The ABC’S of Health
By Dr. Jo Gjelsten
“The Power Of The Clan: The Influence of Human Relationships on Heart Disease” tells us that close knit family ties have a profound effect on heart health. And because I found copies of my own family tree, let’s yak about the family’s influence on health. All cultures pass down traditions, and ceremonies, which usually involve food and drink. Let’s start with food. Think fish. (pew!) Ya. My heritage is Norwegian, and they ate a lot of fish at the smorgasbord when my father was young, eating meat only once a week. Then they made more money, started eating meat and my relatives started to develop heart disease. Of course all that Aquavite had something to do with it. But the smorgasbord lives on. Now we eat fish or use fish oil in my healthy heart supplement (Dr. Jo’s O’s), because I don’t want to follow in their footsteps, nay. Here in the new world, which was only new to us, the Cherokees ate pine nuts. “Pinon (pine) nuts are found throughout the southwest. Pinon nuts can be eaten raw or roasted directly from the shell; boiled into gruel, or rolled into balls and eaten as a delicacy.” Pine nuts have antioxidants, mono-unsaturated oil, (like olive oil), protein, vitamins E, K, niacin, and fiber. We like them in pesto sauce. So the natives of North America found some great nutrition, and we have them to thank, and of course we didn’t, for the knowledge we gained from their cultivation of crops like corn and beans and the expression “sufferin’ succotash”. Some otherwise amazing cultures had strange customs at one time. So we won’t talk much about the little known fact reported in one publication that the Aztecs were a bit cannibalistic and according to one source actually had certain sauces go with…ok, never mind. For some of that tribe, tradition wasn’t fun, or even healthy, Mr. Donner. Ok, you can pick up that sandwich now. When is comes to good influences from drinks though, take green tea. Drink it, every day, and make sure it’s organic. It contains ECGC a multi-syllabic word, epi-gallo-catechin-3-gallocatechin-galumph-epigallo-tarianism, or it might as well be for all you care. ECGC has enormous healthy benefits, especially for you who like fecal fat, Fanny. Of two groups of mice fed a high fat diet, those given ECGC had a 45% slower weight gain AND “showed a nearly 30 percent increase in fecal lipids, suggesting that the EGCG was limiting fat absorption”, so they all went out to buy a dress 2 sizes smaller. I recently enjoyed being introduced to a type of green tea I wrote briefly about a few years ago, called Yerba Mate, (maa- tay). (“Winter Warm” www.GoDrJo.com). It’s been drunk since ancient times in S. America, and they passed the practice on, laden with ceremony, to an Argentine descendant I’ll call Nick, because that’s his name, who brought it back after a trip visiting his relatives there. Lucky me, I got to taste it in person, the real McCoy, the genuine article, right from the bag with Spanish writing and everything; a smoky green tea, quite wonderful. According to Nick, it’s served by a “Cebador”. The custom dictates that if you say “thank you” to the Cebador after he serves you he will think you are done, for the moment, so don’t be so grateful if you want another. Yerba Mate (“Ilex paraguaniensis”, a holly, Holly) is drunk through a metal straw from a gourd or other material, like wood, or an empty cow hoof the cow wasn’t wearing that day. I really enjoyed it, not the hoof, but the look of the old wooden vessel, and the ceremony involved which evoked an appreciation for those who came before us who long ago sat around the campfire on a rock singin’ gumbayaa-yerba-mate. These gatherings evoke feelings of belonging, inclusiveness, security and continuity, so it supports the health of the group. Or maybe it was the caffeine. Almost everyone has a heritage which involves traditions like this. The Cherokees used a relative of Yerba Mate, called “Ilex vomitoria”, (aka “Black Drink”).which they drank and puked to “cleanse” hence the name. Puking wasn’t really necessary but dramatic nevertheless. Like its cousin from S. America, it was also loaded with caffeine, so it came in handy when they did their stomp dances and if they needed to pull an all-nighter at the gym. Black Drink was not used to my knowledge by African Americans but we have them to thank for wonderful healthy foods like sweet potatoes, yams, okra, collard greens; in fact any of our southern regional cooking. The tradition of preparing foods, passed down from generation to generation in Africa, a gathering of those chopping, shelling, singing and chanting; “joyous cooking”, is what we all aspire to as we gather with friends and family, especially at Thanksgiving, which I hope includes tea. And although we eventually dumped it overboard, our love of tea likely started with the British. Their afternoon “Tea” is really a meal, begun by the very hungry Dutchess of Bedford to ward off hunger between lunch and dinner. Unhealthy as clotted cream might be, tea without milk or cream or sugar (I use stevia, Steve) is great. It’s an excuse to gather and dish over a dish, and dish is good, as chattin’ with the gals can increase healthy oxytocin levels, especially in women. On this continent, before we yanked it out from under them, the first people also had tea parties. Ok, maybe not with their best china, and they gagged on the clotted cream, but here, “Many tribes preferred broth and herbed beverages to water. The Chippewa boiled water and added leaves or twigs before drinking it. Sassafras was a favorite ingredient in teas and medicinal drinks. Native Americans in California added lemonade berries to water to make a pleasantly sour drink.‘ Of course they did. It’s California. Egyptians like to slop their tea into their saucers; veddy un-British! And Nothin’ says Lovin’ for the Chinese like tea used to celebrate, show respect, apologize, and to say “thank you for being my parents”. In some parts of China, once tea is poured, saying thank you to the server is done by tapping a finger on the table. They should serve it to music. Chinese Tea Houses are fertile ground for scholarly ideas, and considered to be “a must for self cultivation. And cultivate they did, look at how well they do in school. As do many cultures, especially those, who, like China, who listen to their mothers and fathers. Take Turkey, the country that is. They revere their elder population, keeping both the older and younger generations safe in many ways by keeping an eye on them. And they keep their eyes wide open with their famous espresso; “Gahva” which, when pronounced, sounds like someone trying to say “coffee” after a few adult beverages. Coffee is loaded with antioxidants, lowers blood sugar, lowers chances of getting Parkinsons, or dementia. Traditionally, Gahva, a strong “expresso times 10” molasses thick coffee, is drunk by a group of woman, (everyone I imagine talks very fast); then the Turkish ladies turn the cups upside down, and proceed to read the Rorschach images which tell the fortune of each participant, for the fun of it, again, the social gathering so important to health. Speaking of Turkey and coffee, you’ll need a cup after your Thanksgiving feast to get you home from Grandma’s. You are going to Grandma’s aren’t you? Family ties are proven to support your health, even in the face of a lousy diet, but add to that, healthy food, coffee or tea and you’ll keep the conversations going and going. Get going! Happy Thanksgiving! Copyright: Oct.3, 2011 © www.GoDrJo.comDISCLAIMER
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