Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Good Living

I've been in possession of, for quite some time now, a set of simple recommendations to avoid liver damage. It was sent to me by a family member who is in the field of natuceuticals (pharmaceuticals based on all natural chemicals harvested from our environment). Upon reading it, I thought I had better bury it deep in my bottom drawer since it goes against every ingrained habit of the Argentines.

My porteño relatives are just going to ignore me or laugh at me should I ever dare to persuade them to live a healthier lifestyle for the sake of their liver, or any internal organ for that matter. Anyway, my husband, the only Argentine I truly care about, is already following a healthy routine and a balanced diet.

This acquired family of mine had been puzzled by my moderate (in their eyes, and by local standard) consumption of salt and sugar. My aversion to deep fried empanadas, papas fritas (potato crisps) and those uninteresting palitos (little fried sticks of dough; tastes like cooked dough and salt) had also caused a lot of sideward glances among them. There were times when some of them ventured to tell me to enjoy life a little, urging me to "indulge".

To that, I always smiled and answered I enjoy life very much; particularly when I am cooking and eating good food. Truly, I indulge in cooking with fresh produce and eating great tasting yet wholesome food; not some dough or potato fried in re-used oil, which is then over sweetened or salted. I suppose we just have very different ideas when it comes to indulgences in life.

Gradually, they stopped pushing Guillermo and I to eat up those already sweet cakes or pastries smeared with half a jar of dulce de leche or deep fried empanadas the colour of KFC. Further, they now grudgingly acknowledge that we look a lot healthier than anyone else in the family. They can also see that we do not deny ourselves of anything we like. Our diet is balanced, based on quality ingredients, and we eat in moderation.

At our family asado (barbeque) last Sunday, I noticed a marked difference in the food on offer. Mini, not full sized, choripans (chorizos sandwiched in bread rolls) were served as a starter. Then, instead of the usual round of artery clogging morcillas (blood sausages), mollejas (sweetbreads), and riñones (kidneys), we went straight to a whole loin of tender yet lean beef, accompanied by a variety of salads. Some had appetite for barbequed chicken afterwards but most of us stopped after the beef. We then each had a small piece of cheesecake topped with berries and a glass of champagne. It was a beautiful meal and no one was groaning from gluttony.

Abuelo (grandfather) asked me, again, in the middle of our asado lunch if all Chinese use little salt. This time, I deliberately told him I suppose not; then I strategically mentioned that my family is particularly health conscious because a number of my relatives are in the medical profession. I revealed, for the first time, there are a few well respected specialist surgeons and medical practitioners in the family. All true, I had only kept it from them for not wanting to come across as a show-off.

Upon that remark, my Argentine relatives reacted to form as I anticipated; sometimes I wonder if they delegate their common sense to others, in the case of health, to the medicos (medical doctors) or more specifically to the medical specialists. Any health advice is senseless unless a medical doctor tells them so.

Just because my uncle is an urologo (urologist), my sparing use of salt and sugar all of a sudden makes complete sense to them. I had recommended drinking cranberry juice to my father-in-law who is suffering from urinary track infection. He wasn't convinced at first, but now that my uncle whom he met once at our wedding is a specialist in this particular field, he feels the cranberry juice is working. To this clan, I just shake my head and smile.

Maybe this is high time for me to unveil, to La Familia, the recommendations regarding their precious liver although they are not going to like what they hear very much...

The health of our liver depends on a good daily routine and eating habits as these factors are vital to the absorption of nutrients and detoxification of unnecessary chemicals in our body. The timing of our daily routine is also important since the body functions according to a natural biological rhythm.

The major causes* of liver damage are the following:

1. Sleeping too late and waking too late

2. Not urinating in the morning

3. Too much eating

4. Skipping breakfast

5. Consuming too much medication

6. Consuming too much preservatives, additives, food colouring, artificial sweetener

7. Unhealthy cooking; reduce the use of cooking oil as much as possible when frying, even the best of oils such as olive oil because the heating process changes the properties of oil and produces toxic free radicals. Avoid fried food when you are tired, except if your body is extremely fit.

8. Consuming over-cooked food also adds to the burden of the liver. Vegetables should be eaten raw or lightly cooked. Fried vegetables should be consumed in one sitting, not to be stored overnight and then reheated.

*alcoholism and substantce abuse are known causes of liver damage but let's stick to normal routine and eating habits in this post.

If cutting out milanesas (similar to schnitzels), deep fried empanadas, and controlling their casual habit of over-the-counter medication are not hard enough for this mob; the following routine, quite normal in many countries, is going to have them screaming in protest...

Living in tune with our natural biological rhythm will not only ensure a healthier liver but a healthier being, more able to combat the natural aging process.

This is the time when the body eliminates unnecessary and toxic chemicals (detoxification) from the lymph nodes (our anti-body system). This time should be spent in a relaxed state of mind.

Detoxification of the liver; ideally this time should be spent in a state of deep sleep.

Detoxification of the gall; also should be spent in a state of deep sleep.

Detoxification of the lungs; sometimes we cough during this time but there is no need to reach for cough medicine so as not to interfere with the toxin removal process.

Detoxification of the colon; this is the time to eliminate wastes from the body.

Absorption of nutrients in the small intestine; this is the optimal time for breakfast.

Note that our body only produces growth hormones, essential to cell renewal, when we are in a state of sleep. And 12-4:00a.m., is the time when bone marrow produces blood.

So, eat well, go to bed at a sensible time, have a sound sleep and we'll all live a better life.

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