Wednesday, 20 July 2011

Eating For Victory

Now then, food!  What do I eat, someone asked.

I learned a lot from macrobiotics, but basically it was too complicated for me, and had too many of the tiresome characteristics of a fully-fledged religion, enough to bring on terminal hardening of the oughteries.  So I stashed its basic principles in a spare set of brain cells along with a note-to-self about miso soup, scallions and seaweed – all of which I, unaccountably, find delicious; and then kind of morphed off from macrobiotics and left it in the Admirable But Hard pile.

However Tom Monte’s book Unexpected Recoveries has a most brilliant section on eating for health.  If you ever see that book going at a reasonable price on the internet, oh buy it buy it buy it!  It is just the best.  His advice on food is full of macrobiotic wisdom, but like a bird regurgitating worms for its chicks because they’re too young to handle them in full-on wriggly format, so Tom Monte has processed the diet info we need to know and dished it up in a form the Normal Human Bean can understand.  He gives you the low-down on everything you need to know about eating to stay well – and the bottom line of that is, fruit, veg, whole-grains and beans.

Next I came across The China Study, which sings the same tune.  Colin Campbell recommends (in The China Study) what he describes as a ‘plant-based diet’, which for some reason I find easier to conceptualise than ‘vegan’ – possibly because ‘vegan’ has all kind of guilt-trip associations for me for reasons I’ll go into some other time or we’ll be here all night.  Asked wistfully by some enquirer if eating fish is OK, Colin Campbell says w-e-l-l…. not r-e-a-l-l-y… because fish is more like meat than it is like plants, and eating plants is what keeps you well.  However Tom Monte says a bit of fish is OK if you don’t go mad with it (standard macrobiotic advice).  I find this immensely helpful for eating out, because rare indeed is the restaurant that will dish up vegan wholefood, but fish and seasonal vegetables, or fish salad, or fish on wholegrain bread, are relatively easy to come by.  

I used to drink fruit juices quite a bit until I saw Robert Lustig’s YouTube video about fructose, that spells out unforgettably exactly why and how the body metabolises fructose like fat – so soda and fruit juice are contributing massively to the obesity epidemic of present times.  I haven’t had a glass of fruit juice or soda since I saw it.

So what do I eat?

I start the day with a cup of nettle tea if my long-suffering Badger is home to make it for me.  If he isn’t (and sometimes even if he is) I get up and do my WiiFit exercises, then have a glass of water and 4 Spirulina tablets (steer clear of the gag-worthy ghastly powder form of it) and do whatever needs doing before my body has chilled out again from the exercise and I feel like breakfast.  The Spirulina is g-r-r-reat!  Without it I get low and fretful and start wanting to eat meat and fish.  With it I hum along cheerfully with lots of energy and no cravings.   It has protein – as in, loadsa protein.  It laughs in derision at T-bone steak.

Breakfast – home-made muesli with a chopped banana and unsweetened soya milk.  I make my own muesli rather than getting a branded mix, because they mostly have wheat in.  I don’t want too much wheat because it swells up body tissues.  On the plus side, it does make you feel full.  But also oat grain is soothing in its personality, good for the nerves and calming all-round.  So I make muesli from 2 bags of what I call ‘horse oats’ (the chunky, uncompromising ones not the fluffy ones), one bag of best mixed nuts, one bag of mixed fruit and nuts, a couple of handfuls of sunflower seeds and pumpkin seeds – and, if I think to get any, some cacao nibs and some ground almonds.  It’s DELICIOUS!!!  

Lunch, I have a salad sandwich.  That’s medium sliced wholemeal bread, with the thinnest imaginable scraping of vegan marg, then some (but not loads of) houmous on top of that (on both slices of bread), then bits of tomato, radish, pepper, cucumber and lettuce.  Clamp it all together and nom nom nom…

Mid-afternoon my teeth get bored, but there is good news!  Nairns oatbiscuits are made of whole-grain oats and are small and not too sweet, and have only about 45 calories.  So I can have two, then, right?  With a cup of nettle or dandelion tea.  If I’ve eaten all the oat biscuits I raid the bag of dried fruit and nut from the stash ready for making muesli – but only a handful, mind!  Or I might have an orange or some cherries.

Then supper is something cooked.  Maybe a bean curry with brown rice, or steamed veggies with soya sausages in onion gravy, or wholewheat pasta with vegetables in a rich tomato sauce.  Something like that.  I never cook from recipe books because I can’t be bothered and probably don’t have the ingredients.


Marigold Bouillon mix is fab and tasty and good for you.  It’s our basic flavouring dooberry.

Fresh herbs are culinary salvation and grace.  We grow LOADS.  Tasty tasty yum yum.

The reason many people hate vegetables is because they buy the wrong ones.  They get the cheapest sort available in the supermarket.  Organic, home-grown, or farmers’ market veggies are a whole different ball game – they are of the most swoon-worthy delicion.  Yum yum with bells on.

A pressure cooker is good, especially for cooking the pulses in double-quick time.  The modern ones no longer come with inbuilt terror.

Sometimes a special luxury sinful treat is called for.  Here’s one.  Get the blender out (as is smoothie-maker type of thing).  Hoof into it a good big lump of vegan ice-cream (we have Swedish Glace because it’s delicious and the others are disgusterous), a slug of maple syrup, and a heaped teaspoonful of instant coffee granules dissolved in as little boiling water as it takes to do it.  Glug on some of your unsweetened soy milk.  Then whizz it all up together for about a minute.  Et voil√†!  The world’s best coffee milk-shake.  But do not be seduced into drinking this every day!  Remember what Robert Lustig says about sugar, and tremble.

Drink a lot.  Sometimes when your body is whingeing at you, it means thirsty not hungry.  Eat a lot of soup and juicy stuff.

I don’t understand the body chemistry rational for this (the liver releasing glycogen?  The nervous system releasing endorphins?  I just don’t know), but I have found that a ten-minute run does the same as a snack; stops me feeling hungry, makes me feel energised and cheerful.  Why?  Dunno.  But it does.

OK I spec you’re bored now, so I’ll stop.

PS - I do know I mentioned The China Study, Unexpected Recoveries & Robert Lustig's video before - but they are pearls of great price to me and to you - worth reiterating!  xxx


Bean said...

Mmmmmm I love muesli!! As a child we used to purchase it from a health food shop run by Buddhists in Bury St. Edmunds. It was the best muesli, we loved it, we also used to get licorice root at their store, it was nice to chew on.
I love salad sandwiches too, particularly when you have really good wholewheat bread to put everything on, and hummus rocks!!
We make smoothies with plain yogurt, blueberries and a banana, it makes enough for two, I don't know if there is a vegan equivalent of plain yogurt??
I gave up caffeine completely in April, it has greatly helped reduce my migraines, I have had two since April and they were mild and only lasted a day, prior to my caffeine free life I would average two migraines a month lasting two to three days - I don't miss caffeine at all. My beverage of choice water, and when it is chilly out herbal tea, my favorite being peppermint. (we are not chilly out at the moment, I think briefly this afternoon our temperature hit 102!!!)

Thanks for sharing,


Ember said...

Hi Bean!
I know Bury St Edmunds - it's where I used to go with my mother in the school holidays when I was was a teenager helping her take Meals On Wheels to the old people. We picked up the meals in an aluminium hot-lock from a school in Bur St Edmunds. We lived in Much Hadham, and in Bishops Stortford for a while (my sister still lives there).
There is a really delicious vegan (soy) yoghourt made by Alpro. They do yummy fruit ones, and a delicious plain one with vanilla - that would be the one I'd pick for the banana and blueberry smoothie, which sounds fab!
So glad that booting out the caffeine has helped the migraines, cos migraines are real torture I believe. I can't drink coffee or standard tea at all, they both give me stomach pains. I have herb teas, and water. And I make hot chocolate with soy milk and Green & Blacks very good quality chocolate powder if I'm low and hungry and it's a dismal day. My favourite herb teas are nettle, rosemary and dandelion. I also really love ginger and lemon tea made with a slice of fresh lemon and a slice of fresh ginger root - heaven!
I can drink Lapsang Souchong tea, and occasionally do, because I really miss it. But I try not to because tea stains my teeth, makes me feel tired and drained, and makes me retain fluid. I have no idea why it has that effect on me, but it does seem sensible not to drink it!
102 where you are!! That is sooo hot! I read how you are getting the garden chores etc done early in the morning before the heat of the day - sounds like a siesta would be essential in that heat.

Bean said...

We lived just outside of Bury, near Great Barton.
I like Lapsang Souchong tea, but only drink in once in a blue moon. When I was in London a few years ago visiting my sister I stopped in to the Twinings Tea Shop to find Lapsang Souchong tea, I wanted to try it, I enjoy books by Barbara Pym and often times the characters in the stories enjoy LS tea in the afternoon, well the gentleman working seemed quite insistent that I not buy it, he didn't think I would like it as it is an acquired taste, it was odd. Anyway, I bought it, after all it was a couple of pounds for the packet, my sister and I tried it later that day and we both really like it.

We are in north eastern Indiana, we are in the middle of an extended heat wave, normal temps for us at this time of year are in the eighties, we have had days and days of upper nineties and I think today we have another chance of reaching 100.

It is interesting about the fluid retention with tea, my father drinks a lot of tea and he has suffered from fluid retention for years, I will let him know your thoughts on this.


E. said...

Thank you again for sharing! :) I loooove reading your blogposts, they are always so beautifully written with humility and a lovely sense humour. :) :) :)

Your posts always give me food for thought. :) The way you write make me consider things I never thought I would...or give me another point of view that adds a new dimension to something that I have been thinking about...
Thank you.

Ember said...

Hi Bean, hi E!

Barbara Pym... I haven't read her books though I have heard of her. Looking her up on Amazon she seems to have a lot of books where she is co-writing with someone else. I wonder why?

Thanks for those nice things you said Erika :0) I'm glad you like the blog. It's always good to see you when you stop by. x

Bean said...

My favorite Barbara Pym is called Excellent Women, they are all good. I don't think she co-wrote so I am not sure why they would appear that way on Amazon.

Buzzfloyd said...

One reason tea will make you retain fluid is because it contains caffeine, which is a diuretic. Diuretics, ironically, make your body retain fluid in a slightly panicky response to weeing more. This is true of all caffeinated drinks. That's why doctors recommend drinking water as well as tea.

Tea can make you tired because of the caffeine spike, but also because tannin prevents iron absorption by attaching itself to iron molecules, so drinking a lot of it can make you slightly anaemic, or contribute to an existing tendency to anaemia.

I have no idea why it might cause stomach pains!

Ember said...

Oh, how interesting! I knew about the diuretic, and you'd told me before about the anaemia but I forgot. Good to have it written down.
Coffee gives me griping pains (and heartburn) but with tea it's just savage heartburn - it's cos my system's so acidic; I can tell it cos I always turn lipstick really pink, which apparently is done by acid skin.

Linda said...

Not bored, you could tell you were happy. Used to eat homemade muesli so so long ago, wish I had written it down. All the best things we will remember forever and hit this age and some go out of mind. I know bran like the stuff you buy as a cereal and wheatgerm and coconut are nice in it. In Australia I think the oats they sell now are awful. I am sure they are not the same as they used to be. They seem so hard.

I love miso too. And tamarind paste. They keep forever without doing anything so handy. Maybe my uncle's foray into macrobiotics gave me a taste for these things as I went to the odd cafe with him and it was wonderful, vegetarian type cafes with all the wonderful stuff, in the city in Melbourne. Miso to me smells a little like Vegemite. I think it is no wonder Vegemite is kept a secret how they make it, very Asian I think. Everyone here can't live without it.

Janella Purcell is a lady on TV here, she makes a seaweed soup, so hard to find the recipe. She does all the things you speak of. Has a TV program called Good Chef, Bad Chef. And other shows I haven't watched. Seems like I should revisit macrobiotics again some time. I don't like the word vegan, probably don't mind being like that, just don't like the word. We swear by our stock powder as well. At the moment have gone away from wholegrain bread and pasta, which seems like I am letting myself down big time really. Wholemeal bread, good honey, raisins (not golden raisins or sultanas) and walnuts, my uncle made, yummy.

When I did snack I had a tub of yoghurt because of the protein factor it works.

Great idea about the salad sandwiches! I get lettuce etc. on the bread and miss the ham (although atm I don't like it like I used to) and cheese. Will have to try it. Often we have little for lunch that is inspiring just spreads if we have eaten all our left overs, eggs etc. Always have vegies in the fridge, no cheese or meat. So this seems like our solution.

Linda said...

Ah, the tea teeth staining thing. I come from English/Scottish stock I love tea! I also like white teeth. Sigh.

I have felt tired for years, even now the kids are in school and my teeth have been extracted that caused infection. I have good blood work, so I will have to think about the effect my lovely tea has on my energy. I am flexible and well apart from my back, so it is worth a thought. Going to bed earlier would help I know, but my husband is a night owl.

Linda said...

I have reserved Jane & Prudence with my local library, the cover looks lovely. Could they be the English version of Philip Gulley and Jan Karon, and Annette Smith with her A Town Called Ruby Prairie?

Linda said...

Coffee upsets my stomach as well. I am thinking that with bladder problems women have, that tea could make it worse?

Ember said...

Our oats are quite hard, too. I let them soak a little while before I start eating.
When you said sometimes you have little for lunch that is inspiring, that struck a chord with me. I have found that to keep up healthy eating it's really important to keep (as much as possible) a good variety of high quality food, so that there are always choices, snacks that won't hurt health, and tempting things to eat. This sounds as though it would be expensive, but fruit, grain, pulses and vegetables are cheaper than meat, cheese and fish, so it works out possible to have quite a lot of treats (cherries, pineapple, oranges, bananas etc) and still stay in budget.

Linda said...

Yes, it is a very cheap way of eating.

My uncle poured boiling water onto his muesli, added Greek or plain yoghurt, then honey. I love this way of eating muesli.

Buzzfloyd said...

Linda, tea will aggravate bladder problems, because of the caffeine.

Isn't it annoying?!

Ember said...

That sounds delicious, Linda.

Buzz, you are a walking archive of information! :0)

Linda said...

I should seriously think of changing maybe one of two of my cups to start with.

Donna said...

Ember, I choose a very different diet from you in some ways, but I found that post full of inspiration, nevertheless! I tried Spirulina a little while ago, in tablet form. I managed to gag and scrape my way through a whole bottle of them, but they didn't half hurt my throat. And I usually have no problem with tablets! So I thought I'd try the powder next... Maybe not...

Buzzfloyd, *most* doctors recommend water in addition to tea. A doctor in Silverhill told a certain anaemic, incontinent old lady I know that it's just fine to drink nothing but tea, as long as she drinks 8 cups of it per day!!!

Linda, that muesli sounds great! I sometimes make my own, but after about a week it's like eating woodchip, so I needed some fresh ideas. :-)

And today's food-related verification word: ration

Ember said...

Ah, the Silverhill doctors... how did we ever manage without them. Would that be the practice where one of the partners mentioned at a party that he was in favour of breastfeeding and that was all he needed to know about it? Or the practice where the doctor asked me to get on the couch so he could examine my varicose veins lying down and then told me the pain in my legs was referred pain from a bad back which would go away if I put a special back support in the driving seat of my car? (Except... er... I didn't have a car because I didn't drive...)

Linda said...

Absolutely love Jane and Prudence by Barbara Pym. :)

Ember said...