Here's part of the "Secret Guide to Computers & Tricky Living," copyright by Russ Walter, 32nd edition. For newer info, read the 33rd edition at


Welcome to the section about tricky living!

You can’t enjoy tricky living if you’re dead. So the first secret of tricky living is: stay alive! To do so, keep healthy. Here’s how.

Let’s start with the part of health that’s most enjoyable: food!

Different kinds of molecules, in food and drinks, give your body different benefits. To get all the benefits and be totally healthy, eat a wide variety of food. Don’t binge on any single kind of food. If you binge, you won’t have enough appetite left to eat the other kinds of foods that give you other kinds of benefits.

Even the healthiest kinds of molecules will become toxic (annoy your body) if you overload on them. For each kind of molecule, you must eat enough to give you the benefit, but not too much (so you don’t get toxins or overweight or feel so full that you have no room left for the other molecules you should eat). Nutritionists try to discover, for each kind of molecule, how much is enough and how much is too much.

The typical food consists mainly of water molecules but also includes big quantities of 3 kinds of macronutrients:




The typical food also includes tiny quantities of 2 kinds of micronutrients:



Each month, nutritionists finish new experiments and must modify opinions about what the minimum and maximum dosage of each molecule should be. Here’s a summary of their conclusions when this book went to press.



You must consume water, to create blood and replace the water that you excrete (through piss and sweat). Water also helps your body keep an even temperature, so no part of your body gets too hot or too cold.

How much water you need

An old myth says you should drink 8 glasses of water per day, but that myth isn’t true. Actually, you need to consume about 12 cups of water per day, but those 12 cups don’t have to be drunk: they can be consumed as part of watery foods. For example, in most fruits and vegetables, 90% of the molecules are water. (Meat, fish, and grains contain somewhat less water.) If you eat lots of fruits and vegetables, drinking just a few glasses of water will get your total water intake up to 12 cups.

When to drink

The human body can pretty accurately determine how much water to consume. You can typically follow this simple rule:

Drink if you’re thirsty. If you’re not thirsty, don’t bother drinking.

But here are 3 exceptions to that rule:

If you’re exercising for a long time, you should sip a little water while you’re exercising and drink a lot of water afterwards. That’s especially true in cold weather, because cold weather decreases your thirst, even though your body still needs the water (to replenish what you lose by sweating).

Elderly people should drink slightly more water than their thirst dictates, because elderly people have an impaired sense of thirst.

When you get up in the morning, your body is dehydrated (since you didn’t drink while sleeping), so make sure to drink something before going to work.

Water’s effect on your weight

Water has this nice property: it contains no calories, so it won’t make you permanently fat. (If you drink lots of water, your stomach will be full of water temporarily, but you’ll piss most of it out, so the extra water has no long-term effect on your weight.)

Nutritionists have discovered this trick to losing weight:
eat food containing lots of water. That’s because water contains no calories but makes you feel full. So to lose weight, eat watery food such as fruits, vegetables, and soup. Avoid dry things, such as crackers, chips, nuts, and dried fruit.

For example, to lose weight, it’s okay to eat grapes but not dried grapes (raisins). That’s because, if you eat 30 grapes, you’ll say “wow, that looks huge,” and you’ll feel full; but if you eat 30 raisins, you’ll say “wow, that looks tiny,” and after eating them you’ll still feel hungry, even though they have the same nutrients and calories as 30 grapes.

Your hunger’s affected by the volume of what you eat, not by what you drink. Just your thirst is affected by the volume of what you drink.

For example, nutritionists have discovered that if you feed a person a chicken dunked in water (so it looks like a big chicken soup), the person will feel more full than if you serve the water separately from the chicken, by putting the water in a glass. Drinking water in a glass doesn’t help a person feel full, but “eating” water as part of a food (soup) does make a person feel full. So to feel full without consuming many calories, dine on low-calorie wet foods, such as:


food topped with a wet low-calorie sauce

food having fruit or vegetables sprinkled on top or mixed in

For example, if your kid insists on having a hamburger, put lots of tomatoes and lettuce on top of it, because they contain lots of water molecules, so your kid will feel full and not ask for more hamburgers!

Since your hunger’s affected by the volume of what you eat but not what you drink, avoid drinking fruit juices (such as grape juice), since they add calories but have no effect on your hunger. Here’s the rule:

Eating grapes is fine (because they’re food containing lots of water).

Eating raisins is bad (because they contain the same calories as grapes but less volume, so you feel less full).

Drinking grape juice is bad (because drinking grape juice gives you the same calories as eating grapes but doesn’t reduce your hunger, since juice is a drink, not a food).

Fats in your blood

To live long, study Dracula’s favorite topic: blood. 40% of all American deaths are caused by blood problems: heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. Yes, the chance is 2 out of 5 you’ll be killed by a blood problem, if you’re a typical American. You’re more likely to be killed by a blood problem than by any other deadly category (such as cancer, disease, accidents, murders, or war). If you’re a woman, your chance of dying from a blood problem is 8 times greater than dying from breast cancer.

Journalists pay less attention to “blood problems” than exciting topics such as “breast cancer,” “flu,” “seat belts,” “terrorists,” and “military operations,” since “blood” discussions can get technical. Here’s a lesson in blood chemistry, so you’ll live longer.…


Most blood problems are caused by a huge molecule called cholesterol, containing 74 atoms (C27H46O).

Cholesterol is a lipid (fatty substance) that your body uses to create & repair cells walls and create sex hormones (estrogen and testosterone), but here’s the problem:

If an artery gets blocked, so blood can’t flow, you’ll have a heart attack (if the artery goes to the heart) or an ischemic stroke (if the artery goes to the brain). An artery can get blocked by having too much cholesterol in your blood, since the excess cholesterol forms plaque in your artery walls. That plaque can build up, and a piece of that plaque can break off, float downstream, get stuck somewhere, and form a dam, blocking the artery.

Typical American blood contains way too much cholesterol.

The ideal blood contains under 100 milligrams of cholesterol per deciliter of blood (100 mg/dl). Any cholesterol over 100 increases your chance of heart disease.

Most doctors try to keep their patients’ cholesterol under 200, since anything over 200 is super-dangerous.

In the US, the average person’s cholesterol is unfortunately 220. Some Americans even have cholesterol above 300, making them prime candidates for sudden heart attacks, strokes, and death.


Most fats in foods are triglycerides (3 fatty acids attached to a glycerol molecule).


Since cholesterol is a fatty substance (lipid), cholesterol doesn’t mix with water. Therefore, cholesterol doesn’t mix with blood (which is mostly water).

To let your blood transport cholesterol, your liver creates a package called a lipoprotein, which contains lipids (cholesterol, triglycerides, and phospholipids) attached to proteins. The lipoprotein package does mix with water; it does mix with blood.

If a lipoprotein contains more proteins than lipids,

it’s called a high-density lipoprotein (HDL).

If a lipoprotein contains less protein than lipids,

it’s called a low-density lipoprotein (LDL).

LDL is bad, because if it contains more cholesterol than your body needs, it deposits the excess cholesterol onto artery walls. HDL is good, because it carries excess cholesterol away from your body tissues and returns it to your liver for reprocessing or excreting.

So LDL is called bad lipoprotein or, in looser jargon for idiots, bad cholesterol. HDL is called good lipoprotein or, in looser jargon, good cholesterol.

LDL is lousy.

HDL is healthy, heavenly.


The government recommends you follow these standards:

Keep your total cholesterol below 200.

Keep your LDL below 130. If you have other risk factors for heart disease, compensate by getting your LDL down to 100.

Keep your HDL above 40 if male, 50 if female.

(The old standard was 35, but the new standard is higher.)

Keep your triglycerides below 150 (when measured after fasting 12 hours).

4 goals

You have 4 goals so far:

Reduce  the total amount of cholesterol in your blood.

Reduce  the amount of LDL (bad lipoprotein).

Increase    the amount of HDL (good lipoprotein).

Reduce  the triglycerides.

Here’s how to start accomplishing them.…

To reduce total cholesterol, eat less cholesterol. Cholesterol is just in animal products, not plants. The foods that are highest in cholesterol are shrimp, egg yolks, and organ meats (such as liver and kidneys). Some cholesterol is also in other meat, fish, and dairy products.

Also eat less fat in general, since they are triglycerides, and since your liver turns much of the fat into cholesterol. Eating less fat is more important than eating less cholesterol, since most of your blood’s cholesterol comes from the fat you eat. Eating less fat in general also reduces your LDL.

To increase your HDL, get more exercise. The more exercise you get, the higher your HDL count will get.

Kinds of fatty acids

I said that the most common food fats are triglycerides, which contain three fatty acids attached to a glycerol molecule. Those fatty acids can come in two forms: saturated or unsaturated.

Saturated=bad Saturated fatty acids already contain all the hydrogen atoms they can hold. Those fatty acids are bad, since they dramatically increase your cholesterol and increase your LDL.

They’re found in meat and fatty milk products (such as cheese and butter, though also in the solid parts hiding in whole milk, cream, ice cream, and yogurt). They’re also found in tropical oils (vegetable oils that come from tropical plants, specifically coconut oil and palm oil; such oils are nicknamed jungle grease).

At ordinary room temperature, saturated fats are solid, though they melt when heated. (The fat in meat & cheese melt on your stove. Tropical oils melt in the jungle.)

Unsaturated=better Unsaturated fatty acids are missing some hydrogen atoms, are liquid at room temperature, and are healthier than saturated fatty acids.

A fatty acid is called monounsaturated if just one pair of hydrogen atoms is missing. Monounsaturated fatty acids are found in olive oil, peanut oil, and canola oils and resist oxidation (prevent the LDL from sticking to your artery walls).

A fatty acid is called polyunsaturated if at least two pairs of hydrogen atoms are missing. One kind of polyunsaturated fatty acid, called omega-3, is found in fish (especially salmon); it resists oxidation, helps lower your blood’s triglycerides, and also helps keep your heartbeat regular and reduce rheumatoid arthritis. Highly polyunsaturated fatty acids (missing several pairs of hydrogen atoms) are in soybean oil, sunflower oil, and safflower oil; they actually lower your LDL (though they don’t resist oxidation, don’t help heartbeats, and don’t help arthritis).

Unfortunately, foods containing unsaturated fatty acids also contain some saturated fatty acids too.


Eating saturated fat is stupid.

Eating polyunsaturated (or highly polyunsaturated) fat is preferred.

Eating monounsaturated fat is middling.

How to reduce saturated fat

Although shrimp and egg yolks are extremely high in cholesterol, they’re low in fat (since they contain mainly protein instead). Shrimp and egg yolks are therefore “not so bad,” better for you than meat and fatty milk products. But stay away from liver — which is high in cholesterol and also high in toxins.

Eat chicken and turkey Although chicken and turkey are “meat” (and therefore contain saturated fatty acid), they contain less saturated fatty acid than most beef. Chicken and turkey are therefore healthier.

Here are three more rules about chicken and turkey:

Turkey contains less fat than chicken.

White meat (such as breast) contains less fat than dark meat (such as leg).

Inner meat contains less fat than skin.

So the healthiest common poultry is skinless turkey breast; the unhealthiest is “chicken leg with the skin on.”

Be cautious about chicken that’s fried (such as Kentucky Fried Chicken and Chicken McNuggets), since what it’s fried and battered in can be junky.

Avoid hamburger If you insist on eating beef instead of poultry, try this: instead of eating hamburger (which is extremely high in saturated fat), eat leaner meats.

The leanest cuts of beef are called round (such as top round, eye of round, and round tip) and loin (such as top loin, sirloin, or tenderloin). London broil can be lean, especially if it’s made from top round beef.

Instead of beef tenderloin, you can try pork tenderloin, whose fat content is similar. It’s the leanest cut of pork.

For hot fast food at lunch, choose a roast beef sandwich (instead of hamburger).

Too bad all those suggestions cost more than hamburger! Those lean cuts of meat contain just slightly more fat than skinless chicken breast — and way less fat than dark chicken meat!

Taste Fat has a lot of taste. Protein has no taste. When you eat beef, the “taste” you enjoy comes from the hidden fat, not the protein.

The more fat, the more taste. The lowest-fat common meat (skinless turkey breast) is also the least tasty. Shrimp and eggs, which are high in cholesterol and protein but low in fat, are also rather tasteless — unless you fry them in butter or some other fat.

Use spices To eat healthily with taste, reduce the fat but add taste back in by using spices. The easiest spice for American kids to accept is black pepper; as you grow up, graduate to red peppers and other spices.

If you accidentally eat too much hot, spicy pepper and want to clear the spice from your mouth, drink milk, because casein (milk’s main protein) binds to the capsaicin (the burning spice in peppers) and draws it away from your tongue. Milk removes spice; water does not.

Another popular “spice,” to wake up tasteless food, is lemon. It’s the secret ingredient in many packaged foods. If you can’t afford real lemons, try bottled lemon juice or orange concentrate or vinegar.

Switch fats If you want to eat fat safely, switch to unsaturated fats (fish and liquid vegetable oils).

Among fish, nutritionists give salmon the highest praise, because it’s very high in omega-3.

Switch milk Whole milk contains 3½ % fat. Although “3½” sounds small, it isn’t: milk is mostly water; of the non-water part of the milk, fat plays a big role.

Use powdered milk I’ve gotten used to skim milk and like it. If you haven’t adjusted to skim milk yet and still think that skim milk tastes too thin, thicken it by stirring in some powdered milk (which is dried skim milk). If you stir in lots of powdered milk, you can make the concoction taste as thick as a milkshake!

The dairy industry tried selling that concoction (which tastes better than skim milk and also contains more calcium & protein) but had to stop when Dan Rather made a poor news judgment: he ran a story complaining that the dairy industry had “altered” the milk. Dan, you ass, it was altered to make it healthier, and it was labeled as such, so why did you have to whine? Maybe you just wanted the labeling to be clearer?

Trans fat

Another kind of fat is called trans fat. It’s a man-made unhealthy menace, created artificially when manufacturers hydrogenate (add hydrogen to liquid oils, to make them more solid and stable, to produce packaged food that has a longer shelf life without turning rancid). Such food is called
partially hydrogenated, since it’s never hydrogenated fully.

Trans fat is in partially hydrogenated food such as margarine, pudding, crackers, cookies, potato chips, and fast-food restaurant’s deep fryers (to produce French fries and fried fish). Hydrogenating makes the fat become more saturated and undergo other changes, making the fat less healthy.

Recently, researchers have discovered that trans fat (such as margarine) is even worse for you than fully saturated fat (such as butter). Fully saturated fat does two bad things: it increases your cholesterol and LDL. Trans fat is even worse because it does those two bad things plus a third: it lowers your HDL. Because of that research, the federal government now requires all packaged food to have labels showing the trans-fat content, New York City has passed a law preventing restaurants from using trans fat after July 2008, and most restaurant chains are in the process of abolishing trans fat from their food (so they can keep outlets in New York City). Unfortunately, many restaurants are replacing trans fat with saturated fat, which is just slightly healthier.


Lipitor is a pill you can buy. It’s great: it reduces cholesterol, reduces LDL, and raises HDL.

It’s manufactured by Pfizer (a drug company). “Lipitor” is the brand name; its technical chemical name is atorvastatin. Other “statin” pills made by competitors work similarly.

Blood test If you take Lipitor (or a similar statin pill), you must get a blood test every few months, to make sure the drug isn’t damaging your liver and muscles. To make sure you get that test, the government requires you to get a doctor’s prescription to buy the drug.

Cut in half Lipitor is expensive. Since a 20-milligram pill costs just slightly more than a 10-milligram pill, you can save money by having your doctor prescribe 20-milligram pills and cut them in half. (Warning: though that trick works fine with simple pills, such as Lipitor, never use that trick on time-release pills, since cutting a time-release pill would wreck the timing. If you want to use that trick, buy a pill cutter, to cut the pill in half accurately and easily.)

Grapefruit juice If you take grapefruit juice at the same time as Lipitor, the Lipitor will work more strongly. How much more strongly? That depends on the particular grapefruit, the Lipitor dosage, and the timing between them. Since grapefruit stays in your digestive system for 24 hours, the interaction can be big even if you eat the grapefruit many hours before taking the Lipitor. Since the amount of interaction is unpredictable and dangerous (you don’t want to overdose), doctors recommend you avoid grapefruit juice during weeks you’re taking Lipitor. Lipitor is finally shipping with warning labels saying “no grapefruit juice!”

Canada Lipitor costs much less in Canada than in the US, but Lipitor’s manufacturer (Pfizer) has been refusing to sell Lipitor to Canadian pharmacies that try to resell to the US.


How to measure protein

According to physics, heating a solid typically makes it melt. For example, if you heat ice, you get water; if you heat a chocolate bar, you get syrupy goo; if you heat the fat that’s on meat, the fat melts.

But if you cook an egg, the egg does not get softer: it hardens! So does a chicken breast. That’s because an egg and a chicken breast contain lots of protein. When you heat protein, it hardens.

That’s how to tell how much protein food contains: cook the food and see if it gets harder.



Fiber can come in two forms: soluble or insoluble.

Soluble fiber

Fiber that dissolves in water is called soluble fiber. It’s good because reduces your blood’s total cholesterol and LDL.

Here’s how it accomplishes that:

When the soluble fiber you eat reaches your intestines, it binds with bile acids (which were produced by the liver) and makes you shit the bile acids out. Then the liver replenishes those bile acids by stealing cholesterol from the blood (and mainly from LDL) and converting all that cholesterol to bile.

So soluble fiber helps prevent heart disease. It also helps control blood sugar and diabetes.

Soluble fiber is in beans, chick-peas, lentils, oats, barley, brown rice, psyllium, apples, citrus fruits (especially grapefruit), berries (especially raspberries and blueberries), apricots, prunes, carrots, cabbage, potato skins, sweet potatoes, and Brussels sprouts. Though fiber’s in the fruits I mentioned, it’s not in their juices, so make sure you eat the whole fruits.

Insoluble fiber

Fiber that does not dissolve in water is called insoluble fiber. This kind of fiber is good because it helps prevent constipation and might also reduce colorectal cancer (cancer of the colon or rectum), though the connection to colorectal cancer hasn’t been adequately proved yet.

Insoluble fiber is in wheat bran. It’s also in “whole wheat,” since whole wheat includes the bran. It’s also in other whole grains.


Though whole wheat looks brown, some brown wheat breads contain little or no whole wheat. Make sure the bread’s nutrition label lists the first, main ingredient as being whole wheat (or wheat bran).

Feel full

Both types of fiber help make you “feel full,” so you eat less food and consume fewer calories and fats. They help you lose weight.



When an artery wall gets damaged, your body tries to fix it. Unfortunately, the “fix” is often worse than the disease, since the “fix” consists of sending more blood platelets to the damaged wall. Those blood platelets can clump together, form a clot that blocks the artery, and create a heart attack.

Aspirin stops that process. Many doctors recommend this:

On the 1st and 15th day of the month, take an adult-size aspirin.

On the other days of the month, take a baby-size aspirin (which is ¼ the size of an adult aspirin).

Unfortunately, since aspirin prevents the body from healing itself, aspirin causes several problems:

Aspirin increases the chance that your stomach and intestines will bleed. Enteric-coated aspirin reduces that bleeding slightly but not enough.

Aspirin makes your stomach and intestines less effective at protecting you from bad things you ate.

Aspirin makes you more likely to have a brain hemorrhage (brain bleeding, a kind of stroke).

If you get cut (by nicking your finger or by shaving or by having surgery), aspirin will prevent the wound from clotting and healing quickly. In the case of surgery, you might even bleed to death. That’s the fastest way to scare a surgeon: say “I just took some aspirin.”

If you have the flu, aspirin will make you feel temporarily better (by lowering your temperature) but also prevent your body from fighting the flu.

Because of those problems, taking aspirin doesn’t necessarily help you live longer: it just lets you die differently. As one doctor said, “It’s weighting game.”


Get thin

The main thing that average American can do to improve health is: get thin!

How fat are you?

The government recommends your waist be no more than 35 inches if female, 40 inches if male. (If you’re very short, for example because you’re very young, your waist should be a lot smaller than that.)

When measuring your waist, don’t cheat! Measure straight around; don’t dip to avoid the bulge.

Your waist size is more important than your weight, because fat in your belly is more destructive than fat in your legs. Fat in your legs tends to stay there and not bother the rest of your body, but fat in your belly area is more active, closer to your organs (especially your liver), and enters your bloodstream more easily.

Why does the average woman live longer than the average man? Probably because the average woman is thinner (and engages in fewer dangerous activities, such as the military and other “dare you” games & occupations).


According to Einstein’s E=MC2, even an atomic-bomb-size blast consumes just a small amount of matter. So even the most vigorous exercise doesn’t directly reduce weight.

To reduce weight, your body must excrete more matter than it consumes; so to lose weight, you must eat & drink less than you shit, piss, and sweat.

How exercise helps Although exercise doesn’t make you lose weight directly, it makes you lose weight indirectly — because exercise makes you sweat, piss, and shit more without making you want to eat and drink much more.

Although exercise won’t change your weight much, it will make your weight be better proportioned: you’ll have a bigger percentage of muscle and a smaller percentage of fat. Your arms and legs will bulge with muscles and your belly will shrink. Moreover, exercise will raise your HDL (which is good). Better yet, exercise will burn off any excess sugar in your blood. By getting rid of that extra sugar, exercise helps you avoid or control diabetes.

Exercising removes water from your body (via sweat and piss), but “removing water” is not your goal: you goal is to remove belly fat. Sip a little water while exercising — and before and after — to avoid dehydrating, because a dehydrated body has trouble controlling its own temperature and accidentally wrecks itself.

Here are other ways that exercise helps you lose weight:

While you exercise you’re not eating. Better to exercise than to sit on your couch watching TV and munching potato chips.

While you exercise, you tend to feel good about yourself; you’re not depressed. Depressed people want to eat junk food.

Kinds of exercise Try walking (because it’s easy, pleasant, and exercises your bottom half), push-ups (because they exercise your top half), and swimming (because it exercises your whole body and is fun).

You don’t need to do a marathon. Three short walks per day help your health just as much as one long walk. Walking a mile helps your health nearly as much as running a mile, though running has the advantage of taking less time, so you can get on with the rest of your life. “A mile per day” is the minimum amount necessary to make a noticeable difference in your health; “a mile and a half” is even better.

Any kind of exercise is better than nothing. Some people find “gardening” a pleasant form of exercise. The dare-to-be-different crowd gets exercise by taking the stairs instead of “escalators and elevators” and by parking in the farthest parking spot instead of the closest — though “walking through parking lots” isn’t the most scenic way to get exercise.

Modern society discourages exercise The percentage of Americans who are overweight has been increasing, because modern American society discourages exercise.

In the old days, kids played sports in the neighborhood’s yards, streets, and parks. Now kids play videogames instead, which exercise just the fingers.

In the old days, people visited the homes of friends. Now people communicate with friends by phone and e-mail instead — or watch pseudo-friends (such as Oprah) on TV.

In the old days, people walked from room to room in office buildings. Now people stay put and just e-mail or instant-message each other.

In the old days, moms prepared their meals from scratch by scurrying around the kitchen, finding ingredients to chop, combine, stir, cook, and stir again. Now people just shove a prepackaged meal into the microwave oven instead.

Where do you live? People who work on farms and ranches get lots of exercise.

People who live in big cities get moderate exercise. They walk several blocks to get to stores, bus stops, and occasionally subway stations.

But people who live in suburbs typically get hardly any exercise at all: they just walk to their cars, which are parked next to their houses and stores. When you’re in a car, you have the illusion of being active (“Whee! Look how fast I’m going!”), but you’re not moving your legs: you’re sitting still, like a vegetable, and soon you’ll look like one. If you try to “get healthy” by avoiding the car and walking instead, you discover that walking in the suburbs is unpleasant, for two reasons:

the stores are too far apart, and too far from your house, to reach reasonably

most suburban towns have stopped creating sidewalks (since “hardly anybody walks on them anymore”), so you must walk in the street (and hope a car doesn’t hit you) or walk on your neighbor’s lawn (and hope your neighbor doesn’t hit you)

That’s why the average suburban resident is fatter than the average city resident.

Low-income people tend to buy cheap junk food (which is fattening), because fresh vegetables cost more (and take longer to prepare) and because low-income people are often inadequately educated about nutrition. The fattest Americans the ones who live near these low-income cities: New Orleans and Detroit. The thinnest Americans are the ones who live near Denver (because Denverites like to enjoy their beautiful outdoor scenery by jumping into it: they like to ski, climb mountains, canoe, and ride bicycles).


To lose weight safely, consume fewer calories. Each gram of fat you eat provides 9 calories, whereas each gram of protein or carbohydrate provides just 4 calories; so the main way to consume fewer calories is to consume less fat.

Make sure you consume fewer saturated fats. But even the best fats, the “unsaturated fats,” still provide 9 calories per gram, so eat fewer unsaturated fats too!

Most nutritionists make these recommendations:

Get most of your calories from carbohydrates.

Get about 12% of your calories from protein.

Get less than 10% of your calories from saturated fat.

Get less than 30% of your calories from fat. (Make most of that fat be unsaturated. Eat little or no trans fat. Get less than 10% of your calories from saturated fat.)

Portion size

Modern society encourages you to overeat. If you buy a bigger bag of food — or Supersize your meal — or visit an all-you-can-eat buffet — you pay less per pound. Especially if your income is low, you’ll be tempted to make use of those bargains, pig out, and become a blimp.

Food has gotten bigger. Today’s hamburgers, pizzas, bagels, muffins, and soft drinks are many times bigger than the original versions that were invented years ago.

When you read a nutrition label, and it brags about how a “serving” contains not so many calories (and not so much fat or salt), notice how many “servings” are in the package. The government’s definition of a “serving” seems to be “how much a little old lady would eat if she weren’t hungry and didn’t like the food”: it’s typically just 3 or 4 ounces for food (6 or 8 ounces for a drink).

For example, the typical muffin is big enough to contain 2 “servings”; so if you eat the whole muffin, you’ll ingest twice as many calories, twice as much fat, and twice as much salt as the label says a “serving” contains. The typical small can of ready-to-cook food contains 2 servings; the typical medium-size can of ready-to-cook food contains 3½ servings; the typical small box of frozen food contains 2 servings.

So when you’re looking at a nutrition label, be sure to notice how many “servings” it says are in the entire product: multiply all the numbers by that factor, if you’re planning to eat the whole thing!


Many foods are advertised as being “fat-free,” but most of them still contain lots of sugar. Since plain sugar provides calories without providing good nutrients, plain sugar is called empty calories and is bad for you. Avoid it. These other simple sugars are also empty calories and should be avoided: corn syrup (which comes from corn), fructose (which comes from fruit), and honey.

Don’t binge

To lose weight, the main trick is: don’t binge. Don’t eat large portions of anything. Here’s why:

Your body needs just tiny quantities of most vitamins and minerals. Eating bigger quantities of them doesn’t help. In fact, some vitamins and minerals become toxic if you take an overdose.

Your body can tolerate small quantities of toxins, but bigger quantities are dangerous.

No single food has all the kinds of vitamins and minerals you need, so eat a variety of foods, a little of each.

Nutritionists have discovered many hundreds of vitamins, minerals, and other helpful substances in plants. Though a vitamin pill can be a useful supplement, no single pill provides the incredibly wide variety of helpful chemicals that a well-balanced diet provides.

Metabolic syndrome

Doctors say you have the metabolic syndrome (which is also called the inactivity syndrome, the insulin-resistance syndrome, and syndrome X) if you have at least 3 of these 5 warning signs of inactivity:

your waist is too big (over 35 inches for a woman, 40 inches for a man)

your HDL is too low (under 50 mg/dL for a woman, 40 for a man)

your blood contains too much sugar (fasting glucose level over 100 mg/dL)

your blood contains too many triglycerides (over 150 mg/dL)

your blood pressure is too high (over 130/85 millimeters)

(If you have exactly those numbers, you’re borderline, and doctors argue about whether you “have the syndrome” yet.)

The best way to avoid or reduce the metabolic syndrome is to get more exercise. Improving your diet can also help. (Your genetics play a role too but can’t be fixed by scientists yet.)


If you eat a huge meal, your pancreas will have trouble producing enough insulin to digest all those sugars and starches at once. Instead, eat several smaller meals (or small healthy snacks), spaced throughout the day.

If you have diabetes (a pancreas unable to produce enough useful insulin), eating smaller meals is necessary. If you don’t have diabetes yet, eating smaller meals is still desirable — because if you overwork your pancreas often, it will gradually get tired, quit working some year, and you’ll have diabetes then and forevermore.

Once you have diabetes, you can control it (by making sure you always eat small meals) but never cure it.

Nutritionists predict that 1/3 of all Americans will get diabetes before death. The best way to prevent diabetes is to eat small meals, get exercise, and lose weight.

When you eat more sugars and starch than your pancreas can handle, the excess stays in your blood, makes your blood vessels sticky, and wrecks the blood vessels in your eyes (leading to blindness), feet (leading to numbness, unnoticed cuts, infection, and eventual amputation), and kidneys (leading to kidney failure so you spend the rest of your life on a dialysis machine).

Afraid to look thin?

Unfortunately, Americans in this century are fatter than Americans were in the 1900’s or 1800’s or 1700’s. That’s because Americans get less exercise (they drive cars instead of walk, play videogames instead of real sports), eat more junk food (McDonald’s instead of Mom’s cooking), and many other reasons that are obvious. But here’s a reason that’s not so obvious: some people (especially inner-city blacks) are afraid to look thin, because they’re afraid that if they look thin, they’ll look like they have AIDS, and their friends will fear them and they won’t get dates.

Such people are misinformed and need to be reminded that it’s better to be a toothpick than a blimp.


Nutritionists recommend that you be semi-vegetarian: make ¾ of your dinner plate be filled with plants (vegetables, fruit, and high-fiber grains), and just ¼ of your plate come from animals (fish, meat, and dairy). That will give you a wide variety of nutrients and less fat.

Thinning diets

Many people have invented fad diets that claim crazy eating can make you  thin. Each fad diet has a “catch”:

Some of those diets let you eat whatever you wish but in small quantities.

Other diets let you eat as much as you wish but only of certain foods.

Most fad diets make you lose weight by being so unappetizing that you want to eat less.

Some diets let you lose 5 or 10 pounds during the first two weeks, but that’s just from losing water, not fat. The next two weeks are harder.

Most diets also tell you to get more exercise. If you claim that the diet “didn’t work,” the diet vendors reply, “You can’t sue us, since you didn’t follow our exercise plan.”

Nutritionists agree that the best way to get thin is to eat normally but with less saturated fat, smaller portions, and more variety.

The trick is to feel full while consuming fewer calories. Since calories come from “fat, protein, and carbohydrates,” eat food containing mainly water & fiber instead.

Some fad diets, such as the Atkins Diet, made the mistake of telling you to avoid all carbohydrates and eat fats instead. Here’s the truth:

The carbohydrates in vegetables and high-fiber grains are fine for a healthy diet; just avoid refined grains (such as white bread, white pasta, and white rice).

Unsaturated fats are okay in moderation, but avoid saturated fats.

The Atkins diet was later modified to say that certain carbohydrates are okay (and don’t count in “net carbs”), but Atkins advice to eat lots of fat is totally wrong. Nutritionists agree that of all the fad diets, the Atkins Diet is the unhealthiest and the South Beach Diet is the healthiest, but even the South Beach Diet is slightly off-kilter.

Just get exercise, eat a variety of food (especially vegetables), and avoid binging (especially on fats, cakes, and sweets). Then you’ll be fine!

Soup Since soup contains mainly water, it makes you feel full without adding many calories. (Just make sure it’s not a “cream” soup, since cream is high in calories.)

Nutritionists have discovered a bizarre fact about soup: water in soup makes you feel fuller than water in a glass, even though it’s the same water. If you’re served chicken and a glass of water, you’ll feel less full than if the water was dumped on the chicken to become soup. When the water is dumped on the chicken to make soup, your eye says “that’s a lot of soup!” and you feel full just looking at it!

Just beware of salt: many canned soups contain too much salt.

Fruit Fresh fruit is like soup: it contains mainly water and makes you feel full without adding many calories.

If you eat 30 raisins (dried grapes) while drinking water, you’ll still feel hungry; but if you eat 30 fresh grapes instead, you’ll feel full, even though the ingredients are the same.

Fruit also contains fiber and lots of nutrients.

Bran cereal For breakfast, try eating bran cereal. Since it’s high in fiber, it makes you feel full without adding many calories. Nutritionists have discovered that people who eat a high-fiber breakfast still feel full, many hours later, whereas people who eat a low-fiber breakfast feel hungry again 2 hours later.

Though bran cereal is good for you, bran muffins are bad, since bran muffins usually include lots of fats added to the bran.

Potato Nutritionists have discovered that the best vegetable for making you “feel full without many calories” is potato.

Just make sure you include the skin (to get its nutrition), cut out any tubers sprouting out (because they’re poisonous), and avoid fatty toppings (such as butter or sour cream). If possible, bake the potato (instead of frying it) or make a potato soup.

Watermelon Another obvious candidate for “full with minimal calories” is watermelon. It contains lots of water and — like all fruits — some fiber.

Black Irish diet If you want to try a fad diet, try mine: it consists of eating mainly potatoes and watermelons. If you wish, try that diet for a week (supplemented by vitamin pills and a few other vegetables to keep you balanced). I call it the Black Irish diet, because it combines the food loved by stereotypical blacks (watermelon) with the food loved by stereotypical Irishmen (potatoes). Here’s why the diet is good:

Of all vegetables, potatoes are the best at making you feel full on few calories.

Potatoes make you feel you’ve eaten heartily.

Watermelon makes you feel your eating was fun.

Potatoes and watermelon are both healthy foods.

Potatoes and watermelon are both cheap. This is the cheapest diet you can get!


So after all that preaching, am I a good example? Am I thin?

Not yet. I guess I’d better start taking my own advice!



Nutrients are what you must eat or drink to survive.

To be healthy, you need big quantities of five kinds of nutrients: water, carbohydrate, protein, fat, and fiber. (Most Americans eat too much fat, not enough carbohydrate & fiber.) The quantities are measured in “grams” per serving.

You also need smaller quantities of other nutrients, called micronutrients, measured in “milligrams” or “micrograms” per serving. The most important micronutrients fall into two categories: vitamins (whose chemical formulas include carbon) and minerals (whose chemical formulas do not include carbon).


You need 13 vitamins:

Vitamin                                Where to get a lot of it

vitamin A                                milk, egg yolks, beef&chicken livers

vitamin D                               sunlight, salmon, fortified milk, enriched flour&cereal&bread

vitamin E                                corn&soybean&canola&sunflower oil, kale, sweet potatoes

vitamin K                               spinach, lettuce, watercress, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, soybean oil

vitamin C (ascorbic acid)        peppers, currants, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, oranges, papaya, cranberries

vitamin B1 (thiamine)             pork loin, whole grains, enriched flour&rice, dried beans, nuts, seeds

vitamin B2 (riboflavin)           beef liver, milk, eggs, enriched flour&cereal

vitamin B3 (niacin)              chicken&turkey breast, tuna, swordfish, enriched flour&rice, peas, corn tortillas

vitamin B5 (pantothenic acid) liver, fish, chicken&turkey, whole grains, yogurt, beans, lentils, peas

vitamin B6 (pyridoxine)          tuna, potatoes, bananas, chick-peas, prunes, chicken breasts, avocados

vitamin B9 (folate)                  chicken livers, asparagus, beans, chick-peas, lentils, oranges, fortified cereal

vitamin B12 (cobalamin)         clams, chicken livers, tuna, sardines, salmon, lamb, milk

vitamin BH (biotin)              corn, soybeans, egg yolks, liver, cauliflower, peanuts, mushrooms, yeast

Vitamins A, D, E, and K are fat-soluble: your body stores them for a long time in your fat tissue and in your liver.

Vitamin C and the B vitamins are water-soluble. Since your body can’t store them long (except for B12), you must eat them frequently. When cooking them, don’t boil them long, since they’ll escape from the food into boiling water instead of helping your body. Instead of boiling them, try steaming them or using your microwave.

Here are peculiarities:

Biotin was called vitamin H until researchers later discovered biotin’s a kind of B vitamin.

Though beef&chicken livers contain many vitamins, they also contain cholesterol and many toxins.

Although swordfish contains vitamin B3, it also contains a toxin (mercury).

If you eat a well-balanced diet, you’ll get enough of all those vitamins except perhaps C & E.

Some nutritionists recommend taking pills for vitamins C & E, but others disagree.

Since vitamin C leaves the body in 12 hours, eating 2 small doses per day is better than 1 big dose. Vitamin C does not prevent colds, but 1000 mg per day can make existing colds end 1 day faster and be 20% milder.

Vitamin B9 is called folate or folacin or folic acid. It prevents birth defects. If you’re pregnant (or might be in 2 months), make sure you get enough vitamin B9 (by eating good foods or taking a pill). The US government requires the food industry to add vitamin B9 to all white flour (and therefore all white bread and white pasta); that’s one of the few advantages of white bread over whole wheat: whole-wheat bread does not contain folate.

Vitamin B3 is called niacin or nicotinic acid. Milk and eggs contain little B3 but lots of tryptophan, which turns into B3 when digested. The vitamin B3 in corn is indigestible unless the corn is mixed with lime, as in a corn tortilla.


In your body, the 7 main minerals (the macrominerals) are sodium, chlorine, sulfur, calcium, potassium, phosphorus, and magnesium. The average American eats too much sodium (which is in salt and preservatives) and an okay amount of chlorine & sulfur but should eat more of the other 4:

Mineral      Where to get a lot of it

calcium        milk, yogurt, cheese, canned sardines&salmon, fortified orange
                    juice, fortified oatmeal

potassium    avocados, bananas, cantaloupes, oranges, tomatoes, potato skins,
                    beans, yogurt, tuna

phosphorus meat, chicken, turkey, seafood, milk, seeds

magnesium  whole grains, nuts, seeds, tofu, chocolate, spinach, beans,
                    avocados, halibut

The typical multivitamin/mineral pill does not contain a full day’s supply of those macrominerals. Be especially careful about calcium:

The average American doesn’t eat enough calcium. The average American man should eat more calcium; the average American woman should eat much more calcium. Calcium builds strong bones and reduces a woman’s PMS difficulties. Elderly people who have weak bones (because of many years of calcium deficiency) break their bones when they fall, and the resulting operations and disabilities are life-threatening. Eat more calcium foods, or buy a calcium pill, or buy Tums (which contains lots of calcium, though the antacids in Tums reduce the calcium’s effectiveness). Vitamins D and B3 help the body digest calcium, so make sure you eat those vitamins also.

Your body also needs smaller quantities of 15 other minerals (called trace minerals). The most important trace minerals are boron, chromium, copper, iodine, iron, manganese, molybdenum, selenium, and zinc.

Your body also contains about 40 other minerals that are not necessary.

Sodium’s danger

Sodium is found mainly in salt. (The technical chemical name for “table salt” is sodium chloride, whose chemical symbol is NaCl.) Sodium is also found in preservatives (such as sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate).

Sodium raises the blood pressure in many people — though some super-healthy people who don’t have blood problems yet are unaffected by sodium. There’s no simple test for telling who’s sodium-sensitive, so the general advice is for most people to reduce sodium. Reducing sodium is not as important as reducing fat but still helps.

Here’s how to reduce sodium.…

Instead of putting salt onto your food, try other spices instead (such as black pepper or crushed red pepper or fresh red peppers) or lemon juice (which is the secret healthy ingredient that wakes up any boring food).

Beware of prepackaged frozen dinners: most are high in salt, to make the dinners have a longer shelf life. Beware of canned soups and canned chili: they’re high in salt also. Canned vegetables are high in salt unless you manage to get no-salt-added versions. Instead of canned beans (which are always high in salt), buy dried beans: they cost less and have no salt added but require you to rinse then soak then rinse again.

Eat less meat. Most meat is high in sodium, especially if the meat is sold as “hot dogs” or “prepackaged sliced meat,” even if labeled “turkey.”

Beware of tomato sauce and its variants (such as ketchup, spaghetti sauce, tomato juice, and V-8 vegetable juice): they’re extremely high in salt (even though they don’t taste salty), unless you buy no-salt-added versions.

Potassium chloride “Low-sodium” versions of some products (such as V-8) make that claim because they replace part of the sodium chloride (table salt) with potassium chloride, which is also a white “salt” but contains no sodium. Unfortunately, potassium chloride doesn’t taste good (it tastes less “salty” and is bitter).

Eating potassium chloride is usually healthy, since the potassium in it is a useful mineral that helps your heart beat. But be careful: overdosing on potassium chloride will stop your heart. To kill prisoners on death row, the executioner injects a high dose of potassium chloride (after injecting other chemicals to make the killings seem less gruesome).


When your body uses oxygen, some of the oxygen turns into an unstable, dangerous form called a free radical. Free radicals occur faster if there’s a lot of pollution (or cigarette smoke, alcohol, X-rays, sunlight’s ultraviolet rays, or heat). Free radicals interfere with cell activities, so the cells get damaged, age faster, and have a harder time warding off cancer and heart disease.

To get rid of that dangerous free-radical oxygen, your body uses antioxidants. Your body makes its own antioxidants, but you can help your body by eating extra antioxidants. The most popular ones to eat are vitamin C, vitamin E, selenium (a mineral), and carotenoids (yellow, orange, or red pigments in fruits and vegetables).

Although carotenoids are yellow, orange, or red pigments, they can hide in vegetables that are darker (purple or dark green): those darker colors hide the carotenoid molecules from your eyes. Vegetables that are light green contain hardly any carotenoids.

Here are the most popular carotenoids:

Carotenoid         Where to get a lot of it

alpha carotene        carrots, pumpkins, yellow peppers

beta carotene          carrots, sweet potatoes, squash, spinach, kale,
                              cantaloupes, apricots, mangoes

beta cryptoxanthin tangerines, oranges, peaches, papayas, mangoes

lycopene                tomatoes, watermelons, pink grapefruits, guava

lutein                     kale, red peppers, spinach, endive, broccoli, romaine lettuce

Your body turns some carotenoids into vitamin A, but other carotenoids stay in their original state and provide extra benefits.

Although most fruits & vegetables are most nutritious when eaten raw, carrots & tomatoes are different: carrots & tomatoes are more nutritious if cooked than if eaten raw, because you need cooking to break their tough cells walls (so you can digest the carrot’s beta carotene and the tomato’s lycopene). Unfortunately, cooked tomato sauce typically contain lots of salt (unless you order the no-salt version).

Since pizza includes cooked tomato sauce, it’s a good source of lycopene. The pizza industry likes to brag about that. Unfortunately, pizza can be high in salt (from the sauce), calories (from the breading), and saturated fat (from the cheese and any meat toppings). Go ahead, eat some pizza, but don’t overdo it!

Other micronutrients

Researchers keep discovering other micronutrients in fruits and vegetables. To get all their benefits, eat a wide variety of fruits and vegetables.

The newest exciting research concerns grapes. The skin of a grape contains resveratrol (a chemical that helps the grape fight against pests). If you eat that chemical, it will help you fight cancer, heart disease, and oxidation. Grapes grown in the north produce more of that chemical than grapes grown in the south, since northern grapes need it to fight against their tough environment. The “food” that contains the most resveratrol is “red wine made from northern grapes,” since red wine’s manufacturing process uses skins more than white wine’s process, and since the alcoholic fermenting helps bring out the resveratrol. The French love of red wine is the chemical reason why French people have fewer heart attacks than Americans, even though French foods come in heavy sauces. (But I suspect that the main reasons why French people have fewer heart attacks are: the French binge less, eat more vegetables, eat less junk food, get more exercise, and have less stress.) Some resveratrol is also in peanuts.



Avoid cigarettes, illegal drugs (such as marijuana, heroin, cocaine, and ecstasy), excessive alcohol, and tanning. They’re all very toxic: they wreck your body in many ways.


Drinking a little alcohol can be good in two ways: it raises HDL and also tissue-type plasminogen activator (T-PA, which helps break up blood clots). But drinking alcohol can also harm your brain, liver, and other organs and be addictive, so doctors give these warnings:

Don’t drink alcohol if you’re pregnant or going to drive or going to need unimpaired judgment & thought.

Don’t have more than 1 drink per day if you’re a woman, 2 drinks if a man. (A “drink” means 12 ounces of beer, 5 oz. of wine, or 1½ oz. of 80-proof spirits.) If you’re very young or very small, drink even less — or don’t drink at all.

Don’t start drinking alcohol if you’ve never drunk before, since you might have trouble learning how to control your drinking.


If an animal eats toxins, the animal’s liver tries to filter those toxins out of the blood. Many of those toxins stay in the liver. Don’t eat the liver!


Mercury’s a toxin that impairs your brain and nervous system: it makes you stupid and nervous. (During the 1800’s, people who made hats used mercury, became crazy, were called “mad hatters,” and formed the basis for Alice in Wonderland’s Mad Hatter Tea Party.)

Many industrial factories spit out mercury, which eventually winds up in water and infects aquatic plants. When small fish eat those plants, the small fish’s flesh gets infected. When bigger fish eat those small fish, the big fish’s flesh gets even more infected, and contains even more mercury per pound of flesh, because the mercury stay in the body while other substances are excreted. The bigger the fish, the more mercury per pound.

Big fish Don’t eat big fish (such as shark, swordfish, and mackerel): their flesh is all high in mercury. The US government especially warns pregnant women not to eat big fish.

Tuna Since tuna can grow nearly as big as those other fish, nutritionists get nervous about tuna also. When buying canned tuna, you can choose packaging (“packed in water” contains less fat than “packed in oil”) and what kind of fish was killed:

Solid white tuna is a slab of flesh cut from albacore (big tuna). It contains a lot of mercury.

Chunk light tuna is combined from small tuna. It looks darker than solid white. It costs half as much as solid white. It contains a third as much mercury per pound as solid white.


On farms, most fruits are sprayed with pesticides. Rinse the fruit to remove most of the pesticides. Gentle scrubbing helps further. You don’t have to peel the fruit. In fact, the best fruit nutrients are in the peel!

But here are two exceptions:

You must peel fruit when you visit third-world countries where farmers & vendors use unsanitary handling.

If you want to make your own orange marmalade from orange peel, don’t use ordinary oranges: the pesticides on orange peel are too strong to rinse or rub off. You must use unsprayed oranges instead.


Sodium nitrite (NaNO2) and sodium nitrate (NaNO3) are preservatives that are added to meat (especially hot dogs) and fish to improve color (make pork look pink instead of white) and prevent spoilage. They’re preservatives.

Sodium nitrite might cause cancer. But Consumer Reports concluded the amount of sodium nitrite added to processed meats is too little to worry about, since it accounts for just 5% of the sodium nitrite in an American’s body: the remaining 95% comes as a byproduct of eating healthy natural foods such as broccoli.

On the other hand, sodium nitrite and sodium nitrate can raise your blood pressure, since they both contain sodium.

Salt & sugar

Salt and sugar are preservatives. Dumping them into food prevents the food from getting moldy soon, because molds and bacteria can’t eat so much salt & sugar. Neither can you! Salt & sugar kill not just bacteria but also you! Eat less salt and sugar and you’ll live longer.


Burnt food causes cancer. For example, barbecued meat (with grilled char marks) causes cancer. So do smoked meat, toasted bread, and toasted cereal. One of the many reasons why cigarettes cause cancer is that they’re burnt.

To prevent barbecued food from causing so much cancer, barbecue less (by microwaving before you barbecue) and push the coals and fat to the sides (to prevent the fat from dripping onto the coals and then shoot hissing flames and smoke back up to the meat).


Keep most foods refrigerated or frozen. In a typical American refrigerator (which has the freezer on top), the warmest spots are at the far bottom and in the door, so don’t store fish and meat there: the warmer spots are just for fruits, vegetables, and other items that can bear to be closer to room temperature. (Exception: health departments require restaurants to store raw meat below other foods, to make sure the raw meat’s juice doesn’t drip onto other foods.)

If food gets warm, bacteria and mold start growing there. You can’t solve that problem by just cooking the food afterwards: though cooking kills bacteria and mold, it doesn’t take away the toxins that the bacteria and mold already squirted into the food. You’ll still get sick.

When cutting out mold, cut a full inch around the visible mold, since the surrounding area has been infected even if your eyes don’t see the mold there yet.

Strawberries spoil fast, so eat them soon after you buy them.

Bananas spoil even faster and are the hardest fruit to handle. In exactly one week, bananas turn from green to yellow to brown. The trick is to make the bananas ripen to yellow fast (by putting them in a paper bag), then eat them. Once you refrigerate bananas, they won’t properly ripen further (though they’ll get moldy), so don’t refrigerate bananas until they’ve turned yellow. If you freeze bananas (to form a frozen treat), their skins will continue to brown but their insides will stay unchanged; so remove the skins before freezing, to prevent the skins from becoming disgusting to remove.

Fish is delicate: the bacteria in fish (and shellfish) can survive at low temperatures. So don’t keep fish in the refrigerator or freezer long: eat the fish soon. When serving fish, serve it hot, as soon as it finishes cooking: don’t let it sit. (If you let fish sit, you’ll raise its bacteria count and also wreck the taste.)

Make sure all fish and shellfish is cooked. Don’t eat raw shellfish (such as “clams on the half shell”): it’s too dangerous and barely legal.


Best foods

Taking all those factors into account, nutritionists say the 2 best foods are broccoli and kale, because they contain many good nutrients (and few calories, fats, and toxins).

Here’s a list of the 20 best foods, grouped by category:

Category                          Best foods

green vegetables                  broccoli, spinach, kale

orange vegetables                carrots, pumpkins, sweet potatoes

red vegetable                       red bell peppers

dried vegetables for soup    lentils, dried beans

fruit                                     oranges, cantaloupes, strawberries, mangos

meat                                    skinless chicken breasts, skinless turkey breasts

fish                                     salmon

dairy                                   skim milk

grain                                    oatmeal, bran cereal, whole-grain bread

In that chart, when a category contains more than 1 entry, I list first the entry that’s the easiest to buy in the supermarket.

You probably eat enough meat already. Concentrate on the vegetables.


Nutrition newsletters

To learn more about nutrition and keep up to date, subscribe to nutrition newsletters. These 3 are the best (because they’re accurate, detailed, well balanced, easy to read, and relevant):

University of California Berkeley Wellness Letter

1 year (12 issues): $28 officially, $24 for first year

386-447-6328 or

Tufts University Health & Nutrition Letter

1 year (12 issues): $28 officially, $16 for first year

800-274-7581, 386-447-6336, or

Nutrition Action Healthletter

1 year (10 issues): $24 officially, $10 for first year

202-332-9110 or

Disgusting foods

Here are disgusting foods for special occasions.

Bachelor cooking

Here’s the main trick of bachelor cooking: when you don’t know how to cook, just heat what-the-hell-ever-it-is and dump lemon on it. Lemon wakes up even the blandest food. Food companies do it all the time: for example, it’s the hidden unadvertised ingredient in most “juice blends.”

Use either a fresh lemon or bottled lemon juice (which is cheaper and lasts longer but tastes worse).

If you use a fresh lemon, squeeze it before you cut it. You’ll extract more juice that way. Here’s how to squeeze the not-yet-cut lemon: put it on the kitchen counter, press your palm down on it, and roll it back and forth.

Advanced techniques Here’s the trick to “advanced” bachelor cooking.

Into a pot, throw whatever you want to eat. Meat, fish, or vegetables — fresh, canned, or frozen — it doesn’t matter!

Cover with hot water, fresh from the tap. Drain the water. Cover with hot water again. Drain the water again. Now the food is slightly warmer.

Add some hot water again, but this time just enough to prevent the food from sticking to the bottom of the pot.

Put the pot on the stove. Cover it. Heat it. Stir occasionally to avoid sticking. After heating a few minutes, move the cover slightly and leave it ajar, so any excess steam can escape.

Exceptions For white rice, do not drain any water you put on it. Draining the water would remove the vitamins that white rice comes coated in.

For pasta (such as spaghetti and noodles), boil the water before you insert the pasta.

Emergency procedures If the resulting mess is
too wet, make it drier by dumping instant oatmeal on it.

The oatmeal flakes soak up water quickly and turn the whole dish into a kind of granola. Add the oatmeal during the last minute of your cooking, since oatmeal cooks quickly and has better texture if not overcooked. If you don’t have any oatmeal, use rice instead, which unfortunately takes longer to cook.

If the resulting mess is too bland, dump lemon juice on it.

If you can’t afford lemon juice, use orange juice (which is cheaper but less intense). You can also dump pepper on it: dump black pepper if your stomach is weak; dump crushed red pepper or chili pepper if your stomach is stronger.

If the color is too boring, dump canned red beets (and their juice) on it.

Beet juice is intensely red: it’s the strongest cheap natural dye you can buy. If you add too much beet juice and the whole thing becomes too watery, add more oatmeal.

Praise your mistakes

If you make a mistake in the kitchen, pretend you made it on purpose.

If you burn the food, so it’s started to turn black, brag that it’s “char grilled.” If it’s very black, call it “blackened,” as the Cajuns do. If the vegetables at the bottom of a pot are just starting to burn, so they’re turning brown and sticking to the bottom, call them “caramelized,” as fancy restaurants do.

Mexicans try to brag about their “refried” beans, but you can surpass Mexican English: take your leftovers, heat them again, and call them “doubly delicious.” If you need to heat them a third time, don’t apologize, just brag that the food is “triple fired.” But if you try that too often while cooking in a restaurant, you might discover that you’re “triple fired” too!

Icy pleasures

On a hot day you want to put something icy into your mouth. Unfortunately, ice cream contains cream, which in turn contains fat, which increases your weight and cholesterol. Ice milk contains less cream but more sugar, so eating it still wrecks your diet.

Instead, eat frozen fruit:

In your supermarket, you can find frozen blueberries and frozen strawberries, without added sugar or syrup. If your supermarket is advanced, its freezer even includes cantaloupe, honeydew, peaches, grapes, and cherries — all frozen without sugar or syrup.

Make sure to buy the fruit pre-frozen. If you try to freeze fresh fruit yourself by using just an ordinary freezer, the fruit will freeze too slowly and accumulate large icy crystals that mar the texture. (The only fruit you can freeze yourself is bananas.)

For a wonderful zero-calorie summer treat, suck ice cubes.

Diner slang

In diner restaurants, waitresses slinging food use slang to talk to cooks:

Slang                          Meaning

fry 2, let the sun shine  fry 2 eggs, unbroken yolks

wreck ’em                    scramble the eggs

burn the British            toast an English muffin

stack of Vermont          pancake stack with syrup

life preserver                doughnut

hounds on an island     hot dogs on baked beans

paint a bow-wow red    hot dog with ketchup

take it thru the garden   put lettuce on the burger

pin a rose on it             put onion slice on the burger

frog sticks                        French fries

one from the Alps         Swiss cheese sandwich

Bossy in a bowl            beef stew in a bowl

shit on a shingle           chipped beef on toast

let it walk                      it’s for takeout

cow paste                     butter

wax                                  American cheese

draw one in the dark     draw a cup of black coffee

a blonde                       cup of coffee with cream

a blonde with sand       coffee with cream & sugar

hug one                        squeeze an orange for juice

an M.D.                        Dr. Pepper

nervous pudding              Jello

houseboat                     banana split

throw it in the mud       add chocolate syrup

For more examples, look at page 373 of Uncle John’s 4-Ply Bathroom Reader, republished by Barnes & Noble Books.


Researchers have discovered surprising facts about how adults sleep.

How much sleep?

You should sleep about 7½ hours per night. Anywhere from 7 to 8 hours is good. (Sleeping less than 7 hours is okay just if you compensate by taking a nap.)

If you sleep fewer than 6 hours, you’ll feel noticeably tired. Being tired hurts you in 5 ways:

When you’re tired, your body’s immune system is impaired. You have less resistance to diseases. You’re more likely to get viruses and other infections.

When you’re tired, you have poor motor skills. If you’re trying to type on a keyboard — or play a piano — your speed and accuracy will improve after you’ve slept.

When you’re tired, you can’t pay attention consistently. If you try to take a timed reaction test while you’re tired, you’ll react fast sometimes but at other moments you’ll forget to react at all and instead stare blankly.

When you’re tired, you can still remember facts but have trouble making judgments. For example, you’ll have trouble driving a car, dealing with personal relationships, and writing essays. If you’re cramming for a test, be careful: pulling an “all-nighter” will help you cram extra facts into your brain but hurt your ability to write essays. If you’re debating how to react to a personal situation (such as a job offer), sleep on it: your judgment will be better in the morning, after you’ve rested. If you’re in a hospital, pray that your doctor isn’t an intern who was up all night, lacks sleep, and therefore makes wrong judgments.

When you’re tired, your body has difficulty using its own insulin to digest glucose sugar. That difficulty makes you pre-diabetic and hungry. Your hunger increases because, when you’re tired, your stomach produces too much ghrelin (a hormone telling the brain you’re hungry), and your fat cells produce too little leptin (a hormone that telling the brain you’re full). So though you’re really just tired, those wrong hormone amounts make your confused brain think you’re hungry instead of tired, so you long for food to “pep yourself up”: you crave foods that are sweet (cakes, candy, and ice cream), starchy (pasta, bread, cereal, and potatoes), and salty (chips and nuts). You overeat and become obese. Doctors say to avoid snacking when you’re tired (at midnight) because you tend to overeat then, and your midnight snack won’t make you feel full, so you’ll keep eating until you become a blimp. A good way to prevent obesity & diabetes is to go to bed early and stay there, to avoid late snacking!

Statisticians have this sad news: people who sleep fewer than 6 hours per night die sooner. So do people who oversleep (sleep more than 9 hours), because people oversleep just when they’re ill or depressed or previously deprived of sleep.

Unfortunately, most Americans undersleep on weekdays and try to compensate by oversleeping on weekends. The average American adult sleeps just 6.8 hours per weeknight, 9 hours per weekend night. Researchers consider that pattern to be unhealthy, like binge eating. Try to get a constant amount of sleep each night.

Philosophers blame American sleeplessness on electronics. We stay up later than our ancestors because of the invention of the light bulb and its 24-hour culture: car headlights, nighttime TV, the computer, and the Internet. America is always on, round the clock — and paying for it by getting underslept (and therefore ill, using poor judgment, accident-prone, obese, and diabetic).

When you feel tired

A brain chemical called adenosine makes your brain feel tired, so you want to sleep.

While you sleep, the adenosine binds to phosphorus to form adenosine triphosphate (ATP). After the adenosine gets used up (to make ATP), your brain no longer feels sleepy, so you wake up.

After waking up, you feel groggy for the first half hour, so don’t make any judgments then! After that first half hour, you’re fully functional.

While you’re awake, your body’s cells get energy by burning the ATP.

That burning makes the ATP break down into adenosine and phosphorus again. The gradual increase in adenosine and decrease in ATP makes your body gradually feel sleepy again, so you eventually feel very tired (“zonked out”) by the late afternoon (between 4PM and 5:30PM). Since you’re tired then, it’s a good time to take a nap (if your schedule permits). Your tiredness will tempt you overeat (by breaking your diet and eating a late-afternoon snack, especially as an excuse for having worked so hard throughout the day); but you should avoid that temptation: don’t eat then, just nap instead!

After 5:30PM, your eye senses the sky is darkening (even if you’re “blind”). Your eye passes the “darkness” sensation to your brain, into the hypothalamus’s back part, called the suprachiasmatic nucleus (SCN), which reacts by outputting a hormone to keep you awake through the early evening. That hormone makes you feel rejuvenated, less tired than during your zonk-out period. The SCN’s hormone level gradually increases. From 8PM to 10PM, you feel quite awake!

But at 10PM, your pineal gland increases its production of a hormone called melatonin, which quiets the SCN’s output, so you start feeling sleepy again and fall asleep at 11PM (since the melatonin takes an hour to make you sleepy). You sleep 7½ hours, so you arise at 6:30AM to start another day.

That’s the ideal sleep schedule for the typical American. Your own personal sleep schedule might differ, depending on how your hormones are working for you (and whether you recently got kissed, yelled at, or drunk).


Sleep’s purpose is to build your ATP levels, so you’ll have enough energy to function well throughout the day.

All animals sleep, even fish. (When a fish sleeps, it shuts down half its brain but uses the other half to keep swimming, so it can breathe.)

Humans are the only animals that typically sleep for 7½ hours in a row (and stay awake for 16½ hours in a row). Other animals sleep shorter and more often: they take lots of naps.

For example, cats rarely stay awake for more than 6 hours in a row; they take lots of catnaps. Cats can prowl at all hours of the day and night. Human eyes and noses are too poor to handle the night, so humans were built to just give up, sleep through the darkness, but think throughout the day.

Sleep positions

You can sleep in 4 positions:

face up (on your back)

face down (on your stomach)

facing your left (on your left side)

facing your right (on your right-hand side)

Each position has its own advantages and problems. Here are the issues.…

Breathing The worst position for breathing is face up. When you’re face up, you’re most likely to snore, most like to suffer from sleep apnea (repeatedly interrupted breathing), and most likely to have your snot run down your throat (which worsens your cold or flu by infecting your throat & tummy).

The best position for breathing is face down, so the snot drips away from your body (onto your pillow or Kleenex) instead of down your throat.

Leg spasms When you’re sleeping, or trying to wake up, do you sometimes get painful spasms in your leg muscles? If so, the best way to avoid them (or stop them) is to go into the fetal position, where you look like a fetus: bend your legs, so your knees are near your tummy and your toes are turned toward your knees. One way to get into that position is to grab your toes and pull them toward your tummy. But you probably don’t want to spend all night grabbing your toes! The easiest way to approximate that position is to sleep on your side (curled up): so sleep facing your left or facing your right. Don’t sleep face up or face down.

Acid reflux If you eat too much, you might get acid reflux (where the acids in your stomach can’t fit inside your stomach, so they flow back up your esophagus and even into your mouth). The acids burn your esophagus, giving you a burning sensation (called heartburn because it’s near your heart, though it’s actually in just your esophagus). Those acids weaken your esophagus and make your esophagus more likely to get cancer. The problem is called gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD). If the acids reach your mouth, they’ll eat away your teeth surfaces (the enamel).

To avoid acid reflux, many patients buy pills (or change diet or chew gum or get surgery or sleep on a slanted bed), but try this easy sleeping technique first: sleep facing your left. Here’s why:

Your stomach is a small organ on your left side, just below your heart. (Your stomach is not the embarrassing big bulge at your waist; that bulge is your intestine.) By sleeping on your left side, you’re keeping your stomach low (close to the mattress), so it’s lower than your esophagus, so the stomach’s acids won’t spill to your esophagus.

Don’t sleep facing your right. (If you sleep on your right-hand side, your stomach is higher than your esophagus, and your stomach’s acids drip into your esophagus.)

Sudden infant death If you have an infant under the age of 1, make the infant sleep face up, to prevent sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS), even though the infant will sleep more soundly face down.

Comfort The only comfortable position is face up. Other positions scrunch part of your body: lying on your side crushes that side; lying face down strains your neck. Also, if you try to pamper yourself by lying on an electric message bed, the bed massages you well just if you lie face up.

Masturbation If you sleep face down, your genitals will rub against the mattress, leading to masturbation. That’s fun if you’re alone (but distracting if your bedroom is shared).

Summary So here’s the advantage of each position:

Face up              good for infants and comfort

Face down            improves breathing and masturbation

Facing your left stops acid reflux and leg spasms

Facing your right  is another way to stop leg spasms

Most people change positions several times throughout the night. That’s natural and good, since staying in the same position too long can create bedsores. That’s why hospitals hire nurses to turn over the patients.


If you have trouble falling asleep, researchers recommend removing all distractions from your bedroom: avoid light, clocks, books, televisions, and food, so your bedroom is totally peaceful, boring, sleepy.

If you want to read a book or watch TV, do so in a separate room (or at least a separate chair), so your body gets in the habit of using your bed just for sleeping and sex. Instead of staring at an alarm clock and watching the minutes tick by, have a family member wake you — or at least turn the clock so you can’t see the time.

3 hours before you go to bed:

Stop exercising (because it will stimulate you too much).

Stop drinking coffee and tea (because their caffeine will keep you awake).

Stop eating big meals (though a light snack can be helpful).

Stop drinking alcohol.

Though alcohol makes you fall asleep fast, the sleep it creates has poor quality, so you’ll tend to wake up at 3AM.

For a light bedtime snack, try milk, turkey, peanuts, or their variants (cheese, chicken, tuna, cashews, or soy), because they all contain an amino acid called tryptophan, which helps your brain produce serotonin (a chemical that helps you relax). Try them warm (by microwaving them or by putting peanut butter on toast), so your body gets warm & cozy then cools down again: the cooling will make you sleepy.

If a list of worries prevents you from sleeping, write the list down, so you feel organized and can analyze the list the next morning.

Most people who suffer from insomnia are old women (not young men).

These Websites have more suggestions to cure insomnia:


For more details about sleep research, read Craig Lambert’s article “Deep into Sleep” (on pages 25-33 of Harvard Magazine’s July-August 2005 issue).



There are two common ways to get AIDS. One way is to be a drug addict who shares needles with other drug addicts. The other way is to have certain kinds of sex. But the media was afraid to say what those “certain kinds of sex” were.

Here’s the truth: the main way to get AIDS is to get fucked in the ass. That’s because when you get fucked in the ass, a few of your blood vessels there will pop, and the fucker’s infected semen will mix with your blood. That’s why gays get AIDS more than straights: gays are more likely to ass-fuck.

If you fuck normally or just kiss, your chance of transmitting or receiving AIDS is low, because you’re not going to pop many blood vessels that way.

The official announcements say AIDS is transmitted by an “exchange of bodily fluids,” but remember that the main “exchange” is by popping blood vessels during ass-fucking.

I recommend you go suck an ice-cream pop instead. It’s a safer way to get creamed and popped, and it tastes better.



They say “Cleanliness is next to Godliness.” Does that mean “Dirtiness is next to Devilishness?”

Wash your hands

To prevent disease and infection, the main thing you can do is: wash your hands!

Colds, the flu, and other communicable diseases are spread mainly by dirty hands (not by getting cold, not by bad breath). To remove germs from your environment, wash your hands frequently, using hot water, soap, and friction: rub them! Soap and water are more effective than most antiseptic or antibacterial sprays. Wash your hands before you eat; wash your hands after taking out garbage; wash your hands after blowing your nose.

If you have a cold, the most common way to transmit it to others is to blow your nose then shake somebody’s hand. More colds are transmitted by shaking hands than by sneezing into the air. If you wash after you blow, and if the people who shake your hand wash before they eat, you won’t infect your neighbors. Besides shaking hands, another common way to spread colds is to blow your nose, then grab a stair’s handrail just before someone else grabs it.


Most soaps are normal, but 2 famous soaps are extreme:

Dove makes your skin feel oily (because ¼ of Dove is moisturizing cream).

Ivory makes your skin feel dry.

In winter, your skin will feel too dry, unless you use Dove to make it feel oily and counteract the dryness. In summer, when you sweat like a pig, your skin will feel too wet, unless you use Ivory to counteract the wetness and make your skin feel drier.

Dove is the perfect winter soap.

Ivory is the perfect summer soap.

Don’t use them in the wrong seasons! Dermatologists especially recommend against using Ivory soap in the winter: your skin will crack and bleed if you use Ivory when you’re cold.

Dove soap is expensive; you can substitute “generic” moisturizing soaps instead. Ivory soap is cheap but vanishes fast when you use it: you’ll need many bars to get through a month.

A new, green version of Ivory includes a moisturizer: aloe.


Bacteria and molds love to grow on damp objects, such as sponges.

When you’re not using your sponges, keep them dry. Each week, replace them (you can get about 10 per dollar at discount stores such as Dollar Tree) or microwave them for 2 minutes (after wetting them so they won’t burn).

Wiping with an ancient untreated sponge is less sanitary than not wiping at all.


You can buy chlorine bleach in a bottle or as a powder. The cheapest powdered forms are Ajax and Dutch Cleanser. To remove mold from bathtubs, shower curtains, sponges, and decks, let bleach sit there a while: the bleach loosens the mold. The more minutes or hours that the bleach makes contact with the mold, the looser the mold gets. Unfortunately, bleach also destroys the sponge’s fibers.


Since sweat can be sticky, clammy, and smelly, people worry about it. But sweat’s an amazing blessing given us by God. Although our bodies were intended to operate at 98.6 degrees, they can survive temperatures of over 110 degrees, by sweating.

Sweat itself isn’t cool. In fact, since sweat came out of our bodies, sweat itself is 98.6 degrees. Yet, sweat feels cool. Why?

The answer is: when sweat hits the air, it evaporates. According to the laws of physics, evaporation requires energy; to get that energy needed for evaporation, the sweat “sucks” heat energy from the surrounding tissue. Since your body loses that heat, your body feels cooler.

But you don’t need a physicist to tell you that. Just ask the typical teenage punk, “Does sweat suck?” and he’ll say, “Sure, and so do you!”

Your body’s temperature is 98.6 degrees because of an error:

When Gabriel Fahrenheit invented the thermometer around 1700, he wanted to define “100 degrees” to mean the temperature of an average human body, so he measured his secretary’s body (which was probably fun) but didn’t realize how hot-blooded his secretary was: in fact, his secretary was 1.4 degrees hotter than the average human! Although his secretary’s temperature became defined as 100 degrees, the average human is 1.4 degrees cooler. The next time you have a temperature of 100 degrees, console yourself by remembering you’re no hotter than Fahrenheit’s secretary!


If you see a person’s brow drip with sweat, the air is not really hot. In truly hot air, sweat evaporates immediately, so you never see it on the person’s brow! The cast of the “Twilight Zone” TV show discovered that the hard way:

Around 1960, when they were filming Twilight Zone’s first episode, they needed to pretend they were on Mars, so they took their cameras to Death Valley, which looks nearly as hot and barren as Mars; but since Death Valley was so hot, the sweat evaporated immediately: the actors didn’t look sweaty and didn’t look hot. The producer had to cover the actor’s faces with oil, which looked like sweat but didn’t evaporate.

Facial creams

Many women who want younger-looking skin put special creams on their faces. They’re just wasting their money.

The best way to develop younger-looking skin is to stay out of the sun, since tans cause wrinkles.

To see how facial creams are useless, look at my friend Pierrette:

A facial-cream saleswoman asked Pierrette which cream she was using. Pierrette said, “Just soap and water.”

The saleswoman said, “You shouldn’t do that! Plain soap will age your face! By the time you turn 26, you’ll look 30!”

The saleswoman didn’t realize that Pierrette was already 40. Using just soap and water, Pierrette looked at least 15 years younger!



No matter how hard you try, eventually you’re gonna get sick and try to see a doctor but die. Here are the delicious details.…

Kinds of doctors

If you’re a medical student who’s trying to decide what kind of specialist to become, you’ll be told:

general practitioners (GPs) are friendly but stupid

internists are smart but overly cautious

surgeons are carefree playboys who like to play with women and knives and don’t worry about details

To illustrate those stereotypes, you’ll be told this tale:

A GP, an internist, and surgeon go on a duck shoot but share a shotgun.

They agree to let the GP go first. When the first bird flies overhead, the GP says, “It looks like a duck, it flies like a duck, I’ll call it a duck.” Then he fires, but misses.

When the second bird flies overhead, the internist says, “It looks like a duck, it flies like a duck, but we’ll have to rule out the ostrich and the golden eagle and the whooping crane, which are endangered species.” Before he finishes analyzing the situation, the bird flies away.

Finally, it’s the surgeon’s turn. When the third bird flies overhead, the surgeon takes his shotgun and shoots the bird immediately. The bird drops at his feet. Then the surgeon looks at the conquered bird and says, “Well, what do you know, it’s a duck!”

Some doctors know what to do, but don’t act. Other doctors act even though they don’t know the right thing to do. Medical students learn this rule about how specialists differ:

An internist knows everything and does nothing.

A surgeon does everything and knows nothing.

A psychiatrist knows nothing and does nothing.

A pathologist knows everything and does everything too late.

For the medical profession’s reactions to those barbs, dig up Marilyn Chase’s article on The Wall Street Journal’s front page (May 15, 1984).

My friend Clayton Thomas (a physician) passed me 2 more barbs he heard from his colleagues:

The only science less exact than nutrition science is Christian Science.

Doctors are generous: they tell you all they know, plus a bit more.

Doctor-patient chat can get bizarre:

Doctor: you’re very sick.

Patient: I want a second opinion.

Doctor: Okay, you’re ugly, too.

Doctor: What’s your problem?

Patient: It hurts when I do this.

Doctor: So don’t do that!

That last quote was from comedian Henny Youngman.

Carrie Snow said:

A male gynecologist is like an auto mechanic who never owned a car.

Jan King complained:

Whoever thought up the word “mammogram”? Every time I hear it, I think I’m supposed to put my breast in an envelope and send it to someone.

Feminists recommend the manogram, which is a similar device for men: it grabs the prick and crushes it to death.

Party doctors

When a doctor attends a party and another guest says to him, “I have a medical question,” the doctor’s way to politely decline spending the party dishing out unpaid advice is to reply:

Great! Just get undressed.

A surgeon who lived a full life

Here’s the story of my favorite surgeon. He wasn’t perfect, but his good outweighed his bad, and he was ahead of his time.

Outline of a lifetime He was born in 1890. He skipped 8th grade — and so did all his classmates — because his teacher felt the 8th-grade curriculum just repeated what was taught in 7th grade. He went to a top-notch public high school, where his curriculum even included Latin, Greek, linguistics, and astronomy, and the graduates were given automatic bachelors’ degrees. When he finished high school, he skipped “college” and immediately entered one of the country’s most prestigious medical schools. So he finished medical school when he was 21 and became a surgeon — much younger than would be possible now.

He was a surgeon in the US Army during World War 1. After the war, he married a nurse. He was Jewish; she was not. He picked her instead of a Jewish woman because he reckoned the typical Jewish woman would want to start marriage by being treated as a princess or a queen; he liked the woman he married because she was a Christian who “knew the meaning of hard work.”

Throughout his marriage, he slept in a separate bed from her, so he wouldn’t have to disturb her in the middle of the night when he’d get called for medical emergencies. When their kids grew up and moved out, he and his wife moved from a big house to a small apartment but slept in separate bedrooms, even after he retired.

Though he called himself a Jew, the only religious services he went to were weddings, funerals, and inescapable Bar Mitzvahs.

He was a hospital’s surgeon, a university’s medical professor, a distinguished medical journal’s book reviewer, and a large industrial corporation’s top physician — all simultaneously! That hard work and lack of sleep gave him a heart attack when he was about 55. While he was recovering, his colleagues told him he’d have to either slow down or risk dying from a second heart attack within 5 years. He slowed down and lived a very long life: he died when he was about 90 years old. He outlived his wife and practically all friends.


Medical taboos & fads He ignored the medical profession’s taboos and fads. He broke the unwritten rules; but since he was the head surgeon at a large and prestigious city hospital, other doctors couldn’t argue.

For example, a general rule among surgeons is: don’t perform surgery on your own relatives.

He ignored that taboo: he removed the appendix of each of his ill children and grandchildren. Why? Because he wanted to make sure the operation was done right! He felt that the only way to be sure was to do it himself.

During the 1950’s, most doctors made their patients stay in the hospital about 2 weeks after an operation for “thorough recuperation,” even after a relatively minor operation, such as removing an appendix.

Ignoring that tradition, he made his patients get up and walk out of the hospital after 3 days, so they didn’t run up big hospital bills. He was ahead of his time: today, most doctors copy him.

Up through the 1950’s, the biggest medical fad was the tonsillectomy. If a patient’s tonsil was even slightly inflamed, doctors would say that the patient had “tonsillitis” and send the patient to the hospital to have the tonsil removed. Since so many 10-year-old kids had tonsillectomies, that operation became a rite of passage, like getting circumcised.

He spurned that practice and refused to do tonsillectomies. He felt God built the tonsil to be the body’s first line of defense against illness: the tonsil’s purpose was to intercept infection that was heading for the rest of the body. His cure for an inflamed tonsil was to just wait for the tonsil to feel better. For minor cases of tonsillitis, he recommended just gargling with salt water. He used antibiotics just when necessary. He was right: today, the medical profession agrees with him and recommends salt water and occasional antibiotics instead of surgery.

Since he never went to undergraduate college, he never learned organic chemistry and other “hard” sciences.

To him, surgery was an art, not a science: it was the art of slicing people up and making them well. As he neared retirement — and medical science advanced — most doctors were measuring the patient’s chemistry; but since he didn’t understand chemistry (and didn’t even understand what today is called “high-school algebra”), he let the young interns fresh out of school do all those boring chemical calculations. They were the bookkeepers; he was the master butcher, kind and wise and experienced.

After he retired and was about 80, he developed a tumor in his knee. Rather than trust the operation to another surgeon — which would also mean having to go to a hospital and leave his ailing wife unattended — he went into his home’s bathroom, slit open his own leg, removed the tumor himself, and then sewed his leg up again.

Magic His hands, skilled in surgery, were also skilled in magic. He made coins disappear and performed other sleights of hand that mystified his children, grandchildren, and great-grandchildren.

As he grew older, he got scared about the consequences of one of his tricks. In that trick, he’d rub a penny into a kid’s palm, until the penny “disappeared” (it was secretly hiding between the doctor’s own fingers); then he’d say the penny was passing through the kid’s body; and finally he’d pull the penny out the kid’s ear. But eventually he began to worry that kids would try to imitate him by sticking pennies in their ears, so he stopped that trick.

Music His whole living room was surrounded by 300 albums of classical-music records, all numbered and indexed. He had new records but still kept the ones he bought around 1900, as a young boy. For example, he had 78 RPM records that were so old that they were recorded on just one side, before “flip” sides had been invented.

He loved listening to operas and knew all the popular ones by heart. He also loved watching football and reading the newspaper. He did all 3 activities simultaneously:

In his living room, he’d turn on the radio (to listen to the opera), while simultaneously turning on the TV (to watch football) and opening the newspaper. While reading the newspaper, he listened to the opera, and at the end of each paragraph he peeked at the game on TV. Modern society would call that “multitasking,” but he lived in an era where such living was just called “being efficient.”

Traveler A true patriot, he visited each of the 50 states. But he never wished to visit any foreign countries.

For 60 consecutive summers, he drove to Maine, to eat lobsters and enjoy the sea breezes. When he became 70 and then 80 years old, his weather-beaten face gave him the look of an ancient lobsterman.

Life after death When he was about 80, his wife died. That marked the beginning of his new life.

He traveled more. Many women loved him and tried to “snag” him, because he was intelligent, responsible, rich, famous in his field, and — most important — possibly die soon and leave a big inheritance. But he resisted most female advances. Besides, those women were too young for him: he was 85, and he said they were just “spring chickens”; he didn’t want to “rob the cradle.”

He finally took a fancy to a widow who lived in the same apartment building as he. Her late husband had been one of his patients. But though he enjoyed the widow’s company, he refused to marry her and refused to live with her.

Since they were both old, and either might die at any moment, they phoned each other every morning to make sure they’d both gotten through the night safely.

So each morning, he phoned her, let her phone ring just once, then hung up before she answered it. That was a signal: she’d phone him back and they’d chat. He made her phone him, because she talked a lot, and he didn’t want to pay the phone bill.

Calling her wouldn’t have cost him much, since the call was very local: they both lived in the same apartment building. But since she was a blabbermouth, she’d bought the “unlimited calling option” from the phone company so she could call him free; and, Jew that he was, he’d never pay for a service that she could get free.

He sent her a Valentine card that said he loved her because she was the only woman who could put up with his crabbiness.

They liked to travel. When he was about 85, he hitchhiked across Wyoming — and dragged her along.

She was warm and friendly, but also disorganized and somewhat senile. He helped her figure her taxes, but his accounting wasn’t enough to prevent her from making a mess. For example, one day she phoned him and announced she paid her taxes. He said, “You already paid your taxes!” She was so senile that she’d forgotten she’d paid her taxes; she paid them twice! He phoned the IRS to explain her error, but the IRS staffers couldn’t stop laughing: they spent the day whispering to each other, “Hey, did you hear about the old lady who was so senile that she paid her taxes twice?”

Eventually, she grew too senile to be reasonable company, so he ditched her. She died, from senility and loneliness.

Years later, when he was about 90, dying of cancer, and hospitalized, an elderly woman patient claimed she entered his room and made love to him on his deathbed. She was surprised that a 90-year-old immobile cancer patient could do it! But that was the last time.