Tuesday, December 18, 2012


   For many folks peanut is one of those comfort food that brings back childhood memories. For me consuming peanuts reminds me of my family and winter months; that is when the street vendors came by and sold roasted warm peanuts. What can I say, we all like to hold on to some of our past, may it be only peanuts....Peanuts are also one of the staple snack foods sold in many recreational sporting events like baseball. Texas Road House, a national steak house chain offers peanuts by the buckets, while patrons are waiting for their steaks to arrive they can consume a heap of peanuts. Peanut oil, cotton seed oil, soybean oil, and sunflower seed oil are few of the most common oils used in commercial cooking today. You can pick up any commercially packaged snack like potato chips or trail mix and you will most likely find one of these oils on the ingredient list. Cashews, almonds, and many other snack foods popular in the hiking circles sold at local grocery stores often are fried and coated in peanut oil. Nuts are also a popular snack choice in the paleo circles. The folks who are just starting out on paleo tend to snack on almonds, cashews, and other nuts in between meals to fight the hunger pangs. The health industry and governmental agencies also present nuts as positive healthy choice for snacking. Most breakfast cereals loaded with sugars often tout a crunchy nutty bite, or heart healthy benefit as a ploy to sell their product. Are nuts healthy snacking choice? Should we consume peanuts by a bucketload while sitting waiting for our steak to arrive? The answer is----absolutely NOT----overall, nuts and seeds are a poor snacking choice and their consumption should be kept to an absolute minimum, and let's get this out of the way, peanuts are not nuts but legumes, and for multiple reasons discussed below, they should be avoided.

   In order to understand the nutritional value of nuts and seeds a simple pros and cons list must be compiled before the nut or seed can be labeled good or bad. Here are the first set of cons, most nuts and seeds contain anti-nutrients, phytic acids, enzyme blockers, and bad proteins. The oils or fats extracted from these nuts and seeds are high in polyunsaturated fats, especially in omega 6. Once again, the society has long demonized saturated fats and crowned polyunsaturated fats as heart healthy. So by default, the nuts and seeds receive a passing mark from the nutritionists and from the governmental authorities. Phytic acids is nature's way of keeping a nut or seed from germinating before the conditions are just right. This is a survival mechanism built in most seeds and nuts. Phytic acids can be eliminated from nuts and seeds by soaking them in warm salty water for few hours. Phytic acid acts in our digestive system as a mineral binding agent. Phytic acid binds to calcium, iron, and magnesium and does not allow these minerals to be absorbed in our bodies. So some nuts that are naturally high in these minerals are nutritionally useless because phytic acid keeps the minerals bound and unavailable for absorption. Phytic acid problem is easily solved by soaking the nuts and seeds in salty water. But, the other anti-nutrients, and bad proteins are a problem, and can not be eliminated easily. The anti-nutrients and bad proteins are purely defense mechanisms for the plant to protect itself. The bad proteins like lectins cause gut irritation, and lead to systemic inflammation in our gut. The third and the last problem with nuts and seeds are the polyunsaturated fats in their oils. So as most nuts contain good source of carbohydrates, minerals, and vitamins, but their beneficial nutrients are bound by phytic acids and are unavailable to the consumer.

   Getting back to the peanuts, there are more serious problems with peanuts. Peanuts like many other cereal grains and corn are susceptible to mold or a fungus. This fungus only grows when peanuts are not stored properly. It is not a big issue in the United States but it is a big problem in many third world countries where food storage procedure and methods are sub par. This particular mold evolves into aflatoxin, a carcinogen known to cause liver cancer in the rats. Aflatoxin poisoning cases have been reported in the United States, but there is still no conclusive link to liver cancer in humans caused by this carcinogen  Most likely consumption of peanuts few times will not cause aflatoxin toxicity, we are talking about  a long time consumption, basically a chronic situation. Again the food storage procedures and methods are better in the United States than in the third world countries. There are actually lot more cases of hepatitis, infection of the liver, in the sub-continent countries. I personally believe the hepatitis is caused by bad food supply and aflatoxins may play a major role in it. Many of these hepatitis cases may eventually develop into liver cancer, again due to bad data and lack of better diagnosis, many of these cases may go unreported. Another major problem with peanuts is that it contains many allergens. If a person can have a severe allergic reaction like stop breathing after consuming peanuts, that is reason enough for me to eliminate peanuts from my diet. Why people develop peanut allergy is still unknown and the only treatment is to vigilantly monitor all food intakes. We are not done with peanuts yet, the last problem with peanuts is their bad lipid profile. Peanuts contain a high amount of polyunsaturated fats high in omega 6. The polyunsaturated fats are highly unstable and react with oxygen in our body to create free radical particles that end up causing problems in the gut and also end up binding to many useful minerals and vitamins. However, most often peanut oil is touted as a healthy cooking choice.

   The final verdict on the peanuts from a paleo perspective is not favorable. With all of the cons listed above the nutritional value left behind is very marginal and not optimal. Anytime, there is a potential for allergens, carcinogens, and polyunsaturated fats, that food can not be good for us. There are plenty of vitamins and minerals in peanuts but they are bound by phytic acid and are simply not available for the body to absorb. Recommendation is to eliminate peanuts all together and use other nuts sparingly. A handful of macadamias, cashews, almonds, walnuts, and pecans eaten occasionally for snack is perfectly OK, but should not be a substitute for good healthy fats, proteins, vegetables, and seasonal fruits. Beware of healthy snack packages sold in supermarkets, most of the salad dressings, potato chips, trail mix, and nuts use peanut and soybean oil. In the light of above evidence my paleo vote is cast against this legume.

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Virtues of Coconut Oil (Lauric Acid)

   If you are like me perusing the internet and reading book after book on the paleo subject, most likely you will begin to see the word coconut appear everywhere. The use of coconut is heavily promoted in the paleo circles. Many paleo authors recommend the use of coconut oil for daily consumption. So what is the big deal with this fruit? Some claim coconut to be a miracle fruit. Hundreds of island cultures around the globe have practically lived on this fruit for centuries and have thrived. In my teen years, my dad always told me to use coconut oil for hand lotion and use the oil in my hair; of course, all of his advices falling on deaf teen ears. And now years later, I use coconut oil regularly on my face, hands, and even as deodorant. I have even started using coconut oil for tooth paste and it does not taste bad. I usually start with a regular tooth paste and then finish off with a dab of coconut oil. The oil coats the gums and the teeth and after a short time gets absorbed in the gum tissues in the mouth. So what makes this fruit so wonderful? From the paleo perspective, the lauric acid contained in the coconut fat is of interest. I am not going to hash out and list all the benefits of lauric acid in this post, there are literally hundreds of websites dedicated on the subject of coconut, this blogpost will only focus on the antioxidant cancer fighting ability of lauric acid.

   Before diving into the benefits of lauric acid few words about the coconut itself are in order. Coconut is commonly grown in temperate climates and is considered a tropical fruit. Coconut is not a nut or a seed but it is technically a drupe. The center of a drupe fruit is a hard pit around which the fleshy part of the fruit grows. The word or term coconut is derived from Spanish and Portuguese word "coco", which means "monkey face". The plant is known by many other names around the world. In the Asian subcontinent region, the fruit is known as "nariyal", and is used in many desserts. Coconut is highly nutritious and rich in fiber, minerals, vitamins, proteins, and fats. The oil extracted from the fleshy part of the coconut is saturated fat and remains solid at room temperature. However, the mainstream nutritional world still maintains the same rhetoric that saturated fats cause heart disease and obesity. Since, coconut oil is saturated fat, it is simply catalogued in the demonic foods of the societies. The coconut yields four distinct products without any processing:
  • The outer hard shell of the coconut can be used for fuel.
  • The coconut meat can be consumed. The dried meat is called copra and it is commonly used in desserts. There are literally 1001 uses for the coconut meat. Be careful, coconut meat does contain lectins that may cause gut irritation.
  • The coconut water is refreshing and can be consumed. The water contains many electrolytes. A mere 3.5 ounce serving yields about 250 mg of potassium. The coconut water is so pure that it can be administered via IV intravenous drip. It is commonly used to treat dehydrated patients. Some island cultures call this the water of life.
  • The coconut meat lightly crushed and combined with its water yields coconut milk. It serves as the bases for many soups and curries. A popular cooking item in Thai food. Many paleo recipes call for the coconut cream.
   Coconut oil is where things get interesting. Coconut oil is composed of 12 chain long fatty acid also known as lauric acid. Lauric acid has antiviral, antibacterial, anti-fungal, and antioxidant qualities. Lauric acid is also known as the medium chain fatty acid and is found in palm oil and breast milk. Lauric acid does tend to raise LDL cholesterol level, but again cholesterol is nothing to be feared if you are on no grain diet and have no systemic inflammation. Lauric acid gets absorbed via small intestine and is transported directly to the liver, where it is used for manufacturing cholesterol and various hormones. The long chain fatty acids like saturated fats must first be broken down by the bile and then enter the lymphatic system before they are fully absorbed by the body. So medium chain lauric acid serves as a good substitute for people who have fat absorption issues; mostly issues with the bile. Here are few benefits of lauric acid:
  • Lauric acid has antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal, and antioxidant qualities. These attributes are especially helpful for infants who are prone to infectious diseases in their early days. Breast milk rich with lauric acid keeps an infant healthy and gives him a fighting chance for survival. 
  • Lauric acid in the body is converted to monolaurin, a monoglyceride that disrupts the cell membranes of bacteria, viruses, and fungus cells, basically destroying these cells.
  • Coconut oil serves as a poor man's sun tan lotion.
  • Coconut oil is a great substitue for lotions and deodorants.
  • Coconut oil improves the kidney functions and prevents gout. 
  • The antioxidant qualities of lauric acid help fight various types of cancers.
   The rest of this blogpost will focus on lauric acid's unique ability in fighting various types of cancers. I have always maintained a stance that western world has far more cases of breast cancer than the third world countries. The reason is the lack of or the length of lactational period for the new borns. In the modern technologically advanced countries, the mothers end up going back to work 3 to 6 months after the birth of their child. The children are weaned off from breast milk within this time and are put on the bottle and the formula. Even the full time mothers end up weaning their children off from breast feeding within a short period of time. There maybe a host of reasons why this happens. Mostly economics, because most households in the western countries depend on multiple incomes. Both mom and dad have to work and have careers. In the third world, this luxury is simply not available. Most women do not work and are full time mothers. In the third world countries a new born is breast fed for up to two years. I personally believe this extended length of lactational period prevents the breast cancer cases in the third world countries. To support my theory here are couple of noteworthy facts about lauric acid:
  • Breast milk contains lauric acid. The lauric acid's anti-oxidant quality prevents the cancerous cells formation in the breast. The newborn with a weak developing immune system remains free from infections because lauric acid also has antibacterial, and antiviral properties. The new born also receives nourishment from the sugars and proteins in the breast milk. Breast feeding also develops a bond between the mother and the infant. 
  • An infant's body is able to manufacture lactase, an enzyme that digests lactose. Lactose is the sugar found in the breast milk. Amazing, after two years, the production of lactase stops automatically. A good thing, because, we were not designed to drink mother's milk all our lives. Nature cleverly covers its tracks.
     Another reason for breast cancer in the western societies is the overuse of antiperspirant deodorant. The copious amount of deodorant applied to the arm pit blocks the sweat from escaping the body. The arm pit in close proximity to the breast causes the sweat to seep back in the fatty tissues of the breast. Now it is a matter of time before the toxins in the sweat end up forming a cancerous cell. Since, the breast is mostly composed of fatty tissue, there is ample amount of food for the cancer cells to feed on an multiply. The cancer cells eventually end up causing a lump that may not be easily detected for a while or until it is too late. I personally use a dab of coconut oil in my arm pits and advise my wife to do the same. The dab of coconut oil delivers a nice supply of lauric acid to the arm pit area. The anti-fungal and antibacterial properties of the lauric acid help keep the arm pits clean and from developing bad smells that are usually caused by the bacteria. The antioxidants in lauric acid protect the local tissues and keeps cancerous cells away. The skin breaths fine and the sweat is allowed to escape the body. The beneficial antioxidant property of lauric acid is useful in solving many gut problems and may even help fight colon cancer.

   Coconut was probably not available to our paleo forefathers, but there is no reason for us to not enjoy this fruit. The medium chain lauric acid is beneficial for the human body and having a moderate dose in your diet will not harm you. The popular claim that coconut is the ultimate food is most likely anecdotal. Coconut does not agree with all. For me eating more than few ounces of coconut meat causes my stomach to knot up and is very unpleasant. It is probably caused by the lectins in the coconut meat, to which I am surely allergic to. But coconut oil fully agrees with me. I usually purchase an organic jar from my local Asian supermarket. I use a dab on my salads, on my steaks, and a tea spoon full on my eggs. The jar usually lasts me couple of months. I have a small container of coconut oil on my bathroom sink. I use that for lotion and deodorant purposes. So if coconut products agree with you then by all means use them and enjoy its benefits, there are no harms. But if you see allergic reaction then go back to the paleo tract and nourish the body with fats, proteins, and carbohydrates from vegetables and fruits. Our bodies are genetically designed to consume these nutrients. I have never seen anybody get allergic to meats and fats. Just remember the golden rule, if it has a face, it is paleo.

Saturday, November 17, 2012


   This past weekend, I went to a BBQ and we had hamburgers, chicken and of course all kinds of bread products to complement the meats. I saw several of my friends avoiding the hamburgers like the plague and going for the chicken and heap of bread. A friend told me that his doctor told him to avoid red meat at all cost because it would raise his cholesterol. I simply walked away with a loaded plate of hamburgers and a piece of chicken. The ugly word cholesterol shows up everywhere; folks are trying to keep their cholesterol down. Gary Taubes in his book, Good Calories Bad Calories talks about the Eisenhower paradox. I thought the story was really interesting and relevant to our cholesterol discussion, here is the gist of it.  President Dwight Eisenhower suffered his first heart attack at the age of sixty four in September 1955. Eisenhower's heart attack brought the coronary heart disease to the forefront of American radar. The Monday after the heart attack, Dr. Paul White, a cardiologist flown in from Harvard to consult on President's situation gave a very descriptive press conference describing the heart disease and an update on President's health. For the six subsequent weeks, two press conferences were held daily to update the American public on President's situation. By the time President returned back to his presidential duties, the middle-aged Americans were well versed in the evils of cholesterol and high fat diet. The cholesterol haters were born and that bandwagon was rolling. However, President Eisenhower saga was not done yet, it was only starting. Prior to the heart attack, President was very active, had quit smoking years ago, maintained his weight, had occasional high blood pressure, and had normal cholesterol level (165mg/dl). Then why did the President suffer a heart attack? After his illness, the President fanatically started to watch his food intake, and still continued to exercise. He was measuring his cholesterol ten times per year, had his food cooked in soy bean oil, watched his cholesterol intake by reducing fats in his diet, he ate newly developed healthy polyunsaturated margarine, but the more he dieted the worst his situation became. Once his weight crept up to 176 pounds, he gave up breakfast of oatmeals and skim milk, and switched to melba toast and fruit. When his weight refused to come down then he gave up breakfast altogether. Few years later after receiving some information about the benefits of corn oil, the President gave up cream, lard, butter, and margarine for corn oil. Despite all the precautionary measurements his cholesterol had reached up to 223 mg/dl and his doctors were lying and were telling him a smaller number (217mg/dl). Eisenhower, had practically renounced all types of fatty foods, and was living on few pieces of cheese, skim milk, cold cuts, fruit, and sanka. His last day in office, January 19, 1961, his measured cholesterol was 259 mg/dl, but he was told a lower number by the staff doctors. President Eisenhower, died in 1969 just 14 years after suffering his first heart attack. During the 14 years span he suffered 6 more heart attacks, while he remained fanatically obsessed with reducing his cholesterol and did everything in his power to reduce his fat and cholesterol intake. The experience of Eisenhower is shared by many others who take all necessary precautions to lower their cholesterol. These days the doctors play the statin game, and experiment with different dosage of statins to lower a patient's cholesterol. The doctors routinely advise their patients to reduce the fat and cholesterol intake, eat whole grains, and exercise more. The patients dutifully follow their doctors' advice, yet the sale of lipitor has reached a staggering $125 billion since 1996. Despite all the good intentions and numerous efforts, the heart disease still continues to climb and is the number one cause of death in the country and in most countries around the globe. When I speak with friends, a general phobia of fats and cholesterol is expressed. People have varying understanding of what fats and cholesterol do for our bodies, but no one seem to have the complete picture. I think it is only fair that if we are going to conquer this beast, let us at least understand and learn some of its behavior, and besides no paleo blog will be complete without some discussion of cholesterol.

                    Lipids_____Triglycerides (Fats and oils)
                             |                                          |___fatty acids
                             |                                                                |___Saturated
                             |                                                                |___Monounsaturated (MUFA)
                             |                                                                |___Polyunsaturated (PUFA)
                             |                                                                                       |____Omega 3
                             |                                                                                       |____Omega 6
                             |_____ Phospholipids
                             |                                |___Lecithin
                             |_____ Sterols

   Cholesterol is a sterol and part of a nutrient class called lipids. Above is cholesterol's family tree. Sterols are found in many foods, but cholesterol can only be obtained from animal products: meats, eggs, dairy, fish, and poultry. Liver makes 800-1500 milligrams of cholesterol per day contributing much more to the body's total cholesterol than diet.  If cholesterol was such an evil thing as we have made it out to be, then why would nature produce it in large quantities on the daily basis. The fact is that cholesterol is really useful for our well being; cholesterol made by the liver is used for making bile acids, vitamin D, and various hormones like testosterone and cortisol. Cholesterol is responsible for creating the cell membranes, hence 90% of body's cholesterol is contained in the cells. If our cell membranes were not elastic enough, we would crumble like objects made out of sand, and if cholesterol did not act like a barrier, our cells will never take shape and would lose all their internal fluids. Brains of an animal contains a large amount of cholesterol. The myelin sheath around the nerves is basically made out of cholesterol and fats. Myelin sheath acts like an insulating outer wall of an electric wire. In the future if someone calls you a fat head, do't be offended, your head is actually made out of fat and cholesterol. A 4 oz. serving of beef brains contains about 2254 mg of cholesterol. An amount that will put a big frown on the faces of most cardiologists and the creators of the famous food pyramid.

   So, if cholesterol is useful, then how did it become evil? The answer lies with few of the proteins our bodies makes to transport cholesterol and other lipids around the body. Cholesterol must first enter the lymphatic system before it can be absorbed by the cells. The body makes four types of proteins to transport most of the fats and cholesterol around the body. Collectively, these proteins are called lipoproteins. Lipoproteins basically solve the problem of transporting fats through the watery blood stream. Below is the function of each lipoprotein described in detail:

   Chylomicrons are the first type of lipoproteins responsible for carrying triglycerides and mostly diet derived lipids to cells around the body. As chylomicrons move about the body, various cells remove fats, so in about 10-14 hours the chylomicrons get smaller and smaller and little is left of them other than protein remnants. Special protein receptors on the liver cells sense the depleted chylomicrons and remove them from the blood circulation. The liver cells dismantle the chylomicrons to make new triglycerides.

   VLDL (Very-Low-Density Lipoproteins). While chylomicrons are busy delivering fats to cells in the body, the liver is busy making cholesterol from other chylomicrons remnants, carbohydrates, proteins, and alcohol. The excessive carbs in combination with high fats are a sure recipe for disaster. If the body is not able to expend the excessive dietary carbs, then it ends up converting them to fats for future use. The caveat is that it requires a lot more energy to convert carbs into fat for storage then to convert fats into triglycerides for storage. A diet high in fat is an optimal diet for the reason that body has to do less work in converting the fatty acids to triglycerides for storage and energy usage. Most cells prefer to use fats as their energy source and little fat ends up going a long way because of the high amount of calories available in fats. It boils down to less work for the liver, an optimal diet is high in fats, moderate in proteins, and moderate in carbohydrates; other words, paleo diet. The cholesterol and triglycerides created in liver are packaged with VLDLs and shipped throughout the body for delivery to the cells. As VLDLs move through the body, the cells remove triglycerides and cholesterol causing VLDL to get progressively smaller. Since fat molecules are removed, the VLDL protein package gets more dense.

   The VLDL eventually becomes LDL (Low-Density Lipoproteins) and continues to circulate the body making cholesterol available to cell membranes and tissues. The cholesterol rich LDL is rushing towards the cells to provide a bandage for abrasions and tears in the cell lining. After all the cell membranes are made out of cholesterol. This is where cholesterol gets its bad name. LDL rich in cholesterol and low in triglycerides and due to systemic inflammation caused by most grains, the LDL gets stuck in the arteries and causes plaque that eventually leads to coronary disease. When cardiologists open up a heart patient, they consistently find deposits of LDL stuck in arteries, so naturally the blame goes to the cholesterol responsible for the heart attack. Of course all the blame goes to the dietary cholesterol obtained from eggs, red meats, and saturated fats. No one even mentions the systemic inflammation caused by the grains, that caused the arteries to constrict in the first place. Instead of calling LDL the bad cholesterol, the doctors and nutritionists should really be pointing out the inflamed arteries to the patients.

  On different occasions, the fat cells release their fatty acids and glycerol molecules back in the blood stream, the liver makes another type of lipoprotein called HDL (High-Density Lipoproteins). HDL is responsible for carrying the cholesterol and other lipids from cells to the liver for recycling and disposal. HDL is called a good cholesterol, because it is responsible for removing excessive cholesterol from the blood stream. Here is a graphic depiction of each lipoprotein:

   As you can see from the above table that LDL contains the most amount of cholesterol and this is the cholesterol that ends up getting stuck in the arteries and ultimately causes heart disease. As I mentioned earlier, that the reason why cholesterol gets stuck is due to the inflammation of the arteries. The inflammation is caused by the proteins in the grains. In a normal healthy body the cholesterol has no reason to get stuck. The lipoproteins carrying cholesterol and fats are designed to move about the lymphatic system freely to deliver energy and repair/rebuild cell membranes. If you have a splinter in your hand, the body responds by inflaming the area to fight the foreign object. This inflammation is good and this is how a healthy immune system works. Now if you poked the infected area constantly, the inflammation will never go down. This is exactly what bad proteins in grains do to our bodies. The lectins end up escaping into the body and the immune system launches an attack by inflaming the area. Since grain products containing lectins and glutens are consumed frequently, the inflammation never goes down. It is like poking the inflamed area over and over again. The cholesterol rushes to various parts of the body to repair the cell tissues and build cell membranes, but due to systemic inflammation, ends up getting stuck in the constricted arteries causing build up of plaque. Yes, a high cholesterol and fat diet with grains is really bad and will eventually give you a coronary. But if you eliminate the grains and eat fats, proteins, and carbs from vegetables and fruits, then the systemic inflammation goes away. The constricted arteries return to their normal state and the cholesterol and fats run through the lymphatic system without ever getting stuck. If you are on paleo and your cholesterol goes up, there is no need for panic; most likely your HDL will go up as well. The ratio to watch for is triglycerides to HDL. If this ratio is less than 2 then you have good foamy LDL that will not get stuck in the arteries. It may take few months or up to a year for the  body to repair the damages caused by prolonged grains consumption. Eventually the body will recover and will return to its normal state. There are no guarantees that eating melba toast and skim milk will lower your cholesterol, as President Eisenhower learned the hard way. 

   To lower your cholesterol, a diet must be formulated with at least 50% fats, 30% proteins, and 20% carbs (from vegetables, fruits, nuts, and seeds). The grains, soy, legumes, sugars, and dairy must be eliminated from the diet. These types of foods only became available when we adopted the agrarian life style and our health has been declining since then. The modern processing makes these foods even more dangerous; that is why there is an obesity epidemic out there. If grains are such a good source of energy then why do they have to be fortified. The fats, meats, and healthy carbs make an optimal diet. If you want to beat the heart disease then check out this article from one of the paleo experts, Chris Kresser.

Monday, November 5, 2012


   Several national surveys indicate that more than half of the U.S. population takes some form of vitamin and mineral supplement. Most malls across the country have some vitamin or GNC store that manages to keep its lights on all year long. The Third National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES III) indicated that among adults, the dietary supplement usage was more prevalent in women than men. This is certainly the case in my house, my wife is always offering me a vitamin pill and of course, taking one herself on the daily basis. Before my paleo days, I simply accepted my daily dose of "Centrum for Men One a day" pill from my wife. Lovingly, the pill was always there with my breakfast Cheerios or Corn Flakes. The pill always made me sick, but I simply could not turn down the kind gesture of love. Who was I to argue, vitamins are good for you and they make you healthy, was the extent of my vitamin knowledge any ways. Little that I knew that every food you ate contained vitamins and minerals. The higher the education and income level the more dietary supplements you consumed, was another interesting fact revealed by the NHANES III survey. Once again, in my small sampling this fact was confirmed by conducting several secret interviews of my friends. Since adopting a paleo lifestyle, I have not consumed a single vitamin, asprin, tylenol, or any other type of over the counter pill. My recent blood works was clean and showed absolutly no vitamin or mineral deficiency. so what is all this fuss with the vitamins? why do folks continue to spend in the neighborhood of 70 billion dollars per year on dietary supplements and minerals? Why do we take vitamins? Why are women obsessed with vitamins? Lookout, because I did some reading and now I am full of vitamin information that I will gladly share with you at no charge..:-)

What are Vitamins?
   Vitamins are non-energy producing nutrients; like their counterparts, carbohydrates, fats, and proteins, vitamins offer no calories. So if vitamins offer no calories, then how are they important in the functioning of a healthy body? The roles of vitamins is to help release energy from energy yielding nutrients and make it available to the body. For example, when I move my fingers to write these sentences, certain vitamins help release the energy from glucose which eventually gives electrical signals, that twitch my fingers and create motion. Without vitamin B the energy will not be fully released and will not produce motion. There are certain vitamins who assist in the production of various proteins and DNA molecules. Yes, vitamins are very important to our well being, that is why nature has cleverly packed them in foods that we consume. No need to consume a dietary supplement pill. The vitamins are classified by their solubility. The water soluble vitamins are B and C. The fat soluble vitamins are A, D, E, and K.

Water Soluble vitamins
   There are two major vitamins in this class; B and C. The water soluble vitmins are absorbed directly into the blood stream and help with many metabolic functions. The water soluble vitamins travel freely in water-filled parts of the body. Usually kidneys detect their excess and remove it via urine. Because of frequent disposition the water soluble vitamins need to be consumed more frequently. The amount of vitamin C consumed by us is mind boggling. We consume way more than what we need and end up excreting most of it via urine. The joke is that each time you urinate you are excreting few dollars worth of water soluble vitamins. Americans probably have the most expensive urine in the world..few billion dollars worth. The family of B vitamins contains 8 vitamins; they have collectively been labeled B complex vitamins. Below is an extremely over simplified function of each vitamin in B complex family:
  • Vitamin B1 Thiamin is responsible for converting carbohydrates into energy. Thiamin is also responsible for the well being of the nervous system. Thiamin deficiency is rare and usually occurs in alcoholics, who tend to obtain most of their energy from empty calories and forget to eat real meals.
  • Vitamin B2 Riboflavin is another coenzyme involved in many metabolic reactions. Another important vitamin in releasing energy from the carbohydrates. Riboflavin is responsible for processing the oxygen and ensuring adequate oxygen supply is provided to the internal organs.
  • Vitamin B3 Niacin plays a major role in creating various hormones in addition to the metabolism of glucose in your body. Pellagra is the disease caused by the deficiency of niacin. In patients Pellagra causes severe diarrhea, skin rashes, and dementia. 
  • Vitamin B5 Pantothenic Acid is very important in the synthesis of lipids, neurotransmitters, steroid hormones, and hemoglobin. 
  • Vitamin B6 is another important vitamin helping the breakdown of proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Vitamin B6 also assists in the synthesis of genetic materials. 
  • Vitamin B7 Biotin is important in metabolism of fatty acids and amino acids to produce glucose. In prolong period of starvation, biotin assist in the process of gluconeogenesis to produce glucose from non carbohydrate sources such as amino acids. Another way for nature in preserving and prolonging life. The bacteria in the GI tract can also produce biotin and make up the dietary gap.
  • Folate is also known as folic acid. Folic acid works closely with vitamin B12 in the synthesis of DNA in growing cells. Hence, folic acid is an essential part of the prenatal kit and is commonly consumed by pregnant women to assist the growing baby. 
  • Vitamin B12 and folate work closely in the synthesis of amino acids. Vitamin B12 in addition to helping release energy from carbohydrates, also plays a major role in keeping the red blood cells healthy. Vitamin B12 can only be obtained from animal products. 
Vitamin C
   Vitamin C is the second water soluble vitamin. Vitamin C has a dual personality. In some settings, vitamin C acts as coenzyme helping an enzyme complete its job of releasing energy from nutrients, and in some settings vitamin C acts as an antioxidant, because of its unique ability to quickly lose electrons. In the antioxidant role, vitamin C is able to bind to the free radicals and remove them from the body. The free radicals are molecules that are missing electrons and are not complete. These free radicals are looking for other molecules and cells to bind to and complete their existence. Most often free radicals end up binding to iron, magnesium, and calcium and prevent these important minerals from being absorbed in the body. Vitamin C sacrifices its own life to protect the hundreds of water soluble substances from free radicals. Vitamin C also helps form the fibrous structural protein tissues called collagen. Collagen is the building block for forming bones and teeth. Collagen also helps when a person is wounded by creating a scar and sealing up the wounded area. Collagen is also responsible for holding cells together, especially the arterial walls that  must withstand a constant pressure from heart pumping blood. The popular belief that common colds are cured by vitamin C is not true. Once again media plays a major role in spreading this myth. To this date there is no scientific evidence that vitamin C cures common colds. Vitamin C is probably the most consumed vitamin in the world. Folks consume it in almost toxic quantities. The toxic effects of vitamin C are abdominal cramps, nausea, and diarrhea. Common sense advice, no need to spend your hard earned money on vitamin C supplements, most fruits and vegetables contain ample amount of vitamin C. Paleo folks are covered by eating variety of vegetables and seasonal fruits.

Vitamin Name Food Source
B1 Thiamin Lean meats, spinach, green peas, squash, acorn
B2 Riboflavin Organ meats, lean meats, eggs, broccoli, and spinach
B3 Niacin Organ meats (liver), fish, poultry, and red meats.
B5 Pantothenic Acid Organ meats, mushroom, avocado, and broccoli
B6 Vitamin Meats, fish, poultry, potatoes, and non-citrus fruits.
B7 Biotin Bacteria in the GI tract can make biotin. Eggs
Folate or Folic Acid Spinach, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, okra, asparagus.
B12 Meats, poultry, fish, shellfish, and eggs.
Vitamin C Citrus fruits, most vegetables and fruits.

The paleo folks have nothing to worry about. The foods listed in the above table provide sufficient vitamins and there is no need to consume any water soluble vitamin supplements.
Fat Soluble vitamins
   The fat soluble vitamins are A, D, E and K. The fat soluble vitamins can be stored in the fat tissue and are used by the body on the need basis. Because of their long term storage, they don't need to be consumed often. On the flip side if consumed in large quantities, they can be toxic. Below is an simplified function of each fat soluble vitamin:
  • Vitamin A exists in three active forms in the body:  retinol, retinal, and retinoic acid. Collectively they are called retinoids. One of the major roles of vitamin A is promoting vision. Vitamin A helps maintain crystal clear outer window, the cornea, and participates in the conversion of light energy into nerve impulses at the retina. Despite its most important role in vision, only one thousandths of the body's vitamin A is in the retina. Much more is available in the cells lining the body. In this role vitamin A participates in protein synthesis and cells differentiation. Other words, vitamin A differentiate inner cells from the outer cells. Thanks to vitamin A, otherwise our outer skin could have mucous, not a good thing for our social life. Retinol, one of the active form of vitamin A participates in creating sperms in men, and in women supports normal fetal development during pregnancy. One of the major deficiency of vitamin causes blindness, and overdose of vitamin A is simply toxic to the body. Beef liver eaten in large quantities can provide almost an overdose of vitamin A. 
  • Vitamin D There is no need to consume vitamin D via foods. Just spend enough time in the sun. Vitamin D plays a major role in bone growth. Vitamin D is not an essential vitamin, our body can make it from ample exposure to sunlight.
  • Vitamin E is a fat soluble antioxidant and one of the body's main defenders against free radicals molecules. There are literally hundreds and hundreds of chemical reactions happening every second inside our bodies. These chemical reactions are occurring whether we are sleeping or in a waking state. The by products of these chemical reactions are the free radical molecules. These molecules are usually missing electrons or some critical carbon, oxygen, or hydrogen to make them stable. Most often these free radicals end up bonding with iron, magnesium, and other trace minerals to complete their existence. Of course this is bad for the body, now these trace minerals are not available for absorption. Vitamin E actively stops the chain reactions of free radicals producing more free radicals. If free radicals go undetected for a period of time, they end up making compounds and may even lead to cancerous cells. You can certainly over do vitamin E and high dosage is toxic and may interfere with blood clotting actions of vitamin K. 
  • Vitamin K The main function of vitamin K is to create blood clot. The vitamin name comes from the Danish word koagulation coagulation or clotting. If vitamin K was not present in our bodies, a simple pin prick on the skin will drain all the blood in our body in matter of hours. A bucket with a small hole is rendered useless for holding water. Because of the importance of blood clotting, the bacteria in our GI tract produces vitamin K in abundant supply. 
Vitamin Name      Food Source
Vitamin A              Spinach, broccoli, carrots, sweet potatoes, beef liver, and butter squash.
Vitamin D              Sun bathing. 
Vitamin E              Nuts seeds, oils, liver and eggs.
Vitamin K              Mostly leafy vegetables, liver, and synthesized by the bacteria in GI tract. 

The paleo folks have nothing to worry about. The foods listed in the above table provide sufficient vitamins and there is no need to consume any fat soluble vitamin supplements.

   There are many factors why we are obsessed with vitamins and supplements. One of the major factor is media influence. The media tends to sensationalize everything and creates a fear factor. If we don't do this then this will happen. Usually, the worst possible scenario is presented as the consequence for not taking the supplements. The real fact is that most foods contain the necessary vitamins and there is absolutely no shortage of vitamins in our diet. But somehow, we have collectively bought into the plethora of messages from the media that we need to take supplements for our well being. So most adults simply take vitamin supplements as dietary insurance, just in case they are not getting enough nutrients from their food. In 1930's many discoveries were made in the biochemical science and most of the vitamins were named and classified, still the primary source of obtaining vitamins was eating variety of foods. About 50 years ago, no one was spending their money on buying the dietary supplements for a simple reason--the dietary supplements did not exist. The dietary supplement are a recent phenomena, of course popularized by the media. The prenatal vitamins hit the market about 30 years ago. Since, the responsibility of giving birth to a new baby lies exclusively with women, the women became the first consumers for vitamins, calcium, folic acid, and host of other prenatal care nutrients. This perhaps explains the reason, why women are more prevalent users of vitamins and supplements than men. As mentioned earlier that just few decades ago, no one even heard of buying vitamin supplements. The women gave birth as usual. The men went about their business. There were no prenatal vitamins like folic acids, or calcium. The expecting mothers simply ate different foods and their cravings changed from child to child. I have observed many pregnant ladies in my country eating a dried piece of clay from the local river. It never made any sense, why would pregnant ladies want to eat a piece of dirt. The piece of clay probably contained many trace minerals that expected mothers could use during their pregnancy. The various cravings also force the expectant mothers to eat different foods to fullfil the deficient vitamins or nutrient gaps left by their diet. An advice for the fathers to be; don't argue with your pregnant wife when she asks for the peanut butter, jelly, banana, ice cream, avocado sandwich in the middle of the night. It is not her, the growing baby inside her is probably deficient in some nutrient that only the sandwich can provide. Nature has all the bases covered. During the year, the human body  requires and craves for different foods. That is why eating seasonal fruits and vegetables is very beneficial. The seasonal vegetables and fruits provide the optimal nutrients at the right time of the year. The watermelon just doesn't taste good in the month of December. 
   The role vitamins play for our well being is uncontested; they are essential part of our diet. The good thing is that foods that we eat contain all the vitamins. Heck, the foods our paleolithic ancestors ate contained sufficient vitamins. I am a big fan of herbal medicine, I believe herbal extracts are good and should be incorporated in our diets. I personally use spices like turmeric and cumin. Not only they are good for flavoring many dishes, but they also have many medicinal qualities. Like everything in the nutritional field, the nutritionist scientists took another wrong turn in promoting the use of vitamin supplements. Maybe the big profit producing industry had something to do with influencing the nutritional scientists. Vitamin supplements are a very recent phenomena. We are all looking for that silver bullet or one pill that fixes everything. The media plays to this sentiment and we humans in search for that ultimate fix always end up buying into the hoopla. After being on the paleo diet for more than a year, I recently had my blood works done and found no deficiency of minerals or vitamins. This past year I have not consumed a single multivitamin pill or any other mineral supplement. Our paleo ancestors were pretty smart, they ate good wholesome foods, got plenty of sun, exercise, and sleep. Buying family size vitamin packs from Costco was never in their daily plans, instead they looked for fresh game to kill. So the question is do we need vitamin supplements? The answer is not really, especially, if you are on paleo diet. Common sense advice is to save your money and spend it on grass fed beef, free-range eggs, or eat some liver.


Saturday, October 27, 2012

1K, NuSi, and Payay

   This past weekend, FewPaleoThoughts recorded one thousand hits since its inception in May 2012. The blog was picked up in China, UK, and Germany. Here is a snapshot from Google Analytics:

Pageviews by Countries

    Graph of most popular countries among blog viewers

United States
United Kingdom
South Korea

   The purpose of my blog is to explain the paleo concepts to my friends in easy layman terms. It is also a good learning experience for me and I am really enjoy the research. Hopefully, I will continue to provide information that maybe of some use. Thank you for reading. The blog has given me an idea to write a book and I have started my research on the book. I plan to research until about next summer and then start writing the book sometimes in the fall of 2013.

   I want to draw your attention to a valiant effort that was just launched, NuSi (Nutrition Science Initiative) www.NuSi.org. The NuSi organization is co-founded by Gary Taubes, the author of "Why we get fat and what to do about it", and its purpose is to fund studies to dispel bad science around the nutritional field. They are going to be like the myth busters for the nutritional science. So please support them by donating. Gary Taubes and Peter Attia, founders of NuSi have recruited great talent in the medical industry and have formulated a sound strategy to tackle the conventional wisdom like grains are wonderful, the famous food pyramid,  saturated fats are bad, and our energy imbalance is causing obesity in the United Staes. So check out their website. A good grass root level effort.

   In one of my earlier posts I mentioned cow feet soup that my wife makes once or twice a month and it is really delicious, nutritious, and of course, totally paleo. I am going to give the Pakistani version of this recipe. The Pakistani version is called payay. Cow feet are called "payay" in Urdu. Payay is very popular in Pakistan and is commonly consumed as a breakfast item. In Pakistan some of the best payay are sold by the street vendors who usually cook them all night long. The payay recipe does call for white flour to thicken the soup, but you can leave out the flour and the soup still remains delicious. My wife makes it with out flour. So here is my wife's payay recipe:

3 Cow feet (payay)
3 table spoon clarified butter or coconut oil
1 medium size onion
1 table spoon turmeric powder *
1 table spoon red chili powder
1 table spoon salt (Add more later to taste)
1 large black cardamom *
1 table spoon garlic paste
1 table spoon ginger paster
1 table spoon Garam masala *
1 green chili peppers
1 large piece of fresh ginger
1 small bunch of cilantro coarsely chopped
*(You may have to visit your local Indian grocer)

In a 8 quart pan place cow feet (payay) and add water until submerged.
Crush the black cardamom and add to the liquid. (This is her secret ingredient)
Cover the pan and place it on slow heat over night.

After about 8 hours the meat will separate from the bones. The liquid will have plenty of fat floating from the meat and the melted bone marrow.

In a different pan add 3 table spoons of clarified butter and onions. Lightly brown the onions.
Add ginger paste
Add garlic paste
Add salt
Add red chili pepper
Add turmeric powder
Keep stirring and make sure the spice mixture does not stick to the bottom of the pan. Add cow feet and the meat without liquid. You may want to use a strainer to pick the bones and the meat from the liquid. Save the liquid for later. Keep stirring the bones and the meat until they are coated in the spice mixture. This needs to be done for about 15 minutes to fully coat the bones and the meat in the spice mixture.

After stirring for 15 minutes add the remaining liquid back in the pot and bring to boil on high heat. Once boiled, reduce heat and simmer for another 15 minutes.

Add Chopped cilantro, chopped green chili pepper, and sprinkle garam masala on top of the liquid and serve.

   The above recipe is paleo and very nutritious. It has plenty of fat and proteins. The bone marrow and the meat from the cow feet are melted nicely in the soup. The gelatinous texture of the soup is flavored with wonderful spices. I usually eat two or three bowls in one sitting and save the rest and eat throughout the week. Enjoy.


Saturday, October 20, 2012

Insulin Story

  In the classic movie, Dances with Wolves, Kevin Costner befriends few Sioux Indians and serves them coffee. The coffee is bitter, so he gives them a small sack of sugar and tells one of the Sioux Indians to put a handful of sugar in his mouth, the Sioux Indian complies and the next scene is priceless.... a big smile appears on the Sioux man's face after tasting refined sugar for the first time in his life. Somehow, sugar makes us happy. There is no better picker-upper than a good chocolate bar in the late afternoon. You can walk down to the vending areas of most office buildings and will observe folks going in and out selecting their favorite snacks in the late afternoon. While we are stuffing our faces with sugars and elevating our blood glucose to almost toxic levels, the poor insulin is doing its best in keeping our glucose levels down and sadly losing this battle. Insulin is one of the most important hormones in our bodies responsible for managing the blood sugar or levels of glucose. Although, glucose is absolutely necessary for the cells as fuel, but having too much glucose present in the blood is toxic. This is where the insulin story begins and it is best told in the paleo context. In this blog post, using the KIS principle (keep-it-simple), I will attempt to describe many of the functions of this important hormone.

   Insulin is a protein made by the beta cells in the pancreas. Insulin is released in small quantities all day but its activities increase especially around meal times. A meal rich in carbohydrates elevates the blood glucose levels. To lower the glucose levels, insulin is released. Below are few insulin interactions when a meal is consumed:
  • A meal high in carbohydrates is digested quickly and absorbed in the blood stream via small intestine. The blood glucose levels goes up.
  • The cells begin to use glucose as a source of energy right away. The brain cells and the red blood  cells use glucose exclusively.
  • Pancreas begins to release insulin.
  • The excess glucose is sent up to liver to be converted to glycogen. Glycogen is no more than few glucose molecules stringed together. This is one of many ways nature stores energy. Some of the glycogen is stored by the liver and some is stored in the muscle cells for a flight or fight types of response. Glycogen is the first reserve of energy that body can tap into in an emergency situation. Unfortunately, the glycogen stores are small and can not store an unlimited supply. Once the glycogen stores are full, then liver begins to create fatty acids from the glycogen. These fatty acids are eventually assembled as triglycerides and end up in the blood stream.
  • Insulin activates a special receptor on the fat cells called LPL (lipoprotein lipase). Once activated LPLs actively begin to gather passing by triglycerides in the blood stream and store them in the fat cells. Since there is ample glucose available for fuel, the purpose of this is to take triglycerides out of circulation as a possible source of energy for the cells to use.
  • The remaining glucose gets used by the cells, as the glucose levels fall, the low glucose blood level stimulates the pancreas to release glucagon. Glucagon is a hormone, not to be confused with glycogen, which is a stored form of glucose. Glucagon, promotes the release of glycogen from the liver and the muscles to be released back into the blood stream as glucose for energy. This raises the blood glucose levels again and causes pancreas to release more insulin and the cycle continues until all the available glucose from the meal is fully used up. 
  • The above process may take up to four hours. Then body begins to feel hungry again until more  food is introduced. If you are in a fasting state, say at night sleeping, the low blood glucose levels activate another hormone inside the fat cells called HSL (hormone-sensitive lipase). HSL releases the triglycerides stored in the fat cells to the blood stream for the body to use as energy. This helps us get through a long night without a meal. The fat reserves are only tapped once the glucose from the meal and the stored glycogen in the muscles and the liver is depleted.
   Insulin and glucagon are complimentary hormones, insulin promotes the storage of fat while glucagon promotes the release of glycogen from the liver and the muscles. These two hormones keep the glucose levels constant and provide a steady supply of energy for the cells who are constantly working...in other words keeping us alive. So what happens when these processes are not regulated? What happens when pancreas does not release insulin after a meal and the blood glucose levels remain high? Or what happens when the insulin is ineffective and is not able to bring down the elevated glucose blood levels? This is a toxic situation. High blood levels of glucose do not play nice with proteins and form AGEs (advanced glycation end products). The AGEs end up damaging proteins, enzymes, and DNA in the body. A human body is a nice warm vat of fluid with constant temperature. When a confectioner caramelizes sugar to make candy, the end product is a gooey and chewy material that can be used as the base for many candies. In a crude analogy the excessive glucose in the blood stream acts like a caramelized sugar in a warm confectioner vat.  Basically not a good situation. Let's look in detail the situations in which insulin is not properly regulated.
  • Type 1 diabetes is the condition in which pancreas fails to make insulin. In this situation, the patient must inject a dose of insulin several times per day to keep the blood glucose levels down. This situation is less common and basically attributed to factors like genetics, toxins, or a virus. Not much can be done, before modern medicine, the patients usually died, but these days patients can prolong life by injecting insulin into their bodies daily.
  • Type 2 diabetes, is more common and is attributed to diet and life style. This is where the paleo context becomes relevant. The onset of type 2 diabetes is accelerated by the foods we eat, especially simple carbs and refined grains. The refined grains and simple carbs like sugars in soft drinks and juices deliver an overdose of glucose to our blood stream. Below are the steps that lead to type 2 diabetes:
    • Simple carbs are quickly digested and enter our blood circulation. Insulin is released in response to high levels of blood glucose.
    • Insulin stimulates the removal of fats from the blood stream and also promotes glycogen to be stored in the liver and the muscle cells. The liver and the muscles can only store a finite amount of glycogen. Once full they refuse to accept additional storage of glycogen.
    • Blood glucose levels remain elevated, pancreas responds by releasing more insulin, the muscles still resist and refuse to accept additional glycogen. 
    • This prolonged condition eventually leads to cells becoming insensitive to insulin. This condition is called insulin insensitivity. At this point the person experiences an onset of type 2 diabetes. It may take several years for this condition to develop to a full blown type 2 diabetes. It all depends on the body weight and the individual lifestyle. One thing for sure, refined grains and simple carbs play a major role in developing insulin insensitivity. 
   In a type 2 diabetes, the insulin becomes ineffective in lowering the blood glucose levels after a meal. The person requires assistance in the form of a pill to lower his or her blood sugar or eat measured portioned controlled meals to sustain life. As you can imagine, this situation is not normal and eventually leads to many other chronic diseases. So how to avoid this fate? The answer of course, is paleo way of eating. The fats, proteins, vegetables, nuts and seeds, staple of paleo diet do not raise the blood glucose levels to a point of no return, but provide all the necessary nourishment for the body. Our paleo ancestors did not have refined grains nor large gulps of fountain sodas available to them. They walked several miles per day in search for their food. They ate fatty meats when available. Our paleo ancestors lived as hunter gatherers traveling in small bands for over 2 million years. The Sioux Indians alluded to in the beginning of this post were also hunter gatherers moving around in a large mass of land, they followed the buffalos (tatanka) for their livelihood. They killed only what was needed for the sustance of the tribe and ended up using every part of the buffalo. Nothing went to waste. Within few decades of the arrival of European settlers the Sioux Indians were subjugated and abandoned their hunter gatherer way of life. The sugar eating scene in the movie Dances with Wolves pretty much tells the whole story. I will leave you with few funny advertisements sent by my friend Cal. Judge for yourself..


Wednesday, October 10, 2012

Grains Revisited

   In the early days of my Paleo journey, I received plenty of criticism and skeptical looks when I talked about the Paleo Lifestyle. People simply could not accept the fact that fats, proteins, vegetables, and fruits are enough to sustain life. It's like missing that bran muffin or that "heart healthy" wheat bread makes all the difference and provides all the necessary fiber a healthy body needs. Few of my skeptics probably waited for me to keel over and die, as I should have with the amount of eggs and meats I was consuming. But of course, none of that happened and I lost weight, kept my weight off, and my lipid panel improved. A year later, as I speak to people, now at least they are willing to listen and somewhat agree with me, but when I get to the grains, that is where the negotiations/reasoning hits a proverbial wall and everything stops. They are able to tolerate that eating proteins, fruits and vegetables is acceptable, but try taking their grains away, and you have that eye brow raised and the wall of resistance goes up again instantly. Here are few grains related questions that people are simply not willing to let go....yet. And here is my $0.02.

   This is the first question that I get hit with.... breads, a healthy staple of our diet, how could they be bad for us? The government tells us to eat more whole grains, the doctors tell us to eat whole grains to lower our cholesterol. Then how could something this wonderful is bad for us? This usually leads me to give a long presentation on how agriculture and especially domestication of grains have caused so many health problems. The anthropologists believe that single most important event in the history that changed everything is the invention of agriculture. As soon as we became farmers, everything kind of started to spiral down, and it is still spiraling down at an unknown rate. So why grains are so bad for us? Well all grains contain bad proteins. Some bad proteins are more badder than other bad proteins. How is that for a scientific explanation? Simply put, all grains contain proteins that our body has no idea how to digest and when these bad proteins are in our gastro intestinal tract they cause gut irritation. Gluten and Lectin are two of the worst proteins contained in wheat, barley, rye, and millets. The lectin in the gluten containing grains do not get digested in our small intestine, but end up escaping into our blood stream. Once inside our blood stream, the body's immune system confuses it for a foreign body object and promptly launches an attack. If my neighbor gets a bomb dropped on his house, most likely my house will not be safe either. If bad cells are being attacked by the immune system then most likely some of the healthy cells will feel the pain and will suffer collateral damage. The immune system creates antibodies which go and surround the bad proteins and cut off its food supply. This action causes inflammation in the area. This inflammation is good and usually means that immune system is working. But if inflammation is everywhere in your body especially around the gut then it can not be good for you. The person with grains in his diet would have his immune system turned on all the time and that simply can not be efficient. So when a real virus or bacteria shows up, the immune system is not effective in dealing with it. A good analogy would be picking fights on too many fronts. Your forces and energy are divided, and you are not able to effectively and decisively defeat the enemy. I hear that all the time, that I got this annoying cough that is lasting me several weeks and refuses to go away. Well, that is a tell tale sign of a weak over worked immune system that simply can not effectively fight the cough. Another analogy would be the classic tale of boy who cried wolf too many times and tricked the villagers. However, when the real wolf showed up then of course no one showed up to help. By fighting lectins and glutens all the time, the immune system simply becomes ineffective fighting the real threat when it arises. This condition is called autoimmunity and eventually ends up contributing to many chronic diseases.

   Well what about whole grain? Dr Oz, my weight watcher lady and my doctor tell me to consume whole grains. Once again, grains are grains. It does not matter if you eat them whole, slightly crushed, quarters, or in halves--you will ingest the bad proteins and these proteins will end up causing the problems in your GI tract. There is absolutely no scientific evidence that whole grains will lower your cholesterol. This is a myth.

   What about grains that are not grains like quinoa? What about rice or corn, they don't contain gluten? Yes, quinoa is not a grain, but it has been grown in the same fashion as the rest of the grains. So it has also evolved and developed the bad chemicals used for its defense. Quinoa has a chemical called saponin. This chemical acts like a soap. In most saponin containing plants, it acts as anti-feedant to deter the animals from eating it and protecting the plant from microbes and fungi. At harvest time the saponin containing bitter coating is removed. Otherwise, the grain is bitter to taste. So if you want to just fill your stomach with quinoa then by all means eat quinoa with saponin removed. You will get some lysine, calcium, phosphorus, and iron. But pound by pound it is far inferior than meats. Later in this blog I will detail out a side by side comparison of meats and grains. Corn and few of the cereal grains like oats do not contain gluten, but they have similar bad proteins call prolines. The prolines also cause gut irritation and once again our body has no mechanism to process them. These proteins end up in our GI tract and simply hang around and cause intestinal irritation and pass on down to our latrines. I suppose eating corn and rice in moderation will not hurt you and you may be able to tolerate it, but once again the goal is not to fill your belly with foods that are far inferior to meats, fats, vegetables, and fruits. Again there is no scientific evidence that corn, quinoa, oats, or rice will lower your cholesterol.

   Some folks tell me that they are fine on the grain diet, because they exercise, and eat in moderation. That indeed maybe the case. Exercise has many wonderful effects. Exercise maybe fixing or helping to reduce the internal inflammation caused by the grains. Overeating or eating in moderation---simply we humans have no way to digest the proteins contained in grains. This facts remain unchanged. The grain proteins are different than the animal proteins. The animal proteins are easily broken down by our digestive system with the help of pepsin and other pancreatic juices. Whereas, the body lacks the necessary enzymes to effectively breakdown the grain proteins. The grain proteins end up escaping into our blood stream. So it does not matter if you eat in moderation or not, you will be exposed to these proteins. It is like eating few grams of arsenic or few milligrams of arsenic per day. Point is that you are eating arsenic. It will eventually harm you. For these folks I would recommend that to have your CRP (C-Reactive Protein) tested. CRPs are a by product of our immune system. A high level of CRPs in your blood stream would indicate internal inflammation from an immune system that is on all the time. If your CRP number is high then you have inflammation in your body.

   The biggest objection is how would I get my daily fiber intake? Without fiber wouldn't I have problems going to the bathroom? Trust me there is plenty of fiber in fruits, vegetables, and nuts. You will not have any problems going to the bathroom. Finally, let the numbers speak for themselves. These numbers are taken from the Eleanor Noss Whitney and Sharon Ray Rolfs' ninth edition text book "Understanding Nutrition"

Measure (OZ)           4 4 4 1 Cup 1 cup
Weight (grams) 113 113 113 140 195
Water % 47 64 56 67 73
Energy (Kcal) 393 198 245 174 216
Proteins (grams) 30 32 30 7 5
Carbs (grams) 0 0 0 37 45
Dietary Fiber (g) 0 0 0 4 4
Fat (grams) 29 6 18 1 2
Fat Saturated 13 3.1 6.7 0.1 0.4
Fat Monosaturated 14.8 1.8 7 0.1 0.6
Fat Polysaturated 1.2 1.9 3.9 0.3 0.6
Cholesterol (mg) 112 545 2254 0 0
Calcium (mg) 11 12 10 21 19
Iron (mg) 3.45 7.1 2.51 1.48 0.82
Magnesium (mg) 21 26 17 42 84
Potassium (mg) 275 411 400 62 84
Sodium (mg) 67 120 179 4 10
Zinc (mg) 7.57 6.16 1.53 1.13 1.23
Vitamin-A 0 12123 0 0 0
Thiamine (mg) 0.08 0.24 0.15 0.15 0.19
Vitamin-E 0.26 0.72 2.37 0.14 0.53
Riboflavin (mg) 0.27 4.68 0.29 0.06 0.05
Niacin (mg) 3.54 16.3 4.27 0.99 2.98
Vitamin-B6 (mg) 0.32 1.62 0.44 0.11 0.28
Folates (mg) 10 249 7 7 8
Vitamin-C (mg) 0 26 4 0 0

   The above table shows that meats overall have a better nutrient profile than grains. I can illustrate hundreds of other foods and do a side by side comparison. The result is always the same. The only thing missing from meats is the dietary fiber, you can easily obtain that from vegetables, fruits, and nuts.  Foods like proteins, fats, vegetables, and nuts will not raise your insulin levels and will provide all the necessary nourishments a healthy body needs. I have been on paleo diet for more than a year and have not experienced a single mineral or vitamin deficiency. I do not take any multivitamins supplements. Our hunter gatherer ancestors did not worry about vitamin or mineral deficiency. They simply moved around in small bands, hunted wild game and gathered when the game was not available. They managed to survive for along time without Noah's multigrain bagels and so can we.