Thursday, May 13, 2010

Unlike Slick Willy, I Inhaled....

My food that is. This is a topic I have been watching closely over the past few weeks which I was reminded of by a recent article at Science Daily - Jurassic Fast Food Was a Key to Giant Dinosaurs.

Like any teenager, I certainly was picky about what I ate. On top of that, my dad was going to culinary school at the time. Suffice it to say I spent many an evening at the dinner table with food on the plate I had no desire to eat. But I did want to go back out and play. Problem was, I couldn't do that until I finished my food. Initially, I stubbornly picked at prodded at these foreign foods on my plate - often taking over an hour to eat a a plate full of food.

For whatever reason, one day I had an epiphany and realized my Dad was telling the truth - finish the food and I could indeed leave and go back outside. And eat I did. I inhaled. A story he loves to tell - and much better than I - to this day. This newly found practice came long for the ride when I started college.

Again, like any normal college student, I had no desire to get up any earlier than I had to. I would often set the alarm for 45 minutes before my first class. In this time I had to shower, get dressed, get to the dining hall and eat breakfast, and arrive in class on time. This lead to a true refinement of my inhaling ways - something I have carried with me ever since. Just about every woman I have ever dated has commented on the speed at which I devour my meals - probably because I wasn't talking to them at all with being so preoccupied with my food!

So what am I getting at?

From the article above:

"Why were the sauropod dinosaurs able to get so much larger than today's terrestrial animals? A research group led by the University of Bonn seems to have solved this puzzle. According to this research Jurassic fast food culture was a key to gigantism. The giant dinosaurs did not chew their food -- they just gulped it down."

Hmmmm. Sounds familiar - maybe I have a little dinosaur in me? The Paleo crowd gots nothing on me!

The article goes on to explain:

"Chewing helps to digest the food faster. By the grinding process it is broken down and at the same time its surface is enlarged. This way the digestive enzymes are able to attack the food more easily."

Recently however, for whatever reason, I have been making a conscience effort to slow down when I eat. Chew thoroughly. Thoroughly enjoy every bite.

What I have noticed almost every time - better glucose response. Lower numbers eating the same meals. Something I will be continuing to keep an eye on.

But what might the implications of this information be on a larger scale? What about are own fast-food culture? In a recent article in the WSJ - Our Big Problem - the author states that "for much of the population, family meals are a ritual of the past."

No wonder McDonald's has Over One Billion Served.

Many, if not all of us, are aware of the dangers of eating processed foods. However, we obviously are still eating it in super-sized amounts. The common excuse is a lack of time. Always on the run. Do you think these people are taking the time to slow down, chew, and enjoy the poison they are ingesting? What about those on starvation diets and other silliness? When they get those cravings and the ravenous hunger that eventually comes without fail - think they take much time to chew-up?

I commented on the decline in our nation's health over the past two generations here. Many have, and correctly so, layed blame at the foot of the introduction of processed foods and additives like HFCS and the fat-phobia that followed. But are we neglecting one other factor that began occurring in the same general time frame?

The breakdown of the family unit.

And I'm not just talking about the easily targeted single-parent homes. What of that other change coming along with the Industrial Revolution and WWII - the entering into the workforce of the now almost extinct stay-at-home parent. It's almost essential in today's economy that both parents work. You don't find many households where one parent can afford to stay at home.

Whether you have a single-parent home, or one with two that both have to work 50-60+ hours a week - how much difference really is there? It seems apparent to me you get a generation of children raised by TV, computers, and fast-food either way.

Indeed, the sit-down family meal and passing down of family recipes do become dinosaurs in their own right. The author goes on to state:

"...the unemployed and the single parents that I used to visit as a doctor, I would find no evidence of cooking ever having been done there. Fatty take-away meals and ready-prepared foods heated in the microwave were the diet, together with almost constant snacks. There was not even a table to eat at: an absence that was not the consequence of raw poverty, since the flat-screen television would have been large enough, turned horizontal, to serve as a dining table."

An ever growing divergence from an environment which relies on and values REAL foods, to one fueling a dependency on processed and fast-foods. Quick and cheap - at least until you receive your health-care bills. A vicious cycle completed over and over again - one generation to the next.

Meal frequency also interestingly pops up again in both articles as well. The University of Bonn dinosaur research group states "the larger an animal is, the more time it spends eating." While the author from the WSJ comments on the circumstances and effects from an environment in which "children graze or forage." Despite the matter-of-fact recommendation to eat 5-6 small meals per day to "rev up the metabolism " from the health & fitness industry, the science behind it is sketchy at best - as layed out here.

So what can we do? The author from the WSJ goes on to explain the futility of government intervention and prohibition:

"By taking on responsibility for the health consequences of obesity, the government has given itself the locus standi to interfere in many aspects of human existence. If obesity kills, is it not the government's duty to prevent it? He who pays the doctor decides the prophylaxis. Positive encouragement of healthy eating won't work, nor mere printed warnings that some foods are unhealthy (people who are prepared to eat doughnuts with pink and blue icing are unlikely to desist on learning that they contain nothing good for the bowels or any other organ).

As usual, therefore, prohibition beckons. Regulation of the sugar and fat content of ready-prepared and fast foods is likely to be proposed and perhaps eventually accepted, though not without a very fierce rear-guard action by the food industry. If John Doe will not eat his greens, Uncle Sam will make him, if necessary by restricting the availability of other foods."

Instead, he suggests teaching children to cook and eat together. A great idea in my opinion. Indeed, this has been one of the silver linings of my diabetes cloud. Prior to being diagnosed, my most elaborate dishes consisted of things like Kraft Mac N' Cheese. My culinary skills have since improved exponentially - and it's been an enjoyable process to boot!

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