Of course, in general, mindfulness can play a big role in health and healing – the subject of this excellent talk by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
Of course, in general, mindfulness can play a big role in health and healing – the subject of this excellent talk by Jon Kabat-Zinn.
Regular readers here know about Dr. Weston Price and his important research on the relationship between diet and dental conditions. (Not familiar? I give a quick overview at the start of this video.) It was Dr. Price, of course, who showed that when people shifted from their traditional diets to a Western one, high in white flour and sugar, dental problems followed – problems such as cavities, narrowed arches and crooked, crowded teeth.
Archaeological and anthropological research has also suggested that the rise of agriculture and the accompanying shift to grain-based diets had a negative impact on health. Now a new study shows that this may be due to broader effects of this change. Based on her analysis of more than 300 skulls from 11 different populations, anthropologist Noreen von Cramon-Taubadel concluded that
the changes in human skulls are more likely driven by the decreasing bite forces required to chew the processed foods eaten once humans switch to growing different types of cereals, milking and herding animals about 10,000 years ago.
“As you are growing up… the amount that you are chewing, and the pressure that your chewing muscles and bone [are] under, will affect the way that the lower jaw is growing,” explained Dr von Cramon-Taubadel.
She thinks that the shorter jaws of farmers meant that they have less space for their teeth relative to hunter-gatherers, whose jaws are longer.
The study abstract is available here.
The problem with crowded teeth, of course, is more than just aesthetic. They can be harder to clean well, raising the risk of tooth decay and gum disease. They can throw off the bite and contribute to improper oral and facial function and/or habits that can lead to pain and other problems. They’re also more vulnerable to uneven tooth wear and breakage.
As ever, good dental health, like good physical health, depends on eating well. Yet for many, this isn’t always easy – especially with the economy still so bad and budgets tight. But “challenging” doesn’t mean “impossible,” as shown by projects such as 100 Days of Real Food on a Budget ($125 a week for a family of 4). More recently, a group of three bloggers – Sherrie Flick, Cory Van Horn and Hal B. Klein – did a variation on the Food Stamp Challenge, in which participants commit for a week of living on the average food stamp allotment of $4.50 per day. These bloggers challenged themselves to eat a healthy, varied meals on just $35 a week, supplemented by any food they grew themselves or bartered for.
One particularly striking aspect of their reflections was their observation that the food itself was just a small part of the challenge. As Flick writes,
The idea of bartering led to a discussion about the importance of community and friendship in food circles. It’s much easier to eat cheaply if you’re joining together with others.
We also talked about cooking skills—how knowing how to cook, how to garden and prepare food efficiently is one key to avoiding processed foods. We talked about time versus money. How, for me, having a non-traditional work schedule lends itself to, say, baking bread on a Monday morning.
For many of us, regardless of budget, the biggest obstacles are often time and energy. Affordable convenience wins out. Yet, as Edward Stanley wrote in The Conduct of Life, “Those who think they have no time for healthy eating will sooner or later find time for illness.”
So here are few tips for ensuring you eat well even if you have “no time” for it:
Image by pha10019, via Flickr
Did you catch Dr. Connelly’s latest column over at HuffPo: “Diet Soda and Your Teeth: A Healthy Mix?”
Though I’ve already written a couple times now about the damage soft drinks can do to tooth enamel, I wanted to bring his column to your attention because it provides a good warning against the illusion that diet pop is somehow healthier. In fact, in some ways, it could even be worse for your teeth – and for one simple reason:
People tend to drink a lot of it. I will admit that the above “enamel-wearing” points are as pronounced with regular soda as it is with diet pop (again, I’m trying to use “soda” and “pop” both to be inclusive!) [sic] But the big issue with diet soda is the fact that people think it’s healthier, and thus, tend to drink more of it. It’s all about calories, and everything else is forgotten. I don’t know how many times I have heard “I’m addicted to diet coke” (et. al.) [sic] from a patient. I know I sound like a stern librarian, but I have to be honest – that stuff is the worst stuff you can drink. Even though it has sugar, I’d almost rather see people drink regular pop, because I’m convinced that one or two regular pops are less damaging than seven of the diet version (again, people who drink diet soda tend to drink a lot of it). But truthfully, I’d rather see people drink neither. [emphasis added]
The fact that people drink a lot of diet soda also means they are very likely drinking less of other (healthier) beverages. To give an example, according to one study , in 1966, the average American drank 20 gallons of soft drinks and 33 gallons of milk. But in 2003, those numbers were not just reversed, but the soft drinks took an additional big leap as well (46 gallons of soft drinks and 22 gallons of milk). Milk has its own detractors, but one must admit that milk also contains a lot of nutrients – protein, vitamins and calcium (we dentists like calcium). Diet soda? Not so much.
OK, I’m not looking to advocate milk here (not yet, anyway). But if you are looking for something to drink, what’s wrong with drinking just plain old water?
Indeed: The only ingredient in soft drinks that your body actually does need is water. It’s involved in every bodily function. Consequently, we can’t go much longer than a week without the stuff – water is life – and what we don’t get from food we need to drink. It’s also available right from the tap and at a fraction of the cost of soft drinks, though I do recommend filtering it. But even then, a filtering pitcher and a year’s worth of replacement filters is still cheaper than buying just one generic bottle of soda per week for a year. Think, too, of the money you’ll save on dental bills!
The issue Dr. Connelly points to is akin to what’s known as the “health halo,” which materializes when one positive quality of a food affects our perception of the whole. It’s what gets a person to believe, for instance, that a presweetened cereal made with whole grains is healthier than the kind made with refined flour, despite it’s being just as loaded with sugars, artificial colors and other additives. One recent study of front-of-box nutrition claims shows health halos at work.
The scientists said the front-of-box claims misled the participants in two ways.
Firstly, consumers inferred that the products presented were more nutritious than other cereals, even though these products were “below average in overall nutritional quality.”
Secondly, they inferred that claims had broader meanings than their literal interpretation.
The scientists said 44 per cent of participants thought nutrition-related claims meant the cereal contained higher nutrition levels compared to other brands of children’s cereal.
You can read more about the study here.
Other recent research similarly shows how we often “eat the package” rather than the product. For this study, subjects were asked to taste test “organic” and “conventional” versions of three different foods: cookies, yogurt and potato chips.
Confirming Lee’s health halo hypothesis, the subjects reported preferring almost all of the taste characteristics of the organically-labeled foods, even though they were actually identical to their conventionally-labeled counterparts. The foods labeled “organic” were also perceived to be significantly lower in calories and evoked a higher price tag. In addition, foods with the “organic” label were perceived as being lower in fat and higher in fiber. Overall, organically-labeled chips and cookies were considered to be more nutritious than their “non-organic” counterparts.
One product that’s recently developed a halo is sea salt, which – according to an American Heart Association survey – 61% of consumers think is a “low-sodium alternative” to table salt. It’s not. In reality, the only real difference between the two is that sea salt is less processed. This, according to John Franklin, Cargill’s marketing manager for salt (yes, there really is such a position!), may explain consumers’ mistake.
Sea salt naturally contained beneficial minerals that were stripped out of table salt such as magnesium, calcium and potassium, but its biggest USP [unique selling proposition] was its unprocessed image, said Franklin.
“Consumers perceive it as healthier, more natural, more premium and better tasting because it’s less refined. It’s just evaporated by the sun and wind. It’s seen as the wholegrain of salts.”
For a detailed discussion of sea vs. table salt, see this terrific guest post at Fooducate.
The moral of the story? Ignore the front of the package; read the ingredients and nutrition info instead. And if you decide to consume the product, do in moderation.
Over the past decade or so, writers such as Michael Pollan and media-savvy chefs such as Alice Waters have made us much more aware of the quality of our food. At the same time, scientific research has made us more aware of how diet affects our health. What used to sound a little radical outside of holistic health circles now seems more like common sense: Hippocrates’ famous statement, “Let food be your medicine.”
Good food and proper nutrition can go a long way toward starting and sustaining the healing process. Even conventional physicians know this, telling their heart patients to eat less salt, for instance, or diabetic patients to eat less sugar and fewer processed carbs. But what about someone who’s developed autoimmune symptoms, chemical sensitivity, fibromyalgia or other chronic illness, all of which may be triggered by amalgam fillings or other toxic dental materials, focal infections or cavitations? What about those who may not have a diagnosable condition yet don’t feel their health is at their best and want to do something about it?
We pinpoint specific nutritional strategies that target their unique biochemistry and health status. And of the best ways we’ve found for doing this is a method called Autonomic Response Testing (ART).
Unlike a blood test, ART is non-invasive. Instead of taking samples of blood – or saliva, urine or hair – we test your neurological reflexes. Since your nervous system controls all of your body’s processes, it can also tell us much about the overall state of the body.
In simplest terms, ART is a form of muscle testing. The patient stands with one arm outstretched. With one hand, we touch their arm, and with the other, specific reflex areas around the body. If a reflex area is stressed, when it’s touched, the extended arm will weaken and drop. (Those familiar with natural healing methods will understand this as a form of applied kinesiology.)
After reviewing the test results, we come up with a specific nutritional plan for that patient, targeting their particular health issues. We then meet with them to discuss the results and the dietary changes they should make to promote detoxification and healing. Because these recommendations are so specific and unique to the individual, allergens are easily avoided. Patients also know the right doses of the right supplements for their needs, which saves them a lot of time and money, as well. There’s no trial-and-error or second-guessing.
Since nurturing general health is good insurance for proper healing from dental procedures, we incorporate ART and Designed Clinical Nutrition into the treatment for periodontal (gum) disease, mercury toxicity, cavitations, focal infections from root canal teeth and other problems. We use it to help each patient prepare their body to detox and heal. We also use it in cases where caries (cavities) are an issue, for children, adults, seniors – the entire family.
We know that the best source of nutrition is the most natural: whole, organic, minimally processed foods, including lots of vegetables, fruits and whole grains. Only through whole foods can you be assured of getting all the co-factors – enzymes, phytochemicals and such – that are needed so that the body can effectively assimilate and use the nutrients it needs.
Synthetic vitamins and supplements lack these. Consequently, they aren’t very effective: What your body can’t use, it excretes unused. So when supplements are needed – as sometimes they are – we always recommend whole food sourced supplements, as they do include the co-factors you would get if taking the vitamin through a particular food.
This is one way we carry on the tradition from Hippocrates: Let your food be your medicine.
No doubt you’ve heard about MyPlate, the graphic that replaces the USDA’s old Food Pyramid. While it’s still far from perfect – here’s Dr. Mercola’s take on its shortcomings – one improvement is its downplaying grains a bit while emphasizing foods that most of us need more of: vegetables and fruit.
Although the new shorthand is “fill half your plate with produce,” you could just as well fill the whole of it with plant-based foods. While we may associate protein with meat, fish and eggs, there are many sources of vegetarian protein. Of course, there are the “usual suspects”: beans and other legumes, whole grains, nuts and seeds. But there’s also protein in foods you might not suspect – apricots, asparagus, avocado, bananas, blackberries, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, cauliflower, kiwi, onions, oranges, peppers, sweet corn, watermelon and many, many others. While most plant-based proteins are incomplete – that is, lacking some of the 9 amino acids your body needs – the combination of foods in a well balanced meal fairly well assures that you’ll get them all. (Have you ever noticed how many traditional meals include some combination of grains and legumes – for instance, beans and rice? The combo creates complete protein.)
Even those who choose to eat meat may enjoy mixing things up every once in a while by choosing protein-rich vegetarian main courses – even just once a week. (For ideas, check out these recipes for high protein vegetarian meals.)
Of course, now that it’s summertime, you might not want to stay in the kitchen and cook but get out and grill. This doesn’t mean forgoing produce, though, for grilling isn’t just for meat. There’s plenty of veg and even fruit that becomes even more delicious when cooked on a barbecue.
Fruits & Veggies – More Matters offers some tips for getting started:
The easiest way to grill vegetables is to simply brush them with olive oil to prevent them from sticking, and then grill, turning until tender. For best results, your grill should be warm, but not hot as it would be for meat.
Fruit naturally contains sugar and, when combined with the heat of the grill, it caramelizes, making the fruit taste even sweeter. Almost any fruit can be cooked on the grill. Hard fruits such as apples, pineapples and pears are easier to grill than softer fruits such as peaches, nectarines, plums, and papaya. Softer fruits can be grilled; they just require more attention to prevent overcooking, which will cause the fruit to become mushy. Softer fruit only needs to be heated, not thoroughly cooked. Once you grill fruits and vegetables, their wonderful flavor will have you doing it again and again.
“Fruits and vegetables are delicious when grilled and there are hundreds of different grilling ideas that come to mind for them,” said Elizabeth Pivonka, Ph.D., R.D., president and CEO of Produce for Better Health Foundation…. “Grill peaches and nectarines then dice them and make a salsa by adding fresh herbs, chili peppers and lime juice. Grill corn on the cob by husking it, sprinkling on a mix of seasonings such as oregano, pepper, chili powder and salt with a touch of butter, then wrap in aluminum foil and grill until tender. Or grill your dessert! Slice pealed bananas in half lengthwise and sprinkle with cinnamon and brown sugar, place on aluminum foil flat side down, and let it sizzle. Delicious and unexpected.”
You can find many more tips and recipes for grilling at the More Matters website.
Also, from now to July 4 only, you can download a free copy of Jolinda Hackett’s Cookouts Veggie Style!, which contains 225 vegetarian (some vegan) recipes for the grill. The publisher says that the free download will be available through Amazon, Sony’s Reader Store and iTunes, but when I last checked, only Amazon displayed the $0 price.
Find Cookouts Veggie Style! for
And for more tips on getting more produce into your diet, see my previous post.
Happy eating – and to our American readers, a happy and safe Independence Day!
Grill image by Another Pint Please…, via Flickr