Food for Homo Sapiens

So many times I see written, “Everyone’s needs are different,” regarding nutrition. I don’t get it! I am not saying that everyone else is wrong and I’m right, I’m saying – I don’t get it!

This is my understanding and my interpretation. Our evolution, (from what we have been told of our origins) has gone through many stages and almost certainly began in Africa. Homo Sapiens has walked the Earth for millennia. Many of the “Homo” subgroups died out, for various reasons, leaving modern humans to rule. This happened around 200,000 years ago.

WE ARE THIS SPECIES! Each and every one of us is the same. We have the same amount of bones, our eyes/nose/ears/nervous systems are formed in the same way.  We all have a sense of taste and smell and digestive juices and enzymes. If you think about why this is, you will come up with the answer that they are needed to detect what is good to eat and what is not. If it were not the case, evolution would not have bothered with these senses and we’d have died out because we ate the wrong things. After all, wild animals and birds just eat instinctively what nature intended – why should we be different?

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I should say at this point, that we almost certainly did not have a conscience about what we ate and other animals have always been on the menu. Animals/birds/fish (everything organic of course) were relatively easy to obtain and yielded tasty and satisfying food. Modern humans have always cooked their food. If meat is being roasted, the smell immediately starts the digestive process, getting all the necessary juices and enzymes on their starting blocks in readiness for the food about to be eaten. If any vegetable matter was eaten, it would have been from necessity, more than choice as they just do not smell as good as a roast wild pig! Fatty animals were preferred, as it is fat eaten with protein that brings about satiety. Without fat, the hunt for food would have been impossible and we would have been weak. There is a dangerous condition referred to as “rabbit starvation” -  the effect of consuming lean protein without fats.

The fact is that if every edible part of an animal is eaten, all known (and possibly unknown) nutrients for the life of humans are available. It is how it was and it is why we are here.

We in the UK settled as farmers about 10,000 years ago. According to the consensus, we are genetically identical to these ancient people. We have adapted to the temperate climate – our eye colour and skins have lightened, but our nutritional needs are unchanged. We still need protein (fish, meat, eggs) and fats along with the nutrients they supply. There are essential proteins and fats, meaning we must find them in our diet. There are no essential carbohydrates, meaning we can live very happily without them.

If we were still living this way, we would be eating what was available at that time. The problem is, we now have too much CHOICE! It’s easy to choose, when the choices are leaves, snails (yes we did!) or duck. Frankly, all would have been eaten at some point as it could be eat or die. But now – oh boy! We have almost limitless choices and we can refuse to eat something, knowing that we can have something we prefer. Luxury! We can eat “out of season” and cheaply, but this means consuming less nutrients, a helping of pesticides/herbicides and foods we are not digestively designed for. All this weakens us as individuals and as the species Homo Sapiens.

The correct diet for individuals depends upon where one lives in the world. Continents have differing animal species and vegetation so when it comes to meals, of course they will be different. But the nutrients must stay the same and in similar proportions.

So when a nutritionist says everyone is different in their needs, they can only be partly right. A healthy individual requires our ancestral diet and a few other more modern foods, such as raw dairy and properly prepared grains/legumes, to make life easy. A sick person needs advice on aspects of healthy living and only our ancestral diet, in order to obtain all nutrients for healing.

Most importantly, those nutrients will be in the correct balance for Homo Sapiens.

Nutrition For Children

My daughter’s friend works in a children’s nursery locally to me. She suggested to the manager that it might be beneficial to the parents and staff, if they had some help with planning meals for the children and understanding what nutrition means for them. As we all know, feeding children nutritious food can be challenging! The mum’s were great and I have to hand it to them, they are really doing their best. It was great to see a good turn-out too. These mums really wanted to extend their knowledge.

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The variety of nutrients for a child is the same as for an adult, but some become more important. Adults need to maintain their health but children need to grow satisfactorily. Nutrition for both is vitally important but as adults, we can change little about our structure. Children are forming their structure, so for their future health and mental development, certain nutrients are paramount.

 

There are nine essential amino acids for building bodies

Growth requires building blocks and these come from proteins and fats. Proteins are made up of amino acids and there are nine which are essential – the body cannot make them so they must be taken in the diet. There are another eleven that we need but the body can synthesize these. The essential amino acids are easily obtained from animal proteins, as they contain all nine together. Vegetarians must be aware that these are not present all together in vegetable proteins. Beans or nuts should be eaten with grains at the same meal for all to be present. Better still, dairy products and eggs should be a major part of the diet.

 

 Animal fats make hormones, line our cells and more

The fatty acids from fats are another vital component for our structure. They line our cells, supply much-needed cholesterol, contribute to our immune systems and make hormones to name a few. Quite apart from these physiological requirements, fats make food taste good. Our taste-buds have a purpose – of natural foods, they tell us what we need. Unfortunately, we can fool our taste-buds when all food groups are mixed together – as in a cake for example. They detect the fat and protein (eggs and butter) but get confused with the addition of carbohydrates (sugar and flour). That doesn’t mean we should never eat cake (perish the thought!). What we need to remember is that we can easily overeat these mixed foods, which can be detrimental to our health. If you try to overeat double cream – lovely though it is – you won’t be able to eat much or you will be sick! The body has these mechanisms in place to ensure that we stay healthy.

It is also worth remembering that butter or cheese mixed with well-cooked vegetables not only makes them taste better to a child, but also helps release nutrients and their uptake.

Animal fats contain the fat-soluble vitamins A, D3, E and K2. These vitamins work together to channel minerals into bones and teeth. They allow absorption of calcium and other minerals, direct them to the skeleton and set the minerals into the bone. All of these stages are vital. Cheese has everything needed for this process. So simple!

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Carbohydrates can be included but they are not “essential”

Carbohydrates are the food group to be wary of. They are reduced to sugar by the body for easy absorption.  Children need energy but they will get some from fats. Including a few potatoes at dinner, a couple of slices of sourdough bread (easier to digest) for lunch, or a bowl of porridge with cream in the morning is fine. Please take care though – it is easy to add too many of these foods into the diet, leaving no room for those they really need. There are no essential carbohydrates.

 

Other foods

Vegetables are always difficult for children. To be honest, if they are eating meat, liver, fish and lots of animal fats, they will come to no harm without them. However, we want to get them used to eating some as they do have lots of nutrients for us. Cook them well, add butter or cheese, make pureed soups or a frittata.

Drinks can be an issue for children. Sweet fizzy drinks should not be introduced. Milk can be great for children but please buy organic, unhomogenised or preferably raw milk if you can find it. Encourage water drinking, very weak tea or at a push, very dilute apple juice.

The sun

Not food, but still nutrition. Let children play in the sun with no sunscreen and very little clothing for a while. They must not burn, but they will get a huge dose of vitamin D3 which no food can supply. Don’t be afraid of it – if there were no sun, there would be no us. We need it!

One last word, please buy organic food whenever possible. Children do not need pesticides, herbicides, antibiotic and hormone residues. They need nutritious, fresh, preferably local foods that will only do them good, not harm.

 

Cavemen Didn’t Run Marathons

Have you ever wondered why you don’t see many wild animals dashing about, needlessly expending energy?

If they are dashing about, it will probably be due to the need to flee from a predator or be a predator. There are a few exceptions – some animals are naturally active especially the young of any species, but then what do they do? Collapse in a heap and sleep it off!

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“An animal instinctively knows when the conditions are right to eat, sleep, excrete, procreate and even die.”

In nature it doesn’t make sense to expend energy needlessly. Nature’s aim is healthy life, procreation and survival and in this it is tunnel visioned. It has countless “tricks” which it uses to these ends. For example: we get hungry when nutrients are needed and we get tired when sleep is needed – it’s not rocket science! An animal instinctively knows when the conditions are right to eat, sleep, excrete, procreate and even die.

We, naturally, are above all that aren’t we? We are blessed with large brains and we feel the need to use them even if brain power is not required. So instead of relying on our instincts to guide us in natural functions, we resort to the findings of (often) dubious research. How mad is that? After all, we are animals too and have been evolving for millions of years. Nature’s tunnel vision it would seem, is extremely efficient or we wouldn’t be here.

During my career as a nurse, I used to meet people all the time who were suffering injuries sustained by over-exercising or just getting it wrong. Back problems are number one (since you need the strength in your back for virtually all vigorous activity) but also knee, ankle and hip injuries, on a regular basis. Our pursuit of fitness is not without hazards. Sadly, the sufferers of these self-inflicted injuries, often do not recover sufficiently to resume their former level of activity. This leads to frustration at best and depression at worst. There is a saying, “live fast, die young” and I suspect that this maybe true in many cases. What is most certainly incorrect, is the notion that you can just burn off the calories that you have eaten and that everything will be fine. It didn’t work for Sir Steve Redgrave, who carb-loaded all his active rowing life and it won’t work for you either. He became diabetic. What is important, is that you provide your body with the proper nutrients needed for its health and activity. Sadly, most people who exercise in this way are those that cut out the fat and increase the carbs. This is the quickest way to age yourself – facially and bodily.

It is not my intention to stop people doing that which they enjoy. It is merely to inject a note of caution and common sense. Constantly going for burn is dangerous. If you do this you are ignoring your body’s warning that it is under stress – and stress in any form on a regular basis, is not beneficial to good health. It starts up the “fight or flight” hormonal response, which physically damages us. This response is for the odd occasions (nowadays anyway) that we need to get ourselves out of danger. For our overall health, we do need to get our hearts racing sometimes, but possibly the best type of exercise is interval training – good if you really want/need to allot time for exercise.

“Activity is important; playing games (safely) is fine and going to the gym is fine provided you listen to the messages your body sends.”

file0001856731560Many people I met, would apologise for the fact that they hated gym work. They would expect me to tell them that they should be working out regularly so I told them to walk to the gym, then turn around and walk home again. Activity is important; playing games (safely) is fine, going to the gym is fine provided you listen to the messages your body sends. Did cavemen run marathons? Very doubtful! They most probably used stealth, cunning and team-work to catch their food – for the most part anyway. This type of activity is effectively fuelled by their low-carb diet. We are not so different now that we need a new set of rules!

We need to be active and rest when needed. Using controlled movement to limit damage and we should do some resistance work to encourage good supple muscles and joints and occasionally, get out of breath.

How do we do this? We walk the dog, dig the garden, wash the car, run for the bus, vacuum the house and have sex. Tough isn’t it?

Here is an article by Dr.John Briffa on walking versus running.

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Stop Counting Calories and Start Counting Nutrients – Part 1

It was during the 1980s that food nutrition labelling became compulsory and specific. I don’t remember exactly but it was probably at the same time that the government launched their nutritional guidelines – depicted now by the Eatwell Plate.

Most people will be familiar with it but as a rough guide – the plate is divided into three sections. In the first is for fruit and vegetables, the second for bread, cereals, potatoes and pasta and the third is again divided. It is divided into three segments, one smaller than the other two. The two larger are for dairy and protein foods and the smaller section for fatty/sugary foods.

There is no doubt that this way of eating is better than many diets – limiting “fatty/sugary” for one. (I agree with this as these foods generally contain highly processed seed oils rather than natural fats.) However, it falls short of advice for robust health.

This Eatwell Plate shows only the major food groups – proteins, fats carbohydrates and of course, as there isn’t a specific food group for fruit and veg, one has been created. What it fails in, is guiding us towards a nutrient dense diet – in fact it does just the opposite. The two largest sections on the plate are not (in general) nutrient dense. Let’s take each separately.

Carbohydrates: There are no essential carbohydrates but we are told we must base all our meals on these foods. That means potentially, you could be eating grains – usually wheat – three times daily and then there are the snacks on top. Carbohydrate foods are filling – temporarily, but they are not satisfying. Imagine the toast, potatoes and crumpets without butter… or the pasta or rice without their sauces.

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Some years ago I attended an eating disorders conference. One of the speakers – a doctor specialising in these disorders – told us of a very unscientific experiment that he and some of his colleagues had performed. The inserted naso-gastric tubes into each other and tested the effects of two foods on their ability to satiate hunger. Firstly, they filled each other’s stomachs with liquidised carbohydrate foods. The result – fullness without satiety even after some time. In other words, even though they felt stuffed – they still felt they wanted something else. Some time after the first experiment, they inserted the tubes into their duodenums – just past the stomach – and introduced a tablespoon of fat. It is the duodenum that communicates with the brain that we have eaten and as it takes about twenty minutes for the stomach to start emptying, it is wise not to eat too quickly! What they found was that the feeling of satiety was almost instant. As I said this is not real science but I think it does demonstrate that eating lots of carbs is not a good idea and eating some fats, is.

There are many problems with the over-indulgence of carbohydrate foods. Here are a few:
1) They fill us up temporarily but we feel the need to eat again soon after which encourages snacking. This effect also leaves less room for nutrient-dense foods.
2) They increase our need for vitamin C.
3) Carbs are broken down to their simplest form for absorption – glucose. Glucose is sugar.
4) They contain anti-nutrients. These can stop absorption of some minerals and play havoc with digestion.

Fruit and Vegetables: On the Eatwell plate, these look so healthy – depicted in lovely bright colours, typifying what we believe to be healthy and to some degree, they are. There are of course plusses as many of the foods in this group, do contain usable nutrients including fibre. Also, they can prevent snacking on worse choices. In my view, this group of foods has become more important as we now don’t eat the parts of an animal that at one time, was the main source of our nutrition. I’ll say more about this when I talk about protein.

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So here are some of the draw-backs to this group of foods:
1) Historically, fruit and vegetables in the northern hemisphere were largely available from Spring to Autumn only. What we consumed outside this time may have been fermented and thus we extended the season and also the nutrition! This is an unlikely scenario in pre-history.
2) Much fruit and vegetables on the shelves in our supermarkets comes from abroad. This means that most produce is picked before it is ready and has to travel miles. “Fresh fruit and vegetables” are usually anything but – including organic.
3) In order to preserve freshness, producers use a variety of methods; washing salad with a chlorinated solution, spraying citrus and other fruit with wax and irradiating. All these methods are good for the shelf-life of the product but not for us.
4) Most of our greengrocery has undergone enhancements! Bigger, sweeter, improved keepability – what we think of as natural just isn’t. We have played around with genetic modification for years. Most products have been subjected to this over time but the more recent genetic modifications are exceptionally harmful to us and wild animals.
5) Pesticides. If you are not eating organic produce, you will be ingesting hundreds of toxic chemicals. It is not just a matter of washing the produce – the chemicals will be found throughout in many of these foods. The idea to increase the current recommendation of “five-a-day” to eight will just tax your liver even more to get rid of these poisons.
6) Many of the nutrients in fruit and veg are not bio-available to us.
7) Some fruit and veg will contain antinutrients – see above.
8) It is a fact that some people will just eat fruit rather than vegetables. This provides far too much of the sugar “fructose” which can be damaging to health in quantity.

I will conclude this blog next time as it is rather lengthy!

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The Importance of Digestion (From Top to Bottom!)

file3011257997439 In my view, even if you smoke or are obese, the food you put into your mouth is the most important factor to determine your overall health. If you eat well your health improves; if you eat badly, your health deteriorates. Simple.

 

 

Well it should be simple but food and nutrition have become complicated over the last century. When we “process” food it can become difficult or impossible to digest. Add to that these other factors – we now eat foods that are not from our evolutionary diet, foods are often genetically modified, traditional food preparation has been replaced with super-fast methods and in many instances, cookery skills have been lost. Probably the most important is learning to cook from scratch using tried and trusted traditional methods and starting with the best ingredients, preferably organically produced.

We eat because we need nutrients which our bodies convert to compounds which are used in the hundreds of body processes that go on every second of our lives. Even if the food is the best, we still have to absorb and utilize these nutrients – and therein lies the rub!

Nutrition is not just filling our stomachs with any old food or a few vitamin tablets. Nutrition encompasses all of the following – the correct food being chewed, swallowed, digested (see below) absorbed and utilized. When any of these stages are omitted either within our control or without it, proper nutrition is forfeited. Let me explain.

When we anticipate or smell food, already our bodies begin preparation for digestion. We salivate, our stomachs rumble which indicates that the digestive juices are being produced. This enables various digestive enzymes to do their work before the next stage can commence.

Chewing food begins the digestion of carbohydrates and it is made more liquid. giant_panda_eatingThis is necessary if all nutrients are to be extracted. Swallowing begins the muscular wave (peristalsis) throughout the intestines to push food to the next stage of digestion. When food enters the stomach, protein is broken down by the hydrochloric acid contained in the digestive juices. The enzymes present continue the digestion of carbohydrates and begin the break-down of fats and proteins. When this is achieved, the small intestine continues the process using bile from the gall bladder and enzymes from the pancreas. Providing there is no disease in the small intestine, many nutrients and water are absorbed here. As the process continues into the large intestine, more fluid is absorbed and some of the B vitamins are created. The end of the scenario is a trip to the loo! This removes that which cannot be digested and other unneeded substances.

As you can see, there are many stages to digestion – which means that there are many ways for things to go awry. The food you eat makes the enzymes, saliva and gastric juices, so if your diet is poor, the situation moves from bad to worse.

Addressing the stages -
In the mouth:  If teeth are bad, the mouth is sore, dentures are poorly fitting, food may be poorly chewed or even avoided altogether.
In the stomach: Too little acid, GERD (gastroesophageal reflux disease), SIBO (small intestinal bacterial overgrowth), ulceration of the stomach lining, frequent heartburn or a hiatus hernia and many more conditions can interfere with the initial break down of foods. This is especially true of vitamin B12.
In the small intestine: Food insufficiently digested in the stomach will be problematic, poor microbial mix or insufficient beneficial bacteria, Crohn’s and celiac disease, duodenal ulceration, poor bile and pancreatic enzyme production and other diseases  and insufficiencies will produce incomplete digestion here.
The large intestine: Diseases such as Crohn’s and ulcerative colitis (IBD), poor muscle tone (from years of the wrong diet), insufficient good bacteria, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) will all disrupt the final stages of digestion.

There are all sorts of ways that we can become mal-nourished, even in our land of plenty. Of course, if there was nothing you could do about it, I wouldn’t be writing this! There is plenty you can do to optimise your nutrition.

  1. Choose the best food you can afford and learn how to cook it. (This book is an excellent start!) I won’t go into the minutiae of as there is lots of advice in my other blogs.
  2. Ensure your teeth are in good condition.
  3. Eat slowly. Chew thoroughly and don’t drink much with food as this dilutes the needed acid in the stomach. People who suffer indigestion and GERD should not drink half an hour before or an hour after meals.
  4. Eat fermented foods sometimes – sauerkraut and other fermented vegetables, kefir, yogurt.
  5. Practice relaxation. Stress is very damaging on the digestive system at every stage.
  6. Ensure that meal times are just that. Make time to sit down and enjoy your food. I absolutely believe in chatting over a meal as this slows things down and is conducive to good digestion and not overeating.
  7. When you first feel the urge to go to the loo, please go!  Putting it off is damaging to the muscle tone of the bladder and the rectum.

There has to be at least one thing you can do to improve your digestion. One step at a time..

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Granola Made With Soaked Oats

As you are probably aware, I am not big on carbs. Granola – as it name tells you – is usually made from grains – very high in carbohydrates! However, on occasions, I think it is perfectly OK to eat relatively high carb foods as long as they are nutritionally sound – which frankly, is a rarity in pre-packaged foods. I would not recommend grain foods for someone with tummy problems. Even so, some of the substances that are contained in grains that upset digestion have been neutralised in this recipe by overnight soaking of the oats with yogurt.

The granola (“crunchy” oat cereals) available in supermarkets, is very basic. Oats, sugar and vegetable oil with a few raisins and a few nuts. PLEASE do not buy this! The sugar will far exceed what is healthy and the vegetable oil will be rancid and is just unhealthy full-stop. The granola below is far superior. It has healthy fats, loads of bio-available nutrients and a much higher protein content. It tastes better too. I’m sorry – I have used “cups” measures – it is just so much easier than getting the scales out. Please use organic ingredients in the recipe and please make it this way before you play with it!

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4 cups rolled oats
2 tablespoons chia seeds
1/2 cup melted coconut oil and butter (in total)
3/4  cup plain full-fat yogurt
1/2 – 3/4 cup water

1/3 – 1/2  cup organic maple syrup or honey
1 or 2  egg whites (I use 2)
1/2 tsp salt (Himalayan crystal or Celtic sea)
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp vanilla extract

1/2 – 1 cup shredded coconut
1/4 cup sunflower and pumpkin seeds (in total)
1/2 cup chopped pecans or other nuts
Handful each chopped dates, apricots and raisins

Mix the first 5 ingredients adding enough water to make all ingredients damp. This serves to increase the availability of present nutrients and de-activate the anti-nutrients. Cover and leave somewhere cool.

The following day, tip the next five ingredients into the oat mixture and with your hands, mix very thoroughly.

Spread mixture out over two parchment paper-lined baking sheets, about 1cm thick. Bake at 90 degrees for 2 hours, turning once and breaking it up a bit at the same time, until granola is crisp. (It is a good idea to wedge a tea towel in the oven door whilst it is cooking so that the steam can escape.) If you prefer your granola softer, cook for less time.  Allow to cool and then break into smaller chunks or give a short blitz in a food processor. Take care with this or you could end up with a pile of crumbs!

Mix in the fruit, seeds and nuts. (If you intend to eat this more than once in a while, I recommend soaking and drying the nuts and seeds as well as the oats. Store in an airtight container. Serve for breakfast or scatter over a baked apple and add a dollop of cream!

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Never “Diet” Again

file0002072485149So many diets are started at New Year and a few people will achieve their goals, but most will have returned to their old ways by February feeling thoroughly disillusioned. I want to address the subject as so often these diets are doomed to failure due to hunger.

 

This failure is more to do with eating the wrong foods than lack of will power. When you are hungry, it is because your body requires nutrients. When this is done properly, the body stops telling you to feed it. Your most likely reaction to the feeling of hunger is to eat something filling but not too high in calories – bread, rice cakes or potatoes are common choices.  This becomes a self-perpetuating scenario – for all these foods are broken down to sugar and this is the problem. Repeatedly eating foods that are broken down to sugar will make you hungry. If you can stick to your calorie controlled diet, you will lose weight but most cannot stay the course and those best intentions will be wasted. Here is an article I wrote a while ago about sugar.

Some recommendations to help you lose weight, maintain good nutrition and stay hunger-free!

  1. Stop eating the foods that the body turns to sugar. These are the concentrated carbohydrates: bread and all other foods made with grain, potatoes, sweet foods including all fizzy drinks, root and other starchy vegetables, fruit.
  2. Base meals on eggs, natural meat with all its fat, fish and shell-fish, green leafy vegetables, all cheeses, butter and cream.
  3. Eat slowly and eat to satisfy not stuff.
  4. Drink plenty of water/tea/coffee but only enough to keep your urine pale yellow. If you use milk in drinks – only a splash as milk contains a sugar called lactose.
  5. Don’t over exercise but walking/swimming is sufficient especially in the first couple of weeks. After this you can increase it to a level that you are comfortable with.
  6. It has been shown recently that eating all your meals within an 8-10 hour period of the day, rather than eating from the time you get up to the time you go to bed. It is called intermittent fasting but don’t let that put you off!
  7. Concentrate on being healthier overall rather than just “thinner”.
  8. Allow an occasional snack – see below.
  9. Do not cut down on animal fats – in fact increase them. If you restrict one form of energy (ie. carbohydrates) then you must provide another – fat. Stop eating all vegetable oils other than olive oil and coconut oil.
  10. DON’T count calories.

A typical day’s food could look like this:

  • Breakfast:
    A 2-3 egg cheese and mushroom omelette cooked in lots of butter.
  • Lunch:
    A big leafy salad with cucumber and a small tomato, (dressed with full fat mayonnaise or olive oil and vinegar) with smoked mackerel /tuna/ham/cheese/egg etc.
  • Dinner:
    Steak – then add some cream to the pan with a blob of mustard/Stilton cheese or a splash of brandy. Pour over the steak. Serve with broccoli/cauliflower/mushrooms etc.
  • Snacks:
    25g macadamia nuts or small packet pork scratchings with a glass of dry wine. (OCCASIONALLY!)
    Piece of cheese or stick of celery with cream cheese/taramasalata down the centre.
    A dozen raspberries. 4 strawberries or handful of blueberries – once or twice a week only.
    A few olives.

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Drink as needed but it is a good idea to have a glass of water half an hour before meals. This ensures that the hunger mechanism works properly and doesn’t fool you into thinking that you need more food than you do!

When you have lost weight, you can increase the carbohydrates a bit – but not what you were eating before. Start with a small potato with your dinner or half a slice of bread with breakfast. Try to keep the carbs to one meal per day only.

Good luck!

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Alzheimer’s – the Disease That Wrecks Lives

file000691888818Alzheimer’s disease is a type of dementia which is characterised by poor short term memory, irritability, confusion and sometimes aggression. The condition wrecks families and care homes are now bursting at the seams with residents suffering this condirion. Something must be done and whilst the news tells us that a drug maybe on the way, it is prevention that will ultimately have the most impact.

 

In AD the brain shrinks and it is unable to utilize the glucose it needs to function. Plaques of amyloid, a protein, are evident in the brain and this may be associated with a poor diet as AD is more often diagnosed in people who are obese.

There has been much speculation on the origins of the disease, but that aside, as it is becoming more prevalent – even in middle age, it would be safe to assume that our modern lives have something to do with this. So what in particular could be driving this increase?

1) There is conflicting evidence regarding aluminium. Our bodies do not require aluminium so it would seem a good idea to avoid it wherever possible.
2) Look at these facts:
- There is evidence that the brain makes its own insulin
- Obese people are more likely to be diagnosed with AD
- An anti-diabetic drug has been shown to help dementia

It would seem that this brain change has, at least to some degree, a dependence on sugar. Sugar promotes insulin in the blood and if an excess is taken in the diet (that is, all carbohydrates not just the white stuff) over a lifetime, insulin sensitivity results and obesity and diabetes follow. Maybe AD too.
3) Continuing on from the previous point, since the other fuels that our bodies can use are fat and ketones (a fat bi-product and one that can be used by the brain), it is essential that if we cut one fuel source then we must give our bodies another. Animal fats and coconut oil should be included in the diet.
4) The B vitamins have much to do with nerve function and the most important of these (due to its complex metabolism in the body) is vitamin B12.
5) Vitamin D deficiency is at epidemic proportions in the Western World. This study shows that it may contribute to AD.
6) Insufficient exercise maybe a causative factor, but it is unclear whether it is due to its balancing effect on blood sugar or the exercise itself that helps.

The above are the most plausible possible causes of AD but this is not an exhaustive list.

To me there is only one way to tackle Alzheimer’s Disease and that is to prevent it in the first place. Here are my recommendations:

  1. To avoid an excess of aluminium, use steel or glass cooking pots and opt for a deodorant rather than an antiperspirant – or just use soap and water.
  2. To keep blood sugar down and balanced, cut carbohydrate consumption. Foods to limit are sweet foods, bread, cereals and other foods made from grains.
  3. Including plenty of animal fats in the diet will provide a good source of fuel, fatty acids and fat soluble vitamins. Yellow butter, cream, egg yolks, fatty cuts of meat and oily fish (for Omega 3) will provide this. Coconut oil is also helpful in not just warding off AD but as a treatment for it.
  4. Shellfish and offal are good sources of vitamin B12 but many people nowadaysfile0001122917150 do not consume these foods on a regular basis. Experiment with pates, adding a little chopped liver to casseroles and Bolognese sauce or just frying with onions in plenty of butter. Folate and B12 work together so serve that liver with kale, sprouts or cabbage! Organic, pastured egg yolks are good for B12 too.
  5. Getting out in the sun and eating animal fats will supply your vitamin D.
  6. Even just frequent brisk walking will do for exercise, but find something you enjoy doing and you are more likely to stick with it.

I think it is possible to reverse AD to some degree with the measures above, but by employing them now, you dramatically lower your chances of developing it in the first place.

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Sweeteners

Over the last few years I have tried to show the harmful effects on health, of sugar and processed carbohydrate consumption. The conventional diet recommended by health workers, (whilst always low in added sugar) ensures that we eat lots of carbohydrates – which are just sugar as far as the body is concerned – at every meal. Our diet is now lots of bread, cereals, pasta, rice and potatoes – fruit and veg and a little meat and fat. Keeping your blood sugar constantly raised as this diet ensures – is downright wrong.  Enough of that! My blog is about sweeteners.

593660_97665739Do I eat sugar? You bet! Not every day and not in any quantity – but the sugar I eat is natural and complete with its minerals, vitamins and (sometimes) enzymes. Look for raw honey, organic natural maple syrup, rapadura (essence of sugar cane) and coconut nectar. These do of course have their own flavour – they do not just provide sweetness. However, when you’ve tasted maple syrup ice cream, I doubt you’ll ever go back to plain old shop-bought vanilla! A treat I absolutely adore occasionally, is a slice of sourdough bread, smothered in golden butter and topped with a dollop of raw lavender honey. Sometimes, just nothing else will do!

Info about maple syrup
Info about honey

Now, what about artificial sweeteners?

There is little good news here.  Some of the sweeteners currently on the market have 2013-10-12 13.04.39dubious effects on our health. Sucralose (Splenda), aspartame (Candarel), are the main sweeteners you will see on supermarket shelves. Another group of sweeteners are the sugar alcohols (maltitol, xylitol, sorbitol) and these are often used in sweets and other foods by the diet industry. They do contain some calories, but we cannot absorb them entirely. Sounds ideal but when we eat foods that are indigestible to us, wind and diarrhoea can often follow, so beware! These sweeteners occasionally and in small quantities, cause less damage to health than sucralose and aspartame. Xylitol may be the best of the sugar alcohols as it does not cause a spike in blood sugar (and therefore no insulin spike either) as the others do.  There is much more information on the dangers of sweeteners here.

Remember though, that all “low sugar”, “sugar-free”, “low calorie” and “no added sugar” products are likely to contain these sweeteners. Think – light hot chocolate mixes, squash, diet soft drinks (all cola and fizzy fruit drinks),  sugar-free chewing gum and more. Dieters often chew gum and wonder why they constantly have grumbling tummies and wind!

Now to a bit of good news. The one sweetener I have not yet mentioned is stevia (marketed as Truvia and others). Stevia is a small shrubby plant and is native to North and South America. It is often known as sweet-leaf as it contains an intensely sweet chemical in its leaves, but it has a slightly bitter flavour on its own. It is possible to buy powdered leaves for use in cooking but an extract is needed to sweeten drinks. Truvia (and the like) might fit the bill but if you read the packaging, you will see that there are additives. For the time being, this maybe the one to use in preference to sucralose and aspartame, but reducing your sweet-tooth is the best way.

There is another sweetener available online but not as yet, in shops. It is called Lo Han Guo and is an extract from an intensely sweet fruit. I have yet to try this so can’t give an opinion as to flavour. I’ll let you know when I have something to report!

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Why It’s Sugar Not Fat That Makes Us Fat.

jam-cake-206785-sThe body can use several forms of fuel for energy, two of which are fat and sugar. Sugar does not “give you” energy as people tend to think, but it will always be used first if there is a choice. All starches and sweet foods (carbohydrates) are broken down into glucose (the simplest form of sugar) and absorbed into the blood stream. There are no essential carbohydrates as there are essential fats and proteins.

 

Too much glucose in the blood stream is not good for the lining of blood vessels or the blood cells so it has to be removed and taken to other parts of the body. In order to do this, the body releases insulin from the pancreas into the blood stream. Insulin will do three things:  It will direct the sugar to the muscles if energy is being expended; it will direct the sugar to the storage areas for another time and it will signal to the body that fat stores do not need to be used for energy as glucose is available.

The storage areas for glucose are the muscles and liver (where it is then called glycogen) in the first instance. These reservoirs have limited storage space. When the spaces are full, the next place for storage which is potentially unlimited is the fat cells. Insulin is the fat-storing hormone. Excess glucose cannot be excreted by the body (unless in diabetes).

There are essential fats. Fats are needed for the fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K, absorbing minerals, metabolising protein, making hormones and many other functions. When we eat fats, they are used for these purposes as well as an energy source. During their metabolism, substances are created that can be excreted by the body and they are not stored. Insulin levels do not rise.

Insulin is released if there is glucose in the blood not fat or protein when both are eaten. However, on a low calorie and low carbohydrate diet where fat is excluded and protein is increased there is no obvious energy source. The body will then turn some of the protein to glucose because the body must have fuel. There are essential proteins and they need fat for their metabolism. Using them as a source of energy is unnecessary, undesirable and detrimental to health long term. (This was undoubtedly a survival mechanism for humans living as hunter-gatherers when they had to eat whatever they could get.)

Because our bodies are so efficient in maintaining life as healthily and efficiently as possible, they are able to prepare for many things instantly. Consider how quickly adrenalin is released when there is danger and the “fight or flight” syndrome is used. It is immediate. In the same way, when we prepare to eat, our salivary glands produce saliva before we have even had a mouthful! We can see this effect, but much more is happening. The gastric juices are released as will be the digestive enzymes and other digestion processes will be on stand-by. So, when you are thinking about drinking a sugary or artificially sweetened cola (how would your body know the difference?)  – it is just sweet which means sugar and your body can release insulin in readiness. Whilst it will not have any work to do in terms of sugar storage, the signal will still be sent to the body not to use the fat stores. Ultimately, too many sugar-free drinks could actually make you very tired and hungry! (Insulin in the blood stream without glucose will give you hunger pangs.)

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Most artificial sweeteners will have some side effects. Some are downright harmful used long-term, but there are some natural sweeteners that may not pose too many health problems.

So, to lose weight safely, healthily and effectively the diet should be low in sugar, sugar substitutes and carbohydrates, leaving protein and natural animal fats as the mainstay of the diet. Animal fats should never be reduced as they are so important to the body. Eggs, nuts, some seeds, vegetables (mainly green leafy ones) and a few native fruits occasionally are the foods to include ensuring the full range of nutrients are acquired.

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