Bon Appetit

Somewhat related to the previous posting about my monthly perusal of publications I receive owing to my membership in a couple of environmental/political organizations and the not always upbeat accounts of how things with each outfit’s efforts are going, there’s a third monthly mailing in my life: Nutrition Action. Just read several articles in it. Kidney heath. Vitamin supplements. And more…

Concerning kidney health: ever had kidney stones? Me neither. But who knows if one is developing such? All health malfunctions start insidiously, no? Then, one day a certain ache, an odd feeling. Can’t put your finger on what seems to be the matter. Likely, you assume it’s but for the moment. No biggie. Tomorrow all will be back to normal. Or not…

Well, I hope I am not on the verge of succumbing to kidney stones, especially calcium oxalate stones, since the list of foods that one should not eat if diagnosed with or even having been successfully treated for such are a lot of my favorites, and generally considered healthy eating: Almonds, spinach, raspberries, oranges, beets, brown rice, pecans, red beans, (kidney beans!) pistachios, potato chips (a guilty pleasure) and many more items. I sat reading the list and A) was thankful I am not with stones

and B)was disturbed to think that much of the list of badass foodstuffs were anything but junk food, which I really, really honestly, I swear and cross my heart and hope to die, eat very very little of (but I like Jays chips).

Nutrition Action is loaded with advice on what to consume and what to avoid, and certainly is a worthy, science-based publication. However, when it comes to following its advise and the studies that inform the readership, sometimes things do get a bit confusing. One study says avoid this or that. Another study says the same “this or that” can be healthy parts of a balanced diet, blah blah. Chocolate is bad or good. Depending on the study. The same with coffee. The same with alcohol. Same with red meats. And fish. And avoiding carbs or making sure they’re on the plate more often than not. As for fish, tuna is good, but not all tuna. Avoid the chunk white and yellow fin. Canned tuna in water, good? Sure. But no so fast. Tuna in oil is good, depending on the oil. And my favorite, salmon. Wild caught is the best. Omega 3 oils. No argument there, but as someone who likes to broil salmon, I’ve come to the conclusion that wild caught never tastes as good as farm raised, and I mean it’s not even close. Okay. That artificial coloring and tricked up diet being fed the farmed fish must have some really, really, damn nasty chemicals in them that pack a positive punch to the pallet.

Then there’s swordfish. Love it. But its loaded with mercury and is being over-fished (as are many other types of fish). But it tastes so good. Just eat it very rarely. Fish. Rare? Then we come to sushi and oysters. Love the fresh out of the shell bivalve molluscs, but not the raw salmon or tuna and other raw portions of seafood that is sushi (I don’t get sushi. A slice of salmon or whatever so thin it’s damn near translucent, but resting on a large clump of sticky white rice. Totally over-priced. I know sashimi is without rice, but also still virtually without the fish too). Okay. Stick with wild salmon, seasoned to taste. If you like fish at all..Studies show…

The issue also had a diagram of a typical supermarket and advise on how to handle and interact with its various areas that offer everything from produce to dairy to fresh fish and meats and on and on. By the time I finished going through the chart and its do/don’t do cautionary tales, I felt I must have beaten some long odds on not having killed myself by now by being a lackadaisical patron of the food store. Warning: even organic produce can be contaminated; bagged lettuce can be contaminated with the water used to wash it. Play it safe and wash it again at home? Are you crazy? Harmful bacterial lurks in the sink; buying sliced meat? Can you be sure that slicer is cleaned properly, and not used to slice cheese, too? Listeria! Poultry? Think again. As much as 20% of ground chicken or turkey could be skin or fat, and the skin has all those pores and folds and guess what’s hiding in there? Contaminants, what else? Like ground beef? According to this “surviving the supermarket” guide, “It’s the most dangerous meat in the market” because it may contain bits from many animals that could be harboring…guess what?

Well, I’ve apparently been lucky in my countless, clueless forays through the gauntlet of health traps waiting to snare the supermarket consumer. Then there’s eating out. There’s a roll of the “you are what you eat” dice. My friends and I often joke that every time we eat out, whether its a blatant greasy spoon or a linen tablecloth emporium of gastronomical snootiness, it should be axiomatic that food poisoning/e-coli contamination will render us lifeless within days. Someone in the back didn’t wash his or her hands and…But again, call me Ishmail, for I have lived to tell this tale. Right.

From the way our food is grown, harvested and by one means or another brought to market to eventually reside on the end of a fork or in some small puddle within a spoon, the seemingly countless ways contamination can take place is endless. And even if it’s not messed up, or GMO’d in some irresponsible manner, even if it’s certified organic, free range, sustainably produced and maybe aglow with a natural beauty, if its spinach or an orange or a handful of almonds, you had better just hope your kidneys aren’t about to get stoned by that oxalate monster waiting to happen.

So, beware the literature that comes with wanting to make life better through being an informed voter/consumer/citizen. There’s some trashy, lurid novel to distract you between the monthly arrival of the prognosis for progress in which you have invested.

Wait. Now where’s that issue of Nutrition Action that says a certain amount of alcohol a day is good for the heart? Okay. Count me in. Barkeep! I’ll have a glass of cabernet. With a shot and beer chaser. Oh, and gimme a bag of potato chips. My kidneys feel fine.

About jharrin4

mass communication/speech instructor at College of DuPage and Triton College in suburban Chicago. Army veteran of the Viet Nam era.
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