Omega 6 Fats Don’t Cause Inflammation?

I’ve written about the Nutrition Action Healthletter several times before. The Healthletter is a publication of the Center for Science in the Public Interest, a non-profit health watchdog organization. Anyway, in the June 2012 Healthletter, it was clearly stated that one of the top nutrition myths today is that omega 6 fats cause inflammation. The Healthletter clearly stated that omega 6 fats don’t cause inflammation and they actually are heart protective (read more from the CSPI here).


The Omega 6 Question

Saying that omega 6 is good for you and not to be cautious about consuming it disagrees Continue reading

Gluten Free Baking Lab

Fresh, gluten-free bread. Warm, moist, springy, textured bread. Without gluten.

Baker Jean Brooks, who took us through two days of traditional bread baking, came back for a third day to show the Natural Epicurean students her gluten-free techniques. Jean has spent four years perfecting her bread and making it into something that people with gluten sensitivities can truly enjoy.

It’s Not Just Business, It’s Personal

Jean shared with us that she recently tested positive for gluten sensitivity (we went to the same nutritionist – Dr. Glen Luepnitz – and took the same Enterolab test). Not only that, but she is devoting her career from this time forward to gluten-free bread. It sounds like she may be giving up working with traditional bread because she had to have her bakery deep cleaned so she could convert it 100% to gluten-free. Given the demand of GF products, I think she is making a great business move. (Check her out on Facebook.) Jean has several close family members who are gluten-free, as well.

Below: Jean Brooks shaping her base gluten free dough into a baguette shape.


Below: Working hard on shaping the dough into a bread mold. 😛


Below: Gluten free batter tends to be a bit on the sticky side, requiring spatulas to do the shaping.


A Word on Nutrition

Gluten free bread is pretty processed stuff, I’m just gonna say it outright. Finely milled grains. Lots of corn and tapioca starch. But Chef Jean wants ideas on bolstering the nutritive properties, so she had us send her our thoughts on how we could boost the nutritive elements. The way I look at it is that GF bread is a nice treat that reminds me of the “old days” when I ate regular bread and that kind of thing will always be in demand. Warm moist bread will always be in demand and it’s a sensory experience that is hard to get with any other food.

Below: Eating some quinoa-laced gluten-free bread Jean made. It was the best gluten free bread I’ve had, and it was warm and fresh. Ahh.


Below: Jean used Better Batter ( to make these fluffy biscuits. And Chef Rachel Zierzow used sesame oil and GF flour to make the gravy. Yum! 20120414-204026.jpg

Below: Jean recommends Pamela’s bread mix for gluten-free bread.


Below: My Good Seed burger on a rosemary-garlic roll.


Below: I really liked the Good Seed burgers. They don’t have all the crazy ingredients normal veggie burgers have  – no gluten, no soy isolates, etc. – and they taste great. And they’re made by Oliver Ponce, a former Natural Epicurean student.


Below: Our delicious work on display.


Below: Jean and her freshly made biscuits.



Veg on the Table

We got down and dirty with fungus and other bulb-y, root-y plants on Tuesday. I have developed a real appreciation for mushrooms in the past several months, so cooking them in school was a good thing for me.

Did You Know?

Mushrooms don’t use photosynthesis? They get their energy by basically eating away at the matter around them. They are considered parasites – but GOOD parasites because they are instrumental at breaking down and decaying matter, thereby contributing to the Circle of Life (cue the Lion King music 🙂 ).

You get to participate in the circle of life by cooking them down until tender with some olive oil, adding some stock perhaps, and eating them, herbivore style.

Below: Beech mushrooms. So cute! They actually have little faces that smile at you and sing songs. Not really. Just being silly.


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The Beans Cooketh Nicely

Today, we got more nutrition info in our morning lecture, and afternoon cooking lab had us working with the beans we cooked yesterday.

Nutrition Lecture with Radhia Gleis

Today was another lecture with Radhia Gleis, a local nutrition expert with 26 years of experience practicing clinical nutrition from a certified and highly educated, yet non-mainstream perspective. Radhia covered a ton of topics today – protein, fats, genetically modified food, antioxidants…  Some highlights that stuck with me:

  • Certain amino acids are linked to performance of specific body functions (neurotransmitters, blood sugar maintenance, immune responses, muscle development, etc.)
  • Radhia believes that saturated fat is not as bad as commonly thought. She says that saturated fat and cholesterol are not the primary causes of heart disease, but rather inflammation caused by consuming processed food.
  • The ratio of omega 3 fats to omega 6 fats can improve or harm health as it varies within your diet. Higher ratios of O3 to O6 (i.e., more flax oil, more omega-3 rich fish, more good oils) are associated with less body inflammation, a major cause of disease. (Read more on fat ratios.) What are good oils? Flax oil is the best. Canola, walnut, and olive oils are not great, but far better than corn oil, cottonseed oil, and safflower oil. Those oils are very high in omega 6 compared to omega 3, and consuming lots of those oils can wreak all kinds of inflammatory havoc in your body. Incidentally, the best oils are also the least stable – they require refrigeration, protection from light, and avoidance of oxygen exposure. This also makes the BEST oils the MOST expensive. So, they aren’t very useful for processed food applications, which must be shelf stable AND cheap. The lesson – minimize consumption of processed foods and good food costs more money.
  • Rancid oils contains lots of free radicals, which are very harmful to the body.

Lab Kitchen

Below: Moroccan chickpea stew – it was quite hearty, with warm cinnamon and creamy chickpeas. 


Below: We do occasionally pan-fry in the kitchenyum yum!


Below: Some pan-fried black bean patties I cooked.


Below: Plating some hummus.


Below: Chef Alex leads us through our cooking de-briefing discussion.


Below: A lovely savory bean puree.


Today’s Dietitian

I’ve been subscribing to Today’s Dietitian for several months and have found an occasional article useful. This month’s magazine, in addition to being delicious, had an article about how low levels of omega-3 fats can result in memory problems. How topical, considering today’s lecture. This month’s issue had a couple of decent-looking recipes, too.

On the back cover, Today’s Dietitian shows its true colors – a full-page color ad for no-calorie, processed dressings and sauces. Ugh!

Remember kids, real food is more than calories. It’s even more than carbs, fats, and protein.



Grains Class and More

Tuesday’s class involved a presentation on nutrition followed by a session where we used the rice cooked on Monday to create more complete dishes.

Demo Kitchen – Nutrition Lecture

A major focus of the program at The Natural Epicurean is healthful eating that complements and enhances wellness. So, a lot of our time in the demonstration kitchen will involve learning the nutrition principles of various schools of thought. Radhia Gleis, an Austin-based Certified Clinical Nutritionist, will be leading us through exploration of much of the nutrition theory. One thing I love about Radhia is that she does not subscribe to the “party line” of Western nutrition, yet she has a firm grasp on the science and physiology of nutrition. Like me, she has a healthy distrust of the nutrition establishment and a penchant for treating each person as an individual rather than a sample case from a corporate-funded research study.

Below: Radhia Gleis.

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Baked Tofu with Soy Marinade

I had a delightful experience with some baked, marinated tofu recently. It was dense, meaty, and had a great creamy soy-based sauce.

A quick Internet search showed that baked tofu is marinated for 0-60 minutes and typically baked for 30 minutes at 375 degrees, with a flip of the tofu occurring halfway through cooking. I whipped up a soy-based marinade and tried three different marinating times: 0, 10, and 30 minutes.

The tofu marinated for 30 minutes was the best tasting. They all had a nice crust on the outside and a brown color that I found appealing.

Below: A block of extra firm tofu, ready to be loved.


Below: Hello? Protein, fiber, cancer inhibiting phytochemicals? Is that you, calling? Why, yes, I’d love some!


Below: My ace team of flavor professionals, lined up and ready to deliver a precision strike of deliciousness.


Below: Le Ziploc, helping marinate the tofu. The vacuum sealed juices help keep the tofu completely surrounded.


Below: All of the tofu I cooked in this session came out with a crispy texture on the outside, which is a nice contrast to tofu’s out-of-the-container not-so-fun texture (hey, just because I love plant-based food doesn’t mean I don’t like a nice crust).


Below: The new star of my sauce lineup – Ohsawa Shoyu. Intended for the discerning palate…oh, who am I kidding. It’s more expensive than regular soy sauce and it does have a more mature flavor. It’s not as harsh as other soy sauces I’ve had. It just might become a staple.


Below: Browned, crusted tofu, sauteed veggies (broccoli right from the garden), and my new favorite soy sauce. A lovely photo, delicious flavors, and a nutritious plate. I love it when a meal comes together! The browned tofu has a lovely appearance.


Diet Is Correct

The source of this blog’s title is from an Ayurvedic saying:

When diet is wrong, medicine is of no use. When diet is correct, medicine is of no need.

This quote has significance for me for a couple of reasons. Chief among them is that I believe food is by far the main cause of health issues in the US. Diet has a powerful ability to heal, connect, and inspire.

The second reason I find this quote meaningful is because when I asked myself in what direction I wanted to take my new career, focusing on food and wellness was the answer – diet is correct.

Christy Morgan’s Mac and Kale

I got a terrific kale recipe from Christy Morgan’s book, Blissful Bites (buy on Amazon), that I wanted to try. Christy, also known as The Blissful Chef, is a graduate of The Natural Epicurean Academy of Culinary Arts (my soon-to-be-culinary school) and I sampled this dish at the Texas Vegetarian Chili Cookoff in 2011. I bought her book at a recent open house for The Natural Epicurean, and was looking forward to trying this recipe in particular.

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You probably know that iron is a required nutrient in your diet. But why? And are you getting enough? Where can you get it? Don’t you need to eat lots of meat to get enough iron?

Role of Iron in the Body

Iron is used by each cell in your body for metabolic processes required for life. It also helps transport oxygen from your lungs to all parts of your body because of it’s presence in hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is part of red blood cells. Deficiency can result in fatigue, weakened immunity, and in infants can result in developmental problems.

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Polenta Quick Dinner

Grabbed some polenta out of the pantry for a quick dinner. I know – aspiring chef eating prepared polenta out of a package? I’m nothing if not a food realist, and when time is tight, you need to be healthy, but also quick.

Frankly, I’m still working on how to maximize my nutrients and fit it into my schedule. It takes planning and a bit of patience. I’d like to eat more brown rice as my primary grain – I have the pressure cooker to help speed the process.

I cooked up a can of Muir’s Glen diced tomatoes (America’s Test Kitchen once rated them as the best canned tomato) with some fresh garlic and olive oil as a topping. Oh, and some delicious capers on the bottom for more flavor. It smelled very fragrant – if you do not cook with fresh garlic let me tell you, it makes ALL the difference.

I would have added fresh basil but the last light freeze here in Central Texas killed her. 😦

Nutrition Notes

Polenta is corn meal cooked with a liquid until it’s somewhere between liquid and solid. In this case, the packaged polenta is fortified with vitamins A and C (probably to help preserve it). It has a toothsome texture and I like to use it instead of pasta since I can’t eat wheat (or, should I say, I prefer healthy skin to eating wheat).

The tomatoes were packed with citric acid, providing more vitamin C.

The salt on this meal was far from ideal. The tomatoes packed in about 300 mg and the polenta chipped in another 600 or so. It goes to show how packaged foods are far saltier than fresh foods.





More Nutrition News

In other news, the latest Nutrition Action Health Letter reports that calcium appears in the scientific research to be protective against colon cancer.

But Mike, you say, aren’t you avoiding dairy? Should we be concerned about you brittle bones and now your delightful colon there? Luckily for all of us, I’ve been supplementing calcium for some time now with my new friend, the chocolate calcium Adora disk. I’m also eating soy and coconut yogurt. (I put the yogurt on think-rolled oats…SO good!)

Incidentally, the 500 mg in the Adora disk is about half the calcium that most adults are recommended to eat. Luckily, there is more calcium to be had out there, and since I eat food, I am probably getting all the calcium I need.