Saturday, December 3, 2011

Nutrition and health

Many longtime readers know I obsess over few topics more than nutrition and its impact on my health.  I have reached a point in my life where I'm not young enough to overcome a bad diet so I have been doing a lot of research on how best to live.  Fortunately, there are many of us out there so I don't need to look too hard.

Lately I have cut back and nearly cut out gluten since consumption leads to digestive issues, excess visceral fat storage ("wheat belly") and it is an appetite stimulant.  I have also cut back on sugar for many of the same reasons.  I have felt pretty good and I think that these diet changes have led to a reduction in overall chunkosity.  However, I can do better.

It turns out my wheat farming uncle has also given up on wheat/gluten so we had a lot to discuss over Thanksgiving.  He sent me a couple of articles on why saturated fats are good for you and why some carbs are worse than others.  I've read them and, while the second one was poorly written, believe the story they're telling.  I'm not a medical doctor, but I believe I have a good BS detector and I feel that my scientific and engineering training enables me to parse through data.

Both articles argue that our bodies run on very specific fat and that, if they can't get this fat, they'll make it out of what is available.  Fat is needed to make us go, but the authors argue that it's saturated fat (butter, animal fat, coconut oil, palm kernel oil) not vegetable oil we need.  Fat is able to make fat from glucose, but it then does not free up that fat to do its regular job so that fat needs to increase which leads to obesity.  I know I haven't parsed the argument in a coherent fashion, but you can read the articles for yourselves.

I think the basic idea behind nutrition is fairly simple - your body needs very specific components and, if it doesn't get them, it'll encourage you to eat until it does or it'll take what you input and try to convert it.  However, these conversion processes are often inefficient and prevent your body from operating at its peak so your body expands which leads to chunkin' out.  The easiest solution is to provide your body with what it needs and what it needs is what it has evolved to eat - meat, fish, vegetables, fruit, nuts, seeds and other easily gotten foods.  We certainly didn't evolve to eat Hot Pockets.

Another argument made in the articles concerns cardiovascular health.  Doctors have long argued that a low fat diet is essential for a healthy heart.  Apparently, that statement is partially false.  Your heart needs saturated fat to run and if you starve it of those fats, then it'll collect fat around it as an emergency and this fat leads to coronary trouble.  You want to maximize your saturated fat intake while minimizing your vegetable fat intake.  You really want to avoid any oils which have been hydrogenated since those are the worst.

The second article argues we really want to maximize our calcium, vitamin D and saturated fat intake.

For more information and prove, read the linked articles.  Question everything your doctor tells you because many studies are sponsored by the food industry.  Don't trust the USDA since their principal mandate is to promote US agriculture.

You might have pieced together that a gluten free diet that is high in saturated fat is a paleo diet.  I think that diet makes the most sense to me so I will try to follow it the best I can.  I have already started having a fried egg every morning for breakfast since our bodies also need cholesterol to run.  I still eat rice, but will cut back on other baked goods.  Will I adhere to this diet strictly?  Hell no because there isn't much fun in that and it's not going to kill me to have a cookie now and then.  The goal is to make wheat, sugar and bad fats the exception rather than the norm.

The source of our food is just as important as the kind of food we eat so I encourage you to get truly organic food.  Don't worry about the USDA or QAI rubberstamped "organic" which is generally BS, but go after products from pastured or wild animals since it will be more nutrient dense, better for the environment and better for the animals.  It makes sense that we should eat animals that live how they've always lived rather than ones who have spent their lives in a cage.  This lifestyle will cost more money, but there is a fixed cost to everything so you'll be correspondingly reducing the cost to the animal, to your health and to the environment.  You'll also be eating more locally sourced foods which is better for the economy.  Farmers' markets are easy to find and often have tasty stuff at a good value (not necessarily cheap).

In my Amazon binge, I set up a subscription for a quarterly delivery of 108 ounces of coconut oil to use in cooking and apparently, hair care.  Heh.  The first author doses himself with two tablespoons of coconut oil each morning which sounds pretty hardcore.  I think I'll just use it to fry up my egg and other stuff.

This post is not meant to convert anyone since I believe we all must decide for ourselves how we want to live.  However, you must accept the consequences of all your actions and not shy away from what needs to be done.  I encourage every reader to give up gluten for one week.  Weigh/measure yourself before and after and try to gauge your mood.  The first couple of days will be tough, but you should feel better by the end.  If you can't live without baked goods, then buy einkorn flour or maybe gluten-free flour.  I'm not a fan of the gluten-free stuff because of the texture change.  The breads are all a little soggy and I'd rather go without.

If you do this or any other experiment, let me know by commenting since it is an iterative process.  I'll update on the coconut oil when it shows up.

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