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.


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!


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.


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.


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.


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.


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.


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).


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.


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!


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?


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.


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.


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.


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.