Archive | November, 2009

French Diet

29 Nov

Comparison between the American diet and the French diet, from Wikipedia under The French Paradox:

French diet comparisons

In his book, The Fat Fallacy, Dr. Will Clower suggests the French paradox may be narrowed down to a few key factors, namely:

  • Good fats versus bad fats — French people get up to 80% of their fat intake from dairy and vegetable sources, including whole milk, cheeses, and whole milk yogurt.
  • Higher quantities of fish (three times a week).
  • Smaller portions, eaten more slowly and divided among courses that let the body begin to digest food already consumed before more food is added.
  • Lower sugar intake — American low-fat and no-fat foods often contain high concentrations of sugar. French diets avoid these products preferring full-fat versions without added sugar.
  • Low incidence of snacks between meals.
  • Avoidance of common American food items, such as soda, deep-fried foods, snack foods, and especially pre-prepared foods which can typically make up a large percentage of the foods found in American grocery stores.

Clower tends to play down the common beliefs that wine consumption and smoking are greatly responsible for the French paradox. The French diet tends to cause Americans to lose weight while visiting even if they are not wine drinkers. While a higher percentage of French people smoke, this is not greatly higher than the U.S. (35% in France vs. 25% in U.S.) and is unlikely to account for the weight difference between countries.

Mirreille Guiliano, author of the #1 bestseller French Women Don’t Get Fat, agrees that the weight differences are not due to French smoking habits. She points out that the smoking rates for women in France and the US are virtually identical. Guiliano explains the key factors to the French woman’s ability to stay slim as:

  • Smaller portion sizes
  • Savoring food to increase the feeling of satisfaction, choosing a small amount of high quality food rather than larger amounts of low quality food
  • Eating 3 meals a day and not snacking
  • Taking in plenty of liquid such as water, herbal tea, and soup
  • Sitting down and eating mindfully (no multitasking and eating while standing up, watching TV, or reading)
  • Emphasizing freshness, variety, balance, and, above all, pleasure
  • What’s interesting is how closely this relates to the diet I personally believe in, which includes abolishing the concept of frequent small meals (grazing), eating more natural foods with natural fat contents, avoiding sugar and manufactured low-fat fares and pre-made food packages, eating fresh foods, and small but a wide variety of quality foods, rather than large and unvaried amounts of low-quality foods (such as pasta, breads and cereals).

    Pomegranate-Glazed Stuffed Roast Turkey

    25 Nov

    Courtesy of Clean Eating – Nov/Dec 2009

    Serves: 14

    Hands-on Time: 30 minutes

    Total Time: 4 to 4 1/2 hours (includes roasting)



    *2 tbsp fresh rosemary, chopped

    *Zest 1 lemon

    *1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

    *1/4 tsp sea salt

    *1 14-16 lb turkey, defrosted and brought to room temperature

    *Olive Oil cooking spray

    *1/4 c low-sodium chicken broth


    *1 tbsp Olive Oil, divided

    *1lb Portobello Mushrooms (cut into 1/2 inch pieces)

    *1 c carrots, finely chopped

    *1 c celery, finely chopped

    *1 large leek, trimmed, halved lengthwise and chopped

    *1 large sweet potato, cubed

    *1/2 c low-sodium chicken broth

    *1 tsp fresh ground black pepper

    *1/2 tsp sea salt

    *1 1/2 tsp dried thyme

    *1 tsp dried rosemary

    *1 tsp chile powder

    *1 tsp onion powder

    Heat 1/2 tsp oil in large skillet over medium heat.  Brown mushrooms and sweet potato.  Set aside.  Wipe out skillet, heat remaining oil on medium-high.  Add carrots, celery, and leek.  Cook until vegetables are tender and lightly browned.  Add to mushroom bowl.  Add broth and spices to bowl and stir gently to combine.  Cool completely (at least 90 minutes) before stuffing into turkey.


    *1 1/2 c 100% pomegranate juice

    *1/2 c low-sodium chicken broth

    *1/4 c fresh strawberries, crushed

    *2 tbsp raw organic honey


    1. Preheat oven to 325. In a small bowl, stir together rosemary, lemon zest, pepper, and salt. Set aside.

    2. Prep turkey: 1. Remove and discard neck and giblets.  2. Rinse turkey and pat dry.  3. Place turkey in large roasting pan, breast side up.  Gently lift skin covering each breast with half of rosemary mixture (should be beneath skin).  4. Rub remaining rosemary mixture over turkey’s skin and coat lightly with cooking spray.  5. Fill neck cavity with Mushroom & Leek stuffing.  Do not over-pack.  6. Pull neck skin down over cavity opening.  Firmly turn wings back to hold neck skin in place and stabilize turkey in roasting pan.  If necessary, cover neck skin with foil to prevent stuffing from falling out.  7. Fill body cavity with remainder of stuffing.  8. Cover opening with foil.

    3. Transfer turkey to oven and roast for 3 1/2-4 1/2 hours.  While turkey roasts, make pomagranite glaze.  Bring pomegranate juice, 1/2c broth, berries, and honey to a simmer over medium-high heat.  Reduce heat to medium-low and simmer until mixture reduces by half, 10-15 minutes.  Remove from heat and let rest at room temperature for 20 minutes to allow glaze to thicken.

    4. After 2 hours of cooking, loosely cover turkey with foil to prevent over-browning.  When turkey is 20-30 minutes from being done (meat temperature about 160F), uncover and baste with half of pomegranate glaze.  The turkey is done when juices run clear and a meat thermometer registers 180F when inserted into the deepest part of the thigh and 165F when inserted into the center of stuffing in the body cavity.

    5. Remove turkey from oven and let rest for 20 minutes.  Add 1/4c broth to remaining pomegranate glaze and reheat on low until hot but not bubbling.  Spoon stuffing out of neck and body cavity and transfer to serving bowl.  Remove turkey skin and carve.  Drizzle each serving with 2 tsp glaze and serve.

    *Glaze can be made up to 1 day ahead.  Cover and refrigerate.

    *Did you know that ounce for ounce, pomegranate juice has 17% more polyphenols than red wine?  These POWERFUL antioxidants hunt for cell-damaging free radicals, which may help or reduce the risk of various diseases.

    FIT Announcements – November

    18 Nov


    • November is Family Literacy month and we are donating new & used books to three different places.
    • Please bring in as many CHILDREN’s books as possible!
    • K-3 books are going to Landels School in Mountain View.
    • 4-8 books are going to Ballico School in Ballico, CA (central valley).
    • Teen and adult books are going to shelter in San Francisco or Central Valley.


    • The goal is to encourage conscious eating, create support system within our FIT Community and encourage healthy habits through the holiday season.
    • Karen’s weekly tips can be found in the Stall Street Journal (soon!).

    HOLIDAY WISH DRIVE – Benefits the ARC of San Francisco – ENDS 12/09/09
    A facility that aids in bettering the lives of adults with intellectual disabilities. There are wish cards placed near the front desk on our garland.  Each person’s profile/info is tacked up in the community bulletin board so that you can learn more about those receiving gifts.

    PLEASE TAKE A WISH and fulfill it.  When you bring a new gift, have it unwrapped and with the tag that you took so that we know how to label it.  FIT Buddies will be doing gift wrapping in the second week of December.



    Benefits Bernal Heights Shelter. New toys for those that might not have a holiday season otherwise.

    CONTACT PERSON: (for more details, deadlines, etc)

    On Counting Calories

    14 Nov

    Read time: 2 minutes

    The energy balance equation, based on the Law of Energy Conservation, is utter nonsense when applied to a dynamic, open system like the human body.

    How is it that whole population can follow such advice as counting calories without further inquiry into whether this is even a natural practice? Did grandma do it? Did our ancestors do it? Did all hominids in the past several thousand years do it? Do lean, healthy, disease-free cultures do it? And how is it that we count calories yet still struggle immensely with weight loss?

    We are told to eat less and exercise more to create a negative energy balance, and to lower our cholesterol. And if that doesn’t work, then staple our stomach, or get on drugs for the rest of our lives, to control our weight and to lower our cholesterol. How is it that a critical mass occur in our nation to feed the profits of Big Pharma and their lobbyists, without an equal proportion of challenge?

    And how long can we run on a treadmill and pump iron to cause a “negative energy balance,” when even a healthy meal that night can turn the whole mathematical effort upside-down? And much to everyone’s dismay, the human body is smart enough that, when billions of its tiny cells become starved with this negative energy balance, it will trigger the evolutionary-based hormonal signaling to the brain that it is time to eat and nothing will stop the act — not tricks, not will-power, not medical intervention.

    Then we’re screwed. “Fell off the wagon again,” we say with self-defeat.

    Perhaps it’s time to abandon a mathematical equation that studies (extending back to last century) have repeatedly demonstrated to be “a diet method of long-term failure,” and to likely do more harm than good.

    But then what?

    Well, to start, remove the stuff that our bodies weren’t designed to metabolize — grain-based carbohydrates and refined sugar. As I’ve written elsewhere, and as many far more intelligent authors and scientists have written about, grain-based carbohydrates and sugar cause insulin resistance that leads to the divergence of calories into fat cells, and immobilization once there. Even on a reduced-calorie diet, if processed carbohydrates and sugar are still present, the body still suffers from the same scenario… except now it’s starving even more.

    The fact is that grain-based carbohydrates affect different people differently, and some people have a greater propensity than others to become sick and/or overweight when consuming them. But, no matter how our body responds to grain-based carbohydrates, it just makes sense to eliminate the stuff entirely, or at least minimize it; grains contain higher amounts of anti-nutrients, even after cooking and heating, and we’re all healthier with their removal or reduction from the diet. (There is absolutely no nutrient that grains can provide that you can’t get far more of from vegetables, fruits, nuts, and meats.)

    Let’s stop the non-sense calorie counting, and start enjoying real, natural food, and live free of numbers!

    Are You a Couch Potato? Thank Mom

    14 Nov

    We have known for a while what a mother eats or drinks may have a profound effect on a developing baby for the rest of the baby’s life. For example, we know how women who drink alcohol throughout pregnancy have children with fetal alcohol syndrome, a disorder with permanent birth defects. However, when a child is born with this disorder, the signs are obvious in the baby.

    However, in 2003, several scientists hypothesized that a child may be predestined to be an overweight couch potato if the mother was undernourished while pregnant. This hypothesis is unique in that it suggests that not only will under-eating create a child with a metabolic disorder (obesity, metabolic syndrome, and/or diabetes potentially), but it will also create a behavioral change in the baby’s adult life (sedentary).

    A study published in the 2003 July edition of the American Journal of Physiology-Regulatory, Integrative and Comparative Physiology, investigated the effect of the maternal environment on creating sedentary behavior after birth, into adult life in rats.

    Two separate studies were used. The researchers found that in the first study, rats that were undernourished in the womb were significantly more sedentary than those born of mothers with a standard diet. Overeating was more common in mature rats that had been exposed to maternal undernutrition.

    The researchers wanted to also see if a hypercaloric diet in the offspring would affect the offspring’s behavior, and, not surprisingly, overeating (hypercaloric eating) exacerbated the rat’s tendency to be sedentary.

    Importantly, in the rats tested at approximately puberty, sedentary behavior was already present before the development of maturity-onset obesity and was found significantly more in males compared with females.

    In the second study, rats of undernourished mothers were maintained on a normal diet after weaning, and their behavior was studied only at 14 months of age. These rats were shown to be significantly more sedentary than offspring of normally fed mothers. A gender difference occurred, with males significantly less active than females, but a “prenatal effect” of sedentary behavior was significant in each gender. The authors concluded that this second study, in conjunction with the first study, suggests that the sedentary effect is persistent through life, is solely related to prenatal maternal diet, and occurs in both genders.

    They conclude that the prenatal environment can lead to the development of both abnormal eating and exercise behaviors, adding to previous research findings that the environment in the womb can influence physiological features of the metabolic syndrome.

    This research raises the intriguing possibility that some behaviors and lifestyle choices that exacerbate the metabolic syndrome in humans are an inherent part of the syndrome and may have a prenatal origin.

    The implications of this hypothesis are profound! If sedentary behavior and overeating are determined during prenatal development, this may explain why public health attempts to improve exercise and to reduce food intake in adults with hypertension, insulin resistance, and hyperlipidemia are often ineffective.

    Since this study, the same authors have performed another study with the same results, but it also showed that the mechanism may be at the genetic level, such that under eating actually affects how the genes are expressed after the baby is born.

    It appears as if the mother introduces a feeding environment to the baby and conditions the baby to “expect” a certain amount of food. However, when the food is found in abundance or more than what their metabolism can handle, there are metabolic negative consequences.

    However, both of these studies involved mother-rats who were under eating. But what about mothers who might overeat: Is this associated with adult-onset obesity?

    Research results presented at the 10th International Congress on Obesity in 2006 showed that overeating during pregnancy may have significant and numerous health impacts on an unborn child. The research demonstrated that the offspring of mothers who overeat with a high-fat diet are at risk for liver and pancreas damage. Both of which can contribute to early-onset obesity and diabetes. In addition, significant brain changes can occur. These changes take place in the hypothalamus, the region of the brain that controls weight regulation. The data suggest that children born to mothers who eat a high-fat diet may be predisposed to weight problems.

    I did not find anything investigating if overeating mothers may affect an offspring’s behavior. However, that could just be a matter of time before those results are published.


    It must be noted that the studies I described above should be viewed as “associations” and not “cause-and-effect.”  There are too many other factors that are also involved in the causes of obesity, diabetes and other metabolic disorders.

    Clearly we have much more to learn, but the data strongly confirms the importance of a well-balanced diet for pregnant women.

    There are many more unanswered questions: What if a mother changes her diet while pregnant? What affects will that have and does it matter when the mother changes her diet? What is the ideal diet composition? Could there be a paternal nutrition role? These are only a few of the many questions that still need to be answered.  

    Thus far, the evidence in human studies is lacking.

    In Summary

    The take home message here is a well-balanced diet is very important for the mother’s health during and post-pregnancy and her baby. Her diet can affect her own weight, the baby’s delivery weight, the baby’s long-term health and likelihood for disease. The studies above suggest that even a baby’s behavior may also be affected prior to any abnormal metabolic disorders starting. When and what are the exact eating conditions that triggers these disorders is still unanswered. 

    For now, because we know there are many causes for an assortment of diseases related to maternal nutrition, further research is needed to determine the definition of “a well-balanced diet” that may prevent any of these diseases from developing in a baby’s body. 

    If you have any more questions, please email me at

    Until next time…