Caveman theory
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We are all Cavemen in a Modern World

In the words of Charles Darwin: ‘It is not the strongest of species that survive, nor the most intelligent that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change.’

Our species has become the most dominant species on earth, partly because it has adapted to change better than any other species. Genetic mutations are an important part of adapting to change, but it’s important to understand that genetic mutations take thousand, if not tens of thousands of years to spread through a species through natural selection.

This has important ramifications for us. There is a quote by a researcher called Frank Booth that appeared in The Journal of Applied Physiology in 2002 – “Our genome has not changed in over 45,000 years. The current human genome requires, and expects, us to be highly physically active for normal functioning.’

So we pretty much still have the same genome as we did in our hunter-gatherer days, but our environment has changed significantly. Rather than moving lots and having periods of feast and famine, the average person now moves a lot less and has food available on every street corner – much of which didn’t even exist 50 years ago!

We’re pretty much betraying our genome by living a life it’s not cut out for! By way of comparison, the average Australian office worker takes between 3,000 and 5,000 steps per day, whereas the Amish community (who shun cars and lead traditional lifestyles) take 18,000 to 22,00 steps per day – very similar to hunter gatherers!

What we now understand is the biological consequences of being sedentary – it has a very negative effect on our gene expression and can increase our risk of chronic diseases dramatically, as well as negatively affecting mental health. Exercise increases expression of protective genes, whereas being sedentary and chronically stressed shuts down expression of protective genes and increases expression of damaging ones.

Life as a Caveman vs Life Now

Imagine yourself as a caveman or hunter-gatherer and think about what sort of life you would be leading from the point of view of our genome. There’s no reaching for coffee, sugar or chocolate when the 4pm slump kicks in and certainly no sitting at a desk for 8 hours a day.

You’d be moving constantly, being part of a functioning tribe, hunting, gathering, looking after the tribe’s children and educating the young ones. The stress you would feel comes in spurts and is not constant. For example, there maybe a lion approaching and this will put stress on the tribe, but after it’s gone you are now safe, so the stress goes with it.   No desks, computers or TV, no traffic, deadlines, money worries or other sources of continuous stress.

Now compare your life now. How long do you sit each day? Do you use your car a lot? Do you feel stressed a lot of the time? If you’re hungry, you have food at hand and even when you’re not hungry, you may still eat because it’s there. How often do you eat fresh vegetables, fish and meat? How many packets of processed food are you opening each day? Sure, we have lots more enjoyable things now, but the impact of modern life on our gene expression is undeniably negative.

Our bodies are not designed to be this sedentary, to have an abundance of food (especially the processed variety), have continuous stress or even to cope with life without a tribe.

As a result, we are fatter, unhealthier and more depressed and anxious than ever and lifestyle diseases are now the biggest killer in human history.

 What do you do?

Awareness is the first step! Move more, eat fresh, natural food, join groups or spend time with family. Ritualize can help this process through small, daily rituals that add up to big results overtime. If you’re not part of the Ritualize tribe, check us out at www.ritualize.com. It’s a free, fun and effective tool for making long-lasting lifestyle changes.

Benefits Good Fats in your Diet
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Let’s Chew the Fat

Most of us have had it drummed into us that fat is bad and we should only be eating food low in fat to prevent heart disease, obesity, diabetes and a host of other preventative diseases. However, does the evidence reflect the guidelines we have grown up on? To look at this properly, we need to go back in time and look at the story of saturated fat.

The thinking that saturated fat is bad for you originated from one man in the US – Ancel Keys. He had a hypothesis that high cholesterol caused heart disease, and that because fat (especially saturated fat) increases cholesterol, it must be the driver of heart disease. I will write much more about that story in another blog, but suffice it to say that he got a large amount of Cardiologists and Government agencies on board by publishing studies from 6 countries (and later a 7tth), showing a strong association between fat intake and heart disease.

However, there are 2 major flaws with this:

  1. Association does not mean causation – we now know that cholesterol does not cause heart disease per se, and that cholesterol is raised if you are chronically stressed or have systemic inflammation – both more direct contributors to heart disease.
  2. Most importantly, his research was fraudulent! He actually studied 22 countries, but because the data did not fit his theories, he cherry-picked the 6 countries whose data best fit his theory. This is the complete opposite of good science.

There are also a lot of flaws with subsequent studies that came out to show a link between saturated fat and heart disease, such as researcher bias, publication bias, poor study design, the possible inclusion of harmful trans fats under the saturated fat umbrella, and a poor understanding of the metabolic drivers of heart disease.

Now that we have a better understanding of the metabolic drivers behind heart disease, and having completed some better designed studies, lots of researchers are now saying that the current government guidelines on fat intake do not reflect the evidence. We now understand much better that total cholesterol does not cause heart disease and even LDL is not a good measure; and that HDL is even more protective than we once thought.

What is emerging are the dangers of oxidised LDL, small dense LDL particles, high triglycerides as well as low HDL and other factors like inflammation, high blood pressure, central obesity and diabetes. These are all independent risk factors, and when you get combinations of them it points towards metabolic dysregulation at a cellular level.

From a cholesterol perspective, what we now know is you should strive to have as high a level of HDL as possible and minimise your oxidised LDL and small, dense LDL – big fluffy LDL are not pathogenic and shouldn’t be of any concern. You should also keep your triglycerides and blood sugar under control.

Your diet has a big impact on all of these, so let’s discuss the interactions between fat, carbohydrate and these risk factors.

The Fat Story

When we’re talking about fats, we know that monosaturated fats are actually very good for heart and brain health. Recommended examples are extra virgin olive oil, avocado, avocado oil, any nut oils (except peanut) and unsalted, raw nuts.

Saturated (SFA) fats have been unfairly demonised. As I mentioned above, they increase your level of protective HDL and encourage big, fluffy LDL and do not induce damaging, small sense LDL . So, a moderate amount of saturated fats is perfectively fine. Don’t worry about the fat in dairy either – eat a moderate amount of full fat dairy, eat fat on meat (as long as it’s grass fed) and coconut. Avoid processed fats, trans fats and vegetables oils – stick to stuff low on the human interference factor and you’ll be ok.

With this in mind, here is a list of great cooking fats, which we cook with regularly in our family. If you’re going to fry foods, especially at high temperatures, you should be using saturated fats, as they don’t become oxidised. So this list is good, not just because they’re safe to cook with, but also because they taste so good!

Extra Virgin Olive Oil (EVOO)

This should be your go to fat for sautéing and medium temperature cooking. Whilst normal olive oil has a smoke point of 140 degrees, extra virgin is 210 degrees – and it also maintains most of it’s polyphenol content after frying, so is the healthiest fat to use. As well as this, when you sautee vegetables in EVOO, there is a chemical reaction that creates a class of fatty acids known as nitric fats, which are protective for your heart and brain. Make sure it is cold-pressed, as heat-pressed oils can already be oxidised. But be aware some of the polyphenols will deteriorate at temperatures of around 150-160 degrees celsius, so for higher temperatures, you should use saturated fats.

Ghee

Ghee is clarified butter, and it’s popular in Indian cooking. Because the milk solids have been removed, it’s very low in lactose and is almost entirely fat – mostly saturated. Use ghee to brown meat, top a few teaspoons on a roast and add to roast pumpkin or sweet potato. A tablespoon of ghee contains 8g SFA, 3.7g MFA fat and 0.5g PUFA.

Coconut oil

Along with ghee, coconut oil is one of the best fats to cook with because it’s almost entirely saturated. In fact, coconut oil is more than 90% saturated fat. While this makes it the devil according to the government guidelines, this is not the case. Coconut oil has some unique properties. It is a special type of saturated fat called medium chain triglyceride (MCT). Unlike other fats, MCTs do not require bile acids for digestion. This means they are easily absorbed in the upper part of the small intestine. Coconut oil is also rich in lauric acid, a fatty acid found in breast milk that is anti-fungal, anti-bacterial and anti-viral. We are known to eat it my the spoonful! Mix it with almond or macadamia nut butter for some added goodness. Coconut oil has 4g of SFA, 0.3g of MFA

Lard

Lard is very popular in cooking and baking because it has little flavour. It’s an incredibly versatile fat and can be used to brown meat and roast vegetables. Unlike olive oil, vegetables roasted in lard do not get soggy or greasy, but stay crisp with a wonderful flavour. A tablespoon of lard has about 6g MFA, 5g SFA and 1.6g PUFA.

Duck fat

Potatoes roasted or fried in duck fat…. divine! Before rancid, industrial oils appeared, the French cooked their fries in duck fat!. Roast your veggies or home made chips in duck fat and you’ll discover why the French love it so much. A tablespoon of duck fat has 6 g MFA, 4 g LCSFA and 1.6 g PUFA.

Butter

Good quality, grass fed butter has an amazing taste and despite it being demonised, it’s very good for you. It is full is vitamin A, E and K2 (the latter involved in calcium metabolism). It is a great fat to put on fish, low heat scramble eggs in or slow cooked stews. Butter has a lower smoke point than the other fats, which makes it less suitable for high temperature cooking and it burns easily. A tablespoon of butter contains 7.2g of SFA, 2.9g of MFA and 0.4g of PUFA.

A Word on Commercial Vegetable Oils

In our house we avoid these like the plague as they are high in Omega 6 fats. Whilst some Omega 6 fats are necessary for good health, at higher amounts they start to trigger dangerous inflammation at a cellular level. We get sufficient Omega 6 fats from eating vegetables, but using vegetable oil for cooking is, in my opinion, one of the worst health recommendations we have made. Commercial food processing destroys a significant amount of essential fatty acids, and polyunsaturated oils (Omega 3 and 6) are unstable and very quickly become rancid. Oxidized fatty acids are dangerous to our health, and unless you buy cold-pressed oils, the actual process of expelling the oils using heat (to get it out of the plant in the first place) will cause oxidisation.

The bottom line is to eat food that is real and cut right down on processed foods. This includes your fats. The best thing you can do today is throw away your margarine and your vegetable oils and replace with the fats listed above. You are doing this for your health and your tastebuds!

Benefits of the cruciferous family
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Welcome the cruciferous family to your life

What do broccoli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, kale, cabbage, and bok choy have in common?

They’re all members of the cruciferous, or cabbage family of vegetables. And they all contain phytochemicals, vitamins minerals and fibre that are important to your health.  Two big benefits to consider is that they may help reduce your risk of getting cancer and oxidative stress (which can lead to cancer).

There are many delicious ways to cook these super veggies, so if you have childhood memories of soggy Brussels sprouts or smelly, overcooked broccoli, forget the past, open your mind and get cooking!  They will soon become a daily addition to your plate and a massive benefit to your health.

 

Importance of Gut Bacteria in Your Diet
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Love your guts…

There is more and more research coming out on the importance of gut bacteria on our health and well being.  The bacteria in our intestines outnumber our cells by 10 to 1, which means we are more bug than human!  The gut is now being described as a second brain, with more than 100 million neurons.  Even happiness can stem from your gut.  In fact, 95% of serotonin is produced in the gut, so if you’re bugs aren’t happy, then neither will you be!  Gut bacteria is negatively affected through poor lifestyle choices, such as processed foods, many vegetable and seed oils, alcohol and stress to name a few.

Working towards a healthy gut is about making healthy choices.  Fermented vegetables (found at many health food shops, or homemade) are full of good bacteria to help populate your gut.  You can feed your bugs on what’s called resistance starch from things like beans, cooled cooked potatoes and certain forms of fibre.  Vinegar is also great for your gut bacteria, so make your salad dressings from extra virgin olive oil and balsamic or apple cider vinegar.