How To Roast Chestnuts

How to cook fresh chestnuts. In a nutshell:

  1. Score the chestnuts.
  2. Boil the chestnuts.
  3. Roast the chestnuts.
  4. Steam the chestnuts.

Fresh chestnuts:

Chestnuts boiling:
First, score the chestnuts in one slice along the rounded side. Add the nuts to a pot, cover with cold water and a dash of salt, bring to a boil.

Chestnuts roasting:
After the nuts come to a boil, fish them out and immediately transfer them to a hot oven, about 425 degrees F. I was already roasting potatoes so I decided to let the oven do double duty.

Chestnuts ready to pop open and eat:
After the chestnuts roast in the oven for 15 to 20 minutes, transfer to a bowl and cover for 15 minutes so they steam-cook the rest of the way. They’ll be warm and easy to handle.

The one departure here from tradition is boiling before roasting. I’ve tried roasting without boiling and I have to say, boiling them first makes a moister, not chalky, nut that cooks evenly. They’re also less apt to singe if you leave them in the oven too long.

By the way, chestnuts are very low in fat. These 3 have about:

  • 69 calories
  • 1 gram total fat
  • 15 grams carbohydrate
  • 1 gram protein
  • 1 gram fiber

Cancer And Class

What this article does not say is that people in lower socioeconomic classes have more cancer and die of it more often than people in higher classes:

Nearly Half Of Cancer Deaths Linked To Preventable Risk Factors: Study, ABCNews, 21 November 2017

It’s not just lack of screening and inadequate healthcare, it’s the whole phalanx of living conditions experienced by lower classes … poor housing, diet, education, social support, sanitation, living conditions. Crime, drugs, addiction. Lessening the incidence of cancer means, at least, closing the income gap. It’s really important, but it’s not discussed. We need more public health and less blaming.

This is a good read on the topic. It doesn’t lose its import because of its age. If anything, it’s more relevant today since the socioeconomic gap has widened in the last 25 years.

Poverty And Cancer, Cancer Epidemiology, Biomarkers & Prevention, April 1992

In discussing poverty, one enters a territory in which the borders between health, social sciences, and politics are rather indistinct. Sigerist stated, on different occasions, that “In any given society the incidence of illness is largely determined by economic factors” and that “the problem of public health is ultimately political.” He also stated earlier that “poverty is the chief cause of disease”. The latter statement, which appears to be in line with the sociological theory of epidemics that was supported last century by many first class scientists such as Virchow, may contain a large degree of exaggeration, but no one can deny that the chances of survival and remaining in good health are greater if you are rich than if you are not, In a slightly more shaded and more acceptable statement, McKeown proposed that “poverty is not a direct cause of disease, but is the main determinate of influences that lead to disease.”

Of course there is an element of personal responsibility, but you have to make sure people have the ability to chose first. That’s the role of public health.

We should also press for acceptance of the principle that a basic and irreplaceable element of public health policy is the improvement of living standards and that much improvement is within the reach of government policy.

A Brief History Of Thanksgiving

James Hamblin, writing in The Atlantic (Answers to Every Possible Thanksgiving Health Question):

Is it actually healthy to celebrate Thanksgiving, though?

The holiday is predicated on the myth of an amicable arrangement between European colonialists and Native Americans. It promises a sort of absolution for non–Native Americans — from guilt in the taking of land, the genocide, and the slander and cultural erasure. This can’t be healthy. But recognizing the fallacy and refusing that absolution is probably a worthwhile exercise.

How Can Everyone Eat 5 Servings Of Fruits And Vegetables If US Farmland Doesn’t Grow Enough?

I just finished saying we need to stop blaming people, individuals, for not eating better when their food environment doesn’t cooperate. Yesterday’s article in the Guardian backs me up:

Only One In 10 Americans Eat Enough Fruits And Vegetables, CDC Study Finds, The Guardian, 17 November 2017

Only 12% meet the daily fruit recommendation and 9% the vegetable recommendation, and people living in poverty have especially low rates.

Improving these rates is particularly challenging because just 2% of US farmland is devoted to growing fruits and vegetables, according to the Union of Concerned Scientists (UCS). Sarah Reinhardt, a nutritionist and food systems analyst at USC, said farmers would need to grow almost twice as much produce just for Americans to get the recommended amount of servings.

“The food industry is not exactly working with public health on this, there’s a multimillion-dollar industry working to get people to eat [processed foods],” Reinhardt said.

I have been saying this for years. I won’t stop saying it. If fruits and vegetables are not sold in your local grocer, or you cannot afford them, or you have no way of getting them home, or you have nowhere to store them, or you don’t cook anymore because of mental or physical limitations, then you won’t be eating many fruits and vegetables. We have to change the food landscape. People who blame individuals are just being elitist.

If You Develop Asthma From Breathing Polluted Air, Is It Your Fault?

India is experiencing some of the worst air pollution in the world right now.

Delhi doctors declare pollution emergency as smog chokes city, The Guardian, 7 November 2017

A 2015 study showed about half the Indian capital’s 4.4 million schoolchildren had compromised lung capacity and would never totally recover.

We don’t blame people for getting sick from breathing polluted air, but we blame them for getting sick from eating junk food. They make bad choices, we say. Right? No, I don’t see the difference between these two. In both, people are living in toxic environments. Just as air pollution is a public health emergency, so food pollution is a public health emergency.

It’s easy to see the link between air pollution and disease, less so the link between our food environment and disease. But everywhere (as with polluted air) there is junk food, food we are better off not eating – at schools, malls, restaurants, grocery stores, bodegas, street vendors, cafeterias, nursing homes. Marketing is so effective you almost cannot make it through a day without exposure to advertisements that exhort us to eat this stuff. There is peer pressure, family pressure, work pressure, social pressure. If there’s a function, there’s a cake. Am I right?

Look at this:

[Research published online July 2, 2012] by the American Heart Association’s journal Circulation, found that people who consume fast food even once a week increase their risk of dying from coronary heart disease by 20 percent in comparison to people who avoid fast food. For people eating fast food two-three times each week, the risk increases by 50 percent, and the risk climbs to nearly 80 percent for people who consume fast food items four or more times each week.

Once a week! People call this moderation and say it has no health impact.

We are products of our environment. Some will have the choice to move away (literally and figuratively) from a toxic environment. Some won’t. The job of public health workers is to make the default choice the healthiest choice.

What Causes “Hard-To-Cook” Defect In Beans?

My split peas from this morning, after 2.5 hours. It was touch and go for a while but they finally broke down.

I have a hunch about what causes hard-to-cook defect in beans. What is that? Harold McGee, in his book, “Keys to Good Cooking” said:

Old seeds take longer to cook. If stored in hot and humid conditions, they develop the “hard-to-cook defect” and become impossible to soften.

Sometimes dried legumes never fully soften no matter how they’re cooked. This hard-to-cook defect develops when they’ve been grown in unusually hot and dry conditions, or stored for months in warm and humid conditions. There’s no remedy except to find a more reliable brand.

I realized this myself through trial and error. Several years ago I tried to make split pea soup. Several batches of split peas, purchased locally and online, failed to cook up into anything other than pebbles in water. The peas remained as hard and intact as when I began. I tried soaking (once for 24 hours), boiling for up to 7 hours, using/not using salt and baking soda, using different water sources. I even tried to salvage a pot of cooked peas by whizzing them with an immersion blender. It produced hard flakes in water, still not very edible.

I think when beans begin to germinate, they produce enzymes that protect the budding bean, that make it less likely to leak the starch that the bean will need to grow. So, anything that could initiate the germination process – exposure to warmth and humidity, soaking (yes, soaking!) – may produce hard-to-cook defect. That’s my hunch. I had some white beans (Great Northern) soften more easily when I didn’t soak them than when I soaked them overnight. Soaking lentils makes them harder to cook as well. I have nothing to back me up here; I haven’t even Googled it yet. Just putting it out there.

Intermittent Fasting Has Risks, Including Heart Damage And Muscle Loss

I’ve been researching the trend of intermittent fasting. I went into it with optimism, given the stories in the media and the devotion of some in the life-extension crowd. All was not fab. This study found that alternate day fasting (ADF) damages the heart muscle – decreases its size, decreases pump function, makes it “stiff”:

Chronic Alternate Day Fasting Results in Reduced Diastolic Compliance and Diminished Systolic Reserve in Rats, Journal of Cardiac Failure, October 2010

The six-month long alternate day fasting (ADF) diet resulted in a 9% reduction (p<0.01) of cardiomyocyte diameter and 3 fold increase in interstitial myocardial fibrosis. … Left atrial diameter was increased 16%, and the E/A in Doppler-measured mitral flow was reduced (p<0.01). Pressure-volume loop analyses revealed a “stiff” heart during diastole in ADF rats, while combined dobutamine and volume loading showed a significant reduction in LV diastolic compliance and a lack of increase in systolic pump function, indicating a diminished cardiac reserve.

Conclusion: Chronic ADF in rats results in development of diastolic dysfunction with diminished cardiac reserve. ADF is a novel and unique experimental model of diet-induced diastolic dysfunction. The deleterious effect of ADF in rats suggests that additional studies of ADF effects on cardiovascular functions in humans are warranted.

There are a few other things that go on which make this particular method of weight loss ill-advised for an older person or for someone who has diabetes, heart disease, dementia, or other chronic condition.

Raises Blood Glucose
When you eat, the body secretes insulin, an anabolic or building/storage hormone which enhances uptake of glucose into cells. Insulin lowers blood glucose. When you don’t eat, the body secretes insulin’s complement, glucagon, a catabolic or break-down hormone which releases glucose from cells. Glucagon increases blood glucose. For people with diabetes or insulin resistance, that increase in blood glucose while fasting is a problem, because levels can stay elevated. High blood glucose damages tissue, especially the small blood vessels in the eye and kidney. (If you’re testing: over 100 mg/dl designates prediabetes, over 126 mg/dl designates diabetes.)

Muscle Loss
When you fast, your body depletes its stores of carbohydrate for energy and burns more fat. But it also burns more protein, leading to muscle loss over time. I don’t know if this contributed to the heart damage in the study above, but you would expect heart muscle to be sacrificed during a fast.

Lowers Metabolism
When your body starts burning protein for energy, it enters a conservation mode which lowers metabolism. A lower metabolism can thwart weight loss in the long term. It can also make exercising difficult.

Strain on Kidneys
As your body breaks down protein for energy, it releases protein’s nitrogen which is removed from the body as urea via the kidney. In a healthy person, the kidney can keep up. Not so in an older person, or one with diabetes or kidney disease.

Many people lose their appetite as they age, whether from chronic disease, medication, depression, dementia or other mental health disorders. It becomes difficult to provide enough food and nutrients when meal times are restricted. Older people also experience problems with dentition, digestion, absorption, metabolism, and dehydration, any of which can compromise nutrition. For example, even people in their 50s can have decreased vitamin B12 status because of decreased absorption.

Given these risks, I think fasting is best left to the overnight period.

$85 For 5 Pounds Of Frozen Blueberries Delivered To Your Door

Here are some frozen blueberries, from Josh Pond, that cost $85 for 5 pounds, includes shipping:

They are being promoted by Oprah as part of her Holiday Favorite Things list:

My new definition of everyday luxury: a five-pound box of organic wild blueberries frozen within 24 hours of harvest from Josh Pond Farm in Maine. Add them to yogurt, pancakes, or salads, or turn them into sorbet, because (1) wild blueberries are sky-high in antioxidants and (2) they’re zero Weight Watchers points!
– Oprah

Who pays $17/pound to have blueberries delivered? Even upscale, organic, wild, frozen blueberries sold in grocery stores don’t cost this much. Where does their value come from? I’ve written about it. “Organic, wild, antioxidant-rich” have almost become brands, and status symbols at that. They are the new Veblen good:

Veblen goods are types of luxury goods for which the quantity demanded increases as the price increases, an apparent contradiction of the law of demand. Consumers actually prefer more of the good as its price rises, and the result is an upward sloping demand curve. For example, in the 1990s when “fashion” jeans became popular, one retailer found that he could sell more when he raised the price. Also functioning as positional goods, they include expensive wines, jewelry, fashion-designer handbags, and luxury cars which are in demand because of, rather than in spite of, the high prices asked for them. This makes them desirable as status symbols in the practices of conspicuous consumption and conspicuous leisure.