Finding healthier, easier ways to eat with enjoyment is a favorite American pastime. One of the premier diets getting a whole lot of attention is the Mediterranean diet.
In actuality, the diet itself isn’t new. In fact, it’s been in existence for centuries. Its origin comes from the name, Mediterranean, mimicking the eating patterns of people from that region of the world.
And while this eating plan may be many years old, how we view its merits brings something new to the nutrition industry. In truth, the Mediterranean diet sheds light on a term widely misused: the word diet.
Moderation Is the Meme of Mediterranean Diet Truth
People generally defer to a specific diet seeking weight loss, preferably quick weight loss. But the results, like the diet itself, are temporary. One of the many key differentiators in the Mediterranean diet is that it isn’t a diet, in the traditional sense of the word, but in truth – a lifestyle.
You may have had a friend or family member, even yourself, give the Mediterranean diet a try in the past. It isn’t just about what you eat. It’s about adding the element of moderation to your world. Moderation implies reasonable serving sizes and balance in other lifestyle choices, such as exercise, whom you spend time with and how often.
How a Mediterranean Diet Improves Health for Life
As the Mediterranean diet, followed in its entirety, creates a big picture mapping out a person’s day-to-day behaviors, committing to this program engages a more holistic lifestyle shift. Other diets, due to their temporary nature, do not support long-term use by the participant, setting up a recipe for failure.
The Mediterranean diet provides life choices that promote happiness and socialization while increasing heart health and other benefits that extend longevity. Because the transition into “living Mediterranean” is somewhat seamless, the sense of self-sacrifice in not being able to eat many of the foods one loves, common during dieting, is near nonexistent.
Instead, these dieters have a greater sense of well-being and a feeling that, with this life plan, personal goals are achievable and likely permanent.
Eat Mediterranean Like You Were Born There
It isn’t difficult to adopt a Mediterranean lifestyle. What you eat is hearty, robust and full of texture and color. The choices are vitamin-rich and full of nutrients. Try to focus on what you can eat and not what you need to do without, and the experience will be that much more rewarding.
Limit your intake of red meat and processed foods including sugars, complex carbohydrates (white rice and foods made with white flour), unhealthy fats, or preservatives. Key words to remember are fresh, whole and of the earth.
Find excitement in what you CAN eat:
Nuts (1 oz. daily)
Beans, peas, lentils, hummus (1/2 cup serving, cooked, 2 times a week or more)
Brown or wild rice, bread or pasta made with whole-wheat flour, oatmeal, popcorn and quinoa (4 small portions per day and ALWAYS eat with protein and healthy fats)
Fresh fish or seafood (4 oz., 2-3 times a week)
Grilled, baked, poached or steamed
Eggs (2-3 times a week)
Cooked in olive oil, poached or hard-boiled
Vegetables (5-10 servings a day, ½ cooked/1 cup raw)
Fresh or lightly cooked to stay slightly crunchy
Fruits (4-6 servings a day, ½ cup per serving)
Fresh or lightly cooked
Healthy fats (4-6 servings a day)
Extra virgin olive oil (1 tbsp.) or 5 olives
Avocado (1/8 of an avocado) or avocado oil
Dairy (moderate consumption), low-fat or skim (1-3 servings daily)
Fresh curd cheeses (1 oz.)
Yogurt (1 cup)
Kefir (1 cup)
Milk (1 cup)
Red Wine (5 oz. per day for women; 10 oz. per day for men)
Mediterranean Diet Truth or Consequences You Can Live With
The benefits of living a Mediterranean lifestyle are backed by science. Those who practice this diet regularly realize healthy weight loss while minimizing their risk of heart attack, type 2 diabetes, stroke and early death. In addition, the risk for certain cancers, such as head, neck, prostate and colon, is reduced.
There is also evidence that Mediterranean diet followers are less likely to develop Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s disease.
Before trying this diet plan, make sure that your body can digest raw fruits and vegetables well. If you have certain health conditions such as IBS, this diet could be cumbersome to maintain.
Ask us, the nutritionists at Dietary Rehab, if this is the right program for you.
Live Mediterranean Now
To get a taste of how the Mediterranean diet can make a difference in how you feel, try this:
Working Wake Up!
½ cup, ripe peaches chopped, skin removed ½ cup skim milk (1% is fine too) 6 ice cubes ½ cup low-fat plain or vanilla yogurt Sprinkling of cinnamon (optional)
Blend until all ingredients come together to a thick and frothy consistency. Pour into a to-go cup. Add a straw for fun. Start your day!
There’s been a lot of buzz about how food is meant to be for nutritional benefit. Some even refer to food as medicine. When eating food that is rich in nutrients, the body receives what it needs to work optimally and help generate a sense of well-being.
About 15 years ago, the media caught wind of what professional athletes already knew: that eating the right food at the right time could enhance fitness, increase physical performance and maximize weight loss. Once this information trickled down to the masses, the diet and nutrition industry took hold and applied it to mainstream America.
Let’s assume the intentions were for the greater good, but the healthful benefits of nutrient timing may not apply to the general population.
What Is Nutrient Timing?
The premise of nutrient timing is simple. A person eats:
In specified amounts
In specified combinations
At specified times
Usually, small meals take place five to six times a day to include varied selections of whole grains, vegetables, fruit, healthy fats and proteins that together are no larger than the size of a person’s fist.
Depending on a person’s reasons or goals for using nutrient timing, the amount of foods may shift. For example, a person training for a marathon will use nutrient timing to help maintain lean muscle mass.
Comparatively speaking, someone looking to shed fat or maintain current weight may use the nutrient timing system as a means to ward off hunger throughout a workout regimen. Much of the difference – and potential risk – comes down to the intake of protein.
Excess Protein Is too Much too Soon
There is a link between protein intake and lean muscle mass. With protein, the body can maintain or build greater muscle mass. But without enough protein, muscle is lost.
Many diet programs have beefed up protein intake to help force the body to shed fat instead of lean muscle. However, there is some backlash about excess protein and what it can do to the body’s internal systems.
Although the recommended daily allowance of protein intake seems high, it’s easy to see how quickly a person can get the necessary amount.
How the Body Uses Protein
Protein, unlike other nutritional components, cannot be sourced within the body, meaning that once a person has depleted their existing level of protein, there is no other internal supply. Although proper protein intake is vital, it does not supersede the importance of carbohydrates. With nutrient timing, a healthy balance is more readily achieved by design.
With an increased protein intake, metabolism converts to what’s known as a state of ketosis. Instead of using carbohydrates to generate fuel or energy, the body will process or burn its fat. During ketosis, one can feel less hungry and the need to release excess water.
Sounds good, right? Not so fast.
In order to break down protein effectively, the body generates ammonia – seriously. The body can only handle so much ammonia. To release higher levels of ammonia, the body needs to sweat it out.
An imbalanced nutrition regimen with higher levels of protein can increase ammonia levels, which can somewhat be compensated through more strenuous exercises or athletic conditioning. What about average Joe? What about plain Jane? Should they even think about nutrient timing?
If It Ain’t Broke, Don’t Fix It
Nutritional balance is everything. Using food as a method to maintain or alter physical shape, and to keep or increase internal health, is wise. What’s even more amazing is that it doesn’t have to be complicated. Sustenance and fitness are not fixed but flexible, just as nutrient timing was meant to be.
When Your Body Talks, Listen
The right nutrition differs per the individual. Many contributing factors help dictate which foods to eat and what time to consume them.
Examine the following when considering entering into a nutrient timing eating plan:
Lifestyle or Schedule
Level of Physical Activity
Realistic expectations also play a big role in the planning and success of nutrient timing for healthy living. Take a moment to think back: Have you ever been on a diet or nutrition program, due to the testimonials of other people, believing you would achieve the same or similar results? More than likely, you didn’t.
Every nutrition plan works differently for each person. Nutrient timing, like any other sustenance program, is a lifestyle model that can be adjusted to fit your needs. Take into account the goals, the duration required to get there and, throughout the process, how the body reacts and how you feel.
Signs that Healthy Intake Is Off
The purpose of nutrient timing is to use healthy food as the catalyst to better body functionality and, in some cases, appearance.
There are also contraindications that suggest a change in the plan is needed:
Perspiration has ammonia odor
The Healthy Advantages of Nutrient Timing Outweigh the Risks
By using nutrient timing as a tool to ensure a balanced, healthy diet in easy-to-digest portion sizes can provide long-lasting benefits to all people. When physical activity changes, so too should the amount of food and/or the frequency of the nutrient timing.
Additionally, consuming carbohydrates and protein together within 45 minutes before or after a strenuous workout can provide the bones and muscles what they need to boost performance and build strength. As the metabolism kicks into high gear during and for up to 90 minutes after a workout, nutrient timing then supports the caloric intake and the training session, diminishing the risk for unhealthy weight gain.
Nutrient timing can complement the immeasurable value in daily nutrition for the short and long term.
Read More About Nutrition and How Dietary Rehab Can Help Build a Healthy Lifestyle Program That’s Right for You
There are chefs and cooks everywhere that have taken the much-maligned cauliflower out from underneath the cheese sauce and given it new life, new recipes and a whole new image! Cauliflower rice, a wonderful alternative to regular rice for the Paleo Diet, as well as cauliflower pizza crust, (yes, you read that right!) for Paleo pizza lovers everywhere! You can roast, bake, boil, mash, stew or even turn it into a hearty soup. Cauliflower is extremely versatile and takes on the flavors of whatever spice or sauce it is around. So many things you can do with it, where do I begin?
Cauliflower Pizza Crust
Since I have already whetted your appetites with pizza, here is the easiest and most delicious way to make pizza dough without any grains and plenty of taste!
For the dough:
1 head of cauliflower, stalk removed
1l/2 cup shredded mozzarella
¼ cup grated Parmesan
½ teaspoon dried oregano
½ teaspoon salt
¼ teaspoon garlic powder
2 eggs, lightly beaten
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Line a baking sheet with parchment paper
Break the cauliflower into florets and pulse in a food processor until fine.
Steam in a steamer basket and drain well (I like to put on a towel to get all the moisture out) Let cool.
In a bowl, combine the cauliflower with the remaining ingredients until well mixed.
Transfer to the center of the baking sheet and spread into a circle, resembling a pizza crust.
Bake for 20 minutes. Add desired toppings and bake for an additional 10 minutes
Curried Cauliflower Soup
I do recall mentioning soup. And this one is a curried soup. I love curry. Give me a good curry and I will follow you anywhere. This one is mild. But it doesn’t have to be….
1 large head of cauliflower, cut into florets
2 tablespoon olive oil (yes, it’s Paleo)
1 medium to large onion, chopped
3 cups chicken stock, low sodium
½ teaspoon coriander
½ teaspoon turmeric
1 ½ teaspoon cumin
1 cup full fat coconut milk
¼ cup roasted cashews
2Tbln parsley, finely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 375 degrees F. Spread cauliflower and onion in a single layer on a baking sheet.
Drizzle with olive oil and add salt and pepper to taste. Roast for 15-20 minutes, until golden brown, stirring once.
Place the cauliflower and onions into a large pot, add the chicken stock and the spices with a pinch of salt. Bring to a boil and let boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat.
With an immersion blender, puree the ingredients in the pot until smooth. If you have no immersion blender, carefully transfer to a stand-up blender to puree.
Stir in the coconut milk and return to the stove to warm soup. Adjust the seasonings to taste. Serve with roasted cashews and parsley as garnish.
This recipe can be made into your own by adding other vegetables, such as sweet potatoes or carrots. Even parsnips or any other interesting root vegetable. This is a great soup for a cold winter evening!
Roasted Cauliflower with Dates and Pine Nuts
This is an excellent side dish, or stand alone snack or light lunch. It complements any meat dish, even meatloaf!
1 large head of cauliflower, broken into small florets
4 tablespoon coconut oil
1/3 cup pine nuts
1 clove garlic, minced
½ cup Medjool dates, pitted and coarsely chopped
Salt and pepper to taste
Preheat oven to 400 degrees F. Evenly spread cauliflower on a parchment covered baking sheet and season with salt and pepper.
Bake for 20 minutes, tossing once after 10 minutes to assure even baking. The cauliflower should have golden brown edges.
Add coconut oil to small skillet, add the pine nuts, stirring frequently, until they are light golden brown, about 5 minutes.
Add garlic and dates, cook for another 2-3 minutes until they are softened. Add salt to taste.
Transfer hot cauliflower to a serving bowl and drizzle the pine nut and date mixture over the top and toss to combine. Adjust the seasoning, if necessary. Can be served warm or at room temperature.
Of course, you know me; I can’t leave any recipe alone. I like to add nutmeg, or allspice for a more Mediterranean taste, or Chinese five spice or oyster sauce for an Asian twist. Ginger is good as well. Play with it and see what kinds of variations you can come up with.
Healthy Cauliflower Rice
This is a great alternative to regular rice, it not being specifically on the Paleo Diet*. Use it for your stir-fry dishes, as a side dish to broccoli beef or as a potato alternative, to add a bit of variety to your meal.
1 large head of cauliflower, separated into 1” florets
3 tablespoon coconut oil
1 medium onion, finely diced
1 teaspoon salt
For the Garnish:
2 tablespoon freshly chopped parsley
Juice of ½ lemon
Trim as much of the stem as possible off the florets
In the food processor break up the florets until they resemble couscous. You may have to do up to three batches.
Heat the oil in a large skillet over medium-high heat. Add the onions and stir to coat. Continue cooking, stirring frequently until onions are golden brown and soft. Approx 8 minutes.
Add the cauliflower and stir to combine. Add the salt and continue cooking until the cauliflower has softened, approx 3-5 minutes. Remove from heat.
Spoon cauliflower into a serving bowl, add parsley, sprinkle with lemon juice and add salt to taste**. Serve warm.
When I make rice, I use chicken bouillon to add flavor. Here you can use a bit of chicken or beef bouillon instead of the coconut oil to give it a heartier flavor. Just use less oil, because it will only be for the onions and replace the rest of the oil with the bouillon. Again, play with it to make it your own.
Tips For Cooking Cauliflower For Paleo Diets
*White rice is allowed in the Paleo diet if you need more carbohydrates. But there are no nutrients in the white rice, unless added later. Brown rice, because the hull is left in place, is considered a grain because the hull has toxins in it just like the other grains.
**If you are using the cauliflower rice for an Asian dish, leave out the parsley and lemon juice, as they will detract from the meat and sauce.
Be Sure To Follow Our Blog For Even More Delicious Recipes and Nutritional Advice For A Healthier, Stronger You!
Having recently looked into a study on high protein diets for athletes doing resistance training, it quickly became apparent that certain exercise types — such as resistance training and endurance training — have unique dietary needs to be completely effective. There was no significant change in body composition for anyone in the study, but other studies regarding a high protein diet all agree with this one thing: that the high protein diet burns fat mass — and the fear that it would raise cholesterol have been debunked.
A high protein diet can actually lower cholesterol and there is no chance of renal failure or significant changes to blood lipids or hepatic functions. Also, high protein diets may reduce fat mass by inhibiting lipogenesis in the liver. And if, however, you do a periodic resistance training schedule along with other sports training, a high protein diet can significantly change your body composition. Endurance athletes’ dietary needs are better met with significantly higher amounts of protein.
Most endurance athletes require more dietary protein intake for 3 reasons:
Insufficient carbohydrate calories to meet energy expense
Insufficient protein calories to meet energy expense
Exercise training expenditure increases 10-fold above resting state
Why A Paleo Diet Is Beneficial To Athletes
The Paleo Diet is not necessarily a high protein diet, more of a low empty-carbohydrate diet. That being said, it reduces the number of sugars as well as grains. You get your sugars naturally from fruit and your carbohydrates from them as well as vegetables like carrots, cauliflower, and yams or sweet potatoes. It doesn’t make you feel deprived, it’s versatile and allows you to eat when you want, as much as you want. Most high protein diets still allow grain carbohydrates and a significantly higher sugar intake than the Paleo Diet. This diet just asks: “What would a caveman eat?”
When training for any event or have a significant workout, nutrition is very important. The Paleo Diet can be modified to fit the athlete’s needs. If you have a significant game or a marathon to run, eating a small, balanced (500-1000 calories) meal 3-4 hours beforehand is recommended. For the caveman, it will include potatoes, sweet potatoes or yams, a variety of green vegetables and a regular portion of meat. This meal should be lower in fat, as fat takes longer to digest. If the meal is closer to the event, it should be smaller still. Be sure to include plenty of water with this meal and during the pre-event time.
The after event meal is slightly more important and should include carbohydrates, protein, and fat. This meal should also be consumed within 30 minutes after the event, to make optimum use of the nutrients. This is when protein synthesis is at its best and the carbohydrates can help replenish the diminished glycogen stores and enhances muscle growth. If you do not feel you can eat, a protein shake is recommended with milk, almond or coconut milk. (So many options!) Add whey or soy protein, some fruit if desired or vegetables for a complete “meal”. If you are an endurance athlete, this is actually the meal when you want to add more protein to your intake. A four to one ratio of protein to carbohydrates is recommended.
Protein Needs For Athletes
The amount of protein needed for an athlete depends on the amount of exercise that is done. This is where the high protein diet comes into its best effect.
1-1.5 hours of exercise requires 1.2 grams per kilogram of weight per day
2-4 hours of exercise requires 1.4 grams per kilogram of weight per day
5 or more hours requires 1.7 grams per kilogram of weight to replace the amino acids that have been cannibalized during the extreme exercise
After all this, any athlete may need extra carbohydrates to help fuel all the exercise output. Paleo is not a diet you have to absolutely stick to. It is a guideline and can be modified to meet your needs. Let me repeat that. The Paleo Diet can be modified to meet your needs. This is very important to remember. If you need more carbs and the sweet potato fries aren’t cutting it, add another baked potato. Put butter and sour cream on it, if you like. Whatever hits your fancy. Eat whatever your body needs, as long as you’re eating enough carbohydrates to meet your performance goals.
Fats are also an important part of the athletic diet. The Paleo Diet includes fats as a part of the complete nutritional picture. Having fats in your diet is as important as having the right amount of protein or carbohydrates to fuel your performance.
Calorie counting on the Paleo Diet is not necessary unless you need more calories to keep up your performance goals. If you jog for an hour or two a day and have nothing else strenuous going on, you will still need at least 2500 calories to maintain your weight and performance levels, more if you are trying to gain muscle. You want to make sure you have enough food, this also means fat, in your daily intake. So, forget about the skinless chicken breasts; instead have bacon, pork shoulder, avocados, and eggs – WITH the yolk.
Now, remember, this is for the endurance athlete and the ones who exercise rigorously twice a day or more. The rest of us can get by on the usual fare; basically, there is no need to have those before and after event meals. (But we can still have an extra potato if the need or want arises.) The Paleo Diet is wonderful and not really a diet at all. Especially not a low-carb or low-fat diet. More a life guideline, if you choose to do it. Do not let yourself get run down or exhausted, especially if you have been working out. That includes walking (or jogging) the dog…..Have another potato or more bacon!
Our caveman ancestors were hunter-gatherers and were in shape. Eating what they could hunt or find, and doing a lot of walking in the process, kept them lean and muscular, athletic and versatile. That was their lifestyle. Although they did not choose it, we can choose it for ourselves today.
Paleo Diet For Nutrition and Healthy Lifestyle
I know a woman who started the Paleo Diet because she wanted to lose a bit of weight she had gained. It was difficult at first, not having any desserts or other sweets, but she stuck to it, even started jogging. After a few months of the new “diet”, she felt ambitious enough to enter a 5 km run nearby. That was three years ago. She now runs many different marathons of 20 to 50 km and some even on mountainous terrain. And won a few! She has kept up the Paleo Diet, modifying it for her and her family’s needs and it has become their lifestyle.
Now, I am not saying we all need to run marathons to keep the Paleo lifestyle for us. But doing Paleo will make us feel better, gives us more energy, helps us lose weight and definitely helps build muscle. You can start walking the dog more often, rather than the dog walking you or just sitting there, forlorn. You will have the energy to keep up with your kids or your grand kids and might even be able to surprise them a time or two. Maybe the exercise regimen you have now can be upgraded or done more often! The possibilities are endless! A few tips to remember:
In order for any “diet” to work, it must be a lifestyle choice. In other words, we need to change our way of thinking and do the “diet” for the rest of our lives. Many diets do not work well this way. The Paleo Diet does.
NO PROCESSED FOODS! NO DAIRY! NO SUGAR! Fresh fruits and veggies, good (grass fed, properly raised ) meats, eggs, fish, fowl – anything with wings, oils – coconut, avocado, olive, nuts (yes, peanut butter – no sugar added!!), sweet potatoes and yams (no potatoes!)
Use common sense. A moderate portion of meat and lots of veggies for dinner with sweet potato fries. Omelets with lots of veggies and apples dipped in almond or peanut butter. You can also go out to eat. Just substitute sweet potato fries for regular fries or potatoes, and if you’re craving a hamburger, just get it “Caveman Style”. The options are out there.
Remember where I said my friend had modified the diet to meet her needs? She loves cheese. She used to eat cheese on a daily basis. Now she eats it once a week. Oh, and chocolate? Dark chocolate is allowed on the Paleo Diet! It’s better for you anyways than milk chocolate. Once you have gotten used to eating Paleo; that is, much less carbohydrates, you can start modifying it to fit your needs. Or you can ease into Paleo by eating less and less carbs until you are doing pure Paleo.
With the Paleo Diet, the thing to remember is to eat when you’re hungry, stop when you’re full and not eat when you’re not hungry. You get your carbohydrates through your nutrient dense vegetables and fruits, as well as getting natural sugars (also carbs). The Paleo Diet is stress-free eating. You can eat a big breakfast, a couple of snacks and then a big dinner; eat a small breakfast and a lunch and snacks for dinner and a late pick-me-up. As long as you are eating Paleo, you can eat when you want and as much as you want. No counting calories!
The Paleo Diet is not for everyone. But those of us who could lose a few pounds or more, or are stuck in a rut or stressed out from yo-yo diet fads, or just want to feel healthier; this might be something to look into. Our bodies were never really meant to eat all those breads, cereals and sugar.
We were hunter-gatherers for 140,000 years and only in the last 10,000 have we had agriculture which has given us all those grains. Our bodies haven’t gotten used to all those fancy things. Maybe it’s time to go back to our roots and eat what we were meant to eat. There are many websites and articles you can look up to learn more about the Paleo Diet. Do your research and get the facts. One of the better sites for finding out more is http://www.marksdailyapple.com/
The leading expert on the Paleo Diet is Dr. Loren Cordain. His page is at http://thepaleodiet.com/ I believe the best way to figure out if the Paleo Diet is for you is to try it for 30 days and see if you feel any better, have more energy, or lost any weight. To start you off, here is a recipe for Paleo Spaghetti:
For the “Spaghetti”:
1 Spaghetti Squash, halved and seeds scooped out
¼ cup olive oil
For the Sauce:
1 lb fresh ground turkey
1 small onion, chopped
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 teaspoon coconut oil
1 tomato, chopped
1/2 jar tomato sauce
½ teaspoon Italian seasoning
Salt, pepper to taste
Sprigs of basil for garnish
Preheat the oven to 400 degrees F. Rub the olive oil on both halves, sprinkle with salt and pepper. Put in a rimmed baking dish cut side up and roast the squash for 40-45 minutes or until a fork can easily poke it. Remove from oven and let cool until you can handle it. Using fork, scrape inside of squash shredding the inside into strands.
While the squash is roasting, melt coconut oil in a pan, add minced garlic and chopped onion and cook for 4-5 minutes, until onion is glassy. Add the ground turkey and brown, stirring occasionally. Add the chopped tomato and tomato sauce, season to taste with salt and pepper. Add the Italian seasoning. Simmer on low, stirring occasionally until the spaghetti squash is done roasting.
Once the squash is shredded, place on plates, add sauce, garnish with the basil. Bon Apetit!
There are so many variations you can do with this recipe! Since the spaghetti squash can be a pasta substitute, use a pesto sauce instead! Or make your own homemade spaghetti sauce. Use Beef or ground chicken instead of turkey. As long as the ingredients are Paleo, the sky’s the limit! And if you’re not quite ready to go Paleo all the way, you can still use Alfredo sauce or add a bit of Parmesan on top!
Bottom line is: at least do some homework on the Paleo Diet and try it for 30 days. The only thing you have to lose is weight!
Food quality has certainly been a hot topic lately, and justifiably so. Within the past decade, and after living the previous 60 odd years with a collective veil over the source of our food, a select group of food “commentators” began asking tough questions about the nature of our food. Incredibly simple questions that should have sensibly been asked before such as “what is actually in this pizza?” and “where did this pork actually come from?”
As a society we probably never thought to ask these questions simply because we assumed the question to be self-evident. The pork chop, we thought, was from a plump, pink pig with a curly tail who spent his life on an idyllic farm. In our minds he was probably Babe’s unlucky cousin; simply unable to get the sheep-herding trick down enough to save his own bacon, but having a wonderful and fulfilling life up until the trip to the bacon gallows.
Attitudes Changing Through An Increase In Knowledge And Dialogue
It comes as a tremendous shock to Mr. and Mrs. Joe Q. Public that green fields and red barns is not a reality to the cows, pigs, chickens, or human beings which consume them. The harsh realities of commercial farming like feedlots, CAFOs, and other aspects of industrial food are just beginning to weave their way into open conversation and honest national dialogue. Thankfully our attitudes are changing because of this increase in knowledge and dialogue, and our behaviors are being changed by our attitudes.
More people are returning to their roots to buy local food in the manner of their grandfathers. People are increasingly demanding higher quality food for themselves, their children, and other loved ones. They are applying pressure to the federal government and to the big agricultural companies for more transparency in the food chain and food processing systems. These are all wonderful developments, and although there are miles to go at least the conversation is now taking place.
Dietary Rehab – A Place To Openly Share Thoughts And Solutions On Nutrition, Health, Exercise And More!
Dietary Rehab was conceived as a place for that conversation to take place, and as a venue to come to for an unfiltered view of the science of our modern diet, its correlation to many of our modern diseases, and solutions to help break free from the chains of the poor nutrition of modern food. We examine important topics related to food quality one at a time, shining the light on the dietary influence of conditions such as low testosterone, diabetes, cancer, heart disease, stroke, Alzheimer’s Disease, and many others.
The correlation of diet to some of the aforementioned conditions are probably not surprising to you, but some probably do come as a surprise. The truth is, all of the above mentioned disease states are strongly influenced by dietary choices and the modern food system. However, simply discussing these problems is not enough. I am confident that many run-of-the-mill nutrition blogs already do that.
As the name states, Dietary Rehab exists to offer science-based solutions to these problems so that you may rehabilitate your body and mind from years of inferior food choices.
Aesthetics and athletics are influenced by food quality to a more precise and greater degree than any other population. I have a special place in my heart for both disciplines, and have competed in each personally. We also examine topics such as food quality, nutrient timing, performance enhancing supplementation, nutraceuticals in sports, and yes things as common and popular as losing your spare tire and getting ready for the beach. If your ultimate goal is to look your best and perform at your highest level, the devil is in the details.
In keeping with my promise for open and honest discussion of any and all health-related topics, we also host a free forum on the site. We will have ongoing and lively discussions about topics such as diet, exercise, herbs and nutraceuticals, weight loss, life extension, bio-identical hormone optimization, anti-aging, athletics, and even traditional medical and pharmaceutical topics. Lively debate is encouraged for both sides of the issues, within the limits of the topic of course.
So welcome to our website. I hope that you find it both educational and entertaining.
‘Tis the season! Well, not that season. It is the annual season after the “season.” Post- New Year’s Day is when we awake from our national eight week collective stupor and remember that diet and exercise are actually kind of important. Gyms are now overflowing with new zealous members, and Wal-Mart is completely sold out of Slim Fast and Shake Weights. So, why is it that so many eager new dietary Cinderellas turn back into pumpkins in February and March? Here are 5 common mistakes that dieters make:
Turning It Up To 11
I love people who give great effort. Growing up, I always admired the ball players who gave it everything they had every play rather than the extremely talented individuals who succeeded on their skills alone. And while I do admire new dieters often extreme efforts in the first few weeks of January, I also know that it is a very big reason that they ultimately fail to achieve their goals. Far too often people look at a “diet” as a project; something that must be accomplished. The fact is that a sound diet and exercise plan cannot be accomplished, because it is never over. Focus on the process, not the results.
Taking Their Diet Too Seriously
I overheard a lady today standing in line at the checkout at my local pharmacy lamenting about a poor decision that she had made at lunch. Being the interested party that I am about nutritional matters, I happened to overhear that she felt bad about eating some carrots on her salad at lunch. She was on an “Atkins” type diet and was afraid this had completely thrown a monkey wrench into her diet. Whatever was wrong with her figure had nothing to do with carrots.
Being too zealous with extreme elimination diets doom many dieters to failure. Many of these folks spend many weeks eating Halloween candy, Thanksgiving pies, Christmas cookies, egg nog, and New Year’s Champagne but feel like a failure if they eat 35 grams of carbs in a day instead of 30 on January 5. Dietary compliance is about doing what you are supposed to do in PRINCIPLE most of the time and 10% of the time not worrying so much about your diet at all. The dirty little secret from those with nice physiques is they don’t sweat the small stuff nearly as much as you think they do. Follow your diet, but also live life.
The first time most New Year dieters think about their diet plan is usually when they are drinking their first weight loss shake on January 2. Even then most of their thoughts usually are consumed more with “I’m miserable” and “when will this diet be over”, rather than the actual diet. The stark reality is your diet is crucial to your health, and what you put in your mouth not only determines what you look like but how long you may be around. Low calorie diet shakes and frozen 200 calorie meals with ingredient lists three paragraphs long are not what your body is designed to consume. Educating yourself on WHAT to eat is much more important in the long term than HOW MUCH to eat. Admittedly, some are just people of action who really don’t want to know the “why”, they just want results. In that case I suggest letting a either letting a nutrition professional do the planning for you, or investing in a high quality pre-designed program like our 12 Week Start Up Plan.
Lack of Accountability
When you boil it down to its bare essence, long-term dietary success really comes down to establishing accountability for your nutritional decisions. Those who have the greatest success are usually those who establish guidelines for themselves which hold their feet to the fire on a regular basis. Whether it is weekly trips to the bathroom scale or measuring your waistline with a tape measure, those who adopt accountable habits are those who tend to have real and lasting success.
One of my favorite methods of accountability is a simple wall calendar. Every year, I buy a calendar for the expressed purpose of tracking my dietary and exercise compliance. For a given day, I make a left slash if I have met my diet goals for the day, and a right slash if I have met my exercise goals making an “X”. Each night there is a tremendous sense of accountability when it is time to mark your calendar for that day. As time passes and habits form, you will make sure that you have done what you needed to do that day for the satisfaction of marking your “X”. Give it a try.
I blame this one on two culprits; our instant gratification society and deceptive but very well-funded marketing campaigns by the weight loss industry. You simply aren’t going to look how you want to look in eight days eating cabbage soup, two weeks on a “Hollywood” diet, or 3 weeks using the latest ab gadget. Most everyone knows what they would like to look like, and that look is simply the result of long term sound nutritional and exercise principles. Of the 5 mistakes, this one is the most difficult to overcome due to the massive marketing machine constantly hypnotizing individuals to spend their hard-earned money on junky exercise gadgets, cheaply made but expensive supplements, and fad “quick loss” diet books that have more advertisements than information. A novice dieter would be much better served by spending their discretionary fitness dollars on a little expert nutritional guidance and a lot of wholesome, natural food. After all, quality food and the knowledge about what to do with that food IS what dietary success is all about, no matter what the supplement guys say.
And there you have my five quick observations. Whether you are starting a new diet or are a wiley old veteran, I hope your New Year and new goals are off to a great start. Keep your eye on your objectives and a positive attitude, and success will come your way.
If the latest media scare about eggs being as bad for your heart health as cigarettes is true, then my wife and I may not have much longer to live. You see, based on credible research and my ability to tie that research to healthy lifestyles, the Shields’ household consumes about 4 dozen whole eggs per week. Heck, it would probably be 5 dozen if I took the time to cook some for our Great Dane.
Recently, a nutrition study based out of Canada inspired some over-the-top, but typical media frenzy. They would like us to believe that eating whole eggs is two-thirds as bad as smoking cigarettes; apparently, they harden our arteries. This is how media works – force the reader to question what they know, and then watch the panic begin. It’s important to understand that asking questions is what you should always do. However, that means questioning both sides of the argument. This type of misinformation is most evident in nutrition. First, “they say” such food is bad, then “they say” such food is good, then bad again. Who is “they”? Why do they keep changing their position? Here’s the reality. Stop listening to “they”. Look past the headlines, past what appears on the surface, and do your own research or ask a knowledgeable expert. I do it all the time. This particular “study” has more holes in it than Swiss cheese.
This survey asked some 1,200 senior-aged participants to estimate their average consumption of egg yolks per week times the number of years egg yolks were consumed, which was termed egg-yolk years. Yeah, that sounds like a very odd way to calculate how many eggs people eat.
This is called an observational study – one of the least reliable study methods available in proving that a single action causes a specific outcome. In science class, we learn that this type of study can only show a correlation and correlation does not equal causation. That means that just because the researchers may have seen a higher overall intake of whole eggs AND cases of hardened arteries, does not mean that eggs – and only eggs – were the culprit.
Typically researchers do know to account for other variables that would explain specific outcomes. For example, the researchers in this study did take into account the fact that cigarette smoking is attributed to worsening artery health. But what they did not do, was account for other very important factors, “…more research should be done to take into account exercise and waist circumference.” So there was little consideration for the participants’ lifestyles.
The study also found that the participants that ate the most eggs (approx. 4.68 per week) had LOWER total cholesterol, lower triglycerides, and higher HDL levels than those who ate an average of .41 eggs per week. That was obviously left out of the study’s headline and media attention. Those results would make any doctor dance a jig.
Did the study gauge participants’ eating habits in general? There’s no mention of it. Let’s propose a hypothesis about egg consumption in America that reflects a very likely possibility. Health conscious people who make many other healthy choices tend to eat egg whites where as people who are not health conscious tend to eat whole eggs, and quite often those eggs are on the same plate as pancakes or part of an egg McMuffin not surrounded by a heap of vegetables.
So, how might whole eggs be associated with more plaque? Well, these researchers never say. Perhaps because they now know that cholesterol doesn’t cause plaque, as shown in this study, http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15721501. It concludes that dietary cholesterol is less detrimental to cardiovascular health than previously believed. Here are a few other sources on the subject:
The egg yolk is what holds the majority of the nutrition you need. It contains optimal levels of heart-protecting vitamins like Vitamins A, B1, B6, Folate, B12, and D. The yolk also contains choline, which helps with memory function; lutein and zeaxanthin are also important for eye health.
The bottom line is that we must continue to question the details of studies like this one. And don’t forget to continue to eat real foods for optimum health; do not allow deeply flawed “nutritional science” to fool you. Do your research or ask a professional.
Take Home Points:
This was an observational study based on incomplete questionnaires.
Correlation does not equal causation.
Eating real foods will NEVER be bad for our health (I still laugh at the comparison to cigarettes).
Some of the most important vitamins and minerals we can consume are actually contained in the egg yolk. These help to protect the eyes, heart, and brain.
In last month’s article, Our Modern Food Addiction, I began laying the groundwork for a different way of looking at our modern obesity and dietary-induced chronic disease epidemic. In that article, I asked you to begin to open your mind and modify the way you look at food on the most basic level. Instead of food being a unit of energy, food should be seen as the powerful pharmaceutical agent that it is, which controls a very complex hormonal and biochemical environment. It is the corruption of this environment that what leads to poor health and weight gain. At the heart of the myriad of biochemical nutritional problems is one substance… sugar. Sugar not only contributes to terrible hormonal and biochemical environments in its own right, but actually is the engine which drives the poor health train due to one nasty biological effect which it has on our brain… it is a very addictive substance. As you will see, addiction causes a chain reaction of bad things to happen to your health, your weight, and your psychological relationship with food. We will begin exploring this phenomenon in this article by laying the physiological groundwork. We will take a look at the biology behind addiction, why a particular substance is addictive, and what happens when that substance is introduced into our systems.
How We Got Here
Addictive substances have been around as long ashumanity has walked the earth. Anthropology tells us that our ancestors frequently used (and obviously enjoyed) a wide variety of addictive stimulants, depressants and other agents. We find in the bones of these primitive peoples traces of cannibis, caffeine, nicotine, mescaline, opium, and many other substances. The mummies of Egypt have been found with traces of cocaine, nicotine, and caffeine in their tissues. Utzi the iceman, who was found in the early 90’s completely preserved in glacial ice in the Swiss Alps and is the oldest intact mummy that we know of on earth contained traces of caffeine. The want of many of these addictive substances have driven many of our pursuits of exploration, conquest, and destruction of indigenous societies in the years of world-wide exploration and conquest. Cortez may have crossed the see in search of El Dorado, but he returned to Europe with nicotine, caffeine, and chocolate (theobromine) to start the Europeans buzzing (literally). And we all know of the terrible tragedies of slavery and sufferings of Africans for the want of rum during the triangle trade period. Truly, addictive substances have played a massive role in the history of our species.
But at what point does a substance go from and “addictive” substance that is consumed to an addiction in an individual? After all, there are many individuals who eat, drink, and inhale substances and never become addicted to them. We all know of the occasional drinker, the occasional smoker. When is the point reached where a person has to have a substance?
What makes a substance addictive?
There are literally billions of unique substances on this earth, and many of them we interact with in our environment on a daily basis. Air, water, various proteins, minerals, countless plant and animal proteins… It is mind-boggling how many things we come in contact with each day. So why do some of these substances make our bodies desire more and more of them, while the other we interact with without so much as a thought?
As it turns out, the properties of a substance that makes it addictive all boil down to the interaction of the substance with very particular portions of the brain. It is the neurotransmitter, hormonal and chemical responses by the brain to the substance which make a substance either innocuous or addictive. All addictive substances share many similarities with how they interact with the brain and the conditions that they produce in the brain. The following section is going to be a little technical and “science-ey”, so I apologize in advance for any headaches caused. I do promise to keep the technical jargon down to an absolute minimum, but I feel that it is important to explain the science behind addiction in some detail to give you a clearer picture of what is really going on in your body.
Brain Physiology:The Mesolimbic System
The part of the brain which is most involved in an addictive response to a substance is named the mesolimbic system. This “system” is actually more a collection of several distinct neural structures located in the cortex region of the brain. The primary constituent structures of the limbic system are the amygdala, hippocampus, septal nuclei, and anterior nucleate gyrus, and maybe the most important and well-known brain structure in regards to addiction is the nucleus accumbens. My intention certainly is not to overwhelm you with scientific terms or technical jargon. The real message is that the brain is incredibly complex, and that these structures have many diverse functions to carry out for the body. The hippocampus, for example, is responsible for the development of long-term memories. The piriform cortex has a significant role in the physiological process of smelling. The functions don’t necessarily relate to one another. But it is the reward and pleasure response functions of this system that we are interested in for our purposes. For simplicity’s sake, I will limit our discussion to the three portions of the mesolimbic system which are most prominently involved in addiction… the nucleus accumbens and the amygdala. I don’t want you to misunderstand, the reward center of the brain certainly is not the only player in the game when we talk about the physiology of addiction. Other systems, hormones, and neurotransmitters influence the reward pathway as well. But for our purposes an examination of the amygdala and nucleus accumbens show us the “beating heart” of the addiction response.
The amygdala are two small, nodule-like structures situated deep in the middle of the brain. They are highly connected to several important parts of the brain such as the hypothalmus, trigeminal nerve the ventral tegmental area (VTA). It has a few rather diverse jobs in the grand scheme of things for the body, but the function that we are most concerned about with our subject is its role in positive learning. It forms memories of positive events (and substances) that you come into contact with and remembers that substance is a “positive” thing for some future time. This makes the amygdala very important in the process because it is essentially where the memory of the “good feeling” starts and ends. This has been shown conclusively in animal studies. When mice have their amygdala damaged, they no longer pursue the positive behaviors that other mice do.
The nucleus accumbens is the structure of the brain most famous for being labeled the “pleasure center”. When we have a pleasurable experience in life, whatever it may be, chances are the nucleus accumbens is in a very active state. This little structure also connects to several other structures in the brain, including the amygdala and VTA. The actual biology is way beyond the scope of this article, but a simple explanation is that when you have a pleasurable experience, several other structures in the stimulate a release of the neurotransmitter dopamine in the nucleus acumbens. This dopamine then interacts with the nucleus accumbens, activating it and producing the “good feeling” that we experience.
When it is functioning like it was designed to, it is a fascinating process. Nature has designed this chemical reaction specifically to put us in favorable positions as frequently as possible. This is because the things we experience in nature which cause this effect on our brain are generally good for us in a biological sense. Our bodies and the natural environment thus perform a beautifully precise dance with the substances it provides.
In order for this process to happen a substance is produced by the plant to heighten this pleasure response in our brain. As time passed through history, the plants who developed greater attractive substances ( sweeter fruit, caffeine, nicotine) thrived and dominated. Over the years, nature produced some very potent substances through this process of natural selection which exert a very high dopamine response in the nucleus accumbens. The end result? Addictive substances were born.
So the question is, if addiction is a natural process, then where did biology go wrong? Well, biology didn’t go wrong….mankind intervened in nature and did what we do time and time again…made a giant mess.
The truth is, these natural compounds in their native state aren’t particularly harmful or addictive. For instance, when taken in its natural form the coca leaf isn’t a terribly bad thing and only modestly addictive. However when man isolated, condensed, and purified the addictive substance contained in the coca leaf (cocaine), a highly addictive and terrible substance was born which enslaves many people to its effects. The same can be said for poppy seeds (opium, heroin), and many other drugs of addiction.
If you take an MRI of the brain of a heroine addict, a crack addict, and an alcoholic while they are in the midst of a binge of their substance of choice, the brain activity is nearly identical. They all have extremely active nucleus accumbens with surging dopamine levels in that part of their brain. So, how does this tie in to our dietary woes?
Brain Scans of Various Addicts vs. Normal Brains. Notice the similar level of activity (yellow vs. red).
It just so happens that we use the same system of condensing and purifying for sugar. It has been proven in a multitude of studies that sugar effects the brain in an identical manner as the common drugs of addiction. When ingested, sugars stimulate a rapid and very high level of dopamine secretion in the nucleus accumbens. This is the exact condition which we believe triggers addiction in all its forms. So where is the real-world evidence?
Heavy sugar consumers, be it junk food junkies or high carbohydrate marathoners, display significant withdrawal symptoms when the sugar content of their diet is drastically reduced or eliminated. Heaches, diarrhea, nausea, fatigue, low grade fever, and shivering are the most common symptoms of sugar withdrawal. You have probably experienced these symptoms yourself if you have tried to crash diet, or simply suddenly went from being a couch potato to a strict diet overnight. These symptoms are hallmarks of addictive drug withdrawal.
Proof of Sugar’s Addictive Properties. This Bird Has Been Whacked Out of His Mind on Sugar Since I was a Child
Of course, the one big difference between sugar and other addictive substances (alcohol excepted) is that sugar just happens to also contain calories. When you are addicted to sugar and the good feeling of contentment that it brings to you, you are also packing in tremendous amounts of caloric energy which must be accounted for. Thanks to sugar’s unique metabolic properties, these calories are particularly harmful and quite useless to a healthy human body. We will discuss sugar’s specific metabolic problems in next month’s installment, but for now just know that sugar calories are bad for you… with a capital B.
It is my belief that addiction to sugar in all of its permutations ( table sugar, high fructose corn syrup, etc.) is the beating heart of our obesity epidemic. I contend that only by recognizing sugar as an addictive substance instead of just a source of calories and then treating it as such in our diets will we begin to understand its effects on our physiology, psychology and corpulence.
There is one group in our society who has been clued in to the sugar and addiction relationship for years. Food manufacturers, over the past 30 years, have added high fructose corn syrup to everything they produce. You may not have even realized this unless you consciously read ingredients in your everyday food items. Do you think this is an accident? Of course it is not. They are well aware they are lacing their products with an addictive substance to ensure a heightened attraction to their products. Can you think of another reason they would put corn syrup in bread? Pretzels? Saltine crackers? Lunch meats? All of these products existed for an eternity without added sugars. Do you feel duped yet?
These Guys Have Known About This Science for Decades
The one point that I hope that you take home from this article is to begin viewing the food you eat not as energy, but as biologically active substances. You could even call them drugs, and in the final analysis that may be the most descriptive word for our food. They cause particular and measurable biological and biochemical responses to their ingestion. Many components of food target specific receptors in the body ( just like contemporary pharmaceuticals). Hippocrates once wrote, “Let food be thy medicine, and medicine be thy food.” I think he had it figured out 2000 years ago. The point I am trying to make is, don’t underestimate your food. To think of it as mere energy is to do your health and body composition a great disservice.
Where Do We Go From Here?
So sugar is an addictive substance, and you are an addict. So, where do we go from here? We will begin addressing how to deal with your dependence on sugar in the next installment, but your homework is two-fold:
Read the labels of the food in your kitchen this week to see how many products you have been eating have hidden additive sugars
At each meal, instead of thinking “how many calories is this?” think “how is this going to interact with my body?”
Do you feel tired? Despite the copious amounts of caffeine and other stimulants you scarf down throughout the day, do you find youself feeling like you just don’t have the energy left in the tank to complete all of the day’s tasks? Before you turn to harsh ( and usually harmful ) stimulant medications, more caffeine, or gimmicky energy drinks why not try a natural solution for a change?
Maca root has been used for hundreds of years by the ancient south american cultures to combat lack of energy and vitality. It was given to their warriors in preparation for battle or strenuous work, like building giant neolithic stone monuments. If it could power the building of giant stone cities, I think it just might also be useful in getting you through the 2 PM “sleepy time” and on to finishing that proposal by 5 PM. The mechanism of action isn’t well understod, but it possibly potentiates the thyroid gland to work more efficiently in the conversion of thyroid hormone to its active form. Try 1000 mg three times a day for a few weeks. Who knows….you may be so productive your boss will give you a raise. Maybe not, but we can dream can’t we?