Rice As A Staple

The joke around our house of 10 children was that Mom started the rice then decided what else we would have for dinner. Rice was an inexpensive and filling staple found in ample quantities in every grocery in the state. Louisiana is said to have been the leader in making rice a part of the American diet when a conversion of the wheat harvester to rice allowed for the mass growing of rice. (Mom’s great uncle was the farmer that made that design modification. Unfortunately, he failed to patent his re-design; had he, I might be writing from Paris instead of Houston. Haha)
Rice is like pasta except better because it more fully absorbs whatever flavors it accompanies. So it becomes whatever it is combined with, and the combinations are unlimited.

Yes, I realize our Paleo and low carb friends may blanch at my suggestion that rice, be it white, brown or wild, is an appropriate addition to one’s diet. My view is this: I do limit the starches, but if your system grew up with them as mine did, and if you combine them with good proteins and complex carbs, then trust me, you can splurge now and then down memory lane.

I start with my favorite “work your way through college on a skinny budget” version of white rice which is butter, sprinkled with garlic powder, salt and pepper. Cheap, delicious and filling. From there, consider Mom’s “Monday is laundry day” special of red beans and rice. If she was feeling flush, she would add a smoked ham hock. If Dad got a raise, she would celebrate by adding some Andouille. Meat! Whoopee! At Thanksgiving and Christmas, it was always Louisiana Dirty Rice that stuffed the turkey. Delicious.

You can vary the additions with all sorts of beans and southern peas – pintos, butter beans, blackeyes, purple hulls. Same with the meats you can mix in. Any sausage or hock but also your ground beef or pork. Leftover pot roast, shredded into the rice with whatever veggie you like. Are you getting the idea here? So here’s my latest rice as a side dish that incorporates a plethora of vegetables.

Homegrown Foods

From the Houston Chronicle:

A more robust infrastructure of support for family farms will have other positive ripple effects. Profitable family farms will ensure that some of the remaining beautiful, lush farmlands in our area are preserved, rather than carved up into shopping centers and subdivisions. Keeping land as farmland benefits this generation and generations to come.
In addition, buying local is better for our environment. A high percentage of the fossil fuels used in the global food system goes to packaging, transporting and marketing. Buying local reduces our dependence on fossil fuels. Moreover local foods need less processing since products don't need to be shipped so far.
The drought in California is starting to have an impact on the availability of fresh produce, and expanding local production would enhance food security. In addition, our country remains a net importer of fresh vegetables, according to the USDA. Mexico and Canada are the largest suppliers and fresh vegetable imports from both countries increased in 2014. There's nothing more secure than homegrown.
When consumers buy directly from a local farm, the farmer receives a larger portion of the food dollar. By buying food grown in Texas, we keep our money in Texas and help provide good-paying jobs for Texans. This public/private partnership is a delicious and nutritious win/win.

Here's Honi's letter to the editor:

Dear Editor,
Buying from local farms has even more benefits than stated in Saturday's editorial.  Locally grown animals, eggs and plants use the same air and water that we do and are seasonal,  promoting the strength of their Omega 3's, vitamins, and mineral content, also discouraging allergic reactions.  Most local farmers are chemical free keeping our air and water safer.  Plus, the products haven't been stored for weeks or months, which increases food safety.  Best of all, many farmers home deliver. Do you know where your food comes from?  Who's your farmer?

Watch Those Supplements

We all know the great emphasis our society places on taking supplements. I think there are two points to keep in mind if you do take or are considering taking any supplements. First, you are taking a manufactured food that is really not food at all. For the same reason that we are warned against processed food, do you really want to do that?  Second, they tend to be taken in extraordinarily large doses. Is your body really able to process that? Metabolism is a very complex mechanism, apparently depending upon a wide variety of factors, all of which may be absent when you swallow a pill with water alone. Third, a wise man once told me that our bodies adapt to and utilizes nutrients that are ingested in small doses over a long period of time. Can you do that with a pill?

These maxims were again brought to mind with the recent warning that calcium pills, commonly taken by so many of us, had caused a really significant spike in organ disease, especially the kidney and heart. Be Careful!! Eat good food. In all likelihood, the rest will take care of itself.

News Flash!

Correspondence discovered that sugar industry paid harvard to rig the results to convince public and our government that animal fats, not sugars, were the cause of heart disease. Following those “studies”, the leading collaborator became chief of nutrition at the USDA. Disgusting.

We now know that animal fats do not cause heart disease (though grass-fed fats do act affirmatively to protect our hearts) and that sugar is the culprit. So when you see “Low or No Fat” on the label, BEWARE! They probably added sugar to make the product palatable.

Getting Fat on Diet Coke

Our long-time members will recall a column I wrote years ago about the seeming contradiction of gaining weight while drinking zero-calorie soda pop. Much has been studied on this topic, but with little success in determining whether there was a cause and effect relationship between the two. The first apparent breakthrough was announced recently, “significantly” correlating sugar-free drinks consumed by the mother with heavy-weight babies who grow up to be obese children. Buyers, beware.

Sugar = Poison?

Do I go too far with this question? Maybe. But evidence seems to be taking us in that direction. Add this very personal anecdote to the troubling effect that regular doses of sugar have in our health equation.

HoniAnn has a paternal family history of arthritis. Her grandmother, aunt and great aunts had it, so when it started showing up in her body, especially in her hands, she assumed it was just in her genes. As it grew to a point of really limiting her favorite activities, she reluctantly resorted to her doctor and the prescription drugs which treat but have many deleterious side effect warnings. While the drugs did bring quick relief, they also steadily raised her blood pressure. When that reached a dangerous level, she was taken off the drugs. The pain returned almost immediately.

Then along came my brother, Danny, visiting from Vancouver, B.C. at Christmas time. He has been our long-time holistic medicine doctor ever since graduating with his doctorate in Chiropractic healing, and a good one at that. His suggestion: get refined sugar and simple carbs out of your diet — completely! No exceptions. Honi was intent on taking his advice but learned it was not so easy to do because sugar is everywhere. It’s not just in the usual suspects like candy, cookies and pies. It’s everywhere. Vinegar and oil-based salad dressings and oatmeal being two of the prime surprises where added sugar is found.  Read those food labels and try to find something that doesn’t have sugar in it. Sugar is omnipresent. But Honi was dedicated to the proposition and went Paleo to the extreme.

The result? Complete relief. Almost immediately. Between our family Christmas party and New Year’s eve, the pain and disability was gone. I’m talking complete relief here, not just a little better! But when she slipped back into some sweets and champagne at our New Year celebration, the pain returned, then left just as quickly when she resumed its exclusion on January 1st.  She and we were amazed.

So what’s going on here? Can sugar be our greatest health villain? Do we add arthritis to the long list of diseases caused by our ridiculously high consumption of sugars? Stay tuned. 

Saturated Fat

Friend or Foe? I have completed my review of some 15 studies (some of which studied the studies), with results dating from 2004 to 2015 and including hundreds of thousands of people observed over long periods of time (20 years seems to be the gold standard). I can say this: saturated fats are certainly not a foe. The fats caused no increase in heart or vascular events for the eaters of butter, eggs, red meat, cheese and milk compared to the control group that ate very little of those good foods.

Want even better news? Polyunsaturated fats, such as found in Omega-3 foods such as ours, actually reduced the chance of heart events compared to the general population. LDL went down and HDL went up.

So, I think we are making progress despite the strength of the agenda-minded folks out there in returning to sensibilities about our food. One thing I want to add is this: the benefit of eating your meat and dairy is greatly enhanced by plant food appearing next to it. All food works together. Eat like the octogenarian, Thomas Jefferson, recommended. A meat accompanied by fresh vegetables and a fruit. Each in roughly equal volume to the other. 

There They Go Again

All of the proof has been going in favor of the nutritional value of beef, pork, eggs and dairy, reversing through actual human studies the mere theories that arose in the ‘60’s that the red meats were the cause of rising heart disease rates in the U.S. (Ancel Keys, the primogenitor of such nonsense, is a profanity at Jolie Vue.) In fact, I was listening to NPR on a recent road trip and heard an interview with a member of the committee putting together the new government dietary guidelines. He predicted that for the first time in 5 decades, the consumption of natural animal fats would be encouraged by the new guidelines, noting that fats were not the problem but instead that fault lay at the doorstep of the simple carbs and huge rise in the refined sugars. Duh! He believed that things like skim milk in the school cafeterias would be replaced by whole milk, reflecting the benefits of natural fats. In general, what had been recommended as maximum fat intake would soon become the minimum allowance instead.

Did that happen? No. 

Do you doubt that the whole issue of animal fats has become politicized rather than science based? Now you know.

We will delve more deeply into the science in coming issues, but for now just take my word for it — “it’s the sugars, stupid”.