09 December 2009

All about gluten

Just recently, I've been asked a lot of questions about gluten. What is it? Why is it bad? What does it do? This made me realize that I've never actually explained it on my blog and that many of you may have the same exact questions.

First of all, the main problem with wheat flours, rice, and other grains is the high-sugar/low-nutrient content compared to other sources of carbohydrates, and not gluten. Let's make that clear. However, gluten isn't something to shrug off. It is estimated that 1 in 30 Americans have intolerances to gluten without ever knowing it, not to mention the many suffering from celiac disease and other vitamin malabsorbtion diseases. One study even shows that 1 in 3 may have issues digesting it. The "gluten free" market is the fastest growing market in the food industry today with pastries at Starbucks and cake mixes from Betty Crocker boasting their lack of our friend gluten.

So what is gluten? Gluten is a protein formed when water is added to flours from wheat, rye, barley, etc. Glutenin and gliadin are proteins in these flours that combine when they become wet and help form pastey dough for breads and give structure to cakes and muffins.

Why is it bad and what does it do? Well, it binds to vitamins in your intestines and prevents them from being absorbed. Most notably, it does this to vitamin D and calcium... Remember I said if you don't eat a high sugar diet (and in effect, a high gluten diet), then you don't need quite as much vitamin D and calcium in your diet?

02 December 2009

Eating Seasonally

Though it may be nice to have tomatoes, peaches, and pineapple available in the middle of December, it isn't exactly the greatest thing to be doing for our environment or the cost of food. As Americans, we want what we want and we want it right now. This mentality has certainly helped earn us a place as the most powerful nation in the world, but it has also caused a few problems.

What is eating seasonally? It is choosing to purchase fruits and vegetables based on their natural growing and harvesting times (read: when they are the freshest). Why is this important? There's an awful lot of labor, money, and oil required to ship a bunch of asparagus from Peru to your dinner table in February. That money is largely going to overseas farmers and is more often than not much more than you would pay in May to a farmer in your own state. The oil to get that vegetable here on that plane or that ship was also quite expensive to say the least and doesn't do much good for the quality of the air we breathe. Again, this reduces the demand for food (and the certain waste created by shipping food 5,000 miles across the world). Reducing the demand for food ultimately lowers the cost. Eating seasonally also pretty much directly coincides with eating locally. This keeps your dollars in your city and state and also allows you to come face to face with the hand that feeds you at your local farmer's market. I can also guarantee that it will taste better.

So how can you do it? Well... Instead of buying peaches, cantaloupe, and eggplant during the winter months, try apples, sweet potatoes, and broccoli. Take a look at the lists below that I've compiled for you to help next time you are at the market. As you can see, there is some overlap, and plenty of other options that I didn't list here.

Eating seasonally isn't always convenient. I'll admit that it is certainly nice to be able to enjoy a strawberry today as if it were late May and I certainly can't live without bell peppers year round. However, I would just encourage you to make an effort to make it a priority. Seasons eatings!

Winter:
Apples, Brussel Sprouts, Carrots, Cabbage, Collards, Kale, Pumpkin, Radishes, Squash, Sweet Potatoes, Spinach, Onion

Spring: Asparagus, Celery, Kale, Spinach, Strawberries, Bell Peppers

Summer:
Artichokes, Apples, Blueberries, Blackberries, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Cucumber, Eggplant, Kale, Okra, Melons, Onions, Peppers, Peaches, Squash, Tomatoes, Zucchini, Strawberries, Spinach, Raspberries, Lettuce

Fall:
Apples, Broccoli, Cauliflower, Kale, Lettuce, Melons, Onions, Peppers, Pears, Pumpkin, Zucchini

--

On another note, I told you a few weeks ago that I would keep you updated on the feedback I received from my letter. In addition to a very personal response from Rep. Virginia Foxx, I recently received a phone call from a woman in D.C. representing Senator Richard Burr. She left a very nice voicemail message for me with a lot of political nonsense, but at least it's getting read, right?

24 November 2009

The Best Of TF

In the last few months, you've gotten to know me and my cynical attitude towards current conventional nutrition wisdom. I must admit, I quite enjoy having a soapbox to preach the word on. I'm coming up on 3,000 visitors in five months, which is something I'm quite proud of and was not expecting at the birth of this humble little blog.

Today, I'd like to compile a list of some of my more informative posts or ones that I am particularly fond of to get newer visitors caught up on some of my crazy ideas.

So... What Am I Doing Wrong? - Why the American diet is the way it is

Eat Food? - What you should be eating

What Not To Eat - I can't believe they actually call this food

Exercise Won't Help? Seriously? - Why exercise is only one piece of the puzzle

Silly Studies
- The food industry at its worst

Now it's your turn
- Like my ideas? Take action and write your Congressmen.

My Humble Endorsement of Crossfit - How you should be working out

Disproportionately Affected
- How the high cost of food is actually affecting us all

Wise Beyond His Years... - The father of this whole dang movement

Enjoy them and come back soon!

22 November 2009

At least it's natural...

Can you tell me what all of the following products or ads have in common?

Splenda Artificial Sweetener w/ Fiber

Cinnamon Toast Crunch Cereal w/ Whole Grains
Cherry 7UP Soda w/ Antioxidants


American Spirit Cigarettes w/ Natural, Additive Free Tobacco


All of these products are harmful to your health, no matter what has or hasn't been added to them. In short: if it has a marketing team, avoid it like the plague.

18 November 2009

Waste

My ideas on removing government subsidies for grain crops and finding ways of lowering the cost of vegetable crops are not surprisingly quite radical and unrealistic. There seems to be so much power (read: money) in the food technology and food processing industries that the day broccoli is cheaper than a Big Mac will likely never come. Up until now, I wasn't even sure the best way to go about approaching the situation.

I stumbled across a brand new book written by Tristram Stuart called Waste: Unocovering The Global Food Scandal. The book is an alarming study on the terrible problem of food waste throughout the world. Stuart brings to light the pathetic lack of information available on food waste produced by the industry. Disfigured and blemished vegetables are left to rot in the fields. Slightly damaged packaging from shipping is cause for a frozen dinner to go straight to the trash can. Food that is close to expiration is not sent to shelters, but simply tossed for fear of being responsible for food poisoning the homeless (even though the law protects them from this). It is often cheaper for a company to throw away unsold food than to lose a sale because they've run out. Millions of tons of food are wasted every year at all levels of the farm to wholesale to retail to consumer chain. This is an issue.

Stuart also poses another point later in his book. Why are we not donating that food to shelters or composting it or just simply making less? All these solutions seem to be viable options in solving our problems. They all keep America fed and keep garbage out of our landfills. It also decreases the demand for food and lowers the price because we aren't throwing away perfectly good food. It also decreases the demand for farm land if we don't have to grow as much food to keep up with demand. This allows us to grow the lower calorie (but higher nutrient) vegetables and fruits that we should be eating more of in the first place.

It seems so easy. Just stop wasting food. I'm sure the food industry will soon find a way of keeping this problem quiet, too.

If you are interested in environmental issues, sustainability, and food, you'll find Waste quite interesting. The research, photo documentation, presentation of the fact, and funny English spelling does an incredible job of convincing you to maybe just go ahead and eat that bruised banana.

13 November 2009

But what about fructose??

Here's how it usually goes:

"Oh. So you don't eat carbs."

No. I eat plenty. I am not a "carbophobe."

"Ok. So you eat fruit. What makes the sugar in fruit so different from others?"

Well, this one takes a little more explanation...

The word carbohydrate is the scientific term for sugar. Sugars come in various shapes and sizes. There's the small monosaccharides (like glucose and fructose), the medium sized disaccharides (like lactose and sucrose), and the really big chains of these smaller sugars that compose polysaccharides.
Fruit sugars are predominately fructose. In the end, the body converts all of this sugar to the most basic and efficient form, which is glucose. Take a look at this graph:

When glucose (in the form of sugar, flour, etc.) enters the body, it is immediately sent to the bloodstream to make it available for our cells to use. This is incredibly efficient, but this also causes insulin to surge (giving glucose a high glycemic index), which is something our body just isn't designed to handle. When fructose enters our body, it must be converted to glucose in the liver. The conversion process, along with the fiber in the fruit, slows the stream of glucose sent to the bloodstream making for a much more gentle and natural rise and fall of insulin (a low glycemic index).

Don't let me mislead you though. There is certainly glucose molecules in fruit and vegetables. After all, it is the primary source of energy that life needs to survive. It is the byproduct of photosynthesis in these plants. These fruits just aren't loaded with glucose. What is wheat flour? It is a pile of polysaccharides (read: large sugars) each composed of extremely long strands of glucose molecules. That's it. Straight glucose (and largely insignificant amounts of protein, oil, and fiber...).

Calorie for calorie, fruits also have an abundance of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and phytochemicals that grains just can't match. Fruit was designed to be eaten. It is in the plant's best interest to be eaten so you will spread its seeds. I won't even begin to explain my thoughts of the lectins and antinutrients in grain products that are there to dissuade you from consuming them. (That was already done quite well for me here.) They do fine spreading their seeds by the wind, water, and unforunately the hand of the modern American farmer.

--

On a slightly different note, I am happy to report that I received a very personal response to my letter on healthcare reform and food subsidies from U.S. House Representative Virginia Foxx. I will keep you updated on any other responses that I get in the future. If you'd like to read the letter, and maybe send a few yourself, see my post here.


10 November 2009

Chicken Curry & "Rice"

It seems everyone is looking for a short cut or substitutions.

What do you eat instead of bread? What do you eat in place of rice? Chips? Pasta?

I'm not really a big fan of substitutions. We've been conditioned to believe that every meal has to contain a starch of some kind or we have conniption fits. I tend to think that we need to just overhaul our current perceptions of what our dinner plate is supposed to look like.

But I do have a confession to make. Last night, I made my very first plate of "cauliflower rice." This has long been a common recipe in the world of the "paleolithic" and "primal" food movements, but one I had never really given much attention to until now. This stuff looks and feels like rice, and hardly tastes like a vegetable at all.

So how do I make it?


Wash and cut a large handful of cauliflower florets. Place them in a food processor and pulse them until they reach a grain-like consistency. Grease a nonstick skillet with avocado/walnut/coconut oil or butter and add 1 tblsp. of almond flour. Let this mixture cook on medium heat for about 3 minutes. Add in your cauliflower, stir, and continue to cook until the cauliflower becomes a bit soft (about 8-10 minutes). Then, add 1 tblsp. of water, 1/2 tsp. of cinnamon, and 1 tsp. of cumin. Continue to cook until all the water has evaporated. Stir occassionally to prevent too much browning. You won't even know it's cauliflower!

I paired this up with some chicken and shrimp that I simmered in some unsweetened coconut milk (not coconut water), paprika, and spicy curry powder. You should be able to find canned coconut milk in the Asian/Thai section of the grocery store.

05 November 2009

Disproportionately Affected

Take a look at the maps here:


































One of these maps shows the average income per household in each state. The other shows the percentage of the population that is obese in each state. Notice anything? Mississippi and Arkansas have some of the lowest mean incomes and also the most obesity. In fact, the same thing can be said for the majority of the southeast. Now look at states out west like Colorado, Utah, and Nevada or the New England states. They have a much higher average income and much lower rates of obesity. The correlation is remarkable.

Carbohydrates are cheap. Families with lower incomes buy processed, high carbohydrate food. This is the heart of the issue.

Today, I'm including an essay I wrote for an English class last year. I really enjoyed putting this together. Unfortunately, it earned me a B+. Go figure.

"An epidemic is sweeping America. It is not cancer or HIV. It is not even the cold or flu. It is an entirely preventable disease named obesity, and unfortunately, the statistics present another alarming trend: the lower class population is disproportionately affected by it. In 1974, 22.5% of people making less than $25,000 per year were obese. In 2002, this had increased to a staggering 33%. That same year, another 30% of people making between $25,000 and $40,000 were also listed as obese. Numbers for obesity are on the rise in nearly every social, ethnic, and age demographic, but lack of proper nutrition due to cost and availability of quality food makes the low class especially vulnerable.


"The low-income population is without a doubt the most affected by obesity in today’s society and though the low-income status is not limited to one or two particular ethnic groups, the large majority of low-income families in America are of African and Hispanic decent.

"The problem begins with the places the poor are able to shop. Well known chains such as Wal-Mart and McDonald’s are not exactly the ideal places to purchase high quality and nutritious food stuffs. In contrast, franchises such as Trader Joe’s and Whole Foods are not exactly catering to the poor population’s wallet.

"Soda and chips are inexpensive. Milk and vegetables are not. The main issue with the diet of low income families is the fact that it relies heavily on cheap, processed foods with a high carbohydrate content and high calorie to nutrient ratio.

"The human body has taken many millions of years to evolve and adapt. It has only been in the last 10,000 years approximately that the agricultural revolution occurred, introducing the human body to grain where before it had relied only on meat, leafy vegetables, nuts, seeds, and some fruit and berries. This also introduced the human population to a diet high in carbohydrate that it had formerly not been accustomed to (or evolved to digest), which causes a much more dramatic rise in the production of insulin. This excess insulin causes an intense craving for more carbohydrates and sugars to maintain normal blood sugar levels. It is clear to see that this reaction can never be truly balanced and leads to overeating and obesity.

"Many years later, as the population of the modern world exponentially increased, there became a greater need for food and efficiency of farmland. An acre of land producing corn or wheat can provide about eight times the amount of calories than an acre used to raise livestock. Grain became a cheap way to produce massive amounts of food for the world’s (and livestock’s) appetite. Additionally, these grain products had a much longer shelf life than vegetables and meat. The shelf life could be extended further with processing and harmful additives (such as hydrogenated oils and nitrites), which also helped decrease costs even more, making them the most cost effective way to keep families from starving on a budget.

"This reliance on grain-based carbohydrates is unfortunately also supported by the United States government partly due to pressure by agricultural technology lobbyists and a series of outdated studies carefully selected for results that matched their agenda (from scientists desperate for funding). Subsequently, the USDA’s Food Pyramid suggests Americans get the majority of their calories from grain-based carbohydrates, a macronutrient introduced to the human body in large quantities only recently in an evolutionary sense!

"The problem does not necessarily lie in all carbohydrates. In fact, fruits and vegetables are full of them, but there exists a very important difference. Fruits and vegetables are extremely nutrient dense, do not cause dramatic insulin spikes, and are not subjected to processing to make them edible. None of these remarks can be made about grains.

"As previously stated, the poor diet of lower income Americans has a huge impact on their health and wellbeing. The main problem is obesity, but it does not stop there. Obesity can lead to a host of other issues such as high blood pressure, stroke, heart disease, gallbladder disease, and some cancers. Still, diabetes remains the most common byproduct of obesity caused by the high carb, highly processed diet. Insulin production is rarely ever stabilized after the body has received years of a constant barrage of high glycemic, grain-based, processed carbohydrates. The costs incurred from diabetes are not only limited to the physical, but also the monetary expenses associated with the disease. There are constant doctor visits, prescriptions, and quite possibly surgeries. Low-income citizens do not make enough money to pay for healthy quality foods to eat, let alone health insurance or surgery!

"The modern American diet is quite controversial. The recommended nutrition guidelines are filled with political and scientific bias that do little to help the public, but rather boost careers and help secure funding. Canada’s food guidelines provide a much more accurate representation of human biological needs. It suggests that the basis of a healthy diet is colorful fruits and vegetables and then grain products. Lean meats (including red meat) and some dairy also make their way into the recommendations, as do healthy fats like olive oil and nuts.

"A magnificent challenge lies ahead in getting these types of food into the hands of everyone across the country. It could begin with government subsidies of these healthy foods (or no subsidies at all), as well as incentives for quality food chains to open locations in a lower income city or town. Simply reducing food waste could also have a drastic impact on lowering the demand for food and ultimately lower prices. Education and supplies for simple home vegetable gardening would also be of great benefit to those willing.

"Something must be done to help the poor to receive the proper nutrition that so many other Americans take for granted. The government needs to step in to allow them access to quality foods, and take the politics out of the USDA’s Food Pyramid that is misinforming so many. Highly processed, grain-based carbohydrate diets are dangerous to the innocent and na├»ve lower class in our country and ultimately cost us all."

02 November 2009

The Salt Situation, Pt. II

So should you still worry about salt?

Well... Yes.

The amount of sodium in your kidneys is ultimately related to the amount that you eat, though it probably only causes problems when your carbohydrate intake is high as I described in the previous post.

However, there is a common misconception that to reduce your sodium intake, you can simply quit putting salt on your food when it gets to the table. This can reduce your intake, but most people are surprised to learn that only about 20% of our sodium comes from the salt shaker.

Then where does all that sodium come from?

I'm glad you asked. About 80% of our salt intake comes from the processed foods we eat everyday. Crackers, breads, chips, deli meats, baked goods, canned soups and vegetables, cheeses, frozen dinners, restaurant meals, and pickled foods all contribute a terribly high amount of sodium to our diet.

I'll admit that I'm a sea salt fanatic. I put a pinch in my eggs in the morning, in my homemade salad dressings, and on my grilled chicken, but I spend very little time worrying about having too much salt in my diet since I rarely ever consume processed food products.

If there's a single thread that ties all of my posts together, it is to avoid processed foods. Here again, if we avoid processed foods, we also avoid high sodium foods and high carbohydrate foods. Not only does this reduce the risk of hypertension, but also obesity, diabetes, and others.

28 October 2009

The Salt Situation, Pt. I

Conventional nutrition wisdom says salt is the ultimate evil concerning hypertension (high blood pressure), but you know me. You know I tend to not agree with conventional nutrition wisdom about 90% of the time. Here I go again...

The theory goes like this. Sodium and potassium ions are needed in a balanced ratio to help your body maintain a homeostatic (neutral) state. If there is too much salt in the body, the kidneys dilute it in water and excrete it in the form of urine. The swelling caused by the retention of water is said to increase blood pressure.

Why is it wrong?

Well, it isn't inherently wrong. It just isn't right. The swelling caused by the retention of water does increase blood pressure, though only temporarily and by very small amounts. The studies linking salt to hypertension are weak and usually examine only the effect of salt on the condition. Basically, the studies are not accurate.

Here's what you need to know before we continue. If you are obese, you are more likely to have high blood pressure. If you are diabetic, you are more likely to have high blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, you are more likely to be obese and diabetic.

We have to get to the root of the problem. Why is there so much salt in the kidneys? A more plausible theory proposed by Gary Taubes in Good Calories, Bad Calories is that increased insulin from a high sugar diet increases the amount of salt in the kidneys and therefore causes hypertension. Hypertension is just another one of the diseases of civilization like obesity, diabetes, heart disease, etc. Why should we expect the cause to be any different?

Taubes says that, "[e]ating carbohydrates prompts the kidneys to hold on to salt, rather than excrete it. The body then retains extra water to keep sodium concentration of the blood constant... [C]arbohydrates cause us to retain water by inhibiting the excretion of the sodium that is already there. Removing carbohydrates from the diet works... like the anti-hypertensive drugs known as diuretics, which cause the kidneys to excrete sodium, and water along with it." (Taubes, P.149)

These effects are most likely due to an increase in insulin.

So should you still worry about salt?

To be continued...

23 October 2009

"You Climb What You Eat"

I've been getting some great feedback and responses to my website these past few months, and I was recently approached by Amanda Fox at Urban Climber magazine about doing a profile on me and my thoughts about athletic performance and diet. After a series of interviews, here it is! Check it out in the November 2009 issue of Urban Climber. Also, if you've just found my site from the article, then welcome and I hope you find my site useful, interesting, or otherwise. Click the thumbnails for larger versions.

19 October 2009

Where's the beef?

By now, you've probably grown used to me ragging on corn and soy and more specifically how they and are pumped into "health" food products. Do you really know where tocopherol, xanthan gum, and modified food starch come from and what they are? And more importantly, do you know which of your favorite foods they are in? Today we are going to look at some common "health" food products and their ingredients. The ingredients in green are products that are made from corn or soy, or that can be made from corn or soy.

Special K with Red Berries Cereal


Ingredients: RICE, SUGAR, WHOLE WHEAT, WHEAT GLUTEN, FREEZE-DRIED STRAWBERRIES, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, WHEAT FLOUR, DEFATTED WHEAT GERM, SALT, MALT FLAVORING, ASCORBIC ACID, ALPHA TOCOPHEROL, REDUCED IRON, NIACINAMIDE, PYRIDOXINE HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B6), THIAMIN HYDROCHLORIDE (VITAMIN B1), RIBOFLAVIN (VITAMIN B2), VITAMIN A PALMITATE, FOLIC ACID, VITAMIN B12.

The high fructose corn syrup is a no brainer. Malt flavoring can be extracted from corn. Ascorbic acid is a vitamin C additive that almost always comes from corn. Alpha tocopherol is a vitamin E additive that also almost always comes from corn. What we have here is nothing but flour and sugar, which is really just sugar and sugar.

Wheat Thins Crackers


Ingredients: ENRICHED FLOUR (WHEAT FLOUR, NIACIN, REDUCED IRON, THIAMINE MONONITRATE {VITAMIN B1}, RIBOFLAVIN {VITAMIN B2}, FOLIC ACID), SOYBEAN OIL, WHOLE GRAIN WHEAT FLOUR, SUGAR, DEFATTED WHEAT GERM, CORNSTARCH, MALT SYRUP, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, SALT, MONOGLYCERIDES, LEAVENING, VEGETABLE COLOR, SOY LECITHIN

Here, we basically have some flour, sugar, and a bunch of chemicals from corn and soy. Soybean oil is obviously extracted from soy. Cornstarch is the concentrated starch molecules from corn used to thicken baked goods. Malt syrup is a sugar used similarly to malt flavoring. Again, more high fructose corn syrup. Monoglycerides come from soybeans. Leavening almost always contains a starch (usually from corn). Vegetable color usually comes from corn. Soy lecithin is used as a binder and obviously comes from soy.

Dannon Light & Fit Yogurt


Ingredients: NONFAT YOGURT (CULTURED GRADE A NONFAT MILK, MODIFIED CORN STARCH, KOSHER GELATIN, VITAMIN A PALMITATE, VITAMIN D3), WATER, STRAWBERRIES, FRUCTOSE, contains less than 1% of MODIFIED CORN STARCH, BANANA PUREE, NATURAL AND ARTIFICAL FLAVORS, ASPARTAME, SODIUM CITRATE, POTASSIUM SORBATE, ANNATTO EXTRACT, MALIC ACID, SUCRALOSE, RED 40

Lots of modified corn starch is used here to make the product more like regular yogurt since nonfat yogurt by itself is really just a runny mess. More fructose. More flavors. More preservatives.

Lean Cuisine Glazed Chicken Entree

Ingredients: CHICKEN TENDERLOINS (CHICKEN TENDERLOINS, HIGH FRUCTOSE CORN SYRUP, WATER, CORN OIL, MODIFIED CORNSTARCH, LEMON JUICE CONCENTRATE, SODIUM PHOSPHATES, SALT, CARAMEL COLOR, POTASSIUM CHLORIDE, GARLIC, ONION, PAPRIKA, SPICES), WATER, BLANCHED ENRICHED LONG GRAIN RICE (RICE, FERRIC PHOSPHATE, NIACIN, THIAMIN MONONITRITE, FOLIC ACID), GREEN BEANS, MUSHROOMS, ONIONS, BLANCHED WILD RICE, MODIFIED CORNSTARCH, SUGAR, SALT, CULTURED WHEY, CHICKEN FAT, LEMON JUICE CONCENTRATE, CARAMEL COLOR, DEHYDRATED ONIONS, SPICES, DEHYDRATED GARLIC, PAPRIKA

Pardon my ignorance, but what is all that junk doing in my chicken tenderloins? I'm not even going to try and say anything else about this abomination. (However, it could potentially be a lot worse...)

Still convinced you don't eat that much corn and soy?

14 October 2009

Have you actually met a farmer lately?

Whether you are an outspoken liberal or stubborn conservative, I think we can agree that our nation was founded on an ideal that we would establish and foster free market economic practices. The theory is that with a large number of sellers and a large number of buyers, both would benefit. Competition in the marketplace would create lower cost to consumers, but also give all sellers the opportunity to succeed and profit.

Unfortunately, thanks to new Wal-Mart stores and McDonalds restaurants opening on a daily basis, these free market practices have gone by the wayside in our food industry.

Five large corporations control a little over two thirds of the nation's chicken industry. This is a gross statistic that doesn't imply the existence of a free market for the consumer. Companies like Tyson and ConAgra dictate prices and lobby Congress to stay out of their business. They use technology to design species of chickens with unusually large breasts. They ship day old chicks to their "contractors" and send trucks in 8 weeks to pick up sickly, fat chickens that are ready for slaughter. At no point do these contractors actually own the chickens. However, they do own the expensive equipment, the chicken houses, the land, and a whole lot of debt. The initial investment to become a contractor to a company like this is somewhere around $150,000. They can expect about $12,000 a year. Contractors that complain are often fined or even have their contracts cancelled. Most of these chickens find their way into 99 cent chicken sandwiches at fast food restaurants and supermarkets where they are typically sold for less than $1 per pound.

The beef industry is controlled by just four corporations. Eighty-five percent of our beef is processed by ConAgra, IBP, National Beef, and Excel. They use "captive supplies" of beef to encourage prices to stay low. A captive supply is a meatpackers own herd of live cattle that it purchases for a low price and subsequently raises in house. When the prices of beef begin to rise, these companies with their captive supplies begin to slaughter those animals leaving the ranchers with no little other choice than to sell their beef cheaper or simply fold. It's no wonder no one knows any farmers anymore. I'm sure you don't need reminding, but we also feed the cattle our corn surplus. This practices creates sick cows and drastically changes the fat profile in the meat we eat. Corn-fed beef has a much higher saturated fat content and much less omega-3 comapred to natural, grass-fed beef. There's just no chance for the small farmer raising cattle naturally in the Midwest or in the Appalachians to compete with the large corporations.

I know that vegetarianism isn't the answer, but it is sounding pretty good right now.

07 October 2009

My Humble Endorsement of Crossfit

I'm a picky guy. I'm picky about my food. I'm picky about my clothes. I'm picky about my music. I'm picky about what I watch on television and what I read. I'm also very picky when it comes to working out. I really don't like to waste my time.

I've been doing some form of workout on a regular basis since I started to get into tennis early in my life. It's only been recently (in the last year) that the world of rock climbing opened up to me the world of Crossfit.

Crossfit is a program that really has no definition. The different workouts posted each day on the main website are designed to utilize maximum effort in short periods of or around 20 minutes (and often less than 8 minutes). Instead of being great at one thing, the goal is to be good at lots of things, which is the definition of fitness in the eyes of a Crossfitter. These things include power, strength, balance, flexibility, endurance, agility, etc.

You'll see lots of aerobic movements like rowing and running. You'll see lots of gymnastic bodyweight movements like pull-ups and push-ups (and the famous "muscle-up"). You'll see lots of heavy barbell training and lots of high repetition, low weight multi-functional movements.

What you won't see is the same thing every day. New and different workouts are posted each day. Sure, they repeat workouts, but you haven't done it for at least a or two month (and sometimes 4 or 5 years).

What you won't see is anything involving weight machines. Crossfit stresses multi-functional movements. Weight machines focus on distinct muscle groups, whereas gymnastic bodyweights movements and barbell training force the entire body to work thereby increasing the amount of work you do and lowering the amount of time you have to spend at the gym.

I encourage you to give it a try for a few days. Not ready yet for the WOD (Workout of the Day)? Try a scaled version. Maybe drop the repetitions, weight, or time to be manageable for your ability. Get used to the lifts and movements. I guarantee that if you push yourself to perform the workout effectively and with maximum effort, it will be a matter of time before you see results and are feeling better than ever. You can find a gym in your area here.

05 October 2009

What's for dinner?


I did a pair of posts about a month ago suggesting some options for breakfast and lunch. Now, here's an easy and great dinner for after a good workout or long day. In the mood for a sweet potato, but don't have an hour and a half to bake one? Try this.

Sweet Potato Fries

2 small sweet potatoes (frenched)
1 tblsp. olive oil
1 tsp. cinnamon
1/2 tsp. cumin
1/4 tsp. cayenne pepper
1/4 tsp. sea salt

Preheat oven to 400F. Toss potatoes in olive oil and spices and coat evenly. Place skin side down on a aluminum baking sheet. Bake for 35 minutes. Set oven to broil for an additional 4 to 5 minutes.

Broccoli

2 C broccoli
2 tsp. butter

Set a pot of water on the stove on high and bring to a boil. Place broccoli in a colander and create a steamer by placing the colander over the pot of boiling water. Steam uncovered for about 8 minutes. Transfer broccoli to a hot pan with broccoli. Cook until butter melts and coats broccoli evenly.

Orange Dill Salmon

1 large salmon fillet (thawed from frozen)
1 tsp. sea salt.
2 tsp. dill
1 tsp. pepper
juice from 1/2 an orange
2 tblsp. olive oil

Preheat oven to 400F. Coat salmon in olive oil, spices, and orange juice. Place on a broil pan skin side down. Bake for about 25 minutes until thoroughly cooked and flaky.


That's it! Get those potatoes goiand salmon going while the oven preheats. Get them in the oven. Walk away for 20 minutes then come back and work on your broccoli. You've got a fantastic meal in about 35 minutes.

30 September 2009

How did we get here?

How did we get here? How did we get to the point where we abstain from all fats and suck down all the carbohydrates we can get out hands on? Who's idea was this anyway?

In the 1970's, there was a lot of political unrest going on. Food prices were beginning to steadily rise and angry housewives joined together to protest these higher costs. At the time, Richard Nixon was president and he had appointed Earl Butz as Secretary of Agriculture. Butz would also continue to serve under Gerald Ford. Butz's solution to rising crop and grocery prices was to simply produce more. Farmers were encouraged to start monoculturing and planting commodity crops (corn, wheat, soybeans, etc.) "fencerow to fencerow." (Read: as much as physically possible)

It worked. Prices for consumers fell to record lows, but the prices paid to farmers also fell. Farmers were struggling to make ends meet and were having to produce more commodity crops to pay the bills, which brought prices down even more. See the never ending cycle? This also paved the way for companies like Mansanto and Cargill to use technology as a means of producing more food. This was the end of agriculture and the beginning of the food industry.

So now we've got a lot of corn and wheat and carbs on our hands.

Dr. Ancel Keys was doing a bit of his own research at this time. He is responsible for the "Seven Countries Study," which concluded that fat (especially saturated fat) increases cholesterol that increases your risk for heart disease. His data was quite remarkable and quite clear. The published graph showed a nice and neat correlation between saturated fat intake and rates of heart disease in countries like Japan and the United States. Unfortunately, Keys actually studied about twenty countries and the data was all over the board. He carefully selected those countries that would give him the nice and neat graph he needed to convince us to decrease our fat intake. It was published. We bought it.

Almost 40 years of American nutrition recommendations have come from this contrived study? You heard right. What's even more disturbing is that other scientists were conducting research on the effects of sugar on heart disease and cholesterol. John Yudkin was the most notable figure opposing Ancel Keys at this time, but when his findings didn't help us get rid of all the commodity grain we had laying around, he was doomed to obscurity.

The following clip is from the movie Fat Head. This is a great summary of what I have just explained.

27 September 2009

Fat vs. Fat

How's that for a confusing title?

So let's talk for a bit about the two types of fat we have unfortunately decided to use the same word for.

1. Adipose Tissue Adipose tissue is the technical name for the fluffy, soft fat that builds up on your body. Its primary roles are to store energy and provide your body with insulation and cushioning. Your skin is mostly fat and all of your organs are held in place and protected by a layer of adipose. Our bodies have evolved to rely on this versatile tissue to keep us healthy and functioning. The issues come when we have too much.

How do you get too much? As we've discussed many times before, adipose accumulation can largely be attributed to high amounts of carbohydrate (mainly as sugar and starch) in the diet. Insulin tells your cells to take up some of the sugar, and then it takes the rest to the liver where it is stored for a short period of time as glycogen. If this glycogen is not used in a timely manner, the liver gets rid of it. It becomes stored as none other than adipose tissue, or body fat. Genes and other hormones can also affect the formation of adipose tissue, but your diet can help greatly control these factors as well.

2. Lipids This word more accurately describes the kind of fat you ingest on a day to day basis in your food. I did a post covering all of the different kinds of fat not too long ago. These fats are required to maintain the function of the protective adipose, and they also aid in the absorption of many vitamins and minerals.

Lipids can be ultimately stored as fat, but when you practice a diet limiting sugar, most of these lipids are burned as energy. New research is also suggesting that fat isn't really the cause of obesity and heart disease after all.

24 September 2009

Wise beyond his years...

If you've never seen Jack Lalanne do his thing, you've been seriously missing out.








22 September 2009

Now it's your turn

Alright. Now it's your turn. Today at TF, you will find a letter I have been working on for about 2 weeks now regarding the national health care crisis. The letter poses that the health care crisis is in fact closely related to our our nation's poor health caused by subsidized and processed food. It is addressed to senators, representatives, and even the president. I know that writing the president is much akin to writing Santa Claus, but something must be done. I hope that you will read the text, decide whether or not you can get behind this with me, print out a few copies, and take a few minutes to send it to whoever you will. Just type in your name and information at the bottom, print out 4 or 5 copies, write in the name of who you are addressing, sign, and send. It's incredibly easy. What excuse do you have to let this continue?

"As you are most assuredly aware, our country is in the midst of a great healthcare reform debate. Medical bills are through the roof. Insurance bills are through the roof. The fact that people cannot pay these bills only makes the situation worse for everyone involved.

"The American people are becoming increasingly overweight and diabetic. My personal research on this subject has led me to question the current guidelines set forth by our government through the USDA. I am only left to assume that our current food system and the diet recommended to us are contributing greatly to our rising health care costs.

"Insulin is the only hormone in the human body that promotes fat storage and is produced in the pancreas to deal with elevations in blood sugar. Elevated blood sugar levels are caused by the obscene amounts of carbohydrates (bread, chips, rice, pasta, crackers, snacks, etc.) and sugars (soda, candy, snacks, etc.) our population consumes on a daily basis in the form of processed food products. Chronic elevated insulin leads to a resistance to insulin, which prompts your pancreas to produce more and more. Ultimately, obesity, elevated cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes are the result. What is most upsetting is the fact that the USDA recommends our population eat more and more of these high carbohydrate foods.

"The government grants large subsidies to farmers for growing wheat, corn, and soybeans. These subsidies are solely responsible for the mass amounts of cheap, unhealthy, processed, and high carbohydrate food made from the products they encourage farmers to produce. Very often, these are the only sustainable source of calories that many of our lower income Americans can afford. These are the people that don’t have insurance. These are the people that can’t pay their medical bills. This is why our insurance costs so much. My hope is that you will push Congress to at least take a second look at our current dietary guidelines and farm subsidies. Why are we not recommending high quality protein and vegetables and helping people afford them? Why are we subsidizing corn and soybeans when we should be offering subsidies to farmers who practice sustainable and responsible polycultures and raise livestock and cattle in a humane and natural manner? Why are the American people’s voices being drowned out by corporations like Kraft, Kellogg’s, Nabisco, Tyson, and so on? I am very much in favor of a free market for these corporations, but when the government continues to help these large, industrial food corporations that are continuing to put the nation’s health at risk, something has got to be done.

"I encourage you to read Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes for an in-depth look at the case against a grain-based, high carbohydrate diet. I also recommend The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan to help you better understand the current state of subsidized farming in our country. Pollan also recently did an article in the NY Times titled 'Big Food vs. Big Insurance.' You may also elect to see the documentary film Food Inc. These pieces of media will provide you a much more in depth look at the science behind my request.

"It is a truly unfortunate reality that cheap, processed food product has taken the place of real, whole food that our bodies were designed to eat to function in a healthy manner. A look at the American diet may provide the answers you are looking for regarding our health care situation."

The letter is available for you to download here. Make sure to download it as a Word Document so that you can enter your own contact information at the bottom.

Here are a few ideas on who to send your letters to. I encourage you to find your own state's senators and representatives at opencongress.org.

Sen. Kay Hagan
521 Dirksen Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Sen. Richard Burr
217 Russel Senate Office Building
Washington, DC 20510

Rep. Collin Peterson
2211 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Rep. Mike McIntyre
2437 Rayburn House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Rep. Virginia Foxx
430 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

Rep. Larry Kissell
512 Cannon House Office Building
Washington, DC 20515

We killed tobacco. Now, let's kill the junk they pass off to us as food.

20 September 2009

I Am Not A "Carbophobe"

"So you don't eat carbs?"

It's a question I hear way too often after I explain that I don't eat grain and gluten products. People seem to immediately assume that I belong with a small group of crazies that limit their carbohydrate intake to some 50g each day (or even less). I may be crazy, but I'm not stupid. If you have a significant amount of pounds you aim to lose, then I do support some sort of carbohydrate control. However, as a lifestyle, it just doesn't work. It is similar to the "lipophobia" (an extreme avoidance of dietary fat) that most Americans suffer from these days. That's certainly no way to live your life either.

If you take a look at the posts of my meals from last week, you'll notice plenty of carbs. Heck. There's probably 50g or more in my breakfast alone. What you won't notice is an excessive consumption of carbs. What you won't notice is cereal and bagels. There's plenty of fruit, plenty of vegetables, and plenty of nuts that offer the same kind of fuel crackers, bread, and rice give you, but with a myriad of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients that grains simply can't match. There's just not the 300g of sugar.

The USDA commonly recommends that people eat a "balanced diet." Does getting 60% or more of your calories from carbohydrates sound balanced to you? There's an issue here, a dichotomy rather.

I know cutting out grains isn't always convenient, cheap, practical, etc. for most people. My goal with this website is not to completely convert you to my way of eating, but rather inform you so you can make one better choice regarding food each day. If you skip the cereal and eat the eggs for breakfast, then I've done my job. If you skip the sandwich and eat the salad for lunch, then I've done my job. If you skip the pasta and go with the steak or tuna for dinner, then I've done my job.

16 September 2009

A Day In Food - Wednesday

Here we are. Today is the last installment of the "A Day In Food" mini series. I hope you've enjoyed seeing how easy and great meals can be without all that other junk you are used to. I've had more hits than I ever have before while doing this little segment, so hopefully we can do it again really soon. Until then, keep checking back for more posts about anything and everything eating.

Breakfast


Here we've got two poppy seed muffins, about 4 oz. of sausage, a whole cantaloupe, and some black coffee. The poppy seed muffins are made using coconut flour and the sausage is all natural (just pork and some red pepper flakes). Worried about time? The sausage took about 6 minutes in the cast iron skillet and the muffins took about 35 seconds to reheat in the microwave. Heck, the coffee took longer to finish brewing!

Lunch


You should recognize this salad. It's the bacon and avocado salad I described last month in the "What's For Lunch?" post. Of course, I used my homemade balsamic salad dressing from that same post.

Snack


I'm big on not making things any more complicated than they have to be. Here you've got sliced banana and a handful of blueberries. I topped it with pecans, walnuts, and almonds.

Dinner


I have to admit. This was my first time preparing brussel sprouts. I coated them in olive oil, sea salt, pepper, and garlic powder, then I baked them at 400F for about 35 minutes. They came out pretty well I think. The carrots I steamed on high for about 5 minutes then on medium for another 12 minutes or so. I poured out all the water and added just a tiny bit of honey and some dill. The chicken I sliced and reheated in a saute pan with a little olive oil, rosemary, and balsamic. That's regular old iced tea to drink. How about well under $5 for everything?

15 September 2009

A Day In Food - Tuesday

Today I'll continue with my mini series "A Day In Food." As promised, here is everything I have eaten today. Don't forget to click the pictures for full sized versions.


Breakfast




Talk about quick. This thing took 10 minutes to make. Today we have an omelet with three eggs filled with half an avocado and about 4 oz. of salmon I had leftover from dinner on Saturday. Unfortunately, you can't really see what's on the inside, but trust when I say it was quite good. I also had a banana and some black coffee.

Lunch



For lunch I made a curry chicken salad sandwich. You might remember my curry chicken salad recipe from last month. I also added a bit of cumin and cayenne to the curry. All these spices exhibit wonderful antimicrobial properties. The bread is the flax seed focaccia bread as featured on many of the paleo/primal/gluten-free websites across the net, however I substituted an equal amount of unsweetened, organic applesauce for the oil. You'll also notice two strips of bacon and some mixed greens. All the chicken salad I made didn't quite fit on the sandwich so I just ended up eating it straight out of the mixing bowl.

Snack


Here's a handful of strawberries and blueberries and some roasted, unsalted pistachios. I imagine I probably ate around 2.5 oz. of pistachios (about 120 nuts).

Dinner


More leftovers! Here's a porkchop from Sunday night that I covered in paprika, garlic powder, rosemary, thyme, and black pepper. I seared it in my cast iron skillet about 5 minutes on each side then put in the oven for around 15 more minutes to get the inside done. Tonight, I just reheated it in the skillet for a few minutes on each side and covered it in an apple cider vinegar based sauce. The side dish is kale sauteed in butter with 1/2 clove of minced garlic, baby bella mushrooms, chopped sweet onion, and a strip of bacon torn into small pieces. Kale is similar to spinach, but with a meatier stem. Before sauteeing, I blanched it for about 8 minutes.

Enjoy!

14 September 2009

A Day In Food - Monday

You asked for it and now you are getting it. What do I actually eat in a typical day? Most people can't imagine what typical meals looks like for someone who chooses not to eat grains, legumes, and dairy. I'm here to show you exactly how easy and great food can be without all the processed junk you are used to. Over the next three days I'll be documenting everything I eat to show you that you can do it too. Click the images to see them in full size!


Breakfast




Here is the spicy frittata I showed you back in August. I also cut a cantaloupe in half and ate it with a spoon. I washed it all down with some black coffee. Notice the lack of toast, cereal, snack bars, and milk?

Lunch



Here's my second favorite salad. Baby spinach and mixed greens with red onion, strawberries, fresh pineapple, grapes, walnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, and about 5 oz. of chicken. I sauteed the chicken in butter and bacon fat with some rosemary, garlic powder, sea salt, and pepper. I used my homemade balsamic vinegar dressing I showed you here. No sandwiches, chips, or soda here.

Snack



Pretty simple here. I sliced an apple and dipped it in almond butter and then in dried unsweetened coconut. Need a snack under $2? Here it is.

Dinner



This is easily one of my favorite meals ever. This is about a 9 oz. sirloin and the biggest sweet potato you have ever seen in your life (local of course). Can you say under $5 for the whole meal?? I marinated the sirloin in some cold black coffee left over from this morning, sea salt, and pepper. Then I grilled it in my beloved cast iron skillet. The sweet potato I sprinkled with some cinnamon. Don't be afraid to eat the whole thing either! You won't even miss the pasta and garlic bread.


Dessert




This is all it takes y'all. A handful of strawberries and blueberries topped with some pecans, walnuts, and almonds.

Still not convinced? Check back tomorrow for more.

10 September 2009

"Sugar: The Bitter Truth"

Here's an absolutely phenomenal video of Robert Lustig of UCSF presenting his carbohydrate hypothesis that I think deserves the spotlight today. Happy eating everyone.

08 September 2009

Silly Studies

I rant and tangent an awful lot on my little internet soap box about biased studies and the significant role they play in our food industry. Today, I want to show you exactly what I mean.

Let's begin with lycopene. Lycopene is a carotenoid (a type of plant chemical contributing to color) and antioxidant found in many red fruits and vegetables. It has been in the news quite a bit lately regarding a weak link to the prevention of prostate cancer. Lycopene has also been said to help prevent diabetes, heart disease, osteoperosis, and all that other stuff. (I say just eat vegetables and quit worrying about this or that antioxidant. Unfortunately, the "experts" didn't ask my opinion. Anyway.)

Tomatoes seem to have become the newest trend in health for this lycopene content. There's articles and studies and websites dedicated to showing how the lycopene in tomatoes will prevent disease in 9 out of 10 patients studied or whatever.

Where am I going with all this?

Tomatoes are one of the few vegetables (er... fruit) that actually has an industry. Heinz uses them to make their ketchup and steak sauces. Prego uses them to make their whole line of pasta sauces. Frito Lay uses them to make their Tostitos salsas. These gigantic corporations have a great financial interest in showing the consumer how their products are healthy. They are happy to pay scientists to tell the public that tomatoes are good for you so that then you'll buy more of their processed products.

Come on now. Do you really think a tablespoon of ketchup with your french fries makes it better for you? They certainly hope you think it is.

Did you know that a slice of watermelon has just as much lycopene in it as a tomato (and sometimes more depending on the season)? Chances are you did not. Why? Watermelon doesn't have an industry out to convince you that it is healthy. Heck, all watermelon has going for it is a bunch of broke farmers that can't hardly afford to put food on the table (not to mention a million dollar study).

03 September 2009

A corny story, Pt. II

So how did corn get to be the king crop in America anyway? What about it makes it so valuable?

First of all, corn is easily manipulated. It's male and female parts are far enough away from each other that humans (ehh... scientists) can create entire new breeds by crossing plants to select for certain traits and characteristics that have been deemed desirable. Some of these traits include the ability to be grown much closer together and a mechanism to produce its own pesticide. Both of these traits (produced by scientists and corporations) have dramactically increased crops yields (which also means a lower price).

Corn is a C4 plant (whereas most plants are C3). Without getting into a whole mess of details, C4 plants are much less picky when it comes to the carbon isotopes it utilizes in photosynthesis. More carbon equals more carbohydrates. Those kernels on the corn pack a whole lot of starch (and also a whole lot of calories) compared to other crops.

Basically, we can grow a whole lot of corn and a whole lot of calories.

What most people don't realize is that this isn't the corn you get at your farmer's market to take home and eat. No. This isn't food. This stuff is a product. Michael Pollan even calls it a commodity.

This stuff gets ground up into corn oil (for margarine), high fructose corn syrup (for soda), xanthan gum (for processed foods), citric acid (for keeping things "fresh"), ethanol (for beer and cars), and also the stuff we feed our livestock. That's probably the most disturbing part. We have so much corn, we've started looking for new and inventive ways to use it.

31 August 2009

A corny story, Pt. I

Biology instructors regularly teach and discuss the theory of carrying capacity. This is a term used for exactly how many individuals in a population of a species that the environment around them can feed and support. Here is a grossly simplified example:

If there's 1,000 acres of grass, this land can support 100 rabbits. If there's only 100 rabbits, there will only be 10 foxes. The foxes eat the rabbits and if they don't eat, they die. The fox population remains steady as long as the rabbit population remains steady and the food available to the rabbits remains steady. Each is dependent on another. Populations ebb and flow with the environment and resources. Right?

All animals seem to follow this pattern, but most biologists will argue that humans have yet to reach their carrying capacity. On one hand, they appear to be right. Our population has been ever increasing exponentially each year, which is illustrated by this graph.

How does all this have anything to do with what you eat?

I'd argue all day long that our world's carrying capacity of humans was met long ago around the turn of the 20th century. That's when we started playing with nature. Just like we've manipulated corn into high fructose corn syrup, we've manipulated the food supply and therefore the population. There's simply too many people in the world to support and feed in a healthful manner (using the current system).

Let's go back to the turn of the century when the face of farming began to change. At one point, pastures were filled with horses and cattle and fields filled of a large variety of vegetables and this helped to ensure that if the demand for a particular crop declined or there were poor yields of another, there would still be food on the table (for the farmer and us). Through a series of unfortunate events, the government and corporations in the farming industry began to encourage monocultures. Instead of a large variety of crops and livestock, farmers began focusing on just one of two things: corn and soybeans. They'd pack their fields full of genetically modified seeds that could produce more calories per acre than we had ever thought possible before. Farms became less of a farm and more of a factory. More corn equals less demand for corn and less demand for corns equals a lower price. Farmers were hardly making enough to break even anymore. It started to cost more to grow than it's actually worth at market.

So how did we fix this? We now had an industry dependent on the success of corn, so the government told them to grow more corn and then paid them for it. All this corn had to go somewhere so we taught our cows and chickens how to eat it. We constructed chemical ingedients out of it. We pump it into our cars.

So why corn? What's it's deal?

More to come...

28 August 2009

Vitameatavegamin


Spoon your way to health! ...Yeah, right.

Vitamin supplements are a fantastic (albeit expensive) tool commonly used today to improve the amount of nutrients available to our body. Supplements are extremely beneficial to your health.

BUT

If Americans would eat a proper diet of foods with a high nutrient to calorie ratio and had these foods readily available to them in the first place, we would have no need for expensive supplements! Whole foods have been proven time and time again to be better sources of vitamins and minerals. Some recent studies have even shown negative effects associated with megadosing on certain vitamins.

So do I take vitamins? Certainly, but only a select few.

1. Fish oil - I've discussed very briefly in a previous article the necessary balance of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-3's are an amazing tool at lowering inflation in the body, but it it darn near impossible to maintain an ideal ratio unless you catch your own fatty cold water fish, raise chickens in your backyard, and eat 100% grass fed beef 100% of the time. A fish oil supplement provides a few extra grams of omega-3's that keep your body running efficiently.

I take two to three daily, but skip out on them on the days I eat salmon or tuna (which I try to do at least twice a week). Check out this video from Dr. Barry Sears (author of The Zone diet book) on the benefits of omega-3 fatty acid.

2. Multi-Mineral - I've also discussed briefly the fact that large amounts of vitamin D and calcium aren't necessary when eating real whole food and restricting grain and legume products, but multi-mineral supplements do ensure that you are getting just enough. They also include things like manganese, iron, and copper. You are likely getting enough of these from your protein sources, but if your protein requirements are a little lower (older adult males and all females), the extra little bit certainly won't hurt. I take two each day.

In short, forget acai extract and goji extract and green tea extract and fiber this and fiber that and reservatrol and ultra super mega man sport pills. Eat real, whole, natural food to limit your need for vitamin supplements. The real thing is always better than the $50 pills at GNC.

26 August 2009

Why vegetarianism isn't the answer

PETA recently began a new ad campaign and put up a billboard in Jacksonville, FL suggesting that overweight Americans should turn to a vegetarian way of eating to "lose the blubber." See the story here.

I've said before that if you maintain a vegetarian lifestyle due to moral/ethical reasons, then more power to you, but it is very far from the ideal human diet for optimum health and weight loss. In my opinion, humans require protein (and more explicitly animal protein) to function at their best.

It is very difficult to obtain all the necessary amino acids (proteins), vitamins, and minerals living a vegetarian lifestyle without supplements (which are not nearly as effective as obtaining them from whole foods). Plant protein sources are "incomplete proteins" because each only contain select amino acids. Animal meats contain all essential amino acids and therefore are "complete protein sources." Sure, you can get all the essential amino acids from plant sources by eating a large variety of plants, but most vegetarians tend to turn to soy based proteins (tofu, edamame, soy milk, etc.) and beans. Soy has long been marketed as a health food (just like wheat breads and corn cereals), but you have to remember that this is one of the top crops grown in the U.S. (like wheat and corn) and subsidized by the government (like wheat and corn). Soy has been linked to many issues including thyroid problems, immune system malfunction, breast cancer, and increased estrogen. Vegetarians also eat beans for protein, but your body has trouble digesting beans efficiently and effectively. Everyone knows beans cause gas right? That's your body telling you it didn't really like those beans you fed it last night at Casa Ranchero or whatever.

In addition, if you are not eating 400 to 800 calories a day from protein, your body will find another way to get those calories that it needs to function. I promise that more often than not a vegetarian will choose to get those calories from carbohydrates. Most vegetarians easily consume over 3oog of carbohydrates each day in pasta, bread, cereal, crackers, energy bars, milk products, soy products, and everything else (which the government loves), but these carbs are spiking insulin levels leading to insulin resistance and the storage of fat. I feel like a broken record sometimes, but it's the truth and you need to know it.

24 August 2009

The real deal on fake sugar

Fake sugars are yet another unnecessary, unnatural chemical too often added to food products. Ever heard of aspartame or sucralose? Even if you haven't, I bet you've consumed something today that contains one or the other.

Their effects on your health have long been debated. One day they are safe a the very next some new study has come out linking them to cancer, heart problems, etc. Who knows what the truth is anymore. I'm no scientist (yet), and can't claim whether or not they are actually "safe" to use or not (though aspartame accounts for 75% of all reported complaints to the FDA...). What I can tell you is they are in fact chemicals created in a lab and they can contribute to weight gain and insulin issues.

Let's see how they work...

Remember the other day we talked about how our brain is wired to crave carbohydrates? When you eat something sweet (or carbohydrates at all for that matter), your tongue sends signals to the brain. These signals tell the brain that energy is coming in and to get the liver started up and ready to work producing insulin to maintain normal blood sugar. This is called the cephalic phase response. Unfortunately, when you consume a chemical sweetener, it's a false alarm. No calories (or carbohydrates) are coming in to burn and the liver begins to get a bit confused. The liver sends signals back to the brain asking where the heck the food is. The insulin the liver has produced has already begun to lower your blood sugar slightly. The liver gets a little upset at this point because it was content and busy burning the fuel from your fat cells.

This low blood sugar situation causes us to crave carbohydrates in an attempt to regain a more normal blood sugar. Too bad the majority of carbohydrates chosen by most of America after a diet soda are the high glycemic ones (the ones that raise blood sugar way too high).

22 August 2009

Exercise won't help? Seriously?

Yesterday I added a new article from Time to the recommended reading links list. It's by John Cloud and called "Why Exercise Won't Make You Thin." One of my readers sent it to me and asked for my response to it and what seems to be a rather ridiculous idea. If you haven't already read the article, check it out here. It is a bit long (and I encourage you to read it all), but you can probably get the idea from just the first page. Below is the response I gave.

"I agree with the author on nearly 100% of that article. Exercise does lead to increased energy expenditure, increased hunger, and often increased weight. When you burn calories through exercise that were once available to your stomach (to digest food) or your brain (to think) or your legs (to walk), your brain recognizes a lack of available energy and causes you to consume more food whether you do it knowingly or not.

"The issue (in my opinion anyway) is our diet. We consume too many carbohydrates and too many chemicals and too much processed food that our bodies have no idea what to do with. Extra carbs are stored as fat and cholesterol whereas dietary fat is stored as fat, but in a form the liver can more easily utilize. If someone's goal is to lose fat around the ab area, sit-ups are only going to make it BIGGER if he/she don't change his/her diet. It will build muscle under the fat that is already there (which needs to be burned). Fat loss is 95% in the diet. You have to train your body to switch back to the way it was originally intended to work and that's done by controlling insulin levels through the foods you choose.

"I'm sure you've heard this before about the Atkins diet: 'It works, but when you come off the diet, you gain all the weight right back.' Of course you do. When you begin to consume recommended amounts of carbohydrates again, then there's absolutely no doubt in my mind you'll gain weight and continue fostering insulin related issues. There needs to be a fundamental change in the way we think about our diet and the subsidies offered to the farmers who are growing soybeans and corn.

"I exercise probably around 5 days a week now (down from very often 10 or 12 days straight). Climbing, hiking, sprinting, olympic weight lifting (deadlifts, snatches, presses, squats, jerks), gymnastic bodyweight work (pull-ups, dips, push-ups), etc. I do only very mild cardiovascular work in my weight training, and hardly ever run more than a 5k. Just as we aren't designed to eat wheat and grains, we aren't designed to run long distances. If you have no idea where to begin, walking for 30 to 45 minutes 5 to 6 days a week is a fantastic form of exercise and give you the benefits of exercise (and free!).

"I don't do weight machines and neither should anyone else unless he/she is interested in wasting his/her time. Machines work only very concentrated groups of muscles whereas olympic lifts and gymnastics are considered 'compound movements' requiring work from many different muscle groups throughout the body.

"Olympic lifting will not make women 'hulk out' either. Look at Jessica Biel. She's pretty hot, right? Well, she lifts and sprints.

"Exercise is a fantastic thing you can do for your body. It'll improve your heart function, ability to deal with stress, make you look and feel better, improve cholesterol and insulin sensitivity, etc. However...

"The author of the article has it exactly right by saying that exercise is nearly useless for weight loss."