Thursday, July 28, 2011

July 28th, 2011 - Day 19 of 60

I have a friend who, at an age that is under 50, had a heart attack.  I am not a doctor, nor do I play one on television, but I do know that his doctors claim his diet was atrocious and he need to get some things in order or he might not be so lucky next time.  His diet is mainly junk food. He didn't get a lot of exercise.  He has a high-stress job.  He was on medications.  All red flags waving together.  Now, this is an intelligent man.  He is an artisan and is very literate.  He watches little TV.  This isn't a man who you'd think is prone to coercion by Madison Avenue.  Still, he somehow found himself locked into a diet that was unsound with any interpretation.  How can this be?

I don't know the answer to that question.  I really wish I did.  There is a mechanism within us that allows us to either delude or pacify ourselves.  I know there is a school of psychology that tells us that if danger isn't imminent we can allow ourselves to be complacent.  Once the danger is at the door, we jump into action.  But, once we feel the immediate danger is past, we can allow ourselves to relax somewhat.  Who doesn't like to relax?  A prime example was another co-worker who, again, had all the classic lifestyle issues that pointed toward a heart attack:  smoking, overweight, poor diet, stress and lack of exercise.  After her heart attack she went on a very strict regiment.  If what she told me was true, it was a remarkable thing.  She'd tell me the foods she'd cook and how long she was on the treadmill, etc. But, after a while, she let her guard down.  The weight she lost started to come back.  Fortunately, she did make some good changes.  She stopped smoking and moved in with her daughter out West in a nice, quiet area.  That, I am sure, would help.  But I can't stop wondering how, in the back of her mind, she didn't take the heart attack more seriously.  Now, when I question the actions of these people, it isn't out of some sanctimonious, judgmental, superior place.  These are people with whom I formed a bond and cared for.  I actually wonder what goes through their mind.  It must be torturous.  They know they are doing something wrong, yet they are powerless to do anything.  Sounds almost like they are on drugs.  Or, maybe they are?

In the past, I'd imagine the picture that came to someone's mind when the word "refined" was used was someone of excellent breeding and manners.  If not that, perhaps a factory that worked with metal ores.  Now, I'm sure the first thing that comes to mind is food.  When you refine, the dictionary says you "free from impurities."  That, in relation to food, is laughable.  Modern science has become masters of taking something, putting it through a process and then commodifying it.  They change it, make a demand for it and then sell it.  They take wheat, remove nutritional components and then sell the result.  That is then used in a commodity such as snack foods, etc. and sold for huge profits.  Sometimes they even "enrich" the product.  For example, bread.  Take wheat, grind it, remove the germ and the bran, make a fine white powder, add a few ingredients, add back some vitamins and such that you just took out, bake, package, profit.  Why would they do that?  Well, there is no doubt that refined foods are such that some find them delicious.  Fine cakes, pastries, etc. are tantalizing.  But, mostly, it is good for business.  You make bread by grinding flour and adding a few items, bake and sell it, you'll find it starts to go off quickly.  If you can't get it to market before it starts to spoil, how can you sell it?  But, remove the germ and fiber, add some stabilizers and preservatives, you've got yourself a product.  We've come a long way over the years and bread is better in some ways.  The fiber and germ can be added back or left in due to chemical preservatives. But don't be fooled, it is still refined.   They are whole grains refined down to a white powder.

Hmmm... what else is refined down into a white powder?  Flour.  Sugar.  Salt.  Caffeine. Heroin.  Cocaine.  Do I see a trend?  Am I being intentionally sensationalist?  Yes! :)  Am I saying that any white powder is dangerous.  Not in so many words.  What I am saying is that it appears that "refined" things that are REALLY refined end up as piles of white powder that later end up in our food that later end up in us that later cause our doctors to say, "Don't do that!"  When you refine something, you bring out the purity of one component.  Sometimes the purity can be a bit of a strain on the body.  Eat a piece of fruit that is sweet but has fiber and other nutrients within it and you don't feel the effects the same way.  Your blood sugar will not rise in the same way that it would if you just ate pure sugar.  Drink a cup of tea and you will feel the effects of caffeine, but probably not in the same way as if you took a "No-Doze" kind of pill.  Take some whole wheat kernels, cook them and eat them.  Maybe not your thing, but it can be done.  If you do that the glycemic index of the food with be half that of bread made out of them (that is whole wheat bread). Even our lovely juice is refined.  It removes the more fibrous elements and leaves the juice.  Now, is that juice good?  I think it can be.  It is a modestly compressed dose of nutrition. It isn't cooked, Pasturized, stored for a long period of time, shipped or adulterated.  Far, far less refined.  You will notice a glycemic increase in juice, but nutritionally your fresh juice is sound.  Better than eating the fruit whole?  That is up for debate.  Some refined products are necessary in a crisis.  Many of us are in the place where we are in a health or nutrition crisis. No one would likely turn away medicine for pain.  A shot of morphine when needed used to be the thing to do.  That is some pretty refined stuff. You wouldn't want to do that each day, but it has its place.

I am not saying one should never eat a refined product.  Everyone is different and can handle things in a different way.  My mom could drink a cup of coffee before bed and sleep.  If I had a cup of coffee I'd be up for two days.  What I am saying is that many refined products are a staple of our lives, but the result is more of a drug effect than a food effect.  Look at the foods you really, really crave.  Most are likely heavily refined.  Bread, cheese, alcohol, chips, cake and sweets, etc.  If you have to add nutrition after refining, something is wrong.  While I don't have any scientific evidence handy to support my claims (there must be some out there) I do have anecdotal evidence regarding highly refined products. Ever see how some people act if they don't get their coffee and pastry in the morning?  It isn't pretty.  And I am of the mind that we are just starting to understand the nature of whole-food nutrition.  I think there are unknown nutrients and catalysts that we'll one day see were needed in that food to make them work better.  On paper, refining can look good.  Refined things store better.  When you want to stave off starvation, you might refine something or somehow change it to keep it around. A bag of Combos (tm) will sit around for quite a while.  I understand that.  But what I am discussing is the extreme to which we've gone.  As you walk through the store, what percentage of foods do you reckon are "refined" vs. "whole".  And, don't be fooled.  Just because something is "whole grain" doesn't mean it is not refined.  Bread is refined.  A delicious whole-grain bread you baked at home after grinding the flour yourself is still refined and then it is processed.  It will be a lot more nutritious and a lot less refined and processed than many store-bought breads, but it is still refined and processed.  I think keeping an emphasis on whole foods is certainly an excellent first step in a sane nutritional plan.  Save the refined products for a treat or a small side-dish, but keep the whole foods for the main course.  Try to use less-refined products (dates for sweetening) than heavily refined products (table sugar for sweetening) if you can't avoid them.

If I could only find a way to juice potato chips.  There is a refined food that must have some good in it somewhere.

I am 30% through the 60 days.

Weight: 153.8 lbs.

Food: Fruit/Veg Smoothie With Hemp Seed
Just 4 smoothies today, so only 1 photo.

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