Friday, March 27, 2009

Food that Harms; Food that Heals

March 28, 2009 1:59 am

Food that Harms; Food that Heals

Can you spot the superfood in this picture? Look closely! Trust me, it’s pretty darn super.

Vomit. That’s what you get when you combine two tasty “superfoods” in excess and swallow. The e-mail, brought to my attention by the charming Bag Lady, promised a whole slew of benefits for consuming this “Bam ran medicine” including the grammatically incorrect “saving the patient from heart attack”, the miraculous “curing chronic arthritis”, the dubious “killing germs in the bladder”, and the enigmatic “strengthening the white blood corpuscles,” not to mention everything else from pneumonia to influenza to acne. But the one that got me was, naturally, weight loss. Ready for the recipe?

Daily in the morning one half hour before breakfast on an empty stomach and at night before sleeping, drink honey and cinnamon powder boiled in one cup of water. If taken regularly, it reduces the weight of even the most obese person. Also, drinking this mixture regularly does not allow the fat to accumulate in the body even though the person may eat a high calorie diet.

Bag Lady clarified on her blog that this meant one tablespoon honey combined with one teaspoon cinnamon powder in one cup of water. Cinnamon and honey! What’s not to love?

Those of you who are better cooks than I am (i.e. everyone) are probably slapping your screen right now and yelling, “For the love of little green apples, Charlotte, one whole teaspoon is a lot of cinnamon!” (What - doesn’t everyone curse like I do? No??) You would be correct. But the poorly worded e-mail specifically said I could eat a high-calorie diet and still lose weight! And both honey and cinnamon are known superfoods, with research on the former proclaiming its antibiotic properties and research on the latter extolling its ability to improve insulin sensitiviy. Besides, everyone knows that badly written e-mails just mean the writer is some kind of savant who simply can’t be bothered with grammar. Or fact checking.

Here’s how it went down (and then up): Tasted like dirt. Burned going down. Overly sweet. Nausea. Reappearance. End scene. For the record, not only did it look exactly the same the second time around but it tasted the same too. I suppose I ought to consider myself lucky though. If I’d been looking to “kill germs” in my bladder the prescription is “Take two tablespoons of cinnamon powder and one teaspoon of honey in a glass of lukewarm water and drink it.” Nature’s emetic is what that is.

I e-mailed the Bag Lady to tell her of my puke-tastic morning. Her verdict? “I gained three pounds.” I believe this is what the kids call an Epic Fail.

Despite starting my day with a good food that harmed me, paradoxically I ended my day with a bad food that healed me. This afternoon I got a phone call from an old friend I had not talked to in ten years. We had parted under less-than-ideal circumstances. In fact, it doesn’t get much worse than what drove us apart. But then in a fluke of the universe that can be described as downright Providential or the biggest confluence of coincidences since the Lincoln/Kennedy affair (also known as the reason why Snopes was invented) we were brought together again.

The conversation, involving two international phonecalls and the phrase “I wish I’d known that then” repeated at least 100 times, lasted almost two hours. By the time it was finished, I was a jittery shaky worked-up, albeit relieved, bundle of nerves. My normal respite from such anxiety is, of course, exercise. But due to a napping baby and child due home soon on the school bus, this wasn’t readily availble. I sat in a patch of sunlight and meditated until my breathing evened out. And then my body said, “You know what I really want? Buttered popcorn and a good book in this patch of sunlight.”

“But nooooo!” I argued schizophrenically. “What about the kids? And the chores? I am busy! Besides, buttered popcorn is pretty much the apothesis of evil according to every diet in print! The only thing worse would be if I deep fried it, wrapped it in bacon and slapped it on a stick!!” (Someone somewhere has undoubtedly already done this I’m sure.)

My body answered, “This is what I want.”

And so I did. I ate buttered popcorn in the sunlight and immersed myself in a biography of Albert Einstein (fascinating book, totally recommend it) until my muscles unclenched and my thoughts stopped racing. I felt soothed in ways I didn’t even know needed soothing.

While the ability of food to heal physical ailments is widely discussed, one does not often hear of food’s remarkable power over mental illness. Another book I recently read, Michael Greenberg’s Hurry Down, Sunshine, a memoir of his daughter’s psychotic break and subsequent struggles with Bipolar Disorder (fantastic read, totally recommend it), gives a poignant example of the ability of food to help heal the mind. The doctors in charge of Greenberg’s daughter Sally’s fragile mental state recommend she follow “the manic-depressive diet” described as “as little refined flour as possible, but potatoes are okay. Lots of vegetables and protein. Two tablespoons of flaxseed oil per day, nine hours of sleep without interruption, and no naps.”

There is a reason food holds so much power over us.

I’m curious - have you ever eaten something “healthy” that in fact made you sick? Conversely, have you ever found a food that acted as a cure, particularly for a mental problem? And yes, of course, chocolate counts;) (Want an interesting place to start? Reader Dennis just sent me this article about a healing food.)