Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Pseudograins and Your Health, Dietary Stress, and Beer Breaks

Today's blog is written by Sarah, the President of SAPT.  She had written up a quick and interesting piece for the SAPT crowd, and I thought it would be interesting for my readers, too. 

I look up to Sarah in many ways (literally, too, as she's taller than me, and is my boss).  One of them being the fact that she strength trained throughout her entire (recent) pregnancy, and then was back at it a mere few days after the actual delivery (not to mention, her baby daughter is EXTREMELY healthy and strong, which I'm convinced is due to the fact that Sarah took care of her body - via exercise and nutrition - during the pregnancy).  Another reason I look up to her is the dedication she keeps to take care of her body through nutrition.  She's also a great strength coach, to boot (she's the S & C coach for quite a few of Mason's teams ex. Basketball, Volleyball, etc.).  

Anyway, I know I don't talk about nutrition that much on my blog, so I hope those of you in the crowd looking for a bit more insight in the nutritional realm find this intriguing.  Hope you like it!

"My post for today is composed of one useful health-related fact, one personal update, and one tidbit that you can file away under “useless cocktail trivia.” Enjoy!

Amaranth is a pseudograin that’s new to me... and probably to you, too! Pseudograins are actually seeds, although they are commonly referred to as grains. Buckwheat, Quinoa, Wild Rice, and Amaranth are all pseudograins. Since these quasi-grains don’t contain gluten, they are very easy to digest and alkaline-forming.

A brief aside: alkaline-forming nutrients are an essential part of a balanced, healthy diet. When a one’s body pH turns acidic, that individual will experience a host of problems that include decreased cellular energy production, decreased ability to repair damaged cells (from illness, exercise, etc.), tumor cell development (yikes!), and low energy and illness. Outside of an acidic diet, stress is a big drain on the body’s alkaline balance.


So, back to amaranth. this little tiny seed has a nutty flavor and is packed full of calcium, iron, potassium, phosphorus, and the vitamins A and C. Amaranth is composed of around 17% protein and is loaded with lysine, the oh-so-elusive essential amino acid of the plant-based food world.

Almost unbelievably, amaranth has more calcium (ounce for ounce) than cow’s milk. Finally, amaranth consists of about 8% fatty acids. Within this fat is found a very important and valuable form of vitamin E called tocotrienol. Tocotrienol is a powerful antioxidant.

This stuff doesn’t come conveniently prepackaged. To find it you’ll need to locate it in the bulk food bins of some grocery store or order it online.

I almost forgot the best part: you POP it! Like teeny tiny popcorn!

The Toll of Stress
I read a phenomenal book over the weekend titled Thrive by Brendan Brazier. Brendan is a professional Ironman triathlete who advocates a whole foods, plant-based diet. In the book he puts a huge emphasis on the role that dietary stress puts on all of us. His research shows that dietary stress accounts for a whopping 70% of the average person’s TOTAL uncomplimentary stress (this is the bad kind of stress, I’m choosing to omit discussion on the other two kinds of stress).

What is dietary or nutritional stress? Basically, it’s the stress put on our body by eating unhealthy food OR not eating the right foods.

Personally, I have put great stock in the importance diet plays in my life and ability to be a “high producer.” I find when my diet is out-of-whack that I have a difficult time staying on task, focused, and thinking creatively. And that’s exactly how I’ve been feeling as of late. So, since Brendan’s book is focused on improving both physical and psychological performance by reducing dietary stress, I thought I’d give it a look and apply some of the principles.

My honest opinion is this: the changes I’ve made have already allowed me to feel much improved, BUT the principles in this book (well, mainly the recipes) are NOT for the faint of heart. I consider myself pretty high on the totem pole of dietary manipulation - food is fuel, it doesn’t matter how it tastes - but even this threw me some curve-balls. Over the weekend I spent a great deal of time in the kitchen... at one point I felt like I should be outside scraping bark off trees, digging up roots, and gathering leaves.

Bottom line, I like it quite a lot - it’s a challenge, and I’m into challenges.

So, I’m going to give Brendan’s plan a whirl for 12-weeks and follow up on the blog periodically. My main goal being a perception of greater energy and productivity. I’m going to use a Rating of Perceived Energy to measure this and, much like the traditional Rating of Perceived Exertion, will issue scores on a scale of 1-10. “1” meaning I have taken up staring at the wall and “10” indicating I’m buzzing around in the atmosphere propelled by my own ideas and energy.

Right now I’d say I’ve gone from a three to a five in just a few days.

Here are some pictures of the food I’ve made from the recipes in the book - first is the Adzuki Bean Quinoa Sesame Pizza before going in the oven and second are Garlic Oregano Yam Oven Fries:



“If we all had a high level of health, we would all be at our ideal body weight, none of us would have food cravings, we would all sleep soundly, we wouldn’t rely on stimulating foods to give us energy, and we would always be able to think clearly and rationally.”

Beer Breaks
Ryan (interjection: Ryan is Sarah's husband) has been spelunking at work over the last week (crawling around in caves) and came home after the first week with a 6-pack of beer. He said it is written into their contract that anyone spelunking could take a “beer break” once a day. That “seems unsafe” I thought. Ryan explained that this practice initiated many years ago to calm the nerves of men working high up building sky scrapers. Still seems unsafe. Thankfully, he’s not partaking in these respites.

I tried to find some history on this, but came up short. The only story I found was from 1960 about a hair salon that used beer to condition hair and the women working there had been helping themselves to the beer... they then talked their boss into keeping “beer breaks” permanently, but they had to stop taking the salon’s beer and bring their own.

That’s the cocktail trivia.

Depending on activity level, six to eight months from now our bodies will have regenerated nearly 100 percent of their tissue at the cellular level. This new tissue will literally be made up of what we eat between now and then."  -Sarah


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