The brave new world of proper nutrition

Healthy eating has gone way past your mother’s basic food groups. My mother, for example, just said try to make the plate look pretty: a little green, a little yellow, a little white and a piece of meat if you’re lucky, and all will be well.

Hmmm. I recently took in a lecture by nutritionist Sharon Meyer (Optimum Nutrition Therapy: “Food as medicine, food as pleasure”) at the invitation of San Francisco’s Heritage life care retirement community. And I now have more information than I will ever use, although that is not Sharon Meyer’s fault. The reality is, I’m just not good at grasping a lot of new data on phytonutrients, chia seedepigallocatechin gallate and the balancing of Omega 6 and Omega 3 oils in order to ingest the good and reject the bad.

Here are a few tips I did collect and seriously plan to use: 1) To keep your sugar balance, eat five times a day. (8 or 10 times a day has worked for me in the past, but what the heck.) 2) Black pepper is the king of spices; cardamom is the queen; turmeric is super good. 3) Green tea is also super good; use it in place of stock in soups, etc. 4) There’s value in red meat (hooray) – but it ought to be grass fed. 5) Your body needs water, seriously, six to eight glasses a day; start with 3/daily, maybe you’ll get there. 6) Snacks? Go for the berries in coconut milk with a dash of cinnamon.

Ms. Meyer knows this stuff. A graduate of London’s Institute for Optimum Nutrition and a practicing consultant on a long list of nutritional and health issues, she is also a Cordon Bleu chef. Whether all Cordon Bleu chefs know as much about regulating blood sugar and keeping body fat down is questionable. They probably don’t even worry about how the food we eat speaks to us, or about fun facts like most of us eat 24 tons of food in a lifetime — the equivalent of three elephants; if they did, it might be the end of foie gras.

Food, Gluten & Lifestyle Changes

I have pretty much done it all, gustatorily or libationally speaking: alcoholism, teenage fad diets (well, a long time ago, but trust me, they are still the same), brief descents into the pit of fast food, and now — Celiac Disease. Celiac Disease, forheavenssakes. It’s genetic. Where has it been all these years? And who, suddenly, are all these other CD people? If you aren’t one, you probably know one.

Dietary seasons, I have come to believe, are like life cycles, the ebbs and flows of some immutable tide built into our systems. As a kid, I didn’t like oysters, an incredible stupidity when my cousins lived a short drive away on the Chesapeake Bay. Bush (the grown-up one) banned broccoli from the White House, although it is surely the side dish to oyster dinners at the tables of the goddesses; perhaps he has now gained understanding. My children, I am sorrowful to admit, grew up on Hamburger Helper and Chuck Wagon Casserole through cycles of their mother’s chaos. And here they are, fitness buffs and gourmet cooks with healthy families, looking fondly back on their culinary childhoods.

I have now entered the Celiac Age. This affliction does not necessarily correspond with the Golden Years, one of the least appealing and often inaccurate descriptives of aging. Celiac Disease is not even a respecter of age. A colleague of mine has a teenage daughter who was so severely celiac as an infant they thought they might lose her before the diagnosis was made. She now sings with a chorus that travels in Europe periodically, so Stewart can translate the diet into seven languages if you need him to.

Recent estimates are that as many as 1 in 100 Americans have CD, with a large percentage of them as yet undiagnosed. I won’t bore you with the symptoms, some of which are quite gastrointestinal and unpleasant; mine were just sudden weight loss and anemia. But what they all translate into is you can’t eat gluten. Gluten is found in wheat, barley, rye and oats and right away you can see donuts are out. CD is an autoimmune disease, so they’re out forever. On the other hand, we should all sign up for something that can be cured through the simple act of eliminating one thing from one’s diet. And if you consider what CD people can eat: meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, ice cream, chocolate candy, meringue cookies, frozen coffee drinks…

Still, we CD people have our moments of pitifulness. My latest was in a posh restaurant up the street at which I was told that everything on the dessert menu contained gluten, because they put gluten even into their ice cream so they can make fancy little plops. They have already received my e-mail about that 1 in 100 business. Actually, being asymptomatic now that I’m taking all these vitamins, I could eat that loaf of bread (it belongs to my husband) over there and never know the difference. But Dr. Yeo would know. Dr. Yeo watches the lab test results and they do not lie. And in truth, I need my bones, which don’t get their calcium if I cheat.

We try not to complain. Still, having given up pies, cakes, cookies, brownies, donuts and sticky buns I did manage to regain the lost weight and another uninvited 4 pounds. There is no justice. Tomorrow: a view of risk/benefit wine drinking.