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Friday, 22 January 2016

For the frequent flyer -- excerpt from my book 'The Best Things To Eat and Drink When You Fly' :)

Chapter 9 – Showing Up Alert, Fresh, and Ready

… I eat flowers now and birds come.

I eat care and things to love arrive.

I eat time and as I age

Whatever I swallow grows timeless. …

                                                              Mark Nepo, from ‘Surviving Has Made Me Crazy’

If you’ve ever doubted the power of positive words and thinking, I have just five words to say to you:

“Cabin crew, prepare for landing”!

Am I right or what? J

Hearing that announcement is like waving a magic wand over the whole planeful of weary travelers. All of our aches, pains, and ailments just seem to dissipate, if not disappear entirely! We find ourselves smiling at the ‘cute’ screaming babies across from us; chatting to the ‘nice chap’ in front of us who had his chair in our face the whole trip (@@); and even wishing the woman next to us, who kept dropping her litter on ‘our floorspace’, a wonderful trip!

In the 30+ years that I have been frequently flying, I haven’t once heard anyone say:

“Aww, shucks! Do I really need to get off the plane? Must I go…now?!”

Never!  Just anticipating getting off the plane fills us with joyful relief and exhilarating energy.  Mood-boosting hormones kick-in to help innervate our brains, strengthen our muscles, limber-up our bones, and release energy so we can make our way onto terra firma, and move forward to the places we have to be, the people we want to see, and the things we need to do! J

Happy Landing!
It’s a great start to the rest of your trip!  To keep that momentum going, your body will continue to work most effectively for you, if you’ve already been implementing information from previous chapters:

  1. Chapter 1—Having a good overview of the purpose and itinerary of your trip. Being as prepared and relaxed as possible
  2. Chapter 2 --Having an understanding of a balanced diet and doing your best to follow sensible Dietary Guidelines
  3. Chapter 3—Controlling your weight; being and getting healthy and fit.
  4. Chapter 4 – Following dietary tips to control inevitable flatulence that occurs with air travel, minimizing effects and discomfort
  5. Chapter 5 – Staying optimally hydrated
  6. Chapter 6 – Being mindful of the dietary factors that optimize gastrointestinal function and minimize, manage, and control g.i. dysfunction
  7. Chapter 7 – Executing advice on exercise, movements, and nutritional recommendations to optimize bone and joint flexibility/mobility and muscle strength and agility and to minimize/prevent clot and circulation issues
  8. Chapter 8 – Implementing tips to minimize and best-manage jet lag, headaches, and vertigo

With all of the above going for you, I can’t guarantee 100% you won’t encounter indigestion, achy joints, constipation/diarrhea, unbearable dry mouth, a sudden wave of exhaustion, a bothersome headache, or a bout of dizziness, but honestly, I feel confident that the likelihood of untoward events will be much less if you’ve applied the above information, as needed, to help you fly better.  You will be so thankful, too, to arrive at your new destination feeling good and looking great. 

But there’s more! J

In this last chapter, I’d like to pass on some diet-related information that may help you feel even better than just ‘good’. Upon arrival or soon thereafter, being more conscious of making the following dietary choices can help you ‘show up’ to your meeting or excursion feeling ‘detoxed’, more alert and sharp-minded, fresh and refreshed, renewed, and ready!

Super Flyer
‘Detoxing’ and Diet

Certain nutrients-- and foods sources of these nutrients-- have been identified as being helpful in ridding our bodies of harmful, unnecessary, or foreign substances.

It first has to be said that if a person is consuming a healthy, balanced diet, it’s highly likely that these key detoxifying nutrients are already being provided!  Because the best ‘detox’ diet is one that nourishes you with the ideal mix of macronutrients (protein, carbohydrate, fat, and calories), vitamins, minerals, trace elements, and electrolytes that you optimally need (not too much, not too little) from a variety of wholesome foods and beverages and, of course, optimal fluid, so as to sustain a healthy body weight, strong bones and joint mobility, and uber-functioning organs and systems.  Remember, your liver, kidneys, lungs, skin, and intestines, when healthy and working well, rid the body very nicely of any and all excessive substances and excrement.  

So, there is a high likelihood of obtaining all the detoxifying nutrients that have been found helpful when you are already consuming a balanced, healthy, varied diet! In fact, this is a key concept to grasp when evaluating true detoxification plans and principles from popular advertised ‘cleanses’ and ‘detox’ regimes that advocate juice-type fasts or combinations of broths, spices, and other ingredients which claim to ‘empty’ your body of harmful substances. Often, these popular hyped practices are not evidence-based and have no more added advantage than just getting a person to avoid/stop ingesting overly-processed foods that are high in additives, refined sugars, and trans-fatty acids. Doing this, alone, will help you feel better! Ironically, too, large ‘doses’ of juices contain hefty amounts of sugar which may not be needed by the body at all, especially at the expense of denying you important protein and good fatty acids needed for health and true detoxification processes. Alternatively, high-protein, zero-carbohydrate type ‘cleanses’, as well as total fasts may result in increasing the risk of gallstones and/or poor organ function, even organ failure if the kidneys get overloaded. So, please be mindful of these facts when you feel the need to detoxify! The main goal should be to optimally nourish your body, which, in turn, keeps the integrity of your organs and their functions, intact.

A fit, healthy body is your amazing, already-built-in, best detoxification plan!

Now, having said all that, for the duration of a flight (1/2 day to 12-13 hours), if you are healthy, if you already are used to consuming a healthy, balanced diet, and if you want to take the opportunity to do a ‘semi-fast’ – avoiding the airplane food, drinking your required fluids, and only taking fruit or the odd handful of nuts or other snack from your ZB (ziplock bag) – that should be perfectly fine as a sort of ‘detox’, and, as I mentioned in Chapter 8, often helps with jet lag.

Dietitians working in integrative and functional medicine, have affirmed that many individuals ‘at risk’ because of exposures to various chemicals (like those of us who frequently fly have!), or poor diet, or genetic predisposition, could benefit from a form of ‘detoxification diet’.  True ‘detox’ diets and protocols are in their infancy and still-emerging, but there’s evidence to suggest that specific nutrients and substances have an important function in helping rid the body of various unwanted, unnecessary, and toxic substances.  ‘Toxins’ are known as xenobiotics and endotoxins and are chemical substances that are foreign to the human body.  Cigarette smoke and charbroiled meats used to be considered the main toxins to the body. In the past fifty years, however, it’s estimated that tens of thousands of new synthetic compounds have been introduced in the environment that are exposing us to many more ‘foreign’ substances that may be toxic – from pollution, to various chemical compounds in the many toiletries we use, to the increase use of plastics in everyday products, to the many additives, preservatives, parabens, and heavy metals, like mercury and lead, in our food supply – in wholesome food, by the way, as well as in overly-processed, typical ‘junk foods’.  At this point in time, despite our age-old, already-built-in, remarkable natural ability to detoxify our bodies, it doesn’t hurt to be aware of these increased exposures and to use our knowledge to assist, facilitate, and expedite the process of detoxifying, especially for those of us that are more exposed than others or at a higher risk because of illness, genetic predisposition, or clearly already showing untoward effects!

Helpful Diet Information to ‘Detox’ Frequent Flyers
I’d like to take this opportunity to highlight great food sources that contain detoxifying nutrients.  Try to consciously make an effort to add some of these items to your dietary intake, shortly after you’ve disembarked from your flight(s).  Ingestion of foods that contain these nutrients and substances could be helpful for those of us who frequently fly who want to ‘mop up’ the possible ‘toxins’ we’ve unwittingly been exposed to at airports and on airplanes (cosmic radiation, fumes of jet fuel, re-cycled cabin air, unwelcome microorganisms in the crowded plane), through the compensatory physiological processes our body experience while flying, and from extra stresses we may be having from our flight travels.

Glutathione is a powerful antioxidant and the body’s master detoxifying substance. It is necessary for all complex, but efficient processes that rid the body of toxins. It contains a high number of sulfur groups which act like ‘sticky tape’ which various toxins like to adhere to, which, in turn, makes it easier for them to be carried and flushed out of the body through various organ processes. Glutathione also recycles other antioxidants – very handy property in maximizing the beneficial effects of ingesting a total, balanced diet! The best food sources of glutathione are cruciferous vegetables, like cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, etc.(see link below for complete list), onions, and garlic. Cruciferous vegetables can cause flatulence, so you wouldn’t want to eat them on the plane, but, they are also extremely rich in phytochemicals which help bind toxic ‘chemicals’ to rid and detoxify. So, as soon as you’re off the plane, you can eat these foods again! Woo hoo! Glutathione is also found in whey protein, thus, non-fat dairy products, egg-whites, and whey protein powder are also excellent sources.  Moreover, exercise has been shown to help release more glutathione into the body.

Foods rich in antioxidants, like berries, green leafy vegetables – actually -- most fruits and vegetables are also great detoxifying agents.  So, again, look for ways to keep your intake of vegetables and fruits regular and plentiful.  Artichokes and watercress have been found to be particularly high in antioxidant power. Apples are a great source of flavonoids, which are also important molecules that help detoxify the body. Certain items, such as, pomegranate contain a specific substance (ellagic acid), that have high detoxifying power. Tea is also rich in antioxidants, especially green tea.  Foods that are high in fiber are also important, as it helps with regulating bowel habits. Brown rice has been pointed out as being particularly helpful in ridding the body of fat-soluble toxins. Brown rice is also an excellent source of B-vitamins. Foods, such as whole-grains, which are rich in B-vitamins, are important in all detoxifying processes. Turmeric/curcumin has also been found to have detoxifying properties.

So, it’s actually easy to incorporate some tasty, but detoxifying foods after getting off the plane! Here’s some ideas to get you going:

--Have an omelette made with broccoli and feta or part-skim mozzarella cheese (even better, an egg-white omelette) with some whole wheat toast

--Get a ‘green smoothie’ made with green-tea, plain low-fat yogurt, kale or watercress, a green apple, perhaps with a tablespoon or two of whey protein powder or a berry smoothie

--Enjoy a salmon hot noodle pot or a tasty bowl of miso soup

--Order cauliflower soup or better yet, a cauliflower curry with brown rice

--Just get a nice cup of green tea

--Continue to drink the best detoxifying beverage -- water!

As you can see, all of the above fits in so very well with just making healthy, balanced choices based on wholesome, delicious foods all in accordance with recommendations! I have simply pointed out even more specific items that have been associated with the process of detoxification of the body! In choosing detoxifying foods, you will automatically avoid refined sugars, foods high in trans-fats, and foods high in additives. Do try to keep up with sweat-producing exercise and you’ll enhance your overall ‘cleansing’ plan!

There have been suggestions, in the literature, to take glutathione and the pre-cursor of glutathione, N-acetyl cysteine(NAC), in supplement form, but, in my opinion, if you are consciously making better dietary choices, you get the added benefit of increasing your sources of fiber, antioxidants, and other substances that help to detoxify your body, which is much better than the isolated molecule.  For some people, glutathione and/or NAC supplements may be in order, but I would definitely check with your doctor or dietitian to see if it’s clearly needed!

Increase Mental Alertness
Foods and nutrients that improve cognitive function, coordination, memory, and mood are extremely welcome as we exit an exhausting, disorienting long-haul flight or, even, an energy-zapping, mind-numbing short-duration jaunt!  Foods high in antioxidants (such as anthocyanin, luteolin, epicatechin), foods rich in brain anti-inflammatory substances (such as omega-3-fatty acids and, again, luteolin), foods rich in the amino acid, tyrosine, foods rich in choline, foods and beverages that have caffeine (yay!)

Anthocyanins are found in blackberries, blueberries, strawberries, red grapes, red cabbage, and red onions. I see a theme here! J If you’re a berry-person, go for it! There’s so many good berry juice products available today.  Although I normally would recommend eating fruits versus fruit juices, after disembarking a plane, it’s one time where a brain-boosting shot of blueberry, strawberry, or mixed-berry juice would be a great antidote to your drowsy mood.  Go grab yourself a berry smoothie! By all means, if you can get a bowl of fresh berries, that would be lovely, too!

Luteolin is a flavonoid that has been shown to improve memory and reduce brain inflammation.  It is found in celery hearts, carrots, broccoli, citrus fruits, peppers, beets, peppermint, oregano, basil, olive oil, chamomile tea, and get this – parsley, sage, rosemary, and thyme! So, whether you have your ZB (ziplock bag) with carrot sticks and orange halves or you want to add generous sprigs of herbs to your eggs and post-flight meal, know that these items can help sharpen your mind and keep you alert!

Epicatechins are flavonoids found in dark chocolate.  How perfect is that? It’s easy and delicious to grab a piece or two of dark chocolate (at least 65% cocoa) when you are in transit. You don’t need to eat alot – about 60 grams, and no more than 85 grams of dark chocolate (which is the amount in one or two pieces) – should do the trick without adding too much fat or calories.

Omega-3-fatty acids have already been mentioned a few times, so I think you get the point that foods containing these powerful anti-inflammatory agents are crucial to great health!  These, of course, are found in oily fish, such as salmon and sardines, oils, such as canola and soybean, walnuts, and flaxseeds, all of which should not be too difficult to get if you add walnuts and flaxseeds to salads and oatmeal, for example, choose oily fish meals as often as possible, and use dressings and omega-3-fatty acid rich oils.

Tyrosine is an important building block of neurotransmitters and is a nonessential amino acid, which means the body makes it (except if you have phenylketonuria) from the amino acid phenylalanine. But, there is evidence that including tyrosine-rich foods in the diet boosts levels of tyrosine in the body and this can enhance brain function, especially during periods of stress and sleep deprivation.  Need I say more, frequent flyers?! Rich sources of tyrosine are soy products, chicken, turkey, fish, peanuts, almonds, avocados, bananas, milk, cheese, yogurt, cottage cheese, lima beans, pumpkin seeds, and sesame seeds. So, there’s enough variety there that give us plenty of options to choose, either from any restaurant menu, corner food shop, or supermarket we pass through or in our own, easy-to-pack ZB supply!  How about a bowl of yogurt or cottage cheese with wheat germ, walnuts, and berries? Make your selections nutritious and delicious!

Choline is a substance that is necessary for the synthesis of phospholipids and healthy cell membranes, especially our sensitive brain cell membranes. It is found mainly in foods high in lecithin, such as egg yolks and whole eggs, organ meats, soybeans, wheat germ, and whole wheat products. So, making a point of including eggs regularly, choosing whole wheat breads, pasta, and cereals, and snacking on edamame and dry-roasted soybeans would be an excellent way to boost your brain function when travelling.

Caffeine is a known stimulant.  So, if you’re a coffee drinker, don’t forget to enjoy your cup or two as you head out to be where you need to be (as if I had to remind you J)! Add a square or two of your dark chocolate with your coffee and life just gets better and better!  If you’re not a coffee drinker, tea is perfectly fine and also contains caffeine, perhaps not as much as in coffee, but, certainly enough to wake-up and stimulate mental capacity! Both coffee and tea have potent antioxidants, too! And, if you’re neither a coffee or tea drinker, you can still enjoy your dark chocolate, just for the caffeine – right? Caffeine is also found in soft drinks, and, although, I admit, soda is not the healthiest beverage – if it is consumed in moderation and to help you enjoy other healthy foods and as a source of hydration, go for it!

Just being aware of foods and nutrients that boost your brain function will subconsciously prime you to consciously look out for these foods and include them in your dietary intake soon after arrival. Moreover, it’s nice to know that these choices known for boosting alertness, memory, and cognitive ability fit very nicely with foods that aid in detoxifying your body!  This makes life easier and that’s always a plus!

Freshen Up!
These last tips are all about arriving at your destination feeling good and looking even better than you imagined! The following information will help you with freshening your breath, whitening your teeth, and getting that healthy glow!

Fresh Breath
Fresh breath is reliant on great oral hygiene and your intestinal flora.

Oral Hygiene
Firstly, if you know you will have a busy, non-stop frequent-flying schedule – get yourself booked in for a dental check-up. Unheeded cavities and pockets of dental decay are not only sources of foul bacterial overgrowth and odor, but it’s well known that changes in altitude can cause these holes to trap gas which results in exacerbation of foul bacteria, possible infections, and pain. L So, having cavities filled, infections treated and healed, and teeth cleaned will prevent sources of odor. Brushing and flossing your teeth before or soon after arrival helps, too. Don’t forget to brush your tongue, too! Rinsing your mouth with a solution of water and baking soda can neutralize bad breath. If you have any baking soda left from you ZB stash (it helps with neutralizing stomach acidity and heartburn, too!), now’s the time to use it up for another good purpose.  Diluted peroxide is an alternative mouthwash, too. Most flight attendant medical kits have peroxide, so you can always (nicely) ask for some, if necessary.

Intestinal Flora
If you’ve been trying to follow dietary recommendations already given – especially regarding control of flatulence (Chapter 4) and gastrointestinal issues (Chapter 5), your gut bacterial flora will already be in check and low in those microorganisms that fuel putrid mouth and breath vapors that emanate from deep inside your digestive tract.  Optimal hydration (Chapter 6) further assures dilution and excretion of particles that cause odor.

Dietary Tips That Directly Help Neutralize and Banish Bad Breath
There are many ways that dietary sources can help neutralize bad breath, such as:

  1. Optimal hydration and drinking plenty of water
  2. Chew on fresh or dried herbs, especially parsley and mint
  3. Chew on dried fennel seeds or cardamom pods
  4. Drink herbal and spiced teas, especially peppermint, ginger, cinnamon, chia teas
  5. Berries, citrus fruits, and melon as these all neutralize breath odors. Even sucking on a lemon or adding lemon to your water and tea helps
  6. Crunchy fruits and vegetables, especially apples, celery, and carrots increase saliva production which helps to rid mouth of foul-smelling bacteria
  7. Yogurt, buttermilk, kefir, and foods with active cultures also helps to neutralize strong odors
  8. In a pinch, chewing sugarless gum also increases saliva production and can help decrease bad breath

Dietary Tips That Can Help Clean and Whiten Teeth
Nothing beats a professional cleaning and whitening process. Teeth-whitening strips can also come in handy and, of course, brushing with whitening toothpaste and flossing your teeth, but soon after landing there are some natural tips that can help get teeth feeling and looking clean and bright:

  1. Chewing crunchy fruits and vegetables, such as apples (also contain a natural teeth-whitening acid called malic acid) and celery
  2. Eating some pineapple! Pineapple contains bromelain, which has been found to be an effective stain-removing compound for teeth
  3. Strawberries, similarly, contain a teeth-whitening acid, called malic acid
  4. Eating raw broccoli has been shown to help clean and polish teeth
  5. Chewing raisins stimulates saliva and neutralizes bacteria in the mouth while removing stains
  6. Lactic acid in cheese protects against tooth decay and helps clean teeth

These dietary tips, together with getting some quality sleep, managing jet lag, and lastly – cleaning and moisturizing your face, hands, legs, and arms (this is for BOTH men and women!) -- will help you show up feeling refreshed and looking radiant!

And very lastly, three key points are important to help you arrive as clean, coherent, and fresh as possible:

  1. If you can arrange arriving a day early to acclimate yourself before your ‘official’ business or vacation begins, that’s ideal.
  2. Practice good hand-washing or use an alcohol-based hand gel (at least 60% alcohol) to avoid picking up or spreading infections.
  3. ALWAYS keep in mind the travel advisories regarding compromised food and water-supply hygiene whenever you make choices involving vegetables, fruits, and or raw, uncooked, unpasteurized foods and beverages of any kind, when applicable, especially in countries with known issues.

I Bid You A Fine, Frequent-Flyer Farewell….For Now
The best things to eat and drink when you fly do not fall out of the sky and onto your plates and into your cups. I know it takes forethought, strategic planning, conscious decision-making, discipline and reigning in impulses, and good sleep and stress management.  But, the benefits of traveling and arriving well are so worth it!

I have done my utmost to gather together evidence-based information, but, also practical tips to help make your flying experiences more comfortable, healthier, and pleasant.  My goal was to make the information accessible and available to you in one handy reference. I have tried to cover the issues that, in my opinion and experience, are of greatest concern and have the most impact for flyers in truly making your travels easier and most effective. As much ground as I have covered, I realize there may be many issues still ‘up in the air’ (hopefully, that will be the last of my unintended puns J). Perhaps, there is a concern or two that you may have that I have not addressed in this book.  Thus, I invite you to feel free to contact me re: The Best Things To Eat and Drink When You Fly at  I will do my best to help you with your particular issue. I am busy gathering specific information on what and where to find optimal food and drink at several international airports. I can make that list more complete with your help, so please email me with your experiences and suggestions. Additionally, I am still active in contacting airlines on how they can best serve the flying public when it comes to delivering more nutritious, yet delicious and appropriate meal options as well as special meal requests. I would also appreciate hearing from you about your meals and meal service experiences with airlines, and restaurant and food/drink tips about different airports you fly in and out of – photos highly appreciated!  The pressure on airports and airlines to supply and deliver tastier, more convenient, yet healthier options will be ever evolving, as supply resonates more with increasing demand, so I anticipate we have an active, but exciting ‘journey’ ahead on those fronts!  Bring it on!

And, if by chance, in your frequent flying travels, you find yourself sitting, standing, or walking next to me, don’t hesitate to say hello. Perhaps, we can make our way to the green-tea Greek-yogurt smoothie counter, together!  I look forward with great pleasure to meeting you! J.  Till then:

“May the road rise up to meet you
May the wind be always at your back
May the sun shine warm upon your face
And the rain fall soft upon your fields
And until we meet again
May God hold you in the palm of his hand”
                                                                    ― Irish Blessings


Eat Right – Traveling Home and Abroad

How diet protects the brain.

Brain foods: the effect of nutrients on brain function.

Brain food: superfoods to improve your cognitive function.

Harris,J and Warde, F. The little book of chocolat. Doubleday, 2014.

Granola on the go.

Hand hygiene in health-care settings.

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