Monthly Archives: March 2012

Fats

There is a great controversy in this country about the role of fats in our diets. High quality fats should be included into your diet. They are required in the human body. They are essential for cell wall flexibility (which allows things to get in and out of the cell) and brain health. There are three major types of fats, these are:
Saturated fats:
The chemical structure is saturated with hydrogen. These fats are solid at room tempeture. Lard, butter, animal fats, palm oils, cocunut oil. These fats do not become rancid at high heat and are therefore suitable for frying and high heat cooking. Saturated fats enhance the immune system and helps in the absorption of essential fatty acids/calcium and increases hormone production in general. It is important to remember and look into the quality of the meats and saturated fats that you are using. There is a very large difference between a naturally raised and fed animal than a convential grain fed animal.
Unsaturated fats:
Unsaturated fats come in two different forms. Those are monounsaturated and polyunsaturated. Unsaturated fats are not saturated with hydrogen therefore leaving space open to make other connections. These are less stable and are not solid at room temperature. These fats are your oils.
Typical monounsaturated fats are olive oil, canola oil and peanut oil. Typical polyunsaturated fats are soybean, safflower, sunflower, corn and flax oil. Polyunsaturated fats have double bonds to connect them. When you heat something with double bonds you create toxins. This is why you want to stick to saturated fats and monounsaturated fats for cooking unless they are refined for high heat. There is however a third type of fat.
Trans fats:
Trans fats are unsaturated fats that have been altered by having hydrogen forced into them. This creates a saturated fat, but in the process the chemical structure changes and therefore the body is unable to recognize it as a normal fat. Trans fats have been linked to many different medical problems such as: cholesterol (increase LDL, decrease HDL), cancer, diabetes, obesity, immune system failure, birth issues/deaths/decreased birth weight, vision problems, sterility, bone problems, hormone problems, increase blood insulin levels and a more rigid cell membrane.
Essential fatty acids
Essential fatty acids are fats that must be consumed by us in order to maintain proper health. These are polyunsaturated fats that our bodies are unable to produce and they are required in our bodies processes. These are Omega 3, Omega 6 and Omega 9. There is not a lot of information on Omega 9 so I will focus briefly on the Omega 3 and Omega 6.
These days there is a lot of discussion about Omega 3s. The reason for this is a drastic imbalance in our diet. The human body should have a balance somewhere around 1-1 or 1-4 of Omega 3 to Omega 6. It has been found that the average American has a balance closer to 1-40 or 1-60 of Omega 3 to Omega 6. This is important because Omega 3’s decrease inflammation and Omega 6’s increase inflammation and there is a theory that all chronic disease was started with and a continuation of inflammation. With a balance of fatty acids like this we couldn’t help but be inflammed.
Omega 3’s are typically found in the greens of this world and those things that eat the green stuff such as algae and grass. Therefore you get Omega 3’s from fish and grass fed animals. Also there are many plant sources such as flax seeds, chia seeds, walnuts and vegetables. Other sources are fish oils, good egg yolks, grass fed meats and vegetables.
Fatty acid chain lengths and qualities
Short chain (4-6 carbon atoms) – Always saturated, animal fats (cows/goats), antimicrobial (bacterias/viruses), absorbed quickly (quick energy), good fats for weight loss and good for the immune system
Medium chain (8-12 carbon atoms) – Butter fats/tropical oils, same properties as above
Long chain (14-18 and up carbon atoms) – Saturated or unsaturated, oleic acid, BPA, GLA (omega 6) which produces prostaglandins and can lead to illnesses when they are out of balance
I believe that your best bet in fats are high quality saturated fats (including grass fed/naturally raised animal fats) and mono unsaturated fats. You should avoid trans fats entirely and should consume polyunsaturated fats sparingly. All oils will contain all of the natural fats.

Here is a brief summary of “Why We Get Fat” by Gary Taubes

This book challenges the assumption that we get fat because of a calories in verse calories out argument. In fact this book shows pretty clearly that it is not how much we eat but what it is that we eat that causes us to get fat.
It states that the high glycemic load of simple carbohydrates in particular and carbohydrates in general and really anything that increases insulin (starchy foods) production causes us to get fat. This is because insulin determines where the energy goes that you eat. Some to the muscles and some to the fat. As you increase your insulin use on a regular basis the muscle molecule become resistant to it, therefore insulin starts partitioning more of the energy straight to the fat cells. This is before you have a chance to use it as energy because your muscles never receive it. Therefore the argument is that you do not become fat because you are lazy, you become lazy because you are getting fat. Ie…you consume the same amount if energy, insulin starts partitioning some of this energy directly to the fat cells instead of to the muscle cells, therefore you do not have as much energy. Therefore you are not as active. Not the other way around which is, you stop becoming active then start storing fat.
In order to lose weight he argues that one must decrease the insulin levels. Fat is in constant motion in a normal body, in then out of the blood stream. However it is locked away when your insulin levels are increased because the body believes that there is enough energy in the system already. Therefore if you want to access your fat stores you must decrease you insulin/blood sugar levels by eating fats and proteins. When you do this the body will shift from burning carbohydrates constantly as energy to burning fat. This is what the body is supposed to do, however it can take time to switch over fully depending on the damage done.
This book also states that decreasing carbohydrate intake will also decrease your risks for several chronic diseases. Such as heart disease, cancer, hypertension and diabetes. We all know that all of these diseases increase with weight gain. Therefore his initial non scientific argument is that anything that makes you thinner is good for these diseases. Since he has demonstrated that it is what you eat, not how much you eat that causes weight gain he resolves that these foods are in fact healthy for you. He then pursues this scientifically. It demonstrates that a high fat high protein diet and low carbohydrate diet is heart healthy due to several reasons. One of the main ones being that the LDL particulates remain fat and fluffy. In a carbohydrate rich diet these particulates are made small and dense. These then imbed themselves into the arterial walls causing atherosclerosis. There are also Changes in Hdl/LDL levels. While both change and LDL does increase, the overall effect is heart healthy. Historically scientists viewed weight gain as a sign of malnutrition. This is because in poor populations without a lot of food the children were thin and frail and the adults were fat. This was not caused by having too much food, but by the foods that were eaten. (carbohydrate based foods) This has been demonstrated in societies all over the world, and it would correspond to this books hypothesis. You spend your childhood years abusing your insulin levels until your muscles become insulin resistant, then you start partitioning the energy to your fat cells instead. This leads to becoming fat with the same amount of food, and it also means that you do not have as much energy so that you then become lethargic. Every individuals body is different. Some will be more likely to stay lean while others more likely to gain weight. As you increase your insulin levels though you start pushing the meter to the gain weight side. Also, muscle cells become insulin resistant before fat cells do, therefore you naturally gain more weight as you age. Especially if you are constantly spiking your blood sugar.
This thought process lost prominence during the second world war when the European scientific community was lost. After that it has been assumed that you get fat because you are eating too much and this has not been challenged since.
He also discusses that since western diseases are in fact our diseases and we eat a lot of meat that the nutrition community tends to blame them on fat. He then compares our diet to those healthy diets of hunter gatherer societies and concludes that the foods that are similar are probably the safe foods to eat while the ones that are not are probably the unsafe ones. The similar foods were essentially meats and vegetables and low in other carbohydrate sources.

Obviously there are a lot of opinions and lots of diets and research. I enjoyed this book, I found it to be very well researched and to state both sides of his argument. It also corresponds to what I have believed to be a healthy diet which would be natural meats and vegetables as the main stay. If you’re interested feel free to check out the book.

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Water

Water is an essential and everyday piece of our lives. It is also a carrier of many toxins these days. City water is often full of chlorine in order to kill bacteria, flouride, disinfection by products, prescription meds, industrial pollution arsenic and recycled sewer water.
Bottled water has several issues as well. While often nothing more than filtered tap water, the bottles often have BPA (Bisphenol A) in them. This is a byproduct of the production of the bottles themselves and it leaks into the water that you drink from that bottle. It has been shown to have several health effects on the human body.
You also have to be aware that you are in contact with much more water than just the water that you drink. Showering itself lends itself to significant amounts of toxins through the absorption of them through your skin. It is important to filter your water. As much of it as you can, upwards to having a filtering system for your entire home.
Types of water filtration
1. Reverse osmosis water – This water is distilled which removes toxins, gasses, heavy metals and arsenic (among other things). While this water is very pure it removes the good minerals and also wastes a lot of water. It takes 5-7 gallons of water/gallon of drinking water.
2. Distillation – This water is boiled and then you collect the condensed steam. This allows the water to remove the toxins and chemicals
3. Charcoal filter water – This type helps to get rid of toxins, flouride. This water will keep the minerals in the water.
4. Filtered water – This does the same as above but also blocks the minerals in the water.
Types of water
1. Artisan water – Well water, maintains minerals
2. Mineral water – From underground source, maintains minerals
3. Sparkling water – Has naturally occuring carbon dioxide in it.
4. Spring Water – Comes from the Earth
5. Well water – From a man made well that is atop an aquifer.
There is a significant difference in the waters of this world. Between tap water, bottled water and filtration systems there is an astounding amount of confusion. All of this must be researched thoroughly to have a full understanding of this. It is important to remember that not everything in water is bad. Therefore you do not want to filter out everything in your water, and if you do you should add some things back. What I do is filter my drinking water, then I add a small amount of sea salt to it. With only a small amount you can replace many of the important minerals and you won’t be able to taste the salt.

Salt

Salt is a very common addition to our foods, but often misunderstood. Salt comes in several different forms and there is a hierarchy as to quality. So what is salt.
Salt (sodium chloride) it a necessary electrolyte in our body. It is necessary for proper body function. Salt is used in several ways:
1. preservative
2. flavor enhancer
3. to supress bitterness
4. increase aroma
Salt should not be a flavor that you taste. Salt should help to enhance the natural flavors of the food that you are eating.

Which salt to choose:
1. Commercial table salt
This is typically iodized salt which has been highly processed which removes many of the naturally occuring minerals. Often iodine is added back into the salt. Also there is anti-caking agents, sugar and preservatives added to it as well. There is often not any potassium which is another very important electrolyte that works in conjuction with sodium for proper body functions. This leads to a misbalance in the electrolytes. I would not use this salt in any function.
2. Kosher salt
This salt is made by Jewish laws and is not processed very much at all. There are also no additives. This is often used in the kithchen as an ingredient. This is better than the above because it does not have additives, however it does not have the mineral content of the sea salts. I would use this salt in my cooking.
3. Unrefined sea salt
Sea salts are the salts of choice. There are several different kinds of these salts such as: Celtic Sea Salt, Himalayan Sea Salt and Fleur de Col Sea Salt. All of these comes from different sources and will be different colors. These salts are not refined at all, have no iodine and do contain a high amount of minerals. Sea salts are either from the ocean and dried or are mined from previous ocean beds. The different colors of sea salt are normal. The colors change based upon the mineral content. All of these salts are very good and are often used as finishing salts in the culinary world. Sea salt has a range of prices. I would use any sea salt regularly in my cooking. I place a small amount of salt into my filtered water that I keep in order to replace the good minerals in my water. If you do just a small amount you can not taste the salt.

Salt reduction techniques
There are several ways to reduce the consumption of salt. Todays American diet is very heavy in processed food and salt. This leads to a decrease in the ability to actually taste our foods. Once you remove yourself from the standard american diet you will begin to taste your food again.
1. Spice things up – use more herbs and spices
2. No Salt (Potassium) – this is a salt replacement product that does not use Sodium.
3. Use less ingredients that are high in salt content (soy sauce…etc)
4. Do not eat processed food – processed food has a very high amount of sodium in it
5. Eat more fruits and vegetables
6. Sleep regularly
7. Reduce sugar intake
Often times salt cravings are because of decreased renal function, hormone imbalance or too much sugar in your diet. While eating properly can lead to many improved health outcomes you should always inform your Doctor of any potential medical issues.

While I do not think you should eat copious amounts of salt, this following article by Dr Mercola makes a strong argument that you should not be worried about eating high quality salts.

http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2012/03/05/end-war-on-salt.aspx?e_cid=20120305_DNL_art_1

Quality Ingredients

High quality ingredients are the basis of a healthy lifestyle. Everything you eat should be of the highest quality that you can afford. The higher quality that it is, generally the better for you that it is. This includes much of what we just discussed in the basics. High quality food will taste good and have the life force of the food still Intact. These things will allow you to be nourished properly.
The body requires nourishing food. In order to achieve this you must have the entire food on your plate. That means the entire edible portion of that food. The reason for this is that nature has packaged all of our food for us already. We have discovered many parts to our food including vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals and enzymes which all work together. Each passing year we learn more and more about our food and how it works. The more we learn, the more we realize we don’t understand how everything works together in our bodies. Why would we then go and strip it down and attempt to repackage it? All of our food has been packaged perfectly for our consumption in order to fuel our bodies propoerly.
Make sure you stay away from the boxed processed foods and try to always look for whole vegetables, properly fed and cared for animals, whole grains, legumes, seeds and nuts and you’ll be well on your way to a healthy diet.