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Monday, June 14, 2010

The Care and Feeding of a Romance Author: What Are You Putting In Your Mouth?

There is absolutely no doubt that your physical and mental well-being contribute to your creativity as a writer. In spite of the romantic mythos of the starving artist or tortured poet, the reality is that if you feel good, you will be more creative and productive. A major...and possibly the most important factor in health is food.

I'm not a nutritionist, but I've had about five years of working in nutrition programs within our community. Most of my work was with preschool age children and their parents, so my training was very basic, step one nutrition.

What I'm going to talk about in this post are foods that you can add to your diet if you haven't already. They've been proven to support your health, reduce your cancer risk, and contribute to your brain health.

First is your fruits and veggies. Color your plate with variety. You can have a romaine salad, and its certainly good for you, but if you add vibrantly colored vegetables and fruits to the mix, you're adding in a variety of beneficial phytochemicals. In my opinion, you just can't have enough leafy greens, purples, oranges, whites and reds. I love to put fruit into my salads, so I dump in a salad mix with spinach, then cut up grapes, strawberries, apples, and so forth. Since I'm on Weight Watchers, I try to avoid croutons, but throw in a few almonds instead. I also add protein in the form of chicken, turkey or beans. Yum. Also, a salad is a good place to slip in your healthy oils. Make a vinaigrette with balsamic vinegar and olive oil. I love raspberry vinaigrette dressing.

Steam our nuke your vegetable, and try not to overcook. I love the Thai Ginger Carrots from Trader Joe's. Look for funky ways to season and present your green beans and broccoli. Since its summer, skip the cheesecake dessert and opt for fruit in season. The closest thing to ambrosia that I've ever tasted was pineapple in Hong Kong. It was...orgasmic. My traveling companions were really embarrassed by my behavior.

Next is fiber. Over the past few years, carbs got a really bad rap. Its true that we really don't need refined carbohydrates. Sugar, white flour and processed foods don't do you a lot of good. So, avoid white and opt for whole grains. You can get whole grain pasta, bread, brown rice and so forth. Complex carbohydrates provide energy for the long term, rather than the immediate rush/crash of simple carbs. If you were raised on white, just give it a try; mix your pasta 50/50, try a few different types of bread. Opt for honey over sugar, if you need sweetener. Don't give up after trying just once or twice.

Fiber also performs miracles in the digestive tract. It's been shown to reduce constipation/diarrhea, some fibers (oat, in particular) might lower bad cholesterol. It can reduce the chance of colo-rectal cancer. It also assists in weight loss, as high fiber foods are more filling. Fruits, vegetables and vegetable proteins (beans, etc) also provide healthy amounts of fiber. I love steel cut oatmeal, pancakes made with whole grain/multi-grain flour and all sorts of grain cereals.

Water and fluids. Not coffee, not soda or juice, but look into the health benefits of water or green, black or white tea. I promise you, drink your 8 glasses of water daily, and your mind will be clearer. You'll learn to discern hunger from thirst. I find that I lose more weight when I'm downing plenty of liquids. It will support your immune system, improve the quality of your skin and assist with mental clarity.

The more researchers study tea, (particularly green tea) the more amazing the beverage is. I know that if I drink a lot of green tea before and during trips overseas, I rarely get sick while I'm traveling or when I get home. Try a few varieties. I love Trader Joe's Green, but my favorite tea is classic oolong. Try to brew your own so you can adjust the strength of the tea to your taste.

We all know there are loads and loads of foods to avoid, but I decided to approach this with things to add to your diet, because if you increase the good, you'll naturally reduce the bad.

Will good health and nutrition help with writer's block? I believe that it does. Try it, head out to the farmer's market. The outing will give you some fresh air and exercise. The food will bring a healthy variety to your diet. Experiment. My current nutritional fetish is fresh fruit smoothies. I freeze bananas and strawberries, throw in some yogurt, soy protein powder and soy milk, and whip it up. Dayum! Its a party in your mouth!


WuBaiCBFan said...

Ha, you think the pineapple in HK is great, you should try our Taiwan pineapple! I couldn't believe the diff between that and what I used to get in the US.

Our mangoes....well, to die for, ditto for the watermelon, best I've ever had. You can get fresh juice drinks all over the place, or you can buy fresh fruit already cut up to make your own non-fat milkshake or just eat it outright. For about one US dollar, I can have some cantaloupe, some mango, and some Asian pear slices - or pineapple, guava, honeydew, apple, papaya, watermelon, etc. That's what I normally have for breakfast on school days, buying it on the way to class.

We have fruit here called lian wu, English name wax apple. I love it! Sadly, although HK has mangosteens (marvelous), they're rarely found here.

I miss the ease of buying salad in a bag. Yeah, I can get it, but only if I go to the "foreign" sections of town and pay through the nose for it. Not worth it. However, there are plenty of cafeteria-style restaurants serving up a huge variety of cooked veggies, so I eat those. Last night's dinner cost me about $1.18 - I got huge helpings of bean sprouts and garlic-flavored cabbage, some tofu, and rice (small bowl).

Despite all this, I can't lose weight without a huge struggle, although I mysteriously dropped 6 pounds since April, not really sure why.

Congrats on your WW success!

Belinda McBride said...

I was just blown away by the fruit in Hong Kong. I mean, we grow so much right here in California, it should be top shelf...right? No.

I'm making fruit shakes almost daily, mixing frozen fruit with soy milk. If I add soy protien powder, it keeps me going for hours...yum!