Mark Rifkin, Balanced Nutrition Solutions
Mark Rifkin is a Mid-Atlantic area Registered Dietitian (RD) with a Masters in Health Education. His approach combines a plant-based lifestyle with a passion for solid research. His own experience eating a plant-based diet for more than 20 years translates into realistic and attainable meal options. With Mark’s approach, you can experience improved food choices, more energy, fewer medical symptoms, and need for fewer medications. The balance of good science with various non-traditional approaches results in Mark’s core principles:
Eating whole, plant-based foods
Emphasizing good flavors
Adding salt, sugar and oils in a smart measured way
Sustaining earth-friendly food habits
Using supplements only as needed
More about Mark Rifkin at his website: Balanced Nutrition Solutions.
Caryn Hartglass: Hello everybody, I’m Caryn Hartglass. You’re listening to It’s All About Food. Here we are, it’s December 23, 2014, that happy holiday time. It’s a cloudy, chilly, wet, lovely time here in New York City. I’m staying in, and I’m glad I have the ability to stay inside. For those who have to go out in it, I hope you’ve got the right clothing. That’s the secret to living in New York City, having the right clothing for the right time of the year. It’s long underwear time, in case you didn’t know what the secret is. That keeps you from getting warm, I mean from getting chilled. And there’s a lot of bugs going around you don’t want to catch, especially when it’s cold and wet outside, so I hope you’re taking care of yourself.
And it’s the holiday season, and there’s a lot that comes with that. A lot of fun, a lot of joy, a lot of stress, a lot of good foods, a lot of bad foods. And if you’re someone eating a healthier diet than most, sometimes you’re challenged. Either you’re not invited to some of the events because nobody knows what to feed you. There’s all kinds of fun things going on right now and if you’re challenged at all, please feel free to send me an email at firstname.lastname@example.org we can at least share what’s going on. Who knows, maybe I’ll have some helpful tips for you.
Let’s bring on my guest for today. I’m really looking forward to this. Mark Rifkin is a mid-Atlantic area registered dietician with a Masters in Health Education. His approach combines a plant-based lifestyle with a passion for solid research. His own experience eating a plant-based diet for more than 20 years translates into realistic and attainable meal options. With Mark’s approach, you can experience improved food choices, more energy, fewer medical symptoms, and need for fewer medications. The balance of good science with various non-traditional approaches result in Mark’s core principles. Make a note of this: eating whole plant-based foods, emphasizing good flavors, adding salt, sugars and oils in a smart measured way, sustaining earth friendly food habits, using supplements only as needed. His website is http://www.balancednutritiononline.com/ Mark, how are you today?
Mark Rifkin: Hi Caryn Hartglass.
Caryn Hartglass: Mark Rifkin, my old buddy.
Mark Rifkin: Long time, no chat.
Caryn Hartglass: Gosh, I was reviewing that last time we spoke on this show. It was more than 5 years ago.
Mark Rifkin: Has it been that long?
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, and I’m not happy about that. Not happy at all.
Mark Rifkin: You got five years younger, Caryn.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, thank you. And you, you’ve stayed the same.
Mark Rifkin: Well, I guess I got five years grayer, but you know, it happens.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah. Well, you don’t have to go gray. But we don’t need to go into that.
Mark Rifkin: Yes that’s true.
Caryn Hartglass: There are lots of options in 2014 for your physical appearance. But the best thing is to keep the inside of your physical body in tip-top shape as best as you can.
Mark Rifkin: Absolutely.
Caryn Hartglass: And we’re going to talk about some of that today.
Mark Rifkin: Absolutely.
Caryn Hartglass: Absolutely. So five years, what’s new?
Mark Rifkin: Five years, what’s new? Well, my new website and my new business focused on online services.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s good. Online services. That means people don’t need to be where you are.
Mark Rifkin: Yes. Well, very few people are where I am, and I suppose I’d probably want to be in Florida myself.
Caryn Hartglass: We were just saying that the other day. Let’s just go to Florida.
Mark Rifkin: Yes. But being that the plant-base community is growing, but still small, there is obviously a great need for services that people can access wherever they may live.
Caryn Hartglass: Now you’re in Baltimore.
Mark Rifkin: I’m in Baltimore, on the East Coast. But there’s probably far more plant-based eaters in New York City, in Portland, in California than where I live. Let’s take it worldwide. I’m offering webinars and meal plans, nutrition handouts. Everything to get someone started, or maintain a healthy plant-based lifestyle.
Caryn Hartglass: And that’s what it’s all about, for so many reasons.
Mark Rifkin: Absolutely. And to do it with flavor.
Caryn Hartglass: Why not? Delicious and nutritious.
Mark Rifkin: Absolutely. Well, I suppose some people like cardboard.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah right.
Mark Rifkin: I do know a few people who will sacrifice flavor for nutrition.
Caryn Hartglass: But it’s not necessary.
Mark Rifkin: Exactly. It’s not necessary, and I don’t think the average person should be expected to.
Caryn Hartglass: We’re here to experience joy.
Mark Rifkin: Absolutely. And one of the greatest joys in life is food.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s good, food. So, five years have gone by, Mark. You have a lot of knowledge about health and nutrition. Every time I talk to you, I think I know it all, but I find out something new. And I’m hoping that happens today. One thing that got my attention, I was reading some of your posts on Facebook, and you were bemoaning some of the folks that promote a low, low fat diet. Tell us why you think that’s a problem.
Mark Rifkin: There are many reasons.
Caryn Hartglass: We’ve got all day.
Mark Rifkin: Yes, we’ve got all day. First of all, the primary core argument of the very low fat, which generally includes a no oil approach, is that oil is cardiovascularly unhealthy. It’s risky for your endothelial layers, which is your inner layer of your arteries. And research that highlights this information, which is been widely promoted in books and videos, online, etc. etc. uses very large amounts of oil to demonstrate an adverse affect. And the core take away from the research is that we should not be drinking olive oil, or any oil, or any large amounts of fat in any food, whether it’s avocado or olive oil or greasy Indian food. Unfortunately, the research has been, I would say, misapplied to demonize all oil; all the time, in any form, any shape, any size, anywhere. That’s bad for you, because large amounts do clearly create a risk, but there’s no research on small amounts. In fact, all the research I’ve been able to find on small amounts indicates not only is there is no risk, there is probably benefits.
Caryn Hartglass: Now what do you consider a small amount?
Mark Rifkin: 2-3 teaspoons.
Caryn Hartglass: A day?
Mark Rifkin: Per meal.
Caryn Hartglass: Per meal? Wow.
Mark Rifkin: Per meal.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s pretty good.
Mark Rifkin: And some people could probably even tolerate more, depending on age, body size, activity level. And in fact, one of the concerns that I have is actually related to flavor. A lot of herbs and spices are dissolved in fat. So, if you have a nice Thai curry with tofu and all kinds of wonderful veggies, it needs a little bit of fat somewhere for you to taste that curry, to get the maximum flavor enjoyment out of that curry.
Caryn Hartglass: Mark Rifkin says a little bit of oil is okay.
Mark Rifkin: A little bit of oil is okay, and will help you enjoy your food.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes.
Mark Rifkin: A lot of nutrients are also fat-soluble. So example if you have carrots in that curry, carrots are a huge source a Beta-Carotene, Beta-Carotene is fat-soluble. It needs a little bit of fat for your body to absorb it.
Caryn Hartglass: We’ve heard about these studies with fat-free salad dressings, where people who ate the salad dressing with fat in it absorbed more of the nutrients, for that reason.
Mark Rifkin: Absolutely. And it was not a little bit more, but a lot more. Significantly more. So, I’m not suggesting people should be drowning in their olive oil dressing, regardless of whether it’s high quality or not, but I am suggesting is a little bit of oil is probably a good thing.
Caryn Hartglass: Now a lot people have a hard time understanding what that means. I work really well with all or nothing. And when you open the floodgates and say I’m taking out a little bit of this, some people might take that to extreme. It’s good to know.
Mark Rifkin: I am sympathetic to that concern. I do think there are a lot of people out there who have this all or nothing mindset, and I can sympathize that that’s a problem. And I think that’s one of the concerns of the authors that are promoting a no-oil lifestyle. It’s too difficult, too challenging, too time consuming for people to measure out what is a little bit. It this enough, is this too much, maybe, maybe not, who knows? Let’s just discard the whole problem entirely, and make life very simple. It sounds simple, but nutrition doesn’t get that simple sometimes.
Caryn Hartglass: I don’t like dumbing down the public.
Mark Rifkin: Yes. I agree.
Caryn Hartglass: I think we should all get the best information that is currently known and it should be widely promoted. Maybe discussed in different ways by different people. Some have a flair for explaining complicated concepts in simpler layman terms. I personally enjoy doing that, finding ways to explain something difficult and making it more simple. When I can talk at least, when I’m not tripping over my tongue.
Getting into deep tell about this subject, you have worked with some people who have had a hard time transitioning to a plant-based diet because they jumped in and didn’t consume any fat, or very little.
Mark Rifkin: Yes. I’m going to try as be as general as possible here. Let’s say I have a client who is under 40 years old, and she went very quickly to a whole-food, plant-based, no-oil diet, probably within less than 30 days. This person who is very young, less than 40 years old, developed gallstones. And we think of gallstones as something that is associated with a traditional American high-fat lifestyle, which it generally is. The challenge though, the body gets used to the lifestyle. That was apparently the lifestyle this particular person was on, where I think a lot of whole-food, plant-based people come from. It’s this high-fat American lifestyle that’s swimming in oil and grease from everywhere. Unfortunately, once your body in trained in that way, it expects that next meal to be similar as all the previous high-fat meals. When it’s not that way, the gallbladder, which secretes bile, has a problem. It’s waiting to eject that bile. Bile, for everyone who doesn’t remember their basic anatomy, is an emulsifier or a fat, which means it separates the fat into small particles. The typical American high-fat meal, your gallbladder will be squeezing out quite a bit of bile. On a meal with very little or no fat, the gallbladder is just waiting, more or less. It was primed for that Big Mac with an order of fries, because that’s what it had, and that’s what it was used to. But now all of the sudden we’re eating a no-fat vegan chili, and the gallbladder has nothing to do. So that bile essentially sits there and it sits and becomes very thick. The gallbladder precipitates out stones. Precipitating out is that gallbladder becomes stagnant because it doesn’t have a reason to eject that bile.
Caryn Hartglass: And you think if people are transitioning like that, they should consume a lot of fat? A little fat? How much fat?
Mark Rifkin: If people are transitioning, you might say aside from the endpoint, which is a no fat lifestyle, one could in theory reach that lifestyle. I wouldn’t recommend that people do it within 2-3 weeks, or 4 weeks. I would recommend people take a little bit longer to allow their body to adjust. I would recommend, especially if they were on an extreme high-fat American lifestyle, the higher the fat content before would dictate the length of the transition.
Caryn Hartglass: Not going cold turkey.
Mark Rifkin: Yes. A very good term on a plant-based discussion. Try not to go cold turkey. If you were eating, I would say, a moderate amount of fat, then your gallbladder might not have too much a problem. But if you’re going from pizza and cheesesteaks and French fries everyday, and Big Macs, going whole-food, plant-based in a month is probably not a good idea.
Caryn Hartglass: And not whole-food, plant-based, really low fat.
Mark Rifkin: Yes. This person was not the first person I’ve encountered with this problem. I’ve actually encountered an older male with the exact same scenario.
Caryn Hartglass: You may need to fund some sort of study and look into this. This is fascinating.
Mark Rifkin: Well there is actually some research. Sharp, drastic weight loss is already known to produce, or put people at risk, for gallstones. That’s basically what we’re doing here; it’s a similar kind of process to drastic weight loss, when people make this transition in a very short amount of time. I would caution people, even if one chooses to go no-oil, take it slow and give your body time to adjust.
Caryn Hartglass: Now that last time spoke was 5 years ago. I can’t believe it. We covered a number of items. Now I’m wondering, what happens in the world of nutrition over time. 5 years is a long time.
Mark Rifkin: Yep. In the world of nutrition, that’s almost a lifetime.
Caryn Hartglass: Right. Can you highlight some of the new things that have come out in the last few years in regard to nutrition?
Mark Rifkin: Some of the new things that have come out in the last few years. One area that seems to be advancing fairly rapidly is probiotics. I can’t remember who said this, but “the digestive system is the inner tube of life.” I think there may be a book by that title, if I’m not mistaken. We have more bacteria in and on our bodies than we have body cells.
Caryn Hartglass: Bugs everywhere.
Mark Rifkin: Basically, we are walking petri dishes.
Caryn Hartglass: What’s fascinating too, is that there are so many different kinds of bacteria. Each one of us can have a very different spectrum of bacteria. Mine may look very different than yours.
Mark Rifkin: Absolutely. And we’re only just beginning to understand what affects our lifestyle has on the bacteria, which in turn affects us. There is very much a domino effect. One of my favorite researchers, Dr. Milton Mills, does a lot of research on probiotics. He’s uncovered some research that people living in a traditional American lifestyle are starving their good bacteria of the food they really want.
Caryn Hartglass: And I bet I know what he likes to feed his probiotics.
Mark Rifkin: What do you think that food would be?
Caryn Hartglass: Beans.
Mark Rifkin: Yes. Do you know the specific component in the bean?
Caryn Hartglass: Resistance starch.
Mark Rifkin: I’ll give you that one.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m just pulling straws here. I haven’t talked to Dr. Milton Mills in a long time, but I remember hanging out with him from time to time, and he loved his bean dishes. And that was long before I knew that the prebiotics in beans feed the probiotics.
Mark Rifkin: Yes. Exactly. I would put it in easier terms more people can understand, which is fiber. There are of course two different kinds of fiber.
Caryn Hartglass: Fiber, okay.
Mark Rifkin: We’re talking for the most part, the form that feeds the bacteria is soluble fiber which occurs in beans and oats and barley, apples, pears, plums, peaches. And the bacteria just love to chew on this stuff. If we’re not getting enough soluble fiber in our diet, we’re basically forcing the bacteria to live on something else. And they don’t want to do that, but they will if we force them to. That’s where we generate a lot of potential pathogenic activity. It’s because we’re essentially giving them bad food.
Caryn Hartglass: Well you know, it’s you reap what you sow. You eat bad food, and you feed your bacteria bad food. Poor guys. So what do they do?
Mark Rifkin: Well they have all kinds of problems, and probably one of the things that happens is they secrete substances that are not very healthy for our digestive tracks. That’s where there could be a potential increased risk for colon cancer, because we’re feeding our bacteria subpar food.
Caryn Hartglass: And then it excretes things that are toxic to our colons.
Mark Rifkin: Yes. You definitely want to feed, what I call ‘the guys’. You want to feed your guys, and you want to feed your guys good stuff.
Caryn Hartglass: We should start a campaign, Be Good to Your Bacteria.
Mark Rifkin: And be good to yourself. People don’t need to go out and buy Metamucil or Citrucel, or take nasty fiber pills. Just eat some beans.
Caryn Hartglass: Fiber is a funny thing, the way we’ve thought about it over the last few decades. I remember bran muffins were such a popular item in the ‘80s. We needed our bran muffins to get our fiber. I love beans. They’re cheap, they’re so tasty, they’re so satisfying and now we know they’re feeding our good bacteria.
Mark Rifkin: Yep. I would say, as a plant-based eater, one thing I think we don’t need is a bran muffin.
Caryn Hartglass: Why not Mark?
Mark Rifkin: Too much of a good thing is no longer a good thing.
Caryn Hartglass: Like wheat germ and bran. We don’t need those foods.
Mark Rifkin: No. Laxation, or shall we say going the ole Number Two, is not a problem for a people eating a healthy plant-based diet. In fact, getting too much fiber could cause some adverse side effects. That’s why one of my key concepts in my nutrition practice is balance. Thus my business name. Everything has a balance. 3 cups of black beans at a meal is probably too much, even though I love black beans. 3 cups? You’re going to be someone in pain. It’s the same thing for every food. Every food has a balance. There’s a minimum and there’s a maximum. The same thing for fiber. I don’t want to go out and eat a bran muffin.
Caryn Hartglass: You’re bringing up a couple good things, but I want to focus on not very popular or comfortable subjects. Let’s talk first about beans and gas and bloating. There’s lots of different recommendations to avoid gas. I can’t say that I’ve tried all of them, but I’ve been eating beans and I love them, and I still have gas. Is that just my?
Mark Rifkin: Yes. It could be your own unique constitution.
Caryn Hartglass: Or maybe I’m eating too much.
Mark Rifkin: Say that again?
Caryn Hartglass: Or maybe be I’m eating too many beans, I love them so much.
Mark Rifkin: That could be. I could be the vodka martini you’re having.
Caryn Hartglass: Does that create gas?
Mark Rifkin: No, but alcohol is an antibiotic. Those antibiotics kill your good guys.
Caryn Hartglass: You know, there was a period in my life when I did enjoy a vodka martini, dirty with green olives. Yum. But I haven’t had one in a very, very long time. That’s a good point. Alcohol doesn’t really help us, does it?
Mark Rifkin: No. In small doses, I’m not worried, but routine consumption is going to alter not only your gut flora, your bacteria, it’s gonna alter the way you digest your food. Particularly beans and related foods that may be causing gas in some people.
Caryn Hartglass: So maybe don’t drink and have beans in the same sitting?
Mark Rifkin: Yeah. Try to keep the vodka martinis and the six-packs of beer to a reasonable minimum.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, you know it’s holiday time. It’s the season to drink.
Mark Rifkin: I’ve heard that. In general, if you have a couple indulgences a few times a year, I’m not going to worry too much.
Caryn Hartglass: Right, so let’s get back to the beans and gas. Do you have any recommendations? What are they?
Mark Rifkin: Yes. First, and this applies especially to people who aren’t used to beans in general, is that you don’t want to go from a no-bean lifestyle to jumping in the barrel of black beans and kidney beans and chick peas. It’s not going to work very well, at least not without a certain amount of music. So you want to start slow, like everything else. You want to ease your way into the world of beans. There are, of course, many different kinds of beans. There’s at least a dozen different varieties in your market. There’s only two, or perhaps three, I would focus on. I’m sure you love at least two of these. Those are the lentils and the split-peas. I would also throw in some adzuki beans. If anybody’s familiar with adzuki beans, they’re the small, red, Japanese beans that cook very quickly. Like lentils and split peas they’re generally going to cause less gas in most people.
Caryn Hartglass: In most people, lentils and split peas and adzuki are supposed to give less gas, yet lentils are the worst for me.
Mark Rifkin: Really?
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, it’s true. So if you’re out there and you’re nodding your head, you’re not alone, you have me. I know there are a bunch of other things to try that I have to get around to. I’ve soaked them and rinsed them every 12 hours for 2 days as per Brenda Davis’ recommendation, didn’t help. I think it made it a little better, but not much. But I don’t mind it. It’s not terrible, and my understanding is that we pass gas about 25 times a day anyway. It’s natural.
Mark Rifkin: Right, well, in defense of the people around you, it might be better to try something.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, it’s not offensive.
Mark Rifkin: I’m definitely a fan of soaking beans overnight. In general, lentils and split peas shouldn’t need a whole lot of soaking, shouldn’t need really any, but for some people they may. Of course, the longer you soak, the more of the gas causing agents you pull off.
Caryn Hartglass: Mmhmm, I love them because they cook so quickly and I love the way they taste, so I’m not giving them up.
Mark Rifkin: And then of course, a lot of people, not only soak for a long time, but rinse intermittently.
Caryn Hartglass: Of course, essential.
Mark Rifkin: Some people just soak a whole long time and rinse one time. Some people soak a long time and rinse three or four times. But people can select either one of those to get themselves started. There is, of course, a supplement product people could buy. It’s basically a vegan version of Bean-O®. It’s called Bean-zyme, and no, I don’t have any financial interest in the product. It digests those carbohydrates that many people find challenging and it’s ultimately what’s causing the gas – it’s certain kinds of carbohydrates. So it digest this carbohydrate for you and, in theory, the people around you will be thanking you. In theory.
Caryn Hartglass: Bean-zyme. Okay.
Mark Rifkin: Of course, anything that affects your gut bacteria is going to potentially affect the way you digest your food, so in addition to the alcohol, any recent doses of antibiotics could affect those gut bacteria and the way you digest the food. Steroids, same thing, same problem. And, of course, just living a typical, unfortunately, high-stress American lifestyle affects those gut bacteria. So another possible therapy could be using a probiotic supplement to sort of rebalance your gut and get your bacteria back on a happy keel.
Caryn Hartglass: So the question is what kind, because there are so many probiotics. There are so many brands, and there are millions and billions and trillions of them. How do we know which ones to pick or that we even need?
Mark Rifkin: Good question. That’s why I love you, Caryn. You’re so smart. Generally speaking, a wide variety of lactobacillus. So that’s what we would call in the science world, a genus of which there are many species. So generally speaking, if you could find a good quality product that has several different lactobacillus species.
Caryn Hartglass: Hmm not just one, but several.
Mark Rifkin: Not just one. Several. That should help you rebalance your gut, help you digest your food better, maybe digest some of these carbohydrates a little better. Maybe release a little bit less gas and make the people around you a little bit more happy.
Caryn Hartglass: Nobody’s unhappy around me.
Mark Rifkin: That’s just because it’s that magnificent red hair. It just makes people so much happier, they just forget about the other stuff.
Caryn Hartglass: Alright, let’s get to another uncomfortable subject that is related to fiber, certainly, and that’s what we call on my floor here in my apartment building “downloads” or bowel movements. It’s something that I think is really important to talk about when we talk about diets and changing diets because that is like the first thing you notice that changes.
Mark Rifkin: Yup, I would say.
Caryn Hartglass: Some people, no matter whether they’re eating healthier or not, I suppose it is like the gallstone phenomenon, but you could start eating healthy and become constipated or have the runs. It could go either way.
Mark Rifkin: Yes, well I would say I haven’t come across too many people who went into a healthy food transition and became constipated, but anything is possible with the digestive system, you might say.
Caryn Hartglass: Mhmm, the mysterious digestive system.
Mark Rifkin: So aside from a healthy profile of gut bacteria, generally speaking, I am looking for a suitable amount of fiber and a suitable amount of water and reasonably well managed state of stress.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, do you have a stress pill you could recommend?
Mark Rifkin: If I had a stress pill? But anything that helps people relieve stress is going to help improve digestion, in theory. For some people, a stress response is constipation. For some people, a stress response is diarrhea.
Caryn Hartglass: Hmm, interesting.
Mark Rifkin: It could go either way. I would say probably more people probably tend toward diarrhea with stress than constipation, but stress is a huge, huge factor for so many problems that we experience in our health.
Caryn Hartglass: Now people that are transitioning can really get frustrated because they can start eating salads like they never did before, and all of a sudden they’re very uncomfortable because their bowel movements are very fluid. So what are they supposed to do?
Mark Rifkin: First thing you want to do probably is make sure that the problem is not something serious, which might mean a visit to your physician or healthcare practitioner. Assuming that there’s nothing serious going on, like an inflammatory bowel disease or something like that, there’s the thought, but maybe back off the salad a little bit. So again, maybe there’s a transition period here that’s involved to take a body that’s use to pizzas and hot dogs and burgers to salad. Of course, if that salad is extremely large, or maybe has a lot of salad dressing on it, or maybe has a lot of cheese or nuts on it, any one of those could contribute to having, shall we say, in excessively fluid movements. We only want fluid movements in yoga and pilates.
Caryn Hartglass: And music. Yes, lovely. Fluid movements can be good. They have their place. So some people need to go a little more slowly or a little more gently, depending on where they’re coming from.
Mark Rifkin: So yeah, I mean again, a little bit of the salad dressing is not necessarily a bad thing, but you don’t want to be drowning your salad in salad dressing because that does bring a lot of oil and for some people, oil can be a strong predictor of an extremely fluid movement.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, you mean too much oil?
Mark Rifkin: Yes. So yeah, there’s a limit. Of course, salad dressings can really take an otherwise healthy salad and just jack up the calories to an immense number.
Caryn Hartglass: I wanted to just mention this is the holiday period, and we’re just finishing up Hanukah for those who celebrate. I like to say that I’m not a religious person but I love holidays. I love holiday foods, I love the songs, I love gathering with people. My favorite thing about Hanukah is making my favorite baked potato pancakes, which have a tiny bit of oil in them, but they’re not fried. I really think we got the message wrong when it came to the Hanukah story and the miracle of the candelabra, the menorah, the oil that was only good for one day and it lasted eight days. The story, or the way we celebrate it, is that because this oil lasted for eight days, we now eat tons and tons of oil during the holiday in terms of fried foods.
Mark Rifkin: Wait a minute, you mean I wasn’t supposed to have twelve fried latkes?
Caryn Hartglass: No, I really think the message, and I’m genuinely sincere about this. I think the message was to learn how to conserve oil for energy and not to drown ourselves in oil in our foods. Where did people get that crazy message? So for hundreds of years, we’ve just really been steered wrong, and I’m just trying to turn it down – a lone voice.
Mark Rifkin: Well, unfortunately, you might say oil provides a certain mouth-feel quality. I think that’s what pulls people in once you’ve had one fried latke.
Caryn Hartglass: You’ve got to have more.
Mark Rifkin: Yes, you can’t have just one. You’ve got to have one, if you’re going to have ten.
Caryn Hartglass: And then how do you feel after ten? Ughhh, so horrible.
Mark Rifkin: Yes, you wish you hadn’t.
Caryn Hartglass: Exactly. What’s the celebration there? I don’t get it.
Mark Rifkin: Depending on how much oil you may have in each latke, I mean you could be looking at 100 calories a latke. Times ten or twelve.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow, yeah that’s a lot of calories.
Mark Rifkin: It’s a lot of calories. It’s a lot of oil. Now you’re in the bathroom in pain. Now you may have that damage to your heart and cardiovascular system that are concerned about because you did eat a ton of oil. So I do like the idea that you’re bringing forth, which is a little bit of oil in the right kind of context. Cook it a little differently. You get essentially the same kind of mouth feel without all that oil and all that grease.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s delicious. I love these baked potato pancakes. I love them.
Mark Rifkin: You just forgot to invite me over.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, you could go to responsibleeatingandliving.com right now, and you could watch my food show and you could get the recipe. You could make them and you could share them with your friends and family.
Mark Rifkin: Yes, I’ll have to make a point of that. I haven’t made latkes in quite a while.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, they’re good. They’re fun. And try to spread my message about how we got the story of the oil wrong.
Mark Rifkin: Yes, so I think the message with oil is a little bit is okay, but you don’t want to drown it. A little bit can be healthy.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, I like it because I love the taste of olive oil, and I tend not to cook with oil very often. I’ve gotten into sautéing in water or tea or wine or beer. I like that habit, but I do use some oil. I’m not afraid of it when I do, and I really enjoy it when I do. I think that’s important to enjoy what you’re eating.
Mark Rifkin: Absolutely.
Caryn Hartglass: And not give yourself that guilty “Oh my gosh, I shouldn’t be eating this” message. Ever.
Mark Rifkin: Yeah, I think that’s one unfortunately aspect with, in some cases, our obsession with health is that people inevitably fall down. Nobody is perfect. I certainly don’t expect perfection; I’m not perfect myself. But people get this message that they should be or need to be perfect, and they feel this inevitable sense of guilt and failure, and that’s clearly not the right response. Anybody who is looking for and anybody who is creating this message that we need to be perfect is not, in my opinion, sending the right message.
Caryn Hartglass: I agree. We don’t need to be perfect, just close.
Mark Rifkin: Just close, yeah. Well, as you said, your food should be enjoyable. If it’s not enjoyable – if the only reason you’re eating it is because it’s healthy – then that’s not good. I mean, when it’s your birthday, you should have a piece of cake. I don’t recommend you eat the cake for breakfast, but have a piece of cake. If it’s New Year’s, have a little champagne if you can, if you’re medically okay.
Caryn Hartglass: You know what, my website responsibleeatingandliving.com, we have a lot of baked goods, a lot of treat recipes. I always like to remind people, because maybe some people who are just going to the website and aren’t familiar with me and my message, a lot of these foods are not for every day. But I like to create them and I like to put them up there because there are people that are going vegan, and especially who might have celiac disease or a wheat problem. I like to make gluten-free, vegan treats because I don’t want people to think that they can’t be vegan or plant based if they have a particular allergy like to wheat or something. There’s just so many great flours and so many different ways to make lots of things, cookies and cakes and healthy foods. I put all of that up there because my first motive is about not causing pain and suffering and exploitation on this planet and that’s to animals. So it may not be obviously, but my first mission is to get people to eat less animals. So I put cakes and cookies up there. Now, my second mission is, for those who are interested in being as healthy as they can, talking about how to do that. That’s where I’m at.
Mark Rifkin: I agree.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s good.
Mark Rifkin: We’re so much on the same page.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, I know. I love this guy. Can you tell? Everything that you’re about and everything that you’re promoting, I’m so glad that you’re out there. I can’t believe we haven’t talked in so long.
Mark Rifkin: Yeah, I’ll have to come to New York one of these days.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, and I will make you some wonderful food because that’s what we do here at Responsible Eating and Living headquarters all day long, make delicious food.
Mark Rifkin: I want a chocolate cake for breakfast.
Caryn Hartglass: You’re putting in your order now?
Mark Rifkin: I’m putting in my order now. And fried latkes, not baked.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, not here. I mean, one of the reasons why I don’t make them, other than I don’t think they’re healthy, is they’re such a pain to make when you fry them. They make your kitchen dirty. You have to stand over them. It’s just such an unpleasant experience.
Mark Rifkin: I would say that’s the other side benefit of eating a healthy diet. The kitchen is a lot less dirty.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s right.
Mark Rifkin: The grease is not on all your cabinets and on your floor and on your walls.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes. It’s cleaner. It’s easier to clean your pots and pans. It’s crazy.
Mark Rifkin: And there’s no bugs.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, do you live in an apartment building?
Mark Rifkin: Well, I live in a condo. Now of course a lot of bugs will eat just about anything, but one of the things that they really love is grease.
Caryn Hartglass: I mean I don’t want to jinx myself, but we don’t really have bugs here in our apartment but I know a lot of people who get the exterminator coming in because we do have that cockroach syndrome. We keep them out of our place. Not that they’re not welcome, but they don’t really belong here.
Mark Rifkin: I would say they’re not welcomed.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, they’re not welcomed. I don’t want to say I don’t like them.
Mark Rifkin: As long as they’re outside, they’re fine.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes. Anyway, let’s talk about B12 for a minute. There’s lots of different blogs and websites promoting all kinds of different information. We’ve got the paleo scene and there are some places that are promoting different kinds of meat and animal products to get your B12, like beef liver and eggs. What do you think about that?
Mark Rifkin: Well, I wish the paleo people would read an encyclopedia about where B12 comes from sometimes.
Caryn Hartglass: Where does it come from?
Mark Rifkin: B12 is produced by bacteria that are naturally occurring in the soil.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, bacteria again. Our friend.
Mark Rifkin: Bacteria again. So, of course animal foods contain B12 because animals eat soil when they eat plants. We were probably eating soil a hundred and some odd years ago. The average Americans probably had a garden of some sort or shared a garden of some sort, and they were probably eating soil probably most days of the week. So they were probably getting B12, even without knowing it.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, but now we’ve got a very unnatural environment that we live in.
Mark Rifkin: Yeah, well, I don’t recommend people eat dirt. It’s probably not a wise idea. I don’t want to say there are some circumstances, but probably the least would be in the urban environment because all of the pollutes that are in the atmosphere are in the soil, which includes all kinds of heavy metals and PCBs and smog and all kinds of wonderful stuff. So yeah, I don’t recommend people eat soil.
Caryn Hartglass: What about beef liver?
Mark Rifkin: Yeah, we don’t need to eat beef liver either, because the cow would object. So there’s only a few sources in the vegan world for B12, the first of which, of course, is nutritional yeast. So for people who have not heard of nutritional yeast, it is not brewer’s yeast. It is not baker’s yeast. It is nutritional yeast. It’s a totally different yeast, a totally different beast of yeast.
Caryn Hartglass: And it’s delicious.
Mark Rifkin: And it’s delicious. So if you have a good quality natural food store, you should be able to find nutritional yeast. It should be labeled as containing B12. I probably would not buy it in a bulk, clear plastic bulk container.
Caryn Hartglass: You mean in a store in a bulk container?
Mark Rifkin: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: Why not?
Mark Rifkin: Because UV light kills B12.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh, interesting.
Mark Rifkin: So, buy it in a closed carton or box or whatever package it comes in. You could sprinkle it on pizza, pasta. Some people think it provides a slightly cheesy texture. It’s not going to replace cheese, as in a grilled cheese sandwich, but it’s not bad sprinkled on top of pizza, like a Parmesan, or on top of pasta, or a green salad, or something like that. Two tablespoons provide an entire day’s supply.
Caryn Hartglass: It’s good.
Mark Rifkin: Yes, and some people just go nuts for nutritional yeast.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, I’m one of them. We use it a lot. All kinds of different things. It’s quite good on popcorn, in sauces; it partners very well with sesame tahini.
Mark Rifkin: Yes, absolutely. So if you’re not really too enthralled by the idea of eating nutritional yeast, there are various fortified foods out there, like fortified breakfast cereals and non-dairy milks that of course will supply B12. But in most cases, they’re not supplying more than one day’s requirement. So if you don’t eat it tomorrow, you just missed out on your B12. For consistency of dosing, I recommend the supplement, unless you are eating nutritional yeast pretty much every day.
Caryn Hartglass: How about both?
Mark Rifkin: Oh yeah, you could, absolutely.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, you can’t get too much of it.
Mark Rifkin: No. Well, I believe there’s one case reported in the literature of B12 toxicity. One case.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay. How did they do that?
Mark Rifkin: You have to really, really try, and try very hard. You probably have to swallow the entire bottle of B12 tablets in one day and do that probably for a period of several days or several weeks, and yeah, you probably could get a B12 toxicity. But for the average person, the risk is essentially zero.
Caryn Hartglass: Very good. I’m going to change the subject again. Are you familiar with the USDA Dietary Guidelines and the Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee?
Mark Rifkin: Yes.
Caryn Hartglass: So they’re working on the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, and it’s a very frustrating thing. Do you have any comments about it?
Mark Rifkin: I can’t imagine why it would be frustrating.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, one of the things that I find frustrating is that there are certain people in Congress, our lovely Congress, that don’t want to connect the dots between our environment and the problems we’re having with the environment these days with the way we’re producing food.
Mark Rifkin: Ah, a guilty conscience is a very powerful pull.
Caryn Hartglass: And I keep saying, how is it our food is not connected to the environment? Where do you get your food? From another planet? Mine grows in the soil and takes in the air, and that’s the environment, isn’t it?
Mark Rifkin: It’s so much easier just to sweep certain things under the rug, Caryn. Haven’t you learned that? I mean, c’mon, it’s the American way. But yeah, unfortunately Congress would rather sweep the environmental impacts of our diet under a very large rug because there’s a very large impact. And in fact, I’m actually co-authoring a book on this called The Restore Our Planet Diet.
Caryn Hartglass: I’m waiting for that book, and when can we expect to see it?
Mark Rifkin: Hopefully in the next 3-6 months.
Caryn Hartglass: Well, that’s good because I’m going to have you back on the program in less than 5 years if that book comes out.
Mark Rifkin: I think I can arrange that.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh good.
Mark Rifkin: So, I definitely agree with you that there’s huge impacts that need to be addressed that have basically been unaddressed, and what I would call the fact that these impacts have been unaddressed, I would call welfare. So these are environmental regulations in costs that have not been borne by the industry that have been passed down to the taxpayers, borne by the environment, borne by people downstream. That’s corporate welfare, and I would have hoped everybody learned when they were five years old, you clean up your mess. If you make it, you clean it.
Caryn Hartglass: Oh please, yes. That’s such a good point. Clean up your mess. Well, people who’re interested in the 2015 Dietary Guidelines, you can go to health.gov and read all about them, and you could even make a public comment about what you think about them.
Mark Rifkin: Yes, absolutely, and I was actually fortunate enough to have the opportunity to testify live at the first Dietary Guidelines hearing, which was in January in D.C.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow, what’d you tell them?
Mark Rifkin: Oh, well, actually it was not just me. Believe it or not, there was 15 out of 52 speakers were speaking on a plant based diet.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow, that’s awesome.
Mark Rifkin: It was amazing.
Caryn Hartglass: That’s more than 20%.
Mark Rifkin: Essentially every third speaker was saying plant based, plant based, plant based. If you didn’t hear it the first six times, plant based, it’s because we’ve got another eight speakers coming behind me who’re going to say the same thing. It was amazing, and it was uncoordinated. Completely unplanned, and we all just showed up.
Caryn Hartglass: Wow, I love that.
Mark Rifkin: So, I was very optimistic coming out of the hearing. Well, they didn’t get the message from that one day. Clearly there’s something that needs to be examined, but I’m hopeful that in some sense the Dietary Guidelines will improve. I suppose the one thing that I would be looking for; well, I guess two things I’d be looking for, and I testify to this, one would be to double the amounts of vegetables from one-quarter of the plate to half the plate and shift the fruit off the plate onto another dish. Essentially a snack idea or snack.
Caryn Hartglass: Hmm, good idea. Very good, very good.
Mark Rifkin: The other idea was to rename the dairy group the calcium group.
Caryn Hartglass: Yeah, that’s the other strange thing about the MyPlate, where we have the protein and then we just have specific foods and they’re not speaking like it’s apples and oranges. Well, Mark, we’re out of time.
Mark Rifkin: Oh, we’re out of time?
Caryn Hartglass: We’re out of time, and we were just starting to have fun. I know. So finish your book and then you’ll come back on and we’ll talk more about that. How’s that?
Mark Rifkin: Absolutely, I would love to.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, so we have a plan. Good.
Mark Rifkin: Always good to have a plan.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes, Mark, thank you for joining me on It’s All About Food and we’ll have to visit you more at balancednutritiononline.com.
Mark Rifkin: Caryn, it’s been a pleasure, as always.
Caryn Hartglass: Yes. Happy New Year.
Mark Rifkin: Happy New Year to you. Happy holidays.
Caryn Hartglass: Okay, you too.
Mark Rifkin: Everybody eat their vegetables.
Caryn Hartglass: Eat your vegetables! Fruit’s a treat. Very good. Take care.
Mark Rifkin: Bye.
Caryn Hartglass: Bye. Okay, we just have like a minute or two left and I wanted to remind you, visit responsibleeatingandliving.com. That’s where I live and it is the end of the year and a special time for a lot of us non-profits who are hoping to receive gifts and Responsible Eating and Living is one of them. I want to thank some of you out there who have been very generous. I really appreciate it and anyone who is moved to do so for the end of the year, we are a 501(c)(3). You get a tax deduction and any help is welcomed. Thank you. So, that’s it for this show. Thanks for joining me. Happy holidays and have a delicious, delicious week.
Transcribed by Emme Hooks 1/15/2015 and Jessica Tea 5/25/2015