Learn how to live a healthy life and leave a legacy of wellness by looking both to the past and to the future.
You Are What Your Grandparents Ate takes conventional wisdom about the origins of chronic disease and turns it upside down. Rooted in the work of the late epidemiologist Dr. David Barker, it highlights the exciting research showing that heredity involves much more than the genes your parents passed on to you. Thanks to the relatively new science of epigenetics, we now know that the experiences of previous generations may show up in your health and well-being.
Many of the risks for chronic diseases — including obesity, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure, heart disease and dementia — can be traced back to your first 1,000 days of existence, from the moment you were conceived. The roots of these vulnerabilities may extend back even further, to experiences your parents and grandparents had — and perhaps even beyond.
Similarly, what happens to you will affect your children and grandchildren. That’s why it’s so important to make good dietary choices, get a suitable amount of exercise and be cautious about exposure to toxins. Positive lifestyle changes have been shown to spark epigenetic adjustments that can lead to better health, not only for yourself, your offspring and their children, but also for generations to come.
This book makes hard science accessible. It is a call to action for social as well as personal change, delivering the message that by changing our own health, we can also influence the future of the world.
Judith Finlayson is a bestselling author who has written books on a variety of subjects, from personal well-being and women’s history to food and nutrition. A former national newspaper columnist for The Globe and Mail, magazine journalist and board member of various organizations focusing on legal, medical and women’s issues, she is
also the author of over a dozen cookbooks. Judith lives in Toronto, Canada.
Foreword by Dr. Kent Thornburg, Professor of Medicine and Director of the Center for Developmental Health at the Knight Cardiovascular Institute, and Director of the Bob and Charlee Moore Institute for Nutrition & Wellness at Oregon Health & Science University in Portland, Oregon.
YOU ARE WHAT YOUR GRANDPARENTS ATE
Chile peppers bring both sweet and fiery zest to dishes — discover a fascinating and seemingly endless variety within the pages of this delightful book.Contrary to popular belief, a pepper does not need to make your eyes water or start a fire in your mouth to qualify as a chile. “Chile” is simply the common name for the fruit of the capsicum plant and chiles come in a wide variety of colors, shapes and flavors.
There are five major species of chile peppers and thousands of varieties, in a wide range of sizes, shapes and colors. Even experts disagree about how many there actually are. So it is probably not surprising that the spelling for the word itself is somewhat problematic. Is it chili, chilli or chile? You are likely to come across all of those spellings if you are reading up on the topic.
This comprehensive book (which serves as both a reference and a cookbook) from bestselling author and expert researcher Judith Finlayson takes you through dozens of chiles and provides absorbing information on everything from the historical and geographic origins of chiles to information on the Scoville scale (which measures the hotness of a chile and was invented by Wilbur Scoville) to the health benefits of chiles and finally, 250 delicious and inventive recipes.
Full color throughout, this book takes inspiration from chiles and embraces them with an enthusiasm that maximizes their true flavor potential. From fiery Tex-Mex inspired meals to savory and sweet Thai dishes, this incredible collection of recipes is sure to make you a lover of all things chile.
As a parent, you play a key role in fostering the healthy development of your offspring. Good nutrition is one of the most valuable tools you have for helping to keep your children on the proper growth trajectory and its benefits begin early. Reseach indicates that a healthy diet in early childhood can help to overcome any deficiencies that may have developed during pregnancy. A nutrient-dense diet will also help to ensure that those body systems that are still quite plastic in children, such as the brain, liver and immune system, will develp properly. Because all parts of their bodies are still developing, children have a vital need for the nutrients that a healthy, balanced diet provides.
Your parental responsibilities also extend to yourself. Best parenting practices include taking care of your own health by consuming food that supports your well-being.
Whole grains are a key component of a nutritious diet. Expert opinions, such as those compiled in the US dietary guidelines and Canada’s Food Guide recommend eating whole grains as part of a healthy eating pattern. The problem is, there is a lot of confusion about whole grains --- what they are and even whether they are good for you. The following “whole grain primer” is intended to answer any questions you might have about whole grains and further your education on why they are beneficial for your family’s health.
What are Whole Grains?
Whole grains are the seeds of certain plants. The inedible outermost layer (husk) of the grain is removed, leaving the resulting “berry” or “groat.” They differ from grains that are not whole (refined) because they contain all three parts of the grain: bran, germ and endosperm.
Most of the grains typically consumed in North America — for instance, white wheat flour, white rice, pearled barley and steel-ground cornmeal — are highly refined. During the milling process, the bran and the germ, which contain valuable nutrients, are removed, leaving the endosperm. While the endosperm is the largest part of the grain, it also has the fewest vitamins and minerals. Although refined grains are subsequently “enriched” with the addition of some nutrients, such as riboflavin, thiamin and iron, they are far less nutritious than whole grains. Not only do they lack the full range of vitamins, minerals, healthy fats, antioxidants and phytonutrients found in whole grains, refined grains provide far less fiber.They also lack the synergy of whole foods. Scientists are now seeing that the various components of whole grains work together to promote health and well-being.
Why Should I Eat More Whole Grains?
Not only do whole grains taste good, they contain a wide range of nutrients. Although the nutrient content of individual grains varies, in general terms, most whole grains will provide at least small amounts of B vitamins (niacin, riboflavin, thiamine and folate), vitamin E, manganese, magnesium, potassium, iron, copper and selenium. They also contain fiber, beneficial fatty acids, antioxidants and phytonutrients. All these substances work together to fight disease and keep you healthy.
As we understand more about the relationship between diet and health, it’s becoming increasingly clear that eating nutritious food can help to reduce the risk of illness and disease. Today our nutritional focus is shifting, from limiting how much we eat toward understanding that eating certain foods can actually be beneficial to our health.
Studies show that regular consumption of whole grains:
- reduces the possibility you will develop Type-2 diabetes
- makes it less likely you will have a heart attack
- helps to keep your blood pressure under control
- reduces your risk of having a stroke
- lowers your risk for certain types of cancer
- assists with keeping your weight under control and helps to ensure that you have a healthier waist-to-hip ratio
- helps to keep your cholesterol levels low
- fights gum disease
- promotes regularity
And, if that isn’t enough, scientists are actively engaged in studying substances contained in whole grains, such as lignans and oligosaccharides, which function as prebiotics. Prebiotics are ingredients that stimulate the growth of healthy bacteria, such as lactobacilli and bifidobacteria (which are known as probiotics). By promoting the growth of beneficial intestinal flora, prebiotics help to keep your gut in tiptop health, which is linked with a wide range of other health benefits.
What about Fiber?
When scientists started noticing that the consumption of whole grains could help to keep you healthy, they initially attributed these positive results to their high fiber content. We now know that fiber is just one of many healthful substances found in whole grains. By keeping you regular, a fiber supplement may help to keep you well, but it won’t help your body to ward off disease.
There are two kinds of fiber — insoluble and soluble. The substance we traditionally associate with fiber is insoluble fiber, which doesn’t dissolve in water. (It’s what my mother called “roughage.”) Insoluble fiber absorbs water in your digestive track and moves waste through your system, preventing constipation. The other kind of fiber, soluble fiber, does dissolve in water, forming a gel-like substance. It helps to lower blood cholesterol levels and to control blood sugar levels.
Despite its many benefits, most people in North America do not consume enough fiber. Adult women should consume 21 to 25 grams a day, while men should eat 30 to 38 grams a day. Some health professionals recommend that children should consume, on a daily basis, an amount equal to or greater than their age plus 5 grams. A diet high in whole grains will help you to meet these goals.
The fiber in whole grains is concentrated in the bran, which explains why whole grains (which also include the endosperm and the germ) may contain less fiber per comparable weight than some refined cereals, such as bran. However, the whole grain does contain the entire package of nutrients, which may create synergy in the health-promoting effects.
Fiber Fights Fat
Did you know that fiber helps to keep your weight under control? Because foods that are high in fiber take longer to chew, your body has time to recognize its appetite has been satisfied, reducing the possibility you’ll overeat.Studies have linked the consumption of whole grains with having a lower body mass index (BMI.)
Whole Grains and Diabetes
The fiber in whole grains has been linked with a reduced risk of developing diabetes. The Nurses’ Health Study found that when women ate whole grain cereals providing more than 5 grams of fiber a day, it reduced the likelihodd that they would develop type-2 diabetes by about 30 percent.
Whole Grains and Antioxidants
In 2004, Dr. Rui Hai Liu and his colleagues at Cornell University discovered a previously unknown benefit to eating whole grains: they contain potent antioxidants. Although scientists have been aware of the antioxidant power of fruits and vegetables for many years, the ones in whole grains were overlooked because they appeared in a different form and there was no known way of identifying their presence. Their antioxidant component helpsto explain why diets high in whole grains appear to be protective against diseases, such as diabetes and heart disease, as well as colon, breast and prostate cancers. Over 80% of these protective substances are found in the bran and the germ, which are removed when the grain is refined.
Whole Grains and Heart Health
A study published in Nutrition, Metabolism and Cardiovascular Diseaseconcluded that eating whole grains benefits cardiovascular health. People who consumed on average 2.5 daily servings of whole grains reduced their risk of heart disease and stroke by 21%, compared with those who consumed only 0.2 servings.Other studies have produced similar results. Eating whole grains has also been shown to help keep blood pressure under control In addition, research suggests that people who consume the most cereal fiber reduce their risk of developing metabolic syndrome, a condition that increases the risk of heart disease and stroke, among other chronic illnesses.
Whole Grains and Cancer
Numerous studies have linked the consumption of whole grains with a reduced risk of developing cancer. Whole grains contain a number of substances that appear to have cancer-fighting properties. These include antioxidants and phytochemicals, such as lignans, saponins and phytoestrogens. They also contain fiber, the consumption of which has been linked with lowering cancer risk. When the American Institute for Cancer Research combined data from 40 studies, they concluded that people who consumed large amounts of whole grains reduced their cancer risk by 34% when compared with those who ate small quantities.
How Much Should I Eat?
Although guidelines differ slightly, in both the U.S. and Canada, experts recommend about 4 servings of whole grains every day. The USDA defines a serving of whole grains as any food containing 16 grams of whole grain or an “ounce equivalent” (28 grams) of bread or cereal. Sixteen grams is just a little more than half an ounce — so three servings (48 grams) of whole grains are just under two ounces.
What’s a Serving?
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) cooked brown rice or other cooked grain
- 1/2 cup (125 mL) cooked hot cereal, such as oatmeal
- 1 ounce (30 g) uncooked whole grain pasta, brown rice or other grain
- 3 cups (750 mL) popped popcorn
Recognizing Whole Grains
Increasing your intake of whole grains may be challenging because it’s not always clear from labels whether grains are whole or refined.You can, however, look for the whole-grain health claim on food product labels. It reads: “Diets rich in whole grain foods and other plant foods and low in total fat, saturated fat and cholesterol, may help reduce the risk of heart disease and certain cancers.” A food bearing this label must contain 51% or more whole grains by weight. Canadians will see these labels on imported whole-grain products.
The Whole Grains Council, an industry association in the United States, has developed an eye-catching stamp, a sheaf of grain on a golden-yellow background, with a black border. It has two variations: 100% whole grain or whole grain. You’ll know you’ve eaten four servings of whole grains when you eat fourfoods with the 100% stamp or eight foods with the whole-grain stamp. If there is no stamp on the product, the labeling should say “100% WHOLE Grain or Excellent Source.”
Adapted from The Complete Whole Grains by Judith Finlayson
I’m a foodie, plain and simple: someone who strongly believes that eating is one of life’s great pleasures. But I’m also committed to eating food that is nutritious. I expect my diet to keep me healthy and provide me with the energy and enthusiasm I need to enjoy my life and accomplish my daily objectives. That’s why I avoid processed foods. They are high in calories, low in nutrients and are likely to contain ingredients that have been shown to have negative effects on your health.
I like to know where my food comes from, where and how it is grown, harvested and produced. That’s one reason why I like to eat a lot of whole grains. Another is that they are very, very good for you. Eating whole grains has been associated with many health benefits. In fact, I’m such a fan of whole grains that in 2008 I published a book on the subject (The Complete Whole Grains Cookbook: 150 Recipes for Healthy Living).
I used to eat a fair bit of whole grain wheat, in various forms like farro and spelt. I won’t bore you with the details, but over a period of time, I began to suspect that I had a problem digesting gluten. I often felt lethargic and bloated and my stomach was easily upset. My favorite pair of jeans was banished to the back of my closet because I knew wearing them would make me uncomfortable. Through a process of trial, error and self-education, I came to the conclusion that I (like a surprising number of people I know) had a problem digesting wheat. I won’t say it was easy to wean myself from this ubiquitous grain but within four months of eliminating wheat from my diet, I had lost five pounds and felt more energetic. My heart, which was prone to bouts of irregular beats, settled right down. My stomach wasn’t as easily upset and, once again, my beloved jeans became part of my life. It was hard to believe, but eliminating wheat from my diet transformed my life.
What is Gluten and Why Does it Matter?
Gluten is a kind of protein found in wheat and its many relatives, including barley and rye. Triticale is a hybrid of wheat and rye and obviously contains gluten, as do “ancient” forms of wheat such as Kamut, emmer (also known as farro), spelt and products made from wheat, such as bulgur and couscous. Some people with wheat sensitivity are unable to digest “conventional” wheat, but can comfortably consume other grains that contain gluten, including older forms of wheat, like emmer and spelt. Others, such as those with celiac disease, which is a serious health problem, cannot tolerate gluten at all.
Whether you are celiac or merely sensitive to gluten, in today’s world, avoiding gluten is a major challenge. Hidden gluten appears in a startling number of food products, from breakfast cereals to deli meats to sauces. Manufacturers often add ingredients that contain gluten (such as dextrimaltose,which is made from barley malt, and brewer’s yeast, a fungus typically grown on barley) to prepared foods. It is very difficult to avoid hidden gluten at fast food chains, although some now advertise gluten-free options. Dining at restaurants can be challenging but over time it has become easier as more and more people are eating gluten-free.
Be Cautious of Gluten-Free Options
In the process of exploring the ins-and-outs of eating gluten-free, I made another interesting discovery: many foods and recipes that addresst he needs of people who have problems digesting gluten did not meet generally accepted standards of healthy eating. In the process of avoiding gluten many people were making very poor food choices. A steady diet of white rice and refined starches, such as cornstarch, which often substitute for wheat flour, is not nutritious. Gluten-free products are often made with refined grains, which are low in nutrients. Consider, for instance, that compared to whole grain brown rice, white rice provides about half the amount of iron and potassium, about 25 percent less zinc and almost 75 percent less magnesium. Studies have shown that gluten-free diets that are not well planned can be deficient in a number of valuable nutrients, including fiber, iron and certain B vitamins..
Gluten-Free: Delicious and Nutritious
In the past, baked goods suitable for people with gluten intolerance or sensitivity were usually made with significant amounts of highly refined ingredients such as white rice flour, tapioca flour and cornstarch. Fortunately this is gradually changing because such ingredients are energy dense (high in calories) but low in nutrients. Flours made from whole grains like sorghum, brown rice and buckwheat are far more nutritious because they contain all parts of the grain. I speak from experience when I say that baked goods made with whole-grain flours can be as delicious as those made from wheat.
There is absolutely no reason why eating gluten-free means consuming fewer nutrients. Quite the contrary, in fact. Gluten is found in some grains and specific products derived from those grains which are used in processed foods. By eliminating processed foods from your diet you’ve taken a big step forward in terms of eating healthier. And, it doesn’t mean that you need to eliminate healthy whole grains from your diet. There are many delicious gluten-free whole grains. Some are more common — quinoa and wild rice, for example — while others such as amaranth and teff are less familiar. All contain a wide range of health-promoting nutrients and are delicious.
- Oats (see xx)
- Wild Rice
If you’ve become accustomed to the bland (in my opinion cardboardy) flavor of refined grains, you may find that the robust tasteof whole grains takes a bit of getting used to. Their flavors vary from earthy and slightly grassy to nutty and sweet. Try experimenting to find a few you like — quinoa and millet are particularly mild with a very pleasing, almost sprightly texture — and build upon expanding your repertoire over time. Whole grain sare appetizing on their own, marry well with a wide variety of seasonings and add taste and texture to any dish.
There are many recipes using gluten-free whole grains on my site and I hope you will give them a try. Once you begin to enjoy eating gluten-free whole grains on a regular basis, I’m convinced you will become a convert to this nutritious way of eating.
— Adapted from The Complete Gluten-Free Whole Grains Cookbook by Judith Finlayson
As best I can remember, I’ve always eaten a relatively healthy diet. Sure, I enjoyed candy as a kid and I’ve probably eaten my fair share of nutrient-deficient white bread. But thankfully I never acquired a real taste for processed food, likely a bequest from my mother. A bit of an oddball, she preferred “brown” to white bread (even in those days she knew it was more nutritious), stuck with butter when everyone else switched to margarine and qualified as an “early adopter” on numerous health foods (as they were known in those days), like carrot juice and yogurt.
My own journey down the food as medicine path began in earnest around the year 2000 when I was diagnosed with Stage 0 breast cancer (they found it very early, thanks to regular mammograms and a sharp-eyed radiologist). I was effectively treated, sent on my way and advised not to worry. But that experience was a wake-up call. It made me realize that I couldn’t take my health for granted. And it marked the start of my serious interest, as both consumer and researcher, in the concept of food as medicine.
Over the years, I’ve also come to appreciate the value of feeling physically fit. When I was younger my only exercise involved walking my dogs. It wasn’t until my early thirties that I developed a serious interest in physical fitness. Since then some form of organized exercise program — aerobics, strength training, Pilates — has been a regular part of my life.
My commitment to regular physical exercise rejuvenated me. Instead of an uphill battle against sluggishness, which characterized my twenties, I started my day feeling energized. If life took over and I didn’t get to the gym, I quickly slumped. My understanding of these benefits was based mostly on personal experience because in those days the science was spotty to say the least. By the early 1980’s researchers suspected that exercise had benefits beyond keeping you physically fit and were looking at things like endorphin highs in runners. But science and technology weren’t positioned to explore these phenomena in any depth until the early aughts.
Now an extensive body of research has shown that regular physical activity benefits your entire being. Science is showing that exercise can, in effect, slow down the aging process at the cellular level. I now know, for instance, that exercise improves gene expression and supports the growth of beneficial bacteria in your gut. On the surface this may not sound like much, but positive changes to your epigenome can help to keep chronic illness at bay. And healthy microbiome works to keep your metabolism and even your brain on a steady keel.
Around the turn of the millennium, like most people, I was becoming increasingly aware of the role that diet plays in health. As a journalist, I became interested in the research behind this emerging science. By 2006 I was ready to publish The Healthy Slow Cooker, the first of my books with a strong nutritional component. When I leaf through it now, I’m pleased to see that the information has stood the test of time, but I’m also surprised at how little we knew about individual differences in how the body metabolizes foods.
In those days, nutrition was a “one size fits all” approach. Now we know no single diet will work equally well for everyone. For starters, your genome is unique and it plays a role in how your body responds to specific nutrients. This is a new and very exciting area of science. It means that in the future, we will be able to focus on how you as an individual (rather than a statistic contributing to a population average) process, store and utilize nutrients based on your genetic variations. We are entering a brave new world of personalized nutrition, health and medicine. More and more your unique biomarkers will determine the optimum diet and lifestyle modifications that suit you best.
As for my own diet, over the years it has evolved, based on research and personal experience. I won’t bore you with the details but I gradually shifted my eating habits. and today I follow what can be loosely described as “ a Mediterranean diet pattern.” Sure I indulge in the occasional pizza, French fry or rich dessert, but for the most part I have eliminated processed foods from my diet and consume only nutrient-dense whole foods. I eat a lot of plant-based foods such as whole grains, fruits, vegetables, legumes and nuts. I also try to eat fish twice a week. I do eat poultry and meat but only if it is pasture-raised. Ditto for dairy; it should come from grass-fed cows, goats or sheep. And I make a point of consuming healthy fats, like extra virgin olive oil, while avoiding refined oils of any kind.
The Mediterranean diet has been well studied and has been shown to have many health benefits. One of its main strengths is its capacity for keeping inflammation under control, since most chronic conditions are linked with this condition, which becomes increasingly common as we age. I also try to balance my intake of the macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate and fat). And I make an effort to eat as many different foods as I can to supply my body with the vitamins, minerals, phytonutrients and dietary fiber it needs.
That’s the fundamental strategy for tapping into the healing power of food. I don’t believe in “so-called “superfoods” or that there is a magic bullet or a specific combination of foods that will produce long-term good health. It’s a sensible eating approach, consuming a wide variety of whole foods every day. We now know that all the nutrients in foods work together to create synergy in the health benefits they produce. And, as fashionable as it may for interior design, a monochromatic color scheme on your plate is a bad idea. At mealtime, you want to see a kaleidoscope of colors. This signals that you will be consuming a host of nutrients, all of which team up to keep you healthy.