Post-Christmas recovery and the food we eat

 Call me weak-willed, if you like. I could say no, but I might appear ungrateful if I didn’t indulge in a seasonal celebration by partaking in all the foods and delicacies available around this time of year. I tend to overdo it on breads, cakes, pastries, cheeses - not to mention the yearly production of my mother's old Christmas cake recipe: the major ingredient in its manufacture dried fruit soaked for several months in a bottle each of brandy and apricot brandy, and once baked kept moist with frequent applications of more brandy, a marzipan icing made with Amaretto and a thick, rich royal icing. No wonder my doctor, at my annual physical, detected elevated sugar readings, quite apart from my increase in weight.


With overindulgence, I start to feel a little arthritis in the joints and I don't move as fluently. Others foods and additives can add to that general feeling of malaise. It’s not debilitating but it can be a wake-up call to avoid excess and return to a more natural diet with lots of fresh vegetables, along with a regime of regular exercise.


Monosodium glutamate (MSG), present in a lot of Asian cooking, as well as found in many prepared foods can be a culprit. MSG is often used as a flavour enhancer. The FDA requires this to be listed in the ingredients, so avoiding consuming this irritant to the nervous system should be easy if you look at the labels, shouldn't it? Not so, because as a processing agent, common in many food products, the labeling of MSG is not required. When proteins are processed, it results in the production of D and L-glutamic acid. One can avoid non-labeled MSG used as a processing aid by avoiding all processed foods such as veggie or turkey burgers, textured or hydrolyzed proteins and many processed protein powders. 


Again, adding to the confusion, are the many different names given to substances containing MSG. These include hydrolyzed protein, maltodextrin, bouillon (think Campbell's canned soups) soy sauces, soy protein concentrate, yeast extract, and at least a dozen more labels.


MSG is not the only culprit. The list of preservatives on the label of processed food is anything but benign. Food may last longer but that in itself is highly suspicious. I recently found a three-week-old loaf of bread lying: no speck of green or black fungus growing there.  But consider this: food should rot and is part of a natural process. So, a chemical added to food to preserve it is like adding embalming fluid for human consumption. Do you really want this? Then there is food colouring used to add eye appeal. Why should there be food colouring if one is eating wholesome food?


There is much wrong in what we are consuming. Processed food is convenient but there is a cost. Consider also that the human body will respond much better if we feed it with the right kind of fuel. Perhaps nobody understood this better than Dr. David Servan-Schreiber, author of Anticancer. When himself faced with a terminal illness, he researched and adopted lifestyle changes, including diet, that kept him alive for another fifteen years. He talks a lot about avoiding foods that are inflammatory. Perhaps I’ll make this the content of a blog in 2017.


Meanwhile wishing you good health and happiness in the New Year.