Friday, April 23, 2010

Catie: All the Finer Points of Our Anti-Diet.. Diet (subtitle: way more information than you ever wanted about what we eat)

I think the main problem connected to this blog is that, after a few months abroad, life gets boring.

Not bad boring.

Just life-boring.

I wake up, wash the dishes, clean the house.  Maybe I leave to buy groceries, or maybe I just stick around all day, making peanut butter and granola, or chopping onions for the freezer.  I start dinner right before Ben gets home.  We eat dinner, and then we... knit some socks.  Watch a show.  Go to sleep.

It is a good life.

We like it a lot.

But there's not a lot to say about it.  We're homebodies.  We like to cook and we like to knit and we like to read.

None of those things involve a lot of exciting narration.

But.. we have been eating freakishly, which... I do keep talking about.  It's become apparent that this is my current obsession.  Really.  I've even taken a hiatus from knitting for the past 2 or 3 weeks because I haven't been interested in anything but good food.

...although, I did cast a sock toe on last night and it's coming along nicely.

Anyway, I thought I'd go all rambly and tell you exactly what we were doing.

Since it's really not like anything ELSE is going on over here, this is the only halfway exciting thing happening.  Believe me, if there were anything else I would tell you.  I know this is my favorite topic, but there's a good chance it's not yours...

Maybe I can have Asperger's Syndrome for the day, which would mean that I didn't have to pay attention to the fact that you were disinterested and I could just talk for as long as I wanted about one thing.

Sounds like a plan!

This is our diet (and when I say, "diet" I mean, "what we are eating", not, "restrictive, trendy plan"... not that we're not trendy, because we totally are -- it's what keeps us on the cutting edge of awesome) with numbered, bullet points:

1. No enriched or refined flours or sugars. This one's the biggest, I think, because these two are what make countries with excellent health (i.e. some places in Africa and South America) start getting really sick once they're Westernized.  It means no white flour, no white sugar, no brown sugar, no fructose and no corn syrup.  We are sweetened with honey and real maple syrup only now.  Also, sorghum, if we could a hold of it, but.. we can't.  Honey makes it so we still totally get to eat sweet things.  And, when baked, honey tastes at least as good as sugar, if not better.  I am not even lying.

Our bread we get from Costco and it says "whole grain", which I know can mean about a hundred things in the US and I'm sure it means bad things here, but it's also the best bread we can find.  We keep it in the freezer and don't eat much of it.

2. No processed foods (or, foods with ingredients we can't pronounce, things with weird preservatives, and things that wouldn't have been recognized as food by people 100 years ago).  We've cut out almost all canned foods, although we do keep tomato products around like paste and diced tomatoes.  Also, we have some coconut milk that I need to find a use for (coconuts are amazing, fyi) and some chicken broth leftover that I'm going to use up.  Other than that, unless I can it myself, we'll be off the cans.  I'm hoping to can some diced tomatoes myself come summer, as well a few other things like strawberry honey jam with homemade pectin (yes, you can make apple pectin yourself, I found out!).

3. No trans-fats.  That means most unsaturated fats, I think (if not all, I'm not exactly clear, but I do know how to stay away from them), and all hydrogenated oils like shortening and hydrogenated soybean oils.  This one's real easy as long as we're staying away from processed and packaged foods because trans-fats don't come in bell peppers or brown rice.

4. Lots of lacto-fermented, fermented and probiotic foods. This is where my yummy yogurt comes in, and kombucha tea (which I am working on securing a starter for locally..), plus lacto-fermented mayonnaise that goes into our salad dressing and would go on sandwiches, but we rarely eat them (Korean bread makes crummy sandwiches -- haha, crummy.. crumby.. haha).

Lacto-fermentation is pretty cool and I'm planning to make some lacto-fermented salsa once summer rolls around (or maybe sooner) with the cultured whey we always have in the fridge now after making yogurt cheese.  I'd also like to try making my own lacto-fermented kimchi and cortido.  Basically, you can ferment anything and it can be better than canning, from what I can tell (though it also takes a more refined palate.... which I hope to gain... we shall see).  Fermenting preserves vitamins, and also enhances them (which is why Koreans survived a bazillion winters on kimchi alone).  Probiotics are all the good bacteria and stuff.  They help you digest your food, especially other dairy products.  They're in fermented and lacto-fermented foods.  And they're yum.

5. Whole foods. We make our food from mostly whole foods.  This means foods we can recognize as having come from the ground or as something that's eaten food from the ground.  It gets complicated in Korea because how we'd like to eat (entirely grass-fed meats and grass-fed, raw dairy, organic fruits and vegetables, etc...) isn't realistic.  So, we get organic where we can (in, like, two things.. no, wait! three), but try to trust that Korea is usually smarter about things like pesticides when it comes to food than Americans and.. inorganic fruits and vegetables are far better than NO fruits and vegetables.

We try to keep our meats on the bone with all the fat, because animals products are much more usable by your body when in their original state.  This has been a little gross as I had to de-neck a chicken the other day and it had a couple feathers still attached and then we developed a kindred relationship... But it's a growing experience.

There is quite an argument out there for natural, saturated fats and we've bought into it.  I've read a lot about it and, to me, it makes sense.  Also, I've lost a somewhat significant amount of weight now, all while eating bacon, dark meat chicken and as much butter as I want.  Paired, though, with lots of vegetables always, all the time, lots of vegetables.

6. Filtered water. We have a pitcher that filters out all chlorine and other.. stuff.  We probably should have gotten it earlier and we really got it because not even Koreans drink their water from the tap.  Although, we never did get sick from it..

We are also almost drinking only water now, not really anything else.  Well, coffee and tea, and I like the Talking Rain from Costco (it's only 1,000W a bottle at the vending machine and they have ORANGE!), but we don't drink soda, for obvious reasons, or juice because, blah, blah, blah, I know, but fruit juice separated from fruit fiber makes your blood sugar skyrocket and so on, just like refined sugar.  So, while some is probably okay, none is probably better and we don't have a juicer anyway to make our own.

I do want to start making green smoothies, though.  They're supposed to be delicious!

7. No more soy (you have to type in your email to get to this article, but they won't spam you, I promise).  Soy can mock estrogen in your body and is especially bad for young boys (it's in almost all baby formulas, too - hooray), but also bad if you're a woman looking to reproduce.  It can really mess up your reproductive...ness.  It can increase chance of cancer and maybe it's also good for you in some ways, but all the good things about soy can be found elsewhere, in foods that are less controversial.  Plus, it's all heavily, heavily processed.  I know, I sound like a broken record.  I bore myself, too.

8. Soaking our nuts, seeds, grains and legumes. This is the freakish-est of all the freaky and it's actually taken me a few weeks to come around to even believing I should put the time and effort in.  In the end, though, I figure it won'thurt.  At the most, it will make our grains easier to digest and make the vitamins and nutrients more accessible to us, and at the least, we'll have softer grains and, hopefully eat fewer of them (since they're really not the best compared to meats and vegetables) because the time it takes to soak stuff is boring and long.

The main argument in favor of soaking (which, of course, I find infinitely interesting) is that nuts, grains and legumes are all seeds which are not really meant to be digested by animals, but to leave the body, unchanged, so they can grow where they're "planted".  This means they all have a bunch of.. stuff in them that keeps them from being very easy to breakdown.  Which is why people develop wheat allergies and generally have trouble digesting wheat and other grains.  Apparently, we weren't meant to digest them at the rates we do.

However, if you soak them in warm water with some sort of cultured, "acid medium" (I use whey because we have it but you can also use kefir, yogurt or.. something else, too, I think), it mocks the seed sprouting environment and makes them kind of sprout (but not really), just enough to release the bad stuff, as well as the stuff contained in them that's meant to eat the bad stuff, so they can grow.



If you really care, you can check out this blog post.  Soaking is, like, totally all the rage.

Another big argument is that cultures all over the world have been soaking their grains for centuries and, only in the past few hundred years have we decided it was unnecessary.

It's better, though, in my opinion, not to eat that many grains.  They obviously aren't meant to be consumed at the rate we consume them and we keep them to a minimum.

9. No more plastics. This might be as freakish as the soaking.

I know.  It's probably overkill, but as long as we're crazy, why not just go whole hog.

As we all have heard, most plastics (except, thankfully, for my precious Nalgene) contain BPA (Bisphenol A) which can do just terrible things.  It's been linked to serious weight gain, and also thyroid dysfunction (a huge problem I'll probably have to cope with anyway) because it's an endocrine disruptor.  I guess it's been decided by some folks how much is "safe" for humans, but I'd rather not ingest any of it.

Still, we all will because all canned foods are lined in plastic and have BPA leached into them, as well as most plastic, air-tight containers.

Korea, though, has super sweet glass lock-n-locks (awesome sort of tupperware) and real cheap stainless steel containers.

So, we're going plastic-free, though this is taking a long time.

Those are the basics, but we've been implementing them slowly over the past couple months or so, so it hasn't seemed like a huge deal all at once.  Also, because we get to eat honey and it's not a plan-diet, we don't have points to count (I was always terrible at that sort of thing) or real restrictions and simply cutting out the things we have has made the hugest difference.

Basically, the more I read, the less I want us to eat the things we did before.  And the less I eat refined sugars and flours, the more I develop a real taste for soaked whole wheat (soaking makes it lighter and less strong-tasting) and honey.  I don't crave foods much at all anymore (except chocolate sometimes and then I just eat it because... I CAN).

Also, it's kind of fun.  It makes cooking more interesting (I'm easily bored, maybe it's the ADD), and shopping much more interesting.

Plus, we both feel better.  And we still get to eat almost every single thing we did before, we just make it ourselves now so that we know what's gone into it.

I feel like a dork most of the time, being all overly concerned about BPA and phytic acid and so on, but all it took for us to feel better was taking out processed foods, so... that made it easier to jump on the no-plastic, grain soaking bandwagon.

Right now, I have rice soaking for paella tonight.  And, yesterday, we had chicken fajitas (we're going through our stock of white flour tortillas because they're yummy, but then I'm going to make my own!.. I hope).  The day before that we had roasted Crock Pot chicken and it was SO good I thought I might die.

That is all.

Right now, I have to straighten up the house because it is lame in here.

Sorry we're so boring nowadays!  Maybe it'll get more exciting once it gets warmer out and we actually feel like leaving the house.

- catie

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