Jesus and Breakfast

My go-to breakfast is simple: Oatmeal, mashed up banana, 2 tablespoons of ground up flax seed. Quick. Easy. Nutritious.

It is a very filling breakfast – lunch is rarely on my schedule nowadays. As my doctor explained, this simple meal clocks in with around 10 grams of fiber and eating this amount can keep you full for a while.

Yesterday, someone asked me what Jesus ate for breakfast.

Good question.

I know he didn’t eat Apple Jacks or Fruit Loops. And I’m guessing a grilled peanut butter and jelly wasn’t in his diet.

Fish and nuts and flatbread and olives and fruits and vegetables were staples of the region of Israel. He probably ate some combination of those foods to start his day. Oh, and garlic.

Why garlic?

The Israelites loved garlic, they even complained about the lack of the stuff to Moses in wilderness. 

So I’m thinking that Jesus ate his fair share.

Focusing on Life

From the time I was sick back in 2011, I’ve been a relatively good follower of a whole foods, plant-based diet. “Relatively good” is a qualifier term meaning there were times when I fell off the wagon and ate fatty, non-animal things that were not healthy. For example, those amazing burgers made by Beyond Meat called “The Beyond Burger.” They look just like a real hamburger and taste terrific, though they are not meat.

Some of the nutritional makeup of these non-burger burgers:

  • Calories: 290
  • Fat: 22 gram
  • Saturated Fat: 5 grams
  • Cholesterol: 0 grams

I’m glad that there is no cholesterol in these things (compared to a regular hamburger that contains at least 80 grams), and a reduced amount of saturated fat (5 grams as compared to a regular hamburger of 0 grams). It is great that these are plant-based burgers (no cows were slaughtered to make them). However, when reading the ingredients, there are three forms of oil contained in them: Canola, Coconut, and Sunflower. As a doctor once told me, oil is evil. It packs on the pounds, the fat, and makes your health poor. Stay away from it.

Hence, in the times when I’ve fell off the plant-based diet that was strictly low fat, all plants and grains and beans and legumes, I’ve purchased items like the Beyond Burger and all those mock meats found in the frozen section of the grocery store. In my mind, since they were still plant-derived, I didn’t feel bad. I was following a plant-based diet; it just wasn’t with a lot of real plants like green leafy vegetables and fruit.

Late last year, I fell off the wagon. I bought the Beyond Burger at Shop-Rite here in town simply because I was surprised they were selling it. The first bite made me circle the drain. I started buying fried eggplant sandwiches at the local deli on a white roll. For some reason, non-dairy almond milk creamer for coffee found its way into my basket. I started drinking vegan protein powders that replaced meals. And the cheese – the Daiya cheese – and all kinds of vegan yogurts and spreads became staples of morning breakfast. I ate tofu crafted into “scrambles” topped with non-dairy cheese. Dinner became those mock meats with grains.

Last month, I wanted to kick myself when my doctor told me that my blood work was fine, but some of the markers to bad health were up. Cholesterol – total, LDL, and HDL – were up over my last test. Though lower when compared to someone eating a standard American diet, the numbers alarmed my doctor to check on my diet. After telling her, she exploded and told me that I was dumb to fall back to these “vegan comfort foods.”

Ordering me to “straighten up” my diet, I started really focusing on what I’ve eaten. Sticking to a low fat, whole foods, plant based diet since July 22nd, I’ve noticed some good things. I’m sleeping a bit better. My daily blood pressure is down, as is my resting heart rate. I’ve started to exercise again, though I will not win an award for intensity or length, as of this morning. My weight is down some 13 pounds since the morning of July 23rd, which is surprising because after battling anemia due to my previous chemotherapy treatments in 2011 and 2012, I’ve struggled with weight gain due to the medicine that helped fight the anemia and the virtual impossibility to drop the weight after treatment.

Finally, I am more focused on all aspects of life. I want to accomplish tasks, though my issue of wanting to do everything without help when it comes to my professional and social life is still very much a problem.

I’ve been trying to reduce the amount of coffee I drink. When in the very recent past, I would make a pot of coffee and drink three-quarters of it, now I am down to a cup in the morning. One cup. There are times when I will drink one or two additional cups throughout the day, but I’ve found that this is limited to my church’s Bible Study Time on Thursday. In coffee’s place – green tea.

Years back, my doctors who were treating me told me the most important part of life for me is to do everything that I can to prevent getting sick again. Encouraging me to forego the standard western diet based on animal products and strictly focus on plants for nourishment, they explained that eating in a healthful way would promote good health. One of the doctors explained that she hadn’t had a cold since she moved over to a low fat, whole foods, plant based diet. Describing her immune system as running at maximum goodness, she was able to fight off the cold viruses and flus that roam around the hospital where she worked. Oh, it was more than a decade since she had a cold or the flu.

For a tiny bit less than a month I’ve been more strict to what I’ve eaten. Good things are happening.

As my congregation contemplates what it means to be a church focused on missions’ work, one of the areas I believe we can serve our community is through the promotion of health. Our bodies are called temples of the Holy Spirit. Should we not want these temples to be the best that they can? Should our goal of offering a healthier spiritual life be combined with a healthier physical life? I think it should.

No Rainbow Colors in Real Bagels.

And before writing this weekend’s sermon, I think I must mention the short story about ‘what makes a New York bagel’ on today’s New York Times website.

I agree wholeheartedly with Niki Russ Federman, co-owner of Russ & Daughters (their bagels are classic and amazing) on what is NOT supposed to be in a New York bagel:

“It should not be sweet and you should never find blueberries, jalapeños, or rainbow colors in your bagel.”

Amen.

Monday Morning 10.16

When I’m tired, I tend to do things I shouldn’t.

I’m not talking doing things that are bad or would get me locked up.

No, it is kind of like me doing things and believing in ideas that, when I am rested and ready to tackle the day, would never cross my mind. The tiredness causes me to think irrationally about a lot in my life, both personal and professional. What happens when I am in this mode of pooped-outness, I will spend hours thinking and plotting and daydreaming about any personal or professional scenario that ends with everything working out great.

The only problem is that when I finally get some rest and think about the ideas from the day before, they make no rational sense.

A psychologist once told me that when I get into these wormholes of thinking irrationally, it shows that I’m burnt out and need a rest. Of course, I constantly deny that I need time off, and my brain overcompensates for being tired by overthinking and overworking, making situations worse for me.

Right now, I’m tired.

Admittedly, my sleeping habits stink. I wake up too early and go to bed way too late. I worry about everything and work like crazy to make less worrisome to me and others. I pray, but not enough. I don’t take time to really relax. Even on a Monday that is my scheduled day off in the week, I find myself this morning working on church stuff and cleaning around the house and folding clothes that were just washed and wondering if I should change the sheets on the bed (YES!) and planning to have the oil changed in my car and returning the recycling to the borough recycling center and figuring out what I want to eat for the rest of the week so I can go out and buy the stuff and cook it and prepare leftovers for the next five days so all that I have to do is heat it up. Instead of sitting down and clearing off my DVR, I want to figure out what my schedule is going to be the rest of the week and plan on tackling my work and personal to-do-lists like a rabid animal.

At 8 AM I decided to sit down for breakfast, a meal that consisted of toast with almond butter, coffee, and a banana. Sitting at the kitchen table, listening to the downstairs dryer spin with towels and cloths that were just washed, I just felt awful. The tiredness of sleeping less than four hours (again) coupled with a large list of things I need to get done is making feel blah. I need to unplug today.

“Come to me, all of you who are weary and burdened, and I will give you rest.”

Today, in the most basic sense of understanding Jesus in Matthew 11, this is me.

Bananas, Bees, and Breakfast

You ate what for breakfast?

A banana.

That’s it?

Yeah. A banana.

Don’t you think that you should something more substantial than just a banana?

No, I wasn’t hungry.

So you ate just a banana.

Yes. And drank two cups of coffee?

Anything in the coffee?

No, just black.

You wake up in the morning and eat only a banana and drink two cups of coffee. Don’t you know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day?

I never believed that marketing mantra. But I did eat breakfast. I ate a banana.

Don’t you know that you need protein to stimulate your muscles? A banana doesn’t have protein!

A banana has protein, about 2 percent of what the government tells you that your body needs in a day.

That’s nothing! 

No, that’s something.

What are you having for lunch then? An apple?

I was planning on a salad with baby kale, spinach, a couple of cherry tomatoes, cannellini beans, mustard, and a sweet potato.

What the heck kind of salad is that? Mustard? Do you mean honey mustard dressing?

It is a salad with greens, beans, tomatoes, and regular spicy mustard with no oil. The sweet potato is great with this salad. And just so you know, I don’t eat honey.

Why don’t you eat honey?

I follow a plant-based diet that doesn’t include anything that comes from animal.

But honey comes from a bee?

Yeah, and?

But it isn’t an animal.

Well, bees are animals, don’t you think?

But taking a bee’s honey it isn’t hurting the animal. You ain’t killing a bee to get its honey. Not like when you eat a steak because you have to kill the cow to get its meat.

It comes from a bee. That is why I don’t eat honey. Plus, honey has never been a favorite of mine, though I was in love with Honey Nut Cheerios for a while.

Are you going to eat an apple?

Maybe in the middle of the afternoon. I could eat an orange or a peach.

So what’s for dinner?

Leftovers. I made this really good dish last night that doesn’t have a name. It included brown rice, green peppers, onions, spinach, black beans, a frozen vegetable mixture of zucchini, broccoli, carrots, and cauliflower, and a sauce that included tamari, peanut butter and red pepper flakes.

That sounds OK. You should call it “Anthony throws a bunch of stuff in a wok and hopes it tastes good.”

Hey, that sounds like a good recipe title!

But what the heck is tamari?

It’s gluten free soy sauce.

Why not eat normal soy sauce? You’re not allergic to gluten?

I bought it at Whole Foods. It was on sale.

Whole Foods has sales? Whenever I go in there I go broke buying stuff.

It’s not that bad. And now that Amazon owns them, I hope some prices come down. Even better is if they link up their Amazon Fresh grocery program with Whole Foods. That would be great!

Anthony, you’ve lost your mind. Eat a steak.

Why I Don’t Eat Dairy

One of the most often asked questions that I receive when I tell people that I do not eat anything that comes from animals is “You mean, you don’t eat cheese?”

I don’t eat any kind of animal-based cheese. Why? I tell people that science shows that dairy is not good for the human body.

Dr. Michael Greger runs a non-profit website called Nutrition Facts. Three times a week, Dr. Greger posts short videos outlining some of the best new science regarding health. Additionally, Dr. Greger is the author of “How Not To Die,” a complete rundown of science detailing how consumption of animal products is detrimental to human health. He shows in his book how eating a whole foods, plant-based diet can virtually eliminate or make rare many diseases.

In his latest podcast, he dives headfirst into this most controversial topic (who doesn’t like a good grilled cheese sandwich every now and then?)  looking at the science behind the consumption of dairy.

Studies have shown that greater milk consumption during childhood and adolescence contributes to peak bone mass, and is therefore expected to help avoid osteoporosis and bone fractures in later life.  But that’s not what they found.  Milk consumption during teenage years was not associated with a lower risk of hip fracture and, if anything, milk consumption was associated with a borderline increase in fracture risk in men.

And:

A hundred thousand men and women followed for up to 20 years; what did they find?  Milk-drinking women had higher rates of death, more heart disease, significantly more cancer for each glass of milk.  Three glasses a day was associated with nearly twice the risk of death and they had significantly more bone and hip fractures too.

Men in a separate study also had a higher rate of death with higher milk consumption, but at least they didn’t have higher fracture rates.  So, a dose-dependent higher rate of both mortality and fracture in women, and a higher rate of mortality in men with milk intake, but the opposite for other dairy products like soured milk and yogurt, which would go along with the galactose theory, since bacteria can ferment away some of the lactose.  To prove it though, we need a randomized controlled trial to examine the effect of milk intake on mortality and fractures.  As the accompanying editorial pointed out, we’d better figure this out soon, as milk consumption is on the rise around the world.

A bit more:

The latest meta-analysis of all the best case control studies ever done on the matter concludes that milk consumption is a risk factor for prostate cancer.  And the latest meta-analysis of all the best cohort studies ever done also concludes that milk consumption is a risk factor for prostate cancer.  An even newer study suggests that milk intake during adolescence may be particularly risky in terms of potentially setting one up for cancer later in life.

To listen to Dr. Greger’s podcast, click over to NutritionFacts.org.