Monday, July 1, 2013


For some reason I had thought we would be having a chat at the Socliosis SOS clinic regarding Nutrition.  I have no idea how I got that into my head - I am in England with the infamously unhealthy diet after all!

As soon as my back started to collapse, I was told that nutrition is of vital importance.  I always knew that good nutrition is of importance anyway, especially when you reach a certain age and your body starts to change its shape.  But now I was getting an even more urgent message.  Of what does good nutrition exist then?

Weight management seems to be a big part of it.  Extra weight puts more strain on the body and can add even more imbalance to an already asymmetrical back.  Of course that's a matter of exercise as well as nutrition. 

Good nutrition also helps keep the system working too.  Eating the sorts of foods that fuel your body and work through your ingestion system efficiently is the goal.  I have recently read a great book by Mary Roach entitled "Gulp".  It investigates what happened to food as it enters and exits our body.  I imagine a few of you going "Eww" at this point but that is exactly why there has been so little knowledge and research into this topic.  People feel that such a thing isn't very nice or tasteful and so it gets avoided.  And yet can there be a more important system in our entire body?  Besides, Mary Roach's writing is so good and funny and informative and entertaining. And did I mention funny?  I laughed out loud at times and that does not happen often when I read. I also found out how Elvis Presley actually died.  Really. Read it.

So then, nutrition.  There are all sorts of  diets and advice out there, but here are some of the things that I have learned and that work for me.

1) Balanced diet. Everything in moderation is another way of putting it. More vegetables than fruits and more fruits than complex carbs and more complec carbs than fats.

2) Drink Water. I am one of those people who never get thirsty which is all very fine when you are travelling rough in a third world country and not wanting to use the toilet often if at all, but not really that good any other time.  I have to make myself drink about 6 glasses a day.  Most sources recommend 8, but unless I am working up a sweat drinking that much just makes me feel sick.  But I have to do it, because when I do, my skin looks better, I lose weight, and my system works tickety-boo.
2) Eat real food, and that includes real fat. Every body needs fat, and sugar and salt, but I don't want to waste my allotment with bad stuff that doesn't satisfy me and makes me gain weight and feel sluggish.  I want real butter, and real cheese, and real salad dressing and real chocolate. I find when I eat the real stuff I need less of it to satisfy me.  So I get unsalted butter, avoid processed cheeses and meats, choose high cocoa chocolate and find olive oil not more than 18 months old.

2a) Salt (and MSG and soy sauce and other like substances) makes food taste good, no question about that.  But I have found food can taste just as good if not better when flavoured with herbs, spices and other things.  I have cut down so much on salt over the years that even a little bit now is often too much. Of course every once in awhile I have a craving for potato chips or salted nuts or bacon and I indulge, statiating my salt craving until I have no need for salty things again (for a longer and longer time).

2b) Fats. Did you think I had forgotten why I mentioned young oilive oil?  I thought you might.

Let me back up a bit.  We need to eat fat as well.  There are three kinds of fats: unsaturated (monounsaturated and polyunsaturated), saturated and trans fats.  Monounsaturated fats are good for you.  Polyunsaturated fats are good for you. Saturated fats are not very good for you.  Trans fats are terrible for you.  If you want more depth, you can much more detailed information on websites like this one:

I know that  olive oil is a monunsaturated oil that is good for you, but I now know that there's a lot more to olive oil than I realized. 

A few years ago I went to an olive oil tasting.  An Italian chef brought over with him about 6 different olive oils.  They were green and yellow and rust in colour, but it was their diverse flavours that surpirsed me.  Some tasted green like the smell of freshly mown grass, others tasted as buttery as an avocado, and others were peppery.  It was quite extraordinary to me to learn that the colour means nothing and that there are so many different flavours available.  But what really hit me on teh side of the head was our last taste, which was the highest end olive oil available in my city's best quiality food store.  It tasted rancid.  Really quite disgusting!

Why?  It's all about the vintage baby! Olives are harvested in December and January, then are pressed into oil pretty immediately. The fresher the oil the fresher the taste.  It's that simple.  Olice oil goes off just like other fresh foods, and by 18 months or so, it's lost most of its flavour. Sounds simpleuntil you go to the store and try to buy olive oil that was produced this year or last year.  And that's because every single company that I'veseen in my city omits that information. My guess it's so they can continue to sell old stock instead of throwing it away.

After a bit of research I was lucky enough to find a woman who had spent time working in an Italian olive orchard and became a fan of fresh virgin oil. Back home, she imports the oil from that very farm and sells it in large or small metal tins, metal to keep light out, which is another thing that spoils oil.  So those decorative glass bottles of oil?  Only making your oil decay faster.  I now order my annual oil as soon as the oil is shipped, usually in late February or May.

I also have a bottle of sunflower or canola or bran oil on hand as olive oil is not good to use when cooking due to its low heating point - it can smoke and cause foods to burn.  These other oilsare all good for cooking and they are also good for the body as they are high un

I must admit that I am a carnivore. There's nothing quite like a thick steak or roast lamb.  But I have decided to cut down on eating red meat, as it really is not great for us.  It often carries a lot of fat and salt, and costs the body a lot of energy to break it down. Now I limit eating it to social situations and buying it from a good quality butcher. If I only have beef  once every two weeks for example, I want to make damn sure that it is the best beef I can buy and that my little taste buds are happy, happy, happy.

2c) Sugar is the hardest one for me as I have quite a sweet tooth.  I also have very little will power to avoid eating it.  Pastries, chocolates, pies, cookies, they call to me like sirens singing on a rock in the middle of the ocean entreating me to crash and sink.  So I try to have as little of it in the house as possible.  And if I do have it, such as left over Hallowe'en candy or Christmas treats or Easter chocolate or entertaining backing, I try to put it away enough that I can take a small bit without eating the entire thing.  The freezer is a good place.  And then I have a specific time that I allow myself something so that it becomes more or less a habit and I don't get used to having it all the time.  My morning coffee break at 11am or so works well, as I have the rest of the day to work it off.

3) Supplements. Try to get all your nourishment from food, but if you need supplements get the right supplements.  Those of us who livein northern climates must seriously consider vitamin D.  It's true that 15 minutes in the sun provides all the vitamin D you need each day, so southern climates can afford to be smug.  There doesn't seem to be a downside to having too much, so that's part of my breakfast.

Another breakfast tidbit is Calcium.  Calcium is a bone booster, and particularly valuable to older women who are near or past menopause to try to prevent osteoporosis.  Calcium does not work alone in your body however. It requires vitamin D, parathyroid hormone and healthy saturated fat in order to be utilized for strong bones, teeth and muscles.  I eat my daily allotment of dairy and quite a lot of leafy greens, as well as seeds, hebs and beans, all good sources of calcium, but given my gender and age I take a pill that includes magnesium because it aids in energy production.  Magnesium needs calcium to maintain its metabolic functions, but they don't always play happily together so best to check it out for yourself.

Omega 3.  Enough said.  Fatty fish like sardines, makeral and also flaxseed (only make yo you get ground flaxseed or oil and not the seeds as I used to becuause they don't have much benefit if they slip right through your system unbroken.)

I was advised once to take Omega 3-6-9 pills, but I later found out that I already get quite a bit of omega 6 (salmon and almonds particularly) and omega 9 (avocado, olive oil, cashews in particular) and too much of either is not that good a thing.

I was also advised to take Probiotics, which are good bacteria.  Our digestive tract needs a healthy balance between good and bad bacteria, and poor food choices, stress, lack of sleep, overusing antibiotics and other drugs, and environmental influences can tip the balance towards bad bacteria so the rationale is to boost the good bacteria.  There are many different probiotics (lots of things that end in "coccus" it seems to me), and not everyone needs all of them.  But probiotics are winning the Miss Popularity contest these days and can seemingly do no wrong.  There seem to be a huge number of foods currently claiming to have them: yogurt, cereals, juice, even candy bars and cookies!  I suppose it is possible that some might actually contain some form of a probiotic, but there is no guarantee that they are there or that they are even in the right form to obtain any sort of healthy benefits. And my own experience is to treat them with indifference. 

Within two weeks of taking probiotics, I started to bloat up like a balloon.  There was a time when I would have liked looking 8 months pregnant but that time is not now.  Some bacteria critter has made a home for itself in my gut, and particularly likes it when I eat eggs and tea, which make me angry as I like both of these.  So I am now trying to starve it out by omitting both eggs and tea for a few months, so I willlet you know how that goes.

However, I do take a multivitamin that is geared toward women over 50. My iron count can always do with a boost, especailly if I am cutting back from red meat, and there are other minerals and vitamins that I want to make sure are in my system. My doctor concurs, and that's the key thing.  Make sure you discuss nutrition with your doctor, your naturopath, your nutritionist, your pharmacist, or anyone else who can give you a thoughtful answer based on your particular body.

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