Doing My Homework

My health coach gave me a pretty easy assignment this week: think about chewing.

Yes, chewing. She gave me a crash course on the digestive system which brought back memories of elementary school, learning about saliva and the esophagus and food’s journey through the miles of intestines. She also gave me a handout with some suggestions- suggestions which have turned out to be easy to read and not so easy to implement.

Do YOU chew every bite 30-50 times before you swallow it? I found out that my average is about 10. I’m now making more of an effort, but I have some work to do.

Why does it matter, you ask? (I’ve been doing some reading, so I’m not sure now what I’ve read and what Rebecca told me. I’ll give all the credit to her unless otherwise noted!) Saliva is alkaline. Alkaline reduces inflammation in the body. Chewing efficiently alkalizes our food before it’s swallowed which prevents inflammation. I guess that explains why eating on the go or “swallowing your food whole,” as my mother used to say I did, usually results in heartburn, indigestion, and/or stomach ache, i.e. inflammation of the gut. Chewing matters more than I realized.

I’m the one who didn’t want to take time to stop for lunch at all, so this is hard! Eating nine cups of fruits and vegetables every day requires more stopping-to-eat than I’m used to, and now I’m adding more chewing to that effort! But I’m already feeling better, so it’s worth it!

Assignment number two was to learn about albumin. I had heard of albumin in connection with eggs, but this time I was seeing the word on some blood work results. My albumin level was low, and Rebecca suggested I find out what it was and why it mattered. Albumen is the white of the egg, but, albumin is “any of numerous simple heat-coagulable water-soluble proteins that occur in blood plasma or serum, muscle, the whites of eggs, milk, and other animal substances and in many plant tissues and fluids,” per Merriam-Webster.

From various medical websites, I learned that albumin is produced by the liver, and it carries substances such as hormones and enzymes throughout the body. If the albumin level is low, it might indicate kidney failure or kidney disease or liver disease. Or it might indicate malnutrition. Well, none of those conditions appeal to me, but malnutrition seems to me to be the easiest one to correct!

My question is, will my nine cups of improved nutrition correct my albumin level? Maybe. Hopefully. According to Registered Dietician Sarah Pflugradt, “increasing the overall quality of the diet may help increase albumin levels in those who are malnourished.” Writing for livestrong.com, she also noted that some recent research indicates that “albumin was not a direct indicator of nutritional health, but rather a marker of the influence of illness on albumin. For instance, inflammation- present in many diseases- causes protein to break down in the body, leading to a decreased albumin.”

Homework results: I hereby promise to make every effort to efficiently chew every bite of nine cups of fruits and vegetables every day, hoping to reduce inflammation and to increase albumin.

Here are a few pictures of some of the delicious and nutrient-rich meals I’ve eaten lately. Recipes don’t seem to be necessary since a picture paints a thousand words, but I’ll be glad to give you the details if you ask.

 

No-Bake Protein Energy Bites

This delicious treat is packed with a great balance of complex carbohydrates, fiber, protein and omega-3 fatty acids.  Plus, it’s sugar-free and easy to make!

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No-Bake Protein Energy Bites

1 cup oats (use gluten-free oats if desired)
1/2 cup crunchy peanut butter
1/2 cup unsweetened shredded coconut
1/3 cup raw honey
1/4 cup chia seeds
2 Tbsp. protein powder (We used milk & egg protein powder; use vanilla protein powder or whey protein powder if desired)
1/4 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 cup mini chocolate chips (optional)

Mix all ingredients together until evenly distributed in the dough.   Roll the dough into 24 half-inch balls.  Refrigerate for 30 minutes.  Store in an airtight container in the refrigerator.