Food Matters

The project for the past couple of weeks has been nutrition and cooking. A few weeks ago I went in for a physical, and I brought up the subject of my cholesterol, which regularly comes back high in my bloodwork. My doctor gave me his latest general diet recommendation, which is a low-carb diet. I was kind of surprised when he listed some examples–Atkins and the Paleo diet stood out to me–because I considered these to be fad diets, and I’d always been skeptical of such things. But I like my doctor, and I’d been wanting some kind of change in my diet since at least the beginning of the year, so I put myself on it immediately.

It lasted two days until I ran across T. Collin Campbell’s The Low-Carb Fraud and my skepticism returned. The book was short, so I read the whole thing that day. It reminded me that like many important issues, nutrition is complex and controversial, and it wasn’t something I was going to resolve in a few days.

So instead of drastically changing my lifestyle on shaky premises, I decided to make some less disputable changes that were more modest: I’d limit my consumption of sugar and bad fats, which I learned were saturated and trans fat. I’ve also tacked sodium onto the list, but I’m less concerned about that.

Although I ended up deciding against a low-carb diet for the time being, even seriously considering it was enough to shock me out of my complacency and fling nutrition to the top of my project list, especially since it involves controversy, which usually piques my interest.

The diet I settled on was a whole food, plant-heavy diet along the lines of Michael Pollan’s work, another favorite of my doctor’s. I was pleasantly surprised to find that Mark Bittman has hoisted the same banner and has come out with the Food Matters Cookbook. I have his How to Cook Everything, and for the most part I like his style and approach to cooking. He’s down to earth, inviting, and instructive, and he tries to keep things simple. So I was glad he’s on Team Pollan. I’m not sure what else to call it yet.

My main goal at this point is to see if this diet will reduce my LDL. I’ll have another blood test in a few weeks to see where things are.

I’ve had many thoughts about cooking and nutrition during this experiment, but this much has taken me long enough to write, so I’ll end it there for now.

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6 Responses to Food Matters

  1. See, this is why you should have gotten Bittman’s How to Cook Everything Vegetarian! I find it’s a lot easier to eat a plant-heavy diet when your main dish is already mostly plant-based.

    • Andy says:

      Yeah, I’m thinking about getting that one. I do like How to Cook Everything though, especially since it lets me compare the old and new versions of some of his recipes when they show up in both books.

  2. Kaz says:

    Hey Andy,
    been there done that…my health journey started maybe 3 or 4 years ago and I can save you a LOT of going through different meal plans. my story started with shakes trying to loose weight I soon discovered how bad Soy was for us… we then went vegetarian with a bit of meat or fish once or twice a week. then no meat then vegan then a juice fast for 21 days then vegan and between all that was different things. We have read many many books and studies and websites. I am finally starting to heal my body on a paleo diet. I had lactose intolerance and all I had to do was eat a piece of cheese before I was sitting on the toilet. now I can eat an icecream without an issue…I dont say I am completely healed yet but my body has slowly been healing over the last 4-6 months. I also was going number 2 about 5 times a day and was afraid to go places especially if I didnt know where the toilet was as it was runny and not able to hold it. now I am at 1 a day and a good consistency. my joints no longer hurt like they did and I can tell you if I accidently eat gluten my body reacts with pain and I feel like I have a flu…I havnt tried a proper serving of gluten to find out what a larger amount would feel like. anyway all I can tell you is Paleo definately is working for me. also during the vegan veg stages my cholesterol rose…before it had been normal my whole life. I havnt had it checked since going paleo but will in a few months when I get my thyroid checked again.

    • Andy says:

      Hi Kaz. Thanks for telling your story. I know what it’s like to take constant trips to the bathroom! Even the changes I’ve made so far have helped with that a bit. Right now one of my rules of thumb is that people’s bodies vary a lot, so the best diet for any particular person will be different from other people’s, which means that it’s important to experiment with your own diet, but of course there will be some guidelines that make sense for everyone. I’m hoping to do a lot more reading when I come back to the topic and to go through it with a fine-toothed comb. And I probably will try a low-carb diet for a longer period to see what happens.

  3. Mike says:

    Andy, in my experience and reading, there really seems to be something to the idea, very generally, of lowering grain intake and feeling well, reducing cholesterol level as well as losing weight. The food pyramid folks haven’t quite caught on yet and much of the world still thinks eating oatmeal and lots of whole grains is great for you. There also seems to be a connection between grains and inflammation in the body…not only in the joints but in the circulatory system. I did not like the thought, a few years ago, of taking cholesterol meds every day to reduce marginally high cholesterol, so I did a paleo thing instead and reduced it myself, including bring HDL and LDL levels in order. See Mark’s Daily Apple, a blog I respect, if you’re interested in more about this…from research to recipes. Happy exploring!

    • Andy says:

      Thanks, Mike. Interesting, I’ll check that blog out. And thanks for telling your story too. I’ll probably try a low-carb diet at some point to see what it does for my ulcerative colitis, which is an inflamation problem. Nutrition is certainly a rich topic. It’s kinda fun.

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