Category Archives for "General Nutrition"

General Nutrition

Video: Why fat people are fat – THE TRUE REASON

There is a particular reason why fat people are fat! It isn’t slow metabolism. It isn’t the lack of exercise. And, it isn’t eating too many carbs or too much fat. Although, these are all good reasons they none of them is the chief reason.

I’m so excited to talk about this issue that honestly I don’t want to give out the true reason here – you will have to watch the video above.

In the video, besides naming and explaining the true reason why fat people are fat, I also talk about my experience with this problem.

At the end give two steps that any person with chronic weight gain / fat gain problems can take to turn things around. Hint: it starts with you and your mind! And, it has a lot to do with taking responsibility and quitting being (or playing) a victim of your circumstances.

Video: How to eat what you want and never gain any fat

It’s never a great idea to eat what you want but it is possible – without gaining any weight.. or fat, just to call it what it is.

During my competitive bodybuilding years, I used to eat six times a day and I used to carefully measure everything I ate. It was cumbersome and boring.

Then one day I decided that I wanted to be able to – at least sometimes – enjoy foods that others enjoyed, too.

So, I searched the web and found something that looked promising. I tried it and it worked. It’s called Intermittent Fasting (I’ve written about it before).

In this video, I share exactly how and when I fast.

Althugh, I still eat healthy whenever I want I allow myself some indulgences. Not only is it not affecting my body fat level but I actually stay lean while maintaining the muscle mass I had before I started. My strength has gone up. And, I feel great.

I want more people to know about Intermittent Fasting. It allows freedom. It is liberating… and it’s healthy.

Have you tried Intermittent Fasting? Let me know in the comments below.

Dietary cholesterol finally acquitted

I just read an article referencing the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee. This report is prepared by a body of distinguished scholars in the arena of nutrition and human health, and it its purpose is to provide suggestions to the US Department of Health and Human Services and the US Department of Agriculture for revising the Dietary Guidelines for Americans put forward by the Department of Agriculture (USDA).

scientific-report-of-the-2015-dietary-guidelines-advisory-committee

Well, dietary cholesterol seems to finally have been acquitted. Here is what the Committee has to say about dietary cholesterol and the recommendations it makes:

[blockquote quote=”Previously, the Dietary Guidelines for Americans recommended that cholesterol intake be limited to no more than 300 mg/day. The 2015 DGAC will not bring forward this recommendation because available evidence shows no appreciable relationship between consumption of dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol, consistent with the conclusions of the AHA/ACC report. Cholesterol is not a nutrient of concern for overconsumption.”]

“What took them so long?”, you may want to ask. Well, you know how it is – when someone makes a mistake he doesn’t want to admit right away that a mistake was made (this someone could be the government, too). Some time has to pass. Something like half a century is reasonable…

Note that dietary cholesterol and LDL are two different things and you and I should steel keep a close eye on the serum levels of LDL. But again, LDL has little if anything to do with dietary cholesterol (like in egg yolks and meat).

Other notable recommendations that were made in this report are:

Eat more plant-based food and less meat and meat products – it’s not only healthier but also environmentally more sustainable. I agree.

Up to 400 mg of caffeine a day (3-5 cups) is good for you – there is evidence that caffeine in these doses may help prevent Type 2 Diabetes, Cardio-vascular Disease (CVD), and Parkinson’s disease. Also, at these doses caffeine “is not associated with increased long-term health risks among healthy individuals”. Just the coffee, however, is what the committee means – not all the added sugar and whip cream, etc. that usually comes with it.

Limit added sugars to no more than 10 percent of daily calories. This one doesn’t make much sense to me. If we take the average recommended 2000 calories diet 10 percent would mean not more than 200 calories of it should come from added sugars (sugary drinks, etc.) – that’s 50 grams of sugar! That’s a lot any way you look at it!

I suspect that in a few decades this recommendation will be brought to zero grams of added sugar. All the sugar recommended at this future time will be coming from natural sources, like fruit. Then again, we still have some time to wait to see this improved.

Truth is some added sugar won’t kill you – it won’t even cause damage. But not every day and not 10 percent of your calorie intake. And, when you consider that most individuals well surpass the recommended average daily calorie intake…

More dairy but in low- or non-fat version. This is another one that will be fixed in the future, I’m sure. Full-fat dairy is shown to be more beneficial for health than low- and non-fat dairy.. And, it makes sense to be that way. Aren’t we evolutionarily more adapted to full-fat dairy since that’s how we’ve been consuming it for millennia? Check out this scientific article by Stephan Guyenet for more science-based info – New Review Paper by Yours Truly: High-Fat Dairy, Obesity, Metabolic Health and Cardiovascular Disease.

As Stephen states in his article:

[blockquote quote=”Typical dietary advice includes the recommendation to eat low-fat or skim dairy products. This is based on the hypothesis that avoiding the (mostly saturated) fat in dairy will reduce the risk of obesity, metabolic problems, and cardiovascular disease. This idea is logical, but not every idea that is logical is correct when tested scientifically, particularly when it pertains to a complex natural food.”]

If you want to read the whole Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee you’ll find other discussions and suggestions that may be interesting, like taxation on higher sugar- and sodium-containing foods, etc. My goal in this article was to make a mention mainly on dietary cholesterol and a couple of other key recommendations that stood out to me.

Grass-fed vs. organic milk – which should you buy?

Like a lot of folks out there, I strive to be healthy and with this I try to do what I know should aid to my “good health” efforts and avoid doing what I think is clearly damaging to my health (and by extension physical performance). I like cooking with cow’s butter and I also make my own home-made yogurt – Bulgarian style (I’m Bulgarian by birth).

So, naturally, I started buying certified organic full-fat milk from the local grocer. With “organic” being so controversial nowadays, especially to the ways it is regulated I am somewhat suspicious of organic produce, but even more so of organic animal products – the meaning is so blurred in this category. What exactly does “organic” mean in animal products? It mostly mean that the animals were fed certified organic feed. That’s it!

I also new that there is an option to buy grass-fed milk from the natural store and I’ve read on numerous forums and websites people extoll the virtues of grass-fed dairy and often advise against conventional and even certified organic milk and butter.

I set out to find out for myself where the truth lies in the argument “grass-fed vs. organic milk”. Below is my pros and cons summary of findings for each type of milk.

(A note: Anywhere in the bullets text below where you see “..is” you should probably read, “..is supposed to be”.)

Grass-fed cows

Image source: en.wikipedia.org

Certified Organic Cow’s Milk – the Facts

Pros

  • Organic cows (are supposed to…, remember?) eat only certified organic grains (soy and corn, although botanically soy is a bean)
  • Organic dairy operations (are supposed to) feed the cows both grains and grass
  • Milk from organic cows is (possibly) less contaminated with environmental toxins than grass fed milk (but not all grass fed milk – see below)

Cons

  • Organic cows are fed soy and corn
  • Weaker micro-nutrient profile when compared to grass fed milk
  • Large-scale dairy operations, including certified organic, still confine the dairy cows in lots possibly at least seventy percent of the time (link above)

Grass-fed Cow’s Milk – the Facts

Pros

  • Cows eat grass and silage only – no grains
  • Much higher levels of CLA (3 – 5 times higher CLA levels)
  • Better Omega-3 to Omega-6 ratio
  • Higher vitamin A levels (in full-fat grass-fed milk)
  • Higher vitamin E levels (in the fat)
  • Possibly higher vitamin K2 levels (in the fat)

Cons

  • Milk from grass-fed cows could be more contaminated with pesticides and herbicides than certified organic milk
  • This is somewhat an extension of the above, but it deserves its own line: Grass-fed milk (its fat actually) possibly contains higher levels of dioxin – from the soil and grass the cows feed on – than certified organic milk (see below)
  • Grass-fed milk cannot be legally purchased in non-pasteurized (raw) form

Dioxin in cow’s milk

Dioxin and related chemical compounds are environmental chemical pollutants that accumulate win the fat tissue of animals and humans. I am not going to go into detail on this as it is covered elsewhere much better than I would ever be able to cover it, but just know this much:

Dioxins are airborne and deposit themselves onto soil and grass, also into waterways and thus become a source for ingestion by both range-free animals and fish. The EPA report (link above) states that:

[blockquote quote=”Feeds derived from seeds contain lower concentrations of dioxins, since the seed is not directly exposed to the air. Ruminants therefore are more vulnerable to dioxin exposure than poultry and swine, as their feed source is predominantly roughage based.” source=”Dioxins in the Food Chain: Background” source_link=”httpss://www.aphis.usda.gov/animal_health/emergingissues/downloads/dioxins.pdf”]

This basically means two things:

  1. Grass-fed cows are at substantially higher risk of ingestion of dioxins (and therefore passing the dioxins onto us through the fat in their milk and butter) than organic cows, since organic cows are fed grains to a substantial degree
  2. Not all grass-fed milk has higher concentrations of dioxins. The concentrations of dioxins in the soil and grass will to a large degree depend on whether there are large industrial complexes near the area where the cows are allowed to graze. Another big source of dioxins appears to be waste and medical waste incinerator sites.

In other words, milk derived from grass-fed cows will vary substantially in its levels of dioxins. I can only guess that remote small farms produce grass-fed dairy that is very low in any kinds of environmental toxins. On the other hand, even small grass-fed dairy producers – although with no intention at all – put out (unknowingly) grass-fed dairy with much higher dioxin levels than certified organic cows.

So, what should I (You) do now?

To be honest, when I set out to research the topic of grass-fed vs. organic milk I, just like you I believe, hoped to discover that grass-fed milk is cleaner than certified organic milk and as an added bonus it offers higher micro-nutrient levels.

My personal conclusion is this: If I want to put the emphasis on cleanliness from environmental pollutants I should stick with certified organic dairy and sacrifice on some of the micro-nutrients that grass-fed dairy would offer (all while I keep high hopes for the certified organic operations to be diligent in following the rules and regulations).

If I want to take advantage of the better micro-nutrient profile (especially the higher levels of vitamin K2) in grass-fed dairy my best bet is to find a local farmer who offers grass-fed milk, research the location of the farm and its adjacent pastures and decide for myself whether the remoteness (or proximity) of the farm to industrial complexes and manufacturing guarantees a relatively safe choice of grass-fed dairy.

The problem with store-purchased grass-fed milk is that you can never know and you cannot possibly research to see where exactly the milk originates. Large grass-fed dairy operations usually purchase the milk from many smaller farms.

What is your course of action after knowing what I know about grass-fed and certified organic milk?

Methods for calculating total daily protein intake

In my last article I wrote about the different dietary protein needs in general. I also expressed that although it is clear who needs baseline protein levels (current RDA), who needs more than that and who needs less, it is still not very clear how to determine the exact needs for each individual.

In order to determine exactly how much dietary protein an individual needs, IDEALLY, we need to know and be able to use ALL of the following:

  • His (or her) general lifestyle
  • Type and intensity of training, if any
  • Age
  • Gender
  • Morphological body type
  • Omnivore or vegetarian/vegan
  • Primary, secondary, tertiary, etc. sources of dietary protein and their approximate ratios in one’s diet
  • Macro nutrient (and more precisely protein) digestion efficiency (is the digestive system compromised in any way)
  • Individual tolerance to different sources of protein
  • Total and per-meal dietary carbohydrate ingestion levels (carbohydrates divert the use of protein from the body as a source of energy and direct its use toward body tissues recovery, rebuilding, etc., so may be less total dietary protein is needed if enough carbohydrates are eaten)
  • Nitrogen balance / nitrogen retention efficiency (1 full paper, not abstract)
  • Protein turnover – maintenance and growth
  • Protein synthesis –  maintenance and growth
  • Metabolic response of the different tissues (muscles, bones) to different types of dietary protein
  • Presence of metabolic syndrome issues and CVD (cardio-vascular disease), especially presence of insulin resistance and issues with other hormones, involved in the protein metabolism

Unfortunately, after some serious time spent looking for official papers I was not able to find the type of research that could help me devise an exact daily protein intake for a particular individual, based precisely on the points of inquiry I described above.  At the very least, this does not seem possible without using a very sophisticated lab (I can only guess).

Nonetheless, there is enough information that can at least provide us with a good starting point, which can represent a level of dietary protein intake that, with some perhaps minor adjustments and fine-tuning, could allow us to arrive to a relatively precise (for the particular time in one’s life) daily dietary protein intake levels.

Method, based on specific needs for total daily protein intake

These are the general numbers that can provide a starting point. Examples below.

(Tip: Use the instant kilograms to pounds converter at the bottom right if you don’t know your body weight in kilograms)

  • Sedentary individuals, in order to maintain zero nitrogen balance (nitrogen entering vs. nitrogen leaving the body), generally require 0.69g protein/kg/day (2), 0.66g to 0.83g/kg/day (3), and 0.8g/kg/day is the RDA (Recommended Dietary Allowance) for adults 19 and older. For simplicity sake I think it’s best to take the RDA’s number (0.8g/kg/day) as the zero nitrogen balance and work with it
  • Top athletes require 1.41g/kg/day (2)
  • Top male athletes require  2 x 0.8g (1.6g)/kg/day of dietary protein, and top female athletes require (0.8g + (0.8g x 0.5)) to (0.8g + (0.8g x 0.6))/kg/day. In other words, top female athletes require only 40-50 percent dietary protein in excess of the zero nitrogen balance requirements for sedentary individuals (0.8g/kg) (4)

My comments:

Not sure how to interpret “top athlete”. The Merriam-Webster dictionary defines “athlete” as “A person who is trained in or good at sports, games, or exercises that require physical skill and strength”. If I have to work with this definition and adapt it to “top athlete” it would probably be something in those lines: “A person who is trained to have superior abilities at sports, games, or exercises that require physical skill and strength”. A top athlete – for the purposes of establishing total dietary protein requirements – would be someone who trains intensely at least 5-6 times a week.

My personal suggestions for additionally modifying the baseline daily protein intake (o.8g/kg/day), based on activity level and intensity:

  • Recreational athletes – moderate activity exercise – 2 to 3 times a week: add 0.2g/kg/day protein to RDA level or a total of 1g/kg/day
  • Endurance athletes – long-distance running – 3 – 5 times a week: add 0.4-0.6g/kg/day protein to RDA level or a total of 1.2-1.4g/kg/day (along with higher carbohydrate intake)
  • Strength athletes – heavy weights lifting 4-6 times a week: add 0.6-0.8g/kg/day protein to RDA level or a total of 1.4-1.6g/kg/day (levels of daily protein intake above these do not show clear benefits as far as increase in muscle protein synthesis, and create nutrient overload – 2)

Example:

Subject: Female top athlete
Weight: 125 lbs (57 kg – using the converter – bottom right)

(0.8×57)=45.6
45.6×0.5=22.8
45.6+22.8=68.4g protein/day

Subject: Male, sedentary lifestyle
Weight: 175 lbs (79 kg)
0.8×79=63.2g protein/day

Method, based on the total daily calories requirements

There is an alternative way to determine the dietary protein levels. It’s based on total daily calories intake:

  • Dietary protein intake for sedentary adults is 12-15 percent of the total daily calorie intake
  • Dietary protein intake for active adults is 15-30 percent of the total daily calories intake. This depends on the level of activity – more active will require a higher percentage of dietary protein

The rest of the calories, after total daily protein is calculated, go toward total carbohydrate and fat intake.

Example:

Total daily calories: 2000

Subject: Sedentary individual (15 percent):
2000×0.15=300 (calories from protein)
300/4=75g/day

Subject: Very active individual (30 percent):
2000×0.3=600 (calories from protein)
600/4=150g/day

More comments:

I do not personally prefer the second method – it is far more general and less specific than the first method. However, the second method is easier to put to use.

Additionally, in my personal view the first method would be more accurate if it is used to determine the dietary protein intake for persons of normal body weight (not overweight or obese). I do not see a reason why one should provide extra protein by accounting for large quantities of fat as a part of total body mass. Fat is far less metabolically active tissue than muscle tissue and it does not need much protein at all.

So, how do you tell if you are of normal body weight?

Normal body weight is when the body fat levels are 20-25 percent for women and 10-17 percent for men. Essential fat (must have to be healthy.. and alive) for women is about 10 percent and for men is about 5 percent. So, we are talking about 10-15 percent above this essential fat level for women and 5-12 percent above for men (On the ‘Net you will find sources offering different numbers as to what’s a normal body fat percentage for women and men. The numbers above are my rounded up approximations, based on my experience as a heavy individual and as an extra lean competitive athlete. Also they are based on my personal observations of populations on two continents.)

Example:

The subject is a male, sedentary, body weight=225lb (102 kg), body fat percentage=30%.
Weight of fat tissue alone: 67 lbs (30.6 kg)
Weight of fat tissue above normal weight levels (at 17 percent body fat): 29 lbs (13 kg)
225-29=196 lbs (89 kg)
If protein requirements were calculated using the initial 225 lbs body weight, the total protein would come out to 81.6g/day
If protein requirements were calculated with the correction for excess body fat, the total protein would come out to 71.2g/day.
That’s more than 10g of extra protein a day – and more than 40 Calories extra a day – that the body simply doesn’t need.

So, when calculating total daily dietary protein requirements using the first method, I’d suggest that, if necessary, you make a correction of the total body weight and equate that to ‘normal’ total body weight.

– – –

If this article has any omissions or inaccuracies, please use the comments below to let me know. I will research and update the article accordingly.

How much protein should different people eat

Protein, as opposed to carbohydrates, is an essential macro nutrient – meaning you must have it in your diet because you can’t live without it – not for very long.

Different people have different demands for the amount of protein they should consume.

Earlier today I listened to a podcast by Chris Kresser. Chris discussed a topic that isn’t often discussed even in the nutrition and diet circles – ‘Should you eat more protein in your diet’.

I urge you to head over to Chris Kresser’s website and listen to this podcast.

The take-away points of his talk – the way I understand it – are:

  • We have a feed back system in our brains that tells us how much protein we need – if we need more we crave it, if we need less we eat less of it. So, eat as much protein as you crave (that’s Chris Kresser’s general advice on protein)
  • In some people this feed back mechanism in the brain does not work properly. It could be due to inflammation in the brain or other disease
  • Most people who lead normal lives are fine with 15 percent protein intake, based on total calories consumed. 15 percent is the average protein consumption in the western countries
  • Some individuals require less protein in their diets. Those include individuals with pre-existing kidney disease and pregnant women
  • Some individuals require more protein. People that need more protein in their diets include: athletes, individuals on a fat loss diet, individuals with metabolic and blood sugar health issues, people with adrenal fatigue syndrome, people that waste muscle tissue (elderly and those with wasting diseases)
  • If you require higher protein intake for recovery and re-building you cannot rely on this feed back mechanism. You have to know that you need more
  • Wholesome sources of protein are better than highly-processed sources (like protein powders)
  • But, when it makes sense (very high protein demands and costs of wholesome sources, or disrupted digestive processes – inefficient bile or stomach acid, etc.) protein powders are a reasonable addition to the diet
  • Animal protein sources are better (more bioavailable) than plant protein sources
  • Dairy proteins are the most bioavailable, followed by eggs and meat
  • Non-denatured whey is better (I have an article on this, too)
  • Hydrolyzed(partially digested) beef protein powder is another good choice – especially if it includes collage protein in it. It is balanced better as far as amino acids – it doesn’t have over-abundance of certain amino acids (like methionine from pure lean meats and whey)
  • If plant proteins must be used – pea protein is a good choice, especially if it is hydrolyzed (I used to use pea protein in baking when I had my specialty bakery)

This is all good info, but the question that remained unanswered for me is: ‘If a person requires more protein in their diet how much exactly should that person eat? How much is too little? How much is just enough? And, how much is too much?

These are questions that I want to find answers to. I am trying to practice and master extreme calisthenics (still an amateur, but..) and these bodywegith workouts could be very, very demanding.

And, there are subtleties, too. For example, if you eat more protein (and calories) than you need you gain too much mass and become too heavy. If you eat less you don’t recover well and your performance suffers.

So, I am personally interested in knowing exactly how much protein should I eat daily, based on my personal activities and lifestyle so that I recover well enough but don’t gain even an ounce of non-efficient mass (fat).

Good sources of carbohydrates list

Here is my personal list of good sources of carbohydrates. Explanations are below:

[vector_icon icon=”thumbs-o-up” size=”13px”] Bananas (but not overly-ripe)

[vector_icon icon=”thumbs-o-up” size=”13px”] White rice (but not brown rice)

[vector_icon icon=”thumbs-o-up” size=”13px”] Potatoes and sweet potatoes, yams (no skin)

[vector_icon icon=”thumbs-o-up” size=”13px”] Taro

[vector_icon icon=”thumbs-o-up” size=”13px”] Berries

First, all good sources of carbohydrates could be metabolic disease-promoting and all ‘fattening’ carbohydrates may not be fattening – depending on the composition of the diet, on the lifestyle of a person, as well as on their unique genetic makeup (genetic predisposition to store energy as fat).

If the carbohydrate sources listed above are consumed as a part of a healthy, balanced and minimally-processed diet, and if the total (per meal and daily) calories consumed do not systemically exceed the calories needed to maintain certain weight (based on the lifestyle of a person – ex. heavy labor, sedentary, etc.) then these carbohydrate sources would be my top choices to safely incorporate into a diet. The reason is they provide easily accessible energy for the vital organs – brain, red blood cells. Keep in mind carbohydrates as a macro nutrient group are a non-essential.

(For more on what I personally think a healthy, balanced diet should be see my ‘The Homo Posterus Diet‘ article. To find out what your personal ideal body weight should be go here)

What are the main characteristics of a good carbohydrate source?

A safe/good carbohydrate source should be:

  • Low in or free of lectins (glycoproteins), phytates and other anti-nutrients
  • Easy to prepare with minimal processing time and procedures
  • As close as possible to its natural form
  • Non-man-made
  • Not derived from a grain or a seed
  • Not entirely or primarily consisting of (natural) sugars, like fructose, glucose, galactose, lactose and the like
  • Satisfying (so it doesn’t promote over-eating)

Below are explanations on why each of these carbohydrate sources is in my “recommended carbs” list.

Bananas?

Bananas

Source: commons.wikimedia.org

Sure.

Bananas are about 25 percent carbohydrates and about 12 – 15 percent simple sugars, depending on how ripe they are. The greener the banana – the more resistant (indigestible, prebiotic) starch they contain, the more ripe – the more total carbohydrates and sugars they contain.

The protein and fat content in bananas are low. The sugars in bananas are fructose and glucose – about equal parts (just like in table sugar). The rest is starch.

Bananas contain the lectin BanLec (banana lectin), which has affinity to bind to certain sugars that are common to viruses, including the HIV virus. No negative effects on human health – at least none that I can find. Only the potential positive effect of BanLec’s ability to potentially protect from viral infections.

White rice is a grain, no?

White rice

Source: wikipedia.org

Yes, it is a grain.

Rice does not contain gluten. It is about 80 percent starch, low in fat and protein, low in fiber and sugar. It’s a good source of carbohydrates, if additional carbs are needed in the diet.

The way I see it white rice (but not brown rice) is one of the most benign grains, as far as lectins, phytates and other anti-nutrients and irritants go. The bulk of the anti-nutrients associated with rice are found in the hull, husk, and bran. That’s why consuming brown rice as a source of carbohydrates is not a good idea. White rice has those anti-nutrients removed.

Long-grain rice varieties are less insulinogenic (elicit lower insulin response) in comparison to short-grain varieties. This is due to the higher amylose to amylopectin ratio (the two main starch components).

In summary, if you are going to have grains white rice is your best bet.

Potatoes are nightshades. Alkaloids? Lectins?

Potatoes

Source: wikipedia.org

Regular and sweet potatoes are tubers that are high in easily accessible (when cooked) energy from carbohydrates. They contain about 16-20 percent carbohydrates in the form of starch and sugars, some protein and some fiber. Both types of potatoes are very satiating (they make you feel fuller sooner).

Yams are higher in starch and fiber, but lower in simple sugars.

The two alkaloids in potatoes (but not in sweet potatoes as they botanically belong to a different plant family) are solanine and chaconine. These alkaloids are a problem only if the potatoes look green and/or are sprouting. Non-sprouting normal-looking potatoes should be completely fine – with skin removed.

The lectin (anti-nutrient) in potatoes is called Solanum Tuberosum Agglutinin (STA). It is only about 50 percent active after cooking. STA may cause allergic reactions in 7 – 9 percent of the population – mostly in individuals who have other food-related allergies. But for the majority of the population they are a safe source of starch – when cooked and when not green and/or sprouting.

Why taro? What is taro any way?

Taro root

Source: commons.wikimedia.org

I personally have never tried taro root, but I’ve seen it recommended many times – enough to spark my interest to where I look into it more closely to determine if satisfies my requirements for a safe source of carbohydrate.

Taro (dasheen) is the root of a perennial plant (fun fact: when I was a kid back in Bulgaria we had this plant as a decorative plant at home). Taro root is high in starch – 27 percent, and relatively high in fiber – 4 percent. It is low in protein and sugar. Its carbohydrates digest slower than potatoes and thus its consumption causes a more gradual insulin release.

Taro must be thoroughly cooked as cooking removes the calcium oxalate it naturally contains (calcium oxalate promotes kidney stones formation) .

Berries? Don’t they contain sugars?

Berries

Source: commons.wikimedia.org

Sure, they do. Fresh berries are about 85-90 percent water, relatively low in carbohydrates and total sugars, and relatively high in fiber (if for no other reason but for the satiety factor). Strawberries and blackberries are the lowest on carbs and highest in fiber, blueberries are higher in carbs and lower in fiber.

In general, berries (especially strawberries and blackberries) are quite low in total carbohydrates and sugar in comparison to other common fruit, like bananas, apples, etc. The carb and sugar load that you get from eating a typical serving of berries is several-fold lower than of a typical cup of other fruit. Their Glycemic Index is low and their Glycemic Load is very low.

Most importantly, they don’t fight you (except elderberries). In fact, not only don’t they fight you (they are low anti-nutrients) – but quite the opposite – they are designed to be eaten by animals (and humans). So, eat your berries. It’s not easy to over-eat on berries… if you eat them fresh, of course, and not in the form of strawberry jam or strawberry shortcake! You get the idea..

Why aren’t beans in the list?

Beans are roughly two thirds carbohydrates. It seams reasonable that they are at least considered as a good candidate to be included in my list.

There are two issues with beans – lectins and raffinose.

Lectins are the natural defense mechanism of legumes (also grains and seeds among other food sources). Beans developed these defense mechanisms in order to protect the species from extinguishing if eaten to extinction by animals (like humans for example). Same for grains and seeds, by the way.

Basically, lectins in beans are nothing to joke about. I don’t intend to cover lectins here, but the two main lectins in legumes are phytohemagglutinin and concanavalin A. Read up on them if you want to know why beans are not in my good/safe carbs list.

The beans that are highest in lectins are red kidney and white beans. If you plan on eating these beans never eat them raw/sprouted.

If you intent to eat any beans make sure they are soaked overnight – water changed often – and boiled for a long time… and be prepared to deal with the effects of raffinose..

Raffinose is a type of sugar in beans. Humans do not have the enzyme necessary to digest raffinose thus it passes through the upper portion of the digestive tract and ends up in the lower intestines where it is fermented by gas-producing bacteria. So, that’s that – you know the consequences.

What about wheat?

Like above, there are two issues with wheat – Wheat Germ Agglutinin (WGA – a wheat lectin) and gluten.

Wheat Germ Agglutinin (WGA) is a lectin (a type of anti-nutrient). It causes, among other things, thinning of the intestinal mucosa and increased permeability (1, 2). Do some reading on it, but in short it’s not a fun thing to incorporate in your diet. Ironically, its concentrations are higher in whole-wheat breads and flour preparations – exactly the ones being recommended as ‘better-for-you’.

Gliadin – one of the two wheat proteins that make up gluten, the protein in wheat, is the cause of problems, related to celiac (aka coeliac) disease – an auto-immune disease found in roughly 1 percent of the population, and gluten intolerance  – in 1 out of seven individuals. Gluten is one of the largest protein molecules in existence.

The body often mistakes gluten for a foreign protein. It mounts an auto-immune attack in order to destroy it, and in the process it often wipes out a good portion of the intestinal lining (villi) around the gluten molecule. As a result the intestinal lining thins and affected individuals (which means pretty much everybody to a different degree) end up assimilating less nutrients, and in time also develop some form of a leaky gut syndrome with all the consequences it carries with it.

Simply put, regardless of whether you think you are sensitive to wheat (WGA and gluten) you are better off excluding wheat-based foods from your diet. There is plenty online on the topic of wheat and the consequences of consuming it.

A quick list of carbohydrates to stay away from

This is not an exhaustive list but at least it will give you a general idea of what you should avoid. The rest should be just good ol’ common sense.

Refrain from using: table sugar, HFCS, fruit juices, soft drinks, pastries (all ‘foods’ containing flour and sugar), dried fruit in large quantities, fresh fruit in large quantities (apple, pear, water melon, etc), canned sweetened fruit, anything with added sugar (condensed milk, puddings, other processed deserts, etc.), pretty much all grains and beans (because they fight you – lectins), generally anything that’s sugary or starchy and it is man-made.

. . .

I’m sure I’ve forgotten quite a few carb sources that should be in this ‘avoid’ list. I will be adding to the ‘bad’ list as I remember and to the ‘good’ list as I find out other suitable for inclusion in human diet carbohydrate sources. If you can think of any that I’ve omitted that need to be there, please let me know so I can research and add them.

Good calories bad calories – what scientists are saying

A few days ago under the title ‘Good calories bad calories – what we know’ I posted my notes on the main points of the ‘Good Calories, Bad Calories’ (GCBC) book as I saw them while I was reading it. Long before I actually read the whole book I had read a rebuttal by Stephan Guyenet, an obesity researcher. I didn’t want to re-read his scientific critique before actually finishing the entire book first (I didn’t want to be subjective while reading it). I also wanted to post my observations before I re-read Stephan’s blog post (actually two posts – here and here).

Today I re-read Stephan’s critique and wanted to write another post that I think represents the stance of the scientific community spoken by this obesity researcher (he has made a great summary of the science on obesity in the last 60 years and that’s why I feel that he is speaking on behalf of the entire community of obesity scientists).

This post, just like the last one will contain minimal comments from me. The reason for this is I don’t feel I am in a position to comment while making observations on the science. I am just a guy who has a passion for health sciences and logic and has experimented with his own body fat levels quite a bit – both as a competitive athlete and as just an individual who wants to know how the body responds to changes in lifestyle but who doesn’t have access to lab rats.

Here is what we know so far that comes directly from the obesity research community:

  • The first law of thermodynamics still applies (energy in vs. energy out). If more energy enters the body and less is expended – we become fat (but some individuals tend to store more fat, some less – all other things being relatively equal). Both, GCBC and the research community agree on this.
  • Fat tissue itself, as an organ, does not regulate the fat levels in the body. Neither does the pancreas (the insulin-secreting organ). The brain regulates it.
  • Insulin is not the hormone that orchestrates the whole process of becoming fat (and obese). Leptin is – in concert with other hormones and systems.
  • High-carbohydrate meals may be more satisfying than high-fat meals (protein being the same). High-carbohydrate meals may even cause less subsequent food intake than high-fat meal. That despite the fact that after a high-carbohydrate, low-fat meal (protein is the same) the insulin response is greater after a high-protein, high-fat, low-carbohydrate meal.
  • For many protein foods protein elicits greater insulin response than carbohydrates. Yet a high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet has a greater fat loss potential compared to other macro nutrient ratios diets. This suggests that insulin may even aid fat loss.
  • The fat tissue in obese individuals is insulin resistant. Since insulin suppresses the release of fats from the fat cells and obese individuals have fat that’s insulin resistant they release as much or even more fat from their fat cells into the blood stream (to be used as fuel by other tissues in the body). If these individuals stay obese it is because the energy coming in continues to exceed the energy released from the fat cells and used as fuel — and not because chronically elevated insulin levels ‘lock’ the fat into the fat cells and do not allow its use as fuel.
  • Hyperinsulinemia (elevated insulin levels) is not a cause of obesity – it’s an effect of obesity.
  • Obese people have higher metabolic rate (burn more calories during the day) but they also consume more calories, which compensates and overcompensates for the increased levels of calories burned.
  • Both glucose and fructose cause fat gain – glucose to a slightly higher degree (not fructose as commonly thought). Fructose causes fat gain primarily in the belly region and less in other places in the body.
  • High food palatability/food reward hypothesis has gained traction as a possible explanation of why we eat calories in surplus (and thus become overweight and obese).
  • Human genetics tells us that obesity is dominated by malfunctioning of genes that regulate leptin signaling in the brain. Insulin signaling does not appear to be a cause of obesity, genetics tells us.
  • Common obesity isn’t a function of insulin only. It is a function of a complex of hormonal and anatomic systems. These include: amylin, glucagon, GLP-1, ghrelin, leptin, melanocortins, neuropeptide Y, dopamine, stomach distension, and more. The regulation of fat levels happens in the brain and it is controlled by the interaction of these (and possibly other) systems.
  • The total carbohydrate intake in 1909 was just as high as in 2000 but the obesity didn’t exist in ratios it does today (1 out of 3 in the US). This suggests that carbohydrate intake cannot be singularly blamed for the obesity epidemic.
  • Obesity researchers know that positive energy balance (more energy in, less energy out) causes obesity. However, they don’t know exactly what is causing the energy imbalance.

My comments on these notes:

  • On the second to the last bullet point above – carbohydrate levels the same in 1909 as in 2000 – I know for a fact that the simple carbohydrates (sugar, HFCS, etc.) have about doubled during this period, so simple sugars probably play a role in the obesity epidemic. How exactly? We only know that it isn’t by messing up insulin. It’s more complex than this.
  • In my previous post, containing my notes from the GCBC book I mentioned exercise and its limited role in combating obesity. The obesity research community does not mention anything about how calorie burning activities influence fat gain/fat loss. This is understandable – the research is focused on how food affects the brain and its signaling pathways. We only know that the ‘eat less, move more’ type of advice isn’t very practical due to the fact that we don’t exactly know what is causing the positive energy balance (for example you may eat less – but mainly from the wrong foods, and exercise more and still not lose fat).

Finally, there is still no clear answer as to why we become obese. To borrow the words of one commenter on Stephan’s blog: ‘we know that pizza makes us fat… we don’t know why’.

In any case, Stephan Guyenet himself has a good working hypothesis as to what is causing the energy imbalance – and from there obesity. Here is a paragraph from his blog post ‘Roadmap to obesity‘:

[blockquote quote=”…in genetically susceptible people, excessive food reward/palatability/availability and inactivity cause overconsumption and an increase in the body fat setpoint, followed by the eventual accumulation of fat metabolites and inflammation in the hypothalamus, which exacerbate the problem and make it more difficult to treat. Other factors, such as micronutrients, gut flora, fiber, fat quality, polyphenols, sleep and stress, may also play a role.” source_link=”httpss://wholehealthsource.blogspot.com/2011/08/roadmap-to-obesity.html”]
1 2 3 4