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Some conjecture and Science on why Fats are important

grass_fed_steaks

It might seem somewhat ironic but “Carb Back Loading” is a book about eating fats most of the time and using carbs to most effectively use those fats.  You can support this site and get a free science lab membership by purchasing items using the links on this site (much of which you probably already buy or want to buy).  Check this link out for directions on how that happens (or you can now purchase a Science Lab membership for $4.95 monthly).

Fat cells are part of the endocrine system, and, as I’ve discussed before, they have the power to influence the degree to which muscle cells prefer glucose versus fats as an energy source. They exercise this control by releasing two signaling peptides: leptin and adiponectin. Adiponectin promotes glucose consumption by the muscles, and it also acts directly on the fat cells to encourage them to take up glucose and convert it to fat. Leptin, on the other hand, stimulates the muscles to prefer fat consumption over glucose consumption.

For several decades now, Americans have come to believe that the following two practices are foundational in a healthy lifestyle:  eat a low-fat diet, and  stay away from the sun. Additionally, if people consume adequate amounts of calcium, then all three nutritional deficiencies that have led to obesity will be overcome: vitamin D, calcium, and dietary fat.

Lack of Dietary fats is a precursor to metabolic syndrome

The lack of adequate dietary fat contributes to the metabolic syndrome in at least four ways:  vitamin D is only available in fatty food sources because it is a fat-soluble vitamin, calcium uptake is more efficient when the calcium is consumed with dietary fats, calcium uptake depends critically on the presence of vitamin D, which is deficient due to (1) above, and the burden of fat cells to manufacture fatty acids from sugar is alleviated by the dietary availability of fats from ingested food sources.

I would also argue that one should make sure to ingest adequate amounts of dietary fat, especially dairy fat . Whole milk (assuming you are not intolerant) is particularly outstanding because it contains substantial amounts of calcium and vitamin D, and it contains the necessary fat to assure that these two elements will be well utilized rather than just passing through the digestive system unabsorbed. Animal fats such as bacon are good sources of vitamin D, while also supplying fatty acids to help with energy needs. Fatty fish such as salmon and sardines are particularly good because they contain both omega-3 fats and vitamin D. One should assiduously avoid the trans fats found in processed foods such as cookies, crackers, and margarine. Butter and eggs are also healthy choices. Egg yolk is particularly good because it contains both fats and vitamin D. Nuts, particularly walnuts, almonds, and macademia nuts, are excellent sources of omega 3 fats.

The fat cells are able to influence the muscles to preferentially take up fats rather than glucose by releasing certain hormones into the blood, hormones that also have a powerful influence over appetite. One of these hormones is leptin. While leptin influences the muscle cells indirectly through its signaling in the hypothalamus, it also stimulates the muscle cells directly, and influences them to oxidize fatty acids in their mitochondria. Leptin also encourages the fat cells to release their fats through lipolysis. All of these actions work in concert to redirect fuel usage away from glucose. The programming of the muscles to preferentially consume fats aligns well with the fat cells’ infusion of fats into the blood and absorption of sugars through their fat-producing factories.

Leptin influences appetite

Leptin also has the effect, via the hypothalamus and pituitary gland, of suppressing appetite. Adiponectin is another hormone released by fat cells, and it is generally agreed that adiponectin induces hunger. Leptin and adiponectin levels would ordinarily fluctuate throughout the day, with leptin levels rising at night to encourage a switch from glucose-based to fat-based energy management. However, in the obese person, the leptin levels are typically high all the time, and the adiponectin levels are kept very low. High levels of leptin in the blood signal to the appetite center in the brain a sense of being full, whereas high levels of adiponectin are hunger-inducing. This means that the obese are being informed both that they are full, and that they are not hungry. You would think that this would protect them from overeating. However, it is likely that the observed insensitivity to leptin as an appetite suppressant in the obese is also related to calcium depletion, because the signaling mechanisms that respond to leptin in both the hypothalamus (Details) and the pituitary gland (Details) depend on changes in internal calcium concentrations.

Confusing signals cause deficiencies related to blood sugar 

The result of these three deficiencies is defective glucose uptake in both muscle and fat cells. The obese person becomes trapped in an endless metabolic cycle of trying to supply the energy needed for a steadily increasing demand. The fat cells are at the center of the storm, because they are burdened with the arduous assignment of converting the excess consumed sugars and carbohydrates into fat. The fat cells must do this because the muscle cells are impaired with a malfunctioning ability to metabolise sugars. Even if the metabolic problem were not fixed, if the obese person simply ate more fat, and therefore consumed fewer carbs, the fat cells’ burden would be greatly alleviated. In addition, getting plenty of vitamin D and calcium, either through diet or sun exposure, would alleviate the core problem of impaired glucose transport across the cell wall. Now that the heart and muscles can utilize sugars directly, the excessive burden on the fat cells to expand and proliferate is relieved, and the body fat will inevitably melt away.

The metabolic syndrome is a term used to encapsulate a complex set of markers associated with increased risk to heart disease. The profile includes insulin resistance and dysfunctional glucose metabolism in muscle cells, excess triglycerides in the blood serum, high levels of LDL, particularly small dense LDL, the worst kind  low levels of HDL (the “good” cholesterol) and reduced cholesterol content within the individual HDL particles, elevated blood pressure, and obesity, particularly excess abdominal fat. I have argued previously that this syndrome is brought on by a diet that is high in empty carbohydrates (particularly fructose) and low in fats and cholesterol, along with a poor vitamin D status [Seneff2010]. While I still believe that all of these factors are contributory, I would now add another factor as well: insufficient dietary sulfate.

Why being “fat adapted” makes your body run better

Glucogenesis is the process where the body breaks down proteins and possibly fats for energy, what this means is that in the absence of glucose the body can make glucose which is important for brain function.  This is also important for all those people that think they need carbohydrates every fewer hours to maintain their energy.  When a good majority of your energy comes from fats you are said to be “fat adapted” and less prone to voracious hunger related to blood sugar changes.  There is nothing wrong with glucogenesis, nor is there anything wrong with carbohydrate restriction. A glucose fueled body and a fatty acid fueled body are both healthy body’s (the latter arguably more health promoting and anti inflammatory). Insulin in and of itself has little to do with body weight and weight gain. The liver, pancreas and brain take care of this. One could potentially eat a ‘perfect’ diet totally devoid of carbohydrates, and still gain weight. if whatever you are eating is spiking your blood sugar and your pancreas is not releasing efficient amounts of insulin to clear the spike, then in turn you will store fat. This goes the same for EVERYTHING YOU EAT. Insulin is required to live, without it you would die. I think people are missing the point when the carbohydrate junk is thrown around, as well as the fear of blood sugar rises.  To suggest that one macronutrient is “bad” or “good” misses the whole point, conditioning your body to be able to exist on either is not only healthy, it’s optimal.

Lets say, for example, you do a 20 minute heavy lifting session in a fasted state (like first thing in the morning). Your body is PRIMED to produce a spike in blood sugar regardless of what you eat. NOT TO STORE FAT, but to reinstate hormesis in your muscles and deliver nutrients. This is the job of amino acids, but to deliver it you need insulin.

Dealing with Inflammation

In the body, to ‘inflame’ is to swell or agitate. Everything from a sun burn, knocking your big toe against the bed, to arriving at work to a boss chewing your head off results in inflammation. Taking your body out of its equilibrium and homeostatic environment will inflict inflammation.  The body uses inflammation as a way to correct and heal imbalances.  When you get a cut on the outside of your skin, that part of your body becomes inflamed in an attempt to deal with that injury.  This acute inflammation is necessary for your body to heal itself.  If there were no resulting inflammation from a burn wound, there would never be a scar to heal.

The same process happens on the inside of your body due in large part to your dietary habits.  Everybody is different in regards to what causes chronic low grade inflammation and what doesn’t. One who is lactose intolerant will deal with inflammation of the gut from dairy products while a celiac will be fine with cheese but grain products will rip apart their intestines. Just because a food is ‘real and whole’ does not automatically assume the body should be able to deal with its consumption on an everyday basis.

Different macronutrients have different inflammatory properties as well. Carbohydrates assist the healing process inside your body in instances of workout recovery by refilling spent glycogen. Sweet potatoes, bananas or white rice after workouts are a way of reconciling the imbalance (lifting heavy results in inflammation, good carbohydrate sources and timing increase absorption of glycogen and keep inflammation low which keeps healing high).  Eating protein is another way.  Both of which inflame your system in an attempt to heal it.  This periodic inflammation allows a maximum amount of healing. Muscles would not grow post work out if they did not get inflamed. The anti-inflammatory stage (recovery) is when muscle grow and become more dense.

The level of intensity, length, and episodic routine regarding weight lifting will determine your inflammation. The body’s breaking down and healing process is happening over and over all the time.  For those not working out, regularly eating foods causing inflammation does not allow your body to fully heal itself. Working out involves the process of breaking down tissue, some fat, some muscle.   Short, intense, heavy lifting requires more ‘healing’ and recovery time than a ‘runner’ who jogs for an hour every day. Their diets to de-flame their systems will differ as well. Often, you see heavy lifters perform best with only enough glucose post exercise to distress their hormonal system. Runners who spend hours on the elliptical and performing bodyweight workouts will function better with more carbohydrates in their diet simply because letting the body know it will be distressed (from fruit etc.) will allow it to optimize inflammation and its turnover.

In our inactive, desk job, long route to destination lifestyle, it becomes easy to see why the large carbohydrate intake of the standard diet is resulting in chronic low-grade inflammation. This exact inflammation, which is prolonged and never dealt with, plays a key role in the development of several chronic diseases. These include but are not limited to: as Alzheimer’s, arthritis, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, irritable bowel syndrome, Parkinson’s, and many others (http://www.achooallergy.com/chronic-inflammation-disease.asp).

Ridding your body of inflammation is quite simple

The three focal points of inflammation are what leave the body under prolonged pressure: mental stress; lack of sleep; and excessive exercise. Tackling these three aspects is tackling inflammation. Eating in a way to eliminate inflammation will allow for a better mind set, sounder sleep and short sweet to the point workouts.

Chronic inflammation is not acute inflammation. Chronic inflammation is best tackled with anti-inflammatory substances like oregano, turmeric, and a sound diet. When low grade chronic inflammation is present, learning to eat in a way to eliminate it is key. Attempting to lift heavy, run or endure any inflammatory activity on top of low grade inflammation is like getting a burn on a broken arm.  Said differently, starting a workout routine to deal with chronic inflammation should be part of the solution but the majority of that solution should come from your diet.

Understanding inflammatory responses will allow you to customize your own diet to benefit your lifestyle. If you just love you some cheesecake but are lactose intolerant, understand and realizing the cause and effect to eating a slice will allow you to set-up and deal with the situation as it arises. Having an idea of what inflames you will allow you to also realize what you need to get rid of it.  Assuming the lactose intolerant individual eats the cheesecake, he should expect water retention, bloating, gas and possible indigestion as well as skin breakouts or rashes. For each inflammatory intake, the body has to hold a certain amount of fluid as a way of processing.  The more fluid your holding, the more inflammation you have, and the more body fat you are likely to store because under stress the body likes to hold onto and store body fat (it is unhappy, so you’re going to also be mentally unhappy when you see what has accumulated in the mirror).  Once again, generally speaking, the more body fat you have will make the processing of these fluids more difficult.

Remember from the fat chapter, omega 6 fats serve as inflammatory agents while omega 3 fats serve as anti inflammatory agents. Both have their place, but need to be balanced for a homeostatic environment in your body. Excess inflammation from years of vegetable oil, excessive processed carbohydrate products and indoor living will often times benefit from extra omega 3.

Take two basic meals and compare inflammation. You will be able to see where people run into problems.

Meal one: Slow cooked rib roast and a salad including a dressing of vinegar and coconut oil (spiced with garlic and ginger) with spinach, shallots, carrots, and dried cranberries

Anti-inflammatory Properties: slow cooked meat allows easier digestion and assimilation, garlic, ginger and cranberries are full of antioxidants and a wide range of benefits relating to decreasing inflammation, coconut oil is an immediate energy source for the body and known for its anti-inflammatory effects.

Meal two: Char grilled chicken breast on stone ground wheat bun with tomato/pepper, side of potato salad (mayonnaise, mustard, vinegar, salt/pepper)

Inflammatory Properties: most people will digest white bread better than a stone ground wheat but both choices result in inflammation, char-grilled food leaves a burnt aspect to the outside of the food and will often lead to digestive troubles and dangerous by-products. Peppers and tomatoes are not a one size fits all in regards to inflammation as some people handle them well and others get inflamed joints, arthritis and other inflammatory symptoms. Potato salad, serves as an excessive carbohydrate intake coupled with the grainy bun, and made with store bought mayonnaise guarantees the omega 6 ratio in this meal as a whole is screaming inflammation.

A note to the chronically inflamed

Better awareness of your body is a means to an end in fixing chronic inflammation issues. Being in tune with your responses to food, sleep or lack thereof, and working out will all enhance your optimal health status.  A long term approach involves all three of working in unison for hormesis within the body. Lack of sleep will elicit a stress response and this response results in a low grade inflammation, as well as reduced insulin sensitivity and concentration. One other area worth looking into if you feel you may suffer from inflammation is the use of antibiotics. Balancing your bacteria in your gut means not flushing away bacteria through antibiotic use.  Antibiotic use, stress, and poor diet can all the balance of gut flora (and this is a delicate balance), resulting in undesirable bacteria overload that can lead to inflammation. You can tackle this with a good probiotic such as acidophilus or bifidus, and also by including naturally cultured foods in the diet.  The obvious ones include sauerkraut, kimchi, beet kvass, and kombucha (fermented tea) and also yogurt and some raw cheeses.

Why you should pack up your scale and mail it to your worst enemy

Scale weight is mostly irrelevant from a day to day basis.  Checking your weight occasionally is fine but many factors contribute to that number and it rarely represents the true nature of your body composition.  When the number is too high it rarely represents just fat, too low and it rarely represents lean mass.  Hence from this chapter, inflammation will play a big role in what the scale read on a day to day basis, even an hour to hour. Taking a weekly weight and noting progression or lack thereof will help you find an idea of what is working for you and what isn’t.

http://www.medterms.com/script/main/art.asp?articlekey=3979

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Immune_system#Inflammation

http://nutritiondata.self.com/foods-000992000000000000000.html

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/20377753?dopt=AbstractPlus

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22329799

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22331646

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22332072

http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/22310233

Fats Could Be Called Skinnies

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Ah, fat.  Of the three major macronutrients, it is probably the most misunderstood.  Did you know that fat keeps us interested in sex?  Do I have your attention yet?  That’s not all…Fat keeps your skin soft and smooth.  Fat allows you to control your temper when your 5 year old son knocks over the 100 year old family dinnerware.  Fat is what enables you to ‘go’ on a daily basis and what protects your vital organs.  Fat lets you to go from morning to night without daydreaming about Teddy Grahams.  Let it be known, also, that fat tastes damn good!  If this is all news to you, I wouldn’t be surprised.  Where in the world did fat get such a bad reputation?

Well, you can blame math (in part).  Since fat provides 9 calories per gram, health officials assumed that limiting its intake would result in lower rates of obesity and improved cardiovascular health.  Since it’s the most energy-dense macro, “the experts” assumed that eating too much causes higher body weight, higher blood cholesterol and heart attacks.  However, modern nutrition science has proven that such an idea is detrimental to our health.  It does make you wonder, given that fat provides us with so much energy, that they didn’t come to consider it a more sustainable food source.  We can thank modern agriculture for that one; carbs were more profitable.

Natural Fat vs. Manufactured Fat

Of course, fats done wrong will really screw you up.  Your body cannot effectively metabolize man-made hydrogenated or trans-fats.  They contribute to the development of all sorts of disorders, from Alzheimer’s to cancer.  Fats done right, however, enhance weight loss and keep your hormones functioning properly.  Your best bet is to correlate natural fat with good fat; a beautiful marbling on the side of a porter house steak?  Natural.  A 3- day ripened avocado?  That’s natural as well.   What about the runny yolk of a fresh fried egg?  Again, it’s natural.  The natural fat you eat blunts insulin secretion and keeps appetite at bay, shifting your metabolism towards a preference of fat burning.  Keeping insulin levels within a relatively tight range, rather than spiking them and bottoming out, is a great way to reduce systemic inflammation as well.

When natural fat is abundant in the diet, it is accompanied by a powerhouse of nutrition. The incredible, edible egg is one of the best foods you can put in your body. Fats are either accompanied by vitamins (A, D, K and E) and minerals (iron, magnesium and calcium) your body needs, or in the very least will help make sure they’re delivered where they need to go.  On top of that, fat is usually carrying protein along with it (and vice versa), which will help regulate your appetite.  Two of your best sources of fat, coconut milk and coconut oil, are two of the most highly saturated fats on earth.  They’re commonly regarded as very healthy, not to mention tasty (Who doesn’t love curry?).  Although it may appear all of a sudden that endless amounts of fat would be great, remember that too much of anything is probably bad.  Grab a stick of butter and attempt to eat the whole thing; see how far you get (Hopefully not too far from a toilet…).  Too much fat can still make you sick!  You have to pay attention to how much and what kind of fat you’re eating.

Many Types of Fat

There are two ‘classes’ of fats, if you will:  Saturated and unsaturated fat.  Two important polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFA’s) are linoleic acid and alpha-linolenic acid. Linoleic acid builds Omega 6 fatty acids, and alpha-linolenic acid builds Omega 3 fatty acids (O3 and O6).  These are essential fatty acids that your body needs to work properly.  As a whole, keeping polyunsaturated fatty acids low is a good idea.  Monounsaturated fat (MUFA) provides Omega 9 (oleic acid), which is not an essential fatty acid like O3 and O6, because the body can produce limited amounts from any unsaturated fat.

“Saturated fat” is fat with hydrogen stuffed between the carbon atoms that it’s comprised of.  It comes in many different forms, both plant and animal.  The saturated fat in a coconut and the saturated fat in grain fed beef are a little different.  Remember, natural fats are good. The fat in grain fed beef has a skewed ratio of PUFA’s, highly favoring the Omega 6, which is inflammatory. In contrast, Omega 3’s are anti-inflammatory.  The Omegas need to be balanced in the diet to achieve good health; most people suffer from an overabundance of Omega 6 without adequate Omega 3, leaving them chronically inflamed.  (We talk about this in greater detail later.)

Omega 6

Omega3TeeterTotter

Omega 3

NOTE:  Omega 3 and 6 are considered essential fatty acids (EFA’s) because your body can not produce them.  Incidentally, if you have fat cravings while dieting, it is often a result of being deficient in EFA’s.

Omega 9′s can be found in olive oil, but we don’t need to worry about how much we eat because the body can produce them as necessary.  MUFA’s are found in a variety of nuts, avocados, as well as grass fed beef and other livestock.  They’re a good source of fat for a person coming off a low fat nutrition plan.  The body will more easily use them for energy as you adjust to a higher saturated fat intake.

As I mentioned earlier, an imbalanced ratio of Omega 3 and 6 in your diet leads to chronic inflammation.  This is very similar to what happens with excessive carbohydrate consumption (though admittedly to a lesser degree).  Inflammation due to an excessive intake of the wrong kind of fat, combined with excessive carbohydrate intake, is inviting for disaster.   The bad news is that practically everyone you know eats this way.

The Good News

When fats are properly balanced, they will not inflame your system.  Interesting enough, since vegetable oil (full of Omega 6) started being promoted in the 1950’s, the incidence of heart disease and cholesterol has skyrocketed.  Correlation?  I think so.   You want to focus on lowering Omega 6 in your diet and increasing Omega 3’s.  The best way to do this is to pay attention to the quality of your food sources.  “You are what you eat” applies to the animals you eat too.  Wild-caught fish have better lipid profiles.  A grain fed cow is gradually being made sick through an inappropriate balance of Omega fatty acids in its diet, and so are you.  As you probably understand now, grass fed beef is the way to go.  It may be expensive or hard to find in some areas, but it’s worth it.  Eat healthy cows, and you’ll be a healthy human.

If you can’t afford, or cannot locate grass fed meat, you can clean up your fat intake by sticking to leaner cuts of meat and adding in your own favorable cooking oil (ghee, butter, tallow).  Remember that the issue is related to fat stored in animals fed nutritionally void diets.  Unfortunately, perfect meat and perfect food financial allowances are not always an option, but chicken breasts and tuna are almost always on sale.  You can make it work.

Supplementing EFA’s

As a last resort, it is possible to fortify and supplement your otherwise not-complimentary diet.  The rate of supplement absorption is greatly enhanced when taken with food.  “Enhanced” must not be mistaken for “better”.  You want to chew and swallow whole, real food with good fats, but when that is not an option, eating foods fortified with Omega 3′s or taking fish oil supplements can serve as a backup plan.  To note, fish oil and O3 supplements are not required on an otherwise adequate diet.  When selecting a product, choose one heavy on EPA’s and DHA’s (two beneficial Omega 3’s).  If there is no mention of either on the label, don’t buy it.  Going with a molecularly distilled supplement will guarantee a superior product; rancid fish oil is the leading cause of fish burps so shop wisely!

Fats Don’t Make You Fat; Your Eating Patterns Do

As you can see, in regards to which side of the fat argument you are on and how your Omega balance is handled, the ever-popular but difficult-to-follow Atkins diet could be either a miracle or the worst thing to ever happen to dieting.  The initial phase of Atkins entails limiting your daily dietary carbohydrate intake to below 20 grams.  You could blow that after 2-3 cups of leafy salad greens.  This first phase drains the glycogen storage in your body; if you’re coming from a “standard” diet, these stores are beyond topped off. Limiting carbohydrates forces your liver to use protein to produce glucose (gluconeogenesis).  Because you’re eating more protein than you normally would, your appetite will be suppressed.  The liver also begins to turn fat into ketone bodies, an alternative energy source to glucose that your organs can run on.  This “fat burning” adaptation (ketosis) takes you from running on carbohydrates (we’ll call this a “sugar metabolism”) to running on fats.  By supplying adequate dietary fat, body fat is mobilized to be used for energy as well.  It unquestionably works to reduce body fat, but like most certainties in life, it comes with a cost.

Ketogenic diets like Atkins can be taxing on an active individual.  During stressful periods, the body breaks down muscle for amino acids to rebuild cells.  Eating a high protein diet will spare some of that muscle, but will also lead to erratic circadian rhythms like waking up at 3 a.m. and feeling exhausted in the mid afternoon.  If lying in bed all day is your idea of living life, then this may be for you.  For those of us who enjoy sports or any other recreation, a constant state of ketosis is stressful at least and unhealthy at best.  Once you power through the sugar withdrawal and initial shift from sugar to fat metabolism, such a way of life becomes relatively easy; appetite and cravings are greatly reduced and the body is flushed of excessive inflammatory stores of PUFA’s and carbohydrates.

Assuming you don’t gorge on deep fried bacon, health markers are almost always improved initially.  Note the word “initially”, as the point of the induction phase is to set the body up for long term health.  That does not equate to living off of 20 carbohydrates a day forever; it entails building up from “scratch” with the right foods.  Mobilizing fat for energy is the selling point of Atkins, but eventually you reintroduce carbs and you run upon the biggest issue relating to the diet.  After you go back to eating relatively “normal” amounts of carbs again, you’ll start to regain weight (with interest!)  Your body is extremely sensitive to insulin at this point and it soaks up all the water and glucose that it can.  Your appetite comes back, you over eat and while this is kind of a good thing, the net loss of fat isn’t really worth all the frustration.

What If There Was a Happy Medium?

The fact that surviving on fats and proteins alone is possible does not imply that it’s optimal. It just means that dietary carbohydrates are not essential.  Periods of our evolution involved unavailable carbohydrates and also periods of incredible carbohydrate intake. Regardless of what you eat, your body is going to produce glucose, because it needs to.  Can you eat in a way that not only takes advantage of fats and proteins to keep you full, but also allows enough carbohydrates so that life doesn’t suck and food is still tasty?  Well, of course!  It’s brilliant actually.  The key is to eat enough fats from the right sources to achieve a good balance of Omega 3′s and 6′s and consume enough protein while ingesting the majority of your carbohydrates in the form of nutrient-dense vegetables and starches.  As it turns out, mama had it right.  You should eat your vegetables, and lard should never go to waste.

I realize this is not too sexy.  It doesn’t involve copious amounts of pasta followed by whole cheesecakes for dessert, but you have a lot more “wiggle room” if you put what you need over what you want.  An adequate intake of vitamins and minerals from vegetables, along with the fats needed to make them bioavaliable, as well as the protein required to maintain muscle mass and repair your body is necessary for proper metabolic function.  The right sources of meat and fats are a key component in achieving overall health, and once you get it right, you need not worry; there is no reason to avoid all of the good carbohydrates or fat. There is a way to put it all together so you can create a plan that works for you.

Summary

  • Fat plays a vital role in many bodily functions, and doesn’t deserve most of the bad press it receives.
  • The kind of fat you eat is extremely important.  Man-made hydrogenated and trans fats are linked to many diseases, but natural fats provide valuable nutrition.
  • Polyunsaturated fats provide lineolic and alpha-lineolic acid are “essential fatty acids” that your body cannot synthesize.  They make Omega 3 (anti-inflammatory) and Omega 6 (inflammatory) fatty acids.
  • A balanced ratio of Omega 3 and 6 in your diet will help control systemic inflammation.
  • Monounsaturated fat and saturated fat are a great source of energy in your diet but they aren’t essential fats.
  • While low carb/ketogenic diets can render quick weight loss, most of the loss comes from cellular dehydration.  High carb diets are inflammatory and when you cut carbs from your nutrition, you become less inflamed.
  • Improved body composition and health are possible on a diet consisting of good fats, nutrient-dense carbs and high-quality protein.  There’s no need to go to extremes.

Veggies and the moderation myth

Most people equate carbohydrate dense foods with gluttony. Mention chocolate and biscuits, and most people will mention their waistlines don’t need that. The list is pretty easy to rattle off: pasta, ice cream, cake etc.  We know common sense tells us to avoid such carbohydrates, but that is not their real problem.  Pasta and biscuits, to begin with are not a natural food source any way you look at it. Both are refined and processed foods.

To change the gluttonous attachment we mentally have to carbohydrates means changing what we view as a source of carbohydrates.  Foods like spinach, sweet peppers, tomato sauce and kale all have carbohydrates.  Vegetables are a dietary source of carbohydrates that not only fill you up but provide you with big allotment of micronutrients to add to your body’s bank account of vitamins and minerals. Such foods are very difficult to overeat simply because nature provides you with foods to eat, not gorge on so they are going to be self limiting. Try to overeat kale or broccoli tomorrow, it cannot be done without some incredibly uncomfortable side effects, at which point you are obviously not listening to the signals your body is sending.

Eating a colorful salad with spinach, sautéed skirt steak, peppers, and carrots is going to leave you satisfied from good nutrition, the crunch of fresh vegetables, taste from spices and herbs, fiber and fat to enhance digestion…but, it will never taste like a bowl of ice cream. There’s no illusion there. Learning to feel your body’s response to nutritious food is very important however, and that response will be had after such a meal. Satisfaction is feeling good mentally and physically about the food you eat feeling confident it will carry over for a long period of time. Eating in a way that leaves you feeling genuinely well and energetic will always be superior to feeding the  mental addiction and taste of overly flavor enhanced food.

It is ironic when people question where fiber comes from with when processed grains are reduced as a result of eating more whole foods. Vegetables believe it or not are chock full of fiber calorie for calorie and ounce for ounce. There is a reason you use the bathroom after eating a salad heavy meal… fiber.  Clearly I am having a little fun here  but often people do know fruit and vegetables have fiber and still make the shocking assumption that somehow it is lacking. The nutrient density of vegetables also provide lasting satisfaction.  When you eat a diet that consists of mostly vegetables and protein you are full a lot, so the temptation to overeat is much less. Becoming full happens because you give the body what it wants and needs so little room is left for mental temptations and cravings.

“But I don’t like vegetables”

So, if you are reading this you are probably an adult so let’s quit acting like a child.  Every family can have occasional candy or sweets, but access in the house to such foods is unnecessary. Leaving the house to go as a family to enjoy an ice cream cone is different than the nightly 3 sleeves of Oreo’s while sitting on the couch watching TV shows.  If you ‘need’ something sweet have an apple. Add some nuts with the apple to make it go further and last longer.  The whole family should have confidence in being able to eat anything in the house they want because all the food provided should be healthy – there are no ‘bad foods’ ‘cheat foods’ or foods off-hands.  At every meal you should try and have a vegetable, and it doesn’t always have to be the ‘best’ vegetable. Eating spinach and collard greens is not necessary every day.  More often than not though, you will get the best bang for the buck with common hearty vegetables.  Besides if you want to have ice cream it’s just best to have it after having a big nutritious meal, that way the likelihood and tendency to overeat is reduced.

Starches

The long and short of starches is that they are higher in calories than in nutrition.  Even the few considered to be good for you like sweet potatoes and squash do not offer a wide variety of nutrients.  Starches that are good for you tend to be good for you because of the vitamins they have.  Most of those vitamins you can get from foods besides starch and will usually accompany many more minerals.  In the case of athletes starches can be a very valuable tool and we will talk more about that in a later chapter.

The case for Pasta

I love Bolognese and while I could certainly eat it with no pasta it is just better with it.  So that is how I eat it.  The difference between the way I eat it and the way that others eat it is the difference between being lean and not.  For instance, there is a local joint that serves adequate portion sizes, meaning small and worth every bite- think French cuisine, fantastic but allowing for only a few bites.  When choosing to eat for mental satisfaction, like pasta and similar empty foods, going for quality is superior to quantity. There is no point in eating empty food for size. A restaurant is a good place to allow for a treat- you get a serving and there is no going back for seconds, thirds…and then a binge.

An appetizer with meat or salad of some sort makes for less room to attempt to meet all your satisfaction with an empty food course, like my favorite pasta Bolognese.  Of course it is more expensive, but I could have eaten at home for cheaper so I am not going to use eating out as an excuse for eating bad.  Another strategy might be to have a steak with the pasta. Don’t be above ordering two entrees, not only will the waiter love you, you’ll allow less stomach room to be spent on junk. As a normal size guy I eat pretty big, so it’s always amusing to order 2 entrées.  I am pretty active and getting most of my food  from real natural sources allows me to eat more due to the efficient processing of my metabolism. My body is in tune to expecting good food and is ready to put it to use.

Moderation?

Do not get twisted what is being said with ‘moderation is key.’  The point is your waistline will expand when you do not provide an environment of nutrient dense foods.

Moderation looks like for a lot of people:

Breakfast: Lowfat Yogurt (carb) and Oatmeal (carb) with some fruit (carb)

Mid morning snack: Kashi Bar

Lunch: Subway 6 inch turkey (low fat everything with some spinach instead of lettuce because Jared lost weight this way) with baked chips

Dinner: Chicken Breast, Brown Rice and Broccoli

See how this person is left gutting it out from lunch to dinner having provided no long lasting source of dietary fat. This will leave an individual ready to eat his arm off and by dinnertime appear to be a possessed raving lunatic. This is a good set up for failure.  So the answer is not eating less of the foods you might be eating now, the answer more likely is replacing those foods with more whole unprocessed foods and eating those foods occasionally.

Oprah once told her audience not to have a single grape after 6pm so they listen, after all, she is Oprah (this example was me). Actually the original advice came from Bob Green (because who should take advice from Oprah…but that Bob Green guy seemed fit).  By 11 pm I was straight starving and choking down Melatonin, known for drowsiness, just to get to bed. Of course I usually awoke around 3am with a rumbling and furious stomach.

Following the bad diet day example and notorious night hunger, it should be obvious that regardless of what you’re eating, if you’re not eating enough you’re going to be hungry. No one should go hungry; it is the worst slap-you-in-the-back way to lose weight because it will always result in the opposite effect once you are fed up with a loud noisy stomach as your body eats away all your muscle. While sending insulin through the roof and crashing down hard is unhealthy, it is not nearly as deterring to mental well being and enjoyment in life as starving all the time. If you believe going hungry is the only way to lose weight, then you are reading the wrong book.

How Moderation Looks now

On Monday’s as a family we have ice cream.

There will be multiple examples of the meals forthcoming, but needless to say I am not dieting.  Food is a big priority in my life as well as my family’s- food has been and will always be social.  I not only enjoy cooking and eating it but I love how it fuels my body.  The majority of the time I eat things that churn the machine. In the instances where I have a treat it is not excessive because I know the results- the ill stomach, the bloat and the loss of energy all for a measly minute of tasting something my tongue wants to taste. Excessive overeating makes you sick- it is really as bad a feeling as under eating. Listening to your body and its reaction to food should be front and center when finding a way of fueling your body that will work for you, forever.

The Take Home

Although all fruits and vegetables likely contribute to offer variety in nutrients, green leafy vegetables such as spinach, Swiss chard, collards and mustard greens are superior. Cruciferous vegetables such as broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, Brussels sprouts, bok choy, and kale and excellent and citrus fruits such as oranges, lemons, limes, and grapefruit all contribute to overall health in a positive way.

Vegetables and fruits are clearly an important part of everyday health. Almost everyone can benefit from eating more of them, but variety and color is as important as quantity. No single fruit or vegetable provides all of the nutrients you need to be healthy. From cancer, vision and gastrointestinal health to blood pressure, cardiovascular disease and skin aging, your carbohydrate intake should always be based around a variety of colorful fruits and vegetables- an no worries, you will get plenty of fiber this way. Experiment and try new dishes, exotic fruits and seasonal vegetables- you may surprise yourself!


Carbohydrates Part 1 – A Sugar Tutorial

Carbohydrates or Carbs is the new boogie man of nutrition, even more so than fats though there are groups on both sides that disdain both of them with equal fervor.  Most of the time though there is some type of qualifier and in the case of carbs that would be simple versus complex.  Simple carbs are things like sugar, you know the real bad stuff in a super refined state.  On the other side complex carbs are things like Spinach.  That is a pretty wide spectrum to paint with a very broad brush.  That is where diets lose me and ultimately lose most people.  This is also where I very noticeably depart from people that think my approach is similar to the Paleo Diet, well that and the fact that the word diet implies restriction but I digress.  While the Paleo Diet proponents might suggest they are not against carbs and have a heavy vegetable component to their diet there is one vegetable that is clearly Paleo that they lose their mind over, that vegetable is the potato.  That is because the potato is very high in carbs.  Certainly if Paleolithic man had come across a potato he would not have hesitated to eat it.  Which is where all this Paleolithic Man and Caveman talk falls apart.  So let’s be clear, the Paleo Diet, especially for people without a lot of activity is a decidedly low carb approach.  Which is fine but it’s really just a version of Atkins with a few more vegetables.  Fair? I think the Paleo Diet is a fine diet if you want to be on a diet and you want to restrict your intake by eating certain foods (it needs a few tweaks for active people), I do not personally think that is necessary but if you are in pain as it relates to weight issues and you would rather not count calories many people have had great success restricting what they eat using those rules.  That group includes me at one point.

Or, you can eat lean meats (or meats high in Omega 3′s), vegetables and some fruit.  Even the dreaded potato can be eaten on occasion given those parameters without a great deal of consequence, I can assure you that is very difficult to become obese eating like that.  That said if you start your day eating hash browns, eat some potato chips with lunch and mashed potatoes for dinner the issue is not the potato it is that you are a moron.  You are eating a nutrient deficient diet and unless your head has been underwater for the last thirty years you are likely well aware of that fact.

So now that we have cleared that up let’s move on.

While there are no bad foods, excessive intake of sugar is close

Sugar has no nutrients and depletes your body of vital nutrients because it requires your body to hold excessive fluid without the value of added vitamins (micronutrients).

Feel free to hit me with any questions in the comments on this point but I think this is fairly clear and should allow us to move on relatively easily.

Anything that ends in ‘Ose is a sugar, it is the delivery method that matters

Sucrose is what is commonly thought of as “table sugar”, Lactose is the sugar in milk, Fructose is the sugar in fruit and Dextrose is sugar that is exclusively glucose.  All sugars are inflammation foods because they generate a lot of insulin and to process them your body retains fluids, this is just a natural process within the body, it only becomes problematic when it happens too often.  On a side note when you have sugar cravings it is typically a symptom of protein deficiency, I would personally make the argument that it is nutrient deficiency in general that is causing the cravings but it is pretty clear that when you eat protein in most instances where you have sugar cravings they go away.  You are welcome, now you know one of the biggest ways to control your weight.  With that said if you are a highly active individual exercising with intensity and your carbohydrate intake is excessively low it can cause you hormonal problems that will result in using your muscle for energy and retention of fat.

Sucrose is a disaccharide composed of the monosaccharides glucose and fructose.  It offers you nothing from a nutrient perspective but it does enhance the flavor of things that do provide your body good nutrients, the brain also REALLY likes sucrose and it can be a quick energy source if you are lethargic.  That comes with some additional costs but temporarily it can provide you with some joy.  Denying the fact that sugar makes things taste better is one of the problems with diets because none of them really embrace sugar.  I personally do not eat a lot of sugar but I do eat it, it is literally in everything from salad dressings to mayonnaise and of course the obvious sweets we all enjoy so much.

Lactose is the sugar in milk, Lactose is a disaccharide derived from the condensation of galactose and glucose.  You could really argue that it is a worse sugar than Sucrose because it has more issues.  Many people are intolerant towards Lactose and do not know it, I personally am not lactose intolerant but if I consume a decent amount of milk I definitely feel run down.  I have recently been diagnosed with an allergy towards milk protein, while the symptosms aren’t extreme and don’t require me to abstain from dairy completely I suspect there are many people walking around without this knowledge.  Milk is commonly thought to be good for you because, well, they have pretty good marketers that tell you this over and over.  Add Vitamin D supplementation and the dairy industry looks like a knight in shining armor.  Another often overlooked issue with lactose as it relates to sugar is how easy it is to consume, while people have been distracted by the low fat versus 2% vs whole debate the sugar element is completely overlooked.  Think of how silly that is, people are focused on drinking low fat milk with no regard at all for the sugar in milk.  I will talk more about insulin sensitivity in a later chapter but as a short primer insulin is a building hormone, when your insulin levels are raised your body is more likely to build, sometimes this means fat storage but can also mean muscle building.  This is one of the reasons chocolate milk is often recommended as a good post workout option.

Fructose is the sugar that you get from fruit.  The debate on whether or it is better or worse for you is almost irrelevant because it is the delivery method of the sugar that takes precedence here.  In the case of sucrose you have sugar totally refined, lactose is not dissimilar in the way it gets you the sugar.  Fruit is different because your body in an effort to get you the sugar first needs to break down the food part with all of those extra vitamins and nutrients, do not misunderstand me, the sugar is still not great for you but the other parts of the food provide you benefits that make fruit worth eating (I feel like I need to say on occasion here but I will talk more about this in the next section on carbohydrates).

High Fructose Corn Syrup is a very powerful form of sugar derived from corn, many people mistakenly believe that corn is good for you because they think it is a vegetable.  In fact, corn is a grain and the syrup derived from this grain is an insulin nightmare.

You should notice that all sugars have some combination of glucose (or in the case of Dextrose exclusively glucose), this is an important sugar as it relates to muscle energy and I will talk further about it in the chapters on activity.  It alternatively is called Dextrose or any of it’s derivatives.  As a teaser I will say that for athletes all sugars do not act equally, as an example fructose refills liver glycogen as a priority while glucose (or dextrose, one of the sugars in gatorade) has a more direct relationship with muscle glycogen.

I tried to stay unbiased as it relates to sugar but if you can become pretty conscious of your sugar intake that will go a long way to controlling your waistline, energy and overall health.  Sugar of course is not the problem for most people because they are well aware that too much sugar intake could have bad results.  So in that way people naturally regulate their sugar intake in a lot of ways, some of those ways unfortunately end up with other consequences.

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