Tuesday, December 31, 2013

Intermittent Fasting

   My apology for not getting the November blogpost published, just way too much going on at work. This is the last blogpost for the year 2013...holidays season and I am going to talk about intermittent fasting...go figure. The idea for this blogpost came just few days ago, when we lost power in our house. The power was lost in the morning around 6 a.m. and was not restored until 10 p.m. As the day progressed the house got colder and actually it was pleasant to sit outside in the sun. Electric stove meant...no cooking, but my wife was somewhat prepared with a small camping propane stove, so we were able to heat up some food and make tea during the day. We had our dinner in the candle light around 5:30 p.m. The whole neighborhood had an eerie almost calm feeling over it. With no TV and absence of other electronic gadgets, the kids decided to play hide and seek. This activity lasted for a while and by 8 p.m. we were ready for our beds. I was actually sound asleep around 9 p.m. and got extra three hours of sleep. The whole experience was very calming and peaceful. The loss of power reminded us and exposed us about our preparedness for emergency situations. Of course, as always, we were not fully prepared, the flash lights were missing batteries, the candles were not readily available, the propane was almost out, and the list goes on and on. In order to test how prepared you are, one must turn off the lights and other modern amenities to see where the shortfalls are? It is like conducting a periodic fire drill to make sure everyone is on the same page for the real fire.

   At this point you are wondering, where am I going with this blogpost? Don't worry, I will find a Paleo lining in this scenario. Shutting down the power once in a while is similar to intermittent fasting. The human body is a micro replica of the macro world that we live in. Just imagine, an engineer shutting down the grid power to test the back up generator. A true test for the generator can not be performed with out shutting down the power. Once the grid power is turned off, the backup generator test can be validated, and the engineer can report with confidence the performance of the backup generator. The human body is no different, the intermittent fast (skipping a meal) will do the same for the human body. The brain and the cells accustomed to receiving a constant supply of glucose will begin to send all kinds of alarms alerting us to go find food. The cells will use all available glucose in the blood and the blood sugar will begin to decline. The liver and the muscles with their limited stored glycogen will begin to use this energy. The brain and the cells will continue to sound all kinds of panic alarms to make sure we find food before we perish. Once the glycogen stores are depleted then body begins to eat away at the muscles. The proteins are converted to glucose with a series of chemical processes. However, the muscle being important, the body quickly learns to switch to burning fat. This condition does not happen until we are in a prolonged fast lasting multiple days. An intermittent fast or skipping a meal simply shakes up various systems in the body and shaking up things is always good. Here are few benefits of intermittent fasting that I can think of:

  • How about simple economics? Skipping a meal once a week saves about $10. This can easily add up to about $500 per year. I regularly skip lunch once or twice per week. On the weekends, about 90% of the time I skip lunch. On the weekend a hearty breakfast around 9 a.m. and then early dinner around 5 p.m. works for me. I do have few cups of tea or coffee in the middle.
  • Shocking the body has many benefits. Like turning off the the grid power to test the backup generator, skipping a meal helps clean up the body of the excess calories and the ingested toxins. The various organs like liver, heart, kidneys, and lungs go into an alert state and actually get a chance to rest a bit from processing the calories we constantly shove down the gullet. The repair process begins at many cellular levels. 
  • The organs going into an alerted state eventually end up making the entire body more alert. I have noticed that while fasting, my sense of smell becomes sharp. I am able to smell food and also I pay attention to other external stimuli that otherwise, I may have ignored on a full stomach.
  • The heart rate decreases, as body begins to conserve energy expecting a prolonged fast. The blood pressure decreases. The blood sugar returns to its normal state. Lower metabolic activity in the body decreases the blood pressure and the heart beat. An alligator can decrease its heart rate to about 3 beats per minutes while it sits quietly by a river bank waiting for a prey. A decrease heart beat is always good for the heart muscle.  
  • The human body is all about survival. The energy on hand is used more wisely and slowly. Just imagine during lean times we cut our expenses to save money and make our dollars stretch, the human body is doing the same exact thing by conserving its energy and making the calories on hand last to ensure survival.
  • Depleting the glycogen in the liver and the muscles is like draining a rechargeable battery and filling the battery again. This process of draining and then replenishing the muscles make the muscle cells more efficient.
  • Intermittent and prolonged fasting teaches the body to start burning fats. Even a lean individual has several days of energy supply of fats, which can be beneficial during prolonged fasting. During prolonged fast the body switches to burning fats, Paleo folks have this figured out a long time ago. Low carbs, high fats, and moderate protein diet (Paleo) will condition the body to burn fats and not be caught up in the carb burning cycle.  
   The biggest benefit of intermittent fasting is learning patience. We live in this instant gratification society, where the norm is, I want it...and I want it now. Not only that whatever, I am having...I want it super sized. We are also creatures of habit. Lunch is that social hour, where we get to escape our work for about an hour, sit down with our peers and complain about work and our bosses. Intermittent fasting is all about breaking the routine. I often visit the local Home Depot or Harbor Freight Tools during my lunch break to check out the power tools. Another activity, which does not cost a single dime other than a short ten minutes drive to my local golf course, is to practice my putting. I easily spend 40 minutes on a putting green practicing my five footers. Creating a diversion is easy and there are numerous possibilities. We just need to say no to our daily routines once in a while. Try shutting the lights off once in a while, you will be pleasantly surprised to see the benefits.

Thursday, October 31, 2013

Staying Paleo During Holidays

   Every year halloween officially heralds in the holiday season. As October rolls by the air turns cooler, the days get shorter, and our bodies can sense the impending winter around the corner. The seasonal changes also trigger hormones and clocks in our bodies to store fat for the upcoming long winter.....at least that is the excuse most of us use when we put on 10 pounds over the holidays. So the question is---does winter makes us fat? This needs a bit of exploration.

   The winter does bring many challenges to the fitness equation. People tend to put on more clothes in winter, so showing their flesh is not a priority. Whereas, in the summer people do wear tee shirts and swimwear and showing flesh is common. When showing flesh people are self conscious and taking care of their body is a priority. The weather in the summertime also permits people to be outdoor where winter in most regions of the country takes this option away. There have been many studies conducted on seasonal affective disorder (SAD). In the colder regions of the country many people do suffer from a mild form of depression. I lived in Boston for several years and some winter mornings getting out of bed was a chore. One explanation for the winter gain is that we eat more to fight off the depression due to seasonal affective disorder (SAD). This could be true for many people, but across a wide spectrum does not tell the whole story. Another explanation could be that we need to store more fat in order to stay warm and provide the necessary calories to keep our bodies warm. Let's face it when the outside temps fall, our bodies must burn more calories to maintain a core temperature of 98.5 degrees fahrenheit. This makes perfect sense, but once again there are flaws in this explanation. We live in heated houses and have plenty of clothes to keep us warm. Most importantly we are not trekking in the snow and clod weather toiling for our daily living. I go to work in a nice heated building and sip few hot cups of coffee in a normal eight hour day.

   The real problem with winter weight gain is the abundance of wrong food and the license given to us to eat it by the holiday season. As holiday season trumpet is blown loud and clear by halloween, the candy and the decorations appear everywhere. Corporate office buildings and many public places will have candy bowls in the open inviting us to help ourselves to that nice piece of snickers or almond joy. No matter where you go that bowl of candy is staring at you inviting you to take a piece. And yes, most of us would succumb to this unfair temptation and will reach for few or perhaps more than few helpings of the sweet concoctions. My workplace has a cake decorating contest where many creative employees will bake a halloween themed cake and bring in to the office to share with the co-workers. There is also always a kind soul that brings in the baked cookies and some other baked concoction to share with the coworkers. People simply don't feel guilty during the holidays...the rational is that I will work this off with exercise in spring. Or whatever, abuse I do to my body, I can always fix it with exercise later.

   Of course, most of us don't follow up with our exercise goals and regimens and the weight acquired during the holidays simply stays with us. The other option to fight off the holiday weight is to avoid those bad foods that make us fat in the first place. And that is where the struggle is. Paleo lifestyle naturally requires us to stay away from the foods that make us fat. I have read many blogs, heard advice, and seen techniques for staying on a diet....folks there is really no short cuts in life. One must take the first step towards taking care of the self and it all begins with the self. I wish I could give you a simple advice or an anecdote that could make you stay on Paleo for the future...unfortunately, no such thing exists. The only way that I know of to fight the winter weight gain is to go Paleo. Avoid these 5 food groups and you shouldn't have to worry about putting extra baggage this winter:

  1. Grains
  2. Legumes
  3. Sugars
  4. Rice
  5. Dairy

Sunday, September 29, 2013

Paleo Journey 2 Years Later

   August marks the end of two years of my Paleo journey. Of course, it is not stopping here. I am proudly headed into my third year. As every year, I do go to the doctor and have my blood work done. The cholesterol, blood sugar, and blood pressure all look really good. Below is my lipid panel and few high lights of the year:

  • My weight maintained around 152-156 pounds all year round. Blood pressure on 9/4/2013 was 108/68.
  • I did very little exercise throughout the year. I did go to Mt. Whitney and completed a 14 miles hike and an overnight stay in the mountain. Throughout the year, concentrated on playing with my children in the back yard and maintained an active life style.
  • I probably consumed close to 1200 eggs this past year. Consumed red meat 4 out of 7 nights per week. Consumed fish at least once per week. Chicken and lamb were also part of my regular diet.
  • Consumed liver, brains, and cow feet soup once or twice per month. 
  • I have been purchasing bison and grass fed ground beef from Costco. A bit expensive, but certainly worth it. The ground beef and onions are cooked in advance and stored. Every morning, I add few spoonful to eggs to make a hearty breakfast.
  • Consumed plenty of fresh vegetables and ate fruits sparingly throughout the year.
  • I did eat plenty of nuts...I am not proud of it. But in several travel situations, almonds, cashews, and Macadamias made great snacking companions.
  • Most often skipped lunch. I made a habit of skipping lunch at least two times during the week. On the weekend 95% of the time skipped lunch. On the weekends caught up with my sleep, woke up late and had a late breakfast and then dinner. 
  • My energy levels have stayed up. No allergies, no joint pains, no stomach issues...not even a single cold or flu the entire year.
  • This year made an extra effort to consume fish oil and consume fresh fish. Carlson fish oil liquid form is great. A 16 oz. bottle lasted me about 6 months. I also consumed fish oil capsules. Treated myself to wild planet tuna in a can. The can of pole caught tuna delivers a potent amount of  essential Omega 3 acids. As you can see from the above lipid panel that my HDL has increased two points. 
  • Tried to be in the sun at least 20 minutes per day. During the winter months consumed vitamin D supplements. 
  • Used coconut oil as the primary oil for using on my hands and face as moisturizer. Used coconut oil as deodorant. Coconut and olive oils were also used for cooking and sprinkling over the salads.
  • Consumed coconut water frequently throughout the year. Coconut water makes a great refreshing drink in the summertime.
   The regular stress of life and work was still there for most of the year. As usual, ran across many skeptics throughout the year. A friend (47 years old) had an open heart surgery. Told him about making few changes in his diet by eliminating breads and simple sugars. Unfortunately, his doctor told him to eat healthy grains and watch his cholesterol..needless to say..lost that battle. Another friend has eliminated breads from his diet and within few days lost 10 lbs. and his blood pressure improved. The few friends that have stayed on Paleo continue to enjoy healthy lives by not worrying about allergies, statins, or high blood pressure medicine and few friends that have given up Paleo are fighting weight gains. Few that read my blog, I hope I provide enough inspiration for you to start your individual Paleo journey. Don't think that modern medicine will save you. Yes, my friend did make it out of the hospital with an open heart surgery, but he is a complete mess and will be a mess for a while. The cost of his medications per month is close to $5K. This is exactly what you want to avoid in the first place. I have said it before and I will say it again, an ounce of care is always much better than a pound of cure. Paleo lifestyle is that ounce of cure. 

Saturday, August 31, 2013

"Let Food be Thy Medicine.."

   "Let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food"--Hippocrates, the father of modern medicine, uttered these words some two thousand years ago and these words still hold true today. I recently met with a gentleman who was installing a high speed fiber line in my workplace. This gentleman was fit and appeared in excellent health, good humored as well. As he pulled a thousand feet of cable he proudly told me that he does not need to join a gym to stay fit. All he needs to do is eat well and work this job and his physical fitness is taken care of. After a long hard day, he simply goes home and enjoys the evenings with his family and does what he needs to do. He does not need to go spend multiple hours in the gym before heading home. Being a Paleo person that I am.. I commended him and admired how people are able to find peace once you simplify your life. Today the urban dwellers living on bagels and whole wheat products while actively watching their fat intake find themselves in a world of dilemma. The weight gain simply happens and they have no choice but to hit the gym or wake up early in the morning to get an hour of jog, before embarking on a 12 hours work day. Life was not designed for this continuous struggle. There has to be a way out of this rat race.

   The answer to our stress and bad health is of course taking the pills. The vitamins and supplement consumption has been steadily rising in the past 50 years. Today it is estimated that about half to two thirds of the Americans take some form of vitamin or supplement. The media perpetuates this belief by reinforcing that one can not achieve optimal health if these supplements are not consumed regularly. Sit down with your family for a night of TV and you will see commercial after commercial selling viagra, women's health supplements, men's health supplements, and kids vitamins. These advertisements are in your face all the time. The public is simply brain washed with these clever media bombardments. The advertisers strategically target their audience by placing their messages according to the age group. Here is what I mean:
  • For kids-- channels like Nickelodeon, Disney, and Cartoon Network will have 10-15 minutes of commercials per half hour of an actual episode. These commercials are usually for sugary drinks, fruit roll up snacks, many brands of cereals, and Barney the dinosaur vitamins for the kids.
  • For women-- programs like Oprah and Dr. Oz, will have commercials like one a day supplements for women, healthy yogurts that keep you regular, and many other women products that proclaim loudly that you are not living your full potential if these products are not consumed. The models and actors look so happy as they cheerfully explain how wonderful life is with these products. The truth of the matter is that these models and actors probably will never use these products in their lives off the camera.
  • For men-- it all about erectile disorder and fast cars. A three to four hours broadcast of golf, baseball, or a football game will have as many as 20-30 commercials geared towards erectile disorder and probably another 30 commercials for various luxury cars. Of course, beer and alcohol commercials are sprinkled in the middle.
   Typing in the phrase "let food be thy medicine" in a Google search, it was refreshing to see that over 700,000 search results were assembled in less than eight seconds. The Hippocratic words are still alive and well today, and practiced by many people. There are numerous websites dedicated to this principal and yes, there are some sane people left in the world. One major component of Paleo living and lifestyle is all about the Hippocratic principal. Remember, about fifty years ago people did not eat vitamins and supplements, yet human race continued. I am not going to deny that modern medicine has not helped saved millions of lives that normally would have been lost in the older days. The vaccine and antibiotics have helped greatly, but we as a society have forgotten real food. The real food is eating fresh vegetables, fruits, meats, and fats. The energy, vitamins, and minerals that a healthy body needs to survive and thrive are all contained in the foods. There is no need to take these expensive supplements and waste the money; JUST EAT THE FOODS!

   Today (August 31st) marks my second anniversary on the Paleo living. In the past two years, I have totally eliminated grains, legumes, sugars, and most of the dairy products from my diet. I have consumed fresh seasonal fruits, vegetables, meats, and eggs. I can not even begin to describe the benefits that I have experienced in my life in the past two years. Here is a quick summary of my food selection process in one bullet point:
  • If I can not read or pronounce the ingredient on a food package, I simply do not eat it. This rule will eliminate about 90% of food items in a grocery store. I know what a fresh vegetable looks like, and I know what a piece of fresh meat looks like.
     I have stuck with the above rule for the past two years, and my health has never been better. I have not gotten sick, not even a simple cold in the past two years. The amazing thing is that my children will come home from school with runny noses and colds; yet, I remained immune to these maladies. Here are few benefits that I have experienced directly attributed to my Paleo living:
  • Recovery period after a hike or other extreme activity is quick.
  • My joint pains are gone. These joint pains were part of my life every winter or whenever the weather turned cold.
  • The stomach issues I had due to gluten are gone.
  • No allergies.
  • The biggest one for me is the mental clarity. This one is going to be a blog post by itself in the coming month. I have never been able to see things more clearly in my life. This is attributed to eating foods that are nourishing to the body do not dull your senses. I will explain this in more detail in my upcoming blogpost.
   There are many more benefits that I will not bore you with. I will have my blood works done in the next few days and will post the results in my September blogpost. The moral of the story is that food makes us, what we eat on the daily basis defines who we are. There is no reason for us to waste our money on expensive vitamins and no need to spend our money and valuable time hitting the gym. Just let life happen; eat foods that you can see and touch and see as a whole. Watch less TV, or if you must watch get Netflix; life is too short for useless commercials. Food is a powerful medicine and we have it available in abundance. Next time you are hungry, skip KFC or fast food and go for something that you can recognize.


Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Fruits on Paleo

   Are fruits healthy for you? This is another subject where information is all over the map in the Paleo community. The staunch Paleo community maintains that if a food was not part of the human development during the Paleolithic era then it is a food that we should not consume. Since most fruits, the forms that we see them today, did not exist in the Paleolithic era, then they are not part of the Paleo diet. The fruits like dates, grapes, figs, and olives were domesticated around 6000 years ago. The wild fruits that existed in the Paleolithic era were probably much smaller and tasted bitter. The mainstream nutritional advice is of course to consume several helpings of fruits and vegetables per day. I have a friend who tried Paleo for a while, he saw immediate results within couple of months, when his doctor advised him to stop taking statins, but after a while he was simply stuck and did not lose additional weight. It turned out that he was consuming about a pound of grapes per day. He apparently loved grapes and would have large bunch to munch on all day. I have other friends who feel guilty if they did not consume couple of pieces of fruits per day. The general public opinion heavily influenced by mainstream nutritional advice is that fruits are healthy and a good source of vitamins and dietary fiber. They keep us regular and keep things flowing. I have been on Paleo for almost two years. In the past two years, I have consumed very few fruits, I eat seasonal fruits and eat them very sparingly. The lack of fruits have not caused my digestive system to lock up but on the contrary my digestive health has greatly improved with meats, vegetables, fats, and total lack of grains. In this blogpost I will offer my 2 cents about fruits and try to offer middle of the path advice about fruits.

   The fruits like dates, figs, olives, and grapes were probably domesticated around 6000 years ago in the fertile crescent region. The pits of these fruits are found in the archeological findings dating back to 6000 years. The fruits that our hunter gatherer forefathers consumed were wild berries and most often fruits like apples were much smaller in size and tasted bitter. The apple that we see today is probably gone through thousands of natural selections and genetic iterations as humans began to settle down and began domesticating fruits, vegetables, and grains. For the past hundred years as agricultural technology vastly improved, the fruits have gotten much bigger in size and much much sweeter. The agricultural scientists are able to segregate genes and discard the bad genes in producing perfect fruit crops. The important take away is that fruits that we see today in their existing form did not exist in the Paleolithic era. The modern fruits are genetically engineered to produce perfect pest resistant crops to maximize profits and increase shelf life in the supermarkets. The modern fruits are much sweeter and much larger in size than the fruits of maybe hundred years ago. You can see the difference by heading to your local organic farmers market. In most cases organic fruits and vegetables look almost sicker and malnourished compared to the vegetables sold at your local grocery stores, but organic produce does taste and smell better than the regular grocery store produce. See picture below.

 The main problem with fruits is their sugar content. Yes fruits deliver a healthy dose of dietary fiber and vitamins, but they also deliver a potent dose of sugar. The modern society already in the midst of insulin roller coaster does not benefit from the high sugar content of most grocery store fruits. As you can see from the table below that consuming an apple is equivalent to consuming about 6 cubes of sugar. Now imagine consuming 2-3 helpings of fruits and the associated sugar consumption. The old adage "an apple a day keeps a doctor away" may not be true anymore. It is more like an apple a day will give you diabetes. The content of sugar, vitamins, antioxidants, and dietary fiber may exist in all fruits, but like any other food, the content exist on a spectrum. For example, a strawberry maybe healthier than a banana as it contains a whole lot less sugar and more antioxidants. A blueberry may also be more healthier than grapes because of its low sugar content and high antioxidants. The table below list most common fruits and their respective sugar contents. 

Tot Sugar    Sugar Cubes
Lime100 g1 medium0.4 g0.1
Avocados100 g1 medium0.9 g0.15
Lemon100 g1 serving2.5 g0.5
Tomatos100 g1 medium 2.8 g0.5
Strawberries147 g1 cup full7.0 g1.5
Figs100 g1 serving7.0 g1.5
Blueberries100 g1 cup full7.3 g1.5
Plum100 g1 serving7.5 g1.5
Pineapple112 g1 serving9.0 g2.5
Pears100 g1 small pear9.0 g3
Apricots100 g1 serving10 g2.8
Cantaloupe160 g1 cup cubed13 g3
Peach (Large)184 g1 Large Peach15 g3.5
Mango100 g1/2 Mango15 g5
Banana (Large)140 g1 Large Banana17 g4.5
Watermelon280 g1 Large slice18 g5.5
Red Seedless Grapes126 g1 serving20 g5
Naval Orange270 g1 Large orange23 g6
Apple223 g1 Large Apple23 g6

   As you can see from the above table that fruits like lemon, lime, avocados, strawberries, and tomato are very low in sugar content and should not be avoided. The low sugar content fruits are also good source of vitamin C and and contain good antioxidant qualities. However, most fruits are very high in sugar. Also the sugar content of a fruit goes up several folds the riper it gets, as sunlight and aging (rotting) will convert complex carbohydrates (starches) to simple sugar. The quantities given above are based on one sensible serving, but most often fruits are over eaten because of their sweetness and feel good factor. My friend who was not losing weight was munching on almost a pound of grapes throughout the day. No wonder he had trouble losing weight. As blood sugar rises, insulin gets released, the function of insulin is to store away fat and deal with metabolizing the sugar in the body. Once the sugar burns away body feels hungry and we end up eating more sugary foods and the insulin cycle continues. Fruits with their high sugar content contribute to this insulin cycle. The way to achieve good optimal health is to control this sugar/insulin roller coaster. The foods eaten on Paleo diet do not cause the blood sugar to rise and fall, they keep the blood sugar steady and burn over a longer period of time than sugars. The hunter gathers walked around several miles per day foraging for food. They ate meats, fats, and vegetables. Their blood sugar remained constant and provided energy over a longer part of the day. Most often meats and fats were not available on the daily basis, in that period the hunter gathers resorted to foraging for wild berries, nuts, seeds, and wild fruits. They probably did not have the luxury to walk up and grab a giant peach that we see in our super markets. As mentioned above the wild fruits are most often much smaller in size.

   Coming back to our original question; are fruits healthy for you? The answer is to adopt the middle path. If you are overweight and are trying to lose weight then avoid sweet fruits like bananas or mangos. Eating high sugary fruits will keep your insulin levels high and hinder the burning of fats. If you are lean and are at your ideal weight and also lead an active life style, then enjoy a piece of fruit. You are probably able to burn it off, but remember, that sugar is sugar. It does not matter where it comes from. Sugar simply does not burn cleanly in the body as fats and proteins are metabolized. Fruits are seasonal, so if you are going to enjoy fruits then have them when they are in season. I try not to eat a fruit that is ripe. I enjoy a white peach that has plenty of crunch. I also eat a banana once in a while (during travels) that is not ripe. The less ripe a fruit, lower the sugar content. Ripening of a fruit converts the starches to sugars and the fruit becomes sweeter. I probably consume fruits twice per week and in very moderate quantities. I receive my vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber from meats, fats, and vegetables. I love blueberries and most often during lunch a small box of blueberries is enough for me. The final take away is that fruits consumption should be limited. Most of the fruits that we see today were domesticated only few thousand years ago, and only within the last hundred years they have been genetically engineered to produce perfect crops. When you walk in to a supermarket and notice that all the peaches are of the same size and color, an alarm should go up in your head. Nature is very random, wild fruits and vegetables are never uniform and homogenous. I have an apple tree in my back yard, it gives plenty of fruit in the summer. The apples always vary in size and color. Some are deformed and some are perfectly round. The fruit that is not strong to withstand weather simply falls off and only the strong good fruit survives. The Darwinian natural selection works in front of us. My advice don't make fruits your ultimate health saviors; meats, fats, and vegetables are much better for you and will provide all the nourishment (energy, vitamins, minerals, and dietary fiber) that a healthy body requires.    

Sunday, June 30, 2013

Rice or Not to Rice..

Rice or not to Rice that is the question? No this is not going to be an eloquent Shakespearian soliloquy, but a haphazard ramblings of a Paleo individual. Rice has been on the no fly zone for most of my paleo journey, but recently I have introduced rice back in my diet and it does not seem to bother me. I eat rice sparingly, sprinkling couple of table spoons in my soups or on curry types of dishes. For most parts I stay away from rice, and tell people to stay away from it as well. For most people giving up rice is hard, my wife has given up grains for most parts, but she simply does not want to part with her steamed rice. This is the case for many folks around the world. Rice is a staple food for nearly half of the world population today, and about 90% of rice is consumed in the Asian countries. A cup of uncooked rice can be steamed and can easily provide ample amount of starch for at least three people. I got this measurement from my wife, who is always consulting with her sister about how many cups she should cook when guest are coming to the house. Usually a cup of uncooked rice can feed three people comfortably. You can add potatoes, sweet peas, or ground beef to give it more bulk. All you have to do is now cook about a pound of meat with some type of vegetable, and presto you have enough food to feed a large family. The starch and the sparing amount of meat fills up the belly but how much nutrition are you getting out of this meal? In Paleo the object is not to fill our bellies with food, but consume foods that are unprocessed, natural, provides ample nourishment, and are packed with calories. Does rice live up to any of the nutritional qualities that a typical Paleo food might have? And that is the real question which requires further attention.

Paleo world is also divided on the subject of rice, many Paleo authors and enthusiasts claim that rice contains benign starches, so it is perfectly ok to consume as a carb. But the truth is that rice like many grains, legumes, nuts and seeds contains phytic acid (phytates). These phytates bind to minerals in rice and make it impossible for humans to consume and absorb. Worse yet, the phytates may even rob your body of some minerals as they make their way down. Human body does not contain the proper enzymes (phytase) to break down the phytic acid and unlock the minerals and vitamins contained in the rice. On the other hand rodents contain phytase in their small intestine and are able to take advantage of the minerals and vitamins bound by phytic acid in rice. The history of rice is about 4000 years old as it was first cultivated in China. So from a Paleo perspective rice played no part when human beings were being developed and our brains were enlarging due to eating animal fat and bone marrow. When modern human DNA and our gene set was being defined rice was not in the picture and hence, the body developed no enzymes to break the phytic acids in rice, legumes, and grains. It is ironic that no doctor nor nutritionist ever mentions phytic acid in reference to rice, but continue to tell their patients that consuming brown rice is healthy for the body.

Does rice deliver the nutritional punch and lives up to its hype, or do the numbers tell a different story? The following table does a side by side comparison of white rice, brown rice, and few ounces of meat to show that in fact rice does not live up to its hype. See for yourself.

Brown RiceWhite RiceMeat (Beef)
Measure1 Cup1 Cup4 Oz.
Weight195 grams158 grams113 grams
Protein5 grams4 grams30 grams
Carbohydrates45 grams45 grams0
Dietary Fiber4 grams< 1 gram0
Fat2 grams< 1gram29 grams
Saturated Fat0.4 grams0.113 grams
Monunaturated Fat0.6 grams0.114.8 grams
Polyunsaturated Fat0.6 grams0.11.2 grams
Cholesterol00112 mg
Calcium19 mg16 mg11 mg
Iron0.82 mg1.9 mg3.45 mg
Magnesium84 mg19 mg21 mg
Potassim84 mg55 mg275 mg
Sodium10 mg2 mg67 mg
Zinc1.23 mg0.77 mg7.57 mg
Vitamin A000
Thiamine0.19 mg0.26 mg0.08 mg
Vitamin E0.53 mg0.08 mg0,26 mg
Riboflavin0.05 mg0.02 mg0.27 mg
Niacin2.98 mg2.34 mg3.54 mg
Vitamin B60.28 mg0.15 mg0.32 mg
Folates8 mg92 mg10 mg
Vitamin C000

As you can see from the above table that other than delivering a large amount of carbohydrates, the rice is deficient in calories, proteins, fats, and many other nutrients when compared to a small piece of red meat. A cup of rice may also contain anywhere from 850-1000 milligrams of phytic acid, which is way more than a body can handle on the daily basis. The human body is able to manufacture about 35-100 milligrams of phytase daily, the enzyme needed to breakdown phytic acid. The extra undigested phytic acid ends up becoming a toxin to our body and robs the body from minerals and nutrients. Red meat on the other hand has a zero phytic acid foot print. The grass fed ruminants also deliver a healthy dose of omega 3 and omega 6 fats. A proper balance of these two essential fats is absolutely necessary for the human body.

The moral of the rice story is that other than filling up the belly with empty calories, rice does not do much for us. The nutrients and vitamins are bound by phytic acid, hence, they can not be used by the human body. Or lets say a very small amount of nutrients are un-trapped from phytic acid and used by the body. A large percentage of nutrients and vitamins contained in the rice end up passing through our digestive system untouched. The carbohydrates in the form of starch are able to give us energy for a short period of time as carbs burn quicker than proteins and fats in the body. The end result is that few hours later you feel hungry and the carb cycle continues. Whereas, a 4 ounces of fatty piece of meat supplemented with few vegetables will provide many more nutrients, vitamins and energy that body can use for several hours. The vitamins and nutrients in meats are available for the body to use and the meat proteins and fats are slowly broken down in various parts of the digestive system. The human body contains all the necessary enzymes to process fats and proteins. Next time when you face a bowl of rice, think about the empty calories it represents and about the phytic acid that binds all vitamins and nutrients. As you politely push the bowl away go for the steak and a healthy helping of vegetables. The steaks and vegetables will not give you the sugar rush, trust me they are much better for you on the long run.

Monday, May 27, 2013

Blog One Year Later

   As I approach my second Paleo anniversary in August, there is another anniversary to report and celebrate this month; FewPaleoThoughts (my humble little blog) is one year old this month. A year ago, I started this blog mainly for my friends and family to teach them the basics of Paleo and give them inspiration by chronicling my Paleo journey. I am a bit disappointed that many of my friends are not doing the Paleo and many have simply stopped or gone back to eating breads and grains. However, there are few friends who are sticking with the diet and are seeing its benefits. A friend has seen his allergies completely disappear. Usually, he would walk around with a mask in the spring season to avoid the pollens, he is reporting that his allergies have completely disappeared. He has also shed 28 pounds, and is reporting that he has not taken his diabetes (Glucophage) and cholesterol medicine (statins) in months. I have another friend who tried Paleo on and off for the past two years, and he is reporting that his allergies did not come back this year. Even though he has not been Paleo but his allergies still diminished. He normally walked around with a antihistamine inhaler in the allergy season. I realize these anecdotes are not real science and will never stand the scrutiny of real science, but there is some merit to these anecdotes. These anecdotes should make us think and by seeing the results in front of us should trigger some investigative curiosity in us.

   A year ago, I visited my family in Boston and was met with immediate disapproval of my Paleo lifestyle, but how the tide has turned. Couple of weeks ago, I saw my father who is being told by his doctor that he needs to take a daily insulin injection. The diabetes medicine that he has been taken for years is not effective any more. Over the last several years, the doctors have been increasing the dosage of diabetes medicine to lower his blood sugar, so he can enjoy his wheat toast. Of course, with any medicine or recreational drug, the slow increase in dosage simply leads to that medicine/drug becoming ineffective on smaller dosage. That is why a drug addict always needs a bigger hit as his addiction progresses. The users of allopathic medicine experience the same fate. I once again told my father about the Paleo and told him to reduce or eliminate simple carbs, sugars, legumes, and grains from his diet. The fear of taking an injection daily made him listen and he is willing to try. It is amazing that doctors tell their patients to eat whole wheat toast and egg whites yet, diabetes and high cholesterol cases continue to climb.

   It is very common to see young children diagnosed with diabetes these days. When on road trips, we end up stopping at mini marts attached with gas stations. The mini marts are exploding with junk foods and sugary drinks. Of course, everything in the store is super sized. You can buy a 12 ounce can of Coke, but the better deals are always for the bigger sizes. My kids end up getting some kind of sport drink or Arizona tea. These bottles are huge and easily contain about three servings. My fourteen years old nephew can easily down a large Arizona tea or huge bottle of Power Ade in one sitting. Luckily he is very active and plays sports, but you can easily imagine that a child who eats a bag of chips and few cans of solda and watches television will end up having diabetes in very young age.

   There are few good things you can find at Mini Marts, but like everything else in life the choice has to be made by the consumer. I enjoy a coffee, carbonated water, or coconut water products. These days the coconut water drinks have become very popular. These drinks are very refreshing and actually healthy for you. I am also pleasantly surprised to see many grocery stores dedicating an aisle to healthy gluten free foods. One of the Raley's in my neighborhood is converting a large section of the store to healthy food options. This kind of change indicates that public demand is there and the retailers have no choice but to listen to the consumers to retain their business. For example, when I buy nuts or grass fed beef, I have to head to Trader Joe's. This is a special trip away from the super market. If Raley's want to retain all of my business and stop me making a trip to Trader Joe's, then they must carry few of the items in their store. As a matter of fact, I am able to buy grass fed ground beef, hormone free chicken meat, and sometimes even bison meat at my regular grocery store. Once again, it is the consumer being the driving factor behind retailer behavior modification.

   I am going to end this blog post with a great $8 lunch idea that is very healthy, nutritious, and of course Paleo. All you have to do is head to your local grocery store. I usually go to Safeway for this lunch once a week. The lunch has three ingredients:

A ripe avocado ($0.5 in season) ($1-1.50 off season)

Kita smoked Salmon ($4.99)

Coconut water ($1.99) (Sometimes on sale for $1.50)


   The three lunch items are less than $8 and very satisfying. Who says Paleo is boring. There are endless possibilities of creating good food combinations. So next time you head to a mini mart and are stumped by the coolers staring at you with sugary drinks, just remember, in some obscure corner in that very store, there is a coconut water waiting for you. The good things require a little bit more hard work.

Sunday, April 21, 2013


   In the space time continuum,  the time is one dimension that does not stop and continues to march forward, and with every passing second a brief history is chronicled. A human being like any other object in the cosmos is like a little tape recorder, recording its individual history. The word chronicle used as a noun is a factual account of important or unimportant events in the order of their occurrence. The word chonos (Greek for time) is most likely the root word used to create the word chronicle.  Everyone experiences the dimension of time individually and our bodies like little tape recorders chronicle our individual histories. The dimension of time is certainly experienced individually, that is why time is relative. The same slice of time could very well be the happiest moment for one person and a total disaster for another individual. The history that we chronicle is actually recorded as the diseases that we experience as we get older. I am talking about chronic diseases. The word chronic has a strong link with chronos and chronicle. Chronic as an adjective describes the persisting illness for a long period of time or constantly recurring. The chronic with the element of chronos (time) is the end result of the saga of a individual recorded chronicle.

   The tape recorders that we carry with us are in the form of our health. A new born child's body is an absolute miracle. Here, I am only discussing a normal healthy environment. There are babies being born today to crack heads and these infants are drug addicts from their birth. I am not discussing these extreme cases. A normal child born to average parents has no worries about cholesterol or diabetes. Cholesterol, diabetes, arthritis, weight gain are all chronic and take a long time until the body can not hide any more, and these  chronic conditions surface their ugly heads. However, the human chronicle starts from birth in small incremental changes we make to our bodies. The chronicle ends with our death, and then no one cares to remember us and we are quickly forgotten, unless we have performed some service for humanity. These small incremental changes that we make to ourselves are in the form of our diet, our upbringing, and our continued efforts to mentally improve ourselves. Whereas, learning and taking care of our minds stops for most people after a finite time, but the food intake continues until our death. For obvious reasons, since food provides nourishment for the body, it can not ignored. It is very common for many people to not read a single book for the rest of their lives after their schooling years, but try living without few meals is next to impossible.

   An average child starts his life at about 5-10 pounds, and continues to grow until late in his teens. All of my children were around 6 pounds at birth. The growth stops for most in the late teen years and what ever body they have at that point becomes the blueprint for the rest of their lives. The child hood years are the best care free years for most of us. Many good memories and happy times are chronicled in our internal tape recorders, and we are able to always reflect and seek comfort from these happy memories for the rest of our lives. The teen years are also care free, but the social pressures are there. these social pressures and acne determine our course for the next few years. There is no care about what goes in our bodies. In my teen years, I used to be able to drink 12 oz. Mountain Dew and eat a large bag of cheese puffs in a single sitting. A concoction made from cookies, cakes, candies, chocolate, and anything sweet was my friend and was never rejected. There was never a worry about counting calories or gaining weight. As a matter of fact, one night, I downed a large cheese pizza after having dinner. No matter, what I ate, I remained slim. However, acne and bad stomach issues were there, but I never made nor cared to make the connection to my diet. My body was able to handle anything I threw at it. I was invincible and could not be brought down by something as trivial as diet. Although, I thought that my behavior was going undetected, but the internal chronicler was recording these changes and the chronic diseases were taking note of my behaviors. Whatever, you eat today or do to your body, you will see its effects about a decade later.

   The late twenties or early thirties is the time when most people are getting married. They have settled in their careers and have been fully acclimated into society. Many people are conscious about their health, and many end up joining gyms to stay fit. Let's face it, our prospects of getting a mate get smaller with an increased waist line. Finding a mate and settling down is on our minds, so we tend to take care of ourselves and hit the gym regularly. I got married at the age of 26, prior to my marriage, I played sports, jogged, and overall remained very active. Luckily, after my marriage, I remained active, but my weight slowly crept up, and within 15 years of my marriage, I had accumulated 30 pounds. I was 120 pounds in high school at age 18, and was around 150 pounds (ideal weight) at the time of my marriage at age 26. In the next 15 years, due to my wife's good cooking, I manage to put on additional 30 pounds. Almost two years ago, prior to my paleo era, I was at 180 pounds, cholesterol, and blood glucose numbers were fast climbing. The weight gain in the years following marriage is a common phenomena for many people around the world. The pressure of finding a mate is no longer there, the children usually come in the picture and they take priority over exercise. Many people also are getting established in their jobs and trying to make a professional mark in their careers. Working long hours and making impossible deadlines is the norm. The most important factor for the weight gain is the home cooked meals. My wife always made sure that I was well fed, and there was dessert available after dinner per my request. I also started to eat fast foods, visiting Burger King few times per week, and gulping down few ounces of Diet Coke per day was normal for me. My blood glucose was creeping up, my cholesterol was high, and the physical effects were there. I was feeling chest pains and going upstairs often left me breathless. The internal tape recorder was not missing a single event in my life and kept chronicling my life events.

   The forties and fifties is where chronic diseases begin to raise their ugly heads. The body is an amazing machine designed to run and invent ways to fill the nutritional gaps that we create. The purpose of every single living organism is survival. The cells in our bodies adopt and are able to cope with the dietary abuse for a very long time before giving up. The cells continue to support the body and the life prolongs, however, the internal chronicler continues to chronicle our activities and presents the results in some form of chronic disease every decade. Diabetes is one of the chronic diseases that presents itself to most folks in the forties and fifties. This has been the pattern for many centuries. Average folks living average lives end up with some form of diabetes in their forties. The weight gain is normal and other chronic diseases like arthritis, cardiovascular disease, and gastrointestinal issues are all associated with middle age and are called middle age diseases. As said, this has been an accepted pattern for centuries. The doctors tell their middle age patients to get more active, quit smoking, reduce fat intake, and eat more heart healthy whole grains. But these days, chronic diseases like diabetes and cardiovascular disease are not exclusive for the middle aged folks. Many young folks in their teens, twenties, and thirties are developing diabetes. Young people getting diabetes was unheard of fifty or sixty years ago. You got diabetes when you were forty, but not twenty. Today the children are eating more processed foods and drinking high sugary fruit juices. I personally know many young men and women in their twenties with full blown type II diabetes. They have to either take a shot of insulin or eat a cocktail of pills to keep their blood sugar in check after each meal.

   For average folks, sixties, seventies, and eighties are the years of pain and health problems. The chronic diseases that became apparent in the forties and fifties are now controlling the life of the individual. The modern medicine is able to prolong the life of the individual at the expense of quality. These golden years, that should be spent enjoying their lives is often spent in sleepless nights and constant trips to the hospital. For seniors, broken hips, constipation, arthritis, diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol is a normal way of life. I have a middle aged friend who proudly reported  that his cholesterol is as low as of a newborn baby. I was happy to hear that, until, he told me that his cardiologist has fine tuned his cholesterol medicine (statins) to a point where his cholesterol was well within healthy range. Hippocrates, the father of medicine said "let food be thy medicine". There is so much wisdom and truth to his saying. Our health and quality should be defined by what we eat and not by the healthcare that we are able to afford or have access to.

   If you are living in or beyond nineties then you are not fully functioning at that point and the quality of the life has greatly diminished. Once again, I am talking about average folks. There are always exceptions. Average folks, growing up in average homes, marrying, having children, and holding jobs end up following the pattern that I have described above. Their internal tape recorders does not forget to record their action and the chronicler continues to record until they expire in their seventies or eighties. I personally want to die healthy and of old age. I want to spend the last few years of my life not visiting the doctors and fighting pains, but spending time with my loved ones and pursuing things that I love. There are literally hundreds of books that I want to read, I want to climb Mt. Whitney as long as I can, I want o visit Mt. Everest base camp, visit Alaska, play a round of golf at St. Andrews, and listen to Aida in La Scala. And when my chronos is up and my chronicler hard drive is out of memory, I want to just go away in my sleep. I truly believe there is something out there, and I want to find out.

Monday, March 25, 2013

Paradise Lost

   We humans have done a pretty lousy job ever since that little mishap in the Garden of Eden. I am referring to that little incident that took place with the serpent. The serpent cajoled us to eat the forbidden fruit, and of course we simply could not say no, even though God had explicitly forbidden us not to eat that fruit. The famous Biblical story may have a deep connection with our paleo past. Just imagine a life roaming the earth, getting plenty of sun, hunting wild game, and gathering fruits and berries all day. If the hunt is successful, then there is meat for the clan, otherwise the clan must live off the wild fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. There are no permanent settlements, the camp simply picks up and roams like gypsies in search of food. They carry on their backs the bare minimum tools and clothing to survive. They sleep under the stars and follow the natural cycles of light and darkness. They get plenty of sleep. Usually a feast is followed by an extended period of rest and sleeping. There is no concept of owning anything other than the surviving tools necessary for hunting and finding the next kill. There is no urgency to punch the clock for a 9-5 job or taking the kids to never ending soccer practices. Life simply meanders and moves at slow pace. This sure sounds like the Biblical Eden? The Genesis story describes Adam and Eve living care free life. There is no shortage of food. They eat from all that good Lord had provided for them and there was nothing bad. They slept and roamed about the garden. There were no traffic jams and there was no stress. Heck, they were not even aware of their nakedness. It was simply a blissful state.

   But, of course humanity could not be happy with absolute bliss and chose to eat from the tree of knowledge. As soon as humanity made that mistake the paradise was lost and hard life became our reward. This myth presented in the book of Genesis may have its roots from one of the myths of the oldest race on earth, African Pygmies. Dr. Jean-Pierre Hallet, African born Belgian anthropologist, spent several years studying the Pygmies. The story of Eden and the disobedience of God is remarkably similar to the Pygmy legend of paradise and the forbidden fruit. Dr. Hallet, in his famous book Pygmy Kitabu, goes in length defending the Pygmy legend to be orignal and not borrowed from the Judeo-Christian traditions. Pygmies being the oldest race on earth lends credibility to Dr. Hallet's argument that the paradise legend may have been originated by the Pygmies and eventually borrowed by the writers of the Old Testament.

   Life essentially began in Central Africa and spread throughout the world first heading north and then east-west. Humans are essentially nomads, we like to move about and explore places. This nomadic nature caused us to spread throughout the earth. In the beginning we were all hunter-gatherers, there were no vegetarians. We moved about the earth in small bands hunting and gathering our food. The hunter-gatherer societies consisted of small bands, each band perhaps few hundred people large. They moved about in search of food. A big portion of their diet came from the animal meat and the fat that they hunted. When animal meat was not available, nuts, seeds, wild fruits, and vegetables sustained their existence. The hunter gatherers were healthy people. They received plenty of sun, walked on the average ten miles per day and received plenty of sleep. The bones and teeth found from various hunter gatherer sites around the world show dense large bones, and teeth with no decay and cavities. The babies were born about 3-4 years apart. The mother would have to take care for the young one until the child was able to walk on his own. This kept the human population in check. The band would have to stick together and not fight among themselves. The unnecessary bloodshed would simply reduce the size of the band jeopardizing its survival. If another band came in contact with another band, a skirmish was imminent, usually the skirmish resulted in two bands going away from each other. Our paleo hunter gatherers were also environmentally conscious. They took care of the land by not staying in one place for an extended period of time, moving about and leaving the land behind to recover. The hunter gatherers consumed and made use of all of the animal; no animal part was wasted. As humans began to spread across the world, these hunter gatherer bands existed all over the world. This was the era when humanity found its peace and lived as we were supposed to live. Perhaps this was the Eden that Bible talked about. Perhaps this was the paradise forest that ancient Pygmy legends alludes to.

   According to the Pygmy legend the children of Efe lived in peace in the paradise, until a pregnant women told her husband that she wanted the fruit of the tahu tree. The husband tried to stop his wife and argued with her to no avail. The husband went deep in the forest and found the tahu tree and picked the forbidden fruit. He brought the fruit back and gave it to his wife. She tasted, he tasted and other Pygmies tasted the forbidden fruit. They all thought that God will never find out. Of course God found out and incurred his displeasure by causing death to come to the Pygmies. The paradise was lost. Another version of the story narrates that God created man and a women and placed them in the forest. The women gets pregnant and desires the tahu tree fruit. These myths from the Pygmy culture are remarkably similar to the Biblical story of the Eden and man's fall from grace.

   About ten thousand years ago, the humans began to domesticate grains; the agricultural revolution started. The hunter gatherer lifestyle that prevailed for over two and half million years began to disappear. The man became farmer. Humanity traded her good life of hunting, gathering, and roaming the earth for permanent settlements. The hard life of a farmer was her reward for giving up the paradise. The farmer had to wake up before the crack of the dawn and toil his earth until dusk for grains. The grains harvested needed to be stored and with storage came the problem of security and protection. The walls began to go up, and then small towns that morphed into big cities. The towns and the cities gave rise to chiefdoms that eventually turned into organized governments. The arrival of organized religions coincides with the arrival of agriculture. Civilization as we know today was in the making with the arrival of agriculture. For the past ten thousand years man has seen wars, pestilence, disease, and over population. The health of a farmer compared to the health of hunter gatherer has remarkably declined. The hunter gatherers were tall and had good bone structures. Whereas farmers have become smaller and have a stooped stature. The abundance of grains and permanent settlements gave rise to the human population. The birthing cycle that was 3-4 years during the hunter gatherer era was reduced to less than 2 years. A women was able to give birth every 2 years since there was no urgency to move. The cities became over populated and thrived with rats and other varmints. These varmints frequented the stored human food supplies and the human latrines that were near the cities. This gave rise to many deadly diseases and germs. The plagues and diseases are a common occurrence and are considered a part of life for the past ten thousand years. The farmer is bound to a schedule, he must plant during spring and harvest during the fall to survive the upcoming winter. The farmer must also get up early in the morning and work until late hours of the night feeding and taking care of his livestock. A city dweller must also punch a clock and report to work early in the morning and leave at night. Most often I hear people complaining that there is simply not enough time in the day to perform every task. The daily mundane tasks continue. Most people go through their entire life without smelling that proverbial rose. To make things worse, the quality of our food has declined. Two thirds of the calories consumed by humans today are provided by grains and sugars. The two foods that are extremely harmful to human health and were not available to our paleo ancestors. Today anthropologists unanimously agree that agricultural revolution was the single most important event in the human history. Most important event for the better or worse is still debatable, but agricultural revolution was the single event that changed the face of humanity. Perhaps, agricultural revolution was that forbidden fruit that God explicitly told us not to eat? As the agricultural revolution began and more and more people began to settel down, the Pygmies would have seen their hunter gatherer lifestyle begin to disappear. The good life that they knew was slowly disappearing, and was probably viewed as divine punishment of some sort. It is very likely that Pygmies created the paradise myth to explain the strange things that were happening around them. The hunter gatherer lifestyle paradise was being lost. Ten thousand years ago, whether it was the tahu fruit, the forbidden fruit, or grains, we all bartered for something a whole lot less and now must live through its consequences.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

The Sea Connection

  I am going to come out and say it upfront, if you are not consuming some kind of fish oil, stop reading this post and get out there to your local drug store and purchase a good quality fish oil supplement. A 100 capsules bottle retails for about $12. This is one of the most important supplement that is missing from our Standard American Diet (SAD). Even paleo folks most likely are not getting enough of this nutrient. Why am I so passionate about fish oil? Please read on and see why this nutrient is so important for our well being.

Have you ever sat on a beach and gazed out at the ocean? Most people find this very calming and relaxing. Oh, by the way, this calming effect does not work with children around...:-) We are awed by the vastness of the sea and our humble abode in this gigantic cosmos. The sea reminds us of our beginning and of the time when there was nothing, and we were suspended in nothingness. Humans have a deep connection with the sea. We are essentially sea creatures. What does that mean? Essentially life started in the water billions of years ago. We swam in the water for millions of years evolving into multicellular beings and then eventually few of us ventured out of the sea onto the dry land. One of my favorite cartoons from Gary Larson explains this concept in one simple picture...:-)

 Once we were on land, the evolution continued for many more millions of years, until we reached where we are today. Surely there is plenty of debate in the religious and secular circles about the concept of evolution, but there is no denying that we humans are designed to progress slowly throughout our lives. Then it is only natural to deduce that we evolved slowly into our present form going through gradual incremental progressions. Another proof is before our eyes everyday, as we see a birth of a new baby. The evolution movie is repeated inside a mother’s womb in nine months as the baby grows from a single cell (sperm) to a multicellular (baby). The billion year evolution movie is fast forwarded in nine months inside the womb. We all have gotten this crash course inside of our mother’s womb. Our long lost sea connection is what connects us to fish oil. The essential fats contained in the fish oil are the same fats that are contained in our body and make up more than 60% of the tissues and cellular membranes. Before we jump on to the benefits of fish oil, let’s examine it in more detail and clear up most of the nutritional lingo. The lingo that seem to confuse everyone. I am going to try to describe it as clearly as possible.

Lipids_____Triglycerides (Fats and Oils)
| |____Fatty acid
| |___Saturated
| |___Monounsaturated (MUFA)
| |___Polyunsaturated (PUFA)
| |
| |___Omega 3
| | |___ALA (Alpha Linolenic Acid)
| | |___EPA (Eicosapentaenoic Acid)
| | |___DHA (Dicosahexaenoic Acid) 
| |
| |___Omega 6
| |___Linoleic Acid
| |___ARA Arachidonic Acid
| |___Lecithin
Omega 3 and Omega 6 are grouped under polyunsaturated fats (PUFA). Polyunsaturated fats are also called essential fats. Which means, body is unable to synthesize these fats on its own. This is probably due to our lost connection with the sea. When we were sea creatures, the sea provided plenty of Omega 3 fats in our diet, and once we became land dwellers, the omega 3 connection was severed. We must consume these fats through diet, and the best source of omega fats is through sea food diet. What exactly are omega 3 and omega 6? Omega (ώ) is the last letter in the Greek alphabet. The two polyunsaturated fats are designated by this Greek letter. Omega 3 means, that the third carbon in the long carbon fatty acid chain from the methyl end is missing an hydrogen atom and forms a double bond, and Omega 6 means the 6th carbon atom in the long carbon fatty acid chain is missing an hydrogen atom from the methyl end forming a double bond. There maybe more omegas discovered in the future. The 5 well known omegas are as follows:
  • ALA (alpha linolenic acid) is found in plants and it is the most abundant of omega 3 fats in nature. ALA is found in salad greens, flax, and canola seeds. ALA is a short chain 18 carbon long acid with three double bonds. The first double bond occurs in the 3rd carbon from the methyl end. ALA is not preferred food for the body, the brain and tissues prefer the long chain omega 3 acids (discussed in the next two bullets). The healthy cereal brands proudly tout their cereals contains omega 3. Don't get caught in this marketing hoopla. First of all cereals are not healthy, and secondly, the omega 3 added is from ALA sourced from the plants. It requires the body much effort to convert the ALA to long chain omega 3 acids that body can actually use. Less than 5% of ALA consumed is actually converted into a long chain Omega 3 acids. Moral of the story is ALA is not the most efficient omega 3 fat preferred by the body.
  • EPA (eicosa-penta-enoic acid). Don't get intimidated with this long name. Let's break it down: eicosa: 20; penta 5; enoic, is the double bond. Putting this all together, EPA is a 20 long carbon chain with 5 double bonds. More double bonds act as hinges and make the fat molecule more flexible. The healthy cell membranes are made out of EPA. EPA is a potent anti-inflammatory agent and is a natural blood thinner. The cells love this acid. 
  • DHA (dicosa-hexa-enoic acid). dicosa, 22; hexa, 6; enoic, refers to the double bond. Putting it all together, DHA is a 22 long carbon chain with 6 double bonds. The long chain and the 6 double bonds make this acid highly flexible. The brain cells are composed from DHA, the brain ends up consuming DHA in large quantities. DHA is critical for the development of fetal brain in the mother's womb. This is our sea connection. Inside the womb the baby swims in the primordial fluid, and the billion year evolution movie is repeated. During pregnancy a mother must consume sufficient DHA quantities to provide for the growing fetal brain. A diet low in DHA can have adverse affect on the baby's cognitive health.
  • Omega 6 linoleic acid is mostly found in seeds and oils. The 6th carbon from the methyl end forms a double bond. Omega 6 linoleic acid is also needed for building cell membranes. But it must work in conjunction with omega 3 EPA and DHA.
  • Omega 6 arachidonic acid is found in animal products and dairy. Omega 6 arachidonic acid is also known as ARA. The grain fed ruminants contain high amount of omega 6 arachidonic acid. Omega 6 ARA is also needed for building cell membranes, again it must work in conjunction with EPA and DHA. If the balance is way off then we get unhealthy and end up with many chronic problems.The problem in the standard American diet (SAD) is that the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 is almost 10 to 1. The optimal balance should be 1 to 1. The grass fed ruminants have this natural balance. There is no deficiency of omega 6 around the world. People end up eating way too much omega 6 through vegetable oils and grain fed animal meat.
  All change begins from the inside. The billions of cells that make up our being all depend on a proper balance of omega 3 and omega 6 fats. As mentioned earlier these omegas work in conjunction with each other in building healthy cell membranes. The proper ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 is about 3:1. If body receives sufficient amounts of these fats in the proper ratio then cells thrive and the body becomes healthy. Unfortunately, the ratio in the Standard American Diet (SAD) is more like 10:1. This ratio is unhealthy and leads to many health issues. However, this does not mean that we reject all Omega 6 fats and label them bad. The fats that mother nature produces can not be bad for you. It is the improper balance that causes problems. In the paleo circles, the nuts like almonds, cashews, and macadamias are common snack choices. Most nuts are high in omega 6 and the omega 3 is of ALA (alpha linolenic acid) form, this is the acid that needs to be converted to EPA before body can use it, and only a small percentage ends up getting converted to EPA. This does not mean that we should stay away from nuts, nuts contain many other minerals and micro nutrients like copper, selenium, and potassium that is useful for the body. An excess of Omega 6 affects the ALA from being converted to EPA. The enzyme (elongase) responsible for converting ALA to long chain EPA gets used up by Omega 6 leaving very few enzymes available to do their job. This leads to less EPA production and the cell membranes become unhealthy. This is why nuts and most Omega 6 fats (vegetable oils) should be used sparingly.

The best source of Omega 3 and Omega 6 that cells and tissues can use immediately is obtained from the animal products. The best source of Omega 3 is through fish. The grass fed ruminants also have an optimal Omega 6 to Omega 3 balance of 3:1. Just remember that grains that can make a human sick also have an adverse affect on the animal consuming it. It has been found that meat obtained from grain fed animals are high in Omega 6 fats and low in Omega 3 fats. This goes also for the farm raised fish who are fed a grain diet. The Omega balance in pretty much all farm domesticated animals is destroyed and becomes unhealthy. If you are eating meats, fish, and foul then you are still light years ahead of those folks who are still munching on whole grains and processed foods. Most likely you are receiving plenty of Omega 6 and not enough Omega 3. The scientists believe that is the lack or deficiency of Omega 3 that causes you to be sick not the excess of Omega 6. This is the reason a good fish oil supplement must be added to cover that gap. I will always maintain that we were not designed to eat vitamin supplements. We can obtain all of our vitamins from the variety of foods that we eat. We have done that for hundreds of years, the vitamins and mineral supplements are a very recent phenomena. Since we do live in modern times, and grass fed beef and wild pole caught salmon or tuna are not always available, then we must fill that Omega 3 deficiency with some fish oil. Here is a brief list of what fish oil will fix in your body:

  • It will protect the brain, the central nervous system. Remember, one of the key building blocks of brain cells is DHA.
  • The fish oil will help and improve the overall cardiovascular health. The cells and organs thrive on EPA.
  • The EPA is a well known anti-inflammatory agent and will help the autoimmunity disorder. If you are on paleo then you are already light years ahead on this item. The systemic inflammation is caused by the grains.
  • All omegas are found in every single cell of the body, and like everything else in nature they need to be replenished and replaced through diet.
  • Fish oil supplements or a high consumption of fish during pregnancy is very helpful for a fetal brain development. Remember brain cells are made with DHA. During pregnancy the fetal brain grows and the size of the brain continues to grow during childhood. 
  • Fish oil reduces the plaque build up in the arteries that eventually leads to stroke and heart attacks. The omega 3's are very flexible oils with multiple hinges. They do not stick to internal arterial walls but move along freely.
  • Fish oil will improve and help with the arthritis. 
  • Fish oil reduces mood disorders, like depression. This may sound like a comment out of left field, but think about it. Most mood disorders are cognitive functions and fish oil greatly helps the cognitive health by building healthy brain cells. 
I have been using fish oil for few months. I recently purchased Carlson Lemon Scented fish oil. A 16 oz. bottle cost me about $25 through Amazon. I usually take a fish supplement in the morning with breakfast and one tea spoon of Carlson fish oil with my dinner. The Carlson fish oil is perfect for the kids. There is no fishy smell. The fish oil is really important for the developing children. This coming August I would have completed two years being on paleo and grain free. I am very excited to see what my extended paleo regimen and my recent fish oil supplement did to my blood chemistry.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

The Fate of Sisyphus

   In my previous life (pre-paleo era) every winter was a struggle, I would effortlessly pack on 5-10 pounds in the winter months. It usually took many hikes starting from spring to late fall to lose the extra baggage and once the weight was lost...guess what...the winter came again, lo and behold the weight was back. Alas, the vicious cycle continued. This seems to be the case for many folks. First week of January, standing around the water coolers and coffee stations these stories are reverberating all over the country. Everyone seems to be happy and relaxed after a much needed rest, but no one is happy with the extra baggage they seem to have packed on during the holidays. Plans are usually being made to exercise, join a gym, or enroll in the company sponsored weight watchers' programs. The gym parking lots are full, and the multi-billion dollars weight loss industry begins to churn. The fate of Sisyphus becomes our fate as we begin to push the heavy boulder up the hill only to see the heavy boulder roll down the hill again in the winter months. Is there a solution to this problem or are we to just hide behind the cards we were dealt with? Why do we tend to eat more during the winter months? Why doesn't all of the weight comes off during the summer months? The answer to these questions may lie by examining our physiology and the way we were genetically programmed...trust me, there is a way to escape the cursed fate of Sisyphus.

  The only star in our solar system, the sun produces enormous amount of energy every second to sustain life on earth. As sun burns and gives off energy, part of it dies every second to produce that energy. As the old adage goes---nothing lasts forever, the mighty sun will too eventually run out of its fuel and will cease to produce the energy that we humans have depended on for millions of years. Don't pull money out of your 401K yet, we are covered for few more million years. OK, where am I headed with this sun story? I strongly believe that if you want to study the big universe (macrocosm) then first study the small universe (microcosm). The closest microcosm available to us is our own body. There are literally hundreds of similarities between our bodies and the macro physical universe. Our body like the sun is a fuel burning furnace, producing heat at a constant rate and maintaining an internal temperature of 98.5 degrees fahrenheit to sustain hundreds of chemical reactions necessary for life. We must eat carbon based foods (fuel) to release the energy to maintain our internal temperature. In the winter months when the external temperature falls, the body must produce more heat to maintain its internal temperature. It is a delicate game of thermal balance. We actually end up burning more calories in the winter due to cold weather. Burning calories translates to eating more. This is no different than exercise in the summer. When we exercise we burn calories, and we consume food to make up the energy that we have expended. The cold weather lowers are body temperature and the body must produce more heat by burning calories. The calories have to be supplied by eating food. The body usually requires and craves calorie-dense foods like fats and proteins in the winter months. If we study the Norse Greenland society during the time of Erik the Red, we find that Vikings usually consumed seal blubber, seal meat, caribou meat, cow meat, and various cheese products during the harsh winter months. The Vikings lived off the heavy fatty foods and appeared to be healthy and strong. They never got excessively fat. Since The Vikings never developed methods to harvest grains due to short growing season in Greenland, hence, they primarily lived off the animal products.

  The body's hormonal activity fluctuates and changes with different seasons, we begin to store few extra pounds in the late summer and autumn as fat, as an insurance policy just in case food happens to run out or run low during the upcoming winter months. Packing few pounds during the summer months was probably a good thing for the Greenland vikings as the winter approached and they prepared for few harsh months. If the food happen to run out then their body fat insurance policy could pay off and they could survive another Greenland winter. However, this is not the case these days; we have supermarkets and Walmarts open 24 hours. Also culturally, we basically get a free license to eat everything and anything starting around halloween. The candies come out everywhere around mid-october. The giant media-marketing machine begins to churn and the consumers are bombarded with commercial after commercial and excessive advertisements encouraging us to buy, buy and buy. Just buy something, if you are not buying something then you are not celebrating the holidays the right way.  I have even heard news anchormen encouraging us to get out and shop to help the economy. I work in an office and yes, around the holidays, there is plenty of food, candies, and potlucks. None of the foods are healthy and good for you, but we have lots of it everywhere. As mentioned earlier, the license to eat everything and anything starts with halloween and the trend continues to thanksgiving, and then takes on a maniacal turn around Christmas time. By that time, the major winter damage has been done. The new year is around the corner and we jump on the scale and are horrified from what we see. Many of us will make new year resolutions to exercise more and many of us will wait for the summer to arrive to get active. Unlike, the Norse Vikings, the food supply is never a problem in the winter months for us. So instead of getting slim, we tend to fatten up in the winter. Observing the animal kingdom today, we see the same pattern that Norse Vikings and many other hunter gatherer societies followed years ago. Of course, the squirrels and other animals are still following the natural rhythms while we humans have long parted our ways with nature and have become city slickers. A squirrel gets fat during the summer months as it prepares for winter. A bear packs on pounds as he prepares for long hibernation period during the winter months. We humans do just the opposite, we hit the gym and get slim in the summer time, while getting fat in the winter time. The nature wants us to eat more carbs, like fruits and vegetables, in the summertime, and eat more meats and fats in the winter time. The carbs like fruits and vegetables are abundant in quantity in the summertime and have a much shorter shelf life. The meats and fats are perfect for long storage (when cured properly) and small quantity can provide abundant calories. Hence, making meats and fats perfect for the winter months.

  Another reason for packing on few pounds during the winter is the lack of sunlight. The days are much shorter. Most of us go to work in the dark and when we leave our offices it is almost dark. During the day we have no desire to go out because it is simply cold. Living in California, we are fortunate that we can actually enjoy sunlight during the day, but we have to make an effort to leave our desk and take a stroll outside. In the east coast many folks suffer from depression during the long cold winters. The lack of sunlight sours our moods and makes us irritable. There are many known credible studies indicating a strong correlation between overeating and depression. The cold weather outside, the lack of sun, and ample food available just drives us to eat. There is a very nice person in my office, who loves to bake, and several times per month brings in delicious baked goods. The baked goods are left in the central coffee area and within few hours the baked goods disappear like magic. My appeal to this person, please keep bringing the love....but make it gluten free. Getting back to the sunlight and packing on pounds...the lack of sunlight may signal the body to start storing energy as fat as the body senses a prolonged winter ahead. Vitamin D may also play a role in this. The lack of sunlight reduces the production of vitamin D and the lack of vitamin D reduces the absorption of calcium by the bones and interrupts the fat metabolic activity. The bones requiring more calcium and fat not metabolized may possibly signal the body to eat more food. This is purely my theory and speculation on my part. My reasoning is deduced from observing that we tend to require more food around dinner time, because, the lack of sunlight signals the body that there is an unknown prolonged period of fasting ahead....better store up the fuel. Once again, my personal belief that lack of sunlight promotes weight gain in the winter months.     

  The hunter gatherers roaming the earth over 10,000 years ago, were in tune with the seasons. They ate seasonal fruits and vegetables during the summer months. They hunted and ate meats and fats from their hunts. They gathered fats and meats and cured the meats and the fats for winter usage. The little fat that they did acquire during late summer and fall helped them get through the winter months. Since hunter gatherers roamed about and never stayed in one place for a long time, the notion of farming and domesticating crops was not on their priority list. They lived a grain free healthy life. I have noticed for myself that I don't get hungry in the winter months. Most often, I can easily skip any given meal. On the weekends, I almost always skip lunch. The desire to eat is simply not there. I do crave hot drinks like coffee and tea. And I drink my share. My being on paleo has adjusted my appetite to eat according to the energy requirements of the body. I eat my fill when hungry and that is it. It is very possible that my leptin hormone levels have adjusted due to the absence of grains in my diet. Once the leptin levels are adjusted then responding to external stimuli is easier. I am simply not going to eat, no matter how appealing the food looks. I am only going to eat when hungry. I have also heard from many people that you need body fat in the winter time to stay warm. That is why you pack on extra pounds and it is completely acceptable. How about just wearing proper clothes to keep our bodies warm? That would solve that problem. The textile industry makes pretty good sweaters and undergarments these days. The moral of the story is that we were not meant to get fat during the winter months. We are genetically programmed to fatten up during late summer and fall and that fat should serve as an insurance policy to get us through the winter. We should come out of winter months nice and lean not 10 pounds heavier. When squirrels come out in the springtime, they are skinny. Eating meats and fats during the winter months keep us satisfied and fruits and vegetables during the summer months keep us active and energized for summer outdoor activities. We can finally escape the punishment of Sisyphus, and that big boulder can stay on the top forever.