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The LILI Letter, June 2024

Weight loss/wellness class & support group newsletter

Jennifer James
June 10, 2024
Beach chairs and a umbrella on a white sand beach

The Ogden Regional Medical Center / Heart Center, weight loss/wellness class & support group newsletter


Vacation time! A good chance to get away and do some fun and relaxing things while leaving the regular routine behind. A break to refresh and reset is not just welcome, but needed to maintain a positive outlook and our health. How dull life would be without any vacations. This month we observe the summer solstice, Juneteenth, Flag Day and appreciate our fathers on Father’s Day. Wishing you a rejuvenating month.  

In good health,

Jennifer James 

Success Story 

I recently started reading a book, “The Light Eaters”, which is about plants. This has nothing to do with humans, but is a roundabout “Success Story”. For a group of living organisms to colonize nearly the entire planet, rooted to one spot, is quite remarkable. Plants engineer various ways to spread and thrive, such as attaching dandelion seeds to fluff that the wind picks up and disperses, or covering a seed with a sweet fruit, so an animal will carry it off and eat it, discarding the seed elsewhere. We have all seen a plant thrive in a crack in the sidewalk, or on the edge of a cliff. They are obviously very adaptable and flexible in their circumstances.

A very hot area of research in the plant world is how they communicate with one another. You read that right. They communicate through chemical signals that are dispersed through the air, and through their root systems, with the help of fungi, which can attach to multiple trees.  When a plant is being devoured by insects, it will send out chemical signals to other plants of the same species to prepare for the pests, and the plants respond. One way the respond is to increase the amount of tannins in their leaves, making them very bitter and not as tasty, so the pests “buzz off”. They also don’t compete with their offspring for resources, and older trees send nutrients to seedlings via a fungal network. Mindboggling. 

I just started reading this book, so there is a lot more to it. In spite of that, there are a few things to ponder. Plants take their situation, adapt to it, and thrive. They also communicate with and help each other. They are a good example for humans, after all.

Yang, A. (2023, April 12). Plants can talk. Yes, really. Here’s how. National Geographic Society. Viewed 29 May , 2024 at Plants can talk. Yes, really. Here’s how. (

Schlanger, Z. (2024, May 7). The Light Eaters: How the Unseen Life of Plant Intelligence Offers a New Understanding of Life on Earth. Harper. 

Do You Really Know…Cabbage?

“Mon petit chou”. A French term of endearment, that literally means, “my little cabbage”. Cabbage, the ever-humble vegetable, has been cultivated for 3,000-4,000 years, from Europe to China. Part of the family “brassica”, it is related to kale, broccoli, cauliflower, etc. Wild cabbages did not form a head, this was selectively bred into the plant during the Middle Ages. There are at least 23 varieties of cabbage world-wide. It was considered a luxury in ancient Rome, and Caesar’s army wrapped wounds with the leaves to prevent infection. European sailors ate cabbages to prevent scurvy on long ocean voyages. High in vitamin C, it can be boiled, roasted, steamed, fried, sautéed, pickled and fermented. Try the easy Cabbage Roll Soup recipe for a quick supper, mon petit chou!

How Exercise Affects the Body

I think we can all agree that exercise is beneficial for us. Exactly how this happens has been a mystery on the molecular level. A massive research project, comprehensively investigating this topic, is now publishing their findings. The researchers were part of a national group, the Molecular Transducers of Physical Activity Consortium, set up by the National Institutes of Health, which funded the project. Since 2016, the researchers investigated how exercise impacts various tissues and organs, down to the molecular level inside the cells, including changes in DNA expression. One of the goals was to create a solid database for future research. 

The researchers used lab rats to study the changes during an 8-week exercise program. They gradually increased the amount of exercise (running on rat-sized treadmills) the animals performed. The results were compared to data from a group of sedentary rats. They sampled multiple cell and tissue types, along with biochemical data. This was not a human study, but it can provide guidance in designing future human studies. Because they used lab animals, more information could be collected than is possible when studying humans. 

Twenty-two types of tissue were studied. ALL were uniquely affected by exercise, even those not expected to respond. As many as 35,000 biological molecules changed as well. The researchers found 22 genes that changed their expression in six types of tissue. Gene expression was found to decrease for diabetes, kidney disease, heart disease, blood pressure and obesity. There were widespread differences between male and female rats, which highlighted the need to include both genders in research. The differences were seen in brain, lung, adrenal gland and fat tissues. For example, the males lost around 5% of their white fat tissue, the females did not, but experienced positive changes in the fat tissue that improved health. Stress hormones remained elevated longer in the males, but decreased in the females. 

Exercise affects the body (at least in rats) more deeply and extensively than previously thought. There will be some overlap with humans, since we are all mammals here. This research sets the stage for more human studies. Stay tuned.

Understanding how exercise affects the body | National Institutes of Health (NIH)

Conger, K. (2024, May 1). Scientists map the molecular changes linked to exercise and health. Stanford Report. Stanford University. Viewed online at,human%20diseases%20and%20tissue%20recovery.

National Institutes of Health (NIH). (2024, May 1). Endurance exercise affects all tissues of the body, even those not normally associated with movement. NIH Media advisory, viewed online at Endurance exercise affects all tissues of the body, even those not normally associated with movement | National Institutes of Health (NIH) 

Beans Under Attack 

I remember a little ditty from childhood, “Beans, beans, the musical fruit, the more you eat, the more you toot. The more you toot the better you feel, so eat some beans at every meal”. Dried beans, or legumes, such as black beans, chickpeas, and kidney beans, are part of some of the healthiest diets on the planet, and are a staple food of many cultures. They are a wonderful source of protein, fiber, carbohydrate and various minerals. I eat them regularly. 

Alas, this very healthy group of foods has been under attack, not just because they are high in carbohydrates, but because they contain an anti-nutrient called lectins. Lectins are created by the plants for protection against pests. There has been a lot of buzz about the dangers of lectins, and why we should avoid all the dangerous lectin-containing foods. The greatest danger is in eating raw or undercooked legumes. There have been reports of lectin poisoning from eating raw/undercooked legumes which cause nausea, vomiting and diarrhea. Nightshade vegetables, such as potatoes, tomatoes, eggplant and peppers contain smaller amounts of lectins, but not to the point of causing distress in the vast majority of people. 

Our digestive system can’t break down lectins. Some bind to the lining of the gut and cause inflammation. If they enter the blood stream, they may cause an immune response that sets the stage for chronic diseases, such as rheumatoid arthritis. They can bind to receptors on red blood cells and make them clump together. Pretty scary, right? 

Here’s the thing: cooking legumes to the point of being soft and edible destroys the lectins. Voila! Unless, of course, we make it a habit of breaking our teeth on raw dried beans, we have nothing to worry about. The World Health Organization (WHO) and our Food and Drug Administration (FDA) recommend soaking and cooking legumes to destroy lectins. The WHO recommends soaking for 12 hours and then boiling for at least 10 minutes. The FDA recommends a 5-hour soak followed by at least 30 minutes of cooking. Cooking legumes in a pressure cooker, such as an Instant Pot, to the point they are soft and edible destroys the lectins. 

So, my friends, do not let the headlines frighten you away from eating legumes. The only thing we need to worry about when we eat these nutritious foods is a little gas. Toot toot!

Franz, M. (2024, April). Antinutrients in foods. Today’s Dietitian, p. 28-32.

Sibonney, C. (2024, March 26). Nightshade vegetables aren’t actually bad for you. Time magazine. Viewed online at 

Bad Humans, No Biscuit! 

In one of the support groups recently, I asked the group if they could come up with a food found in nature, that was naturally high in sugar AND fat. We could think of foods naturally high in fat, like nuts and avocados. We thought of foods naturally high in sugar, like honey and fruit. But sugar and fat together? The only thing I could think of was milk made by mammals for their offspring. Whole milk contains both fat and sugar, designed for a growing calf, but it is lightly sweet. Coconut is high in fat, but unless it has been sweetened, is not necessarily high in sugar. We were stumped. 

We rarely see overweight wildlife, unless they are preparing for hibernation, like bears. Animals that live in cold climates have a thicker layer of fat for insulation. On the other hand, I have seen plenty of chubby dogs and cats, who don’t live in the Arctic, or go into hibernation. They are fed ultra-processed people food, develop a taste for it and then beg for it. Lab rats behave the same way. They limit their food intake on standard rat chow, but will balloon up on cookies, candy, chips, and the like. In a shuttle bus in Zion National Park, I saw a poster for “America’s #1 Rock Squirrel Diet”. The thought bubbles were “Don’t eat people food”, “You’ll live longer, lose weight, and bite fewer people”. “I lost 3 pounds and I feel great!”. Another great example of why this food is so unhealthy for us, and our animal buddies. 

Mother Nature is very wise. High levels of fat and sugar do not occur together in nature, from what I can tell. Throw in a sprinkling of salt and the taste trio is irresistible. These uber-tasty foods are a human invention with resulting devastating effects on human, and sometimes animal health. We don’t eat them for nourishment, we eat them for fun. I know I keep banging the drum (and my head against the wall) on eating whole, minimally processed foods, and avoiding, or at least limiting, these ultra-processed foods. Best if we don’t feed these foods to ourselves, our pets or wildlife. No one can resist. 

Cabbage Roll Soup 

This was originally a crock pot soup recipe, but since I gave away my crock pot, I decided to make it on the stove, with a few modifications. If you like cabbage rolls, you might like this too. It’s less fussy to make. 

½ pound lean ground turkey

½ medium-large onion, chopped

8-ounces shredded cabbage (half of a one-pound bag)

4 cups of water

3 tsp. Better than Bouillon beef or vegetable broth paste

2 cups low-sodium V-8, or 3 5.5-ounce cans

1 can, 14.5 ounces, stewed tomatoes, no salt added

1 cup of instant brown rice

Freshly ground black pepper 

  1. In a cooking pot or Dutch oven, brown the turkey, breaking it up as it cooks, add the onion, cooking until translucent, about 5 minutes.
  2. Add some freshly ground black pepper and the cabbage, cook and stir for a few minutes, then add the broth. Bring to a boil, turn down the heat to a simmer, cover and cook for about 5 minutes, or until the cabbage has softened.
  3. Add the vegetable juice and stewed tomatoes, breaking up any large pieces. Bring to a boil, add the rice, lower heat to a simmer, cover and simmer for 15-20 minutes, or until the rice is cooked. Add more broth if needed, adjust seasonings. Turn off heat and let stand for 30 minutes to an hour to blend flavors.

6 servings

190 calories, 325 mg sodium, 28 gm carbohydrate 

June Support Groups

Mondays, 2-3 pm, Heart Center Conference Room

        ORMC Medical Plaza, Suite #200

        Free to graduates of LILI and Breaking Barriers classes

You are what you eat, so don’t be

fast, cheap, easy or fake. ---Unknown

June 10, 2024
Ogden Regional Medical Center

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