Later On

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Archive for the ‘Plant-only diet’ Category

How the Right Foods Increase the Likelihood of a Healthier Gut and Better Health

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Anahad O’Connor reports in the NY Times:

Scientists know that the trillions of bacteria and other microbes that live in our guts play an important role in health, influencing our risk of developing obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and a wide range of other conditions. But now a large new international study has found that the composition of these microorganisms, collectively known as our microbiomes, is largely shaped by what we eat.

By analyzing the diets, health and microbiomes of more than a thousand people, researchers found that a diet rich in nutrient-dense, whole foods supported the growth of beneficial microbes that promoted good health. But eating a diet full of highly processed foods with added sugars, salt and other additives had the opposite effect, promoting gut microbes that were linked to worse cardiovascular and metabolic health.

The researchers found that what people ate had a more powerful impact on the makeup of their microbiomes than their genes. They also discovered that a variety of plant and animal foods were linked to a more favorable microbiome.

One critical factor was whether people ate foods that were highly processed or not. People who tended to eat minimally processed foods like vegetables, nuts, eggs and seafood were more likely to harbor beneficial gut bacteria. Consuming large amounts of juices, sweetened beverages, white bread, refined grains, and processed meats, on the other hand, was associated with microbes linked to poor metabolic health.

“It goes back to the age-old message of eating as many whole and unprocessed foods as possible,” said Dr. Sarah E. Berry, a nutrition scientist at King’s College London and a co-author of the new study, which was published Monday in Nature Medicine. “What this research shows for the first time is the link between the quality of the food we’re eating, the quality of our microbiomes and ultimately our health outcomes.”

The findings could one day help doctors and nutritionists prevent or perhaps even treat some diet-related diseases, allowing them to prescribe personalized diets to people based on the unique makeup of their microbiomes and other factors.

Many studies suggest that there is no one-size-fits-all diet that works for everyone. The new study, for example, found that while some foods were generally better for health than others, different people could have wildly different metabolic responses to the same foods, mediated in part by the kinds of microbes residing in their guts.

“What we found in our study was that the same diet in two different individuals does not lead to the same microbiome, and it does not lead to the same metabolic response,” said Dr. Andrew T. Chan, a co-author of the study and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. “There is a lot of variation.”

The new findings stem from an international study of personalized nutrition called Predict, which is the world’s largest research project designed to look at individual responses to food. Started in 2018 by the British epidemiologist Tim Spector, the study has followed over 1,100 mostly healthy adults in the United States and Britain, including hundreds of identical and nonidentical twins.

The researchers collected data on a wide range of factors that influence metabolism and disease risk. They analyzed the participants’ diets, microbiomes and body fat. They took blood samples before and after meals to look at their blood sugar, hormones, cholesterol and inflammation levels. They monitored their sleep and physical activity. And for two weeks they had them wear continuous glucose monitors that tracked their blood sugar responses to different meals.

The researchers were surprised to discover that genetics played only a minor role in shaping a person’s microbiome. Identical twins were found to share just 34 percent of the same gut microbes, while people who were unrelated shared about 30 percent of the same microbes. The composition of each person’s microbiome appeared instead to be driven more by what they ate, and the types of microbes in their guts played a strong role in their metabolic health.

The researchers identified clusters of so-called good gut bugs, which were more common in people who ate a diverse diet rich in high-fiber plants — like spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, nuts and seeds — as well as minimally processed animal foods such as fish and full-fat yogurt. They also found clusters of “bad” gut bugs that were common in people who regularly consumed foods that were highly processed. One common denominator among heavily processed foods is that they tend to contain very little fiber, a macronutrient that helps to nourish good microbes in the gut, the researchers said.

Among the “good” strains of gut microbes were Prevotella copri and Blastocystis, both of which were associated with lower levels of visceral fat, the kind that accumulates around internal organs and that increases the risk of heart disease. These microbes also appeared to improve blood sugar control, an indicator of diabetes risk. Other beneficial microbes were associated with reduced inflammation and lower spikes in blood fat and cholesterol levels after meals, all of which play a role in cardiovascular health. . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 January 2021 at 11:32 am

How the Right Foods May Lead to a Healthier Gut, and Better Health

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Anahad O’Connor reports in the NY Times:

Scientists know that the trillions of bacteria and other microbes that live in our guts play an important role in health, influencing our risk of developing obesity, heart disease, Type 2 diabetes and a wide range of other conditions. But now a large new international study has found that the composition of these microorganisms, collectively known as our microbiomes, is largely shaped by what we eat.

By analyzing the diets, health and microbiomes of more than a thousand people, researchers found that a diet rich in nutrient-dense, whole foods supported the growth of beneficial microbes that promoted good health. But eating a diet full of highly processed foods with added sugars, salt and other additives had the opposite effect, promoting gut microbes that were linked to worse cardiovascular and metabolic health.

The researchers found that what people ate had a more powerful impact on the makeup of their microbiomes than their genes. They also discovered that a variety of plant and animal foods were linked to a more favorable microbiome.

One critical factor was whether people ate foods that were highly processed or not. People who tended to eat minimally processed foods like vegetables, nuts, eggs and seafood were more likely to harbor beneficial gut bacteria. Consuming large amounts of juices, sweetened beverages, white bread, refined grains, and processed meats, on the other hand, was associated with microbes linked to poor metabolic health.

“It goes back to the age-old message of eating as many whole and unprocessed foods as possible,” said Dr. Sarah E. Berry, a nutrition scientist at King’s College London and a co-author of the new study, which was published Monday in Nature Medicine. “What this research shows for the first time is the link between the quality of the food we’re eating, the quality of our microbiomes and ultimately our health outcomes.”

The findings could one day help doctors and nutritionists prevent or perhaps even treat some diet-related diseases, allowing them to prescribe personalized diets to people based on the unique makeup of their microbiomes and other factors.

Many studies suggest that there is no one-size-fits-all diet that works for everyone. The new study, for example, found that while some foods were generally better for health than others, different people could have wildly different metabolic responses to the same foods, mediated in part by the kinds of microbes residing in their guts.

“What we found in our study was that the same diet in two different individuals does not lead to the same microbiome, and it does not lead to the same metabolic response,” said Dr. Andrew T. Chan, a co-author of the study and a professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School and Massachusetts General Hospital. “There is a lot of variation.”

The new findings stem from an international study of personalized nutrition called Predict, which is the world’s largest research project designed to look at individual responses to food. Started in 2018 by the British epidemiologist Tim Spector, the study has followed over 1,100 mostly healthy adults in the United States and Britain, including hundreds of identical and nonidentical twins.

Continue reading. There’s much more.

Later in the article:

The researchers identified clusters of so-called good gut bugs, which were more common in people who ate a diverse diet rich in high-fiber plants — like spinach, broccoli, tomatoes, nuts and seeds — as well as minimally processed animal foods such as fish and full-fat yogurt. They also found clusters of “bad” gut bugs that were common in people who regularly consumed foods that were highly processed. One common denominator among heavily processed foods is that they tend to contain very little fiber, a macronutrient that helps to nourish good microbes in the gut, the researchers said.

Whole-food plant-only diet for the win!

Written by LeisureGuy

11 January 2021 at 5:05 pm

Beans for Life!

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I eat beans at each meal, and I’ve grown to like them a lot because of the variety. For example,

  • Cook, drain, chill, and use in salads or standalone — lentils (black belugua, Du Puy, brown, green), kidney beans, soybeans, black beans, and a jillion kinds of heritage beans (some favorites: Christmas Lima beans, black valentine beans (better than black turtle beans), flageolet beans, mortgage lifter beans (enormous), corona beans (a special favorite—sweet and creamy and hold their shape), scarlet runner beans, black rice beans (very small), and others. Good sources: Purcell Mountain Farms and Rancho Gordo and see the list in this post.
  • Make a soup — for example, Lentils Monastery Style is easy to make with ingredients you might already have on hand (and that in any case are easily found).  I also made a variation when I was active in WW, Lentils WW Style. Or try Senate Bean Soup.
  • Cook and mash to make hummus (chickpeas and tahini with lemon juice and olive oil) or a variation with a different kind of bean and perhaps a nut butter (almond butter, hazelnut butter) instead of tahini — see Hummus, Generalized and also browse this list for variants I’ve made. My stand-by standard recipe is what I make most often.
  • Cook and don’t mash to make some sort of bean salad or side-dish, such as Texas Caviar or Mark Bittman’s Bean Salad (with variations).

Written by LeisureGuy

6 January 2021 at 11:57 am

The weight-loss program that got better with time

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New Year’s Day is a time of resolutions and resets, so I thought this brief video would be of interest.https://youtu.be/PzcYvQHpHlE

Written by LeisureGuy

1 January 2021 at 12:40 pm

Time for Hoppin’ John — or at least black-eyed peas

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Black-eyed peas are not so easy to find here, but they are a Southern necessity for New Year’s Day. I usually just cooked them as a bean dish, though drained black-eyed peas are the basis for Texas caviar (of which there are many versions — here’s mine and here’s another version, also mine).

The name “Hoppin’ John” seems to have arisen as a mondegreen of the Haitian French “Pois Pigeon” (PWAH pee SHAWN) — say it aloud and you can hear how a non-French speaker with a lazy ear could find “Hoppin John” in it. And the true Hoppin’ John of the old South is no longer available because of the way foods have been debased to facilitate industrial production — this article explains it well. From the article:

If you try to cook Sarah Rutledge’s recipe for Hoppin’ John using bacon, rice, and black-eyed peas from the supermarket, you’re probably going to be pretty disappointed. Today’s ingredients have been transformed by a century of hybridization, mechanization, and standardization to meet the demands of an industrialized, cost-minimizing food system.

As we’ve already seen, Southern stone-ground cornmeal was replaced by hybridized corn picked unripe, air-dried, and bashed to powder by steel roller mills, forcing cooks to add sugar to cornbread to simulate its former sweetness. Tomatoes are bred to be as indestructible as racket balls, and they’re picked green, shipped to supermarkets across the country, and get a good zap of ethylene gas so they arrive perfectly round, bright red, and flavorless. Heirloom breeds of pigs, with meat so red it’s almost purple and marbled with thick layers of fat, gave way to lean, factory-raised American Yorkshire engineered to pass as white meat.

All three of the main ingredients in Hoppin’ John have suffered a similar fate. Let’s start with the bacon. Not only are the breeds the pork bellies come from different, but so is the way those bellies are treated.

The Bacon

In the old days, salt and smoke were used to preserve the meat, which cured for weeks and then was smoked for two days or more. Today’s commodity bacon is processed in less than a day: brine-injected, flash-smoked, and packed for shipping.

The Rice

The original Hoppin’ John was made with the famed Carolina Gold rice, a non-aromatic long-grained variety prized for its lush and delicate flavor. But that rice was ill-suited for modern agriculture. The Lowcountry tidal swamps were too soft to support mechanical harvesters, and the rice required far too much manual labor to be viable in the post-Emancipation world. A hurricane in 1911 effectively finished off the industry in the Carolinas, and American rice production shifted to Texas, Arkansas, and Louisiana, where planters grew new hybridized varieties on dry ground.

The new rice varieties are mechanically processed—heat-dried, polished, and degerminated. They aren’t nearly as nutty and flavorful as the old Carolina Gold and not nearly as nutritious, either, since the processing strips away all of the bran and germ. Until well after World War II, much of rural South Carolina still depended on a diet heavy on rice and beans, but that rice was the new kind brought in from the Gulf regions. During the winter months when fresh produce was unavailable, rural South Carolinians started suffering from malnutrition due to lack of proteins and nutrients. A 1956 law required that all rice sold in the state be enriched with the very vitamins and minerals that mechanical processing had stripped away.

The Peas

Finally, let’s address the thorniest issue: the peas. It’s a hard to know out exactly when black-eyed peas started being used in Hoppin’ John, for people have tended to use the terms cowpeas, field peas, black-eyed peas interchangeably. All these beans (they’re technically beans, not peas) belong to the species Vigna unguiculata, and they’re often called “crowder peas” because of the way the beans crowd together in the pod.

Red cowpeas have a black-eye in the center just like their paler cousins, so they can be referred to as “red black-eyed peas.” To complicate matters, in the 19th century there were any number of landrace and cross-bred varieties, often unique to just one or two family’s fields. These included the Sea Island Red Pea, which was once a key rotation crop on the Sea Island just south of Charleston but whose production was abandoned when rice growing ended.

As Adrian Miller relates in Soul Food: The Surprising Story of an American Cuisine, One Plate as a Time (2013), black-eyed peas spread more widely than other cowpea varieties. They were eaten throughout the South by both blacks and whites alike, but they were looked down on as poor-people food and were slow to take on in the north. For most of the 20th century, the navy bean was preferred by most northern shoppers, except for the African-Americans who had arrived during the Great Migration. Miller posits that these expatriate Southerners ended up substituting black-eye peas the traditional red peas in Hoppin’ John because the red versions weren’t available outside of the Carolinas.

The two peas aren’t the same. Old-fashioned red cowpeas are firmer than black-eyed peas and have a deep, rich flavor that can only be described as “meaty.” You walk a fine line when preparing dried commodity black-eyes: cook them too briefly and they’ll be unpleasantly crunchy in the middle; cook them too long and they turn to mush. You don’t have that problem with red cowpeas, for their texture holds up well, staying firm and chewy even with long, slow cooking.

Read the whole article — it’s informative and interesting — and note the conclusion:

Glenn Roberts of Anson Mills sells Carolina Gold rice online, and he has worked with farmers in the Lowcountry to cultivate heirloom beans and peas, too, including Sea Island Red Peas. A few smokehouse operators like Benton’s in Madisonville, Tennessee, and Edwards of Surry, Virginia, were still practicing their craft quietly out in the countryside, and their rich, deeply-smoky products have been rediscovered by chefs and home cooks alike.

So, for this New Year’s Day, try to get your hands on some Sea Island Red Peas, Carolina Gold rice, and some good old-fashioned smoky bacon. Cook them together in the same pot until the grains of rice and the peas stand separate and apart, the rice dyed a purplish-red hue from the peas. I can’t guarantee it will bring you more money in 2015, but you’ll certainly enjoy true riches on your plate.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 December 2020 at 6:15 pm

Diet Drift and a Hard Reset: Learning to recover from failure

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I just had another article published on Medium. It discusses something I’ve blogged about, though with an emphasis on the learning aspect.

Written by LeisureGuy

27 December 2020 at 5:18 pm

Enhancing Pink Power Juice; or, Gilding the Lily

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I often make this beverage as an afternoon treat, mixing it in the beaker that came with the immersion blender I use. Today I blended:

1 lemon, peeled as shown here
1/2 cup frozen mixed berries (blueberries,  blackberries, and raspberries)
1 1/2 cup frozen cranberries
1/2 cup roasted unsalted peanuts (omit if allergic to peanuts)
2 heaping tablespoons erythritol
3 tablespoons dried mint
1 teaspoon vanillin (artificial vanilla)
hibiscus tea to cover

I blended it well and now I’m enjoying it.

After reading the article on vermouth, I was inclined to have some red vermouth on the rocks with a twist, but I have gradually come to realize that when I have a drink I almost invariably make unwise food choices (which and how much). So I dug around in my mind for something suitably enjoyable and festive and made this.

I do, BTW, very much like Carpano’s Antica Formula and often have that on hand for an aperitif or to use in making a Manhattan, though right now I have only Martini & Rossi.

Written by LeisureGuy

24 December 2020 at 3:54 pm

Vegetable melange template

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The way I cook and what I cook changes over time. For example, in May of last year I discontinued adding salt to the foods I cook or eat (and avoid foods high in salt — for example, sauerkraut, pickles, potato chips). And I stopped (in general — occasional exceptions) eating meat, dairy, eggs, and fish — which initially made it difficult for me to think out a meal, but then I found Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen and have used that as a general guide since.

In this post I’ll describe how I now approach a vegetable dish. I’m not sure what to call it — it’s not a stew, exactly, and it’s always a combination of vegetables. I’ll go with “vegetable melange.” (I also cook a variety of greens together, so I’ll describe later my “greens melange.”) The vegetable melange fits the Daily Dozen category of “Other Vegetables.” (See also an earlier and somewhat different take in this post.)

I now keep on hand some form of cooked beans (beans, lentils, tempeh) and some kind of cooked intact whole grain (kamut most commonly, but also whole rye, hulled barley, red fife wheat — and also occasionally quinoa or amaranth). These take care of the Beans and Grain categories, and when I serve vegetable melange it is with Beans and Grain (and sometime Nuts/Seeds: usually walnuts or pepitas/pumpkin seeds).

Pot

Vegetables tend to be bulky (though not so bulky as Greens) until they cook down, so I often use my 6-qt 11.3″-diameter pot (wide diameter helps with cooking), but if I’m going to sauté the vegetables, then I’ll use a large (12″) cast-iron skillet or my 4-qt d3 All-Clad Stainless sauté pan.

Oil

I use extra-virgin olive oil (and get a reliable brand), and generally about 1.5 tablespoons. Not much is needed since I include vegetables that will release some liquid during cooking (e.g., mushrooms, tomatoes, summer squash)

Allium

I always include garlic. Since the dish is large — I like cook once to get multiple meals — I use a fairly large amount of garlic, generally a head of garlic. I peel the cloves and slice (using a garlic mandoline) or chop them. I do this first in preparing the vegetables so the garlic will have time to rest.

I also include leeks or scallions or (in season) spring onions. I don’t use storage onions all that often since the leaves (of leeks, scallions, and spring onions) have considerable nutritional value and storage onions lack those.

  • Leeks: Use all but the root; the leaves are very nutritious, but rinse the top well after halving the leek lengthwise: dirt tends to collect at the base of the leaves. As a snack, I like to roast short sections of the white part of a leek, and then I save the top (green) part to cook in my next vegetable melange.
  • Scallions: I use these often since they are always available and the generous extent of green enhances the nutritional value. I much prefer thick scallions to those the diameter of knitting needles. I certainly use scallions in salads but mostly in cooking.
  • Spring onions are available in only one season, which I will at some point reveal. They are really excellent, and they come in both white and red varieties. (I always go for a darker vegetable color if there’s a choice: darker pignments in general are a sign of more phytonutrients.) Spring onions have a definite bulb and large, long leaves.
  • Storage onions: These are always available. I prefer red to yellow and yellow to white. White onions are easy to peel but very low in nutritional value (but good dietary fiber). Sweet storage onions (Walla Walla, Vidalia, Maui, Texas Sweet) are good in salads but not so good in cooking. They lack the pungency of regular storage onions because they are grown in soil low in sulfur (and presumably because of their genetics).
  • Shallots: These can be considered a type of storage onion, and I do use them occasionally. “Shallot” is pronounced “sha-LOT” and not “SHALL-ut” (despite what you may hear — and while I’m on the topic, “basil” is “BAZ-ul” and not “BAY-sel”).

Mushrooms

I always include mushrooms because (a) I like the taste and mouthfeel, (b) they are a good source of pantothenic acid (B5) and when I was using Cronometer I found that my regular diet was a tad light in that, and (c ) they release their water as they cook which aids in cooking the vegetables. I sometimes use oyster mushrooms but more often domestic white or crimini mushrooms. (When crimini mushrooms grow up, they are called portobello mushrooms.) Depending on my mood, I chop them coarsely or slice them, thickly or thinly.

Root vegetable

I generally will include one or two root vegetables.

  • Daikon radish has a variety of good nutrients, but the one of interest to me is potassium, since Cronometer showed I was running light on that. (Tomato paste is also a good source, and I often use that as well.) One short section, diced, is enough.
  • Beets: Naturally I prefer dark red to golden beets (the darker the color, the more nutrients (in general)), and I just dice them. The juice from raw beets doesn’t stain the way juice from cooked beets does. I rinse them well but don’t peel them, and I follow this rule in general (with some exceptions — e.g., bananas, oranges). One beet is enough.
  • Carrots: Again, I just dice the carrot, and one is enough.
  • Turnip: Same as carrot. Though turnips are not terribly high in food value, I like the taste.
  • Potatoes: Never. Potatoes raise my blood glucose, plus regular potatoes (russet, Yukon gold, white potatoes) seem boring. So far as I’m concerned, they don’t bring much to the party. Sweet potatoes are more interesting (and more nutritious), and I particularly like purple sweet potatoes, which have a wonderful flavor, but there is for me the blood glucose problem.
  • Celeriac/celery root: I actually don’t eat this often, but it’s a good choice and quite tasty. I think I’ll get some.
  • Parsnips: Same problem as potatoes: too great an impact on blood glucose.
  • Turmeric: I like to include turmeric root — generally a couple of pieces about 2″  long that I chop small. And to make the nutrients bioavailable, it’s important to include a fair amount of ground black pepper. I especially don’t peel turmeric; since it is so stainy, I handle it as little as possible.
  • Ginger: Good fresh ginger is a nice addition. I will either chop it fine or slice it on my garlic mandoline.

Peppers

Peppers are always good, both hot (jalapeño, habanero, Thai red or green, serrano) and mild (Anaheim, poblano, bell peppers (green, red, yellow, or orange), banana peppers, Hungarian peppers). Hot peppers I chop including core and seeds; mild peppers I remove core and seeds. A small can of chipotles in adobo is a nice addition — cut up the chipotles with kitchen scissors — if you like spicy.

Eggplant

I like to include eggplant from time to time, either Japanese or Italian. I dice it in large dice so I can get the taste and mouthfeel. (I do not, of course, even thinking of peeling them.) When I include eggplant, I generally omit the root vegetables, and I also include:

  • Zucchini and/or summer squash: Like eggplant, cut in rather large dice so it will maintain some structure.
  • Tomatoes: Canned tomatoes (generally whole Roma/San Marzano tomatoes, which I cut up with kitchen scissors after adding to the pot; sometimes diced tomatoes) or fresh tomatoes (usually halved cherry tomatoes). I also use sun-dried tomatoes (no oil — I find them at Whole Foods), which I cut up with kitchen scissors.
  • Tomato paste: One small can — good source of potassium, as noted above. And it’s worth noting that the lycopene in tomatoes, unlike the lycopene in watermelon (an excellent source), is not bioavailable until and unless the tomatoes have been cooked. Raw fresh tomatoes (in a salad, for example) are for decoration and taste, not nutrition.
  • Pitted kalamata olives: A good amount. Sometimes I halve them to increase the likelihood of getting an olive taste in each spoonful and to check for pits. Often I use them whole.
  • Mexican oregano: A good amount — 1/4 cup, say — and often also thyme (about 2 teaspoons).
  • Italian parsley: I chop an entire bunch — no point in keeping half a bunch of parsley on hand to rot.
  • Red wine or red vermouth: About 1/4-1/2 cup.
  • Diced lemon: A diced lemon works well in here, at least for me.

As you can see, once eggplant enters the picture, it tends to take over the dish and pushes it toward ratatouille, but still I resist — for example, I might also include some chopped fresh fennel.

Squash

Besides summer squash (yellow crookneck or patty pan) and/or zucchini, I might also include diced winter squash: delicata, buttercup (a favorite), or kombucha. I don’t use an entire winter squash, but just a quarter or a half. The rest I’ll probably roast, and then I also roast the seeds.

Fennel

I chop fresh fennel, both fronds and bulb (but not the core), are cook them or use them raw in salads (see: Salad Checklist).

Leaves

If I’m going to cook leaves, I generally am cooking a batch of Greens, but some leaves are good in cooked vegetables. Italian parsley I’ve already mentioned, but I might also use one or two baby bok choy or baby Shanghai bok choy, or a section of red cabbage (depending on the size of the head, one-eighth or one-quarter), chopped. Cilantro I would add at the end, not during cooking. Fresh tarragon has a wonderful flavor.

Kohlrabi

I don’t often see, but it is excellent to add: peel and dice. It’s also good raw, slivered for salad.

Flavor boosters

Last, I always include flavor enhancers.

  • Umami booster: Tamari or soy sauce or Worcestershire sauce or fish sauce (preferably Red Boat)
  • Added acid: Acid brightens the taste. I use a good splash of vinegar (apple cider or red wine or sherry or rice vinegar) and/or lemon pulp. Sometimes I dice a whole lemon (cut off and discard ends, cut lemon into slabs and dice them), which works best if the peel is thin. Meyer lemons are excellent for this.
  • Herbs/spices: Crushed red pepper, Mexican oregano, thyme, rosemary, marjoram, herbes de Provence, paprika, and so on — whatever catches your eye and sounds good.
  • Liquid smoke: If I’m in the mood. Just a littlle is plenty. Wright’s is a good brand. Colgin includes additives that don’t appeal to me.
  • Miso: A good big spoonful of miso (red, white, brown…) adds a nice flavor.

This is one of those posts to which I’m sure I’ll return and augment as additional things occur to me. But I think there’s enough here to get you started.

Written by LeisureGuy

22 December 2020 at 12:18 pm

Moroccan Carrot Red Lentil Soup

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The Younger Daughter recommended this recipe, which is simmering now. It’s dark and a wet snow is falling, so it’s a good night for a hearty soup.

I have three little jars of ground cardamon because I constantly misremember “coriander” as “cardamon.” I had to trudge through the rain/snow combo to the store to buy ground coriander. I thought I had bought it, but apparently I again bought ground cardamon. :sigh:

I’ll probably serve it over some kamut.

Update: Tasty. And quite a thick soup. I didn’t blend. I cooked the crushed red pepper in the soup, but did add cilantro and lemon juice to it in the bowl.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 December 2020 at 4:37 pm

The Effects of Obesity on Back Pain, Blood Pressure, Cancer, and Diabetes

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Obesity is sufficiently dangerous enough to justify a serious and in-depth reconstruction of one’s diet — that is, not just “cutting back,” but basic changes in food choices. And food is the major driver, not exercise. Exercise is good — being fit is more healthful (and more pleasant) than being unfit, but in terms of weight loss, the focus should be on food choices (which foods and how much of them).  I had my best success with this diet.

This video takes a look at just some of the costs of obesity that research has found.

Written by LeisureGuy

21 December 2020 at 1:07 pm

An “Other Vegetables” dish

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The day is dark and rainy, a good day to stay indoors. I ran out of my “Other Vegetables” dish, so I decided to go with things on hand. (The “Other Vegetables” label is from Dr. Greger’s Daily Dozen.)

I used my 6-qt 11.3″-diameter All-Clad d3 Stainless pot. It makes quite a bit, and the 4-qt sauté pan would be at best full, more likely overflowing.

I put into the pot:

2 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil
3 turmeric roots, chopped small (about 1.5″ each; I don’t peel these)
8 cloves garlic, chopped small (the last of the garlic — would have used more; I do peel these)
1 large leek, sliced along with all the green part
2 leek tops, sliced (leftover from when I roasted leeks)
2 bunches scallions, chopped, also with all the green part
about 5 small tops of celery (i.e., short inner stalks with some leaves)
at least 2 tablespoons freshly ground black pepper (for the turmeric)

It’s important to rinse the leek tops well, since dirt often collects there. I started the heat at this point, stirring occasionally as I chopped and added:

1 large carrot, diced (I don’t peel any of the root vegetables, just rinse them well)
1 good-size beet, diced
1 large turnip, diced
4 slices daikon radish, diced
1/2 bulb fresh fennel, cored and diced
1 yellow bell pepper, chopped

At that point it was cooking well, so I added:

1 can Ro-Tel Original
1 small can chipotles in adobo (makes it spicy, can omit)
about 2 tablespoons Mexican oregano
a good splash of apple cider vinegar
several good dashes fish sauce
1 thin-skinned lemon, ends discarded, cut into slabs and then diced

I wish I had mushrooms on hand. Chopped mushrooms would be good. Also a zucchini or patty pan squash would have been nice.

I simmered it — once all has been added and stirred — for 30 minutes (so total cooking time is longer, since it had started simmering while I was adding ingredients).

It’s spicy, from the chipotles in adobo. If spicy is not your thing, just omit that. Quite tasty. Vegetables tender but far from mushy: al dente, I would say.

It makes plenty. At 1/2 cup per serving, two servings a day, it will last a week.

Written by LeisureGuy

19 December 2020 at 12:38 pm

Hard-reset results, cont’d

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My blood glucose this morning was 5.6 mmol/L, lowest possible “pre-diabetic” reading. This week (Sunday to today): 5.1, 5.4, 5.7, 5.5, 5.6. Of those 5 readings, 3 are in the “normal” range. My goal for next week: all 7 readings in the normal range.

And the reset continues to be surprisingly easy because i know the ropes from having done it before and worked out my routine. As the saying is, “It’s like riding a bike,” enjoying both a sense of familiarity and of novelty, something like returning to one’s home town after a decade’s absence.

I blog about this because, given how common diabetes has become, I feel certain that it afflicts some of my readers.

Written by LeisureGuy

17 December 2020 at 12:02 pm

The Best Knee Replacement Alternative for Osteoarthritis Treatment

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More benefits of a whole-food plant-only diet:

Written by LeisureGuy

16 December 2020 at 11:29 am

Taking walks again and other health notes

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Background

Regular readers know that about 18 months ago I adopted a whole-food plant-only diet, which I’ve described in some detail. My motivation was primarily to improve my overall health and more specifically to help with my type 2 diabetes.

Whole-food” means no refined or highly processed foods, which eliminates refined sugar (and foods that contain it), refined salt (and foods that contain it), flour (and foods made from it), and foods made from refined ingredients using industrial processes and sold packaged with a brand name (and heavy marketing) — for example, Cheez Whiz, Diet Coke, and most “convenience” foods. 

Plant-only” means no meat, fish, dairy, or eggs (and no foods that contain those as ingredients — thus no mayonnaise, for example). 

To make sure that I cover the nutritional bases, I used Cronometer for a while. (It’s free, but I opted for Gold status, which provides some additional features for $35/year.) Using Cronometer did indeed reveal some deficiencies, which I mostly corrected through diet — for example, I wasn’t getting enough selenium, so I added 1 brazil nut per day to my diet; I was short of B5 (pantothenic acid), so I added mushrooms to my daily diet (since I like mushrooms). (The search term “foods high in…” is quite useful, though Cronometer itself can make suggestions).

A standard issue in plant-only diets is vitamin B12, and I took care of that by chewing (for faster absorption) a B12 tablet (cyanocobalamin) each morning (with the brazil nut, as it happens). I also take a vitamin D supplement (living as I do in a high latitude, thus with weaker sunlight). And as I posted yesterday, I am now adding a vitamin A supplement. In general, Cronometer showed that my diet was nutritionally sound.

Because of my diabetes, I had been following a low-carb high-fat diet. (“High” is somewhat misleading. It means only that you add enough fat to match the calories lost by cutting net carbs (total carbs minus dietary fiber). For example, if you reduce net carbs by 100g (which is 400 calories), you add 45g fat (405 calories).)

The low-carb diet, together with medication, did bring my blood glucose under control, but as I posted, the reason was that I was not eating any carbs to speak of — around 30g/day of net carbs. On the whole-food plant-only (WFPO) diet, I increased my intake of net carbs from around 30g/day to around 145g/day. However, my intake of dietary fiber also greatly increased (eating whole foods, avoiding refined foods, and eating only plants means you get a lot of fiber). On my new diet my intake of dietary fiber is around 60g/day. (Meat, fish, dairy, and eggs contain zero dietary fiber — and dietary fiber is essential for the health of the gut microbiome, which is essential for your own health.)

It took me a while to find my footing and develop new routines and patterns of eating, but through trial and error I developed an eating pattern based on Dr. Michael Greger’s Daily Dozen. The Daily Dozen provides a template and framework that made it easy to plan my daily food intake.

As a result of the change in diet, my diabetes significantly improved (as did my blood pressure), to the degree that my doctor told me to discontinue all the medications I had been taking. My HbA1c went to 5.2% (well within normal range) and my fasting blood glucose was around 5.5 mmol/L (99 mg/dl). 

And then…

Fast-forward a year. I was doing so well that I decided it would be okay to eat a piece of fish once every week or two — and I do like steelhead. The plot sequence at this point is a cliché: the piece of fish once every week or two became a piece of fish three or four times a week, and I decided eggs (cooked in butter) would be okay occasionally (and then frequently — I had to use the dozen before they went bad, after all). And then I ventured to eat a steak about once a month. Moreover, it seemed appropriate to have wine with my meals and an evening cocktail (I’m partial to rye Manhattans (redundant, but rye is not so commonly used) and gin Martinis (also redundant, but nowadays it’s wise to specify). 

My fasting blood-glucose readings gradually increased: I started seeing 6.0 fairly often, then 6.1, 6.3…. A doctor had told me that so long as the readings were below 7.0, all was well, but I was getting uneasy. My Contour Next blood glucose meter gives me averages, and I couldn’t help but notice that the averages also were slowly increasing (naturally enough). My morning readings started to include an occasional 6.5 and then an occasional 6.8. But the readings jumped around a lot, and I naturally focused on the “good” (lower) readings. Then I noticed an average of 6.5.

And one morning I saw a 7.0 reading. I got seriously worried and cut back right away…  but then things improved somewhat so I resumed the drift. I reassured myself by noting how much the readings varied day to day (and tried to ignore the increased averages).

Then I hit a rocky series of readings, starting 18 November: 6.5 (bad, so I was careful), 5.8 (that’s more like it) — and then 7.0, 6.7, 6.4, 6.5, 6.1, 7.0, 7.3 (!), 6.7, 6.8, 6.1, 6.5 — and I thought “Enough’s enough.” I decided I had to do hard reset. 

The hard reset

I knew, of course, exactly what I needed to do, but this time I wrote it down — putting things in writing makes them more concrete and, in effect, nails them to the wall. I wrote:

1. No alcohol (first day was 30 Nov 2020 and I’m still abstaining)
2. Daily walk with Sunday as a rest day (first day was 2 Dec 2020 (2000 steps), with a goal of 8000 steps/day)
3. No food after 5:00 (first day was 3 Dec 2020 — no eating in the evening helps with fasting blood glucose)

At the right you see my fasting blood-glucose averages two weeks into the hard reset. (And this result is without taking any medication at all.) One morning this week I even had a reading of 5.2 mmol/L. The 90-day average as of yesterday was 6.5, but today it dropped to 6.4. A fasting blood glucose of 5.5 mmol/L is the top of the “normal” range; 5.6 is the bottom of the “pre-diabetic” range. (“Diabetes” starts at 7.0.)

It’s clear that cutting out animal-based foods has made a quick and quite noticeable difference in my blood glucose levels. The reason is well understood: saturated fat spikes blood glucose. (The 7.0 reading was the day after I had a steak and the 7.3 followed a dinner of beef shank.)

By sticking with plant-only foods (and not eating any coconut), I avoid saturated fat, and that helps significantly with the blood glucose (as does eating whole rather than refined foods). Here’s why:

And the walking helps

Walking certainly helps physically, and I find it also helps with mood and morale. Getting out of the apartment into the open air and seeing interesting things in the neighborhood brightens the day and broadens the range of experience (beyond being in the apartment). For example, this shrub caught my eye: I like the fractal-like branches. Nothing like that in my apartment.

Almost all houses in this neighborhood boast flower gardens, in a wide variety of styles and designs. There is also a good variety of fences and gates, not to mention houses. You can see that people have devoted thought and effort to create their own little garden environment (cf. the movie Greenfingers, with Clive Owen, Helen Mirren, David Kelly, and Warren Clarke — check JustWatch.com for availability). 

Even though it’s very late in the fall — winter begins in 9 days — I see some bushes still valiantly blooming. There’s one at the left, but there are others. And bushes with white berries — I need to learn some botany.

Another unexpected pleasure: I encounter a variety of little free libraries — I’ve spotted three so far, and I bet I will find more. Perhaps soon I’ll borrow (or donate) a book. And I go by a couple of parks, and of course there’s the Salish Sea right across the road for part of my walk.

I’ve been walking rain or shine (so far but one day in the rain, when I found walking with an umbrella is not a problem). And I have found a time for the habit — before my (late) lunch. (Breakfast lately is tea and three pieces of fresh fruit.)

Resist entropy

I followed a common sequence. I started with good resolutions, good results, and good persistence, and that lasted for months. But then I started probing the boundaries, and then drifting across (or moving) the boundaries. And then there’s the shocked awakening: “What am I doing?! What have I done?!”

That was the moment that I decided I needed a hard reset. Because I’m familiar with what I needed to do — where, in effect, I needed to be — it has been easy enough to resume good practice (though I definitely think writing it down helped — there’s a reason we are advised to put our goals in writing. And the restrictions due to the pandemic help, since they eliminate restaurant meals and socializing over food and drink. 

Now all I need to do is to stay the course and fight the universal pressure to move from order to disorder. I must remind myself from time to time what happens when I cast caution to the winds — or even nudge it aside a little. Pushing the pebble over the ledge can lead to a landslide.

Update: My fasting blood glucose this morning (13 Dec 2020) is 5.1 mmol/L (93 mg/dL). That is excellent. Of course, I don’t want to venture into hypoglcemia (when blood glucose is too low): “A blood sugar level below 70 mg/dL (3.9 mmol/L) is low and can harm you. A blood sugar level below 54 mg/dL (3.0 mmol/L) is a cause for immediate action.” I’m well above the harmful level. The Mayo Clinic notes:

A fasting blood sugar level less than 100 mg/dL (5.6 mmol/L) is normal. A fasting blood sugar level from 100 to 125 mg/dL (5.6 to 6.9 mmol/L) is considered prediabetes. If it’s 126 mg/dL (7 mmol/L) or higher on two separate tests, you have diabetes.

I’ll note again that I am achieving these levels with no medication: only diet and, lately, exercise.

 

14 Dec: This morning my blood glucose was 5.4 mmol/L (97 mg/dL), which is in the normal range — but more important, my 7-day average (see at right) was 5.5 mmol/L, also within normal range (albeit at the top: 5.6 is where “pre-diabetic” begins).

I’m still surprised at the rapidity of recovery once I returned rigorously to a whole-food plant-only diet. And I’ve been enjoying a cranberry slushie as an afternoon treat (recipe at the link).

Written by LeisureGuy

12 December 2020 at 7:43 pm

One way I like kale

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Here’s a recipe I made (up) recently:

Thinly slice:

• cloves from one head of garlic
• 1″-2″ fresh ginger root, depending on how much you like ginger

Then prep the other veggies. For this I used my 4-qt All-Clad d3 Stainless sauté pan, since I was going to simmer it covered a while. I just added the ingredients to the pan as I prepped them, since I decided to cook this without oil (and thus without sautéing the first ingredients):

• 8-10 Crimini mushrooms, halved and then cut in slabs (or simply chopped coarsely)
• about 1/3 block of extra-firm tofu, diced
• 1 large red onion, chopped
• 1 good-sized bunch green curly kale, chopped
• 1 300g box frozen chopped spinach
• 1 cup no-salt-added vegetable broth
• 1/4 cup apple cider vinegar
• as much crushed red pepper as you like — I used 2-3 teaspoons
• about 2 tablespoons Tamari or soy sauce
• 2-3 tsp German mustard

Bring it to a simmer, add the garlic and ginger, cover, and simmer 40-50 minutes, stirring from time to time.

That has the the “Greens” part of my meals lately.

Written by LeisureGuy

11 December 2020 at 3:54 pm

Asparagus stir-fry

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Good stir-fries can generally be made from what’s on hand — here’s an example. i had bought a bunch of asparagus and was wondering what to do withit (steam? roast?) and decided to use it in a stir-fry. The result was terrific: easy, fast, and tasty, with a good amount left over. It’s one of those recipes where I just make it up as I go along, on the theory that if you cook together foods you like, you’ll probably like the result.

As always, prepare the garlic first so that it can rest before cooking. I used my 12″ Stargazer cast-iron skillet for this, a skillet I find myself often using. Heat the skillet, then add:

about 1.5 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil (or avocado oil)
12 large callionse, sliced
1 orange bell pepper, orange, chopped
1 medium  arrot, cut on quarter turn
diced extra-firm tofu (or diced tempeh)
thinly sliced cloves from 1 head of garlic
about 1″ fresh ginger root, thinly sliced (the garlic mandoline works great for this)
8 large or 10 medium crimini mushrooms, halved then cut into slabs
1 bunch asparagus cut into 1″ pieces
3 thick slices Daikon radish, diced
1/3 head red cabbage, shredded
1 teaspoon crushed red pepper (or to taste)
1 tablespoon freshlhy ground black pepper

Sauté over medium high heat, stirring often. After the mushrooms have released their water — that is, when the cooking is essentially done, the vegetables being as tender or al dente as you want — add:

splash of rice vinegar
splash of tamari or soy saucce

I used a highly rated oyster sauce on this as a finishing touch, but I might skip it next time. It did seem very salty. However, I don’t salt my food, so I’m probably extra-sensitive to the presence of salt.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 December 2020 at 2:47 pm

Which Brands and Sources of Rice Have the Least Arsenic?

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So the question is, “How much arsenic do you want with your rice today?” Arsenic, like many metals (e..g., lead, mercury) accumulates in the body, so even a little each day will over time do damage. This finding is one reason I don’t eat rice. (Another is that rice, like potatoes, sends my blood glucose shooting up,  but I was wary of rice even before I got diabetes.)

Dr. Greger blogs (and the video to which he links is worth watching):

Arsenic levels were tested in 5,800 rice samples from 25 countries.The arsenic found in five servings of rice a week poses a hundred times the acceptable cancer risk. What did the rice industry have to say about that? When the story first broke in the media that U.S. rice had some of the highest arsenic levels in the world, the USA Rice Federation said, “Enough nonsense about arsenic already!” in the August 9, 2005, issue of USA Rice Daily, its daily newsletter. The study, in its mind, was “not only inaccurate in the highest degree, but also maliciously untrue.” One of the researchers responded, “By not addressing this problem [of arsenic] that has been ignored for decades, the U.S. cotton-belt rice industry is doing itself an injustice. “Had the problem been addressed in the past, given that it is well known that arsenic in paddy soils was a problem in the U.S….safe soils would have been identified and low grain arsenic rice varieties developed.” Instead, arsenic-resistant varieties have been developed that build up excessive levels of arsenic without dying themselves. I discuss arsenic levels in rice in my video Which Brands and Sources of Rice Have the Least Arsenic?.

Not all rice producers have been so dismissive, though. After a subsequent Consumer Reports exposé, one rice company detailed “how it is taking matters into its own hands.” Lundberg Farms started testing hundreds of samples of its rice to share the results with the FDA. “We’re committed to providing safe food,” said the CEO, “to really listening to our consumers, and dealing with this problem very openly….” Lundberg Farms isn’t just sharing its results with the FDA, but with everyone.

If you visit its website or go to 1:37 in my video, you can see it apparently followed through on its testing promise for its brown rice. Lundberg Farms use parts per million (ppm) instead of parts per billion (ppb) to make it look better than it is, but compared with the average U.S. brown rice level of 154 ppb, Lundberg does do better. In fact, at 80 ppb, its aromatic brown rice, presumably its brown basmati and brown jasmine, averages less than national white rice levels, as do, apparently, Lundberg’s red and black rices, at 90 ppb. In fact, none of its samples even reached the average U.S. brown rice level.

Consumer Reports found most other brands to be pretty comparable to the U.S. average arsenic levels in brown rice, as you can see at 2:15 in my video, including Uncle Ben’s and Walmart’s Great Value brand. Whole Foods, however, scored the worst with its 365 Everyday Value long grain brown rice, about a third higher than these others and exceeding the national average.

In the largest review to date, based on 5,800 rice samples from 25 countries, the highest total arsenic average came from the United States. U.S. studies averaged overall about double that of rice out of Asia, with the high levels in the United States blamed on “the heavy [historical] use of arsenic-based pesticides.” But arsenic levels were not the same across the United States. Yes, U.S. rice averages twice the arsenic of Asian rice and nearly all rice samples tested in upstate New York that were imported from India or Pakistan had arsenic levels lower than 95 percent of domestically produced rice. But, “[r]ice grown in the U.S. showed the widest overall range…and the largest number of outliers,” due primarily to where it was grown, as you can see at 3:01 in my video. There is significantly more arsenic in Texas and Arkansas rice than rice from California. California rice is comparable to rice produced around the rest of the world. These are presumably some of the data that led Consumer Reports to suggest brown basmati from California, India, or Pakistan might be among the safer rice choices.If the arsenic is from pesticides, would organic rice have less than conventionally grown rice? No, because arsenic pesticides were banned about 30 years ago. It’s just that 30,000 tons of arsenic chemicals had already been dumped onto cotton fields in the southern United States, “so it is understandable that arsenic residues still remain in the environment” even if you don’t add an ounce of new pesticides. That’s why the industry specifically selects for arsenic-resistant varieties of rice plants in the South. If only there were arsenic-resistant humans.

What about other brands of rice? That was the subject of Which Rice Has Less Arsenic: Black, Brown, Red, White, or Wild?

For even more background, see: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

10 December 2020 at 11:17 am

Make lemon pulp, not lemon juice

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This tip comes from How Not to Die, by Dr. Michael Greger. If you peel and blend a lemon and use the resulting pulp in lieu of the juice squeezed from the lemon, you get significantly more nutrients and also dietary fiber. After a little experience, I worked out an efficient way to prepare a lemon for the blender (where most frequently I blend it with the other ingredients for a salad dressing, as described in this post on my salad checklist). Since I just made a salad for lunch, I thought it was a good opportunity to show the method in photos.

Viewing the two rows left to right, you see:

• Lemon, knife, and beaker for immersion blender.
• Ends cut off lemon
• Lemon cut in half at equator and place flat, wide side down
• Trimming the peel from the first half, partly done
• First half done, trimming second half, partly done
• Peeled halves in beaker, read for other salad dressing ingredients to be added before blending

Since I was using the immersion blender, I used a clove of fresh garlic rather than garlic powder. This was ou local garlic, whose (enormous) cloves are not pungent and indeed somewhat sweet.

Written by LeisureGuy

1 December 2020 at 1:45 pm

Smoked Garlic, Dill, and Chilli Pepper Tofu

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This is really excellent as a snack. Only available locally, I fear, but perhaps something similar is near you since I see quite a few new small food enterprises emerging.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2020 at 4:29 pm

The New Wave of Fishless Fish Is Here

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If I like a food that is bad for my health, but I can have the same experience (taste, appearance, fragrance, and mouthfeel) from a nutritious simulacrum, the choice for me is obvious.

Others, I understand, really do not like choosing the simulacrum and will either eat the unhealthy food or abstain entirely. I’m not like that. For me, getting the good without the bad seems like a clear win and a good choice.

So I am intrigued by the fish-like foods, though you can be sure that I will cast a wary eye on the ingredients (which do look okay — see below). Beyond health benefits, there are environmental payoffs for these new foods.

Rowan Jacobsen reports in Outside:

Food scientists and marketers are creating healthy, plant-based, imitation tuna, crab, and shrimp that look and taste like the real thing. Better yet, switching to faux seafood will help curb our reliance on an international fishing industry that has become an environmental and human-rights disaster.

The year 2020 has not been good to many things, but it has been very, very good to the tuna melt. As the world got weird and we sheltered at home, many of us hankered for the familiar, the stable, the uncool. And there was the tuna melt waiting for us, as uncool as ever. 

References to the sandwich spiked on Reddit. New recipes (more or less indistin­guishable from the old recipes) flowed onto the internet. 

I, too, felt the allure. So, during the height of the pandemic, breaking away from the monotony of the keyboard, I made myself a lunch of soaring satisfaction: crispy bread and creamy tuna under a warm security blanket of cheese. What made it especially gratifying, however, was that it was the first tuna melt of my life that involved no fish at all. It was made with a new plant-based faux tuna called Good Catch, and while I can’t exactly say it changed my life, it definitely changed my lunch.

I swore off canned tuna last year, after reading The Outlaw Ocean, Ian Urbina’s wrenching account of human-rights abuses in the global fishing industry. For years, my list of morally acceptable seafoods had been narrowing as I learned about the environmental impacts of industrial fishing. Bluefin tuna, of course, went out the window long ago. Then it was Chilean sea bass, swordfish, and farmed salmon. Cod, gone. Shrimp, toast. But I clung to canned tuna, in part because of the convenience. A highly functional shot of protein, shelf-stable and cheap, it seemed morally defensible as long as it sported the logos certifying that it was dolphin-safe and sustainably fished.

But that changed when I plunged into Urbina’s book, the result of more than three years reporting on high-seas crime across 12,000 nautical miles, all five oceans, and 20 smaller seas. He shipped out on roach-infested, barely seaworthy trawlers, chased pirates and poachers, got caught in border wars, and uncovered a grainy cell-phone video of casual assassinations at sea. After all that, Urbina asked, did we really think “that it is possible to fish sustainably, legally, and using workers with contracts, making a livable wage, and still deliver a five-ounce can of skipjack tuna for $2.50 that ends up on the grocery shelf only days after the fish was pulled from the water thousands of miles away”?

Spoiler alert: it’s not. The average can of tuna drags behind it a tangled net of wrecked ecosystems, definned sharks, debt bondage, child labor, human trafficking, physical abuse, and murder. By the time I finished The Outlaw Ocean, I couldn’t open a can of tuna without imagining a trickle of human blood oozing out. And it’s not just tuna. Swordfish, snapper, mahi mahi, mackerel, sardines, squid, and anchovies are all tainted by slavery. So are farmed salmon, farmed shrimp, and cat food, which relies on meal made out of small fish caught in fisheries rife with human suffering. 

Many fishing boats are crewed by migrants from poor countries who are desperate for work. The boats can spend years at sea, periodically off-loading their catch to refrigerated mother ships and taking on fresh supplies. Oversight is almost nonexistent. Men are forced to work brutal hours in filthy conditions. Beatings are common. So are deaths.

A typical experience is that of Lang Long, a poor Cambodian man Urbina met in Thailand. Long was smuggled to the Thai coast by a trafficker who promised to get him a construction job, but the job never materialized. Instead, Long was sold to a fishing captain for $530, to cover his trafficking debt. Once on the boat, he didn’t see land again for three years.

During that time, Long was beaten regularly, forced to work up to 23 hours a day, and given insufficent food and water. After trying to escape, he was shackled by the neck and chained to the deck whenever his boat approached another ship.

But Long was relatively lucky. He survived, and was returned to land after a Catholic charity paid the boat’s captain $750 for his freedom. Other sea slaves have described sick deckhands being thrown overboard and intransigent ones being locked in the hold, whipped, or beheaded.

All this happens on the untraceable high seas. By the time a tender comes into port, it can carry a vast mix of legally and illegally caught fish. And that’s how a can of tuna gets to your grocery shelf for $2.50.

So I kissed tuna goodbye. Lunch became a little more inconvenient, but then Good Catch showed up in the grocery aisle. Instead of a can, the product came in an upmarket pouch featuring a photo of a plate heaped with extremely tuna-like shards. Fish-Free Tuna, the label advertised. Chunk Albacore Texture. The ingredients list revealed that it was made using a blend of six legumes—soybeans, peas, chickpeas, fava beans, lentils, and navy beans—with some algal oil and seaweed powder mixed in for “Real Seafood Taste.” At $5 for a 3.3-ounce portion, it was pricier than canned tuna, but not exactly a budget buster.

I’d written a lot about the battle for burger supremacy among fauxtein peddlers like Beyond Meat and Impossible Foods, and I knew the pattern those trailblazers had to follow: media campaigns to convince people their fake meats weren’t bizarre, slow rollouts of product in a handful of hipster restaurants, and then years of struggle to develop the production and distribution needed to reach the mainstream. I’d assumed alternative seafood would follow the same tortuous path. Yet here was Good Catch, already stocked by mainstream supermarkets like Whole Foods and Giant. Perhaps the trail had been blazed. And that made me wonder if the world of seafood was about to get pounded by a wave of fishless fish.

Second spoiler alert: . . .

Continue reading.

Written by LeisureGuy

29 November 2020 at 11:05 am

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