on-going mostly unedited stream of thoughts

on cooking, nutrition & effort

I started cooking again. This is in line with my attempt to be fitter, and partially because I am semi-following a private migraine group’s protocol on migraine prevention by balancing the potassium and sodium ratio in my diet. “Semi” following because I am not strict about it, but it is interesting to become aware of the micro-nutrients I am eating.

I actually knew about the protocol a long while ago, but it was just too much effort. It requires religious logging of food in Cronometer – if anyone has tried logging their food before they will know how much work it is. It is also impossible to properly log food if you eat a lot of food outside because there is no way to know what they put in their sauces and the actual weightage of their ingredients.

I am learning a lot about micro-nutrients in an attempt to understand how we create energy in the body, and why it can be chronically disrupted. Recent research is hypothesising that migraines could be an outcome of oxidative stress and energy metabolism, which is closely related to the functioning of mitochondria and the ATP cycle. My own migraines are triggered by stress and hormones, so I am keen to understand how everything connects. There are so many questions. Why is the fluctuating of estrogen so closely related to stress resilience? Why is the menstrual cycle so stressful on the body? Is there any preventative measures I can take to mitigate this stress?

Do you know that thiamine (Vitamin B1) is an essential cofactor in the production of cellular energy? Without thiamine we would literally be starved of energy. But my cronometer logs told me that unless I start eating a lot of beans or liver, it is practically impossible to eat the daily recommended amount of thiamine in my diet. Is that why I’m always burnt out because there is just not enough energy for my cellular needs?

I’ve also realised how difficult it is to plan a meal that is nutritionally balanced. Thiamine is just one piece of the puzzle. To eat enough of all the essential vitamins and minerals daily is like a creative food challenge. How have I been living my life? Magnesium is another mineral that is heavily required by the body, especially for women. My research tells me that it is recommended to eat 400mg of magnesium every day. I never really took it seriously until this year. I took like 100mg and thought it was enough. This is why it is important to understand the why:

The important interaction between phosphate and magnesium ions makes magnesium essential to the basic nucleic acid chemistry of all cells of all known living organisms. More than 300 enzymes require magnesium ions for their catalytic action, including all enzymes using or synthesizing ATP and those that use other nucleotides to synthesize DNA and RNA. The ATP molecule is normally found in a chelate with a magnesium ion.


How do we fulfil 400mg of daily magnesium requirements purely through food?

There were so many other things I’ve learned about food and cooking. For example, vegetable oil is quite harmful to our bodies. But the bulk of food if we eat out is cooked in (repeatedly used) vegetable oil, simply because it is the most cost effective. I tried to ignore the information for a while, because I have a food addiction. But how do I bear the dissonance of having terrible health and yet ignoring what I know about the potential oxidative stress caused by food and cooking methods?

So I am cooking again. My partner offered to take the dinner shift while I take the brunch shift (we only eat 2 meals a day because I try to intermittent fast 16 hours to improve insulin sensitivity) so it makes it more manageable, and I really enjoy the effect of discovering what my partner would cook. I took out my instant pot because I’m trying to avoid high heat cooking (again, oxidative stress). This time I am trying out recipes instead of just making it up myself. I used to avoid recipes if they involve too many steps, but now I’m trying them anyway.

I feel like humans have a lot of pre-conceptions, and sometimes these pre-conceptions are of our selves. I thought I didn’t like doing things that take too much effort, but somehow I am slowly learning that I do enjoy the slow meditative pace of multi-step cooking. With the instant pot, lack of experience impacts the food negatively especially if we are not following recipes. Some food taste better with prolonged cooking time, some food takes less than five minutes or it will chew like rubber. I now know how to sear food without it burning the pan. I learnt to properly cut an avocado. I am now so pleased every time I cut one.

my partner‘s artist impression of me cooking in the kitchen

Sometimes I feel like a new human learning how to crawl again. I have to get to know myself instead of just making assumptions on myself. I never knew I would love cycling or running. I thought I would never enjoy my own cooked food more than the food I buy.

The truth is, I don’t really know who I am, what I like and dislike, half the time. So much of me I thought was me, was simply conditioning and/or a reaction to the input I was given. I thought I didn’t like things that take effort, but that’s simply because the system I grew up in demands effort out of me in things that were not meaningful to me. I grew up associating effort with dread and fatigue.

But effort in things which are meaningful to us, can be life-giving and actually enjoyable.

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0 responses

One thought on “on cooking, nutrition & effort”

  1. Daniel T. White says:

    Hey, Winnie.

    It’s exciting to read that you’re taking the kitchen a bit more seriously. I’m also interested in both eating culinary-inspired meals and maintaining my health. Most the time I feel like I’m walking on a tight rope, balancing the delight of my taste-buds with my long term health.

    I highly recommend any cookbook from Yotam Ottolenghi. But, be warned, they are quite laborious.

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