February 8, 2007 at 1:14 pm #20890
This is an excellent NYT sunday mag piece that cuts thru the marketing and pseudo science that runs our current cultural ideas about food. How simple dietary choices have been hijacked by scientifici-economic interests and reductionist science. A long article, but worth it.
Article is a good preface to ultimately approaching diet from 5 elements energetic viewpoint of the 5 shen smelling, tasting, and assaying which foods should be eaten. There is no OUTSIDE scientific or religious authority on dietary choice. 5 Shen theory is the action of the soul working on the physical level of body-mind. Self is the only authority.
Also a preface to deciding if you want to try a new chinese herbal product/juice soon coming to a website near you.
michaelFebruary 8, 2007 at 2:04 pm #20891
There is an interesting diet called the Shangri-La Diet. It’s based on how the brain works and what we’ve learned by studying rats. It has nothing to do with nutrition, just general weight loss.
The big idea is that calories without taste suppress our appetite and we loose weight. Our bodies are trained genetically to store fat during the summer and use that fat during the winter. It seems taste is a key factor in fat storage. When we have lots of tasty food it is a signal to gain weight. When we have few tasty options, it’s time to conserve our resources, eat less, and use our body fat.
The diet works by introducing calories without taste. Sugar water or oil is taken with a 1 hour taste abstinence before and after.
It’s really interesting to consider that we still have lots of animal instincts, and no matter how evolved we may pretend we have become, our bodies still instinctively react on a genetic level without conscious thought.February 8, 2007 at 2:11 pm #20893
Thanks for the link Michael.
The author’s – Michael Pollan – book, The Omnivore’s Dilemna is a great read. An atypical journey through the typical American diet. Interesting paraphrase of one his topics: We’re walking corn. It’s difficult to tell if the corn is cultivating us, or we’re cultivating corn.February 11, 2007 at 1:11 pm #20895
Brain food. Are you getting enough?
If you can’t remember where you keep your eggs, you’re probably frying them in the wrong sort of oil. Michael van Straten sorts out your omega 3s from your hydrogenated trans fats
Sunday January 28, 2007
While there is increasing evidence of the protective, curative and life-enhancing benefits of omega 3 and omega 6 (essential fatty acids, EFAs), throughout the Western world, most people consume far too little of the essential fats and far too much of all the others.
Omega 3 and omega 6 fats play a key role in brain development, heart protection and healthy vision. They help relieve allergies and can create periods of remission for those suffering from Crohn’s disease, IBS, colitis and ulcerative colitis. Both adults and children with asthma, eczema and psoriasis can benefit from the anti-inflammatory properties of these fats.
To find your way through the maze of fat matters, ignore information which comes from vested interest and stick to the facts. Here is a star guide, graded from five for brilliant to one for eat this if you dare:
Essential fatty acids 5 stars
These are polyunsaturated fats and are liquid at room temperature. There are two groups – omega 3 and omega 6. EFAs are essential and our bodies cannot manufacture them.
Linoleic, otherwise known as omega 6 fatty acids, are found in most vegetable oils. You don’t need much of them and excessive amounts can speed up the growth of cancer cells. Proportions of omegas 3 and 6 are important. Oils with lots of 6 and very little 3 put you in double jeopardy because of the likely cancer-forming properties of the omega 6s and because they also have a negative effect on the heart protection benefits of omega 3.
Alpha-linolenic, or omega 3 fatty acids are the healthiest of all and abound in oily fish and some vegetable oils, especially those made from rapeseed, walnuts and flax seeds. They protect against heart disease and cancer and are very important during pregnancy for the proper formation of the baby’s brain cells.
Conjugated linoleic acid 5 stars
Occurs in free-range cattle raised on natural grassland. Has anti-cancer properties and stimulates the human body’s conversion of stored fats into energy.
Monounsaturated fats 5 stars
Olive oil is the most commonly used and, although liquid at room temperature, it solidifies if refrigerated. The richest sources are olives, olive oil, avocados, walnuts and walnut oil, peanuts and peanut oil. Monounsaturated fats are much better for your heart and can even help reduce cholesterol. They appear to have no role in the formation of cancer.
Polyunsaturated fats 4 stars
These are liquid even at low temperatures and extracted from plant sources like sunflowers, safflowers, rapeseed and corn. Generally healthier than saturated fats, these have a high content of omega 6 EFAs in relation to omega 3. This imbalance means we now consume four times more 6s than 3s. Even though 6 is essential, this ratio has been linked to mental and physical disorders.
Saturated fats 2 stars
Nearly all animal fats from meat and meat products – milk, cream, cheese, butter, lard and suet – go solid at room temperature. These can increase cholesterol which in turn locks arteries and causes heart disease. Though there is little evidence they play a role in the development of cancer, many experts believe that lower consumption reduces the risk.
Trans fats 1 star
Do not occur in nature but are the result of a catalytic process to solidify the cheapest vegetable oils used in food manufacture. The resulting hydrogenated fats are used in take-aways, ready meals, cakes, biscuits, crisps and sauces. Consuming these raises the risk of heart disease. There is evidence that trans fats are linked to a risk of breast cancer.
Best oils to use regularly
Olive oil 5 stars
Reduces blood levels of cholesterol, contains monounsaturates and is low in omega 6.
Rapeseed, walnut and flax seed oil 5 stars
All low in saturated fatty acids, substantial monounsaturates and good balance between omega 3 and omega 6 EFAs.
Coconut and palm oils 1 star
Contain large amounts of saturated fats, little monunsaturated and virtually no omega 3. Avoid.
The healthiest breakfast
The best bread: super seedy loaf
As well as plenty of EFAs, this loaf may provide relief from menopausal symptoms and PMS. Barlean’s Forti-Flax is a natural source of essential fatty acids and phytoestrogens which can also be sprinkled on your breakfast cereal. It’s available from http://www.healthyandessential.com
Makes 1 loaf
100g soya flour
100g wholewheat flour
100g porridge oats
100g Barlean’s Forti-Flax
25g sunflower seeds
25g pumpkin seeds
10g sesame seeds
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
2 pieces stem ginger, chopped
2 free-range organic eggs
150ml semi-skimmed milk
150ml soya milk
1 tbs malt extract
50g flaked almonds
Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Line a loaf tin or round tin with greaseproof paper.
Put all the dry ingredients except the almonds into a large bowl and mix thoroughly. Stir in the ginger and raisins. Add the eggs, milk and malt extract. Mix well and leave to soak for 30 minutes. If the mixture is too stiff, add more soya milk. Spoon into a loaf tin and press the almonds into the top. Bake in the oven for about 1 1/4 hours. Turn out and leave to cool.
The best cereal: mountain muesli
As well as protein, energy and vitamins from the oats, more instant energy from the dried fruits, and a healthy dose of fibre, you will get some essential fatty acids from the mixture of nuts and an added boost from the ground flax seeds.
Allow a serving bowl per person
Apple, orange or pineapple juice
Plain live yoghurt
Fresh fruit – apple, pear, banana or soft fruit in season
Ground flax seeds
Proper muesli is prepared the night before and left in the fridge. For each serving, stir in fruit juice to moisten it, a tablespoonful of yoghurt, and a teaspoonful of honey.
In the morning, take it out of the fridge as early as possible, and just before eating, stir in the fruit of your choice – grated apple or pear, sliced banana, a sliced peach and a couple of teaspoons of the flax seeds. You could even add some thick cream.
The best kedgeree: kipper kedgeree
Salmon, smoked salmon or prawns are very good additions to this dish. All these fish are extremely rich sources of EFAs.
225g undyed kippers
225g long-grain rice
4 hard-boiled eggs, chopped
25g butter, diced
1 tsp mild curry powder
1 tbs chopped parsley, plus extra for garnish
Freshly ground black pepper
Lemon wedges, to serve
Place fish in shallow pan, cover with water. Bring to the boil, cover with lid and turn off heat. Leave for ten minutes, by which time the fish should be cooked through.
Rinse rice carefully and place in a pan of boiling salted water. Bring to a simmer and cook for 35 minutes. Drain and fork up before using. Skin and flake the fish, checking for bones.
Stir all ingredients into the rice. The diced butter should melt into it. Check seasoning, and serve with a little extra chopped parsley on top and a lemon wedge.
The best fruit mix: nutty compote
A single portion is packed with vitamins, minerals, essential fatty acids and vitamin E from the nuts.
225g stoneless prunes
225g dried apricots
225g dried pears
225g dried apples
50g each of sultanas and walnuts
50g flaked almonds
2 lemons, sliced
3 large pinches ground cinnamon
3 large pinches ground nutmeg
1 tbs brandy (optional)
500ml freshly-squeezed orange juice
Preheat the oven to 180C/350F/gas mark 4. Mix all the dried fruit and nuts in a large bowl. Put half in a large casserole. Cover with half the lemon slices. Add the rest of the fruits and nuts and cover with remaining lemon slices. Sprinkle with spices, add orange juice and brandy if using and bake for 20 minutes in the oven.
Makes 2 glasses. Mix together 175g broccoli spears, 1 apple, 1 comice pear and 150g watercress.
The healthiest lunch and supper
The best fast food: tomato tofu
Tofu is practically tasteless, so needs strong flavours to make it more exciting. You can either marinate it yourself – in ginger, garlic and balsamic vinegar – or, as I’ve done here, buy ready-marinated tofu, and add even more extra flavours at home. A wonderfully healthy food, it is full of phytoestrogens that help regulate hormone levels and its calcium content helps build strong bones. Tofu is also a good source of omega 3 fatty acids.
3 heaped tbs tomato ketchup
2 tbs soy sauce
2 tbs Worcestershire sauce
1 tbs hot chilli sauce
1 tsp sesame oil
1 tsp chilli oil
1 tbs rapeseed oil
1 onion, finely chopped
4 tomatoes, coarsely chopped
2.5cm ginger root, peeled, thinly slices
handful chopped fresh coriander
225g tofu, cubed
Mix together the tomato ketchup, soy sauce, Worcester sauce, chilli sauce, sesame oil and chilli oil. Heat the rapeseed oil in a wok, add the onion and cook till they are soft but not brown. Add the tomatoes, ginger and coriander and stir for two minutes. Pour in the sauce, add the tofu and cook gently for seven minutes, stirring occasionally.
The best fish lunch: big macks
Mackerel is one of the cheapest and most nutritious fish and this recipe is a great way to introduce fish to children. Nice texture, no bones, lots of other flavours and a huge amount of the essential fatty acids that youngsters need for their brains to develop and function at their best.
250g cooked mackerel; you could also use mackerel tinned in brine
175g mashed potato
25g butter, melted
2-3 spring onions, cleaned and chopped
1 tbs parsley, chopped
1 tbs vegetable stock or milk
1 tbs fine oatmeal
rapeseed oil, to shallow fry
watercress and tomatoes to garnish
Skin and bone the mackerel. Flake, and mix with the mashed potatoes and the melted butter. Add the spring onions and parsley. If the mixture is very stiff, moisten with a little stock or milk. Shape into burgers and chill for 30 minutes or more. Dust the burgers with oatmeal and fry till golden brown on both sides. Drain on kitchen paper. Serve with watercress and slices of tomato, or eat cold, in a wholemeal bun or bap, with cress and slices of cucumber.
The best fish: salmon with style
Salmon is one of the best value sources of protein available. It’s highly nutritious and quick to cook.
2 salmon fillets
about 3 tbs olive oil
2 tbs breadcrumbs home-made from stale bread (‘golden’ breadcrumbs from the supermarket won’t do)
1 heaped tbs fresh parsley
1 heaped tbs fresh coriander
Preheat the oven to 190C/375F/gas mark 5. Cut pieces of aluminium foil big enough to make an envelope around each fillet. Brush with some of the oil. Place the fillets on the foil.
Grind together the breadcrumbs, the rest of the olive oil, parsley and coriander. Paste on top of the salmon fillets and fold up the foil envelopes. Cook in the oven for 20 minutes. Open the foil and sear under a very hot grill for one minute. Serve with any sort of green beans or vegetables.
Best for veggies: herby veggie bake
Healthy enough on its own, with all the benefits of onions, garlic and the vegetables, the white sauce is made here with soya milk for the extra isoflavones that help protect against osteoporosis and menstrual problems. There are also some essential fatty acids in the oregano, soya milk and flax-seed oil.
For the white sauce:
50g unsalted butter
3 tbs flour
1/2 tsp ground cumin
500ml soya milk
For the lasagne:
1 large onion, finely chopped
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
4 tbs flax-seed oil
3 courgettes, diced
1 large aubergine, diced
3 large tomatoes, coarsely chopped
1 tbs tomato puree
3 tbs fresh oregano, finely chopped (or 1 tbs dried oregano)
400g dried lasagne, blanched for 3 minutes in boiling water – or according to packet instructions
3 tbs freshly grated Parmesan cheese
6 fronds fresh dill
Preheat the oven to 220C/425F/gas mark 7. To make the white sauce, melt the butter gently in a large frying pan. Take off the heat and stir in the flour and cumin. Return to a gentle heat and cook, stirring continuously, for 2 minutes. Gradually add the soya milk, stirring until thickened.
To make the lasagne, sweat the onion and garlic gently in the oil until soft. Add the courgettes, aubergine, tomatoes, tomato puree and oregano, and continue cooking for 5 minutes, stirring continuously.
Grease a wide, shallow pasta dish with the rest of the oil. Pour in one layer of blanched lasagne sheets. Spread on half the vegetable mixture and a third of the white sauce. Add another layer of blanched lasagne sheets. Follow with the rest of the vegetable mixture and another third of the sauce. Add another layer of blanched lasagne sheets and the rest of the sauce, making sure the pasta is well covered with the sauce.
Bake in the oven for 15 minutes. Remove, scatter Parmesan and dill over the lasagne and return to the oven for another five minutes until the cheese is golden and bubbling.
The best pasta: penne with prawns
Prawns combined with a mixture of herbs, pine nuts, olive oil and Parmesan cheese. The prawns are full of protein and also provide calcium, iron and a good helping of omega 3 fatty acids.
2 sprigs flat-leaf parsley
20 sprigs basil
3 tbs pine nuts
2 garlic cloves
50g Parmesan cheese, grated
150ml extra virgin olive oil
300g cooked, shelled prawns
extra chopped parsley for sprinkling
Cook the pasta according to the packet instructions. Chop the parsley and basil finely or whizz for 30 seconds in a food processor. Add the pine nuts and whizz again. Repeat with the garlic and Parmesan. Add the oil gradually, whizzing all the time. Put the hot penne into a warm serving bowl. Add the prawns, cover and leave for 5 minutes. Mix in the pesto sauce and serve sprinkled with extra parsley.
Brain food for kids
The best fish balls: brain balls
Like all oily fish, salmon is a wonderful source of the omega 3 and 6 fatty acids that children’s brains need in order to develop and function.
These Brain Balls are a winner with the kids. They’re equally delicious cold as well as hot and are perfect for a packed lunch with sticks of cucumber, carrot and a crusty roll. As long as you buy good quality tomato ketchup without additives and the minimum amounts of sugar and salt, let the kids indulge themselves as it’s a super-rich source of lycopene.
175g tinned salmon (drained weight)
3 large potatoes, mashed
2 medium eggs
2 spring onions, finely chopped
1 tsp finely chopped parsley
about 150ml rapeseed oil
tomato ketchup to serve
Mix the ingredients except the oil and ketchup together. Form into golf-ball sizes. Heat the oil in a sauté pan and shallow-fry the balls. Drain and serve with the ketchup.
Contains omega 3, lycopene and lots of vitamins and minerals.
Makes 1 large glass
4 large ripe plum tomatoes
2 sticks celery with leaves
handful flat-leaf parsley
juiced 1 lemon and ½ lime
1 tbs crushed pistachio nuts
freshly ground black pepper
Wash vegetables and peel carrot. Put vegetables in the juicer. Mix well and add the lemon juice. Serve with a twist of black pepper.
· The Omega 3 Cookbook by Michael van Straten is published by Kyle Cathie, pounds 12.99February 11, 2007 at 2:49 pm #20897
Excellent article. Thanks.February 12, 2007 at 8:04 pm #20899
Animal fats, especially raw and unprocessed, can be very healthy. The Masai of East AFrica, who subsist on almost entirely meat, milk, and blood, are much healthier and stronger and have better bones and teeth than their mostly-vegetarian neighbors, the Bantu. The Eskimos traditionally ate tremendous amounts of fat and blubber, and had excellent health, no heart disease or cancer, etc. Animal fats are not the enemy. See http://www.westonaprice.org and http://www.price-pottenger.org
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