Monthly Archives: May 2013

No.

End of post?  Well, perhaps not, as so many people seem to think there are.  I have written about cholesterol before (“On Statins, Cholesterol and the Like“) but I am still getting questions, so perhaps I’d better explain.  But first a simple test.  Can you tell the difference between the various pictures below?

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Bus

Taxi

People

People

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We hear about cholesterol and we hear about HDL cholesterol and LDL cholesterol.  HDL and LDL are not cholesterol. They are vehicles for transporting cholesterol, hence the silly question above.

For cholesterol: think “people”.  For HDL think “bus” and for LDL think “taxi”.  HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein) and LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein) are the vehicles used to carry cholesterol around your body.

Cholesterol is vital: it’s in pretty much every cell of your body, and it is nearly all (over 80%) manufactured in your liver.  The amount of cholesterol derived from dietary sources is pretty low.  After your liver has manufactured cholesterol it is loaded into taxis and shipped out to whichever part of your body needs new cholesterol.  Worn out cholesterol is loaded onto buses and shipped back for repair or discard.

Now, what is of interest is, do you have big taxis or small taxis, and how crowded is the highway?  Buses are no problem, big taxis are no problem; it’s having rush-hour numbers of small taxis that causes hardening of the arteries.

High LDL-P

High LDL-P (Mumbai tuk tuk taxis)
(Courtesy Joel Duncan Photography)

The big taxis come from eating animal-based food, by and large.  The tuk-tuks come from eating carbohydrates. Don’t take it from this old man.  Hear a top expert on “It’s not the passengers, it’s the cars”.  You will hear them talk about particles.  Those are particles of LDL: that’s taxis.  LDL particles come as big and fluffy (big taxis) or small and hard (tuk tuks).  When they talk about LDL-P that’s a count of particles: how crowded the road is.  When they mention atherosclerosis, that’s what we non-medical folk call “hardening of the arteries”.

Here’s Dr Tara Dall:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8fLuxjQ2s6s

For more information, the “go-to” place is Chris Masterjohn’s http://www.cholesterol-and-health.com/, but he’s not the only one.  The good folks at http://coconutoil.com/ are also talking about it: “Putting The Myth To Rest: There Is No Such Thing As Bad Cholesterol“.

[simpleazon-image align="left" asin="1592335217" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51R-yS5yFkL._SL160_.jpg" width="142"][simpleazon-image align="right" asin="B009PKIPOE" locale="uk" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51fZtEUPHEL._SL160_.jpg" width="142"]

I am a member of three on-line “keto communities”, as well as blogging about ketogenic diets myself:

A frequent question in these communities is “what should I eat?”  This question might mean “what proportion of carbs, proteins, and fats should I eat?”  It might mean “what actual foods can I eat, and in what quantities?”  In every case the answer is always “it depends …” which is highly frustrating for the person asking the question.

There are some calculators out there, but quite a few people, especially those less confident as computer users, or less confident with math (or both) have had trouble using them.  This blog post intends to help!

At the moment it is only talking about one calculator, Martin Ankerl‘s Keto Calculator: http://keto-calculator.ankerl.com/.  This video should explain all.  Below are some links that you might find helpful.  Some notes appear as the video runs: you will find them easier to read if you make the video full screen (click the icon in the bottom right of the video).

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vyRnunLjDvI

kcal or kilo-calories.  It’s all very confusing, but a calorie is the amount of heat that it takes to warm up one cc of water by one degree centigrade.  A Calorie (with a capital “C”), also known as a kilo-calorie (kcal) is what nutritionists use, and most people just lose the “k” and don’t bother with the capital “C”.  So, if you see kcal or kilo-calorie, just know that that is what dieters call a “calorie”.  Summary: don’t worry: ignore the “k”!

Basic Metabolic Rate: The energy it takes to stay alive without losing or gaining weight.

Lean Body Mass: How heavy you would be if you had no body fat.  Note: if you had NO body fat, you would be dead!  You always need some, just to stay alive.

[simpleazon-image align="left" asin="B00BKRQ4E8" locale="us" height="107" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/31Bq256DbwL._SL160_.jpg" width="160"][simpleazon-image align="right" asin="B00BKRQ4E8" locale="uk" height="107" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/31Bq256DbwL._SL160_.jpg" width="160"][simpleazon-image align="left" asin="B0077L8YOO" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41Gn7SxiNWL._SL160_.jpg" width="160"][simpleazon-image align="right" asin="B0077L8YOO" locale="uk" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41Gn7SxiNWL._SL160_.jpg" width="160"]

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Body Fat Percentage: What percentage of your weight is body fat.  There are various ways of measuring it.  Many fancy modern bathroom scales will do it for you, if you just step on in bare feet.  Pictures on the left for USA, on the right for UK.

A simpler method is to look at pictures of people, labelled with their body fat, and pick out the nearest to you.  There is a good set of body-fat pictures here.

MFP: My Fitness Pal — software to help you keep a food and exercise log, and work out what you have eaten in terms of carbs, protein and fats.  (It’s free!)  Go to their home page, scroll down a little and watch the video.  I am not going to create a MyFitnessPal “how to” video, because there are dozens on You Tube.  Here’s one I picked at random:

httpv://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ReLbeXq0vTI

That’s it for now: I will be adding a tutorial on http://www.eatthismuch.com/ a little later.

Effective Exercise: I believe that Nordic Walking is the best exercise for people on a ketogenic diet.  Overview here, “How to Get Started with Nordic Walking” here, Who can do Nordic Walking here.

See also:

Ketogenic What is a Ketogenic Diet, in a nutshell?
Ketogenic A Guide to Ketosis
Ketogenic Tips for Starting and Restarting Ketosis
Ketogenic On Ketogenic Diets
Ketogenic Ketone Testing
Ketogenic A one-page intro to Ketogenic Diets, to hand to medical sceptics
Ketogenic 203 Comments on Mark Maunder’s “Basic Ketogenic Diet”

Everyone is talking about ketogenic diets (including me):

Ketogenic What is a Ketogenic Diet, in a nutshell?
Ketogenic A Guide to Ketosis
Ketogenic What is the Ketogenic Diet Good For?
Ketogenic Tips for Starting and Restarting Ketosis
Ketogenic On Ketogenic Diets
Ketogenic How to Use the Keto Calculator
Ketogenic Ketone Testing
Ketogenic A one-page intro to Ketogenic Diets, to hand to medical sceptics
Ketogenic 203 Comments on Mark Maunder’s “Basic Ketogenic Diet”

and a number of people want to know, in the simplest sense, what it is.

The human body is defined as “dual fuel”.  Just as my mate JP’s car can run on petrol or LPG (gasoline or Liquid Petroleum Gas), so the human body can run on glucose or fat.

When the body is burning fat to get energy it does it by converting the fat to ketones, and burns those.

Many of us in the west, eating a typical western 21st century diet have damaged our bodies so that they rarely burn fat, they just store it.  That’s because we eat too many carbohydrates.  Some get used for energy: the rest get stored as fat.

If we cut way down (and I do mean WAY down) on eating carbohydrates our bodies are forced to start using our stored fat as fuel, converting the fat to ketones.  A way of eating that achieves this is called a Ketogenic Diet.

Ketogenic Diets were first used therapeutically in the early part of the 20th century, to help people with epilepsy.  Those diets were not very pleasant.

In the 21st century we know much more and eating a keto diet is more delicious, and much more healthy.

By the way: “in a nutshell” is apposite: nuts are allowed on a ketogenic diet”!

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That’s the end of the quick answer.  Read on if you want to know a bit more.

To the casual observer a ketogenic diet looks like a paleo or primal diet looks like a low-carb diet.  They do all roughly live in the same box.

Firstly, what do we mean by paleo/primal?  The “rough” idea is that it turns out that paleolithic man (from roughly 2,0000,000 years ago up to roughly 10,000 years ag0) was pretty healthy: those folk weren’t obese, didn’t die of heart attacks, obesity, etc.  So we wonder what they ate.  Some folk get a bit “religious” about this, saying that those folks didn’t have (say) butter, so we shouldn’t eat butter.  Others say that butter fits right in (it certainly does in a keto diet).

Here’s Kurt Harris, MD, who describes himself as an “Archevore”

An Archevore is someone who eats based on essential principles, and also someone who hungers for essential principles. Take your pick.

I think Kurt’s blog post “The Only Reasonable Paleo Principle” makes a huge amount of sense, so I’ll leave you to read that.

There are a million other things that you can read, but I am working on a study guide, and I’ll put all those things in there, so hang on: they will appear soon!

[simpleazon-image align="left" asin="0983490708" locale="uk" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51OSaAmDQJL._SL160_.jpg" width="107"][simpleazon-image align="right" asin="0983490708" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51OSaAmDQJL._SL160_.jpg" width="107"]If you can’t wait, this is probably the best book on the subject (UK version on the left, USA version on the right).

Joseph Arcita, Before and After

This post is a meta-guide!

(That means it’s a guide to a guide).

This is Joseph Arcita: on the left is a “before” picture and on the right is “after”.  Click the pictures to read Joseph’s story.

Part of his story is his use of the ketogenic diet (KD) as his nutritional plan.  KD is something that interests me greatly: I am a frequent contributor to Mark Maunder’s Basic Ketogenic Diet blog and to two Facebook groups: The Ketogenic Diet Group (it’s a closed group, but you can ask to join), and Ketogenic Dieters, an open group with close to 500 members.

And I have blogged about this stuff before: On Ketogenic Diets back in December 2012, particularly looking at the reports of the effects of ketosis on cancer, and I also summarised and commented on some (203!) of the comments on Mark’s blog “203 Comments on Mark Maunder’s “Basic Ketogenic Diet” in February 2013.

See also:

Ketogenic What is a Ketogenic Diet, in a nutshell?
Ketogenic A Guide to Ketosis
Ketogenic What is the Ketogenic Diet Good For?
Ketogenic Tips for Starting and Restarting Ketosis
Ketogenic On Ketogenic Diets
Ketogenic How to Use the Keto Calculator
Ketogenic Ketone Testing
Ketogenic A one-page intro to Ketogenic Diets, to hand to medical sceptics
Ketogenic 203 Comments on Mark Maunder’s “Basic Ketogenic Diet”

On the FB groups people are often asking how to get started, and there is food advice there.  But today someone pointed me to Joseph Arcita’s “A Guide to Ketosis“.  It has to be one of the most comprehensive guides I’ve seen.  I hope he turns it into a book.

It is so comprehensive that you might like to know what’s in it: here’s the Table of Contents (copied and pasted from his site, so all of these links are clickable).  I have one or two minor points of contention (like there is no “good” and “bad” cholesterol; it’s all good, and you need it … but what he probably means is small-particle Low-Density-Lipoprotein) and I’ll discuss those at the end of this post.  But if you never get that far, don’t worry: the man is a hero!  Joseph says:

Here is the guide to ketosis. The contents of this article can be located here. If you’re currently wondering what on earth ketosis even is, then you’re in luck for I plan not only to befuddle but also to enlighten. All you have to do is read on.

I’ve personally had fantastic results on keto, and I really believe in the validity of this diet – not only in terms of fat-loss, but also in terms of health-gain. There is a lot of understandable skepticism and tons of misconceptions about keto; I want to let newcomers know, however surprising it may be, that keto (or at least a diet low in grains/sugars and high in fats) is a very healthy diet with numerous benefits.

This guide is very long so I’ve partitioned this post into subsections. The links contained within the contents are ‘clickable’ and will transport you directly to that section. You can also right click and select “copy link address” of a particular section/section title, and you can either bookmark it so that you can return to a specific section easily or you can give the link to a friend if you want them to read a particular section. If you want to return to the contents of the page simply click on the ‘upwards’ arrows that are next to each of the section titles within the main article.

I. Why You Should Care About Ketosis: The Benefits of a Ketogenic Diet
1A. Ketosis Increases Neuronal Stabilization and Mental Focus
1B. Ketosis Promotes the Loss of Body-Fat and LDL Cholesterol
1C. Ketosis Eliminates Various Ailments such as Type 2 Diabetes and Hypertension
1D. Ketosis Treats Several Diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Various Cancers
1E. Ketosis Promotes Cardiovascular Health
1F. Ketosis Preserves Lean-Body Mass
1G. One Will Lose Body-fat More Quickly on Keto Than Not
1H. Ketosis Blunts Appetite and Increases Meal Satiety

NOTE:  Unless you are of a VERY scientific frame of mind, SKIP SECTION TWO!!!

Summary: Metabolism is how your body gets energy.
Human bodies can do it a number of ways
You can “burn” glucose, or you can “burn” fat.
How this happens is pretty complicated: show it to you doctor; there’s probably an evens chance that he/she won’t understand it, either!
Quoting Joseph:

In other words, under a ketogenic metabolism, the body uses dietary and bodily fats as its primary energy source.

It is possible to induce the initiation of this metabolism thru a careful diet; this diet must contain limited amounts of carbohydrates, sugars, and proteins, and should be comprised primarily of fats.

II. Understanding Ketosis; An Overview of Metabolism 
2A. Metabolism Defined
2B. The Krebs Cycle
2C. Glycolysis
2D. Fat Lipolysis and Fatty Acid Beta-Oxidation
2E. Citrate Synthase Inhibition and Beta-ketothiolase Activation
2F. Ketogenesis and Ketosis

He refers to LBM=Lean Body Mass — what would be left if you lost all of your fat.  You never do want to lose all of your fat, but most of us could do with less fat and more lean.

He also refers to “energy deficit”.  In a nutshell: if you are big you won’t need to count calories at first, because a keto diet leaves you feeling full and you won’t eat so much.  But weight loss always does require consuming less calories than you use, so as you get close to your goal weight, or close to your goal for lean body mass, you may need to count calories.

III. The Basics of the Ketogenic Diet 
3A. Entering Ketosis: A Macro Ratio for Keto

PUFAs: summary: you will lose weight faster:

 if a majority of your fat percentage comes from things like seeds, nuts, oils, and fatty fish

It also says that there is NO science that says that butter is bad for you (you’ll see why if you get the science; otherwise skip to section 3C.)

3B. Saturated vs. Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids
3C. Sample Ketogenic Meal Plan
3D. The Wonders of Fiber
3E. How to Enter Ketosis Quickly, Easily, and Reliably
3F. How to Know You’re Under Ketosis
3G. The Gloom of Induction
3H. Losing Body-Fat
3I. Building Muscle-Mass

Summary: Don’t do intensive exercise once you’re in ketosis.  My own recommendation is Nordic Walking: http://www.WalkingForHappiness.co.uk

3J. Aerobic Exercise
3K. Glycogen Refeeding
3L. Reentering Glycolysis Correctly
3M. A list of Ketogenic Foods
3N. Step by Step Guide to the SKD, TKD, and CKD

IV. Keto Testimonials 
4A. ladysixstring
4B. Dominaterisk
4C. sepatown
4D. vgisverbose

V. Useful Resources and Websites for the Keto-Minded 
5A. The Cook’s Thesaurus
5B. Restaurant Nutrition Facts
5C. Keto Macro-Nutrient Calculator
5D. Keto Goods Online
5E. Keto Recipes Galore
5F. Further Information

VI. Keto FAQ 
6A. What is the ketogenic diet in simple terms?
6B. Is ketosis unhealthy?
6C. Is ketosis unnatural?
6D. How can you lose fat if you eat fat?
6E. Is it best to bulk on keto or on a normal diet?
6F. Are ketostix reliable?
6G. Please leave any questions in the comments.

There is no excerpt because this is a protected post.

From Junk Food Science

In the low-carb, paleo, keto world, we’re always banging on about the advantages of eating bacon, but some people have concerns.

One set is about eating saturated fat.  Worry not: the “science” that says that saturated fat is bad for your arteries is wrong, but I’ll deal with that elsewhere.  Another concern is is with nitrates and nitrites: don’t they cause cancer?

Well, there seems to be some conflicting evidence, but here are some references that suggest not.  To summarise: bacon is preserved pork: nitrates are naturally occurring substances that have been used for centuries to turn belly pork into bacon.  Nitrates occur in the soil, and in many vegetables; in fact bacon that is advertised as “no added nitrates” is not really telling the truth: they use celery (sounds healthy) which is a good source of nitrates.

One of the posts below opens with this eye-catching question:

Which of these sources will give you the most ingested nitrites:

467 servings of hotdogs

1 serving arugula

2 servings butterhead lettuce

4 servings celery or beets

your spit

The answer is obvious … or is it?

You’ll have to do the reading to find the answer, but I think you’ll be surprised!

It’s a longer story than that, of course, and if you want chapter and verse (some people need to track down the research, and that is important), here are some starting points.

Facts About Sodium Nitrate and Sodium Nitrite
Good or Bad? Nitrates and Nitrites in Food
The content of nitrates and nitrites in fruits, vegetables and other foodstuffs
Nitrates In Vegetables Protect Against Gastric Ulcers, Study Shows
Does banning hotdogs and bacon make sense?
The “No Nitrites Added” Hoax
Toxicity of Sodium Nitrite (Wikipedia)
The Nitrate and Nitrite Myth: Another Reason not to Fear Bacon
“The fear of nitrates from bacon has no basis in reality”
NTP Technical report on the toxicology and carcinogenesis studies of Sodium Nitrite (11MB PDF)

(This list originally compiled by Roger D Enochs)

Roger posted a quote from the PDF:

Under the conditions of this 2-year drinking water study, there was no evidence of carcinogenic activity of sodium nitrite in male or female F344/N rats exposed to 750, 1,500, or 3,000 ppm. There was no evidence of carcinogenic activity of sodium nitrite in male B6C3F1 mice exposed to 750, 1,500, or 3,000 ppm. There was equivocal evidence of carcinogenic activity of sodium nitrite in female B6C3F1 mice based on the positive trend in the incidences of squamous cell papilloma or carcinoma (combined) of the forestomach.
Exposure to sodium nitrite in drinking water resulted in increased incidences of epithelial hyperplasia in the forestomach of male and female rats and in the glan- dular stomach of male mice.
Decreased incidences of mononuclear cell leukemia occurred in male and female rats.
Further, the USDA standard for for nitrate and nitrite levels in food[2] limits it to 200 ppm for nitrate and nitrite combined. We get much more dietary nitrate from vegetables than from cured meat, unless you eat a diet of primarily cured meat.
As established by the U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) in the Meat Inspection Regulations cited above, the use of nitrites, nitrates, or combinations of them cannot result in more than 200 parts per million (ppm), calculated as sodium nitrite, in the finished product.
It has been estimated that 10 percent of the human exposure to nitrite in the digestive tract comes from cured meats and 90 percent comes from vegetables and other sources. Nitrates can be reduced to nitrites by certain microorganisms present in foods and in the gastrointestinal tract. This has resulted in nitrite toxicity in infants fed vegetables with a high nitrate level. No evidence currently exists implicating nitrite itself as a carcinogen.
The 200 ppm level is well below the levels used in the above tests (750-5000 ppm), and even those high levels found no links to cancer (at least in rodents). Perhaps there are other health issues, but cancer is the one I always hear about, and the evidence does not appear to be there. A quick search didn’t turn up any research regarding nitrates and the liver.”

There are those in the diet world who stick firmly to the “Calories In, Calories Out” (CICO) model, citing the “Law of Thermodynamics”.  This is a bit of a problem, and can be easily knocked over as an argument.  Firstly, there is no one “Law of Thermodynamics”.  If someone quotes that at you, ask them if they mean the zero-th, first, second or third law.  That will probably shut them up!  The thing is that we have been advised to eat less and exercise more to lose weight for the last 50-60 years and during that time obesity rates have soared around the world.  Clearly something is wrong.

[simpleazon-image align="left" asin="0307877523" locale="uk" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51N18MYXSuL._SL160_.jpg" width="139"]There has been much work over the last decade to show that, in human nutrition terms, a calorie is not just a calorie, and I put myself firmly in that camp.  CICO leads to weight-loss advice that says either eat less, exercise more, or both.  This is over-simplistic, and if you want chapter and verse on how to demolish this argument, read Gary Taubes’ books.  ”Why We Get Fat” is the easy book: Good Calories, Bad Calories” (Known as “The Diet Delusion” in the UK) is the “big book” (if exercise is all you need, you could lose weight simply by carrying GCBC around with you!)[simpleazon-image align="right" asin="1400033462" locale="us" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41ikBliWK8L._SL160_.jpg" width="105"][simpleazon-image align="right" asin="0091924286" locale="uk" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/41zvRZLsE4L._SL160_.jpg" width="97"]

But while I am a total fan of Gary, and feel that his books have changed my life, the good old calorie can still tell us a few things:  it can show you just how easy it can be to become malnourished when you’re on a diet.

For instance, the “average” person needs around 2000 calories a day to maintain normal life.  This, of course, varies a lot.  According to the math I would need 3050 calories a day to maintain my current size, and my wife would need 1755 (she’s younger, much smaller, and more active than me).  You can see that it’s quite a range.

We know that body fat is a highly-effective energy storage medium: one pound (.45kg) of fat contains 3500 calories.  So if we just go with the basic idea of “eat less”, if we want to lose 1lb a week we need to consume 3500 calories less per week, or 3500/7=500 calories less per day.  For Susan that would mean reducing her daily calorie intake by 28%, for me I’d need to reduce by 16%.

That’s all very well, but our food is not just an energy supply.  In addition we need micro-nutrients and, although as their names implies we don’t need much of them, when we don’t have enough the results can be horrendous.  For instance, a severe deficiency of vitamin C causes a disease called scurvy, where your teeth fall out, you get suppurating sores and you get severely depressed (well, you would, wouldn’t you?)

Beri Beri victim

Pellagra sufferer

Beri beri, a disease caused by a lack of thiamin (vitamin B1) caused extreme lethargy and even death.  And pellagra, caused by a deficiency of vitamin B3 (niacin) affected more than three million people in the American south, killing 100,000 of them in the early part of the 20th century.

I got quite a shock, researching this.

I am from the UK but my wife is American and her father was a southerner.  When she grew up she was accustomed to eating grits (from the same stem as English “groats”) and still enjoys grits when we go out to breakfast if we are in the Southern states.  I have always laughed: to me grits looks like wallpaper paste, tastes not much better, and I imagined it to be completely devoid of nutrition, because grits is made from corn kernels, dried and soaked in lime (that’s the chemical, not the juice of the fruit!)  But apparently, the key nutrient in corn (maize), niacin, is biologically unavailable (it’s locked up).  However, if you treat the maize with lime it makes the niacin nutritionally available.  Traditionally, new world cultivators of maize knew this (how?!) since 1500BC and didn’t suffer from pellagra, but when maize started being shipped around the world, people who adopted it without knowing about this process of  nixtamalization developed diseases of malnutrition.

Now you may think that these were all diseases of the past, and that we no longer need to worry, but here’s the interesting (and worrying) thing … these are diseases of extreme malnutrition, but malnutrition happens on a sliding scale.  If you are bit short of micro-nutrients you might not suffer from anything as bad as pellagra, beri beri or scurvy, but your health will be negatively affected.

Various governments publish “Recommended Daily Allowances” (known by various names depending on the government and the day of the week) for various nutrients.  But these amounts are the amount that, if everyone in the population had that much, around 50% of them wouldn’t get ill.  How much you need, not just to avoid malnutrition, but to be in optimum health, is probably much more than the RDA, or whatever your country calls it.

So, if you are aiming to lose one pound a week on your diet, and you do it by reducing what you eat by between 15% and 30%, you’re reducing your micro-nutrients by that amount, too.

Scary, isn’t it?

Before dieting you were probably malnourished to some degree; now you’re dieting it’s got worse.  We have all heard of pregnant women getting cravings–that’s because the baby is using up the mother’s micro-nutrients.  The craving is the body’s drive to get the mother to correct the deficiency.

Irradiated food symbol

But, if we’re eating a “normal” diet, are we getting all the nutrition we need?  No.  In the Standard American Diet (SAD), which (obviously, by definition) most Americans, and large numbers of people in the rest of the world eat, our food is deficient in these micro nutrients, for a variety of reasons:

  • The soil is worn out: we keep cropping, but don’t replace what we take out
  • The time from field to fork gets longer: vitamins start to decay once a plant is picked.  In America the average distance travelled from field to fork is around 1500 miles.  And if you think it’s better in Europe, just remember that most of your “fresh” vegetables and salad stuff comes from southern Spain.  A tomato grown in a greenhouse in Malaga will have done over 1500 miles by the time it gets to a supermarket in Birmingham.
  • Vegetables, nowadays, are picked before they are ripe, so that they will last longer on supermarket shelves.
  • Food is irradiated, destroying its DNA.
  • A lot of food is so processed that it has few, if any, micro-nutrients: what we call “junk food”.

So, we are already eating a diet that is low on nutrition, and then we eat 15-30% less of it.  Less of a bad diet is a worse diet, not better.  No wonder we have cravings and get hungry.

What are we to do?

[simpleazon-image align="left" asin="098430472X" locale="uk" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/418yh6o7hML._SL160_.jpg" width="106"][simpleazon-image align="right" asin="0984755179" locale="uk" height="160" src="http://ecx.images-amazon.com/images/I/51AXQpauaLL._SL160_.jpg" width="115"]Well, I already knew a lot of this information about nutrition, but it wasn’t at the top of my consciousness until I read Naked Calories and Rich Food, Poor Food by Jason and Mira Calton. Time for a declaration of interest.  Currently I have no commercial relationship with the Caltons at all.  But I am so impressed with the books, and with their supplement, that I am hopeful that I may be able to import it into the UK.  I’ll alter this sentence if and when that happens!

By now you will understand the title of this post.  If most of the food we eat is just “naked calories”, how can we make sure that our calories are well-dressed?  The art and science of making sure that you have enough micro-nutrients is complex (one of the things I like about the Calton’s supplements is that they have made it very easy), but there are some things that we can do straight away.

Looking at the list of problems above, you can see that eating your five a day will help, especially if they come from a local, organic farm.  When we live in Florida we buy as much as we can from Lake Meadow Naturals (about 10 miles from where we live) and in the UK we use Sunnyfields Farm and Beechcroft Farm, both, I was surprised to find, exactly 9 miles away from where we live, but in opposite directions!

Next, don’t keep stuff too long.  Buying it fresh, organic and local is all very well, but if it sits in the veg drawer in the fridge until it’s floppy and unpleasant, you might have done better to buy canned or frozen!

Lastly, for now, aim for the most nutrient-dense foods that you can find.  I will be helping with that by posting about various foods.  For now, check out my recent blog post “Which Avocados are best for Paleo/Primal?

And educate yourself.  For starters, read the Calton’s books, and click the various links on this page.  And watch out for the next posts in this series.

Haas or Fuerte Avocado

REALLY dark Haas

REALLY dark Haas

This is the first of a series of post that I will be doing which are more about micro-nutrients than continuing to push the macro-nutrient wars (HFLC vs LFHC).

There doesn’t seem to be much warring going on in the area of micro-nutrients, and I think it’s vital that all of us who care about our health to understand the importance of nutrition, as opposed to just where do the calories come from. Anyway, much more of that in the future, but for now I am hunting down foods that are nutrient dense and which fit right in with eating well (whether you’re eating paleo or trying to stick to the “official” food pyramid).

And my food of choice today is the avocado, which is healthy in more ways than several!  In particular, you should be eating avocado with your salads and veggies! Why?  Because a lot vitamins and antioxidants in your veg are fat-soluble.  That means, if there’s no fat in your diet those vital nutrients go in your mouth and straight out the other end, without touching the sides!  But if you have some slices of avocado in the same meal, you not only get all the incredible nutrients in the avocado, but the heart-healthy fats in the avocado (similar to those in olive oil) will carry the nutrients from the salad or veggies into your system, where they can be used.

Florida Avocado

But there are two main types of avocado (well, actually there are loads … for a complete rundown check out this post from Food Republic: “Know Your Avocado Varieties And When They’re In Season“).  The two main types that people know about are the larger, smooth-skinned “Florida” (picture courtesy of The Witchy Kitchen) and the smaller, dark and bumpy-skinned Haas or “California” avocado (what we buy looks more like the picture up right).

But which is better?

Well, each has their fans, Floridians saying that the California is oily, Californians saying that the Florida is watery.  As I live part of every year in Florida I set out hopefully to show that the Florida avocado is more nutritious, but I’m afraid I bombed on my mission.  Using the USDA Nutritional database, the Haas scores higher on just about every nutrient:

 Units

Florida

California

Difference

Water

g

78.81

72.33

-8.22%

Energy

kcal

120

167

39.17%

Protein

g

2.23

1.96

-12.11%

Total lipid (fat)

g

10.06

15.41

53.18%

Carbohydrate, by difference

g

7.82

8.64

10.49%

Fiber, total dietary

g

5.6

6.8

21.43%

Sugars, total

g

2.42

0.3

-87.60%

Calcium, Ca

mg

10

13

30.00%

Iron, Fe

mg

0.17

0.61

258.82%

Magnesium, Mg

mg

24

29

20.83%

Phosphorus, P

mg

40

54

35.00%

Potassium, K

mg

351

507

44.44%

Sodium, Na

mg

2

8

300.00%

Zinc, Zn

mg

0.4

0.68

70.00%

Vitamin C, total ascorbic acid

mg

17.4

8.8

-49.43%

Thiamin

mg

0.021

0.075

257.14%

Riboflavin

mg

0.053

0.143

169.81%

Niacin

mg

0.672

1.912

184.52%

Vitamin B-6

mg

0.078

0.287

267.95%

Folate, DFE

µg

35

89

154.29%

Vitamin A, RAE

µg

7

7

0.00%

Vitamin A, IU

IU

140

147

5.00%

Vitamin E (alpha-tocopherol)

mg

2.66

1.97

-25.94%

Vitamin K (phylloquinone)

21

100.00%

Fatty acids, total saturated

g

1.96

2.126

8.47%

Fatty acids, total monounsaturated

g

5.513

9.799

77.74%

Fatty acids, total polyunsaturated

g

1.676

1.816

8.35%

You can see from the numbers that  those who describe Florida avocados as watery are right (their water content is higher) and those who describe Haas as “oily” are also right: their fat content is 50% higher!

So, if all you care about is low fat and low calorie, you will choose the Florida avocado (but, be aware these figures are “per 100 grams”.  A Florida avocado is much bigger than a Haas, so you will probably end up with more calories anyway).  And notice that the Florida might be lower in calories, but it is much higher in sugars, so if carbs are your concern, rather than calories, you will choose the Haas every time.

And if you want those good, heart-healthy fats to help carry all the vitamins and minerals to where they can be used, Haas scores again, as well as the significantly higher amounts of vitamins and minerals.  So, sorry Florida!  I wish I could be promoting my home state.  Maybe some Florida farmers can start producing Haas; here’s someone whose granny has grown a Haas tree in Florida.

Personally, I turn most of my avocados into guacamole, add some of my special high-fat home-made mayo, and often add some other nutrient dense favourites.  My current batch of guac is a slightly strange colour because I added turmeric!  Tastes OK though, and turmeric is a master spice.  More on that later.

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