"Poor thoughts begin with poor foods. If we eat nutrient-dense foods we can make superior neurochemicals in our brain that allow us to think like a genius". - Manuel Lora
While studying remedial massage for sports injury in my early 20’s, I came to think of our bodies as being comprised of tubes and spaces of varying size and density that contract, and release to move fluids and gasses from process to process, and indeed for us to move. Inflammation, adhesions and tension come to interfere with all processes effecting the performance of the whole. Inflammation and inappropriate tension when not released, precedes disease, injury and discomfort. What creates inflammation in one person, may be well tolerated in another, combinations of factors can accelerate and exacerbate, in short we need to become better attuned to on our own body’s and only resort to medicine after failing with food, thought and action.
The last 80 years of nutritional education and research has been handled very poorly, from the production of our food, through to the medical treatments that result from its consumption.
With our busy lives and complicated commitments, it is incredibly difficult to filter out good science from that which emulates it. In the case of nutrition it is so difficult that many people either give up, deciding - "all in moderation" or they follow the reasonable and persuasive arguments that match their existing beliefs.
Neither of these approaches makes good use of the great science that has in fact been done, and neither is likely to allow us to make optimal and well-informed choices. At best, eating in moderation will bring a an average result, when many already have the resources and discipline to live in healthy, strong bodies with clear minds. If average is ok, read no further ;)
Sub-optimal food choices will undermine all that we work hard to achieve in other areas of our lives, so here I will try to point to where I suspect the low hanging fruit, (so to speak) can be found.
Nutrition is the key to health - and it will not fall on our heads. While this article also is by no means "the" truth, far from it, my hope is that it will, at best, serve as a stepping stone along the way. Sometimes I wonder if it is job as humans, to run out of questions, open up and let it, (and each other) be as it is. But not today ha ha
We have to learn about it and try what works for us individually. Here are some crucial points that you may not be aware of:
If you don't want to know anything else about nutrition, then try to eat a low crap diet, in other words - JERF Just Eat Real Food. ( thanks for that Jimmy Moore) I feel that we only need rules to the degree that we lack understanding, in the beginning rules on what to eat are helpful. Later, understanding drives choice and rules are just memory aids.
Hormones not calories determine growth.
Hormones drive our mind and bodies. More important than exercise and more powerful than will-power - what we eat drives our hormones - Using food to re-train our bodies to be sensitive to Leptin, Insulin and Cortisol is the most powerful step we can take towards healing disease, and enjoying more youthful bodies and minds. The most simple step is to dump carbs, eat real food, use good fats for fuel and be more mindful of that which affects our stress levels.
If already sick, getting tests and working with a doctor will be essential, but you will still need to understand and steer this process yourself, as few in the medical profession get the role that nutrition plays on the hormones that interconnect our biology and psychology.
Gary Taubes nailed this in his book from 2007, Good calories, bad calories, since then Jack Kruse takes it further in his excellent book Epi-paleo Rx, and most recently David Ludwig's book, Always Hungry, backs it up with the science and methodology.
Cholesterol - give it to me baby
LDL and HDL - HDL is considered good, and of the LDL the part that is of concern are the small dense particles and they matter much more when your circulating fats, (triglycerides are high) and if your arteries have been inflamed and damaged from prolonged insulin exposure. Cholesterol is vital to your health and your gall bladder produces more than you could ever eat anyway. Lowering cholesterol is a flawed concept, used to sell billions of dollars of dangerous drugs and inflammatory polyunsaturated oils. Low LDL levels are associated with cancer, as LDL cholesterol is essential for healthy cell division. High HDL is linked to low inflammation. Excellent presentation here from Ivor Cummings on the "real" basics. - just the facts from Ivor.
Concerned about heart disease? - this short but in-depth article goes into the real cause, yes it does involve LDL, but that is not the smoking gun...
Insulin determines wether fat is stored or used as fuel, sugar in the blood triggers the release of insulin, which strips the sugar from your circulation and sends it to your liver where it is converted to fat and stuffed into your liver and other inconvenient places.
There will be more saturated fat circulating in the blood on a high carb diet than on a high fat diet as most of those carbs are converted to fat for storage rather than fuel. Being stripped of sugar, leaves the owner hungry, real hungry, for more carbs doh!
Excessive and prolonged insulin exposure causes inflammation and terrible damage to our vascular system, from the capillaries to the major arteries. Becoming desensitized to insulin means you need more to get the same effect, this is the primary cause of obesity and other metabolic disease. It is tragedy on a massive scale, and the diabetes associations of most countries are funded by the makers of insulin. The logic being, keep eating carbs, but dose up on insulin, lucky humans are smarter than dogma, it just takes a while to catch up sometimes.
The diet our bodies evolved to eat contained very little sugars, and omega 6 fats. All carbohydrates create an insulin response as does excessive protien, of course some carbs such as fructose, sucrose, grains and starches have a large effect and others such as green leafy vegetables and berries have minimal impact. If your overweight chances are you are insulin resistant, and will benefit from limiting carbs immediately.
Some people like myself seam to have no short term problems from consuming carbs or even refined sugars and fruit juices, this is because my body, (so far) remains insulin sensitive. This means I require lower levels of insulin to regulate my blood sugar, but I have learnt to burn fat as a fuel instead and select my carbs carefully. This is called nutritional ketosis, I will cover this on another post.
Carbs tend to be delicious, but judicious selection of which, how much and when you eat them will change your life. More dramatically in fact, than exercise alone can. If you cut Carbs, you will run out of fuel, but if you replace them with healthy fats, you will have more energy, better emotional stability, clearer thinking and help to unload our bio-sphere. Learn more about fats here
Good and Bad Fats - not what we were told
Our bodies use the same mechanisms to process Omega 6 and Omega 3 fatty acids, both are essential but Omega 3 are much more valuable, (serum ideally serum levels are below 4:1). They are synthesized into DHA and EPA which is used in every cell membrane and together with water form our brains. Too much Omega 6 further increases inflammation and blocks our ability to synthesize Omega 3’s. As a very rough guide, seeds are 10:1 Omega 6 and grasses are 1:1. Grains are grass seeds, that is why products from animals that feed on grasses are nutritionally dense and super healthy, whereas animals fed on grains - well they look like we do on the same diet, inflamed and over-wieght.
Eating the fat from animals that feed freely on diverse natural grasses rich in omega 3, or any animal on its natural diet, (apart from the wrong part of a puffer fish) has never been proven to cause anything but fantastic health. This is because animal flesh is rich in saturated fats, these fats are safe to heat and cook with and they are nutritionally dense. In fact they are a super fuel. If you want no part in killing animals for food, free-range eggs and diary products, (if you are tolerant) also make total sense.
If you do not want to use animal products at all, coconut, avocado, olives and macadamia nuts and oils truly look like super foods. These along with free range duck eggs are the backbone of my diet, as it is hard to find the fat from large herbivores that have been grazed naturally in this part of the world.
Aging- Inevitable, Inexorable, yet Increasing Influenceable
Mitochondria are the organelles within our cells that burn fuel to produce energy. As we age we get progressive mitochondrial dysfunction from chemical and environmental damage causing the mitochondria to loose their ability to provide energy to the cell.
Much of the cells energy is used to repair the DNA in the nucleus of that cell. Impairment of energy production destabilizes that process and we recreate ourselves progressively less accurately and age accordingly.
The correct diet for our current state, drives ideal hormone formation and interaction, this will lower Inflammation while maintaining healthy mitochondria function. Add to that fun, full-filling activities and healthy relationships based on more honestly connecting with nature and you have the recipe for a long and graceful life that will allow and inspire others to have the same.
Fat as a Fuel
Healthy fats are a vastly superior source of energy, or fuel to carbs. It takes about 2 weeks for your body to switch to burning fat as a fuel and it can only happen if you stop drip feeding your body on sugar, (glucose, fructose, carbohydratesstarches and fruit juice included) So you will need to do some research here, but not too much. Even a lean person is storing from 10,000 calories of fat, the most you can store from carbs, (glycogen) is 2,000 calories. The fat will burn cleaner, producing less lactic acid, does not feed the damaged mitochondria of cancer cells and is less harmful to cell membranes, (reduces Oxidative stress). Running on Fat is called Nutritional Ketosis, in the absence of glucose the body produces ketones, which are shown to reduce 7 out of 14 key markers of inflammation. This is not the only good diet by any means, Atkins, Paleo, Epi-paleo, LCHF diets are all based on running on fats rather than carbs for fuel, Ketogenic is probably the most extreme and is my diet of choice at the moment. My favorite researchers on this are: Dr. Dominc D Agostino and Dr, Steven Phinney
A Gut-full of Gluten
We understand so little about our minds, let alone our bodies. New studies reveal we have 30 trillion human cells, but harbor 39 trillion bacteria. In our gastro intestinal tract, (GI) we have about 1kg of bacteria, about 70 percent of our immune system arises from this interaction between human cells and alien bacteria. The inter-face between our gut and our blood can leak due to infections, allergies and toxins creating inflammation. Our liver is our last line of defense here, so a leaky gut will over-work our liver, as will constantly relying on it to convert excess sugars into fat. Many skin conditions are symptomatic of leaky gut. Gluten causes leaky gut, even in those who are tolerant, there will be a price. It is possible to grow grains that are lower glycemic, non gluten, and less hard on the soil and we better re-establish those old genetic lines now that we have 7 billion people to feed. You can see that eating well has positive socio-economic and political consequences.
There are many things that we tolerate to different degrees, but are still in fact ruining our health. I have no problem with people choosing to ingest whatever they want. However, destroying wilderness and lives for profit, manipulating government, media and the educations systems never did make sense. The cost is ultimately our bio-sphere, and while we do not have to get everything right immediately, we do need somewhere to live and learn. The best short presentation I have seen on gluten is here.
Cancer is a metabolic disease, and money spent on treating it as a genetic disease was largely miss-appropriated for the same reason that seeds are modified, patentability. Diabetes, Heart Disease, Alzheimers Obesity similarly are directly related to the way we metabolize fuel in our mitochondria, Otto Warburg won a Nobel Prize in 1931 for discovering the that cancer cells have damaged mitochondria. (As Thomas Seymour immaculately presents in his book, Cancer as a metabolic disease) - This makes the mitochondria unable to respirate, (use oxygen) which is necessary to to burn fats for fuel. So they have to ferment glucose or glycogen for energy which creates lactic acid. Starve cancer cells of glucose and they will not be able to compete with healthy cells which can burn fat.
I have heard it quoted that statins represent a 250 billion dollar a year industry, all based on lowering cholesterol, not only do they not work well and often have terrible side-effects, the premise on which they are based is false. Some do have significant anti- inflammatory properties, but nowhere as good as β-Hydroxybutyrate, one of the main keytones our bodies produce for free in the absence of sugars.
Another highly profitable piece of terrible advice is taking aspirin, which, like gluten causes leaky gut, which is right at the beginning of the heart disease causation.
Environmental Impact of Meat Production - another view
Much of the meat we consume is now grown in Confined Animal Feeding Operations CAFO's. These are places of extreme cruelty and the animals are mostly fed grains, antibiotics and other ground up animals. However, meat is still massively more nutrient dense than plants. Also animals are absolutely required in both regenerative responsible agriculture. - so what to do?
Many who are able, are now choosing grass fed, free-range animal products to support the demand and growth of those industries and to support the health of themselves and their families. This is not really spreading to restaurants as fast as I would like to see, but the demand must lead that growth.
I totally do respect the choice to follow a plant based diet, and have tried it, but the more I learn, the more I come to see that most of our current health problems are actually coming from growing poorly selected plants for human and animal food.
As a species we are 2 million years old, in the last 10,000 years we have bred the natural insecticides out of the plants we eat, (except for legumes) the most while increasing their glycemic loading. They now need more fertilizer and protection, often both are chemical and destroy the life which is the soil, releasing carbon.
Demand for real food is returning some of the lands devastated by monoculture soy and carbohydrate production back to regenerative farming practices. By taking care of ourselves we can also be supporting the possibility of stable biodiversity, soil regeneration and carbon sequestration.
When viewing natural systems it is not helpful to filter the information through the lens of subjective morality, capital gain or any other synthetic perspective. I get why we might do that, but there is always a price for misinterpreting nature, the first price is that it creates conflicts that are hard to resolve. The second price is the world we have at the expense of the nature we had. Hopefully you can see the incredible freedom that re-awaits if we are able to re-verse engineer our current paradigm.