Monthly Archives: January 2014

Easy Leek Carbonara – Grain-free

INGREDIENTS

There’s a restaurant in Portland, Oregon called Le Pigeon, which makes a leek carbonara that I read about in The Globe and Mail. My lovely aunt forwarded it to me. I will link to the recipe at the end of this post if you want to try out the original.

Although I don’t eat grains anymore and rarely crave bread or pasta – my Achilles’ heel is spaghetti carbonara. There is something so comforting about creamy fettucine noodles in an egg and parmesan sauce, complemented with rendered pancetta that I just can’t get out of my head. Until now.

This recipe replaces the boring fettucine noodles with strips of leeks, cut into the width of fettucine. Since leeks are probably my favorite vegetable, I decided this was a very, very good idea.

The reason I have messed with the great recipe from Le Pigeon is just to make it a little simpler to prepare on hurried nights, and to increase the fat content (obviously!)pancetta

EASY LEEK CARBONARA

SERVES 4 – 5 AS A MAIN DISH, 6 – 8 AS A SIDE

  • 3 big leeks
  • 3 egg yolks
  • 1 cup of parmesan
  • 200g of pancettaleek noodles
  1. Cut up 200g of pancetta into small cubes. Cook these slowly in a heavy pot to render out the fat. I always cook for about 15 minutes while I’m getting the other ingredients ready.
  2. Boil a big pot of water.
  3. Trim off the hairy bottom and dark green tops from your leeks. Cut them lengthwise into long strips that resemble fettucine noodles. Rinse these well in a deep bowl of water or the sink to get off any dirt and grit.
  4. Grate about a cup of parmesan cheese.
  5. Crack 3 egg yolks into a large bowl. Add the parmesan cheese and mix together with a fork. Set aside.
  6. Once the water boils, add your leek “noodles” to the pot and boil for about a minute. “Parboil” if you will.egg yolks
  7. Finish rendering the pancetta, being careful not to overcook or your cubes will be crunchy rockettes. Most recipes will drain off the fat at this point, but not me! I spent good money on fancy pancetta from the Healthy Butcher and I’m not throwing any of it away.
  8. Strain the leeks after a minute. At Le Pigeon they are all fancy and plunge the leek “noodles” into an ice bath. I wouldn’t bother, though it is nice to dry them a bit on a towel, and then  add the dry “noodles” to the finished pancetta and hot fat. Toss like crazy in the warm, heavy pan.
  9. Once all the “noodles” have been coated with pancetta fat and the pancetta is evenly distributed, and the leeks have cooked a little more to their desired softness, quickly use some tongs to dump the entire pan into the prepared bowl of yolks and parmesan.  Stir quickly so that the sudden heat doesn’t make the yolks “cook”. (They will “temper” with the heat, but not actually cook). stirring
  10. Serve out smaller portions than you think you can eat, and top with some extra parmesan and fresh ground pepper.

If you think regular carbonara is heavy, this is about twice as heavy. But what I mean instead of “heavy” is filling. What is so remarkable is that even after a large portion, there is no bloating or heaviness – just fullness. I swear you cannot overeat this because it’s just so rich.  And absolutely delicious!

If you are not a fan of leeks, I still think you should try this. Boiling the leeks for a minute before the sauté seems to soften their flavor quite a bit. And yet that subtle leek-ness is still there, making this carbonara dish so much more layered and intense than the standard fare. easy leek carbonara

MACRONUTRIENT BREAKDOWN

One cup of standard carbonara (and who only eats one cup of pasta at a sitting?) is 43g of carbohydrates. One cup of this Easy Leek Carbonara (and you probably can’t eat a full cup) is 7g of carbohydrates.  This recipe also contains 19g of protein and about 32g of fat per serving/cup. If you want less protein, use less pancetta.

As it is, this recipe has 74% of calories from fat, 20% from protein and 6% from carbohydrates. Very LCHF.

What else? Each serving has 25% of your RDA for Calcium, 10% of your Iron, 27% of your Vitamin B12, 28% of your Phosphorous, plus a decent amount of Selenium, Riboflavin, Folate, Potassium, Vitamin A and Vitamin B6.

HOW TO PORTION THIS RECIPE

If you are alone and want to make this for yourself, just use one leek and one egg yolk, with a smaller amount of parmesan and pancetta. You will have leftovers. Generally, a big leek cooked this way will be too much for one person or just enough for two sides  – so gage the recipe that way.

FURTHER READING

Original and slightly more exciting recipe from Le Pigeon restaurant (includes lemon juice! red pepper flakes!)

Read about why leeks are so awesome and also support cardiovascular health. Try to eat something from the allium family every day (garlic, onions, leeks, scallions, etc).

A reminder about just what LCHF stands for (low carbohydrate high fat) and why it matters

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Beet Kvass NBD

IMG_0442Seriously, let’s not make a big deal about this. A couple organic beets, some water, some salt and an air-lock jar. It’s like 5 minutes and then you forget about it for 3 weeks.

Beet Kvass is a 10th century Ukranian probiotic sports drink, essentially, in that it’s full of electrolytes and is super hydrating. It also claims to be an anti-inflammatory blood tonic, to cleanse the liver, lower blood pressure, to oxygenate the blood and spare oxygen when exercising. The Ukranians call it a “Cure All”, and there’s a rumor that the only people who didn’t develop blood poisoning after the radioactive Chernobyll explosion are those that religiously consumed beet kvass. As such, beet kvass and juice are frequently recommended for cancer patients undergoing radiation therapy.

beets

There are complicated ways to make it, and then there is THE EASIEST, most traditional method which is obviously my preference.

BEET KVASS DIRECTIONS

  1. Boil your kettle or whatever.
  2. Wash 2 BIG BEETS or 3 medium beets to get any major mud off of them. Don’t go nuts scrubbing because what we are looking for here is the Lactobacillus bacteria that is on the surface of the beets. Some recipes call for peeling the beets and then adding a whey starter culture. But in this recipe, we are acknowledging that the beet skin already contains the exact starter culture we want (isn’t nature cool?) and so we are going to work with the beets and not against them. Again it’s important to use raw, organic beets here because conventionally farmed root vegetables absorb all the toxic fertilizers and neuro-toxin pesticides that are needed to grow them – furthermore, conventional root vegetables are grown in mineral-starved and mostly dead soil so there’s really no point in eating them anyway.
  3. cut up beetsCut up the beets, LEAVING THE SKIN AND SKETCHY HAIRS on, into rough cubes – smaller than an ice cube but much larger than dice. If you make the beet cubes too small, they will release too much juice and sugar and you will get a different type of bacteria involved that works too quickly, creating more alcohol than lactic acid, and the whole thing will be wrecked. Bigger cubes mean the work will be slow and encourage the right kind of bacteria.
  4. Add 1 heaping TBS of good SEA SALT (or Himalayan salt) into the bottom of a large (say a quart) jar that has an air-lock, or those clamps that compress a rubber seal. The jar is important because a lot of carbon dioxide is going to be created and it needs to escape; at the same time you don’t want to let any oxygen in. (Oxygen will encourage the wrong type of bacteria, which will then “spoil” your kvass).
  5. saltPour about half a cup to a cup of boiling water from your kettle into your salted jar, and swirl it around until it dissolves. The only reason you boiled the water is to help the salt dissolve.
  6. Fill up half of the jar with cold FILTERED WATER. You don’t want the water to be hot anymore or else it will “cook” the beets and their bacteria and enzymes. We need a lot of live action for this process.
  7. Shove in all the cut up beets you have just prepared. Hopefully they will all fit. If you need to add more cold water to cover the beets, do it. Try to leave an inch of airspace at the top of the jar. I’m lousy at leaving space, and usually pay for it a few weeks in when my kvass seeps out of the jar all over my marble countertop. Major fail.salty jar
  8. Seal the jar up, leave it out of direct sunlight at room temperature or slightly warmer and forget about it for 3 weeks. Lactobacillus prefers temperatures between 70-75 degrees F, and likes just this amount of salt, no less and not much more. You could add another 1/2 TBS of salt if you don’t mind the salty flavor, but that’s the limit for a quart jar and 2-3 beets.

OTHER FLAVORING OPTIONS

Maybe add a clove, a cardamom pod, a star anise, a bit of orange peel, a knob of ginger or anything you think will go nicely with the earthy flavor of fermented beet juice. The lactic acid will also work its magic on these ingredients, unlocking beneficial polyphenols.

IN THREE WEEKS TIME

During this time the Lactobacillus have been converting the carbohydrates in the beets into lactic acid, carbon dioxide and small amounts of acetic acid and ethyl alcohol. The carbon dioxide displaces any oxygen in the jar, creating an anaerobic environment suitable for subsequent species of Lactobacillus to propagate.

After three weeks, strain out the pink liquid and put it in a serving bottle, preferably with a flip-top airlock style lid, and keep in the fridge. Drink at your leisure – but start slow. Just half a cup a day is all you really need to get the benefits. You might not dig it at first, but you’ll get used to it. Like all the other weird stuff, you’ll end up craving this earthy, salty elixir too.

beet kvass jar

BONUS PROJECT

Leave about a cup of the liquid in the bottom of the beets, fill again with water and another TBS of salt, and ferment the same beets again for another three weeks.

After that point, you can strain out a second batch of kvass and also eat the slightly tangy beets on their own or in a salad. These 6 week old beets will have much less sugar in them, a slightly tangy taste and will be teeming with beneficial bacteria.

While beets are a pretty starchy, high carbohydrate vegetable for anyone on an LCHF (Low Carbohydrate High Fat) diet or similar – fermented beets are much lower in carbohydrates so totally acceptable.  (Whereas if you just “pickle” beets the conventional way by boiling and dumping them into sugary vinegar, they will actually have a much higher level of carbohydrates and sugars. Don’t do that, silly!).

YOU’RE SO WILD, GIRL

When you ferment vegetables (or anything) without adding a starter culture, it’s called doing a “Wild Ferment”. You’re getting your starter culture from the very thing you are culturing. You can use wild yeasts when making bread and beer; you can use wild bacteria when fermenting vegetables and fruits – and cheeses, wines and meats etc. And that’s just way cooler and more natural. Let’s always do it wild. Less fuss, less muss: more WOW factor. Got it?

BODACIOUS BACTERIA

The bacteria in our body outnumber our own cells by a factor of ten, which has to make your jaw drop.

What that essentially means is that over the last couple billion years, Earth bacteria has been co-evolving with us – you might even say “designing us” – in ways to make itself more mobile, virulent and imaginative. Consider that bacteria used to be stuck to a rock underwater; now it can walk around, drive, fly airplanes and be exposed to all manner of exciting cuisines and experiences.

It’s not like we are just the hapless host; we have benefitted immensely from bacteria. Bacteria protects our skin membranes, gives us immunity to diseases, helps digest our food and even creates essential nutrients for us out of food that would otherwise be useless to us. Although there are hundreds of bacteria that are on our side, there are also bacteria that totally suck for us. By encouraging and cultivating the bacteria on our team, they will keep the bad bacteria at bay. It is totally heavy-handed for a human to go after bacteria in general, by means of anti-bacterial wipes and sprays. It’s not our job to try to target bad bacteria – we are too big and clumsy to figure it out. Our job is to promote the health and propagation of our good bacteria so that it can take care of the bad bacteria on our behalf. This is symbiosis, baby! Our good bacteria has been engaged in this dance for billions of years, so there no point presuming we can do it better just because Louis Pasteur figured out how to boil stuff. 

Lactobacillus bacteria in particular inhibits the growth of diarrhea-related bacteria such as Shigella, Salmonella and E. Coli. In addition, Lactobacillus competes with pathogens for receptor sites at the mucosal cell surfaces (nose, mouth, underpants region and entire digestive tract), making it more difficult for us to get sick. What this means is that our body is meant to be teeming with Lactobacilli, and has evolved to thrive in its presence. However our modern, sanitized environments and dead, overly fibrous or rancid foods create conditions that deplete Lactobacillus along with other beneficial bacteria. So stop doing that.

Making and drinking beet kvass is too easy not to do. I know you have a couple beets down there in your fridge drawer that you have been too lazy to cook. So just spare five minutes of your time and get on with it. This is a great winter project, and much needed in this season of flu and cold.

FURTHER READING

Article on beet juice lowering blood pressure and sparing oxygen while exercising.

More detailed information about the different Lactobacillus bacterias and their products and by-products, including a table showing all the major lactic acid bacteria involved in fermented fruits and vegetables.

Dr. Mercola’s site claims one serving of fermented vegetables has more probiotics than an entire bottle of commercial probiotic supplements. In other words, don’t bother wasting your money on proprietarily limited commercial strains when making fermented vegetables is dead easy and way more useful.

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One Day Of Ketosis

krebs

graphic reproduced from Joseph Arcita

I’m not even remotely an expert on this, but I thought I would share a sample day in hardcore ketosis, which is different from LCHF. The conventional ketogenic diet (designed for epileptics) requires the daily ratio of fats by weight to be four times greater than the combined weight of proteins and carbohydrates. Whereas the Low Carb High Fat (LCHF) folks tend to eat an amount of protein appropriate for their body size, and then less than 10g (but as much as 50g sometimes) of carbohydrates, and then they round out the rest of their diet with fat – but not in any specific ratio and usually not nearly so much as required on the classic ketogenic diet.

In other words, the classic ketogenic diet would have 50g of protein, 50g of carbs and (50 + 50 x 4 =) 400g of fat. This is a crazy amount of fat and calories (4000!), so I have designed a modified or modern ketogenic diet that still does the same thing without having to eat a couple tubs of mayonnaise throughout the day.

My modified, modern ketogenic diet would have 50g protein, 10g carbs and then (50 + 10 x 4) 240g of fat for an average person.

Whereas the same person doing LCHF would have 50g protein, 10g carbs and maybe just 100g – 150g of fat.

All three versions seem to keep people in ketosis, but since I have not personally tested all the methods with an at-home ketosis strip monitoring device, I can’t say for sure. Now I’ve got a goal this year. At last.

(However I would never test or play around with the “classic ketogenic diet”, as that much fat would invariable cause nausea and I just don’t need to do that to myself. I will definitely experiment with the others, though).

I put this sample menu together to improve upon one of my previous posts about cancer as a metabolic disease. I figured the information would be much more useful if readers could visualize what it really means to eat this much fat!

This menu is designed for me. Because of my body size and low level of activity, my body probably requires just about 45g of protein each day to maintain growth and optimum repair.  You may require more, or less. No matter what your protein requirement is, you will probably still want to consume around 10g of carbohydrates and not much more. For this “modified ketogenic menu”, you will add your protein to your carbs (mine is 45 + 10) and multiply by 4 to find out how much fat you will require.

MY SAMPLE MODIFIED KETOGENIC MENU

  • FOR BREAKFAST I could have a “Big Fat Coffee” (1 Tbsp butter, 1 Tbsp coconut oil, espresso and hot water), 1 egg cooked in 1 Tbsp butter with a cubic inch of cheese shredded or melted into it. This comes out to 10g protein, 1g carbs and 48g of fat. Within the range!
  • FOR LUNCH I could have a salad with 1 1/2 cups of shredded romaine lettuce, 1/2 cup of chopped cucumber, a cubic inch of grated cheese, 2 pieces of bacon crumbled on top and a dressing made of 3 Tbsp olive oil, 2 Tbsp sour cream, spices and 1 Tbsp apple cider vinegar. I would have to eat ALL of the dressing. This comes out to 11g of protein, 5g of carbs and 60g of fat. Within the range!
  • SNACKS are tricky. Pâté and cheese, even on its own without crackers, has too much protein compared to fat – so I would have to also spread butter on it or something equally strange. I wouldn’t need much more protein on this “meal plan” suggested here, so all I could really can snack on is fat. I would suggest making an unsweetened chai tea (from a teabag) and emulsifying coconut oil into it as a creamy beverage. This gives me 14g of fat, which is great and filling.
  • FOR DINNER I could have a can of sardines packed in olive oil (I chose that because it’s easy to visualize), a 1/4 stalk of broccoli with 3 Tbsp butter melted on it, and another small salad of 1/2 cup of shredded romaine with a dressing made of 2 tbsp olive oil to 1 tsp apple cider vinegar. For dessert I could have 1/2 cup of whipped cream. This gives me 19g of protein, 5g of carbohydrate and 92g of fat. Just within the range!

DAY TOTAL = 40g of protein, 11g of carbohydrates and 215g of fat, and 2100 calories.

This was really hard! And even after all this work, I was 5g too low on protein, 1g too high on carbs and 5g too low on fat. However this would absolutely keep anyone in ketosis, without starving or feeling hungry whatsoever. This is a lot of fat to get through, and it keeps you feeling really full. But the point of this exercise was to show that you can get into ketosis with a low amount of carbohydrates without resorting to a low amount of calories.

I think what I really need to do is order some ketosis monitoring strips, so that I can verify for myself if LCHF, which is much more palatable, can still maintain adequate metabolism of ketone bodies.

WHY WOULD ANYONE WANT TO DO THIS?

Well, in addition to reversing tumors, nourishing mitochondria and providing preferential ketones for efficient metabolism, ketosis promotes cardiovascular health, increases HDL cholesterol and particle size while decreasing LDL cholesterol; ketosis increases neuronal stabilization and mental functioning, preserves lean body mass while reducing fat stores, and stops the progression and can reverse Type II diabetes, Alzheimer’s, hypertension and various cancers.

My question is, why wouldn’t you want to do this?

Showing small to moderate ketone levels on these possibly unreliable Ketostix

Showing small to moderate ketone levels on these possibly unreliable Ketostix

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FURTHER READING

I have updated my earlier post, CANCER IS A METABOLIC DISEASE, to include more specific details on the ketogenic diet and also this sample menu to help people visualize what it means to eat this way

A link to My Big Fat Coffee recipe and post

My thoughts on how much protein you should eat for your specific body size and needs

Here is a look at some ketostix test strips for monitoring ketone levels in urine, that you can use at home to see if you are still burning ketones or if you have slipped back to burning glucose

Here is the wikipedia page on THE KETOGENIC DIET

A pretty great and thorough “Guide to Ketosis” posted by Joseph Arcita, whose graphic I used up above. He is really comprehensive!

Inexpensive Ketostix in Canada if you want in on this game

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A Toast To Your Health: Hot Buttered Rum

hot buttered rumOkay I’m actually going to do this. While everyone else – including those in my own family – are pushing for a “dry January”, I’m going to be contrarian and promote the Devil’s water, also known as alcohol. Specifically, I am going to try to seduce you into drinking hot, buttered rum.

For starters, let’s look at the fact that drinking alcohol is not a new thing for humans. It’s probably pretty close to the oldest thing. In other words, we have evolved alongside drinking alcohol since the beginning. Ingesting fermented fruits and honey were an early window into the spirit world. Archeologists have found evidence of honey fermentation as long as 40,000 years ago. That’s not to say we haven’t been doing it for longer – just that’s all we can find hard evidence for. It is possible and largely speculated that humans settled down to farm in the cradle of civilization not primarily to grow food but to grow grains specifically for fermenting into alcohol. Have you ever noticed that humans are not entirely practical? (Ever seen Easter Island?) We don’t change our ways just for a bland food choice like sprouted grains. Nope, we dream bigger than that. Humans put to rest our nomadic ways in order to grow ancient barley to ferment into beer – a product that brought us closer to the gods and delivered us untold status. In other words, there would be no civilization without the promise of beer.

Now beer isn’t for everybody, and certainly not for celiacs or anyone with gluten/gut sensitivities, which includes anyone with auto-immune issues. Alcohol and wine isn’t for everyone either – particularly not anyone with addiction issues or possibly chronic, debilitating illness. No, alcohol is mostly for healthy people – and believe it or not – in moderation it actually promotes health.

In moderation, alcohol seems to prevent osteoporosis, various cancers (kidney, thyroid, Hodgkin’s and non-Hodgkin’s lymphoma and pancreatic cancers have been studied so far), gallbladder disease, Alzheimer’s disease and dementia, metabolic syndrome (the blanket pre-cursor to type II diabetes, obesity and heart disease), arthritis, enlarged prostate, macular degeneration, kidney stones, stress and depression, tremors and among other things, the common cold.

Now I’m not just talking about the resveratrol darling, red wine. A glass of red wine a day seems to be unequivocally better than not having a glass a day: for heart health, longevity, etc. But the benefits are not just from the antioxidant resveratrol (which is in pretty small amounts in a glass of wine); the benefits are mostly from the ethanol content itself.

SOME ETHANOL A DAY KEEPS THE DOCTOR AWAY

Again let me be very clear: I am not talking about binge drinking, or even drinking the way I have always known it. I’m only talking about moderate drinking which means from 1 – 2 alcoholic drinks per day, but mostly landing on one drink per day if you are a small woman and two drinks a day if you are a large man. One drink is a 5oz glass of wine or a 12oz can of beer or an ounce and a half shot of alcohol spirits. Period!

So before I go any further you are probably going to want some bullet points and some studies. I could do this all day, but here is a short selection:

  • A study that examined nearly 10,000 men and women at age 23 and again at age 33 found that the moderate drinkers experience lower levels of poor general health, long-term illness, and psychological distress when compared to abstainers and heavy drinkers.(1)
  • The National Institute on Alcohol Abuse and Alcoholism has found that the lowest death rate from all causes occurs at the level of one to two drinks each day.(2)
  • Drinking alcohol in moderation (1-2 drinks per day for women and 2-4 for men) was found to reduce risk of mortality significantly according to meta-analysis of 34 studies of alcohol and total mortality among 1,015,835 men and women around the world.(3)
  • A Harvard study found the risk of death from all causes to be 21% to 28% lower among men who drank alcohol moderately, compared with abstainers. (4)
  • Harvard’s Nurses’ Health Study of over 85,000 women found reduced mortality among moderate drinkers. (5)
  • A study of more than 40,000 people by the Cancer Research Center in Honolulu found that “persons with moderate alcohol intake appear to have a significantly lower risk of dying than nondrinkers.” (6)
  • A review of the research reports that moderate drinking appears to reduce the risk of numerous diseases. “These include duodenal ulcer, gallstones, enteric infections, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoporosis, and diabetes mellitus (type II). Compared with abstainers, moderate drinkers exhibit improved mental status characterized by decreased stress and depression, lower absenteeism from work, and decreased dementia (including Alzheimer’s disease).” (7)
  • Researchers examined the evidence from 33 studies and found that alcohol consumption increased neck bone density for each drink per day over the range of 0-3 drinks per day; reduced the risk for hip fracture with increasing quantities consumed; and was generally associated with reduced bone loss over time, compared with abstention from alcohol. (8)
  • The National Osteoporosis Risk Assessment followed over 200,000 postmenopausal women in the U.S. with no previous diagnosis of osteoporosis who were seen at doctors’ offices, with no previous diagnosis of osteoporosis. As a result of screening, the study found that 39.6% had osteopenia or low bone density and 7% had osteoporosis. The study found that drinking alcohol reduced the chances of developing osteoporosis. (9)
  • Scientists at the University of London concluded that light and moderate drinking saves more lives in England and Wales than are lost through the abuse of alcohol. If everyone abstained from alcohol, death rates would be significantly higher. (10)

Like I said, I could go on all day – but I’m going to stop there, and pause, to reflect on that last statement: “If everyone abstained from alcohol, death rates would be significantly higher.” In fact, that’s such a big deal that I’m going to make it a heading:

IF EVERYONE ABSTAINED FROM ALCOHOL, DEATH RATES WOULD BE SIGNIFICANTLY HIGHER

I know this seems shocking, but we have to step back and look at the cultural bias that we have all been raised under. We are a product of the pious Protestants, the people who burned witches (women, basically) and anyone who threatened the church’s power. We have a belief system that holds on dearly to the idea that alcohol is bad and leads to immoral acts (like enjoying sex, and having fun!). So let’s step back and take the long view. Biologically, we are not the product of the last 400 years. We are the product of millions of years – and for at least tens to hundreds of thousands of those years, our biology has adapted to drinking (or eating) some version or another of ethanol.

What we are NOT adapted to: abstaining from alcohol. It is literally unhealthy to abstain from alcohol, unless you have contraindications (like being an infant or in a growth stage, being pregnant or nursing, being on certain medications etc) or you are performing some kind of specific fasting period. So I’m going to give the “dry January” folks a green light since their teetotaling has an end date. Possibly taking a month off of alcohol also helps you to reset your tolerance and habits, and to better appreciate and respect alcohol once you reintroduce it.

WHY IS ETHANOL SO AWESOME

Alcohol, in moderation, appears to improve cholesterol particle size, while increasing HDL and decreasing LDL; it decreases thrombosis (blood clotting) and also helps make existing clots dissolve; it reduces blood pressure and reduces blood insulin levels; it increases blood flow to the brain which increases brain function; it increases coronary blood flow while decreasing coronary spasm reactions in response to stress (abstainers from alcohol have DOUBLE the stroke risk of moderate drinkers).

AN EXCEPTION: CERTAIN CANCERS

Alcohol seems to slightly increase levels of endogenous estrogen in the body, which is a risk factor for breast cancer and other estrogen-receptor positive tumors. So: if you have breast cancer or are already in a high-risk category for breast cancer – no booze for you! No sugar either, friend.

Possibly by another mechanism altogether, alcohol is positively associated with greater morbidity from colorectal cancer. So this doesn’t mean alcohol will put you at greater risk of getting colorectal cancer, just that if you already have it then get on the wagon and get out of here.

And obviously if you have cirrhosis of the liver, liver cancer or Hepatitis C or something similar, you shouldn’t drink any form of alcohol at all. But I didn’t have to tell you that. Like, duh.

HOW TO DRINK FOR BEST HEALTH

Now we are going to run into a problem pretty quickly because a lot of alcoholic drinks are also full of carbohydrates, and as we have explored previously, excessive carbohydrates are a menace leading to metabolic disorders like diabetes, heart disease and dementia; causing dysbiosis of the gut flora which presents as auto-immune diseases; as well as promoting and feeding cancer cells.

For example, a 12oz can of regular beer has about 13g of carbohydrates. If you drank two in a day, you would use up at least half, if not all, of the carbohydrate amount that I think you should be consuming in a day for optimum health (as recommended by the LCHF – Low Carbohydrate High Fat – loving Swedes and a long tradition of Northern Europeans). Now beer does have some nutrients to recommend it – a can has almost 13% of your RDA for Vitamin B6 and B3, and almost 2g of protein. It also has decent amounts of trace metals and minerals. However beer has negligible amounts of anything else. All those carbohydrates for such slim nutritional benefits is just not acceptable, in my opinion. Better to eat carbohydrates as broccoli, salad or tomato sauce.

Now a 5oz glass of wine has about 5g of carbohydrates. Actually it has 4g, but let’s face facts and recognize that you’re never going to pour yourself a measly 5oz glass of wine. For all of wine’s resveratrol and other anti-oxidant potential, a serving has less B vitamins than beer (by half), a little bit of iron and negligible protein. So it’s not a bad option by any means, but it is still a source of largely empty carbohydrates.

Now let’s talk spirits. A serving of spirits such as vodka, gin, whiskey, rum and tequila has no carbohydrates to speak of (and no protein, vitamins, minerals or otherwise). All of the sugars have been converted by fermentation into ethanol. The health problem with consuming spirits in moderation arises when you add margarita mix, cola and other cocktail blends. For example, an 8oz vodka tonic has 22g of carbohydrates, whereas vodka on its own has no carbohydrates.

Now there are all sorts of industries popping up creating low carb cocktails (hello, Skinny Girl) and even bartenders mixing up drinks with Splenda and Truvia. And while this is a possibility (but please try not to use nasty artificial sweeteners very often), it would be nice to find an alcoholic drink that is full of bona-fide nutrition.

WELCOME TO HOT, BUTTERED RUM

I’m choosing old-fashioned dark rum, distilled from cane sugar or molasses, because it was the first commercially produced spirit, and one of the oldest spirits humans have experimented with. Which means we might be pretty well adapted to it, all things considered. In its day, rum was considered medicinal and necessary. Again, there is a difference between a daily ration of rum and getting drunk on rum. In the 1600s, the sailor’s rum ration was “half a pint” or about 8oz per day, to be drunk at noon, but it is not known if that ration was pure or diluted with water by thrifty sea captains. A large and active sailor of yore could probably have metabolized a safe 4oz of rum per day and reaped the health benefits. However 8oz per day is NOT what I am suggesting; I am only suggesting between 1oz and 3oz per day, depending on body size.

1.5oz of rum is 80% “proof” or 80% full of health-promoting ethanol. On its own, rum has a pretty harsh kick to it, and burns going down.

To perfect this drink, add 1 Tbsp of pastured butter (Kerrygold, Organic Valley Pasture Butter etc), and top off with boiling water to melt the butter. The butter will give you 12g of fat (7g saturated) – remember that this is a good thing so long as we are not going to add any sugar. Saturated fat from appropriate sources (biodynamically pastured ruminants, for example) is the good fat! Saturated fat is made up of stable molecules, unlike polyunsaturated fats which have unstable electrons which easily oxidize and create damaging free radicals in the body. If you are looking for a safe, stable fat – butter and coconut oil are the bombs. The butter  in this drink also has 8% of your vitamin A for the day and some CLA (conjugated linoleic acid) and Omega-3 fatty acids. Pasture butter’s vitamin A is perfectly balanced with vitamin D and vitamin K2 – the golden triad of vitamins for bone, heart and general health.

Now all you have to do is sip this concoction in front of a roaring fire and you are drinking hot, buttered rum.

LET’S KEEP GOING

Your basic hot, buttered rum is still a bit harsh for me.

So I like to add some spices: cinnamon, nutmeg and the tiniest bit of cloves. Maybe a bit of vanilla. Hey, why not some ginger – or add hot ginger tea instead of boiling water!? You could add up to a teaspoon of cinnamon, which contains 28 mg of calcium, 1 mg iron, 1 g fiber, and considerable vitamin C, K and manganese. Cinnamon improves insulin resistance, digestion and is a powerful anti-inflammatory.

And then for extra sweetness (and fat!) I add another tablespoon of coconut oil. There are no carbohydrates in coconut oil, but it has a sort of “sweet” mouthfeel to me. The coconut oil will add more CLA along with antimicrobial and antiviral properties. I don’t know HOW you could ever get a cold if you drink one of these every night.

The coconut oil will add 14g of fat (12g saturated). It will also essentially compete with the rum’s ethanol to enter brain cells, possibly protecting against brain cell tolerance to drinking – so that you can keep getting the same “feeling” of mild intoxication at the same level of alcohol. (This is complicated, but when an alcoholic gives up drinking booze cold turkey, her brain is barely able to function because it has sort of been adapted to run on ethanol instead of glucose. Take away the ethanol and the ethanol-adapted brain cells need time to adapt back to glucose, resulting in impaired brain function and withdrawal symptoms – but use coconut oil and the transition is easier and smoother. Short story: coconut oil is awesome for alcoholics too! Both for withdrawal, and for continued abuse!)

MY HOT, BUTTERED RUM RECIPE

I must be really healthy because I've almost finished my bottle of Mount Gay

I must be really healthy because I’ve almost finished my bottle of Mount Gay

  • 1.5 oz dark rum
  • 1 Tbsp pastured butter
  • 1 Tbsp coconut oil
  • up to a tsp cinnamon
  • dash of vanilla, nutmeg and cloves
  • mugful of boiling water or ginger tea

Now I throw it all in a blender, Vitamix or Magic Bullet and emulsify it until it turns a frothy caramel color. Pull up a chair to the roaring fire, lean into your knitting and drink up.

Happy New Year!

_____________________

REFERENCES CITED ABOVE

(1) Power, C., et al. U-shaped relation for alcohol consumption and health in early adulthood and implications for mortality. The Lancet, 1998, 352, 9131.

(2) Highlights of the NIAAA position paper on moderate alcohol consumption. Press release from the journal, Alcoholism: Clinical & Experimental Research, July 14, 2004.

(3)  Di Castelnuovo, Augusto, et al. Alcohol dosing and total mortality in men and women: An updated meta-analysis of 34 prospective studies. Archives of Internal Medicine, 2006, 166, 2437-2445.

(4) Camargo, C. A., et al. Prospective study of moderate alcohol consumption and mortality in US male physicians. Archives of Internal Medicine, 1997, 157, 79-85.

(5)  Fuchs, C. S., et al. Alcohol consumption and mortality among women. The New England Journal of Medicine, 1995, 332(19), 1245-1250.

(6) Maskarinec, G., et al. Alcohol intake, body weight, and mortality in a multiethnic prospective cohort. Epidemiology, 1998, 9(6), 654-661.

(7) Power, C., et al. Goldberg, D. M., et al. Moderate alcohol consumption: the gentle face of Janus. Clinical Biochemistry, 1999, 32(7), 505-518.

(8) Karina M. Berg, Hillary V. Kunins, Jeffrey L. Jackson, Shadi Nahvi, Amina Chaudhry, Kenneth A. Harris, Rubina Malik & Julia H. Arnsten. Association Between Alcohol Consumption and Both Osteoporotic Fracture and Bone Density
The American Journal of Medicine, 2008 (May), 121(5), 406-418.

(9) Siris, E.S. Identification and fracture outcomes of undiagnosed low bone density in postmenopausal women: Results from the National Osteoporosis Risk Assessment. Journal of the American Medical Association, 2001, 286(22), 2815-2822.

(10) Britton, A., and McPherson, K. Mortality in England and Wales attributable to current alcohol consumption. Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health, 2001, 55(6), 383-388.

FURTHER READING

An introduction to LCHF

How to Eat More Butter

Pubmed article on alcohol as a risk factor in breast cancer. And another meta-analysis.

What sugar does for cancer (spoiler: promotes and feeds it!) and what a lack of sugar does (starves it out)

Want another weird drink that’s full of antioxidants and spices? Don’t forget to make The Crazy Hot Drink – it’s a Foundation Drink after all.

Why I don’t use hyperlinks within the body of my arguments anymore! I have also finally dug into my pockets for the $30 charge to eliminate ads from my blog. You’re welcome.

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