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) 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 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.