Happy weekend, everyone!
Since this post will be otherwise unashamedly food and nutrition-related, I'll start with the view from our front door.
Thank you for all the helpful advice on resizing (downsizing) photos and de-bloating picasa. My less-than-tech-savvy brain was beginning to get a grip on some suggestions, and then I remembered it's First Friday, which meant drop-in computer help at our local library. So I got some wonderful help and a clear angle on how to do this--thank you so much, Ryan and the library! picnik.com allows me to shrink the huge pictures already in picasa, and iPhoto will allow me to make them small to begin with: an extra step, but they'll upload faster. Orders of magnitude smaller--I had no idea that the resolution size could vary so much (for so little apparent gain)...and it's an extra step before uploading, but at a few hundred KB instead of 3MB, they'll load up so much faster.
PUFAs and Why I'm Experimenting with Minimizing Them
PUFAs = Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids: the long-chain, highly unsaturated fats found in nuts, seeds and their oils, fish. Highly unsaturated means that many carbons in the carbon/hydrogen chain are unbound, which means that they can easily pick up extra oxygen bonds: i.e., oxidize. I think pretty much everyone knows now that seed and grain oils are a poor choice for cooking especially, (even more so if hydrogenation is involved or prolonged high heat) and probably for general consumption: being so highly oxidative, they go rancid fast and also 'go trans'--the molecule changes (or is changed by hydrogenation) in structure to something that is not recognized or easily incorporated by the body, something that is clearly correlated with heart problems, elevated cholesterol, etc.
It's also fairly generally acknowledged that maintaining an optimal omega-3 to omega-6 ratio within one's polyunsaturated fat intake is important for health maintenance: high omega-6 correlates with inflammation, tumor formation and much more. Hence the fish oil craze, hence the importance of flax seeds, hence the whole concept of 'essential fatty acids.' There is a high polyunsaturated fatty acid concentration in the human brain, and many nutritionists believe that we need to ensure consumption of two of them, EPA and DHA, in particular, for optimal brain and mood health.
Even raw-foodists (other than 80-10-10-ers, who restrict all fats severely) sometimes note that they feel better not eating too many nuts and seeds, but on a raw food diet especially, it's very easy to make these a staple and to end up with a huge omega-6 intake.
I've always had this on my radar, and (like Gabriel Cousens recommends in Conscious Eating), have made sure to balance especially high-omega-6 foods like sesames and sunflower seeds with some flax or chia. Coconut, of course, contains almost entirely saturated fat, and perhaps this experiment was appealing to me because I've always 'felt' better with coconut than with other nuts and seeds.
Recently, I've been reading Ray Peat's work, and it seems appropriate that I was led there by Matt Stone's research trends since, on the PUFA issue at least, this is a complete 180 from anything I'd read before. It's a 180 but it's also stunningly plausible in places, and Peat has a PhD in Biology and has been working on the interactions between nutrition and hormones since the late 1960's. According to his research, Polyunsaturated fats in general, not just the trans fats, not just the omega-6's, are less than optimal for consumption for several reasons, mostly connected with their oxidative nature. They correlate with lowered metabolism and increased fat storage, with inhibition of proteolytic enzymes and detoxification enzymes, and with increased estrogen output (which also lowers metabolism). He cites studies suggesting that many problems that have been linked to 'fatty acid deficiency' have been remedied by adding vitamin B6 in some cases and E in others.
Now of course, it's easy to claim all kinds of things, and one has to wonder why this side of the picture is not more widely known. Part of the answer is industrial/monetary--the market is flooded with cheap seed oils--but that doesn't explain the fatty acids in the brain part. I'm not done reading all that he has to say, and plan to follow up further, checking some references, but some of the detriments that he associates with PUFAs are so close to me that it seems worth making this experiment on myself.
I have a grievously slow metabolism, obviously, having stayed in starvation mode for about half my life so far, and am coming to recognize the benefits of encouraging it to speed up, especially as my body no longer tolerates starvation! Upping starch and focusing on coconut as fat source may help with this. Additionally, after a decade of no menstruation, I'm 'estrogen dominant' as equilibrium struggles to exert itself, which tends to slow metabolism further. If PUFAs and estrogen are in a positive feedback loop and my estrogen needs to be lowered, lowering PUFAs seems like a sensible plan.
From a culinary perspective, within the confines of raw eating this can be quite a challenge, since so many fun recipes are extensively nut or seed-based. But I haven't missed them at all (maybe partly because I've been reaping the benefits of starch (update coming soon). Macadamias have almost no PUFAs, cashews and hazelnuts are also pretty low, and I'm not doing this as an absolute black and white thing, for once! For thickening my smoothies, irish moss has come into my life and it's surprising to me that something so minimally flavored should become such a favorite.
If I find that I'm suddenly plunged into depression, despite all the vitamin D and full spectrum lighting, I'll eat some flax or chia and see if that helps.
Fun with Leftovers
I've mentioned before that I love leftovers but don't always know what to do with them. This past week has been fun. Before we got on the road for Anchorage this week, we had friends over to dinner. I had made mashed sweet potatoes with coconut cream and a salad, amongst other things. For the road, I added some berbere spice and nutritional yeast and some peas to the mashed sweet potatoes, and mixed it all with the salad. This made two very satisfying and delicious lunches!
Any creative uses of leftovers you'd care to share?
Have a beautiful weekend.