Please help me learn to eat right!
April 6, 2009 2:25 PM   Subscribe

Food Question(s) -- Avocados / Pinto Beans / Brown Rice / Bananas / Kumquats / Mangoes / Olive Oil / Balsamic Vinegar / Eggs w/r/t organic or not, etc and etc

I went to my doctor, he found potatoes and carrots mashed into my hair, he found some beans in my dang nose, he found corn in my ears, etc and etc. He stopped, looked at me, pronounced: "You're not eating right."

Anyways, I've been doing this whole Ashtanga deal and it's changed my life in any number of ways, one of the most notable being my diet IE I cannot eat garbage any more, if/when I DO eat garbage I suffer on the mat the next day, big time. Plus I don't WANT to eat garbage anymore - ice cream, candy bars, fried foods, etc and etc - whatever it was that I was feeding with that stuff is now being fed on the mat, which is actually sortof a miracle, if you were to ask me. Which of course you did not, but still.

So I'm buying all these good foods and eating them, peasant food essentially, rice and beans etc and etc, organic spinach and kale and carrots etc and etc, good guy eggs from chickens that actually have a life, blah blah blah. In no particular order, here are the questions about these foods that I have for you all:

Pinto beans and brown rice: I pay extra -- considerably extra -- to buy organic, mostly from Whole Foods (Whole Paychecks). I'm assuming that this is money well spent, as neither beans nor rice (ESP rice) have much protection against the garbage that farmers spray on them. Question 1: Is this money well spent?

Bananas and Avocados and Mangoes -- I do not buy these organic, as they have big-time husks, I've read that the gunk that's sprayed upon fruits/vegetables that have husks gets caught up in the husk and doesn't make it into my guts. (I do wash the heck out of the mangoes before cutting them open and eating the meat.) Question 2: Is this correct, do the toxins get caught in the husks of these fruits?

Olive Oil and Balsamic Vinegar -- Because these products come from olives and grapes, neither of which has much of a husk, I spend the extra bread -- which is considerable -- to buy these items organic. I eat a lot of olive oil and a lot of balsamic vinegar in salads and just anywhere else, love that sweet tang of balsamic vinegar in lots of foods. Question 3: Is this money well spent?

My condo complex have four kumquat trees full of ripe kumquats right now, they are sweet as can be, really good, one of them right next to where I often practice yoga, down on the river, great fun, eat and practice. But fact is that I do not know much about these little dudes, not having been raised where they grow. Question 4: Is it okay to eat the skin of kumquats? I pretty much chew all the fruit out of them, spit the seed and skins into the river -- am I losing vitamins and whatnot? Will I die or some such if I do eat the skins? Question 4a: Also -- mangoes; I am not supposed to eat the skin off these dudes either, correct? (I don't eat them, but I'm wondering...)

The kumquat trees are full to overflowing just now, I bet that using my ladder I could/can get five ten gallon buckets of fresh fruit off these trees, easy. Question 5: Can I put these up without them losing their nutritional value IE take the seeds out of them and freeze them? (Of course if the skins cannot be eaten there is no way that this is feasible.)

And the mangoes usually only come in twice a year, they're very inexpensive just now, and quite easy to get the husk off, so essentially the same question as prior except about mangoes this time. Question 6: Can mango fruit be frozen?

Huge sale on avocados this week, avocados bigger than baseballs for $0.90. Question 7: Can these be frozen well, or even refrigerated to keep them a while?

I am often deep hungry from this whole yoga thing, one of the things that works to stave that hunger is eggs, of which I eat just one heck of a lot of. 8 to 12 a day, some days 16. (I usually boil them and make an egg salad, olive oil balsamic vinegar onions slivered carrots etc and etc. Yeah yeah, I know, sounds like I'm a hog gut but I'm just flat hungry is all; YOU try a serious Ashtanga practice and then tell me if YOU'RE hungry. Hint: You will be.) If I eat 8 eggs I eat only 2 yolks, if 12 only 3 yolks; throwing the yolks away so as to not blow my heart out of my chest with cholesterol. Question 8: Am I OD'ing on too much egg protein here? (I'm mostly not eating meat, like at all, or fish, eating some walnuts and/or pecans for protein.) Also: Is three or five egg yolks a day too much bad-guy fat?

Last. I put some pinto beans into a pot of water on Saturday to soak prior to cooking, the pot has set on the stove top, I basically forgot it had anything in it, nice shiny covered pot sitting on the stove is all. I remembered about an hour ago, and now some of the dang beans are even sprouting, the water looks a tad murky, I don't want to die from eating grungy, scungy beans. Question 8: Can I cook and eat these gems or do I toss them? I'm assuming that I'd have to rinse them of course...

Long list there of questions there; I wish I knew how to make bullet points or numbered lists or what-have-you, but I don't -- sorry...

And now I've finished this list o' questions and my coffee and a dang mango (and that sucker was sweet -- man!) and headed now to the river to suffer creatively (ie practice Ashtanga) and eat a few kumquats.

Any help greatly appreciated.

posted by dancestoblue to Food & Drink (23 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
kumquats can be eaten whole.
posted by otherwordlyglow at 2:51 PM on April 6, 2009

Question 3: Is this money well spent?

Most grocery store balsalmic vinegar is just regular vinegar dyed red and with artificial sweeteners added. You'll know you've got the real stuff when (a) you've spent a zillion dollars on it and (b) it tastes insane. I don't really anything much about the organic grapes vs. toxins that would go in there, but given the spirit of your question (e.g. not eating artificial stuff and refined sugars), you might want to kick the balsalmic habit.

I can't believe you can eat that many eggs and not get a stomach ache!
posted by jeb at 2:56 PM on April 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Don't know most of the answers, but here:

4a: You can eat mango peel. It makes my mouth tingle in unpleasant ways (mild, mild allergy possibly) so I don't, but it's fine.

6. Mango fruit freezes/thaws well, chopped in chunks.

9: Sprouted pinto beans should be safe to eat.
posted by notquitemaryann at 3:01 PM on April 6, 2009

In terms of organic ...

Here's the most recent list for fruits and vegetables. (And while it's sort of obvious, keep in mind that if you buy dried versions, they should also be organic, like since grapes are pretty bad, make sure you buy organic raisins.)

Consumer Reports has a good list that breaks it down into "as often as you can", "if price is no object" and "don't bother." This site says rice is important to buy organic (and I've found some other info that backs that up) but most other grains don't really matter since they're pretty highly processed. I can't find anything on beans that says one way or the other. If you don't mind paying for it, then go with the organic.

As for the cost -- have you tried looking for organic rice in a regular grocery store? I don't know how much the last bag of brown rice I bought was, but I don't remember being horrified by the price.
posted by darksong at 3:12 PM on April 6, 2009 [1 favorite]

Questions 1 and 2:

There are two reasons, as far as I can tell, to spend money on organic: 1) if you're worried about pesticides / chemicals, or 2) if you're interested in buying outside of corporate agriculture, and supporting local alternatives (which tend to be organic). Obviously this is not the case if you're buying from large-scale suppliers and distributers (i.e. Whole Foods)

My rule of thumb is that the benefits from 1) tend to be chimerical -- unless you're living a VERY clean lifestyle, using only holistic cleaning products, and not living in a city, you're already ingesting more than your fair share of chemicals, and that the benefits from organic are probalby a wash. (note: this is not critical consensus - only my opinion) The benefits from 2) are self-evident, but just as easily solved by eating locally. This is what I care about, so this is what I tend to do? Typically I'll only buy grocery-store organics unless there's a compelling reason -- or if there's no price difference.

Question 3:

Most olive oil is imported, and as far as I can tell, quality control is sketchy even for organic products -- regular olive oil is usually adulterated and mixed with other (cheaper) kinds of oil. I'd imagine "organic" benefits here are almost entirely packaging.

Questions 4, 5, and 6:

Yum! Mangoes and Kumquats! (cue insane jealousy) in your YARD???

Question 7:

I'd imagine you can freeze anything (including avocados) as long as you don't care about hte consistency when they come out. (checking the internet) Yes! yes you can

To freeze, mash the avocados with a fork. Add one teaspoon lime or lemon juice per avocado and mix well. The best way to freeze the prepared mashed avocados is to use a freeze-weight zip lock bag. Fill the bag with the mashed avocado. Remove the air from the bag and then zip closed and freeze.

Question 8:

smell the beans -- if they look like they're rotting, don't eat them. otherwise -- awesome! you've just made sprouts!
posted by puckish at 3:16 PM on April 6, 2009

Also: Is three or five egg yolks a day too much bad-guy fat?

This stuff is easily calculable; here is a page with some numbers; here is another. 3-5 egg yolks is 5.1-8.5 grams of saturated fat, well under the recommended 20 (though that is for medium eggs, I bet you are buying x-large b/c that is the easiest size to buy). However, you are blowing dietary cholesterol out of the water, with 630-1050 grams a day, where the recommended daily intake is 300 (I am getting these numbers from here, found via google). I have read that most blood cholesterol comes from saturated fat, not dietary cholesterol, but still, this seems like a crazy thing to do.

Also, that is a huge amount of protein. Just calculating the numbers, 16 eggs is _twice_ the recommended daily intake for protein, for just one meal it sounds like. (I guess it is not out of the realm of possibility given heavy exercise but...) Personally I would consider eating more carbs.
posted by advil at 3:52 PM on April 6, 2009

Also, that is a huge amount of protein.

I guess I should say, huge unless you are actually on a low-carb diet, in which case it is probably even a little low (and the other numbers become less surprising, too).
posted by advil at 4:06 PM on April 6, 2009

This doesn't exactly answer your question, but the other question to consider when buying organics is whether you think the benefits to the environment (beyond you) are worthwhile.
posted by AnnaRat at 4:37 PM on April 6, 2009

AnnaRat: You mean that the harm organics can cause to the environment is outweighed by the personal benefits right?
posted by Midnight Rambler at 5:02 PM on April 6, 2009

My condo complex have four kumquat trees full of ripe kumquats right now, they are sweet as can be, really good, one of them right next to where I often practice yoga, down on the river, great fun, eat and practice. But fact is that I do not know much about these little dudes, not having been raised where they grow. Question 4: Is it okay to eat the skin of kumquats? I pretty much chew all the fruit out of them, spit the seed and skins into the river -- am I losing vitamins and whatnot? Will I die or some such if I do eat the skins? Question 4a: Also -- mangoes; I am not supposed to eat the skin off these dudes either, correct? (I don't eat them, but I'm wondering...)

A lot of people get a poison-ivy-like reaction to mango skins, which is why eating them is not recommended.

Kumquats...erm, you're kinda doing it backwards from the usual way. The skins are sweet, the pulp is sour. And yes, it's typical to eat the whole thing, including the skin.
posted by desuetude at 5:54 PM on April 6, 2009

Oh, and the olive oil coming out of Greece and Spain is often far, far, far better than the "fancy ooooh it's really Italian" stuff. Here's a New Yorker article all about the adulteration of olive oil.
posted by desuetude at 5:56 PM on April 6, 2009

As for eating mango peels, they can contain urushiol, the oil found in poison ivy. Mango skin/sap can cause the same reaction in some people, so you might want to stick to just eating the flesh.
posted by JiBB at 6:05 PM on April 6, 2009

Crazy question, man. For putting up the kumquats, a recipe for kumquat marmalade I recently encountered recommended slicing them into rounds, skin and all. The seeds were to be placed in a cheesecloth bag, boiled with the jam, then removed before canning. Apparently the seeds have a lot of pectin and will help your marmalade set up. (And here I thought kumquats were out of season. Everything pretty much is in New England unless you like chives.)
posted by libraryhead at 6:09 PM on April 6, 2009

It's true that you don't need to buy veggies/fruits with a thick peel in organic versions. Most of the applied chemicals are on the peel.
posted by Miko at 7:23 PM on April 6, 2009

The massive amounts of chemicals used in conventional banana production generally do not penetrate the peel. Do not, however, peel the banana with your hands and then touch the banana flesh if you want to avoid contamination.

This was not part of your question, but you might also wish to consider the fact that thousands of banana workers are exposed to very high levels of very toxic chemicals in order to provide you with the option of cheap, non-organic bananas. Same deal with avocados and oranges.
posted by kch at 7:56 PM on April 6, 2009 [2 favorites]

Same deal with avocados and oranges.

...most industrially farmed foods, as long as we're going there.
posted by Miko at 7:57 PM on April 6, 2009

All chemical/industrial production affects the producers. Some chemical production affects the consumers directly, but all chemical production affects all consumers indirectly via the ecosystems which we all share. Is it worth it?
posted by kch at 8:10 PM on April 6, 2009

Dancestoblue, I just wanted to mention off the bat that reading one of your posts is what inspired me to get on the Ashtanga yoga path (and I love it, by the way, so thanks!)

I know your post isn't a comprehensive run down of what you eat, but you didn't mention a lot of carbs other than the brown rice. You NEED more carbs for a practice so vigorous! I munch down Milton's Multi-Grain Bread a few hours before every class. I don't know how organic it is, but the company is a small operation and hopefully that will fit into your organic ideals, somehow. I've found it at multiple Trader Joe's across the country and it always gives me a good energy spike. Plus I find that somehow brown rice is still too "simple" a carb and that I need food with more complex carbs to really satiate me.

As for the protein, have you tried incorporating fake meat a la Morningstar products or even things like Dr. Praeger's "burgers?" (If you can't tell, I shop at TJ's A LOT) That would give you the protein boost without the caloric intake of all those eggs (though I can't speak to the organic-ness of these things, and yes they are processed, but it seems like you should look into other protein options (and personally, I find these things MUCH more satisfying than tofu))

These are just musings in light of how my own diet has changed to accommodate my Ashtanga practice so clearly, YMMV. Good luck with finding the balance!
posted by Eudaimonia at 9:32 PM on April 6, 2009

That Wired article against organics was debunked ages ago. Plus, they've been serving organic lunches at their offices since 1997.

Mangoes are awesome frozen - cut them up into chunks, either defrost later or eat as is, or put in a blender for a smoothie.

Olive oil and balsamic vinegar - check the ingredients list and if it has a reliable organic certification. The ingredients shouldn't include any fillers or colours or other fakey things. "Organic" as a concept isn't properly regulated, but you can research each certification scheme to see if it meets your requirements.

The sprouting beans in gunky water sound too far gone to me. Sorry :) But have heard that you can cook the beans in bulk and freeze for later, might be useful for you.

I'm a little surprised at the amount of eggs you eat every day. It sounds like they're fulfilling a need your body has, but I'm guessing there's more than one way to fill that need without eating anything unhealthy. Take a look at the nutrients in eggs and see if you can find a cheaper way of getting them, maybe with some more variety in your diet? Maybe more beans or vegetables (spinach, capsicums, carrots)? (But if it ain't broke, don't fix it.)
posted by harriet vane at 5:03 AM on April 7, 2009

That Wired article against organics was debunked ages ago.

That "debunking" includes a link to The Onion.
posted by electroboy at 7:24 AM on April 7, 2009

Mangoes in your back yard? I am so, so jellus. I love mangoes the way Hector Barbossa loved apples. They are heavenly by themselves, in smoothies, mixed in with Trader Joe's Mediterranean style yogurt. And they do freeze well.

Also, with eggs - I get the "pastured" eggs from local farms (lucky me, I live in the SF Bay Area, so I can) - not only are the chickens living in much more humane conditions, the eggs taste SO much better. It's worth every penny as far as I am concerned.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 4:20 PM on April 7, 2009

Oh, and I forgot to add - if you want really delicious olive oil, go to Genova's or another Italian or Greek deli that sells Mediterranean imports. You'll get a far superior product and might even luck into some genuine balsamic vinegar.
posted by Rosie M. Banks at 4:22 PM on April 7, 2009

That "debunking" includes a link to The Onion.

And 13 links that aren't.
posted by harriet vane at 3:01 AM on April 10, 2009

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