Marianas Variety

Last updateWed, 20 Dec 2017 12am







    Monday, December 18, 2017-11:32:03P.M.






Font Size


Trying to eat right? Good luck with that

LIKE most people, I try to be conscientious of the food I eat, but in my quest to make healthier food choices, I’ve learned that it’s much easier said than chewed.

It all started innocently enough a few years ago. After reading one too many articles comparing the dangers of white rice to that of crack cocaine. I decided it might be a prudent idea to switch to brown rice. After learning to appreciate the bran-intact goodness that only brown rice can provide and touting its benefits to everyone who would listen, I went online to learn a few new recipes, and that’s when it all started to unravel.

It turns out that healthy brown rice may not be all that healthy after all. In fact, this innocent little grain harbors a dirty little secret. As luck would have it, a number of heavy metals can be present in the rice you eat including arsenic, cadmium, mercury and tungsten. The metals which are present in the soil are drawn up into the plant as it grows. Brown rice has the highest levels of these metals since they tend to accumulate in the bran and husk. How can you determine how much is in the rice you’re about to eat? You can’t. It all depends on the soil in which it was grown.

OK, so rice is out.

That’s fine, there are still thousands of food choices left on the table, if the paleo crowd can go without rice, so can I.

At this point, I was in the market for a new side dish to keep my protein from looking lonely on a plate, so the desperate search began. Quinoa was a great candidate. Complete protein, high in fiber, and most importantly these days, (cue the choir of angels) it’s gluten free! It’s the trifecta of side dishes. Of course it would cost about twenty times what rice does and by eating it I was literally taking food out of the mouths of poor Andean children, but I was fine with all of that. It is gluten free after all!

It all seemed so perfect but the love affair with quinoa would be short lived as I quickly learned that it contains saponins. soap-like molecules that when ingested will eat holes into the mucosal lining of your gastric system, leading to the lovely-sounding leaky gut syndrome. Don’t ask me what that is since I stopped reading at that point, all I know is I don’t want it.

Not that it mattered that much since I could learn to live without a side dish, my most pressing concern now was coming up with healthy breakfast ideas, it’s the most important meal of the day after all, right? No? Maybe? Like most Americans, I was brought up on regular old moo juice and I never thought much about it until I got older and realized that it might be a good idea to cut back on all the saturated fat contained in whole milk. No problem, I reasoned, a simple switch to fat-free skim milk would take care of that problem. Yeah, right, as if anything could be that simple. Fat-free foods as we now know, are less filling and lead to higher overall caloric consumption, it is also suspected that lactose, a milk sugar, creates a higher insulin spike when not consumed with a fat. OK, fine, I’ll split the difference and go with the 2 percent and stop worrying about it...for a week.

What’s that headline say? “Milk Consumption Directly Tied to Higher Mortality Rates,” I’m not even going to read the article.

Soy milk it is.

Two weeks later and I’m greeted with this headline:

“What are the Dangers of Drinking Soy Milk?”

“Phytoestrogens, found in non-fermented soy products have been recognized to act as endocrine disruptors...”

That’s enough for me to read, I’ll just pick up some almond milk instead, it costs a little more but it’s worth it as I prefer my endocrine system to be non-disrupted.

What a minute, is that carrageenan listed as an ingredient in my almond milk right after evaporated cane juice? I know I’ve read about that stuff before, something about a link between it and stomach cancer and heart disease. What a minute, isn’t evaporated cane juice just sugar?

No reason to panic, there are more choices, don’t they make rice milk? Oh wait, crack cocaine, I almost forgot.

Not that it matters anymore since I don’t have anything to pour the milk on since learning that wheat is poison. They should really change the name of that cereal to “Cyanide-ies” so consumers can fully appreciate how dangerous that stuff in the box really is.

Maybe an omelet. I seem to remember a time during my salad years when I actually enjoyed a nice spinach omelet with cheese and bacon. Well the bacon is right out, even if it weren’t full of unhealthy inflammation-inducing fats, it contains nitrates. The spinach spooks me too, several cases of e coli contamination have been reported concerning the innocuous-looking leaf some of which resulted in death. No amount of rinsing will help since the bacteria is absorbed through the ground water and is present inside the leaf itself.

And then there’s the egg itself. Perhaps no other food has had such a roller coaster ride between “good” and “bad” in the dietary history of America. The egg is loaded with protein and numerous vitamins and minerals, but they are also loaded with cholesterol, but the cholesterol is only in the yoke, but so are most of the vitamins and the carotenoid lutein which is a powerful antioxidant. As a result, I’ve taken in recent months to making scrambled eggs with one yoke and three whites, staring at them on a plate for five minutes and then throwing them out. Egg dilemma solved.

I guess I could have some fruit to start the day, just not bananas, they’re radioactive (seriously, they are). But all that fructose so early in the morning is sure to cause an insulin spike, fructose is still sugar after all. That spike will naturally lead to an energy crash around 11 a.m., more food cravings and diabetes. And who wants diabetes?

With limited choices, I might go with a handful of trail mix, there’s nothing wrong with some nuts and seeds, as long as it’s not Brazil nuts, those things are more radioactive than bananas. I’ll have to pick out any dried fruit (loaded with fructose) and maybe the stray pieces of coconut since I can’t remember if I’m eating coconut or not this week. Wait, that coconut is soaked in sugar, yup, pick them out. Maybe I could just fight the pet hamster for whatever it is he’s eating. He seems pretty healthy for a nocturnal rodent with his shiny fur and clear beady little eyes.

With breakfast successfully under my belt, I have a full four hours until lunch. Plenty of time to read more articles concerning the new horrors being discovered about the few remaining foods I actually still enjoy, like Rachel Zimmerman’s recent piece, “The Dark Side of Kale (And How To Eat Around It).” Yes, now even kale has a dark side. Not to worry, however, it’s not just kale but all cruciferous vegetables that can contribute to hypothyroidism including cauliflower, broccoli and cabbage. Sorry, you thought they were good for you? So did I.  

With lunch time fast approaching my mind starts to kick into high gear as I cycle through the possibilities. Tuna fish sandwich perhaps? Mayonnaise: Heart attack in a jar. Tuna: Mercury. Bread: Don’t even get me started, even the whole-poison variety is pure evil. I could always chew on some dill for a tuna fish sandwich-like experience until I learn something bad about dill. I give it a week.

I’m hoping that a friend doesn’t ask me out to lunch because I’ll just have to find an excuse not to go. Last week I was asked to join a group going to an Italian restaurant and nearly had a seizure at the mention of the word “pasta.” They had good pizza though I was told. I could get a slice without pepperoni (nitrates), or cheese (I’m off dairy). But the sauce probably came from a can and everyone knows those can leach horrible chemicals like BPA from the lining, thanks to the high acidity of tomatoes. Then there’s the crust with all that highly refined wheat flour, and the whole thing is loaded with sodium, which I’m trying to avoid because my blood pressure is a bit high because I spend so much damn time worrying about food. I’ll have the pizza, hold the pizza. Thanks.

At this rate, with no other options, I’ll be gnawing the bark off the side of a tree soon.

Ironically, the quest to be physically healthy through wise food choices can lead directly to the development of orthorexia, a condition I fortunate to learn about recently. Orthorexia is defined as, “characterized by an extreme or excessive preoccupation with avoiding foods perceived to be unhealthy.” That was me, alright. Now I could worry that I worried too much.

Growing up, my father was fond of saying, “A little knowledge is a dangerous thing, boy.” He would usually make these profound pronouncements while happily enjoying a large bowl of ice cream. He was right, of course, about this and many other things, the only unfortunate thing is that it took me so long to appreciate the message. I’m sure he saw signs of a budding obsessive compulsiveness in me and was trying to help steer the ship to the happy side of sanity.  

Now just turning 80, my father is doing fine and still enjoys ice cream and his life in general. “Some people learn to be happy with what they have,” he once told me, “don’t go looking for problems that don’t exist.”

It’s been said that the real key to health and a long life is to choose your parents wisely, and it looks like I may have done just that.

So with my dad in mind, I think I’ll have a bowl of ice cream tonight, with whipped cream and chocolate syrup and some chopped nuts. No Brazil nuts though; did I mention they’re radioactive?

The writer is a long-time Saipan resident.