Friday, September 4, 2015

The Best Meal Plan

Here's another theory on how the First World diet got derailed.  It's not that the foods we eat are that bad. It's our pursuit of the "best".  Having the income, leisure, and abundance to choose, we pick badly and we pick too much.

We are always hearing of people who are around seeking after the [ideal diet]. I have never seen a (permanent) specimen. I think he has never lived. But I have seen several entirely sincere people who thought they were (permanent) Seekers after the [Perfect Diet]. They sought diligently, persistently, carefully, cautiously, profoundly, with perfect honesty and nicely adjusted judgment- until they believed that without doubt or question they had found the [perfect food]. That was the end of the search. The man spent the rest of his hunting up shingles wherewith to protect his [diet] from the weather.- Apologies to Mark Twain, "What is Man?"

There are restrictions that blame individual ingredients, like MSG or gluten. Or diets that glorify or demonise an entire Macro-nutrient (protein, fats, carbohydrates). Diets that increase fiber, ethically restrict meat and dairy, or encourage fair trade practices. And there's the pursuit of "natural", "clean", "non-GMO" or "minimally processed". 

On top of this there's the national guides that typically promote a balanced diet with an emphasis on fruits, vegetables and whole grains. Brazil has come out with a divergent plan that emphasizes minimally processed, eating slowly and dining with family. 

One of the consequences of this multiplicity of choices, is that serious dieters are a constant search for the perfect food. I'm of the mind, after three years of logging and dieting consistently, is that it's not one food or the other that makes or breaks a diet. Sometimes the best foods are the ones that sit right in the middle. I came to this revelation as I was browsing around nutritiondata one day, looking for high-protein, low-fat options. After several miserable searches roaming near the peaks of the caloric ratio pyramid, I started browsing the middle. I searched for foods with a ratio of 30:30:40 (Carbohydrates, Fats, Protein). Up popped Edamame. 

Right away, I started to see the advantages of this little bean for the diabetic as it provides a steady stream of energy; no peaks or valleys. The modest fat content provides staying power. I wandered around that magic triangle again today and came up with a short list of foods that naturally fit in this middle

Even foods that may be deficient one way or another, can be combined with it's partners to be so much better. Consider onions, beef, beans, and tomatoes. Together they make something great, possibly better than they can do on their own. When that chili is ready, sprinkle it with a little sharp cheddar and serve it with a buttered chunk of corn bread; even better.  Finish the meal off with a fruit salad garnished with a dollop of whipped cream. There's got to be a reason this sounds so satisfying, right?

So I suggest, for sanity's sake, relax your food choices. As long as you are eating a variety of foods in a modest amount, it's all good. Glory in the middle and leave the extremes. 

Tuesday, September 1, 2015

Battle of the Titans

There's a peculiar type of destructive competition that happens in free market enterprises, when two fairly matched competitors mutually fail to dominate the market. We have Coke vs Pepsi, Ford vs GM. The differences between the products are minute, but human nature being what it is, fierce loyalties can be earned by either side. 

I'm keen on merging and productivity. Our society is going to undertake a major shift in the next fifteen years. Economics will be turned on it's head. We will reach peak population growth. And climate change, an amorphous impersonal threat, will demand collaborative world-wide effort to stabilize. The old ways of competition won't stand up and all of us have to start thinking about getting along in new ways.

Here's one reason why I believe our society is heading for transformational change. 

The destructive competition described above cannot survive this sort of transition. John Q. Consumer cannot expect a steady growth of his income, and so will instead be concerned about conservation of his assets. A free market economy must adapt, so the old consumer model will expire. 

Consider the terrific opportunities and options that has come with world connectivity and personal electronics. We have some major players like Microsoft, Google, and Apple jockeying for dominance, and some critical bit players like the non-profit Wikipedia. Frankly, I cannot imagine returning to a life without my Wiki. But this multiplicity of options and fierce competition is handicapping the big players. I have a Microsoft computer who refuses to hold my Google search preference. I have Google docs who cheerfully allows one-way receipt of Microsoft documents, but won't translate back. Apple is unfriendly to both. And why not? They all grab a very profitable section of the market share, and the market continues to grow. 

But this situation won't remain so, and the change will come quickly. My dream is that these titanic conflicts come to an agreeable end. So that my granddaughter can continue to enjoy the terrific opportunities of connectivity as our world turns on it's head.