Monday, July 16, 2012


Ronald Reagan was his name. And he would have said, “It’s hard to be the president of the United States.” You’re the president You want to agree with a proposal to have a budget cut of $57 billion. And so you task the USDA with planning nutritious school lunches that maintain nutritional requirements in spite of lowering funding.

So what does the USDA do?

The Secretary of Agriculture proposed classifying ketchup as a vegetable to save money on school lunch programs! That was in 1981!

Hmmm… ketchup a vegetable

So what IS a vegetable? If it’s a plant grown for its edible part, maybe the question should be, “does the edible part stop becoming edible?”

Or should we say it this way?

Does a vegetable ever stop becoming a vegetable? Or does a vegetable merely stop becoming a source of nutrition when it becomes processed and mixed with other ingredients, which diminish its nutritional value?

All things labeled as “food” need to be evaluated from two points:
    Does it harm me? Or does it benefit me?
    Does it diminish health for me? Or does it add health to me?

If it harms me, then it needs to be removed from my “repertoire.”

If it benefits me, then it needs to be eaten with some degree of consistency.

So what about ketchup? Is ketchup harmful? Or is it beneficial?

The answer of course, is “It depends on what got mixed with it, when it was processed.”

For the above brand, for example, one would then have to go through the nuances of studying the volume added as well as the short term and long term effects of each ingredient, meaning, the volume and the effects of: 

1] distilled vinegar 
2] high fructose corn syrup 
3] corn syrup 
4] salt 
5] spice 
6] onion powder 
7] natural flavoring

For example, should one pay attention to the medical and scientific literature that considers high fructose corn syrup, as allegedly contributing to obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and non-alcoholic fatty liver disease?

And what about salt? Just how much salt was added?

Which spices?

How was the onion pulverized?

Which natural flavoring are we talking about?

And how was that flavoring made?

So the answers aren’t easy to come by. It becomes hard to tell exactly what process the tomato concentrate went through to transform into the ketchup that it ended up becoming. And on top of it all, some additives have not had the benefit of having been tested with time.

No wonder some people espouse the adage: 

“Made by God, good; made by man, bad”  or
“If it wasn’t around 100 years ago, then you don’t know if it’s good or bad.” 

So when we say vegetable, we simply mean “normal” vegetable! 

What exactly do vegetables have anyway?

Fifty years ago, it was the vitamins and minerals.

Today it’s the phytochemicals and the enzymes.

Take LUTEIN for example (pronounced LOO-TEEN). It’s a phytochemical found all over the world but synthesized only in leaves—the green leaves!

In the West, it’s in broccoli and spinach and kale.

In the East, it’s found in pak choi, bok choy and kai-lan in China, Baguio pechay and kangkong in the Philippines, baechu in Korea, wongbok and hakusai in Japan.

So it’s really synthesized in plants. But animals eat it from plants and when they do, they pass it on to humans who eat animals, so a person may get LUTEIN second hand from egg yolk and chicken skin and chicken fat.

Or we may get it first hand in significant amounts from green leaves, cooked and uncooked. Then where does it go after we eat it? Surprise! LUTEIN has been found to concentrate itself in the macula in the retina of the eye!


Does that mean it prevents blindness?

Well, the evidence sounds promising...

In 2007, John Paul SanGiovanni of the National Eye Institute in Maryland published his 6 year study in the Archives of Ophthalmology 2007;125(9):1225–1232.

His studies pointed to a relationship between intake of LUTEIN and the human eye becoming protected from blindness coming from macular degeneration!

What’s macular degeneration?

Well, there’s something in the eye called the macula.

The macula begins to show signs of change when you hit 65. First your vision becomes a bit blurred. But it’s limited to the center of the field of vision, not the periphery. Objects look dim and somewhat distorted and the colors look faded.

A year later, you may have trouble reading print but you can see well enough to do most of your routine activities.

As time progresses, so does the difficulty reading. You notice that you need more light to read and the blurred spot in the center of your vision gradually gets larger and darker. In the later stages, you may not be able to recognize faces until people are up close.

What you see sort of begins to look like this:

 What causes it?

Well, abnormal blood vessels begin to grow behind the retina or light-sensitive cells within the retina itself begin saying, “I give up!” And the changes in vision really become obvious when people reach 75 which is why they call it age-related macular degeneration (AMD for short).

But John Paul Sangiovanni says you can delay it or prevent it partly by eating the right green leaves!

And the same goes for cataracts, too!

When he increased the LUTEIN intake of patients, it lowered the risk of cataract progressing! Letting them consume more than 2.4 mg of LUTEIN/ZEAXANTHIN (another phytochemical from leaves colored green) daily from foods and supplements allowed him to observe a correlation—it lowered the incidence of the eye lens becoming opaque!)

Question: “Ok! So I start eating spinach and pechay and bok choy! Can I get too much of a good thing?”

Well, in 2009, in China, there was an elderly woman who had made it a habit to eat around 1 to 1.5 kg of raw pak choi per day! She came down with hypothyroidism, and came into the hospital in a coma – myxedema coma.

Myxedema coma is loss of brain function because of severe and longstanding low level of thyroid hormone in the blood.

If she had been keen, she would have picked up the early signs: fatigue, lethargy, depression, cold intolerance, dry skin. But apparently she missed them!

So, yes –spinach, and bok choy and petchay and broccoli – but not too much, okay? One kilo IS a bit weighty, don’t you think?

So wow! We started off with ketchup — how did we get here?

Let’s go back to ketchup. Is ketchup a vegetable?

Did the USDA learn?

Well, you decide...

In 2011, the US Congress passed another bill. This time the bill barred the USDA from changing its nutritional guidelines for school lunches. Why? Well, because this time, the changes proposed by the USDA would have resulted in: 

1] limiting the amount of potatoes allowed in lunches 
2] requiring more green vegetables, and 
3] declaring that half a cup of tomato paste could now count as one serving of vegetables

This meant that the tomato paste in pizza could continue to be counted as a vegetable in school lunches! Of course, the bloggers were furious! And what did they say?

Well, some said that Congress had now declared pizza to be a vegetable!

Well, at least now we know. Ketchup is NOT a vegetable. But pizza definitely IS!

For the next blog, let’s tackle LYCOPENE!

In the meantime, chew on this…

One quarter of what you eat keeps you alive.
The other three quarters keep your doctor alive.
- Egyptian Proverb

Wednesday, April 25, 2012


Let’s see how much we know about termites


1. More often than not, there will be clues of termite infestation outside wood that’s been infected.

2. Termites only need a crack of one-thirty second of an inch in the cement slab floor to gain entrance into your home

3. Termites eat plastic as well as wood.

Now, how well did we do?

1. FALSE. Sometimes, you see pellets or brown sandy material but more often there’s no clue on the outside that something is terribly wrong inside.

2. FALSE. Termites need less than that—just a crack of one sixty-fourth of an inch is enough.

3. TRUE. The species popularly known as subterranean termites can destroy plastic plumbing pipes as well.

And guess what? Marriages get termite infested, too.

Sometimes, there’s no clue on the outside that’s something’s gone wrong.

What triggered it? Just a tiny crack on the foundation.

One unkept promise, one small lie, one unkind word, one false accusation, one disloyalty… until one day, there’s a subtle distance and a coldness and one realizes that an erosion has taken place.

An erosion? Where? In the area of trust, mainly.

Sound familiar?

But the issue isn’t always a loss of trust. Sometimes it’s plain hurt at the lack of sensitivity, repeated again and again, until over time, the hurt becomes an irritation and then an aggravation, and then frustration. 

And then the thought of just ending the marriage enters…

That’s the easy way out. But there’s another way. It’s harder, though. But it might be worth trying.

It’s forgiving. Without forgiving, you lose out in the end. At least that’s what the medical gurus say…

You end up becoming hostile and hostile people–they say–lose out in the end.

Let’s start in 2002. A study from Brown University, Harvard Medical School, Boston University and the Boston Veteran’s Health Care System Center for Behavioral Preventive Medicine.

The M.D.s studied 774 men wanting to know what the one predictor of impending heart attacks was. Their result? The most reliable predictor of a heart attack was the subject’s hostility profile.

Fast forward to 2007.

A study from the University of Utah, published in the 2007 American Psychosomatic Society.

300 married couples were studied, all said to be free of coronary artery disease. CT scans of coronary arteries were done to detect tiny calcium deposits inside the arteries. (Calcium deposits are an indicator of silent atherosclerosis or coronary artery disease.)


Spouse ratings of both anger and antagonism were significantly associated with coronary artery calcification severity.  These associations occurred only among older participants. Antagonism but not anger was an independent predictor of coronary artery calcification.

Maybe that person was right after all.


The one who said, “A happy marriage is the union of two forgivers.”

I have a favorite priest. His name is Martin Luther.

Someone asked him one day, a long time ago. “Dr. Martin Luther, what would your advice be to wives and husbands today?”

His answer: “Let the wife make her husband glad to come home and let the husband conduct himself in such a way that she is sorry to see him leave.”

So there. Termites? Who ever said they had to stay…?

Sunday, April 1, 2012


It’s April! And I bet there are thousands of weddings being planned for June — though they say September and October weddings are fast catching up!

In case you ever wondered what started the June bride tradition, it was baths! Plain and simple baths!

photo from Google images: winter bath

A long time ago, in cold countries, before heaters and the industrial age were still to come, people simply didn’t take a bath in the winter! They figured, they didn’t sweat, so they didn’t smell. Simple. It was hard enough fetching water when it was warm, how much more when it was cold! So the hygienically fastidious took once a week baths. But the lackadaisical were happy with waiting till the coming of warmer weather—which was June!

(No one wants to march down the aisle, without a bath!)

But these days, which month is the least of the bride’s problems. Or the groom’s. It’s wondering whether the marriage thrives or simply survives! Or whether this is for better or for best or for better or for beast!

One nugget from an old married is to look at marriage this way—It’s your training ground! It’s a practicum for learning how to live life so you make it with flying colors outside the home!

Wasn’t it John D. Rockefeller the billionaire philanthropist who said:
“I will pay more for the abililty to deal with people than for any other ability under the sun.”
And there’s your school! The guy who can relate well at home, can relate well anywhere! It would have been nice if natural talent, intelligence, and a college degree guaranteed success. But these days, not anymore. Something else is needed: it’s sensitivity. Call it discernment. Or wisdom. Or “feel.” Bottomline: it’s the capacity to understand what other people need and the willingness to give it to them.

Hey, come to think of it… when that big voice in heaven said, “This is my beloved son, in whom I am well pleased…” what had his son done, by then, anyway?

Nothing!!! No miracles yet, no healings done! Nothing — except relate well to his dad, to his mom, and to his siblings.

And there’s your training school! Free of charge. But you have to keep telling yourself, “This is my curriculum. I better pass this test …or...”

Or what?

Let’s find out in the next blogs!