Friday, December 7, 2012

Paleo is...

Paleo is the philosophy that humans are better off with food made from the ingredients that were available before the advent of agriculture and without ingredients typical of the modern age.

Practically, a vegetable is considered a vegetable and a leafy green is considered a leafy green even if they are modern cultivars and don't look much like their natural ancestors and cousins.
Grains (plant seeds) were eaten by some hunter-gatherers but not by our primate ancestors and never in the amounts that we do today. Practical experience shows that people  usually function better without.
Chemical preservatives give rise to cheaper foods because they give a long, room temperature, shelf-life but they have the same killing effect on your intestinal bacteria and those are important for your digestion, general health, and well-being. With refrigeration, pickling, and cooking we can do without in the modern world.
Dairy for adults and teens is a big discussion. Some people use the label primal or paleo 2.0 to indicate that they include dairy. Other people find that even though they aren't lactose intolerant they do not function well with dairy - this often includes people with autoimmune disease or other immune malfunctions.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Whole30 evaluation

So... I did a Whole30 back in August and never actually got around to writing an evaluation. Oops.
[Later: What the hell? I thought I had published this?! Gawdammit.]

And there's a good explanation for that! I got quite a lot of evening gas about halfway through so I thought I'd wait with an update until I had that figured out. And after I fixed that I just didn't get around to writing everything up. See? Totally good, unpleasant, TMI explanation.

But beginning from the beginning. I wanted to do the Whole30 for a couple of reasons. First of all because I felt like my ability to taste sweet had become impaired as well as my ability to resist crap, factory-made treats at work. I also realised at some point that I hadn't actually started paleo with a Whole30 but just said "Oh okay, that makes sense. I'll eat paleo from now on" (though it was definitely inspired by Melissa and Dallas). I can't really recommend 30 days of superstrictness when that wasn't what worked for me, now can I? And finally I wanted to see if there was anything I had missed out on.

One obvious problem was that in late July I ate more treats / crap than I usually do because I had a looming sense of deprivement (apparently not a word btw). Starting out eating healthier by eating worse than normal is dumb. I have no idea how I tricked myself into that. That aside Whole30 isn't that different from how I usually eat and drink apart from no dairy and no alcohol. If you've read earlier entries you know that there were some milk cravings the first 10-14 days (I don't like cheese and rarely eat cream so it was just milk I wanted). Which surprised me a lot. I'm pretty sure that there have been plenty of times where I haven't had milk for ages simply because I hadn't bought any. But then again memory is a tricky thing. I did however get a sense of why dairy can be a huge problem for the obese (the Danish word is 'mælkedranker' and was previously only used for kids who got most of their calories from milk but is now also used for adults that hide rice pudding in the bookshelves and sneak out at night to buy milk - I don't know how prevalent it is though and I've only heard stories like this about the guy in the link). And the third problem was that I was kinda unhappy. The whole "no dried fruit, no nut butters, no paleofied treats, no alcohol" was not beneficial to my happiness. And that feeling didn't actually go away. I drink maybe once or twice per month normally (which is a bit sad really - I should go out more) and I think there might be treats about twice a week (if you don't count nut butter - I've been trying to put on some weight and coconut butter is spectacular for that). I should do a post on what constitutes treats for me and how I handle them at some point soon. Basically, I think my life was missing hedonism during the Whole30. If I had had a sex life (this is getting sadder and sadder) then it might not have been a problem. Just something to get the ol' dopaminergic neurons firing. Fourth problem (besides the lack of sex life) was gas. Halfway through I started getting a lot of gas just when I ended my work day. First I thought it was because I was putting in a concious effort to eat more fat and maybe I wasn't digesting it that well. Or perhaps I didn't produce enough digestive enzymes first thing in the morning to really digest real food and a real food breakfast was one of the things I was doing differently. So I bought some NOW Super Enzymes because they had lipase and bile salts and they seemed to help a bit but not terribly much (possibly a placebo effect). It kept being a problem after August so it wasn't because I had cut something out. Finally I realised that most days I was eating half a head of tenderheart cabbage and sometimes more (usually in some variation of this recipe but often without nuts and with either cumin or baharat). And cabbage is a typical fart-food. So I laid off the cabbage (and leeks too for safety's sake) and I went back to normal. Ta-da! Nothing to do with Whole30 besides that I was eating breakfast every day so I had to find more things to cook. Which ended with a cabbage rampage.
So to sum up problems with Whole30:
  1. Unhealthy eating before start date
  2. General uneasiness which I attribute to lack of hedonism
Cravings went away on their own and gas was not due to the Whole30.

Let's get to the good things!

I didn't lose any weight or strength (gained a bit of strength) despite no whey shakes. I found out that I don't need milk but it doesn't hurt me either (as far as I can tell - to be serious about this I should have had a high-sensitivity CRP-test before and after). Nice to know since, let's be honest, milk is a really cheap and yummy source of calories. Yes, if you aren't a fatty calories can actually be considered a good thing (despite government advice: "Everybody needs to chill out and eat/drink fewer calories. Everybody."). The fact that I get cravings when I give up milk... Well, as long as it isn't hurting me, right? I don't know...
Eating a proper breakfast was really nice. A bit much work sometimes but if I spent less time in the shower then it would probably work out the same. I just need to keep focus off the fact that it's something I like and not something that I have to do. Because you don't have to eat breakfast. There was a study recently where the test subjects ate 20% fewer calories at lunch when they had breakfast. And it was a 750 kcal breakfast. Based on that the researchers recommended that people eat breakfast so they won't eat as much lunch. Their lunch would have had to have been 3750 kcal or more for the breakfast to actually reduce their calorie intake. Scientists are idiots (yes, me too) and this scientist apologies for going off on a tangent. So to recap breakfast is nice and helps me hit my calorie target.
Ohhh right, my initial, primary goals were to improve my ability to taste sweet and not automatically eat crap that co-workers brought into work. That went splendidly! My dad was visited towards the end of the month and we had some berries after dinner and he gave up on the blackberries because he thought they were too sour. I thought they were lovely - they were tart and the sweetness didn't dominate but there was all kinds of flavour in there. And when I had a try off some sweet someone brought in after I was done with the Whole30 it was unpleasantly sweet. And it's weird because it hurt my teeth and it wasn't nice but in a way I both wanted and didn't want more. Does that make sense? Bits of me was saying 'more' and bits were saying 'yuck'. Anyway, it's November now and I think I have pretty good self-control. I decide what I want and what I don't want.
So to sum up the awesome with Whole30:
  1. Got over my fat phobia (seriously I started using like three times as much fat in my cooking which almost brings me up to level with one of my very good friends who is a great cook)
  2. Didn't drink milk but didn't wither away
  3. Sweet things are sweeter
  4. I decide what I eat
  5. Renewed passion for breakfast
tl;dr Well too bad for you!

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Toasted coconut+macadamia butter

Hello lovelies,

I've been meaning to put this recipe up for ages but I've just been really lazy (stroke of fucking genius to put 'lazy' in the title of this blog - the excuse that keeps on milking).
So it's basically this recipe from Cookie and Kate but I have so many comments that I might as well write up the entire recipe. Her pictures look way nicer than mine but they also illustrate a big problem - somehow she is suggesting that you can just put small amounts of this stuff on your food, like sprinkle-scrape-dainty. Stuffing your face directly from the jar with a spoon is more likely. 2400-2500 kcal in the following recipe as best I can calculate.

300 g desiccated coconut (equal to 3 cups - easy-peasy Americans)
50 g macadamia nuts (for the lazy/gluttonous)
50 g hazelnuts (for the cheap/gluttonous)
pinch of salt
possibly teaspoon honey (depending on your views on honey)

Toast 200 g of the coconut in the oven or on a frying pan (leave one third untoasted). You don't want to burn it, just make it coconutty fragrant.
Toast the nuts. If you use hazelnuts then you usually have to rub them in a tea towel to get the brown stuff off - if you don't have to then you probably didn't buy the cheapest ones.
Let cool for as long as you have patience.
Transfer to food processor with a bit of salt. No, you can't do this in a blender. Use the chopping blade.
I run this on the lowest speed setting on my cheapo £66 Phillips food processor. You're supposed to use the highest setting with the chopping thing but this takes so long that I worry that the motor will overheat. This way I just start it and go vacuum or shower or something.
UPDATE: I made a batch yesterday where I used the middle setting and it only took 10 minutes. I tried running it at max speed as well and I was right that it started smelling fairly quickly.

After about 15 minutes it looks wet/oily and you can stop it and scrape down the sides. No reason at all to do that before this point.
Go again. Another 15 minutes and it should look liquid when you stop the food processor.
Add the honey if you want it and finish it. I guess it depends on the person when it's had enough (UPDATE: I tried sticking it in the fridge when it looked done and then giving it a finishing spin after it had cooled and it seems to be much less gritty). Pour it into a glass jar, screw on the lid and stick it in the cupboard or fridge. It isn't really right in my opinion until it sets which takes a day or two (at room temperature at least). Apparently it stays liquid in the cupboard in warmer months. This means that there are no months in North East England that are "warmer". Fuck. Final volume ~1/3 liter.

Wednesday, November 7, 2012

BMI vs exercise for long life and health

This is interesting. According to a study cited in the LA Times your activity levels are more important than your body mass index when trying to predict how long you will live. So while having a socially acceptable body mass is mostly determined by diet your actual health is more dependent on how much exercise you get. Fancy that.
Funny since most people eat healthily because they want to be healthy and work out because they want to be sexy bitches.

PS For Christ's sake scientists, get it together! Use BMI all you want but include either bodyfat% or waist circumference. That is all.

PPS Medicalxpress has a better summary. I've nicked a figure:

Sunday, November 4, 2012

Of mice and rats

So most experiments are done on mice (and rats) because they breed fast, die fast, are easy to care for, and because they've been used before in research so they are well understood and there are good tools for manipulating their biology.

But if you read studies done on mice and rats then you have to understand the differences between humans and rodents.
Here's an example of a standard lab rodent feed:
Calories come from: 28.5% protein, 13.5% fat, 58% carbohydrate. This is a good diet for mice and rats, it keeps them healthy and slender. Now this is not what is usually recommended for humans (and just as well since we are rather different creatures). For 1-3 year-olds the official recommendations are for 5-20% protein, 30-40% fat, and 45-65% carbohydrate while for adults it is 10-35% protein, 25-35% fat, and 45-65% carbohydrate (US numbers, page 15, but official recommendations are pretty much the same in most of the Western world). So even official recommendations, which by paleo standards are considered a bit fat-phobic, have a minimum fat recommendation that is twice as high as what mice and rats thrive on. So what's the big difference between humans and mice? Well, for one thing the efficiency of de novo fatty acid synthesis is about 2.5-5 times as good in mice as in humans (sorry, I'm just going to use 'mice' from here on out). Mice are just much better at making fat from carbohydrates. And this feed has a very low level of sucrose (less than 2% of carbohydrates), a negligible amount of fructose, and no alcohol (fructose, whether as a monomer or from sucrose, and alcohol can only be metabolised in the liver and in a fed state the energy from that metabolisation can only be channelled into fatty acid synthesis - humans seem to also fail at moving that fat efficiently to peripheral fat stores. Getting mice to develop non-alcoholic fatty liver disease is quite hard and even when transgenic mice are employed it is hard to get the same phenotype as in humans).
Standard rodent chow isn't enjoyable either. The mice feed because they are hungry, not because the feed gives them a particularly great reward feeling. If mice are fed cafeteria junk food instead of standard chow they actually gain more weight than they do on a very high calorie density feed (with lots of fat).

Laboratory mice are originally bred from house mice. These are the vermin that were so adapted to eating grains that they moved in to human settlements almost as soon as agriculture was invented. The egyptians elevated cats to sacred animals because the mice were such a problem. So they've had agricultural grains as main calorie for as long as humans have (and probably with grains as a much larger component of their diet for millions of years) and they have a shorter generational time and a larger effective population which means that they have had much greater opportunity to adapt to that diet.

tl;dr There are always problems associated extrapolating from a model animal to humans but with regard to whether grains are good for you or not mice are pretty much useless.

Extra-reading: Slate has a great three-part article on lab mice and model animals

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Wheat Belly

I was disappointed by this book.
It falls pretty squarely in the standard genre of "Do this one special thing PS Don't eat junk food"-diet books / programs that American doctors seem so fond of. And the diet he recommends people is pretty much lacto-paleo, primal diet - which is okay by me but if he had just mentioned that then all his readers would have a much easier time finding more recipes.
Apparently his reading of various studies was superficial enough for him to get several things wrong. Especially about going gluten-free and losing weight. You can find a critique here.

Okay, with that out of the way there were things I found interesting. For example I thought celiac disease was always accompanied by intestinal distress but apparently that's not the case. Good to know. But while 1-2% of the population being celiac is a lot (apparently about 1 in 10 are undiagnosed) that still leaves 98-99% of the population without celiac. Reading the book I get confused about what has to do with gluten grains in general and what has to do with celiac disease specifically.

There are things about this book I just don't get. When discussing whole grain vs refined grain he fails to mention that the epidemiological data that shows benefits from whole grain is based on populations that either ate one or the other - there's no comparison between grain and no grain - and the whole grain products available back then were oats and rye. Probably rolled oats and whole, soaked, sourdough rye black bread (not what Americans usually call rye which is a white, wheat bread with miniscule rye amounts). There wasn't any whole grain pasta and fake, whole grain, wheat bread. And even if you could have found some back then, not enough people were eating it for it to have impact on the hypotheses drawn from the epidemiological data. So he fails to point out the most damning evidence against wheat. At least he does mention Denise Minger and I think he must reference what she found in the China Study data: that wheat was the greatest predictor of disease and mortality of all the foods recorded in the China Study. And when people in China didn't eat wheat they replaced it with rice. So while the energy density is lower in cooked rice than in bread it probably isn't the tiny difference in carbohydrate intake that changed the statistics dramatically.
There are studies that can't find much difference between refined and whole grain. I should probably link more than one study here but I'm tired and can't be arsed.

William Davies means well but he comes off as narcissistic and unoriginal. The books is a bit boring at times, confusing at others (not that my writing is amazing but it's free and it hasn't been through an editor - heck I barely remember to edit it myself). Do not want.

Sunday, October 21, 2012

What do I want with this?

Kinda forgot what I wrote in the introduction that I wanted with this blog and I can't be bothered to go back and look, but I think I might actually be most interested in figuring out why paleo works for people. I'm a scientist. I like taking things apart. And figuring out how and why they work of course - I totally don't like breaking things just to break them (cuz that would be childish).

Mice and also at some point asthma to come (I'm completely lost comma-wise).

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Food composition databases

I forgot to mention and link to the USDA's database for food composition in my post on how much omega-6 you need to eat to get enough. Here you go:
USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference
Here are a couple of more official databases to help you get all the high-quality information you want.
The official Danish Food Composition Database
Canadian Nutrient File
Australian Food Composition Program has NUTTAB and AUSNUT.


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Omega-6: Obesity and addiction

So Derek Lowe recently wrote in his medicinal chemistry blog 'In the Pipeline' about a new interest from pharmaceutical companies in cannabinoid receptor 1 (CB1). CB1 was the target of the (successful) obesity drug rimonabant. Successful until it was withdrawn from the european market for the side effects of depression and suicidal thoughts. Now people are however trying to make drugs that also target CB1 but without the ability to enter the brain from the blood. And it will of course be interesting to see how that plays out.
Why is this interesting? Well, rimonabant is an inverse agonist of CB1 which means that it blocks the action of the agonist as well as removes the spontaneous signalling through CB1 that occurs even without an agonist. And the agonists of CB1 are THC from cannabis (of course) and the neurotransmitters anandamide and 2-arachidonoylglycerol (2-AG). And those two agonists produced naturally by the body are made from omega-6 fatty acids. I actually got to the point, hurray!
So what do these agonists and inverse agonists do? Well, THC increases appetite and decreases short-term memory. It also makes mice more sensitive to reward from sugar water. Inverse agonists however decrease appetite, improves memory in mice, and makes giving up cigarettes easier. And cause depression, anxiety, and make you want to kill yourself. In addition the cannabinoid system is involved in a shitload of other things as well - I think it's better to leave that whole bag of rats alone (on the other hand a drug is definitely preferable to the current standard of care - a ridiculously dangerous operation that permanently changes the gastrointestinal layout and still isn't effective without lifestyle changes). However, I don't see why you would take a drug to reduce this signalling without first trying to reduce your amounts of the signalling molecule. Unfortunately, it would be quite hard to figure out if a lifestyle change to reduce the intake of omega-6 would be effective against obesity because of the elimination of excess omega-6 or because of the necessary reduction in junk food intake to reach that goal.

tl;dr The human equivalent to pot is made from omega-6 fatty acids. It is better for you to eat an amount of omega-6 that is natural (not much actually). I don't care if you get high, I just think it's fucking stupid to do the equivalent of taking just enough to not get high every single day of your life.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Omega-6: How much is enough?

As so many of my posts, this one will start with a disclaimer.
Disclaimer: I am a firm believer of "the dose makes the poison" and "we all have to die from something". But I'd like the dose to be low enough to not be poison and I also want to be healthy and sexy in the time that comes before dying. I definitely don't think there's a single dietary component that's hurting everybody's health and sexiness as some seem to do. Fat! Saturated fat! Carbs! Fructose! Alcohol! Meat! Gluten! Wheat! Omega-6 fatty acids! (but it is way easier to focus on one thing at a time so that's what I'm doing)

tl;dr You will never become deficient in omega-6. Never.

I dug up a 2010 paper by the American Heart Association (AHA) where they review whether there might be cardiovascular benefits to reap from limiting omega-6 fatty acid intake (spoiler: they find that the experiments reported in the literature are poorly designed but that there appears to be a protective effect from increasing polyunsaturated fat intake but it's quite modest and only when replacing carbohydrates or saturated fat - and I didn't go through the papers they looked at). What was really useful though is the estimates for how much omega-6 humans need. 0.5-2% of the energy intake (okay, based on babies and stuff but still useful). For a 2000 kcal diet that comes out to about 1-4.5 grams. And somehow the AHA got 14.6 grams when they calculated the average daily omega-6 intake for Americans. So that seems like the average American gets about 3-14 times as much as they minimally need (I don't want to be average though). In addition it seems a reasonable assumption that the AHA estimate is low - read on to find out why I think so. I could however not find any reports of omega-6 deficiency in humans. I found a paper on rats where some of the rats were restricted to 0.01% of their energy from omega-6 in the form of linoleic acid but were otherwise provided omega-3s (in the form of alpha-linolenic acid), monounsaturated, and saturated fatty acids - the control group got 2% of their energy from linoleic acid. The restricted rats developed slightly scaly front paws, weighed about 15% less (not necessarily a good thing), and a few of them lost some hair. At the end of the experiment they were fed some omega-6 and they only metabolised 1% whereas the control rats metabolised 34%. So the group with too little omega-6 reduced the amount of omega-6 they used for energy but were otherwise quite alive and doing fairly well.

Back to the real world. Where might one find approximately 15 grams of omega-6? Most easily from junk food.

15.6 grams if you go to McDonalds and get 6 McNuggets, a 22 g / 0.78 oz tiny tub of Creamy Ranch Sauce, and a medium fries.

14.0 grams if you eat half a can of Pringles (but once you pop you can't stop).

19.0 grams if you eat a standard 3 oz bag of microwave popcorn. Though the metric standard bags seem to be 100 g in which case you get 22.4 grams.

12.7 grams if we make sure to get the most important meal of the day and go past Starbucks and get a medium blueberry muffin and a medium, sorry grande, soy latte (this is not breakfast! This is not an improvement on not eating breakfast!).

Or if you are sucking it down straight from the source the daily average intake is the equivalent of approx. 2 tablespoons of soybean or corn oil, or 3 tablespoons of peanut oil, or 4 tablespoons of canola oil, or 1 1/2 tablespoon of grape seed oil, or 11 tablespoons of olive oil. But then you would have to not eat anything else that contained any fat to not ingest more than 15 grams.
These values are pulled from and of course I pulled the things with the highest values for shock value (for the soy latte I used a 1 to 7 ratio of omega-3 to -6 to calculate the omega-6 content). But I'm still missing things like margarine, mayo, cookies, crackers and puff pastries (totally ruined your day there, didn't I?). Take-home message is that an average American (sorry again but it's always easiest to find numbers for the Americans) eats at least 3-14 times as much omega-6 as the AHA estimates that they need and eating more than those 15g/day is really really easy.

"What about people who don't eat junk? You paleo people are going to keel over from lack of omega-6, right? Ha!"
Urgh, my own storytelling device (or whatever it's called) is so stupid that I'm giving myself a headache.
Let's go with 4.5 grams of omega-6. It was the higher bound requirement on a diet of only 2000kcal but since even paleo eaters are going to be eating more than 4.5 grams it doesn't really matter. To get ~4.5 grams of omega-6 you would eat:
8 eggs, or 37 almonds, or 2 pork chops (loin), or 2 small avocados (California), or 1 large avocado (Florida), or 3 tablespoons olive oil. Or said in another way, if we skip the almonds we could get 4.5 gram omega-6 covered with 2 eggs, ½ pork chop, ½ small avo, and 2 teaspoons olive oil. Or our weekly (maximum) requirement could be covered by a 250g bag of almonds.

I'm not saying there isn't a place for seed oils in the modern world. I just think that place is in biodiesel and bioplastics.

PS I was going to add a table with omega-6 and omega-3 content of various fats but I just can't be bothered right now. Just know that
seed oils and things made from seed oils: bad
fruit oils, nut oils, and animal fats: fine

Extra reading:

EDIT 21.11.2012 Just fell over this paper, in Poultry Science of all places, which has omega-6 requirement at 4.4g for a 2000kcal diet and an upper limit of 6.6g.

Saturday, September 29, 2012


If you don't think you can go without wheat then you are eating too much wheat.

Just finished Wheat Belly and I'll do a post with my thoughts later.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Making real food less time devouring

So my brother, sister-in-law, and adorable nephews came to visit this week =]
They think the paleo thing is interesting but with kids of two and four and both working full-time it really is not going to happen (since they don't want to - and everybody should choose themselves what they put in their mouth). Right now my sister-in-law's weekday evenings are finish work, shop while figuring out what to make for dinner+pick up kids, cook dinner, feed, tidy, tuck in kids. My brother is not some kind of awful man that doesn't contribute but they are very involved parents (i.e. some things might go a little faster).
So in the spirit of things going faster and them getting more quality time with their awesome offspring here are tips to reduce the time spent in the kitchen:

15 Tips for Better Weekly Meal Planning

Some amazing women:

Melicious Joulwan


And my personal tip:

Two or three sets of 'Pruta' from IKEA (apparently 'pruta' doesn't mean 'to fart' in Swedish - so disappointed) - yes I am aware of dangerous, dangerous chemicals from Chinese factories etc etc etc but seriously, having matching lids for most of your storage bins and being able to stack all of those mothers probably helps you increase your veggie intake and decrease your stress enough to more than compensate. And they are really cheap. And so am I. 

Monday, September 17, 2012

Gut permeability

So there's this clever thing that mammals do. They breastfeed. And when milk enters the intestines it signals to the intestinal lining to loosen the links between cells (called tight junctions because cells are linked directly to each other rather than suspended in the extra-cellular matrix) so proteins and peptides can enter the bloodstream. Peptides like growth hormones and proteins like antibodies. So the mother can share her adaptive immune system (the immune system that remembers things like vaccinations) with her off-spring. It's only partial protection because the cells necessary to produce the antibodies are not shared, but it's better than nothing. A quick glance at the literature suggests that capric acid may be the causative agent in milk. I haven't spent much time looking though.

tl;dr if you have problems with your immune system try eliminating dairy, gluten, legumes, nightshades, coconut oil, palm oil. All of them at the same time.

Other agents that loosen up tight junctions are chitosan and gluten. Chitosan is a semi-synthetic polymer that has been investigated as a drug delivery vehicle. And you already know gluten. Wheat is by far the greatest source of gluten but celiacs also get sick from rye or barley. And they have too much carbohydrate and it's very easily digestible carbohydrate so you get the whole insulin-blood sugar roller coaster when you eat a fair amount of them (if you don't it can be an indicator of insulin insensitivity - you might want to get that checked out).

In addition lectins, a group of plant carbohydrate-binding proteins, bind to the surface of intestinal cells and may disrupt tight junctions or become transported into the blood in some other manner. Peanut lectin is famous for this.

Why am I even blabbing about all this? Well, if you have any kind of food allergies you might wonder how the hell these immune system provoking peptides or proteins end up inside your body. Supposedly things get broken down into monomer carbohydrates, individual fatty acids (from triglycerides), amino acids etc before being allowed into the body. Well, if your tight junctions are loose junctions then the doors are open for all allergens (bacteria still can't come through). So if I were you I would try giving up dairy, gluten grains, and various plant lectin containing yummies (I'm looking at you legumes and nightshades). That was it really. And sometimes paleo-people rant about "holes in your intestines! So very full of holes!" and now you know what the hell they are on about.

PS Yes, coconut oil is the darling of the paleo community and I heart it but if capric acid is how milk lets stuff in then coconut fat can do the same. And some animal fat. We can't all tolerate or be allergic to all the same things.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

Paleo snacks that aren't bloody nuts!

So... snacks. Really, we should be eating enough food at our meals to not need snacks except for a bit of a treat but lets get realistic. We come home from work, we're hungry, and our goddamn significant other doesn't have dinner ready (i.e. my hand). A few rules: no nuts or nut derivatives (e.g. nut butter), jerky, or things that have to be heated.

  1. A tin of mackerel in tomato sauce.
  2. A piece of fruit (not a pound of grapes or cherries).
  3. An avocado (still technically a piece of fruit).
  4. A handful or two of tomatoes (also a fruit?)
  5. Carrots.
  6. A container of berries.
  7. Eh... yeah that was what I had. Please comment if I missed anything!

     8. Nori
     9. Cucumber
     10. A pre-boiled egg (how the fuck did I forget that?)

Friday, September 7, 2012

Brekky - part 7

24/8-27/8 Lots!
My dad was visiting and I didn't write anything down. I am guessing that we had asparagus, tomatoes, mushrooms, apples (fried up), tenderheart cabbage, onions, celery, sweetpotato, eggs, bacon, D&A Harrowgate pork sausages, gluten-free beef sausages, leftover slow-cooked brisket. Probably some other stuff as well. And my Dad managed to eat two loaves of bread and half a baguette in the 4 days he was here =( He mentioned that his mum used to say that you turned black inside if you didn't eat bread. I have no idea what that even means. I fed him extremely delicious food while he was here and made him pay himself for all his bread and cake and what not. I had bought him milk for his coffee/tea though.

28/8 Nothing
Slept in Edinburgh and had a cup of tea in the morning before grabbing a train home. Here's a section from one of the shops at Waverley train station:

Had lunch around noon before going to work.

29/8 Fried salmon, cherry tomatoes, green bell pepper

30/8 No friggin' clue

31/8 Smoked salmon, red bell pepper, avocado, lettuce, cashews, gomashio

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Weight issues...

A post dedicated to my mate René and all the other fat bitches out there (yeah, he really is a bit of a bitch).

Me:    "Oh, so you're on a diet again."
René: "Yeah, I really really need to lose some weight."
Me:    "Don't you mean slim down or take some inches off your waist or something? I mean you're not competing in a sport where you have to fit into some weight category, there's no magic sign over your head announcing your current weight to the world. Nobody has to know what you weigh!"
René: "I don't care. I just want to weigh 70 kilos."
Me:    "Gaargh..."

I've been thinking about this conversation, mulling it over, and trying to figure out why I thought René was such a stupid bastard (maybe I should have added arrogant to the title of this blog). 
Whiners will point out that losing weight has become short-hand for reducing body fat. True, but the language is distracting and moves focus to the scales (fuck, I do it myself except that I think about gaining weight as a proxy for bulk/muscle. I hate myself) rather than actual useful goals that might make you happier/"better". 
Let me put it in even more words - when you make a dietary change like my friend you need to track the parameters of your goals before and after the intervention. And you need to identify your goals and consider whether they actually represent what you want to achieve. Now René expressed that he wants to weigh 70 kilos. I know him well enough to know that what he means by that is that he wants to return to his weight (plus a little bit I think) before he ballooned. So a much better starting point would be for the little skank to look through his stash of old compromising pictures of himself and find one that shows enough skin and what he wants to work towards and then take a picture once every week or fortnight in the same pose to track body composition changes. If he lets the scales guide him then he could lose 10 pounds of muscle and 0 pounds of fat and still think that it's going in the right direction. Which it wouldn't be - he would be moving in completely the wrong direction and his body would probably force him to quit once it had killed as much muscle as possible without killing him. Another goal that could be complementary to getting approximately his old body back could be reducing his body fat. Unfortunately most methods (caliper, electronic body fat meter) are downright unreliable for an absolute measurement or expensive and time consuming (DEXA, submersion). Luckily, waist measurement correlates very nicely with body fat (as long as it's over the abs level) so he could get a relative measure of body fat with simply a tape measure. Improvements in posture will of course reflect in a waist measurement but since the primary goal is returning to old looks (and not to reduce buoyancy) this is not a problem.

Other goals that might have people stepping on the scales:
Reversing diabetes (a better way of tracking the goal would be to regularly examine glucose sensitivity - or alternatively a waist measurement).
Physical ability (e.g. if you can't walk around town without getting winded and achy then select a distance from your home to walk and time it regularly). 
Getting rid of knee pain (does your knee hurt? No? Success!).
Improving at your sport, etc. There are heaps of things where people judge the success of their dietary intervention on the numbers on the scales despite that number not actually reflecting anything that's important to them in their life.
The thing about vanity is that if you are even just a little vain, you are way harder on yourself than anyone else is. If someone actually are harder on you than you are on yourself (and you really are vain) then it probably has more to do with them being complete cunts than anything else.

tl;dr Ditch your scales (unless you need to fit in a weight category for sports), carefully set your goals before starting a dietary intervention (for paleo I suggest a long list of every single thing that ails you right down to combination skin but set a very high standard for saying that there's an improvement), find a way to monitor your goals (or monitor a strong proxy but make sure it can't misled you).

Extra reading: and and

Penny Arcade

Thursday, August 23, 2012

Brekky - part 6

18/8 Sweet potato hash pancake again
So coffee with mate before gym, past work on the way to gym, etc... Long story short I did have a small banana at 10 am but breakfast was really at 14.45. Oops.
Anyway, made the sweet potato thing again with mushrooms, spring onions, and 5 eggs. Spiced with baharat and drippings. Ate 3 bananas while it was cooking and probably something more (cherry tomatoes? No, I was out). It was not as nice as the previous time. Mushrooms definitely don't belong in there and I think the hash needs longer in the pan to really caramelise if you want that treat-quality. It was still good though (that means that I demolished it in seconds).

19/8 Dinner leftovers
Made some tuna-tomato crap the evening before and ate the rest of it for breakfast. Lots of onions, celery sticks, bell peppers, herbes de provence and chilli in there.
Ate some cherry tomatoes later in the day and they were remarkably sweet.

20/8 Fried eggs and an apple
I overslept (bad Bastard!) and didn't have any emergency meals (bad Bastard!). I ended up with 4 eggs fried in fat and mushroom powder. Mushroom powder is amazing but it fucking sucks for eggs.
Luckily I had prepared lunch the evening before and the two portoburglos really hit the spot. One portoburglo: Bottom bun a raw portobello mushrom, then 200g spiced home-minced beef (garlic powder, mushroom powder, baharat), half a bell pepper, about a quarter of a head of lettuce in individual leaves as the top bun. It makes a fairly big eat and two of them is very filling but oh so good. Could have used some sauce but I couldn't be bothered.

21/8 Sweet potato hash pancake and bananas
I'm sensing a pattern... Overslept (or rather woke up and fell asleep again). Ate half on the way to work, went to the gym after morning tea break, then ate the rest and my lunch.

22/8 Fry-up
Cherry tomatoes, lots of mushrooms, 1 strip back bacon, 3 eggs. Not really inspired.

23/8 Breakfast with my dad
My dad is visiting so I tried to make something a bit nicer. Sweet potato hash, a few fried cherry tomatoes, baby asparagus, sliced yellow bell pepper, 2 Debbie & Andrew Harrowgate sausages (yeah yeah, too much omega-6, whatever) and a strip of bacon.
He whined about not having any bread and was worried that the lack of bread (white wheat bread) would hurt his digestion. He's my dad and he has heaps of health issues - I shouldn't be judging him about his lifetime of bad food choices.

Sunday, August 19, 2012

I am the OMEGA

I'm lying LOL I'm not really God.

"Why should I restrict my omega-6 intake? Aren't they essential fatty acids?"

Good questions! Where do you get all these great questions from?

Two reasons:

tl;dr omega-6s are converted into pro-inflammatory hormones and omega-3s are converted into anti-inflammatory hormones - one of the omega-6s, linoleic acid (18:2 ω-6), also inhibits the critical step in converting the omega-3 we get from plants, α-linolenic acid (18:3 ω-3), into the useful omega-3s, eicosapentaenoic acid (20:5 ω-3) and docosahexaenoic acid (22:6 ω-3).

Eicosanoid production

Eicosanoids and nonclassical eicosanoids are short-range hormones and neurotransmitters derived from the omega-3 and omega-6 polyunsatured essential fatty acids (be a bit wary of those wikipedia articles though since they are written by eicosanoid experts who probably have an interest in as many diseases as possible being implicated in eicosanoid signalling). Now the word 'essential' is a bit of a misnomer. Essential means that something is required in our diet because we've lost the ability to synthesize it ourselves. But the reason we've lost the ability to synthesize it ourselves is because that essential nutrient is plentiful in our diet - or at least has been plentiful in the last millions of years.
Anyway, to get back to the subject at hand, eicosanoids are fat soluble hormones and neurotransmitters of short range which means they are good for localized actions like injury. Say you cut yourself with a dirty, rusty blade. That gives you pain, blood coagulation, increased blood flow through vasodilation, swelling, mobilization of immune systems, fight of infection, and then later tissue repair, reduction of swelling and pain, shutdown of immune systems, and finally vasoconstriction so the red mark disappears and you are left with normal looking skin. These are all good things. They are part of the healing process. And eicosanoid signalling is involved in all those steps.
Now, the signalling molecules derived from the different essential fatty acids have similar themes:
Omega-6s are generally involved in up-regulating inflammatory responses (the first bit of your stab wound) and omega-3s are generally less inflamming, anti-inflammation, or resolving inflammation (the second part of your stab wound).
Both parts are needed to be healthy but neither of them should be overdone. There's a number of drugs that interact with this signalling system. Aspirin is probably the most common drug in the world and it throws a spanner in the works right at the beginning at the eicosanoid production so it reduces pain and inflammation but also decreases blood clotting making things like bleeding ulcers a greater risk.
What happens though is that industrial man eats too many omega-6 fatty acids and sometimes too few omega-3s. Which diseases are associated with increased signalling from omega-6 derived eicosanoids? Auto-immune diseases, gastrointestinal inflammatory disease, arthritis, asthma, atherosclerosis (which is why aspirin works against cardiovascular disease), allergies. In addition it could easily be involved in type-1 diabetes since that is an autoimmune disease for which the number afflicted is rising. Not to mention that endocannabinoids are synthesized from an omega-6 fatty acid and endocannabinoids increase appetite - you don't want to be fat, now do you? Or even worse, hungry.

Polyunsaturated fatty acid interconversion

While humans like other mammals aren't able to make these essential fatty acids on our own we can luckily convert the various forms (cats though can't go from the linolenic / linoleic acid to the EPA / AA which makes them obligate carnivores).
So at the top are the two common plant sources of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids, ALA and LA. These can then be elongated and desaturated to fatty acids that are more important in animals. Cleverly, since they are quite similar only one enzyme is needed per two kinds of fatty acids. This however also means that the fatty acids compete for the enzymes needed so if there's a lot of LA only little ALA will be turned into SDA by Δ6 desaturase. Bummer. The ALA to SDA conversion is supposed to be quite poor in humans but I'm not sure if that's when measuring on humans with a reasonable intake of LA.
In addition to the eicosanoid system polyunsaturated fatty acids are important to the composition of cell membranes (the "skin" of a cell) and in particular DHA is important for the membranes of neurons.

"Okay, if omega-3s are anti-inflammatory can't I just eat a shit-load of fish oil and not care about any of this fucking science-stuff?"

Well, you can eat anything you want but if you want to be healthy then you need to consider whether there's too much omega-6 in your diet.
Omega-3 derived eicosanoids aren't directly antagonistic to omega-6 derived eicosanoids but actually more cooperative. One instigates and the other cleans up. And some omega-3 derived eicosanoids are actually pro-inflammatory. Fucked, isn't it?

So let's have a look at where we find omega-6s and respectively ALA and EPA/DHA.

Omega-6 sources ranked by concentration:

1) Plant seeds (concentrated in seed oils of course). Plant seed examples are: grains, beans, peas, corn, rice, nuts, quinoa, sorghum, buckwheat (disclaimer: some nuts are actually low in omega-6 and others like rice have almost no fat). Yes, this includes flax seed, sunflower seeds (very high LA actually), sesame seeds, etc. If you've read my blog you know that I love sesame seeds and sprinkle them on lots of stuff. I don't make sesame bread though. Or any other kind of "paleo" non-grain bread.
2) Animal fat from animals raised on plant seeds. If it doesn't say grass-fed, pastured, organic (what are the feeding rules for organic meat?), or wild on the package then the animal feed will have had a very large seed component.
3) Generally in plants and animals. You are unlikely to become deficient unless you eat a very monotonous, very low fat diet. If you are really really worried that you aren't getting enough LA then eat some olives / olive oil, walnuts, and almonds. There. That won't be enough to hurt you.

EPA/DHA sources ranked by concentration: 

1) Eyes. Okay, I don't think there's much fat in an eyeball but there are buttloads of DHA in eyes - highest in the retina where it's 20-25%.
2) Braaaaaaaaaaaains. 5-10% DHA in mammalian brains.
3) Fish / fish eggs.
4) Algae, poultry, eggs, dairy. Not preferred sources in my opinion but there's a little bit there. Not much in the animal sources though and like the eyes and brains you aren't going to be eating much algae.

ALA sources ranked by concentration: 

1) Leafy greens. Specifically the green photosynthetic organelles contain heaps of ALA.
2) Some plant seeds (that are also high in LA) like flax, chia, kiwi seeds, etc are very high in ALA. Some legumes like rapeseed and soy also has fairly high ALA content but it is usually processed away because it reduces shelf life.
3) Meat and dairy from grass-fed animals. The ALA from the grass ends up in the animal. And double up on bonus because that also means that the animal ate fewer plant seeds and thus has lower LA.

See a pattern? What diet is high on seeds and low on leafy greens, fish, and braaaains? And what diet is low on seeds and high on leafy greens and grassfed beef? (Yeah, I don't want brains either)

If you answered "Industrial diet bad, paleo diet good" then I salute you for reading to the end of this ridiculously long post!

PS I never had any problems with autoimmune issues but I was raised low fat and ate even lower than the rest of my family since I don't like cheese. I figure the low fat upbringing is probably the cause of my autistic traits (autism is a very serious disease and I'm not making light of it but just pointing out that on a autism spectrum scale I would probably have been placed on the NVLD end, instead of out in the sun playing with the other kids).
PPS Mom, I totally don't blame you for the lack of fat in my childhood and I respect acknowledge that you don't want to eat paleo (that bread and cheese addiction that the world seems to have is good fuel for a blog post however) but please only buy organic dairy (especially butter, cheese, and cream but then you may as well buy the rest organic) and only use butter / ghee or coconut oil for frying and cooking and save the olive and coldpressed rapeseed oil for dressings. Oh, and for Christ sake either make ice cream yourself or buy something that's actually made from dairy. 

Friday, August 17, 2012

Brekky - part 5

14/8 4 egg omelet + avo
Scrambled up an omelet with baharat and Nomnom Paleo's Magical Mushroom Powder (it's in her iPad app but it's basically a mix with ground dried mushrooms and a-ma-zing!). That and an avocado, dunked it in a box and ate it at work after a sucky workout.
And I was really temperamental for some reason. Weird.

15/8 3 egg omelet + lettuce and cucumber
Very uninspired - almost the same as 14th.

16/8 Sweet potato hash pancake frittata
Gym morning so the evening before I made some hash (spiced with ras el hanout and lamb drippings), took it off the heat, cracked 3 eggs into it, mixed thoroughly and fried it some more. Most delicious bloody thing ever. Think this might go in the treats category. Also had like 2 bananas.

17/8 Big ass smoked salmon salad
Went out for dinner on the 16th (and not having beer was really really annoying and anti-social) so had to make both lunch and breakfast. Just made a BASSS out of a head of lettuce, 2/3 of a cucumber, 2 avocados, 250 g smoked salmon trimmings (told you I was cheap), olive oil, balsamic vinegar, pepper. Split it and added gomashio to the stuff I ate for breakfast (I always get sesame seeds in all my teeth and really don't think that's a charming look for work so I don't use it for lunch stuff).

Americans: lamb drippings is when you make a lamb roast and then stuff drips into the roasting tin. Most times you will have to add some water to dissolve it again. Of course you could just use it in a sauce to go with the lamb or mix it with some veggies and serve but I find (at least when I do a slow cooked roast) that there's plenty of umami for a long time so I pour it through a fine-mesh sieve and pop it in the fridge. I remove the fat that congeals on top before use. And then I just use it as a stock or spice. When it's cold it gelatinizes but when heated it melts nicely.

Monday, August 13, 2012

Whinge: "But why does it have to be so extreme?"

So that's what my mum whines every time I try to convince her to try out paleo for a month. And then she follows it up with something about how she really should be cooking more paleo recipes because they are really delicious.
So now I'll attempt to explain why you should be completely 100% strict for a month.

If I just grab some email from a co-worker who is doing the Whole30 with me in August (from an email exchange about whether he was hungry and what he could eat for breakfast before going to work):
"Hi Bastard, 

   Had eggs with spring onions and tomato for breakfast, that was alright, wifey made meatballs, Spanish omelette and lots of cauliflower for dinner, so she really is supportive !  I must admit I had a glass of coke after cycling - probably not allowed ...? 

See you tomorrow"

"Bad co-worker!"

"Hi Bastard,

   Half kidding, did not really feel hungry, but just this sort of feeling that I have not eaten the right stuff, never mind, far too often, I skipped lunch, and that certainly is not healthy !"

"The coke is worse than skipping lunch. And skipping lunch is worse than skipping breakfast.
I'm trying to accomplish several things here.
First of all to convince your body that it is okay to burn fat for energy and make glucose from protein. When carbohydrate intake is high the body turns down the fat metabolism as far as possible to make sure that the carbohydrate is burnt off as efficiently as possible. Moderate to low carbohydrate intake should fix that. The lingering feeling of not having eaten the right stuff is because your body is using all the available fuel - this will change.
I am also trying to change your experience of food. You know how if you are working with beta-mercaptoethanol you don't notice the smell anymore after a bit of time? The same happens with taste only it takes much longer to desensitise the tastebuds (and equally long to resensitise them). You've probably mostly seen this is in real life from how some people want shitloads of salt on their food - while that amount of salt actually makes the food inedible to other people. The idea is that if we resensitise your tastebuds in this regard more things will taste sweet - specifically real food will taste sweeter.
The second thing about your experience of food that I want to change is more nebulous. It's called food reward. Basically your dopamine system fires to reward you for taking in calories. So you get reward for high concentrations of carbohydrates and fat (protein seems more to trigger the "I'm full" response) and for sweet tastes (and salty too I think). Taking drugs is a shortcut to the dopamine system. For all neuro-things the body adjusts based on the input. So if you take lots of drugs the reward system becomes less sensitive and you need more drugs to feel reward - and food becomes less rewarding as well. I want you to eat things with a lower built-in reward for a month so that you receive a greater feeling of satisfaction from real food.
And because of the way LTP (long-term potentiation) and LTD (long-term depression) works then you undo all the not-drinking-coke work you did yesterday when you drink it today.

Does all this make sense? Let me know if there is anything that seems counter-intuitive or just plain wrong.


PS Spanish omelette? Potatoes..? And be careful with the eggs. Not because they are bad for you but because you could get really really sick of them in which case this won't be a success experience for you."

"Potatoes, some of your books say they are ok, but the opinion seems divided?"

"I think only Paleo Comfort Foods are okay with them. I know that they don't work for me (skin issue) and I know that people eat too many of them (back to the too many carbs problem). My suggestion is to use sweet potatoes instead and only for things like after your bike ride."

So while some things could probably improve if you just ate "less bad" there are neurological, immunological, and food sensitivity effects where it simply doesn't work. In addition it makes it a lot harder since you will more easily slip into old habits if you don't make dramatic change.
You might be able to fix the problems with your omega-6 to omega-3 balance by reducing intake of omega-6 foods and you might get your carbohydrate intake down and in the long run stabilise your blood sugar and energy levels but it would be very slow going and a host of other problems with your diet could still fuck you over and you would be upset about all the work you did without getting a big payoff.

Let's use my issues with potatoes as an example. If I eat chips or crisps (American: fries or chips) I get acne after 2-6 days. So there are pimples and more come later and they take time to go away as well so the turnover time till the consequences of my food choice is gone is in the range of several weeks. When I was a teen I definitely never went several weeks without crisps/chips. So I didn't make the connection until a year or two after I had moved away from home. I was too cheap to buy crisps because they weren't healthy but when I lived with my parents they were always there. To be honest though some other things also seems to have set me off (to this day I am grateful that there is Accutane) but nothing as reliable as the chips and crisps (even does today when I'm in my thirties but not as severely - had chips/fries on my ski holidays this year and got my zits). And no - they don't cause acne because people touch their face with grease on their fingers. Now I only discovered this because I went months and months without these things and then (randomly because other people bought them for parties) reintroduced them. And the bloody thing is that I discovered recently that I have the same issue with non-deep fried potatoes but with regard to red bumps on my bum! Evil potatoes.

tl;dr Know how a wound takes time to heal? A wound might not kill you but if you don't stop inflicting them on yourself for a long time they won't all be healed at the same time.

Now with regard to the neurological reasons for why you need to be 100% compliant for at least a month you should read this piece on behavioural psychology:

PS I'll get to why skipping lunch is worse than skipping breakfast some other day.

PPS My co-worker had managed to convince himself that because fruits were allowed, juice must be allowed (even though it figures squarely on the Don't-list), and because there's the same amount of sugar in juice as there is in Coke then Coke must be okay. And when I pressed him more he said that he only had diluted juice. But no matter how much I pressed him he wouldn't answer my question about whether he had diluted Coke.

Brekky - part 4

Oy, this blogging is a lotta work.

10/8 Got up late - emergency meal
Ate 3 hardboiled eggs (that I had boiled in advanced), one green bell pepper, and an avocado (laziest approach to avos is to cut them in eighths and remove the peel). Liberal sprinkling with gomashio. In fact it was almost black with sesame. Made me think about how gomashio looks a bit like rat poo.

11/8 Lamb and sweet potato hash
Gym morning. Of course the gym didn't open until 9 so I wasn't there until it was past 10. Oops. Breakfast at about noon. While the hash was frying I defrosted some lamb from last weekend and snacked a little bit. Like a couple of small handfuls almonds, a couple of handfuls cherry tomatoes and 3 bananas. I cut up the lamb and fried it when the hash was done. It was glorious.
Saved the lamb fat for making dinner. In case you think all this grating sweet potatoes for hash is waaaay to much work then I agree. I just took 1-1.2 kg and grated 'em in the food processor - stored them in a plastic box in the fridge. And while I was at it I grated carrots as well. Do the carrots first.

12/8 Sausage salad
2 leftover sausages, half a head of lettuce, a red bell pepper, big handful cherry tomatoes. Started eating but found it a bit boring so added olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

13/8 Whatever there was
4 fried eggs and an avocado. Smothered in gomashio of course. The exciting thing is that the eggs weren't fried in goose fat! I finally ran out and was forced to get around to making ghee! I don't know why I'm using this many exclamation marks! I'm not excited in real life!

Americans: A kg is... you know what, fuck that. Convert it yourself. Or learn some fucking metric like the rest of the world.

Friday, August 10, 2012



I challenge you to make some emergency meals. And I'm going to make it easy for you as well. If you don't like that you can make it hard for yourself and have other emergency meals.

In the refridgerator: 3-6 hardboiled eggs. Mark them with a felt tip pen so you know that they aren't raw. Otherwise they just become divorce argument fodder. If you have no lunch you could throw them in a bag with some raw veggies. Same for breakfast. Or if you think a meal looks like it could use a bit more protein you can just throw some peeled eggs in there.

In the freezer: A box with frozen leftovers. Enough for an entire meal. Just so you can always just throw something in the microwave and eat.

In the car: A bag of nuts. Remember that this is an emergency meal. Don't eat them just because you are feeling a little snackish. Also, things that are not a bag of nuts: a bag of peanuts, a bag of salted nuts, a bag of "yoghurt" covered nuts, a bag of dried cranberries, a bag of raisins etc. Unsalted macademias, hasselnuts, cashews, almonds are your friends.

Thursday, August 9, 2012

Brekky - part 3

ZOMG I'm like writing something every day.

6/8 Fail
I was really stuffed Sunday evening after demolishing a bit more than half a lamb shoulder through the day and really couldn't motivate myself to make a proper breakfast =( Monday morning was workout time so I ended up taking 10g BCAA before and after the gym and then eating my lunch early (11 am). I am wondering now if BCAA before working out is actually a bad idea - they are insulinogenic so it might reduce the glucose released from the liver... On the other hand if glycogen stores are low-low it might not matter.
Lunch was the same as dinner Sunday evening. 3 slices of lamb shoulder diced and fried in goose fat and a teaspoon of Bart Spices baharat, with sliced mushrooms, half a tenderheart cabbage, pork stock, and balsamic vinegar. Yes, I try to eat at least half a head of things you buy in heads ('cept iceberg - useless) every day in addition to the other vegetables I eat. It is not a lot. It just takes up a fair amount of room in the fridge.

7/8 Couple of carrots and some fry-up
Ate a couple of raw carrots with a fry-up consisting of cherry tomatoes, muchrooms, a small onion, 2 slices bacon, 3 eggs.
"Devil man! You said no bacon!" Yes, I said no bacon and I did it for a very specific reason. This:
Credit unknown, unfortunately.
Bacon is more salt and fat than protein. As such you (and I) should only eat bacon from pastured pigs, processed by an actual butcher rather than a factory, and you should treat it as an occasional condiment to your protein of choice. It the pig was raised in a factory farm then the fat isn't much different from drinking generic vegetable oil to be honest (think soy, corn etc.) and if it was processed in a factory it has most likely gotten the full dose of preservatives that the law allows. So stay away from bacon or you end up in the bacon trap. It's cheap and tasty but 1) it's not a good source of protein 2) it will fuck with your digestion 3) it a big source of omega-6 fatty acids.

8/8 Yay, guests!
I had friends visit me from home so a great excuse to cook heaps of delicious food. So we had... lemme see... 2 Debbie & Andrew's Harrowgate sausages, a slice of bacon, sweet potato hash (spiced with Nom Nom Paleo's Magical Mushroom Powder, Bart Spices baharat, and garlic powder), and a veggie fry-up of cherry tomatoes, onions, red bell pepper strips, and asparagus tips. Yum yum yum.

9/8 Dammit
So a gym morning but I had neither made lunch or breakfast the evening before so I pushed gym to around 11 am and went to work first. But not until having breakfast and making some lunch.
So for breakfast I fried up some leftover slow cooked pork from when my guests were here and fried a sliced eggplant in baharat on fairly high heat. So the eggplant wasn't cooked through but was spicy and cooked on one side and mostly raw but hot on the other. Yum. I also snacked a small handful almonds and some blueberries while cooking.
And the lunch was of course more pork but with a sweet potato hash. And banana and apple afterwards. Yes, I eat a lot.

Sunday, August 5, 2012

Brekky - part 2

The breakfast chronicles continue:

2/8 More of that Mexican thing with Asian crossover
So for breakfast I made the same thing as 1/8 but with 3 eggs instead of four. And because it I went to the gym in the morning I made breakfast the evening before and added sweet potato hash (one sweet potato = ~200g). I used this recipe from Nomnom Paleo but replaced all the spices except garlic powder with Nomnom's Magical Mushroom Powder (from her iPad app) and gomashio. It was amazing.
The rest of the day was less amazing. I drank tea at work without milk. It's pretty awful tea. I really want milk. And protein shakes with milk. Made it home just as it began to rain. Then realised that I had forgotten my house keys at the office. Got the idea that I should go past Tesco and buy a Nak'd bar for comfort but then realised that it has dried fruit and no dried fruit allowed... Got wet.

3/8 Fried eggs with salad
More fucking eggs! I'm a bit low on protein in the fridge but going to the farm shop on Saturday. Okay, I fried up three eggs in goose fat and half a teaspoon of baharat from Bart Spices. Ate it with a salad made from lettuce, sliced mushroom, grated swede, and gomashio. The rest of my salad became my lunch after I added 1 avocado, 2 tins tuna, balsamic vinegar, basil olive oil, and ground pepper. Actually I added the avo and tuna to my lunchbox first, heaped as much salad on top as I could fit and then ate the rest of the salad for breakfast but that just reads awkwardly.
Someone brought in homemade profiteroles to work today. They were sculpted into the form of a shit-snowman (loooong story) but I still really really really wanted one.

4/8 Fry up - no eggs =)
Saturday! Basically I threw some stuff in a pan. In the following order: goose fat, a red chopped red onion, a handful cherry tomatoes, 4 sliced mushrooms, a chopped red bell pepper, 2 leftover Debbie and Andrew's Harrowgate sausages, 2 tablespoons pork stock (I need to use the last since I'm making a new pork roast soon and the last time it made about 3/4 litre strong stock), 1 tablespoon tomato paste, a squeeze chilli sauce. It was freakin' ambrosia. Maybe a bit heavy on the salt because of the stock. Should have made do with one tablespoon.

5/8 Kinda boring - superjuicy lamb with some celery
So I made some slow cooked lamb overnight in the oven. 12 hours at 90-95 Celsius. Lovingly rubbed with a mixture of rosemary, herbes de Provence, fennel seeds, olive oil, and tomato paste and wrapped around some cloves of garlic. Placed on top of two halved onions in a roasting tray and covered first with some baking paper and then tin foil. Foil to keep water in and baking paper to avoid having the tin foil touching the meat - otherwise the foil can stick to the roast or become dissolved by salt. Ate a couple of slices with some celery sticks.
Kinda wanted to have a wander into town and have a latte today =(

Americans! A Nak'd bar is the UK version of a Larabar, a swede is a turnip (okay, now my office mates are claiming, respectively, that mine was a turnip because it wasn't orange enough or that there is no such thing as a swede and that it's a turnip - all I know it that said swede on the wrapping), 3/4 litre is 3 cups, 90-95C is 200F.

Friday, August 3, 2012

Sometimes I hate science...

So ScienceNOW reported on a study that showed some interesting differences and similarities between shark teeth and our teeth. From the study conclusion:
"Although fluoroapatite has a higher hardness compared to hydroxyapatite, the shark teeth enameloid (fluoroapatite) was not harder than the enamel of human teeth (hydroxyapatite)."
"The fact that sharks use fluoroapatite as tooth biomineral instead of hydroxyapatite which is used by mammals does not lead by a higher hardness of the shark teeth and must have a different, but hitherto unknown, reason."
They also show that the mineral fluoroapatite is much harder than both kinds of tooth but more brittle (in correspondance with what we already knew).

So my question is this: does this mean that we are better off with hydroxyapatite enamal than fluoroapatite? There's fluor in toothpaste (sometimes in drinking water) to give us fluoroapatite enamal but is this not preferable when we aren't eating a diet with lots of sugar?
I'm so confused.

UPDATE: Okay, according to Wiki-p the fluoridation status of teeth doesn't mean anything for caries but fluoride in saliva and plaque do. And the ability of fluoride to decrease tooth decay was first discovered in areas where the natural fluoride content of the water was high.

Wednesday, August 1, 2012


So apparently eating something in the morning that isn't toast and cereal is hard. I will try to help. I often skip breakfast but since I am doing Whole30 for the month of August (not something I do lightly - last time was 2-3 years ago) and Dallas and Melissa say in their book to eat breakfast meal 1 I will. And I'll publish my brekkies on the blog to inspire others.

1/8 Mexican inspired eggs:
4 eggs, half eggplant, celery stalk, some Japanese spice mix with chili, ginger, and sesame, goose fat. Fresh coriander and half a lime.
Quartered and sliced eggplant, sliced celery, 1/2 cm slices. Fried in goose fat with the spices on high heat, transfered to a plate. Heat off, pan on a cold heater. More goose fat. Cracked eggs into pan, stirred them together for scrambling. Back on the hot heater, set to high, scrambled away. When it was done I threw it on top of the veggies and threw some chopped coriander on and squished the lime to drizzle juice over.

PS For the Americans: 1/8 means first of August, coriander is cilantro, and 1/2 cm is 1/5 inch.

Monday, July 30, 2012

Tracking what happens in your body

So I think I promised to make it easier to track what happens in your body during a paleo challenge.
I've made two forms to fill out in the shape of pdf's (I used Google Forms which is why it looks weird).

First a pdf to download now and fill out.

And secondly a pdf to come back to when you have completed your 30 days or more.

I hope they help you!

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Paleo. How do you do that then?

A paleo how-to like everybody else... Anyway, it's a simple game of Don't Eat That But Do Eat This. Here's the strict version which is the one where you learn about yourself and shit. Do that. 80/20 becomes 75/25, becomes 60/40, becomes useless.
Disclaimer: When I started eating paleo, I didn't say "Okay, 30 days of strict paleo", I just decided to eat that way and worked out compromises and problems on the go. Right now I'm doing a full month of no treats and non-paleo foods because I didn't feel like I was in control of my compromises and it really isn't much fun and I can see how people end up binging on crap when the strict period is over. I want some food reward up in here but to be honest I will probably just make some paleo banana pancakes when September rolls round.

Don't Eat sugar, sirup, artificial sweeteners, natural sweeteners, juices, dried fruit. Grapes, plums, cherries (really easy to overeat and contain mild laxatives).
Do Eat fresh fruit, (unsalted) nuts, carbonated water.

Don't Eat grains, flours, rice, corn, legumes (including peanuts and anything with soy), white potatoes.
Do Eat vegetables, leaves, stems, roots, tubers, mushrooms (I cannot emphasize these things enough - also they are often expensive so look for cheap stuff e.g. cabbages and chard).

Don't Eat oils from any of the above (I have no idea how you make oil from corn but apparently that's possible) or the other hexane extracted oils.
Do Eat ghee/clarified butter or fat (e.g. goose fat) from pastured/grass-fed animals, olive oil, coconut oil.

Don't Eat dairy or dairy replacements (soy cheese, rice milk etc). Don't replace almond milk or "coconut milk" for glasses of milk or in lattes (coffee-flavoured milk, mmm).
Do Eat coconut milk in food or as a coffee/tea creamer.

Don't Eat processed meat like bacon or pretty much anything else cut in thin slices (except for carpaccio which isn't processed). You don't have any sandwiches to stuff them in anyway. Canned meat. Supermarket ground/minced meat - throw something nice-looking in the food processor yourself when you need some (or you get it from a butcher that you really, really trust).
Do Eat all sorts of animals, marine and land, and maybe try out some different kinds of offal (if you can eat brain you can skip fatty fish/fish oil/fish roe - just saying). Eggs.

Don't Eat preservatives.
Do Eat spices, herbs, and vinegars.

Don't Eat alcohol.
Do Eat fuck it, I don't think it's worth the stress to completely cut it out. Stick to a max of one unit of alcohol in a day. That's 3 cl (1 oz) of distilled alcohol like vodka. Shot or vodka soda.
If you are making a drink out of your booze remember to stick to water or carbonated water as your mixer (stick some lemon, cucumber, or herbs in there as well).
If you are (even undiagnosed) celiac beer is likely to fuck you over. Also wine and dirty spirits contain various irritants. Be aware!
Try to go without.

Do Eat (eat lots - much more than you expect - and don't let yourself go hungry).

Do it without cheating for 30 days (I would prefer you did it 6 weeks but I don't expect to ever get anyone to commit to that). If you do cheat then get back on the horse. Find out why you cheated and how to avoid it the next time you try to go 30 days (yeah, you have to do it again to get the full experience - don't go strict for a couple of months but use some paleo recipes, fats, etc then try). Don't add days in the end/start over immediately if you cheat, just complete it as originally planned.
Go here for more resources than I could ever be arsed to make in a lifetime:
They have an e-book and a book-book but all the resources you need are available for free on their website (other great sites are http://www.marksdailyapple.com and Google). Whole9 also has some guides on what to do after the 30 days strict paleo - I'll do a goals and evaluation of dietary changes post at some point hopefully. Maybe I'll even put a link here. In short it's about letting some things back in your life and see how you do then. Stuff like dairy, bacon, and for the more adventurous boiled/baked white potatoes (chips, crisps, and fries give me face zits and regular white potatoes give me arse zits so I tend to stay away from them - but different people are different). So you experiment with letting foods back in your life (basically the more calorie dense ones) when you've learned that you can live without them. And that you probably actually fare better without them.

Things that are different in my version:
I lump bacon and ground meat in the processed meat section - this is based on my own experiences when I was a paleo newbie. Today I am wary but I know approximately how much I can eat of it and from what sources.
Also based on my own experience too much fresh fruit can make your tummy a bit upset. But it's only really things like grapes where you are likely to inhale a pound in a sitting. They are very low in acidity so even if they don't have that much more sugar than other fruits you are more likely to overeat them. And they contain lots of tartaric acid, a mild laxative, and I want you to have normal poops.
Alcohol. Because otherwise I'd never get my parents' generation on board.

Adverse effects to look out for:
"Low carb flu", general lack of energy that lasts for about a 3-7 days often coupled with headaches (mostly women) or anger (mostly men - Finn Christo has a great post on it but you don't want to try paleo after reading it or reading this). Tips: 1) Be awesome like me and not have any problems or 2) Eats some fucking carbs. Various fruits, various pumpkins, carrots, sweet potatoes. There. Or just though it out.
Constipation. Yeah, avoid dying from that. Very rare and rarely serious and I think what happens is that yo-yo weightloss diets have decimated all semblance of muscle, even the smooth muscle surrounding the intestines so you can't move things forward normally. Or your gut flora was incredibly fucked up and has ended up in some weird dead end. If you haven't pooped in 3-5 days you should consider going back to parts of your old diet to get things moving or maybe try out some milk of magnesium (haven't tried it myself). Don't feel like a loser. Remember that I'm not a doctor - okay, I am but I'm not a medical doctor. So if you are sick of course you should contact your doctor but if they say that eating vegetables, fresh fruit, meat, seafood, and eggs is unhealthy and you should be eating grains and dairy by the fistful then consider a different GP. Especially if they don't mention soda and cakes.

tl;dr eat stuff that your ancestors ate 10'000 years ago

Extra reading: stupid sometimes

Saturday, July 21, 2012

Why should you eat paleo?

Why indeed. Could we just leave it at Because I Said So?

tl;dr Because I say so.

No? Well, I have two perspectives on why you should try out paleo (strict, no cheats, for at least 30 days).

The evolutionary angle:

 Humans are primates. The primates diverged from the other mammals approx. 50-85 million years ago. But if you go to the zoo or look up primates in a encyclopaedia you will notice that their diets are all pretty similar. Primates are omnivores that eat leaves, fruits, stems, flowers, tree sap, and animals, both invertebrate and vertebrate, as large as they can catch them. Only the gelada are exclusively vegetarian and only the tarsiers are exclusively carnivorous (yeah, I am totally lifting all of this off of Wikipedia). Anyway, the point is that anyone who claims that humans are originally vegetarian or carnivorous are wrong. The great apes to which we belong have some interesting adaptations to the main components of their diets though: Gorillas have sort of bubbles on their colons to ferment some of the large amount of fiber they eat and orangutans are able to remember where all the fruit trees in the jungle are and when they have ripe fruit (but yeah, omnivores). And humans are able to digest meat and complex carbohydrates from roots and tubers more efficiently by cooking them. This increase in calories then allowed us to develop larger brains which made us more efficient at getting food. Vicious cycle, this sentience business is. And whether early man were hunters or scavengers is completely irrelevant - both are efficient strategies. And this has probably been going on the last two million years, since human ancestors developed long limbs and became the heat dissipating champion of the mammals.
 Okay, so we've talked about primates and therefore humans being omnivores. Isn't this how modern man eats today (the majority anyway)? Well, no. The majority of human calories today come from the seeds of grasses and legumes, from extracted simple carbohydrates, and bovine milk products. And we live on this and we procreate but we could thrive better. Why not seeds? There is a thing called Red Queen Hypothesis that states that a host and parasite must both continually evolve to maintain the balance of their relationship (after the Red Queen race in Through the Looking Glass (Alice in Wonderland) where they run as much as they can without getting anywhere - Lewis Carroll was obviously making a comment on the futility of treadmills and cardio workouts). For grasses and legumes the seed is an enormous energy investment and the plants that put in defences are more successful than those that don't. The mice and what else lives on those seeds and beans then have to evolve to dodge those defences. We are new-comers to the grain eating business and while some of us are well-adapted, others are very poorly adapted (like celiacs) and most of us are somewhere in between those two extremes. The same goes for dairy (and I'm not just talking about lactose tolerance). So what about all the other plant matter that people on paleo eat? And why are animals okay - wouldn't it be in their interest not to be eaten? Okay, one question at a time. Fruits are a mechanism for spreading seeds far so there has been co-evolution of plants and animals towards the same goal: Healthy animals and more of that plant. Same goes for nuts. Squirrels forget ~25% of the nuts they hide away. So the tree is sacrificing some of it's "babies" so that the others will have success. For some plants having poisonous leaves is a viable strategy while for others it clearly isn't. It is easier to understand why if we look at animals though. For prey and predator there exists a symbiotic rather than parasitic relationship. Sick members of the prey species are killed and removed so they can't infect others. The predators keep the number of animals down so their food sources have time to grow and replenish itself. And monitoring of herbivores on islands with no predators confirm this - the population numbers vary wildly which both reduces the genetic diversity of the group by putting it through several bottlenecks but also puts it in danger of extinction. So while a predator is bad news for an individual it is a good thing for the species as a whole. Some poisonous animals do exist however - but this is always in very rich ecosystems with many many species. For plants sacrificing some leaves means that an animal could poop out some nutrients from a plant it ate somewhere else. It evens out the uneven distribution of trace elements. There are more factors but just know that for some plants and animals there are advantages to being eaten and for some there aren't.

tl;dr Humans are omnivores. For some plants and animals there are advantages to being eaten and for some there are advantages to not being eaten.

The other angle:

It works. Eating after a paleo pattern addresses most of the hypotheses behind the global obesity epidemic and the diseases that follow with the foods that make folks fat (yeah, just because you aren't fat doesn't mean that you're fine - sorry mate). People feel, look, and perform better. They heal things that wouldn't go away previously. They are less miserable (ever tried a calorie restricted diet? No wonder people are miserable). And it's fucking delicious.

tl;dr it's awesome

Thursday, July 19, 2012



Yet another blog about Paleo. Will the madness never end?
Bloody well no, it won't end until most people at least have tried out how not eating neolithic foods for a month affects their bodies (and minds).

My main motivators in life are the bits that come before paleo in the title of this blog. I was too vain to put up vain and sexiness is just so much more fun. And people asking me about what exercise I do motivated me to start a blog since people look at you like you are a freak if you start to talk about food when they asked about exercise. But I only spend about 2 hours in the gym per week. I do do efficient compound movements but it's all about the delicious, delicious food.

I am a trained and practising scientist in the life sciences field. I don't do nutritional science but I think it's really entertaining and I am after all life science literate. I don't need more citation stress in my life, thank you very much, so I'll keep it to the absolute minimum. There might slip one or three studies in there but generally I will just rant and you will have to trust me. If you think I'm wrong then please do add some citations to your comments. Otherwise I might just ignore or delete your comment - my blog after all. Please have actually read the paper you are citing too (at the very least the abstract). I promise I'll have a look.

Hopefully there will be posts on how to combine laziness and gluttony - they may even be sexy. On the other hand I am quite lazy so let's see what happens. Welcome! I hope paleo will bring you as much good as it has for me (or more since I didn't really have that many issues before I started it besides being skinny-fat and zit-prone).