Category Archives: Food

How To Eat More Butter

butter

Our whole lives (or at least mine, born in the ’70s) we have been taught to be sparing with our butter, or even to substitute it with something else like lemon juice or soy sauce. But now all of a sudden I am trying out LCHF (Low Carbohydrate High Fat diet) and searching for ways to increase my butter intake. This is a weird turn of events.

Of course it’s easy enough to load butter onto cooked green beans, asparagus, peas, fiddleheads, broccoli and the like. But let’s face it, these vegetables are all a little slippery and just don’t hold a lot of butter.

Unfortunately the things I most strongly associate with butter eating – bread, potatoes and popcorn – are now out of my diet due to their high level of carbohydrates. Technically summer corn on the cob should be out of my diet too, but come on! Summer corn? That’s like the best thing in the world. So I’m still going to enjoy summer corn when the time comes, and I’m going to load it up with grass-fed butter and sea salt.

There have always been a few vegetables where using scant butter seemed to ruin them. In particular, I am talking about boiled artichokes and mushrooms.

When I used to boil artichokes, I would serve them with a sauce of butter cut with lemon juice, and then I would just barely dip each leaf in the sauce. It was an agonizing exercise in restraint. Well now it’s a different story. Now I am really slopping the artichoke leaves around in the butter to intentionally absorb as much as I can. Last night my daughter and I managed to eat 1 TBS melted butter each on our artichokes. Wow, right?

morelsDon’t you find when you cook mushrooms that they get incredibly dry? And that adding water or broth just makes them taste, well, watery? Well literally the only thing that can fix this problem is adding more butter. But until discovering LCHF, I wouldn’t dare. Now I am sautéeing 2 cups of mushrooms (about 5g carbohydrate) with at least 2 TBS grass-fed butter. If the mushrooms get dry, I just ADD MORE BUTTER! This works especially well with morel mushrooms, which are a wonderful treat in spring.

Cauliflower (about 5g carbohydrate per cup) is such a versatile vegetable because it can be roasted whole, it can be boiled, it can be “riced” with a ricer, grater or food processor, or it can be mashed. If you mash it, you can add crazy amounts of butter and also cream cheese, whipping cream or sour cream.

LET’S TALK ABOUT BUTTER SOME MORE

To be clear, I am talking about using grass-fed butter. I don’t really care if it is certified organic, because the process of pasture-raising cattle usually indicates that a different standard of farming is at play. Of course, organic is preferred. However I approve of Kerrygold butter from Ireland, which is not organic – nor is Smjör from Iceland. Incidentally, on the Smjör website they claim that the Icelandic people used to consume about 1700g of butter per person per week – which is about 3 3/4 pounds of butter. Let’s keep breaking that down. That’s just over 2 “sticks” of butter per person EACH DAY, or half a pound.

CHALLENGE ACCEPTED?

I don’t think I could stomach it.

2 sticks of butter is equivalent to 16 TBS (that’s 1760 calories and 192g of fat!) . On a good day, I can have 2 TBS in my coffee or other hot beverage, another 2 TBS on 2 cups of vegetables, and then possibly another TBS or so in some grain-free baking or melted into a sauce. And that’s only 6 TBS of butter, still 2 TBS short of a stick! (I don’t think I’ve ever actually been able to eat that much in a day, and incidentally, that’s 660 calories and 72g of fat). There really isn’t a limit to how much butter you can consume for health – it will be how much you can stand. Butter and fat are really going to stimulate your bowels, possibly make you feel nauseous at high levels, and generally take some adjusting to. It is really, really hard to eat “too much” butter accidentally.

If you want to do these same fantastic butter conversions, use this online butter calculator and knock yourself out!

BUT SERIOUSLY, WHY BUTTER?

There are so many fats to choose from if you are attempting LCHF. I think coconut oil or Medium Chain Triglyceride oil would be the most important fat because those oils tend to coax your metabolism into ketosis or fat-burning more than any other fat. However butter is important for so many other reasons.

The best reason to eat grass-fed butter is that it contains the magic trifecta of Vitamins A, D and K2 in perfect harmony. Vitamin K2 is going to help you move calcium from your soft tissues into your bones, and reverse plaque-related heart disease. Vitamin D helps the calcium to take orders from the K2, and Vitamin A again helps with the absorption of calcium. I mean, this trifecta does so much more – protects against osteoporosis, fights tooth decay, helps control cell division and gene expression, nourishes the mucous membranes, protects against cancers – but trying to figure it out in supplement form will always mean that one is out-dosing another. The best way to get your fat-soluble vitamins is from a natural, traditional food like grass-fed butter that contains all three in a golden proportion.

The next best reason is that grass-fed butter is full of Conjugated Linoleic Acid (CLA). We initially get it in breast milk and we make a little bit of CLA in our gut, but the best source is kangaroo meat and pastured animal products like butter. Grass-fed ruminants can have as much as 5 times more CLA in their end products as grain-fed ruminants. CLA is concentrated in the fats of animals, so butter is especially potent. CLA has anti-tumor properties that fight all three stages of cancer – initiation, promotion and progression, in addition to being able to dampen the effects of carcinogens on cell mutations. CLA also boosts your immunity, lowers insulin resistance, builds muscle mass and reduces body fat. I would hate to skip out on butter and miss all that.

Butter is also a great source of antioxidants from Vitamins A and E, and structurally insulating cholesterol which nourishes the brain.

There are a million other reasons. Just google it. If you don’t want to smuggle grass-fed butter over the border into Canada, you can do everybody a favor and buy a share in a small local dairy farm. That way you can access your own grass-fed milk, cream and butter to your heart’s content, and simultaneously support local independent farmers. Go to the website realmilk.com and search around until you find your country and city. I would recommend a small farm with less than 20 Jersey or Guernsey cows because they are more likely to carry the beneficial A2 gene. Avoid Holsteins. Make some phone calls, visit the farm, take responsibility and ownership of your food supply. If you aren’t ready to trust raw milk per se, you can always buy it and boil it yourself.

My point here is not to waste your time with conventional butter and dairy. Not when real food is so close at hand.

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LCHF: Forking it Swedish Style

LCHF: Forking it Swedish Style

LCHF stands for “Low Carbohydrate High Fat” diet, something that 25% of Swedes are into. There are at least four LCHF print magazines in Sweden (printed in Swedish, of course) and literally hundreds of websites and blogs in Swedish about this phenomenon. Here is one edition translated into English. These Swedish sites are a great resource for recipes if you are looking for a way to increase your fat and decrease your carbohydrates.

What makes the Swedish LCHF different from Paleo and Primal diets is that LCHF promotes even higher fat, and even lower carbohydrate – but includes full fat dairy. The Swedes love whole fat raw dairy and so do I. They have had a long time to evolve with it; you may or may not be as lucky as the Swedes.

What do I love about the Kingdom of Sweden? The Economist calls Sweden the best governed country in the world. Income equality is incredibly fair (though actual wealth distribution is much less fair – thanks Ikea!). Sweden has given us Astrid Lindgren (Pippi Longstocking author!), hotties Greta Garbo and Ingrid Bergman, the Nobel Prize and the superior Celcius temperature system, Acne clothing, ABBA, Ace of Base, Avicii and Stieg Larsson. I’m sure they’ve done some other things, but honestly, isn’t that enough?

Let’s just say these people are smart and tough, they endure some of the highest taxes in the world, they enjoy socialized health care and yet 1 in 4 citizens of the Kingdom of Sweden have still taken the responsibility of their own health into their own hands – by embracing LCHF.

 BUT WHAT DOES IT MEAN EXACTLY?

  1. Eat the recommended amount of protein for your body size. See this post on protein ceilings for a reminder of how to calculate yours. I should be eating between 40-50g of protein a day.
  2. Limit your carbohydrates to 10g per 100g of food consumed. If it is too complicated to weigh out your food, try using a calorie counter app like MyNetDiary and keep your carbohydrates under 10% of calories. I try to eat less than 20g of carbohydrates every day. But I’m still not getting it. I usually end up at around 60g and scratch my head. (The culprit is usually dairy: yoghurt, kefir or milk in a latte. Or chocolate. Or wine. Or who’s kidding who, my dad left an open bag of chips on the counter and stuff happened).
  3.  Eat some green vegetables, or vegetables that grow above the ground. You don’t need to eat your whole crisper drawer – better to eat a smaller amount of nutritionally dense foods than huge salads. When you can opt for “wild” type plants like fiddleheads, wild leeks, scallions, arugula – go for it. Small, bitter greens and herbs have more nutrition than modern vegetables, which have largely had the nutrition bred out of them in exchange for bigger size, cosmetics and durability. Always add butter or olive oil or some kind of fat to your greens to optimize your body’s ability to absorb the nutrients (avocado would also work).
  4. The rest of your calories or grams need to come from fat. We’re talking a lot of fat. It’s not LCMediumFat, it’s LCHighFat. Using that same calorie counter app, at least 50% of your calories should come from fat at first, and as soon as you can handle it, try for 70%. For me this looks like a TBS of butter and a TBS of coconut oil in my morning coffee. Then the same amount in a mid-morning Crazy Hot Chocolate Drink. Then if I have a salad at lunch, I include half an avocado and a lot of olive oil. I might also have an oily fish at lunch, like 4oz of wild salmon or some sardines. For dinner I might have a small portion of lamb chops and will eat all the fat off of them, and some asparagus with lots of butter melted on top.

A sample day like this gives me 50g of protein, over 100g of fat and about 25g of carbohydrates. And I haven’t even made room for a cup of kefir (13g carbs), a single Lindt chocolate ball (5g carbs), let alone a butter tart (45g carbs). So you can see how difficult this is. For me in this sample, I am already at my protein ceiling, so I can’t snack on protein. (Remember once you hit your protein ceiling, the excess protein will probably convert to glucose, which if unused will get converted to fat storage – so it’s the same as eating sugar). I am already beyond the classic LCHF 10% of calories from carbohydrates or 10g carbohydrates per 100g food. So if I’m still hungry…

THE ONLY THING LEFT TO SNACK ON IS FAT

Which is a problem because it’s not really a normal thing, and certainly not an acceptable thing, to just snack on straight fat.

The most basic option is to have a tablespoon of coconut oil, fresh from the jar. This honestly isn’t so bad. I mean, I sort of like it a lot. But everybody is not like me. This repulses both of my sisters and literally makes them gag.

Some people just eat butter straight. That’s not for me; not yet anyway. However one great option is to find hot drinks to emulsify fat into, like a hot chai tea (unsweetened, from a teabag) blended with grass-fed ghee, butter or coconut oil. I also enjoy melting some coconut cream into a matcha tea as if it’s a latté.

At the very least, you’ve got to tell me that you’re intrigued. I mean, the Swedes are jumping all over this!

What is even more interesting is that there is a small group of American fertility doctors who are counseling their patients to adopt a strict LCHF or even a NoCarbHighFat diet, and finding that while 50-60% of their patients used to need to go on to IVF and further procedures – now only 5% need that next step. The LCHF protocol is literally ramping up their fertility within a matter of months.

The craziest part of all is that this can have profound health benefits – on fertility, diabetes, Alzheimer’s (type 3 diabetes), dementia, Parkinson’s, cancer, metabolic syndromes etc. – and yet it doesn’t cost a thing in medicines or treatments, lasts a lifetime and has no negative side effects.

Just a warning – obviously you need to eat the “right” fats if you are going to do LCHF. Here is a list of great fats to choose from:

  • virgin cold-pressed coconut oil
  • grass-fed butter (raw and organic if possible)
  • fats from pastured, grass-fed ruminants (including tallow)
  • fats from wild, cold-water small fish like salmon and sardines
  • egg yolks (but go ahead and eat the whole egg, one has less than 0.5g carbs)
  • olive oil (only for cold applications)
  • avocado (one whole has 15g carbohydrates)
  • walnuts (1/2 cup has 8g carbohydrates)
  • fats from organic, traditionally raised pigs and chickens in moderation (including lard)
  • duck fat in moderation
  • other nuts in moderation (always preferably soaked to remove anti-nutrients)

Go ahead and research how these appropriate fats are actually nourishing for the brain, the heart and all your organs and your system as a whole. The research is trickling in against the wave of opposite and conventional advice. In the meantime, you can enjoy insanely hydrated skin, stronger hair and nails, an increase in lean muscle mass and a decrease in stored fat (without exercise).

Your jaw is going to freaking drop when you see how easily this works.

_____________________

FURTHER READING

Read my post on How to Eat More Butter

Learn how to make a Big Fat Coffee with butter and coconut oil, and why to drink it

Read about the implications of the LCHF diet on tumor regression

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Fiber: So Over It

Fiber: So Over It

That’s right, I’m going against the trusted medical advice of every frigging doctor, research hospital and medical treatment center out there. I’m standing out here alone to deliver this important message to you: Fiber is not all it’s cracked up to be. In fact fiber is addictive, harmful to your intestines, and destructive to the microflora in your gut. Fiber is a short-term remedy that leads to long-term dependence and chronic illness.

I started going down this path when several of my acquaintances were complaining about constipation after switching abruptly to what they considered a no/low grains diet. In each case, the acquaintance told me they would have it under control as soon as they started taking fiber supplements. For some reason this didn’t sit right with me at all, and I needed to find out why.

The conventional dietary advice is eat a low fat, high fiber diet from “healthy whole grains” and plenty of fruit and vegetables. It is a low fat, high carbohydrate diet. And if you are going to eat a low fat diet, you will notice your bowel movements grind to a halt without fiber. Why? Because fat is the key factor that induces the peristaltic reflex and actually makes your bowels move. Not protein, not carbohydrates, not fiber. So if you are on a fat restricted diet, you are unknowingly limiting your intestinal efficiency. Which means that you are going to need to come up with a substitute for fat in order to get your feces out of your damn colon.

Everyone is going to tell you to either increase your consumption of fruits and vegetables (soluble fiber with carbohydrates), increase your consumption of whole grains (insoluble fiber loaded with carbohydrates) or else tell you to take a fiber supplement (insoluble fiber in the form of powders and pills).

I’m going to tell you why all of these ideas are flat out crazy, but in order to do that I’m going to have to talk about feces.

ARE YOU READY TO TALK ABOUT FECES?

By dry weight, feces is supposed to be made up of about 50% bacteria. Bacteria is the bulking agent, which also holds the water content. So bacteria gives feces substance and moisture. Fat is the motility agent. The remaining weight is pure waste products, undigested carbohydrates and fiber, and denatured proteins.

Chances are high that YOUR feces is NOT made up of 50% bacteria, because either you were a C-Section baby, you have had a lot of antibiotics and medicines in your life, you’re addicted to hand sanitizer and antibacterial soaps, you live under unusually stressful conditions or you eat a lot of carbohydrates. As I know at least one of these five conditions is true for you, I can guarantee that your intestinal flora is not up to the job. You need to fix this and I’m talking about right now!

So the conventional advice would be to start taking a probiotic. I’m going to go one further and tell you to take it at night on an empty stomach so that it can really get in there and do its job.

But unfortunately this is just not going to work – not if you are still hellbent on eating all those carbohydrates and sugar and fructose. Because those carbohydrates are going to feed the sugar-loving “bad” bacteria in your large intestine, which will kill off all that good bacteria you were trying to grow from the probiotic supplements. So don’t waste your time and money on probiotics if you are still a sugar junkie. Hurry up and deal with that issue and then get back to me.

GREAT.

So since the previous paragraph you’ve removed simple sugars from your life like juice, candy, baked goods and pasteurized milk. Then you even removed complex carbohydrates like fruit, bread, pasta, grains, beans, lentils, legumes, pulses and root vegetables. Wow, you are serious. Thanks for getting on board so quickly so that I can continue with this post.

If you need help remembering what to eat, I don’t blame you. Go here.

Now that you are officially on a Low Carb diet (less than 50g carbs/day or even way less), that probiotic is finally going to start working! You should try everything you can think of at this time to increase your microflora: kefir, yoghurt, fermented vegetables and condiments, kombucha, gardening, hanging out with pets and farm animals, spending time in a nursery school during the winter months, infesting yourself with parasites, worms or other helminths. Do whatever it takes. Yes, I’m talking fecotherapy people. Google it!

Now let’s get back to the conventional advice to either increase your fruits and vegetables (increase your soluble fiber with carbohydrates), increase your whole grains (increase soluble fiber with serious carbohydrates) or else to take a fiber supplement (increase your insoluble fiber with powders and pills).

If you go backwards and increase your soluble fiber with fruits, first of all you are going to have a whole insulin reaction to deal with – not to mention that fructose is going to ferment in the colon creating bloating, gas and an overly acidic state that will kill off your beneficial bacteria. Now, vegetables are not so bad – they are low in carbohydrates and contain soluble fiber that the intestinal bacteria will ferment into helpful short-chain fatty acids like butyrate (remember it from grass-fed butter?) and proprionate. Butyrate mitigates colonic inflammatory response and harmful metabolic effects, detoxes ammonia and other neurotoxins, and can cause cancer cells to mature into normal cells, while proprionate lowers lipogenesis, serum cholesterol levels and carcinogenesis in other tissues. So while I’m not telling you to gorge on insoluble fiber, I am saying that the soluble fiber from low-GI vegetables can be a very good thing. But you just need a regular amount, and by regular I mean go easy people.

Now if you choose to increase your insoluble fiber with whole grains, the huge carbohydrate load will also actively feed the wrong, harmful bacteria in your intestines that love sugar. You will create a profound imbalance that will just kill off all that healthy intestinal flora you worked so hard on propagating. You are heading down the road to Candida, my friend.

So what if you try the more measured approach of simply taking a fiber supplement like Metamucil, Benefil or just plain old psyllium seed husks? I mean, the old people on TV sure think it’s a great idea. Well these insoluble fibers by nature cannot be digested, that’s the point. So they will travel through your stomach and small intestine, absorbing water and bulking and eventually creating an initially useful plunger effect in your large intestine. You will probably be able to push out any plugged material. But here’s the catch. You are pushing it out with another, even bulkier plug. Now you will need even more fiber to push out that plug. And so on. Eventually the comical bulkiness of your feces is going to distend and distort your large intestine so that it looks like this:

Colon Problems

GROSS

And your colon will have pinched bits where feces is permanently impacted. Trust me, it’s going to suck.

And yes, I am trying to scare the bulky, dry, fibrous crap out of you.

As if this isn’t bad enough, fiber supplements are rough and abrasive. Somehow this is marketed as a good thing, like our intestines are made of copper piping that need to be scoured with a wire brush. But our intestines are less like copper piping and more like wet tissue. They just tear and leak when abraded, which leads to undigested food particles getting into the bloodstream and causing all sorts of “leaky gut” and “Gut and Psychology Syndrome” issues. In other words, if you have ANY sort of auto-immune issue, you want to be as gentle on your intestines as possible.

To add insult to injury, insoluble fiber finally ends up still undigested in the large intestine as a plug, and the bacteria in the large intestine attempts to ferment and digest it. This creates an environment of unusually high acidity which kills off the beneficial bacteria. So if you were getting close to 50% bacteria in your feces, you are now killing it off again and will need to use fiber to bulk up instead.

USING FIBER LEADS TO USING MORE FIBER

So why does everyone tell us we need so much fiber? Because everyone assumes that we are eating a low fat, high carbohydrate diet (plenty of fruits and vegetables and whole grains), which will kill our good bacteria with both an overgrowth of bad bacteria and with an overly acidic state. And if you don’t have beneficial bacteria in your gut, your feces is missing 50% of its volume by dry weight. And without the bacteria, your feces can’t stay moist. So you need to replace the bacteria with something that can sort of do both those jobs.

I think the most logical replacement for lost bacteria would be more bacteria. But that would require cutting down on your sugar and carbohydrates and then beefing up your probiotics/kefir/gardening/outside time. Too many steps for most people!

That’s why everyone tells you to use fiber as the replacement. And it will work for a while, which will be good enough to convince you they were right. But in the medium and long term, fiber is going to distend your bowels, bind to essential minerals and prevent their absorption into your body, abrade the lining of your intestines, inhibit pancreatic enzyme activity and protein digestion in the gut, and create a profound dependence on ever more fiber.

I GET IT, YOU JUST WANT TO KNOW WHAT TO DO

  1. Switch to a low carb diet, as described above.
  2. Increase your probiotics from supplements, kefir, yoghurt, fermented vegetables and condiments, and access to bacteria (gardening, the outdoors and animals).
  3. Increase your fat intake, as it will trigger the peristaltic reflex and start moving your bowels along again. You will not “get fat” from eating a high fat diet so long as you are also eating low carbohydrates.
  4. Make sure you are not drinking too much water, which will wash away important minerals like potassium which directly control moisture in feces. Drinking water won’t make your stool moist, it will dry it out. Try to only drink when thirsty.

HELP ME THIS STILL ISN’T WORKING

Okay you might have made your adjustments too quickly. I should have mentioned that the body needs time to adapt.

There’s nothing worse than having something stuck inside you. If you are already dependent on fiber and fiber supplements and need an easy way off, you could try using apple pectin supplements. While this is a fiber supplement and I have just trashed the whole idea of fiber supplements – at least apple pectin is an insoluble fiber that will feed the healthy bacteria in your gut, which in turn will bulk up the volume and moisture of your feces. It’s not easy to come off of fiber supplements, so this might help so long as you know it is just a transitional step.

If you are just having a bad bout of constipation that can be explained by stress or travel, for example, you can try the age old method of Milk of Magnesia. This is safe on the body and works by concentrating salts in your large intestine, which then pull water from your body by osmosis and flush everything out like a waterfall.

If you are too lazy to go to the store and buy Milk of Magnesia, you can try a Salt Water Flush which will have a similar effect. Just put 2 TBS of good sea salt in a liter of water and drink it all down. Stay near a bathroom for about two hours, because the tide is going to turn and you need to be ready.

Obviously don’t use either the Salt Water Flush or the Milk of Magnesia all the time. It will seriously deplete your potassium and lead to drier, harder stools in the future. But if you have a difficult case once a month, this would be an okay remedy. If you start using it all the time you are going to flush out all your minerals and basically become malnourished. What’s the point in that.

fiber menaceONCE A DAY

Adult humans should be able to have a bowel movement at least once a day, probably in the morning. If this isn’t true for you, reexamine your diet. Maybe you have started eating more carbohydrates than you thought you were. Maybe you forgot about fermented vegetables for a while. Maybe you stopped eating so much fat. Maybe you are going crazy on the water.

You have the ability to fix this with your own eating and drinking habits. So don’t get fooled again by the fiber con.

If you want to read more about this, good luck. You can try ordering this out of print Russian book called “Fiber Menace: The Truth About The Leading Role of Fiber in Diet Failure, Constipation, Hemorrhoids, Irritable Bowel Syndrome, Ulcerative Colitis, Crohn’s Disease and Colon Cancer” by Konstantin Monastyrsky. It probably doesn’t get more extreme than this. He is super mad at fiber.

But more than likely all the headlines and all the research you come across from very established and accredited organizations are going to tell you the opposite advice: eat more fiber, eat more carbohydrates, get into the medical system and stay there.

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What About Scurvy???

What About Scurvy???

We all know the story, or at least we think we know it. Some early sailors got scurvy – showing up as spongy gums, loose teeth, skin lesions, bone pain and lethargy – which then led to some two million sailor deaths between 1500 and 1800. Who knew there were even two million people sailing around back then? Luckily Admiral Sir Richard Dawkins discovered that drinking orange and lemon juice prevented the disease. Subsequently British sailors became known around the world as Limeys because they were always eating limes (which were cheaper but less effective than oranges and lemons) to ward off the dreaded scurvy.

This account is generally correct and has been translated into a rigid belief that if citrus fruits and specifically vitamin C can cure scurvy, then the cause of scurvy must be a lack of vitamin C. This is essentially true, but it is not the whole story.

You may have even wondered to yourself, if you are from a Northern latitude, how on earth your forebears managed to get enough Vitamin C from fresh vegetables and fruits during the long winter, when they didn’t have daily deliveries from California and Florida?  Considering our Recommended Daily Intake (RDI) is from 40mg/day (UK) to 90mg/day (Canada), how were we possibly getting enough back then? One easy answer is that 2 cups of traditionally lacto-fermented sauerkraut contain about 80% of the daily RDI. So possibly our northern ancestors knew to eat an awful lot of preserved cabbage and other winter vegetables. Possibly they did as the Indians did and made themselves pine needle or cedar tips tea, or they harvested the dry red flower of the sumach bush and made “Indian lemonade”, which is similarly high in Vitamin C.  We’ve also heard the story about settlers being saved from scurvy by rose hip tea.

I’ll come back to a defining dietary similarity between the sailors and the settlers in a moment. First I want to return to a culture that never had access to fruits and vegetables and yet did not develop scurvy.

THE TRADITIONAL INUIT: NO SCURVY IN SIGHT

It would be too easy to just say that the Inuit peoples of the Arctic only ate fat and meat and didn’t get scurvy. The fact is, they ate most of their meat and seafood raw, and in their raw forms, these foods are relatively high in Vitamin C. They also ate a staple of muktuk, which is the high Vitamin C skin of the Beluga whale.  In addition, it has been suggested that the Inuit enjoyed eating the fermented vegetal contents of caribou stomachs, which were similarly high in Vitamin C. The fatty adrenal glands of animals are also usually full of Vitamin C. We’re not talking thousands of milligrams, but nearly enough to make the suggested RDI.  They probably also made teas out of herbs that were full of ascorbic acid. Simple enough explanation.

But that doesn’t explain Vilhjalmur Stefansson and Karsen Anderson’s 1928 year-long experiment at New York’s Bellevue Hospital where they consumed only fatty meat and organs (like brains, liver, kidneys) and yet did not develop scurvy. They did not consume muktuk, fermented caribou stomachs or herbal teas. The whole point of their experiment was that they exclusively ate meat and fat. And furthermore, they ate all of their meat and fat cooked; they did not follow the Inuit protocol of consuming most of it raw. This is not a magic trick, but it does illuminate the key limiting factor in the body’s ability to absorb Vitamin C.

COMPETING FOR CELL RECEPTORS

The scoop is: both Vitamin C and glucose compete for the same receptors to enter the cell membrane, and those receptors favor glucose. The GLUT-1 receptor is activated by insulin, and pairs with the similarly structured Vitamin C and glucose molecules to allow them to enter the cell. But what that means plainly is that if you have a lot of glucose in your diet in the form of carbohydrates, the glucose is going to enter your cell membranes instead of the Vitamin C. So most of your ingested Vitamin C is going to be wasted, and you are going to have to supplement with quite a lot in order to get any past the GLUT-1 receptor gates and into your cells. However if you just keep on, keep on supplementing with Vitamin C, eventually some will get through to those receptors, and you will not get scurvy.

This fact leads to the belief that not only does Vitamin C prevent scurvy, but that a lack of Vitamin C causes scurvy. The first statement is true, the second statement is merely correlated.

A more correct way of looking at scurvy is that it is a deficiency disease caused by excessive carbohydrates.

SCURVY IS CAUSED BY EXCESSIVE CARBOHYDRATES

I really had to make that a heading, to let it sink in.

So it’s a win if you happen to be in the business of selling Vitamin C, because people on a high carbohydrate diet are going to need to buy a lot of it for basic functioning and also to prevent scurvy.

Now I want to return to the defining dietary similarity between sailors and early settlers. What unites them is that they largely lived on rations that were heavy in carbohydrates. In the sailors’ case, their diet consisted of salted preserved meat and hardtack, which is also known as a “sea biscuit”. This was an inexpensive and long-lasting flat brick of flour, water and sometimes salt. The large ratio of hardtack (and sugary rum for that matter) in the sailors’ diets meant that glucose from carbohydrates were getting to their cell receptors before any scarce Vitamin C from their salted meat rations could get close. Hence: scurvy. Similarly settlers used flour and bread as their energy staple, which inhibited Vitamin C absorption. Take away the hardtack, rum, flour and bread – and you take away the scurvy.

SO HOW MUCH VITAMIN C DO WE NEED?

Here’s the rub. On a fat and meat diet, you only need about 10mg of Vitamin C/day. But that kind of diet is not really affordable, necessary, or in any way sustainable these days. However the fact remains that if you restrict your carbohydrates, you do not need the huge amounts of Vitamin C that are recommended by the governments of the world.

However, the governments of the world would generally like to support not only their farmers (yeah, right) but their commodities markets of sugar, wheat, soy and grains. So in order to recommend a high carbohydrate diet to the people, it is absolutely necessary to simultaneously recommend a high Vitamin C supplementation.

I just need to say this one more time: Vitamin C is not the cure for scurvy, it is the cure for a diet high in carbohydrates.

This is the reason why the supplement section doesn’t even carry Vitamin C pills lower than 500mg/pill – and that most of them are at least 1000mg/pill. Why would we need ten times our RDI of Vitamin C? Maybe because our carbohydrate consumption tends to be ten times higher than our bodies have evolved to manage.

STILL THERE?

Why not read Stefansson’s first-hand account that he wrote up for Harper’s magazine in 1935?

Or read a 316-page pdf of Stefansson’s 1946 book “Not By Bread Alone”, renamed “The Fat of the Land“. You will really learn a lot about pemmican!

Maybe you also want more details about the relationship between Vitamin C, glucose and insulin receptors.

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Protein Ceiling: More to the Story

In my last post I explained a pretty simple way to estimate your protein ceiling, as if it was a totally fixed concept. Now let’s make this a little less cut and dry, as that was just too straightforward. The protein ceiling concept is still going to work for most people and most situations to keep them out of trouble (read: protein excess).

But maybe you are not most people. There is a way to eat more protein and not end up with kidney damage or stones or protein starvation. But it is slightly more complicated in that it involves ratios. And also slightly less complicated in that it replicates the hundreds of thousands of years of human hunter/gatherer evolution of consuming and digesting food.

THE ARCTIC EXPLORERS FIGURED IT OUT

Protein Ceiling: More to the StoryIf you’re still interested, I’ll tell you the story of Harvard anthropologist-turned-Arctic-explorer Vilhjalmur Stefansson. In the early 1900s, he went up to northern Canada and Alaska to live among various native tribes and out of necessity, adopted their food cultures. All of their diets were made up of about 50% caribou meat, 30% fish, 10% seal and the last 5 or 10% made up of polar bear, rabbits, birds and eggs. They did not consider fruits and vegetables to be “proper human food”, though they gathered medicinal herbs and also sometimes ate partially digested vegetal contents of animals’ stomachs.

Stefansson was blown away by the level of health of the native tribespeople, their high levels of energy and also the surprising lack of deleterious effects by ignoring such staples as vegetables, fruits, starches and fiber. Instead of leading to deficiencies, these absences appeared to make them flourish. And while Stefansson was on the same diet, he flourished in all the same ways. Back in New York in 1928, he and a fellow explorer Karsten Anderson enrolled in a year-long study through Bellevue Hospital where they would prove they could thrive eating nothing but meat. Partly this was to show that the Inuit were not just exclusively adapted to a high fat, “high” protein diet – that it was the same for everybody.

FIRST MISTAKE

For a short 3 day period, the doctors monitoring Stefansson and Anderson wanted to experiment with an all protein and no fat diet. Stefansson was to be on the no fat diet, Anderson was to be the control on the fat and meat diet. After only two days, Stefansson became ill with diarrhea and an overwhelming feeling of “baffling discomfort”.

HIGH FAT FOR THE FIX

As soon as fat was returned to the meat diet, the symptoms disappeared. In order to mimic the Inuit diet, it was necessary to eat an average of TWO POUNDS OF MEAT per day, an average of 2600 calories, and to copy the macronutrient profile of 79% of calories from fat, 19% from protein and roughly 2% from carbohydrate (which is from the glycogen contained in muscle meat). The amount of carbohydrates was strictly limited to 50 calories/day, or about 12g.

So even though they were eating an all-meat diet, it was technically not a high protein diet. It was quite clearly an ultra-high fat diet, with an average amount of protein (by ratio of calories) and a very restricted amount of carbohydrates. But in no way was it a high protein diet, as protein only made up 19% of the calories (even though it was 123.5g protein).

The year-long experiment was a success. The explorers did not develop kidney damage, kidney fatigue by reduced function, or stones. They did not develop vitamin or mineral deficiencies, even though logic tells us that an acidic meat-rich diet should leach calcium from the bones. It should also be noted that even at 2600 calories, the meat diet contained only a quarter of the calcium we are supposed to require. Stefansson remained strong and lean and his blood pressure remained low at 105/70, though he lost 6 pounds over the year. Anderson lost 3 pounds and his blood pressure fell from 140/80 to 120/80.

So in the previous simplified calculation of protein ceilings, a tall, fit 200 pound explorer would probably have a limit of about 90g protein.

However Stefansson and Anderson proved that they could eat about 40% more than that – HOWEVER, their high protein consumption was mitigated by an ultra high fat consumption. What I am saying is that if you are a tall, strong 200 pound explorer, you can probably eat 125g of protein/day or so, so long as you are also eating 230g fat. See if you can wrap your head around that much fat!

If you do not think you can handle quite so much fat, you could always eat less protein. Which sort of takes us back to the original protein ceiling concept.

I just wanted to be clear that there is a way to eat more protein safely, and it requires carbohydrate restriction and ultra high fat consumption. You probably don’t need to be as intense as Stefansson and Anderson at 70% fat to 19% protein to 2% carbohydrates, but you wouldn’t want to veer to much below 55% fat or above 25% protein and 20% carbohydrate.

So good luck with that.

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Protein Ceiling: Not As High As You Think

Okay so let’s say you’ve made an effort to reduce or eliminate your grain and sugar consumption. Let’s look at what kind of a calorie deficit that might have created for you:

REMOVE:

  • 1 cup oatmeal (250 calories)
  • coffee with 1 tsp sugar (16 cal) – keep the coffee, eliminate the sugar!
  • 2 slices of sandwich bread (200 cal)
  • 7 crackers (65 cal)
  • 1 cup brown rice (210 cal)
  • 2 cookies (100 cal)

= 841 calorie “deficit” by eliminating those foods.

I don’t really rely on calorie requirements, but calories are at least a useful tool. We can probably agree that you are not getting enough food if you eat less than 1000 calories a day, and that you are getting too much if you are eating more than 3000 unless you are doing manual labor or serious physical training. (The early Canadian loggers were said to eat between 5000-8000 calories/day).

But what happens in between those brackets doesn’t necessarily depend entirely on your level of exercise, but also largely on what the calories are from – carbohydrates, fats or proteins (and then it will also depend on the quality of each).  To really delve into this topic, read the authority Gary Taubes’s epic Good Calories, Bad Calories: Fats, Carbs and the Controversial Science of Diet and Health. 

The point I’m getting to is that if you suddenly have a calorie deficit of over 800 calories (or more) from cutting out grains and sugar, you will probably feel compelled to replace those calories with something. In simplest terms: you’re going to be HUNGRY. VERY, VERY HUNGRY. And in general, most people initially fill that void with protein.

I WANT TO EXPLAIN WHY THAT MIGHT BE A MISTAKE

protein platter

Humans actually have a protein ceiling, a maximum amount of protein that can be effectively utilized before the excess protein is oxidized and excreted through the urine. First of all, generally the body can’t process more than 50g of protein at a time – so definitely space out your consumption. Secondly, the body cannot store extra protein, so the kidneys get overworked and fatigued dealing with getting rid of all the excess. This is manageable in the short term, but fatal if you already have kidney disease.

Although protein is acid-forming, it actually increases the body’s ability to excrete acid. The acids in proteins are not buffered by bone loss (which is the incorrect assumption behind the Alkaline or pH diet), they are buffered by bicarbonate ions in the blood and kept at a very stable pH around 7.4. (You can change the pH of your urine by changing your diet, but you can’t change the pH of your blood. And if you make your urine too alkaline you open yourself up to bladder infections.) This bicarbonate reaction produces carbon dioxide, which we exhale, and salts, which get excreted by the kidneys. Healthy kidneys have their own sustainable cycle whereby they create new bicarbonate ions as they excrete excess salts. But when someone already has kidney disease or previous stones, this cycle is compromised – these people should go really easy on protein and acidic foods. They should also go really easy on green vegetables that are high in oxalates though – so an “alkaline diet” could do more harm than good for kidney stones.

When most people start reducing their carbohydrates by eliminating grain and sugar (and then legumes, beans, starchy vegetables and tropical fruits), they assume the most logical replacement would be protein because people have a misplaced bias against and fear of fat – especially saturated fat. The problem is that if you replace your carbohydrates with protein without increasing your fat consumption, you can end up with “protein poisoning” or rabbit starvation which just means your body starts to literally starve on protein without fat.

CALCULATE THE PROTEIN CEILING

An average person needs about 1g of protein per kg of lean body mass.

So let’s say you are a 125 pound woman. Divide that by 2.2 to get your weight in kg = 56.8kg.

Now let’s estimate your lean body mass, maybe 80% if you are a pretty lean woman but not ripped exactly. See these photos for a quick visual guide to body fat percentages. Google for more photos because people love posting this stuff. Multiply your weight in kg by 80% = 45.5 kg. You need 1 g of protein for every kg of lean body mass.

This is generally how much protein an 125 pound moderately active woman will need every day – about 45g. Now if you are pregnant, nursing, or really into exercise, manual labor or training you will obviously need more. If you are really into sitting, Netflix and knitting you might need a tiny bit less.

But you will never need drastically less. Too little protein leads to malnutrition, mental retardation, fatty liver, flaky skin, edema of the belly and legs so that you look like those hungry African kids.

You can get 45g protein by eating 2 eggs, 2 cups of kale, and a 4-oz piece of salmon.

So you don’t need to also eat a bowl of cottage cheese and a cup of walnuts or whatever. You don’t need to stress about protein shakes. Those are for vegans to worry about! But you? You’re already there.

But then what to replace your calorie deficit with? Hopefully you’re already eating lots of vegetables, so we don’t want to gorge; preparing even more vegetables in new ways gets pretty tiring, expensive and labor intensive quite quickly. Mainlining vegetables is great in-season and when you have the time or a chef, but it’s probably not sustainable – or even necessary. The answer (unfortunately for people who are afraid of fat) is that you must replace your carbohydrate deficit with calories from fat. Obviously I mean non-industrial, traditional fats. Pay attention or something.

HOW ABOUT ADDING ANOTHER 500 CALORIES A DAY FROM FAT?

You could get 500 calories JUST from adding 2 TBS grass-fed butter and 2 TBS coconut oil to your life every day. Go ahead and add the whole 841 calories from fat if you feel like it – all it will take is another few TBS of fat, maybe olive oil this time. But when you eat so much healthy fat, you just won’t feel hungry enough for the extra calories. You’ll see.

You’re still reading? Maybe you should also read this interesting article from Discover Magazine about the Inuit Paradox: How Can People Who Gorge on Fat and Rarely See A Vegetable Be Healthier Than We Are?

Indeed!

BUT BUT BUT WILL IT MAKE ME FAT?

Didn’t you read the Gary Taubes book yet that I recommended 15 paragraphs ago? You need to keep up. He explains it quite simply in under 600 pages.

Obviously I’m not going to recommend something that is going to make you fat! Coconut and pure MCT (medium chain triglyceride) oils actually increase the metabolism and love to burn fat. Adding them to your diet induces your body to burn it as energy, and then to delve into the body’s stores of fat as well. Everyone who switches their calorie ratio percentages from the recommended 10% from fat daily to 50% from fat daily – loses weight (unless they are also eating sugar – then all bets are off and the fat accumulates as fat and the energy burned is only from the sugar and carbohydrates).

Another problem with eating “too much” protein is that excess protein essentially acts as glucose. That’s not to say that it is converted to glucose, because it isn’t. However excess protein will stop fat-burning the same way that consuming carbohydrates will (say more than 50 – 100g of carbohydrates/day will arrest fat-burning potential). Excess protein is converted into metabolites that will enter the KREBS cycle and displace ketones. More on this later.

I consider it a really lean day if I am only eating 50% of my calories from fat. That usually indicates to me that I’ve been hitting the bottle, or else got a little crazy with the fruit and dairy, and also found my way to the dessert trolley. I prefer to keep my calories from fat at about 65% – 80%. Am I breaking your brain?

So just go ahead and absorb this and then change absolutely everything you’ve been doing.

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Food: How To Eat It

Food-Pyramid-2012

Food Pyramid by Sandrine Love on behalf of Nourishing Our Children. Copyright 2012. All Rights Reserved.

In some of my posts you may have noticed that I encourage high-fat eating, and that I discourage consuming grains and sugars. If you want a great primer on this historically proven diet for best health, look no further than this San Francisco website Nourishing Our Children.  As you can see from the image above (reproduced with permission), they have inverted the traditional food pyramid and put meats and fats at the base instead of the apex – and fruits, grains and vegetables at the apex instead of the base. Whaaaaaat?

JUST SHOW ME A SHORT LIST

  • YES to organic/biodynamic pastured animal products especially the fat and organ meats, eggs and raw dairy.
  • YES to wild-caught salmon and small oily cold-water fish like sardines and mackerel.
  • YES to other good organic fats like coconut oil, olive oil, avocado and soaked nuts (but nuts in moderation).
  • YES to organic fermented full-fat dairy like yoghurt, kefir and raw cheese (without sugar added).
  • YES to spices and herbs, nutrient-dense powerhouses.
  • YES to organic sulfurous vegetables like kale and the dark leafy greens, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, radish, leeks, cabbage, watercress, onions and garlic.
  • YES to other organic vegetables especially low glycemic index choices like lettuces, cucumber, zucchini, green beans, fennel etc.
  • YES to sprouts, the sprouted seeds of lentils, mung beans, chia seeds etc.
  • YES to quinoa, wild rice, chia, buckwheat and flax in moderation. Quinoa and wild rice have to be soaked overnight before preparing, and only consume less than 1/2 cup per day. Way less.
  • YES in moderation: to organic sweet potatoes, carrots and beets – especially if fermented, not pickled.
  • YES to fruits in moderation, but go crazy with organic lemons, and small in-season berries.
  • YES in extreme moderation to healing raw honey and mineral-rich maple syrup.

Looks easy enough, let’s see the details.

FOOD YOU SHOULD EAT FOR BEST HEALTH

1.  BONE BROTH. This is the number one food you need to be eating that you are not. If you are lazy, start by going to a good butcher and buy their organic broth from the freezer section.  In Toronto, I can go to The Healthy Butcher and buy “game broth” made of venison, and also beef and chicken broth.The domestic broths are organic, but not necessarily pasture-raised. If  you are less lazy, and ready to take your nutrition to the next level, you can just buy good quality bones (and chicken feet!) and make your own broth at home. Bone broth is full of readily absorbable forms of calcium, magnesium, phosphorus, silicon, sulphur, collagen, trace minerals, the building blocks for glucosamine and chondroitin, and all the amino acids to make your hair and nails strong. Make this broth a staple part of your life, drink it like tea, make soups and stews out of it and let it work its healing magic on your bones, cartilage, connective tissue – basically your whole frigging body. If you want to be even more intense, buy some organic gelatin powder and add it to your warm lemon water, make homemade (low/no sugar) jello and raw milk panna cotta, or just add it into your own broths.

2.  GRASS-FED BUTTER. Eat the butter and fat from grass-fed organic cows, preferably Jersey or Guernsey A-2 cows. Put it on all your vegetables, melt it into your mashes, add it to coffee, stir it into anything to make it richer. First of all, grass-fed butter is a great source of Vitamin K2. It is also the best source of Vitamin A, necessary for thyroid and adrenal health; abnormalities of the heart and larger blood vessels occur in babies born to vitamin A deficient mothers (ironically pregnant women are told to limit their vitamin A during pregnancy, because the assumption is that they will try to get it from a synthetic source which causes its own problems – birth defects of the head, heart, brain and spinal column). You can recognize children who eat “low fat” diets devoid of butter because their lack of Vitamin A gives them narrow faces, delicate skeletal features, small palates and crowded teeth. Grass-fed butter is also high in Vitamin D, which helps you absorb calcium and protects against cancers. Butter is a good source of iodine, so you can throw away your iodized table salt (I hope you already did).  In addition, butyric acid in grass-fed butter heals the gut; lecithin metabolizes cholesterol; lauric acid heals fungal infections and candida. Just eat it: it won’t make you fat and it won’t lead to heart disease or cancer. It will do the opposite. I bring in Kerrygold butter from the States (pastured Irish butter), or Organic Valley pastured butter from the States (pastured butter only available in the summer and fall) and hoard it in my freezer. There are no retail options in Canada for pastured butter, but it exists if you don’t mind hanging out in a dark alley for a spell. I might just be that witchy, and I use my raw, pastured butter liberally like precious medicine.

3.  COCONUT OIL. Use it for all your low and high heat cooking. It has a high smoke point, is shelf stable so will not turn rancid or denature with heat (won’t make itself a trans-fat like most vegetable and seed oils when heated). More importantly, it is the highest natural source of lauric acid aside from breast milk (more than grass-fed butter), which targets and disrupts the fat membranes of invasive fungus, bacterias and yeasts such as Candida albicans, and lipid-coated viruses like herpes, measles, influenza, hepatitus C and HIV. In addition, coconut oil cleanses the digestive system, stimulates the metabolism and reduces appetite. I eat at least 2 TBSP every day; the first one is usually melted into my morning espresso or in The Crazy Hot Drink. Also feel free to enjoy full-fat coconut milk, meat and flour.

4.  PASTURED EGGS. These can be hard to come by. Talk to a farmer, make sure the hens are rotated on grass that has been previously occupied by cud-chewing cows so that the hens are eating bugs and worms in addition to grass and feed supplements. In Toronto at Whole Foods and Fiesta Farms I can buy Hope-ECO Farms Small Flock Eggs, a co-op where no chicken farm can have more than 500 chickens – which suggests the hens have a more dignified life and real access to the outdoors (not just “cage-free” designation, which only suggests there is an access door to the outside, not that it is used). Fiesta also just started carrying the Hope-ECO Small Flock duck eggs.

5.  OMEGA-3 ESSENTIAL FATTY ACIDS FROM FOOD. Get these from wild-caught salmon (Coho, Chinook if you are Canadian), and other small oily cold-water fish like sardines, mackerel and herring. Also: organ meats, yolks from pastured chickens (but always eat the whole egg), walnuts provided they have been soaked overnight (then dried if you prefer). And let’s not forget the shellfish, which are brimming with vitamins and minerals: crab, oysters, mussels, squid. Omega-3s reduce inflammation in the blood vessels, joints and organs; they reduce risk of heart disease; ease symptoms of rheumatoid arthritis, asthma, ADHD, depression, Alzheimer’s and dementia; they support pregnancy and fetal brain development. Skip the flax seed oil because it is so high in Omega-6 EFAs that they outweigh the benefits. Omega-6s will essentially bind to the same receptors as Omega-3s in the body, so you have to compensate for poor choices high in Omega-6 (industrial meat, industrial grains, industrial oils) with extra high doses of Omega-3 to get back to a preferable ratio. (The body likes to be between 1:1 and 1:5 for Omega-3:Omega-6). Note that I did not say to ingest Omega-3 supplements; there is high likelihood that they are rancid/already oxidized and will cause more bad than good, in the form of inflammation.

6.  ORGAN MEATS. I’m talking liver, kidneys, tongue and brains for the more adventurous. You have to get these from a high quality butcher or directly from a trusted farmer because the organ meats of industrially farmed animals are a nightmare – all the toxic antibiotics and accumulation of diseases are fouled up in them. But if you can find your way to a grass-finished cow, then get some of its liver; if you don’t like the taste on its own – then cut it up into small pieces and bury it in a stew or meatloaf.  My grandparents always served me “steak & kidney pie” on Sunday nights. You can still buy it at Summerhill Market in Toronto. You can similarly sneak some kidneys into a meatloaf or stew. They look like button mushrooms – but they don’t taste like them!!! Tongue can be purchased as a prepared luncheon meat; it is salty like corned beef hash. Or go ahead and try preparing pickled tongue. Lamb’s brains are the most available brains, who knows why. Nourishing Traditions suggests “baby’s first solids” should be barely warmed lamb’s brains mixed with a slightly runny egg yolk. Or try this brain custard: YUM!?

7.  SULFUR. The Bible called it Brimstone. It’s what makes hot springs stink. But it is an essential element that regulates blood sugar, boosts disease resistance, eases aches and pains and detoxes the body. You find it in: egg yolks, broccoli, cauliflower, kale and the other dark leafy vegetables, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, watercress, radish, leek, onion, and of course garlic.

8.  PROBIOTIC FOODS. Eat whole fat organic fermented dairy like yoghurt, kefir, and RAW cheeses. Raw cheese is legally available in Ontario at good cheese shops (even Whole Foods has about 20 options). Eat sauerkraut and other fermented vegetable sides and condiments like fermented beet relish and gingered carrots. Take probiotic supplements if you are not eating these things religiously.

9.  VEGETABLES, BUT ESPECIALLY LOW GLYCEMIC INDEX VEGETABLES, LOW IN OXALATES. The best choices are lettuces, cucumbers, green beans, celery, bean sprouts, zucchini, asparagus, turnips, rutabagas, peas. Enjoy organic vegetables of different colors, but go easy on the nightshades (tomatoes, peppers, eggplant and definitely no potatoes), and be mindful of the oxalates in Swiss chard, spinach, collard greens, rhubarb (if you boil and discard the water, your calcium absorption won’t be as compromised).

10.  SPICES AND HERBS. Cayenne, ginger, turmeric, cinnamon, cloves, pepper, mustard, nutmeg etc. Parsley, cilantro, rosemary, oregano, thyme, chervil, chives, etc. These are powerhouses of nutrients, minerals and medicines.

11.  NUTS AND SEEDS. These should be enjoyed in moderation, and not as a staple carbohydrate to replace your breads and pastas. Keep in mind that just like grains – nuts and seeds are high in enzyme inhibitors and toxic protective layers like phytic acid. Their nutrients are locked up inside, and can only be released by soaking and/or sprouting at least overnight. It will vary per nut or seed. You may want to use the soaked product to make a nut or seed milk, or as the base for another substitution recipe or baked good, or you may just want to dehydrate them and store for a snack. Best seeds are: chia, pumpkin, sesame, sunflower and hemp. Best nuts are: walnuts, almonds, pecans, cashews and macadamia nuts. But don’t forget about having a single delicious Brazil nut every day to get your selenium. Also, nuts go rancid really quickly! Most of the commercially salted and honeyed nuts are flavored so that you won’t notice their rancidity. In fact, chances are you might have just grown up with rancid nuts and you don’t notice. What do rancid fats do? Bad things! Like contribute to inflammation, heart disease and cancer! Buy fresh, raw nuts and keep them in the fridge. Soak them, dry or dehydrate them, and then keep them in the fridge some more (though now they are more stable at least). Nuts and seeds are high in Omega-6, so they might add to inflammation if you are eating too much of them or not balancing with adequate Omega-3.

12.  LEMONS, LIMES. These are  low-sugar fruits that alkalize the tissues and give you some vitamin C. Squeeze some in water every day; sometimes soak the lemon rind and eat it! (You can get similar benefits, minus the vitamin C, for a fraction of the price from ACV.)

13.  FERMENTED COD LIVER OIL SUPPLEMENTS. Take these from a trusted source to provide a perfect balance of Vitamin A, D, EPA, DHA in a whole food form. Combine it with butter oil for a Vitamin K2-A-D trifecta. This is different from taking “fish oil supplements” or even traditional cod liver oil, which I am on the fence about. Fish oils are very unstable, like all the other polyunsaturated oils like canola and flax seed oil. Being unstable means that they oxidize very quickly, which results in rancidity and also free-radical damage and inflammation in the body. To solve this problem, ancient cultures collected the oil from cod livers and then fermented it in barrels; the fermentation of the oil improves it and stabilizes it.  But it does nothing for the flavor – ugh!

14. SEA SALT. I cannot emphasize this enough – eat sea salt! It is full of minerals your body is absolutely craving: magnesium, sulfate, calcium, potassium, bicarbonate and varying micro-nutrients depending on what sea bed your salt came from. Adding sea salt to your body restores alkaline/acid balance and improves digestion.  Low-salt diets cause way more problems than they prevent, like heart disease and thyroid issues. Having said that, DO NOT DO NOT ingest industrial table salt or industrial products that are full of it. The Mayo Clinic claims all salt is the same and that you shouldn’t eat it. Maybe it’s time to stop listening to the Mayo Clinic. Some people still won’t get enough magnesium just from sea salt, so I recommend soaking in Epsom Salt baths and using a topical Magnesium Oil.

15.  SMALL IN-SEASON BERRIES. What I mean is if you live in Ontario and your wild blueberry season is August, then that’s when you eat them. Go crazy! But when your season is over, it’s over. (Unless you cheated/planned ahead and froze some!)

16.  FRUIT IN MODERATION. Let’s take it from an apple-a-day to half an apple apple every other day. They are still filled with fabulous pectin which moderates how its sugar is absorbed. Enjoy stone fruits in season, but be mindful of how sweet they are. Go really easy on the tropical sugar bombs: bananas, mangoes, papayas, dates, figs, guava, pineapple etc. I mean, treat them as a very special dessert. And fruit juice has absolutely no role in your life.

AVOID THESE COMMODITIES: THEY ARE NOT FOODS!

1.  SUGARS. This includes white sugar, brown sugar, corn syrup, HFCS products, agave etc. I will admit that I have a few cheats on hand – raw honey, maple syrup and coconut palm sugar. And when I use those sugars, I try to use half the amount required in a recipe and beef up the other half with stevia leaf powder (I have found that stevia leaf on its own is unsatisfactory, but when combined with honey, maple syrup or coconut sugar – it just augments the natural flavor in an acceptable way.) I tried using Xylitol even though it is a seriously refined industrial product, but it gave me a lot of gas and cramping. No thanks!

2.  GRAINS. This includes wheat products like bread and pasta, rice – both brown and white, rye, barley, millet, “gluten-free” products which generally have a higher glycemic index and are higher in sugars, ancient grains like sorghum, spelt, amaranth, einkorn etc. If I’m going to indulge, I give a green light to 1/2 cup soaked and cooked quinoa which at least has all the amino acids so is a complete protein. Go ahead and read Wheat Belly for more information about how grains make us hungrier while at the same time deplete us of nutrients, and then addict us to the cycle.

3.  STARCHY VEGETABLES. I’m talking about the American sweethearts: white potato and corn. They just raise your sugar levels too high! Whereas sweet potatoes, beets and carrots are so rich in vitamins that they can be enjoyed in moderation. Especially with grass-fed butter! Or fermented, which eats up a lot of their sugars.

4.  BEANS AND LEGUMES. It’s still all about the sugar. Okay, okay, if you really want to soak these overnight (at least) with some ACV or some kombu (seaweed), and then drain off that water and boil the beans/legumes a long time – fine. You can enjoy these in moderation, but not more than 2 cups/week combined.

5.  PHYTATES. This is another way of telling you to avoid grains, beans and legumes, which are full of phytates. But so are nuts. And so are some vegetables (spinach, taro, cassava). Phytates bind with essential minerals (iron, zinc, calcium, magnesium)  in your food and bloodstream, and can leach minerals from your bones. Almost everyone who eats a lot of grains/beans/legumes is also low in iron (among other things). So if you are going to eat some grains, beans, legumes and nuts – don’t just eat them off the shelf, prepare them properly. Soak them overnight with some kombu (seaweed) and a TBSP or so of some kind of acidic medium like ACV, buttermilk, kefir, whey, yoghurt in a pinch, or some previous soaking water from the same kind of grain/bean/legume/nut if you happened to save it in the fridge. Pour off this phytate water (or save some for your next round of soaking – it is also full of the enzymes that will help break down phytates.) And then prepare your grains/beans/legumes as directed. Believe it or not, oxalate-rich spinach is best boiled, not eaten raw – you’ll sacrifice some water soluble vitamins but not all of them. It’s not the end of the world to get some phytates in your diet, as they have some antioxidant properties and can act like dietary fiber in the colon. But believe me, you’ll get them without even trying.

6.  VEGETABLE AND SEED OILS. Basically avoid all modern commercial vegetable  and seed oils and their cousins the artificially created trans-fats, like vegetable shortening and margarine. It doesn’t matter if the Heart Association or some other organization has a seal of approval on the package or it claims to be “heart healthy”. It’s not! Can you believe the whole world would lie to you like that? Well it happened. The ratio of Omega 6: Omega 3 in these products can get up to  50: 1, which leads to trouble.  As if that weren’t enough, almost all the commercial vegetable oils are GMO and the very worst offenders are canola and soy.  Polyunsaturated oils are unstable, which means that they are almost all rancid even as they sit there on the store shelf. Imagine how much more damage they do once you take them home, open up the bottles, and leave them in your cupboard for a few months. Rancid oils are oxidized and full of free radicals which cause inflammation among a million other life damaging effects.  But sometimes you just need an oil for cold applications. Stick with single-estate, preferably biodynamic extra virgin olive oil – which does have a myriad of health benefits so long as it is not a cheap, rancid variety conflated with “other oils”. For all other hot applications, stick with coconut oil, grass-fed lard, tallow, ghee or butter. Saturated fats are very safe and stable, and protect your body and brain from the effects of cortisol, estrogen and other problems of aging.

7.  MODERN UNFERMENTED SOY PRODUCTS. Full of phytoestrogens – hormone disrupters which cause endocrine damage and can lead to infertility and possibly increase risk of breast cancer in women. The phytates in soy cannot be broken down with soaking, sprouting or heating, so this causes nutrient absorption problems. Almost all soy is now GMO thanks to cross-contamination. So that happened. I’m calling for a big pass on soy milk, soy milk lattées, obviously all packaged food made with soy protein isolate or soya oil. But go ahead and share some boiled edamame with friends from time to time. Sure, try some traditionally prepared tofu or tempeh if you are out at a Japanese restaurant. And definitely try natto if you are crazy enough! Just don’t fall for the “soy=healthy” hype; it’s just a cheap industrial product with a gigantic marketing and lobbying budget. Don’t make modern unfermented soy foods a part of your routine.

8.  COMMODITY PROTEINS. The ratio of Omega 6:Omega 3 in industrial beef, pork and chicken, and dairy and eggs is totally overweighted to the Omega 6s thanks to a feedlot diet of acidifying grains and pharmaceuticals. Eating these products will increase your inflammation and lead to disease. Just because your grocery store meat is organic doesn’t mean it isn’t eating a feedlot diet of industrial “organic” grains. You’re going to have to get to know your butcher, or join a meat CSA or get info at a farmer’s market. That’s the only sure way to know you are getting food and not a commodity.

9.  FARMED FISH. I remember reading somewhere that farmed Tilapia has a worse nutritional profile than a doughnut. Personally, I’d rather splurge on a doughnut than a toxin-loaded slab of commodity fish. Again, the Omega-6 weighting is completely out of whack and leads to inflammation. I’m going to throw “fish oil supplements” into this category too. Let’s just avoid those as their delicate oils are unstable and become rancid very quickly, leading to the same free radical damage and inflammation that all the other polyunsaturated oils cause.

10. HOMOGENIZED, FAT-REDUCED DAIRY. Homogenization is a mechanical process that changes the shape of the fat molecules in milk – they become smaller and are no longer processed cleanly by the digestive system; instead they directly enter the bloodstream and react against arteries and soft tissues and contribute to heart disease. Industrial milk is pasteurized by law, which denatures the proteins and kills all of the enzymes that would otherwise help you digest it easily. Skim milk is even less of a whole food because it has none of its fat which would help digest all those fat-soluble vitamins milk is famous for (which ironically are just synthetically fortified at this point, and even less digestible). However to keep skim milk from looking green and to give it a creamy mouth-feel, powdered denatured milk protein is added back. All this casein without its fat is toxic to the system. The body recognizes whole foods, but is inflamed and acidified by these industrial conflations. If you can’t access raw dairy or it’s too much of a hassle because of the contrarian laws in your area, choose organic UNHOMOGENIZED WHOLE FAT MILK and dairy. But go easy on it. Failing that, just dilute organic cream or make your own nut milk.

But don’t be a jerk. If someone invites you to dinner and lovingly prepares a meal of commodity beef, grains and sugar, just eat it! No one wants to hear about your food beliefs of the week; save it for your blog. Shared meals should be a time of celebration and communion, so don’t ruin them with your politics. Use some sense, people.

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Substitution: Hot Sauce

hot sauce vs ketchupWHAT’S SO WRONG WITH KETCHUP?

On the one hand, good old fashioned ketchup is full of lycopene, the antioxidant from tomatoes that only becomes bio-available after cooking. But on the other hand, the third ingredient in organic Heinz ketchup (after organic tomato paste and organic white vinegar) is organic sugar. This adds up to 5g sugar per tablespoon, which is a lot when you consider my daughter easily eats 3 TBSP every time she sits down. Every tablespoon of ketchup has the same amount of sugar as Lindt chocolate ball, and honestly, wouldn’t you prefer to eat your sugar as a chocolate ball? 3 tablespoons of ketchup has more sugar than an ENTIRE BAR of Lindt 90% cacao chocolate – all 10 squares! Please, don’t waste sugar by eating it as a condiment.

Most non-organic commercial ketchup is made with High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS). Obviously you are going to avoid that wherever possible.

I have tried to replace the contents of the ketchup container with a brand from the health food store that uses raw honey as its sweetener, and got no complaints from my family. Though naturally they would have complained if they knew.

One of these days I will make this fermented ketchup recipe from Nourishing Traditions, even though it’s still pretty sweet (though sweetened with maple syrup). I have also seen it made with stevia, but never tried it myself. Obviously any homemade version would have to be smuggled back into a familiar Heinz bottle.

Changing other people’s habits is a work in progress, but I can still do something about my own. So here’s what I have done to avoid ketchup:

SUB HOT SAUCE FOR KETCHUP

It’s that simple. Every time I want to use ketchup, I use hot sauce instead. It doesn’t have any sugar or carbohydrates. If you are already starting off your day with The Crazy Hot Drink, then your body is probably craving spicier foods than you are used to. So give it a try. I started on Harissa, a Middle-Eastern condiment made from roasted red peppers ground with spices, sea salt and olive oil (do NOT use condiments made with soy/corn/canola oil). Then I moved on to plain old Tabasco Sauce, as it is readily available in most restaurants.

AND THE WINNER IS

Frank’s Red Hot Sauce is mild (!) enough that I can really dump it on my eggs and if I add too much, it won’t ruin the meal. It is made of cayenne peppers, which can miraculously increase blood flow to the sickest parts of the body that need it. Frank’s does not make an organic version, which is a bummer. But it has a bright, hot flavor and you will love it! Thanks to my littlest sister for the recommendation.

But don’t worry, you can totally ferment your own hot sauce out of your own organic peppers and high quality sea salt. Check out this project!

OTHER BENEFITS: CAPSAICIN

Like cayenne powder, hot sauce is made of dried hot red peppers, so they have similar benefits as they both contain capsaicin. First of all, the spicy flavor stimulates your stomach acids and digestive juices, and also increases the mucous layer of the stomach. So this makes your digestion more efficient, but does not stimulate the appetite. In fact, the appetite can be repressed with capsaicin (which is why it is such a big part of the Master Cleanse). Secondly, the body’s response to the shocking jolt of spice is to release “natural pain killers”, or endorphins – which make you feel good like a tiny rush of opiates. And thirdly, capsaicin is thermogenic so it revs up the metabolism, and your body moves fat and glucose into the blood for your muscles to use.  It can also offer protection against some food borne pathogens – so if you are about to eat something dodgy, definitely cover it in hot sauce. Capsaicin also warms you up, clears your sinuses and reverses prostate cancer in mice.

So go ahead, put hot sauce on everything. It’s a great habit.

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1 Banana 1 Egg

This is a crazy simple breakfast. Let’s say you’re insane enough not to eat grains or refined sugar, but you can’t live without pancakes. This will solve all your problems.

Pancakes Bubbling

Directions: mash 1 ripe banana, blend in 1 egg. Fry the resulting batter in small batches (diameter of an apple?), and flip very gingerly (I use a non-stick pan and a fish spatula). Because there is no gluten, the pancakes are not as resilient as a grain pancake. But they look great, and taste great! The banana adds so much sweetness that you really don’t need any maple syrup on top. I like to top with some whole fat kefir or yoghurt.

FLAVOR VARIATIONS

I’m going to blow your mind here, but stay tuned. Grate in some lemon zest. Add vanilla. Delicious. Or go another way and add cinnamon. No matter what, add a little sea salt. Maybe melt in some grass-fed butter or coconut oil. Add wild blueberries. Go piña colada style and add grated coconut. Or go monkey-style and spread with peanut or nut butter, and roll up like a crepe.

TOO MUCH SUGAR?

I agree. 1 BANANA 1 EGG has 31g of carbohydrate, 17g of sugar, 4g of fiber, 8g of protein and 8g of fat = 214 calories. Serves 2 essentially.

Why not stretch the recipe a little further and try 1 BANANA 2 EGGS! This variation yields the same 32g carbohydrate, the same 17g of sugar, 4g of fiber, but increases protein to 14 g and fat to 15 g = 308 calories. But now it serves 3.

I’m not afraid of increasing fat, especially if it’s in the form of whole, naturally raised, small flock eggs. The individual serving count on the enhanced recipe is roughly: 10 g carbohydrate (5 g sugar, 1 g fiber), 5 g protein and 5 g fat.

Pancake StackFor a pancake treat, this is pretty good.

It’s also a terrific way to get my daughter to eat eggs for breakfast (she’s in a no-eggs phase).

If you are doubling or tripling the recipe for a crowd (I don’t know where you are going to find a crowd of people who don’t eat grain or refined sugar, but it could happen) try mixing the ingredients in your blender or Vitamix, because then you can pour the batter directly from the blender.

You can experiment with adding any kind of nut flour and milk, but I think the thrill of this recipe is its simplicity.

ONE LAST THOUGHT

Let’s say you want to really supercharge these pancakes with protein, but you don’t like protein powder (I don’t: too processed, rancid, denatured etc). So take the 1 banana, 2 eggs, add 1tbs nut butter and 3 tbs cottage cheese right into the batter. Let’s add 1 tbs of coconut oil while we are at it. Blend it all up! Now it serves 3 more heartily, and each serving has about: 7.2 g protein, 8.3 g fat and 11 g carbohydrate (5.8 g sugar, 1 g fiber). I can’t get the ratios much better than this. They are pancakes, after all.

AND BEST OF ALL…

Delicious.

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Sardine Snacks For All

Maybe you think they are gross. But sardines are the greatest snack in the world, and it’s time to give them another shot. Here’s why:

For starters, sardines are a very tiny fish, so they carry a lower toxic load than a larger, older fish (I’m talking mercury and PCBs, people). They are lower down in the food chain, so it is considered more ethical to consume these wild fish as they are more available and replenish quickly.

Image

One can of sardines is about 90g by weight. That can is going to supply you with 135% of your Vitamin B12 for the day, 78% of your tryptophan, 68% of your selenium, 56% of your omega-3s, 44% of your protein, 44% of your phosphoros, 43% of your Vitamin D, 34% of your calcium (if you eat the bones, which you are going to obviously), 23% of your Vitamin B3 and 16% of your choline, and 8% of your iron.

Let’s go macronutrients. We’re talking 23g of protein, about 11g of fat if packed in oil (say no to canola/soy/industrial oils and yes to olive oil), and obviously no carbohydrates, sugars or fiber.

So let’s be fancy and transfer the sardines to a plate first. I eat everything – the tails, the crunchy bones, the skin. It’s even more lovely to squeeze a little lemon or drizzle some balsamic vinegar on them. Why not try harissa or hot sauce?  You just can’t go wrong.

If you are new to sardines, you might require a cracker. In this case, load some sardine onto a cracker like it’s paté. I prefer to use a wheat-free cracker like Mary’s Gone Crackers, or a low-carbohydrate version like Flackers.

The Bellevue restaurant in Toronto once served a sardine sandwich with peanut butter, sprouts and cucumber on rye. If you’re not in the area, it might be time to try it out at home – but go to the next level: skip the bread and make a nut butter and sardine lettuce roll-up.

I started feeding sardines to my daughter when she was about 18 months, so now she is used to the flavor and actually likes the idea of “sardine snacks”.

Fresh sardines are obviously delicious, and shockingly inexpensive. You can buy them at any good fish counter. They are a little larger usually, and you will have to ask to have them gutted for you. You can toss these in olive oil and lemon, and then grill them under the broiler until the skin bubbles. Again, try to eat as many of the crunchy bones as you can for the calcium content.

WARNING: fresh sardines grilled on the barbecue are incredible! But if you live near wildlife, they will freak out over the delicious aroma. We once woke up to a bear humping our barbecue. So that happened.

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