Food Update

It’s been a while since I’ve posted. In browsing older posts I realized there might be some confusion to new readers as to what exactly I eat. Thus I would like to clarify (don’t worry, I know the world doesn’t hinge on what I eat, but I don’t want to confuse anyone).

Years ago I was a strict vegan. I truly believed this was the healthiest way for a human to eat. I made this decision based on books like Eat to Live, The China Study, and the various vegan websites out there like vegsource (I have no idea if they’re still around). Eating a whole food vegan diet, claimed these books, led to perfect health and slim waistlines.

I have always been thin but I was trying to improve my health- after my 4th child was born I began experiencing recurring and debilitating fevers. Based on testimonials of vegan converts I switched to a completely vegan diet.

It took a while but my health did improve. I didn’t eat only health foods- I loved vegan cookies and desserts, but I did eat mostly health foods, and I completely eliminated sugar from my diet 4 years ago.

Then I got pregnant with my youngest child and despite being low weight, gaining virtually no weight, and eating a “healthy vegan diet” I was diagnosed with gestational diabetes. I was 190 mg/dL on the glucose tolerance test. I obtained a glucose meter and began testing my postprandial (post meal) blood sugar. I was horrified to find all those “healthy” whole grains and beans were spiking my blood sugar astronomically.

Then I remembered… in the back of my head… a documentary I watched ages ago. I thought it was funny back then but, as a strict vegan, believed none of it. That documentary was Tom Naughton’s Fat Head, where he eats both a moderately low carb/ high fat diet, and later a nearly zero carb/ high fat diet, and not only does he lose weight but his blood work improves significantly.

Against medical advice I immediately began eating low carb. I was concerned about going too low, given I was pregnant [note: I would no longer have this concern today], so I hovered around 50 net carbs a day. A typical day for me eating was as follows: I would skip breakfast then eat a huge lunch. I ate a tremendous amount of lamb and chicken thighs, and of course did not remove any of the fat. I would have a small amount of dried fruit for dessert (dried fruit and some veggies were my only source of carbs). For dinner I would have the same.

My blood sugar immediately normalized below 100 mg/dL no matter how much I ate, and my son was born 6 pounds just shy of 36 weeks. He did not require any NICU.

Well, when they gave me the glucose tolerance test a few months after his birth my numbers were even worse. I was 300 mg/dL! I was now officially diabetic, although it remains unclear if I am type 2 or LADA- adult onset type 1- since I am so thin it may likely be LADA. My well meaning but clueless internist advised me to “eat brown rice and potatoes.” I kept my mouth shut but knew some of my worst postprandial numbers resulted from precisely those foods.

I have been a low carber ever since, even going down to zero carbs for long periods, eating nothing but meat and fat. That’s right, I am still alive despite eating no fiber and eschewing all plant foods. My blood work is perfect. A1C is normal. I’m thinner than ever- not necessarily a good thing, but for those of you who need to lose weight, if it works at my low weight it would certainly work for you. When I was diagnosed with diabetes I was 135 lbs (at 5’9″). After a few months eating very low carb I went down to 120- slightly underweight for my height- and have maintained and even dipped below without trying.

I truly believe eating low carb has saved my life, and quite possibly saved my son’s life. So would I recommend low carbing to any dieters out there? HELL YES! The emphasis on fruits, whole grains and veggies in nutritional circles is ridiculously overblown. I’m not saying they’re bad for non-diabetics, but they are indeed terribly dangerous for diabetics and are not the golden key to weight loss the FDA would have you believe.

I’ve been able to maintain a normal A1C without meds, insulin, or exercise (I like to walk but don’t consider it “exercise.”) My blood sugar rarely cracks 100 mg/dL. So I would plead- yes PLEAD- with any diabetics out there to consider a low carb/ zero carb diet. There are countless resources online and just as many books. Atkins is a great place to start. I eat only foods from the induction phase, plus nuts.

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Egg Beaters Taste Disgusting

I’m not one of those people who think cholesterol and fat are bad for you. But one low carb food I never tried is egg whites. Of course I’ve eaten eggs: hard boiled, slow boiled (huevos haminados), poached, frittatas, omelettes, scrambled in bacon grease or butter. But I never tried cooking just the whites. I’m not egg crazy per se, though since eating low carb I’ve grown less egg averse, and my favorite style is poached or slow cooked.

After passing by egg beaters in the costco refrigerator many times, and knowing that egg whites are one of the most calorie efficient forms of protein (I once watched a documentary about an anorexic woman who ate nothing but egg whites and cottage cheese) I decided to give them a chance in my kitchen.

I tried several “mug scrambles” described on the egg beater site. I tried to be creative and poach them, and make omelettes from them. They tasted like mushy soy crumbles (ah, memories from days of vegan). If you took sawdust and slime, liquefied it, and packaged it in cartons, you’d have something akin to egg beaters.

So don’t bother! This product is a sin. If you want to eat eggs without fat, poach some in chicken broth or slow cook them whole on LOW for seven hours in a bath of water. The yolks aren’t bad for you anyway.

eggbeaters
breaking up is not hard to do

I marched these puppies down the Costco return line this morning. Costco is gracious on returns; rarely do they even ask for a reason. But the girl at the counter looked at the egg beaters, looked at me, and asked: What was wrong?

Instead of explaining that these are a vile, disgusting culinary blight, I instead said there was a weird smell when I opened them, and I was afraid to eat them. Which is only halfway a lie.

 

 

 

 

Al Sharpton Cometh

Al Sharpton and 15,000 of his friends are due to arrive on the shores of Staten Island tomorrow, so I decided to do all my grocery shopping today. There will be a number of road closures and networks of diverted traffic due to the “We Will Not Go Back” rally (what exactly does that mean? Is it like “Never Again?”). I have trouble believing 15,000 people will journey to Staten Island for any reason, and it’s a shame those visitors who do show up will be marching through one of the more miserable sections of the island. Despite its supposed renaissance as the next Greenpoint, St. George for the most part is not a pretty sight. Yes, there are lovely historic landmarks here and there (like St. Peter’s Church) and some well kept Victorians. But for the most part it’s blight, ugly storefronts, and lots of down and out folks hanging around. Perhaps the borough president should have organized hospitality squads to shepherd protesters on diversionary tours of our sparkling beaches and vast greenbelt. They could even take a golf break in Todt Hill.

The timing of Mr. Sharpton’s visit to the island is serendipitous because the one year anniversary of my breach from sugar is approaching, and as some of you may be old enough to remember, Al once cut a portly figure.

chubby al

My husband often waxes poetic about Sharpton’s jumpsuits and bling that are now relics of a bygone era. Despite being chubby in years past, Sharpton is now emaciated thanks to a prison fast and vegan diet.

skinny al

I don’t know, I think he looked better fat! It’s people like Al who give veganism a bad name. They look sick, gray, and withered. But I’m going to assume that like me he has also sworn off desserts, even vegan cupcakes. It was almost one year ago tomorrow that I decided to quit all desserts, and I only fell off the bandwagon once through that period when under the influence of too much wine. I wolfed down a chocolate chip cookie before I remembered it was verboten.

What is life like without dessert? Honestly, not much different. The only physical change is that I have a somewhat less tortuous time trying to sleep. My entire life I’ve had difficulty staying asleep more than two hours, and without the sugar and accompanying chocolate (my weaknesses were chocolate croissants, chocolate chip cookies, chocolate cake, brownies, and chocolate) I can occasionally stay asleep for three hours. But other than that I feel no different. No extra energy. No greater immunity to the common cold. So if you’re considering giving up desserts, too, you may not want to bother.

Not only that but two months ago I finally managed to quit bread! This means I’ve been gluten free for some time. Other than some possible withdrawal symptoms, like a severe headache and bad mood, I can report that I feel no different without gluten either. So again, you may want to avoid this current health food craze. In fact, a recent study surmises that the gluten free fad is completely fake.

The only reason I gave up desserts and bread was because I realized they were wasted calories, and I would rather my carbohydrates derive from fruits as they, at least, contain antioxidants and fiber. The only perceptible difference is that so far I’m gaining less weight with this pregnancy than I gained in previous pregnancies, but that’s only because I’m not devouring bagels, rye bread, pizza, and homemade pretzels like I once did.

Yet another radical change in my dietary life is that I’m now eating meat. After being a devout vegan for years I began eating the very occasional egg, piece of chicken, or dairy item. But once I noticed Costco sold lamb at $5.50 per lb the die was cast. If there is one meat in the world I actually enjoy eating, it’s lamb. I cook it on “low” in the crockpot for 10 hours with wine, garlic, and tomatoes. It’s utterly divine and the final nail in my vegan coffin.

However, eating red meat for the first time in nearly 20 years has not made me feel any different. As I’ve noted before, I think humans are more like rats than we want to admit: we can survive nicely on just about any calorie source, as long as it’s not outright carcinogenic or poisonous.

If I weren’t very pregnant I might venture into the fray tomorrow to take pictures for my readers, but as it is, I can barely make the rounds of Costco without bordering on collapse. I don’t know why that is, because I haven’t gained much weight, though I guess it’s the nature of babies to suck the life out of their mothers.

Kale Tastes Disgusting

I have now tried kale steamed, boiled, sauteed, juiced, raw; baby kale and mature kale. No matter what I do to this stuff, it tastes like green, chewy gasoline. If a health nut like me can’t stomach it- literally, it gives me a stomach ache- how are normal people ever going to eat it? Costco sells huge bags of baby kale. Who buys it? Do people feed it to their pets? I guess if you juice it with a very sweet fruit it would be more palatable, but it’s so gruesome I’m not even going to consider it a food anymore. Especially when there are alternatives like romaine, spinach and broccoli.

I initially turned to kale as a non-dairy source of calcium. While dairy foods are high in calcium, they are also acidifying and high in protein, and the theory goes that these facets inhibit calcium absorption. This is why countries with high dairy intake still have high rates of osteoporosis. So even though I’m no longer vegan I thought it behooved me to seek out non dairy sources of calcium. In the vegan world you hear a lot about vegetable sources of calcium, and it’s true, some beans and leafy greens contain a surprising amount of calcium, but what they don’t get into is exactly how much of this stuff you would have to consume in order to meet the daily recommendation for calcium. Take kale for example. 3 ounces contains 15% of the RDA for calcium, and is about 30 calories. First off, three ounces is a lot of kale. Imagine a dinner plate piled 3-4 inches high with kale leaves, and that’s just 15% of what you need to eat to meet the RDA. In fact if you look at it in terms of calories, you would have to consume as many calories in kale as you would in milk to fulfill the RDA, so you’re not even saving on calorie intake by eating horrid tasting leaves all day long.

Short of taking a supplement, the best calcium source I’ve discovered in terms of calories is fortified cereal. Of course this is “phood,” not “food,” just like calcium fortified orange juice or fortified tofu are “phoods.” But for 100 calories of General Mill’s “Total” you get the same amount of calcium as in 3 1/2 glasses of milk (depending on what type of milk you buy that would be 300-450 calories). Unfortunately for vegans, I’m not sure Total is vegan, even though the ingredients on my box are vegan it contains a “D” next to the kosher symbol (perhaps something in the vitamins added? or is this the fact that it’s typically eaten with milk? I eat it dry.). But it might be suitable for non-purist vegans.