Monday, August 18, 2014


Many of my American readers probably assume that Australians are generally pretty fit and healthy. They've seen Home and Away and Crocodile Dundee and beautiful images of white sand beaches and tanned bikini bodies. You’d be forgiven for thinking that Lara Bingle was referring to fat people in that iconic tourism ad, “where the bloody hell are ya?” 

Well, apparently fat Australians are here in droves. According to a recent study published in the renowned medical journal The Lancet, Australia's obesity rates are growing faster than anywhere else in the world (ABC, 2014). 

63 per cent of Australian adults are overweight or obese; so are one quarter of our children.

According to some measures Australia is the fattest nation in the world, with a higher percentage of obese people than America (The Age, 2008).


Now I'm not a big fan of using the crude measurement of Body Mass Index (BMI) to define who is overweight or obese but either way the trend in those numbers is pretty horrifying. 

So what's the deal? Are us Aussies just too wealthy, greedy and lazy these days? Are we eating too much and exercising too little? Are we drinking too much, working too much and not taking advantage of the great outdoors? Too many meat pies and not enough kicking the footy?

Well, yes, this is all part of the problem but let me explain another piece of the puzzle... Food quality. 

As I've explained ad nauseum in posts covering dietary myths such as as ‘calories in, calories out’ and ‘eat low fat to lose weight', it isn't always a matter of quantity of food or quantity of exercise. It is also the quality of nutrition (and quality of exercise) that really counts when it comes to being healthy and lean. 

My understanding, informed by years of research into ancestral health and evolutionary biology, can be summarized by a few (still unconventional) health wisdoms that I believe to be the underpinnings of a healthy body composition:

1. Avoid grains and grain derivative foods such as cereal, bread and pasta. Avoid wheat, corn and potato based products including snacks and processed packaged foods. Especially avoid wheat, which is addictive and contains gluten - an often problematic protein that no human can properly digest (Fasano, 2011). 

2. Avoid eating excess carbohydrates, especially added sugar. Eat only enough carbohydrates for your activity levels, from whole plant foods. Research is increasingly confirming that it is the excess of carbohydrate in the diet that leads to insulin resistance, fat storage, obesity and ultimately diabetes. 

3. Eat more fat. Since we only require a small amount of carbohydrate (10-30% of total calories) and a moderate amount of protein (10-30% of total calories) the remaining 40-80% of calories must come from healthy dietary fats from whole animal and plant foods. Fat is the preferred fuel of the body when functioning in a healthy state (Mercola, 2012). We are born in ketosis (a fat burning state) and we wake up in the mornings in ketosis. Glucose is only required in tiny quantities for very specific metabolic functions. Running on glucose (sugar) like most people do most of the time is a surefire path to systemic inflammation and pathology. 

The unwarranted bureaucratic pressure in the last few decades to restrict fat in our diet and replace it with carbohydrates (from grains) was based on flawed science and self interest. 

When junk food like Cheerios can pay for a heart healthy tick of approval on their cereal boxes you have to question the real motivations behind such "health" advocating groups. 

This advice, championed by Governments and dietary associations around the Western world has been devastating to our health and a major cause of our current obesity epidemic. 

Without getting bogged down with politics and economics, let’s take a look at the latest Australian Dietary Guidelines with the above three pieces of health wisdom in mind and see where they go wrong. Spoiler alert: basically everywhere. 

I’ve copied and pasted in magenta the following bullet points directly from the summary of the 2013 Australian Dietary Guidelines. My comments are italicized below each bullet point in black. 


AUSTRALIAN DIETARY GUIDELINES 2013

Enjoy a wide variety of these foods every day: 

- Plenty of vegetables of different types and colours, and legumes/beans [Five to six servings per day]

Avoid legumes. They are high in carbohydrates and lower in nutrition than other whole plant foods. Eat more non-starchy vegetables instead or if you require starch eat roots and tubers such as sweet potato, parsnip, taro, etc. Some beans here and there won’t hurt but don’t they should not be a staple.

• Fruit [At least two servings per day]

Eating some fruit is good in terms of vitamin, antioxidant and fiber content. However, you should limit fruit intake and only eat whole fruit, not juice. Fruit contains a lot of sugar. Focus on lower sugar content and higher nutrient-density fruits such as berries and try not to over consume high fructose fruits such as pineapple, mango, watermelon, etc. 

• Grain (cereal) foods, mostly wholegrain and/or high cereal fibre varieties, such as breads, cereals, rice, pasta, noodles, polenta, couscous, oats, quinoa and barley (At least six servings per day; at least nine servings for pregnant women)

Avoid grains. Grains are inferior foods and basically a cheap source of calories in the form of refined carbohydrate. There is nothing healthy about ‘whole grains'. Steer clear of all of the above foods! Recommending at least six servings of grains per day is ludicrous. This is the biggest issue I have with the dietary guidelines. Having said that, I think eating some non-gluten grains on occasion such as white rice or corn should not be a problem for most healthy people at a healthy weight.

• Lean meats and poultry, fish, eggs, tofu, nuts and seeds, and legumes/beans

Your meat does not have to be lean. Eat fatty cuts of (preferably wild/grass-fed/organic) meat, including organs where possible. Much of the nutrition in animal products is in the fat and organs - not the muscle meat - and eating too much lean protein without adequate fat can be problematic. 

Choose wild caught fish where possible, with a preference for oily cold water fish such as salmon and mackerel for their excellent omega-3 content. Try to avoid farm raised fish and don’t eat fish that has been fried in vegetable oil or battered. Eggs are great, particularly pastured eggs. Eat the whole damn egg and don’t worry about cholesterol in egg yolks or other foods for that matter. Dietary cholesterol does not affect serum cholesterol in most people. 

Avoid tofu. Unfermented soy is estrogenic and contains a substantial amount of anti-nutrients. Avoid unfermented soy products such as soy milk and edamame. In contrast, fermented soy such as nato or miso can be beneficial.

Eat some raw nuts and seeds but avoid over-consuming these energy-dense and hyper-palatable foods as the high amount of polyunsaturated omega-6 fats can be inflammatory. 

• Milk, yoghurt, cheese and/or their alternatives, mostly reduced fat

Avoid milk. Avoid reduced fat dairy. Eat some full fat (grass-fed/fermented) dairy such as butter, sour cream and kefir if tolerated. If you choose to eat dairy, always favour full fat dairy as it has more nutrition and less of an insulinogenic (insulin spiking) effect. 

FURTHER GUIDELINES:

• Replace high fat foods which contain predominately saturated fats such as butter, cream, cooking margarine, coconut and palm oil with foods which contain predominately polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats such as oils, spreads, nut butters/pastes and avocado.

Don't avoid saturated fat! Eat saturated fat to satiety from healthy sources such as grass-fed beef, coconut products or full fat dairy. 

Avoid polyunsaturated fats (PUFAs) from vegetable oils, spreads and nut butters. Stay away from canola/sunflower/safflower/cottonseed/rapeseed/corn/soybean oil and all other cheap industrial vegetable and seed oils and spreads, which have very high levels of pro-inflammatory omega-6 PUFAs and no redeeming qualities. Replace these refined vegetable fats and oils with natural sources of saturated fat from butter, coconut oil, MCT oil and even ethically sourced palm oil. Monounsaturated fats such as olive/avocado/macadamia nut oil should be used as a condiment or dressing, not as a cooking oil. These fats are not stable at high temperatures. 

SUMMARY

The Australian Dietary Guidelines may be well intended but they offer too much bad advice in my opinion. 

They are greatly at odds with any respectable real/whole food diet such as Paleo or Weston A. Price. They also vastly differ from much of the latest research showing the benefits of high fat / low carbohydrate diets and the about-face on the vilification of saturated fat and dietary cholesterol. 

It astounds me that Governmental bodies continue to regurgitate the same old incorrect assumptions from the 1970s and 1980s that were based on poor science and often funded by grain-centric food corporations. i.e. saturated fat is bad, grains are good. Eat lean protein, low-fat dairy, vegetable oils and up to NINE SERVINGS of grains per day. 

Clearly this Standard American Diet - now Standard Australian Diet - does not work. 

I am not here to bad-mouth the Australian Government on it’s health agenda. Bless them for trying. But I urge you to take their recommendations with a hessian sack full of salt. (And then do some overhead walking lunges with it). 


PALEO MODEL PEP TALK...

Your health is completely and utterly your own responsibility and no one else’s. You need to take control of your health if you want to avoid being in the 63 per cent of fat and obese Australians. 

This means doing your own research and coming to your own conclusions. It means self experimentation, trial and error, tracking your health markers and becoming a bio-hacker of sorts. It means being honest with yourself about how you look, feel and function and what you can do to improve your mental, physical and emotional health. 

Not to sound like a contrived yogi but we cannot partition segments of our lives and disassociate them from our health. Mind and body are fused together like a DNA double helix. 

Mental agility, mood, compassion, relationships, sexual drive, success, happiness - these are all affected by your health, which is affected by what you put in your mouth every single day. If you eat crap and treat your body like shit you will be a fraction of your full potential as a human being. 


The Government can tell you to eat cereal grains for breakfast, lunch and dinner but you don’t have to. I say it's your choice. 

I say, let them eat butter.

Thanks for reading and please do share!

David Sciola.

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References

ABC News, 2014: http://www.abc.net.au/news/2014-05-29/australian-obesity-rates-climbing-fastest-in-the-world/5485724

Australian Government National Health and Medical Research Council, 2013: https://www.nhmrc.gov.au/guidelines/publications/n55

Fasano, 2011: http://www.tenderfoodie.com/blog/2011/12/19/interview-w-dr-alessio-fasano-part-1-should-anyone-eat-glute.html

Mercola, 2012: http://fitness.mercola.com/sites/fitness/archive/2012/08/10/fat-not-glucose.aspx

The Age, 2008: http://www.theage.com.au/national/nine-million-australians-are-a-ticking-fat-bomb-20080619-2tjv.html

Image 1: www.theage.com.au
Image 2: www.nhmrc.gov.au
Image 3: www.gadling.com

Tuesday, July 29, 2014


If I mentioned the word ‘Paleo’ to you back in 2010 you almost certainly wouldn’t have had a clue what I was talking about. Yet today you can barely go a day without running into some Paleo die-hard at the gym or stumbling across an article about this new diet ‘fad’ in the mainstream media.

So what’s with all the hype? Well, it seems that hundreds of thousands of people across the world are seeing amazing results after adopting a lifestyle informed by ancestral health - whether you call this a ‘Paleo', ‘Primal' or ‘Wild' diet. And they can't shut up about it.

A Paleo-style diet seems to work incredibly well at improving all manner of health outcomes - especially those related to metabolic diseases such as obesity and diabetes as well as autoimmune diseases such as rheumatoid arthritis or Hashimoto's thyroiditis. 

Moreover, it seems to help people look good naked by improving body composition in a sustainable way that still lets you eat plenty of butter, bacon and dark chocolate. 

Scientific research - a costly, lengthy and often biased undertaking - typically lags current real-world results experienced by the health community at large by many, many years. I don’t expect to see solid scientific consensus on the benefits of a Paleo diet for another decade at least. 

Just because Paleo isn't backed by peer-reviewed scientific literature at the moment doesn't mean it doesn't work. It clearly does work. We just need for the science to catch up.

Interestingly the new tide of research coming out now is already debunking many of the dietary myths that have led our health astray since cholesterol and saturated fat were vilified in the latter half of the twentieth century. 

We are starting to see all the health repercussions from the previous decades of terrible dietary recommendations from Governmental bodies recommending low fat diets and eight to eleven servings of whole grains a day.

Either way, science or no science, if you believe all the amazing testimonials from your CrossFit mates, Gary Abblet or the LA Lakers and the idea of a Paleo lifestyle makes sense to you then there should be nothing stopping you from trying it, right? But there often is. 

Here are five excuses I hear all the time from people trying to talk themselves out of Paleo - and why they are lame and easily overcome.

Excuse One: I just couldn’t live without my toast/museli/yoghurt/milk in my coffee.

We precious humans like our little rituals. We get in a big huff when our favorite local cafe decides to close for three weeks over summer to renovate. 'Oh no! Now where will I get my bircher muesli and cappuccino fix?' Sob sob.

We get accustomed to eating certain things day in, day out - especially for breakfast. The thought of giving up our favorite muesli with yoghurt is positively horrifying. 

I went through the same initial resistance when I started eating in a more primal fashion. I refused to give up oats at first. 

Eventually I weaned myself off oats, muesli, yoghurt and milk in my coffee. And to my surprise it was very easy. In fact, not only was it easy but I started feeling a whole lot better when I stopped eating all those empty carbs for breakfast and insulin-spiking milk in my coffee. Within a few months I didn’t miss those things at all. I’ve never looked back.

Humans are incredibly adaptable and so are our palates. If you love oysters, wasabi, kimchi or beer I bet that you didn't like it the first time you tried it. No, you acquired the taste. 

Same goes for adopting a Paleo diet. You’d be amazed how many people tell me they could never stomach eggs for breakfast. Yet six months later and they are smashing omelets and salad in the morning and the thought of a bagel or Corn Flakes is revolting to them. 

So go ahead and give up bread for a month or two and I guarantee the benefits from going wheat-free will far outweigh whatever psychological comfort you used to get from your morning toast ritual.

Excuse Two: I can’t afford to eat this way.

Yes, grass-fed beef is more expensive than corn-fed beef in this country and coconut oil is more expensive than canola oil but it is entirely possible to eat Paleo on a strict budget. I do it myself. I’d love to be able to afford all organic produce and fresh wild-caught salmon three times a week but I can’t so I make some sacrifices that still enable me to eat Paleo without bankrupting myself. 

For example, I buy frozen grass-fed ground beef and frozen wild Alaskan salmon from Trader Joe’s, which is less than half the price of the fresh stuff from Whole Foods. I go to the farmers’ market for local, conventionally grown produce, which may not be certified organic but it is surely far more nutritious and cheaper than most supermarket fare. 

There are many ways you can be thrifty on a Paleo diet - from going in on a third of a cow with mates to growing your own veggies at home. But even if this isn’t practical to you and you do end up spending a little bit more at the supermarket you will end up saving in other ways. 

Most packaged foods, take away and convenience foods are marked up exorbitantly compared to fresh produce that you prepare yourself. Avoiding breakfast cereal, snacks, packaged beverages and ready-made meals and simply cooking more of your own meals will help mitigate the extra cost of eating Paleo. 

Additionally, being chronically ill is extremely expensive. Doctors, medication and sick leave are a huge financial burden, not to factor in the non-financial costs of disease to wellbeing and happiness. 

Taking control of your health and preventing disease through smart lifestyle choices is the best way to save money in the long term. Spend the extra now and you’ll be better off financially in the future.

Excuse Three: 'Paleo is unsustainable and inequitable'.

I’m not going to try and convince you that Paleo is sustainable in our current broken system of mono-crop agriculture and concentrated animal feeding operations. The sad truth is that our food system is set up in a perverse misallocation of resources that makes processed junk foods from cereal grains cheap and accessible while healthy produce is more expensive and inaccessible to the average person. 

It baffles me that a factory produced packet of Skittles with tens of ingredients, inputs and chemicals shipped and trucked from all over the world costs less than an organic local apple that literally grows on a tree, naturally. 

It is true that us Paleo folk are consuming more than our fair share of resources to be able to eat coconuts from the Philippines, bananas from Ecuador and lamb from New Zealand. 

It is also true that developing countries do not have access to many Paleo staples and that billions of people subsist on grains and legumes for survival. As I’ve said before, Paleo is an elitist diet - not everyone can afford it. (Ironically, as hunter-gathers we used to all eat this way but now only the wealthy can). 

But should the fact that Paleo isn’t equitable or sustainable stop you and I from eating an optimal diet if we have the means to do so? This is a philosophical and moral issue that is far beyond the realm of this blog. It is up to you if you want to take the moral high ground - but you won't get much encouragement from me.

I would hazard a guess that if you’re reading this blog post then you would be a massive hypocrite to avoid a Paleo diet for ethical reasons of sustainability or equality. 

Why? Because I guarantee that, assuming you are a relatively wealthy Westerner like nearly all of my readers, your current lifestyle is NOT sustainable. 

Your flights to holiday destinations, your iPhone, your air-conditioning units, driving through traffic to your parents house for dinner, the hundreds of take away coffee cups you dispose of annually, the machines that wash and dry your clothes for you... None of these things are sustainable or equitable when you consider the seven billion person population of the world today and how our scarce resources are unfairly divided up among them.

Call me cynical if you want, but unless you are willing to go off the grid, make your own hemp footwear, build yourself a mud hut out in the wilderness and hunt game with crude tools then please don’t use sustainability issues to avoid eating a Paleo diet. I won't have it.

Excuse Four: 'I like beer too much'.

I posit that you are better off eating Paleo and still drinking beer than not eating Paleo and still drinking beer. Paleo doesn’t have to be 100% strict. Any improvements in your lifestyle are worthwhile, so don’t let perfection get in the way of improvement. 

Excuse Five: 'I’m worried what Nonna/mum/my friends/partner will think of me'. 

If your diet gets in the way of your social life then you are doing something wrong. I think some people can get so obsessive and neurotic about food and dieting that they allow it to impinge upon their lives and detract from their happiness. If this happens to you it is likely a sign of deeper emotional issues, insecurities or a desire for control in your life. That I can't help you with.

A normal, healthy Paleoista should be able to go to restaurants, work functions or family gatherings without an ounce of anxiety knowing that you can wholeheartedly participate and enjoy yourself with some minor tweaks to what you put in your mouth. 

Yes, you may have to make some annoying requests like ‘can I get my burger with no bun and wrapped in lettuce’ or explain to dear Nan that, ‘your sponge cake looks lovely but I choose not to eat wheat anymore so I’m going to pass, thank you’. 

Hey, you may even choose to bend the rules once in a while to try some of Nan’s sponge if you think it’s worth it and it may be one of your last opportunities to do so. 

There is no such thing as ‘cheating’ in Paleo if you ask me. Cheating involves dishonesty so if you are honest with yourself then there is nothing wrong with eating non-Paleo foods on special occasions. 

Have some fun and get back to being healthy the next day. Given that you aren’t just trying Paleo as a temporary weight-loss diet and you’ve committed to the long term then you have the rest of your life to eat healthy. 

Consequently, I simply cannot accept societal pressure as an excuse not to live a healthier lifestyle. If friends or even your partner cut you down when you lose a bunch of weight and are suddenly a leaner, more energetic, more productive, better version of yourself because this makes them feel inadequate or threatened then alarm bells should sound. 

If people close to you can see your success but are not willing to participate, support or encourage you then you should consider getting rid of such toxic people from your life. I truly believe you end up being like the five people you spend most of your time with. If they are unhealthy, lazy slobs with a defeatist attitude you better watch out. 

So don’t let a few negative people stop you from achieving your health, fitness or weight loss goals. Worse still, don’t blame others for being a bad influence, tempting you to eat crap or dragging you down with them. 

Your health is your own responsibility and no one else’s. You’re not a foie gras duck - no one can force you to eat a bad diet. 

The best way to counter the negative talk from others or from yourself is to take control and take action. When you start to look, feel and perform better than ever your doubts will subside and it will become easy to put up with some odd looks from waiters and friends alike. 

Success is a self-fulfilling outcome: it will enable you to see that you are worthy of taking care of yourself by taking control of your health. 

Ultimately, if the premise of the Paleo diet doesn’t sit well with you or you honestly don’t want to try it then that is completely fine with me. Each to their own.

However, if you are interested in a Paleo lifestyle but you are letting lame excuses like those above stop you then I am giving you permission to stop sabotaging yourself and give it a crack. 

It may seem like you're climbing up a rocky hill in bare feet at first, but keep going. The view from up there is pretty damn sweet. 

'Form a habit, forge a lifestyle.’ - The Paleo Model. 

If you want some actionable resources to get your started with Paleo I recommend Robb Wolf’s guides

Thanks for reading and please share.

Related Articles:


Tuesday, July 8, 2014


Please note that these are my personal opinions and not advice. Click links for more information:

1. Is quinoa Paleo? 

No.

2. Which is healthier, fresh farmed fish or canned wild-caught fish?


3. Honey or Agave?


4. Organic corn-fed beef or non-organic pastured beef?

Pastured.

5. Carbs pre or post workout?


6. If you were to use a protein powder supplement, which is better out of whey, soy, hemp, pea, casein, egg albumin, etc?

Whey.

7. Which is more important, exercise or sleep?

Sleep.

8. Do you cook with olive oil?

No.

9. Do you cook with coconut oil?

Yes.

10. Do you cook with butter or ghee?

Yes.

11. What is your alcohol of choice?


12. Most important supplement?

Magnesium.

13. What’s more important on food packaging, ingredient list or nutrition information?

Ingredients.

14. Which food you are most strict on avoiding?

Wheat.

15. Do you actively try to minimize your salt intake?

No.

16. Is it true you use coconut oil as moisturizer?

Yes.

17. Is it better to eat carbs in the morning or evening?


18. Best take away cuisine for Paleo?

Mexican.

19. Second best take away cuisine for Paleo?

Thai.

20. Which grain is less problematic, rice or corn? 

Rice.

21. Brown rice or white rice?


22. Favorite gluten-free beer?



23. Healthiest fruit?

Avocado.

24. Healthiest nut?

Macadamia.

25. Best vitamin-D supplement?

Sunshine.

26. Best sweetener for coffee?

Butter.

27. Best resource for Paleo beginners
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Thanks for reading folks! Feel free to send your questions, concerns, stories or testimonials to thepaleomodel@gmail.com 

David.




Tuesday, July 1, 2014


"Swings and roundabouts” is a cracking British term used by David Brent to illustrate that our life’s paths rarely consist of a straight line: there are obstacles, turns and deviations along the way. 

The same goes for our diet and nutrition pathways. What may seem perfectly healthy today could turn out to be a dietary devil in years to come, and vice versa.

In 1984 the Times came out with this story vilifying saturated fat:


We were warned that eating too much saturated fat would almost certainly lead to heart disease and urged to comply with the recommendation of cutting saturated fat to the paltry amount of less than seven percent of calories - basically a couple of slices of cheese.

30 years later we see a complete about-face:


Now it seems saturated fat is relatively benign or even healthy when it comes from whole food sources and that we should eat more butter!

The point is that nutrition research is some of the most biased and misleading of all the sciences. 

To make matters worse the media has a tendency to pick up this (bad) science - that they don’t understand - and spit out sensationalized news stories such as "Eating Red Meat Worse than Smoking a Pack a Day”. 

You no doubt stumble across these articles on a monthly basis. For the most part you should ignore them.

Unfortunately the lay public and even General Practitioners know very little about nutrition and are therefore susceptible to propagate "health wisdom" written by industry-funded researchers, advertisers and lobbyists for the profitable industrial food companies. 

Do you think the old Food Pyramid recommendation to eat 8-11 servings of grains per day was backed by sound science? Hell no! You can bet your bottom dollar that the influence and lobbying from multi-billion dollar agri-businesses had a lot to do with it.

The point is, when it comes to nutrition recommendations be very skeptical. You should even be skeptical of my advice, given my predisposition to the literature favoring ancestral health and nutrition. 

Either way, at least my motivations are fairly pure and you can rest assured I’m not being bribed by the grass-fed beef industry… I wish!

So now that I've ranted about the baselessness of most conventional health wisdom let's get to the topic of white rice versus brown rice. 

I'm sure that most of you would assume that brown rice is far healthier white rice. Why? Because you've heard the following (misleading) statements:

  • Brown rice is less refined than white rice.
  • Brown rice is a complex carbohydrate, more ‘complex’ than white.
  • Brown rice has more protein, fiber and nutrients than white rice.
  • Brown rice is lower on the glycemic index than white rice. 
  • White rice makes you fat.
  • They charge $1 extra for brown rice at many asian restaurants so it must be better for you.

Now apart from the last one there is some truth to the above statements but as you’ll see the full story is very different.

Human metabolism is incredibly complex. The effect of a food on our health is far more convoluted than just the micro and macronutrients contained within that food. We need more context. 

Let's reconsider these statements in light of what we now know about organic chemistry and human biology:


ANTI-NUTRIENTS AND BIOAVAILABILITY

Just because something is less refined or more 'whole grain' doesn't necessarily mean it is better for us. Refined foods (in the sense of industrial agricultural foods) are generally worse for us than whole foods but when we consider grains this isn't always the case. 

Grains and legumes are only edible to humans after cultivation and processing. Try eating raw wild wheat or rice and see how that goes for you... 

The germ and bran of rice does contain most of the protein, fiber and other nutrients but it also is the part of the organism that is most harmful to predators (humans). 

You see, rice is the seed of a swamp grass and therefore defined as a cereal grain. Unlike fruit seeds, grains don't want to be eaten by predators. And since they can't run away like animals or don't have a hard shell like nuts, grains have developed anti-nutrients as a means of self-defence or deterrent to predators. 

Anti-nutrients - phytates and lectins in the case of rice - can be quite irritating and harmful to human digestion. The more intact these anti-nutrients the more damaging they can be. This is their job. They can be thought of as biological warfare against predators.

Processing: soaking, grinding, cooking, sprouting and even human digestion can partially break down these anti-nutrients making them far less harmful. This is why humans with robust gastrointestinal function can get away with eating a substantial amount of well prepared grains and legumes for many years without any ostensible harm. 

Yet for those with gut irritation, gluten intolerance, leaky gut, etc, grains can be debilitating. Celiac disease is an extreme case of inflammation in response to gluten intolerance where the gut lining has been destroyed by long-term exposure to wheat protein.

Not only can the bran and germ of rice be potentially aggravating to human digestions but research is increasingly demonstrating how anti-nutrients can also bind to nutrients - like magnesium, zinc, iron and calcium - preventing the absorption of these micronutrients. 

Thus the bioavailability of nutrients in brown rice tends to be low. So while brown rice may have more calcium and magnesium than white rice you probably aren't absorbing any more of it overall. 

Phytic acid (Phytin in rice) can also inhibit the enzymes pepsin and amylase, used to break down protein and sugar respectively. So all that extra protein in brown rice (which is still insignificant and inferior compared to animal and other plant proteins) may not be absorbed so well either. 


GLYCEMIC INDEX AND BLOOD SUGAR

The second major argument for brown rice over white rice is that because it has more protein and fiber from the bran and germ it is a ‘complex carbohydrate’ lower on the glycemic index and therefore has less of a blood-sugar spiking effect. 

In effect this is true, however the glycemic index is only a rough guide and should not be used alone as a metric to decide what to eat and not to eat. 

Looking at the Glycemic Index is kind of like looking at calorie content (which I am NOT a fan of): it can give you an indication of one scientific metric - effect on blood sugar for GI or total energy for calories. But such metrics tell you nothing of the nutrition content, quality, or potential effect on your digestion, metabolism or hormonal function. 

The glycemic load, which corrects for net carbs in a given serving size, is a slightly better metric but since blood sugar control varies so much from individual to individual and depends on many other factors - such as what you ate along with the food in question - it is not a good reason to choose brown rice over white rice. 

If you suffer from elevated blood sugar, diabetes, are overweight or obese or trying to lose weight then the real question is should you be eating rice at all? Probably not. 

Technically grains are neolithic, post-agricultural foods and are “not Paleo” but that’s not an argument I want to go into today.

Yet this does lead us to the next point of contention - why are we eating rice in the first place? 

If you are eating brown rice because you think it is a “healthy whole grain" - high in fiber, protein and micronutrients - I would encourage you to think again. 

On the scale of nutrient density brown rice, just like any other grain or faux-grain like quinoa, rank very low when compared to healthy animal products or vegetables. 


Let’s look at the stats:

100 calories of boiled brown rice has 3g of protein, 24g of carbohydrate, 2g fiber, 0.5mg of iron and 9mg of calcium.

100 calories of boiled Brussels sprouts has 9g of protein, 12g of carbohydrate, 7g of fiber, 3.5mg of iron and 100mg of calcium.

i.e. Brussels sprouts have triple the protein, half the carbs, three-and-a-half times the fiber, seven times the iron and 11 times the calcium of brown rice. 

Clearly if you are after protein, fiber or most other micronutrients you are better off eating cruciform vegetables than brown rice. 

Evidently, the only real reason to eat rice from a nutritional perspective is for it’s carbohydrate content. And since most people already consume too many carbohydrates then rice should really only be eaten occasionally as a simple form of glucose or a good accompaniment to a Thai curry.  

Given that you are relatively active, have good blood sugar control and are looking for a safe form of starch that will be readily converted to glucose in order to restore glycogen levels post workout, for example, then your choice should definitely be white rice. 

Ultimately, there really is no compelling reason to ever eat brown rice. 

Having said that, eating the occasional serving of brown rice is probably not going to adversely affect most people in any serious way. And if you prefer the taste or texture of brown rice over white rice that’s your prerogative. 

However, when you consider that brown rice is potentially more aggravating to the gut, that any additional nutrition content is less bioavailable and that the only real benefit of eating rice in the first place is for a source of relatively safe starch - then white rice is actually healthier than brown rice and is the better choice of the two. 

As I said, swings and roundabouts.

So when you’re at Thai Pod or Thai Tanic restaurant next time and you really feel like white rice, save yourself the dollar and go for it!

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References:

http://ancestral-nutrition.com/why-white-rice-is-healthier-than-brown-rice/

http://nutritiondata.self.com

http://www.time.com [Image source]

Tuesday, June 17, 2014

MindBodyGreen Post: 8 Traits of Naturally Lean People


I've been a fashion model for 10 years and over that time I've been surrounded by skinny people from all over the world, men and women from 15 to 50. Some of them, typically girls, battle their way to being thin in very unhealthy ways starvation or a diet of carrot sticks and nicotine. This is a sad reality of a competitive (and in some ways perverse) industry...


Tuesday, June 3, 2014


All of you are well aware that Krispy Kremes and Big Gulps are more akin to biological warfare than nutrition and should be avoided like the plague. However, this post is about four very common foods that are often touted as being healthy and that you may still be consuming on a regular basis unaware of the possible harm they are causing to your metabolism and health. 

I believe the Paleo diet is a great template for optimal nutrition. Yet in this post I discard my bias towards Paleo rationale and instead take a more holistic approach. 

No matter what your dietary choices are - Fruitarian, Low Carb High Fat or Raw Food Vegan - do yourself a favor and try to eliminate or at least minimize your consumption of the following four foods that everyone should avoid.


1. Wheat

Bread can be amazing. I'll admit it. A fresh, crusty baguette from a small town boulangerie in regional France may be worth breaking your gluten-free diet for as a one-off culinary experience (I plead guilty, Your Paleo Honour). 

But for the most part, wheat is simply not worth eating when you are striving for optimal health. The modern, domesticated, high-yielding dwarf wheat we find these days is far more problematic, blood-sugar-spiking and immunological than the ancient wheat our forebears consumed at the birth of agriculture. And I'm not saying that wheat was particularly healthy back then, but it seems to be far worse these days. 

Gluten is a unique molecule that cannot be fully digested by humans (Fasano, 2011). This is not to say that it brings immediate harm to all those who consume it. But it can seriously interfere with the digestion of susceptible people: particularly those with gluten intolerance, gluten sensitivity, low immune function, gut permeability or irritable bowel syndrome.  

Gluten sensitivity is difficult to test for and so it flies under the radar of conventional medicine - with most cases going undiagnosed in a population that is increasingly intolerant to our modern refined wheat. 

Even if wheat doesn't seem to affect you in any overt way, the potential for some harm - however small - paired with the fact that it not a very nutritious food and basically a source of cheap, insulin-spiking carbohydrate, makes a very compelling case to avoid it completely. 


2. Industrial vegetable and seed oils such as canola, sunflower, safflower, corn, cottonseed and soybean oil.

These vegetable oils are anything but "heart healthy". In fact, several studies have shown that while replacing saturated fats with vegetable oils may reduce total cholesterol, the absolute risk of heart disease and total mortality typically increases on such a regimen. This is probably due to the pro-inflammatory nature of linoleic acid, which is the main omega-6 fatty acid in processed vegetable and seed oils. 

Without delving into the cholesterol-heart disease myth let's just focus on the fact that these vegetable oils are unnatural and nasty. Often they require chemical solvents to extract the oil from a plant that isn’t particularly oily - like cottonseed or corn.

It is much better to get your fats from unprocessed or minimally processed animal and plant foods that are naturally fatty - such as (organ) meats, eggs, oily seafood, coconuts, avocados, nuts, olives, etc. 

These are some of the most nutrient-dense foods available, in stark contrast to the empty calories contained in industrial vegetable and seed oils that sadly constitute a majority of fat calories consumed in the Standard American Diet. 

Many vegetable oils, especially corn, soybean and cottonseed oil, are simply cheap agricultural bi-products that Mr Market concocted up to make a quick buck. 

To add insult to injury these junk oils are sold in cheap plastic containers and marketed as being "heart healthy" alternatives to real food fats that humans have consumed for eons. I mean whose idea was it to eat oil extracted from cotton? How ridiculous!

Industrial oils should be seen as what they are: waste products sold with savvy marketing as health products, with disastrous consequences to our collective health. Steer clear! 


3. Unfermented Soy

Regrettably, being a lactose intolerant child I grew up on soy milk with only the best of intentions from Mum who thought she was doing me a favour.

Besides the possibility that my soy-steeped youth may have saved me from my genetic predisposition to a gorilla-esque manscape (Dad and brother are 90th percentile hairy) there are not many redeeming qualities of unfermented soy. 

Soy is a particularly estrogenic compound. Estrogen is a steroid hormone that promotes the development of female characteristics. Because unfermented soy interferes with the delicate balance of hormones in your body it can be problematic for both males and females. To add insult to injury, soy is also goitrogenic - meaning that it can suppress thyroid function - leading to potential hypothyroid symptoms such as weight-gain, hair-loss, coldness, etc. Hardly the characteristics of a superfood! (As an aside - there is no such thing as a ‘superfood’. The term is a marketing ploy like De Beers ‘Diamonds are forever’ campaign back in the 1930s to create a need that doesn’t exist)

An old Japanese wives' tale is that when a woman suspected her husband of cheating she would feed him as much unfermented soy (e.g. tofu, edamame) as possible as this was a tried and true method of reducing male libido and fertility. No wonder Japan has one of the lowest fertility rates in the world!

Furthermore, soy is a global mega-crop and hugely profitable in industrial agriculture. Along with corn it is the largest genetically modified crop in the world. 91% of soy produced in the US is GM (Mercola, 2011).

Given the economics underlying soy it is no wonder soybean oil has snuck its way into the Western Diet, with up to 7% of total calories derived from this crappy oil for the average American, who remains largely unaware of the fact. SAD indeed! 

Please note that I'm saving my scorn for soy to the predominantly unfermented types - soy milk, edamame, soy protein isolate, soybean oil, etc. 

Fermented soy such as natto, miso and (gluten-free) soy sauce does not share the estrogenic and goitrogenic properties of unfermented soy. In fact, fermented soy products - like most other fermented foods - have many proposed health benefits and can be included in a healthy eating regime.


4. Milk 

The jury is still out on raw milk. Raw milk from healthy pastured cows free from hormones and antibiotics is probably quite a healthy food if you tolerate lactose and can find it. However, our litigious Nanny-state society deems it to be "unsafe" unless it's used for baths or pets.

Instead we take cows, artificially inseminate them, feed them corn, incarcerate them, dose them with antibiotics and hormones and force them to lactate year-round for their entire productive lives. 

Then we take their milk and heat the bejesus out of it to kill any potential bugs [pasteurization], remove most of the fat and thus nutrition [skim milk]. Then we super-blend it so that any remaining fat molecules are distributed evenly [homogenization]. 

Depending on which country you live in we then fortify it with Vitamin D, package it in cheap plastic and advertise it as an essential source of calcium to pour on your "healthy whole grain" cereal in the mornings.

After all this bastardization what is the average consumer left with? An insulin-spiking, low-nutrition beverage, potentially laced with hormones, antibiotics, toxins from plastic and with the aftertaste of animal cruelty. Yum!

I don't buy into the dogma that dairy products were not consumed by our hunter-gatherer ancestors and therefore should not be consumed on a Paleo diet. This would be to argue that we should only eat foods that existed pre-agriculture, which is both impossible and ridiculous. 

I think some fermented dairy from healthy sources is a potentially nutritious and beneficial food and if tolerated can safely be incorporated in a Paleo lifestyle. The 'Paleo Police' may disagree, which is totally fine with me. 

However, as with soy, fermented dairy (preferably from raw milk) such as kefir or hard cheese is a vastly different food to pasteurized, homogenized milk. And I maintain that industrial milk, in this sense, should be completely avoided on the Paleo diet. 

If you want to drink raw milk and you can find it then that's your prerogative. Otherwise, black coffee it is!   

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References:

Fasano, 2011: http://www.tenderfoodie.com/blog/2011/12/19/interview-w-dr-alessio-fasano-part-1-should-anyone-eat-glute.html

Mercola, 2011: http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2011/03/14/is-the-hidden-soy-in-your-foods-contributing-to-illness.aspx

Monday, May 19, 2014

Eat More Fat!



In my last post, 'Crappy Carbs can Kill', I explained that the chronic overconsumption of nutrient-poor refined carbohydrates is at the root of metabolic diseases such as obesity, diabetes and heart disease and also a contributing factor to many other modern diseases. 

Well that was all a bit heavy, but the good news is that if you are willing to take control of your health it is relatively simple to eschew these crappy carbs and instead eat healthy real foods that our bodies have evolved to thrive on over millions of years. 

Eating a healthy, whole foods diet that is in line with our evolution enables us to live the healthy, happy and disease-free lives we are entitled to.