Go read and have fun learning about fermenting foods. Send me your examples and photos in the kitchen. I will try to make time to add more simple fermenting recipes here.
Our microbiome is our largest endocrine organ. It is also changeable. Go make it healthy.
Free, High-Nutrition, Tasty Food - Dandelions
Good For You, Good For Your Lawn
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
I wrote about dandelions for my column The Fitness Fixer in 2009. Back then, eating dandelions was considered strange by many people. They didn't know that it is a real and healthy food, and that was a common food for generations. Today, it is an expensive gourmet item in fancy restaurants, high-priced stores, specialty pizzas, and overly-hyped commercial teas, even though it was always available cheaply in many Asian markets, and has been long-known to wild foragers.
1. Check your lawns and grassy areas for dandelions. Many people will let you have theirs free. You can tell dandelions by their jagged leaves. The shape of leaves was how dandelions were named, from the French for 'dents de lion' (tooth of the lion). You get free, built-in exercise and squats, plus high-nutrition garden, even if you have not planted a garden.
2. Bend right - using healthy position of your back and knees - to pull free, nutritious food. Healthy bending is summarized on this page in the topics that follow, and fully described in my Fix Back Pain page and Fix Knee Pain page.
3. You can eat the greens, the flowers, even the roots. The USDA Bulletin #8, "Composition of Foods" (Haytowitz & Matthews 1984) ranks dandelions in the "top four green vegetables in overall nutritional value."
Dandelion has long been known as a top nutritional food, and even medicine. The official name, Taraxacum officinal, comes from the Greek, 'taraxos' meaning 'disorder' and 'akos' meaning 'remedy.'
You can eat the greens raw as salad, saute them like other green vegetables, and use them to make juice. Greens are best fresh and young, just before flowering. Greens have bitter taste (like coffee and beer) that is said to aid digestion. People who are accustomed to junk sweets may not like them at first. They taste better over time, and mixed with nuts, spices, and vinegar.
Dandelion flowers are pretty in salads and on vegetables. You can also use them to make wine (to be covered in articles to come). Dandelion root contains inulin, a soluble fiber which does not raise blood sugar or triglycerides, making it helpful to people with diabetes. Dig roots in early spring or fall. You can eat them as is, or soak them in a jar of brandy or vodka for four weeks (or more) to make a tincture.
By picking dandelions for healthy use, instead of using herbicides to prevent them, you can stop using toxic and expensive chemicals on your lawn or garden. It's better not to add toxic chemicals to the water system, or to your system, or to your pets.
Good news - dandelions are good for your lawn. They have deep tap roots that give your lawn natural aeration. Heavily-compacted soil doesn't let the lawn breathe.
More good news - even when you pull dandelions to eat, they come back to make more, free, nutritious food, that aerates your lawn, without work.
Some ideas for healthy gardening are on the Fitness as a (Real) Lifestyle page.
More Free, High-Nutrition Food With Simple Wild Foraging
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
I took a walk around the block in the northern urban city where I live to see what is good to eat.
When I was a child, my Grandmother would point to things and ask me, "Can you eat that?" She'd point to bears in the circus, trees on the street, pine cones, flowers. Most of the people who heard her talking to me thought she was wrong. I learned she was right. She taught me to ferment and bake and eat healthy greens, fruit, and food that grows wild. (I have skipped the bears. After the circus, I knew I preferred to "Meet the Cast" not, "Eat the Cast.")
In a quick walk around the block I found more than a dozen plants that are nutritious, make easy cooked dishes and salads, nice flavorings, or are remedies as well as food - all growing in sidewalk cracks and along the street. These are plants that used to be major food and medicine sources, then in "civilized" society thought to be weeds to be killed.
Below are some that I found in my walk during the summer, and then more from other foraging walks in autumn. When you try it, be smart. City foraging means you may collect plants polluted with vehicle exhaust, pesticides, and animal droppings. Obviously, don't eat just anything you find on the sidewalk.
Purslane, Portulaca olearacea
Easy to find growing in cracks in the sidewalk. Lemony good taste, said to be high in omega-3 fatty acids among other nutrients. Stems, leaves, and flowers are all edible. Eat raw on salads or lightly sautéd.
Plantain, Plantago major
Same common name, but not the fruit that looks like a banana. Plantain is another common city "weed." Has many common names. Nutritious leaves, best when young. Bigger leaves get more fibrous and bitter. As a medicinal for itchy insect bites, and to help close small cuts in the skin, chew a leaf until it is a juicy mass, or squeeze out the juice between your fingers and place on the wound. Some people put washed leaves inside baby diapers to sooth rash after making sure there is no allergy.
Sweet Annie, Artemisia annua
Sweet Annie is an herb. It smells nice and can be hung in the house as an air freshener, crumbled on the carpet or floor before sweeping, and makes a nice-looking, nice-smelling addition to floral arrangements and wreaths. There are all kinds of claims about it as a medicinal plant.
Rose Hips, Rosa canina, R. gallica, R. rugosa, R. villosa, R. spp.
Rose hips are the bulbous seed-ball that forms under rosebuds. Rose hips look like little apples. Roses are in the same family as apples. All roses make rose hips if you don't remove spent rose blooms on the living bush. Taste ranges from sweet to tart, and is known for very high Vitamin C. Humans are among the few animals who can't make their own Vitamin C so need to eat it.
Harvest rose hips any time after they form. The taste sweetens more after the first frost. Choose firm ones. Cut them open and remove (discard) the seeds and small sharp hair-like fibers. You can eat the remaining seed case raw just like that. You can also steep them in boiling water for tea, use them to make jellies, and add to recipes for cookies and pies, even wines. Drying and storing decreases Vitamin C. Store bought rose hips preparations may be depleted, or have to be fortified with other sources of C. Rose petals are also edible. Find recipes that suit you. Don’t eat rose petals or hips from rose bushes treated with pesticides.
Rose hips were a favorite of my Grandmother, as was eating whole garlic bulbs as if they were apples.
When planting a garden, roses and garlic are considered good "companion plants" that do well planted together (co-planting). Garlic plants protect rose bushes from insects and diseases, and don't crowd them. The rose flower itself is also edible, beside making fragrant garnishes and food colorings. Scroll down below for the section on Edible Flowers.
Chicory, Cichorium intybus
Chicory leaves can be eaten raw or cooked. Chicory tastes bitter, like others in the same family - escarole, endive, radicchio, dandelion. The flower buds can be pickled (see the fermenting section above). The root is baked and ground up to be brewed into chicory coffee.
Lady's Thumb, Polygonum persicaria
The leaves are good salad greens. Taste is variable. Young leaves may have a "peppery" taste, like other members of the smartweed family. It's not a known allergen (as far as I know).
Epazote, Dysphania ambrosioides, formerly Chenopodium ambrosioides
There it was, a South and Central American cooking herb growing out of a northern city sidewalk. A common dish is to prepare it with beans. Use it as a flavoring as you like. Like other herbs, it has small amounts of nutritious qualities. Only use in small quantities. It is said to be unhealthy otherwise. Used for various herbal remedies such as indigestion and possibly as a remedy for some kinds of worms.
Pre-Colombian Aztecs of South America thought amaranth had holy powers and used it in ritual sacrifice. Today amaranth provides the trendy grain in expensive specialty markets. Amaranth is prepared in many ways in many places. The seeds can be fermented into beer, ground into high protein meal, or mixed with sweet food to make candy. There are many species of amaranth. Amaranth may grow wild or cultivated, and as a vegetable variety or a grain variety. Wild plants grow in many places for easy foraging. Take the young tender leaves from the top. Cook the leaves and short cut stems the way you would mustard greens.
Some people call amaranth pigweed, others say it is not pigweed. Different languages use different common names. That is why I like Latin names. They make a more universal communication and identification.
Wood Sorrel, Oxalis with over 800 species
Clover shaped leaves, tasting like lemons. High Vitamin C. You can eat the leaves, flowers, seed pods (when green), and roots raw or cooked. Handy to eat on hikes. Use it as a seasoning. Mix with a sweetener to make sweet sorrel tea, which tastes like lemonade. Don't overdo. It is high in potassium oxalate and oxalic acid, not good for people with kidney disease or stones, rheumatoid arthritis, or gout (or for anyone in high amounts all the time). Cooking is supposed to reduce that, but learn more first. Some people are allergic to it. In high amounts it can also give you diarrhea. Don't plant this in your garden, it will take over, is resistant to removing, and you can't eat much of it.
Peppergrass, Many different ones, I think this one is Lepidium Virginicum
Young leaves taste peppery. They can flavor salads and soups. Seed pods can be used the same ways you use pepper. Medicinally, a root extract is supposed to be good against amoebas. It has been used in the Mexican highlands against diarrhea and dysentery. (Obviously if you have any health condition, have it professionally checked to see what it is and what it needs to be treated properly and completely.) Dried stems make nice decorations.
Paper Mulberry, Broussonetia papyrifera
You can suck on the sweet orange pom-pom-like fruit. You can cook and eat the young leaves. They are chewy. The leaves are soft on one side, rough on the other, nice to know in case you need woodland toilet paper.
Autumn Foraging - Many more plants are found later in the season:
Autumn Berry (Autumn Olive) Elaeagnus umbellata, Elaeagnaceae
Common wild fruit-producer. So common that some people think it is a noxious weed. Single bushes (shrubby trees) produce buckets of easy to reach and pick berries in early autumn. Can be distinguished by silvery underside of the leaves. Autumn olives are said to have eighteen times as much lycopene as tomatoes (Black and Fordham, 2005). Autumn olive is different from the Russian olive, and not related to true olives (genus Olea). Berries in early autumn are more tart, later, more sweet. You can eat them raw, cook into a mash, strain for purees, add to baking and many cooked dishes, and make juice.
Autumn berries cooked into a sweet mash
Patience Dock, Rumex patientia
Approximately 200 dock plants are in the genus Rumex. It is easy to find them growing in accessible places (meadows, brushes, yards). Several Rumex species are high in Vitamins C and A, protein, and iron, according to the USDA. Like other Rumex such as sorrels, beets, chard, rhubarb, and spinach, it contains oxalic acid, making it better cooked as side dishes, rather than in large amounts as constant main dishes.
Kousa Dogwood, Cornus kousa
You can tell the species non-native to the US by large, sweet fruits. It is used in landscaping. The species that is native to the Eastern US has smaller clustered fruits. You can pick and eat these right from the tree (check for bugs if you are vegetarian, and for contaminants and bird poop).
Hawthorn Berries, Crateagus species
There are many (many) species of Hawthorn trees. Hawthorn trees can live to be 400 years old. Like other fruit, the berries that form in autumn have antioxidant and flavonoid activity. Small berries, sometimes called haws, sprout after the flowers. Avoid the long sharp thorns while picking berries from the trees. There is disagreement whether is it is bad to eat the seeds or the flowers. Until you learn enough to make informed decisions, remove and discard the seeds, especially for children, then you can eat the berries raw, cook or baked, and make vinegar from them. The berries are high in pectin, making them good for making hawthorn jam and other fruit and berry jams. Don't eat the flowers if they smell like almonds (may mean high cyanide content). The leaves, berries, and flowers of hawthorn are used to make medicine, with various claims to help circulatory and respiratory illnesses.
Crab Apples, Malus sylvestris
Most wild apples are small and sour but can get a bit sweeter after the frost and can be sweetened more by baking or roasting. If they remain too sour for you, you can make them into juice, wine, or jams. Hybrid crab apple trees planted in many public parks seem to have sweeter apples.
Knock crab apples from the trees with sticks or brooms.
Or with a tall person. That's Paul. His website is PaulPlevakas.com.
Honey Locust Pods, Gleditsia triacanthos
Honey locust trees drop lots of long flat brownish seed pods in autumn. The pulp inside honey locust pods is sweet, but black locust pod pulp and seeds are toxic. Learn to distinguish black locust trees by darker bark, different leaves, and smaller seed pods than the honey locust, among several differences. Learn more before eating anything.
Pods are easy to find on the ground in autumn. Break open the hard, leathery pods lengthwise. The thinner side, opposite the larger side with seeds, has golden-colored gooey sweet pulp. You can slurp small bits of pulp straight from the pod, or put many opened pods in a pitcher of water, squeeze to encourage the pulp out, and steep 30 minutes or so. Remove spent pods (for compost or whatever) and strain the liquid to remove hard bits. You can drink it fresh, use in cooking, and ferment it into beer. You can also separate the pulpy side, let them dry for two or three days, and eat the whole thing like fruit-leather strips. Chewy and sweet.
Burdock, a few edible species including Arctium lappa and Arctium minus
During its first year, burdock grows stout green leaves close to the ground with no stem. Here is a picture of digging for burdock:
In the second year, burdock grows a tall stem with purple flowers and dry seed pods called burrs that cling like Velcro to skin, clothing, hides, and fur, which is a seed dispersal method. Make sure to check your animals to remove these little burrs that cling and irritate. The burrs are how burdock was named - it is a dock plant that grows burrs. In the 1940s, Swiss inventor George de Mestral noticed burrs sticking on his clothes and the dog's fur after a walk, studied the burr's hooks, and used that approach to create commercial Velcro fasteners. Several languages use the same word for burrs and for Velcro or general fasteners.
In the photo below, Dog noticed the burrs stuck to my sleeves and jeans, and seemed to laugh.
Like other plants, burdock contains antioxidants. Cook and season first year leaves for eating. Peel and scrub stems and roots to remove the bitter rind before cooking. Can be nibbled raw if you like bitters. Slow roast to sweeten. The leaves can be used to wrap and cook other food. Burdock may have been in the original recipe for root beer.
Garlic Mustard, Alliaria petiolata
Garlic Mustard is a nutritious herb. It is so abundantly found all year that it is called an invasive species. You can eat the flowers, leaves, roots, and seeds. Most parts taste garlicky, with the roots a bit like horseradish. Leaves get more bitter in hot weather, so some people prefer leaves foraged in cooler shady spots. Dig for the roots in early spring and late fall, when it is not flowering - it has small white flowers from May to June. Like other plants with trace amounts of cyanide, don't eat large amounts often, and blanch or soak leaves that you eat raw. Use as a cooked vegetable, in salads, pickled, as flavor in sauces, soups, and any other foods.
Mugwort, Artemisia vulgaris
(vulgaris means common. The common form is different from Artemisia absinthium, the original ingredient in the narcotic liquor Absinthe).
Mugwort has several species and many common names. It is a tall plant. The dark green leaves have long multiple points, similar to ragweed. It grows in poor soil. Different mugworts are used medicinally, as flavoring herbs, and in some recipes of rice cakes, soups, and salads, depending on kind. The early leaves and buds were used as a bitter flavoring to season other food. The bottom of the leaf is whitish and covered with wooly hairs that can be scraped off and used as tinder. Mugwort is toxic to eat in large amounts, and because of its toxic nature, can be dried to make smudge stick insecticide. It is one of the more allergenic plants. Mugwort pollen is a main factor in hay fever and allergic asthma. It was used in Pagan rituals, and many exaggerated and false claims persist, so learn more before eating, drinking, or smoking it. None of the medical claims have been confirmed.
Fun fact - in Ukranian, the word for mugwort is chornobyl. Chornobyl is the site of Ukraine's first nuclear power station, suffering a devastating nuclear accident under Soviet rule in 1986.
Ginkgo, Ginkgo Biloba
Ginkgo is a tree, native to China. It is also called Maidenhair-tree. Ginkgo trees were brought to the United States in 1784 by William Hamilton for his Philadelphia garden. Other US cities soon planted them as landscape and shade trees. The name biloba comes from Latin bis, meaning "two" and loba, meaning "lobed" because of the shape of the leaves. In Autumn, female trees produce small round peach-colored fruits containing a single chewy seed with a hard shell that looks like a pistachio. Fallen leaves and fruits are usually easily collected on the ground. The smell of crushed fruit lying on the ground, or when opening fruit to remove seeds, is a strong smell that many people dislike. The leaves have no bad smell (to humans). Some cities plant only male trees, considering the fruit a smelly nuisance, but male ginkgo biloba trees also produce pollen that is very allergy producing.
Various spelling. You can usually easily see the two (bi) lobed shape of the leaves, giving the name, biloba.
The fruit has some urushiol, the active chemical in poison oak, ivy and sumac, so people who react to that need gloves for collecting fruit and removing seeds. The fruit is usually soft enough to squeeze out the seed by hand. Wash the shells, pat dry, then roast in a pan or oven with seasonings and crack open to eat, or first crack the seed pods, and roast, saute, or boil directly. The pulpy green nut is described as feeling and tasting like a cooked potato or chestnut. The seed is used in many traditional Asian foods. People make teas and tinctures from the leaves.
Fossil records indicate ginkos lived hundreds of millions of years ago. Ginkos are durable trees that survive harsh exposures like intense weather, pests, drought, ice, and diseases that kill other trees. Because it resilient, people thought that eating it could make them resilient too, resulting in health claims from exaggerated to wildly false. Ginko leaf extract is a multi-billion dollar business. Controlled studies have not supported claims of high benefits to memory or attention in healthy people, or claims to cure serious diseases. Some people report headaches from taking ginko preparations. Commercial ginko supplements from China have been found to have a lot of lead. When you get your own ginko from local trees, consider traffic exhaust, run-off from factories, or if the land the trees grow on was formerly used to dump waste.
Nutritionally, ginko seeds taste good, and has small amounts of nutrients that you can also get in other common fruits and nuts. Don't eat more than a few seeds at a time. A chemical in ginkgo seeds (4-methoxypyridoxine) depletes Vitamin B6, and at least one other component (various names) is toxic in large quantities and is a heat-stable compound, not reduced by cooking. Don't eat the seeds or preparations from the leaves if you are allergic to similar plants like poison ivy or cashews. Ginkgo can be "blood thinning" (anti-platelet). Eating too many too often, especially combined with other foods which increase bleeding (garlic, ginseng, ginger, aspirin, fish oil, primrose, and other common supplements and foods) can lead to bruising and bleeding, ranging from gum and nose bleeds to serious bleeding after an accident or surgery.
In your backyard garden, you can grow and eat many varieties of plants that are nice to look at and also edible, without having to plant a vegetable garden. Easy to grow plants include mints and lemon balms. Hostas are especially good to eat when they are young rolled-up shoots. Young ferns produce curled shoots in the spring called fiddleheads, for the curled shape like the top scroll of a violin. Eating raw fiddleheads can make you sick. They are best cooked: boiled, steamed, and sautéed.
There are many more edible plants common to home gardens and for wild foraging. I will add more here, as I can. Check back.
Don't take from other people's property without permission.
Don't only take. Keep learning about how to harvest without harming land and plant ecology.
Do not eat or use anything you have not had more education about, to properly identify and distinguish from similar-looking but not healthy plants, what is healthy preparation, and what side effects are possible.
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
As a kid, I ate flowers. I don't think I grew up knowing that people didn't eat flowers. Why wouldn't you eat flowers? Flowers were plants and many plants were food (except the toxic ones which are great for understanding chemistry, toxicology, and ecology, but not for eating). Flowers smelled like they'd be good to eat. When we'd find honeysuckle vining over buildings, we'd pick the flowers, and pull off the green bottom called the calyx. The long string called the style comes out coated with sweet nectar to sip. Then we'd eat the flower. Honeysuckle flowers can decorate and flavor sandwiches, drinks, preserves, salads, vegetables, and desserts. Don't eat honeysuckle berries; they are poisonous.
The petals of many flowers are good in soup, cooked with vegetables, for edible decorations for whatever you cook, for coloring jams and baking, in salads, and making fragrant colorful teas. Edible flowers include lavender, dahlias, sunflowers, violets, the flowers of most herbs, marigolds, camellias, impatiens, clover, pumpkin and squash blossoms, daylilies, carnations, chrysanthemums. What other flowers can you eat? Many! Dandelion flowers were described above in edible plants. Here are a few more:
Nasturtiums and Pansies
Nastertiums have a bit of sweet and alkaline taste. Some people call it peppery. They are good in pasta and with anything you saute, like vegetables. They make lovely colorful decorations for just about anything you want to serve, and can be eaten like a garnish. If you have a sunny space, they are easy to grow in poor soil. You can eat the leaves and shoots as well as the flowers. Nasturtium comes from Latin words naris ‘nose’ + torquere ‘to twist’ and means "nose twist." Some people think they smell like pepper. Leaves of young plants are tender and good to eat also.
Pansies area another plant you can eat whole without having to remove and discard the pistils and stamens (generally recommended for eating flowers).
Everything edible - nasturtiums, pansies, rosemary blossoms, and chives.
As a kid, I thought roses smelled so good that I ate them.
All roses are edible. Darker flowers have stronger taste. Float petals in bowls of water for fragrance and visual beauty, and to scent and flavor the water for drinking and making into teas and jams. You can scatter petals over appetizers, desserts, and salads, and use them to flavor and color baked goods. The white base of the petals is bitter, so some people remove that before using the flowers.
Lemon muffins topped with crushed lavender flowers, and cookies flavored and colored with roses, topped with rose petal pieces. You can also sprinkle lavender flowers in salads.
Crab Apple Blossoms
Crab apples are described above in edible plant foraging. The flowers are also edible, beside adding beauty to your food.
One style of cake decorating uses sugar and fondant paste flowers. Why not use real flowers? Some (not all) orchids are edible and add a light crispy texture.
NOTE -- As with foraged greens and berries, don't use flowers from public areas or roadsides that may be treated with pesticides and exposed to car exhaust. As with other plants, not all flowers are safe for humans to eat. Many are poisonous. Some cause reactions in allergic people. Use known safe ones in small amounts. Don't take or harm flowers from other people's property. Learn more before eating anything.
I will add more here when I can on edible foraging and flowers, and also wilderness toxicology. Check back. Send in your photos and stories of using what you learned here, and what you can teach us. I will add it here, with full credit.
Thank you Lynn Landes for her pretty bowls and plates, and Constance Kirker for flowers.
Good Body Movement For Nutrition As A Lifestyle
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
How you move when you prepare and eat food is part of your health:
1. Good Bending for Healthy Nutrition
Good bending gives you free built-in exercise during ordinary real life, and prevents common aches.
Here is a fun way to improve your mind set to healthy nutrition as a lifestyle - Count how many times a day you bend and how many times you can choose to harm yourself or help yourself. Count how many times you bend down and crouch all day to:
- Look in the refrigerator,
- Load and unload the dishwasher,
- Leed a child or pet,
- Many daily activities that involve choosing, preparing, and eating food and drink.
Jessica Lattouf, student of Dr. Bookspan's Academy of Functional Exercise Medicine demonstrates healthy bending is for all you do. Squats in the gym cannot do as much for you as all the comfortable good bending you would do for real life. Going to physical therapy or doing back exercises for back pain does not undo the cause of bending wrong. Ms. Lattouf did much good work to certify in two Academy courses - Personal Trainer, and Healthier Nutrition.
2. Upper Body Healthy Movement and Positioning for Healthy Nutrition as a Lifestyle
Academy student Jessica Lattouf shows fixing neck and upper back position for healthier, more comfortable, drinking and eating:
1. Craning the neck and lifting the chin with a rounded upper back (upper left). At upper right: correcting to healthier position.
2. Lower left shows forward head and rounded upper back, fixed to relaxed, healthier neck and upper body (lower right) when eating from plates low on a table:
Healthier body position does not mean to rigidly hold straight and never bend the spine. It means to be aware if you habitually slump your weight on a rounded or angulated spine and use muscular control for healthier mobile positions that move as needed throughout healthy range.
In the photographs below, the first on the left shows a slouch often called "a forward head." Forward head position, over time, can cause upper back and neck pain. This pain is sometimes called "upper crossed" syndrome, but it is not a disease fixed by treatments or exercises, but a slouch to prevent. Over time, forward head position can press cervical (neck) discs outward enough to hurt, even enough to press nerves going down the arm, leading to arm pain and hand and finger numbness.
Academy nutrition student candidate Abdallah Achhab demonstrates forward head (first photo at left) and healthier relaxed neck and upper body (second photo on right) for an informal meal holding a plate.
The photograph below shows a forward head plus "craning" the neck - bending it back at one neck joint with chin forward and upwards. Jutting the chin upward with the neck forward can, over time, create a spondylolisthesis (vertebral shifting). Raising the arm with the shoulder rounded and the neck forward adds to shoulder and rotator cuff injury.
Check yourself for a forward head position when eating and drinking (and all real life situations):
- Corner of the jaw forward of the shoulder?
- Neck tilted forward?
- Jaw forward?
- Neck pinched backward?
- Upper back rounded forward? Sometimes people learn their upper back backward and pull shoulder back, but leave the head and neck jutting forward. This is not fixing pain, but creating more pain.
Notice if you are rounding your back, or sitting too arched and rigidly upright. Notice if you are jutting your chin forward and up. Instead:
Straighten more from the upper spine. Instead of rounding the upper back forward, you get a nice straightening stretch built in to daily nutrition.
To look upward, and to drink, get the upward motion more from straightening your upper back, and not from one joint in your neck. The neck is not a hinge joint.
Don't rely on the common, but incomplete advice, "Keep ear over shoulder" thinking that is straight posture. You can see in the photo above that the ear is over the shoulder, but the neck is craned and pinched in an unhealthy amount.
Use healthful positioning for built-in upper body muscle exercise and easy pain prevention.
Notice all the times you round and hang forward over things that you can easily reach by standing upright. Check your upper back positioning when standing over counters, sinks, grocery bins, vacuum cleaners, cribs and baby-changing tables, and when setting food tables. Don't let your body weight hang forward or your upper back rounded. Stand upright, chin loosely in (not strained and yanked inward to force "good posture" - just as unhealthy as slouching). Too look downward, tilt your head instead of pushing it forward to see what you are doing. Relax shoulders without slouching. Smile. Breathe.
I put some reminders on water bottles, cups, and common places where students asked me for reminders.
You can get these on my Gifts page.
3. Neutral Spine for Healthy Nutrition as a Lifestyle
To carry chairs, babies, grocery bags, furniture, and any loads in front of you, watch for swayback posture.
It is a common bad habit to lean the upper body backward, increasing the lower back inward curve. Leaning backward shifts the weight of the load off your core and arm muscles and onto your lower spine. It is also common to tilt the pelvis forward to increase the lumbar curve. Both bad slouching habits are a common source of ongoing back pain.
Get free, built-in exercise for your abs and arms and save your back by standing upright, not slouching into swayback. Don't lean the upper body backward or tilt your pelvis forward to carry things.
Academy student Nahy Milad Bassil demonstrates swayback (left photo) and more neutral spine (right photo) for carrying grocery bags.
Academy student Jessica Lattouf demonstrates swayback (hyperlordosis) at the sink in the left photo, and stopping that painful common habit on the right. You can stand closer to your work with healthy and non-painful comfortable position.
It is also common to slouch backward into swayback (hyperlordosis) when standing to eat, look in cabinets, reach for kitchen objects. Be aware, correct yourself so that you use your brain and muscles for comfortable, relaxed neutral positioning while you gather and prepare food. We are always lucky to have food.
Ways to Help Remember
Check yourself sideways in a mirror.
Watch other people eating and drinking for an easy reminder.
The whole point of fitness as a lifestyle is that your daily life is healthy movement - not to change clothes to do squats at a gym three times a week, then change clothes again, go home, and bend wrong all day. Nutrition as a Lifestyle changes all your food activities to healthier ones. Unless you are moving in healthy ways for your real life, it is not a lifestyle and it is not healthy. Healthy movement is easy and life changing. It is free exercise and injury prevention. When should you do it? Each time you want your daily nutrition to be healthy.
Send your photos and short videos of fixing bad to good body movement for healthy nutrition as a lifestyle.
I put funny healthy carrying reminders on a T-shirt and a tote bag so you can remember neutral spine when carrying.
You can get these on my Gifts page.
Drawing of BackMan! (tm) and student photo copyright © Dr. Bookspan
Is Your Health Food Unhealthy?
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
Most people know junk food when they see it at Halloween. Would you recognize it in gyms, health food stores, and fitness centers? People buy expensive foods and drinks advertised for "health" and "energy" that are not healthful. Here are four things to check, with more to come as we develop this topic here:
Many "energy" and workout foods are high calorie. The sport science definition of calories is energy. That does not mean calories make you energetic. If you are calorie deficient you will feel weaker. More calories than you need will not make you stronger or able to exercise more. A 400 calorie workout then eating a 200 calorie sports bar and a 200 calorie energy drink plus regular meals will result in weight gain not loss.
Next, many bars and drinks are little more than unhealthful candy - refined sugar, fillers, dyes, various colorings and flavorings, preserving agents, anti-caking agents, hydrolyzed proteins, unhealthy fats, and some synthetic vitamins. Eating them does not make you healthy just because they have the words "natural," "healthy," "vitamins," or "exercise" on the label. You would get more vitamins and health from eating a pear and some walnuts. Some that are labeled "low-carbohydrate" are high in unhealthy transfat and hydrogenated fat.
Many products labeled "low-fat" or "no-fat" have much junk refined sugar. Junk fats and junk refined sugars reduce your health over the long term. There is nothing you need to eat that has corn syrup. Both junk food and "health food" low carbohydrate products can have sugar substitutes like sorbital that can make you gassy. Others claiming not to have sugar added have sugar added, using other names. Even agave, when packaged, is highly refined and not a healthy natural sugar anymore. It is refined after removing it from from a succulent plant just as granulated sugar is refined after extracting it from sugar cane plants. Think about how food is an industry for money, and check if you are eating packaged products that are manufactured, not grown. See if you are eating food that is grown, or food that was made in a chemistry factory.
Third, many powders, drinks, and bars have large amounts of unfermented soy, which does not have the benefits of fermented soy, and in large amounts can slow the thyroid and may have certain estrogen-promoting qualities. More about fermenting is on this page. Scroll down to A Quick Introduction to Fermented Food.
Fourth, watch for stimulants in exercise foods, often caffeine, guarana, ephedra, ginseng, ma huang and others. You don't need them to exercise or lose weight. Many exercisers take them, plus energy pills, diet pills, and their usual coffee and espresso. A cycle starts of needing them to avoid feeling weary and headachy. Nervousness, anxiety, inability to concentrate by day and sleep at night, and irregular heart beats can occur. Then over-the-counter or prescription medicines to try to stop those effects? That's not health.
Make healthier, less expensive sports drinks by putting an apple, banana, grapes, or other fruit, with nuts, a green pepper, and clean water in a blender, grinder, food processor, mixer, or just mash them in a bowl. Add any combination of unsweetened cocoa powder, cinnamon, cloves, ginger root, sesame seeds, and healthy items for flavor. When baking treats, there is no need to add any commercial sugar. Use mashed fruit. Instead of shortening, use a cooked sweet potato and ground flax seeds or walnuts. Instead of icing, mash apples (no cooking needed) for a topping as sweet as any sugar or syrup, and a better habit for the long run.
I will post more ideas on this page as I can. I am also working on my book Happy Sexy Food.
Don't smoke, avoid soda (diet soda is just as unhealthy) turn down junk food (even if it has marketing words like "organic" on the label). Notice how common it is to undo health benefits of fruit and vegetables by junking them with cream, sugar, and cornstarch. Add up all you spend on cigarettes and junk food that take a healthy body and give it health problems. Take the money and give to the poor. With what you save on prescriptions and treatments for all the pain and jitters you cause yourself, you can feed a village and still take a vacation.
Exercise your brain and be able to spot foods marketed for health and exercise that are unhealthy foods in disguise.
High-Fat Diet Reduces Endurance
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
Racers eat all sorts of things hoping to extend endurance. A long history of drugs and supplements have been used, from illegal, to unhealthy, to useless, to good common sense nutrition. People also try various diets, both for racing and for weight control. Some of the diets may initially seem to work for weight loss, but work against long term general health.
Some racers load on unhealthful simple sugars hoping that will maximize needed carbohydrate stores called glycogen in the muscles (when healthy complex carbohydrates can do the same thing to prepare for exertion). Others shun carbohydrates, even healthy needed nutrition in fruit and vegetables wanting to lose weight. A main effect of low-carbohydrate diets is loss of muscle glycogen which quickly reduces size and water weight on muscles, giving the illusion of weight loss, but more importantly, also reducing exercise ability.
In a study at Oxford University of a high-fat diet during endurance training (of rats), researchers found, "stark reduction in physical endurance and a decline in cognitive ability after just nine days." Researchers identified increased levels of a protein called the 'uncoupling protein' in the muscle and heart cells of rats on the high-fat diet. This protein 'uncouples' the process of burning food stuffs for energy in the cells, reducing the efficiency of the heart and muscles.
This rat study seems to be in line with longitudinal dietary studies of human athletes who could not run as long on a treadmill or navigate as well through a maze (longitudinal means the same people tracked over long periods of time). Dr Andrew Murray, who led the work at Oxford University stated, "We found that rats, when switched to a high-fat diet from their standard low-fat feed, showed a surprisingly quick reduction in their physical performance."
Here is the primary source: 'Deterioration of physical performance and cognitive function in rats with short-term high-fat feeding' by Andrew J Murray and colleagues. The FASEB Journal, 2009; DOI: 10.1096/fj.09-139691.
Copy of the paper: http://www.fasebj.org/cgi/rapidpdf/fj.09-139691v1.pdf
What the researchers called a high-fat diet was 55 per cent of the calories from fat. This may be less total fat than what I observe many people eating with fast food and junk food. Patients come to me proudly showing a food diary that they think is balanced because it lowers the total fat percentage of a recipe with lard by adding sugar. That is still the same high-fat amount. Reduce your total fat, and keep your head not to avoid vegetables because they have a high percentage of carbohydrate. The percentage is high, not the total. If you have a one-dollar bill in your pocket and that's all, your pocket has 100% dollar bills, but not a lot of them.
Rats have different nutritional needs than people. Previous rat nutrition studies led to higher than needed protein estimations, still believed by body builders hoping to build muscle through eating. However this study agreed with human studies on this one issue of high-fat diet effect on endurance.
Does high-fat diet really help lose real fat weight? Total calories and inherent health of the diet also need to be considered. In American Samoa, 93.5% of the people are estimated to be overweight since changing traditional complex carbohydrate low-fat meals to Western imports of fatty food, junk sugar, and processed meat like Spam. In the Republic of Kiribati, another tropical island nation of the central Pacific, 81.5% are estimated overweight for the same reasons of high calorie, high-fat meals. Egypt began an increase of obesity when they began importing fast food. In the United States, over 65% of the people are considered overweight, related to considerable fat and high simple sugar from processed food with corn oil and high fructose corn syrup. Eating "high-fat" alone won't counter unhealthy effects of junk food and weight gain from high calorie meals.
If your body chemistry, your temperament, medications you take, or economic situation pushes you to gain body fat from eating too much unhealthful food, eating less of it is still key to reducing overweight. I am not a nutrient biochemistry specialist, just a physiologist. For health and sports success over the long term, a working generality is to stop eating the fat and refined sugar of junk food, fast food, and processed food, and many so-called "health-foods" which are expensive candy or over-processed products. Try an apple or favorite fruit and some walnuts for healthier carbohydrate and fat for exercise and endurance.
High-Fat Meals Reduce Lung Function
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
An interesting study was presented at the pulmonary and respiratory physiology session of a medical conference I attended - "Effects of a High-Fat Meal on Pulmonary Function in Healthy Subjects." It is known that high-fat meals negatively affect people with asthma and other pulmonary problems. It is also known that a high-fat diet increases internal inflammation, which is associated with higher risk of heart disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis (possibly other forms of arthritis such as osteoarthritis), and several other chronic illnesses. What about effects on your lungs and breathing?
The study looked at the effect of a high-fat meal on airway inflammation and pulmonary function. The researchers tested subjects for total cholesterol and triglycerides, then fed them a high-fat meal. Subjects were tested after the meal for cholesterol and triglycerides, various pulmonary functions, markers of airway inflammation (exhaled nitric oxide), and C-reactive protein, which is a marker of systemic inflammation. The researchers found that the high-fat meal increased total cholesterol, triglycerides, and exhaled nitric oxide. They concluded that the results suggest that high-fat meals may contribute to inflammatory diseases of the airway and lung (in addition to other health consequences).
Just as smoking or taking amphetamines are not healthy, but help weight loss, popular weight loss diets "work" but have health drawbacks. Check your meals to see if you eat high-fat, whether for a diet, or just from unhealthful eating habits.
A diet may help weight loss, but be unhealthy. An exercise may work a muscle but be bad for your joints. A medicine may fix a disease but harm the patient. You don't have to choose. Many fun healthy ways to exercise and control weight that don't harm the body are given throughout my web site - www.DrBookspan.com.
Recycling And The Movie "Garbage Dreams"
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
The word 'Zabal' is a person who collects trash. The Zabaleen of Cairo Egypt are a class of people who, for generations, have collected the city's trash by hand, with devotion and honor, and the certainly that from their sweat they do important work for their community and the world.
The Zabaleen recycle 80% of all they collect, all by hand. They build and run their own school to educate their children in literacy, manners, good and honorable conduct, studies, and recycling techniques.
The city decided it was progress to be modern and great like the West, and change to using trucks and companies to collect the trash, mostly dumped into landfill. The livelihood of the Zabaleen is dwindling. The movie Garbage Dreams shows their members visiting a landfill, incredulous that anyone would throw such literal treasure into a hole. One exclaimed that trash, and the possibilities and materials it possesses, is a gift from heaven, not to be wasted at cost to the Earth.
The movie tries to appeal to audiences by making it a drama of the decisions of three of the teen Zabaleen, but I hope the greater message the teens make is not lost. It is not progress to look down on classes of people. It is not progress to waste. It is not progress to be made to feel you are not good because you work to clean the world.
1. See the movie Garbage Dreams. Learn a long-known, little talked-about world crisis encompassing health, politics, economics, sweat-of-the-brow work, pollution, and human rights.
2. When you purchase the movie Garbage Dreams [Region 2] from Amazon, the Zabaleen benefit. I will add proceeds from purchases of this movie through this link to Water.org
2. Notice litter on the ground. Stop littering. Know that it is good and honorable to pick up trash, not something beneath your values. Pick up trash today (be prudent what you reach into). Thank others who do this work.
3. It is not right for conditions to exist where people must glean garbage for most of their food.
Thank you for Image (Cambodian slums) by venetia joubert sarah oosterveld via Flickr
Click her link above to read the important story of these people in Cambodia
A Little About Metabolism
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
Many claims are made about metabolism.
Metabolism as you get older is not the culprit with much weight gain. Think of all the people who are eating more than in past years, exercising less, doing less, sitting more, eating junk food and soda. They gain weight yet say the sole reason is that their metabolism slowed because they got older.
Metabolism goes up over a resting rate, and down all day depending on how much you are moving around. The fact that you burn fewer calories when you do less can be twisted by clever product advertising it as "slower metabolism." Don't fall for it. Find fun, healthy things you like to do and start them again to get the increase in metabolic calorie burning that comes with activity.
Don't fall for pills and supplements advertised to increase metabolism and therefore promote weight loss. Some contain stimulating compounds that increase heart rate or other functions. That is not helpful or healthy for your body and does not burn calories. Many people feel stimulated and happy on these products, and don't notice the nervousness, anxiety, inability to focus, moodiness, difficulty falling asleep at night, and depression that also often occurs. A more serious cycle starts when people take other drugs to try to stop these symptoms. Then more drugs when the first drugs upset their stomach. Exercise will improve mood and increase your metabolism for weight loss more safely without the negative effects of stimulants and medicines.
Several devices, pills, and patches claim to burn calories or fat while you sleep or watch television. They can claim that because you always burn calories and fat when you sleep or watch television. That is how you stay alive. It is not because of the pill or the machine.
Eating food raises metabolism to a small degree. The increase comes because your body has to do something extra – digestion. You still gain calories from the food and can gain weight if you eat more calories than you burn. Watch out for advertising that exploits the fact of the "thermogenic" (heat producing or calorie burning) effect of food. The effect is small compared to the calories you have eaten.
Some devices and pills claim to increase metabolism even after exercise ends. They can claim that because all exercise does that - with or without the device or pill. Exercise raises metabolic levels. It takes time after stopping exercise to return to resting level.
Live a healthy active life. Get outside and play. Move, bend properly (as in the above topic), as part of your everyday life. Get up now and walk away from the computer to take a break, breathe, stretch arms overhead, move, look up at the sky, and smile. The average amount of money spent on diet products that don't work is saddening. Every time you want to spend on them, put the money in a jar and go do something active instead, even if it is just dusting or gardening. Lift weights, including your own body, to regain the muscle you need for metabolic rate.
Muscle loss from sitting around is often confused with aging. By moving with healthy mechanics throughout your normal day, you will burn some calories, keep your joints moving, feel better, and save enough from not needing pills and medical treatments to give to the poor with enough left for a vacation.
Thank you for graphics www.thebluething.com/games/files/fatxray.jpg
"In general, mankind, since the improvement of cookery, eats twice as much as nature requires."
- Benjamin Franklin
(Franklin said that in his lifetime of 1706–1790. The multiple probably has increased since then.)
Do You Need Meat And Dairy To Be Healthy And Active?
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
You may like meat, and eat it, and be healthy according to your standards, but does the body need it to be physically healthy and able in all aspects? Many readers have sent me success stories about training well and feeling healthier on vegetarian diets. They ask if there is verified information about the health of vegetarian diets:
Position Statement of the American Dietetic Association:
A considerable body of scientific data suggests positive relationships between vegetarian diets and risk reduction for several chronic degenerative diseases and conditions, including obesity, coronary-artery disease, hypertension, diabetes mellitus, and some types of cancer. It is the position of the American Dietetic Association and Dietitians of Canada that well-planned vegan and other types of vegetarian diets are appropriate for all stages of the life cycle, including during pregnancy, lactation, infancy, childhood, and adolescence.
According to - William Castelli, M.D., Director, Framingham Heart Study, the longest-running epidemiological study in medical history:
"Vegetarians have the best diet. They have the lowest rates of coronary disease of any group in the country. [T]hey have a fraction of our heart attack rate and they have only 40 percent of our cancer rate."
From my work in sports medicine, I will add to Dr. Castelli's work that I see fairly consistent reduction in joint pain and other pain syndromes when patients stop known "inflammatory foods" like junk food, but also meat and dairy.
What About the Idea that Vegetarians Have To Be "Careful" About Planning Food?
According to the American Heart Association (AHA):
Many studies have shown that vegetarians seem to have a lower risk of obesity, coronary heart disease (which causes heart attack), high blood pressure, diabetes mellitus, and some forms of cancer.
Vegetarian diets can be healthful and nutritionally sound if they’re carefully planned to include essential nutrients. However, a vegetarian diet can be unhealthy if it contains too many calories and/or saturated fat and not enough important nutrients.
Saying that vegetarians should check that they get enough healthy nutrients from food is good advice for everyone. Meat-eaters need to check too.
Non-vegetarians, the same as vegetarians, need to know enough to make better choices. Non-vegetarians can just as easily be deficient in many nutrients found only in plants, and may potentially get overdoses of some vitamins from animal organ meats, for example.
If you want to choose healthier meals with few or no animal products, make sure to understand that there is junk vegetarian food, the same as other junk food is increasingly marketed to every interest group. Make sure when you choose vegetarian food, you are not justifying high calorie cookies and cake with processed wheat, oils, and sugar only because they are not animal products.
What Else Can Vegetarian Ways Do for Better Health?
Factory farming animals for food has many aspects that are unhealthy for all involved, including the Earth itself from the high pollution from both production and slaughter. In 2015, it was released that farm animals are fed 63,000 tons of antibiotics a year (globally, with 106,000 tons annually expected by the year 2030), worsening the problem of antibiotic resistance. You can reduce suffering in many different areas, be healthy, and still have good and fun meals with smart choices.
Enjoy healthy extra years: From the blog DiseaseProof.com - How Much Longer Do Vegetarians Live?
Reduce global warming: GoVeg.org reports on work published in NewScientist.com - It's Better to Green Your Diet Than Your Car (17 Dec. 2005). "You could exchange your 'regular' car for a hybrid Toyota Prius and, by doing so, prevent about 1 ton of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere each year, but according to the University of Chicago, being vegan is more effective in the fight against global warming; a vegan prevents approximately 1.5 fewer tons of carbon dioxide from entering the atmosphere each year than a meat-eater does. The math is simple: You could spend more than $20,000 on a Prius and still emit 50 percent more carbon dioxide than you would if you just gave up eating meat and other animal products."
"The greatness of a nation and its moral progress, can be judged by the way its animals are treated."
- M. Gandhi
Build your own health and benefit your exercise: food and recipes for better exercise training (regardless of your sport), and preventing disease and pain syndromes. Covered in the book Healthy Martial Arts.
Free vegetarian starter kit, free newsletter, with materials in Spanish, to avoid cruelty to yourself, animals, and the Earth, one meal at a time - TryVeg.com.
Why Are People Vegetarian?
There are many ways and reasons someone may be vegetarian. Some do it for better health. Some, to save a lot on grocery bills or where meat is scarce to their community. Some to reduce pollution and "carbon footprint." Others with the general idea that they do not eat food where you must hurt or kill the animal involved. Some vegetarians eat no animal products, while others reduce what they can.
Nothing Needs To Be Strange or Expensive
Some people make it a strange expensive mess. It is up to you to do in healthy ways.
Being vegetarian or making occasional vegetarian meals does not have to involve any strange or expensive foods from specialty stores.
You do not need any special pots or food processing equipment. Vitamin supplements are not necessary, except in specific deficiencies.
Grocery bills can also be far less when you don't purchase meat (and don't substitute other expensive food that you do not need).
Mr. America Urges Goodness and Responsibility In Training And Nutrition
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
Mr. Jim Morris was the 1973 AAU Mr. America and 1996 Mr. Olympia Masters Over 60.
Mr. Morris was 72 years old in the photo below, and a vegan bodybuilder. In general, someone who is vegan, is vegetarian plus does not eat eggs or dairy.
Mr. Morris reminds people that body building involves selflessly looking outward to do good, rather than focusing only on appearance and commercialism. He urges real nutrition through healthy food, rather than artificial chemically produced supplements, and healthy movement rather than harming yourself to gain physical looks or heavier lifts.
Mr. Morris looked over my Ab Revolution book, and wrote to me that he wanted to order several copies for his clients. He wrote, "You are the first person I know of to finally get it right."
Later, after reading Health and Fitness in Plain English Third edition, he wrote, "I have a copy of "Health and Fitness in Plain English" I just received and every page I open to, I say, 'I wish I said that,' and then add, 'I have been saying it for years.' Glad someone finally put it all into print and in one volume. Thanks, Jim Morris."
I appointed Mr. Morris as a Practitioner in my Academy. See his welcome to students of my Academy on the Academy page - A Welcome From Mr. Jim Morris, Mr. America.
Keep Good Bone Density
Some Drugs Increase Incidence Of Osteoporosis And Hip Fractures
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
Bone strength is crucial to your health and independence
Build Bone Density And Bone Strength
Stay active. Do exercise for strength. Sedentary people lose bone even if they supplement with calcium. Exercise is the stimulus for bones to use the calcium. Include activities that resist weight and use muscle strength. Staying active also reduces risk of falls, which is a contributor to fractures.
Regularly go outside in the sunlight (sanely) for the Vitamin D needed for bones, plus other benefits of sunlight not available in pills and supplements. Get fun movement and exercise outside, at least a little every day.
What Is Osteoporosis?
Osteoporosis is a condition where bones become more fragile with risk of life-changing fractures.
Osteoporosis comes from both low bone density and low bone strength. Bone density is currently used to indirectly assess bone strength, but strength depends on many parts of the bone not only bone cells. Bone quality varies with micro-architecture - how the collagen and other bone components are arranged in the bone.
Not all low bone density is osteoporosis. Denser bones are not always stronger bones. Changes in bone density only account for some of the risk. Several things can make even dense bones brittle. One example was a type of fluoride treatment which makes scans of bones look denser, but leaves bones likely to be more brittle. The new denser scan scores can mislead people into thinking they have better bone quality because it looks denser on a scan, when they have impaired their quality.
Reduce Risk of Osteoporosis
- Stop smoking.
- Avoid drinking large amounts of alcohol.
- Avoid drinking colas. The high phosphorus content in both regular and diet colas are not good for your bones.
- Check for wheat intolerance. People with true celiac, which is an autoimmune reaction to the protein in wheat, have higher rates of osteoporosis.
- Check family history of fracture, and loss of height over time.
- Rheumatoid arthritis is a risk factor. Starting countermeasures right away after diagnosis is important to reducing loss.
- Avoid inactivity.
- Avoid agents that reduce calcium absorption, such as antacids, long term steroid use, eating large amounts of animal protein
Caution For Stomach Acid Drugs Called Proton Pump Inhibitors (PPIs)
Many common medicines and drugs have unhealthy effects, including a common stomach acid-reducing drug.
A study from the University of Pennsylvania found that taking a class of drugs that reduce stomach acid, called proton pump inhibitors (PPIs), for at least a year increased risk of hip fracture by 44%. Taking the drugs for longer periods further increased risk. Proton pump inhibitors include Nexium, Prilosec, Prevacid, Zoton, Inhibitol, and others.
The study needs more work and questions remain, but this finding is not surprising. The common practice of using proton pump inhibitors, as well as ordinary antacids, has long been identified in accepted studies to reduce calcium absorption.
Taking acid-reducing medicines contributes to other problems as well. You need stomach acid for health. Stomach acid is necessary to reduce numbers of unhealthy germs and food-borne infection agents. Low stomach acid allows infectious organisms to grow in your system. Acid suppression is a known risk factor for traveler's diarrhea and other gastrointestinal illnesses. Although acid suppression is commonly used to treat ulcers, the resulting lack of stomach acid encourages over-colonization of the bacteria Helicobacter pylori that is associated with ulcers. H. pylori is not all bad, and has important functions in your system. But using acid suppression with H. pylori colonization present seems to be linked with an increase in the progression to gastric cancer.
Possibilities For Your Stomach Instead of Acid-Reducing Medicines
Pain, reflux, and constant burping may be a sign of low acid, not high acid. Where this is the case, drink a little apple cider vinegar in water and sprinkle balsamic vinegar, wine vinegar, or other vinegar that you prefer in your food.
Clinical trials indicate that the "good" yeasts and bacteria called probiotics in fermented food like sauerkraut, pickled vegetables, kimchi, and many others, work to directly control several diseases, such as reflux, ulcerative colitis, irritable bowel, and other gastrointestinal illnesses.
Cabbage has been found in studies to be an effective antibacterial for stomach ulcers associated with Helicobacter pylori.
Broccoli sprouts have been found to specifically control H. pylori.
Seasoning food with raw crushed garlic, onions, and fresh ginger root may inhibit strains of Helicobacter, E. coli, Staphylococcus, and Streptococcus, without harming beneficial digestive bacteria.
Garlic, allspice, and oregano have been found to have some action against "bad" bacteria, followed by thyme, cinnamon, tarragon, and cumin.
Capsicum, such as chilies and other hot peppers, have moderate anti-microbial action. White and black pepper, ginger, anise seed, celery seed, and lemon and lime juice follow.
Researchers at the University of Kansas found garlic, cloves, cinnamon, oregano, and sage kill E. coli.
Ginger root can often sooth stomach pain, without using commercial medicines.
These foods are not alternative medicine, or herbal medicine. Studies establish at least some small benefit.
Build Bone in Your Upper Back and Wrist - Two of Three Principal Sites of Osteoporosis
- Planks with weight on hands, not forearms.
- Pushups. For how to do better pushups and get started easily, see the Abs page, and scroll down to Part II.
- Handstands. Step-by- step instructions for safe easy handstands are on the Fitness as a A Lifestyle page.
- Lift and carry loads held in your hands and arms, not only in backpacks, and roller bags and carts.
Keep Hip Joints Mobile and Hip and Femur Bones Dense - The Third Principal Site of Osteoporosis
Use a squatting motion many times every day for regular good bending for all you need to crouch and retrieve during the day. It will build in many dozens, hopefully hundreds, of squats of varying joint angles to your regular average day.
Use all the other functional daily built in balance and strength for lower body, described in the Fitness as a Lifestyle page.
Reduce Need For Medicines That Can Be Unhealthy For Bones
People with muscle and joint pain are frequently put on over-the-counter or prescription anti-inflammatory medicines. Several of these hurt the stomach lining. Acid-reducing medicines are often added to try to counter this problem. Along with the problems that acid suppression medicines can produce, a common, under-recognized side effect of acid suppression medicines is achy muscles and joints.
Another way is to reduce or stop the need for taking pain medicine by learning the healthy joint mechanics given throughout this web site. Often when people stop taking both their anti-inflammatories and stomach acid medicine, they feel better than when they were taking both together. You can stop your pain without medicine, then stop the need for the medicines so that your stomach, and your joints, can heal.
Common, Missed Cause Of MusculoSkeletal Pain - Your Drugs
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
I have been following medical reports which increasingly substantiate pain from taking common medicines. This is a short summary, with more to come, as I build this page. Major side effects of body and muscle pain from common prescription drugs are not rare as once thought. Misdiagnosis of this pain is common. Unnecessary treatments, surgeries, and more drugs are often given. Exercises and stretches do not stop body pain from drugs. Some examples:
Statin drugs for cholesterol are a frequent cause of muscle and joint pain, and sometimes, numbness or tingling in the fingers or toes.
Common prescription drugs for anxiety and depression. Even though this class of medicines may be prescribed for nerve pain, they can cause nerve and muscle pain as side effects.
Ritalin (methylphenidate hydrochloride) and related drugs.
Some prescription allergy medicines
Prescription acid prevention medicines called PPIs - proton pump inhibitors (Nexium, Prilosec, Prevacid, Zoton, Inhibitol, and others). PPIs have also been shown to greatly increase risk of hip fracture.
Erectile enhancing drugs.
The calcium channel-blocker drug verapamil.
The antibiotics erythromycin and clarithromycin.
Some HIV medications.
Prescription medicine for constipation like Zelnorm (Tegaserod), irritable bowel, and others digestive complaints.
Migraine and headache prescriptions.
Medicines for fibromyalgia.
Even many medicines for pain, sadly have pain both as direct side effects and rebound pain, increasing drug dependence and pain cycles.
There are many prescription drugs that cause extra problems. Reduce your need for these drugs, safely, by checking if there are things you can do to stop and avoid causes. Then you can safely, sanely, reduce or stop taking the drugs where possible - under care of your health providers.
FDA Orders Suicide Risk Warning For Common Back Pain And Migraine Drugs, Depression Drugs, And Others
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
In 2008, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) issued a public health alert based on their review of 199 clinical trials. Specific drugs for epilepsy and psychiatric disorders are often prescribed to patients with migraine, back, and body pain. The FDA review showed that patients taking those drugs had "almost twice the risk of suicidal behavior or thoughts than patients taking a placebo."
One of the drugs on the warning list is Neurontin (Gabapentin). Patients with back and various nerve and diabetic pain are commonly prescribed this drug. More drugs on the list are frequently prescribed for fibromyalgia and other pain: Lyrica (Pregabalin), Topamax (Topiramate), Celontin (Methosuximide), Felbatol (Felbamate), Zarontin (Ethosuximide) and others. Even drugs for anxiety and depression can worsen symptoms, cause body pain that often begins a new cycle of unneeded problematic medication, and "tip the scales" into suicide for those susceptible to the effects of the medication.
Here is a list of the medications required to add the warning - More have been added since this writing. MAKE SURE to check drug information and chemical names:
- Carbamazepine (marketed as Carbatrol, Equetro, Tegretol, Tegretol XR)
- Clonazepam (marketed as Klonopin)
- Clorazepate (marketed as Tranxene)
- Divalproex sodium (marketed as Depakote, Depakote ER, Depakene)
- Ethosuximide (marketed as Zarontin)
- Ethotoin (marketed as Peganone)
- Felbamate (marketed as Felbatol)
- Gabapentin (marketed as Neurontin)
- Lamotrigine (marketed as Lamictal)
- Lacosamide (marketed as Vimpat)
- Levetiracetam (marketed as Keppra)
- Mephenytoin (marketed as Mesantoin)
- Methosuximide (marketed as Celontin)
- Oxcarbazepine (marketed as Trileptal)
- Phenytoin (marketed as Dilantin Suspension)
- Pregabalin (marketed as Lyrica)
- Primidone (marketed as Mysoline)
- Tiagabine (marketed as Gabitril)
- Topiramate (marketed as Topamax)
- Trimethadione (marketed as Tridione)
- Zonisamide (marketed as Zonegran)
Some of these drugs are also sold generically - meaning under different names.
Instead of drugs to mask back pain, neck pain, and all the various musculoskeletal and nerve pain, fixing cause(s) is healthier than drugs.
It is not a matter of choosing between pain, and often worse problems from the treatment. By no longer injuring the area, pain can stop and the area can recover without drugs that add more problems.
Skipping A Meal
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
Popular online nutrition sites and articles state that missing a single meal can decrease performance and cause a list of health problems. This would not be true unless your health and nutritional status are already at an unhealthy level.
The average person in a developed country already has access to enough (and more than enough) quality food. Your food choices should not be so poor that, unless you have specific diseases, your blood sugar and other nutrients cannot hold in healthy ranges over a few hours between meals and for occasional missed meals.
For someone with a generally healthy nutrition lifestyle, a missed meal should not cause appreciable mental or physical decrements. Even after two missed meals, effects are usually minor and you should have the mental and physical strength to handle them.
There are well-off people in developed countries who need to miss a meal to get any awareness that missed meals are how a large percentage of the world already lives. Hunger is a real world issue. Missing one meal is not. A person from a developed society with means and Internet to read this should not be so fragile.
Go without a meal if it helps you get something done. Prepare ahead of time to be well-nourished and strong so that your body and mind can easily handle minor changes in schedule. Go without a meal if that is what it takes to decide to volunteer in a "soup kitchen" or help distribute meals to elders who are shut-in their homes, or to work on some issue of world need for those who truly go without.
Recognize And Avoid Products Sold By False and Exaggerated Claims
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
Many nutritional claims are only fads, not facts. Food fads come and go. They make money for the sellers and advertisers. Consumers insist they must have the product, then forget all about it when the next fad arrives. Or build habits around expensive products that do little.
Examples of False Food Claims. One example is the commonly repeated fallacy that you must drink eight glasses of water every day. No body of evidence, or even a single study, ever established that. Another is that you must drink before you are thirsty and that by the time you are thirsty you are dehydrated. It turns out that thirst does reflect actual need to drink. Many more, for example you must eat breakfast to lose weight (never was studied to be effective) but used by people selling articles, sham health products, or expensive recipes. Pop articles sell diets and food plans saying foods can change your blood pH (acidity), however no foods can do that. Food can change your urinary and renal pH, but not blood. If you have acidic blood, you are having a dire emergency like a heart attack, not a food preference. Many things are repeated, sometimes for generations, without checking if the information is the way things really work
My page about Massage has a section on all the many reasons that false beliefs are often more enticing to people than facts.
"Bis Repetia Placent"
(Latin for "that which is repeated, pleases" or, "the masses want the party-line - to follow group practice without thinking.)
Study results are sometimes paid for. Popular claims based on these studies sell products based on false information. They make money for the promoters and the news.
Some of the nutrition and supplement "studies" predictably show glowing results. Studies funded or conducted by candy bar manufacturers show athletic gains from eating their candy bar. Studies funded by meat conglomerates conclude that dietary cholesterol may have a small role in muscle (and an "uncertain role on cardiovascular risk factors.") Studies from sugar water manufacturers, who are also major sponsors of many sports medicine conferences, show high results in athletic events drinking their product. There is no doubt that hydration and blood sugar are enhanced from refined sugar products to complete athletic events with good results. Commenting professionally, I am not sold on these products for long-term health. Moreover, you can get the same results in most cases with healthier food.
"It is easier to fool someone, than convince them they have been fooled."
~ Mark Twain
Powerful government lobbies promote food production industries. Unhealthy foods and practices have been successfully lobbied into law. Other laws concerning proportions of "minimum daily required nutrients" have been passed that were later found to be unhealthy, but were widely taught and incorporated into public consciousness and expectations.
"Politics determines who has the power - not who has the truth."
~ Paul Krugman (American Economist)
Popular foods and supplements sold in "health" and nutrition stores may not be healthy. A food that is endorsed by a major or well-known sports "star" or other celebrity doesn't mean the product is healthy, or that it had anything to do with their fitness outcomes.
Labels are allowed to mislead. A product can be labeled "whole grain" or "natural" or "organic" or "cure" when these words are used as part of their NAME, even if it is not a true description. Another misleading method is to make a vague claim so people make up their own supposed truth without thinking. Another is to extend claims for an ingredient, when it does not work that way in the living body, or you could get the same amounts of that trace "cure" from ordinary food, far more cheaply. Hundreds of expensive supplements are sold on web sites and magazines and shows of celebrity "fitness experts" claiming varieties of health benefits or as cures for huge ranges of ailments. These products make a lot of money for these people.
"There's a sucker born every minute."
~ P. T. Barnum (successful showman)
To teach my students how to enjoy and understand claims, statistics, polls, and study results, I developed a program of Simple Mathematics Understanding for Better Health - see my Fun Functions Program (Program #4) on My Academy programs and honors page.
What Is A Primary Source? A Secondary Source?
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
Primary source and secondary source are the same as a "first-hand account" and a "second-hand account." Merriam-Webster Dictionary defines "firsthand" as “obtained by, coming from, or being direct personal observation or experience.” Secondhand means “received from or through an intermediary.”
A primary source is the first place where the knowledge came from. That means it is not repeated from somewhere else, but learned for the first time by that person. Many common claims and common but false "facts" are not from primary sources.
- A scientist who discovers something for the first time is the primary (first) source.
- The scientific paper or other account where the same scientist writes what they did and found out is the primary source.
- The newspaper or celebrity who may summarize or sell the scientific discovery is not a primary source.
Secondary Sources. If a news item tells about a study or discovery, that news article is a secondary source. They may repeat it wrong, or change the original facts to suit their sales, or the amount of space they have, or take descriptions out of context rendering them wrong or misleading. Others who read that news article may be next to repeat it wrong or change the original, and so on. If someone says they heard it directly from someone else, that is still a secondary account. They did not see for themselves. Medical students in medical school, and nutritionists and dieticians, learn many things from books and teachers which are not always primary sources.
"If you don't read the newspapers, you're uninformed.
If you do read the newspapers, you're misinformed. "
~ Mark Twain
Does this mean even primary sources may not be right? Sometimes. Sometimes the original source for a "study" may be a paid-for study, or done by well-meaning people without solid, serious, full training in careful research design. Sometimes the original person saying something did not really find it out, but made it up because they thought it must be so. That is why the more you learn about study design and statistics, the better you will be able to evaluate studies, and assertions that claim to come from studies. The more you know about marketing, critical thinking, logic, and plain common sense, the more you can evaluate all the many parts of nutrition and health claims.
Can a secondary source be correct? Sometimes a smart and careful student, learning directly from a smart and careful primary source, gets the learning and understanding right, and can transmit that as intended. That is why I want my students to pay attention and to understand, not only repeat. A beneficial action of a secondary source is when they work to accurately check if the primary source had the facts straight.
Am I a primary source? Yes, in the things I personally researched. In human physiology and sports medicine areas of swayback, hamstrings, disc repair, knee and lower limb dynamics, and others. In environmental physiology, I did many years of work and experiments in topics of cold, heat, pressure, injury, outer space, and other protocols. I am a primary source for specific study results, since I did these experiments in a laboratory setting with many real people with specific measurements and statistics to check them.
There are several kinds of research. One is doing experiments in a laboratory, making sure you are studying what you think you are, and concluding only what you studied. Two others involve doing well-structured surveys that describe real things that happen, or that have already happened over time and places. If someone says they "did research" it is not real research if they read what someone else said in a book, unless they were doing exacting searches to find real sources of what that other person said and did, then systematically analyze their writings.
I worked on experiments in laboratories that included nutritional and supplement variants as part of the larger study, but not not with thousands of people when they eat or do not each certain foods or parts of foods. I took graduate school courses in exercise and nutrient metabolism, a medical school class in nutrient physiology, years of schooling in research design, statistics, and understanding how to interpret studies, at least a half dozen nutrition certifications through major fitness organizations, and attended years of medical conference lectures and fitness conference lectures about sports foods, drinks, and products. I found that some of the most popular claims, even in high-level medical conference lectures, were only repeated false information, and many so-called studies were badly done or largely funded by the sponsoring supplement manufacturers, with plenty of free samples and lots of their literature to give to our patients and students extolling the product.
I work to evaluate current knowledge and separate fact from wishful thinking and advertising. I talk to my scientist friends who are the primary sources. There is so much we do not know. The fun is learning.
Safe Drinking Water - A World Health Issue
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
A rarely talked-about issue is clean drinking water for ALL. Access to safe drinking water encompasses health, politics, economics, pollution, and human rights. Water is the third largest global corporate-profit industry after electricity and oil, leaving surprising pollution, disease, graft, and social destabilization.
1. Corporations seize local waters for resale, leaving the world's poorest without access to unpolluted water to drink and bathe, and frequently without any water at all. Over 1 billion people do not have safe drinking water, resulting in millions of sicknesses and deaths per year, including several millions of children and infants. Even Westerners are affected. Possibly 116,000 human-made chemicals, pharmaceuticals, and hormones are already identified in public water supply, consumed in the West through drinking and through the skin in washing. Known health effects range from stomach illnesses frequently mistaken for "flu," food-poisoning, or bowel problems, and breathing difficulties.
2. Be aware that you can turn on a tap and get water. An average Westerner uses 150 gallons of water per day. Billions in developing countries walk miles and still cannot get more than five gallons. Staggering numbers of people around the world have total income averaging $2 (two dollars) a day, and are being charged to travel distances and lift and carry water that was once available to them without charge.
3. Several millions of children and infants sicken and die every year because of lack of clean safe drinking water. Millions of girls and women are forced into servitude to haul water, unable to go to school or make their lives better.
See the movie Flow to quickly learn several global practices that improve your health to know. Click these links to purchase or rent "Flow The Movie" from Amazon and I will donate proceeds to Water.org:
Purchased Bottled Water - A Marketing Success, Not A Fitness Success
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
Commercially bottled water may not be a healthy fitness drink, from the container it comes in to the water inside.
The water may be no healthier than tap water, the plastic containers may leach chemicals into the water they hold, and the bottling, transport, and disposal all seriously weaken environmental fitness, and ultimately your own.
The Cornell Daily Sun made a nice summary of the information:
- CNN news reports that Aquafina and Dasani are no different than tap water.
- Plastic water bottle manufacturing process, requires 1.5 million barrels of crude oil a year.13,700 18-wheelers are used per week to transport one billion bottles of water across the world.
- Bottled water undergoes eight tests under Environmental Protection Agency requirements.
- Tap water must undergo 22 different tests (tests in countries like Great Britain and Canada are more stringent).
The Journal of Queen's University (Ontario) adds:
- One kilogram of plastic bottles requires 17.5 kilograms of water to be used in the production process. You're putting more water into it than you're getting out.
- Bottling and shipping water produced more than 2.5 million tons of carbon dioxide in 2006.
- Tap water is a safe and economical alternative to plastic bottles.
Both articles, plus others, advocate avoiding commercially bottled water and re-filling your own plastic or Nalgene bottles with simple tap water.
I add two things:
Try non-plastic bottles. Small glass bottles have been working for me and my students. To reduce breakage risk, wrap them in cloth or rubberized sleeves. We find it easy to get stainless steel bottles from army supply places, and commercially as people move away from aluminum. We are not using aluminum bottles until we know if there is possibility of much aluminum leaching into the water and if that may affect health.
Try a water filter for your tap water. There is work showing the water supply increasingly contains medical drugs excreted by the users and other chemicals that constitute a "body burden" of compounds with potential health effects. Remember that filters that are effective for bad chemicals also remove some good minerals usually present in water in small amounts. Fluoride, for example, is added to much of municipal water in the U.S. Fluoride in small amounts is documented to reduce tooth decay (and cause some health, bone, and tooth problems in too high amounts). Toothpaste with fluoride seems to be a good way to get fluoride topically, right on the teeth. There are foods that have the tiny amounts of fluoride needed for the rest of the body. Some varieties of tea have high amounts of fluoride, and people who obsessively drink tea have been documented to develop skeletal fluorosis, a painful bone problem from too much fluoride.
When you buy expensive bottled water, know that it is frequently ordinary tap water resold in deception, that various pretentious "fitness waters" are not as healthful as eating ordinary fruit, and the bottling results in avoidable large scale pollution.
Healthy Nutrition Includes Where Your Food Comes From
Do you know where your food really comes from?
Do low paid workers pick it under bad conditions.
Are animals housed under factory conditions? Are they fed antibiotics routinely, which contribute to an increasing "superbug" problem of more dangerous germs that are resistant to the available drugs supposed to suppress them.
Are long transportation methods used that create pollution from the containers and the transport, that can be avoided if you found the same foods locally and supported your own community?
It is important to include and consider food health from the beginning.
My Long-Requested Healthy Cooking Book - Happy Sexy Food
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
THIS BOOK HAS BEEN DELAYED.
Until I can complete the work, here is:
Foreword by CHEF CHRISTOPHER EMMOLO:
"Whenever people hear the phrase “health food” or “healthy cooking” their minds immediately go to a dark and sad place…at least mine does. It seems that every time one of friends wants to show me their culinary prowess by making something healthy they think it’s delicious and I typically smile and say thank you as I choke it down with plenty of libation. The idea of people cooking healthy has gotten so bad that whenever one of my friends offers to cook something healthy for me I decline as politely as possible. In fact, a friend of mine who is a chef turned butcher frequently offers to make me one of his “diet” dishes that is allegedly healthy and delicious. As much as I trust the man, I must always politely decline. Let’s face it, healthy food is not tasty food. Everyone knows this. Or do they?
"Several years ago I embarked on a great culinary journey. One that I am still on today as a chef now located in south Florida. I frequently go out and sample the cuisines of fellow chefs and amateur cooks alike. I regularly look through cookbooks – any cookbook – to find a recipe that I can use or that provides me some inspiration to write one of my own. And yes, I do frequently look through those healthy cookbooks with all of their über-healthy recipes and such. And no, I do not usually find anything remotely usable or inspiring in those books. Even some of the most famous and notable chefs in the culinary world today fall short when it comes to cooking food that is genuinely healthy while at the same time genuinely delicious.
"Several years ago I met Dr. Jolie Bookspan at the Eastern USA International Martial Arts Association Black Belt Hall of Fame weekend. At the time I was suffering from such debilitating arthritis that I was forced to end my study of the martial arts. I had, at the time, been studying martial arts for nearly twenty years. It was then that I found out why she is known as “the St. Jude of the Joints.” Thanks to my good friend Dr. Bookspan I did not have to end my martial arts practice. In fact, it is thanks to her work in sports medicine that I am able to walk, run, exercise, and enjoy a fulfilling and normal life.
"Sometime after our initial meeting, I was in Philadelphia with some friends of ours and she invited us all to her house for dinner. I remember walking through the market with her and seeing some of the things she was picking out. At the time I was a young line cook at one of the top restaurants in Pittsburgh and I thought I knew a thing or two about food. I was incredibly skeptical of many of the items she bought at the market. Still, I admit, I was also a bit curious. In the time that I have known Dr. Bookspan, she has always been a straight-forward, no-hype woman. Everything I have ever seen her do has been done with precision and meticulous execution resulting in very positive results. Her approach to a healthy meal is absolutely no exception.
"I can still remember that dinner. The smell of the food and the way it tasted reminded me of some of the better restaurants I had dined in in New York City. Her meals could easily rival those of some of the best chefs out there. To say that I enjoyed my dinner at her house would be an understatement. I remember that I did not stop at a second helping. The food was that good. But wait…I had forgotten that this was “health food.” More incredibly, made in a small old-fashioned kitchen with no specialty pans or tools, ordinary simple ingredients, and little prep time. Healthy cooking is not supposed to be this good! Well, that’s what I used to think.
"Dr. Bookspan is one of those people who will challenge the conventional hype-driven stereotypes. And she’ll do so successfully and from a position of love and friendship. I have never forgotten the amazingly delicious, yet incredibly healthy meal she provided on my first visit to her home in Philadelphia. I have over the years tasted – never more than a taste, mind you – other healthy meals. Not a one has measured up in terms of flavor.
"Over the years I have thought back to that delicious and healthy meal I had at Dr. Bookspan’s house and wished that I could recreate it and others like it. Unfortunately, I never truly had the means to do so and my busy and often chaotic lifestyle would get in the way of me collecting recipes from her. Finally, thanks to this book I now have the chance to recreate that amazing meal and more like it for family and friends. Whether you’re a professional chef like I am, or an at-home cook I am sure that you will find her recipes easy to follow and packed with flavor. I have absolutely zero doubt that Dr. Bookspan’s no-hype, straight-forward approach will have you cooking delicious yet healthy meals that will have your friends and family raving.
~Chef Christopher Michael Emmolo is a member of the American Culinary Federation and is an ACF Certified Culinarian. After earning a Bachelor of Science degree at Point Park College, he earned his degree in the Le Courdon Bleu in Culinary Arts from The Pennsylvania Culinary Institute. Since earning this prestigious degree, Chef Christopher Michael has honed his culinary skills in such places as The Four Seasons Resort, Palm Beach, and some of the finest country clubs in south Florida.
A Note From Dr. Tom Kessler:
Tom Kessler MD, MSPH, FAAFP, FAWM, writes,
"As a family medicine physician who spent a full three-decade career with the United States Public Health Service, continues to be involved with humanitarian outreach in areas of need throughout the world, and ponders the "health care" debate, I count it an unearned privilege to have met and collaborated with Dr. Jolie Bookspan.
"Dr. Bookspan continues to amaze me with her depth and breath of interests and knowledge. She has consistently sought ways to improve the health of individuals with a variety of problems. That she has now shared about healthy food is very good news!
"All due respect to the American Medical Association, no amount of money spent on medicine as practiced in the United States can possibly compensate for the unhealthy diet, inactivity, and passive expectation by so many citizens. With her long and successful experience with healthy moving, I am very eager to obtain and read her new book. I am confident I will be recommending it along with her other books and web site to any person serious about being responsible for healthy living."
If you are interested in this book, Tweet me to be on the list.
Hungry Minds Need Nutrition Too
by Jolie Bookspan, MEd, PhD, FAWM
Feed your spirit good things, not junk.
Feed your mind healthy facts, not junk nonsense.
Remember portion control for negative thoughts: Just as it is healthier not to eat everything and anything you want all the time without judgment or measure, the mind and spirit likes and feels better not to be allowed to dwell on negatives without awareness and prudent self-control, and feels better with focus on good and beneficial things.
A few ideas for feeding Healthy Spirit is on the Emotional Fitness Page.
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