The Keto Plate: Almost too Pretty

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Almost too pretty to eat, but no.  Almost too healthy to taste good, but again, no. It was delicious.

As part of my quest for better health for my husband and myself, we have been learning about the ketogenic diet, the Paleo diet, the Autoimmune Protocol, and food in general. We’ve been picking and choosing things that are easy to do, changes we can make gradually and, honestly, most of the changes are just common sense. It seems the less our food is tampered with, clean and unprocessed, the better it is for us.

The plates above held dinner for the husband and I one night. It is usually a light meal, eaten as early in the evening as we can manage, and is our last food for the day.  The greens, boiled egg and cauliflower are definite keto foods (on the “yes” list). The onion, bell pepper, tomato and cheese are on the “limit” list. A good dose of olive or avocado oil and a flavorful vinegar, a sprinkle of sea salt and pepper, add to the preparation ritual.

We also have a gratitude ritual before our meal. We pray and thank God for providing such blessings. We know not everyone has access to even simple meals like this.

We relax as we eat. I remind myself to chew slowly and put my fork down between bites. I look at the colors and shapes. These onions are so amazing to look at. They’re purple!

I love to taste the blends of flavors and see how many I can isolate, identify.

The more I know about food and the way my body interacts with it, the more I am conscious of its protective and restorative qualities.  At the same time, being able to identify food that is not good for me, and knowing why it isn’t, helps me avoid it without feeling deprived.

Eating keto, is not only a lifestyle that focuses on unprocessed, low net carb foods and healthy sources of fat,  but it’s actually kind of an attitude of wanting to protect the only body you’ve been given.  I’m glad it’s becoming more mainstream as the evidence mounts showing its effectiveness against cancer and chronic disease.

Today I am thankful that food is colorful, imaginative in structure, varied in it’s composition and taste. Food can be art. Chefs can be artists, and sitting down to a beautiful meal can be as satisfying as strolling through an art gallery.

Food is medicine, and eating the best food you can, every time you can, is how you be your own best health advocate.

Do you have a favorite mealtime ritual or practice?

 

 

 

Keto Plate – Today’s Breakfast “Win”

I was in a terrible food fog yesterday. A food fog is paralyzing. It means you have nothing to eat that really appeals to you, mixed with a bit of fear that there is something detrimental about every choice you might make. We have read so much lately about the AIP for autoimmune issues, the MMT for mitochondrial health, the Grain Brain whole life plan to ward off Alzheimers, the Paleo ”eat like your ancestors” diet, and the Ketogenic anti-cancer diet that we could almost give up on food altogether (if we were not so hungry). There are similarities between them all but they don’t intersect completely, and each one of them seems to do away with one of my favorite foods. Boo.

I realized that having to fix something for myself and the husband to eat was causing enough anxiety to become its own problem. I decided that since we were fearfully and wonderfully made (no lie) that I’d just give the problem to God. My prayer went something like this:

God, make us hungry for the things that are good for us, that are available and as unpolluted as possible, and let us not obsess about figuring it all out. Help us to be smart in our choices, but also trusting that you are smarter and will keep us healthy as long as you need us to be. Amen.

(I don’t know if it’s the Spirit’s leading or not but cupcakes are suddenly on my mind… probably not him.)

I’m feeling a bit better today. I replenished my supply of grass fed beef yesterday and did some cooking. I also had a breakfast “win” this morning. I don’t think I’ve ever seen it in cookbooks so I’m going to share it here.

There’s been much said about using cauliflower as a substitute for mashed potatoes or rice – same color and general consistency when cooked and blenderized- but how about substituting it for grits? Being raised in northern climates I’ve never done a lot of cooking with grits but I’ve had some I really liked, so this is what I did:

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Nothing precise about measurements here. Steamed cauliflower keeps well in the fridg for several days.

Cauliflower florets, steamed and pureed in blender with

Cream or Half ‘n Half, just enough to keep the food moving in the blender

1 Tbs. of butter, added to blender to melt in

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This happens to be about 4 cups cauliflower and 1/3 cream.

 

1 egg, lightly cooked in butter, not hard

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Mmmmh… so good, and cauliflower “grits” left over for next time.

Put desired amount of cauliflower for one serving in a bowl, dot with another pat of butter and put the egg on top. A little pepper makes it pretty, and salt if you don’t have reason to avoid it. This was so good, so quick (because the cauliflower was left over and already prepared) and a very good nutrient profile for anyone following a ketogenic program (or not – good no matter what!)

How is your eating going today?

Health Advocacy: Today’s Ketogenic Plate

A ketogenic diet is a low carb, high fat (healthy fats) way of eating. It is similar to a Paleo diet and also has some things in common with the AIP (autoimmune protocol). We are eating this way for weight loss reasons, but it is also a cancer fighting therapy. I’m always running short of ideas on what to make for dinner, so when I do come up with something good, I might as well share it. Right?

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We both had plenty for dinner and there were leftovers for the husband’s lunch tomorrow.

Today’s Ketogenic Plate

This meal starts with ½ of pasture fed ground beef. It’s left over from last night when the husband cooked dinner for me. This doesn’t happen a lot, but I had the procedure on my hand to deal with so he gave me a break. A quarter pound per person is plenty when it comes to red meat, especially if you are eating keto for cancer therapy.

The ground beef is really the only thing I had a measure for. The rest of the ingredients can be whatever you have on hand. My pan contains:

2 large Portobello caps, cut in chunks

1 medium onion, cut in chunks

2 stalks of celery, sliced

4 cloves of garlic, sliced

Broccoli, about 2 cups

And cherry tomatoes, for color appeal

Brown the ground beef. In a large pan, melt 2 Tbs. of butter and saute the mushroom pieces. When they started looking dry I put in some avocado oil, another healthy fat.  Add the onion garlic and celery and continue cooking on medium heat for 5 minutes. When the ground beef is browned, add it to the pan. I added the broccoli next and covered the pan to let it steam for another 5 minutes. At the very end I added the tomatoes because I like as many colors in our meal as possible.  Seasoning is to taste and done at the table in our house so each person knows what he’s eating.

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I love this salad and eat it last. It’s almost like dessert.

Add a salad with romaine, cucumber and kiwi for Wednesday’s ketogenic plate.

 

Our journey to eating “keto” has been helped by these resources: “The Grain Brain Whole Life Plan” by Dr. David Perlmutter, “Fat for Fuel” by Dr. Joseph Mercola, “The Paleo Approach” by Sarah Ballantyne, PhD and “The Ketogenic Kitchen” by Domini Kemp and Patricia Daly

 

 

Health Advocate: Regenexx Procedure

Being your own health advocate means searching and researching. I’m following this new trail hoping to keep my hands functional for a few more years. 

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Needles, pain. I was all prepared for it. July 11, 2017 I was scheduled for my Regennex procedure on my thumb joint, left hand. I felt a little like a guinea pig, but this whole area of the body healing itself really appeals to me. As I said, I was all prepared for an afternoon in the recliner, watching NCIS reruns through a narcotic induced aura.

I arrived ahead of time and did a few inches of knitting in the waiting room, followed by a few inches of knitting in the procedure room. Next, I was ushered out of the procedure room and did another inch or two in another room while an emergency fluoroscopy on someone else happened. Then I was taken back to the procedure room and “laid out” next to a tray of needles and syringes. I laid there listening to the sound track to “Sense and Sensibility” for close to an hour. I practiced my deep, slow breathing which I supposed would keep me calm.

And then in they came, two nurses and the doctor. I told them I was driving myself home, didn’t want a nerve block, and to go ahead and hurt me. When asked, Dr. L said he frequently did thumbs, so I relaxed and let them position my hand and start injecting. He was very good with the local anesthetic. Those tiny needle pricks were really the only “hurts” I felt. The rest of the injections were more about pressure as the platelet infused plasma filled the joint spaces. And then it was done.

I drove myself home. The local anesthetic wore off and it still hasn’t started hurting. I think I’m in the clear. Now to wait and see if healing takes place. The only thing that bothers me is that it was supposed to hurt… and what if “no pain” means “no gain”?  Just sayin’.

Being Your Own Health Advocate: Food

I can see a series of posts taking form on this subject, since I don’t want any of them to be overly long. I’m going to keep coming back to the subject because my passion is growing…

It’s fuel.

I don’t cook for fun. I cook because people have to eat. It’s more about fuel for life than what it used to be – for me anyway.

I didn’t used to think about food very much at all in my younger years. If it tasted good, I ate it. I knew about the rudiments of nutrition and ate what I thought was good for me, along with other things that I knew probably weren’t. My philosophy was that happiness was like a medicine, and if a food made me happy, it was probably canceling out any poor nutritional qualities. I had the benefit of growing up on a farm where my family grew/raised a lot of unprocessed food too. I was seldom sick and never had a problem with weight control.

For a few years in the early 2000’s I worked for the FNP, Food and Nutrition Program, of the University Extension Service of the University of Florida. I started taking the Food Pyramid, dictated by the government food police (kidding) into elementary schools and teaching it to youngsters. I taught Nutrition and Food Preparation to young mothers in a Head Start program. I started becoming aware of the problems Americans were having with food. Obesity at young ages, hyperactivity and ADHD were prevalent in so many schoolrooms.  Even when presented with a decent school lunch, children were turning up their noses and throwing away the most nutritious foods. Often families in trouble with Social Services were being court ordered to learn how to prepare meals to feed their children properly.

By default, people were eating the Standard American Diet, acronym SAD, and it was sad. When I started having health problems that I could relate to diet and lifestyle, I started getting a bit more serious about what I fed myself.  The overweight husband also developed problems with blood pressure and needed medicines which were hard to regulate. Friends and family members started getting diagnoses of GERD and cancer and diabetes. Time started wearing out our natural defenses. I began to hear more about food as therapy. I also began hearing about how many times nutritional advice was influenced by factors other than benefits to health – like, who decides what the Food Pyramid looks like and funny how it keeps changing…

I guess what I think now can be illustrated with the example of a machine, say a really nice new car.  If I take it in on schedule to be serviced I’m doing good. But, the thing that I do most often, and that will make the most difference, is to put fuel in it. Different cars have different fuel requirements that are important to follow. If I put in a grade of gasoline other than what is recommended for clean burning, I’m going to see problems after a while. Waste products build up in the engine.  The car gets sick.

Friends, readers, we are that complex, finely designed machine. Our computer, our emissions systems, our energy production equipment, our whole body is affected by every little thing we put in our mouth.

We are designed to take a lot of nutritional abuse – there are buffering systems, safeguards of all kinds in place – but sooner or later those back-up systems will have taken all the abuse that they can. If we don’t want to be sick or prematurely dead, we must study what’s happening in our “machine” with the fuels we use.

This was the beginning of my journey into food research and the resulting health trends. I don’t have to spend hours at it. I don’t have to spend a lot of money to do it. I don’t have to wait until I’m sick with a serious problem. I don’t have to ask my doctor for every new pill I see advertised in the media.  I eat every day, and that is where the changes should, and can, start.

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I’m not necessarily recommending any of these older books – some of the best and newest information is free on the internet, or at the library.

I started by saying that I don’t cook for fun, when I actually do have fun doing it sometimes. But fun is not the main point anymore. Getting the best fuel possible has become the point, just sayin’…

 

 

Being My Own Health Advocate: Stem Cell and Platelet Therapy

Whatever your hand finds to do, do it with all of your might… Ecc. 9:10

That’s been my mode of operation for physical activity pretty much all my life. As a result, I have hands that are wearing out a little faster than the rest of me. I didn’t realize how serious a matter this was until recently when both of my hands were too painful to use for much regular activity. Count the number of joints in your hands and fingers and that’s how many sources of pain you can have if those joints are inflamed or worn. We use our hands for nearly everything we do and yet hardly ever give them a thought, until they hurt. Even something simple like holding a book and turning the pages can be too painful to bother.

I am aware that I must be my own health advocate, and I’m trying to encourage others to do the same. I’ve been researching what’s new in treatment of joint pain. Since I view surgery as a last resort, and never without its own bad consequences, the new information on stem cell therapy caught my attention. I’m convinced it’s worth a shot and I want to share the information with any readers who struggle with any level of arthritis or joint damage.

I’m scheduled to begin therapy next week, and I’ll be recording what happens as the days unfold. It’s not an immediate process since it involves healing over time. Here’s the basic outline of stem cell therapy, as I understand it without getting too technical.

We all have stem cells, lots of them when we are born and fewer as we age. They are produced in bone marrow and that’s where most of them are concentrated. Adult stem cells are the template from which other more specialized cells are made. The body signals when and where stem cells are needed to regenerate and heal damage. It’s pretty simple and it’s part of the awesome way we were designed.

These are not stem cells from human embryos, and no babies will be harmed in the publishing of this post. Much controversy has been raised over the use of embryonic stem cells, and rightly so. But, as I said, we all have our own stem cells and don’t need to use anyone else’s.

I happen to live in an area where there is a stem cell therapy practitioner. I had an initial appointment where my hands were tested and viewed with ultrasound. I am a candidate – both of my thumb joints are lacking the lining that makes things move smoothly. I have chosen the first level of treatment, mostly because it’s the one I can afford right now. Because this therapy is new, my insurance does not cover it. Technically, it’s better to call it PRP or Platelet Rich Plasma therapy.

I will go on Monday to have blood drawn, and they will extract my platelets from the blood. On Tuesday those platelets will be injected into the joint, guided by ultrasound for accuracy. Platelets in large numbers signal stem cells to get on the job. Hopefully I have enough of them to respond and make a difference. Meanwhile the doctor has recommended a new brace for me. I have had it for several weeks and it has made a lot of difference – the best one I’ve ever tried and I recommend it highly.  It is small enough to allow full use of my hand, doesn’t have to be removed when I’m doing wet things, and can be washed easily.

After treatment I will be sore for the rest of the week but that will wear off. The hoped for results are that the joint will be strengthened, and possibly some of the lining will be restored. I do want to tell about the other two levels of treatment too, but not today. Check in again for tomorrow’s post. It’s fascinating stuff.  More information at this link Regenexx.

 

 

Your Best Advocate

Of course I’d like to be a better writer. For a while, as I try to be better, I’m going to at least try to be prolific. They say that if you write a lot, you have a much better chance that some of it will be good. If you write seldom (or not at all), none of it will be, so be writing. That’s my goal.

 

You have to be your own health care advocate. If you find that impossible, make one good choice – someone you trust to advocate for you. This is not a new revelation to me, but newly reinforced by my recent wellness checkup with my primary care office.

I’m somewhat of a rebel, offspring of a family that believed that 99% of what’s wrong with us heals itself if not aggravated by medicine. This mindset was pretty well in place in my high school years so I don’t know what made me choose nursing as a career. It was mostly that I was fascinated by how complex human anatomy, biology and physiology were, and because someone gave me “Cherry Ames, Student Nurse” for Christmas one year. Cherry was the medical world’s answer to Nancy Drew.

Nursing has given me an inside look into the strange reasons why some things are done the way they are. The reasons are many and complex. You can’t always figure them out. What’s more, sooner or later, what’s good for you is going to come into conflict with what’s good for someone else. It’s nice to know at that point if you have options and what they are.

The husband and I are at the age where we have more time to devote to our physical condition, and it’s a good thing being that it’s also the age where there’s some new thing going wrong every week. We are still moving around under our own steam and able to read so we are researching. I read to him in the evenings, after we walk, and we discuss health issues and diets, sleep, exercise, medicines – all of that.

Without going into too much detail in this post, suffice it to say that we see a lot of new research that flies in the face of traditional thought about these issues. It seems that what we’ve been doing traditionally for the last half century or so has created an epidemic of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and depression. Oh, and Alzheimer’s dementia. Oh, and autism. Oh, and autoimmune disorders. And cancer. At some fundamental level, we are a very sick country.

Having decided to get smarter about simple things we could do to help ourselves avoid as much sickness as possible, we are starting with eating differently.

I was sitting with the PA who was doing my wellness questionnaire and telling him some of these things. I told him how I was limiting carbohydrates by cutting out most bread and sources of sugar. I mentioned ketogenic diet and how I’d lost ten pounds on it.  I told how it was a high fat, moderate protein, lo-carb diet, and that I was feeling pretty good overall. He nodded and appeared to be listening (how do I know what he’s thinking…). We talked about stress relief and I told him that I dispelled it by writing for my blog. Then he wrapped up the interview with “Okay, just keep doing what you’re doing and keep on that low fat diet.” Sigh.

Traditional advice is not always for everyone. Sometimes, it’s not even true or based on real evidence. I’m going to end this post in the same way I started it. You have to be your own health care advocate because no one doctor or health professional can concentrate on what’s good for you. You are it.

More to come on this and related subjects.

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Blood pressure gradually creeping up – that’s what first caught my attention. Just sayin’…

#AtoZChallenge: My Favorite Things Z

Zzzzzz’s (okay, sleep)

I used to think that missing sleep was not a big deal, if I could make it through the next day all right. I’m learning differently, and it’s a little scary.

A good sleep pattern, something that’s habitual, can make the difference between being healthy and active or falling prey to (are you ready for this?) brain fog, memory loss, diabetes, obesity, cardiovascular disease, cancer, depression and Alzheimer’s disease. Prolonged poor sleep habits are a factor in all of those things THAT YOU DON’T WANT!

I’m especially concerned about my brain as I age, specifically I want to avoid dementia of all kinds. Good sleep enables the brain to clear out damaging proteins and carry out several other physiological chores that cut inflammation and bolster the immune system. Sleep apnea,  a common condition these days, has been shown to be a factor in the cognitive impairment that can precede Alzheimer’s disease. I’m not saying that my husband is cognitively impaired yet but he says he’s worried that he is.  What I hear, a few minutes after he falls asleep, is snoring. After he is fully relaxed his airway closes and he doesn’t breathe for a much longer time than normal – which rouses him suddenly just enough to start the cycle over again. Neither one of us sleeps very well through this.

The good news is that he has finally gotten around to visiting a sleep specialist for his sleep problem. Yay! I have been telling him that it could be causing some of his other complaints, and after getting the explanations from this doctor, he is starting to believe it. He’s eager to get on with his night time sleep study (polysomnogram). There is a whole field of medicine devoted to sleep disorders, and it’s about time since we spend nearly a third of our lives sleeping, or trying to.

Sleep, good sound sleep that leaves me feeling refreshed, is a memory from younger years I’m afraid. I usually look forward to getting off my feet and lying down, but after a few hours of hunting for a position that doesn’t hurt something, somewhere, I’m am looking forward to getting up again.  Tried a “sleep number” bed. It didn’t help. Tried “My Pillow”.  Didn’t help either. I’m defying the odds. But every once in a while I hit the jackpot and get a really good sleep. It is so sweet, and definitely a favorite.

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The kind of ridiculous, good sleep I’m waiting for…

 

I’m addressing my sleep deprivation from several angles, trying lots of lifestyle alterations that help. There’s lots of interesting information out there! How are you sleeping these days?

Ordinary Times and Travels: What we eat in Seattle, post 9

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After the hammer…

“This is the first time in my 35 years that I have heard that peanuts are not nuts.” he said.

Esther’s friend made dinner for us tonight and we were standing around in the kitchen talking about “the diet project”, the AIP.  He had been interested enough to read up about it and had chosen a couple recipes from our cookbook to make, giving us the night off.  He did a bang up job and we appreciated it, a lot!

We have been following the AutoImmune Protocol for almost two weeks now, and although I think it is going fairly well, we are starting to have serious cravings for things on the “no” list, things we used to love to eat, things high on fun, satiety and comfort, but low (possibly devoid of…) nutrients.  It’s a little early to know if we feel healthier, but how could we be otherwise? That’s what I’m asking myself.

For certain, more food has come through the door of this house in the last two weeks than in similar time periods. We seem to be shopping all the time. Yet, it’s a struggle to figure out what to eat when mealtimes come around. Sometimes what we have is not the mental picture of a meal that we have been used to, so it doesn’t seem like a meal.  Thankfully, mental pictures can be changed – in fact, that is what it’s all about when you decide to take on a new way of eating. Can we stick with it until we’ve had time to change our ideas of satisfying eating? Good question.

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Yum?

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Breakfast is a difficult meal because traditionally, it’s all about grains, dairy and eggs of some sort, none of which are on our diet. We have avocado, sweet potato, turkey bacon. We need to work on our smoothie repertoire a little more.

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The lovely, nontraditional breakfast

We knew we were going to have to use more coconut in various ways so Esther ordered two young coconuts in our Amazon Fresh order.  I googled instructions on how to get into them because, frankly, looking at them doesn’t give a clue. The steps seemed simple, just hack away the outer white layer until you see a light colored “spot” where you can press your knife and make a hole. I made quite a mess doing all that cutting and got to a rock-hard layer where no more cutting was possible. But, someone forgot to put a “spot” on my coconut and I had to drill a hole with the tip of my knife.  So I had a hole, but nothing was coming out of it – until I made a second hole for air to come in. See, when you learn stuff like that in Physics class they don’t tell you that you’ll need it when you encounter coconuts.

There was at least 10 ounces of coconut water inside this coconut so Esther and I both had a good drink. However, there had to be more to eat than just the water. I knew it would take more than tiny holes to get the insides out so I took it out on the sidewalk and smashed a big hole with a  hammer. The inside of a young coconut is soft, shiny, semi-translucent and white (pretty really). I like it. Esther… not so much.

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Esther’s fake bacon substitute.

Esther has discovered which meats she is able to tolerate most easily, and I have to hand it to her. For a vegetarian, she is doing great. She has had some kind of meat protein almost twice every day. As a vegetarian, she would eat burgers made of soy or black beans, and she would eat fake bacon, also a soy product. As an AIP girl she is bothered least by fake soyburgers (read real beef burgers) and fake soy bacon (real meat bacon) because they look similar to what she has grown accustomed to eating. See, it’s all in your mind.  She eats tuna. I don’t know what it is about chicken though. For her, it begins with the smell and only gets worse with the sight and taste. I’m afraid I will be eating the roast chicken all by myself. Getting to like chicken will take some work.

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I love meat and have no problem with cooking it, but I wish it were less messy. What to do with all the fat and how to get it off the dishes and counters is a battle.  I’ve made three batches of bone broth but so far, no one has gotten into drinking it straight.  It is kind of piling up in the fridge.  I froze some of it in our ice cube trays, causing a near unhappy moment when Esther went to get ice cubes.

What else hasn’t worked… yes, the coconut Greek yogurt. I’m not sure you can make yogurt out of anything other than real milk, but there was a recipe, so Esther tried it. The black probiotic culture she added to it looked strange but we were able to think of it as specks of vanilla bean (also not on the diet). After culturing overnight in a warm place it was still coconut cream liquid. But it tastes great poured over bananas or the apple/cranberry compote we made. Fake yogurt, this also will take some work.

I don’t mean to say that we haven’t discovered some really good, simple recipes that I am happy to add to my regular cooking line up. I wrote about the Nomato Sauce in a previous post. Tonight we had a cauliflower dish that easily takes the place of fried rice, and some steak flavored with coconut aminos that was so flavorful.  One good thing we have both noticed is that we do not feel distressed after eating, no uncomfortable fullness, and of course, we are not gaining weight.  I am happy to see Esther able to tolerate meals without pain, and she is eating more good, nutritious food than I have ever noticed before.