Fish, beef, pork, chicken, turkey, and lamb meats are also sources of complete protein. In fact, any food that comes from an animal (eggs, meats, yogurt, cheese, etc.) is a good source of protein. Chicken meat is high in healthy protein, but chicken fat is not so healthy. High in Omega-6 fatty acids (O-6FAs), the fat from chicken is converted into a pro-inflammatory acid (arachadonic acid) which promotes aging and disease. This will be discussed below in the section on fats.
Read On: A Few Words About red Meat
Are eggs really good for me?
You may have been told (possibly even by a doctor) that eggs are to be limited because their yolks contain cholesterol. However, data over the last 25 years has proven that the amount of cholesterol in eggs is tiny compared to the amount that we manufacture (in our livers) naturally each day. What’s more, cholesterol/fat from our diet is not the cause of high serum cholesterol (the cholesterol measured by blood tests which is associated with chronic diseases). In fact, fat from healthy animals is healthy to eat in small to moderate amounts, is not a contributor to high blood cholesterol, and can even be helpful in lowering serum cholesterol and reducing our risk for chronic diseases. I will speak about this in some detail later in this essay in the section on fats.
Read on about Protein in the next article: Animal Sources of Protein
Protein Biochemistry and Nutrition
Protein biochemistry: Proteins are big molecules made up of smaller molecules called amino acids linked together to form long chains. Each protein is defined by its unique sequence of amino acids repeated over and over in its chain. Each repetition of a protein’s unique amino acid sequence causes the chain to bend or fold and this determines the shape (and function) of the protein. Some proteins give structure to cells and tissues like the collagen and keratin that give smoothness and elasticity to our skin and strength to our hair; others are for mechanical functions like the actin and myosin which enable muscles to contract and relax; proteins called enzymes help chemical reactions to take place throughout the body; immunoglobulins are proteins that help carry out the work of our immune systems. And these examples form just the tip of the protein iceberg. Virtually every important function of the body is run by proteins which in turn are made up of repeating sequences of amino acids.
Protein and nutrition: There are 20 different amino acids. Some amino acids can be made inside our own cells, while others have to be captured through our diets. Amino acids that we cannot make ourselves are called essential amino acids. There are 9 essential amino acids that we must consume regularly in order for our bodies to make all the different types of proteins necessary for optimal health. Some foods contain what are called complete proteins. Complete proteins contain all 9 essential amino acids in their sequences. From a dietary standpoint, foods with complete proteins are especially healthy. Eggs are the best example of a food containing complete protein, and eggs from an organic, pasture-raised chicken are among the healthiest foods in the Human Diet.
Read the next article :
Are eggs really good for me?
THE 9 RULES OF HEALTHY EATING
Okay, now the details...
Read Part 4 of this series: FOOD: Protein, Fat, Carbs and Fiber; What are They? PROTEIN
What exactly are CDF's?
A stroll through a modern American supermarket reveals a cornucopia of products which, from an evolutionary standpoint, constitute brand new forms of food. These products have been manufactured very carefully to provide high levels of eating pleasure but are packed with sugar calories. Many of these foods do not taste sweet, which can be confusing to people whose work and education do not include an in-depth knowledge of food biochemistry. These foods are quite literally being tested on us, the consumers, and while an underfunded Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is doing its best to protect us, the food industry has been extremely successful in bringing to market hundreds of common items which have not been properly vetted for the long-term health and safety of consumers. In the context of two thousand millennia of human evolution, instant oatmeal, multigrain cereals, muffins, trail mix, and fruit juices are all brand new additions to our food supply. Marketed as healthy food options, these CDFs are in fact the occult drivers of illness. A Big Gulp did not exist one hundred years ago. Nor did cheese puffs, protein bars, or fast food restaurants selling bread made from genetically modified (GMO) wheat, meats from unhealthy animals treated with hormones and antibiotics, and drinks loaded with more sugar than humans for two million years might typically have consumed in a week.
Such products are exceedingly easy to mass produce and they yield high profits for BIg Food manufacturers. What makes it worse is that they are literally designed by food scientists to push pleasure buttons in our brains making them particularly enjoyable and even addicting to consumers. Big Food has heavily marketed CDFs, linking their consumption psychologically with celebration, fun, happiness, and family. What would a summer barbecue be without hot dogs, hamburgers, and soft drinks? What would a birthday party be without cake? For that matter, what would breakfast be without toast? At Thanksgiving we eat stuffing, mashed potatoes, sweetened cranberry sauce, and pies. We celebrate Easter with chocolates, Christmas with candy canes and gingerbread cookies, and passover with matzah. CDFs have been marketed as integral components of our national identity and our daily lives. One can chart the expansion of CDFs into the TAD alongside the incidence of obesity and chronic diseases and see a nearly perfect parallel. For two million years we lived on the Human Diet. Over the last 50-60 years that diet has been turned upside down, with minimal fiber and two-thirds or more of our calories coming from carbs. Since the introduction of CDFs as dietary staples, the United States has become the poster nation for obesity and chronic illness.
If we want to be healthy, we must learn to eat healthily, which means a return to the nutritional blueprint of the Human Diet. It means learning how to make smart choices amidst an ever-widening field of cheap, unhealthy options scientifically manufactured to hook us. It means learning how to think, budget, and shop a certain way. We must learn and adopt a strategy for how to eat mostly natural, whole foods that are high in fiber and nutrients and lower in carbs. These are the foods to which we are evolutionarily well-adapted. In broad nutritional terms, it means eating in a way that keeps our blood sugar relatively stable. This paper is about how to create good dietary habits that can be sustained for the long-term.
If you do not care to delve too deeply into the details of this publication, you may refer to the following nine rules and use them as a guide for creating your own healthy diet. As of the writing of this essay (October, 2015), the following represent the rules that I follow based upon my best assessment of the highest quality and most compelling and current research in the medical, nutrition, and basic science literature.
READ ON: The 9 Rules of Healthy Eating
Start from the beginning of this series of posts on Food and Nutrition
Humans have been evolving for about two million years (two thousand millennia). Our brains have grown in size and function, enabling us to survive ever more by our ability to plan and less by physical prowess. Our communities have been ravaged repeatedly by infectious diseases and our immune systems have evolved to defend us against millions of strains of potentially harmful microorganisms. And throughout these two thousand millennia of evolution humans have survived on a relatively consistent diet of leaves, stalks, and bark, berries from bushes, wild grasses (all sources of fiber), whatever animals we could kill (protein and fat), nuts and seeds (fat, protein, plus some fiber and carbohydrates), flowers, roots, and the occasional fruits and vegetables available during warm seasons (fiber and carbohydrates). During this protracted period, the human digestive tract evolved to accommodate to this diet, which was rich in antioxidants, high in fiber, moderate in protein, and relatively low in fat and sugar (carbs). I call this diet the Human Diet. Very carbohydrate-dense foods like tropical fruits and sugarcane were not part of the Human Diet (with the exception of tiny populations of peoples living near the equator) and did not make their way into wider consumption until very recently in the history of our species. Even grains such as wheat and rice, which, like tropical fruits, contain very high levels of carbohydrates, were not incorporated into the Human Diet until about 10,000 years ago–a short time from an evolutionary standpoint, and, as will be discussed below, those grains bore little resemblance to the ultra carb-dense, genetically modified versions which have come to dominate the commercial food market over the last 50-60 years. Perhaps the most important point I hope to make here is that for about two million years humans evolved alongside a diet that kept blood sugar relatively stable because our food did not contain carbohydrate dense substances like bran muffins, apple juice, and candy bars.
Evolution is an extremely slow and incremental process. It takes hundreds of generations for a species to adapt biologically to an environmental shift as radical as the recent changes in the typical American diet. The Human Diet to which we are evolutionarily adapted is the nutritional blueprint from which our bodies have learned to extract maximal nutrition and digest food with the least amount of stress. It is the diet that best enables us to develop properly, grow strong well-balanced immune systems, and live long healthy lives. The Human Diet offers us the best chance to avoid becoming obese and developing chronic diseases like hypertension, diabetes, and atherosclerosis which are now epidemic and quite literally ruining the health of our bodies and our economy.
In the last 50-60 years breakthroughs in the fields of biochemistry, engineering, and genetics have been applied to the manufacturing of fertilizers, insecticides, and crop breeding; this has utterly changed farming and has led to the introduction of new food substances into today’s typical American diet (TAD). Many of these new foods are fundamentally nutritionally different from those to which we are evolutionarily well-adapted. They contain proteins to which we have never been exposed, synthetic hormones, germicidal chemicals, and substances not found in anywhere in nature. Perhaps most pernicious of all, today’s food supply is dominated by carb-dense foods which cause blood sugar levels to soar. Research over the last 25-30 years has shown conclusively that consumption of carbohydrate dense foods (CDFs) provokes unprecedented escalations in blood sugar, and that these blood sugar spikes are responsible for the inflammatory changes that lead to obesity, illness, and drive the aging process. We now know that regular consumption of CDFs is the controllable behavior chiefly responsible for obesity and chronic diseases. The prevalence of CDFs in the TAD (typical American diet), more than any other single factor, is the cause of our current health and healthcare crises.
Read Part 3 of this series: Carbohydrate Dense Foods (CDF's)
Food consists of four categories of substance: protein, fat, carbohydrate, and fiber. All of our nutrients come from proteins, fats, and carbohydrates. Fiber supplies no nutrients, but is important to our health because it enables proper digestive and excretory functioning and enables healthy bacteria which live in our intestines to flourish.
Much disagreement has existed over the last few decades regarding what constitutes a healthy diet. The rules have changed dramatically in response to scientific research over the last few decades and my patients have a lot of questions. How many times a day should I eat? How much of my diet should come from carbohydrates? Which fats are healthy? How important is it to eat organic food? How many calories are safe to consume each day? What are GMO foods and are they safe to eat? Should I be avoiding gluten? How about red meat?
I will attempt to answer these and other questions in some detail below, but first let’s take a moment to lay out in very general terms what I have come to see as the basic idea behind a healthy diet.
Read Next Article in this series on Nutrition:Background Information Informing My Approach to Healthy Eating
As was described earlier, we now know that virtually all chronic diseases evolve into being gradually over time and are mediated through two primary mechanisms: increased inflammation, and diminished circulation. This is true whether we are talking about diabetes, stroke, heart attack, Alzheimer’s, hypertension, arthritis or any number of other diseases and disorders. We also now know that mood disorders are affected by blood flow and inflammation. Studies are showing that chronic depression and anxiety, as well as certain psychiatric illnesses such as ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder), and bipolar disorder, are directly linked to blood flow. We do not generally see these mood disorders without associated diminished brain circulation, (especially to the limbic and prefrontal areas) and, perhaps even more impressively, when we restore the brain’s circulation to normal we generally see reduction or elimination of the mood disorders.
Chronic use of drugs, including alcohol, caffeine, nicotine, and many prescription medicines, lead to diminished circulation and increased inflammation throughout the body, including to the brain. These substances are themselves to greater and lesser degrees mood-altering. Specifically, they tend to mask to some degree symptoms of anxiety and depression. Withdrawal from the chronic use of any mood altering drug involves a sharp adjustment to reality, a sudden awareness of feelings of anxiety and/or depression that had previously been soothed, masked, or numbed during chronic substance use. This is one of the reasons that substance users of all kinds, from coffee to cocaine, tend to share a common anxiety over the issue of quitting their mood-altering substance(s). Breaking the habit not only means giving up something from which they derive pleasure or respite, it also involves a painful process of experiencing often intense feelings of anxiety, frustration, irritability, and depression. The process activates the limbic system, which in turn stimulates the sympathetic division of the ANS to create a generalized stress response, including increased heart and respiratory rates, perspiration, and constriction of blood vessels causing diminished blood flow throughout the body, including the brain.
Although in time (usually after about 3 weeks) the body adapts to the substance-free state, and physiology gravitates toward normal function again, there often remains a lowered sense of mood, a feeling of something missing. For many people who chronically use a mood-altering substance of some kind, coming off that substance not only deprives them of their “high,” but also of a kind of ritual, something to look forward to. Taking a smoking break, sipping coffee while reading the morning paper, having that cocktail before dinner, or smoking pot before bedtime can become a emotional management tool as much for the ceremony of the practice itself as for the high derived from the substance. If some other practice is not substituted in its place, breaking even a soft addiction like coffee can be very difficult.
Man, it has been said, is a creature of habit. We learn to do things in a certain way, and by repeating our actions, we develop a sense of comfort and satisfaction in their doing. This is certainly true of behaviors, but it is equally true of thoughts and feelings. Since thoughts and feelings begin with brain activity in the prefrontal and
The front of the brain is comprised of the frontal cortex and the pre-frontal cortex. This is the central command area from which we do our thinking, generate ideas, initiate actions, build up (and exercise) our personal will. It is sometimes referred to as our ‘thinking brain.’ The pre-frontal cortex is larger in humans than in any other animal, comprising about 30% of our total brain mass, and this is primarily what distinguishes us as a species. The pre-frontal cortex in Chimpanzees, by comparison, makes up approximately 12% of their total brain mass, and in dogs it makes up approximately 5%.
Behind and deep to the pre-frontal cortex is an area called the cingulate gyrus. Shaped like the Nike ‘swoosh’ turned upside down, the cingulate gyrus is responsible for flexibility of mind, the ability to shift from one thought to the next, to make comparisons, to multi-task; to mentally shift gears, as it were. The cingulate is sometimes referred to as the ‘flexibility brain.’
Finally, deep to the cingulate gyrus lies the limbic system. As described above, this small, very deep area is the center of emotion. It is also the storage center for long term memory. Fear, love, reproductive drives, and the physiological processes that mediate those and many other emotional experiences are generated here. The limbic system is sometimes referred to as the ‘emotional brain.’
FMRI (functional magnetic resonance imaging) is providing new, fascinating data about the brain. FMRI measures blood flow. Since more blood is needed when we are actually using an area of the brain, blood flow is an indicator of brain activity. Because we have known for some time that different areas of the brain have different functions, there was a long held assumption that normal brain activity should show selective areas of activation and quiet at any given time. For example, it would make sense to predict that while your are doing math, the pre-frontal cortex, or ‘thinking brain,’ should be active, while the cingulate gyrus and limbic system should stay, relatively speaking, more quiet. Similarly, we might expect that while experiencing rage or fear, the ‘emotional brain’ would light up with activity while the ‘thinking’ and ‘flexibility brains’ would be dimmed.
In fact, FMRI has shown something very different. Rather than patterns of selective areas of activation and deactivation, what FMRI has shown is that healthy brains demonstrate a pattern of more generalized activation, with virtually the entire brain lighting up or quieting down as one functionally integrated organ. In a healthy brain, we may see slightly more or less activity in a particular area depending on what type of activity the brain is primarily engaged in at any given moment, but there is generalized activation of the pre-frontal, cingulate, and limbic areas whenever the brain is engaged to do anything! In healthy people, all three brains act together.
This is not to say that we never see selective areas of activation and deactivation. We do see it–too often in fact–just not in healthy brains. The brains of drug addicts, alcoholics, patients who have sustained brain injuries, patients with major depression, or other psychiatric conditions, show hot and cold spots, giving a ‘Swiss cheese” like appearance on FMRI. Even more interesting, is that patients with chronic pain but without any identified disease or history of injury show this same pattern, as do people who are under chronic stress.