Pumpkin Pie for Everyone!

I was in charge of dessert for Thanks­giv­ing in my fam­i­ly. So I made a pump­kin pie that every­one could eat– even the veg­ans and the per­son with the wheat aller­gy. Plus, it’s low in fat, so it’s good for dieters.

http://blog.fatfreevegan.com/2006/10/and-answer-is.html

The amaz­ing thing is that every­one liked it!

Red Meat, Vitamin B2 Deficiency, and Parkinson Disease

Recent­ly, some­one in my fam­i­ly got a diag­no­sis of Parkin­son dis­ease, which is the same dis­ease that Michael J. Fox has. So nat­u­ral­ly I searched the med­ical lit­er­a­ture to see if there was a dietary angle to the dis­ease. There is, and it’s very excit­ing! Remov­ing red meat from the diet and cor­rect­ing a vit­a­min B2 defi­cien­cy might pre­vent Parkin­son dis­ease, and it might even help reverse some of the effects of the dis­ease. This would actu­al­ly change the course of the dis­ease, where­as all doc­tors can do at present is treat its symp­toms.

How I Searched the Medical Literature

I went to http://www.pubmed.com/ and clicked on MeSH Data­base. Then I typed Parkin­son dis­ease in the search box and clicked on Go. One of the results was Parkin­son dis­ease. I clicked on that and select­ed the sub­head­ing “diet ther­a­py” and added that to the search box. Then I clicked on Search PubMed.

What I Found

One of the arti­cles that I found point­ed out that Parkin­son dis­ease is far more com­mon in elder­ly peo­ple in Europe and North Amer­i­ca than it is in elder­ly sub-Saha­ran Black African, rur­al Chi­nese, and Japan­ese peo­ple. In oth­er words, it’s far more com­mon in peo­ple who eat a lot of meat than in peo­ple who eat a heav­i­ly plant-based diet.

Anoth­er inter­est­ing arti­cle sug­gest­ed that Parkin­son dis­ease might result from two sep­a­rate prob­lems relat­ed to diet and nutri­tion (High dos­es of riboflavin and the elim­i­na­tion of dietary red meat pro­mote the recov­ery of some motor func­tions in Parkinson’s dis­ease patients. C.G. Coim­bra and V.B.C. Jun­queira. Brazil­ian Jour­nal of Med­ical and Bio­log­i­cal Research, 36: 1409–1417, 2003). The first prob­lem is an over­load of iron from eat­ing too much red meat. The sec­ond is some prob­lem in the way the body han­dles riboflavin (vit­a­min B2). To put these ideas to the test, the researchers test­ed 31 con­sec­u­tive Parkin­son dis­ease patients who entered their clin­ic. Every sin­gle one of them had abnor­mal­ly low lev­els of vit­a­min B2 in their blood­stream, even though they were eat­ing food that should have pro­vid­ed enough vit­a­min B2. In com­par­i­son, only 3 out of 10 patients with oth­er neu­rode­gen­er­a­tive dis­eases had a vit­a­min B2 defi­cien­cy. The Parkin­son patients were also big red meat eaters. The researchers told the Parkin­son dis­ease patients to stop eat­ing red meat and to take 30 mg of riboflavin three times a day.

The patients who fol­lowed this advice regained some of their lost motor skills. Mild­ly afflict­ed patients became com­plete­ly asymp­to­matic, and even some of the more severe­ly afflict­ed patients improved a lot. These find­ings were dra­mat­ic and excit­ing, and this arti­cle should have lit a fire under the researchers who are study­ing Parkin­son dis­ease. Here was a sim­ple, cheap, and safe dietary mod­i­fi­ca­tion that addressed the actu­al cause of the dis­ease, and could even reverse some of its effects.

Unfor­tu­nate­ly, peo­ple tend to dis­card the results of dietary stud­ies out of hand, part­ly because these stud­ies can’t fol­low the same for­mat as a drug tri­al. For exam­ple, you can’t “blind” peo­ple to what they’re eat­ing, so there’s nev­er a “place­bo con­trol.” Also, some peo­ple become total­ly unhinged if they hear that the foods they like aren’t good for them. Pre­dictably, some­one wrote in a tru­ly idi­ot­ic cri­tique of the study (Com­ments of H.B. Fer­raz et al. ) The authors’ response was with­er­ing. They said things like “By search­ing the cur­rent med­ical lit­er­a­ture, Fer­raz and asso­ciates might read­i­ly become famil­iar with count­less pre­lim­i­nary stud­ies which have been sub­se­quent­ly con­firmed by larg­er and bet­ter con­trolled research” and “The cita­tions made by Fer­raz and asso­ciates demon­strate that they have com­plete­ly missed our point, even though it was clear­ly empha­sized even in the title of our study.” What a smack-down!

Fer­raz and cowork­ers were wor­ried that if peo­ple stopped eat­ing red meat, they might end up with a pro­tein defi­cien­cy. Well, where do goril­las get their pro­tein? If a diet with­out red meat pro­vides enough pro­tein for a 500-pound sil­ver­back male goril­la, it should pro­vide enough for a human being. And what would be the harm in test­ing Parkin­son dis­ease patients for riboflavin defi­cien­cy? Why aren’t Fer­raz and cowork­ers wor­ried about the pos­si­bil­i­ty that we’re miss­ing an oppor­tu­ni­ty to stop Parkin­son dis­ease in its tracks?

Collards with Peanut Sauce and Mashed Potatoes

This meal takes a basic idea from the British Isles, name­ly mashed pota­toes served with cooked greens, and gives it an African and Asian twist. Even peo­ple who aren’t keen on greens might like them if they are served pip­ing hot and with a spicy peanut sauce! To bal­ance the col­or and tex­tures, it’s nice to serve car­rot sticks with this meal. Fresh fruit is good for dessert.

Mashed Pota­toes
Peel and dice about 5 medi­um pota­toes, or as many as you think you’ll eat. Make plen­ty, you can save the left­overs for the fol­low­ing day. Boil the pota­toes until they are ten­der, then drain and mash. You can use a lit­tle bit of the pota­to cook­ing water to dilute the peanut sauce.

Col­lards with Peanut Sauce
2 small onions, diced
2 cloves gar­lic, minced.
1 t ground corian­der
1 t ground cumin
1/8 t ground cloves
1 pound of col­lard greens or kale, care­ful­ly rinsed and shred­ded
3 T chunky peanut but­ter
1 T molasses

Stir-fry the onions in the bot­tom of a dry soup pot until well browned. Add a lit­tle bit of water every so often if they start to stick. Add the gar­lic and fry for anoth­er minute. Stir in the spices with about a cup of water. Add the greens and let the water come to a boil. Cov­er tight­ly and reduce the heat, to let the greens steam until they are ten­der. Then com­bine the peanut but­ter and molasses with a bit of the water from the pota­toes. Stir it into the greens, then serve along with the mashed pota­toes.

Gorillas and People Can Get Scurvy, Rats Can’t

All Species’ Nutritional Needs Are Not Created Equal

Back in the Age of Explo­ration, the sailors on long sea voy­ages often died of scurvy. Yet the rats on the ship stayed per­fect­ly healthy. So did the ship’s cat. The sailors quick­ly recov­ered their health if they could get some fresh fruit or veg­eta­bles to eat. The hard part was find­ing some form of fresh fruit or veg­etable that could be stored on board with­out spoil­ing. Even­tu­al­ly, the British Roy­al Navy fig­ured out that cit­rus fruit worked well, which is why British sailors came to be called “limeys.” Bean sprouts or alfal­fa sprouts would also have worked, but nobody thought to try them.

The mys­tery of why peo­ple can get scurvy, and rats can’t, wasn’t solved until the 20th cen­tu­ry, with the dis­cov­ery of vit­a­min C, which is found in fresh fruit and veg­eta­bles but not in the bread (“hard­tack”) that the sailors were being fed. Human beings, along with goril­las and oth­er apes and mon­keys, have lost the abil­i­ty to make their own vit­a­min C. Guinea pigs have the same prob­lem. In nature, pri­mates and guinea pigs rarely get scurvy, because their nat­ur­al diet includes plen­ty of fresh plant mate­r­i­al.

Although rats need to have vit­a­min C in their bod­ies, they can make their own sup­ply. They don’t have to get it from their food, as peo­ple, oth­er pri­mates, and guinea pigs must. That’s why vit­a­min C is con­sid­ered to be an essen­tial nutri­ent for human beings—and for gorillas—but not for rats.

Sunchokes!

William Nile Endicott and Penny, in front of a stand of sunchokes!
William Nile Endi­cott and Pen­ny, in front of a stand of sun­chokes!

Jerusalem Artichokes” Are Neither Artichokes Nor From Jerusalem

A few years ago, I couldn’t be at my par­ents’ house for Thanks­giv­ing, so I gave them a pack­age of sun­chokes (Jerusalem arti­chokes). I told them that sun­chokes were an authen­tic food from the native peo­ples of Mass­a­chu­setts, and would there­fore have been among the foods that Massasoit’s peo­ple would have shared with the Pil­grims back in 1621. I told my par­ents that they could eat the sun­chokes or save them for plant­i­ng in the spring. If they plant­ed them, they’d end up with great huge sun­flow­ers whose blos­soms sup­pos­ed­ly smell like choco­late. Both of my par­ents are avid gar­den­ers, so my dad plant­ed the sun­chokes, and you can see the results in the pho­to­graph.

My par­ents end­ed up with a huge har­vest of sun­chokes, which has got­ten big­ger year by year. My dad waits until after a killing frost to dig them up. That makes them sweet­er.

My dad just gave me a 5-gal­lon buck­et of sun­chokes, so I’m going to be adding sun­chokes to a lot of recipes over the next few weeks. They’re tasty, and they’re real­ly good for you. One sun­choke fanci­er even argues that they helped him cure his type 2 dia­betes (http://www.sunchoke.org/). For a British friend of mine, sun­chokes are “com­fort food,” because he ate them when he was a lit­tle boy dur­ing World War II.

Some peo­ple com­plain that sun­chokes give them gas. Oth­er peo­ple say that this isn’t a real prob­lem if you start with only a small por­tion, to give your sys­tem a chance to adjust. My sys­tem is already accus­tomed to an extreme­ly high-fiber diet, which is prob­a­bly why I nev­er have a prob­lem with sun­chokes, or even with beans.

Sun­chokes are easy to pre­pare. You don’t have to remove the skin, just scrub them very well to remove any dirt and grit. Then you can slice them and serve them raw in sal­ads or a veg­etable plat­ter. (You can dip them in vine­gar or lemon juice to keep them from turn­ing brown if you are serv­ing them raw.) You can also roast or boil them like pota­toes.

Sun­chokes are easy to grow. But once you plant them, they’ll keep com­ing back, sort of like Jason in the Fri­day the 13th movies. I’ve been told that the only way to erad­i­cate them com­plete­ly from a patch of ground is to let some pigs loose there. So think care­ful­ly before you plant sun­chokes!

Salad Deficiency” Causes Ulcerative Colitis in Gorillas

It’s Prob­a­bly an Impor­tant Cause of Ulcer­a­tive Col­i­tis in Humans, As Well.

Ulcer­a­tive col­i­tis” means open sores in the large intes­tine, which is also called the colon. This con­di­tion can cause severe abdom­i­nal pain and cramp­ing as well as bloody diar­rhea. The “leaky gut syn­drome” that results can cause joint pain and make the per­son feel sick all over.

Wild goril­las eat an extreme­ly high-fiber diet, con­sist­ing main­ly of leaves. Cap­tive goril­las that were fed a low-fiber diet were prone to severe ulcer­a­tive col­i­tis. The same thing might be hap­pen­ing in peo­ple with ulcer­a­tive col­i­tis.

http://jn.nutrition.org/cgi/content/full/127/10/2000

High-fiber veg­eta­bles and fruits have sev­er­al ben­e­fi­cial effects on the large intes­tine:

  • Fiber absorbs water and keeps the mate­r­i­al inside the intestines nice and soft.
  • Fiber makes every­thing go through faster, which means that the wall of the intes­tine gets less expo­sure to harm­ful sub­stances, such as bile acids and free ammo­nia.
  • High-fiber fruits and veg­eta­bles pro­vide impor­tant nutri­ents and antiox­i­dants that are good for the health of the intestines, as well as the rest of the body.
  • Bac­te­ria in the large intes­tine fer­ment some of the fiber, releas­ing short-chain fat­ty acids such as butyrate, which is the favorite fuel of the cells that line the large intes­tine. On a low-fiber diet, those cells could starve to death.

Are Researchers Bark­ing Up the Wrong Tree?
When I looked up what clin­i­cal tri­als were being done on ulcer­a­tive col­i­tis (http://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/results?term=ulcerative+colitis&pg=12), I found lots of tri­als of drug treat­ments, some tri­als of “pro­bi­otics” (bac­te­r­i­al cul­tures), a few tri­als of sur­gi­cal treat­ments, and even a few tri­als of psy­chother­a­py and hyp­no­sis. There were some stud­ies in which peo­ple receive butyrate in high-colonic ene­mas. There were even some tri­als in which peo­ple were fed mare’s milk or fish. Apes don’t milk mares or catch fish, so why would any­one imag­ine that peo­ple would have to do that to keep their intestines healthy?

In oth­er words, there were 224 clin­i­cal tri­als involv­ing all sorts of drugs and surgery and so on, but no clin­i­cal tri­als try­ing the obvi­ous ther­a­peu­tic approach, which is a change to a healthy diet. We know that a low-fiber diet caus­es ulcer­a­tive col­i­tis in goril­las, which have a diges­tive sys­tem almost iden­ti­cal to our own. We also know that eat­ing wheat prod­ucts can cause bloody diar­rhea in a tiny minor­i­ty of the pop­u­la­tion. So why isn’t any­one doing research about how to coun­sel peo­ple to solve this prob­lem by cor­rect­ing their diet? Here’s a link to a descrip­tion of a sim­ple yet health­ful exclu­sion diet: http://www.drmcdougall.com/med_allergic.html

If you want your colon to be healthy, you have to feed it prop­er­ly. If you already have ulcer­a­tive col­i­tis or any oth­er prob­lem with your intestines, ask your doc­tor to refer you to a reg­is­tered dietit­ian (RD) for dietary advice.

How Much Protein Do Gorillas Get From Eating Leaves?

More Than Enough for a Human Being, and Even More Than Enough for a Pig!

Here’s a rather dry and tech­ni­cal arti­cle that describes the amount of “avail­able pro­tein,” as opposed to “crude pro­tein,” in the foods that wild moun­tain goril­las eat.

http://www.arts.mcgill.ca/anthro/chapman_files/cweb/Pdf/229_FiberNitrogen.pdf

The moun­tain goril­las in this study were get­ting more than enough pro­tein, main­ly because they were eat­ing so many leaves. Although leaves are low in calo­ries, a sub­stan­tial pro­por­tion of those calo­ries comes from pro­tein. If goril­las eat enough leaves to get enough calo­ries, the pro­tein takes care of itself. A leafy diet is so rich in pro­tein that the goril­las can afford to snack on some low-pro­tein fruit.

Gorillas are big because they are leaf-eaters

Goril­las are big and strong. Like most of the big and strong land ani­mals, they eat leaves. Ani­mals that main­ly eat leaves are called foli­vores. (Foliage means leaves.) In this arti­cle (http://www.jstor.org/pss/4219431), some biol­o­gists explain why you would expect a goril­la to be a leaf-eater:

Large mam­malian her­bi­vores, accord­ing to accept­ed eco­log­i­cal the­o­ry, may be expect­ed to feed on abun­dant, low qual­i­ty food as a result of the rela­tion­ship between their body size, meta­bol­ic require­ments, and gut capac­i­ty. … Abun­dant low qual­i­ty food means non­re­pro­duc­tive plant parts, i.e., stems and leaves, because fruit and flow­ers are too ephemer­al to pro­vide a reg­u­lar source of food in bulk for large ani­mals. So, large her­bi­vores ought to be foliv­o­rous in a broad sense, and usu­al­ly are.

Real­ly big ani­mals need to eat a lot of food. Flow­ers and fruit may be tasty but are in short sup­ply. For this rea­son, the real­ly big plant-eaters tend to eat most­ly leaves.

Quick Cauliflower and Potato Curry, Jasmine Rice, Apple and Fennel Salad

This is a quick and easy recipe for enter­tain­ing. The extra turmer­ic is good for you, and it gives the pota­toes and cau­li­flower an appeal­ing yel­low col­or, which looked good with the red toma­toes. I served it with white rice and some pars­ley for gar­nish. For the sal­ad,  I had some fen­nel left over from the day before. The feath­ery greens from the fen­nel bulb dressed up the sal­ad, and were tasty. For dessert, I also had some car­rot cake left over from the day before.

Quick Cauliflower and Potato Curry

2 onions, diced
3 cloves gar­lic, minced or pressed
About 3 medi­um pota­toes, diced
Near­ly half a head of cau­li­flower, cut into flo­rets
1 can diced toma­toes
1 tsp cur­ry pow­der
1 tsp turmer­ic
Pars­ley or kale for gar­nish

Stir-fry the diced onions in a dry skil­let (no oil) until they are very brown. You can add a lit­tle bit of water from time to time if they start to stick. Add the minced gar­lic and fry that for about 30 sec­onds. Then add about 3 cups of water and the pota­toes, cau­li­flower, and diced toma­toes. Add the spices. Cov­er and sim­mer until the pota­toes and cau­li­flower are ten­der. Serve with rice. Gar­nish with pars­ley or kale.

It’s hard to give an exact quan­ti­ty for the pota­toes and cau­li­flower, because their sizes vary, and some skil­lets are big­ger than oth­ers. If I fill my skil­let with veg­eta­bles, it yields about 6 serv­ings.

Rice

Because we had com­pa­ny, I want­ed to serve a par­tic­u­lar­ly tasty kind of rice, so I made white jas­mine rice accord­ing to the pack­age direc­tions. I made more than I need­ed, because I would be eat­ing the left­overs for lunch the fol­low­ing day. Jas­mine rice is a nat­u­ral­ly fra­grant rice vari­ety from Thai­land. I didn’t have any brown jas­mine rice, so I used white. Bas­mati rice, brown or white, would also have worked well.

Apple and Fennel Salad

Fresh let­tuce, washed and torn into bite-sized pieces
1 sweet red apple, cored and diced
1 car­rot, peeled and shred­ded
1 stalk of fen­nel, diced
Fen­nel greens for gar­nish
Dress­ing made from rough­ly equal pro­por­tions of bal­sam­ic vine­gar, hon­ey, and pre­pared mus­tard, sprin­kled with thyme

Roasted Autumn Vegetables with Mushroom Gravy, Apple Salad, and Carrot Cake

I put this meal togeth­er because the roast­ed veg­eta­bles and the car­rot cake are both baked at 350 degrees. I pre­pare the veg­eta­bles and put them in the oven, then make the car­rot cake. While the car­rot cake is bak­ing, I have time to make the mush­room gravy and the sal­ad. Then I have time to tidy up the kitchen and set a nice table.

I don’t give mea­sure­ments here, because the veg­eta­bles vary in size any­way. I just keep chop­ping up veg­eta­bles until I have a big serv­ing for each per­son. I used about half of the bulb of fen­nel, so I’d have some left over for sal­ads over the fol­low­ing few days. I also saved all the feath­ery leafy bits of the fen­nel for use in gar­nish­ing sal­ads.

Roast­ed autumn veg­eta­bles
1 bulb of fen­nel
Pota­toes with nice skin, scrubbed
Parsnips, peeled
Sev­er­al cloves of gar­lic, peeled
1 red onion, peeled
1 c water or veg­etable stock
Rose­mary
Thyme
Pars­ley

Cut up the veg­eta­bles into small chunks and place them in a bak­ing dish. Mix the herbs into about half a cup of water or stock, with about a table­spoon­ful of bal­sam­ic vine­gar. Pour over the veg­eta­bles. Put it in on the bot­tom rack of the oven and turn the oven on and set it to 350 degrees.

Car­rot cake
After you put the veg­eta­bles in the oven, make the car­rot cake. I used Mary McDougall’s recipe for raisin car­rot cake (http://www.drmcdougall.com/newsletter/nov_dec6.html), except that I added a half tea­spoon of car­damom and I sub­sti­tut­ed a gluten-free all-pur­pose flour for the whole-wheat flour. Put the cake in the oven on the mid­dle rack. When you put the car­rot cake in the oven, stir the veg­eta­bles and add the rest of the water and herbs.

Apple sal­ad
While the veg­eta­bles and cake are bak­ing, chop up a very sweet red apple, some cel­ery, and some raw Jerusalem arti­chokes (sun­chokes), if you have them. Toss them with a rasp­ber­ry-fla­vored vine­gar and serve on a bed of let­tuce. The vine­gar keeps the apples and sun­chokes from turn­ing dark before you serve them. If your apples aren’t over­ly sweet, you could add a lit­tle bit of the sweet­en­er of your choice to the vine­gar before mix­ing it with the apples.

Mush­room gravy
Stir-fry a chopped onion over medi­um heat in a dry pan until the onion is very brown. Then add two cloves of minced gar­lic and fry for anoth­er minute or so. Then add 2 cups of water and ½ chopped fresh mush­rooms or a hand­ful of dried mush­rooms. Let it sim­mer slow­ly until you are about ready to serve the veg­eta­bles. Then com­bine ¼ cup of corn­starch with anoth­er cup of water. Mix thor­ough­ly, then stir it into the boil­ing mush­rooms. Keep stir­ring until it is thick­ened. You can adjust the amount of water and corn­starch until you get the desired vol­ume and con­sis­ten­cy. Serve the gravy over the roast­ed veg­eta­bles.