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Ashley Tudor Interview, author of Sweet Potato Power

Sweet Potato Power

Several years ago, I met an inspiring health innovator named Ashley Tudor. Ashley is a Design Strategist who has worked with Fortune 500 companies and small start ups to develop solutions that tackle tough health-related issues, including the development of online tools to help people use food as medicine. Sometime between then and now, Ashley developed a writing bug, and recently published a new book entitled Sweet Potato Power: Smart Carbs, Paleo and Personalized.  I recently had the chance to ask Ashley some questions about the book:


How did you come to write a book about sweet potatoes?

I’ve been a low-carb paleo eater for years. At the same time, my athletic pursuits–climbing, long distance running, crossfit–stretched my low-carb diet to its limits. I often found myself without enough ‘fuel in the tank.’ At the same time, I was involved with a local Quantified Self organization, a group that explores how to use self-tracking to positively impact various aspects of life. My diet was in need of some tweaking and the self-testing was a great platform for me to conduct my own experiments. Sweet Potato Power is an outcome of my own journey. It’s a book on sweet potatoes but it is also describes tools anyone can use to  identify the diet that is best for them.

Ashley Tudor


Duke University estimates that 1 in 9 people will be 100 lbs over weight by 2030. This is really scary stuff. One tactic that has had a gained popularity is to cut carbs. How do you think the starchy sweet potato fits in to the health picture today?

The term ‘franken foods’ has been used to describe highly processed food products that have taken over the shelf space at most grocery outlets around US. Nearly 20,000 new food products are introduced every year. Most of these products are made from the same list of ingredient derived from staple crops (i.e., wheat, corn, soy). The crops are reduced down to refined ingredients (i.e., wheat flour, high fructose corn syrup, vegetable oil, etc), then built back up an endless array of “new products,” that get a fresh branding, usually showing a pastoral farm scene to make you think it’s natural and healthy; a highly disingenuous representation. Most of these products are very high in what I will call “bad carbs” – refined flours and fructose.

As a result, carbs have gotten a bad rap as being the culprit to our health woes, including obesity. However, there are examples of cultures from around the globe that do have high carbohydrate intake and do not seem to experience the same health concerns that we face. In particular, starchy tubers – like the sweet potato – have a long history as an important, health-promoting food source. Sweet potatoes are a complex carb with a low glycemic load. For example, 100 grams of wheat bread delivers 3x the amount of carbs that 100 grams of sweet potato deliver to the body.  They burn slowly in your system.  They are low in fructose (which is toxic in excess) and may even prevent inflammation in the body.  And they are really easy to incorporate into your diet. So, whether you are an athlete or someone who wants to replace the ‘bad carbs’ in life with good ones, the sweet potatoes should have a more prominent spot on the table.


The virtue of self-tracking is another component discussed in Sweet Potato Power, what made you interested to pursue this angle?

For years, our society has been touting exercise and calorie restriction as the way to address increased body fat, but we still get bigger and bigger!  This strategy is not working, in my opinion. The age of the one-size-fits-all diet is over.  People can reduce calories and still gain weight, and be skinny but unhealthy. There needs to be a better framework to understand our bodies.  Self experimentation is key to discover what works for you. It’s not hard.  You just need to know how. Sweet Potato Power helps you conduct your own tests.

Sweet Potato Hash


One of the first things I noticed about your website and book is the beautiful food photography; tell us more about that and what are some of your favorite recipes?

Oh, that is hard.  Sweet potatoes are SO delicious and versatile!  Sweet Potato Hash after a Saturday workout satisfies refueling.  For dinner, Sweet Potato Linguine for dinner is quick easy and a great base for any favorite pasta sauce. For the occasional sweet treat, I love Sweet Potato Bars. They are my new favorite gluten-free cake.  Its hard for me to  choose one favorite!


What would people be surprised to know about the sweet potato?

Back in the 16th century a sweet potato was worth more then their weight in gold. Clearly this was a time when people knew what these spuds where worth.



If you’d like to learn more Sweet Potato Power, check out her website, follow her on the Twitter at @ashleytudor, and her Facebook page, and get the book here.





Improve your health by growing some fresh air…

We’re now in thick of the gardening and growing season across most of the country. When I think about gardening and growing different types of plants, I have to admit that I’m mostly thinking about food and what I would like to eat later (ok, ok, this is typically what I’m always thinking about). So, it was really refreshing to come across this book by Dr. B.C. Wolverton called, “How to grow fresh air.”

This book represents over 25 years of research that Dr. Wolverton conducted with folks at NASA, but it is not overly technical or heavy on the science. The premise was simple – how might one use plants to clean, purify, and improve the air in a lunar habitat? The answers came from many studies of different types of plants to identify which ones absorbed environmental toxins and how much of those toxins they could clear from the air. So, if you are someone with allergies, respiratory problems, fatigue, or headaches, this book is for you.

In the book, Dr. Wolverton rates 50 different houseplants on the dimensions of “removal of chemical vapors,” “ease of growth and maintenance,” “resistance to insect infestation,” and “transpiration rate” (how much humidity the plant can be expected to put out). He also gives each plant a numerical overall rating.

So, what are some of the things that we’ve learned so far?

  • Plants like the Boston fern and the Florist’s mum remove the most formaldehyde from the air (formaldehyde is the most common air toxin in homes – it is used in the manufacture of plywood, particle board, carpets, adhesives, fabrics, etc., etc.)
  • Plants like the Areca palm and the Dwarf date palm remove the most xylene and toluene from the air (these compounds are found in paints, adhesives, tiles, caulking, and computer equipment)
  • Plants like the Lady palm and the King of hearts remove the most ammonia from the air (a common ingredient in a number of cleaning products)

There’s lots more in this great book, such as which plants release oxygen at night and carbon dioxide during the day (the reverse of most plants), since these are the types of plants that you want providing fresh oxygen in your bedroom at night. At Dan’s Plan, we enjoy finding paths to better health in unexpected places and “How to grow fresh air“ was a pleasant surprise. So go get a few of these houseplants and improve your air!

How does Facebook compare to healthcare?

Facebook has been in the news more than normal lately with the launch of its IPO last week. Interestingly, Forbes and others are writing about how Facebook compares with healthcare. Here is what Forbes has to say and what we think.

First, Matthew Herper writes about, “Four ways to make medicine more like Facebook.” What I took away from the piece, was not so much the four ways he proposes, but rather some of these staggering statistics:

  • The stock market values Facebook as being worth nearly as much as Merck (annual sales: $48 billion) more than Sanofi (annual sales: $42 billion) and twice as much as Gilead, the leading maker of HIV medicines, or Medtronic, the medical device giant.
  • Seven big Facebook shareholders, hold shares totaling $25 billion. By comparison, all the 12 health care billionaires on last year’s issue of the Forbes 400 Richest People in America had a combined net worth of $28 billion.
  • A single tech company, launched in 2004, is worth more than most makers of medicine. More than that, this single company has done as much to create very rich people as, basically, the entire medical device and drug industry.

Second, Eamonn Fingleton tells us to, “Forget the Facebook generation – There’s a bigger investing opportunity with boomers.” Can you guess what this “great” investing opportunity might be? Companies who make CPAP devices (CPAP = Continuous Positive Airway Pressure). CPAP is commonly used to treat sleep apnea, or interruptions in breathing during sleep. It can make a big difference for people (sleep apnea should not be left untreated), but the use of CPAP typically involves wearing a mask of some sort while sleeping.

So, why is the sleep apnea market growing so much you might ask? Well, because we’re getting fatter. If you are tired or sleepy and happen to be a male who is overweight, has a large neck, or snores, you should consider being screened for sleep apnea.

In any case, what do we think about these comparisons? We like Mr. Herper’s first recommendation that perhaps we should not rely so much on drugs for health. We’re not so certain that the solution is pricier diagnostics though. Nonetheless, we like the idea of restoring and maintaining health through sound diet, movement, and sleep, whenever possible.

As for Mr. Fingleton, we will be curious to see if his stock predictions pan out, but as an alternative “investment,” we would suggest finding opportunities that allow you to invest in your health and in your community in addition to any financial return that you might receive. For example, there are Kickstarter projects that might align with your food goals and increase the likelihood that you can easily find and procure foods that will help you be an Intelligent Eater. For example, this project to open a gluten-free kitchen in San Francisco was just funded after raising $30,000! On another project, there are 10 days left to contribute to the establishment of a Paleo/Primal food truck in San Diego (act now!). These might not represent your typical investments per se, but you might gain more from having these resources in your community than you would from gambling on the stock market.

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