Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Fats 101: Part Two and Patrick Stewart

I was trying to sketch out a rough outline on what I was going to talk about regarding fats and I realized that this is a huge topic. Initially I thought I could cover it in one post, then a few. Now I am wondering how many it is going to take to do this topic justice. I am trying to keep this as simplistic as possible but still give enough details that it will make sense. Hopefully I am doing that. If not and you have any questions please let me know. Now let’s jump back in where we left off the other day.

Converting Linoleic and Linolenic Acids into EPA and DHA:

As we now know only to fatty acids are essential and those are both polyunsaturated fats specifically they are linoleic and linolenic acid. These fats are building blocks for other fats that our bodies can make. To convert linoleic acid into EPA (eicosapentaenoic acid) your body needs to add carbon atoms (by elongation) and two double bonds (by desaturation). Additionally EPA is elongated and desaturated to become DHA. Both EPA and DHA are used for gene expression and epithelial function.

EFAs and Eicosanoids:

Essential fatty acids (EFA) are also converted into eicosanoids, which are a lipid-like substance. Eicosanoids are involved in the immune system. Prostaglandins are a specific type of eicosanoid that you may have heard of since they are necessary for healthy blood vessels and regulate blood pressure. Our bodies make both omega-3 and omega-6 eicosanoids. The omega-3 eicosanoids are anti-inflammatory and the omega-6 are inflammatory. There are many studies that suggest that the balance of omega-3 and 6 eicosanoids impact the diseases of affluence (heart disease, cancer, diabetes, etc.). If you want to read more about eicosanoids Dr. Barry Sears has written about them extensively and they are the basis for his Zone Diet.

Food Sources of EFAs:

Linoleic acid is abundant in the food supply. You can find it in nuts (walnuts), seeds, and oils like soybean, safflower and corn. However you know that I avoid oils and concentrate on getting my fats from whole foods like nuts and seeds which I will explain in more depth in this fat series.

Linolenic acid is also found in some oils including canola, soy and flax. However it is also in walnuts which most people enjoy.

What About Saturated and Other Unsaturated Fatty Acids?:

Saturated fats are not essential because our bodies can make as much as we need. There is no nutritional need to consume saturated fat. This includes not only animal saturated fats but plant saturated fats from things like coconut or palm oil.

Other than linoleic and linolenic unsaturated fats are not essential as the body can make it. There is some controversy regarding whether we are capable of converting enough linoleic and linolenic into EPA and DHA which I will address later in this series when we will look at some of the new science.

Monounsaturated Fats:

Monounsaturated fats (MUFAs) get their name because what makes them different from a saturated fat is that they have one double bond in the carbon chain. Basically saturated fat is a straight line chain of carbon that is fully saturated with hydrogen. However a MUFA is a chain of carbons that is mostly saturated. However, there is one (mono) double bond in the chain of carbon. In other words there are two fewer hydrogen atoms because of that double bond. The chemical characteristics of MUFAs are between saturated and a polyunsaturated fats. The best example of this is what happens to olive oil (mostly MUFA) when you refrigerate it and it gets thick and gloppy but canola oil (mostly PUFA) stays liquid.

MUFAs (monounsaturated fats) got a lot of press lately with the popularity of the Flat Belly Diet which has the impact of convincing women that they need to consume them. However it is important to remember that MUFAs are not essential fatty acids. The definition of an essential fatty acid is that we need to consume it because our bodies are not capable of making it. In other words if you follow the Flat Belly Diet you are supplementing your diet with MUFAs that your body is perfectly capable of making. This doesn’t make much sense to me. However if you are substituting MUFAs for SFAs that makes more sense. It would be a healthier choice just not the most healthy alternative. Does that make sense?

Fats in Foods:

Foods are always a combination of fatty acids. You hear people refer to olive oil as a “healthy monounsaturated fat” all the time but that is not the whole store (or even terribly accurate IMO). Olive oil like all fats is a combination of saturated (SFA), monounsaturated (MFA) and polyunsaturated (PFA) fatty acids. In fact olive is approximately 14% saturated fat, 78% monounsaturated fat and 8% polyunsaturated fat. From the information above we know that only two PUFAs are essential. But olive oil is most MFA so how is it good for us? Olive oil doesn’t really look like such a healthy choice now does it?

I am part Italian and always loved the flavor of a good peppery Tuscan olive oil so this news really crushed me. I have said many times it was easier for me to give up cheese than it was olive oil. However olive oil is not alone in its combination of fats all foods are like this. Even something like butter which we all think of as saturated fat is a combination of SFA, MUFA and PUFA. Fish is the same and is also a combination of fats it isn’t just omega-3’s as most people believe based on what they read in the mainstream media. Remember those omegas 3’s are in the PUFA category and provide EPA and DHA.

I am going to cut off the fat portion here so you have time to think about this and ask questions. My next fat post will build on the first two.


We started our morning at the farmers’ market like we always do. Rudy had asked if we could print something for him to hand out since his printer wasn’t working and we said yes and then we both forgot to take it with us. I keep telling you we aren’t morning people. You are starting to see that right?

Breakfast was a green smoothie for both of us. I have started to add vanilla extract to the smoothies and we both really like that. The green smoothies now contain: raw kale, frozen bananas, walnuts in Dan’s not mine, cinnamon, powdered ginger, ground flaxseeds, vanilla extract, water and ice. I sometimes add cardamom or nutmeg to mind depending on my mood. If you haven’t tried adding vanilla please do it changes the flavor more than you think.

Once we got home we hurried to get ready so we had time to drop the papers to him on our way to the boat. We got a nice thank you email from him on Monday. It is always nice when you can help people isn’t it?

We spent the day at the marina (surprise surprise) where Dan took many hours to go through a locker that was full of tools, spare parts and miscellaneous guy stuff and categorized it by type. The electrical stuff is together, that sort of thing. Good thing he knows this stuff because I am mechanically illiterate.

While Dan was organizing the guy stuff I was busy reorganizing lockers with my stuff in them. I also took time to write the last post and put a few comments on Facebook. If you aren’t following me there please do. I find that I update Facebook more than the blog because it is quicker for me to do.

Lunch was a simple soba noodle soup with veggies. I have been keeping dried mushrooms on board so that I can make simple dishes with a “meaty flavor”. Additionally I love that mushrooms boost the immune system. That simple fact alone is enough to get me to add them to every meal we eat. However I can’t say that I think Dan is going to put up with mushrooms in his green smoothie. LOL

By the time dinner rolled around I was not much in the mood to cook so I made a simple antipasto plate of curried mango hummus, carrot “chips”, tomato wedges, marinated mushrooms with garlic and thyme and artichokes with dill. Dan had his with whole grain toast.


Monday was one of those days that was a flurry of activity. I have been so behind in everything in my life it was day to try to get caught up. Unfortunately when you get as behind as I am catching up takes a long time. At the rate I am going I may have things somewhat under control by Thanksgiving.

I took this picture in the morning on my way to the PO Box. It is starting to look a lot like fall here now.

When I got to the PO Box there was a nice surprise waiting for me. Dr. Greger sent me a copy of his newest CD along with a sweet note because I took some pictures for the CD. What a nice man he is!

Once I made it to the marina I found out that my little duck friend loved the whole grain Cheerios that I bought for her when I went for a cat kibble run. I had allowed us to run low on cat kibble so I bought a store brand and Mr. Binky was having none of that. Early in the morning he wrapped himself around my ankle as I walked by the bowl of offensive cat kibble to voice his displeasure. Are you starting to see what a little brat cat he is? Good thing we love him. *shakes head* Mr. Binky does think Newman’s Own cat kibble is an acceptable store brand for any of you with equally picky felines. It was good to have one crisis crossed off my list.

Dinner at the boat was a simple meal that I tossed together based on what I had on hand. I used whole wheat fettuccini, cauliflower, red onion, garlic, thinly cut green beans, artichokes, cashew queso and salsa. I know it sounds like an odd combination but it worked. ;-)


It was another day of trying to get caught up at home. I am making slow but steady process on things though there is still a long way to go.

The weather was as gorgeous on Tuesday as it was on Monday so I had planned to spend the afternoon sitting in the cockpit writing this post. My precious little duck friend had other thoughts. She has learned that if she gets up on our finger pier that I feed her off the swim platform so that is her new trick. I know that Dan will not be happy if there is duck poop on our pier which is why I am encouraging her to stay in the water. However this also meant that four times I ended up feeding her in the span of a little over 2 ½ hours. Needless to say I didn’t get much done. Looks like not only cats but now ducks are telling me what to do. LOL

Patrick Stewart in DC:

I want to share as much of this as I can because the evening definitely exceeded our expectations. I knew as I was sitting there that I really needed to pay attention so that I could tell you all about it and actually took notes on my phone of different things he said because it was that thought provoking for me.

I am sorry that I don’t have a good picture to share. Seated in the row behind me was a dreadful and unhappy woman who wanted to appoint herself the picture Nazi. I was able to get one really bad shot with my cell phone but that was it. Let’s just say I am really happy this woman isn’t my neighbor or I would be in jail. ;-) Fortunately I was able to let this go and enjoy the evening.

I was able to find a picture of Patrick from earlier this year and he really doesn’t seem to be aging does he? He looked very agile and young last night too. I really want to know his secrets. LOL

Patrick Stewart is a fascinating man. I had no idea how funny he is but I spend most of the evening laughing and that is the sign of great evening if you ask me.

When he was asked how life has changed since he became Sir Patrick Stewart his response was “I get better tables in restaurants now”. It was so obvious that he doesn’t take himself very seriously which is very refreshing.

At one point he was asked if acting is difficult and his response was priceless. He said, “Acting is easy, life is hard.” Given some of the weeks and months I have had I agree with him.

I had not realized that he grew up in an abusive home. His father would abuse his mother on the weekends when he drank. As a result of that he is now a patron for a charity for abused women which I found commendable. Additionally he said that he started acting to escape reality and that he felt safer on stage than at home.

Talked about a small role he played with Rod Steiger years ago that he said he shares often with young actors because it made such an impression on him. They were shooting a scene in a car and they were finished with Mr. Steiger and told him he could break for lunch. He asked “What about Mr. Stewart?” and when they said they needed to a more shots with him and would use a double he lost it. Rod Steiger was enraged that this stage hand would “disrespect him and tell him he could leave the set while a fellow actor was still working on the same scene.” I thought this story said so much about Patrick Stewart’s character that he shared this often.

His favorite movie is “On the Waterfront” which I haven’t seen but after hearing his story I need to. Apparently Karl Malden was in it and Patrick loved his work in the movie. Patrick was invited to a dinner party in LA and begged the hostess to seat him next to Karl Malden which she did. He said he couldn’t stop asking questions about his portrayal in the movie. What he really wanted to know was what the motivation was when he lit a cigarette at a certain point in the film which Patrick thought was genius. According to Patrick Karl looked at him a bit confused and said, “I don’t’ know, I guess I just needed a smoke.” *LOL* He also said Karl Malden was extremely gracious as he probably wanted to enjoy dinner and I was bothering him all through dinner. He acted out what he was doing and it was a riot.

Last play before “The Next Generation” the director (or producer) wanted someone in the lead role that people had heard of. Patrick Steward said that made him go “ouch” since at that point he had been acting for 27 years. Can you imagine? He is so well known now it is hard to believe he was ever an unknown actor.

It was a fluke that he got the Picard role. He was doing a friend of his a favor. The friend was a drama teacher at University of California and asked him to read something on stage and one of the people behind Star Trek was in the audience. It took over 6 months to get from that to role.

Gene Roddenberry didn’t want Patrick to play Picard. But at the end the studio and many of the other people did and he got the role.

He talked about a screen test he did in a toupee and with a French accent that is in a vault somewhere. Wouldn’t we all like to see that? He said he sounded like Inspector Clouseau and then did a few lines from the opening of Star Trek in that accent and it was hysterical. I was laughing so hard tears were rolling down my cheeks.

When he was telling the story about the final audition there was another pearl of wisdom that he shared. He said that after every audition he does forgets about the role knowing that he did his best and now things were out of his hands. Wouldn’t we all be happier if we viewed things in life that way?

When the artistic director of the Shakespeare Theatre Company asked why he returned to the stage once he was well known the answer was touching. He said that when he lived in Hollywood he had to stop reading the London papers because when he read the reviews of his contemporaries on stage he would get sad because he wasn’t with him. This is when he knew that he had to go back to the stage since it is what he loves.

There was a lot more than this but I don’t want to bore you with all the details. Suffice it to say it was a great evening and much better than either of us expected.

Dinner at Jaleo:

Fortunately for us the garage where you usually park when we go to Jaleo was just a few blocks from the Shakespeare Theatre so you know where we decided to go for dinner right?

We seem to be getting the same server every time lately. I really need to learn his name. We had the same guy who was talking to us when the earthquake hit the last time we were there.

We started with the veggie paella which we don’t get often but were in the mood for carbs.

Next we ordered our favorite dish the mushrooms with garlic, herbs and lemon. I really love this dish.

We also ordered the fennel and apple salad with walnuts but had them leave off the manchego cheese. When I make this at home I might add a few thinly sliced olives for salt which was left out by eliminating the cheese.

After these three dishes we were both starting to feel full but once I heard the sorbet was house-made and vegan (you have to be careful some places add egg white for some unknown reason) we ordered a serving to share. It had a very intense orange flavor and was only slightly sweet, I thought it was perfect.  I didn't ask but I am sure the cookie wasn't vegan so we didn't eat it.

The dessert menu got my wheels spinning on things to make a healthy vegan version of so I took a few pictures so I didn’t forget. I thought it might do the same for you which is why it is included here.

This is the tea menu. I had the apricot cinnamon tea and Dan had our usual blood orange.

Happy Thoughts:

Life has been pretty good lately so I will just try to hit the highlights here.

• Dan and I both are getting a lot of relaxing time in on the boat. It is very hard to be stressed when at the marina. Why did we go without a sailboat for so long? Oh well, live and learn right?

• It was great to be able to help Rudy out with the print outs he needed for the market. I also appreciated his nice thank you email. Who says there aren’t many nice people anymore?

• Dr. Greger just made my week with the CD and nice note. It is comforting to know that there are many more gracious people in the world other than just those people we know and love.

• Tuesday was fantastic. We both loved Patrick Stewart and dinner at Jaleo was terrific as always. This is shaping up to be a wonderful week already.

Signing out:

I am running a little bit behind and want to get this posted before Dan makes his way to the boat for dinner. Talk with you all again soon. Happy Wednesday!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

David Sanborn Concert

As you know we headed for Annapolis Friday night for a David Sanborn concert. Fortunately this time we were on time, unlike the Euge Groove concert a month or so ago. We also had a friendly couple at our table which also made for a nice evening. My seat was literally 4 feet from where David Sanborn was playing. I had to change out my lens from the telephoto one to the lens that I use for close ups because we were that close. It was definitely nice to be in the front row. Now if only I paid that much attention to all the upcoming artists at Ram’s Head so that I could be online when the tickets were first issued that would be great. However I know myself and I am just not that organized. ;-)

Rams Head On Stage has changed the menu a little but we were still able to order vegan food. They now have a vegan black bean soup which was okay. It was served with white rice, which would never be my first choice but I understand why they did it since most Americans don’t eat brown rice. However it was very mild, too mild if you ask me. Again I am sure this was to cater to the American palate. The next time we go I will make sure to have some hot sauce in my purse. Yes I really will do that. Sorry for the lack of photos of the food the lights had been turned down by the time it arrived at the table.

We also ordered the veggie wrap, which is another new menu item. We asked them to replace the mozzarella cheese with hummus and the server wasn’t sure that they would but they did so all was well.

The concert was very good and David Sanborn still has it. I felt so bad for him though. He had a terrible cold and could barely speak but somehow managed to play for almost 2 hours. Talk about a professional. I think I was more impressed that he didn’t cancel the show than anything else. I would definitely go to see him again the next time he is in town. His music is just so sexy.

After the concert we had to run by the boat because I didn’t remember checking to make certain the boat was locked when I left the second time. I was rushing because I had misplaced my cell phone and ran back to the boat to look for it on board only to realize that I had I all along. Clearly the purse I was carrying, which had my camera, flash cards and extra lens in addition to all my girl paraphernalia, had way too many pockets. See what I mean about not being that organized? LOL

Fortunately I wasn’t the only one who forgot things last night. Dan had left some paperwork in his office that he planned to bring home. Since Dan’s office is close to the boat we stopped to grab that on the way up the road. I hadn’t seen Dan’s new office (they moved about 2 weeks ago) so I went in with him and snapped a few pictures of the view. He has a nice view from his new office due to the two floors to ceiling walls of windows. The city at night is very pretty from his office I thought.  I also included a picture he sent me by cell phone before the furning arrived so you could see it during the day. I imagine his plants will love the windows.  ;-)


The Baltimore marathon was Saturday and ran directly by our marina which closed down access for a lot of the morning. Good thing we had stuff to do at home otherwise that would have been a little annoying.

We arrived at the marina mid afternoon and brought a few things to eat with us of course. Hey it is us and you know we are never going to go without food right? ;-)

I had green smoothies at home and got them semi frozen in two French market glasses with lids and brought those for our lunch. Drinking green smoothies (kale and banana) does get a bit of attention and not necessary in a positive way. ;-) Our boat neighbor Rubin was having some white wine while we had green smoothies. Culture shock anyone? LOL

Our dinner Saturday night had two courses. The first course was a simple salad which included: lettuce, tomatoes, marinated mushrooms and cilantro. The best part was the salad dressing which I made in the Vitamix. I used the cauliflower at Jaleo for inspiration. The salad dressing will be detailed at the end of the post.

In addition to salad I also made a whole wheat pasta dish, heavy on the veg since that is where the nutrition is located. This dish included: red onion, garlic, sherry vinegar, carrot, cauliflower, hot crushed peppers, lemon pepper and fresh cilantro. I finished the dish with chopped walnuts and it was great. Fast and healthy food at home doesn’t have to be boring or bland.

Also I am also slowly figuring out the whole boat food thing which means that it is now much easier to make meals with a more limited pantry than I have a home. Since a few of you have mentioned that you either own sailboats or want to I thought I should share a few of the things that I keep on board to make it easier to prepare food without dragging half my kitchen with me every day. Goodness knows I bring enough stuff as it is so any time I can bring less I am very happy.

Things I keep in the boat pantry for simple meals:

• Whole wheat pasta
• Soba Noodles
• Quinoa (perfect since it cooks quickly not to mention I love that it is a complete protein)
• Short grain Italian rice (so I can whip together risotto if we have guests stop by)
• Small containers (pill bottles to be precise) of commonly used spices and herbs
• Spice mixes (I have been keeping a Mexican, Indian and Southern Italian mix on board)
• Nutritional Yeast
• Pepper grinder
• Chipotle peppers
• Hot sauce
• Sun-dried tomatoes
• Jars of canned tomatoes (good for everything if you are Italian LOL)
• Dried mushrooms (great for soup, pasta or risotto)
• Dried fruit (good snack food or for adding to peanut butter filled veggies)
• Nuts (great for salad, pasta or snacks)
• Dried beans
• Canned beans (for when I don’t have time to pressure cooked the dried ones)
• Jarred artichokes
• Jarred roasted red peppers
• Roasted seaweed (fantastic trace mineral packed snack but also good to add to Asian dishes as a garnish)

Items I stash in the boat refrigerator:

• Hummus
• Salsa
• Onions
• Garlic
• Carrots (to dip into hummus or for salad)
• Something in the cabbage family (kale, cabbage, bok choy etc.) for slaw or soup
• High fiber whole grain bread (Dan likes peanut butter sandwiches)
• Homemade reduced fat peanut butter
• Fresh herbs (varies depending on what I have on hand but cilantro and parsley are common)
• Salad dressing I made a home (varies depending on my mood)
• Apples (these are great with sweet hummus or on a peanut butter sandwich)
• Brazil Nuts (so we get our daily selenium)

Once I had a decent pantry on board I now only bring perishable with me to the boat as well as replacements for the pantry items as I use them up. With this pantry I have been able to make a wide variety of dishes. Even I have been surprised by what I can whip up when we are here.

Fats 101 Series:

I don’t have any reference books with me on the boat to double check my facts which is why I didn’t continue the fat series with this post. So that you know what to expect I plan to write more about fats at least once a week, possibly more often, until I cover everything. If you have any specific questions please be sure to let me know what they are.

Jaleo Inspired Dressing:
makes approximately 1 1/2 cups


1/3 cup raw sesame seeds (substitute tahini if not using a high speed blender)
1 cup water
Approximately 4 deglet dates (or 2 medjool dates)
1 ½ tablespoons sherry vinegar
1 clove of garlic, peeled
1 teaspoon smoked paprika
¼ teaspoon cumin seeds (substitute ground if not using a high speed blender)
freshly ground black pepper to taste


Combine everything in your high speed blender and process until smooth. Store in a sealed container in your refrigerator. This would be good as a dressing for any veggies (particularly cauliflower) though we used it as a salad dressing first. If you want it to me more like the cauliflower dish at Jaleo add some minced olives for salty pops of flavor. We both liked the sweet and savory combination of this dressing.

Happy Thoughts:

• We are making fabulous progress on the boat now. Things are definitely coming together. Both Dan and I love crossing items off of our mutual to-do lists. The boat now really feels like ours which is a lovely thing. :-)

• The concert on Friday was very nice. I have been a fan of David Sanborn for decades so it was nice to see him live. My only regret and it is minor is that he didn’t play Bang, Bang which is the song I think of first when I think of him probably because it got so much air time. I imagine for that same reason he is sick of playing it.

• I love having good internet speed on the boat. That really does make a world of difference in getting things accomplished online.

• Being able to relax on the boat most nights has done wonders for my attitude. I thought I was laid back before but I wasn’t compared to my attitude now. For some reason being on the water puts me at ease. I love watching the sunlight dance on the top of the water. Additionally I love my little duck friend who comes when she is called. If only my felines listened half that well. Not like that is likely to happen…ever.

Signing out:

It is time for me to get back to be business of relaxing. I can hear a mug of green tea calling me out to the cockpit. Talk with you again soon, hopefully tomorrow. Enjoy what is left of your weekend.

Friday, October 14, 2011

Fats 101: the First in a Series

I had the idea for this post when I posted a link on Facebook for an article that was discussing the impact of essential fatty acids (EFAs) on Alzheimer’s risk. As soon as I posted it I realized that EFA’s (omega 3’s and 6’s) is one of those topics where there is a lot of conflicting information so no one knows what to believe. I knew this because I have been that confused person. As I have told you many times I have no “formal” science training unless you count the e-Cornell certificate which I don’t think counts. When I was in college in my teens and twenties the only “science” courses I had was computer science (which doesn’t count) and statistics (only related on the periphery).

Given my educational background once I realized that cancer and I needed to have a show down I felt a bit ill equipped for the battle. I taught myself what I know about science and believe me I struggled tremendously in the beginning. There were actually times when I was tears because I was so confused and I knew that I needed to “get it”. Believe me you don’t want to be under the gun like I was trying to learn something that is unlike everything else you have been taught. My quest to understand nutrition, health and science began in early 2004 and now I am finally starting to feel very comfortable that I have a good solid understanding of the basics. I realize that I know more about nutrition and health than most people but I am still a work in process and probably always will be. I also know that is much more for me to learn, but at least I have a solid foundation to build on now. *whew* Essential fatty acids were tough for me so I want to break it down for you so that you get it too.

Initially I had planned to write about EFAs in one post and be done. However once I started writing I realized that is a big topic that should be broken down into smaller bite-sized chunks to make it easier for everyone to digest (pun intended). I am not doing anyone any good if I throw out a lot of information but it doesn’t make complete sense. Instead you will be a seeing a number of posts on this topic that will build on each other. Hopefully that approach will make this subject click for everyone. As you are reading this series of posts if anything doesn’t make sense or you want clarification let me know. I really want everyone to get his because I think it is vital to our collective health. Ok here goes nothing. ;-)


What are fats? What makes fat different from protein, or carbohydrates? Do you know? Well if you do you are much better at this than I was back in 2004. ;-) Fats (aka lipids) are a macronutrient that is very energy dense (in other words it contains a lot of calories 9 per gram to be exact compared to 4 per gram for carbs and protein and 7 per gram for alcohol). Lipids are insoluble (don’t mix well) with water. Fats are made up of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms. The major fats that we carry are: fatty acids, triglycerides, phospholipids and sterols. I will explain all of these during my “fat series”.

Fats are formed by a chain of carbon atoms. These carbon atoms are linked to hydrogen by chemical bonds. These carbon chains have two ends one is the alpha end and the other is the omega end. The alpha end of the chain contains the carboxylic acid group and the other end contains the methyl group. The omega system is a naming convention that tells you where the first double bond is located relative to the methyl end of the molecule. Specifically for an omega 3 fatty acid the first double bond is located between the third and fourth carbons from the omega end of the chain. Simple right?

Saturated versus Unsaturated:

Omega 3’s and omega-6’s are both unsaturated fatty acids. We can spot an unsaturated fatty acid easily because they are more liquid at room temperature. Saturated and unsaturated are chemistry terms which only refer to whether the carbons in the chain are fully saturated with hydrogen. In other words every position on the carbon chain is filled by hydrogen. In an unsaturated fatty acid there will be at least one carbon-carbon double bond in the backbone of the chain.

Cis and Trans Double Bonds:

You also need to know that unsaturated fats can have either cis or trans double bonds. This refers to the way the hydrogen atoms are arranged at the carbon-carbon double bonds on the chain. Cis double bonds are natural but trans double bonds are man-made. I wanted to point this out so that you knew that man-made trans fats are unsaturated but that doesn’t make them healthy. You need to read ingredient labels to make sure that you don’t see any “partially hydrogenated” fats in the ingredient list. Does the term hydrogenated make more sense now? Remember earlier we discussed that saturated and unsaturated is related to the hydrogen on the carbon chains?

Short-chain and Long-chain:

When you read about short or long-chain fatty acids all this really refers to is the length of the carbon chain. Fatty acids with fewer than 8 carbons are called short-chain. Those with 8-12 carbons are medium-chain and those with more than 12 carbons are long-chains.

Chain length has an impact on both the melting and boiling points of fat. The short-chain omega fats have lower melting and boiling points. Additionally short-chain fats are more water-soluble. Since humans are mostly water short-chain fats are easier for us to absorb.

Specific Fatty Acids:

There are a number of fatty acids and each has its own name. These fatty acids are:

palmitoleic acid – omega 7
oleic acid – omega 9
linoleic acid – omega 6
linolenic acid – omega 3
arachidonic acid – omega 6
eicosapentaenic acid (EPA) – omega 3
docosahexaenoic acid (DHA) – omega 3

Of these omega acids only two are essential which only means that the body cannot make them and therefore we need to consume them. These are linoleic and linolenic acid. Why can’t the body make these two? For some reason the body can not add a double bond in a fatty acid chain prior to the ninth carbon from the methyl end. The body can use the linoleic to make longer-chain arachidonic acid. Additionally we can turn linolenic into longer-chain EPA an DHA though conversion rates vary.

There is a lot more to learn about fats but I think this is a good place to stop for today. Tomorrow I will talk more about omega 3 and 6 fatty acids and how this relates to inflammation and why you need to balance your intake. Don’t forget to let me know if any of this in unclear since this is the basics that we are going to build on with future posts.


It rained most of the morning and early afternoon and I was not looking forward to running errands in the rain. Typically I would not refer to myself as a girly girl but I really hate rain messing up my makeup (assuming I have bothered to wear it that is).

Anyway I checked on my parent late morning and started running errands for Dan and me. I had an entire reusable grocery bag of books, CDs and DVDs to return to the library. I know, I know, I am not right. One of the CDs was a day late so I had to pay a fine. It was a biggie, $0.25. Since the books don’t get checked instantly when you drop them off I distracted myself a five minutes looking at the new releases. I told myself that I still had 7 books at home that I was reading so I didn’t need any more. Who can read 7 books in three weeks? Needless to say I have no self control when it comes to reading and I came out for 4 more books. I swear that I need help when it comes to reading. Maybe I need to start “Over Readers Anonymous”. LOL

After the library I headed for the boat because we had left the thru-hull opening for the sink in the opened position. For those of you that don’t boat there are literally holes on the bottom of boats for water to enter and exit. Some are for the engine, air conditioning, sinks, etc. We only had the sink drain opened last night but we both forgot to close it. While it probably wouldn’t have been a problem it was still a good idea to close the valve just to be safe.

I wasn’t at the boat long so I only had time to put a few finishing touches on this post, upload and drink some green tea. However I would much rather be on the computer at the boat than at home so I am not complaining.

This evening we are going to see David Sanborn in Annapolis. I have my “real” camera with me tonight and will try to get a few good shots. I have been a fan of David Sanborn for years so I am really looking forward to tonight.

Happy thoughts:

• The morning and early afternoon rain is already starting to clear up and I can see quite a bit of blue sky trying to peek through the clouds. *woo hoo* The weather people may actually be right about this weekend. :-)

• I picked up a few interesting books at the library today and am looking forward to reading those soon. I am such an information junky it isn’t funny. ;-)

• It is starting to feel a lot of sweater season here and that meant I got to wear a cute red Calvin Klein long sleeve sweater that I picked up a Marshall’s marked down to $19.99. As you can tell I really love a good bargain. For those of you who share my bargain hunting passion find a Marshall’s, Ross or TJ Maxx in a neighborhood that serves a different demographic. When you do you will shocked but what great finds you can pick up.

Signing Out:

I need to rush and get this uploaded before I drive to Dan’s office to pick him up for the concert. I hope you have something fun planned for this weekend too. Talk with you again soon, hopefully tomorrow. I seem to be back on a roll with daily posts. Let’s hope I can keep this up for a while. ;-)

Thursday, October 13, 2011

What Do You Love, What Gets You Excited?

For many years I went through the motions of life. I had gone to college and had undergrad and grad degrees in finance and naturally that is what I did for a living. They paid me well and even though I didn’t get up looking forward to work I kept doing it. We all have to work right? After 9/11 I did some serious soul searching and decided that life was too short to spend so much time doing something that I not only didn’t love but that I didn’t even like. Accounting and finance just didn’t match who I was inside; they did not match who I was. For years people who met me outside of work didn’t believe me when they asked what I did and I said I was an accountant. Invariability they would say things like “really you are an accountant, but you have so much personality?” Seriously how many times did I have to get hit over the head before I woke up? At least I figured it out before I officially reached 20 decades doing it for a living.

While I knew that I wasn’t jazzed about accounting or finance I also had no idea what I wanted to do. I have always liked cooking and I think I have been pretty good at it for a long time. Molecular gastronomy has kept me fascinated since I first learned what it was, hence the fascination with Jose Andres and Ferran Adria. However I also knew that I really didn’t want to work in a restaurant. During graduate school I was a server which meant I knew what life in a professional kitchen was like. No thanks, kitchen life on the professional level was not for me. So once I again I knew what I didn’t want but not what I did want. *sigh*

Thankfully my husband and I had saved well so there was no rush for me to figure out what I wanted to be when I grew up. Good thing because it took me almost a decade to start to hone in on what I truly love. On the less than happy side it took cancer for me to actually “get it”. It is weird where inspiration comes from and for me it was cancer. *shakes head* Honestly I feel very odd saying this but cancer has brought a lot of positive things into my life. Who would have ever believed that cancer could be at all positive? Not me that was sure, but now I realize that if cancer can be positive certainly so can everything else in life. Right? If it weren’t for cancer I would not have realized how much I love nutrition and its impact on health.

I was watching the third episode of Oprah’s Life Class last night and when she started talking about no one can tell you what your life’s purpose my ears went up. Undoubtedly this is because I have been trying to figure out what I should be when I grow up for most of my life. The part of the show that got to me was only a couple of sentences long. At one point she said (and I am paraphrasing) "look at what you are doing now and that will tell you about your life’s purpose". When I heard that the light bulb went off. What do I do for nothing because I love it? My thought was if any of us love something enough that we would do it without getting paid then what better clue could we get as to what we should do when we grow up?

For me there are a number of things that I love which are possible ideas for a new career. I love food, photography, writing, animals and of course I love health and nutrition. However what I really get jazzed about is nutrition and more specifically how nutrition can be used to regain health. For some time now I have been considering making a career of health/nutrition but wasn’t certain exactly that that was going to look like. Now I am committed to jumping into this with both feet. I will be brainstorming over the coming weeks and may be looking for input. If we chat outside the blog don’t be surprised if you hear from me looking for your opinion. However if you have any ideas that you would like to share here please feel free. I would love to hear any and all suggestions.

Now I am wondering about you. Do you love what you do for a living or is it something that you do to get paid which is how I would describe my prior career? If you don’t love what you do are you actively trying to change it? Do you have things that you love to do which you would look forward to getting up every day to do? If you don’t currently do this for a living why not? Could you maybe start doing it on a part-time basis after hours to see how it works for you?


Our morning started in an unusual way. Those of you who follow me on Facebook heard part of this already but here is the entire story. Since neither Dan nor I are morning people we had snoozed the alarm this morning and not too long after that I heard glass breaking. Not surprisingly Dan didn’t hear a thing. *shakes head* In the middle of the kitchen floor was Mr. Binky licking nutrition yeast out of a jar that he had pushed off the counter and had landed on the floor in pieces. OMG he was licking broken glass! Needless to say his siblings (Masi and Luca) were also in the kitchen to see what the commotion was about. We grabbed the felines and locked them a room while we cleaned up the mess. As you can see mornings are serene and delightful at our house. LOL

Once the nutritional yeast debacle was cleaned up I started some oatmeal for Dan’s breakfast. Who jumped up on the counter to “supervise” the cooking of the oatmeal? Of course it was Binky isn’t he always the trouble maker? I keep telling him that cat fuzz and flames don’t mix and he doesn’t listen to me. I had to place Mr. Binky on the floor no fewer than 4 times before I sent him to play with his father. Doesn’t much sound like he is 10 years old does he? My fur children still think they are kittens.

My back was still bothering me a little this morning but it is a lot better than yesterday. Today the ibuprofen was actually knocking out the pain completely until the four hours were up and it was time for another dose. Nice! :-)

Given the improvement in my back I knew I was going to the boat this afternoon. It was raining hard earlier today but once the rain let up this afternoon I headed to the marina. I find being on the boat incredibly relaxing so I try to be there whenever I can. The picture above was taken standing on the door way to the cabin.

Since I have good wifi speed at the marina now I was able to do some computer work on the boat which was nice. I got most of my post written sitting in the cabin sipping green tea. It was a very nice relaxing afternoon. Here is what the marina looks like from our boat at dusk.

This shot is looking north just after the sun went down. Sorry for the picture quality I was using my cell phone rather than my real camera which I left at home so I didn’t have to carry it. My thought was the less stuff I had to tote (because of my back) the better.

Dan walked to the boat after work and we had a leisurely dinner on board. As you can tell the boat has become like our “vacation home”.  :-)  The odd thing is that as often as we are here there are boaters on our pier who we have never seen. Mostly they are power boaters but there is one sailboat that hasn’t moved in a month. It boggles my mind that anyone would spend money on a boat and not use it. Both Dan and I decided that we weren’t going to get another boat until we were both sure that we would use it regularly. So far we seem to be doing just that as you probably noticed. LOL

For dinner we had a simple meal that started with salad. This one contained thinly sliced raw onion, tomatoes, green beans, radishes, cilantro and lettuce. I finished the salad with balsamic vinegar and pine nuts.

The main course was baked sweet potato, tatsoi (an Asian green), cashew queso, and salsa. I cooked the cashew queso at home and had it stored in the refrigerator.

Happy Thoughts:

• My back is so much better today than it was yesterday. I am still popping the Ibuprofen but now when I do the pain is only 10% what it was yesterday. Hopefully tomorrow there won’t be any need for pain relievers. *woo hoo*

• Tomorrow we are going to listen to David Sanborn. I am so excited about this. I have loved his music if decades, literally. When I saw that he was going to be on town I logged in the moment the tickets went on sale and got front row seats. I will tell you all about it over the weekend.

• If the weather forecast is right the is weekend is supposed to be sunny. Better yet Saturday is supposed to be windy. Nice!

• I am thankful that the “tornado watch” that we had tonight didn’t turn into any inclement weather. Rain was much better than high wind.

• Our nutritional yeast problem could have turned out very badly and I am thankful that it didn’t. It was my fault for not putting the nutritional yeast jar back in the pantry since I know Binky loves the stuff.

Signing Out:

We just got home from the boat and it is much later than I want it to be. I have things that I need to get finished before I head to bed. Talk with you again tomorrow. I hope the remainder of your evening is good.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

The Benefits of Fiber

Today has been an extremely unproductive day for me. I pulled a muscle in my back yesterday and consequently wasn’t able to get anything done at home or go to the boat today. To say that I am a bad sick person doesn’t even begin to explain how cranky I get when I don’t feel well. When I get a cold or pull a muscle my attitude immediately shifts to be annoyed with my body for letting me down. Is this logical or rational behavior? Well of course it isn’t and you would think I would know better since I will be 50 my next birthday. *shakes head*

Initially I wasn’t going to mention this because it isn’t positive and I don’t like to dwell on the negative things in life. However I have been feeling rather annoyed with myself today and wanted you to know that I also have days where things don’t go right and sometimes I let those things color my mood. I am sure I will be much better by tomorrow. However today I am annoyed that I have been popping Ibuprofen every 4 hours to keep the pain to a dull roar. Since most of you know how much I dislike pills the Ibuprofen should say a lot. Without the OTC NSAIDs I have difficult standing up to get out of chair this morning.

Okay enough whining about my pulled muscle, which is clearly only a temporary problem. Since I had more time that usual with my tush parked in a chair I decided to write about one of my favorite subjects today to cheer myself up. Fiber! What how can fiber be anyone’s favorite subject? Come on I know you were thinking that. ;-) Well I hope after you read my thoughts on fiber it will become one of your favorite subjects too.

The Benefits of Fiber!

As you are very aware we eat a whole food plant-based diet free of animal products. I like to describe our diet this way because a vegan diet can be healthy or it can be very heavy in processed food that it is no better than the standard American diet. There is a huge difference between a healthy and an unhealthy vegan diet and I don’t want there to be any ambiguity regarding what I consider healthy for those who found this post by accident.

In my opinion one of the big benefits of a whole food plant-based diet is the amount of fiber that it contains. Fiber may not be very glamorous but it is critical for maintaining health. Since I think fiber is misunderstood I wanted to explain what it is and why it is so important for our health.

Fiber Defined:

Fiber is generally defined as plant polysaccharides (a complex carbohydrate consisting of 10 or more monosaccharides bonded together by glycosidic bonds) that are not digested in the human small intestine meaning that they arrive in the colon intact. Some of these glycosidic (covalent) bonds (typically insoluble fibers) are resistant to digestive enzymes. When soluble fiber reaches the large intestine intestinal bacteria begin to break down the fiber and this produces gas as well as helping beneficial bacteria flourish.

Only plant based foods contain fiber. There is no fiber in animal products which is why they are very binding (constipating). Fiber can be either soluble or insoluble in water. Soluble fiber tends to swell in water and insoluble remains relatively unchanged. Soluble fiber is what gets broken down in the colon by bacteria which causes gas.

Soluble Fiber:

Foods that contain mostly soluble fiber include: oats, barley, legumes, rice, bran, psyllium, soy and some fruit. The ability of these fiber filled foods to absorb water means that they tend to soften fecal matter which reduces constipation, colon polyps, hemorrhoids and diverticulitis. A diet high in soluble fiber also helps to reduce cholesterol, blood glucose and estrogen levels.

Insoluble Fiber:

The most common form of insoluble fiber is cellulose. Foods which are high in cellulose include: whole-grains, wheat bran, seeds, carrots, broccoli, celery, peppers, cabbage and other green leafy vegetables. Since insoluble fiber does not readily dissolve in water it is not gel forming like soluble fiber. Additionally bacteria do not break them down. Insoluble fiber passes through the gastrointestinal system intact but by doing so it helps the fecal matter pass through your system more quickly which reduces the time toxins are exposed to your colon. This increase in transit time is very positive. If you ever want to know what your transit time is eat something that will be easy to see coming out of you like beets.

How Fiber Reduces Cholesterol, Blood Glucose, Estrogen and Toxins:

Each day we are exposed to unhealthy items that you body needs to filter out. For example let’s say you eat conventional meat, dairy or produce which contains pesticides. Those toxins will ultimately make their way to your intestines after being filtered through your liver and mixing with bile that was stored in your gallbladder. These toxins are now in your intestines (along with excess cholesterol, blood sugar, estrogen, etc.). Unless these bind with soluble fiber which will usher them out of your system they are likely to be reabsorbed through your intestinal walls and make their way back through the GI process again. This is the reason that you now see the health claim on oats that they lower cholesterol. It isn’t anything special about the oats it is the soluble fiber they contain that binds to the cholesterol so it can be flushed down the toilet. The same thing happens to glucose and estrogen. Consuming a high diet in soluble fiber results in lower serum lipids and reduces the postprandial (after the meal) rise in both glucose and insulin.

Many cancers are estrogen sensitive (breast, prostate, cervical, endometrial, and ovarian). Americans tend to carry more weight than is healthy and this excess weight produces additional estrogen. If you eat a diet high in fiber it will also bind to estrogen in the stool before it can be reabsorbed into the body. A prospective cohort study in Sweden found that women with the highest intake of fiber (averaging 26 grams) had a 40% lower risk of breast cancer than the women who consumed the least fiber (they averaged 13 g like Americans). This reduce in breast cancer appears to be due to the reduction of circulating estrogen in these women. Scientists are split on the impact of fiber on breast cancer but since fiber can’t hurt you I say the more fiber the better.

Colon Cancer and Fiber:

Diet is strongly correlated to colon cancer risk. A diet high in dietary fat is thought to influence colon cancer development through its effect on bile acid production. Conversely a diet high in fiber has been shown to reduce colon cancer risk. Scientists believe this is due to: dilution of mutagens (a substance that changes genetic material), reduction of transit time and an alteration of PH (acid/alkaline balance). Since all cancers have a long latency period (meaning they take a long time to develop) it is important to consume a high fiber diet beginning at a young age to reduce your risk of a colon cancer diagnosis later in life.

Diabetes and Fiber:

According the Dr. David Katz “a daily intake of approximately 30 g of dietary fiber from a variety of foods sources is recommended to the general public for health promotion and in the management of diabetes.” Dr. Katz goes on to say that there is evidence that soluble fiber may help in controlling both glucose and lipids in diabetics. While some people feel that significant improvement in glucose and lipids isn’t practical due to the amount of fiber that is required. Dr. Katz points out that our Paleolithic ancestors are thought to have consumed 100 g of fiber per day. When you compare that to the US average intake of 12 g per day it is easy to see how we got into trouble.

Personally if I had diabetes I would not stop at 30 g of fiber. We eat 60+ g of fiber per day and haven’t seen any negative health effect though Dan has commented in the past on how much chewing we need to do eating this way. Not to mention that when you get your fiber from whole plant-based foods you are also consuming many vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients that have wonderful benefits for your health.

Hypertension and Fiber:

A diet high in fiber is also associated with modest hypotensive (low blood pressure) effect. This has been seen in both adults and children. In other words if your blood pressure is a little higher than you would like increase your consumption of both soluble and insoluble fiber. They both offer an array of health benefits and the average US intake is well below recommended levels. However a healthy diet is naturally high in fiber so if you eat like we do you probably get all the fiber you need.

I can’t say why my blood pressure dropped so much in the last 10 years. But I can tell you that I went from the standard American diet (probably consisting of approximately 12 g of fiber like the average American) to my current fiber intake which is 60+ g per day. Is that the reason my blood pressure dropped like a rock? I would only be guessing if I said yes, but I am positive that the additional fiber didn’t hurt me.

Adverse Reactions:

People who increase their fiber intake abruptly often experience abdominal cramping, bloating and/or gas. These problems can be minimized or avoided by slowing increasing your fiber intake and by adding more fluids to your diet at the same time. Even though we eat at least two pounds of dried beans each week neither Dan nor I have any gastrointestinal distress. I am convinced that eating a lot of fiber is a bit like weight lifting for the GI system. The more fiber your system processes each day the better it gets and doing it.

Drug Interactions:

While whole plant-based food is not a concern here (other than grapefruit which we have all heard about). However fiber supplements can reduce or slow the absorption of some medications. If you are considering taking psyllium, guar gum or pectin supplements talk to your pharmacist about the timing of your medications and the supplements. Most articles I have read suggest that medications should be taken at least an hour or two before fiber supplements. Alternately you can focus on whole food instead and avoid the risk.

Bottom line:

I truly believe that eating a whole food plant-based diet which focuses on produce first and reduces the consumption of fat and refined foods is the healthiest way to eat. When you eat this type of diet your are getting vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and fiber is what can best be described as therapeutic doses. Since very few of us (myself included) were raised on a whole food diet we have to all suffered some ills from our prior dietary choices whether those have been identified yet or not.

For most of my life I ate foods that were in the realm of the standard American diet. Since both my husband and I loved good food our diet may have even been a little worse than some American’s and it really kills me to say that. At that time I thought I was happy and healthy. I wasn’t on any prescription medications. Dan’s blood pressure was a little elevated but he was taking pills to “control it”. I look back and that now and just shake my head. How could I let myself believe that it was okay to medicate a problem and call it solved? *sigh* Needless to say I would describe myself as very nutritionally na├»ve back then.

However now that we have changed our diet the difference in how we both feel then to now is like night and day. It wasn’t until we felt so much better that either of us realized how bad we used to feel. I believe that fiber has played a huge role how I feel. My skin is more clear, I feel light even right after I eat, and constipation is not even an option now. ;-)

For those of you who don’t eat a whole food plant-based diet I would recommend that you just try it out. Give it 3 weeks or a month and really commit to it. You don’t need to give up the foods you love for the rest of your life. However if you are anything like us at the end of that month you will feel so good that you might not want to go back to eating the way that you used to. What do you have to lose?


Fuhrman, Joel. Eat to Live. Revised Edition. New York: Little, Brown and Company.; 2011

Higdon, Jane. An Evidence-Based Approach to Dietary Phytochemicals. New York: Theime Medical Publishers, Inc.; 2007

Katz, David L. Nutrition in Clinical Practice. 2nd Ed. Philadelphia, PA: Lippincott Williams and Wilkins; 2008

McQuire, Michelle and Beerman, Kathy A. Nutritional Sciences From Fundamentals to Food. 2nd Ed. Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage Learning; 2011

Happy Thoughts:

• Today with the pain in my back it was tough to get started on my happy thoughts. However I have to admit that my husband is a prince. He helped me get into the bathtub this morning so that I could soak in a hot bath and make my back feel better. He also helped me make green smoothies this morning and you all know he spends very little time in the kitchen so this was big for him.

• I am also grateful for my pharmacist buddy Louis who was there to give me advice on the best OTC NSAID to take for my back pain. Thanks Louis! You are a wonderful friend.

• Even though I wasn’t in too physical form today (due to my back) I was able to take some time to think about life and what I should be doing with mine. At the end of this time I came away with some ideas that I am pretty excited about. 

• My precious little fur children stayed very close to their mommy today. I may be deluding myself but I think they could tell that I didn’t feel well and consequently they were trying to comfort me.

• The weather this weekend is predicted to be sunny. After all our rainy weekends I am looking forward to another weekend with sun and hopefully wind.

• I am also thankful that my back is feeling much better this evening than it did last night and this morning. As you have probably guessed I am looking forward to being about to get back to regular routine as soon as possible.

Signing out:

It is time for me to log out and spend a little time with my hubby. He had another late night at work after going in a little late this morning to take care of me. Talk with you again soon.
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