Living Large

Modern life promotes unwanted weight gain. (Modern fad diets are not the solution.)

It is no secret that we have a weight problem in the U.S. Even American teens rank among the fattest of all industrialized countries according to a recent study. This is a concern because obesity is the underlying cause of many chronic illnesses and puts us at greater risk of developing diabetes, heart disease and cancer.

There is no simple explanation to our growing weight problem. It’s a convergence of many factors, including environmental, cultural, personal and genetic.

Towering over the other factors is the low quality of our diets. The food industry in the U.S. spends billions of dollars marketing all kinds of junk food and sugary drinks. Saturation advertising has made scientifically formulated, factory made science fiction food "normal" in the minds of children, teens and adults.

Fortunately, we are blessed with free will and a new year. 2004 can be the year our new year’s resolution to lose excess pounds and get healthy can be realized and maintained permanently.

One of the temptations we must learn to avoid, however, is the temptation to embrace whatever fad diets are currently in vogue.

Most of us can lose weight rapidly on almost any diet in the short term. But is temporary weight loss what we're really striving for? Clearly, it's the long-term weight loss and good health that counts.

The reality is that when we follow any extreme diet, eventually and usually within a year (or a couple if we’re lucky) we gain the weight back and then some ending up in worse shape and heavier than we started.

The Atkins Diet, for example, is one of the most popular fad diets of the last two years. People like it because they find it easier to cut down on carbohydrates Amira Elganthan other types of foods. The promise is: Keep your greasy steak and fatty bacon, just cut out the bread and potatoes.

Critics contend, however, that low-carb weight loss results from eating fewer calories, not from limiting carbs. People who eat processed foods and sugar add a lot of empty calories to their regular caloric intake gaining more weight as a result. The Atkins diet shuns highly refined foods and sugar, which translate into less caloric consumption in favor of beef, pork and fish. .

The Atkins diet isn't all bad. Most people do eat too many simple carbs, too many sweets and refined sugar. And the Atkins insistence that dieters drink eight glasses of water per day is a good practice.

But while it is beneficial to eliminate some simple and all refined carbohydrates (like white bread, sugar and soft drinks), the same cannot be said for complex carbs.

Carbohydrates are the starches, fibers and sugars in food. All vegetables, fruit, beans and whole grains contain carbs. Complex carbs are found in beans, whole grains and vegetables. Complex carbs are considered the “good carbs” because they’re rich in nutrients such as vitamins, minerals and fiber and are associated with lower risk of chronic illnesses such as cancer and cardiovascular disease.

Simple carbs, the “bad carbs” are found in fruit, certain veggies, milk and sugar. Cookies, pastries, candy, junk and fast foods are loaded with simple and refined carbohydrates as are all overly processed foods. Though fruit and certain vegetables contain simple sugars, they’re also rich in fiber and other beneficial nutrients the body needs to work at its best.

The Atkin’s diet not only advocates low carbs but also indiscriminate consumption of beef, sausage, bacon and butter. Over-eating saturated animal fats does not constitute an overall healthy way of eating, especially if you have to take drugs to counter health complications such as gout, which can result from eating excess amounts of certain foods such as red meat.

Currently, there are no significant large scale and long term studies that closely examine the effects low-carb diets have over time on the body and health. We do have studies that track the health effects of meat and animal fats consumption.

It is important to look at the big picture and not just aim at losing weight through any means. The emphasis should be on finding a healthful eating plan that you can continue to follow for a life time and can be modified as needed to best suit your own physiological needs as everyone is different and even your own metabolism is bound to change over time.

A better approach is to adopt a healthful eating plan—a new way of eating—one we can maintain for life as part of a healthy lifestyle which takes into account factors such as our unique metabolism, genetic tendencies, the environment, physical activity and lifestyle in general.

A healthy eating plan should certainly include adequate daily servings organic whole foods such as whole grains, nuts, seeds, beans and (3 to 5 of each) of diverse fresh organic fruit and vegetables. It should provide the balanced nourishment our body needs to function at its best to boost our immunity system, increase our energy level, promote longevity and total well-being—and last but not least, help us lose weight and keep it off.

Have a very happy new year!

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Good Things In Store

Rapunzel Choconut is a certified organic chocolate hazelnut butter, a healthier alternative to the popular Nutella, which is loaded with hydrogenated vegetable oil and therefore those awful toxic trans fats.

Rapunzel Choconut, although made with organic vanilla beans, chocolate, hazelnuts and rapadura, still contains non-hydrogenated palm oil and so is high in saturated fat.

If you currently eat Nutella on crepes, toast or muffins, you’ll be wise to spend more buying its organic healthier alternative Rapunzel Choconut (and use less of it).

Words of Wisdom

“It is good to have an end to journey toward; but it is the journey that matters, in the end.”

Ursula K. Le Guin

Food for Thought

Beans or legumes are one of the most important sources of protein, minerals, vitamins, fiber, essential fatty acids and complex carbs. Beans with brown rice are a perfect replacement for meat protein with a lot less calories, no cholesterol, no saturated fat and less damage to your wallet.

Typically, beans cause flatulence and indigestion because they’re not properly prepared, causing gas formation in the colon, bloating and other discomforts caused by certain complex sugars.

Soaking all large dried beans overnight before cooking them can prevent most digestive problems for the average person.

To better prevent or minimize the gas producing compounds in beans that cause flatulence and indigestion there are several additional steps that will help. Not all these steps are necessary but doing all of them will give the best results.

1. Soak all larger dried beans overnight in water.

2. Set a reminder to drain and add fresh water at least once before going to bed.

3. After beans soak overnight, drain the water again and continue to soak beans until you're ready to cook them.

4. To cook the beans, drain and rinse them with cool running water once again before cooking.

5. When initially cooking the beans, let beans and water come to a boil. Turn heat off, cover and let them sit for 30 minutes. After the resting period, discard the liquid and add fresh water. Turn heat back on and add more garlic and onions. Cook the beans until they boil again then reduce heat, cover and let them simmer until tender stirring occasionally (60 to 90 minutes). Add salt when they’re done.

8. Add ⅛ teaspoon of baking soda (for every 1 cup of dried beans) to the beans when they’re cooked and mix well to counter the gas causing properties.

9. Avoid eating fruit and other sweet or sugary foods right before and during a bean meal.

Vegetarian Organic Recipe of the Week

Click on the picture for a closer look!

Basic Pinto Beans Soup (vegan)
12 to 15 servings

This is a more tasty version of the typical “frijoles de olla en sopa” or bean soup cooked in a pot that is the staple of many Latin American countries. You can eat it right out of the pot with a little bit of rice, salsa, avocado and, if you’re a dairy lover, topped with low-fat sour cream and a low-fat cheese. Once the beans cool add them to your favorite salads or use them for your favorite chili and fried beans recipe—there is no limit to their versatility. Although this recipe calls for pinto beans, the same will work with black, red or kidney beans.

Preparation time: 5 minutes Cooking time: 45 to 120 minutes

Get ingredients ready (use organic ingredients if possible)
12 cups water (more may need to be added)
3 cups dried pinto beans (or black, kidney or red beans)
6 fresh garlic cloves
1 large onion peeled and cut in 4 pieces
1 fresh poblano pepper, seeded and diced in large pieces (or green bell pepper)
Sea salt

Cooking pot method:
(see soaking instructions on “Food for Thought” above)
1. Sort beans and discard dirt, pebbles and bad beans. Rinse them well with cool running water. In a large pot add water, beans, garlic, onions and poblano or bell pepper bringing them to boil.

2. Reduce heat, cover with lid and let them simmer to desired tenderness (1 to 2 hours) stirring occasionally and adjusting the heat to avoid overflow and adding more water to keep the liquid level at about 1 to 2 inches above the beans depending on desired thickness of soup. Add salt at the very end when they’re fully cooked (salt dehydrates beans if added before they’re fully cooked).

Cook’s tip: Cooking time for beans varies depending on the bean variety and age of the beans, so you have to keep testing them until they’re just tender enough to be easily crushed with a spoon. Use 4 cups of water for every cup of beans. Each cup of beans yields about 2 ½ cups of cooked beans.

Pressure cooker method:
1. To use a pressure cooker, add water to the pressure cooker to be about half full (the water should be at least 2 inches above the beans). Make sure your pressure cooker has the quantity capacity. Add all ingredients except the salt and cook until the bean aroma is released (30 to 45 minutes depending on the beans and whether or not they were pre-soaked). Add salt after they fully cooked and the pressure cooked has cooled off.


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This newsletter is not intended to provide and replace medical advice. The author and editor expressly disclaim all responsibility for any adverse effects resulting from any information, diet or exercise suggestions. It is imperative that the advice of a physician is sought before any diet or exercise programs are adopted.

Copyright© 2003 Amira Elgan. All Rights Reserved.