Milk Is Highly Insulinogenic

When I first encountered that word, insulinogenic, I completely garbled its pronunciation. In-su-lino-whadya-hooya? What the Hades?

In-su-lino-gen-ic. Right.

So what does it mean? It means something that stimulates the production of insulin. In the context of milk, it means that milk produces a much bigger insulin response in the human body than it has any right to, given the amount of carbohydrates present in milk, mostly in the form of the milk sugar lactose. Milk punches so high above its carb content that it produces an insulin response like that of white bread!

Why is this of concern to me?

Well…when I was diagnosed with osteoporosis, I really stepped up my milk intake. I didn’t know that milk was insulinogenic, and I did know that my bones could use all the help they could get.

I found it difficult to drink 4 cups a day, so I began adding a pinch of stevia along with cocoa powder to my evening milk. Yum! It tasted like dessert!

Meanwhile, my weight had been creeping up. There seemed to be several obvious reasons for that. I had two health problems in sequence that kept me away from the gym for nearly 2 years. I’d allowed pasta back into my menu, perhaps once every 10 days. And I was getting into my middle fifties. I didn’t like the upward creep, naturally.

I was relieved when I resolved my health problems enough to return to the gym in May 2016. And I rededicated myself to kicking the pasta back out of my menu. Remembering when I tried Phil Maffetone’s 2-week test with such stellar results, I expected to see the start of a drop in weight. Imagine my surprise when I continued to gain!

“How can this be?” I asked myself. “I’m swimming three times a week. Lifting weights two or three times a week. I’m eating fewer than 50 grams of carbs per day. My calorie intake is modest; I’ve never been a big overeater. What the Hades gives?”

This unfortunate upward trend continued. “I wonder if it is the milk?” I asked myself.

You would think I might have done some more reading about milk, but I didn’t. I was attached to my milk. Besides, it was healthy milk from grass-fed cows lovingly tended by my local farmer, who had managed the apprentices at the famous Polyface Farm. It couldn’t be the milk!

But I suspected it was.

I tried to cut down and found that I couldn’t. Oh, oh! Was I addicted to milk?

Finally, in November 2016, after months of “quitting milk” and then “I’ll just have one last big glass tonight,” I decided I needed support. I’d visited a website devoted to the Whole30 way of eating some while back and noted that the Whole30 was the way I wanted to eat and that the site had forums. A forum sounded like exactly what I needed.

And it was!

Hanging out with a bunch of others who were eating the same way I wanted to eat – and posting on my progress – enabled me to give up the milk and ditch the last remnants of pasta. I saw almost immediate results. I had an annual exam scheduled with my doctor 3 weeks after I started my Whole30, and I found I’d lost 7 pounds. Without counting calories. Just by waving goodbye to milk. (Since I doubt my previous once or twice a month indulgence in pasta was the key to my previous weight gain.)

I also found my energy levels increasing and my mood improving. I felt good!

After 30 days of no milk (and no grains, no legumes, and no sugar – none), I’d lost 9 pounds. I decided to carry on as I was. I liked how I felt, I liked all the new meals I’d learned how to cook, I liked everything about my new routine. So far, I’m still losing weight, 20 pounds and counting at about one-and-a-half pounds per week. My yoga pants are beginning to get too loose!

It was only after these stellar results that I did a little researching on milk and learned that it is highly insulinogenic. Even my healthy milk from a local dairy farm run by a super careful and informed grass farmer.

When I was younger, I could get away with eating insulinogenic foods. At least, they didn’t pack the pounds on me, although – looking back – they did have other more subtle negative effects. But as I’ve gotten older, insulin in my bloodstream started to have the effect that it does in many, acting as a one-way gatekeeper that packs fat into the fat cells and doesn’t allow any withdrawals of that fat for energy. No more milk for this lady!

But what will I do for my osteoporosis?

That’s another blog post. Which I will write. I also plan to share more about my adventures with the Whole30 in future posts. But this is enough for now. 😀

For more about the effects of insulin, see:
Test first, then conclude!

For more on nutrition, see:
Why Seed Oils Are Dangerous
Thinner and Healthier
Butter and Cream and Coconut, Oh My!

Can’t wait for my future posts to learn more about the Whole30? See:
Whole30.com

 

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Quiche sans Crust

Swedish apronI’ve always loved quiche, but it’s been decades since I’ve made any in my kitchen. I’m not sure why I dropped it from my repertoire. Honestly, I’m not sure it was ever in my repertoire. A shame.

But last week, my daughter who hates eggs announced that she’d been served quiche at a friend’s house and really liked it. I leapt on my opportunity to get some luscious, farm-fresh eggs into my beloved child. 😉

Since it has been many months since I’ve posted a recipe, I’m leaping on the chance to do that as well.

It’s been years since the food researchers conceded that they were wrong about the cholesterol in eggs. It’s not harmful, never has been harmful, and you can eat as many eggs as you want. Actually, they conceded that the cholesterol in eggs is not harmful and has never been harmful, but they wussed out of reversing their recommendation to limit eggs. It just looks so bad. Heaven help their reputations!

So what’s good about the nutrition in eggs?

Just about everything. They are rich in vitamins, especially the important fat-soluble A and D.

(Vitamin A is necessary for healthy skin, healthy mucous membranes, proper immune system function, healthy eyes, and good vision. Vitamin D is essential for healthy bones and teeth, the proper functioning of the immune system and the brain and nervous system, regulating insulin levels, support of the lungs and cardiovascular system, and preventing cancer.)

Eggs contain ample high-quality protein. They are an excellent source of EPA and DHA – long-chain fatty acids that are vital to the development of the nervous system in young children and to the preservation of mental acuity in adults. Eggs are truly a complete nutritional package, provided they come from chickens raised on pasture, where they scratch for bugs and worms.

quiche eggsChickens sitting in vast warehouses produce eggs that lack some of the superlative benefits of pasture-raised birds. Their omega-6 to omega-3 ratio is 20:1 instead of the optimum 1:1. And you can see from simply looking at the egg yolks – pale lemon yellow versus rich orange – that warehoused chickens produce eggs with less beta-carotene. They also have 28% less vitamin A.

But enough of weighing the pros and cons of eggs. What about my quiche?

quiche milkWhen I made it for my family, I made two, one crustless and one with a crust. That way I can eat low-carb, while my kids and husband get the kind of taste sensation they prefer. The recipe below is for one crustless quiche. You can double it, if you want to make a pair like I did. Or you can pour it into a crust, if you prefer your quiche with wheat. 😀

Ingredients

quiche cheesedab of butter
2 cups milk
1/2 cup grated cheddar cheese
4 slices of deli ham
3 eggs
1/2 teaspoon Celtic sea salt
dash of white pepper
dash of nutmeg
1 teaspoon minced fresh chives

Directions

1Make sure you have a rack in the middle of the oven, and either remove the second one or place it below the middle one. Pre-heat the oven to 375F.

quiche spices2Smear the butter all over the interior of a 9-inch glass pie dish.

3Heat the milk in a saucepan, stirring constantly, until a few tendrils of steam start to rise from its surface. Then set it aside, off the heat.

4Grate the cheddar cheese, if you have not already done so. (I do my grating after heating the milk, to give the milk a chance to cool a little.)

quiche ham5Cut the deli ham in strips, roughly half an inch wide and 2 inches long.

6Crack the eggs into a bowl and whisk them thoroughly.

7Add the salt, white pepper, nutmeg, and chives to the eggs and mix well.

8Lay the ham strips all over the bottom of the pie dish.

quiche ham and cheese9Cover the ham with the grated cheese.

10Pour the egg mixture into the milk and mix thoroughly.

11Gently pour the egg-milk mixture over the cheese and ham.

quiche uncooked12Getting that full pie dish into the oven without spilling it is tricky! Take it slow and use pot lifters, so that all your attention can be on the liquid level and not on your vulnerable fingers.

13Let the quiche bake for 45 – 50 minutes.

quiche cooked14Test for doneness by inserting a butter knife into the edge of the quiche custard. The rubric says that if it comes out clean, the quiche is done. I say: know your oven! The knife came out clean from last week’s quiche at 40 minutes, but it could have used another 5 minutes. This week’s quiche generated a knife that never came out clean. After 55 minutes, I took it out of the oven anyway. I should have taken it out 5 minutes earlier. Both week’s quiches were good, but not at the ultimate sweet spot.

quiche slice15Let the quiche cool to lukewarm – about 15 minutes – and serve. Cut the quiche to create 6 pieces.

More recipes:
Butternut Soup
Baked Apples
Coconut Chocolates

 

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Why Seed Oils Are Dangerous (and What You Can Do About It)

I read The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz last weekend.

The Big Fat Surprise 300 px wide

A friend recommended it to me. When I checked into it myself, the book looked good. The reading proved just as good as it looked, so I’m going to share some of what I discovered.

Nina Teicholz investigates the fats we eat with an open mind. Like most of us, she believed that foods such as butter and cream and red meat were bad for her. But she’d had the experience of losing weight and feeling healthier while eating them with abandon when working as a restaurant review columnist.

What was up with that?

As she dug more deeply into her research for The Big Fat Surprise – reading the actual data from decades of studies, rather than the superficial (and misleading) headline conclusions – she came to realize how thoroughly the wool had been pulled over our eyes about what is safe and healthy to eat.

We’ve been fooled by government officials who jumped the gun and made incorrect recommendations before all the data was in.

We’ve been fooled by ambitious scientists who took a position long before the data warranted it, and then defended their stance for all it was worth.

We’ve been fooled by industrial food companies with a lot of money on the line.

I’d hoped The Big Fat Surprise might be a worthy sequel to Gary Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories. It is! The book covers some of the same ground, but Nina Teicholz found different sources to talk with. She takes a slightly different approach from a slightly different angle. I learned things from her compelling narrative that I hadn’t from Taubes’ equally excellent examination of the subject.

Especially important, Teicholz delves into the more recent developments in fats used in processed foods: potato chips, crackers, cookies, etc. The information is absolutely critical for making wise choices about what to eat. And what not to eat. There’s some crazy dangerous stuff out there!

The Big Fat Surprise is too full of valuable nuggets for any summary to do it justice. So I’m going to use a technique I’ve followed when recommending other favorite non-fiction reads.

I’ll share three points that jumped out at me.

Here we go!

cottonseed oil

Eating Seed Oils May Cause Cancer

First of all, what are seed oils? This was a new term for me. Turns out it’s a more accurate word for what we call vegetable oils. Corn oil, canola oil, safflower oil, etc. When you think about the change, it makes sense. These oils aren’t made from carrots or broccoli or bell peppers. They’re pressed (or chemically extracted) from seeds.

One thing to remember about liquid seed oils is that they’re new. They were first extracted and sold in large quantities in 1910. Before 1910, everyone used lard and suet and tallow (animal fats) and butter to cook with. Seed oils are really a novel, ersatz “food.” At this point in human evolution, perhaps 6 generations have been eating the stuff. 300 generations ate only the very small amounts present in the corn in tortillas or the wheat in bread. 66,000 generations ate the still smaller amounts present in gathered (not cultivated) grains.

The new untested nature of seed oils entering our food supply caused a few scientists to be concerned about their safety. Some research was done, and the results generated further cause for concern.

One of the most famous studies was conducted in the 1960’s by Seymour Dayton, a UCLA professor of medicine, on 850 elderly men living in a Veterans Administration home.

For 6 years, half the men ate a diet in which seed oils replaced the saturated fats in butter, milk, ice cream, and cheese.

The other half of the men ate a normal diet – which in those days meant few seed oils, because corn oil and cottonseed oil had not yet been adopted so wholeheartedly in American kitchens.

The superficial results of the study looked good. Of the men on the experimental seed oil diet, only 48 died of heart disease, compared to 70 on the regular foods.

Probing a little deeper, the results looked less good. The death rates of the two groups were similar: 31 of the men consuming seed oils died of cancer, against only 17 of the men on regular food. That’s 79 to 87. Not so significant.

Dr. Dayton expressed considerable concern about the cancer finding. It was the unknown consequences of a diet high in seed oils – a new industrial product that had never been eaten in quantity by humans before – that had prompted the study.

Prominent American researchers focused on the heart disease finding (and ignored the cancer finding), because it bolstered their position that saturated fat causes heart disease.

British researchers were more critical, pointing out that the men on the normal diet happened to have twice the rate of cigarette smoking as the men on the seed oil diet. Perhaps that was the cause of their higher rate of heart disease?

echocardiogram

LDL-Cholesterol Is NOT the Bogeyman

First let’s do a quick review of cholesterol. It’s a lipid molecule made by our bodies and essential for both the structure of our cell membranes and as a foundation for certain hormones, bile acids, and vitamin D. We need the stuff!

It also circulates in our blood and has become renowned as an indicator for our vulnerability to heart disease.

Cholesterol comes in two different kinds. HDL-cholesterol (high density lipoprotein) and LDL-cholesterol (low density lipoprotein).

HDL-cholesterol is solidly established as a good guy that helps prevent heart disease. In fact, it’s such a critical partner in fighting heart disease that your doctor will likely warn you if it’s too low. Low levels of HDL-cholesterol is a known risk factor for heart disease.

LDL-cholesterol, however, for long bore the role of bad guy. If you had high levels of LDL-cholesterol circulating in your blood, you were considered to be at risk.

Thus whenever researchers found in a study that eating saturated fat (butter, cream, coconut oil, red meat) raised LDL-cholesterol – which it does – they would trumpet that finding to the sky. “Eating saturated fat causes heart disease!” they would say. We’ve heard that message for decades.

However, LDL-cholesterol has proven more complex than was initially thought.

Turns out that just as whole cholesterol exists as two types, so LDL-cholesterol also exists as two types. There’s LDL-cholesterol (low density lipoproteins) and there’s VLDL-cholesterol (very low density lipoproteins).

hospital patientVLDL is a genuine villain. Patients with high VLDL-cholesterol also have high triglycerides (another proven risk factor) and are indeed at a greater risk for heart disease.

But normal LDL-cholesterol turns out to be another good guy, actively protective against heart disease.

And guess what?

When eating saturated fat raises LDL-cholesterol, it’s raising the good LDL stuff, not the bad VLDL stuff.

Bottom line? Eating saturated fat raises HDL-cholesterol, which protects against heart disease, and it raises the good LDL-cholesterol, which also protects against heart disease. There is no down side here! Bring on the butter and cream!

The converse is also true, unfortunately. Eating polyunsaturated oils – seed oils such as corn oil, safflower oil, canola oil, soybean oil, etc. – not only lowers the good HDL-cholesterol, but it lowers the good LDL-cholesterol while raising the bad VLDL-cholesterol. The anti-saturated fat folk tend not to trumpet that fact. “Eating seed oils causes heart disease,” is not a message that passes their lips. Ever. But it should.

The National Institutes of Health (NIH) and the American Heart Association (AHA) have been steadfastly ignoring the last 20 years of research that teases apart the LDL and VLDL conundrum. They continue to recommend the consumption of seed oils. Reversing their stance of the last 60 years (pro-seed oil) would be very damaging to the professional reputation of their leaders.

As Upton Sinclair said, “It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends on his not understanding it.”

But I can only conclude, along with Nina Teicholz, that seed oils cause heart disease, not the other way around. Certainly, while the death rate from heart disease has gone down due to improved medical treatment, the incidence of heart disease has continued to rise, right in step with the increase of seed oils in the diet.

deep fat fryer

Seed Oils Are Taking Over the World

In 2003, the FDA (Food and Drug Administration) issued a new rule that by 2006 trans fats must have their own separate line in the Nutrition Facts Panel on all packaged foods.

What are trans fats?

They’re another ersatz fat created as a byproduct by hydrogenating polyunsaturated fats such as corn oil and safflower oil. Hydrogenating these liquid oils (adding hydrogen atoms to the fat molecules) makes them firmer (like butter) and prevents them from going rancid while the packaged food sits in warehouses and on grocery store shelves.

Trans fat is convincingly a cause of heart disease. At least, its the one that’s been focused on by research. The thing is that trans fat is only one of about 50 ersatz fats created in the hydrogenation process. The others may be even more damaging.

In any case, getting the trans fats out of our food supply would seem to be a good thing. For that was the result of the FDA’s rulings. With trans fat vilified by the public (justly so) and manufacturers no longer able to hide its presence in their products, the manufacturers started reformulating their recipes.

That was a lot of reformulating!

As of 2003 when the new rule was issued, 42,720 packaged foods included trans fats: all crackers and most cookies, baking mixes, chips, pie shells, and frostings.

The food industry really liked hydrogenated oils. They could be made relatively soft for things like margarine. They could be made medium soft for cookies. They could be made very hard for the coatings of chocolate truffles.

But when the trans fats had to go, the hydrgenated oils also had to go. And be replaced with something else: polyunsaturated oils – seed oils.

That alone is not good news. After reading The Big Fat Surprise, I know that seed oils probably cause cancer and do cause heart disease. But there’s worse news.

The seed oils don’t behave well in the food products that industry produces. The oils separate out from sauces, leaving oily puddles under frozen dinners. They go rancid while cupcakes sit on grocery shelves. They cause Oreo® cookies to break during shipping.

Luckily for the manufacturers (and unluckily for us), their labs devised a new fat that performs well. It’s created by a new process called interesterification.

What is interesterification? Basically the process takes the three triglyceride molecules that make up fats and rearranges them.

How do interesterified fats affect the human body? We don’t really know. There have been a few studies done, but not nearly enough to yield a true idea.

Twinkies

So when we eat packaged foods, we’re eating interesterified fats and participating in the continuing experiment done on us without our informed consent. Heaven only knows what this latest ersatz substance will do to us. It could be worse than trans fat.

If we’re not eating interesterified fat, we’re eating fully hydrogenated oils (which do not have trans fats the way partially hydrogenated oils do) blended with liquid seed oils. This is another trick used by processed food manufacturers.

Or we’re eating palm oil, which manufacturers are returning to without announcing the fact. Palm oil is a natural saturated fat, like coconut oil, and is actually good for us. So, yay! One ray of light in an otherwise dark picture.

When we eat fried foods in a restaurant, we’re eating 100% seed oils along with the breakdown products that are created when these oils are heated.

There’s a reason McDonald’s once used beef tallow to fry its french fries. The stuff is extremely stable and doesn’t break down when heated. (Plus beef tallow was good for us.)

The partially hydrogenated oils used when beef tallow went away were also stable at high temperatures, although they did have those pesky trans fats.

peanut oilThe peanut oils and soybean oils now being used are not stable. They break down at high temperatures.

Aldehyde is one common breakdown product. It interferes with the function of our DNA.

Formaldehyde is another common breakdown product. It’s a poison.

Yet other breakdown products form a gunky residue on the bottoms of fryers, as well as on walls and tablecloths. It resembles shellac. The gunk is released into the air of the restaurant by the hot oil mist forming over the fryer and condenses out on cooler surfaces. The vapor may well damage the lungs of restaurant workers and patrons.

What Does It All Mean?

My own feeling is that it’s time to stop experimenting with all these new ersatz “food” products. Time to stop pushing them on unsuspecting populations to see if they have deleterious effects.

Cancer, anyone?

Heart disease?

How about diabetes?

Sign right up! You’ll die for science without ever knowing you’re in the experimental group.

Sadly, a more responsible and caring way forward seems unlikely at this time.

So what can you do?

Learn about food.

Don’t take the FDA’s word for anything; they’re too slow and married to industry interests.

Don’t take the common wisdom for your guide either; it’s been distorted by the poor research done in the 1960’s and boosted by ill-informed government officials.

Don’t mistake the research headlines about the dangers of saturated fat as fact supported by the research they trumpet; the data often do not support the headlines.

Do read The Big Fat Surprise by Nina Teicholz.

Read Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes.

Read Eat Fat, Lose Fat by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig.

Cover iamges of Good Calories, Bad Calories; The Big Fat Surprise; Eat Fat, Lose Fat

Get informed about the real facts and then make up your own mind about what is safe to eat and what isn’t. The life and health you save could be your own. 😀

For more posts on this topic:
Test first, then conclude!
Butter and Cream and Coconut, Oh My!
Thinner and Healthier

 

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A Healthy Breakfast

I like sharing what I’ve learned about nutrition in the last decade. Many of my old ideas about healthy eating have been overturned, and I figure that others may be in the same boat I was: following governmental recommendations that are incorrect. So I try to spread the word about these politically correct, but inaccurate myths.

Most of my nutrition posts are some combination of general information plus recipes.

But last fall, I had an idea for another way to share about food. Menus!

Not fancy, cookbooky menus that I (for one) plan to prepare and then never do. No. Menus of what I actually eat.

So this is the first of my menu posts. Breakfast.

lacto-fermented watermelon pickles, berries and cream, boiled eggs and butter, ground sausage

What do I eat for breakfast? It’s pretty standard. I like variation in my lunches. And I want even more variation for my dinners. But, for breakfast, I am content to eat the same thing, day after day. Good thing! If I had to wrack my brain for multiple breakfast ideas, I’d…I don’t know what I’d do, actually. It would be a pain!

So here’s my breakfast menu:
• a lacto-fermented food
• berries and cream
• boiled eggs and ground sausage

In the photo above, the lacto-fermented food is watermelon pickles, and the berries are raspberries. Those specifics do change as the seasons pass and as I finish various jars of lacto-ferments. Sauerkraut, beet kvass, strawberries, blueberries, etc. have been known to make their appearance in my first meal of the day.

So that’s what I eat for breakfast. But why do I eat these items?

Ah! You knew I’d get to the why of it, didn’t you? 😀

breakfast picklesLet’s tackle the easiest dish first: the lacto-fermented one.

Lacto-fermented foods have all those beautiful lactobacilli and enzymes in them. The enzymes mean I digest my food more thoroughly and easily. My body need not make as many of its own enzymes from scratch and I absorb more of the vitamins and minerals present in the food. Plus there are more vitamins and minerals in lacto-fermented food than in merely raw or cooked food.

Serious students of nutrition speculate that the centenarians who once were so numerous in the mountain communities of Russia’s Caucasus owed their healthy longevity, in part, to the many lacto-fermented foods they ate with every meal. I’d certainly like some of that healthy longevity! Plus, lacto-fermented foods taste good!

If you’d like to learn more about lacto-fermented foods, read Amazing Lactobacilli (an earlier post on my blog).

What about the berries and cream?

raspberries and creamThe berries are also easy to explain. Article after article appears in health newsletters, nutrition blogs, and the health section of newspapers explaining that the phytochemicals in berries – the natural compounds that give them their deep color – help our bodies fight cancer, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. Sign me up!

The cream is trickier to explain. Our current culture is convinced that saturated fat is bad for us. So convinced that we’re loading up on polyunsaturated fat to a degree that our ancestors never did. And for which our bodies are not designed. Saturated fats are a critical component of our brains and the myelin sheath that covers our nerves. It’s also a critical component of the hormones and enzymes that carry messages throughout the human body and do the brunt of the work that keeps our bodies functioning.

Bottom line: fat does not cause cardiovascular disease. The weight gain and inflammation resulting from heavy grain and carb consumption causes cardiovascular disease. Saturated fats are essential to good health. Thus, I eat cream from grass-fed cows!

That’s a pretty controversial statement these days, so I urge you not to take my word for it. (Or anyone else’s.) Read up about the topic. Read books that challenge your beliefs. Read Eat Fat, Lose Fat by Sally Fallon and Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. I’ve blogged about both these books in Butter and Cream and Coconut, Oh My! and Test first, then conclude! Then decide for yourself.

So what about eggs with butter and sausage?

boiled eggs and ground sausage for breakfastBefore the egg scare back in the 1970’s, eggs were regarded as close to the parfect food because they contain amino acids (the building block of protein) in exactly the proportion that the human body needs to build muscle and other tissues. Then scientists realized that eggs have a lot of cholesterol. Oh, no! Cholesterol is found in arterial plaque! It must be bad!

Well, no. It took a while, but eventually the researchers realized that unless you have a particular unusual syndrome, cholesterol that you eat does not become plaque in your arteries. Instead, it’s an essential ingredient for the cell walls of the cells that make up your body, as well as a building block for critical hormones, bile acids, and vitamin D. In other words, we need that cholesterol! And the protein profile is close to perfect. Time to rehabilitate the egg.

For the butter, my notes on cream above apply.

And the sausage?

Our human bodies assemble and use nearly 50,000 proteins to make our organs, nerves, muscles and other tissues. Plus enzymes and antibodies are formed of proteins. Proteins are essential to life. And animal protein – meat and eggs – is our only source of complete protein.

Masai youths Ngorongoro crater, Tanzania.Our hunter gatherer ancestors ate a diet largely composed of meat and fat. Vegetables, fruits, seeds, and nuts were additions to their diet, not the bulk of it. They had excellent bone structure, heavy musculature, and teeth unmarred by any cavities. They were healthy.

Looking at more modern populations, the Russians of the Caucasus again show up as long-lived people eating lots of fatty meats and whole milk foods. In studies of Soviet Georgia, those who ate the most meat and fat lived the longest. The denizens of Vilacabamba, Ecuador – also famous for longevity – consume whole milk and fatty pork. And the Masai of the 1930’s – with a diet of meat, milk, and blood – were nearly disease-free.

With meat, we also get back to fats. Yes, the protein is essential, but the fat is equally important. In order to assimilate vitamins A, D, E, K and certain minerals – calcium, iron, zinc, copper, and magnesium – we need fat.

For more about the benefits of meat, read Pasture Perfect. I’ve blogged about this book as well in Grass Green. 😀

One cool bit of trivia about pork: the fat in pork is 45% monounsaturated fat, 11% polyunsaturated fat, and 39% saturated fat. I believe saturated fat to be good for me, but there’s not as much of it in bacon as you might think!

And there you have it: the full rationale behind my breakfast. One more extra benefit: I don’t get hungry for 6 hours after eating it.

For your convenience, I’ll list the links I mentioned in the body of this post:
Amazing Lactobacilli
Butter and Cream and Coconut, Oh My!
Test first, then conclude!
Grass Green

For a dinner menu:
Arugula Beef

 

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I Love Soup!

Meat and fish stocks have been a staple of traditional cuisines for a long time. Consider the Japanese breakfast of fish broth with rice. French onion soup. Korean sol long tang (beef broth and thinly shaved beef brisket). Russsian chlodnik (shrimp soup).

Lima Bean Soup

Yum! I want some right now! 😀

No question that a homemade soup based on homemade stock is delicious. Makes me wish for a do-over of my winter cooking this year. I didn’t make nearly as much soup as I’d intended.

a book of foods from traditional peoples from around the worldBut homemade soup stock is great for a bunch other reasons too. Most of which I didn’t know before I read the book Nourishing Traditions.

Broth Is Super Nutritious

Okay, I “knew” soup was nutritious. You hear it all the time. But I didn’t know why. And, honestly, most commercial soups aren’t, because they’re made with cheap hydrolyzed vegetable protein as a base instead of actual beef stock or chicken stock.

So why is meat and fish broth so good for us? Two reasons.

All the minerals present in bone, cartilage, and marrow are present in the broth, especially the biggies of calcium, magnesium, and potassium.

These minerals, plus those of any vegetables you’ve included in your stock-making, are present as electrolytes, a form that is particularly easy for the body to assimilate – that is, your body will take in more of them, more easily.

Broth Is Hydrophilic

“What?” I hear you say. I said it too!

Hydrophilic means it attracts liquids. Most raw foods are hydrophilic. When we eat them, the particles attract the digestive juices present in the gut, causing the food particles to be rapidly and thoroughly digested.

But most cooked foods are hydrophobic. That is, they repel liquids. And repel the digestive juices. Which means your body has to use (and make) more enzymes to accomplish digestion, and it takes longer.

The gelatin in stock possesses the unusual property that even after heating it is hydrophilic. It attracts liquid. So all those lovely vegetable chunks and meat pieces in your soup? They’re coated in broth and thus become far easier to digest.

When I was a young thing, the emphasis placed by my elders on digestibility seemed incomprehensible. You swallow your food; it’s digested; end of story. After I’d experienced indigestion – ouch! – their concern made more sense. And after I’d experienced years of a painful gut from eating soy products such as tofu, digestibility seemed paramount! (All better, BTW, now that I’ve been avoiding soy for nearly a decade.)

Broth Is Protein Sparing

I said “what?” to that one as well.

Here’s the thing: all living cells are composed of protein. Or, put another way, protein is essential to life.

Proteins are assembled from amino acids. And our bodies can build many of the amino acids we need. But not all. There are eight of them that must be supplied by our diet. All essential eight are present in their most assimilable form in meat.

Roast Beefbeef stewBut meat is expensive. Plus, we now know that cooked meat is hydrophobic, which reduces the bio-availability of those amino acids.

So how does this protein sparing thing work?

It has to do with the protein in broth gelatin. The protein in broth gelatin is not complete. That is, it does not contain all eight essential amino acids. In fact, it’s mostly composed of two: arginine and glycine.

But meat broth (and fish broth) gelatin has another special property. It allows the body to more fully utilize the complete proteins that are eaten with it.

In other words, the chunks of beef in a beef stew (with its broth) will give you much more protein than the same amount of beef sliced from a roast. For those of us on a budget, soup with homemade stock is our friend. 😀

So how do you make soup stock?

I’ll confess that I make more chicken stock than any other, because it’s the easiest. Here’s how I do it.

Chicken StockChicken Stock Recipe

bones & necks from 2 free-range chickens
4 quarts cold, filtered water
2 tablespoons vinegar or whey
1 large onion
6 whole cloves
1 bay leaf
2 large carrots, peeled
3 celery sticks

Put the chicken bones into a large pot, fill it with the water, and add the vinegar (or the whey – the liquid that runs off yogurt). Let it sit for an hour. This allows the acidic water to draw the minerals, especially calcium, out of the bones and into the liquid.

Stick the cloves into the onion.

Bring the soaking bones to a boil. Skim the foam that rises to the top. Reduce the heat, put the onion and the bay leaf in, cover, and simmer for 4 hours. Add the vegetables and simmer for another 2 to 6 hours.

Remove the chicken bones and wilted vegetables with a slotted spoon. Let the stock cool. Strain it through a seive and pour it into jars to store. It will stay good for 5 days in the fridge, several months in the freezer.

Use as a base for soups and sauces. Plain broth with some salt added makes a great breakfast addition.

For more about nutrition, see:
Grass Green
Handle with Care

For more about food chemistry, see:
Electrolytes iin Solution
Essential Amino Acids

 

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Butter and Cream and Coconut, Oh My!

After reading Maffetone’s In Fitness and in Health and Fallon’s Nourishing Traditions, I sought out more myth-busting information. Hold onto your hats! I’m going to tell you what I discovered, and we’re in for a wild ride!

The notion that intrigued me was this: what if saturated fat were actually good for you? Fallon’s notes on butter from grass-fed cows hinted at this idea. Maffetone’s advice to cut carbs out of your diet for his 2-week test echoed it. And the improved health and slimness of acquaintances following a low-carb regime further piqued my curiosity.

cover image with coconut palm treeI purchased Eat Fat, Lose Fat by Sally Fallon and Mary Enig and devoured it in one evening.

Here was myth-busting with a vengeance!

The book includes a review of the basic chemistry of monounsaturated, polyunsaturated, and saturated fats. It also touches briefly on the influence of the food industry on governmental agencies and the culture at large in promulgating the belief that saturated fat is bad for us. (There are big bucks to be made from processed food, with hefty profit margins if inexpensive vegetable oils are used instead of pricey animals fats or coconut oil or palm oil.)

(I read Taubes’ Good Calories, Bad Calories after, not before, reading Eat Fat. He describes the sea change from “starches make you fat” to “fat makes you fat” in griping detail. I highly recommend giving his book a read yourself, if you haven’t.)

Many items in Eat Fat, Lose Fat grabbed my attention.

The first was Fallon’s analysis of the research to date about fats. Some consists of studies of the diets of indigenous peoples. Some are studies performed in labs.

I learned that the Massai, who drank a gallon of milk every day and consumed meat and blood for the rest of their nourishment, simply didn’t suffer heart attacks at all.

Then there were the employees of the Indian railway system. The largely vegetarian workers of Madras experienced 7 times more incidence of heart disease than the meat-loving Punjabi who ate 10 to 20 times as much fat.

In the Framingham-Peurto Rico-Honolulu study conducted by NIH, the participants who suffered heart attacks were those who consumed the most polyunsaturated oil.

A workshop held at the National Heart, Blood, and Lung Institute and analyzing studies on women and cholesterol found that, for women, high blood cholesterol is protective. The longest lived among elderly women were those with the highest cholesterol. Further, the statin drugs proscribed to lower cholesterol offer no benefit to women in preventing heart disease.

There’s more; a lot more. But I’m not going to list every one of the 18 studies presented in chapter 2. Fallon is concise, but it’s still too much for a blog post. The take-away point? Most studies looked at saturated fats and trans fats as the same thing. Mary Enig is the researcher who first blew the whistle on trans fats, and now we all know that no level of trans fats is safe. But all those studies with bad outcomes for fat in the diet? It was the trans fats doing it. Saturated fats have been tarred with the same brush quite inaccurately. Trans fats cause heart disease, contribute to cancer, cause hormone synthesis to go awry. Saturated fats? Probably not.

Next stop on our tour is a short list of various organs and other body systems which possess an intrinsic and critical need for saturated fat.

The Brain

60% of the brain is composed of fat. And phospholipids – 50% saturated fat – are an important component of brain cell membranes. Without saturated fat being supplied to the brain by diet, brain chemistry may be compromised.

Cells

Saturated fats maintain cellular integrity everywhere in the body. Every cell membrane is ideally composed of 50% saturated fat. When polyunsaturated fat fills in on the job, the cells actually become somewhat “floppy” and cannot work properly.

Bones

Saturated fat is necessary for calcium to be incorporated into the structure of the bones. Osteoporosis, anyone?

Liver

Saturated fat protects the liver from certain toxins, such as those in acetaminophen.

Heart

Saturated fats are the heart’s preferred food, especially in times of stress.

Saturated fatty acids lower the blood substance Lp(a), a proven marker for heart disease.

Saturated fats lower C-Reactive Protein, an indicator of inflammation, which may cause many cases of heart disease.

Lungs

The lungs require a surfactant in order to work, and the fatty acids in that surfactant are 100% saturated fatty acids. When trans fats and polyunsaturated fats fill those slots, the lungs suffer.

Hormones

Hormones are the messengers connecting the brain, nervous system, and glands into a synchronous whole. Some critical hormones cannot be synthesized in the body without the vitamin A provided by fatty animal foods such as liver and shellfish. The wrong kinds of fats substituted into the equation lead to problems with glucose balance, mineral metabolism, and reproduction.

Again, there’s more, but I’ll move on to the next myth-busting tidbits.

Myth: Plants provide enough vitamin A.

Fact: Many vegetables and fruits contain carotenes, building blocks for vitamin A. Our bodies can convert these carotenes into vitamin A via a complex operation in the small intestine, but usually not enough vitamin A. And some bodies cannot do it at all, lacking the necessary enzymes: diabetics, thyroid patients, sufferers from certain digestive disorders, and babies and children.

Myth: Sunlight provides enough vitamin D.

Fact: Our bodies make vitamin D only in the presence of UV-B light. In temperate regions, this happens only when the sun is directly overhead. And exposing merely face and lower arms is not sufficient. How many of us can sunbathe for 30 minutes at noon every day wearing swim trunks or a bikini? That’s what it would take – in the summer. In winter, with the sun lower in the sky, we’re out of luck.

The bottom line: Not only are saturated fats healthy, they are necessary!

Enter the oil of the coconut, the nut of the coconut palm.

Fallon calls it the queen of saturated fats, because of its special properties, and it really is a marvelous substance. It’s almost tailor-made for losing weight, since metabolizing the lauric acid within coconut oil (coconut oil is 50% lauric acid) actually uses more energy than it provides.

Three key benefits of coconut oil:

• The fats in coconut oil are not stored in the body as fat. They are quickly converted to energy.

(I can personally attest to the subjective experience of this. For most of my life I suffered from physical fatigue and lethargy, worsening as I got older. Once I started eating coconut oil (and reduced my carb intake), that changed. The feeling of having a physical reserve I can draw upon is wonderful.)

• People living in countries where the coconut is an important part of their diet have lower rates of heart disease and cancer.

• The fats in coconut oil kill viruses and pathogenic bacteria by stripping their protective outer layer. (You’ll get sick less often, when you eat coconut oil frequently!)

Next comes a run through nutrient-dense foods such as pasture-fed eggs, butter and cream from pastured cows, liver (the sacred food of many cultures), raw cheeses, lacto-fermented beverages, bone broths, and Celtic sea salt. And then we’re on to the food plans and recipes, some simple like fried eggs, some more sophisticated like chicken with coconut peanut sauce, but all good, all good for you, and all helpful for those of us watching our weight!

This book, together with Nourishing Traditions, In Fitness and in Health, and Good Calories, Bad Calories, completed the process of turning my nutritional know-how upside down. I’m still adjusting my cooking habits, still learning how best to feed this unique body of mine, but my health is better, my weight is down, and I’m optimistic about my future.

I’ve blogged about each of these amazing reads over the past year. If you missed those posts, you can find them at the links below.

In Fitness and in Health

Nourishing Traditions

Good Calories, Bad Calories

Good health and good eating to you all! And if you want your very own copy of Eat Fat, Lose Fat, here are some links for that.

Eat Fat, Lose Fat at Amazon

Eat Fat, Lose Fat at B&N

For more on books important to continuing nutritional education, see:
Thinner and Healthier
Test first, then conclude!
Yogurt and Kefir and Koumiss, Oh My!
Why Seed Oils Are Dangerous

 

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Grass Green

cover of the book Pasture PerfectJo Robinson’s Pasture Perfect is an accessible, entertaining introduction to the concepts underpinning “grassfarming.” She starts with an amusing anecdote from her first talk given in front of 500 ranchers. At the close of her presentation, before the questions, she announced that she’d put together a little book titled Why Grassfed Is Best! (the precursor to Pasture Perfect). The auditorium emptied rapidly. She carried on, answering questions gamely, and wondering. Did her audience want to be first in line at the buffet dinner? Nope.

There’d been a stampede on the table where her little book was stacked for sale. Literally. Impatient with a line of 50-plus, ranchers began grabbing books, tossing their money down, making their own change. They were that eager for her information. And she’d not brought enough books!

Ms. Robinson takes us on a tour of a pasture-based farm. The air smells of grass and green. A ring of habitat for wildlife encircles the fields. The grass is lush and mixed with clover, alfalfa, and wild plants. The cattle are peaceful, moving slowly within their generous enclosure. Chickens share the paddock. It’s a pleasant spot, nourishing to the animals, welcoming to humans.

Then the author gets down to the nitty gritty: the health benefits of grass-fed meats.

Less fat. Animals eating grain get fat. Grass-fed meat has the same amount of fat as wild game or chicken breast without skin.

Fewer calories. If you eat a 6-ounce beef loin from a grass-fed cow, you’ll consume 92 fewer calories than if you eat one from a feedlot cow. That adds up over time.

More omega-3’s. People low on omega-3’s are more vulnerable to cancer, depression, obesity, diabetes, arthritis, asthma, and dementia. Grass-fed meats have 2 to 10 times more omega-3’s than feedlot meats.

Omega-3’s and omega-6’s in balance. Both these fatty acids are essential, but we need the right blend. Omega-6’s encourage blood to clot. Omega-3’s cause it to flow easily and smoothly. What’s the right ratio of 6’s to 3’s? There’s some debate about it. Probably no more than 4:1, possibly as low as 1:1. Grass-fed beef has ratios between 1:1 and 3:1. Feedlot beef ranges from 5:1 to 14:1. ‘Nuff said!

Conjugated linoleic acid (CLA). The research is preliminary, but CLA may help us resist cancer and heart disease. Grass-fed ruminants have 2 to 5 times as much CLA in their meat as feedlot ruminants.

Vitamin E. It’s an important anti-oxidant, protecting us from free radicals, boosting immunity, preventing heart disease. Grass-fed beef has 3 to 6 times more than feedlot beef.

Carotenoids. Fresh pasture provides hundreds of times more of these anti-oxidants than does feedlot mush, with the result that beta carotene and other carotenoids show up in quantity in grass-fed meat. The benefits of eating carotenoids include lower risk of cataracts and macular degeneration (a leading cause of blindness).

Ms. Robinson also gives us the scoop on milk and eggs.

The milk from grazing cows has 5 times the CLA of conventionally fed dairy cows. The ratio of omega-6’s to omega-3’s is 1:1. The levels of beta carotene, vitamin A, and vitamin E are all much higher.

The eggs from pasture-raised chickens (who eat grass, wild greens, and insects) show similar benefits. A ratio of 6’s to 3’s of 1:1, instead of 20:1. More vitamin A. But you don’t need a chemistry set to analyze the health of an egg. Conventional eggs have lemony pale yolks, while those from pastured hens show a deep, orangey yellow.

Best of all: pastured meat, milk, and eggs just taste better. The New York Times food editors reported free-range poultry as “flavorful and juicy” and that it “had a tender but meaty texture.”

Corby Krummer in The Atlantic Monthly said, “Grass-fed beef tastes better than corn-fed beef; meatier, purer, far less fatty.”

And Sam Guigino in Wine Spectator declares a grass-based strip steak “delicious, rich and full-flavored.”

The last chapter in Pasture Perfect tells us how and where to acquire these healthy and delicious pasture-raised foods. And 60 pages of recipes cap things off.

This was a life-changer for me. The nutritional differences between feedlot meat and grass-fed meat are not trivial. Good health versus poor may well lie in the balance. I had already connected with a local dairy farmer. I wanted nourishing milk for my 2-year-old twins! Now it was time to locate healthy meat and healthy eggs.

I’m lucky, because Virginia has a long tradition of family farms. My region is a focal point for the growing movement toward local food. Once I opened my eyes, there were dozens of neighboring farms that could supply my table. Like some of the people quoted in Pasture Perfect, I’m a bit spoiled now. Conventionally raised just doesn’t taste right!

Pasture Perfect at Amazon

Pasture Perfect at B&N

For more about nutrition, see:
Test first, then conclude!
Yogurt & Kefir & Koumiss, Oh My!

For more on green living, see:
Permaculture Gardening
Running Mushrooms
Going Up in Smoke?

 

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