Archive for Book Reviews

Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.

Raise your hands if you have been reading Michael Pollan?

His latest, In Defense of Food, just came out in trade paperback last week and it’s definately worth the read (as is The Omnivore’s Dilemna, which is less about what to eat as it is about the production of food in general, but still an excellent eye opener).

Michael Pollan is getting people thinking about what they are putting in their mouths for fuel everyday and how it is affecting our overall health, and the message is getting through in a very big way.

The first time I read something that touched on locavoreism was in a book of essays by Barbara Kingsolver called Small Wonder. This came in in 2001 or 2002, several years before Animal, Vegetable, Miracle hit the shelves. She talked about how if everyone spent just 20.00 a month from their grocery bill on locally grown and processed foods it would change the world. At the time I was living in the Houston area and there were no Farmer’s Markets (I emailed the texas agriculture department and asked even). I had to really hustle to find places to spend local money. I went to you-pick farms and bought veggies and honey from roadside stands. 20 dollars a month is a challenge and only a few years later 35-50% of my weekly food budget is on local ingredients between the farmer’s market, Greenling, and whatever is marked as local at the grocery store (I make a big deal about buying a bunch of ANYTHING local at the grocery store. I have to keep encouraging them!)

So not only is the message getting out there and the world is changing, this is one of the best ways to say on the Glycemic Index diet. Eat food? Not too much? Mostly plants? Isn’t that almost the GI diet in a nutshell?

In the past two years I have dropped two dress sizes and kept it off. The keeping it off part is the huge thing. And the fact that I have never been hungry is the second-hugest thing.

Is that a dramatic difference? No. Though you can certainly tell in before and after pictures (I like to show people my old driver’s license photo. It’s practically a party trick). Is my diabetes under control? Yes. If I’m not eating well it is IMMEDIATELY evident in my bloodwork. Even if I am taking my medications perfectly.

I am certainly not perfect. The iced coffees from McDonalds have a siren call, I swear. I still use processed stuff like the Splenda cakemixes. But I’m using less of them, and using more natural ingredients like agave. When I do eat something sweet, I try to avoid the corn syrup in favor of cane sugar and have noticed that I am satiated faster. But then, I try to avoid corn syrup period. It helps my blood sugar in general.

Rates of diabetes are very high among native peoples (my father is Choctaw) and is an aspect of multimodal diagnosis that I am researching for my dissertation, so I’m a little geeked out on the subject. But Michael Pollan makes it easy. Eat things your forebears would recognize as food. Don’t eat so much and have most of it be stuff grown in the ground. Stuff grown in the ground in your own foodshed is even better.

And check out the book, you’ll be glad you did.

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Animal Vegetable Miracle

I wrote about using your local farmer’s market as a good source of healthy, local ingredients in this post.  I talked about an essay Barbara Kingsolver published in her book Small Wonders a few years ago stating that if we would spend just 20.00 a month on locally produced foods we would change the face of agricultural commerce.  There are many reasons why this would happen, and I’m sure we can all list many of them such as: supporting local farmers and sustainable local crops, reducing the engergy expenses associated with transporting foodstuffs (especially now with the price of gas doubled from what it was when she originally wrote that essay), decreasing the use of pesticides (most smaller local farms are organic in practice even if not certifed as such), decreasing the spread of illness such as e. coli, and just plain eating healthier (less corn syrup, more leafy greens).

Barbara Kingsolver and her family decided to take the experiment a step further, and move to their Appalachian farm year-round and try to live off their own crops and other locally produced goods.  Their own veggies, their own eggs, and their own free-range meats.  The book is a look at the year they spent in this experiment, and is interspersed with essays by Barbara’s husband and oldest daughter.

There is also a good deal of information about how the rest of us can incorporate some of these ideas into our own lives without moving out to our own farms.  Such as utilizing farmer’s markets (see the link above for more info about your local farmer’s market), joining a co-op, and using the services of community supported agriculture.  Canning and freezing the fresh stuff when it is in season to use later in the year, growing a few veggies of our own, even some pots of tomatoes, or our own sprouts.

Eating healthy is much easier when you are eating locally produced foods.  They foods also taste better and I have found them to be actually cheaper than the produce at the grocery store when you purchase items at the height of their season.

For more information about the Animal Vegetable Miracle project, click here.

To buy the book, go here.

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Getting Started With The GI Diet

This is the book that I use as the basis for my own GI diet and lifestyle.

The premise is super-simple and is based on a traffic light. Red foods? Don’t eat em. They bad for you. Yellow foods? Eat in moderation. Green foods? The stuff that’s good for you. You can eat as much as you want of them in many circumstances. If you are trying to maintain your blood sugar and weight, stick to greens and yellows. If you are trying to lose weight, focus on the greens.

Instead of counting calories, you use the traffic light system and general portion ideas. For example, your protein should take up about 1/4 of your plate.

And you CAN have carbs! The idea of glycemic index is how slowly you metabolize the carbs not the carbs themselves. So whole grains are OK! Have brown rice instead of white, have wheat tortillas instead of flour or corn. It works because these foods are filling and help KEEP you full for longer periods of time.

I have been on the G.I. diet for about 6 weeks now. I have lost between 10-15 pounds. (I really try to stay away from the scale so the numbers don’t dictate my life.) I know those numbers will slow down, as all weight loss numbers do. But the important thing is that my blood sugar is incredibly stable throughout the day. My glucometer is bored and out of work!

There are alot of good books out there, and different versions of the GI diet plan (South Beach is the big one). Pick the one that best suits you and your lifestyle and give it a try. Even if you don’t have diabetes issues or weight issues, you will find yourself feeling better within weeks!

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