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Processed Food—An Experiment (ON YOU) That Failed

Dr. Robert Lustig, a prominent UCSF pediatric endocrinologist , is no fan of processed food. In today's JAMA Pediatrics, he makes his case with an article, "Processed Food—An Experiment That Failed."

In Lustig's view, the subjects of the experiment are the American people. (Yes, YOU.) And the principal investigators conducting this experiment? Big Food... Coca-Cola, Pepsico, Kraft, Unilever, General Mills, Nestlé, Mars, Kellogg, Proctor & Gamble, and Johnson & Johnson.

So in Lustig's mind, the experiment began in the 60's when people started chowing down on processed food, or food that:

  • is mass produced,
  • is consistent batch-to-batch,
  • is consistent across countries, 
  • includes some weird, specialized, commercial ingredients,
  • consists of pre-frozen macronutrients,
  • stays emulsified (doesn't separate), and 
  • has a long shelf life (or is frozen).

And this processed food is different, nutritionally, from real food, in the following ways:

  • too little fiber,
  • too few omega 3's,
  • too many omega 6's,
  • too few micronutrients, like antioxidants,
  • too many trans fats,
  • too many branched-chain amino acids
  • too many emulsifiers,
  • too many nitrates,
  • too much salt,
  • too much ethanol, and, of course,
  • too much fructose (from SUGAR).

The results? Not so good. We're eating more calories from carbohydrates, especially sugar. And we're spending about double the percentage of our food dollar (from 11.6% to 22.9% in 30 years) on processed food. I am sure the principal investigators like this!

Our health has declined. Metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes, dyslipidemia (cholesterol and triglycerides out of whack), nonalcoholic fatty liver disease... they are all tightly linked to sugar consumption.

Sugar production and crop monocultures (for key processed food ingredients like corn, soy, and wheat) lead to soil erosion, loss of arable land, increased atrazine use, nitrate contamination and herbicide resistance. Not nice.

And then there are the bills for this little adventure. Lustig estimates we could eliminate $1.8 trillion each year from our health care spending if we changed back to real food. That's TRILLION with a 'T', folks. This is about triple the profits that Big Food pockets each year. 

His conclusion? Experiment failed. Go back to real food. Totally agree.

Okay. So here's what to eat. And six real food diets to choose from.

For more, check out this post on why some foods that we think of as healthy are actually highly processed...







Five Lunchbox Favorites Masquerading as Nutritious Food

Today's guest post comes from Heather Martin, N.D. -- a naturopath, mother, and wellness blogger from Eastern Canada. Heather is a curator of all things awesome on her excellent blog, The Acorn -- Wellness, Inspiration, Beauty.



It may come as some surprise that many of the biggest lunchbox villains are marketed as healthy choices for kids. These companies, after all, want to make money, not feed your kids nutritious food. Labels like ‘low fat’, ‘sugar free’, or ‘all natural’ are purposely deceptive. A quick perusal of a food’s ‘Nutrition Facts’ often bears out a far different story than the one being trumpeted in splashy print across the front of the box.

The following childhood standards are widely viewed by parents as nutritious options. And who could blame them; the marketing budgets behind these products could fund some small countries. Remember, packaged food is BIG business - whereas an apple is just an apple.


1. Granola Bars

With names like ‘Nutri-Grain’, ‘Oats n’ Honey’, and ‘Fibre One’, you would expect granola bars to be packed with good stuff for your kids. The reality is that they contain anywhere from 9 to 20 grams of sugar. To put that in perspective, 5 grams equals roughly 1 teaspoon of sugar. At the top end of the spectrum, that little bar contains a whopping 4 teaspoons of sugar. Let’s call a spade a spade: at this point, it’s a chocolate bar.

Swap for a homemade version or high-energy snacks, like nuts or a banana.


2. Luncheon Meats

This sandwich staple should be avoided at all costs. Freshly sliced cold cuts from the deli counter are fine if they are nitrate-free. But pre-packaged meats, unless you can find an organic brand, are usually loaded with preservatives, sodium, and most problematically, nitrates, a known carcinogen.

Swap for canned salmon, hard boiled eggs, leftovers, or fresh, nitrate-free cold cuts.


3. Yogurt Cups

Yogurt cups are, quite simply, dessert masquerading as a healthy lunch staple. Even when they’re devoid of questionable preservatives, the sugar content is sky high. At 19 to 29 grams per cup, flavored yogurt manages to make even granola bars look good. That’s more sugar than a Twinkie!

Swap for plain kefir or plain, whole fat yogurt.


4. 'Low Fat’ and ‘Fat Free’ Foods

First, if it advertises this on the label, you’re automatically buying a processed food. Second, fat is often replaced with sugar, which your body ingests and then turns into fat. Third, there are many, many, healthy fats, and your brain (amongst other organs!) needs these healthy fats to function. Last but not least, naturally occurring fats help us digest our food; once removed they can cause all sorts of digestive issues. Do not, I repeat, do not fall prey to this marketing gimmick. It’s making us all sick.

Swap for real food from your kitchen. Do your best to avoid packaged and processed.


5. Juice Boxes

Back to those pesky added sugars again. Any label that reads ‘fruit punch’, ‘fruit blend’, or ‘all natural flavour’; beware. This is Kool-aid in disguise, my friends. Even 100% juice contains all the sugar and none of the fibre or vitamins of a piece of fruit (that part has been processed out).

Swap for fruit and a reusable bottle of water.


Knowledge is power: learning to steer clear of these ‘healthy’ imposters in your grocery aisles gives you the power to opt out of a system that enriches itself at the cost of our well being. Far from making your kids healthy and happy, these products are high in preservatives, sugar, sodium, trans fats, and ingredients no normal person can pronounce. In other words, the very things that are making our kids sick.

Author and naturopath Heather Martin blogs at  The Acorn Wellness .

Author and naturopath Heather Martin blogs at The Acorn Wellness.

When packing their lunchbox, keeping it real is your best bet. If you stick with whole foods, you’re already way ahead of the curve. Think hummus and raw vegetables, a homemade bean salad, or almond butter and an apple. With a little advance planning, it’s easy to get into the habit of swapping lunchbox villains for real food favorites. A very little extra effort will pay off in a delicious, nutritious meal to help your family feel their best, both in and out of school. 




Classic Cooking Tips From Gail Becker


Today, something new: A GUEST POST!

Gail Becker, an amazing mom and an amazing cook, shares her thoughts about vintage food.  Her six classic tips can help any mom put healthy, tasty food on the table every night of the week.  

Here is Gail's take on real-food-more-fat cooking for a family:

Classic Cooking Practices Create Healthier Eating

By Gail Becker

The best gift I ever got from my mother was her appreciation of delicious home-cooked meals. Back in the 60s and 70s, when kids roamed the neighborhood with their friends, playing kick the can, kickball or baseball, every night around dinner time, all the moms would ring a bell, signaling not only a great meal but quality time with the family.

Those were simple times with simple meals.  The prep time for a dinner was usually under an hour and the food choices our parents had were fewer but healthier.  Now, in an era of processed food and too many choices, today's mothers find themselves easily overwhelmed by the idea of coordinating hot dishes which simultaneously arrive on the dinner table just when the family sits down to eat.  If you stop at your local grocery store, you'll see that the number of prepared meals has increased in the last decade, signaling the lost hope many parents have in cooking a simple but enjoyable dinner. 

But the modern American diet is failing millions of families as they concentrate on the wrong foods and pay little attention to what's going into their meals.  Vintage cooking, in which nutrient dense foods predominate one's diet, will not only help reduce America's rising obesity rates but it will also address the issue of inflammation, a big factor in many chronic diseases. 

Since parents are the lead educators on helping our children to eat right, teaching our children by example is the smartest and most immediate way to change the direction of their health and the health of our country.  There is no need to be overwhelmed if you follow a vintage eater’s classic cooking practices:

Tip #1 Avoid Eating Processed Foods

If people haven't been consuming something for hundreds of years, it is probably not healthy enough to eat.  Think about "Little House on the Prairie" books.  Ice cream and butter were churned, soups were made by bone broth and food was smoked for flavor.  Nothing was processed chemically like half the products in today's market.

Tip #2 Choose Organic Whenever Possible

Back in the mid 1900's, all the animals that were part of our food chain ate grass that was free of chemicals and no one used pesticides in their gardens so it is a wise choice to eat organic whenever possible.  If buying organic produce becomes too costly, visit your local farmers market or get involved in a farm coop.  Another option is to start your own home garden and grow tomatoes, basil and other costly produce/herbs.    Produce treated with pesticides may be affecting the microbiome in our digestive systems, a possible cause in the increased incidence of dementia, autism and many other brain disorders.

Tip #3 Enhance Your Vitamin Absorption with Smoothies

Learn to purée or blend vegetables and fruits so that the vitamins within these foods are released.   Fruits and veggies that are puréed are more easily digestible and stay in your stomach longer, making you feel full longer. Many foods can easily be processed in a blender, creating sauces, soups and smoothies and replacing dishes that are laden with sugar and sodium.

Tip #4 Choose Oils that Contain Real, Natural Fat

Be selective when cooking and baking with oils.  Use only those that contain real, natural fat and limit the use of vegetable oils like canola, corn, Crisco and soy.  The classic choice was cooking with butter but using heat stable oils such as coconut, olive, avocado and palm are also wise choices.

Tip #5 Create Simple Marinades and Dressings

When marinating foods, avoid using store-bought marinades.  The best marinades are quickly and simply made: whisking together olive oil, garlic, and lime juice and marinating fish for five minutes is the easiest preparation. Adding salt, pepper and other spices to meat and poultry well in advance of grilling or roasting will ensure that it is very tender and has good flavor.  The same tip can be applied to salad dressings; the simplest dressing is olive oil combined with either lemon or balsalmic. 

Tip #6 Choose Snacks that Provide Long-Lasting Energy

Choose nuts, olives and avocados when snacking as they have plenty of naturally occurring fat, which is needed for normal growth and development of your body.  These fats provide long-lasting energy and help you feel full longer.


I hope these classic tips that have been used for many generations will make it easier when preparing your own home-cooked meals.  Remember, a sentimental mood is unable to say farewell to an unforgettable time.  That's the way I feel about vintage cooking that originates from our parents and grandparents!

Three generations of vintage cooks! Gail Becker, at home in the kitchen with her mother and three daughters.

Three generations of vintage cooks! Gail Becker, at home in the kitchen with her mother and three daughters.




Do You 'Eatwell?'

ChooseRealFood plate first seen on Twitter @yoguruso

ChooseRealFood plate first seen on Twitter @yoguruso

This month, the UK introduced the latest version of its Eatwell Guide. This is a graphic, designed by British public health authorities, to communicate a basic framework for healthy eating to citizens. So the Eatwell Guide is, in some ways, the British version of MyPlate.

Below, you can see the two graphic depictions of a nation's 'ideal' diet, side-by-side:

In the US, the USDA's My Plate.

In the US, the USDA's My Plate.

In the UK, the NHS's Eatwell Plate.

In the UK, the NHS's Eatwell Plate.

The Eatwell Guide gets a bit more specific than MyPlate, showing pictures of the food that might actually be part of each segment on your plate. This makes it easier to take a critical look at the dietary guidelines – in the UK, yes, but also in the US, since the countries have a very similar outlook on the ideal diet to promote health. Both recommended diets are quite low in fat, high in processed grains and other carbohydrates, and in favor of refined vegetable oils over natural fats like butter.

If you believe in real food as the path to health, there is quite a bit about the Eatwell Guide that falls short. For example, the large yellow segment of the plate dedicated to mostly processed, crappy carbs does not seem likely to be helpful advice, especially given current concerns about the global obesity and diabetes epidemics. And there is more to criticize.

But this is a graphic piece. I will respond with a more graphic critique. Below, you will see a quick mark-up I did, in my attempt to ‘fix’ the Eatwell Guide. In a sense, it all comes back to eating real food rather than processed grains and refined oils. Check it out:

Eating well requires some reimagining...  real food, more fat.

Eating well requires some reimagining...  real food, more fat.

Although we can't change the Eatwell Guide or MyPlate, we can ignore them. Grassroots change is powerful.  Pass the word, mother-to-mother. Ignore the dietary guidelines and EAT REAL FOOD. 




Got Milk?

Got milk?

Whole milk versus skim? Or split the difference with 2% or even 1%? What about chocolate, so the kids will actually drink it? Is organic worth it? These are the questions mothers face when staring at the dairy case in the supermarket. We do our best, but do we really have the information we need to make this call?

Go For Whole:  

When it comes to milk, I think we have to start with a look at essential nutrients. We want our kids to get as many vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients out of the milk as possible. Milk that has been altered can be an incomplete package. Skim milk may have the same amount of protein as whole, but without the fat, critical fat-soluble vitamins A and D cannot be fully absorbed. Without these vitamins, calcium absorption is impaired. Nature designed milk intelligently -- the fat is there for a reason, and in fact, it is the key to making the most of the rest of milk's components.

Can you skim the fat off milk, refortify it with vitamins, and then consume enough vegetable oil (in place of the milk fat), perhaps in a muffin, so that your body can fully absorb the fat-soluble vitamins, and hence, the calcium? Probably, but doesn't that seem a little convoluted? Why would humans need to go through such a bizarrely elaborate process? 

Replacing nature's saturated fat with vegetable oil becomes particularly troubling when we consider where most vegetable oil (soy, corn, canola, safflower, cottonseed, etc.) comes from: a factory. Think about the process that converts rapeseeds into canola oil, for example. It requires high heat, solvents, deodorizers, and bleach. Or, as my delightfully sarcastic friend, Adele Hite, who blogs at Eathropolgy points out, "Y'know, stuff you do to dirty diapers." Wouldn't it be easier to skip all the industrial complexity and serve whole milk?

Don't Add Sugar:

Whole milk tastes better than skim milk, so you are less likely to have to pour sugar into it to get your kids to drink it. Now, I know some kids are so used to skim milk that they find whole milk a little hard to swallow, but children can and do gradually adjust to either. It seems, however, that with fat-free milk, stripped of the natural flavor the fat would typically deliver, chocolate or strawberry is often the choice. These fat-free, sweetened milk-like beverages are served with a smile in our school lunchrooms, by the way, and they are the worst choice for kids. Weighing in at 23 grams of sugar per cup, this is the same amount of sugar as a cup of cola. Perhaps we could just add a scoop of whey protein powder to soft drinks? Instead of fat-free chocolate milk, we could offer our school children protein fortified Coke -- bottoms up, kids! Choose Happiness... And, with no fat to slow the absorption of this sugar, the buzz of a blood sugar high awaits. (Just what the teachers want -- kids bouncing off the ceiling and then crashing.)

Grass-fed is Best:  

Is organic milk worth it? It depends. Some organic milk comes from cows fed organic corn in fairly conventional, confined environments. That may not be worth much. Personally, I look for 'grass-fed' or 'pastured' on my milk carton. Cows are meant to eat grass, not corn, and their milk -- especially the fat in their milk -- is altered by the unnatural corn-based confinement diet. It also seems prudent to avoid milk from cattle that have been treated with hormones to enhance milk production. Organic is one way to get that, but you can also find non-organic brands that do not use bST and note that on their cartons. These local dairies often price their milk close to conventional prices, which is a considerable savings versus organic. When I can find it, I buy non-homogenized milk, as it has been treated more gently and seems more natural; if I lived near a trustworthy farmer with a clean dairy, I would serve raw milk to my family. But as a practical matter, I typically buy whole, grass-fed, pasteurized milk. The basic idea is not messing with milk, or messing with it as little as possible. That is the central principle.

But wait a cottonseed-picking minute...  

Won't whole milk make my kids gain weight? There are lot of calories in that fat-- shouldn't we be skimming it off? The science, like this large study in JAMA Pediatrics, tells us that dairy fat is not associated with weight gain in adolescents. However, consumption of skim milk (for girls) and 1% milk (for boys) is associated with weight gain. Perhaps the skim milk or 1% milk leaves children less satisfied... almost as if something was missing from their glass (like the fat)? Never underestimate the power of saturated fat to assuage hunger.

What about heart disease? Doesn't saturated fat contribute to heart disease? Several large meta-analyses reveal that dietary saturated fat is not clearly linked to heart disease. Read more about the science, here, on Eat the Butter. I just came across a study done in Costa Rica, where the cows eat grass and the butter is grass-fed. Those who ate the most butter experienced half as many heart attacks as those who ate the least. There is something fundamentally wrong with the mainstream idea that saturated fat clogs arteries.

Further, the nutritional needs of children are distinct from adults. There is little to no evidence that saturated fat consumption in childhood is associated with future heart disease or any negative health outcomes. However, there is decent evidence that children on low-fat diets get "less than 2/3 the Recommended Dietary Allowances for calcium, zinc, and Vitamin E. They also [get] less magnesium, phosphorus, vitamin B12, thiamine, niacin, and riboflavin." (Teicholz, The Big Fat Surprise, p. 152) We have to ask ourselves, why are most American children eating low-fat diets, including drinking skim milk? And how is it that our federally-funded school lunch programs are prohibited from serving our children whole milk?

Gif from David Smith's Youtube video. More footage, here:

Gif from David Smith's Youtube video. More footage, here:

Vintage wisdom:

Back in the day, farmwives served mostly whole milk, plus plenty of cream and butter. This antique cream separator* partitioned the skim milk (left), from the cream (right), and the cream was the prized commodity -- they savored it in cheese and other dishes or churned it into butter. Skim milk was the byproduct of their desire for cream. Sometimes they drank the skim milk; often, they fed it to the pigs.

*A special thank you to Nina Teicholz for bringing this vintage machine to my attention!



Not Seeing What is Right in Front of You?

Where's the butter?.jpg

Most of us have experienced this, either personally, or with a partner. Some women even call it ‘Male Pattern Blindness’– he is looking for something, it is right in front of him, but he can’t see it. In my experience, this ‘blindness’ has a couple of causes.

Cause Number One:  he isn’t looking very hard. He is preoccupied with something else, and just wants someone else (usually you) to deal with finding whatever it is he needs– let’s just say it is raisins. Perhaps you have put the raisins on a different shelf, and he is only looking on the one shelf where he usually finds them. A wider search would produce results, but, unfortunately, a narrow one is programmed. For this and other reasons, a distracted searcher is far less likely to find what he is looking for, even when it is right in front of him.

Cause Number Two: his preconceived notions about what he is looking for are wrong.  For example, say he is looking for raisins, and thinks they are in the white cylindrical tub you usually buy. But this time, you purchased a different brand in a red box. He is staring at the red box, clearly labeled ‘Raisins’, but he can’t see it. He is blinded by his expectation that the raisins will be in a white cylinder. Expectations shape our searches, so the wrong mindset can indeed impede our ability to find what we seek.

In the search for a healthy diet that will help prevent chronic disease, could ‘Male Pattern Blindness’ be a factor? Definitely. Cause Number One comes into play – doctors and dieticians are busy people with many demands on their time. When it comes to nutrition, many health professionals keep their heads down and recommend standard, status-quo advice, without looking further for an approach that delivers better results. A narrow search or half-hearted search for a better diet makes most cling stubbornly to the current paradigm that is not working.

Cause Number Two is even more of a factor. Health professionals have been trained to believe that diets low in saturated fat lead to better health and longer lives. They glance at high-fat alternatives and dismiss them outright, without reviewing the growing body of science and success stories documented in the literature. Given their training and expectations, higher fat diets are the last place most mainstream doctors or dieticians would look for solutions to our burgeoning chronic disease rates. They can’t see higher-fat solutions because they are looking for lower-fat solutions. And, most consumers rely on these health professionals and dismiss options that are labeled by the medical community as a fad or even ‘risky.’

Going back to whole, real food is a possibility that lies right at our fingertips. It is almost an obvious move. It’s back to basics; back to a way of eating that worked in the past. Modern science (like this study in Cell) demonstrates that different people respond differently to identical diets. If low-fat options are not working for you, vintage eating, with real food and considerably more fat might be your answer. Don’t be blind. See the alternatives that are right in front of you and find a diet that makes you feel good. Here are six alternative diets that work well for others – pick one that suits you and give it a try!



Why Butter?

butter is the new black

For many, 'eating clean' means eliminating animal fats like butter from their diets. A better way of 'eating clean' would be to eliminate sugar and flour from your diet so you can eat more butter! Butter is an amazing food in so many ways.

Butter is the new black because, like black, it goes with everything. Try some on your bacon... that is a little extreme, but really, butter adds flavor and great mouth-feel to almost any dish. Butter is delicious, satisfying, wholesome, and nutrient dense. Melting some on your veggies helps you absorb all of their vitamins and minerals.

Butter is the new black because, like black, butter is slimming. It provides satiating calories that do not affect blood sugar. By eating butter instead of carbs, you can stay in fat burning mode and access that 'pantry within' -- so your own fat stores can feed you. This allows you to burn fat and lose weight. Check out this Facebook page or this Youtube video from Butter Bob who knows (from personal experience) that 'Butter makes your pants fall off.'

Like basic black t-shirts, butter is affordable. You can buy 100 calories of delicious, grass-fed butter for about what it costs to buy 100 calories of processed grains -- crackers or cereal. Butter is an economical way to feed your family, so don't be afraid to help fill everyone up by using butter liberally. Conventional butter costs about nine cents for 100 calories (similar to cheap bulk cereal) -- that is much less than, say, inexpensive chunk light tuna, which costs about $1.12 for 100 calories. Butter is a bargain in your grocery cart.

Butter is a great vintage food; back in the day, Americans used to eat a lot more butter. In the 1920's, we ate almost 18 pounds of butter per person per year. Today, our consumption is around 6 pounds per person per year. OK people, when were we healthier? Imagine what would happen to our national health care spending if we could get chronic disease rates back to the low levels of the1920's. Do your part and eat more butter!

For more about the benefits of eating more fat, please check out this page on the Eat the Butter site.

And, here's what some pro-butter experts are saying about butter (especially butter made from grass-fed cows' milk):

Weston A. Price Foundation: Butter is a rich source of easily absorbed vitamins A, D, E, and K. Butter is also an important source of trace minerals such as selenium. Butter helps boost metabolism and fight infection. Butter is a good source of CLA (conjugated linoleic acid), a compound that protects against cancer and helps the body build muscle rather than store fat.

The Bulletproof Executive: The vitamins in butter protect against heart disease, atherosclerosis, osteoporosis, and degenerative disease. Butter's secret ingredient is butyrate, a short-chain fatty acid that reduces inflammation.



Chocolate - An Amazing Food

chocolate pregnant

Chocolate is a gift from the universe. It is everything you could ask for in a superfood. Packed with vitamins and minerals? Check. Loaded with antioxidants? Check. A good source of healthy energy? Check. But is it delicious? CHECK!

I love chocolate, and the good news is that we can feel good about adding some dark chocolate to our diets. By dark chocolate, I mean chocolate that contains at least 70% chocolate liquor, the liquified paste made from grinding roasted cacao beans. Why so dark? To minimize the sugar, of course! Sugar is enemy number one, but chocolate without some sugar is pretty bitter. In the spirit of moderation, I make sure the number of grams of net carbs (excluding fiber) in my chocolate is less than the number of grams of fat. (Here is a link to a page on my site that lists some of my favorite bars.) Usually, if you find a bar with at least 70% cacao and no added candy, you will be close. Dark chocolate is a great substitute for the empty calories in desserts like cakes, cookies, and candy; it offers the amazing taste and creamy texture of a satisfying dessert, yet packs the nutritional punch of a superfood.

A highlight of my family's trip to Peru was the chocolate making workshop at the Chocomuseo in Cusco. There, we learned that the Inca were known to eat the fermented and roasted cacao beans right out of the shell, and legend has it that they lived long, healthy lives. Today, after the beans are ground into a paste, the cacao solids are separated from the cacao butter (the natural fat in chocolate), and they are either recombined into bars or sold separately as cacao powder and cacao butter. Because of the misguided American low-fat mindset, some participants in our workshop were tempted to skip the natural fat and add extra sugar, non-fat milk, and other ingredients to their chocolate. But remember, the Inca ate the whole cacao bean for longevity, fat and all. So should we!

Pittsburgh local, Will Clower, PhD, has written a book entitled, Eat Chocolate, Lose Weight. Don't you love the title? In Clower's book, chocolate is a microcosm for the challenges in our overall diet.  If you can get your chocolate right -- real ingredients, full-fat, not too much sugar -- you can get your overall diet right, too. (Real food. More fat. Less sugar.) As Clower trains your palate to enjoy darker chocolate, he is also training your palate to expect less junk and sugar in your total meal plan. 

Personally, I love salt on my chocolate. Have you tried it? There are many brands of high-quality dark chocolate with salt added! Here is one from Cusco, Peru.

Happy Thanksgiving... What is on your gratitude list? Mine includes chocolate! For more ideas about healthy, vintage food, check out this link.




Let's All Have Dessert For Breakfast!!

yogurt humor.jpg

Does the world need 369 kinds of yogurt? Let me narrow that question a bit. Do the grocery shoppers in my neighborhood need 369 kinds of yogurt? The dairy case at my supermarket suggests that we do. Yes, I counted. 369 distinct varieties. Capitalism run amuck?

I love yogurt. But I hate yogurt. What do I love? I love creamy, full-fat Greek yogurt, unsweetened, or perhaps sweetened with a little stevia. This is yogurt as nature intended – a balanced healthy meal that has been around for centuries. What do I hate? I hate sugary, low-fat yogurt that is passed off as a ‘health food’ when it really resembles dessert more than breakfast.

Let me elaborate. When you buy anything but plain yogurt, you are buying a lot of sugar (or chemical sweetners, which I would caution against). Allowing the food industry to decide how much sugar to put in anything, even yogurt, is a bad idea. (If you have not yet seen That Sugar Film, it is smart, funny, and worth renting. The film illustrates that much of the sugar we eat is found in food that is perceived as healthy, like yogurt.) A 6oz container of yogurt often contains about 20 grams of added sugar. That’s five teaspoons. Would you let your kid put five teaspoons of sugar on his cereal? I hope not. Yogurt has a natural tang to it, and this takes some getting used to – but if you pour a bunch of sugar in it, the tang is masked by the super-sweet flavor. This is what we have become accustomed to – heavily sweetened yogurt. Yogurt begins to look, nutritionally, pretty much like dessert.

Here’s low-fat strawberry yogurt, contrasted with low-fat ice cream and cookies. Note that although the yogurt offers a few extra grams of protein, it comes along with more grams of sugar, too:

Stonyfield Low-fat Organic Strawberry Yogurt    

1 cup (200 calories)

Fat – 2g • Carbs – 36g (sugars 35g) • Protein – 9g


Breyers All Natural Light Vanilla/Chocolate/Strawberry Ice Cream

1 cup (218 calories)

Fat – 6g • Carbs – 35g (sugars 30g) • Protein – 6g


Mother’s Chocolate Chip Cookies

6 Cookies (220 calories)

Fat – 10g • Carbs – 30g (sugars 15g) • Protein – 5g


The question, ‘Is this dessert?” is sometimes even provoked by the names of the flavors offered: Chobani’s Chocolate Haze Craze; Dannon Oikos’ Vanilla Sundae or Chocolate Covered Stawberry; Dannon Danimals’ Cotton Candy Thrill; and Yoplait’s Boston Cream Pie.

To make matters worse, America’s misguided fear of saturated fat has led to mostly reduced fat offerings. In my supermarket, the low-fat and fat-free varieties dominate, with 94% of the shelf space. (Only 23 full-fat offerings – yes, I counted.) This is a problem for two reasons. First of all, low-fat engineering takes a balanced, natural food and removes a key nutrient, leaving behind mostly carbohydrates. Secondly, it makes the yogurt more sour and less palatable, so more sugar is required to make it taste good. Stripping fat out of yogurt makes breakfast (or your snack) a carbohydrate heavy meal that lacks staying power. Let’s look at the macros of the two extremes for a moment:


Full-fat Greek Yogurt – Plain                       

1 cup (220 calories)                                     

Fat – 11g • Carbs – 9g (sugars are 16% of calories) • Protein – 20g                                                    

Fat Free Fruit Yogurt

1 cup (230 calories)

 Fat – 0g • Carbs – 46g (sugars are 80% of calories) • Protein – 11g

Which one looks more like a meal and less like dessert?

Yogurt-- Maximized

How can you get the most from your yogurt? Here are three things you can do to skip the hype and go straight to the good stuff:

  1. Go Greek (usually roughly double the protein);
  2. Buy plain (unsweetened, so you control how much sugar or stevia goes in);
  3. Buy full-fat (better taste, and more satisfying, balanced nutrition).

In my grocery store, with 369 choices, these three criteria rule out all but one option. At specialty markets, you'll find a few more.



Protein -- Are You Eating Enough?

Most American women don’t eat enough protein.  Surprising, in an affluent nation such as ours, isn’t it? But, the facts don’t lie. Here, before you, are the facts, from the Scientific Report of the 2015 Dietary Guidelines Advisory Committee:

All those black bars on the left of the graph…  those bars show the shortfalls, which are markedly greater for women than men. Now, some of this shortfall is caused by economic realities; protein-rich foods can be pricey. But, some of this shortfall is due to our nation’s move toward a plant-based diet. If you have, perhaps, convinced yourself that broccoli has as much protein as steak, you might want to check out this post by the brilliant and no-nonsense-yet-amusing registered dietician (and MPH) Adele Hite, who will set you straight.

Adele and I had a chance to sit down, over pork chops, and discuss 'adequate protein,' and how fundamental it is to a healthy diet. In fact, adequate protein (not high protein -- just enough) should be a key priority in the dietary guidelines. Just how much protein is enough? That is very hard to say. The Recommended Dietary Allowance (RDA) is 46g for women and 56g for men. It is based on about 0.36g of daily dietary protein per pound of body weight. So, if you weigh 130 pounds, the math (130lb x 0.36g/lb) suggests a minimum of 46g of protein each day. This is low – most affluent populations eat more protein – perhaps 70-100g per day.  However, according to the Institute of Medicine, the keeper of the RDA’s, 46g of protein is enough to prevent malnutrition. A little more would be better, especially since protein tends to be filling and can help with keeping weight gain at bay.

Looking at the chart, above, we learn that 70% of high school girls and 70% of elderly women do not even manage to consume 46g of protein each day.  Between age 19 and 70, about 50% of women are not getting enough protein. Obviously, there is plenty of room for improvement here.

Are you eating enough protein? What does 46g of protein look like, you might ask?  (And remember, 46g would be a minimum daily intake for a 130 pound adult.)

Examples of food that contains roughly 46g of protein:

  •  7 or 8 large eggs
  • 5-6 oz of skinless chicken or turkey breast
  • 5 cups of 2% milk
  •  2 ¼ hamburger patties (each made from ¼ pound 85% lean ground beef)
  •  1 ½ cups almonds (about 180 nuts)*
  •  2.5 cans of pinto beans*
  • 3.5 cups (7 servings) Grape Nuts cereal*

* With the vegetarian sources, care must be taken to make sure the protein is complete. (For more on that, see the latter half of Adele’s post.)

Why is protein important? We use protein to build and repair our tissues. (This means active women need more than sedentary women.) We use protein to build babies and manufacture breast milk. (So if you are in that stage of life, eat plenty of protein!) We use protein to make hormones and enzymes. So, if you want to keep your body in good shape (in repair and running smoothly), you need high quality protein.

For more on protein, check out this piece from Authority Nutrition.


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Fruit Vs. Veggies

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Fruits and vegetables… almost universally lauded as part of the path to healthier eating. But are all fruits and vegetables created equal?  No.

Eating fresh fruits and vegetables means eating plants. There are other plant products, like seeds, grains, legumes, and nuts – all seeds, really. But usually, when a dietician tells you to eat plenty of fruits and vegetables, she is referring to other parts of the plants – the root (carrot), the stock (celery), the flower (broccoli), the leaves (lettuce), the pod (green beans), and the fruit (apple). Obviously, pods and fruit contain seeds, so this gets a little blurry… bear with me.

Speaking of blurry, distinguishing between fruit and veggies can be tricky. Are olives vegetables? No. They grow on trees and have pits like cherries! So are olives fruit? Yes, but don’t put them in your fruit salad.  What about tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, and squash? They grow from flowers and have seeds inside like melons.  So they are also fruit, although they go better with vegetables, don’t you think? Confusing, I know -- let’s just keep calling them veggies... Then, there are avocados. Vegetables? Nope. They grow on trees with a pit, like a mango or maybe even a peach, so they are fruit! Again, confusing.

In the overlapping world of fruits and vegetables, perhaps the main thing to ask yourself is, "Why am I eating this?" Are you looking for mostly vitamins and fiber – a healthy accompaniment to a meal? Are you looking for something green on which you can pour melted butter or olive oil to add variety and healthy fat to your meal? Or, maybe you are looking for energy (calories)? Or, perhaps you are looking for dessert or a treat? It is cheating if you are pounding bananas and skipping the lettuce all the time. I know – you love bananas – they taste sweet – of course you like them. But they do have a lot more sugar and starch than, say, a cucumber.  If you are clear about what you are looking for, the choices should be easier. 

Regardless of your choices, with all fruit and veggies, you will be getting micronutrients, fiber, and a much lower dose of sugar/starch than you would get from modern inventions like cookies or crackers.  So eat your fruit and veggies – they’re vintage! 

BUT, But, but…  if you are insulin resistant, pre-diabetic, diabetic (more than half our adult population, people!)… and/or, if you are trying to lose weight (a whole lot of people, too) you may want to ease off on or even skip the last two categories (below the line). 

Micronutrients and Fiber But NOT Many Calories

  • Tart fruit – berries, limes, lemons, grapefruit
  • Veggies that grow above the ground – greens, celery, cabbage, green beans, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprout, asparagus, etc.
  • Fruit passing as veggies – tomatoes, zucchini, peppers, cucumbers

Balanced Energy

  • Fatty fruit -- olives, avocados, coconut (well, coconuts are nuts – the world’s largest seed, actually -- but let’s count it as a fruit!) 
  • Maybe we can sneak in cacao, too… yum!

Starchy Energy

  • Root Vegetables – carrots, beets, onions, potatoes, sweet potatoes, tubers
  • Fruit passing as veggies – winter squash, pumpkins, plantains
  • Grain passing as a veggie – yellow corn
  • Legumes passing as veggies - peas, lima beans (vintage...  does anyone still eat these?)

Dessert/Sweet Treat

  • Sweet fruit – pineapples, apples, bananas, oranges, grapes, pears, melons, mangos, peaches, plums, cherries, figs, dates, etc.

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Better Than a Fitbit

Fitness trackers that count our steps can be fun and motivating. But, if you want to avoid pre-diabetes, metabolic syndrome, and heart disease, spend your money on a blood glucose meter.  For less than half the cost of a Fitbit, you can have a meter (and some test strips and lancets) that tells you whether your body is able to manage sugar levels in your blood.  This measure can alert you to hidden problems and help you craft a diet that is better suited to your body’s needs.

Diabetes is a big deal. It is costly to manage, destructive enough to take years off your life, and basically to-be-avoided. It is a huge risk factor for heart disease, too. The sooner you can catch your body veering from healthy toward pre-diabetes, the better. A Fitbit can’t help you catch the gradual creep upwards in fasting blood sugar that tells you that your metabolic balance is off. But a blood sugar meter can. And, since there are often no signs or symptoms associated with pre-diabetes, regular testing is the best way to make sure you are still healthy.  There are more than 86 million pre-diabetics in America, and most (~90%) of them do not know they are sick. Early detection enables people to reduce refined carbohydrates in their diet and often reverse their disease. Early detection also minimizes the damage that elevated blood sugar levels inflict.

Just like a Fitbit, it is pretty easy to use a blood sugar meter – yours should come with basic instructions. The most important test is to measure your blood sugar when you wake up in the morning, after going at least 8 hours without eating.  This gives you your fasting blood sugar level…  healthy levels fall between 70-90 mg/dL. Levels from 100-125mg/dL signify pre-diabetes, and levels above 125 mg/dL signify diabetes. Once you have your meter, you can also test how long it takes your body to get blood sugar back in check after a meal. Blood sugars should be below 140 two hours after eating.

Just as a Fitbit can motivate you to get off the couch and walk a few extra steps, a blood sugar meter can motivate you to eat more balanced meals that work for your body.  Simply monitoring your blood sugar every 15 minutes after a typical breakfast can show you what sort of a ride your blood sugar level took before returning to normal. Seeing what is actually happening in your body empowers you to tailor your meals to suit your particular needs. Through trial and error, you can find a mix of whole foods that satisfies yet does not put you on the 'wild ride' of the refined carbohydrate-induced blood sugar roller coaster.  Above on the right, you can see a graph of how two breakfasts, similar in total calories, affected my blood sugar. Both breakfasts were built around yogurt. The first was full-fat Greek yogurt, plain with a little stevia for sweetness, plus a couple of tablespoons cream, 1/4 cup blueberries, and two tablespoons slivered almonds. The second breakfast was similar, yet low in fat -- organic fat-free blueberry yogurt, an apple, and a granola bar. Without a blood sugar meter, we are unaware of this ride that so many of us jump on at breakfast and stay on until bedtime. With a blood sugar meter, you can see the peaks and valleys, and plan a way off that ride (eat less sugar and flour!)

Are you one of the 78 million American adults with undiagnosed pre-diabetes? Stop by any drug store, invest in a blood sugar meter, and you will know tomorrow morning. It’s that simple. And, it is much more important than knowing (exactly) how many steps you took yesterday, don’t you think?





Triage In Your Local Grocery Store

Balancing vintage sensibilities in a modern supermarket is challenging. Avoiding all the refined carbohydrates and refined oils in the grocery store really cuts down on options.  Let’s face it:  sugar (in all of its many forms), flour, crazy corn derivatives, and vegetable oil have made it into almost all processed food.

Part of the trick to shopping vintage is TRIAGE – knowing what is important and what can be ignored (at least for now). Some modern foods need to be avoided, but others can remain.  With practice, you will get good at avoiding most of the ‘bad’ stuff, while still enjoying some of the most delicious modern inventions, especially family favorites.

For many families, vintage eating is more of a direction than a strict regimen. Many people who eat this way follow the 80/20 rule…  80% vintage, 20% modern. For some, vintage eating just means more real food and less processed food.  So which processed foods stay, and which ones go? The answer is influenced by your health and goals, as well as your personal preferences in the realms of convenience, cost, and taste. It also depends upon available substitutes.

Ask yourself these questions about any processed product before putting it into your grocery cart:

  1. Does my family love this?
  2. Do we need this? (If it is a dessert or sugar-sweetened beverage, the answer is 'no.')
  3. Will we consume only small amounts of this?
  4. Is it hard to find an acceptable real food substitute?

If all of your answers are 'yes,' it probably should make the cut. If there are no’s in there, you will have to weigh whether it is delicious, important, convenient and irreplaceable enough to ‘cheat.’ Deprivation vs. guilt, right?

Here is an example.  In my house, one of the processed foods I still buy is Hellmann’s Mayonnaise. (Hellmann’s, like all commercial mayonnaise, is full of refined vegetable oil, so it doesn’t qualify as vintage.) Why do I still buy it?

  1. Does my family love this?   Yes. Especially my husband, and I want to stay married ;-)
  2. Do we need this? Yes. No reason to live without mayonnaise. It is naturally low-carb and sugar free!
  3. Will we eat only small amounts of this? Yes. We are not huge mayonnaise eaters.
  4. Is it hard to find an acceptable real food substitute? Yes. I tried substituting with homemade olive oil mayonnaise… The taste was heavy and unacceptable, and it wasn’t quick and easy to make. (It involved getting out the food processor, which means extra cleanup.) Plus, this unpopular substitute only keeps for about a week, so it would be a regular hassle and lead to extra spoilage/waste.

In contrast, although I used to use store bought salad dressing, I now make my own. (Most prepared dressings don’t qualify as vintage – they are full of vegetable oils like soy, corn, canola, and/or cottonseed oil. Many are full of sugar, too, which is unnecessary and not where I would choose to splurge on sugar. Remember: triage!) Why did I cut out this convenience?

  1. Does my family love this? Yes. Especially Hidden Valley Ranch ;-(
  2. Do we need this? Yes. We eat salad almost every day and dressing adds fat to our meal and makes them more satisfying and delicious.
  3. Will we eat only small amounts of this? No. We go through a lot of salad dressing.
  4. Is it hard to find an acceptable real food substitute? No. I make dressing in a few minutes with olive oil, vinegar, salt, herbs, and mustard. It lasts for weeks and saves a few dollars. The taste is stronger than the lighter, refined oils, but it is still delicious. I also occasionally make creamy dressings with real sour cream.

In this case, the quantity we go through and the easy and delicious substitute swayed me to eliminate commercial salad dressing from our fridge most of the time.

Another example would be pizza versus pasta. We love pizza, there is nothing quite like it, and it is cheap and convenient. So we still eat it – just less often – perhaps once or twice a month. But pasta… we don’t really love or need it, and I can still make Bolognese sauce which we either eat like chili or put on just a few noodles. So for us, pizza (in moderation) makes the cut, whereas pasta doesn’t.

Knowing when to splurge on modern favorites can help keep the peace and make vintage eating more doable for your family!



Juiced On Juice

Every month or so, I buy a 16oz container of freshly squeezed orange juice. And, I noticed that the always-helpful cashiers at my grocery store usually ask me, “Would you like to keep that out?” By this, they mean would I like to keep the OJ separate from the bagged groceries because I might want easy access to this beverage? Presumably, so I could chug it in the car on my way home???

My reply is always, “No thanks.” But, actually, what I want to say is…. “This is orange juice for my family of five. We will all get three to four ounces of juice in a small (juice) glass on Sunday morning. It’s a treat – we do this once a month. So, NO, I will not be downing this on my drive home.”

Orange juice, although delicious, is full of sugar. Two cups (16oz) of orange juice has more sugar than a 12oz Coke.  And, juice is fruit stripped of its fiber, so we tend to over-consume it. 16 oz of orange juice is the juice of roughly six medium oranges. That is a lot of oranges... The juice contains a trace amount of fat and a couple of grams of protein. Most of the calories are from sugar. Basically, orange juice is a carb-fest.

But the cashiers had me thinking… Lots of customers must say, “Yes. Please leave it out.” (Or they wouldn't ask, right?) And at least some of these shoppers must proceed to drink all or most of that 16oz container on the long ride home. So I thought, hmmm… what would happen if I chugged the orange juice?

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This graph gives you a picture of what happened to my blood sugar during this little adventure. Not pretty. And, I was definitely a little buzzed... I felt a rush. I felt a little bloated (that's a lot of juice!) and a little dazed. I could NOT CONCENTRATE (perhaps explaining the warning on the label, 'NOT from CONCENTRATE')? And then, two and a half hours later, I was starving. So I would say, being 'on the juice' is a bad idea. Even if you mean fresh, organic orange juice.



Stuck in a Failed Paradigm

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Metabolic syndrome, a collection of symptoms that is the 'on-ramp' to diabetes, heart disease, or both, is present in over a third of American adults. By age 50, almost half of us have metabolic syndrome. HALF. 10% of normal weight and underweight individuals have metabolic syndrome, so this is not just an affliction visited on those struggling with their weight.  

Are these the odds you want for your children? It is time to find a way of eating that works as well at 48 as it does at 14.

Insanity [or did he mean stupidity?]: Doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.
— Albert Einstein

Recognizing mistakes and then trying something new is a big part of progress. We cannot progress if we take a failed idea and try harder at it. Tweaking a failed paradigm still leaves us in a failed paradigm. To review, half of us are very sick -- in fact, metabolically deranged --  by age 50. HALF. Sounds like a failed paradigm, doesn't it? Why are we eating this way? Because our government and public health officials encouraged low-fat eating, and are not objective enough to acknowledge that, after 40 years of trying, it is not working for most eaters. Yet, it is obvious - the current approach is NOT working. Let's not tweak it. Let's find a new approach -- a new paradigm. Vintage eating, with real food and more fat.

For a visual of the scale of the metabolic illness that ravages our collective health, check out this infographic:



What Was On Those Boats?

When British colonial doctors traveled to the Colonies to care for the British settlers in distant lands, they were consistently amazed by the absence of chronic diseases in native populations. In fact, originally, heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and cancer were referred to as the 'Diseases of Civilization' rather than 'chronic diseases.' Why? Because 'uncivilized' natives did not have these diseases. But, as indigenous  populations began to consume more and more of the food imported for the settlers, the colonial doctors noticed that chronic disease began to afflict the natives. It often took decades, but as traditional food ways diminished and 'Western' diets were adopted by traditional societies, Western diseases arrived, too. So that begs the question, "What was on those boats?"  

On my arrival in Gabon, I was astonished to encounter no cases of cancer... I can not, of course, say positively that there was no cancer at all, but, like other frontier doctors, I can only say that if any cases existed they must have been quite rare.
— Dr. Albert Schweitzer (reflecting back to 1913)

Dr. Albert Schweitzer, a doctor who received the Nobel Peace Prize for his missionary work, spent over four decades in a missionary hospital in Gabon (that's Africa, folks), treating thousands of natives each year. And initially, he found almost no cases of chronic disease. The natives seemed somehow immune. Over time, chronic disease developed, according to Schweitzer,as "the natives were living more and more after the manner of the whites." 

As you might imagine, a long, unrefrigerated sea journey was not possible for many types of food. Were the Colonists importing butter, eggs, and meat? No way. The foods shipped to the Colonies had to be far less perishable. What was the cargo? It was largely white sugar, white flour, and white rice. Could these foods be the cause of 'Diseases of Civilization?'




Thirst Quenching 101

Soda. Juice. Snapple. Gatorade. Energy Drinks. Lemonade. Diet versions of all of these...  what is a mother to serve?

Here is a basic way to think about hydration. Every mammal on earth drinks water. Carnivores, like wolves, drink water. Herbivores, like deer, drink water. Primates, like gorillas drink water. Humans are primates and mammals. So, if you or someone in your family is thirsty, water is your go-to drink. If family members are drinking something to accompany a meal, think of this as hydration, and go with water.

What if my child is playing soccer? Should he drink a sports drink like Gatorade or Propel? Probably not. Water is the best drink to replenish fluids during and after athletics. Water does not contain extra and unnecessary sugar and salt. Are there exceptions? Yes. Is your child playing soccer for more than three hours straight? Or, is your child playing soccer in extreme heat? Unless your child is engaging in endurance athletics or you are concerned about hot weather to which your child is not accustomed, water is best.

What about milk? I like to think of milk as food - something to drink when you are hungry, not thirsty. So, if you are looking for a snack, whole, unsweetened milk might be a good choice, assuming you or your family member does well with dairy. But for thirst, go with water. (If you have an underweight child into whom you are always trying to sneak calories, maybe milk is a good choice anytime.)

What about alcohol? If you are thirsty, drink water. If you want to get a buzz on, drink alcohol. If you want to get a buzz on while maintaining your weight, avoid adding sugary beverages to your cocktails, and try to keep an eye on how many drinks you consume each week.

What about soda, lemonade, Snapple, Sweet Tea, fruit juice, and other sugary beverages? Again, if you are thirsty, drink water. If you are choosing a beverage to accompany a meal, drink water. If you are celebrating a special occasion, perhaps you might choose to splurge and have a soft drink. And, when you drink it, think of it as special treat, not a daily privilege. (Note to self: keep these celebrations to once or twice a month.) For day-to-day hydration, drink only water. 

May I flavor my water with citrus, berries, tea, herbs, or other unsweetened additions?  Sure. Although unnecessary, it adds variety.  Go for it.

It seems we are so sophisticated and so affluent that the obvious choice of what to have to drink - water - has been eclipsed by the multi-billion dollar beverage industry's menu of enticing, expensive, and health degrading choices. Many people think water is boring. But it is also a critical step on our collective path back to health. We are lucky enough to live in a country where clean, drinkable water flows at almost no cost from our taps. Let's start turning the faucets and filling our glasses.




Just a Spoonful of Sugar...

How much sugar (well, glucose, if you want to be more precise) is floating around in your blood right now? A normal, healthy, average sized adult has about a teaspoon of glucose dissolved in his or her blood. ONE TEASPOON-- a little more, perhaps even double, after a carbohydrate-rich meal. Blood sugar levels are closely monitored by your body. You need some, or you fall into a coma...  but too much blood sugar damages tissues. This is why diabetics, whose bodies are struggling to keep blood sugar levels in check, have serious troubles with circulation, vision, and kidney function.

If you have not yet heard the news, we are in the midst of a startling epidemic -- about 45% of adults are either pre-diabetic or diabetic... So, since blood glucose levels are at the center of this disease, perhaps we should consider how much glucose we are shoveling into our stomachs. Table sugar is half glucose, so that is an important source. But starch, such as grains and potatoes, tend to be an even bigger source of glucose. And starch is broken down into glucose in a flash in your stomach... just minutes after a starchy meal or snack, your blood glucose levels will be on the rise.

For example, consider your breakfast of 1/2 cup Grape Nuts, 1/2 cup skim milk, and a banana. How many teaspoons of glucose might be in your breakfast? A lot. After those digestive enzymes do their thing, roughly 54 grams of glucose gets absorbed into your blood.  That's ELEVEN TEASPOONS. Wow. Your body scrambles to get that glucose out of your bloodstream and into storage, (either in your liver, your muscles, or your fat cells), because all that glucose in your blood would be toxic. This 'fire drill' -- this scramble to get glucose out of your bloodstream, becomes a struggle for pre-diabetics. 

ELEVEN TEASPOONS. For context, a 12oz Coke has 39 grams of sugar, but only roughly half ~ 20 grams is glucose.  That is about 4 teaspoons. 

Hmmmm... For breakfast, if we reduced the starch and added more fat, we could cut way back on the glucose we ask our body to process. Here are some diets that will help you find a better way eating - Vintage Eating.  Real food. More fat.



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Whole Grains - Do We Need Them?


(Hmmm... Stop there or elaborate a little?)

People have been eating grains for thousands of years. But, before that, people thrived for hundreds of thousands of years without grains. And, there are (and were) many traditional societies whose diets are (and were) completely grain free. So, it would seem that, no, a healthy diet does not NEED to contain grains.

But what about nutrients? Aren't grains a wonderful source of vitamins and minerals? Not really. On a per-calorie basis, when you compare grains to an equal serving of non-starchy veggies, the vegetables are a much better source of nutrients. Check out this chart from Jonathan Bailor's blog. Even vitamin enriched whole wheat flour pales in comparison to veggies.

But what about fiber? Although whole grain products have twice as much fiber as, say, a doughnut or Wonder Bread, they don't measure up to non-starchy veggies. A serving of veggies with equivalent calories has seven times the fiber of whole grains. So if you want fiber, load up on veggies (with butter, of course)!

And, if you like skeptical musings, you might enjoy this post, entitled 'Fun with Fiber: The Real Scoop' from Mark Sisson's blog, questioning the very notion that fiber is important in a healthy diet.

Whole grains. Traditionally, that meant the whole grain. As in, the whole kernel. Think: pearled barley, wheat berries, steel cut oats, farro.  Grains were soaked, boiled, fermented (like beer), and sprouted. These are the whole grains that have been consumed for thousands of years. Modern eaters tend to turn to whole grain flour. Let's look at the difference, from the perspective of the glycemic index (GI) -- a measure of how quickly those grains turn into glucose in our blood:

  • White Bread 73 GI

  • Whole Wheat Bread 71 GI

  • Coco Pops 77 GI

  • Grape Nuts 75 GI

  • Special K 69 GI


  • Wheat Berries 30 GI

  • Pearled Barley 28 GI

As you can see, when whole grains are pulverized into flour for breads or cereals, they lose all of that 'whole grain goodness', at least from a blood sugar perspective, and perform very much like white flour. But who wants to eat wheat berries for breakfast? (Maybe porridge? That's vintage.) The reality is that our love affair with grains is almost entirely a love affair with highly processed food - the breads, cereals, crackers, chips, pastas, and pizza crusts made with flour.

So why do we keep hearing so much about “heart-healthy whole grains”? Observational studies. That’s right. Almost all of the science that looks at the benefits of whole grains is based on weak associations (and imprecise food frequency questionnaires). With any epidemiological study, the “healthy user bias” creeps in… after all, who eats whole grains other than health-minded people who have many healthy habits that improve their outcomes? So if you read a headline about whole grains, check to see if the reported result is an actual experimental result or just an unreliable observational association.

Bottom line -- whole grains are a great source of CALORIES. And whole grain flour is a great source of the kind of calories that spike your blood sugar. So, if you need more of that, go for it!

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Fat is Not Fattening - Weird, But True

The most common reaction to the big news - that saturated fat does not cause heart disease - is one of confusion and doubt. Sort of an, "Are you sure?" But the next thought tends to be along the lines of, "Well, maybe not. But so what? I am not going to eat it anyway because eating fat will make me fat." This is a powerful fear that we need to address if we are ever going to eat our way back to health.

We think we know that fat is fattening. Most of us have lost weight, usually temporarily, on a low-fat diet. And, fat has double the calories per gram of carbohydrates, so it must make us fat, right? And, the word itself: f-a-t... surely there is truth in the name? 

The first problem for all of us, men and women, is not to learn but to unlearn.
— Gloria Steinem

Here are a few reasons to 'unlearn' the idea that eating fat makes you fat. Hunger is a powerful force, especially over the course of a few years, not just a couple of weeks. You want hunger on your side. And, it turns out that fat can tame hunger in ways that carbohydrates can't. After you eat, fat receptors in the stomach and intestine dial down hunger, so fat is going to do a great job of keeping you feeling full between meals. It is uniquely satiating... probably why we think of fatty food as 'comfort food.' Secondly, insulin is your fat storing hormone, and is required for managing carbohydrates, and to a lesser degree, protein. But not fat. So if you eat more fat and fewer carbohydrates, your body will produce less insulin and spend less time in fat storing mode. (More on this here.) Moreover, insulin tends to mess with another hormone, leptin. Leptin makes us feel full and satisfied. But in an insulin-rich environment, leptin signals don't always get through. So, again, keeping insulin levels in check will make your natural appetite suppressor, leptin, kick in. It is always easier to have nature working for you, not against you.

Perhaps this is why, when you look to the science, high-fat diets out-perform low-fat diets for weight loss over and over and over again. Yes, even in this 2014 NIH funded clinical trial

Bottom line -- yes, when you dig into the details, it is extremely complicated. Way beyond our pay-grade. But simple calories-in-calories-out ignores the intricate, hormone-intensive balancing act that goes on in your body. A low-fat, calorie restricted diet can send a signal of 'lean times' throughout your body, turning down your metabolism so you burn fewer calories each day. And it makes you really hungry, which just sucks, doesn't it? So eat ample fat, without counting calories and starving yourself, and help keep your metabolism in a higher gear. And reduce refined carbs. Yes, even the whole grains. Why not check out these real-food-more-fat vintage diets...