Dietary Guidelines for Americans, My Way

I just saw this on BoingBoing.  Simple but true. 

This image was created by Adam Fields

The people who design government dietary guidelines are gagged by the fact that politics and business are so tightly intertwined in this country.  Their advice will never directly target the primary source of obesity and metabolic dysfunction-- industrially processed food-- because that would hurt corporate profits in one of the country's biggest economic sectors.  You can only squeeze so much profit out of a carrot, so food engineers design "value-added" ultrapalatable/rewarding foods with a larger profit margin.

We don't even have the political will to regulate food advertisements directed at defenseless children, which are systematically training them from an early age to prefer foods that are fattening and unhealthy.  This is supposedly out of a "free market" spirit, but that justification is hollow because processed food manufacturers benefit from tax loopholes and major government subsidies, including programs supporting grain production and the employment of disadvantaged citizens (see Fast Food Nation).

Interview on Super Human Radio

Today, I did an audio interview with Carl Lanore of Super Human Radio.  Carl seems like a sharp guy who focuses on physical fitness, nutrition, health and aging.  We talked mostly about food reward and body fatness-- I think it went well.  Carl went from obese to fit, and his fat loss experience lines up well with the food reward concept.  As he was losing fat rapidly, he told friends that he had "divorced from flavor", eating plain chicken, sweet potatoes and oatmeal, yet he grew to enjoy simple food over time.

The interview is here.  It also includes an interview of Dr. Matthew Andry about Dr. Loren Cordain's position on dairy; my interview starts at about 57 minutes.  Just to warn you, the website and podcast are both full of ads.

Little Expense, Big Savings: What's Your Favorite Frugal Buy?

We purchased this toothpaste squeezer doohickey for $0.99 cents about four months ago: 

Since then, we're buying way less toothpaste. It should save us quite a few bucks in the long-term, too, provided we don't lose it / the cat doesn't eat it / it doesn't get sucked into the sweltering pit of despair we call "outside right now."

Which leads us to this softball question for a fiery Friday:

Sweet readers, what's your favorite frugal buy?

Do tell! Pass it on!

Weight Gain and Weight Loss in a Traditional African Society

The Massas is an ethnic group in Northern Cameroon that subsists mostly on plain sorghum loaves and porridge, along with a small amount of milk, fish and vegetables (1, 2).  They have a peculiar tradition called Guru Walla that is only undertaken by men (2, 1):
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Why and How to Freeze Blueberries

Ahh, summer. Full of hazy days, humid nights, and lots and lots of blueberries. Those sweet orbs of azure joy are welcome anytime of year, but especially right now, when they provide a fruitacular (fruitacular?) balm for the grossest weeks of summer.

That's a flowery way of saying that blueberries are currently on major sale at both my supermarket and Costco, going for about $0.16/ounce. That's just about as cheap as they'll get around here, and I want to preserve the bounty for the winter months. (That's when I  crave blueberry pancakes, but have to usually settle for acorn squash pancakes. It's just not the same.)

Fortunately, freezing blueberries for future use is easy as (blueberry) pie, and a heckuva lot cheaper than buying off-season ones come January. All you need to do is follow these simple steps. You'll thank me come Christmas (because surely, there's no one more deserving of expensive gift-like things than a babble-prone, extremely lax blogger you barely know.)

Anyway, let's get to it. 

Step 1: Cut a hole in the box. Buy an Ark-of-the-Covenant-sized carton of blueberries from your local farmer's market, big box store, or preferred fruit venue.

Step 1.5: Get some freezer baggies while you're at it. Honestly, they're nice to have around, regardless. Tom Bosley was right on.

Step 2: Take a picture that you may someday use as a computer background. Make sure it is well-lit and in focus, so people (note: your mom) think(s) you're super awesome.

Step 3: Measure out your desired amount of blueberries. It could be in cup or half-cup increments, or by weight. Whatever you prefer. For my own nefarious purposes, I did eight ounces at a time.

Step 4: Place the blueberries on a small baking sheet. Stick that sheet right in your freezer.

NOTE: Blueberries are weird in that you should generally wait to wash them until right before using 'em. Less mushiness that way.

Step 5: Freeze for a few hours. Overnight is best.

Step 6: While the freezing process is occurring, watch the finale of Friday Night Lights and contemplate your values. Hope that someday you may make Coach Taylor proud.

Step 7: Once berries are frozen through, pour them into a freezer-safe Ziploc baggie. Get as much air out as possible, using a straw or your purty, purty mouth. Then, label that sucker.

NOTE: You do not have to write "Frozen Blueberries," as so brilliantly demonstrated here. Odds are you'll know they're frozen when you remove them from ... wait for it ... yep, the freezer.

And that's pretty much it. The blueberries should keep for a couple of months this way. (If you start seeing major freezer burn or frost buildup, it's probably a pretty good indication they should be used soon.) Try them in smoothies, crisps, or the aforementioned flapjacks. Viva la France!

Throwback: 68 Cheap, Healthy No-Cook Recipes

Sweet readers! Something new coming late today, but I figured this was a good time to re-post this one from last year. Enjoy, and stay cool.

Alas, CHG’s No-Cook month is slowly coming to an end. It’s been a joyous, ovenless journey, sweet readers, and we couldn’t have done it without the blistering sun or the stifling humidity. Thanks, Mama Nature.

Article-wise, we’ve already discussed 13 Ways to Cook without an Oven as well as 18 No-Cook Meal Ideas. This week, we’re giving you the actual recipes: 68 inexpensive, nutritionally sound dishes you can make without ever lighting anything on fire. (Hopefully.)

Each one of these links comes from either Cheap Healthy Good or my weekly Healthy & Delicious column over at (newly redesigned!) food dynamo Serious Eats. This means three things: A) we know they work, B) there are pretty pictures involved, and C) um … turns out there were only two things.

Enjoy, everybody! And as always, if you know of a really great no-cook recipe not mentioned here, please (please<.i>) add it to the comment section.

Black Bean Dip
Blueberry Salsa
Green Garlic and Garlic Scapes Pesto
Guacamole-Bean Dip Mashup
Lemony Hummus
Mango Salsa
Pesto (Don't toast pine nuts.)
Seven-Layer Taco Dip
Tomatillo and Yellow Tomato Salsa
Tomatillo Guacamole
Tomato Avocado Salsa
White Bean Dip

Creamy Caesar Dressing
Grasslands Herb Salsa
Horseradish Mustard
Lemon-Ginger Dressing
Spicy Brown Mustard
Vegan Mayo
Vegan Worcestershire Sauce

Buttermilk Cucumber Soup
Cantaloupe Soup
Fruit Gazpacho
Summertime Gazpacho

Chlorophyll and Awesomeness Salad
Chopped Salad
Grape and Feta Salad with Rosemary
Grapefruit and Avocado Salad (Skip toasting almonds.)
Relaxed Kale and Root Veg Salad
Strawberry and Avocado Salad

Autumn Apple Salads
Basil Tofu Salad
Beet and Cabbage BBQ Slaw
Black-Eyed Pea “Caviar”
Black-Eyed Pea Salad
Chickpea Salad
Daikon/Jicama Mango Slaw
Greek Antipasto Pita
Greek Salad Skewers
Greek-Style Chickpea Salad
Greek Tofu Salad
Herbed Tuna in Tomatoes
Marinated Mushroom Salad
North African-Style Chickpea Salad
Orange Yogurt
Peach, Tomato, and Basil Salad
Refrigerator-Pickled String Beans
Sprouted Grains
Sublime Fruit Salad and Mint
Summer Panzanella (Bread Salad)
Watermelon and Feta Salad with Mint
White Bean and Roasted Red Pepper Wraps with Spinach
Yellow Tomato Salad with Roasted Red Peppers, Feta, and Mint
Zucchini Carpaccio with Feta and Pine Nuts

Cantaloupe with Honey and Lime
Chocolate Cherry “Ice Cream” Popsicles
Date Coconut Balls
No-Cook Berry Crisp
Plums with Orange and Mint
Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar
Strawberry Mousse
Tamarind-Blueberry Granita
Three-Ingredient Banana, Honey, and Peanut Butter Ice Cream

Basil Lemonade
Cranberry and Blackberry Champagne Punch
Mango Lassi
Sweet Lassi
White Sangria with Fresh Fruit Ice Cubes

Cherry Lemonade, Limeade, and White Peach Bellinis are all delicious, as well, but require simple syrup. There are ways to make it without using heat, but these three recipes all include a boiling step.

And that's it. Readers, any suggestions? We would love to hear.


If you like this article, you might also be over the moon for:

Simple Food: Thoughts on Practicality

Some people have reacted negatively to the idea of a reduced-reward diet because it strikes them as difficult or unsustainable.  In this post, I'll discuss my thoughts on the practicality and sustainability of this way of eating.  I've also thrown in a few philosophical points about reward and the modern world.
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How Does Gastric Bypass Surgery Cause Fat Loss?

Gastric bypass surgery is an operation that causes food to bypass part of the digestive tract.  In the most common surgery, Roux-en-Y bypass, stomach size is reduced and a portion of the upper small intestine is bypassed.  This means that food skips most of the stomach and the duodenum (upper small intestine), passing from the tiny stomach directly into the jejunum (a lower part of the upper small intestine)*.  It looks something like this:
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Liposuction and Fat Regain

If body fat really is actively regulated by the body, rather than just being a passive result of voluntary food intake and exercise behaviors, then liposuction shouldn't be very effective at reducing total fat mass in the long run.  People should return to their body fat "setpoint" rather than remaining at a lower fat mass. 

Teri L. Hernandez and colleagues recently performed the first ever randomized liposuction study to answer this question (1).  Participants were randomly selected to either receive liposuction, or not.  They were all instructed not to make any lifestyle changes for the duration of the study, and body fatness was measured at 6 weeks, 6 months and one year by DXA. 

At 6 weeks, the liposuction group was significantly leaner than the control group.  At 6 months, the difference between the two groups had decreased.  At one year, it had decreased further and the difference between the groups was no longer statistically significant.  Furthermore, the liposuction group regained fat disproportionately in the abdominal area (belly), which is more dangerous than where it was before. The investigators stated:
We conclude that [body fat] is not only restored to baseline levels in nonobese women after small-volume liposuction, but is redistributed abdominally.
This is consistent with animal studies showing that when you surgically remove fat, total fat mass "catches up" to animals that had no fat removed (2).  Fat mass is too important to be left up to chance.  That's why the body regulates it, and that's why any satisfying resolution of obesity must address that regulatory mechanism.

Food Reward: a Dominant Factor in Obesity, Part VIII

Further reading

I didn't come up with the idea that excessive food reward increases calorie intake and can lead to obesity, far from it.  The idea has been floating around the scientific literature for decades.  In 1976, after conducting an interesting diet study in humans, Dr. Michel Cabanac stated that the "palatability of the diet influences the set point of the ponderostat [system that regulates body fatness]" (1).  

Currently there is a growing consensus that food reward/palatability is a major contributor to obesity. This is reflected by the proliferation of review articles appearing in high-profile journals.  For the scientists in the audience who want more detail than I provide on my blog, here are some of the reviews I've read and enjoyed.  These were written by some of the leading scientists in the study of food reward and hedonics:

Palatability of food and the ponderostat.  Michel Cabanac, 1989.
Food reward, hyperphagia and obesity.  Hans-Rudolf Berthoud et al., 2011.
Reward mechanisms in obesity: new insights and future directions.  Paul J. Kenny, 2011.
Relation of obesity to consummatory and anticipatory food reward.  Eric Stice, 2009.
Hedonic and incentive signals for body weight control.  Emil Egecioglu et al., 2011.
Homeostatic and hedonic signals interact in the control of food intake.  Michael Lutter and Eric J. Nestler, 2009.
Opioids as agents of reward-related feeding: a consideration of the evidence.  Allen S. Levine and Charles J. Billington, 2004.
Central opioids and consumption of sweet tastants: when reward outweighs homeostasis.  Pawel K. Olszewski and Allen S. Levine, 2007.
Oral and postoral determinants of food reward.  Anthony Sclafani, 2004.
Reduced dopaminergic tone in hypothalamic neural circuits: expression of a "thrifty" genotype underlying the metabolic syndrome?  Hanno Pijl, 2003.

If you can read all these papers and still not believe in the food reward hypothesis... you deserve some kind of award.