Food Fight

You'd think for as long as humans have been around, we'd have the optimum diet for health pretty well figured out.  Yet, here we are in the Twenty-First Century still arguing about food - low carb, high fat versus high fat, low carb, Paleo versus vegetarian, vegetarian versus vegan, corn fed versus free range beef, beef versus buffalo, farm-raised salmon versus wild salmon, gluten or gluten free, vitamin supplements versus nutrients from food only, and so on.

For thousands of years, people ate food based on where they lived and what was available. Our ancestors discovered a lot about food, such as what's poisonous, how to plant and harvest crops, animal husbandry, and how to use heat to kill dangerous bacteria. Most of them still died before they were 50 due to infectious diseases.

But science changed that. We stopped infectious diseases, and new tools and techniques were developed to measure the impacts of food on human health. Strangely, while we've advanced in our understanding of the biochemistry of food, based on the number of obese people and rise in diseases of civilization like cancer and heart disease in our society, the positive impacts on how we actually live well for our investments in food research are mixed,

And, unfortunately, the science can be bought, or strongly influenced, by conglomerates in the food industry. It's very possible the entire FDA food pyramid was built as much by political lobbying by the dairy and cattle industries as it was by bona fide scientific discoveries. Read T. Colin Campbell's The China Study or Howard Lyman's The Mad Cowboy.

This situation makes it hard on a TOJ who's a student of food as it contributes to health and fitness. Some people fuss over food to help them improve athletic performance. Most of us don't need to worry about that and, instead, should focus on what makes us feel good, controls our weight, and gives us the energy to follow our exercise passions.

I think maybe the one-size fits all food plan doesn't exist because our dietary needs vary based on how much we exercise and our body types. Whether ancient Ayurvedic medicine or modern day metabolic body typing, some theories hold that food affects each of us differently - what's good for one person may not be as good for another. Usually, your body let's you know. My wife's a vegan, healthy and follows her TOJ routines fine. I, in contrast, need some dairy and meat to feel satisfied, lucid, and ready to hit the trails or weights. I tried to eat like her once and felt I was starving.

Like you, what I eat is a mix of science and religion. The science is what I've read and observed in my own body, and the religion  just means there's an act of faith involved - I eat (most of the time) what I hope is good for me and probably many others as well.

Here are some food basics In which I believe:

-- Eat lots of fresh veggies and fruit, much of it raw or minimally cooked to keep the nutrients and enzymes intact and     bio-available.

-- Eat only lean cuts of red meat or poultry, and only a few times a week. It should be hormone and antibiotic free.

-- Eat organic foods as much as possible. Some pesticides here and there are unavoidable, but don't ignore them.

--  Focus on nutrients, not calories. When you follow a nutrient rich regimen and exercise, your weight takes care of itself.

-- Avoid fast food. It has no redeeming qualities other than to  temporarily satisfy your hunger.

-- Minimize your consumption of processed food, including so-called "natural" foods. The industrial processes required to produce and preserve them lower their nutrient value.

Over the years, I've changed how and what I eat. I used to be a meat and potatoes guy. I've learned there's another and better way. Now I eat foods that taste good, but also have a strategic health advantage. There was a time I thought healthy food like kale had to taste like grass clippings. Not so. Below this blog is a recipe for kale chips, which taste great, even with beer. And kale has a very high rating for anti-oxidants, imporant to a TOJ recovering from hard exercise.

One of the big questions related to the good fight is this: Is the body a garbage disposal or a temple? Adovocates of the garbage disposal believe that the disgestive tract is such a hostile chemical environment that it can take whatever you eat and will convert it to fats, carbs or protein. It doesn't care if the food came from a discount warehouse or Whole Foods. Young people who frequent fast food joints consider themselves living proofs of this.

A TOJ doesn't go into temples very often (too sweaty), but his or her body has to last to run the next trail, ride the next pass, lift the next kettlebell, ski the next hill, and there's plenty of evidence if you make poor food choices year in, year out, it won't.


2 bunches Kale
1-2 Tablespoons olive oil
1/2 teaspoon sea salt
juice of one lemon
1 cup sunflower seeds ground in a coffee grinder
1/4 to 1/2 c. nutritional yeast (gives it a cheezy flavor)
1-2 Tablespoons Tahini

Wash kale well and remove stems. Pour on olive oil, salt, and lemon juice and massage into the kale using your hands. Sprinkle on sunflower seed and nutritional yeast. Mix in thoroughly. Put on parchment covered dehydrator trays. Heat at 115 for 1/2 hour, then turn dow to 105 degrees and leve overnight. Remove from sheets onto mesh and dry until crispy.

If you don't have a dehydrator, can be dried in the oven at 350 degrees for about 20 to 30 minutes. Watch carefully.