bite my words

Dispelling nutrition myths, ranting, and occasionally, raving


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Food as medicine

How many of you have seen memes like these?:

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imgres-1The sentiment is nice and all. Obviously a healthy diet is a huge factor in preventing and treating many illnesses. But to be honest, I loathe these sorts of memes. To me, they suggest that it’s your fault if you get cancer because you ate a bag of potato chips. It’s not. There are many factors that contribute the development of diseases. They suggest that that treats don’t have a place in a balanced diet. They do. Healthy food can be delicious but what’s a life without the occasional ice cream cone? They also imply that somehow you can cure any disease with food. I’m sorry, but eating more broccoli is not going to cure lupus, you can’t cure AIDS with apples. While food plays a role in health, medicine does as well. We shouldn’t consider replacing essential medications with food. Medicine is medicine. Food is food.


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Stephen McNeil gets a failing grade for his response to Nova Scotia’s poor health report card

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Provincial Health Report Card from the Conference Board of Canada

I was driving home from work a couple of weeks ago, listening to the CBC (as per usual), when a segment came on about the recently released provincial health report cards. Nova Scotia did not fare well. We received an overall “D” grade, brought down by our “D” grade for cancer mortality. We also scored poorly on ratings for infant mortality, mortality due to respiratory diseases, and overall life expectancy. Our Premier, Stephen McNeil, made a statement to the effect that while the government does play some role in the health of Nova Scotians, we need to take more ownership of our heath. He said that we should eat better, exercise more, and drink less alcohol. WHAT?! 

I suppose I shouldn’t be all that surprised after the ill-informed op-ed piece by our Minister of Health last year. Really, though, has our Premier never heard of the social determinants of health? How is it possible for someone in such an important governmental role not realise the impact of government on the health of citizens? It’s hard for people to be healthy in our society. In a province where working longer hours is expected, where unhealthy processed foods are more widely available and affordable than nutritious foods, where the weather and poorly cleared sidewalks make even going for a walk difficult, where urban sprawl limits active transportation, where doctors are in short supply and wait times for specialists are outrageous, where many health care plans don’t cover dietitian’s services, where the government profits from the sale of alcohol, where jobs are scare and pay dismally, and so on, the onus should not be placed on the individual to improve population health. It’s the government’s job to make healthier choices more accessible for citizens and to provide us with the services and opportunities we need to be healthy. It’s embarrassing that our Premier would place the blame for our collective poor health on citizens of Nova Scotia when the environment we live in so clearly sets us up for illness.


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Will Watson render cookbook authors obsolete?

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Have you guys heard of Watson? No, not that Watson. The flavour combining computer that’s just released a cookbook? Based on this review I don’t think that human cookbook authors have much to fear just yet. In fact, Watson didn’t actually write the recipes, he was more like the provider of ingredients on Master Chef. Based on algorithms he suggested ingredient and flavour combinations that chefs then used to develop recipes for the cookbook. Kind of neat, but it’s already been done, just not by a computer.

If you want to play Watson and develop new recipes based on flavour profiles you might want to pick-up Niki Segnit’s The Flavour ThesaurusNo, I’m not being paid to plug this. It just happens to be a book I own. It gives you recipe ideas and pairings based on flavour profiles. Essentially, you look up an ingredient and it will tell you a number of other ingredients that it pairs well with, as well as recipe and preparation suggestions. Some are obvious, like chocolate and peanut butter. Others are a little more surprising, like egg and banana, based on sweetened omelettes that are common in French cuisine. Who needs Watson?