Coming to a Close

First off, I want to thank each and every person that has read this blog. I know we all have busy lives and even if you just read one blog it makes me feel like I accomplished something. When I began this project, I thought that this was my chance to challenge myself, and make myself really learn, but also learn what I wanted to. I had tons of plans of all the topics I would explore. I sadly ran out of time and I completed the project sooner than I anticipated, but that taught me something. I have a thirst for knowledge about nutrition. It does not have to stop with this project. This goes for anyone. If you have a desire to learn, you should just simply do it. It is never too late to teach yourself something new.

From the topics I have learned about, I really want to do everything I can to apply it to my life. I am going to be graduating this coming May. In the next couple of years, I will be establishing myself as an adult and the lifestyle that I want to develop. I hope to take this knowledge and apply it in all aspects of my life. This could include the portions I eat for dinners, to the snacks I decide to take to work, and to the new areas of cooking I explore. This project also taught me that anyone could change their diets if they put their minds to it. I struggle with this myself. It is so easy to make excuses for why you can not make changes. But it is just as easy to plan the change you want and smartly execute it. And if you do not know how, there are so many resources you can look to for help.

I also want to take the time to thank my advisor. My advisor was the one who initially inspired this entire project. It was by taking Basic Nutrition with her that sparked my large fascination with this subject. She helped and guided me through this experience and I think we both grew as intellectuals from it. Sometimes all it takes is that one person or that one event to find a passion in your life. I really do hope that as honors students and as all human beings, everyone is able to find what I found through this project.

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Can You Please Pass The Salt?

How many of you have said the words “please pass the salt,” without having first tasting your food? It is a common thing most Americans do. I will even admit to doing it myself from time to time. Just imagine if three days out of a week you added more salt to a meal than was necessary. It would add up rather quickly.

Salt comes from seawater that is boiled down or is brought to the surface as brine. It also can be mined from dried up water sources. Salt was not always a tabletop item. Throughout history, salt can be found in religion, economics, and war. Various religions use salt in their ceremonies because of its purifying qualities. One example is a sumo match. Each wrestler throws salt onto the mat before entering to purify the ring. Salt was and still is considered a valuable resource and is coveted in all parts of the world. Wars have even been fought over salt. “In 1777, Lord Howe made a successful attempt to capture General Washington’s stock of salt” (TIME Magazine). Economically, it was a huge trading commodity in the sense that it was traded as huge slabs of salt for gold. Concerning food, salt most commonly was used to preserve meats from spoiling. “Today salt is widely used in the chemical industry, and also for water softening” (Nordqvist).

Salt is capable of more than enhancing flavors in a meal. Sodium balances the water levels in our bodies. It also helps muscles and nerves function. It is involved in some of the largest functions of the body. Since sodium is usually found in our blood, we do blood tests to indicate our sodium levels. I am someone that is constantly drinking water. I joke with all my doctors that ask “if I drink enough water”. I say I drink too much water. Finally, a doctor believed me when my sodium levels were low for my body. “The 2010 Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommends that daily you only consume 2,300 mg of sodium and those 51 and older consume 1,500 mg” (World). WEBMd explains that low sodium levels are extremely rare. However, high sodium levels cause high blood pressure that can cause a number of heart problems, stroke, or kidney failure (Sodium).

An event that I was not aware of is World Salt Awareness Week. It is March 11th and 17th each year. The idea of the week is to have everyone ask for less salt on his or her food. Therefore, showing chefs and others that food can still be enjoyed with less salt. I think this is an amazing idea! For just a week read the labels of your food, do not add more salt to a meal when preparing it, and ask chefs to make your meal with less salt. This is a way to open your eyes to how much sodium you yourself consume. It’s the small steps that you can take, like simply making yourself aware, that will lead to the big changes in your diet and life.

Citation

“A Brief History of Salt.” TIME Magazine. (2013): Web. 29 Nov. 2013. <http://content.time.com/time/magazine/article/0,9171,925341-1,00.html&gt;.

Nordqvist, Christian. “What is Salt?.” Medical News Today. (2013): Web. 29 Nov. 2013. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/146677.php&gt;.

“Sodium in Blood.” WEBMd. (2013): Web. 29 Nov. 2013. <http://www.webmd.com/a-to-z-guides/sodium-na-in-blood&gt;.

“World Salt Awareness Week.” Center for Disease Control and Prevention. (2013): Web. 29 Nov. 2013. <http://www.cdc.gov/Features/Sodium/index.html&gt;.

 

My Week With Veganism

This last week I decided to challenge myself. I adapted a vegan diet for one week. Vegan, as I have explained, is a diet with no animal produced food. I want to first give everyone a little background about myself. I was born and raised, as any other average American, eating both meats and vegetables, with a higher emphasis on the meats. In my family, we are constantly barbequing every weekend. Because of this, meat has become the center of my diet. So taking on a vegan challenge seemed a little daunting at first. But I felt I knew enough about vegan diets and how to do it properly that I could accomplish it. I thought I would be able to analyze the mental, economical, and physical effects of this diet and be able to write about it. I did learn a lot from this diet, but the knowledge I took from this experience blew my mind.

When I first began planning for this diet, I assumed that I would be spending a lot more money than I normally did. This came from the stereotype that to eat healthier, it costs more. I knew that most of the items I probably would need would be at Trader Joes. In my mind, Trader Joes was a lot more expensive than my usual weekly trips to Winco. On average, I spend $50 at Winco each week and another $10 eating out on nights I do not have time to cook. I made a guess that I would spend about $75 the week of my diet. I only spent $63 the week of my diet. I also never went out for a meal, since they were all organized and planned.

I also was planning on feeling amazing from this diet. I have several friends that are vegan and vegetarian. They have explained that they are more energized, have clearer skin, and overall feel better after they made the transition. I was so looking forward to that because I have Irritable Bowel Syndrome. I thought that since I am extremely in tune with my body that I would be able to tell the difference. I did notice the second day that I was not craving more caffeine like I normally do. I didn’t have the normal energy slump I usually have. I also had noticeably less stomach pains than usual.  I did have some expectations of this experience that did not turn out to be the major things I learned from the experience. I felt like what I learned was a lot more substantial.

I live with two other college students that I cook dinner for normally. They kindly agreed to participate in my vegan experiment. Just like me, they eat meat, however they eat it a lot more. One of the meals I cooked was Ratatouille, which is a stewed vegetable dish. It was not the best recipe and I did not have a side that would help create a filling effect. However, there was this point in the meal when everyone looked at each other. We all began to discusshow for us it was extremely difficult for us to accept that this was it. We

had been so engraved that the vegetable is the side dish. This experience opened our eyes to how it should be. Our vegetable should always be the entrée and the sides should be the starch and protein. I can say this as many times as I want but I need to start really physically working on that. Slowly but surely, I want to work to be rid of that mentality.

One of the main things I learned was about dieting. I put myself through an extreme diet change instantaneously and without any wiggle room. I stayed true to the diet in every way, but it was not enjoyable overall. Do not get me wrong, it was kind of fun to challenge myself. But as soon as the week was over, I got myself a steak. It shows that I was not actually making any change to my lifestyle but just simply putting restrictions on it. The funny part is that’s how most people diet. They decide they want to lose weight or eat healthier and they take it to an extreme. People tend to decide that on a certain day is the day their diet shall begin. It is better to ease into a diet a little bit at a time to make the change more successful. Also, they should let themselves have a little bit of wiggle room in the beginning. And by this, I mean allow some of the things you used to eat that maybe this new diet will not allowed. To me, diets are never successful because they usually have an end goal that you are striving for. Once one reaches that goal, they just return to their old eating habits. If one really wants to make a change, they need to commit to making it into a lifestyle change. I think that with these mindsets it is completely possible to change any types of eating habits.

I will let you all know that I am not becoming vegan, although I scared some family members into thinking I was. But I am going to try and adapt more vegan meals into my diet. One in particular is black bean tacos. I will include the recipe below, but I made the best tacos this week. Instead of using ground beef, I used black beans. It was just as filling and in my opinion, tastier than any taco I had ever made. I think this experience has inspired me to be a lot more creative with my meals and to think outside the box when it comes to incorporating healthy alternatives. I think that this challenge has opened my eyes in ways that no assignment or class ever could have.

Black Bean Tacos

Ingredients
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 3 cups cooked black beans (or 2 15-ounce cans rinsed and drained)
  • ½ cup finely chopped sweet onion
  • 2 cloves garlic, finely chopped
  • 5 to 6 cilantro stems and leaves
  • 1 14.5-ounce can diced tomatoes, drained
  • 2.5 tablespoons taco seasoning (see Note)
  • ½ teaspoon kosher salt (to taste)
  • ½ lime, squeezed
  • 1 teaspoon hot sauce (optional)
  • 12 corn tortillas plus toppings
 Directions
  • Strain tomatoes. If using canned beans, drain and rinse.
  • Finely chop garlic and onion (use food processor to save time!).
  • Heat a saute pan over medium heat. Once hot, add oil. Add onion and garlic and cook 2 to 3 minutes until softene
    d
  • Add taco seasoning, cook 20 to 30 seconds, stirring.
  • Toss in beans, tomatoes and cilantro. Cook covered over a medium light 5 to 7 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  • Use a fork or potato masher to smash about half of the beans, taste and add salt if needed. Cook uncovered, stirring occasionally, over medium low light 12 to 15 minutes.
  • Add hot sauce and lime juice, stir, let cool for 5 to 10 minutes, serve with corn tortillas and toppings of choice – Enjoy!

Veganism

For a long time, the only dietary lifestyle I was ever aware of was vegetarianism. It seems like so many more diets are emerging nowadays. Currently, diets such as veganism, Paleo, pescetarianism, gluten free, lactose free, and raw cleanses are extremely popular.  I find all of these diets are really interesting. But the one I am most fascinated by is veganism.

“Vegans, in addition to being vegetarian, do not use other animal products and by-products such as eggs, dairy products, honey, leather, fur, silk, wool, cosmetics, and soaps derived from animal products” (‘Medical’). I know several vegan’s that only pertain to the dietary aspect of this lifestyle. It just depends on one’s reason for adapting a vegan diet, which I will discuss in a moment. I find the vegan diet extremely inspirational. To give a bit of background, about two years ago I bought a rabbit. Rabbits can only eat hay and fresh vegetables. I joked that since I would have to have fresh vegetables on hand, I would eat healthier. That joke turned out to be true. I have been incorporating vegetables into my diet more and more. It was my rabbit that began my fascination with veganism. I feel that veganism is a way to treat your body well. Our bodies are not meant to eat so many animal products. If as a culture we could learn to live off plant based food more, the health of our country might not be such an issue.

Here are a just a few reasons why someone would choose to be vegan.

Nutrition and Health

Some are drawn to the wonderful health benefits that this lifestyle can provide. “Studies show that eating animal fats and proteins raise a person’s risk of developing cancer, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, hypertension, heart disease, and numerous other diseases” (‘Medical’). Many also make the argument we were not made to drink cow’s milk. Yes, we physically can, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that health wise we should. It is extremely obvious that the health benefits can attract people to this lifestyle. For many, this is just their first step in performing a body cleanse, or a diet for weight loss.

Animal Treatment

The ethics of the treatment of animals in the agricultural segment can also be a reason for veganism. Most of us are aware that animals that are raised solely for their meat do not live the best lives. In that industry, they are just treated as any other inventory. Those people that become vegan for this reason feel this animal treatment is highly unethical, and do not want to support this industry in any way. They protest this by not supporting them including the consumption of animal by products such as cheese, eggs, or milk. Once animals become useless in creating these products, they are slaughtered as well. I am not here to argue about animal rights but to explain the reasoning behind this lifestyle.

Environmental

There is a huge sustainable movement occurring in our generation. With that our diets are being affected also. You can incorporate veganism it into your life to live a more eco friendly life. There are a lot of claims on the fact that the livestock farming has a lot of harm on the environment. Some also claim that they feel more in touch with nature when they eat clean.

Combination

There are some that become vegan for a combination of all or some of these reasons. There are also many other reasons that someone would choose to become vegan but these are just a few of the major reasons.

There are plenty of positive things about a vegan diet. “Most doctors and nutritionists agree that a low-fat diet high in fruits, vegetables, and nuts can be a boon to health. There is also widespread acknowledgment that reducing or eliminating red meat from the diet cuts the risk of heart disease” (WebMd). However, one must eat smart while being vegan. Being vegan doesn’t mean you live off of just the things you enjoy. You need to be aware of what is lacking in your diet and accommodate for it. The most common nutrients that vegan’s must focus on are protein, iron, calcium, zinc, and vitamin B12. The following are how WebMd suggests you can incorporate these nutrients into your diet.

  • Protein: Is found in tofu, tempeh, veggie burgers, beans, and nuts.
  • Iron: Fortified breakfast cereals, soy-based foods, dried prunes and apricots, nuts beans, legumes, whole-wheat bread, and baked potatoes are rich in iron.
  • Calcium: sesame tahini, calcium-fortified orange juice, and dark, leafy vegetables like collard greens and bok choy.
  • Zinc, which boosts the immune system, is ample in soybeans and soymilk, veggie “meats,” fortified breakfast cereals, nuts, breads, mushrooms, and peas. Wheat germ and pumpkin seeds also have high zinc content.
  • Vitamin B12: Soy-based beverages, some breakfast cereals, and fortified veggie “meats” are all good sources of vitamin B12.

Now if one does consider going vegan I highly suggest you seek advice from a nutritionist or do a lot of research. The better you understand nutrition and the vegan diet, the more enjoyable it will be for you. But I do encourage all of you to just give it a try. Maybe once a month you do a vegan day or pick one meal a day. By making these small steps you can begin to make smarter choices.

For the following week I will be undergoing a vegan challenge. I am challenging myself to put my research and work where my mouth is. I have done extensive research and plan to go an entire week on a vegan diet. I do not suggest any of you do this. When adapting to a new lifestyle, one should do it slowly. I am doing this as a personal challenge to see if I actually know as much as I think about nutrition and this vegan diet. I want to see how hard, or easy, this diet is. Also see if I see any benefits or hardships. I will keep you all updated.

Work Cited

“What is a vegan diet? What are the benefits of being vegan?” Medical News Today. (2013): Web. 8 Nov. 2013. <http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/149636.php&gt;.

“Vegetarian and Vegan Diets.” WebMD. (2013): n. page. Web. 8 Nov. 2013. <http://www.webmd.com/food-recipes/guide/vegetarian-and-vegan-diet&gt;.

The Benefits of The Japanese Diet

I have always heard the saying that the Japanese have the oldest population in the entire world. A major reason for this is their diet. “Thanks to the relatively healthier Japanese diet and lifestyle, Japanese women and men live longer and healthier than everyone else on Earth” (WebMD). I do not think that switching to a Japanese diet will work miracles on the longevity of human lives. But I do highly believe that it can improve the quality of life, and decrease the amount of diseases and ailments that can lead to an early death. “The [Japanese] can anticipate an average of 75 years lived healthy and disability-free, the World Health Organization reports” (WebMD). With this knowledge there are aspects of the Japanese diet that we can adopt into our lives.

Eat With Your Eyes

To eat with your eyes means to savor what you eat visually. Japanese food is always presented beautifully and intricately designed. When one is presented with a masterpiece, they take the time to enjoy and savor it. Also, when you are the one preparing and putting the meal on a plate, you tend to appreciate the entire meal as a whole more. This leads to you eating more slowly.

Eating slowly allows for your stomach to register that it is full. When we eat quickly, we tend to not take the time to listen to how our stomachs are feeling and reacting to the food. This is what leads most to overeating. “The Okinawan dinner time mantra is, “hara hachi bu,” means “eat until your 8/10ths full” (Booth). This is a really smart motto to live by when you’re eating. There is no reason to over eat in the United States because most are not worried about the next time one will eat. We do not have a scarcity of food in this country. One should slow down to realize when your hunger is satisfied and not eat to the point of being so full, as if it was Thanksgivings. Next time you make a meal, practice plating and really enjoy your meal for what it is. Take the time to appreciate it.

The Power of Portions

In Japan, several different dishes are prepared for a meal. But everyone takes a small portion of each item. Instead of the single plate, like in the United States, there are several small plates and bowls. I think this is a genius idea. American’s portions on a plate tend to be incorrect with the meat being the largest portion of a meal. With small bowls and plates you can pre-portion a meal out depending on the size of the bowl. Also, an issue we often run into is that we want to fill our plate with our meal. This often leads to a lot of waste. Small bowls and plates can be a great transition from that westernized thinking. Filling your smaller dish with an item will still make you subconsciously feel like your eating a full meal. In actuality, your eating a well balanced meal.

I have begun to adapt this style of eating into my dinners. I take a small bowl and fill it to the brim with a steamed vegetable. I also take a small bowl or plate and fill it ¾ of the way with the entree. It has helped so much to make sure that I am getting the amount of nutrients I need at dinner. It also has helped to make sure I am not eating too many starches or proteins. I do understand it can be difficult when you have more dishes to do, but to hand wash those dishes helps you stay active and not on your butt as much. So, it is a win-win.

Rice Fusion

Most are aware that in Japanese culture, rice is eaten at every single meal. “ A low-fat, complex carbohydrates, rice helps fill you up on fewer calories, leaving less room in your belly for fattening food” (WebMD). When one doesn’t add extra oils or butter to it, it can be nutritious. When you pair it with vegetables or a small portion of meat, you are extremely full. I imagine it like a filler to a meal. When you are still hungry, but you know you have already eaten a serving of protein, you can fill the void of hunger with rice. You then are not snacking after a meal or filling the void with more protein. I personally have a bite of rice with each bite of meat so that I eat a lot less meat but I am still full. It complements most proteins very well.

Substituting with Vegetables and Fish

A Japanese meal can be full of several different vegetables and fish. Both of these items are usually the star entrée in a meal, which is the opposite for our western culture. Vegetables are considered a side and usually only one is served per meal. “As many as four or five different varieties are served in a single meal” (WebMD). I think this is great. It shows how nutrition is important to this culture. Imagine what this could do for your body to have so many different vegetables in at least one meal a day. One way to send this message home with you is to mentally think that the vegetable is the entrée. Our entrée is always the largest portion of a meal. With vegetables in this position, we will naturally make more and eat more of them.

Fish is another aspect of the Japanese culture. “Though Japan accounts for only 2% of the world’s population, its people eat 10% of the world’s fish” (WebMD).  This is extremely impressive and shows how much it is entwined in their diet. “Fish are full of omega-3 fatty acids, which are known for their heart-health and mood-boosting benefits.” Replacing red meats with fish is common sense. Red meat screams the American lifestyle but it also leads to a lot of health problems. Fish can be just as delicious and is extremely beneficial.

Work Cited

Booth, Michael. “The Okinawa diet: Could it Help You Live to 100?” The Guardian. (2013):  Web. 7 Oct. 2013. <http://www.theguardian.com/lifeandstyle/2013/jun/19/japanese-diet-live-to-100&gt;.

“Diets of The World: The Japanese Diet.” WebMD. (2013): Web. 7 Oct. 2013. <http://www.webmd.com/diet/features/diets-of-world-japanese-diet&gt;.

Power of Tea

When I was growing up, I was not a tea person. We always had coffee in my house instead of tea. As I have grown, I have begun to develop a taste for it. One of the reasons I have been experimenting with tea is because I was diagnosed with irritable bowl syndrome. I asked my doctor if there was something besides medicine that could help with the pain. Too many painkillers can hurt my stomach more. He suggested I try peppermint tea. I sort of chuckled when he said that, but he was very adamant it would help with the pain. So, of course I tried it. It definitely reminded me of toothpaste, but it wasn’t half bad. It also helped to numb the pain. This inspired me to look into other benefits of tea. I think that the benefits that tea contains are fascinating!

Background:

            Unfortunately, there are no factual records of the discovery of tea, but there are several myths. Beatrice Hohenegger, author of Steeped in History: The Art of Tea, explains the most popular myth of the origin of tea. In 2737 BC China, there was a man named Shen Nong that roamed the wilds in search for plants with medical benefits. While he was sitting under a tree, some leaves fell into his cauldron of boiling water and produced a pleasant smell. He then began to drink it and felt its wonderful soothing properties (Hohenegger). It spread from Asia, to Britain, to here in the US. It is one of the most widely consumed beverages.

Black Tea:

It is produced from the Camellia Sinesis plant. It is the same plant that is used to make all types of tea. The leaves from this plant are withered and they go through a long period of fermentation (“loose”). I recently tried black tea and I must say the flavor was too strong for me. Quite literally, it is not my cup of tea. It is a better substitute than coffee because it is caffeinated, which explains how it helps to improve mental alertness. It is interesting that the caffeine it contains also helps to reduce the risk of Parkinson disease.

  • Benefits from WebMD (WebMD):
    • Most effective for:
      • Tea used to improving mental alertness as well as learning, memory and information processing skills
  • Possibly effective for:
    • Reduces risk of heart attack
      • Also reduces risk of dying from a heart attack after drinking it for a year
    • 8% lower risk of developing kidney stones for women
    • Reduces risk of Parkinson disease
    • Reduce risk of ovarian cancer
    • Reduces risk of hardening of the arties, especially in women

Green Tea:

It is created from the tealeaves from the Camellia plant. They are dried and heated to stop the fermentation. (“Loose”). The tea has a naturally dark green color and has a grassy taste. When I first tried it, I really tasted the grass flavor. I find it the best when it has a little bit of lemon in it. It is extremely refreshing. I just feel better after I have green tea. Some consider it to be a super food because it’s wide variety of benefits.

  • Benefits as stated by WebMD (WebMD):
    • Healthy Cells
      • The antioxidant catechins are contained in green tea. It helps to fight and repair cell damage in the body. However, to consume these antioxidants the tea must be steeped in 160-170 degree water. Otherwise the heat for the water will kill off all of the catechins.
      • Improves blood flow and lowers cholesterol
      • Keeps brain healthy
        • Studies show green tea drinkers have greater activity in working memory areas of the brain
        • Stables blood sugar levels in diabetes patients
        • Some believe that it reduces stress

White Tea:

This tea is made from the tea buds and youngest leaves of the Camellia plant. It is considered the least processed of all the teas since it is only steamed and dried. Since it is the least processed, it contains the most amount of antioxidants. I enjoyed this tea because it was naturally sweet and I tend to add sugar to my tea. It’s also extremely mild compared to other tastes. It is not as earthy as the others.

  • Benefits as stated by Science Daily (Kingston):
    • Anti-Aging capabilities
      • Protects skins natural proteins, especially collagen and elastin
  • Potent capabilities of reducing the risk of cancer, arthritis, and heart problems.

Passion tea:

Blog 5.4This tea has become largely popular because of the coffee house chain Starbucks. It is a tea made from the passionflower and is an herbal tea. Herbal teas are not from the Camellia plant and do not contain as many benefits. However, they are extremely popular and come in many flavors. I find it interesting that herbal teas have become a lot more popular but they do not have any where as many benefits. It feels like some may just be drinking it because they believe it to be just as beneficial. I think it is just a fad that some may be joining. However the only benefit that I found from passion tea was that it lowers anxiety levels (Oz).

I don’t want to give the impression that tea is a magical elixir that will fix all your ailments. Studies show these benefits in large consumptions over a long period of time. However, I feel that these benefits can help people with a lot of health problems and is wonderful for preventative care. It also is a drink with natural flavor and not a lot of sugar. Most drinks today contain added color or sugar that over time can harm our body. If we simply supplement one soda for tea a day, the health benefits would be easy to see. I think tea is so extremely fascinating and that we should try to join most of the world in this craze.

Work Cited

“Loose Tea Basics.” Teavana. (2013): n. page. Web. 4 Oct. 2013. <http://www.teavana.com/tea-info/types-of-tea&gt;.

Hohengger, Beatrice. Steeped in History: the Art of Tea. Los Angeles: Fowler Museum at UCLA, 2009. 31-30. Print.

“Black Tea: Health Uses and Risks.” WebMd.  Web. 4 Oct. 2013. <http://www.webmd.com/vitamins-and-supplements/black-tea-uses-and-risks&gt;.

Kingston University. “White Tea Could Keep You Healthy And Looking Young.” ScienceDaily, 14 Aug. 2009. Web. 4 Oct. 2013.

Oz, Mehmet. “Health Benefits of Tea.” Dr. Oz Show. (2013): Web. 4 Oct. 2013. <http://www.doctoroz.com/slideshow/health-benefits-tea&gt;.

Sacred Cow

Like Christianity, Hinduism is an extremely popular religion in the world, especially the eastern region. I find the Hindu religion to be beautiful and the stories highly educational. However, I want to focus on a specific aspect of the religion, the sacred cow. Most think that Hinduism simply forbids the consumption of beef. It is more than just a dietary prohibition. It is an element that can be seen throughout the entire religion.

The cow has been an economic necessity for over 5,000 years in the Middle East (PBS). The cow can produce milk, butter, curd, urine, dung, and labor for humans. A cow can provide all of these gifts so that a family may sustain off of them. That’s what they are considered, gifts. The cow is seen as a mother for the Hindu faith. It is a provider for it’s people and is kind and nurturing. It also produces milk for them to consume, similar to a human mother. It is also how they make a living. They are able to sell what it produces. They can use the manure and labor to cultivate land so that they may grow and harvest crops. It only makes sense for something so popular in their lives to appear in their religion.

The cow is a sacred animal in the Hindu faith. “The cow is also associated with various deities, notably Shiva (whose steed is Nandi, a bull), Indra (closely associated with Kamadhenu, the wish-granting cow), Krishna (a cowherd in his youth), and goddesses in general (because of the maternal attributes of many of them)” (“Sanctity”). The cow’s milk is even used in ritual practices. It is also extremely good luck to feed a cow a snack before one eats their breakfast.

The cow is also a symbol for the belief of not harming other living things. A cow naturally, is a very calm animal. When one is gentle with a cow, they can be extremely docile. “Subsequently, with the rise of the ideal of ahimsa (“noninjury”), the absence of the desire to harm living creatures, the cow came to symbolize a life of nonviolent generosity. In addition, because her products supplied nourishment, the cow was associated with motherhood and Mother Earth” (“Sanctity”). It is seen as a crime to kill a cow because they are defenseless and they do no harm to humans.  It makes sense how something so precious and sacred in their religion would be given rights to not be harmed. It would be like someone destroyed one’s way of living. I understand now why it is not just being vegetarian for Hindus. It’s the idea of not harming another living creature. It’s their way of projecting the sacred cow’s characteristics on themselves. I find this so enlightening and spiritual. It also is mind numbing to think of the drastic differences of western beliefs of diet and animals compared to Hinduism. I feel it’s a complete opposite in some ways. For Christianity, it is believed that these animals were created for our use and consumption. In Hinduism, it is taught to live in harmony with these creatures. Whether it is one religion or another, it is so inspirational to see how much these beliefs play into what people eat or what they do not eat.

Work Cited

“Sanctity of the cow.” Encyclopedia Britannica. Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica Inc., 2013. Web. 03 Oct. 2013. <http://www.britannica.com/EBchecked/topic/141206/sanctity-of-the-cow>.

 

“Hinduism’s Sacred Animal.” PBS. (2013): Web. 3 Oct. 2013. <http://www.pbs.org/wnet/nature/holycow/hinduism.html&gt;.

Food in Christianity

Most know that a unique aspect of being human is our belief in a higher power. A diversity of beliefs and religions has developed throughout the centuries. I believe that these religions play a large part into human diets. Religion itself has multiple degrees of diet restrictions. Lets start with the big one, Christianity.

In Genesis, there are some guidelines for what God intended the human diet to be. However, there have been conflicting interpretations of what is stated. “Every moving thing that lives shall be food for you; as I gave you the green Blog 3.2plants, I give you everything” (Genesis 9.4). Most omnivore Christians believe that this is what God intended. They are to eat all animals and plants that God has created. In contrast, vegetarian Christians believe God meant for us to only eat plants. “I have given every green plant for food” (Genesis 1.29). I will be focusing a lot more on vegetarianism later in my project, so lets focus on the omnivore view. It is seen as morally and ethically acceptable to eat both meat and plants. God created them for their use and consumption. If they were put on the planet for our use, then it is fitting to consume, domesticate, and use them for our labor. Many use the evidence of the bible to justify the dietary and treatment of meat in our everyday lives.

Another aspect of Christianity is Lent. Lent is a time in the Christian religion where there are forty days of fasting, prayer, and penance. It begins on Ash Wednesday and ends on Holy Thursday. It is in the memory of Jesus Christ and his suffering, sacrifice, death, and ultimate resurrection. During this time the Church asks members to fast and abstain from meat on certain days. “Fasting means to limit food to one full meal a day with the possibility of two smaller meals as needed. Abstinence means not eating meat, although fish is allowed” (Jakoblich). The reason for not eating meat is as a form of penance in honor of Jesus Christ. Meat is such a large part of our diet, which makes it a sacrifice most can make. However, a little known fact is that the church encourages those to be abstinent on all Fridays throughout the year, not only during lent. However, substituting another penance is acceptable throughout the year. Fasting is also done to honor Jesus Christ and focus on one’s religion. It is done to cleanse the body so that one can pursue a life closer to God. It also is a way to remove distractions and focus on one’s devotion to their religion. Since food and especially meat are a huge part of our everyday life, it is a substantial sacrifice to make for one’s beliefs. Food is our life and surrounds every aspect of our day-to-day activities. So the time you would have spent preparing a large meal can now be spent thinking about God and one’s devotion. Lent is about reminding oneself what Jesus sacrificed for them. It’s powerful to think that food is one of the most common sacrifices and some may consider the hardest thing to sacrifice.

Another aspect of Christianity that involves food is communal meals. It derives from the Christian origin of the Last Supper. The Last Supper was Jesus Christ’s last meal that he shared with his apostles before his crucifixion. This meal is a huge symbol for the Christian faith that has translated into communal meals. It is common for those that attend church to share a meal after the service and to socialize with the members of the church community. With many churches they will host BBQ’s or potlucks for the members of the church to come together. The sharing of a meal creates a feeling of belonging, unity, and family. All of the members contribute to this feast, and in turn there is this overwhelming feeling of gratefulness. It gives them a chance to be surrounded by a community of those that share the same faith and beliefs. In my family, I remember that after church everyone would come over and we would all spend time together eating and talking. It was the sense of family that these Sundays created when we had meals together.

Communion is a time period during church where members will receive a piece of bread and a sip of wine. These two substances have such an impactful symbolism within the Christian faith. The bread symbolizes the body of Jesus Christ and the wine is his blood. This is a time the church community comes together to remember and celebrate Jesus Christ. I find it very interesting that this is done through the sharing of one loaf of bread and one cup of wine just as it was done at the last super. It is a spiritual moment that connects the members of the church together by sharing these items. It also connects them to Jesus Christ. By consuming pieces of him they feel closer to his essence so that he may live through them.

I am awe struck at the role food can have in such a powerful belief system. It is a tool that is used to become closer to our spirituality and others in religious communities. When we think of food, we don’t immediately think of its influence and the parts it plays in these larger belief systems. Something so simple as food has the ability to represent life, body, and soul.

Work Cited

Jakoblich, Jon. “Lent in the Catholic Church.” About Catholics. (2013): Web. 26 Sep. 2013. <http://www.aboutcatholics.com/beliefs/lent-in-the-catholic-church/&gt;.

Culture Shock

Immediately, when I think of food, I think of family and sitting around a dinner table with my parents sharing stories from our day. I was raised that at dinner you have a balanced plate of protein, starch, and vegetables. I can honestly say that type of dinner has stuck with me to this day. Even in college, I take the time to have a starch, vegetable, and protein at every dinner. My view of food may be completely different than yours, as it should be. We all come from different walks of life. However, there are some extreme differences that can be seen country to country.

This week, I interviewed two students on campus. They have been to different countries all over the world and experienced life in those countries. Chantal Richards, journalism major at Chico State, lived in South Africa for 15 years and has lived in the America for the last 8 years. When I asked her how she thought American’s viewed food, she explained that in her eyes they take for granted all the food they have. They waste so much more food than what she is used to. When she first got here, she noticed, “that the portions were huge and would take up the entire plate. Where I grew up, it was a quarter of the size of an American meal, and you would also get a lot more nutrition per plate.” In South Africa, food is a staple that not everyone is so lucky to have. Food is generally cherished when you have it. Chantal explained, “In South Africa, you did not waste food. You ate what was on your plate.” There was starvation everywhere, so when you did have food, you appreciated it. The United States is not so afraid of starvation. It is one of the most prosperous countries in the world when it comes to food. However, this does not translate in the amounts of food they waste. 21% of the US’s waste comes from food (“U.S. Environmental Protection Agency”). That number is very difficult for me to wrap my head around. But then I really think about it. Those leftovers I threw away because maybe it doesn’t taste as good reheated. The fruit I let spoil. The last bit of pasta that didn’t look like it could make a full meal. That is all food that we could have saved and consumed. Now if that is just my actions, think of the 313.9 million people in the US that might be doing similar things. It’s unbelievable how much as a country we waste simply because we know we can just get more.

The United States differs with other countries also on how meal times are viewed. Mary Swearinger, anthropology major at Chico State, has spent a month each in Antigua and Malta. Antigua is a small island in the West Indies and Malta is an island in the Mediterranean. While there, she did anthropological work and spent a lot of time absorbing the culture. When I asked about how the Maltese view food, she stated, “it’s how they socialize and express their creativity.” She explained that they have a festival of food called Festa. It can last up to 3 days. It is one giant potluck with music, fireworks, and marching bands. But the food is the spotlight of the entire event. It shows how these people value food and how it can bring a large group of people together. While in Malta, she discovered that a lot of things were done over food. At night, everyone in the family would attend dinner. If you were not at dinner, you did not eat.  Dinner was where they socialized and bonded as a family. I feel like that is something that the average American family has lost. We as a culture are always on the go, or busy with other things. Instead of making time to sit down as a family, we pick up fast food, microwave dinners, or skip a meal. However if we make meals, like dinner, into an event that you attend and cook as a family, we would make a lot better decision about what we eat. Most families would take the time to plan out the meal, rather than picking something easy and not as nutritious.

While talking to both of these women, they both mentioned something interesting. Compared to other countries, our protein portion of a meal is quite large. In the US, the protein is usually the star of a meal. In other countries, the majority of the meal is bread or vegetables, while the protein portion is the smallest. I find this funny because on a food pyramid, protein is a rather small portion of your daily diet. I do think that as a country, America should try to lower the amount of meat they eat. But I believe that will be very difficult. The American culture is surrounded by meat. Barbeques for example, a common American tradition is an event where people gather to grill meat. I myself love barbequing, but I am starting to realize it shouldn’t be the focus of the entire meal. Things like wine and starches shouldn’t have to complement the meal. The protein should complement them.

While all of these countries are different, the thing in common is that we all need to eat food. How we eat it and what we eat is never going to be the same. But we can learn from each other and grow as a civilization from it. I hope you will take this all into consideration and maybe improve some of your habits at your next meal.

Work Citation

“Reducing Food Waste for Businesses.” U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. Web. 19 Sep. 2013. <http://www.epa.gov/foodrecovery/&gt;.

Introduction and You Are What You Eat

Hello my wonderful readers! As this is my first post I wanted to take some time to explain this little project I am doing. I am an honors student at California State University, Chico. As an honors student I must complete a project or thesis as my capstone for graduation. I decided to do this blog for my capstone. The theme of the blog is Know It Before You Eat It. I have always firmly believed in this saying, but I wanted to take it one step further. As a college student this is the time to explore different topics and ask the why questions. In the span of this semester I want to explore basic nutrition and different topics that are contained within nutrition itself. So some weeks I might explore lifestyles, science, ethics, religion, or even philosophy within nutrition. It will be interdisciplinary of different areas I have learned about in my college career. I will share all my discoveries here and analyze them. I hope that this project can inspire others to ask more about the foods they eat, because knowledge is the key to a healthy and happy lifestyle.

So to start this blog off I want to dive into the old saying “you are what you eat.” This saying is the honest truth. To explain, think of our bodies as machines. In order to fuel our bodies you must supply it with food. The body then breaks down, metabolizes, the food into supplies that our bodies use. So for example, calories are found in almost all foods. Calories are metabolized in the body to heat, which is used for energy. So depending on how many calories you intake depends how much energy your body has to work with. Think of calories as the gas to keep your body going. Your tank only needs a certain amount depending on you as a person. We tend to eat a lot more calories than are actually necessary for our body to function. In America we also have a tendency to eat empty calories, which are calories that don’t provide a lot of beneficial nutrients. That’s why its better to eat fruits and vegetables because they provide low calories and tons of nutrients. It also means you can eat more of them.

Water is also another huge part of our bodies. It makes up 60% of the body so in turn it makes up a large part of our diet. Think of water as the lubricant for our body. I do understand our body sounds a lot like a car, but just go with it. That lubricant helps all of our organs and moving body parts function. It also regulates body temperature and is a solvent, meaning it dissolves other substances. It carries nutrients and other materials around the body. On average you need 6 to 12 cups of water a day just to replenish the water used for bodily functions. You can now see how vital water is to our bodies, and yet most people struggle with getting enough. A way to improve your water intake is to carry a water bottle around so that on a regular basis you can drink, rather than waiting till meals to drink.

Micronutrients also make up your body. For example, Vitamin D is necessary for your body to be able to absorb and use minerals. So with out adequate Vitamin D intake you would not be able to absorb Calcium, which is essential for hardening your teeth and bones. Charlotte Martin, a PhD Candidate on Human Molecular Nutrition at the University of New Castle, writes about how nutrients interact with your body and also your genes. “One example of gene-nutrient interaction can be found in cases of vitamin deficiencies. A vitamin deficiency can be caused by either insufficient intake or by the body’s ability to metabolize it because of a genetic variation” (Martin). Think of vitamins and minerals as the gears of our body. They are crucial for parts of the body to do basic functions. It’s important to know which foods give you these daily vitamins and minerals so that you are aware if you are lacking in an area. Fruits and vegetables usually have high doses of these and are just another reason you should eat more of them.

“Dean Ornish, MD, and his colleagues did a study of assigning men with prostate cancer to a “clean living” intervention that included a wholesome, plant-based diet; regular physical activity; and stress management, they demonstrated a marked reduction in the activity of genes that can promote prostate cancer grown and a significant increase in the genes that are able to control it” (Katz). It’s all about what is put into your system that will either help it run smoothly or create more difficulties for it. You only get one body so I feel we should do everything we can to keep it in tiptop shape. So obviously this would involve eating the best we can to provide it with the best tools and resources. I have such a passion for nutrition because I personally love myself and I think everyone is constantly striving for that. One of the ways I celebrate myself is taking care of my body. It just naturally makes me feel happier knowing that I am doing good for myself by providing myself with nutritious food.  This is why I want to strive to help us all know it before we eat it.

Work Citation

Katz, David. “Mom Was Right: You Are What You Eat.” NBC News. (2010): Web. 18 Sep. 2013. <http://www.nbcnews.com/id/35350889/ns/health-diet_and_nutrition/t/mom-was-right-you-are-what-you-eat/

Martin, Charlotte. “Personalized nutrition unravels why you are what you eat.” Conversation. (2013): Web. 18 Sep. 2013. <http://theconversation.com/personalised-nutrition-unravels-why-you-are-what-you-eat-12668&gt;.