I confess, I’m a Math fan. I “crunch” numbers, I’m always in search of models and indicators.
I won’t trust any theory until I see some validated data and results. Show me the numbers.
But when it comes to the food on my table and its relations to my body, I feel sometimes dizzy. There are too many parameters and incredible complicated chemistry processes, mind blowing. Not even scientists know everything, still researching.
And yet, a few indicators are quite enough in real life to help you build your weekly menu. Maybe it won’t be “the one”, the perfect healthy menu for you but in time, you can adjust it. Just keep an open mind to the latest discoveries.
We need energy to move, breathe, think and so on and we take this energy from our food. If we eat more than we need, we’ll eventually get fat.
Why some people can eat more than others without problems, who knows?
Maybe the bacteria in their guts or their genes or some mysterious process in their body help them.
Energy in our food is measured in calories (actually it’s Kilocalories, kCal but we say just calories). This nice calorie calculator will tell you how many calories you need to maintain your actual weight or to get rid of some of your weight.
Very useful only … it’s not working, not just like that.
I’m using the calorie indicator, the one for maintaining my actual weight. I’ve tried to be as honest as possible, not to influence “in my favor” this indicator.
From my experience, my body will adjust in a few months to any lower calorie number and I could still put on. Unfortunately, my body won’ t adjust to higher calories intake, that’s for sure.
Keep in mind that it’s genetics, exercising, the quality of your life, the quality of the calories you eat and a lot more variables that matters too.
It will be hell in the beginning to adjust your menu to the calorie indicator. It’s so boring to measure portion size and count calories in your portions. Plus, you’ll be shocked to see how little you should be eating.
A piece of meat the size of your palm, a handful of pasta and a bowl of salad and that’s all folks for your dinner, sorry, no dessert.
I’m telling you just this because I’ve been there, I’ve seen that:
Don’t lose control over how much you are eating, no matter what. If you have weight problems, it’s a “MUST”.
I survived somehow with MyFitnessPal application.
Using their food journal, you’ll easily keep track of what you’re eating, calories will be automatically calculated and they have a large food database. Don’t rush and don’t despair, in time, you’ll learn your portions.
If you’re cooking at home, you’ll need a scale and maybe you’ll need to review your favorite recipes and calculate the calories. I found this site very useful to do this http://nutritiondata.self.com/diets
Also, it will help you greatly to choose one of the healthy diets and adjust it in time based on your results and preferences. A good start is the DASH diet.
If you eat a variety of foods, covering all food groups, lots of colors, foods less processed, organic as much as possible, nice Mediterranean recipes, you can be sure you’ll get the nutrients your body needs. No need to bother too much, at least in the beginning, with the nutrient numbers.
And then, there is your budget. Even if you cook at home, prices of the good food nowadays seem to be high. Or not?
Sometimes, it’s a matter of what recipes you choose and how much you need to buy for your healthy recipes. If you cook at home, it helps a lot to plan your weekly menus, you’ll reduce costs and wastes.
Buying from a farm market or buying in bulk, might make a difference.
Keep in mind that you don’t need “fancy” foods to get rid of excess pounds.
I like a lot this site, Budget Bytes. Most of the recipes are affordable (they include prices), healthy and tasty, just cut the sugars in non-dessert recipes and some of the salt.
By the way, I’ve noticed this. In many recipes posted on the net there is way too much salt, too many spices, a lot of sugar in any dish, be it dessert or not.
Better keep it simple, it’s cheaper and healthier. And tastier, if you ask me, too much salt and sugar cut the flavors.
The Glycemic Index
There’s one tricky and, in a way, infuriating indicator, The Glycemic Index, explained best here:
The glycemic index (or GI) is a ranking of carbohydrates on a scale from 0 to 100 according to the extent to which they raise blood sugar (glucose) levels after eating. Foods with a high GI are those which are rapidly digested, absorbed and metabolised and result in marked fluctuations in blood sugar (glucose) levels. Low GI carbohydrates – the ones that produce smaller fluctuations in your blood glucose and insulin levels – is one of the secrets to long-term health, reducing your risk of type 2 diabetes and heart disease. It is also one of the keys to maintaining weight loss.
Keep this in mind: A sharp increase in glucose in the blood triggers the pancreas to release a lot more of the hormone insulin to remove any excess glucose. This could start reactions in the body that leave you feeling lethargic, hungry and craving more sugar.
Just for the record, HG is over 50 and LG is less than 35.
Actually, it’s the Glycemic Load that should be considered. Citing from wikipedia:
Glycemic load accounts for how much carbohydrate is in the food and how much each gram of carbohydrate in the food raises blood glucose levels. Glycemic load is based on the glycemic index (GI), and is calculated by multiplying the grams of available carbohydrate in the food times the food’s GI and then dividing by 100.
A glycemic load of over 20 is considered high, one under 10 is low.
The Sydney University database includes the GI and GL for a diversity of carbo rich foods.
Glycemic Load is not a precise indicator, it actually tells us how the organisms of some participants in a very limited test reacted to some foods rich in carbohydrates. It depends on the way the recipes are cooked, on the provenience of the ingredients, on what else one ate the day before, the week before and a lot of other parameters. There are many voices that say this GL is not worth the trouble.
And yet it works for a lot of people, including me!
There are high chances that a food considered generally as high glycemic will be indeed high glycemic for you too but not always. However some foods, considered medium or low Glycemic Load, might spike your sugar blood. If you get hungry too quickly after eating a rich but healthy meal, than analyse a bit its content. Try eating separately the components (in sufficient quantities to get the same number of calories and carbs, if possible). Chances are that you’ll find an “alien” food. It doesn’t mean that you should stop eating it, just eat less of it, not daily, not so often and don’t start a meal with it.
The way you prepare potential high glycemic index foods like potatoes, rice and pasta may lower significantly their glycemic index.
It’s an interesting chemical process called starch retrogradation.
Starch granules heated in excess water undergo an order‐disorder phase transition called gelatinization. On cooling, the starch chains (amylose and amylopectin) in the gelatinized paste associate, leading to the formation of a more ordered structure. The resulting resistant starch has similar physiologic effects as dietary fibre.
Translating this in a cooking method, boil your potatoes, in skin, in lots of water, on low heat. Peel them when ready under cold water, refrigerate them overnight. You can then safely eat them in a potato salad with vinegar, reheat them or fry them and eat them as a side dish or whatever.
One study found that cooling potatoes overnight after cooking tripled their resistant starch content.
As to pasta, cooking them “al dente” lowers their GI and I personally like pasta freshly cooked. Of course they would be even healthier the next day, reheated or not.
As for the white rice, I prefer to combine it with veggies and tomato sauce and eat it cold, the next day. It’s my Umami Pilaf, a super healthy recipe.
I did a simple test, with the aid of a glucometer. I ate, quickly, in less than 10 minutes, a combination of a banana and a handful of biscuits. I measured also my blood sugar with a glucometer every half an hour for 3 hours. I do like science and numbers, told you so.
I obtained a nice graph, with a beautiful blood sugar spike and a “low valley”, typical for high glycemic index. Not to mention that, less than 2 hours after my meal, I was hungry again, though my breakfast had been 340 kcal and I had not exercise.
Then I took a few more tests, eating first proteins and carbs last, then first starches and then protein and veggies, eating them combined, eating HG food differently cooked a.s.o. My glucometer is for sure a bit decalibrated, but it’s accurate enough to get the general idea. I took care to fast 12 hours before a test.
Here are my conclusions, so far. These might work for anyone too.
The Satiety Index and the Energy Density of Foods
Some foods are more satiating than others, check this out.
However this Satiety Index is less helpful as you don’t have the numbers but for a limited list of foods. And fact, it’s not at all easy to know beforehand, what combination of foods will be more satiate than others.
There are two other more useful options when choosing foods that will fill you well..
Take notice that foods with low glycemic load do help you control hunger.
Try for a snack a bit of cheese with tomatoes, or a piece of low sugar fruit or a tablespoon of hummus with a celery stick.
Than there’s the energy density of the foods, defined as the number of calories (kCal) per gram of food. Very easy to calculate and a nice tool to control your calorie intake.
Research has shown that diets with a low energy density (less than 1.5) can help you feel fuller for longer without providing too many calories.
The Insulin Index
The Insulin Index of a food represents how much it elevates the concentration of insulin in the blood during the two-hour period after the food is ingested. It is similar to Glycemic Index only it represents a comparison of food portions with equal overall caloric content (250 kcal), while GI represents a comparison of portions with equal digestible carbohydrate content (typically 50 g).
Fact is, all foods stimulate the insulin secretion, including meats, eggs, yogurt, fish a.s.o., with some of them triggering maybe a disproportionate response. To my best knowledge, there’s no practical way to measure your Insulin Index, how you actually respond to every food or combination from the Insulin Index point of view.
However, there are some other useful tips to help you stay in control:
All these said, don’t forget to exercise, enjoy your food and find time to relax.
The quality of the ingredients is essential and don’t expect a dish made with frozen vegetables or vegetables grown in a greenhouse to have the same umami as a dish made with fresh vegetables straight from the garden.
But still, if cooked properly, your dish will have umami, a savory taste.
Umami depends on the concentration of glutamates and nucleotides and on salt. Eat food together with lots of bread or add too much salt, and, voila, less umami.
I think sugar also diminishes umami. Green tea is more pleasant to the tongue if you don’t add sugar.
Umami is good news for people who have to reduce as much as possible salt.
Soup with a proper concentration of the ingredients and less salt is delicious. Otherwise is like salted water.
Umami isn’t lost in old age like other basic tastes or smell. This means old people can enjoy better the food if properly cooked, have a proper nutrition and be healthier.
Umami is present naturally in meat and vegetables. It can be found mostly in fish, seafood, cured meat, mushrooms, tomatoes, celery, green tea, cheese (especially parmesan), soy sauce
Babies meet with this taste from the very beginning in mother’s milk. Breast milk has the same concentration of umami goodies as a good concentrated soup of fish or bones, meat and vegetables.
Glutamate, one of the umami ingredients, is an amino acid, found in all protein-containing foods.
Monosodium glutamate, or MSG, is the sodium salt of glutamate. When MSG is added to foods, it provides a similar flavoring function as the glutamate that occurs naturally in food. MSG is comprised of nothing more than water, sodium and glutamate.
In the early 1900s, MSG was extracted from natural protein-rich foods such as seaweed. Today, MSG is made from starch, corn sugar or molasses from sugar cane or sugar beets. MSG is produced by a natural fermentation process that has been used for centuries to make such common foods as beer, vinegar and yogurt.
Scientific knowledge says MSG might be OK for your health. However, any Chinese will tell you not to use it for baked recipes as it will give you the headache of your life.
And some people complain anyway of headaches after eating food with MSG.
There is also this rumor, that MSG triggers obesity. Nothing is proved on this to date but…Researches have changed their minds so often that I wouldn’t be surprised if one day they’ll decide we have too much MSG in foods. Food industry is using MSG on a large scale to improve food taste and I guess some people already have quite a lot of MSG in their daily menu.
A bit of MSG now and then won’t hurt. However I’ll try to avoid it as much as possible.
When in doubt, better don’t eat it.
For the moment, I’ll stick to good old traditional umami.
Scientist now try to find how to increase and activate the brown fat in obese people.
Some years ago, researches at the Harvard University made an exciting discovery on mice models, confirmed lately on human. It seems that exercise has more benefits that burning calories. A hormone, named Irisin, is produced. Irisin is an “eco” traveler in our body and increases the good brown cells and decreases the “garbage sources”, the white fat cells.
Irisin is not the only “by-product” of exercise, hundreds of proteins result which make us healthier.
Another candidate for increasing brown fat is Ursolic Acid, found in apples (especially in skin), prunes, some Mediterranean herbs like basil, rosemary, lavender, oregano, thyme and several berries like bilberries and cranberries.
Of course mass-media launched immediately a new top song “Eat apples” but it’s not that easy. Research results are confirmed for the moment in mice only and, we are not mice.
Nevertheless, an apple a day is one of the best ideas for your health.
Other researches discovered that a 27 degrees temperature in your home can decrease brown fat under a reference baseline. By simply lowering your home temperature for a month to 19 degrees Celsius, brown fat increases over that baseline.
Maybe, but this is not for me, I hate cold too much. Besides, I have my doubts regarding this research. For one, based on previous experiences, I’m sure I would eat much, much more if living in cold. Then, I usually get rid of some pounds in Spring and Summer, when temperature raise way above 19 degrees Celsius.
However, it could be a good idea to lower somehow the temperature in my home to a pleasant 24 degrees Celsius.
Let’s wrap it all. Best advice so far, until sure methods are identified to increase the brown fat:
I’ve stumbled recently on some research studies and I’m more puzzled than ever. Human Nutrition seems like a billion pieces puzzle and I wonder if ever we humans will be able to put all the pieces in order.
This doesn’t mean that I’ll abandon my own fight with obesity. On the contrary, it’s my deep belief that even a small particle of dust can contribute. And for sure it will help me and some of my friends to cope better with weight problems, metabolic problems whatever else.
One of these studies, Carbohydrate-last meal pattern lowers postprandial glucose and insulin excursions in type 2 diabetes draws a puzzling conclusion: ” The carbohydrate-last meal pattern may be an effective behavioral strategy to improve postprandial glycemia.”
Yes, I know, the research was very limited and the participants were diabetics but some of the nutrition advice for diabetics seem to work for people with obesity too.
Of course I won’t be able to duplicate this research but what I want to know is if my postprandial glycemia is affected by the order in which I eat my foods at breakfast, or the speed with which I eat. I’ll try to experiment a bit the next weeks, nothing to lose, only to gain.
Another mind puzzling article is this one, A microscopic solution – The best gut bugs to lose weight.
I cite from this study: Scientists have identified a microscopic universe of tiny microbes in our gut that seems to have a great deal to do with our weight….
Scientists can predict with 90-per-cent accuracy if a person is overweight just by looking at their gut microbes. Often the ratio of certain phyla of bacteria, say Firmicutes to Bacteroidetes, is high, but not always…But the real challenge is determining exactly what microbes are causing the trouble and how to fix it.
Very little I can do about this, but what I’m going to do is going back to traditions.
I’m sure I’ll feel better after eating some traditional probiotics but I doubt it will help me get rid of excess pounds. But who knows in the long term? It’s worth trying.
First, yogurt and kefir.
Unfortunately, the yogurt and kefir available in supermarkets are “dead”.
I doubt that an item that will be as good as fresh two weeks from now has any microbe in it. It’s just plain white sour stuff, even if it’s quite tasty.
I can easily make my own yogurt or kefir, I need the “seeds” and these I can find on Internet. Some organic milk would be nice to have. I can hardly wait for my Summer apricots and yogurt treat.
Then there is sauerkraut. You can find simple recipes for home made sauerkraut on Internet but I guess everyone has a favorite Bulgarian or Russian or some other traditional shop nearby.
I myself have an incredible easy and tasty recipe for a home-made pickled cabbage and veggies salad.
Mix in a large bowl a large shredded cabbage with salt. Calculate 1 tbsp of salt per Kg of cabbage.
Massage the salt into the mixture for 5 mins, wait 5 mins, then repeat. You should end up with a much-reduced volume of cabbage sitting in its own brine.
Add 2 grated carrots, optionally a grated celeriac, 3-4 sweet red and green peppers cut julienne, celery sticks cut in large pieces, 2-3 grated apples and mix well.
Stuff very well this mixture in large mason jars. Add a root of horseradish on top of every jar, cut in slices. In a couple of days, it should ferment and be ready for a nice salad with olive oil and grounded black pepper.
Make sure you put what’s left in a cool place or even in the fridge, otherwise it will spoil.
And, yeah, here there are my favorite salt pickles. I can’t eat but a small pickle now and then, they do have a lot of salt but they’re so good in winter, so full of vitamins.
It’s easy to make them but you need a cool cellar or other similar cool place. Just arrange, in a large jar, a multitude of veggies and fruits, like green tomatoes, carrots, cucumbers, celery, leaves, apples, small green peppers, cauliflower, a few slices of red beetroot, a handful of grapes, small green apples, very small squashes. Put on top celery leaves and horseradish slices. Add a hot brine, made with 1 tbsp of salt per 4 cups of water (1 l of water). Cover well and let ferment over a month in a cool place.
This is not a recipe for a warm climate, you need a cool autumn followed by a very cold winter.
An interesting recipe of probiotics is that of salt pickled cucumbers.
You can try this even in summer or in a warmer climate.
This should be eaten freshly fermented, so don’t make a large quantity.
Put in a jar cucumbers and pour over a hot liquid made of water and 1 tbsp of salt per 4 cups of water. Add a root of horseradish on top, cut in slices and some dill or celery leaves. Close the jar and forget 3-4 days about it. When the cucumbers change the color and “prickle” a bit, they’re ready for a nice salad with olive oil.
Try this recipe also with apple and carrot slices.
And then, there is borsh, not the Ukrainean or Russion traditional soup, but the nice golden liquid obtained in Romania by fermenting wheat bran with a tiny quantity of yeast in warm water. It’s an incredible healthy refreshing drink and adds an excellent taste to soups. I only have this not so simple recipe and my challenge is to simplify it.
Keep in touch, follow my projects as we will all learn more on the nutrition puzzle.
A king once asked his daughter how dear he was to her.
“As dear, as dear — as salt!” she said.
The king thought that this was very little, and he was very unhappy with his child’s answer.
Soon thereafter he sponsored a great feast. The daughter saw to it that every dish was brought to the table unsalted, and thus nothing tasted good to the king.
Finally the daughter explained everything to him. He then recognized how important salt was…
(From an old German fairy tale)
The question I’m trying to answer is “How much salt is safe for me?”
First, the obvious. I’m citing from Wikipedia:
“Too much or too little salt in the diet can lead to muscle cramps, dizziness, or electrolyte disturbance, which can cause neurological problems, or even death.
Drinking too much water, with insufficient salt intake, puts a person at risk of water intoxication.
Death can occur by ingestion of large amounts of salt in a short time (about 1 g per kg of body weight). Deaths have resulted from attempted use of salt solutions as emetics.”
Salt is essential for life and salt consumption is an instinct that drives a human or animal to seek and ingest salt-containing foods. The hunger for salt is also influenced by taste, traditions in cooking and preserving methods and the widespread availability of salt in industrial food. To the point that it is difficult now to distinguish salt need from salt preference.
At some point in history, high salt consumption has been recognized as detrimental to health.
Research studies of salt effect on health fall in two categories. Many of them associate high intake of salt to high blood pressure and increased rates of cardiovascular disease. But a lot others have found flaws in their statistics and consider that there’s no reason for healthy individuals to cut down their salt intake. Especially that some studies used mice models.
There is however enough serious evidence that too much salt is bad for your heart and brain. and you simply shouldn’t ignore it.
If you will just give up junk food and limit processed meat, which every doctor, nutritionist, health organization in the world recommends, you will be reducing quite a lot the salt in your diet. But I guess whatever the science says, most people will eat as much salt as desired unless maybe at some point in life a doctor will say “stop this or you’ll die”.
In terms of safety, the lower and higher limits of salt consumption have not been clearly identified either.
There is an ongoing controversy, all parties shooting so many arguments and really, is difficult for me, at least, to trust any figures anymore.
When science is in doubt, I turn to my own experience and keep fingers crossed.
A very low-salt diet (less than 1500 mg) is almost impossible in a modern diet.
It’s not feasible. Even a diet with less than 2000 mg of salt daily is quite difficult to follow.
Too much salt in your food can cause edema (swelling due to fluid retention). This is easy to notice. If eating too much salty food in a day causes your ankles or joints to swell, then you have but one solution. Hide the salt shaker, add less salt to your food, limit consumption of processed meat and pickles. Generally, start reducing salt to the point you won’t notice edema symptoms.
When it comes to hypertension, reducing salt is a must.
In clinical trials, a reduction in salt intake is associated with reduced blood pressure, more so in persons with hypertension than in those with normal blood pressure.
Reduced salt intake is associated with greater blood-pressure responses to anti hypertensive drug therapy,including drug therapy in patients with resistant hypertension.
Whether you’re healthy or have medical problems, there are studies that say that it’s also important to increase potassium in your diet to counteract salt effects.
You might like to read more about this here, Health Risks and Disease Related to Salt and Sodium.
This is not at all difficult if you include beans, potatoes, nuts, oranges, mushrooms, tomatoes and bananas in your menu.
In my case, a diet with salt reduction (between 1600 – 2000 mg daily), increase of potassium rich food (around 3500 mg a day) and exercising a lot more resulted no doubt in less health problems.
However, in summer and when exercising a lot, I take care to drink mineral water and eat a bit more salty.
Don’t wait to become thirsty to drink water but, especially when it’s very hot outside. Drinking too much water and eating less salt it’s a recipe for feeling dizzy.
A bowl of tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, onion, parsley salad with olive oil, bit of lemon juice or vinegar, a few olives, bits of white cheese and black pepper is the best summer salad recipe.
No need to add more salt, it will be crispier and enough salty from the delicious olives and cheese.
Control how much you eat, especially when you don’t eat at home
“If I go to a buffet, I just can’t control how much I eat.”
Don’t rush to fill your plate like you haven’ t eaten for days. Anyway, it’s not “elegant”. Select from the buffet what looks healthier and arrange small portions on your plate, artistically, following the rule: a quarter of the plate some proteins, half the plate veggies and fruits, a quarter of the plate starches or, much better, beans or nuts. Take your time. Eat slowly, don’t rush for a second serving, or if you do, try other foods. Better be only proteins and veggies or nuts, the second time, they’ll cut hunger.
Remember, art on your plate is the key!
Cooking your meals, if you’re not used to do it, it’s a very, very difficult change in your life. But not impossible and the reward might be huge.
Start simple: salads, stir-fried lean meats, mushrooms, canned beans, canned egg-plant or favorite veggies.
Take your time to shop once a week and fill your fridge with healthy vegetables, fruits, lean meats, cheese a.s.o.
Even if you’re dead tired, it takes less than an 1/4 hour to fix a healthy sandwich and a salad. Add a fruit, an yogurt, a handful of nuts.
Then learn to make a soup. Any soup. You can make enough meat and vegetable stock to last a week and use it to prepare quickly soups. Add tomato juice and a handful of cooked pasta or par-boiled rice and you have tomato soup. Or, add a handful of cooked par-boiled rice, an yogurt and a whisked egg and you have a “Greek” soup. Add a bit of spinach and broccoli and you get a “green” soup.
Or don’t add anything else, just a squeeze a lemon in it and sip it with some wholewheat bread or toast.
You can learn more recipes, whenever you have time. Just keep it simple.
Cut your cravings for sugar and salt
“Cravings for sweets and salt is a bit difficult to get rid of, but you can do it in two weeks if you’re determined to change your lifestyle.”
Don’t give up the good things in life
“I love dessert. I can’t give it up!”
Who says to give it up? Just don’t eat it daily.
Several times a month in a diet for life won’t fatten you. Take care what else you eat that day and exercise a bit more the next day.
Besides there are deserts and deserts and the good old dark chocolate.
“I don’t like working out. It’s boring.”
Oh, come on! What do you want your life to be like when you’re old? Or in ten years? I like that Glasbergen cartoon: “What fits your busy schedule better: exercising 1 hour a day or being dead 24 hours a day?”
Of course you can find some exercise and make it less boring. Just walking half an hour a day in fresh air can make the difference. Invest in a music player or a camera or a dog, to make walking more interesting. Invest in a pedometer and compete with others. Try swimming. Any physical activity is better than sitting all day long. “Any” is the magic keyword.
We, humans, are colonized by at least as many microorganisms as our body cells. A lot of scientists even say they are more, like twice or even ten times more. We inherimicrobiomet some of these from our mothers but during our life this alien population changes.
Like in a forest, if there’s draught or too much rain, some of the members of this colony, our microbiome, might disappear or change. No to mention if some of the inhabitants are killed or added or get sick, due to chemicals in the air or water, change in nutrients or attacks by their enemies.
I mean, whatever we eat, breathe, drink, whatever we do affects not only our body but also this colony.
And, surprise, changes in our microbiome affects our body!
Members of the microbiome that are friends to our health might disappear, being replaced by bad, bad microorganisms, some of them suspected of making us obese.
For decades scientists have been demonstrating that our microbiome is involved in our body processes. It seems our gut bacteria even communicate with our brain, like demanding more food or less.
It is such a complicated picture! There are so many unknown facts, such a diversity of microorganisms and relations inside the microbiome and with our body and environment, that after decades of research, we still don’t know exactly what microbiome particularities differentiate lean people from obese.
What is known for sure so far is not too much:
– There is a difference between the microbiome of the obese people and that of the lean people. When obese people are colonized with the gut flora from lean people, under certain conditions, they can lose weight dramatically. It seems that the gut flora of obese people has less Bacteroidetes than Firmicutes (what a lovely name) and is thought that these Bacteroidetes are more efficient at extracting energy from food. Bit of controversy in studies over the healthy ratio and other details, though.
– Microbiome can be changed by diet and lifestyle but there’s no silver bullet in this. Don’t expect that if you start from tomorrow eating yogurt and fiber, you’ll get slim in no time. There’s no one-fit-for-all diet.
First of all, it depends on your microbiome, your genes, your lifestyle, your environment, your health, your medication and so many other known or unknown factors.
Bacteroides are not the only cause for obesity.
Besides, scientists don’t know for sure which bacteria is involved, what is the right percentage between the various bacteria groups in our guts, which has to be killed, which has to be brought in and how.
Keep in mind also that nutrition science is in its infancy.
Meanwhile it seems a sensible and a fine idea to eat healthy, that is lots of veggies, some fruits, dairy, whole wheat bread, lean meats, less sugar, no junk food a.s.o., you should know the do’s and don’ts by now. Eat good food but don’t eat too much, calories do count.
Also moving a lot in fresh air, doing some weight lifting cannot but help maintain your guts health.
You might want to help your microbiome by eating probiotics to enrich your microorganisms colonies, the lovely Firmicutes. Foods like yogurt or kefir (but not that white pasteurized stuff from the supermarket shelves), fermented foods like sauerkraut and pickles, fermented cheese a.s.o .
You might also want to eat some prebiotics (the stuff that your microbiome need to stay alive), foods that include dietary fibers like trans-galactooligosaccharide, inulin, resistant starch, pectin, beta-glucans, and xylooligosaccharides.
Iai and uau, complicated, isn’t it?
Translating these fancy scientific words in every day foods names, include in your menus: bananas, raw garlic and leek, cooked onions, raw wheat bran, whole wheat bread, beans, lentils, potatoes (boiled in skin and refrigerated over night; eaten cold or reheated), oatmeal, mushrooms, apples, carrots.
One more thought, related to our inherited microbiota.
We in Eastern Europe might have a different microbiota than let’s say that of the Chinese or Americans or French. Right?
This means, that whatever diet works for the French people, lots of cheese, red wine and so on, is not necessarily going to function for me.
Japanese may be lean but their all fish, white rice and algae diet might not suit my microbiota.
All those scientific American studies on thousands of people (Americans), their conclusions might be valid maybe only in USA.
Think about this when you try to jump in one wagon or other.
Meanwhile, take a closer look at your local traditions, especially those that have suited your microbiota for thousand of years or more.
Note to travelers. If you’re visiting Romania, try the local sauerkraut and salt pickles and that wonderful Summer salad with raw onions and fermented white cheese.
I’m not a fan of big words and strategy is one of them. But when it comes to your lifestyle, you really need one, “a plan of action designed to achieve a long-term or overall aim”.
If your aim is to be healthy, wealthy and wise, you need to think your actions on a long long term, for life.
I have no clue about the “wealthy” and “wise” words, you’ll have to figure for yourself your plan.
But when it comes to “healthy”, whatever you do, there are three tips I’d like to share with you:
Plan to move, exercise, walk, do any physical activity, DAILY!. Even cleaning you house is better than being a potato couch.
Enjoy good food. As much as possible, plan to cook your own food, choosing healthy ingredients and recipes. Avoid over processed foods, prefer organic food. Choose a variety of many a color foods.
Plan to deal with stress. Keep in mind that no stress at all means a boring life. But, do respect your sleeping hours, your holidays, take some time to relax and avoid as much as possible money troubles.
The rest is history, your life history.
“Don’t eat carbs in the evening!”
“Don’t eat carbs, eat fats”
“Don’t eat carbs, eat protein”
“Eat good carbs with lots of fibre”
“Eat only good carbs and good fats”
and so on, and so on.
All these carbs and fats mantras they haunt me, like in Ella’s little song Ex’s and Oh’s.
(By the way, this is in my “Dance to lose a pound” songs list, very catching rhythm)
My ex’s and the oh, oh, oh’s they haunt me
Like gho-o-osts they want me to make ’em all, all, all
They won’t let go
Ex’s and oh’s
I’ve change it, just for fun, My carbs and the fa fa fats they haunt me …
Well, back to science and my personalized diet, what shall I do with all these carbs and fats tips?
I’m trying to paint a “naive picture” of what happens in my body whenever we eat, to understand somehow what fattens me.
Actually, it’s a very, very complicated and fascinating process, only partially known it seems, otherwise there would be no more obesity. I’d appreciate very much any comments or piece of research that will correct or improve my view.
When you eat food, it’s broken down into basic nutrients ( amino acids, fatty acids and glucose), which make their way into the bloodstream. Insulin, a hormone made by the pancreas, helps moving the nutrients into cells. From the pancreas, insulin enters the bloodstream and travels to various cells, including muscle, liver and fat cells (all fat cells, including the white ones that store fat, the brown ones that burn fat). The cells are lined with insulin receptors. Once the insulin molecule docks onto the receptor, it signals the cell to open up and absorb the nutrients from the blood. As the nutrients are slowly absorbed, insulin levels drop, until finally all the nutrients are absorbed.
I don’t know what white fat cells use glucose for but for sure they are not just storage units, they do need energy. Among other functions, they make lots of hormones like leptin that helps to regulate energy balance by inhibiting hunger.
The liver and muscle cells convert glucose that is not needed immediately for energy into glycogen. At one point, some 500g of glycogen might be stored in your body, depending on physical training, basal metabolic rate, and eating habits.
This might explain some of the scale variations. If you are happy that your scale shows a pound less in a day, don’t. It’s just variation. Look for a longer period of time to jump to conclusions.
The cells feed off of this glycogen before using fat as energy.
When blood glucose level drops too low, insulin secretion falls and your pancreas releases the hormone glucagon, which prompts the reconvertion of the stored glycogen into glucose and releasing it into the bloodstream.
As only a limited amount of glucose can be stored as glycogen and as it’s not safe to have more than 4g of glucose in your blood, the excess amount of glucose is stored in the white fat cells. One more role for the insulin is to trigger conversion of glucose into fat.
Burn it or store it, it seems there’s no other way to get rid of it.
Keep in mind that insulin is not the only hormone involved in the process of storing fat.
Just to get a flavor of how complicated things are, there’s an enzyme called ASP (Acylation Stimulating Protein). This beast has the ability to directly store fat in the fat cells, completely bypassing the glucose and insulin pathways.
And then, there’s the bacteria in your guts…but this is another story, even more complicated.
Liver glycogen stores serve particularly the central nervous system. The human brain consumes approximately 60% of blood glucose in fasted, sedentary individuals. This is why, in my opinion, it’s not a good idea to eat low-carb for a prolonged period of time, even if your protein and fat intake might compensate. While I was on a no-starches-no-fruit diet for 2 weeks, I felt quite tired and couldn’t perform, my brain was sometimes “foggy”. Slept well, though and a lot.
If you eat lots of carbs with a high glycemic index (like bread or sugar) they will be processed rapidly and your blood sugar will spike rapidly. The pancreas releases insulin, lots of, which tells the muscle, liver and fat cells to take up the blood sugar and remove it from the blood. It seems that this spike in insulin might trigger the storage of excess sugar as fat. Rapidly. It makes sense if you already have more sugar in your blood than it’s safe and glycogen stores can’t take anymore glucose. Couldn’t find more information on this, though.
For sure, too many spikes, too frequently, will damage in time the communication between pancreas and your cells. You’ll get to a point when the cells become insulin resistant. They do not respond to the insulin trigger and don’t absorb the glucose.
Except the fat cells, it seems.
In time, the pancreas gets tired and will produce less and less insulin and you’ll get seriously ill with diabetes.
Can you avoid this spike scenario with our modern lifestyle?
You eat a hearty breakfast, go to your daily activities, eat something at a quick lunch, no too much and then comes dinner. You swallow like a wolf maybe, a nice hearty dinner to compensate for a long hard working day. If you eat lots of carbs (as recommended by almost all guidelines), you might end with a spike in the morning and one in the evening, Many nutritionists recommend you to eat your carbs in the morning, not in the evening.
Is this working to avoid the spike effects?
Recently I’ve watched a very interesting BBC documentary, “Trust me, I’m a doctor”.
Among other subjects, a little experiment was conducted to check if eating carbs for breakfast is better than eating a lot of carbs in the evening.
Surprise, none was the winner. What matters is not so much when you eat your carbs but the length of the carbs-free “fasting” period that precedes your meal. Of course, this was a limited study and more research is needed.
Their advice so far is “not to worry too much about what time of day you eat carbs, as long as you’re consistent and don’t overload with them at every meal. If you’ve had a lot of carbs in the evening, try to minimise them in the morning. On the other hand, if you’ve had a pile of toast for breakfast, go easy on the pasta that night.”
You might like this article, it’s quite interesting http://www.bbc.com/news/health-42705852
What’s in all these for a personalized diet?
Based on my new knowledge, this is what I’m willing to try and hope it will help me in time. Follow me, if you find it interesting too, I’ll keep you informed on my progress.
I do have in fact implemented some of them quite successfully, while being on the South Beach & Mediterranean diets. At least, I’ve stopped putting on.
– “Fast” from time to time, to let the body rest. I can’t and I don’t see the reason to fast by limiting calories to a ridiculous small number. I know myself, this is not going to happen.
But it’s worth trying and I can do it, 1 day a week with low Glycemic Index foods. That is, no starches (bread, pasta, rice, bulgur, biscuits, pizza), no sweets, sugar, fruits loaded with carbs like bananas.
Don’t try this before you asks your doctor, if you already have serious health problems, whatever they are.
I’m already having 1 vegan day a week, it’s a tradition and religion custom in my country. I do feel better after my “no animal products” day and I’ve increased my veggies and fruit intake.
– Don’t overload with carbs, at any meal, in any day. If you eat a lot of carbs at a meal, take care not to overload the next meals too. If you eat too much in the evening, eat less or even skip breakfast if you are not hungry.
It remains to decide what “lots of carbs” means to my body. A simple test, measuring my blood sugar after eating certain foods, will help me. Measurements have to be taken at the first bite, half an hour after, an hour, an hour and a half and two hours after. Draw a graph and compare graphs with that of some reference food. Look for spikes. You should read this interesting book for details and other options The Personalized Diet by Eric Segal and Eran Elinav.
– Avoid over-processed foods like white bread, snacks, chips, confectionary, foods with added sugar, sweet beverages. This is easy, I’ve already got rid of most of them, I can live without.
– Lower the Glycemic Index of some foods by properly cooking them. Eat pasta al dente, combined with cheese or tomato sauce, for example. Or, eat potatoes boiled in skin and refrigerated overnight. I’ve already tested my reaction to pasta with tomato sauce and potato salad. I’m so happy they are “good” for me.
– Stop adding sugar in foods that are not deserts, like salads, sauces, soups a.s.o. This is quite difficult to do when you eat at a restaurant or buy some processed foods. It seems sugar is added in almost anything in a supermarket shelf.
– Learn to “read” your body signals. Don’t eat if you’re not hungry. Try to eat slowly, don’t swallow, give time to your body to decide if you’re still hungry. This I’m fighting with and it’s tricky.
– And, more than anything else, exercise more and often to burn that glycogen and maybe some of the stored fat! Yeap, this is the hardest.
I stumbled upon an amazing book, The Personalized Diet by Eric Segal and Eran Elinav.
I cite from the Amazon review “individuals react differently to the same foods. A food that might be healthy for one person is unhealthy for another. In one stroke, they made all universal diet programs obsolete.”
Well, I have a slightly different opinion. Universal diets are a good starting point, with clear rules, menus, recipes, fitness programmes a.s.o. but should be personalized in time. This book gives one interesting, easy and useful tool to choose the foods that are good for you.
Of course, like with any diet, do not rush to climb in the wagon before consulting a health professional and checking your health status.
My starting point was The South Beach Diet. It helped me to get rid of lots and lots of pounds but at one point I reached the dreadful plateau and after a tragedy in my life, started to put on again.
This year I’m trying a new approach, a more personalized diet for my life.
I have to understand what are the bad foods for me, those I’ll have to eat less even though they are not “forbidden”. Also, I hope I’ll discover that I can eat safely some starchy foods like pasta or potatoes, provided I have the right recipe.
I’ve known for years that a lot of bread is fattening me but didn’t know what is the safe quantity. In my mind, 2 slices of 30 grams of homemade whole wheat bread were ok. Well, after this first test, I’m beginning to wonder.
Here is the result of my first tests, a graph which clearly shows a very ugly spike in blood sugar after a fruit salad, Swiss cheese and 2 slices of my beloved bread.
Also, on this graph, my potato salad recipe seems to be on the goodies side. The secret is to boil the potatoes with the peel on, on very low heat, unpeel them under cold water, slice, add vinegar and keep them overnight in the fridge. Serve with marinated fish, olive oil, onion and a hard boiled egg. Yumi and good for me.
There’s a whole theory on how chemicals can change the potato starches this way, to make it a nice healthy vegetable.
A long time ago, when there were no fridges or greenhouses in the farms and villages of Europe, people enjoyed the tasty and healthy salads of the Winter, to help them cope with pork, cold and Holidays stress.
Here are 4 wonderful recipes, hope you’ll enjoy them.
First on my Winter list is red beetroot, baked or boiled, grated or cut in small pieces or slices, and mixed with vinegar, bit of salt and finely grated horseradish. Some green herbs will add to the nice picture. You might like it with a splash of cream on top.
It’s supposed to be rich in vitamins, iron and magnesium and more recent health claims suggest beetroot can help lower blood pressure. Maybe, but what about the glycemic index? Well, it’s high, 64, if you eat a lot of it, immediately, after cooking it and with no other ingredients. Make it a salad with vinegar and add horseradish and a bit of cream and it’s yumi and healthy, medium GI.
Just for the record, 2 full tablespoons of this salad have some 40 kCal and only 7g of carbs.
Sauerkraut Salad. Lots and lots of ways to combine sauerkraut with other ingredients and all are nice and help the good bacteria in your gut. Rich in vitamin C. It’s a “must” in any diet, if you ask me. Yes, it’s salty but a few tablespoons now and then won’t hurt.
My favorite combinations: sauerkraut with black pepper and olive oil or sauerkraut with green onion or leek, a grated apple, a grated carrot, olive oil and pepper.
Black Radish Salad. Actually, any radish will do but this one is good for your gallbladder.
Grate the radish, add a bit of salt, juice from 1 lemon, a handful of walnuts and it’s done.
You can make a batch of if and keep it in the fridge for several days. Serve it with Feta or Bulgarian cheese.
Without walnuts, 4 tbsps of this wonder have only 40 calories.
This salad has a very funny name, The Little Broom Salad, because it’s supposed to clean somehow your guts.
Anything goes in it, any vegetables that can be cut a la julienne or grated. Carrots, cabbage, celeriac, celery, red cabbage, beetroot, turnip, leek, red onions, radishes a.s.o. Just add lemon juice or vinegar, salt and some olive oil. A vitamin and mineral cocktail. Enjoy!
Maybe this sounds crazy, but we are accustomed to very cold winters, with a lot of snow, not with a Spring weather in the middle of January like this year.
I wouldn’ t want a harsh, nasty, long winter, just a bit of snow for the children to play with and for me, to enjoy some traditional winter meals.
Diet or no diet, I’ve learned from my ancestors that food should be adapted to the weather outside.
In winter, a bit more fat helps you to fight the cold. And with the lack of fresh vegetables, pickles are in season to help you digest that fat. I wouldn’ t mind an apple pie either, as a treat, provided it hasn’t much sugar added.
The wonderful traditions of my country in winter!
The real winter, I mean, not this year’s “hot” winter.
In the last 4 or 5 years, one problem with the global warming is that in my area we have literally hot Holidays.
But, keeping with the traditions, we continue to eat a lot of fatty foods, cakes, and drink a lot more than it’s healthy for such a weather. The result: a lot more pounds added to our bodies.
This is year, I’ve decided enough is enough, and until I won’t see some snow, no sausages, no bacon, no pork for me.
Well, it worked in a way, with a splendid fish with green beans on New Year’s Eve and some interesting recipes like poultry and quinces. Also polenta with yoghurt and cheese, chicken soup and lean turkey roast.
I’m a bit hypocrite, you know? It has “helped” me to keep my promise that I’ve had some kind of stomach upset, I will never know the cause.
But fact is, after this new Holidays menu, I’ve never felt better at the beginning of a new year. And, with two pounds less, yeah!
But here comes the snow and one little sausage with beans and sauerkraut with olive oil and black pepper, an apple pie and a glass of red wine will make my life nicer.
By the way, that little sausage is fresh, with fresh meats, made by me.
Although I wouldn’t mind once in awhile this “banana sausage” but only when the weather outside is frightful.