Weekend Diversions 4.1.16

Happy Friday, all! My post on Wednesday left me feeling a bit unnerved: I am not used to writing that candidly about my eating history, or my body-image struggles. It feels good to put down my thoughts, though, and necessary. I have a feeling that is the best way to put the memories to rest, and to move on with my life (which is now much happier, and filled with much less, although still some, fretting about food). Thank you for all the support I have felt here.

Now, for some weekend reading!

  1. Quinoa chocolate chip cookies -Let’s start with the treat today. Each week, I usually make a batch of granola bars or date and nut balls or some variation thereof for easy snacking. Sometimes I follow a recipe, sometimes I throw a bunch of ingredients together and hope they taste good. These cookies are going into the rotation soon, with the quinoa providing a nice variety to my usual string of oat-based treats. I imagine a flax-egg can easily replace the egg in the recipe.
  2. Your quinoa habit really did help Peru’s poor. But there’s trouble ahead. -Speaking of quinoa, I enjoyed this article about the real effects of quinoa’s popularity on the populations who have cultivated and consumed the seed for generations. Since 2006, quinoa has situated itself on the plates of people in more affluent countries as a gluten-free and high-protein alternative to grains. Its inflated price has often been justified as economically beneficial to its growers, who in theory benefit when I pay many times more for the product than I would have (had I known about it) fifteen years ago. Economists Marc Bellemare and Seth Gitter recently paired up to analyze economic data about Peruvian households (those who grow and eat quinoa, those who eat it but do not grow it, and those who neither eat nor grow the crop) from before quinoa’s popularity through its rise to Western-staple. The results: high export prices do help locals prosper. Other problems have been created, however, such as potential loss of plant diversity: of the 3,000 varieties of quinoa, only a handful are sought after by exporters and, therefore, grown by farmers. Quinoa’s popularity also has caused other countries (America, Canada, China, even coastal regions of Peru) to start their own crops, drawing business away from quinoa’s native geography. This may be one instance where local is not better. Also a good reminder of the politics that go into keeping people in all countries fed, happy, and prosperous.
  3. Stop freaking out about all the protein you’re getting. -Which brings me to this reminder that glorifying one nutrient over others is not beneficial for our health, nor is it really based in good science. Jounalist Marta Zaraska recently published a book (Meathooked), about the roots of our cultural obsession with meat and its protein content. In it, she recounts one of the beginnings of the protein myth in the late 1800s when German scientist Carl von Voit analyzed protein consumption of soldiers and hard laborers to create a baseline for all human consumption of this nutrient (150 grams per day; as an moderately active adult the USDA now recommends I consume an average of 55 grams per day, as a point of comparison). Zaraska explains how laughably easy it is to meet protein requirements, given adequate caloric intake, by consuming a normal, not protein-enhanced diet.
  4. Americans say alcohol is the the biggest problem in their communities, not heroin -Heroin and opioid addictions and overdoses make more headlines than stories about alcohol abuse, probably because alcohol is legal, while heroin is not. On a daily basis, however, it seems that ever-pervasive alcohol is more concerning than other substances. Alcohol is socially acceptable and its negative implications are underplayed. I’m not against drinking, but I do think that more public awareness about its emotional, social, and physical impacts is needed. Just because it is legal does not mean it is implicitly safe for everyone at all times.
  5. A simple exercise that may help children become more successful adults -Mindfulness, no surprise, is a helpful exercise even for children. By building up the prefrontal cortex (the part of the brain that handles executive function and decision-making), practicing focus gives children the clarity of mind they need to succeed later in life. As always, the most simple solutions are often the most effective.


Happy reading, and here’s to a calm and joy-filled weekend for all!


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