The “Disgusting” Foods I Eat

In a review of Anna Reid’s new book, Leningrad: Tragedy of a City Under Siege, I learned that one of the calorie sources that starving Leningraders came to eat was:

‘macaroni’ made from flax seed for cattle

To which I say: Damn. The implication is that, before the famine, “flax seed for cattle”, which is roughly the same as flax seed, was considered unfit for human consumption. Only when starving did Leningraders stoop to eat it. I can buy flax seed in Beijing. But not easily.

The triangle is complete. I have now learned that the main things I care about in my diet, which I go to great lengths to eat every day, are all considered “disgusting” by a large number of people:

1. Flax seed. It is the best source of omega-3 I have found. I eat ground flax seeds every day. Flaxseed oil goes bad too easily.

2. Butter. Perhaps the most reviled food in America, at least by nutritionists. A cardiologist once told me, “You’re killing yourself” by eating it.

3. Fermented foods. Many fermented foods are considered disgusting — after all, they are little different than spoiled foods.

22 Responses to “The “Disgusting” Foods I Eat”

  1. Kevin Miller Says:

    Flaxseed oil freezes well and thaws quickly. I take small plastic bottles of I think 4 ounces of flaxseed oil, which makes a quick and convenient lunch, particularly when traveling.

  2. dearieme Says:

    If they don’t eat butter, what on earth do they have on their croissants? Or on their peas or boiled potatoes?

    A mysterious people, the Americans.

    Seth: Americans use all sorts of butter substitutes, especially margarine. Fancy restaurants serve olive oil in place of butter. In one expensive Berkeley restaurant, I was unable to get butter.

  3. GeoffD Says:

    I take 360 calories of butter and mct oil for breakfast every morning in my coffee. Delish. I’ve never been leaner, healthier, more energized or happier in my life. Here’s to butter. I’ll get my omega 3′s in salmon though…

  4. Alex Chernavsky Says:

    Dearieme — this is what I use in place of butter:

    http://www.smartbalance.com/products/buttery-spread/smart-balance-buttery-spread-flax

  5. Tom Says:

    Alex, you know that that product is mostly soybean oil, right?

  6. Alex Chernavsky Says:

    Tom: no, I didn’t know that. But it doesn’t matter much, because I’m not a heavy user of that margarine.

  7. Antonio Says:

    “Flax seed. It is the best source of omega-3 I have found” What about chia seeds?

  8. JM Says:

    Dearieme – No we Americans aren’t mysterious – despite being told for decades that cholesterol is bad for us butter is sold in every supermarket (so people do buy and use it!) And most restaurants I frequent put butter on the table these days next to the bread basket and not margarine. The real problem is that most restaurants in the kitchen are using mostly cheap vegetable oils, like soybean oil, as does most processed foods – and I bet if you look around the shelves of supermarkets and restaurant kitchens of Europe and other countries you will see a lot of the same thing. It’s a cost issue.

  9. Seth Roberts Says:

    “what about chia seeds?”

    Too hard to get. But you might be right — maybe they would be better in some way that would outweigh the increased difficulty of getting them.

  10. Nancy Lebovitz Says:

    Butter is in a different category– it’s a guilty pleasure rather than something like liver that a lot of people are repulsed by.

  11. dearieme Says:

    Good news, JM.

    I see that the possibility that butter and its kin are not mass murderers is leaking into the media.
    http://blogs.telegraph.co.uk/news/damianthompson/100239917/is-this-the-real-identity-of-the-heart-disease-serial-killer/

  12. Jeff Says:

    Seth -

    How much ground flax seed do you eat each day? Are you consuming it plain or mixed in something else?

    Thanks.

  13. Seth Roberts Says:

    I eat 60 g of ground flaxseed each day. I divide it into two 30 g portions. Eat each portion with yogurt and fermented rice and some flavoring.

  14. dearieme Says:

    Beef Stroganoff: first my wife fries the mushrooms in butter and then takes them out and puts them aside to keep warm. Then she melts more butter in the frying pan and adds the fat and any gristle she’s cut off the meat. When all that has melded together, in goes the beef. When that’s ready she adds the warm mushrooms. Then she deglazes the pan with some brandy and finally she adds the cream.

    She serves on rice, with peas. We feel no need to add butter to our peas for this meal.

  15. Jeff Says:

    Seth -

    Why do you divide your dose of flaxseeds? Are you still eating it taste free?

    Seth: 60 g was a lot to eat at once. Also divided dosing is likely to produce a steadier supply to the brain. No I don’t eat it nose-clipped. I get plenty of smell-free calories from the butter I eat.

  16. Ross Says:

    Professor Roberts,

    I too have been struggling with trying to figure out how to get flaxseed into my diet. I was buying flaxseed oil, but it is expensive in the long run and I don’t know how to test if it is rancid since flaxseed oil doesn’t seem to taste so great from any producer. I bought a Piteba oil extracter, but I have failed to make that system work . My wife put in the amount of flaxseed needed to give everyone who eats two pieces of sourdough bread the 60 g and it wasn’t very tasty.

    Can you enumerate the practical ways you ingest flaxseed? What is your yogurt/fermented rice recipe? Do you have any other recipes?

    Thanks for your blog.

    – Ross

  17. Seth Roberts Says:

    yes, flaxseed oil is expensive. And must be kept cold.

    I grind the flaxseeds with a blender. Takes seconds. I store them at room temperature. I eat them with yogurt (without sugar), sweetener, and flavoring.

    Flaxseed: 30 g.

    Yogurt: yogurt I make myself. No sweetener. More sour than store-bought yogurt. About 3 spoonfuls.

    Sweetener: Xylitol, honey, or something else. Recently I’ve been using “Japanese yogurt” (a sweetened store-bought yogurt that seems to be different from other yogurt) and fermented rice, which is sold in Chinese food stores.

    Flavoring: a small amount (1 tablespoon?) of wine, whisky, tequila, etc.

  18. Jeff Says:

    Seth -

    Thanks for answering all my questions. How much taste free butter are you currently ingesting?

  19. Texan99 Says:

    I haven’t touched margarine since I moved out of my parent’s house decades ago. Never understood why people would eat it when they can get butter.

    Lots of food can be easily fermented at home, from yogurt to dill pickles. Even leaving the beans to soak in water overnight causes a bit of fermentation to start, and cuts down on flatulence.

  20. joseph Says:

    ” I get plenty of smell-free calories from the butter I eat.”
    In your book which i have you list Extra light Olive Oil, and Sugar Water,
    as smell free calories which works with the SLD Diet,
    so butter can be added? then it must be eaten by itself otherwise the attending foods will add smell, what else is smell free? flax seed oil does have some smell,
    ground seeds maybe not?

  21. Seth Roberts Says:

    I eat butter wearing nose clips. Nose clips remove smell. Any food is smell-less calories when eaten nose-clipped.

  22. xap Says:

    I, for one, would love to see a longish post titled something like “What I ate this week.” to get a better overall idea of what you eat, when and how.

    You mention specific topics in the posts, and clarifications in the comments, but it would be great to get a broader overview.

    As for swimming type nose clips, I have found them somewhat loose (even when wearing two) but came across a post (somewhere in the forums I think) about using spirometry nose clips which have suited me much better since I switched to them.