An Upbuilding Discourse

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Research on Being

Conclusions on Diet

Note: This is out of date. I no longer believe all of these things.

I realize that I have not yet made a diet post so here it is.

It seems that when it comes to diet the main thing of importance is to simply eat unprocessed foods produced in a manner as close to their natural tendencies as possible and to keep it relatively evolutionarily appropriate (a la the Paleo diet) though some allowances can be made I believe based on information that we have or based on certain non-health motivated dietary restrictions.

This means that a diet should be primarily composed of things like meat, vegetables, fruits, and nuts with certain qualifications that will follow.

In addition to this, we must consider which things must be minimized from the diet to avoid health problems. As others have already pointed and explained quite well, the three most prevalent problems in the dietary world are wheat, fructose, and vegetable oils each of which may be thought of as the most common and most insidious manifestation of a larger category. Wheat is a very hard to digest grain that includes the gluten protein and WGA, both of which seem to cause digestive issues. Vegetable oils are highly processed and have a very high proportion of omega-6 to omega-3 thus causing a pro-inflammatory state in the body, not to mention that we should be consuming under 4% of total calories as polyunsaturated fats. As for fructose, it seems to produce non-alcoholic fatty liver disease in humans and is tied to diabetes pathology and may affect the leptin hormone. It is not advisable to eat these in high quantities though the Standard American Diet is composed of these.

Meat

It seems to me that, especially considering the omega-3 and omega-6 issue, the meats of choice should be grass fed red meats and seafood. If you like poultry and pork, go ahead and eat it every so often but it seems to be less optimal in my opinion than grass fed red meat and seafood which contain a better ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 PUFAs (polyunsaturated fats) not to mention that you have a better idea of what the animal has eaten if you source it well. Pigs and chickens can be fed a lot of different things and are usually fed some proportion of grain and in these animals it seems dietary PUFA levels determine their own PUFA levels. The best way to source your meat is to find a local farm via localharvest, eatwild, or something like this or to find a Farmer’s Market with meat vendors who use the practices that you want. If you contract a local farmer, you also have the possibility of buying high quality meat in bulk which will save you a fair bit of money and give you a wide variety. This is a much better option than going to Whole Foods and paying their mark up all the time or forcing yourself to eat grain fed meat which is less healthy, unethical, and environmentally destructive. If you do buy grain fed meat, you would do well to cut off the fat and instead cook it in high amounts of fat as the fat in animals can accumulate toxins. Since the liver and kidneys act as filters, you would probably want to avoid these from grain fed animals as well. From grass-fed animals, however, you should attempt to eat every part of it that can possibly be eaten from the liver to sweetbreads and the bones (via soup and roasting the marrow) as these have nutrients muscle meats do not provide.

General recommendations: Eat mostly grass fed red meat and seafood. Other meats are fine but are likely to have worse omega-3:omega-6 ratios. Make sure you eat  bone marrow, bone broth, and organ meats as these have different nutritional profiles than muscle meats do. Avoid processed meats.

Vegetables

Vegetables can be a useful part of the diet for the sake of adding good bacteria, hormetic stimulus, micronutrition, starch, and fiber. If you eat fermented vegetables like sauerkraut, kim-chee, pickles, and so on then eating these will help your digestion through the bacteria and enzymes that they introduce. This can also be done with fermented meats and dairy products though the former will be something fewer people will likely attempt. As for the idea of hormetic stimulus, all vegetables have some degree of toxins, it is for this reason that we must cook them or ferment them to eat them (except for a special few such as lettuce and cucumbers). Meat doesn’t have these toxins since it doesn’t need them. Animals protect themselves with their motility while vegetables use chemicals to discourage us. This means that overindulging in any vegetable may have detrimental effects since you’ll get a high load of whatever toxin that vegetable produces. For example, cruciferous vegetables have goitrogens so if all you eat are cruciferous vegetables, you should probably take an iodine supplement for your thyroid (or eat seaweed). However, it appears that these toxins in small doses can have a beneficial effect on the body acting through hormesis and that this is, in fact, how benefit is derived from things like tannins, resveratrol, or polyphenols. It follows then that you should include a wide variety of vegetables so that you are not overloading on the toxins of any one vegetable. Many vegetables are also high in micronutrients, the best example being leafy greens so this is another reason. The starchy vegetables will serve your carbohydrate needs and the fibrous ones will be  fermented in the gut to produce butyric acid that your body can metabolize.

General recommendations: Eating a wide variety of different vegetables is best for the sake of micronutrition and hormesis. Most of your starch intake should also be coming from vegetables.

Fruits and sweets

Berries are the preferred fruit due to their nutritive qualities and low fructose content. In general, many fruits have been bred to be very sweet and so have limited nutritive qualities, as such, they should not be indulged in extensively. Virtually everything sweet has some proportion of fructose in it and so sweets in general should not be eaten often. Sucrose appears to be about half fructose, half glucose. High fructose corn syrup (of the form used in soft drinks) is 55% fructose and 45% glucose. Honey varies but is often around 30-40% fructose. Agave syrup is over 50% fructose and potentially as high as 90% fructose. Maple syrup and table sugar are mostly sucrose. The only sweeteners which may potentially be indulged in without the problem of fructose are rice syrup, tapioca syrup, and corn syrup (distinct from HFCS) which are all composed of different glucose molecules. Other sweeteners have other benefits which you may be interested in. For instance, molasses has calcium, magnesium, potassium, and iron whereas raw honey has bee pollen, propolis, and enzymes and maple syrup has zinc and manganese.

General recommendations: Berries are the best option but don’t overindulge in fruit. Avoid sweeteners except rice syrup, tapioca syrup, and corn syrup as these have no fructose. Molasses, maple syrup, and raw honey are also useful in moderation due to mineral content though these do have fructose.

Grains: Toxins and Adaptation

The question of toxins comes up quite often within the Paleo diet community as it is something everyone is trying to avoid ingesting. The fact is that every food that is not animal derived has toxins in it to protect itself. The reason vegetables are preferred over grains or legumes is because human bodies are more capable of dealing with vegetable toxins than they are with grain or legume toxins which are plants that we didn’t introduce into our diets until agriculture. This, however, does not necessarily mean that grains or legumes cannot be consumed. Traditional cultures were able to eat a fair amount of grains and legumes because they processed these foods in such a way that made them digestible for humans and made their nutrition bioavailable. If these methods are not done to prepare grains and legumes then they will have very little nutritional value. The Paleo diet is, in a sense, a paranoid and/or lazy version of these sorts of Mesolithic diets since grains and legumes are eliminated instead of properly prepared. Depending on the grain or legume, the process may be more or less time intensive and the amount of the toxin degraded may be more or less. For instance, the gluten in wheat is virtually impossible to eliminate even with a long fermentation process which takes several days so I still suggest against wheat. Corn can be nixtimalized which improves its nutritional profile and seems to protect against the pellagra which high corn consumption can induce. Brown rice can be soaked or you can simply eat white rice since white rice has removed the parts of the rice which have the toxin load. The problem still remains that grains relative to meat and vegetables are relatively nutritionally deficient. This is less true of pseudo-grains which can be prepared in the same way as grains and have a better nutritional profile including complete protein. These are buckwheat, quinoa, and amaranth. These foods should not become a huge proportion of the diet in order so that it may remain high fat, however, I don’t believe these foods are harmful. Properly prepared brown rice, corn, and white rice are okay though they are nutritionally poor. If you want grains, a better option would be the properly prepared pseudo-grains.

General recommendations: If you’re willing to soak and potentially ferment them, you can eat brown rice and corn but these are still nutritionally poor compared to other foods. White rice doesn’t need this as its hull and bran have been removed. The pseudo-grains are your best option since these have more nutrients and can be prepared the same way. These are buckwheat, amaranth, and quinoa. Other grains, as long as they don’t have gluten are probably okay so long as you soak and/or ferment them (for instance sorghum, millet, or teff).

Legumes

What has been said about grains also applies to legumes. As long as they are soaked and/or fermented, you will be able to consume these if you like or you can be lazy and eliminate them entirely. Like grains, these are also not optimal as far as nutritional profiles go so it’s best not to make these a huge staple of your diet unless you have some compelling reason to do so. Just as with grains, where we still want to avoid wheat though other grains may be acceptable in small amounts so do we find something similar in legumes. Soy is one of the legumes with the highest toxin loads not to mention it has phytoestrogen which seems to have negative effects in men, women, and children. Traditional cultures that ate soy only ate it once it had been fermented and in small amounts. Soy that has not been fermented (tofu, soymilk, etc) should be completely avoided and soy that has been fermented (tamari sauce, soy sauce, miso, tempeh, or natto) should be eaten in small quantities. Fermented soy does not eliminate all of the toxins soy produces but it does minimize many of them so if you do want to eat soy, eat a little of the fermented variety and avoid the rest. Kidney beans can kill you if eaten raw and it is for this reason that I don’t really trust them and would avoid them. Besides these two qualifications, as long as you soak and/or ferment legumes, they can be eaten with less trouble and more nutrition. In this sense, lentils are your best choice as these have the lowest toxin load of any legumes.

General recommendations: Legumes can be consumed if properly soaked and/or fermented. Unfermented soy should be avoided and fermented soy should be minimized. Kidney beans should be avoided. Lentils are your best bet for a low toxin load.

Nuts

Nuts and seeds occupy an interesting position in the Paleo diet community. They are accepted and sometimes even substituted in baking recipes for grain flours, however, these are also plant foods and thus have a toxin load that needs to be considered. Many nuts seem to have toxin loads as high as some grains and legumes do (almonds for instance) and yet they are not demonized as much as these other food groups are. In addition, nuts generally have a high proportion of omega-6 to omega-3 PUFAs and for this reason should not be overindulged in. Nuts can also be soaked to help remove toxins as well as roasted. If you want to do some baking, please use pseudo-grains and not nuts for this purpose. Chestnuts appear to have the lowest toxin load while macadamia nuts appear to have the best omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. Walnuts also have an okay ratio. Brazil nuts may be useful on account of their high selenium content.

General recommendations: Limit nuts due to high PUFA content and soak and/or roast them before consuming to reduce toxins. Chestnuts, macadamia nuts, walnuts, and Brazil nuts are preferred for various reasons.

Cooking

Meat can be eaten raw, fermented, or cooked. If cooked, the best way is to cook it rare or to braise it. This is to reduce the amount of time the meat is exposed to high heat and to avoid the formation of mutagens on its surface from the Maillard reaction (charring) as well as to avoid the destruction of heat sensitive nutrient like CoQ10. If you’re worried about bacteria on raw meat then prepare it in an acid marinade (vinegar or lime) and this will kill any surface bacteria which is all you should be worried about. Cooking meat rare will kill any surface bacteria and keep more nutrients intact. Braising meat will make tough cuts tender, make a flavorful broth with dissolved nutrients and will avoid the Maillard reaction through the low and slow process of braising. Avoid meats that have already been processed such as bacon, cured sausage, or deli meats especially if these include sugar or nitrates. Sugar or other carbohydrate sources on meat will create glycation reactions whereas nitrates will produce nitrosamines as they react with the protein. Neither of these are ideal, however, they may simply pass through the body without any effect so don’t get too paranoid about it.

Lettuce, cucumber, carrots, celery, zucchini, summer squash, baby spinach, tomatoes, and bell peppers may be eaten raw. All other vegetables should be cooked or fermented. Cooking helps break down the cell walls and makes nutrients more bioavailable not to mention the fact that it can reduce toxin loads. Steaming is a good way to cook vegetables since it is gentle and reduces nutrient loss (when you boil, you lose nutrients to the water). Fermentation is a good way to make vegetables more digestible and improve gut health.

Oils and cooking fats

The best oils for cooking are the ones low in PUFAs with medium to high smoke points. These oils and cooking fats are ghee, butter, coconut oil, tallow, lard, palm oil, macadamia nut oil, olive oil, and avocado oil. Ghee, tallow, macadamia nut oil, and avocado oil have the highest smoke points among these.

Dairy

Dairy is an idiosyncratic matter and some will be able to consume it while others will not. It is best to experiment with a gluten-free, dairy-free diet before reintroducing dairy to see if dairy is actually the problem or if it is only a problem when gluten is present in the diet. Additionally, there are many ways in which one may or may not be sensitive to dairy. Some people cannot digest lactose, some cannot digest casein. Milk has lactose and cheese has casein. Also, there are some people who cannot tolerate pasteurized milk but are able to drink raw milk (since it has enzymes such as lactase which break down the lactose). Many people who do not drink milk can nevertheless eat yogurt as it is fermented. There is also the fact that most milk is produced from A1 cattle (which is a new mutation) and some people are able to drink A2 milk (Jersey, Guernsey, Goat, Sheep) while not being able to drink A1 milk (Holstein). Virtually everyone can at least tolerate well made ghee and many others can also tolerate yogurt and heavy cream. Humans have traditionally consumed milk, once they became pastoralists, in fermented form as fresh milk didn’t stay fresh for very long. Keep these different considerations in mind while you attempt to determine whether you can consume dairy products or just eliminate them entirely if you prefer as many Paleo dieters do though dairy can act as a very convenient way to increase fat in the diet. Because of how much is potentially lost in the pasteurization process, I would recommend that dairy be consumed in raw form.

Supplementation

This is a tricky subject due to idiosyncratic needs but it seems that most would do well to supplement vitamin D, vitamin K2, magnesium, iodine, and selenium. Selenium and iodine are useful for thyroid health. Magnesium is important for sleep and most people are deficient since most soil is depleted of its magnesium. Most people get insufficient sun exposure and are deficient in vitamin D. Vitamin K2 works with vitamin D to help with teeth and bones and is hard to find except in grass fed butter and organ meats. Vitamin A also works with vitamin D and K2 so it may be useful to supplement this as well (as in a cod liver oil). My regimen right now is vitamin A, D, K2, selenium, magnesium, and iodine via cod liver oil/high vitamin butter oil blend, Brazil nuts, and then regular capsule supplements. Many of these recommendations are taken from the Perfect Health Diet so I defer to them.

Special Considerations

Illness

In many cases, illness can be reduced through going on a ketogenic diet where glucose is severely limited so that only enough is produced in the body via gluconeogenesis from protein to feed the brain. Besides this, the body will run on fat or ketones. Without glucose, many pathogens cannot live and this diet has been used to treat many diseases including schizophrenia and epilepsy and if you have any problems that seem to be stuck, it may be worthwhile to go ketogenic for a limited amount of time. To become ketogenic would mean either eliminating carbs or reducing them while increasing coconut oil (as coconut oil is preferentially converted to ketones). Similar diets such as the specific carbohydrate diet and the GAPS diet may also be considered. If you have trouble with digestion, it may be helpful to eat fermented foods often and/or take a probiotic while eliminating polysaccharides from the diet as these are harder to digest and are often consumed by bad gut bacteria such as H. Pylori. Increasing stomach acidity via a Betaine Hcl supplement or taking an Apple Cider Vinegar tonic may also help.

Veg*ns

If, for whatever reason, you choose not to consume meat then a few modifications must be made. I have outlined these in this post. Essentially, the diet will have to be a high carbohydrate, low fat diet as opposed to a high fat, low carbohydrate diet. I do not believe this is ideal but it is adequate so long as the main agents of disease are still avoided (wheat, fructose, vegetable oils). Your main sources for protein will be legumes and pseudo-grains whereas your main sources of fat will be coconut, olive, and avocado. If you consume dairy and eggs then those will add to your protein and fat needs. You will probably need to consume an omega-3 supplement since your foods will generally not have much omega-3 but will have omega-6. There are supplements that are derived from algae and thus still allowable as veg*n. These are in addition to the standard veg*n complement such as B-12.

Summary

The basic summary of what I now believe to be the most healthful diet is one that is composed of animal products including bones and organs from grass fed red meat and seafood combined with fibrous and starchy vegetables in a proportion where fat is 60-85% of calories, carbohydrate is 20% of calories or less, and protein makes up the balance. Nuts, legumes, grains, and pseudo-grains are to be limited due to lower nutrient density and when they are consumed, they must be prepared properly which in all cases requires a soaking and in some cases fermentation as well. Wheat and unfermented soy are not allowed. Fructose is to be limited as much as possible and the preferred sweeteners are ones which contain no fructose (rice syrup). Omega-3:omega-6 balance is kept in check by eating grass fed meat and seafood and limiting nuts and eliminating vegetable oils (except for a few). Meat is to be eaten raw, rare, fermented, or braised and processed meat is to be avoided. Vegetables are to be eaten fermented or cooked with a few allowed as raw. Dairy may or may not be a good choice depending on your particular needs and is preferred raw and fermented.

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Filed under: Diet, Nutrients

One Response

  1. […] Digestion is the first and most important part of the health equation, the one most likely to be disrupted, and the one that shall bring the most benefit once it is under control. A compromised gut is implicated in a wide range of problems including, obviously, the digestive problems but also autism, fibromyalgia, chronic fatigue syndrome, obesity, muscular pain and so on. In other words, it’s always good to rule out the gut as a causative factor as it may be playing a role in a variety of ailments. Good digestion is also important for the sake of extracting the most nutrition from food, having good energy balance, and so on. Below the macro idea of digestion lies several things. The most obvious one is to have a proper diet that is good for digestion and nutrition and to go through a therapeutic diet if necessary so that the gut may be healed. As far as therapeutic diets specifically for gut healing, it seems the GAPS or SCD diets work in many people. As a quick summary: eliminating lactose, casein, and/or polysaccharides may be useful for a limited time in allowing the gut to heal. Besides the diet, is the issue of having healthy and beneficial probiotic colonies in the gut through consuming fermented foods and supplements. Enzymes as well as betaine HCL (or apple cider vinegar) may also be needed to help weak digestion and/or low stomach acid production. There are also basic things of importance like the proper chewing of food and reduced meal frequency. Chronic stress is also a factor that may reduce stomach acid production. The goal of this level is then to deal with and avoid a wide variety of digestively related ailments and to improve energy production as well as our nutritive status and thereafter to maintain a nutritious and low toxin diet (i.e. PHD style diet or my regular diet). […]

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