You really are what you eat

Still enjoying the fruit I froze last summer from Capitol Reef National Park

or, as I am fond of saying, “Calories are cheap, nutrition is expensive.”

After having gone through this fruitless ordeal, I am finding my way through the morass of the pharma/insurer/federal/academe conspiracy that passes for the American medical system. (Delete long-winded rant). Suffice it say that low potassium levels can actually raise blood pressure, which is sort of a counterproductive side effect in a hypertensive drug.

Raptitude’s blog post helped me articulate a direction I’ve been heading for a while: I don’t want to be a typical American with a sackful of pills. My mom told me all her friends think it is normal to take a pill for every decade old you are. That may be typical, but it’s definitely not normal. It’s not what I want. What I want doesn’t come in a safety-capped pharmacy bottle.

So I’ve been reading, listening and thinking. Rather than tell you all my interpretations, you can read it for yourselves.

in the queue

What’s working (because I finally am measuring optimal blood pressure readings at home)

  • cutting my meds in half, addressing the hypokalemia head-on, rather than throwing another hypertensive drug at the problem;
  • a potassium rich diet, striving for 7 fruit and veg per day;
  • not worrying too much about saturated fat and cholesterol, especially from our own yard eggs;
  • pounding down Omega 3 supplements every day;
  • running away from any food that comes in a box (ok there is one throw down box of Kraft dinner, but that’s for a major sick day. It’s our family comfort food). If I can’t in principle make it from scratch, it’s probably over-processed calories.
  • working out at the gym 5 days a week;
  • getting on with my life and taking up the mandolin.

After firing two primary care docs in 12 months, I like my new physician. He reads, communicates and is keeping up with science. Most I’ve run into don’t, can’t and aren’t. Too many seem to get all their current information from their lawyers and drug company reps. I’m no physician or scientist, and don’t rely on my opinions to interpret all those science papers for yourself. But at the end of the day, my health choices have to be my own responsibility, well-tempered with a grain of common sense.

It’s not perfect. I haven’t effected a miracle: there still is that diet soda problem. I still have terrible white-coat symptoms. Eating fresh veg takes more time and costs money (corn syrup calories are subsidized by the industrial ag/federal government complex). I crave cookies. What’s different is that I may have finally realized there isn’t any magic to healthy choices. Just do the work and results follow. Duh.


  1. Thanks Ann. Nice to hear that this is working out. H has been on about the whole diet thing for a while and we end up preparing just about all of our meals from scratch. Its a good policy. Perhaps we should do some recipe exchanges…

  2. I like some of your choices and the effort you are making. I need to do better for sure, and too often go for the \full\ feeling instead of the effort it takes to eat better. Curious as to your thoughts on a potassium water softener offering any real benefit over a traditional salt based option. I’m sure more ingested in good foods is better, but I wonder if having some in our water is providing a benefit. We’ve had it for years and those benefits are what we were sold on.

    • Robert Marc

      The amount of Na or K left in the water after Ca ion exchange is way below the RDA for Na or K. So I don’t think there is a market for KCl-based water softening. It is also hard to load enough K from KCl tabs as well (it takes a lot of tabs), which I suspect is why most nutritionists recommend a food-based source that provides a more prolonged, slow-release K pool (K-citrates, -gluconates, etc). Bananas are popular for this, but if there is an example of a failed non-local agricultural system, it is the commercial Cavendish banana monoculture.
      But in the end, Jeremy, I agree that everything we consume deserves a second and third hard look – especially the water in which we prepare our foods and wash down our supplements.

      • From a Morton Salt FAQ:
        “The amount of sodium in soft water is directly proportional to the hardness of the untreated water, and for most water supplies it is not very high. For each grain per gallon of hardness, multiply by 7.9 to convert to milligrams of sodium per liter (a liter is slightly more than a quart). For instance, water with 15 grains/gallon hardness will contain118 milligrams of sodium per liter after softening. Thus, 2 liters of water per day provides less than 250 milligrams, which is small compared to the normal daily intake. If you have any health concerns about consuming or cooking with salt-softened water, please consult your physician.”

        “The benefits of potassium chloride-based products include:
        Reduces sodium contribution to soft water by 99%
        Provides a means to increase potassium, an essential human and plant nutrient, through softened water
        Reduces chloride discharge by up to 20% as compared to sodium chloride softened water”

        “Using potassium chloride in your softener will contribute approximately 32 milligrams of potassium per 8 ounces of water for each 10 grains of hardness softened.”

        Not sure our tiny rural water supply reports on water quality, but assume that we have some several grains of hardness. The differential could add up.

    • Jeremy, I had never even heard of potassium water softeners. That machine is not my in department here at the ranch, Robert always does it and buys the pellets. I’ll have to ask him what we are using. I should drink more water, less pop anyway.

      • Robert Marc

        More specifically, culinary cold water on virtually all softener systems typically bypass the softener – our last two systems were designed this way. The purpose for softening is to prevent calcium deposition in your hot water heater and older copper pipes, and keep your shower clean. So unless you are drinking from the warm tap …

        Even if you did, really hard water would end up with about 12 mg Na / 8 oz glass (several commercial sources) and the normal Na RDA is around 1500 mg – mostly from food.

        I don’t think K as an exchanger works $ wise or healthwise.

        • That’s very interesting info to consider. I went down and looked at the hookups and confirmed that the softener is feeding both hot water and a portion of our cold water piping. We did have a very hard water issue, proved by buildup and clogging within a year of building our home. After installing the system we have had no issues in the 7 years since, so at least that has been addressed as hoped.

          As for the health side, I was very curious if the skin benefits versus health intake held any water so to speak. The aesthetics do play out in taste and feeling, so perhaps that alone is worth the expense.

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