Healthy Diet Ideas

Low-Carb Healthy Eating     Food Causing Inflammation


The Good About Fat      Probiotics    


Homemade Yogurt
         About Fermented Vegetables



Low-Carb Healthy Eating

To lose those unwanted pounds and regain your health, a low-carb diet is an excellent choice.  A low-carb diet limits carbohydrates, but in the main it does so by eliminating or at least  limiting those carbs coming from grains, starchy vegetables and too much fruit.  

Most modern low-carb diets that are up to date tend to restrict or forbid processed foods.  Earlier low-carb diets (like those that came in the 1970s) worried less about processed food because these chemical, sugar, and sodium offerings weren't nearly as pervasive and health-threatening then as they are now.

Early on, low-carb diets were mostly for losing unwanted pounds. As they have evolved, the health benefits i.e. avoiding the risk factors associated with diabetes and other diseases in the metabolic syndrome became a more important theme.  A modern low-carb diet is a good idea if you need to lose weight and/or you want to change your bad eating habits to improve your overall health.

The key idea of the low-carb diet is to reduce the glucose in your blood. Sugar, grains, and starches quickly become glucose as they enter the bloodstream.  As blood sugar rises, the body releases insulin to help direct the glucose to the cells where it is needed.  What isn't immediately needed get stored - in the liver, muscles, or other cells (fat) for later use.  When the load is too much, it simply gets stored as FAT to be available down the road when the "famine" arrives.  The "problem" is that for most of us, the food supply is abundant, and the fat just hangs around in permanent storage.

A good low-carb diet doesn't restrict the amount of carbs eaten, but rather the type of carbs.  In other words, you can eat all the green leafy veggies, broccoli and asparagus that you want.  Thus, there is no real sacrifice of nutrients associated with these diets. In essence, they are very heart-healthy as they tend to improve the HDL (good cholesterol) and will dramatically reduce the over production of triglyceride in the liver.

The plans that my wife and I loosely follow is the Paleo diet and the Eat Fat, Get Thin discussed below.  A good third party assessment of Paleo is here.  Much, much, much has been written on the Paleo diet.  Followers and "experts" abound.  A Google search for "Paleo carrot cake" or "Paleo meatloaf" will bring thousands of links.  There's a healthy Paleo approach for just about anything you might want to prepare.  There's a huge Paleo community awaiting you.  The Godfather of the Paleo movement is Loren Cordain, PhD. His book on the program is an interesting read, but there is so much free information available online, it's fairly easy to get the basics down without an investment.  Here is a site that does a good job of summerizing Paleo.  In case you want the book, which is recognized as the most comprehensive on the subject, go here.

Another very important figure in this health movement is Mark Hyman, MD who is the author of a dozen NY Times bestselling books.  His latest, EAT FAT, GET THIN is a treasure for anyone wanting to get to their ideal weight and regain their health.  Big recommendation!
 

Food Causing Inflammation

For many seniors, inflammation in the body is the key enemy causing pain, and the expression of any inherited metabolic syndrome diseases.  This is not the localized infection that can result from injuries, but rather the systemic inflammation  that can affect you internally from the brain down to the gout in your toe. Inflammation is linked to chronic pain, heart disease, dementia, autoimmune diseases, and most of the age-related diseases plaguing us as we grow older.  No matter what those genes forecast, if we can keep inflammation under control, the chance of staying healthy is much better. Inflammation comes several sources including stress, lack of sleep, pollution, smoking, lack of exercise, and, the biggest cause of all, diet.  Much of the inflammation in our bodies come from the stuff we put in our mouth.  

So what is it we consume that causes inflammation in the body? Here is a list of the major culprits:

1.  Sugar and refined starch.  When blood sugar and insulin levels are high, they trigger a pro-inflammatory response.  This is number one on the list because it is the number one cause of systemic chronic inflammation.  More on this topic from Dr. Joseph Merrcola.

2.  Vegetable oil.  Most of the popular vegetable oils are high in omega 6 fatty acids which can get the omega 6s and the omega 3s out of blance - too many 6s and not enough 3s.  Too many fried foods and not enough fatty fish.  Since omega 6 is pro-inflammatory and omega 3 is anti-inflammatory, the imbalance is harmful.

3. Dairy products.  A gray area in the Paleo diet - Dr. Cordain says no to dairy because so many people are allergic to dairy.  Maybe you are or maybe not.  It's worthwhile finding out, but it CAN be a major source of inflammation.  If not, products like whole-fat yogurt can be a great source of calcium and probiotics.

4. Wheat, Rye, and Barley.  These grains all contain the common allergen, gluten.  When gluten enters the body, the result is an immediate inflammatory immune response.  Of course these grains also turn quickly into glucose in the body, so there are a couple reasons to avoid them or eat them sparringly if you can ween off their addictive pull.

5.  Processed Corn.  One reason the Paleo diet outlaws processed food is because nearly all of it contains processed corn - corn starch, corn syrup, and corn oil.  Refined corn spikes the blood sugar about as much as anything, leading to increased insulin, and lots of inflammation.

6. Hydrogenated oils i.e. trans fats.  These are like old fashioned Crisco.  Bad.  Do not use.  Do not eat processed food where it is still used.

7.  Peanuts.  Many people are allergic to peanuts because of naturally occurring molds on them.  Even if you aren't allergic to peanuts, your body may not recognize them as safe food, and launch an immune system response creating inflammation. Strict Paleo diet guidelines are again to limit or avoid legumes - another Paleo gray area in my view.

8.  Food containing chemicals.  Again, the body is not designed to consume stuff that is not real food.  It doesn't readily accept preservatives, additives, food coloring and such as food - blowing the whistle and launching that immune system response that creates inflammation.

9. Red Meat.   Red meat is often mentioned as a possible contributor to systemic inflammation for several reasons.  The argument is that red mammal meat contains the chemical Neu5gc to which humans "may" produce an inflammatory response. This is probably a bit questionable and unproven, but on the other side of the coin, eating heavily charred red meat is well documented as a bad idea.  In my view, the one exception to the "red meat is bad idea" is meat from animals that have been grass-fed and grass finished.  This kind of meat is expensive and hard to find most of the time, but worth the hunt and the price in terms of health.

This whole red meat topic is addressed in more detail here.

Eating Fewer Carbs Means More Fats

In his book, , EAT FAT, GET THIN, Dr. Hyman uses a lot of ink to explain fats or fatty acids as they are referred to in nutrition-speak.  Obviously, in a low-carb plan such as the one he proposes (which is much the same as Paleo), fatty acids rule and rule well.  At the end of this dissertation he explains that there are four kinds of fatty acids - Saturated Fats (SFA), Monounsaturated Fats (MUFA), Polyunsaturated Fats (PUFA), and Trans Fats (FA).  He had much to say about each of these, and I will skim the surface with a short summary.

Saturated Fatty Acids (SFA)

To understand what had happened to our food supply, especially to the fats we love so much, I strongly recommend Nina Teicholdz' book, "The Big FAT Surprise".  In it she reveals that everything we thought we knew about dietary fat is wrong.

Saturated Fats have been vilified by diet experts from the 1950s onward.  Dr. Hyman's interview on the People's Pharmacy which addresses this subject, is well worth a listen. Hyman and a host of other doctors and scientists are bringing forth much new thinking on the decades old idea that fat, especially saturated fat, is bad.

I won't try to summarize all of the facts and studies he highlights in support of consuming SFA, but some of the critical role saturated fats play in our diet need to be highlighted.
  • Saturated fat such as auric acid from coconuts and conjugated linoleic acid from butter - help cells communicate and protects against cancer.
  •  SFA helps lungs work better.  Children given whole milk and butter have less asthma than those give reduced fat milk and margarine.
  • SFA is needed to make hormones such as testosterone and estrogen.
  • SFA is critical for nerves and nerve systems to work properly.
More on red meat and saturated fat here.

Monounsaturated Fatty Acids (MUFA)

MUFAs are often called the good fats, especially the favorite MUFA high quality extra virgin olive oil.  Another great source is avacodos.  Yet MUFAs are available it generous amounts in lard.  Go figure.  The best article I've found to clear this topic up is here.

Polyunsaturated Fats (PUFA)

PUFAs are the omega 3 and omega 6 fats.  You need both of these, but you need them is a balance that is about equal.  The average America diet doesn't even get close to this sort of balance.  The reason this balance is so important is because the omega 6 fat are pro-inflammatory - providing the sort of inflammation you need to handle trama and invasive injury.  Too much omega 6 and/or not enough of the anti-imflammatory omega 3 cause a dangerous state of chronic inflammation your body.  Get plenty of plant-based and animal-based (fish) omega 3.  Vegetable oils are famously high in omega 6 fats explaining the recent popularity of coconut oil which has none.  Dr. Mercola has a great article expanding on this.

Probiotics

Including probiotics in your diet will boost your immune system and keep your gut healthy. Probiotics are live microorganisms that cab help prevent and treat some health issues by cranking up the immune system. Promoting a healthy gut and by association a healthy immune system is a great way to feel better. These are also commonly known as the good, or healthy bacteria.  There is a wide variety of foods available now that provides probiotics.  This slideshow from WebMD depicts a number of them.  My favorites are good homemade yogurt and lacto-fermented vegetables.

Homemade Yogurt

Don't get fooled into thinking your can just run to the grocery store and buy good healthy yogurt loaded with probiotics and wholesome nutrition.  In their testing of 129 brands of commercial yogurt, Cornucopia.org reveals that most of the most popular brands crowding the supermarket shelves are very poor in quality, and should be avoided.  The criteria for all this testing is here, and the printable summary of results in here.

Making your own yogurt is not all that complicated.  
It's easy to make your own yogurt with heirloom culture.  There are two type of yogurt, mesophilic and thermophilic.  The difference is that mesophilic cultures added to the milk develop just fine  at room temperature.  Thermophilic cultures need a bit of heat.

Yogurt that you buy in a store is thermophilic.  Your homemade yogurt can be made in a yogurt maker that keeps it at a constant 110 degree using high quality plain yogurt from the store .  It takes about 8 hours for a batch to be ready.  When you make this kind at home, you must get a new starter from the store after 2 or 3 batches.  And remember, you finished product will only be as good as the the starter product you selected, so make sure it is a good one.  Some do it this way, but I prefer the mesophilic.

The mesophilic yogurt is developed from culture that come in little packets - see http://www.vitacost.com/cultures-for-health-real-yogurt-starter-culture-heirloom-varieties-8-packets-1 at Vitacost.  This kit will provide enough starter to share with family or friends.  You start this culture by dumping a packet into a couple of cups of pasteurized organic whole milk.  After straining, this starter batch will produce enough yogurt to make a full batch.  The tail end of your latest batch will always becomes the starter for your next batch.  This will go on indefinitely as long as you take care of your product and keep it from getting too old.

To make your full batch you need a glass or heavy plastic container, with a top, that will hold a half gallon of liquid.  I found a nice 2.4 liter plastic container at Walmart for this.  You can also use a 2 quart mason jar.  I use about 3/4 cup of yogurt with two quarts of the whole milk.  It takes about 36 to 48 hours setting on the counter at room temperature for mesophilic yogurt to set good.


After it is set, you need a strainer to drain off the whey and turn it into Greek-style yogurt.  The one I got came from Amazon called the Euro Cuisine Greek Yogurt Maker .  It works great.   After it strains for a couple of hours, you will have enough great tasting yogurt to fill a 32 oz container, i.e.  plastic or mason jar.


The culture packets come in four varieties all originating from either Sweden, Finland, or Georgia.  I keep two of these going.  They are all slightly different, but not enough to recommend one over the other.

Here is article explaining benefits of good homemade yogurt - http://draxe.com/probiotic-yogurt/.

Lacto-Fermented  Veggies


Our foremothers learned to use salt and spices to ferment veggies to make them last longer without refrideration.  It made them taste better, too, but most importantly it loaded them with natural probiotics.  Consuming fermented foods will give you a healthy gut.  A healthy gut will lead to a wonderful immune system and make life better.  

Use the Internet to learn.  A good starting point is meeting Sandor Katz who wrote and published Wild Fermentation, a complete guide to lacto-fermentation in 2003, and followed it up with an second edition in 2016.  

Good resource for free recipes, information, and provisions are easy to find.  A few of my favorites are:

How to make Kefir.