Chinese Women Don’t Get Fat: Food, Digestion and Oriental Medicine

The topic of food and health has probably become one of the most complex and contradictory areas concerning health. There are so many different theories, viewpoints, diet plans as well as various corporate and industrial forces which have turned what should be a simple thing into an overly complicated topic.

For example, if you see a Western scientific ‘dietician’, a healthy diet is based on consuming adequate amounts of the recommended daily allowance (RDA) of carbohydrates, proteins, fibre, vitamins and minerals. It does not necessarily matter whether the carbohydrates and vitamins comes from fortified sugary cereal or from sweet potatoes. With a certain degree of opposition, there are the various schools of ‘Nutritionist’, which are generally more imaginative with diets and may promote a more natural nutritional diet based on the consumption of vegetables, pulses, wholegrains and lean meats along with various supplements. Then there are the more specialist nutritionists or naturopaths that may promote certain ways of eating emphasising certain food groups such as high fibre diets, low carbohydrate diets, Candida diets, fasting, food combining or raw food diets. And of course there are the weight loss diets. Diets designed to make us lose weight. It goes without saying that such diets are not popular in developing countries.

There are so many diets. Just to name a few – there is the Palaeolithic diet, the Food combining diet, the Weight Watchers diet, the F plan, the Exclusion diet, the Zone diet, the Atkins diet, the Okinawa diet, the Eskimo diet, the Dukan diet, the Apple a day diet, the Banana diet, the Grapefruit diet, the South Beach diet, the Cabbage soup diet, Juice fasting, the Specific carbohydrate diet, the Gluten free diet, the Warrior diet, the Alkaline diet, the Blood type diet, the Dr Hay diet, the Macrobiotic diet, the Candida diet, the High protein diet, the Low protein diet, the High carbohydrate diet, the Low carbohydrate diet, the French women don’t get fat diet, the Low glycemic index diet, Raw foodism, the Sugar busters diet, there’s even a Junk food diet. The list is endless. I found over 400 different diets – most of them related to losing weight but some of them were about improving a health condition or simply to improve general health.

Maybe, just as the final curtain is drawn on the last of human civilisation, there will be as many diets in existence as there are stars in the sky.

And so just to confuse things even more, I will talk about the Oriental medicine diet.

In the Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) system of Oriental medicine, food is classified with different energetic qualities. They can be heating – they put heat in the body. Or cooling – in that they cool the body. They may also be damp forming – causing phlegm, mucous or weight gain. Some foods increase the yang energy of the body and others nourish the yin. Some foods may be considered neutral. Basically all food has energetic qualities, which affect the body in different ways.

Foods that are considered heating are spices, red meat and lamb. Cooling foods are typically raw foods like cucumber, egg plant and raw fish. Damp forming foods are dairy, oil and sugar.

Some foods tonify or weaken certain organs, For example, the sweet taste affects the spleen and stomach, which governs the digestive system. Naturally sweet foods like grains – both white and brown tonify the spleen and stomach. However, excessively sweet foods like refined sugar, candies and cakes can weaken it.

The yin and yang of foods has many aspects and is not altogether that simple. One way of looking at yin foods is that they increase the yin aspects of the body like the blood and flesh. Therefore proteins like meat and fish may be considered yin. Foods that increase energy quickly may be considered yang such as alcohol or refined sugar. However, as discussed in the article on yin and yang, everything is relative. So for example, although meat may be considered yin, red meats are considered more yang compared to white meats and fish may be considered more yin than white meats, which relatively speaking are yang. Make sense?

Foods are grouped by colour according to the theory of Five elements. For example, the colour white is said to resonate with the metal element and in particular the lung and large intestine – so white colour foods may be beneficial to the lungs – like cauliflower or white rice. Green tonifys the wood element – the liver, so green leafy vegetables may be beneficial to the liver.

Foods are grouped by shape. The kidney bean resembles the human kidney and so is said to tonify the kidneys. The walnuts look like the brains and are said to tonify the brain.

Like fixes like. Offal meat like animal liver, kidney and intestines are said to nourish the corresponding human equivalent. Pig blood (Black pudding) can nourish human blood.

Foods are classified by action. For example, spicy foods encourage perspiration and sweating. If we have stagnant energy such as having poor circulation or being overweight – then some spicy foods can move the circulation and encourage the opening of the pores. Although, this can be a quick fix to the underlying problem. Too much yang (spicy foods) can eventually lead to too much yin (mucous, phlegm and excess weight) in the body undermining it.

Damp forming foods cause damp in the body. This can be thought of as phlegm or mucus. Some people are intolerant to dairy or wheat and when they eat it they may find a build up of phlegm and mucus in the throat or even in the stool.

How foods are cooked also affects their energetic qualities. For example, fried, barbecued and grilled foods involve using more intense heat in a shorter period of time and has a searing effect on the food. They are consider to be more yang compared to boiling or steaming, which tends to soften the food and is considered a more yin method. In particular, frying especially deep fat frying has both a yang heating and damp forming effect on food due to the combination of heat and oil (a damp food). Deep fat fried foods may be very hard for people with weak digestive systems to digest. An excess of this kind of food can lead to what in TCM is described as damp heat in the body. Damp heat refers to any kind of puss-filled inflammation or painful inflammation. We see this in the adolescent fast food employee who eats free hamburgers and fries every day for lunch and suffers from cystic acne. We see this in the middle aged person who eats fried rump steaks, ribs and fried chicken everyday and suffers from swollen joints. A historical example of damp heat would be the condition of gout – a painful arthritic condition, which affects the foot. It was called the “king of diseases and the disease of kings” or “the rich man’s disease”. When King Henry VIII wasn’t busy destroying the church and beheading wives, he was famous for suffering from this ‘damp-heat’ condition which is associated with an extreme excess of rich foods and alcohol.

There are other various principles – a little of one flavour can strengthen an organ or body function. So a little sweet (from grains) can tonify the spleen and stomach. A little of the bitter flavour – tonifys the heart; a little pungent tonifys the lung, sour tonifys the liver, salty tonifys the kidneys. However, too much of a flavour can weaken the same organ. Too much sugar (refined sugar) weakens the digestion. Too much pungent (curry) weakens the lungs. Some people after eating strong curry may get a lot of mucus in their throat afterwards.

There is a debate over raw and cooked foods. In Chinese food therapy, it is recommended to cook foods. This contrasts with the Western raw food movement – especially popular in California, which claims that the cooking process ‘denatures’ food and destroys raw enzymes. However, not everyone can tolerate raw foods. Raw foods can lead to stomach aches and excess flatulence in people with less than robust digestive systems.

Other issues are vegetarianism and fasting. Despite the proximity of India and China and the transfer of ideas which had gone on for centuries between the two countries, there are some fundamental differences concerning eating habits and diet. In traditional Indian medicine, fasting (the abstinence of food for a short period of time) is practiced to rest the digestive system and to detoxify the body. However, in Chinese dietetics, fasting is discouraged as it is seen as weakening the digestive system. Instead simple, plain, easy digestible foods and herbal teas are recommended for sickness. Vegetarianism is also a common part of the Indian diet. However, vegetarianism is not so common in mainland China. There is an infamous quote by Prince Philip, when he was commenting on the Chinese eating habits to the World Wildlife conference in 1986. Typical of Prince Phillip, it is offensive and shows that wealth and privilege does not necessarily confer humility and respect for others.

“If it has got four legs and is not a chair, if it has two wings and it flies but is not an aeroplane, and if it swims and is not a submarine, the Cantonese will eat it”.

With the exception of Taoists and monks, Chinese are not generally vegetarian. Meat tonifys both the yang and yin and is seen as an essential part of a healthy diet. In the Chinese diet, mealtimes are generally a combination of vegetables, meats, fish, rice or noodles.

This doesn’t mean that the Indians are right and the Chinese wrong or the other way round. Both means of eating convey benefits and disadvantages to these people. What this teaches us is that there are no hard and fast rules when it comes to food and eating habits.

A more important factor is that good digestion depends not just on the quality of the food we eat, but also on our ability to digest it. If our digestion is impaired, we will not absorb the useful nutrients from it. In Chinese medicine, the Spleen and Stomach meridians and organs control digestion. If they are weak, then we may suffer from low energy and other symptoms such as feelings of bloatedness or tiredness after eating, rumbling in the intestines, diarrhoea and aches in the stomach or food intolerances. Food may not be properly absorbed causing low energy and a thin body. Conversely, food may be too well absorbed but not properly converted into energy in the body resulting in weight gain and again tiredness. In this way, we could eat the best food in the world and it will go to waste. When a person has strong digestion, they can eat a big mac and fries and take in benefit from it. When a person has weak digestion they can eat a Jamie Oliver meal and gain very little benefit from it.

There is a common joke – only sick people can be found in health food shops. Conversely only healthy people are found in fried chicken shops.

Acupuncture seeks to strengthen the digestive system. But there are times when digestion is naturally weak such as when we are convalescing from an illness. During this time, Chinese dietetics recommends very simple and easily digestible food. Every culture has some version of this. The Chinese and Japanese have a very simple meal – called congee or rice porridge. It is available from some Chinese restaurants. Here is the recipe:

Congee

Ingredients:

– ¾ cup long grain rice

– 9 cups water

– 1 teaspoon salt

Preparation:

In a large pot, bring the water and rice to the boil.

When the rice is boiling, turn the heat down to low. Put the lid on the pot, tilting it to allow steam to escape.

Cook on a low heat, stirring occasionally, until the rice has a thick, creamy texture like porridge. Approximately 1-2 hours. Add the salt, taste and add seasonings if desired.

Serve with garnishes. A little soya sauce can be added.

For a healthy option, brown wholegrain rice may used instead of white rice although the cooking time may have to be increased to 3-4 hours. Alternatively you can use a pressure cooker and cook for about one hour.

Variations:

For extra nutrition, an egg can be added and stirred into the congee a few minutes before you turn the heat off. Other options are wakame seaweed or nori seaweed, which should be added at the end or kombu seaweed, which should be cooked from the beginning.

A little shredded meat can also be added at the beginning of the cooking process. The long cooking time will mean it is very soft and easy to digest.

Congee tonifys the blood and is very nourishing. It is more easily digestible for the chronically ill person and gentle on the intestines.

How we eat

Consider some western eating habits today. How we eat – the environment has the potential to affect digestion particularly if we feel stressed when we eat or if we eat in a rush. Some people at work will stuff a cold sandwich down their throat during a rushed five minute break and a coke during the winter. This is not really respecting their digestive system. In the traditional Chinese energy circulation clock, which shows the circulation of qi through the meridians, the morning time period of 7am – 9am is called the time of the stomach. The period of 9am – 11am is the time off the spleen (which deals with digestion and absorption). These four hours are considered to be the time when the digestive system is at its maximum peak of power in the Chinese clock. It is a time, where it would be good to have our most substantial meal because our digestive organs are at their peak of energetic activity and can digest and absorb efficiently.

In Asian countries like Japan, traditionally they would honour this with a substantial meal for breakfast. A traditional breakfast would be rice, miso soup and grilled mackerel. In the West, breakfasts used to be more substantial. My father’s generation were brought up with a large bowl of porridge oats, bread and butter and sometimes kippers (when times were good). However, now there is a trend towards having lighter and quicker breakfasts. Today, many people have a few spoonfuls of cornflakes, a slice of toast or they forego breakfast and have two to three cups of coffee and a cigarette. It may well be that the post afternoon slump and craving for snacks that many people suffer from may be attributed to an insufficient breakfast. And there is a long term consequence to inadequate eating. Your body must use up its own resources and precious yin energy in order to provide yang energy for daily movement and activity. In short, you’re selling yourself short.

Another example of Western eating habits is that the evening meal time is slowly becoming a solitary affair. Even in families with two or more members, the TV is often switched on and takes centre stage. Some families eat in separate rooms.

Typically the Chinese family sit down at the table together. Food is placed on dishes in the centre and they take a small portion and place on their bowls unlike the Western way of having their own plate filled up with everything. This way, there must be interaction between family members. Eating becomes a social event. The TV may be on in the room in the background, but it does not take central focus. Food takes central focus.

This year I was fortunate to be invited by a Chinese friend for the Chinese New Year. In typical Western fashion, I filled up my small bowl to maximum with everything I wanted. It seemed more efficient to get everything in one go, then to have to keep takings bits here and there – especially with chopsticks. This attracted one small remark of disdain. Fortunately, I was among friends. We discussed different eating habits and I was told that the Western way of filling up everything you want in a bowl or plate is seen as selfish. It was an idea I had never considered before. I had always taken it for granted that typically we have everything we want on our own plate. When we order food in a restaurant, typically food comes on our own plate. We do not share it. It seems more efficient. But then by eating in this way, eating has the potential to become a selfish event. Everything is set. We do not need to interact. We don’t need to argue who’s going to eat that last piece of pie. And if the TV is on in the room, we can simply watch and eat, watch and eat. Social interaction can come secondary. And many families do eat like this.

Weight

The modern Chinese and Japanese do suffer the same as Westerners in that they also put on weight and feel inclined to go on diets. One look at women’s magazines from these countries will reveal all sorts of advertisements for questionable diet supplements and diet plans. However, what they don’t have are the levels of obesity that is becoming prevalent in the US and UK. From my time living in Japan, I believe this in part is down to the attitude towards food. In Japan, food is given a lot of respect. TV programs are awash with numerous segments on foods and restaurants with various B and C class celebrities being filmed eating said food and responding in the expected fashion by making an intense expression of pleasure and exhaling in an orgasmic “Oishiii! Umaii!” which literally translates as ‘Delicious! Tastes Good!”. Going to restaurants is a popular social activity, just like going shopping with friends or to a coffee shop and they are not overly expensive like in the UK. I saw a lot of food blogs written by people giving reviews of foods and restaurants. One acquaintance showed me a picture of a very tasty looking cake she had just eaten at a local cake shop which she was going to upload on her personal blog. On a Sunday afternoon, I often saw long lines of people – boyfriend and girlfriend, husband and wife standing patiently outside certain restaurants and eateries with reputations for selling delicious ramen (noodles) or gyudon (beef and rice) in a manner not too dissimilar to the way queues of couples may line outside museums or galleries on a Sunday afternoon in the UK.

A typical complaint from Japanese people and in fact many foreigners visiting the UK is that English food is no good. As an English national, I know this is not true. There are lots of good and simple foods. However I do understand the criticism. The closest you will find on the high street to a simple, clean and affordable British eatery is the Wetherspoons pub, which is usually tucked in among several MacDonalds, Subway sandwich shops and various Italian restaurants. After that, if you want authentic British food, you have to go to a greasy spoon café which is more catered to working men and mostly serves fried foods like eggs, bacon sausages, beans and toast – which is high in fats, salt and cholesterol. I also think English people tend to put too much stock in fish and chips which is really a kind of junk food. It is really no surprise that the Indian curry was voted the UK’s most popular dish a few years ago. After all, the British example is always – if someone else has something good, we can always steal it and make it our own. Take a look inside the British Museum if you disagree.

When it comes to giving advice on food, I don’t think there is any one size fits all approach. I don’t believe one diet can fix all. In my own life, I have experimented with various diets, eating habits and supplements. Some had good results on my health. Some of them undermined it. I even underwent a 5 day fast at a specialist fasting centre. This is not to be advised on your own as it can be extremely harmful. I have experienced periods of my life when I have eaten as health consciously as I could by favouring organic foods, increasing vegetables, avoiding sugar, drinking fresh juices and eating so called ‘superfoods’ and supplements. I have also gone the opposite side of the spectrum – living on junk food, snacks and alcohol (mostly during my early twenties.). I have read many books, and tried many things out diligently but I can’t honestly say that any one way of eating resonated with me. The only way of eating which seems to make me feel well internally and externally is when I go back to a simple diet, which my mother used to cook for me. This was boiled vegetables – carrots, cabbage, potatoes and a serving of meat or fish. Sometimes a bit of apple pie afterwards for a treat. Lunch at school was a cheese or meat sandwich and an apple. My father’s ideal breakfast consisting of cooked porridge oats, with stewed apple for breakfast definitely heated me up during the cold seasons – although I still find it a bit bland. And for balance, there was always the treat of a takeout or fish and chips on the occasional weekend to look forward to. And when I was a young kid, I don’t ever remember being neurotic about food or calorie counting or worrying that a food was harmful to me. It may not be the healthiest, but nor is it the worst. Nowadays, I see school kids outside the local kebab shop at lunch time eating fried chicken and chips from little boxes and dropping chicken bones on the pavement and I wonder if they eat like this every day.

As an acupuncture practitioner, my advice is simple. Eat fresh and adequate amounts of vegetables, protein and carbs. Limit processed foods. Prepare and cook foods yourself. Boil, steam or grill in preference to frying. During the cold seasons, soups and stews are nourishing. During the summer, some raw foods can be OK if your digestive system is healthy. If you have digestive problems, cook foods softly so that they are easily digestible, and be wary of eating too much fibre especially raw. Also listen to your body – if a food or supplements upsets your gut, no matter how ‘healthy’ it is meant to be, then maybe it’s no good for you. Listen and respond to the messages your body tells you. And be aware of the psychological nature of food. If you crave salty snacks or sweets excessively – it can be an imbalance in the body but there is also the consideration that there is a psychological reason for the craving. When we are stressed or deeply troubled, sugary and salty foods can be a way of self-medicating ourselves in much the same way that people may drink alcohol or take illicit drugs to ‘numb’ themselves from the stress of life’s problems.

Not to mention, in much the same way that factory farmed animals are effectively force fed with whatever we choose to give them – GM grains, antibiotics, steroids or even brain material from their own species (causing Mad Cow disease due to prions), we as humans are also to various extents ‘force-fed’ by the food industry in collaboration with the advertising industry. Food is a billion dollar business and a major part of the economy. Certain industries depend for their very survival that enough of us Homo sapiens eat farmed chicken and pork, hamburgers, bread or milk or frosted sugar flakes or sweetened fizzy drinks on a daily basis. The last thing we are ever expected to do is to grow and eat our own food. It is in this way, that modern humans in the developed world have lost connection with food. Because food today is imported from thousands of miles away, we don’t even know which foods are local to our environment. Only amateur gardeners know which vegetables are in season. And meat is far more easily available today than in any generation previously, we tend to forget that meat was a luxury item for our ancestors. An ancient wisdom has been forgotten.

As many aspects of our life have been improved, we have forgotten that we as humans must still follow the natural laws if we want to thrive in health (not just survive). A major principle is to live in tune with nature. There is a price to be paid for spending all our days in an air-conditioned room set to the same comfortable temperature in summer and winter. In much the same way we can buy and eat salad from the supermarket chilled section everyday during the coldest period of winter. If we eat a yin food in a yin season, we make our bodies too yin. In a yin season (winter) it is better to eat a yang food (a warm stew) to balance yin and yang. The Chinese were smart – too smart. They foresaw the damage that occurs to the body when we live out of tune with nature and found a simplistic way of expressing it. Despite our incredible advances in science, medicine and technology, we still have the same bodies as the ancients and are still subject to the same natural laws. Fortunately, their wisdom has been preserved and is waiting for us to rediscover it.

How To Avoid Food Poisoning

Millions of food poisoning cases occur each year, and millions more go unrecognised because they are mis-diagonisd – or unreported. The symptoms include: vomiting, diarrhoea and pain in the abdomen.

Most of us can handle a little food poisoning without major upset, but there are a number of high-risk groups for whom it can be very dangerous, even fatal. These groups include the elderly, infants, pregnant women and the chronically ill, especially those with weakend immune systems. There are also certain types of food poisoning like (botulism) that can be deadly for just about anyone.

WHAT CAUSES FOOD POISONING?

Most food poisoning occurs because food was handled improperly at home, often during routine procedures that we all take for granted.(Other stages at which germs and toxins might enter food are during cultivation and storage).

There are four main culprits:

Bacteria: These are responsible for more than two-thirds of food poisoning episodes. The important germs in this category are Salmonella, Staphylococci Clostrdia and Bacillus Cereus. The food we eat, no matter how hygienically prepared, almost always contains a few bacteria. However, a small number does not cause illness: at a rough estimate, about one million bacteria must be present before a healthy adult will come to harm. However, in case of children under one year, or in case of old or sick persons, only one lakh bacteria bring on illness.

Viruses: These are the simplest living organisms containing only genetic material. Viruses require living tissues for their growth and multiplication, therefore will not multiply in food. However, food can serve as a transport vehicle for viruses. Since viruses are destroyed by temperatures achieved in normal cooking, food poisoning by viruses occurs largely in food which has not been cooked or has been handled after cooking by a person who is a carrier of viruses.

Chemicals: Common chemicals which produce food poisoning are pesticides, detergents, paraffin, food additives, sterilizing agents and packing materials. Food poisoning from chemicals is mostly caused by carelessness in the home or in an industrial establishment.

Try to avoid buying attractive and highly-coloured foods as these contain several addictives which way harmful. Carefully read the manufacturer’s information/instructions regarding contents, use and storage.

Aoid the use of packaged wheat-flour. Instead, buy whole-wheat from the market, clean it with plenty of water, dry it and have it ground at a floor mill.

Vegetables: Certain naturally poisonous plants, when accidentally mixed in with vegetables, cause food posioning. Among these are toadstool (confused with mushroom), hemlock, black nightshade, rhubarb leaves and undercooked red kidney beans. The toxins of most plants are unaffected by cooking.

HOW GERMS GAIN ACCESS TO THE KITCHEN

The main entry points are:

Food Handlers: Usually these are carriers (persons carrying the germs in their body but not suffering from the disease itself). They may be convalescents, i.e. people who have recently suffered food poisoning and who, though recovered, continue to pass a small number of these germs in the faeces; these may gain access to food due to improper washing of hands and poor general hygiene.

Carriers may also be healthy people who have not suffered the symptoms of food poisoning but nevertheless carry harmful germs in their intestines. Again, the medium of instruction is faeces.

Animals, birds and Insects: Flies, rats, birds, other insects and animals (incluing pets) usually carry bacteria in their intestines and on their feet and fur. These animals are infected through eating contaminated feeds, grazing on contaminated pasture land or through contact with other (infected) animals.

Food and food products: When animals are slaughtered and dressed, germs from the surroundings and from the hands of the handlers may contaminate the surface of the meat where they grow and multiply.

Dust: Vegetables are usually contaminated with dust which may contain bacterial spores. Spores are the unique feature of some (not all) bacteria. When growth and multiplication of bacteria is not possible due to an unfavourable environment, the bacterial cells form spores (small, reproductive cells) and the remaining part of the germs disintegrates. These spores are resistant to even boiling and freezing, can survive for years without food or water and, in faourable circumstances, are capable of reverting to the original, infective form – to grow again and multiple.

Raw vegetables should be first rinsed in plenty of water and then dipped in a very weak solution of potassium permanganate (about of grams in 1 litre of water), for 5 minutes, and then washed again thoroughly with clean water. Potassium permanganate removes the surface dirt, spores and germs.

Cross-contamination: This is the transmission of germs from a contaminated source to uncontaminated food (usually freshly cooked food). If this food is suitable for bacterial growth and is left for some time in a warm room, the transferred organisms multiply rapidly. Some examples of this process in a kitchen are:

  • Using a chopping board, a work surface or kitchen equipment in the preparation of two different foods without washing it in between, eg using a mincer for raw meet and then for cooked corned beef. The same principle holds true for the hands of the cook.
  • Sneezing, coughing, smoking, scratching around the genitals or the anus while in the kitchen and not washing hand thereafter.
  • Wearing highly engraved jewellery while preparing food. The crevices offer a foothold for germs which may then be transferred to the food.
  • By combining hair in the kitchen or from loose strands of hair.
  • From skin infections, especially of the hands (boils, furuncles, wounds etc.) in the cook.
  • From the crevices of craked/chipped plates and damaged utensils.
  • Through unhygienic food tasting, eg, dipping a finger in prepared food without washing, then licking it and again dipping it in another prepared for unprepared food, without washing in between.
  • By touching dirty linen, wash-cloths, dusters, etc. while preparing/handling food.
  • By incorrect placement of food in the refrigerator. For example, keeping uncooked meat on the top shelf, and uncovered, roasted chicken on the shelf below: Blood from the uncooked meat may drip on to the chicken and contaminate it. In the low temperature inside the fridge, these germs remain dormant, but once the food is warmed for serving or even thawed out at room temperature, the germs multiply rapidly.

HOW GERMS GROW IN FOOD

Germs thrive best when four conditions are optimum:

Temperature: Bacteria that cause food poisoning grow and multiply fastest at the temperature of the human body (37° C). Above and below the temperature, the rate of growth decreases, but still fairly rapid at about 30° C – which would be the room temperature in a poorly-ventilated kitchen during summers.

At the temperature of boiling water, i.e. 100° C, bacteria are killed in one or two minutes (though spores are not).

At low temperatures, such as in a fridge, they become dormant, but start multiplying again once the food is removed for thawing or warming.

The Type of Food: Germs multiply rapidly in those foods which have a high protein and moisture content, such as meat, poultry, dairy products, gravies and sauces. Protein and moisture provide “nutrition” to bacteria and act as very good culture media. (In the laboratory, most bacteria are grown over a blood or egg-containing medium.)

Moisture: Dehydrated products, such as milk powders, do not allow the growth of bacteria, but the bacteria remain dormant until the powders are reconstituted. So, reconstituted powder milk,eg, must be stored in the refrigerator as soon as water is added to it.

The Time Factor: If conditions are conducive, bacteria divide into two, every twenty minutes. Therefore, the longer food is allowed to stay in conditions optimum from bacterial growth, the greater the extent to contamination.

HOW TO PREVENT FOOD POISONING?

The ground rule is to maintain regorous hygiene at all the points at which food is handled:

Personal hygiene of the food-handler

  • Germs cling to the skin surface and persist in hair follicles, in skin pores, or in crevices and lesions caused by breaks in the skin. The hands should be washed with plenty of soap and water, preferably warm. A disinfectant solution may also be used, as an added precaution.
  • Nails should be short, unchipped and, preferably, unvarnished (if varnished, the varnish should not be chipped.)
  • Wet hands contain more bacteria than dry hands. Use clean towels to dry them. If you can afford an electrically-operated hand drier, that’s even more hygienic.
  • The food handler should remove all jewellery from his/her hands.
  • If any cut,wound or boil is present on the hand, a coloured waterproof dressing should be apllied over it so that if it accidentally falls off into the food, it can be easily noticed and the food discarded.
  • It is very important to wash hands after a trip to the toilet, blowing your nose, handling raw meat, poultry or contaminated food, etc.
  • The food handler should not smoke in the kitchen and should sneeze or cough into a tissue which should then be discarded.
  • Cover hair under a cap or net.
  • Clothes should be clean and should cover exposed areas of the body as far as possible. Long sleeves should be rolled up or securely fastened at the wrists so that cuffs do not dip into the food.
  • Always waer full-length apron.
  • During illness, the nasal and throat carriage of bacteria is increased, so sick persons and those who have suffered from food poisoning, diarrhoea and vomiting in the recent past (even if they are apparently healthy now) should not be allowed into the kitchen.

Hygiene in the Preparation, Cooking and Storage of food

  • Thaw all frozen foods completely before cooking. If you do not, the ice crystals at the centre of the food prevent the temperature that reaches the centre at the time of cooking from being sufficiently high to kill the bacteria there; at the same time, this temperature level will be optimum for bacterial multiplication!
  • Food should not be repeatedly frozen, thawed and re-frozen. Each time it thaws, it reaches a temperature that’s conducive to bacterial growth.
  • Cook food thoroughly at one go. Never do it in two stages – bacteria remain alive in partially-cooked foods and on cooling they multiply and survive right through the next phase of partial cooking.
  • Never keep the food warm (as in casseroles) because these provide the optimum temperature for bacterial multiplication.
  • Never re-heat the food more than once. Again, bacteria get a chance to multiply when the food has gone from ‘hot’ to ‘warm’. If re-heating is absolutely necessary, the food should be covered and cooled very rapidly after cooking and stored in the refrigerator until it is ready to be re-heated. To speed cooling, divide up the food into several containers or cut up big chunks into smaller pieces.
  • Quick, high temperature cooking is the best. The traditional practice of slow cooking in open pots increases the risk of food poisoning.
  • As eggs, especially duck’s eggs, are a known risk for salmonella poisoning, lightly cooked uncooked dishes such as scrambled eggs, omelette and poached eggs should preferably be avoided. Safer options are hard-boiled eggs (boiled for at least ten minutes), eggs fried well on both sides or eggs used in baked products such as cakes and puddings, which require cooking temperatures high enough to destroy the germs.
  • Cook foods to the proper temperatures. Meat should be cooked at least 160° degrees. Red meat is thoroughly cooked when it is brown or gray inside. Poultry is done when the juices become clear. Fish, which cooks very quickly, flakes easily with a fork when it is done.
  • Serve food as soon as possible after cooking. Don’t let it sit out for more than two hours at room temperature. If you are serving buffet-style, keep cold food on ice, hot food over warmers. Put out only small portions at a time so that the remainder can stay hot or cold in the kitchen until needed.
  • As far as possible, avoid buying prepared foods because you have no guarantee of the hygiene maintained in the preparation of such foods. If you must buy such goods, prefer frozen foods to warm foods, since they provide less opportunity for bacterial multiplication.
  • Don’t buy food in damage containers. Avoid cans and glass jars that have dents cracks or bulging lids. A damaged container may allow bacteria to get inside and multiple.
  • Use highly acidic canned foods, such as tomato and apple products, within 12 to 18 months. Other canned goods, such as canned meat, poultry, stews, pasta products, potatoes and peas can be stored longer (from two to five years).

There are several reasons for this. First, when acidic foodstuffs are packed in metal containers, the acid dissolves the metal which is absorbed into the contents of the tin/can, affecting their flavour and texture, thus causing spoilage.

The acid itself also softens the preserved food, again damaging its texture – “spoilage”.

Finally, meats and other hardy foods like pasta and potatoes preserve better because, at the time of processing, it is possible for them to withstands the duration and kind of temperature required for virtually complete sterilization – 121° C, for 20 minutes at 15 pounds of steam pressure. However, succulent foods like apples, tomatoes and mangoes cannot withstand such processing without having their flavour and texture altered. So, they are heated at a lower temperature, under less pressure, for longer time. Because of the incomplete sterilization, the chances of spoilage in such foods are comparatively higher.

  • Preferably, all canned food should be stored in the refrigerator – especially if you intend to use it over a prolonged period. In any case, don’t use it beyond the expiry date. All opened canned food should be stored as freshly cooked-food.
  • Do not put hot foods directly into the fridge. Apart from damaging the cooling coils, this can encourage the growth of certain germs and moulds.
  • The refrigerator door should be kept shut as far as possible; the fridge should also be regularly defrosted to remove excess ice around the cooling coils which decreases is efficiency.

Hygiene in The Kitchen

A sterile kitchen would be a mere fantasy. However, proper design and maintenance can go a long way in ensuring a clean and hygienic cooking environment and significantly reducing the risks of food poisoning:

  • The kitchen should be spacious enough to allow easy and thorough cleaning. Equipment should be moveable or, in the case of fridges, for example, should be placed where it is possible to clean its back, sides and under-surface.
  • The areas of preparation, cooking and washing up should be well separated to lessen the chances of cross-contamination.
  • The kitchen should be provided with a large window and ventilator, if possible with exhaust fan.
  • The window should be covered with thin wire mesh to prevent the entry of house-flies and other pests.
  • The cutting/chopping board should be made from hard-wearing, easily cleaned material which does not absorb moisture, chip or crack and is not affected by food residues. Stainless steel is the best choice, better than even plastic laminates which, of however superior quality, are still susceptible to scratches from knife blades etc. However, even today, far too many kitchens use wooden boards, which easily develop cracks and crevices, enabling germs to thrive.
  • Every kitchen should have a round-cornered dustbin, preferably with paddle-operated lid, and it should never be allowed to overflow.
  • Kitchen floors should be made of a hard-wearing, anti-slip, easily-cleaned material which is unaffected by moisture, and resistant to salt and fruit acids. Unbroken, smooth quarry tiles are a good choice.
  • The ceiling should have a smooth finish to facilitate cleaning (an absorbent plaster with washable emulation). Walls should be smooth and light-coloured to make dirt easily traceable.
  • Pick up knives, forks and spoons by their handles, glasses by their stems and plates by their edges. Discard any chipped plate or glass and any damaged utensils because even efficient washing may not get rid of the germs harboured in crevices and cracks.
  • Rat and mice carry bacteria in their fur, feet and faeces. Since they breed in warm and dark corners, the kitchen premises should be kept in good repair with no holes, or defective pipes or drains. Store-rooms for storage areas should be cleaned regularly. All the stocks must be kept off the ground and used in rotation to ensure that rats and mice are not been sheltered at the back of the store-room. If you do have a rodent problem, get rid of the pests with a mousetrap or a mild rodenticide.
  • Flies are the commonest carrier of food-poisoning bacteria. Reduce the risks by covering windows and ventilators with fine wire mesh, using covered dustbins and, if necessary, an insecticidal spray.
  • Cockroaches typically hide behind ovens and cooking ranges, water pipes, and refrigerators. They can be killed by most available insecticides.

When Food You Love Doesn’t Like You

Before my doctoral program – which required me to narrow down to a specialty (sugar addiction) – I had studied food intolerances.

Many books on the subject start with food reactions, then move into chemicals in our homes and offices, gasoline fumes, and more. Important as those things are, they’re not about nutrition.

My interest in food intolerances has always been their link with addiction.

Recently, I “attended” a webinar by J.J. Virgin, whose first book (I believe) was on food intolerances and how to eliminate those foods to improve health and lose weight. The webinar re-sparked my interest in food intolerance and addiction.

Common triggers for food intolerance include chocolate, corn, soy, wheat (or other gluten-containing foods), peanuts, dairy, eggs, sugars and other sweeteners.

What Does Food Intolerance Look Like?

Signs and symptoms can include headache/migraine, joint pains, fatigue, sleepiness, heart palpitations, depression, irritability, stomach pains, bloating, and many more.

Because digested food moves through the bloodstream, the effects of an intolerance can show up virtually anywhere in the body.

Food reactions might be the same every time the food is eaten, such as a rash.

Or the reactions might vary – say, a non-itchy rash one time and itching with no rash another time.

The reaction might be cumulative. Maybe a small portion of the food causes no reaction, but a portion eaten again that day, or several days in a row, does causes one.

Addiction is another possible reaction that may develop over time.

What Causes Food Intolerances?

The causes are many, but let’s keep it simple.

One cause is a genetic intolerance or a tendency toward it.

We can become intolerant to a food we eat often or in large quantities. Overeating a food uses up enzymes specific to digesting that food, so complete digestion is prevented.

That may result in improperly digested food particles moving through the digestive tract and bloodstream, triggering an immune reaction. The undigested, unabsorbed food provides no nutrients.

We can also become reactive to a food we eat together with another triggering food. So the list of triggering foods may grow, resulting eventually in malnutrition.

Food Reactions May Change Over Time

The guiding principle of the human body is homeostasis.

When a trigger food is first eaten, the body attempts to restore homeostasis by ridding itself of the offending food. It prevents absorption by attaching antibodies to the partially digested food while it’s in the intestine. That might successfully eliminate the food before it can pass into the bloodstream.

If the food does enter the bloodstream, it can trigger inflammation. The acute reaction may be short, and the body may return to homeostasis quickly.

If someone continues to eat a triggering food over time, the body undergoes an adaptation. The immune system may become slower (or less able) to respond. The reaction may now manifest more slowly than the acute reaction. Signs or symptoms may last longer, sometimes hours or days.

How Can That Become a Food Addiction?

The immune response to a triggering food involves a release of stress hormones, opioids, such as endorphins (beta-endorphin), and chemical mediators like serotonin. The combination can produce temporary symptom relief through the analgesic action of endorphin and serotonin, plus mood elevation and a feeling of relaxation.

In that way, eating the triggering food may make someone feel better almost immediately and even think the food is beneficial.

Endorphin release typically involves a concomitant release of dopamine. The combination of those two brain chemicals and serotonin forms what I’ve always called the “addictive package.” Avoiding the food could lead to withdrawal.

After long-term use, someone may eat the triggering food not to experience the pleasure of the chemical “high,” but to relieve the distress and withdrawal without it. It’s almost textbook addiction.

How Does Intolerance/Addiction Affect Health?

As someone addicted to a triggering food continues to eat more of it, the immune system must keep adapting, and may become hyper-sensitized, reacting to more and more foods – especially those eaten together with reaction-triggering foods, or with sugar.

The constant demand on the immune system can lead to immune exhaustion and degenerative reactions, depending on genetic weaknesses. The signs and symptoms listed above are just a start.

Sugar can be a major player in this because it causes inflammation in the body and makes it more susceptible to food reactions. Eating triggering foods plus sugar can make it even more likely that new reactions will occur.

I recall a book by Nancy Appleton, who suggested that eggs might trigger reactions in many people because they’re so frequently eaten at breakfast with orange juice. Cake is another example: sugar plus wheat, eggs, milk.

As the addictions continue, cravings occur, leading to increased consumption. As more and more foods trigger an immune response, the result may be malnutrition, as explained above.

Stats say that rates of food intolerance are rising. My theory is that it’s at least partly due to sugar in our diets – including sneaky sugars that are often viewed as healthful, such as agave, fruit, fruit juice, and sweeteners.

Stopping the Cycle

Definitely give up any foods you suspect may be causing any reactions – even if you love them. Think about foods you eat with those triggering foods on a regular basis, and consider eliminating those, as well. Above all, avoid sugar.

Follow this plan, as J.J. Virgin recommends, for 3 weeks.

In the meantime, you may have cravings. If so, use my proven, time-tested recommendation of a teaspoon of liquid B-complex (complete B-complex) to kill the craving within minutes.

At the end of the 3-week elimination, you should be feeling – and looking – much better.

Survival Tips – The Best Emergency Food Kit

Who Needs The Best Emergency Food Kit?

Who knows what the future holds? If only we knew, day to day, what challenges would arise, we would never be caught unawares. Unfortunately, life just doesn’t work that way. Those who prefer to look forward and make preparations for the “just in case” scenarios are often painted as fringe lunatics and doomsday preppers. However, assembling the best emergency food kit for yourself or your family should be something every responsible adult takes seriously. Just a few of the “normal” situations that could arise, when having emergency rations for your family would make sense, include: loss of a job, temporary lay off, extended storm damage or power outage that traps your family at home. Or perhaps you’d just like to be a position to help another family in need, should the opportunity arise. Then there are Armageddon type scenarios that plague the mind of some, and no better way to put those fears to rest than to look ahead and prepare for the worst. Whatever your reasons for looking forward and setting up emergency rations against a difficult time ahead, we are here to help you build the very best emergency food kit for your family.

Identifying Your Needs

First, lay out your preparation strategy. If you’re just getting started in emergency preparation, you may not have more than a day or two worth of food in your cupboard. If that’s the case, building up a thirty day supply of food is a good place to start. If you already have 30 days of emergency rations laid by, the next step may be building up a six month or year emergency food kit. The important thing is to start somewhere, and build your supplies up until you’ve assembled the best emergency food kit that you’re able.

Who Are You Feeding?

Do you have children in the house? Teens? Older or elderly adults? Infants will require special feeding accommodations like milk or formula, while the elderly may have some unique nutritional needs, as well. Map out on paper who you’re building a food supply for and any special things you need to prepare for them, or for yourself. Then consider what it takes to feed that person for a single day.

How Many?

Once you’ve written down what it takes to feed one person for one day, you’ll need to multiply that by the number of people, and the number of days for which you’re preparing.

What Do They Like To Eat?

There’s no need to live for a month on nothing but rice and beans. You don’t want to stock up on three months worth of food that your family won’t touch with a six-foot pole, just because it was cheap. It may keep you alive in a pinch, but you want to enjoy it, if possible. So take the likes and dislikes into consideration as you plan. Don’t forget to consider food allergies, as well. In an emergency situation, you wouldn’t want to face an allergic reaction from cross contamination, so better to avoid problem foods altogether, if possible.

Types Of Emergency Rations

There are dozens of ways to build up a great emergency food kit. The easiest, though certainly not the least expensive, is to invest in commercially prepared emergency rations, offered by various companies. These kits come as single servings, or a month’s worth of food for a single person. There are dozens of options to choose from.

Another method, requiring a little planning and management, is to simply take what you buy and use on a weekly basis, and start building up a supply that will last. If you ordinarily use three cans of beans and two boxes of mac ‘n’ cheese and a jar of peanut butter each week, then begin buying double that, and set the extra aside for your emergency food kit. Then manage your stock by rotating it so that your food stays as fresh as possible. Freshness would be a significant advantage in a long-term disaster, where you’re relying on your emergency rations for months, or even years.

Once you’ve built up a few months supply of food, organize your cans and boxes with the soonest expiration date in the front and the furthest out in the back. Then, when you do your grocery shopping, put the new stuff in the back and use from the front. This keeps your stock fresh and ready to use if and when the need arises.

Home canning is another less expensive way to build up your emergency food kit. Canning is becoming a lost art, so if you’re not familiar with how to do it, you’re not alone. Canning food in glass jars requires a little learning and effort but can allow you to preserve tasty, homemade food for years. Be sure to learn which foods require pressure cooking versus water-bathing methods of preservation. Properly canned goods keep best in cool, dark places between 50 and 70 *F (10 – 21 *C) and are safe to eat for years after canning.

For bulk dry goods that are intended for long term storage, wheat, beans, rice, sugar and other dry goods can be vacuum sealed and stored in five gallon buckets with O2 absorbers to last for thirty years and more. For the truly prepared minded, a few buckets of wheat and corn will go a long way toward peace of mind.

A vacuum sealer is a good investment for anyone serious about their emergency rations. Sealing foods in smaller quantities not only preserves them longer but allows you to use them a little at a time, rather than having to use a large container up quickly once you’ve opened it.

If you’re worried about the expiration date on store-bought canned goods, keep this story in mind. A steamboat named the Bertrand was trying to reach Montana in 1865 when it sunk to the bottom of the Missouri river. One hundred years later, canned goods from that wreck were recovered. In 1974, 109 years after the accident, the food was tested by chemists and found safe to eat. You should use good sense when eating canned foods that have passed their expiration dates. If it looks odd, smells bad or tastes bad, don’t eat it!

Signs That The Food In Your Emergency Food Kit Has Gone Bad

Signs canned goods have gone bad: the can is bulging, or the lid has come unsealed. Check for mold or fermentation bubbles in the liquid. If the food rushes out of the can or jar when you open it, there is pressure on the contents that wasn’t there when the can or jar was sealed. This is a good indication of bacterial activity causing a chemical reaction.

Comfort Foods

Once you’ve established a good base for emergency rations, you might want to start thinking about adding some comfort foods to your store. In stressful situations, we all turn to food for comfort, and yummy food might not be easy to come by in the event of a disaster. Some things to store include:

 

  • Chocolate – powdered cocoa keeps the best, but chocolate bars over 70% cocoa will keep for several months, and much longer if frozen. Hot chocolate mix has a shelf life of several years, and could easily be added to the rotation of your emergency food kit.
  • Mac n’ cheese – Best preserved dried by separating the noodles and cheese, and then vacuum sealing them with O2 absorbers. If you’re worried about being able to cook macaroni and cheese, it can be canned, but it won’t have the same texture as freshly made. Under cooking the noodles before canning will help it to be less mushy.
  • Honey – made with natural preservatives, honey will keep indefinitely, as long as water never gets near it. Store in very clean, very dry glass jars. If it crystallizes, you can return it to its liquid state with a little heat.
  • Freeze dried fruit or dehydrated fruit can be a great energy booster and will keep well when stored properly.
  • Hard candy – store with desiccants and vacuum sealing to provide a much needed pick me up under stressful conditions.
  • Coconut oil, especially virgin coconut oil will store for a very long time and provide added fat for comforting recipes when butter isn’t available.
  • Spices – if you get to a place where you’re having to make all of your food from what you have on hand, you’ll be very glad for some extra spices to… well… spice things up.
  • Alcohol – Obviously, a comforting item, but it serves many purposes in a disaster scenario and it keeps well. High alcohol content (over 20%) will keep the longest and over 40% can serve as a disinfectant if needed.
  • Tea – keeps well without special accommodations. To keep it the very freshest, store in small quantities with an O2 absorber.
  • Coffee – For those who really need their cuppa to keep their chin up, coffee will be an important part of the very best emergency food kit. Roasted coffee keeps, vacuum sealed in Mylar bags, for up to two years. If you rotate it through your emergency rations, you will have good coffee for some time. For preparation beyond that, you can store green coffee beans in Mylar bags with O2 absorbers, then roast and grind them as needed.

What To Choose?How to decide what goes into the very best emergency food kit? A good rule of thumb is six months to a year of food that you would eat every day. This is easily managed through good shopping and rotation. For preparation beyond that time frame, vacuum sealed Mylar bags will keep dry goods for years. Many companies and even faith-based family preparation programs offer dry goods preserved in #10 cans that will keep up to 30 years. Building an emergency food kit that can last several years in a pinch is possible, with planning and forethought.

Water will be critical to surviving certain types of disaster scenarios. When planning for emergency situations, one liter of water per person per day is a good starting point. You’ll need some extra for sanitation and cooking, as well. Be sure you have plenty of water on hand, or a way to obtain water and sanitize it. Sanitation tablets and filtration systems would be a major component of the best emergency food kit.

Looking Ahead

For total preparedness, it’s important to think ahead to food preparation during an emergency. If the power was out for three weeks, how would you cook that mac ‘n’ cheese you took such care to store? Even if you have a power generator for emergencies, stoves and microwaves pull too much energy to use the generator for cooking. A propane or butane camp stove with plenty of fuel cells, or a propane or charcoal grill are great options to have on hand. And don’t forget to include a manual can opener in your emergency food kit.

Where To Keep It?

Storage space can be tricky, depending on your housing situation. If at all possible, you’ll want to designate a neatly organized room that’s specifically for food storage. You’ll label your shelves, and keep things nicely stocked and rotated. If you don’t live in this kind of fairy tale situation, you may have to get a little more creative about how you store your emergency food kit. A lot of food can be neatly stored, in cardboard boxes, under beds, in the bottoms or tops of closets, and under the stairs. You may need to reduce unnecessary clutter, to make room for emergency rations. The reward will be worth the effort.

Be Prepared, Not Scared

Taking the steps required to create the best emergency food kit that you possibly can will pay off in peace of mind. To know that you have the ability to care for those you love, and to be able to reach out to those around you in their time of need, will put you in a category reserved for just a few. You’ll rest easy at night, knowing that whatever tomorrow holds, your family is provided for.

Dog Behavior Series 11 – What Is the Best Dog Food?

Do you want to know the secret for selecting the best dog food for your dog? Keep reading to discover what it is and why you should be concerned about what your dog is eating and how it can affect your dog’s health and behavior.

This segment is for dog owners who want to feed the very best to their furry friends. Dogs with kidney, thyroid, food allergy, or other abnormal conditions require special dietary needs not covered in this segment.

So what is the best dog food?

Dog food that is meat based rather than grain based. That is the secret to your dog’s optimum health. Low quality dog foods will almost always be grain based and the healthier, higher quality dog foods will be meat, poultry or fish. You’ll pay more for meat based dog foods, but the higher the price, the higher the quality; the higher the quality of the ingredients, the greater the nutritional value.

Dogs have to eat more low quality dog food in an attempt to meet their nutritional needs. Again, you may pay more for higher quality but you will buy less because your dog will eat less. So, keep that in mind when looking at the price of higher quality dog foods. Your dog will also pass noticeably less stool when fed a high quality meat based diet.

This is my number one secret for selecting the best dog food. Keep reading, because now I’m going to tell you why, so by the end of this segment you will have acquired enough knowledge on the topic to better understand and come to your own conclusions.

So, why is a high quality meat based diet so important?

For dogs, meat is the appropriate source of protein and fat is the appropriate source of energy. High quality meat contains all the proteins, vitamins, minerals, and essential nutrients needed for dogs to live a long and healthy life. Yet, carbohydrates have become the dominant nutrient found in most dog foods. Why is this? Because they are abundant, have a long shelf life, and are cheaper than protein and fat. What does this mean? Less expensive dog foods generally include less meat and more animal by-products and grain fillers. Is this good? Keep reading to find out.

Contrary to belief, carbohydrates are not essential for a healthy dog diet. Nor is fiber a required nutrient for dogs. Dogs do not need corn, wheat, barley, oats, brown rice, millet, potatoes, or sweet potatoes. Carbohydrates and fiber are poor substitutes for meat protein and fat. Dogs are carnivores; meat eaters. The best digestible protein sources for a dog are meat, eggs, poultry, and fish; and are far better choices for meat eaters.

Carbohydrates from grains, on the other hand, provide energy in the form of sugars. So keep your dog away from grains as much as humanly possible; unless your dog has medical issues that require a lower protein diet. It is always a good idea to consult with your vet about your dog’s dietary needs and to get a clean bill of health.

High protein on a dog food label means absolutely nothing. You have to read the list of ingredients to see if the source of protein is digestible. Dogs are not able to digest plant-based proteins or grains as efficiently as meat and do not derive as much nutrition from them as they need. Meat, on the other hand, is not only high in protein but it is relatively easy for dogs to digest. Therefore, dog food with higher meat protein content is usually better. If the first ingredient on the label is not a meat protein, you should seriously consider switching to a brand with higher meat content. Grains are not as digestible as meats.

Protein content should be at least 30 percent from a high quality meat source. For example; beef, venison, lamb, or chicken. Avoid any product with non-specific descriptions like animal, meat, or poultry; and avoid any rendered by-products or meal.

Unfortunately, the vast majority of dog owners cannot afford to feed their dogs a meat based diet so dog food producers created an affordable solution for the masses by offering a grain based diet. Though not as nutritionally healthy as meat, a grain based diet is not necessarily a bad thing if high quality ingredients are used.

But this is not always the case. Cheap plant based ingredients like corn, wheat, and soy result in cheap dog foods. These dog foods do not produce healthy coats and solid stools in a majority of dogs and, if anything, shortens a dogs’ life expectancy because they are unhealthy and are simply not good choices.

Dog food producers know very well how to make high quality, healthy dog food as evidenced by the expensive 5 star brands, but the problem is, it is just too expensive for most dog owners. And to be competitive with other producers, the price of the food dictates what the foundation or the primary ingredient is; and it is not meat.

In a nutshell, most dog owners are feeding their dogs as if they were plant eating herbivores rather than meat eating carnivores. But it is not your fault that producers are not disclosing the truth about the nutritional value of their dog foods, but instead doing everything in their power to convince you they are nutritionally complete and the best food for your dog.

Another Important Factor – Essential Nutrients

Dogs require a balance of certain fatty acids that must be provided by their diet. Fats are needed for the absorption of vitamins A, D, E, and K. Fats provide energy as well as taste and flavor to foods. Fat provided by the diet also helps dogs maintain healthy skin and a shiny, healthy coat. Common fats used in dog foods include names like beef fat, pork fat, chicken fat, fish oil, salmon oil, and more. Anything listed as animal fat is very vague and not considered a quality ingredient. Fat content should be at least 18 percent.

So, what if you cannot afford a high quality meat based diet for your dog?

Then, of the dog foods available in your budget, choose the best one. And to supplement your dog’s diet, offer your dog bone free table scraps that contain healthy, digestible protein and fat content. Better your dog benefit from the nutrients and variety rather than disposing of them. Please be aware that several common seasonings, including onions, garlic, chives, grapes, raisins, macadamia nuts, and avocado can create problems for your dog and should be removed from the table scraps.

What to look for to find the best dog food for your budget.

 

  • Avoid products where the first ingredient is not a meat of any kind
  • Avoid products containing corn, soy, wheat, grain, or flour
  • Avoid products containing beet pulp or sugar
  • Avoid products that contain by-products or sauces
  • Avoid products that fail to identify the specific meat source. Specific meat sources include names like beef, venison, lamb, and chicken.
  • Avoid products that fail to identify the specific fat source. Specific fat sources include names like beef fat, pork fat, chicken fat, fish oil, and salmon oil.
  • Avoid ingredients from rendering facilities. You will recognize these ingredients on the label under generic terms like meat and meat meal. Other examples of inferior meat based protein ingredients are animal meal, chicken by-product meal, meat and bone meal, glandular meal, poultry meal, blood meal. Notice the generic nature of the phrases?
  • Avoid the cheap, grain based dog foods with fancy packaging that try to make you think you are making the appropriate healthy selection for your dog. Do not buy into the hype. Look at the label and do your best to interpret what is actually inside.

 

Ensure a proper ratio of at least 30 percent protein and at least 18 percent fat.

Again, do the best you can. Whatever food you choose to offer your dog, putting some thought into your decision now can produce big rewards over time and help you to avoid serious and costly illnesses caused by poor nutritional feeding practices.

Now let’s recap.

Good health begins with proper nutrition. Proper dog nutrition consists of at least 30 percent meat based protein and at least 18 percent meat based fat. The first ingredient on a label should always identify the meat source like beef, venison, lamb, or chicken.

The best digestible food source for a dog is meat. High quality meat contains all the proteins, vitamins, minerals, and essential nutrients needed for dogs to live a long and healthy life. Preservatives should be from a natural source such as Vitamin C and/or Vitamin E.

Choose dog foods with only the finest, high quality, human grade ingredients with absolutely no chemical additives like dyes, preservatives, fillers, or synthetic ingredients. Dog owners who cannot afford higher quality meat based dry dog food, should consider adding canned with dry to improve the dog’s overall diet. Again, the ingredient list of both is important. Also consider supplementing with bone free table scraps that contain healthy levels of protein and fat.

The best dog foods are those that are rich in meat based protein and lower in carbohydrates because dogs do not need carbohydrates. Carbohydrates are added to dry food to keep costs down. Raw diets, frozen meat diets, and homemade diets exist for a nutritional reason and will be even more popular in the future because dog owners will see the excellent results these fresh, natural diets provide.

If your dog is perfectly happy and healthy, then you may not need to make any dietary changes. But if you do, it is always a good idea to consult with your vet. Protein is very important for your dog, but there are instances, such as with puppies, with old age, or liver issues, where your dog should be on a lower protein diet. Consult with your vet about your puppy or dog’s nutritional needs.

Conclusion

Do the best you can given your budget.

 

  • The best dog food is any product that is of high quality and meat based
  • A good dog food is any product that is of moderate quality and meat based
  • A decent dog food is any product that is grain based with high quality ingredients
  • A poor dog food is any product that is grain based with low quality ingredients

 

Do your research, and at the very least, learn how to read dog food labels. I know this is a lot of information, so feel free to read this segment again. Wish I could provide you with more detailed information, but it just isn’t possible in this short segment.

Hope you enjoyed this segment on Dog Behavior, specifically on the topic of what is the best dog food, and hope you walked away with something of value. If you enjoyed this article, subscribe to my channel on YouTube. Thank you so much for reading. I look forward to seeing you inside my next article. Please like, share, comment, and subscribe. Until next time. Bye Bye.

Seven Secrets To Choosing A Safe, Healthy Pet Food

Do you choose canned food or dry food? What brand? There are so many different brands, all shapes and sizes of pet food to choose from and pet owners are provided with very little information to base your decisions on (other than advertising) – it can get so confusing! Well, buckle your seatbelt depending on how much you know of the pet food industry, this could be a bumpy ride! You are about to learn seven secrets – well kept secrets – of pet food. Sit back, brace yourself, and keep reading.

Beneful says it’s ‘Premium Dog Food for a Happy, Healthy Dog’ and sells for around $18.00 for a 31 lb. bag, Science Diet “promises” ‘precisely balanced nutrition through continuous research and the highest quality food backed by your Vets endorsement’ and sells for around $21.00 for only a 20 lb bag. Then there are numerous pet foods that make the very same statements – ‘Premium Dog Food, Highest Quality’ – that sell for $30.00 or more for a 20 lb bag. And the same holds true for cat owners…Do you choose Whiskas that states ‘Everything we do is about making cats happy!’ or do you choose one of those high end cat foods that make the very same claim of a happy, healthy cat but cost 3 times as much?

Now with the on-going pet food recall pet owners have questions such as ‘Has this food been recalled?’ or ‘Is this food the next one to be recalled?’…’Is my pet safe?’ Wow this is confusing! And scary too! What exactly is a pet owner to do? How about learning a few secrets! Equipped with the knowledge of a few secrets of pet food, it’s not nearly as confusing.

Secret #1…

All pet foods use descriptive words like choice and premium, though few of them actually use premium or choice ingredients in their food. The ‘secret’ is that per the rules of the pet food industry, no pet food can make any claims or references on their label or advertising as to the quality or grade of ingredients. You see, the word ‘premium’ when it’s related to pet food DOES NOT mean that the ingredients in the food are premium. With pet foods, premium does not (can not) describe the food nor does it (can it) describe the quality of the food. It is a marketing term and that is all. Per the pet food industries own rules and regulations, “There are no references to ingredient quality or grade” (regulation PF5 d 3). So, words like premium, or choice, or quality are just marketing or sales terms. They should not be interpreted as terms describing the quality of the food.

Now why wouldn’t a pet food label be allowed to tell a prospective customer the quality of their ingredients? Doesn’t a pet owner deserve to know what they are buying? This leads me to the next secret…

Secret#2…

If I can compare ‘people’ food to pet food for just a second, we all know there are different qualities of people food. There is White Castle (I’m guilty here, I love the little guys!) and there is Outback Steak House (another favorite). Both restaurants serve meat and potatoes. At White Castle for under $3.00 you can get a couple of hamburgers and an order of fries. While at Outback you can get a steak and baked potato for around $16.00. Both serve beef and potato – yet you already realize that there are huge nutritional differences between a fast food hamburger and a steak…right?

The problem in the pet food industry – is that most pet owners don’t think in the same terms when it comes to pet food. They don’t think in terms that there are fast food types of pet foods and there are sit down restaurant more nutritious types of pet foods. In fact, several years ago a young man tried this very experiment with his own diet – eating nothing but fast food for 30 days. In just one month of eating fast food three meals a day, he gained a great deal of weight, blood pressure and cholesterol levels sky-rocketed. Now, imagine your pet eating this type of food its’ entire lifetime.

OK, so back to our two meals…if a chemical analysis of your meal at White Castle was compared to a chemical analysis of your meal at Outback – both would analyze with a percentage of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. Regardless whether you consider a steak at Outback a higher quality of protein than the burger – it would still analyze as protein. The analysis doesn’t measure quality of protein.

So here is the secret…All pet foods come with a Guaranteed Analysis stating the percentage of protein, fat, fiber and moisture in the food. The REAL secret lies in the quality of the percentages of protein, fat, and so on.

In a chemical analysis of a pet food – chicken feet would analyze as protein, although granted it provides very little nutrition. And as well, a cow that was euthanized (put to sleep) because of a disease that made it unfit for human consumption – would analyze as protein although that could be considered dangerous for consumption. Both of those things – chicken feet and a euthanized cow – are allowable ingredients and commonly used in pet food. You see the secret within the pet food industry is manufacturers have a WIDE OPEN door to where they obtain their ingredients. The only strict rule they must follow is an adult dog food must analyze with 18% protein and an adult cat food must analyze with 26% protein. Sources to acquire those particular percentages range from a ‘human grade’ meat, to chicken feet, to euthanized animals, to grain proteins, to even man made chemical proteins and many variations in between.

Pet food labels do not have to tell – are not allowed to tell – the sources they use to obtain that required 18% or 26% protein. And to make matters worse…quality minded pet food manufacturers – the companies that use 100% human grade ingredients – are not allowed to tell customers or potential customers that their products are quality, human grade ingredients.

So how can you know if your pet’s food uses chicken feet or euthanized cows or if it contains human grade ingredients?

Secret #3…

If the words premium and choice mean basically nothing with regards to the quality of pet food, and if some pet foods use chicken feet and euthanized animals in their food – how can a pet owner know what they are getting in their pets’ food?

This big secret is found in ingredient definitions. Unlike ‘people’ food where you can pretty much look at the food to determine the quality, pet food is far different. All ‘people’ food must meet particular USDA (United States Department of Agriculture) and FDA (Food and Drug Administration) guidelines. The same is not true for pet food. Chicken feet and euthanized cows are NOT allowed in people food for obvious reasons – they have no nutritional value or they could be dangerous to consume. The same is NOT true for pet food. The only way to know if those chicken feet or euthanized cows are in your pet’s food is to know what ingredients they can be used in.

The common pet food ingredient ‘Meat and Bone Meal’ is basically a combination of many different discarded left-overs from the human food industry. Components of ‘meat and bone meal’ can be anything from cow heads, stomachs, and intestines, to (horrifying but true) euthanized animals including cows, horses and dogs and cats from veterinarian offices, animal shelters, and farms. And along with those euthanized animals the pet food also contains the drug pentabarbitol that was used to euthanize the animal. ‘Meat and bone meal’ can also contain left-over restaurant grease, and diseased (including cancerous) meat tissues cut away from slaughtered animals. In other words, this commonly used ingredient is a mix of highly inferior and potentially dangerous left-overs from the human food industry.

The pet food ingredient ‘Meat By-Product’ or ‘Meat By-Product Meal’ is pretty much the same thing as ‘meat and bone meal’. It is a highly inferior pet food ingredient containing literally who-knows-what.

Another similar ingredient to the above is ‘Animal Digest’.

As to the chicken feet I mentioned earlier – this item can be found in the ingredients ‘Chicken By-Product’ or ‘Poultry By-Product’ or ‘Chicken By-Product Meal’ or ‘Poultry By-Product Meal’. Any left-overs in the chicken or poultry division – including but not limited to chicken feet, skin including some feathers, chicken or poultry heads, and intestines are found in these ingredients. It does NOT matter as to the health of the bird – sick, healthy, dead, dying…all is included in these ingredients.

So here is what you need to do…BEFORE you purchase any pet food, flip the bag over and closely examine the list of ingredients. The above mentioned ingredients would be listed within the first five or ten ingredients. If you see ANY of those ingredients – it is my suggestion to NOT purchase that food. Remember – chicken feet and euthanized animals do analyze as protein. That is all that is required in pet food – just the correct analysis.

Another little trick some pet food manufacturers use in this category is using grains and chemical additives to grain products to boost the protein percentages. Which is exactly the cause of the pet food recall that began in March 2007 – chemical proteins. Two different chemical additives – that have NO nutritional value to pets, but that analyzed as protein – were added to a grain product (wheat gluten, corn gluten, or rice gluten) solely to provide a cheap protein. Thousands of pets died and countless others became ill because no one counted on the problem of the combination of these two chemicals would cause kidney and urinary blockage. Again, their secret is the product has to analyze as having a particular amount of protein – no one is required to provide a quality meat protein.

While you are looking at the ingredient listing – you should also take note of how many grains (corn, wheat, rice) and/or how many grain products (corn gluten, whole corn, ground corn, whole wheat, ground wheat, wheat gluten, rice, brown rice, brewers rice, soy, and on and on) are listed within the first five or so ingredients. If you find more than one grain listed in the first five ingredients – that is telling you this pet food is acquiring some of its protein from grains.

Why is protein obtained from grains important for you to know? Several reasons – first off science proves that cats and dogs alike require and thrive on a meat protein. If a pet food is obtaining protein from grain sources, the pet is not getting the meat that it needs to thrive. Second, if the grain products are a corn gluten, wheat gluten, or rice gluten you take the risk of chemicals such as melamime added to it used strictly to boost the protein analysis. By the way, melamime is one of the chemicals found to be the cause of the March 2007 pet food recall. And there is one more concern with grains – aflatoxin. Aflatoxin is a deadly mold that is common to corn, wheat, and soy and it’s responsible for several other pet food recalls you probably never heard about. In December 2005, Diamond Pet Food contained moldy grains that killed over 100 pets before the product was recalled – all due to aflatoxin.

It is my recommendation to avoid any pet food that contains corn, wheat, or soy in ANY variation. The risk is simply too high.

Secret #4…

I’ve got more suggestions for you to look for in the ingredient listings…chemical preservatives. A very well kept secret of the pet food industry is their common use of chemical preservatives. BHA/BHT are very popular chemical preservatives used in pet food and science has linked them to tumors and cancer. Another common preservative is ethoxyquin which has known risks to cancer. Ethoxyquin is ONLY allowed in human food in some spices because of the very tiny proportions. However it is allowed in much higher proportions in pet food.

If you scan the ingredient listings, you will be looking for BHA/BHT and ethoxyquin listed anywhere. Commonly BHA/BHT is used to preserve the fat in the food which usually is found higher on the list. And also look for any of these chemicals towards the end of the ingredient listing. Personally, I wouldn’t touch a pet food that contained these chemical preservatives. You want a pet food that is preserved naturally – common natural preservatives are ‘natural mixed tocopherols’ or ‘vitamin E’.

Secret #5…

The very best food to provide to your pet is a well made food using human grade ingredients. That should be simple enough…How do you find that? You already know that pet food manufacturers are NOT allowed to make any statement as to quality or grade of ingredients, the only way you can find out the grade or quality of your pets’ food is to call the manufacturer and ask them.

Now, let’s say you call the ABC pet food company and ask the question “Is your Premium dog food and Premium cat food made using human grade ingredients?” It could be that you get the response yes, we use human grade ingredients – when actually only a couple of ingredients are human grade. Here’s the trick to asking…ask them if they are APHIS European certified.

Pet food manufacturers that are APHIS European certified assures you that ALL ingredients in their pet food are human grade. APHIS – Animal Plant Health Inspection Services – is a division of the USDA. APHIS European certification provides this pet food manufacturer with the opportunity to ship their foods/treats to Europe. When importing pet foods from the US, European countries demand that all ingredients are human grade and thus require this certification. Most pet food manufacturers that have APHIS European certification do not ship their products to Europe – they simply use this as a means to assure their customers to the higher quality of their ingredients.

Again, you WON’T see this listed on the label – it’s not allowed. You must call the manufacturer and ask. Often times the representative of the pet food won’t even know what you are talking about when you ask about APHIS certification – if that’s the case, you can assume they are not APHIS European certified. APHIS European certification is a bonus to pet owners – it is not required or even suggested that any pet food manufacturer go through the extra steps to obtain this. This is a special effort some pet foods go through to tell their customers they REALLY CARE about the quality of their products. Personally, I would NOT buy a pet food that doesn’t have it.

And by the way, if you can’t reach the pet food manufacturer, or they do not return your call within a short time frame, lose their number! Any company that does not place a priority on answering customers questions – doesn’t deserve your business!

Secret #6…

Minerals are a required ingredient in human diets as well as diets for our pets. Copper, Iron and Zinc are common minerals found in pet foods. Just as they are – copper, iron, and zinc are basically rocks, very difficult for anyone or any pet to utilize. Science has developed several ways to introduce minerals into the body (human and pet) for better absorption thus benefiting the individual far more. This scientific development is called chelating or proteinating and it’s been around for years. Through the chelating or proteinating process minerals are absorbed about 60% better than just the minerals alone.

This secret is spotting the minerals in your pet food to see if they are chelated or proteinated. Notice the minerals on your pet food label, way down on the list of ingredients. You are looking for minerals that read ‘copper proteinate’ or ‘chelated copper’. If you see just the mineral listed, your pet is sort of like Charlie Brown at Halloween saying ‘I got a rock’. If you want your pet to have the best, chelated or proteinated minerals are part of the best foods!

Secret #7…

This secret is called ‘friendly bacteria’. Although ‘friendly bacteria’ sounds a little scary, the reason for it lies in your pets’ intestinal system. A large portion of your pets’ immune system is found within the intestinal system. Keeping the immune system healthy helps to keep the animal itself healthy. This friendly bacteria is similar to what’s found in yogurt, however in pet food it is introduced in a fashion so that the cooking process doesn’t destroy it. Looking at the fine print on your pet food label, this time you are looking for lengthy, scientific words like Lactobacillus Acidophilus or Bifidobacterium Thermophilum. If you do NOT see these words or some very similar, that pet food is not addressing the care of your pets’ immune system. And again, if you want your pet to have the best, you want ‘friendly bacteria’ in their food.

There are your seven very secrets to help you find the absolute healthiest and best pet food for your four-legged friend. Armed with those secrets – you now have the knowledge to find your pet the best food possible! A pet food that can extend their life and prevent early aging and disease. If you don’t want to bother doing the homework involved, I urge you to subscribe to my monthly magazine Petsumer Report(TM). Through Petsumer Report(TM) I’ve done all the homework for you – each month I review and rate over 40 different pet foods, treats, toys, and various other pet supplies. It’s the ONLY publication of its’ kind providing pet owners with the information they need to know regarding their pet product purchases.

I want to share just a couple more things…

It’s best to feed an adult dog or adult cat two meals a day. The nutrition they consume with two meals is better utilized than with just one meal a day. If you are currently feeding your pet one meal a day, split that same amount into two meals and feed in the AM and PM.

You should know that all canned or moist pet foods are anywhere between 70% to 85% moisture. This means that 70% to 85% of that can or pouch of food is useless nutrition – its water. Granted our pets need water, cats especially tend not to drink enough water. But since all canned or moist foods are mostly water, they do not provide adequate nutrition to be fed strictly a canned or moist diet. Use a canned or moist product to supplement your pet’s diet – not as the only food.

The best pet foods are preserved naturally (secret #4) – but there is a concern with naturally preserved pet foods…freshness. Take notice of the expiration date on your pets food label – typically with naturally preserved dry pet foods (not as much of a concern with soft foods because of canning – very little need of preservatives) the expiration date is one year to 18 months from the date it was manufactured. Let’s say the pet food you are considering to purchase on July 1, 2007 has a ‘Best if Used by’ date of January 1, 2008. This would tell you that this particular bag of pet food is already 6 months old. While it is still ‘good’ a fresher food – a bag that is only 2 or 3 months old – is better. Naturally preserved pet foods lose nutritional potency with time. Always try to find a very fresh bag.

If you are considering changing your pets food, ALWAYS consult with your Veterinarian first. You should always keep your veterinarian advised of any changes you make with your pet. Don’t take chances. And if you do switch pet food, make the change over very slowly. I always recommend to pet owners ¼ new food to ¾ old food for 4 to 7 days, ½ to ½ for another 4 to 7 days, and so on. Switching food quickly can cause intestinal disorder! Its short term, but we don’t want intestinal disorder!!!

One last thing, as you are already aware dogs and cats have a far better sense of smell than humans. Their food bowl can be a wealth of smells – both good and bad. Some times a pet will refuse to eat simply because he or she smells a previous food in their bowl. Plastic food and water bowls retain odors the worst. And surprisingly so does stainless steel bowls. The best type of food and water bowl is a ceramic one. They retain odors the least.

“Animals are such agreeable friends – they ask no questions, they pass no criticisms.” George Eliot.

I completely agree!

Food Addiction – The Reason Why We’re Fat?

Given the obesity rates in this country there are a lot of people who are addicted to food. Food addiction can be very similar to alcohol and drug addictions. The difference between an over eater and an addict is the over eater simply eats too much, but could stop if they wanted and tried to, yet the addict often can’t stop eating, or binging, despite the extra money it is costing, the effect its having on relationships, or what it is doing to the their health. Food addicts obsess about food. While a large portion of obese people may be food addicts, weight is not the only basis for identifying a them. People who are thin or average weight who are suffering from bulimia nervosa or similar disorders can also be food addicts.

Perhaps you are at a party or picnic and someone has brought out a tray of chocolate frosted cupcakes. It’s not on your new diet plan to eat cupcakes, but the host has made them thinking of you, remembering they are your favorite flavor. So you decide it would be okay to just have one. You enjoy one delectable cupcake, tasting how soft and moist the cake is and how creamy and chocolate-y the frosting is. But after that one cupcake you decide to have one other. At this point you realize that you can’t stop eating them. You might volunteer to take the rest home saying you will “bring them to your family”, even though you know you will eat the rest. Or so people don’t know you have a problem, perhaps you’ll leave a little early and stop by the bakery for cupcakes, and maybe somewhere else, because ice cream would sure taste good with them. Now you are thinking about cupcakes and food too much. It has probably gotten in the way of you having fun at the party.

Whether its cupcakes, ice cream, chips or pizza, if you are like this, not able to stop eating certain foods, you may be a food addict. Food addiction is real and serious. In the United States the obesity rate has been increasing for a number of years. Surprisingly, in the fight against obesity, food addiction is not mentioned. People are told to have self-control, use their willpower, and avoid overeating. They tell us to eat less sugar and fat, and to exercise. People talk to overweight people like they don’t know this. It is just difficult for people with a food addiction. Based on many separate research studies, scientists have found evidence of chemical dependency on food. Experiments have shown that the pleasure centers of the brain that are triggered when people use cocaine and heroin are also stimulated by food. People who are addicted to food overeat because some foods trigger good feeling brain chemicals such as dopamine that gives the person a sense of feeling high. While each food addict has their own particular food or foods they are addicted to, the foods that are most addictive in general tend to be foods that are high in sugar, fat and salt.

Every overweight person may not be addicted to food. Having three brownies once in a while, eating more than the recommended portion of fries, or eating large portions at dinner, do not make a person a food addict. There are many overweight people who are not food addicts. Food addicts think about food and diets a lot. They have often tried to not eat certain foods and have failed. They have nervousness and a sense of anxiety when it comes to food. They both love and hate food. They love food because it is not only delicious, but it has been there to comfort them and help them deal with, but mostly cover, negative emotions such as guilt, anger, or depression. They hate food because it makes them overweight and feel bad about themselves. Food makes them feel out of control because they can’t help eating more and more.

People who suffer from bulimia eat copious amounts food when they binge, just like many other food addicts who are overweight, but because they purge their food they tend to be thin or more often an average weight. But they are often addicted to food, not being able to handle just one portion. They eat large amounts of food, but try to control their weight by “getting rid of” the food.

There have been a lot of programs that are supposed to be helping to curb the obesity epidemic in this country. There needs to be more concentration on food addiction. Most of the obese people are not just overeating because they think it’s fun being fat. They, as well as others who not obese, are suffering from food addictions. Food addictions need to be treated as seriously as drug addiction because these addictions can lead to major illnesses and even death.

Basics of Food Management

Food is such a basic part of our existence. Our lives revolve around it from our waking moment onwards. Food and feasting go hand in hand and even celebrations all over the world and across all cultures are centred on food. Our ancient Indian scriptures divide food into three categories, such as-

Satvic or pure foods: These are foods that heal, comfort, juicy, smooth and increase longevity, intelligence and strength and are digested well by our system.

Rajasik or the tasteful foods: These are salty, spicy, bitter, salty and can give rise to ill health, grief or discomfort.

Tamasik or the impure foods: These include stale, cold, left over foods, impure and half cooked causing great harm to the mind and the body.

Food is one aspect of our life that we take for granted. We are less mindful of the food that we consume. We leave our body to deal with the constant abuse from our day to day lives and lifestyles. We, humans, without taking our body for granted, need to create health generating systems and build a oneness with food, productive exercises, yoga, corrective breathing and meditation, rest and sleep and be spiritually aware and conscious. These steps translate into better stamina, strength, tone and energy with emphasis on the whole body as an entity, one that accentuates wellness and wellbeing.

The food we eat lays the foundation for every cell and tissue in our body. The purpose of food is to nourish us, build strength and to give vital energy. Digestive harmony is the key for release of this vital energy needed for healthy living. The science of Ayurveda – the creative and constructive life science – says that every part of our mind and body is governed by the DOSHAS – the bio-energetic force or elements that sustain life. Refined, processed and preserved foods are all totally devoid of this nutrition and vitality. Wholesome, raw and natural foods that have absorbed the cosmic energy, and are super charged with ample rainfall and sunshine must be utilized to the fullest for health and wellness.

The father of medicine, Hippocrates said “thy food is thy medicine. You are what you eat and what you eat you become”.

To most of us eating good food is just another chore and a trivial thing to do. How many of us are really mindful of the fact that good food performs miracles inside our cells and tissues and is responsible for 80 percent of our transformation. Food has a subtle effect on our minds as well. Food plays a pivotal role in influencing our brain behaviour, our moods, and thought processes and in handling stress. It is these wholesome, natural foods that bestow health and vigour liberating and protecting us from us from illnesses. Studies have shown that there are two dietary processes in the human body-nourishing and cleansing- that need to be regulated with good and sensible dietary habits. If neglected, it can lead to a build up of toxins which are the basis for most mental and physical degeneration.

Health is not just a great body or a zero size figure but covers physical fitness, mind science and spiritual growth and our efforts should be an integrated approach towards wellness. To achieve this eat appropriate foods that do not erode our digestive system. Yes, I mean, go real easy on all those junk foods, soft drinks, stale, cold foods and excessive meat eating and alcohol. Instead, begin to love fruits, veggies, nuts and foods in their natural wholesome form. It is important to ‘cater to your hunger and not pamper your appetite.’ I am urging you to follow this and not call it a ‘diet’. It is not intended for weight loss alone. On the contrary, it is an important part of a healthy lifestyle.

So, let us celebrate good health.

How often have you come across the words ‘healthy’ and ‘food’ in the same sentence, but chose to ignore it? Despite being aware of the many benefits of eating healthy, I see so many people around me taking their health for granted. Our body is what we make of it. So why fill it with unhealthy food and end up bearing the brunt of it.

Eating healthy has innumerable advantages, some of them being:

1. Helps prevent and control health problems like heart diseases, high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes.

2. With good nutrition your body becomes better equipped to deal with stress.

3. Good food stimulates the body to create more killer cells to ward off infections thus promoting immunity.

4. Food provides us with disease fighting antioxidants and can slow the natural process of ageing.

Indian diets, with mindfulness and planning are natural and unprocessed comprising of grains, pulses and dals, fruits and vegetables, nuts and oilseeds; all in adequate amounts to maintain health. Diet and Nutrition are responsible for 70 to 80% of your entire transformation. Food also influences your thought process, attitude and behavior. There are foods which can make you feel high, there are foods which can make you irritable and temperamental, there are foods which can excite you, and there are foods which can relax you.

Indian diets suit Indian population the best depending upon our culture, climatic conditions, atmosphere, pollution etc. Once a while enjoying other cuisines is great, but would you ever want to solely depend on pastas and burgers too often and face the risks attached to consuming such unhealthy, non fibrous foods?

As mentioned above the health risks are plenty! Our diets include complex carbohydrates from jowar, bajra, ragi, whole wheat etc as opposed to the refined carbohydrates. Our diets are designed to protect our hearts with low levels of oils, fats, sugars. In fact our diets strike this perfect balance of all food groups, nothing too much and nothing too little. High sugar intake is proportionate to diabetes, high fat levels can lead to hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, heart diseases, strokes etc.

My golden rules for better health:

Remember, our bodies are tailored to consume what we have been since childhood and what our fathers, fore fathers have been consuming. Our diets of rotis, dals/pulses, veggies, sprouts, salads etc on a daily basis will ensure complete health as opposed to constant consumption of junk foods /burgers/pizzas/excess amounts of cheese, cream etc. Relish on all that you love, but remember, anything too little or too much is equally damaging…

Guidelines for healthy eating and weight management

Follow these golden rules/steps of healthy eating for achieving a healthy weight loss and to maximize your health and longevity:

1. Frequent small helpings of food are recommended. Eat slowly. Eating frequently prevents hunger pangs, provides constant energy and maintains metabolism efficiently.

2. Select foods based on your preference and do not worry as much about the number of calories you consume but concentrate on combining the right foods and on the portion sizes. Do not deprive yourselves. This is likely to cause you to eat more the next day.

3. Add a wide variety of foods to your daily diet. Include wholesome foods like vegetables, fruits, nuts, seeds, sprouts, and whole grains. These foods provide all the essential nutrients and fiber which are necessary for growth, good health and immunity.

4. Drink daily 8 to 10 glasses of liquids like water, and herbal teas. These drinks are fillers are hunger managers.

5. Include fresh fruits, fresh unstrained vegetable juices, vegetable, sprouts, whole grains, nuts and low fat milk/yoghurt.

6. Drink a glass of ginger/green tea after a heavy meal. This hastens digestion and improves metabolism.

7. Consume healthy snacks like salads, crackers, fruits, unsweetened and low fat yogurt, wholegrain biscuits and muffins.

8. Read labels well and choose foods that do not contain chemicals like preservatives and additives. Organically grown foods are a healthier option.

9. Avoid bad fats like butter, cream full-cream milk and rich salad dressings and sauces. Take care not to eliminate sources of good fats like nuts, seeds and olive oils which contain unsaturated fatty acids. Use these foods in moderation.

10. Eliminate white flour products like breads and biscuits, pastas, white rice, processed foods and sugary breakfast cereals. They lack fibre. They also cause a spike in our insulin level leading to fat storage.

11. Exercise on a regular basis. Stretching, yoga, calisthenics, walking and other mild forms of aerobic activities are recommended. These exercises can be done at home or in a gym with guidance. Stress can be reduced through yoga,meditation, good rest and sound sleep.

12. Avoid soft drinks, and juices. Also avoid sweets, desserts and fried snacks. Instead, eat a variety of nutrient dense foods. Limit the consumption of processed foods, fried foods and fast foods. If you must have them, remember to exercise moderation. Moderation is the key when you eat what you want without feeling deprived.

13. Use cooking methods like stewing, steaming, grilling and roasting instead of frying.

Good health is the result of conscious commitment that involves many factors like the food we eat, exercises, mental well-being, rest and sleep. Consistency is the most important factor when it comes to good nutrition. When you are often on the run, you need a plan that you can easily adopt and one that features a foundation of healthy food. Eating frequent well balanced meals is essential for anyone who wants to lose or maintain weight, have energy and stamina throughout the day, boosted immunity, to improve focus and concentration and above all for Mickeymizing your wellness quotient!

Finding Real Health in a World of Artificial Food

Remember the days when we shopped in food markets no bigger than a convenience store? They were full of locally grown fresh fruits and vegetables, meat, nuts, beans, and grains. Markets back then had only a couple shelves that were stocked with non-perishable foods.

Today, it’s the opposite. We now have supermarkets that are predominantly stocked with non-perishable food items that can sit on a shelf for years. They are called “processed foods.” There are many reasons why this shift has taken place, but the real concern is, how do we now maneuver through a world full of artificial food? That’s a valid concern, so hopefully the following information will help you sift through this confusing world of food sources

Processed Food

Most processed foods are actually not real food at all. Real food is alive, and will spoil. Processed foods may include a few “real food” ingredients; however those items have been processed in order to give it a profitable shelf life – which ultimately reduces it from a living food, to a dead food. Dead food can sit on a shelf for a long time.

Addictive Food

Many manufacturers add addictive chemicals to their processed foods in order to cause cravings and hook us into consuming their product more frequently; therefore driving up their profits. I read years ago about MSG’s hallucinogenic effects that cause us to crave the food that is laced with MSG. These chemicals get lost in the huge list of ingredients. Many times people will eat the food and ignore the dangers. Usually they just don’t want to, or don’t have the time to investigate every ingredient. They are driven by their appetite and cravings because the last time they ate the food it gave them great enjoyment. But as we know, just because something was enjoyable, does not mean that it was safe.

Fortified and Enriched Food

Fortified and enriched foods typically originate as real food, however with the healthiest part removed; either purposely removed, or destroyed during the processing stage. This is done to give the product a long and profitable shelf-life. Unfortunately, the part that spoils is the part that contains the greatest health benefits. Adding synthetic vitamins, minerals, and fiber back into the product does not make up for the lost natural nutrition. It simply makes the product look better. Again, this reduces the real food to artificial food – dead food.

Here’s an interesting fact about fortified foods. If the manufacturer does not complete step 2, by injecting artificial nutrition back into the item, then it cannot be sold in a grocery store. A pharmacist told me years ago that it’s illegal to sell this kind of product in a grocery store because it’s not really food! Without being “fortified” with artificial nutrients it could only be sold in a drug store. Remember, our bodies are alive, and they require food that’s alive – in order to remain alive!

Real Food

Real food is grown from the earth. Fruits, vegetables, grains, lentils, seeds, and nuts are loaded with vitamins and minerals, natural medicine (phytochemicals), and energy; and are alive and full of remarkable components that keep us alive and healthy. You can never go wrong with living food choices. Living food has the right amount of fiber, as well as vitamins and minerals perfectly combined to work synergistically together. Living food has protein, carbohydrates, and fats balanced to compliment your body’s needs, and phytochemical medicines that fight the daily bugs and chemicals of life. With living food, there is no need to count carbs, omit fats, or double up on protein. The work has already been done for us. It’s been created to perfectly match our body’s needs. Eating real food is like inserting a square peg, into a square hole. It fits.

Furthermore, living food tastes great! If you remove artificial food sources from your diet, your taste buds will begin to detox and return to normal sensitivity. When that happens, you will find that artificial food tastes artificial and real food tastes marvelous!

What about animal protein? Animal protein is considered real food, but not living food. The purpose of animal protein is for our protein needs. Animal protein does not supply us with vitamins, minerals, or natural medicine. However, lean animal proteins can be very helpful for those who require more protein. Be aware though that animal fat and any chemicals or hormones that the animal is fed can be harmful to you. Choose animal proteins carefully and limit your intake.

So how do we maneuver in this world of artificial food? We’ve been conditioned to believe that we can solve this problem by simply reading the ingredient list and being aware of what we are eating. I don’t agree with this method. We can spend countless hours in our life reading words we don’t know, then Googling them to decide whether they are good or bad. Even then, we cannot be sure that what we are reading on the internet is true. The internet is full of opinions, sales pitches, and tainted studies. A person can go mad trying to follow all the internet health rules!

Why do we need to know all of the technical verbiage on an ingredient list anyway? After all, when a manufacturer sees that the public is catching on to their unhealthy ingredients and processing techniques, they simply change the names, which can send us back into the Google trap again or frustrate us to the point where we give up. So how do we get out of this bondage?

There are two ways to deal with this confusing issue. We can throw our hands up and say “Whatever, it’s too hard; I’m just going to eat what I want.” Or we can take what I think is an easier route and a healthier route, not only for ourselves but also for our families.

I learned long ago that the best way to identify a counterfeit is NOT to study the counterfeit, but to study the real thing. When you know what real food is, you know when it’s NOT on an ingredient list. So I tell my clients not to READ the ingredient list, but instead, sift through it. Look for the words you know, like “chicken,” “black beans,” “carrots,” etc. Then choose foods with ingredient lists that are clearly identified as 90 to 100% real food – preferably 100%. Keep in mind that 100% food may not even have an ingredient list, and if it did there would be only 1 ingredient!

Every day we are faced with tempting and unhealthy choices. Choose today to become proactive for your health and the health of your family. Here are a few tips to propel you in the right direction:

1. Use your valuable time to study real food, not the counterfeit.

2. Sift through ingredient lists to find real food.

3. Choose food items that are 90% to 100% real food.

4. Put dead food back on the shelf. Don’t spend your hard-earned money on something dead.

5. Plan ahead and prepare your meals.

6. Investing a little time now saves a tremendous amount of time, money, and pain later.

7. Don’t expect to get it right all the time. Simply aim for getting it right more times than wrong.

8. It’s not about perfection, it’s about perseverance!

Just my 2 cents! Bon appétit!

8 Dangerous And Shocking Ingredients Hidden In Your Foods

As a qualified personal trainer and health coach I’ve evaluated a lot of diets and meal plans over the years. I always ask “So what is your diet like?” And the most common response is… “Oh my diet’s pretty good actually.” It’s not until we delve deeper into what people are consuming on a daily basis where we start to realize that their diet wasn’t that healthy after all.

Just because a food product is sitting on a supermarket shelf doesn’t mean that it’s OK to eat. Think about it… Children can eat crayons but we don’t call crayons food. Therefore, why are we putting so many lifeless and nutrient devoid foods as well as many known toxins into our bodies these days?

The food companies certainly don’t make it easy. Most of the food labels don’t make much sense due to all the codes and unpronounceable names. But did you know that there are legal loopholes where manufacturers can add certain ingredients and chemicals to the product, but state on the label that the product doesn’t contain those ingredients at all? Ridiculous isn’t it!

As you read on you’ll come to realize why more and more people are starting to eat fresh and healthy unprocessed foods to avoid these disgraceful ingredients. Below I’ve outlined 8 dangerous and shocking ingredients hidden in your foods that you should be aware of.

1. Anti-Freeze

Yes you read correct… Anti-freeze is what goes into the radiator of your car so it won’t over heat but also won’t freeze up in colder climates. It’s called propylene glycol, also known as propane-1,2-diol or E1520. It’s a chemical that has many industrial uses such as Corexit, which is an oil dispersant used for oil spills in the ocean. It’s also used in pharmaceutical drugs and cosmetics, right through to many ice creams.

Luckily for the folks in the European Union, they have not cleared propylene glycol as a food additive or food grade product. My advice, make your own ice cream and stop consuming products that contain this chemical.

2. Human Hair

Proteins are the building blocks of life and are made up of amino acids. Although they are good for your health, I’m sure you’d agree that there must be a better way to extend the shelf life of some products other than using human hair or duck feathers.

The amino-acid L-Cysteine is used to prolong the shelf life of many products such as commercial breads. The L-Cysteine that is used to prolong these foods often comes from duck and chicken feathers as well as horns from cows that have been slaughtered. However the most commonly used version comes from human hair. Yes, you read that correctly.

Reports have shown that the hair used to derive L-Cysteine mostly comes from China, where it’s collected from hair salons and barber shops, then processed. Most fast food chains add this form of L-Cysteine to their burger buns and rolls.

To avoid consuming human hair or duck feathers in your foods, try buying freshly baked breads from your local baker as L-Cysteine isn’t in the flour, but added to the mix during production of breads and the like. Even better, make your own.

3. Arsenic

Arsenic is a known carcinogen, which means that it causes cancer in living tissue. The unfortunate thing about this toxic element is that it seems to keep showing up in our food supplies. It’s in everything from breakfast cereals and rice, through to fruit juice and your drinking water. Sometimes at levels up to 2 – 3 times what is considered safe. It’s also been shown to be in many protein powders. Yes, you read that correctly as well… those expensive protein powders that many people waste their money on have been shown to contain this toxic element amongst others.

Many wines and beers have also been shown to contain arsenic, mostly the clearer ones. To filter these beverages they use diatomaceous earth, which is a natural product but it contains iron and other elements, such as arsenic.

So to avoid this toxin, get a good quality water filter for your house and drink wine or beer that is unfiltered. The unfiltered wine and beer also contain more nutrients.

4. Anal Glands

This one sounds nice doesn’t it… Anal glands anyone? No thanks!

Most people don’t realize that some of the flavors used in your favorite ice creams amongst other things, comes from the castor sacs of beavers, which is located at their rear end of the animal. This secretion is called castoreum and is used to mark the beaver’s territory. Due to the close proximity of the castor sacs to the beaver’s anal glands, castoreum can be a combination of urine, secretions from the castor glands as well as secretions from the anal glands.

Castoreum is used to flavor vanilla, raspberry and strawberry ice cream and is a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved food additive in many popular ice cream brands. It’s also used to flavor many beverages such as protein and meal replacement drinks. You will generally find it labeled as “Natural Flavoring”. Isn’t that great, so for all you know, many of these so-called “natural” ingredients could be anal secretion from other animals.

My advice… again, make your own ice creams so you don’t consume beaver droppings.

5. Borax

Borax has been banned as a food additive in Canada and the U.S. but is allowed in the European Union, even though they listed it as a substance of very high concern. It’s commonly used to make cosmetics, detergents, enamel glazes, fiberglass, as a flux in metallurgy and is used in fire retardants.

In the food industry it’s known by it’s E number: E285. Borax is used for acidity control, firming agent and preservative. It can be found in some caviars, noodles and depending on region can be added a variety of dishes to add a firm texture.

Borax has been given the revised classification as toxic for reproduction – category 1B.

6. Coal Tar

Doesn’t this one sound appetizing? No way! You might be thinking what on earth would coal tar be doing in food? Well the good old processed foods industry is at it again.

So many of the processed food items that grace the supermarket shelves these days contain a long list of food dyes. Most of those food dyes are derived from coal tar and it is listed as a known carcinogen (causes cancer in living tissue).

It’s used in such things as road manufacturing, road and pavement sealing coats, cosmetics, shampoos and pharmaceutical drugs.

In foods and beverages it’s known as E102, Tartrazine or Yellow #5 and can be found in sodas, flavored chips, pickles, cheese flavored products as well as many other food and beverage items. This is just another reason to keep processed foods away from your body as well as those of your loved ones.

7. Rodent Hair

Would you like some rodent hair with that? I’m sure this is something that you usually sprinkle over your freshly made healthy meals… Not. Well according to the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) it’s fine to have some rodent hair in your food.

Due to most food manufacturing being processed in large industrial facilities, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) has an allowance for rodent hair in many products, in what they term “unavoidable defects”. They allow 1 rodent hair per 100g of chocolate, 5 rodent hairs per 18oz peanut butter jar and 22 rodent hairs per 100g cinnamon.

This will sure keep me away from processed foods for a very long time.

8. Boiled Beetles

It just keeps getting better doesn’t it? Now why would you need bits of beetles in your food you may ask? Known as carmine, natural red #4, crimson lake or E120, it’s a food coloring made by boiling cochineal insects in a sodium carbonate or ammonia solution.

It’s used to manufacture plastic flowers, inks, dyes, paints and cosmetics. In foods and beverages it’s used to color ice cream, candy, yogurt and certain fruit juices. It’s been shown to cause anaphylactic shock and severe allergic reactions in some people.

Other dyes used instead of natural #4 are synthetic alternatives such as: red #40 and red #2. These are derived from petroleum production. My advice, keep this garbage away from your body as much as you can.

We seem to wonder why that even though we are more technologically advanced than any other time in history, humans are also more sick and diseased than any other time in history.

To me it’s as plain as day. It is items that I’ve mentioned and the thousands of other food additives, flavors, colors and preservatives that our leaders allow manufacturers to add to the foods people eat that is helping to cause illness world wide.

So it really is up to you. As Hippocrates said thousands of years ago:

“Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”

So be smart and choose your food wisely.

To great health,

Paul Scicluna