The Hidden Polarities of Nature

by Margaret K. Chaney


CHAPTER 6:  Dietary Polarities

Shortly after you begin listening to your intuitive wisdom regarding specific foods and start making your first menu adjustments, you may very well collide with the realization you are living in a dietary relationship with someone whose nutritional needs are exactly the opposite of yours.  How do you compromise?  YOU DON'T!

Look back over your medical and vital history; how much more of that do you want?   Check your present physical and energy levels; contemplate a future when your reserves will be further depleted.   When we disrupt our natural metabolic processes, we interfere with glucose breakdown and the energy supply to the brain.  This collapse leaves us vulnerable to fatigue, depression, confusion, and anxiety, accompanied or followed by more severe physical manifestations.

If you have been eating alone, you might be in tune with your natural selective process, to your advantage.  Nearly everyone has irrational likes and dislikes for certain foods.  This is a natural sign to let us know our needs. What if these preferences are not random but predetermined by our categories?

REDLIST people can imagine a diet of GREENLIST foods and know it would leave them hungry for something more satisfying.  They want a buffering of fat with their proteins and the more complex carbohydrates in vegetables; more "gut wadding."   GREENLIST people, aware of their bodies' problems processing fats, recoil from REDLIST foods as "greasy."  They choose more poultry, white fish, and cheese, and the simpler carbohydrates of fruits.  They would rather combine and recombine their shorter food list choices, and are even repelled by any food at all unless it strikes their fancy at the moment.

REDLIST and GREENLIST attitudes toward food depend on who is assigning the labels.  REDLISTs consider their own appetites to be robust; GREENLISTs call them "piggy."   GREENLISTs see themselves as discriminating; REDLISTs think they are "picky."  Of leftovers, REDLISTs gleefully say, "Oh, there's some more of that good stuff"; GREENLISTs shudder, "No, not again!"  As REDLIST folk study GREENLIST food lists, they are dubious anyone could subsist on such skimpy rations; GREENLIST people read the RED lists and make slight gagging sounds.  Our bodies have their own wisdom.  Look over the lists right now and recall whether one or the other makes you feel better.  Ask yourself if you have been eating in accord with someone else's taste.  Then imagine a private diet composed of your choices.

In the past, women stayed home and did the cooking.  Many of them would admit to denying their own food preferences and adjusting menus to suit the likes and dislikes of other family members.  After all, who wants to cook what others will greet with a "Yuk!"?  Over a period of time, their self-denial takes its toll, first in mental distress and then in physical breakdown.  But the Victorian stereotype of women as helpless and confused has finally been banished.  Women are out of the house now, freely eating their choice of lunches and often dinners.  No longer does the convention persist that women are an habitually neurotic species.  The passport to liberation may be not only a job, but also a personally selected diet.

Cookbooks are available from groups concerned with weight control, heart disease, diabetes, cancer, allergies, and hyperactive children, in addition to macrobiotic and vegetarian diets and the miscellaneous data available from nutritional science and the USDA.  I have spent many hours with a RED and a GREEN pencil, marking the separate ingredients in each recipe or recommended food list.  So far, these specialized cookbooks defeat their own purposes. REDLIST and GREENLIST ingredients show up together in nearly every recipe.  Often, it would be possible to make simple substitutions and still maintain the essence of the meal,  Maybe not the substitution my daughter-in-law threatened when I, REDLIST, fell asleep in my chair after GREENLIST chicken chop-suey, and GREENLIST rice: "Next time I'll serve you REDLIST pork chop -suey over REDLIST oatmeal!"

The real world intermingles people of each classification.  We are commonly born into families of mixed biotypes and usually marry someone of the opposite mode.  Such situations require our full creativity in the day-to-day problems of food preparation.  Here are some suggestions; you surely will think of others.

1.  Go through your cookbooks with RED and GREEN pencils, marking each ingredient in each recipe with the appropriate color. It is possible to adapt recipes and substitute ingredients to get the format you require.

2.  When shopping, buy matched REDLIST and GREENLIST items: whole and skimmed milk; Romaine and iceberg lettuce; almonds and pecans; beef and white fish. Menu selection is easier if the ingredients are on hand.

3.  Store the food in separate areas. It is helpful to see your options at a glance.  Stack the REDLIST bean soup and tuna fish on one end of the shelf, and the GREENLIST split pea soup and canned beets on the other end.  Keep REDLIST cantaloupe and celery in one refrigerator bin and GREENLIST peaches and zucchini in another one.

4.  Set out a RED bowl and a GREEN bowl with each containing snacks appropriate for each type.

5.  Unless you switch to two wholly separate menus, you will probably continue to make familiar dishes that rely more on ingredients from one list than the other.  I suggest you cook enough to have leftovers.  The next meal can feature a recipe favoring the opposite list.  The third meal can then be comprised of separate servings from the leftovers.

6.  A meal with the main dish from one list can be supplemented with several side dishes from the other list.  Do not try to conform to your partner's dietary preferences!

7.  Take full advantage of kitchen technology, cooking and freezing individual portions, then microwaving them at mealtimes.

8.  Or, as my then five-year old son said when we were trying to stretch our holiday dinner candles until Christmas Eve, "We could eat out more often."

Group menu decisions are usually made by one person and adjusted slightly to cater to individual likes and dislikes.  Even cooking a medically prescribed diet necessitates only a few substitutions to regular family menus.  But adherence to the RELIST / GREENLIST system requires far more than simple adjustments as it involves two mutually exclusive sets of ingredients.  I sympathize with people who would like to attempt the REDLIST, GREENLIST menu plan but find it too confusing.  One friend says until foods come in RED and GREEN packages, she will never be able to remember which is which.

Such food planning would be all in the day's work for a trained dietician who could take a given set of ingredients and design attractive menus, recipes, shopping lists and cookbooks as well as color-coded cafeterias and packaging.

My testing has been with just the individual foods.  Testing mixtures would involve more variables than I can control for research purposes.  Therefore, you may find ways of combining foods so that your color predominates and the total dish becomes acceptable.  It is also interesting to analyze complete menus and then experiment with the changes that might be made.

Look, for instance, at the usual foods at an athlete's training table:  steak, mashed potatoes, gravy, coleslaw, bread and butter, milk, cherry pie.  If all athletes were REDLIST, this might work, but pity the poor GREENLIST star.  One of my cousins was a GREENLIST basketball player who fell into a slump.  I advised him to try a cheese omelet, head lettuce salad and skimmed milk before his next game.  According to his parents (unbiased!) he had never played better or with more clever strategy.

In the corporate dining room, it is stylish to order white wine, broiled white fish, and rice pilaf.  My advice to the REDLIST gang is to sneak out for a bowl of chili and sour cream before you get so sleepy you give away the store!

Business personnel may have the largest food budgets and the most immediate material payoff, but the greatest nutritional benefits would come from home kitchens, two separate lines in school cafeterias, and adjusted menu selections in hospitals and senior residences.

Institutional populations are notoriously discontented with their food.  You could assign people to tables of all REDLIST and all GREENLIST diners, then make a quick check-up of the leftovers.  If the GREENLIST tables consistently leave three-quarters of the oatmeal and the REDLIST people hardly touch the beets, much money could be saved by other menu adjustments.  In addition, morale and the level of physical and mental health would be improved.

In schools that have a one-menu lunch, it would be possible to observe the effects as differing needs are or are not met.  Thus:

1.  Test each student for RED or GREEN identity.  Use a marker such as a RED or GREEN piece of yarn to tie on their arm.  This is preferable to physically separating them into test groups.  We commingle instinctively and can feel stressed in a group of only our own type.

2.  Eat the lunches that are all alike.

3.  Then score late afternoon behaviors such as math tests, sports skills, or study hall alertness.

In situations where there is only a take-it-or-leave it menu, I suggest you find a partner of the opposite type and survive by barter.  The other day I ate in a cafeteria with a REDLIST mother and her GREENLIST daughter who had both chosen the same salad.  The mother ate her REDLIST ham and left the GREENLIST lettuce, turkey and Swiss cheese.  The daughter poked at the ham but polished off every single bite of the lettuce, turkey and cheese.  I enjoyed their creative rationalizations when I pointed out their actions.  The mother said the ham was closest to her on the plate, the turkey tasted funny, they gave her too much lettuce, and she wanted to get to her pie.  The daughter insinuated no one should eat ham although she neither keeps kosher nor is a vegetarian -- she just knows no one should eat ham.  They should have ordered one salad and two plates, saving money and satisfied with their choices.

Fast food chains could adjust their menus for REDLIST patrons by serving hamburgers with Romaine lettuce on bread with no yeast nor malted barley.  GREENLIST items could include chicken dipped in egg and rice flakes, malt barley in the buns, and heavy on the sesame seeds.  People seek salad bars and health-food restaurants in an attempt to take nutrition seriously.  But just being raw and fresh does not make a dish jump onto both lists.  Beware of generalizations.

Allergy cookbooks often ban whole families of foods when one member proves to be a problem but their classifications are often invalid.  They group all apples as apples, but Red Delicious apples are REDLIST and Golden Delicious are GREENLISTREDLIST blue grapes and green grapes also spoil the grape family concept.  This came to my attention when a friend developed trouble with tomatoes.  She was told tomatoes belong to the nightshade family so she should avoid all of the nightshades.  However, although nightshade, itself, could be deadly, others in the family split.  GREENLISTs do not get regular tomatoes nor brown-skin potatoes, but they do get Italian plum tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, eggplant and okra.  By arbitrarily banishing the whole family, it limited her dietary choices unnecessarily and deprived her of some valuable low-cost foods.

Obviously there are similarities and divisions that make groups of foods acceptable or unacceptable to each pattern but the categories follow obscure biochemical distinctions instead of traditional botanical ones.  We must simply recognize this is yet another example of our planet's innate propensity for polarities.  Along with day and night, up and down, male and female, and a multitude of others, the REDLIST / GREENLIST dichotomy applies to all of the environment including us humans.  Fortunately, we have our muscle system to steer us. I would like to say something bland and conciliatory like, "As long as we are young and healthy, none of this need be taken too seriously" but I cannot.  Babies come into the world with their configurations firmly established.  If for whatever reason their immune systems are weak, difficulties show up immediately.  Problems with infant feeding are legendary. I was four months old when peaches (GREENLIST) became ripe in our area.  If my nursing GREENLIST mother ate one, I (REDLIST) broke out in a rash.

The ingredients listed on commercial infant formulas are mostly soy based.  That is fine for REDLIST babies but not GREENLISTs.  The soy is sometimes buffered with coconut oil to make it more GREENLIST.  Maybe soy with a different oil and then coconut oil with a different protein base would make it better for both.  Care must be taken that the soy be organic until the genetically modified soy can pass the muscle-function test.

It is shocking and sad that mothers' milk is not universal.  It matches the mother. If the mother and baby are the same, things are fine and you get a Madonna effect.  If they differ, several things can happen.  If the mother maintains her diet, the baby will have problems.  If the mother modifies her diet to match the baby, the baby will thrive and the mother will have her brain food affected.  This could lead to postpartum symptoms and people will tell her to "snap out of it."  Making diet changes may neither be the cause nor the cure for everything but it is the simplest place to start.

At the beach, I watched a slender, attractive REDLIST mother with her four-year old GREENLIST son and her year-old REDLIST daughter.  Thinking she might enjoy some adult conversation, I wandered over to ask some of my endless questions.  She said she had successfully nursed both children.  They obviously had strong, lovely bodies, clear skin, and eager attitudes.  I asked, since she had successfully nursed her GREENLIST son, had she by any chance been put on a nursing diet including skimmed milk, head lettuce, chicken, fish, low salt, etc.?  She smiled and said yes.  Then I asked about her mental health at that time.  Her face clouded over as she recalled the period as having been one of unbearable depression.  Then I asked if she had cheated on the diet while she nursed the little REDLIST daughter.  Her guilty grin made us both laugh.















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Copyright 2005 Margaret K. Chaney