Myth 3: Always Eat Low Fat

Yes, the flood waters are moving closer to Bangkok.  Everyone is getting a little nervous, me included.  When it rains, I can’t help but wonder if that will mean one more line of defense has broken and that soon the waters will rush into the inner city area.  Let’s pray that there be no more casualties.  When stressed I tend to eat more than I should.  It’s like my brain decides that eating helps relieve stress.  However, it only helps short term for it ends up making me feel worried about having eaten too much.   I end up looking for healthy foods to eat, which brings me to the third myth.  The myth that low fat foods are always good for you.

I’m sorry to have to be the one to break the news to you, but low fat foods are NOT always good for you.

It is important to always read the food labels when you buy food.  Sometimes, the food is indeed low in fat, but extremely high in sodium (salt) and sugars which are  not good for you. What you think are healthy, may be hiding sugars that slow your metabolism and the main reason why your weight just isn’t going down despite all the “low fat” foods.  I have been prey to those “Low fat” high protein energy bars which end up being high in sugars and calories!

In addition, according to Alannah DiBona, who is a nutritionist and wellness counselor, the human body also needs fat in order to absorb a large percentage of nutrients.   We need fats to help our bodies manage cholesterol and aid in weightloss.

This is great news. Yes, some fats you need to eat if you want to lose weight. It’s actually healthier I think to eat everything, just be careful of how much you eat.

Fats that are good are the monounsaturated and polyunsaturated fats which comes from avocadoes, pecans, almonds and other kinds of nuts.  Omega-3 fatty acids which can be found in salmon and other kinds of fatty fish such as mackerel are also good for you.

Avoid transfat which lowers your “good” cholesterol and raises your “bad” cholesterol.  The opposite of what you need for a healthy life.  Transfat can be found in foods which are fried, fast food, or even commercially made baked goods.  Basically, most foods massed produced are not very healthy.

Therefore do not always fall for the “Low Fat” label when shopping.  Read the labels and eat natural,
healthy foods.  The less processed the better!

Myth 2: Food cooks faster in boiling water with salt added.

The last few days have been absolutely hectic as I’ve just started teaching, but now that all is settled today I get to relax and enjoy a few moments of peaceful writing.  It is indeed good for the mind and soul.  Today I write about a myth that is so common that I am sure many of you who cook have heard it before: adding salt to water changes the boiling point and lets you cook food faster.  I’ve heard this on cooking shows, read it in cooking books and yes I have to admit this is something I have believed in pretty much of my life until I read about it on Lifehacker.

Suddenly, I am forced to question my belief regarding boiling water and cooking.  Are there other things I am mistakenly believing in?

Apparently, the article says that to really affect the boiling point of water you would have to add an extremely large quantity of salt, so much that it would most likely render your food inedible.  Even then,
it would only affect the boiling point by a few tents of a degree Celsius at most.  That’s nothing. My pasta isn’t going to cook faster.

Wow. Hm..and then I thought my adding salt to boiling water before cooking pasta made my pasta tastier and was a key part in having it “Al dente.”  I guess I was wrong.   The only thing the salt did was to add flavor to the pasta! I guess that was the secret ingredient.

Are you knowledeable in Chemistry or Thermodynamics? What do you think?

Myth 1: Wooden cutting boards have more bacteria

In our lives, sometimes we hear things, we read things and we live by it thinking it’s right.  Sometimes it turns out it is just a myth.  So tonight, I’m going to start a little series about some common food myths. The first myth being that one should never use wooden cutting board for meat because they are full of bacteria.

It is commonly believed that the sharp knife cutting into the board causes little scratches, through which later juices from meat settle into.  They become a breeding grown for bacteria that cannot be easily washed away.  As a result, wooden cutting boards become a ‘no no.’  Plastic cutting boards are better.  Now some even say they are made with anti-microbial technology that ensures it remains bacteria free.

Sadly, it’s all just a myth.  It doesn’t matter what kind of cutting board you use, wooden or plastic, it does not reduce the number of bacteria, according to University of California: Davis, Dean O. Cliver, Ph.D of the UC-Davis Food Safety Laboratory.

Although bacteria does go through the cuts in the wooden cutting board, the bacteria are said to settle deep inside where it is very difficult for it to resurface.  You would have to splot the board open first.  Once they are inside, they also do not multiply and often die.

Plastic cutting boards too result in bacteria even after cleaning.  I suppose this means, that whether you use wooden or plastic cutting boards, there will be bacteria.

The most important lesson though, is to ensure that you keep your cutting board clean.  Clean well after each use.  Which one is better? I cannot tell, but I can tell you I love the feel of cutting down into a wooden cutting board.  Others may like plastic because its light and convenient and feels ‘clean.’  It’s really up to you.   Myth be gone!  Wood is as good as plastic!

Baked Beans Flood Food

Tonight many Bangkokians are afraid of the flood.  Every night it has been raining. Panic is somewhat in the air and in the supermarkets many shelves of water and instand noodles are empty.  (I think it’s also because the warehouses are flooded and food cannot be brought in to restock.)  Outside my main road, the banks and other businesses have walls of sand.  Some smaller mom and pop stores have had cement barriers created.  This is the sentiment now in Bangkok.

I, myself, am skeptical that it will flood to such an extent that I will be camped out, but still I could not help myself stocking buying a little water and canned food just in case.  ( Hey, it’s better safe than never!) My choice of canned food?  Baked Beans.

Yes, after looking at the shelves, I decided that it would be perhaps the most practical and simplest food to have in times of safety. It’s also what I eat regularly so I don’t have to worry about it expiring before I get a chance to eat it (if indeed the floods never come.)

I contemplated instant noodles, but the shelves were empty and plus I wonder how they will be cooked.  You need clean water and electricity, or a little coal/gas stove.  You could eat it dry, but then it’s not very filling.

Canned tuna was another choice.  Then I imagined myself eating tuna for days and days. The smell of tuna hit me and I said to myself, “ will get too fishy.”  Don’t get me wrong, tuna is an amazingly
healthy food with omega-3 and hardly any fat.  It’s healthy.

The other cans were green peas and corn.  I do not think I can survive on those for too long.  Of course, if there were nothing to eat, I’d have to eat them.

Since I had the luxury of standing in a supermarket and choosing.  I decided on “Baked Beans.”  It’s not a very asian can food at all, but it’s healthy, filling and gives you lots of energy.  One spoon can fill you up for half a day.  Plus, it requires no cooking. It has sauce and texture.   If you bought canned sausages, they go together very well.

After all this talk of canned food, I have to say that I pray I never have to eat it because of the flood.  I pray that no one will have to really use their supplies and that we won’t all be flooded up to our necks.  I pray there will be no more victims.

And if it did flood?  We will cope with it, clean up, move on and rebuild.  Perhaps it will allow us to plan a bit better for future disasters, put in place better prevention mechanisms, build more in tune with nature, prevent deforestation,  have better business continuity plans,  or maybe just maybe, one day we will really be living on the moon where there isn’t any flood. 🙂

We survived the tsunami.  We can survive this flood.  Take care my dear friends!!   What are you stocking up on?  What is your choice of emergency food?

Steve Jobs: Not just any man

The past two days the hot topic on everyone’s lips has been “Steve Jobs has died.”  It’s strange that I should find out about this on my iPhone, a few  minutes after waking up.
When talking to others the first reaction is a little ‘gasp.’  Everyone knows him. Even those who are not Apple fans.  He’s dead and millions worldwide mourn his death.  Millions who have not seen nor spoken to him in person, yet we all hold a part of him in our lives.  We use his inventions to contact those dearest to us and as research even suggests, what we feel for our smart phones may not be merely addiction, but in fact ‘love.’

Yes, we have grown to ‘love’ our iPhones, iPads, iPods, Macs and many things Apple related.

For me, the iPhone has become so much of life that it is the last thing I look at before I go to bed at night, and it is the first thing I wake up to in the morning.  It is my alarm clock, my organizer, my camera, my newspaper, and my source of contact to the virtual world of social networking.    I no longer have to carry around newspapers, books, notebooks, agendas, games, or other things when I travel.  It’s all in one.

Before the iPhone, a phone was a phone.  I used it to call people, answer calls and do a little bit of email here and there.  That was it.  There were no androids back then.  We had symbians and blackberry.  Functional phones.  When I was in highschool in Poland, we still used those telephones with round dials and operators to call international.  Now we use Skype and internet on our iPhones.  Amazing how fast technology has changed.

Now many lives have forever changed.  Children now play with iPads and iPhones as if it were the most natural thing on earth.  They play with it without any hesitation. It is intuitive and responsive to the human touch.  Looking back at my own childhood, I still remember playing summer and winter olympics on the Commodore 64.  Then we had Atari.  That was considered amazing.  5 inch flopping disks coupled with green and black screens. No Windows. No coloured screens. No internet. Computers were still not so approachable.  We feared it a little.  No longer.

Steve Jobs changed the technology world, but what do we mean by this?  I think what we mean is that his creativity and his visions have allowed us to experience what once could only be found in science fiction.  He let us believe that dreams can be accomplished, that anything was possible.  You just had to find it inside of you.

No longer do we have to settle for boring functional telephones and animations whose stories were targeted only for children.  Steve let you enjoy a bit of art and design in the iPhone, iPad and anything Apple.  Every curve, ever corner well considered, well thought out.  Crafted with love.

He affects us because his creations helped take the drudgery out of everyday worklife, where many seem to work without souls.  Steve worked with his soul.  Steve worked with his heart. He ‘created.’

If only we could all put our hearts and our souls into doing something we love, the world would indeed be a different place.  If only we could all find our ‘passion.’

Yes, we will all miss Steve Jobs and his visions.  The world will and has already remembered him. Good bye Steve Jobs. We’ll miss you.

To Stop the Floods, First Save the Trees

It’s raining cats and dogs again tonight.  The street in front of my house is flooded. It’s nothing compared to elsewhere in the country where houses are flooded up to the second story.  Residents have no where left to sleep but on the roof.   Workers were stranded in a factory after flash floods closed their exit.  Villagers trying to help others themselves drown.  Dogs and cats are eaten by crocodiles.  With no bathrooms, the waters are starting to stink and rot. Those were the headline news this morning.  It is depressing to wake up to such news.

237 people are now dead. 3 are missing. 28 provinces hit by floods.

Somehow the thought of deforestation jumps to mind.  Environmental factors have never been much of an issue in Thailand.  It has always been an issue to a few group of select people.  Others looked on and went on with their life. The environmentalists protested on. In a developing country like Thailand, making money seems to be the predominant thought in mind.

Business cut costs where possible.  It is understandable, a business has to make money, but then rules and regulations should be put in place so as to incentivize companies and others alike to prevent deforestation.  Regulations must be implemented. Corruption banished.

Everytime I go to the mountainous area of Khao Yai, I cannot help but feel a little sad.  I like the cool weather there, the trees, yet then thoughts of what my mother tells me comes to mind.  She tells me that thirty years ago, the trees were much taller in the national reserve.  It was a real forest.

Now even in the national reserve trees are really not that tall.  There are buildings way inside the reserve.  It does not feel much like a forest. Not like the ones I’ve been to in Europe anyways.  In other national reserves, I hear others use techniques to kill trees they are not permitted to cut.  Acidic dung from cattle. Villagers in search of money, inhabit the land, get rights to the land, and then through some kind of magic they sell the land to unknowing city dwellers in search of a weekend home.    Sometimes it’s sold to businesses in search of land to build resorts.

To meet demand, trees are cut. Deforestation continues. Trees illegally logged in Thailand are floated downstream and reimported into Thailand as if they were from elsewhere. There are ways to get around regulations.  Money can do anything.

The sad part of all this though, is that human greed will ruin what was once beautiful.  Because we want to enjoy the natural beauty of the mountains, we cut trees to build houses and resorts.  We do all this because nothing is ever enough.  We want to make more and more money.  As a result we have even more deforestation.

Without forests, without trees, floods come easier and faster.  There are no longer any forests to help absorb the water before releasing it slowly into the rivers.   Instead, rain comes and water flows quickly into rivers, thus increasing the chances of flash floods.   Filled too quickly, the rivers break their banks.  Water now flows out everywhere forming new paths.

As a result, the top soil is eroded away as rivers wash down vast areas.  They call this “soil erosion.”  Once eroded,  this decreases the chances of the area to regenerate and for trees to grow again.  The land becomes infertile and cannot be used.

Such are the effects of deforestation.  Such are the effects of cutting down trees.

If Thais were to get-to-gether, learn the effects of deforestation and children taught to love nature perhaps we can avert future incidences of floods.  With trees and forests, we would have fresh air to breathe, rivers to enjoy, wild animals to go see.  Life would be more enjoyable, and yes, we would not have to wake up to such sad news of flash floods, deaths, and crocodiles eating dogs.

Save the Forests my dear readers! Love our Planet Earth. We have only one place to live.

Love Thyself

Many people think health comes along when you have another “half” another “soul” to be by your side. Some say “love” will make you lose weight, be healthy.  There is some truth to it, but I think that is somewhat oversimplified.  You do not need to have “someone” to get healthy.  The only reason you should get healthy and lose weight is because you dearly want to yourself.  Because you love yourself and you think that you are worthy of the attention.  Once you have found that love for yourself, then love for another comes more easily.

Health is a great cure for the soul. It rejunevates, energizes and gives you strength you previously didn’t know you had.  You can somehow run those few kilometers and walk up flights of stairs without feeling tired. Walks that were once unappealing, now seem like a little walk in the garden.  The hot weather becomes less annoying, and the chair more comfortable. Yes, even just sitting on chairs becomes a more enjoyable experience. One can now twist and turn around in the chair without feeling restricted by its side. (If you’ve been stranded in a small chair, you’d know how uncomfortable it can be)  It feels great to not have to worry nor be tired out by little daily tasks.

Shopping becomes a whole new experience.  Now the question is not whether A or B will fit me, but whether A or B will look better on me?  The choice is limitless.  I no longer have to settle for the shirt that fits, over the style I’d rather be wearing.  It’s a wonderful feeling.  A new found happiness.

To enjoy all these benefits I think are a few of the gifts of good health.  You don’t need any other “incentive” other than a love for yourself.  If you lost weight only when you were in love, and only for other people, does this mean that the rest of the time you will regain that weight and forever remain chubby ?  It’s a vicious cycle.  If even you do not love yourself, who then would love you? Since no one loves you, then you’d eat and gain weight?

So love yourself, love the wonderful person you are and take care of your health.  Have a good health everyone!  Who knows what could happen then? Lightning could strike.