Book Review: How Not to Die

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I just finished reading How Not to Die, a book that uses scientific research to help explain how we can avoid dying from common diseases by improving our diet. Each chapter in the first half is dedicated to one disease or ailment: heart disease, lung diseases, digestive cancers, breast cancer, etc.

In the beginning of the book, Dr. Greger says he himself is not pushing some sort of vegan / vegetarian agenda, but all the evidence clearly points to plant-based diets as the answer to being healthy. Through reading the rest of How Not to Die, you’ll find this out yourself in a lot of detail, with footnotes and all. In fact, it seems like every other sentence has a footnote referencing a research study, which makes this information extremely convincing.

Although the book is quite dense, Dr. Greger’s writing is super clear and he explains even complex concepts well and in plain English. He also includes a lot of stories from his time working in hospitals and stories about his family, which make each chapter much more memorable and digestible.

Even though I consider myself to have above average knowledge of nutrition and health because I try to read about it, I still learned so much from reading How Not to Die. I have never highlighted so much text in a book before.

I didn’t just learn things related to food, but random facts about the human body. For example, eating fenugreek (a spice) can make your armpits smell like maple syrup! Can someone tell my boyfriend? I don’t think his deodorant is strong enough. JK.

I also learned about funky experiments you can do to check different aspects of your health, such as boiling red cabbage and pouring the liquid into the toilet after you pee to determine the pH!

Dr. Greger has a website called NutritionFacts.org where some of the content from the book can be found, along with more videos and podcasts. The cabbage pee test is on there too.

Project Meal Prep | How Not to Die

My favorite part of How Not to Die is the second half, which has simple little recipes and recommendations on what you should eat, such as the Daily Dozen. There’s even an app for that haha.

Some recipes are also on the Dr. Greger’s Pinterest page. I took notes and will be making some of them too, which I’ll post on my Instagram.

If you are at all interested in knowing how to live a long life while being as healthy as possible even in old age, I highly recommend reading this book. Getting sick isn’t just a thing that just happens to all people eventually for no reason, you can actively prevent it if you know how. Additionally, there’s so much wrong and misleading information put out into the world, a lot of it by food companies and food / drug industry leaders whose only motivation is to make money, and part of knowing how to keep yourself healthy is knowing the truth.

Book Review: Real Food / Fake Food

Project Meal Prep | Real Food / Fake Food

I just finished reading this book called Real Food / Fake Food. Even though much of the book covers non-vegan food, I still found it completely eye-opening and recommend it to everyone in North America who is at all concerned about what they’re eating.

Each chapter is dedicated to one type of food that is commonly “faked”: olive oil, truffle oil, Champagne, wine, coffee, tea, honey, cheese, beef, and fish. Faking a food could mean cutting it with cheaper ingredients (eg. mixing high fructose corn syrup in with honey) or completely substituting the item with something else, because it’s difficult to tell the difference (eg. adding random weeds into tea leaves or oregano).

I didn’t really think much about the business of food until I realized how big your profit margins will be if you sell someone an expensive bottle of “truffle oil” that’s actually just olive oil with flavorings. In some cases, the stuff it’s replaced with is actually a health danger.

Danger and inflated prices aside, some people may not care that the Champagne they’re drinking is not authentic, because it tastes fine. The author argues that selling a lower-quality fake food product tarnishes the reputation of the real thing. It also discounts generations of families who have dedicated their lives to perfecting the creation of Champagne (or whatever), and all the quality assurance effort of the governing organizations.

Some fascinating things I learned:

  • In Europe, many foods have VERY strict rules around what can be in them, how they must be produced, and where they can come from. These foods also have certifications by different European organizations.
  • Certain types of fish served even at fancy restaurants have high rates of being fraudulent. In some cases, they are even replaced with a cheaper type of fish that causes health problems.
  • Truffle oil is overrated and almost never real. It’s usually another type of oil mixed with a chemical compound that resembles truffles.
  • The concept of terroir, which describes the combination of a specific climate, ecosystem, landscape, etc. of a place on Earth that allows it to produce the best of some type of food.
  • Champagne apparently tastes best with fried, salty food, like french fries (I have to try this sometime).

The takeaways from the book on how to avoid fake food are to:

a. read the ingredients when buying food at the grocery store, and
b. cook more, so you know what is really in your food

After reading this, I’m starting to look more closely at labels on food. Today, I was buying tomato sauce at the grocery store, and I checked all the cans to see if there was one from Italy, not because I’m suspicious of American tomato sauce, I just wanted to try one that’s been made with many strict rules and regulations around quality, to see if it is any better.

I did find one brand (this one), and the cans were sitting on the very bottom shelf at Whole Foods. It had two seals of approval, indicating that these tomatoes did come from Italy and were made using traditional methods.

I looked it up afterward and found that San Marzano is THE place to get canned tomatoes in Italy (read more here). And ya, they have been faked (for example).

I haven’t tried the sauce yet but I’m hoping it’ll be good.

How to trick yourself into running longer and further

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Running has always been one of my most hated exercises, mostly because it felt so boring and monotonous that I couldn’t muster the willpower go for longer than 10 minutes. A couple of weeks ago, however, I managed to trick myself into running 3 miles / 5 km, which is the first time that I have ever run that far!

But first, let’s talk about all the other things I was doing wrong.

Running mistakes I’ve made in the past

  1. Thinking I can’t walk in between

  2. Running at the same speed continuously
  3. Going as hard as I possibly could, to the point of wanting to throw up. The next time I thought about running, I’d consciously or subconsciously have the negative memory of feeling sick at the end of my previous run.
  4. Letting myself be bored either on the treadmill or with uninspiring views. Every minute feels like an hour and the whole time I’m thinking about when I could stop. Even watching my favorite trashy reality TV didn’t help much.
  5. Not doing any other form of cardio. I ended up getting ankle pain that prevented me from continuing to run. Mixing in other activities prevents injury.

What I do now

  1. My new trick: Run outside, and run half the distance I want to run in total before turning around to go back home. For example, when I want to run 3 miles, I make myself go 1.5 miles away from my apartment before turning back around. This is easy to do because I get to look at new stuff when I’m going away from home.
  2. Instead of running at the same speed continuously, I alternate running as fast as I possibly can with walking. Running fast feels way more fun to me than running at a moderate pace, and walking is a nice way to recover so I can do it again. I also use the time to take Snapchats of nature and stuff 🙂
  3. I do HIIT workouts on days I’m not running, incorporating things like jump squats, jumping lunges, plank jacks, and mountain climbers.
  4. I train comfortably and don’t push myself to the max, so it still feels fun. The gauge is that you’re supposed to be able to talk while running, otherwise you’re going too hard.

I plan on signing up for a 5k sometime this summer to motivate me to lower my overall time. Let me know if you have any tricks for race training or running in general!

Travelling with snacks on snacks on snacks

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When I’m travelling or out and about, I’ve learned to ALWAYS have snacks on hand.

How many times have you gotten hangry (hungry + angry) at your travel partner?

How many times have you gotten hungry while out and ended up grabbing something that you didn’t REALLY want to eat, but it was the only option?

I always used to feel this way at the airport. It makes me cringe to pay expensive prices for crappy food.

I had an overnight flight last night and I ate a large-ish dinner just before going to the airport. I knew I’d get hungry again later so I brought some snacks that I bought along with my groceries on Sunday:

  • popcorn with Nutritional Yeast
  • an apple
  • cherry tomatoes
  • grapes

I also like bringing ear plugs and an eye mask so I can fall asleep in total darkness and silence. Ideally I wouldn’t even have taken a red-eye flight, because poor sleep quality = a weakened immune system. Also I feel pretty terrible the next day when I haven’t slept well, but sometimes you don’t have much of a choice.

How much do vegan meal delivery services cost?

The meal delivery market is really on fire these days. I see companies popping up left and right on a regular basis. People want to eat at home but don’t want to spend the time grocery shopping and meal planning, I totally get it. There are 3 in the Bay Area that actually have vegan meals:

The Purple Carrot: $7.50/meal

Veestro: $7.83 – $11/meal

22 Days Nutrition – $9.50 – $12.50/meal

Out of curiosity, I want to know how much I’m spending in comparison with meal prepping.

I spend $50-80 on groceries each week for breakfast, lunch, and dinner for 7 days (there’s a lot of variance depending on whether I need to restock something in my pantry).

This is

3*7 = 21 meals — but I usually eat out once so let’s say 20.

Assuming the upper bound on grocery cost, this averages out to

$80/(20 meals) = $4 per meal

which is a little more than half of the cheapest option above.

I’m not putting down these services. They’re great, healthy options for when your time and energy is more valuable than the money you spend on food. At the end of the day, however, I think that cooking is an important but overlooked skill that people in my generation should learn. Eating out and eating these delivered meals isn’t realistic or sustainable for the average joe.

More importantly, I think people are getting further and further removed from knowing how the food we’re eating was made and what’s in it. I’m getting kinda political here because I’ve been reading & watching Michael Pollan’s stuff (he’s a champion for cooking your own food and eating more plants), but food companies are taking advantage of this. One way to overcome this is cooking your own food; I feel that in the process you’ll naturally start to think about all your options and whether or not you want to put something in your body, rather than having someone decide for you in a pre-made meal.