Bacon or Blueberries? The Questionable Practicality of Heart-Healthy Foods

Credit: ccavinesscc

Credit: ccavinesscc

After working directly with a few of BudgetDoc’s osteopaths, I’ve become seriously motivated to start eating better. In the past I avoided fad dieting, calorie counting, cholesterol monitoring and sugar measuring with great intensity.

But a perfect storm of discomfort physical (belly: 1, top-button of jeans: 0), emotional (best friend died of a heart attack at 45) and mental (my lack of focus had become appalling) was enough to push me over the edge.

I started slow … canned foods were kidnapped from my cupboard at an alarming rate. Cheap sandwich bread was replaced with Dave’s Killer Bread. And push-ups weaseled their way onto my scheduling tool thrice weekly.

And its been working. But now that the low-hanging fruit has been harvested, it’s time to grab a ladder and start tackling the harder stuff: like eating food that better for my heart. Which brings me back to my original question: Bacon or Blueberries?

Harvard breaks it down by category.

“Avoid the following:

  1. Processed Meats (bacon, hot dogs, sausages, lunch meat, etc…)
  2. Highly refined and processed grains and carbohydrates (Wonder Bread anyone?)
  3. Soft drinks and other sugary drinks (basically every drink other than bottled water for sale in 7-11)

Eating Well magazine takes a different approach, with their “avoid these foods” list:

  1. Trans Fat – packaged snacks (potato chips)
  2. Saturated Fat – butter, sour cream
  3. Salt
  4. Added sugars

So my longtime culinary affair with bacon is in danger of being exposed …. it’s processed and packed with salt, all sorts of glorious fat, and a bit of sugar if I’m feeling Maple-y. The basic tenet of overcoming any addiction is to focus more on replacement then removal.

So what are the heart healthy foods?

Credit: Martin LaBar (going on hiatus) cc

Credit: Martin LaBar (going on hiatus) cc

Health magazine and WebMD’s lists are very similar, and jam-packed with fruits, vegetables, and some super foods such as flax seeds or coffee. After digging into several more lists, blueberries kept popping up. So I picked up some Quaker Old Fashioned Oats and some dried bulk blueberries, and dove head-first into my much-improved breakfast routine.

Now I crave oatmeal and blueberries fortnightly – but I daydream about bacon, that heart assassin daily. I’ve already added / increased my intake of the so-called superfoods (which I’m convinced is just a covert way for the grocery store to triple their price). Here’s a mash-up of the super hero foods, in no particular order

  • Tofu - uhhh, yeah, that ain’t gonna happen
  • Soy Milk – have you tasted that stuff?
  • Blueberries - nearly 10 bucks a pound. Yup.
  • Carrots – I can handle that
  • Spinach – last time I bought a huge bundle of this stuff, it reduced down to something like that looked like a used wad of chew … tasty, but … yeah.
  • Broccoli – awesome … with its super un-healthy nemesis – ranch dressing
  • Peppers - my stomach lining would likely tell the heart to piss off
  • Sweet Potato - baby food … except when in a pie form laden with heart murdering brown sugar
  • Asparagus - I love the stuff, but hate the price
  • Oatmeal - my old standby … poor student’s food at best, especially with a hunk of butter (evil) and brown sugar (super-villian)
  • Brown Rice - no sure if the $1.49 a pound Basmati rice counts as ‘whole grain’ but brown rice always tastes like undercooked cheap fast food rice.
  • Red Wine - sorry, but I’m a vodka guy.
  • Coffee - really?!?! these same experts have been crying about the over-caffeination of Americans for a decade-plus now. Lesser of the evils perhaps?

The Verdict

So in the superfood / supervillian death match, who will reign victorious: bacon or blueberries? I call it a draw.

I’ll give oatmeal and blueberries Mondays and Wednesdays, bacon and eggs Tuesdays and Thursdays, and Fridays a coffee and flaxseed muffin (I *think* those exist).

And Saturday and Sundays? Whatever cures my hangover from drinking a week’s worth of wine in one night.

That’s okay right?

Heh, heh, anyways, you should consult your doc before taking any advice from a superfluous man with poor self control and a public addiction to beer, bacon and butter. 

April 2014 Blog Digest

arthritis 2What’s The Deal With Cracking My Knuckles?  Is It Harmful?

Lifehacker provides this Q&A which says “usually not” in response to rumors of knuckle cracking causing arthritis.  When is your paranoia justified?  Read the article to find out.


Diary Of A Healthcare Spy

A collection of stories that seeks to establish a dialogue based on the themes and problems of healthcare reform.  Join the dialogue, read the stories, and leave your comments.

Activity Tracker Smackdown!

As activity and sleep tracker wristbands become more popular, who else but the NYT well blog would take it upon themselves to test and rate all of them? In this article, they compare Nike Fuel-bands, Fitbit Trackers, BodyMedia Armbands, the Jawbone UP and a few others.  Which has the features you want at the price you want?  You know where to go to find out.

Physician Responds to Obama Care Holistically

Dr. Larson of Austin OFM opened a subscription based practice earlier this year.  Find out more about direct primary care and osteopathic treatments right here on


Last week I had the challenge of preparing a meal without dairy. The menu: mashed potatoes, surf & turf, and asparagus. Initially, I didn’t think much of it. Except when I instinctively grabbed butter, whole milk and sour cream for the potatoes, melted down butter and garlic for a dipping sauce, and added butter to the asparagus to keep it from sticking. Needless to say, we made two separate meals. And it got me to thinking about milk, and it’s controversial role in the health and wellness space.

Here’s a recap of recent opinions and findings on the classic white food.

You’re Drinking the Wrong Kind of Milk

A slew of new evidence on the cause for milk and lactose allergies has popped up recently. The core topic of the discussion hinges on the difference between A1 and A2 milk. In layman’s terms, milk from regular Holstein cows in Europe and America create the A1 protein which is though to be the driving force behind the colossal increase in milk allergies in the US. Other cows produce the A2 protein which . Proponents of A2 milk claim that A1 milk can cause (or worsen) diabetes, arthritis and even autism. Regardless of the lack of mind-altering evidence, numerous dairies in the US have stopped breeding A1 milk cows, in favor of A2 cows. One company in Australia has been mass-producing A2 milk after extensive testing in rats showed that it didn’t trigger lactose intolerance.

I’m guessing this will put a different spin on our attitudes towards the popular steak sauce as well, but we’ll save the off-flavor jokes for a different post. 

(Source: Mother Jones

Milk Allergy? Now What?

Milk now top the list as the most common allergy in the US. As a child I was incorrectly diagnosed with a milk allergy and suffered under Mocha Mix for cereal. As a teenager I caved, and guzzle cow’s milk down like booze at an open bar. Today’s alternatives are much more appealing:

  • Soy Milk
  • Almond Milk
  • Coconut Milk
  • Hemp Milk
  • … and a bunch of others (this article cites alternatives such as quinoa milk, oat milk, and potato milk, 7-Grain milk (from oats, rice, wheat, barley, triticale, spelt and millet) and sunflower milk.

PERSONALLY: Soy milk, though the most common, isn’t appearing en masse on store shelves (yet) – not a fan. I’ve tried almond milk, but only enjoy it in coffee or sweet baked goods. My sister swears by the stuff though. Coconut milk (the cheap canned variety) has been a constant companion in Indian and Thai cooking but seems a bit strange in a bowl of cereal.

The most cutting insight culled from the article: none of the milk alternatives packs the nutrition punch that cow’s milk boasts

(Source: Medical News Today)

 California: The Land of Milk & Honey No More

As a native to California, dealing with drought sits right down there with ignoring (most) earthquakes. An occasional annoyance. However, the recent drought here has had devastating effects on milk and honey production. The growing demand for milk from organic, grass-fed cows is difficult to meet when the grass is crunchy. Less rain means less nectar production. An less nectar production means bees start dying.

Be on the lookout for increased prices on organic milk and honey, especially if you’re in the western U.S.

Source (


Health Benefits Of Yoga

And where to practice yoga in San Antonio and Austin

noun: a Hindu spiritual and ascetic discipline, a part of which, including breath control, simple meditation, and the adoption of specific bodily postures, is widely practiced for health and relaxation.  From sanskrit for union

photo credit: torbakhopper via photopin cc

photo credit: torbakhopper via photopin cc

As per the definition, yoga is typically practiced for health reasons.  Just what reasons are they?

Yoga is an ancient practice, so rather than repeat what’s been said about it already, let’s hear from some experts:

Benefits of Yoga

“Yoga is a healing system of theory and practice. The purpose of yoga is to create strength, awareness and harmony in both the mind and body,” explains Natalie Nevins, DO, a board-certified osteopathic family physician and certified Kundalini Yoga instructor in Hollywood, Calif. “As an osteopathic physician, I focus a lot of my efforts on preventive medicine and practices, and in the body’s ability to heal itself. Yoga is a great tool for staying healthy because it is based on similar principles.”

“The relaxation techniques incorporated in yoga can lessen chronic pain, such as lower back pain, arthritis, headaches and carpal tunnel syndrome,” explains Dr. Nevins. “Yoga can also lower blood pressure and reduce insomnia.”

According to Dr. Nevins, other physical benefits include:

  • Increased flexibility
  • Increased muscle strength and tone
  • Improved respiration, energy and vitality
  • The maintenance of a balanced metabolism
  • Weight reduction
  • Cardio and circulatory health
  • Improved athletic performance
  • Protection from injury

- Source: American Osteopathic Association

Dr. Nevins also stresses in the article above that it is possible for anyone to start practicing yoga. There’s too many options out there for “I can’t even touch my toes” to be an excuse.

Head over to the Huffington Post for a few more unexpected benefits of Yoga.

Find a Yoga studio in San Antonio

Find a Yoga studio Austin

Physician Responds to Obamacare Holistically

 Austin Osteopathic Family Medicine reveals a natural alternative to the Affordable Care Act.

Austin, TX (PRWEB) March 11, 2014

With the recent passing of the Affordable Care Act, the self-employed and employees of small businesses of less than fifty employees are left with few attractive options. This demographic is beginning to explore other options including alternative medicine.

Scandinavians and Australians have been early adopters of alternative therapies with 1 in 4 Danes utilizing some form of non-traditional medicine, and over half of Australians. Sadly, the United States didn’t even crack the Top 10 on either lists.

However, the most widely accepted form of alternative medicine in the United States, osteopathy, can now be found in many major hospitals. Ten-percent of doctors nationwide are licensed as Doctors of Osteopathy. Their training regimen and residency requirements parallel that of Medical Doctors (MD’s) with additional training concerning the anatomy of the body and osteopathic manipulative techniques.

dr-larson-treating-patientOne of these osteopaths, Dr. Chris Larson, started Austin Osteopathic Family Medicine (Austin OFM) last December in Austin, Texas, after leaving a lucrative career in the financial services.

He’s extended the alternative approach even further, by not accepting any form of health insurance, opting instead for a direct primary care, subscription-based model. Even his high-end plans run less than $100 per month.

By coupling this approach with a lower cost, high-deductible catastrophic plan plus Health Savings Account, patients are seeing hundreds (and in some cases thousands) of dollars in annual savings. The catastrophic plan also provides a safety net in case of an accident or illness that requires a hospital stay.

Dr. Larson elaborates, “We are attempting to return to the old doctor patient relationship, which includes longer, more personalized visits. My patients truly appreciate being seen on time, not being rushed, and knowing the cost of their treatment before the visit begins.”

Small business owners, especially startups with only a handful of employees, would be well-served to explore direct primary care and osteopathy as a best value and higher service option in this new era of health care.


Blog Digest: March 2014

320px-Swan_with_nine_cygnets_3Spring is right around the corner, so to celebrate, here’s a rundown of how to take advantage of the season, along with the latest health news:

Stealing Moments to Play

Confessions of a Dr. Mom has this article encouraging you to make time for your kids to play.  As she puts it: “Free play time is definitely a necessity. Not a luxury to put off for some future unknown date.”

But she knows it’s not always easy to make time for play among all the rest of a child’s, or your, daily activities.  Follow the link to read some ideas that will make it easier.

The Perils of Toughing It Out

From the New York Times’ Well Blog, here’s an article that reminds us that while pain, chronic or otherwise, is often viewed as an inevitable consequence of aging, we have enough resources available that simply toughing it out shouldn’t be the only option.

Whether the pain is product of arthritis, chronic disease, or something entirely different, your doctor can help you find the right treatment.  Read this article to learn more about when you should see your doctor about chronic pain, the dangers of ignoring it, or why merely compensating with reduced activity is not enough.

House Calls are Back

Fresh off the BudgetDoc presses, this article invites you to consider calling your doctor to your home in lieu of an office visit.  With all the health care reform going on on capitol hill and across the country, many doctors nationwide are responding with a “back-to-basics” attitude, including taking on fewer patients through the direct primary care model, or simply taking the time to make themselves available for house calls.

It might seem like a luxury to you.  To your doctor, it’s their job.  The best part?  You can find doctors that make house calls in San Antonio and Austin right here in the BudgetDoc directory.

Just a Flesh Wound

This article may not be for the faint of heart.  Is it another cautionary tale about stubbornly toughing out pain until your life is in danger, or is it a story about PBS NewsHour correspondent Miles O’Brien’s surprisingly upbeat attitude in the face of losing a limb?

You decide.

Dadhacker: The Surprising Benefits of Exercise

To end on a final note of levity and glorious springtime, here’s an article from Lifehacker that points out some benefits of even the simplest exercise programs aren’t the most obvious ones, but will make you smile nonetheless.  Enjoy!


Credit: Life Magazine 1948

House Calls are Back

A Hollywood Housecall

A Hollywood Housecall

Remember that scene in As Good as it Gets when Egon (I mean the late Harold Ramis, of course) shows up to Carol the waitress’ home to diagnose her son. Carol and her mother’s giddy, overwhelmed reaction to his visit acted as a stark reminder of how much modern Americans long for the good ‘ole days when you could skip the clipboards, insurance cards, and snot-infested waiting rooms, and the doctor would just swing by your home to check in.

Until recently, getting a housecall from a doctor implied a wealthy one-percenter or an elderly patient with platinum-level health insurance. Composing nearly half of the healthcare appointment, home visits tapered down almost completely during the 70′s and 80′s. In the 1990′s, a brief resurgence of housecalls was annihilated due to strict legislation imposed on healthcare organizations (especially those focused on geriatric housecalls) during the recession.

No more. With the growing trend of direct primary care docs, and a health conscious population, home visits are coming back. Some physicians opt to go this route to eliminate the need for an office, while others are simply responding to the increasing insistence on quality health care. It also proves quite useful when diagnosing an illness that may be linked to allergens found in the home.

Credit: Life Magazine 1948

Credit: Life Magazine 1948

A handful of these neo-traditionalist healthcare professionals have taken it a step further, and offer site visits to businesses. Small businesses (especially tech startups) fall under the 50-employee threshold and aren’t *required* to provide health insurance. However, retaining good talent in the tech world can be a full-time job in and of itself, and bringing a physician on-site to address health concerns in the workplace is one perk that is mutually beneficial – the employees receive highly convenient care, while employers improve retention while reducing lost time due to illness and doctor’s appointments.

Even here in central Texas, some of the doctors in our directory offer home visits and office calls. Nationwide forward-thinking medical practices with longstanding housecall services, have been growing dramatically (see NBC segment filmed last week)

So what do you think?

Would you like to receive a house visit from you doctor? Or an office visit?

What Is Direct Primary Care?

In short, direct primary care allows you to pay your doctor directly, without the middleman of a health insurance company.  This model eliminates the overhead caused by dealing with health insurance companies, resulting in many benefits for doctors and patients alike, including:

  • Shorter wait times for appointments and at the office
  • Longer visits with your doctor
  • Low cost monthly subscriptions for regular physicals
  • Low cost follow up visits and labs
  • Greater availability of a doctor to his patients

For more details, watch this video from BudgetDoc Dr. Chris Larson:

Want to give the direct primary care model a try? Get started by browsing our selection of San Antonio and Austin based doctors practicing direct primary care.


Blog Digest – February 2014

photo credit: bark via photopin cc

photo credit: bark via photopin cc

Your monthly rundown of health news and tips is here. Get your update on, how to have productive mornings, and an unexpected benefit of yoga, right here. Anything we missed?  Let us know in the comments!


A Night-Owl’s Guide To Productive Mornings

Not a morning person? You aren’t alone. This article from LifeHacker has great tips towards establishing a healthy morning routine and putting it in action.

More Trouble For

Our friends over at TheHealthCareBlog turned me on to this article, which goes into great detail regarding the latest developments in the Affordable Care Act saga.  Why is the appeal process broken?  According to the Washington Post, that part of the system has not yet been built. Not the explanation any of the 22,000 people waiting for their appeal to go through are looking for, but an explanation nonetheless.  Find out what’s being done about this snafu over at The Washington Post.

FAQ’s About Obamacare

“What happened to my appeal?” isn’t the only question people are asking about the new Health Insurance Marketplace.  This article here on the BudgetDoc blog addresses many of the frequently asked questions about Obamacare, including:

  • What is the penalty for remaining uninsured?
  • What are the exemptions to the penalty?
  • What kind of coverage counts as Minimum essential coverage?
  • What is the difference between “Bronze”, “Silver”, ‘Gold”, and “Platinum” plans?
  • I am eligible for COBRA, can I shop for coverage and subsidies on the marketplace instead?

And many more.  If you have a question we didn’t address, leave a comment!

Weird Health Facts

On a more light-hearted note, the Houston Chronicle has this slideshow, highlighting unusual facts about the human body.  How fast does an average sneeze travel?  Is it possible to smell fear?  Find out over at

Unexpected Benefits Of Yoga

Is yoga good for the body and the mind?  Just ask Pete Carroll and his team of Super Bowl Champions.

Family Fitness Awareness: Ways to get the whole family active in 2014

photo credit: torbakhopper via photopin cc

photo credit: torbakhopper via photopin cc

If getting fit is on your agenda for 2014, make it a family affair and get your spouse and kids involved. Why? You’ll have more fun, more of an incentive and fewer opportunities to find ways to slack off. If your kids are like mine, they won’t let you slide when you’ve already said, “Let’s go to the park on Saturday.”

The key to family fitness is a shift in vocabulary. Rather than a focus on “fitness”, try a focus on “play”. Rather than going to the gym, find ways to play outdoors or in non-gym settings like a laser tag arena. Rather than considering it a chore, consider it quality time with those you love the most.

Family fitness isn’t a one-size-fits-all concept. Your approach to getting fit together should be as unique as your family. Are you competitive? Keep score. Adventurous? Challenge yourself to discover and try as many new things as possible. Wrestling with a crazy schedule or abhor routine? Keep a jar full of ideas handy and pull one out on a whim and do it! 

Austin, San Antonio and all points in between are chock full of family-friendly opportunities to play, get fit and have fun. Try any of the following links to find events, classes and other explorations your family may enjoy.

SAN ANTONIO AREA’s List of Kid Activities in San Antonio

San Antonio Sports’ Fit Family Challenge

San Antonio’s Siclovia

San Antonio’s Fitness in the Park

AUSTIN AREA’s List of Kid Activities in Austin

Georgetown’s Berry Springs Park and Preserve

Austin Parks and Recreation

Austin Top 50 Things to Do



 Photo Credit: City of San Antonio Parks and Recreation Department