Saturday, December 14, 2019

Retrospective #301: Healthy Food Choices

Unfortunately, this catch phrase has been co-opted and misused by our government’s “Dietary Dictocrats” to mean mostly things that I and like thinkers consider unhealthy food choices, like unnatural, processed vegetable oils. It has also been used to denigrate saturated fat and, until the 2015 Dietary Guidelines for Americans, total fat and dietary cholesterol. In case you haven’t heard, in 2015 the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee advised that DIETARY CHOLESTEROL was “no longer a nutrient of concern for overconsumption,” and that the DGA no longer recommends limiting TOTAL FAT to 30% of total calories. Most people reading this will not have heard this healthy food news.
Healthy food choices, in the sense that I mean, are whole, unprocessed foods, including lots of animal-based proteins with their natural saturated fats, together with fresh, whole, low-carb vegetables (mostly of the above-ground type), and an occasional berry (with heavy whipping cream) and a few nuts some cheese (added to salads, e.g.). It involves the almost complete avoidance of grains, and highly processed foods like all flours and all sugars (cane, beet, corn, even honey) and all processed vegetable oils (soybean, corn, sunflower, canola, etc). So, among my healthy food choices, what are the “healthy food choices” I (we) can make to be healthier?
Eggs from pastured hens: This was an easy choice. At our local farmers’ market, we have a farmer who raises hens in the manner of Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm in Virginia, made famous in Michael Pollan’s “Omnivore’s Dilemma.” The hens roam freely and roost in a portable hen house that is moved every week to new pastures in which the farm’s ruminants (and pigs) had grazed and left “deposits” to fertilize the fields and nourish the hens. Chickens (and pigs) are omnivores, so the hens get a balanced diet including bugs and, from ageing patties, larvae.
Butter from pastured cows: It stands to reason that cows that are fed a diet of mostly silage will produce milk, cream and butter that have fewer nutrients.  Is it not better for ruminants to eat natural forage instead of fodder? Lab tests of milk and butter have confirmed this. Cows that can graze year-round (“grass fed”) produce milk and butter that is higher in vitamins, minerals and other essential nutrients like Omega 3 fatty acids. Is it not then a better choice to buy butter made from cows that are grazed on forage all year round? We buy butter made from grass-fed cows.
Wild Caught versus Farm Raised Fish: I eat wild-caught fish almost every day (a can of Brisling sardines for lunch), but choosing wild-caught fresh or flash-frozen fish from the supermarket or fish monger’s case or restaurant menu is an easy choice to adopt. Some fish like North Pacific salmon must be wild-caught, but beware of farm-raised salmon from the North Atlantic or South Pacific (Chile). Other types of fish – cod, for example, one of the less expensive species, is always wild-caught and is a white, flaky, non-fishy tasting fish. I make an easy stove-top recipe with fennel and cauliflower. Halibut with celery, also stovetop, is another tasty dish. Why not try these wild-caught species?
Lamb chops: Lamb chops are a very good fatty meat choice for a couple of reasons. The lamb we buy is raised in New Zealand, where they are grass-fed year-round. They are not feed-lot raised. And they are ruminants, so they are a good choice for their fatty acid profile (better than chickens and pigs). And, since lamb chops are small, they make portion control easy. My wife and I eat just two lamb chops each – a rack of 8 makes 2 meals for 2 – making a perfect protein portion for a supper, along with a fresh vegetable either tossed in butter or roasted in olive oil.
Heritage Pork: Supermarket pork, “the other white meat,” has had all the healthy fats bred out of it. Supermarket pork chops taste like sawdust to me unless they are smothered in gravy thickened with flour. You just can’t get away from how dry they are. The answer is to buy heritage breed pork. Breeds to look for are: Berkshire, Tamworth, and Red Wattle. Again, my local farmers’ market is where I buy these superior tasting products, especially chops and roasts.
Artificial Sweeteners: I have finally weaned myself off artificial sweeteners and packets that are marketed as “Stevia” but are mostly dextrose or maltodextrin (sugars). I now use pure stevia leaf extract, a powder with no “bulking agents” to sweeten a cup of coffee and pure liquid stevia to sweeten the unsweetened Lipton’s cold-brew ice tea I drink in the summer. I am also developing a taste for cold water (!), to avoid the “sweet” insulin spike on days when I’m fasting.

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