Exercise and Health

The origin of all omega-3s is the photosynthetic center of plants, the chloroplast.


Omega-3 fatty acids are synthesized as components of the cell membranes of chloroplasts, and no matter whether your chloroplasts come from here

Microalgae. Diatoms in this image.

or here..

Lemon grass, an example of a land based leafy plant.

adequate omega-3 fatty acids are easy to come by if you take a little care with your sources.

Steamed spinach. Popeye had the right idea.

Omega-6 fatty acids come from grains and nuts, such as these


and are concentrated in huge quantities in grain oils, such as corn oil, cottonseed oil, and canola oil.

Corn oil

Now, when one of these


eats large quantities of grass, they act as biological concentrators of those fatty acids. The butter from grass fed animals, in particular, is a great source of omega-3 fatty acids. If, however, your meat sources eat large quantities of this


well, corn is a grain and those animals are going to be stuffed with omega-6 fatty acids. Animals, whether swimming or 4 legged, maintain high concentrations of the oils they eat.

In the absence of grass-fed land animals, sardines and herring are perhaps the cheapest, most available source of high quality omega-3 fatty acids, and cans of them can be purchased for perhaps 90 cents at the local supermarket.

A school of sardines.

Mackerel also works, as does trout or wild salmon.

Since omega-3 deficiencies in small children have been linked to learning issues, commercial manufacturers have moved into the gap.  These new products, however, have small servings of DHA at rather high prices ( 30 to 50 cents a pill), and tend to be given in pills along with a small scattering of vitamins (in pill form, a dose of vitamins costs about 5 cents each). Another common sleight of hand trick is to add a small amount of flax to a largely grain based cereal. Omega 6 from the cereal grains are going to overwhelm the small advantage gained by a tiny bit of flax seed.

Barleans, a respectable brand of flax seed oil. Whole Foods has a good store brand.

I have yet another suggestion. When possible, don’t feed your children lots of grains and lots of grain oils (or sardines soaked in cottonseed oil), but rather, perhaps get a little flax seed oil and cut up a bit of a really good tomato.

Japanese black trifele tomato, a good heirloom.

High quality Roma tomatoes can be had at the local market.

The flax seed oil will provide a very useful dose of plant based ALA, the oil will act as an excellent carrier for tomato lycopenes, and further, the conversion of this plant based omega-3 to EPA/DHA will be determined by the needs of the eater. I suspect it tastes better than a little pill, and per serving, feeds more than a pill.

If your young one is a plant hating carnivore, a little sardine or tuna mixed with a stretcher (perhaps a olive oil pesto) works.

Note: the vast majority of the images above come from Wikimedia Commons.

It’s a cookbook I’ve had for a while now, and one I’ve been meaning to write about, mostly  because it’s fun. A serious “this is how you prepare 18 course meals topped by those budget breaking bottles of wine?” Of course not. Is it a book a guy with a grill, a stove top, a decent beer, and a few utensils can take a shot at? Absolutely.

A fun cookbook, not just for guys (though it pretends to be).

The core of it are single item offerings (usually) by name chefs. Tom Colicchio does the intro.  Atlanta favorites are contributors. Ria Pell offers Fish and Grits on page 46. Linton Hopkins  offers roast chicken on page 136. Hugh Acheson does Bread n Butter Pickles on page 177. And a recipe akin to one my mother learned from a pregnant coworker from New Orleans  lives on page 173, shrimp boiled in beer. My mom once nearly ended up  in a brawl with a general’s wife who insisted her shrimp must have been flown in from the coast.

I miss my mother, and her shrimp boiled in beer. May she rest in peace.

Nope. But beer can kill that fishy whang off your frozen shrimp.

It’s a good cookbook for diabetics because most of what is cooked here can be eaten safely by diabetics. Not to put too fine a point to it, but diabetics should be living on meats (or cheeses), raw veggies, cooked (preferably grilled) veggies, and carefully managed bites of starches. This cookbook is a great way to add variety to the proteins a diabetic eats.

Highly recommended. If you like the idea of also getting Esquire magazine, the year’s subscription inside the book almost  pays for the cost of the book.

In a  world where the median burger size is about  8 ounces of meat, in a world where a well balanced meal should have about 3 to 4 ounces of meat, just what is this kind of offer – the MONSTER – doing for our belt lines?

The MONSTER is a one pound burger. What ever happened to the Quarter Pounder, which was pretty big back in the day of its introduction?

There is a report coming from  the LA Times that says that a team led by researchers at the Stanford College of Medicine have evidence that diabetes type 2 is an autoimmune disease. If so, in my opinion, this is a major (as in Nobel worthy) result. If the result holds, then it can explain why obesity can cause type 2, and why some people get it when obese, and when some people don’t.

Gary Taubes once again has the front page of the New York Times with an article titled “Is Sugar Toxic?” This is a recurring theme in his work, that fat isn’t nearly as bad for you as researchers in the 60’s, 70’s and 80’s claimed, and that starches are underappreciated for their ability to push people into unhealthy places. Understand, almost everything Gary says is followed closely by diabetics – perhaps not the researchers but diabetics themselves, because he seems to talk a diabetics own language.

It’s a general contention when diabetics get together on the Internet that most researchers are a few years behind what the garden variety diabetic already knows. It took decades for the conservative side of the medical profession to embrace individual blood sugar meters, for example. And groups of diabetics will laugh anyone silly who tries to talk about the dangers of saturated fat.

My feeling is he’s interesting, but that Michael Pollan touches on many of the same topics with a more nuanced and less dogmatic approach. My ought two? Read him, but keep your own council. Diabetics, as anyone with the disease does know, are as individual as snowflakes.

It was a bounty crop of good reading in the online edition of the New York Times. There were at least six articles I bookmarked, to read later. The article on precocious science and Natalie Portman caught my eye, because one quote about Portman I thought applied equally to food blogging.

If anything, stories like Ms. Portman’s show that great success, like DNA, is constructed of a few basic building blocks: tenacity, focus, and the old Woody Allen line about just showing up.

There was an article about coconut oil’s improving reputation. Well, among the diabetic community, its reputation has never gone away, and our kinda folks have been patiently waiting for all you normal eaters to see the light. Bittman, continuing a theme ever since he moved from the Minimalist to  the Opinioniator blog, discussed ways to improve farm subsidies. A comment by GrassFarmer is eminently quotable.

I am a dairy farmer and I hate subsidies. They allow the biggest farmers in our township to rent all the land and plant corn & beans, thousands of acres. Then they concentrate cows, thousands, and get more US taxpayer dollars to build manure pits ($100,000) and digestors ($500,000) while employing illegal immigrants. Meanwhile, my grazing based dairy which matches cows (about 100) to an appropriate number of acres…..keeps the land cloaked in green grass to keep soil out of streams and manure out of wells. There aint no subsidy for my pastures and yet I am profitable even with the table tilted so far to the corn-bean-dairies I’ve got virtigo. And my milk and beef is proven more nutrient dense and balanced in omega-3:omega 6. In Wisconsin we’ve dropped from 50,000 smaller dairy farms (small business anyone?) down to under 10,000 large mechanized farms in a couple of decades. Get rid of subsidies all together and my kind of small modern farm could flourish and feed the world healthy food while employing 100,000 more people!

Researchers are looking into the art and science of self-compassion. Those that are easier on themselves lead healthier lives. Further, they seem more at home with their diets and therefore, eat better. If you’re having issues with tendons, a number of traditional remedies have been shown to fail, and finally, an article on the benefits of exercise as you age.

Wow. Not the normal haul from a daily newspaper.

One year ago to this day I was diagnosed with type 2 diabetes and chronic gout. It was an eye opener, a shot across the dietary bow. I had no choice but to get my metabolic house in order. So, over the last year I lost 80 pounds. My gout symptoms disappeared over the summer. In December I went off all diabetes medications and I’m treating my diabetes with just diet and exercise. I can show you one of the best dietary tools I’ve ever encountered:

It’s a miracle of modern civilization, called the stainless steel knife. Using one of these, you can cut your food into reasonable portions. You can then doggie bag the rest, to be eaten later or given to those in need. In the process, you get to practice prudence, practicality, and portion control. The 3 P’s, and a good oft used knife, will put you in good stead no matter how healthy or unhealthy your particular dietary routine might be.

With all due respect to Mark Bittman and his recent Manifesto, the essential issue in American food and health is portion control. Eating enormous quantities of very healthy food doesn’t make you any healthier than enormous quantities of relatively unhealthy food.

The first useful breakfast cereal I found post dietary changes was Cheerios. After that came Fiber One, which uses a little artificial sweetener to mask the addition of fiber in their product. After a while, too much Fiber One and you can feel as if you’re eating sawdust.

Nature’s Path has a good multibran cereal that I use sometimes. This new cereal is also pretty good. Not my find, my wife dug it out on a trip to Whole Foods.

I have a large oak tree in my front yard, one that dominates the yard, my house, my driveway. Enormous branches extend everywhere, including over  the house, over the driveway, and at times, over the power lines that go to my house (the power company trims those). It also creates enormous amounts of leaf waste, which for now I’ve been sweeping to the back, to pile up in something resembling a compost heap.

I bought a wheelbarrow last year, because I was unable to keep up with the waste, and moving 3-4 years worth of leaf deposits all this summer – good therapy, by the way – made me realize I wanted to jump on this task in the upcoming year. Get it done in the fall and winter, so  I could spend the summer growing plants and fighting weeds.

Diabetes, and in fact almost all the various manifestations of metabolic syndrome – high blood  pressure,  high “cholesterol”, gout, obesity – respond well to the kind of labor that makes up yard work. Yard work is relatively low intensity, so it is not prone to wrecking joints or breaking bones. You’ll work up a sweat, and you’ll keep that sweat going for a while. Great for heart rates, great for triglycerides, though it has to be said that if you’re out to lose weight, yard work isn’t the thing to get it done.

Portion control is at the heart of any sane diet. I managed it using a food journal. How anyone else does is up to them. I think a food journal combined with a diet of your choice puts you in a better position to succeed. So now I’ve touched on two Puritan virtues: eating frugally, and hard work. And not just hard white collar work, but hard physical work.

If you’re a foodie, why do this? Why go  through all this work so you can then avoid food? Let me point out: since February, I’ve been dealing with exactly this issue. My blog I think is testament that you can still eat well and manage your body. You just have to pick and choose the meals you want to be indulgent with. There is absolutely nothing wrong with working hard and eating carefully for a couple weeks, so you can enjoy a very Pilgrim-esque Thanksgiving meal.

In one more week I can lift weights again. It’s a relief, because this is the point I get to put my hernia surgery behind me and start trying to work out the way I was when I was losing weight. It’s been a drag, not being able to do lat pulldowns.

In the meantime a lot of my eating has been circumscribed, the one big meal a week at a nice restaurant, enough to keep the blog ratings going. Not that Fogo isn’t a bad place to eat, just that the big name places sometimes aren’t as fun as the smaller discoveries, the small owner driven shops that make you realize food involves a creative process, and isn’t just evolved from monster corporations with made up names to satisfy brand registration law.

My boonie pepper is looking both worn and fecund. It has more peppers than it ever had. The end of the warm weather seems to bring on a load of fruit and it is more productive now than it has ever been. It’s so big it leans, but I’m just impressed how well a tropical pepper behaves in near coat wearing weather.

Work is a mess, because my whole division was sold to another corporation, so people are wondering whether  they will be downsized integrated into the new corp efficiently. People are quietly leaving, the most marketable of us finding other opportunities rather than face the uncertainties of new bosses and new unfamiliar work habits. That hasn’t helped the blogging process much.

So I work a lot on skills these days, trying to be up to date, to be marketable if our new overlords don’t find us to be efficient enough to please them. I’ve been through this before, in a job where we were promised we would be retained. Six months later, half of us were gone. A year later, I was  gone too. I can’t rely on the good intentions of my managers when dollars are on the line. I’m a cost, and unless I make more money than I cost, I’m out the door.

So in that vein, since my body and my health is part of what I market, I’m looking forward to being able to pump iron. In part, because oxygen is a euphoric, and a healthy exercise regime is the closest I can come to a 19th century oxygen party.

Oh yes, the lamb lollipops from Gary’s Bistro, because they’re fun and they’re good – we need at least one picture, don’t we? That superb Gary’s service carries over into dinner as well as the lunch hour. It turned out to  be a nice place to take my wife, while my daughter was attending her homecoming dance.

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