Diet FAQ

“Eating less of a traditional diet and doing more traditional exercise does not prevent obesity and diabetes.”

Before most people knew what calories were most people avoided diabetes; counting them isn’t necessary

On this page – twenty questions and (my) answers (Its a long one!  Use the links to jump around).  They are in-depth questions with very brief answers, largely drawn from either the reference books and sites I list or from their authors (particularly Mark Sisson and Robb Wolf – my apologies for the lack of direct quotations).   Many of the questions merit (and have) entire books or sites dedicated to them, these pages are written to spark your interest and start your journey and not re-write those books (or pretend I understand all the science!).  Likewise, as with all of this site this is ‘my take’ and ‘my translation’.  This has worked for me – and I am happy with the results at this point.    Mistakes and inaccuracies are my own and it is of course your choice as to what makes up the right diet for you and your situation.

What appears to be irrefutable is that traditional first-world/western government endorsed diets (food pyramids) and exercise plans do not work – that is if you are looking to be well nourished and healthy – just look at the world’s biggest failed diet plan around you (you may well be a part of it – I was).  Do you think that cereal and fruit, or a low fat yogurt and juice is a good start to the day?  I certainly used to – I urge you to think again.

With any changes to your diet please see disclaimer.  Please see why and success

“The best and most rigorous clinical trials of the past decade demonstrate that a high-carbohydrate diet has worse outcomes for health in terms of obesity, heart disease, and diabetes than a diet higher in fat. On a higher-fat diet, people lose weight, and heart disease and diabetes markers improved.” (Nina Teicholz)


carbsHow do I live without carbs?

Carbohydrates are the sugars, starches and fibers found in fruits, grains, vegetables and milk products – a basic food group that play a part in a healthy life. Traditionally, carbs are the most common of the three energy sources we get from food (the others are fat and protein) hence the natural assumption you cannot live without them.

It is true that your brain does require glucose. But what is great about the body, is that it can run on glucose, but it can happily run on fat as well. Your body, through a process know as gluconeogenesis, can make up to 150 grams of glucose a day – more than the brain even needs (roughly 120 grams/day). Therefore, your body will create all of the glucose it needs, allowing your brain to be free to run more efficiently on fat-derived ketones created by your low-carb, high-fat diet.

After all, our bodies don’t store carbohydrates, they store fat. Fat is the ideal energy source for life.

Carbohydrate sources –

  • Green vegetables
  • Fruits, starchy and root vegetables such as sweet potatoes and legumes
  • Grains, rice, beans, pasta – that are complex or “whole grain”
  • Refined and processed  – pastries, crackers, breads, white pasta

The question for me is more the source of the carbs rather than specifically the amount of carbs consumed.  This is the principle I outline in the diet page and may or may not suit you depending on your exercise regime and health. In short –

  • You can get all the carbs you want or need from green and root vegetables (I’ve been on a low carb diet for three years and you can see the results in about me),
  • A combination of vegetables and lean proteins offer more antioxidants, vitamins, protein, fat and even fiber than do grains.
  • Do away with the refined and processed carbs full of other nasties now. 
  • Eating a large amount of non-starchy vegetables is the single most important aspect of the diet changes I suggest you explore and these types of vegetables are carbohydrates.  Think of it more as low bad carb diet.

If you need further convincing lets tackle the question from the other end, what happens if you continually eat excess calories and carbs, day after day?

  • Once liver glycogen is full, and once muscle glycogen is full, the excess carbs will be stored as fat.
  • With chronically elevated blood sugar and insulin levels, the body has no need to burn fat as a fuel source. The body will never be forced to tap into its body fat stores as a reserve fuel (you won’t lose any body fat). Becoming fat adapted (see below) has nothing to do with downing butter bombs all day.  Evolution has ensured your body can burn fat just fine. It has more to do with NOT downing sugar bombs all day.
  • In addition, any dietary fat you take in will not get used as a fuel source. It will simply be stored as fat (you will gain body fat).
  • Over time, some degree of insulin resistance can occur. Insulin can no longer properly do its job of clearing sugar (glucose) from the blood and depositing it into our cells, and sugar backs up in the blood stream (high blood glucose levels). This is exactly what happens with type II diabetes.

Combine excess carb consumption with a predominantly sedentary lifestyle and you have ‘modern day man’.

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Types of Diet: What diet should I follow?paleo faq

You don’t have to be on a named diet to make substantial changes to the way you eat and improve your health.  Rather than sticking to a specific named diet and or measured amounts of food, my approach has been more general (as you will see on the diet page) – working towards eating more ‘whole food’, trying to improve the quality of the food I eat (grass fed meat, free range eggs or organic vegetables for example) and decrease sugar intake, packaged foods and alike.   If you are ‘sick’ you may find micro-managing your diet necessary to recover or you may wish to do so to optimize your performance, or like me, you may see it as adding unnecessary stress (at least at this point in my journey).

Named diets that relate closely to my eating habits –

  • Paleo: Paleolithic diets are all about eating like our ancestors did.  You will find many different variations and therefore options with regards to, for example, what dairy, if any is permitted.
  • Keto (or low/no carb) diets: See next topic below
  • Primed: This was the diet that got me started and again is basically a low carb/high good fat diet.  See here

My quick start recommendations –

  • Eat real/whole food cooked in lots of good fat
  • Drink lots of water (start with half a liter of good water when you wake up) – add calamansi/lemon for taste
  • Cut out the processed foods, sugars, packaged foods, sauces and grains.
  • Limit the fruit you eat (especially if you have weight loss goals in mind – see below).
  • Practice intermittent fasting and or a restricted eating window

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keto faqKeto Diets: Do I need to be on one?

When the body does not have enough glucose for energy, it burns stored fats instead; this results in a build-up of acids called ketones within the body.  The aim of the diet is to try and burn unwanted fat by forcing the body to rely on fat for energy, rather than carbohydrates.

Ketosis is being in a metabolic state whereby your body is accumulating ketones in the blood stream faster than they are being burned.  You may be in ketosis for different and without considering other factors it is not indicative of your ability to burn ketones for fuel alone (that said it is more likely to be the case if you are on a ‘low carb’ diet and good exercise and health plan).

Ketogenic diets are generally considered highly effective for weight loss but may not be appropriate or sustainable for everyone.  According to most references I have read on the ketogenic diet, nutritional ketosis is defined as blood ketones ranging from 0.5–3.0 mmol/L.  Measuring ketones in the blood (or breath or urine) is the most accurate way of testing.  You can buy strips that work the same way as testing your blood glucose levels although they are not cheap (see side bar and references).

From a personal standpoint, while you may want to adapt parts of a ketogenic diet into your eating habits, for regular weight loss and a healthy style it is not strictly necessary.  Keto diets enforce strict measuring and adherence to the amounts of carbs you consume each day –

  •  65 to 75% fat
  • 15 to 20% protein
  • 5 to 10% carbs (that means 20 grams if inactive up to 50 grams if active)

Many of the benefits associated with a keto diet – such as weight loss, decreased appetite, increased focus and energy and so forth – come with less drastic or strict changes to eating habits.

Note: As ketone levels rise, the acidity of the blood also increases, leading to ketoacidosis, a serious condition that can prove fatal (in extreme cases and not if you are in good health on a regular ketogenic diet).  People with type 1 diabetes are more likely to develop ketoacidosis.

For an interesting take on Keto Diets and how you may fit it into your routine check here

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What is fat adapted (and why eat fat)?fats

Let’s start from the other side.  If you are a sugar burner, a sugar burner –

  • Can’t effectively access stored fat for energy.  What that means is an inability for skeletal muscle to oxidize fat. I.e. You  burn glucose for energy.
  • Can’t even effectively access dietary fat for energy. As a result, more dietary fat is stored than burned. Unfortunately that usually mean a build up of body fat.
  • Depends on a perpetually-fleeting source of energy. Glucose is nice to burn when you need it, but you can’t really store very much of it on your person (the way this was described to me was you have around 2,000 calories of glucose to burn as opposed to 20,000 of fat – hence the reason many long distance runners (or endurance athletes) hit ‘the wall’ needing gels, sports drinks or candy to replenish the glucose half way or sooner during an event)
  • Will burn through glycogen fairly quickly during exercise. Depending on the nature of the physical activity, glycogen burning could be perfectly desirable and expected, but it’s precious, valuable stuff. If you’re able to power your efforts with fat for as long as possible, that gives you more glycogen – more rocket fuel for later. Sugar-burners waste their glycogen on efforts that fat should be able to power.

If you are ‘fat adapted’, a ‘fat burner’

  • Can effectively burn stored fat for energy throughout the day. If you can handle missing meals and are able to go hours without getting ravenous and cranky (or craving carbs), you’re likely fat-adapted.
  • Is able to effectively oxidize dietary fat for energy. If you’re adapted, your post-prandial fat oxidation will be increased, and less dietary fat will be stored in adipose tissue.
  • Has plenty of accessible energy on hand, even if he or she is lean. If you’re adapted, the genes associated with lipid metabolism will be upregulated in your skeletal muscles. You will essentially reprogram your body.
  • Can rely more on fat for energy during exercise, sparing glycogen for when he or she really needs it.  If you can handle exercising without having to carb-load, you’re probably fat-adapted. If you can workout effectively in a fasted state, you’re definitely fat-adapted.

There’s no test to take to see if you are ‘fat adapted’, no simple thing to measure, no one number to track, no lab to order from your doctor. To find out if you’re fat-adapted use the last four bullet points as your guide.

Fat-adaption does not necessarily mean ketosis. Ketosis is ketosis. Fat-adaption describes the ability to burn both fat directly via beta-oxidation and glucose via glycolysis, while ketosis describes the use of fat-derived ketone bodies by tissues (like parts of the brain) that normally use glucose.

Fat has been demonized so much that the general assumption is either you will get fat or keel over from a heart attack.  However, as discussed below in ‘calories in/calories out’ and ‘nutrition’ what are the easiest things to overeat? Cereal. Pasta. Bread. Cookies.  It is easy to overeat on carbohydrates and still be left feeling full and unsatisfied.

It is far more difficult to overeat on a steak dinner (cooked in lots of olive oil) with a side of greens – you are also far more likely to feel satiated.  On a high-fat diet, you actually end up eating less, feeling full longer, and leaving your meal more satisfied.

Calories, cholesterol, and fat are not the enemies.  When you ditch sugar and grains you will need to replace at least part of your diet with good healthy fats –

  • Prepare foods generously with good fat
  • Use dark organ meat
  • Lots of small fish – anchovies and sardines (in olive oil!  None of the other sauces)
  • Bacon
  • Eggs – lots of
  • Use coconut oil, whole coconuts and coconut flour
  • Full fat pasteurized dairy
  • Have olive oil and butter to hand and use generously

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The issue with vegetable oils: What is all the fuss about fat?

Fats are compounds of carbon, hydrogen and oxygen atoms that exist in chains of varying lengths, shapes and orders. They’re one of the vital nutrients required by the body for both energy and the construction/maintenance of “structural” elements, such as cell membranes.

Although all fats to some extent contain both saturated and unsaturated fatty acids, they are generally categorized by levels of saturation –

FAT1.png

Which means –

FAT2

  • Canola – Canola oil comes from rapeseed, a completely unpalatable seed rich in erucic acid, which is bitter and toxic. Canola oil is rapeseed oil stripped of erucic acid, canola processing generally means a good portion of the Omega-3s found in rapeseed could be rancid on the shelf.
  • Flax SeedMinimize intake cooking with it however has some benefits as a supplement (Omega-3)
  • CornSqueezing oil out of this non-vegetable (grain) – not good
  • Olive – Great salad oil, a decent sautéing oil.  Keep a bottle of extra virgin, cold pressed olive oil on hand for salad dressings. Use a different fat/oil when cooking at high temps.
  • Coconut – Tasty, shelf-stable (no hydrogenation required) tropical oil with a ton of saturated fatty acids. In fact, it’s almost purely saturated, which is why most doctors and nutritionists will probably advise against its consumption – but will advise a bowl of cereal and low fat yogurt for breakfast. Eat the unrefined by the spoonful – if you can stomach it – be close a toilet the first time you try 🙂
  • Palm – Look for unrefined sustainably produced palm oil, West African red palm oil, for example, is considered to be pretty safe environmentally.
  • Fish – Fish oil is another one of the widely accepted “good” fats.  The Omega-3 fatty acids, EPA and DHA, are unequivocally beneficial to us. They help balance our O6-O3 ratios (to a more appropriate, pre-agricultural level), while they also promote proper cell function, good lipid numbers, and improved insulin sensitivity.
  • Avocado – Its fatty acid profile is similar to that of olive oil, but it has an even higher smoke point, making it good for cooking. The light, subtle taste lends itself far better to salad dressing.  Buy in dark bottles to minimize oxidation.
  • Macadamia Nut – The oil assumes the buttery, smooth, rich flavor of the macadamia nut, making it an interesting – but favorable – choice for salad dressings. It’s also remarkably high in MUFAs (monounsaturated fatty acids) and low in PUFAs (polyunsaturated fatty acids), so it won’t throw your ratios all out of whack. Macadamia nut oil can get expensive.
  • Sesame Seed – The premier “flavor oil.” Sesame seed oil, especially the toasted variety, offers an unmatched and irreplaceable flavor profile. Certain Asian dishes work best with a bit of sesame oil, but if you’re wary of using it over high heat (which you probably should be), you can always add it to the dish after cooking.
  • Peanut – It’s a legume (which I try and avoid – see below) oil prone to rancidity.
  • Sunflower Seed – Insanely high in PUFAs with little to no Omega-3s to balance them out, sunflower seed oil is a pretty bad choice for sauteeing, baking, roasting, and even salad making.
  • Cottonseed – Cottonseed oil, comes from cotton. It’s everywhere, from margarines to cereal to shortening to frozen desserts to bread, because it’s cheaper than other oils and it only needs “partial hydrogenation” to maintain stability. Stay away.
  • Soybean Oil – Soybean oil is about as ubiquitous as corn and canola You will often see an ingredient list include “canola and/or soybean oil.” Skip anything that “might contain” soybean oil altogether.

As you can tell, seed and nut oils probably shouldn’t make up a significant portion of your diet. Some, like coconut, olive, macadamia, palm, avocado, and fish, are great, but the vast majority of oils are unnatural and way too high in PUFAs.

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Am I addicted to sugar?

sugarYes. Well, most likely.  Until I started this journey I had no idea just how much sugar was out there or just how addictive and problematic it was (see the movie That Sugar Film listed in the side bars).  If you have read the shopping section on the diet page and follow any of the general recommendations you will find it very difficult to buy any packaged (including cereals), canned or bottled food without realizing (and consuming) the huge quantities of sugar they contain.  This is of course in addition to the sugar consumption you are conscious of –  such as sodas, chocolate, candy, pastries, cakes and other desserts.

Do your best to eliminate sugar in your diet.  This is essential to reduce inflammation (and weight).

Research has shown that sugar has highly addictive properties complete with a serotonin rise and crash as well as withdrawal symptoms. High fructose corn syrup is multiple times sweeter than processed sugar but doesn’t trip the satiety signal in our brains like sugar does. It is, as Mark Sisson put it, ‘the bottomless pit of sugars’.

How to (come off the addiction)

  • Try working in some fruit (preferably a low glycemic option like berries) with each meal.
  • If you need a dessert try organic dark chocolate (start at 72% and work your way up, my bar of choice is Green & Blacks – see side bar)
  • If you bake try using organic coconut flour and organic pure cocoa as alternatives for brownies, muffins and more.
  • Use spices like cinnamon, coriander or nutmeg as well as splashes of lemon, calamansi or pomegranate juices to add naturally sweet flavor to your foods. (these all help stabilize blood sugar, which can help keep those dip-related cravings at bay).
  • Sugar cravings can signal that you aren’t feeding your body properly in other ways. Lack of sleep, stress, dehydration, caffeine crashes and plain hunger go hand in hand with sugar cravings – see the relevant other pages in the get started section of this site
  • Learn to enjoy your food more. Cravings often have psychological dimensions – See the spiritual and emotional wellness pages for more.
  • Fill up with good food.  If you are full of good things you are less likely to crave.

Use of sweeteners: I would personally recommend the use of natural sweeteners such as honey and or some fruit occasionally.  If you need to artificially sweeten your food/drink  Stevia comes recommended.

A word on sodas or soft drinks: I haven’t seen any that are good including the ‘zero’, ‘diet’ or ‘no’ options.  The high intensity artificial sweeteners confuse your body in its ability manage calories and interfere in a negative way with gut bacteria.  They generally have addictive properties and the acid attacks enamel on your teeth.  Stay away if you can.

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Juice or Blend?

juiceJuicing is a process which extracts water and nutrients from produce and discards the indigestible fiber.  Without all the fiber, your digestive system doesn’t have to work as hard to break down the food and absorb the nutrients. In fact, it makes the nutrients more readily available to the body in much larger quantities than if you were to eat the fruits and vegetables whole.

Blending – or smoothies – on the other hand consist of the entire fruit or vegetable, skin and all and contain all of the fiber from the vegetables. The blending process breaks the fiber apart (which makes the fruit and vegetables easier to digest) and helps create a slow, even release of nutrients into the blood stream and avoids blood sugar spikes.

Smoothies tend to be more filling and generally faster to make than juice.  However, the main issue here for me is that juicing fruit really just extracts the fructose and without the fiber or whole fruit you will not feel full and therefore drink far more fructose from blending than you would ever get by eating whole fruit – so avoid juicing fruit yourself and avoid commercially produced fruit juice in general (look and see what actually goes into a Jamba Juice!).


If it’s organic it’s good, right?

organicOrganic food is the product of a farming system which avoids the use of man-made fertilizers, pesticides; growth regulators and livestock feed additives. Irradiation and the use of genetically modified organisms (GMOs) or products produced from or by GMOs are generally prohibited by organic legislation (in countries where such legislation exists).

So for me, yes you should be looking for organic foods or any food that avoids the use of pesticides and fertilizers (support local growers if they follow good practices).  However, remember that foods on the ‘do not eat’ list can still be organic… the fact they are organic doesn’t make them good.

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The problem with “fruit and veg”: Fruit is good for me, right?

fruit and veg.jpgFruits contain lots of fiber, vitamins, minerals and antioxidants.  However, the problem with “fruit and veg” is just that – they shouldn’t be in the same sentence when relating to diet – especially if you are on the road to correcting your weight.  The main reason that fruit would be considered ‘harmful’ is because the negative effects of the fructose found in most fruit.  While not as harmful as table sugar or high fructose corn syrup (both about half glucose and half fructose) it is still sugar and if you are ‘sick’ and or trying to correct your weight it will not help.  Generally speaking the citrus fruits such as lemon/calamansi, or berries would be considered better for you.


Should I reduce my cholesterol?

cholesterol.jpgCholesterol is generally really misunderstood and the relationship between cholesterol and heart disease far more complex than many would have you believe (and this page way to short to fully understand or explain this).

Your body will maintain a level of cholesterol whether you eat it or not.  Cholesterol is found in every cell in the body and needed to make hormones, produce vitamin D, aid digestion and repair damage to the body.  LDL (Low-density lipoprotein cholesterol) and HDL (High-density lipoprotein cholesterol) are the ‘vehicles’ that carry cholesterol around the body.  LDL, HDL, VLDL, all those (in)famous measurements we get at the doctor’s office are just different types of lipoproteins. They are not actually cholesterol.

  • HDL – Higher HDL-Cs correlate strongly with better cardiovascular health. Higher HDLs are desirable. However, it’s only a snapshot of a glimpse into the cholesterol content of your HDL particles. Among most groups tested, the TC:HDL ratio is actually a strong indicator of heart disease risk, with higher ratios corresponding to higher risks.
  • LDL – While a high LDL-C may indicate a problem, LDL-C only indicates the total amount of cholesterol in your LDL particles. You could easily have a few large particles (good) or a bunch of smaller, denser ones (bad, might indicate poor LDL receptor activity and an LDL that likes to hang out in the blood), but LDL-C alone isn’t enough to know. It’s also just a moment in time, whereas what you’re interested in is the trend. If the trend indicates a steady rise in LDL-C, however, that could hint at poorer LDL clearance and lower LDL receptor activity (and greater susceptibility to oxidation).
  • Triglycerides – High triglycerides correlate strongly with low HDL and smaller, denser LDL. High triglycerides, then, could indicate more oxidized (or oxidizable) LDL. The triglycerides of most Primal eaters, especially those on the lower carb side of things, usually hover well below 100 mg/dl. Triglycerides come packaged in VLDL, or very low density lipoproteins (which are calculated by dividing your triglyceride count by 5).

Look for – 

  • Trends – Are your triglycerides going down over time? That’s great. Is your HDL trending up? Also good.
  • Normal fluctuations – Your numbers can jump around 20-30 points in either direction between readings without it necessarily meaning anything.
  • TC:HDL-C ratio – Lower is better and indicates fewer LDL particles.
  • Triglyceride:HDL-C ratio – Lower is better and indicates larger LDL (and, usually, fewer) particles. Ideally, this will be close to 1 or lower

Statins – From Robb Wolf –

  • Cholesterol supposedly causes cardiovascular disease, but
  • Most heart attacks are actually occurring in people with low cholesterol, yet
  • Doctors insist on cholesterol lowering protocols, including statins, even though,
  • The benefit of statins has nothing to do with cholesterol, but rather it’s mild anti-inflammatory action, which
  • Can be accomplished with simple dietary modifications and a few inexpensive supplements.

See the side bar widget ‘The Cholesterol Code‘ for a simple guide to understanding cholesterol

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Why are legumes and corn on the rarely eat list?

legumesLegumes are great sources of fat, protein and carbohydrates. Different varieties contain varying amounts of these nutrients, with beans, nuts, peas and lentils all having unique nutritional profiles. Legumes aren’t nutrient-dense compared to something like liver or oysters, but they’re more nutrient-dense than grains and many other foods.

For the sake of this mini-section I’ll stick to beans and my “avoidance” is more from a digestion perspective rather than a health one so to speak:  Besides the phytic acid contained in legumes, the harder beans such as kidney and navy beans contain oligosaccharides. This complex sugar is impossible to digest without some help because humans do not produce the enzyme alpha-galactosidase needed to properly break it down.

There are techniques such as soaking which make digestion easier however the other nasty here is that many beans may come in or alongside sauces or other ingredients you would definitely prefer to avoid.  So I don’t have a problem with some bean consumption here and there but wouldn’t actively include them in my diet.

Likewise with corn – you probably notice the way it looks much the same on the way out as it did on the way in.  Although it appears that corn passes through your gastrointestinal system undigested, most of the internal nutrients are broken down and absorbed into your bloodstream. The fibrous outer shells of corn kernels, however, do not break down due to lack of the necessary digestive enzymes.  It also falls into the “grain” side of things so stays mostly in the avoidance area.

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Nutrition: Why am I hungry two hours after eating a McDonalds?

no-fast-foodGood nutrition helps prevent disease and promotes good health.

It’s back to the ‘real food doesn’t have ingredients’ quote on the diet page.  If you are hungry two hours after eating any full meal then you are (at least in most cases) not eating properly.  The food you ate may have ‘filled you up’ at the time but had little or no nutritional value and so two hours later your body screams for the nutrients it needed first time around.  If the nutritional value of a food has to explained on a packet or the case has to be made on why should eat it – why are you?  Not only that, but by filling yourself up with foods that have added to your body fat and or inflammation in your body you are adding to the cumulative bad effects of poor eating choices.

In short, you are likely “over fed and under-nourished”.  Eating should be fun but it does of course serve a purpose.  My idea of nutritious food is listed in the diet page

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Why are grains unhealthy?

There is absolutely no reason to eat grains.  Here’s why –

  • grain“You need the fiber”: From personal experience there’s plenty of fiber in the vegetables and fruit I eat.
  • “You need the vitamins and minerals” You do need vitamins and minerals, like B1 and B2, magnesium and iron, zinc and potassium. But do you need to obtain them by eating a carb-heavy, bulky grain? No you don’t. You show me a serving of “healthy whole grains” that can compete – nutrient, vitamin, and mineral-wise – with real salad
  • “But it forms the foundation of the governmental food pyramid”: Governmental endorsements are not points in your favor; they are strikes against you. Conventional Wisdom requires consistent, steady dissection and criticism if it is to be of any value.

Grains are first and foremost on the list of foods to avoid when following the eating habits I have described – Mark Sisson’s top three to get healthy –

  • Stop smoking,
  • Stop drinking their calories (as soda or juice),
  • Stop eating grains. Period. Full stop. They really are that bad.

The fundamental problem with grains is that they are a distinctly Neolithic food that the human animal has yet to adapt to consuming.  The issues are –

  • Toxic anti-nutrients – We simply do not have the wiring necessary to mitigate the harmful effects of lectins, gluten, and phytate.
  • Lectins are bad. They bind to insulin receptors, attack the stomach lining of insects, bind to human intestinal lining, and they seemingly cause leptin resistance.
  • Gluten found in wheat, rye, and barley, is a composite of the proteins gliadin and glutenin. (Around 1% of the population are celiacs, people who are completely and utterly intolerant of any gluten. In celiacs, any gluten in the diet can be disastrous). However, just because you are not celiac doesn’t mean you aren’t susceptible to the problems of gluten. Anti-gliadin IgA is an antibody produced by the gut, and it remains there until it’s dispatched to ward off gliadin – a primary component of gluten. Basically, the only reason anti-gliadin IgA ends up in your stool is because your body sensed an impending threat – gluten. If gluten poses no threat, the anti-gliadin IgA stays in your gut.
  • Phytates are a problem, too, because they make minerals bio-unavailable (so much for all those healthy vitamins and minerals we need from whole grains!), thus rendering null and void the last, remaining argument for cereal grain consumption.

Is there a good reason for anyone (with access to meat, fruit, and vegetables, that is) to rely on cereal grains for a significant portion of their caloric intake?  The answer is unequivocally, undeniably no. We do not need grains to survive, let alone thrive. In fact, they are naturally selected to ward off pests, whether they be insects or hominids. Take the hint and stop eating them.

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What is, and why avoid ‘yo-yo dieting?

yo-yo-dietingProbably one of the more common problems associated with an eternal need to loose weight.  While this page is dedicated to diet and food I would again urge you to look at your overall wellness (mental, spiritual and physical), move to a sustainable diet and healthy lifestyle and your weight will take care of itself.

Yo Yo dieting on this page references the cyclical loss and gain of weight, resembling the up-down motion of a yo-yo.  In other words you diet, loose weight, cannot sustain the diet requirements and so gain weight again only to try another diet at some point in the future and loose weight for a short period again before putting the weight back on.

In itself yo yo dieting has been linked to high blood pressure, type 2 diabetes and even cancer. Some suggest that it can actually increase the proportion of fat, especially around the waist. It has also been accused of slowing the metabolism, making it harder to lose weight in the future.

The way you loose weight (if not through a version of the ideas described here) may mean you are thin on the outside (have lost weight) but there is no telling what it has done to your insides –

  • You loose weight by restricting calories
  • Glycogen is released and you start burning muscle, your metabolism essentially shuts down and you are forced to restrict even further
  • You look good on the outside but your insides are a mess – and you are irritable, have food cravings and lack energy
  • You give way to the cravings and go back to sugar and carbs.  Insulin is released, blood sugar spikes and fat is stored
  • You lost muscle and gained fat

The whole premise of these diet pages is that eating should be fun and fulfilling in every sense.  Loose weight in the right way.

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Is it good to have a cheat day?

cheat-day-mealsI can’t so “no” as I cheat plenty.  That said the advice here is about finding what works for you to be optimalYour current state, your goals and your definition of ‘cheat’ all affect what will or will not work.  When you look at your weight, blood work and energy levels etc. you will have to decide what ‘cheats’ are appropriate and how often.  I have personally found that the more knowledge I have and the longer I go on with relatively healthy eating habits the less I want (or need) to ‘cheat’ (with sugar cravings being the main source of that ‘need’).

I should add that the amount you ‘cheat’ on your diet should also reflect if you ‘cheat’ in other areas of wellness – your environment (air, light quality etc.), sleep routine, activity and so forth.

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Is a low salt diet good for me?

PinkHimalayanSaltBackgroundSodium is a naturally-occurring element found in everything from milk to beets to celery sticks. Most people’s main source of dietary sodium is table salt (sodium chloride), which is 40% sodium; fancier sea salts contain roughly the same amount of sodium, although they also contain several other trace minerals that are stripped from table salt during processing. Sodium is crucial for maintaining proper muscle and nerve function and electrolyte balance. It helps maintain the volume of blood plasma, an important balance for heart health. Salt also aids in digestion by providing chloride to the hydrochloric acid (HCL) in your stomach.

Why I don’t worry about adding good (see below) salt to my diet –

  • The premise that salt leads to hypertension (and I had hypertension on a low or moderate diet and do not have now and I don’t watch salt consumption at all) has never been scientifically supported.
  • Salt aids blood sugar control by improving insulin sensitivity. A low-salt diet increases insulin resistance and even moderate dietary salt restriction is shown to cause systemic insulin resistance.
  • Salt is a natural antihistamine.
  • Your body needs salt to maintain the proper stomach pH.
  • Salt lowers adrenaline spikes.
  • Salt improves sleep quality. It boasts anti-stress and anti-excitatory qualities due to its suppression of stress hormones and it increasing of the metabolic rate. This may explain why many people report that a low sodium diet interferes with sleep and an adequate amount of dietary salt improves sleep quality.
  • Adequate salt consumption encourages a healthy weight and fast metabolism.
  • Salt supports thyroid function by reducing circulating stress hormones. For example, cortisol is anti-thyroid, but salt combats excess cortisol.
  • Adequate salt supports balanced hormones.
  • Salt makes food taste good. Salt adds a satiety factor to food and makes meals enjoyable. Adequate salt content of food makes it easier to enjoy quality instead of quantity, thereby encouraging mindful eating and weight management.

What salt is best?
Salt is good for you if it is the right type. With that said, regular processed salt is better than no salt, that’s for sure. But the better option is unrefined salt, which is rich in trace minerals and free of additives.

How much salt should I eat?
Food should be salted freely and to taste. Most importantly, listen to your body. Let your salt craving and desire for seasoning dictate how much salt to consume.

Note: If you have kidney disease or hypertension, it is a good idea to consult with a medical practitioner before increasing salt intake.

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What is wrong with ‘calories in – calories out’?

calorie myth1Until my journey begun by reading ‘The Calorie Myth’ by Jonathon Bailor I didn’t realize how much I had been working on the calorie in-calorie out premise.  While I sited my  unending need to run being down to race prep and my way to unwind, much of it was in fact trying to cancel out bad calories.  I run less now but am at a lower more stable weight and more importantly I don’t feel ‘bad’ when I don’t run (about me).

I’ve listened to podcasts where presenters have experimented on themselves by  eating 5,000 calories a day for a month of a diet similar to mine and not put on weight! (not that this is necessarily (or likely) efficient by the way)  They have then repeated the experiment with a government recommended diet (5,000 calories a day – grains, low fat, cereals, some fast food and sweets) and – in short – been a mess at the end of the month.

Shouldn’t exercising for 45 minutes a day with no goal in mind beyond being able to eat that extra cake or drink that frappaccino be somewhere in the definition of insanity?

  • “Calories in” — what we eat. We can’t metabolize sunlight or oxygen. The food we eat determines “calories in” entirely.
  • “Calories out”  – is more complex. There are several components to “calories out”:
    • Resting energy expenditure — the energy used to handle basic, day-to-day physiological functions and maintenance
    • Thermic effect of food — the energy used to digest food and process nutrients
    • Active energy expenditure — the energy used during movement (both deliberate activity like lifting weights, jogging, and walking, plus spontaneous activity like shivering and fidgeting)

To bear in mind –

  • Calories in and calories out are not independent variables. The amount and type of calories we eat affect the amount of energy we expend
  • Weight gain is not caused by eating more calories than you expend.
  • A calorie is not a calorie.  The isocaloric amounts of a steak and a baked potato do not have identical metabolic fates in our bodies when consumed.
  • Weight loss and fat loss are not the same thing.
  • Exercise (while important in the context of a healthy life) is not the way to fight the wrong calories you consume (nor will it select those bad calories to remove to to speak)
  • Counting calories does not allow us to accurately monitor food intake.

From Mark Sission – “No one wants to be fat. The obese know they’re obese. They’ve had “calories in, calories out” drummed into their heads for years. If it were really as simple as eating less and moving more, they wouldn’t be obese. And yet here we are. That might be the biggest danger of the continued propagation of these myths — they convince people that they’ve failed at something simple, basic, and central to being a healthy, moral human being.

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Why don’t I get this advice from my doctor?

doctorYou might do, please allow me to stand corrected if you do and if your doctor has a holistic approach to wellness (and therefore likely an open mind) then even better 🙂 If your doctor does not, maybe take a look at your doctor and see if they are ‘well’ themselves – well rested, well balanced, well nourished…  That may answer the question for you.

If your doctor is not ‘well’ themselves (weight, health, balanced life…) and is reliant on drugs, supplements or stimulants then you should probably expect the same poor advice that got them to that place.  The why page of this site lays out the premise that diabetes, high blood pressure and other illnesses should not be the accepted norm of twenty first century living and that there are ways to correct most, if not all, of the symptoms associated with these chronic illnesses.

As a more direct answer to the question posed, most references seem to quote an average of less than 20 hours of nutritional training in a typical four/five year medicine course (let alone any other type of all-round wellness training such as environmental or emotional).  The focus is on treating rather than preventing chronic illness and this is not right.  I won’t get into a big pharma conspiracy theory but the implications are clearly there.  That said, this does not mean I believe the average doctor is inherently misleading patients and or conspiring against them (“the system” works against doctors) – it is just sad that we have reached a point where prevention is (and root-cause issues are) largely ignored.

In your doctors defense, so to speak, dietary modifications and lifestyle changes typically involve a slow and steady approach (as outlined in these pages) rather than the ‘quick fixes’ provided by drugs – hence there is also an onus on the ‘patient’ (i.e. us) to take the necessary steps over time.

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What is so good about Kimchi?

KimchiKimchi is a low-calorie, high fiber, and nutrient-packed side dish. It is a storehouse of a range of vitamins such as vitamin A, vitamin B1, vitamin B2 and vitamin C. It is also rich in essential amino acids and minerals such as iron, calcium, selenium. It has an impressive assortment of powerful antioxidants and provides an additional benefit of probiotics as well in the form of lactobacillus bacteria (in other words it also helps to feed beneficial bacteria in your gut – this is the real plus point for me).

Health benefits of kimchi include –

  • An improved heart health and a healthy digestive system.
  • The wealth of antioxidants in it exercise healing effects in the medical conditions like cancer, diabetes, obesity, atopic dermatitis and gastric ulcers.
  • Delays aging, regulates cholesterol levels, and boosts the immune system.

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What supplements should I take?

So, this will be short as I have no idea.  In my pre low carb days I took a ‘liveraide’ supplement and a ‘multi vitamin’ supplement – both off the shelf from a pharmacy.  I had no real idea why I took either other than that it seemed like a good idea at the time.  I came off both within a few months of improving my diet and could never imagine or see a reason to go back now.

If your environment and or medical conditions dictate you take specific supplements for health I am definitely not advising you to stop (see disclaimer)!

Likewise some of the books I have enjoyed reading where the authors have bio-hacked their way to optimizing their health/performance often recommend specific supplements which may or may not work for you.  If you do not need anything specific see how it goes without them – you’ll likely save a few bucks 🙂

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