Archive for January 2014

Homemade Sauerkraut

Before we go any further, let me make it clear; forget the supermarket stuff as it is processed junk and won’t get the job done. Hence the need for the homemade stuff.

A few tablespoons a day will re-populate your gut with friendly bacteria, which is the cornerstone of health and disease prevention. A healthy gut also helps with insulin function, lessening the propensity to gain weight..

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Hippocrates was right all those years ago.

“All disease begins in the gut” – Hippocrates, 460 – 370 BC

As it turns out, this gut healing gem deserves a better accolade than accompanying disease inducing hot dogs, wrapped in a stodgy, nutrient deficient bread bun.

Make no mistake, this is perhaps the single most thing you can do to improve your general health, better than any medicine Big Pharma has to offer.provided you don’t consume loads of processed rubbish, which will negate the health improving benefits.

There are a few ways to make this, but I like to stick to what works easy for me.

Ingredients
2 cabbages, any type, cored and sliced
Fine, unrefined sea salt

Method
Before coring and slicing, remove the outer leaves and put aside; these will be used to cover the sauerkraut to prevent contamination.

Put the cored and sliced cabbage in a large bowl and add about two to three tablespoons of salt. Mix well and then press down well with a masher.

Cover with the outer leaves and weigh the cabbage down with some weights; you can use anything you like. I use a large soup pot, filled with large water filled bottles and some big stones. The soup pot just fits nicely inside the bowl.

Leave the bowl of cabbage at room temperature for about seven days, skim off any scum you see and transfer to an airtight glass jar. Refrigerate and consume anytime up to three months. I have two to three tablespoons per day.

Remember you will need to make another batch when you jar the first batch to maintain a steady supply.

Tip
If after 24 hours, the juice or water from the cabbage does not rise enough to cover the surface, add a cup of hot water mixed with a teaspoon of salt.

·         NB To ingest enough healthy bacteria, you will need to consume a food like homemade sauerkraut, which has been found to be very effective at populating your gut with beneficial bacteria and is very cheap to make and much cheaper than probiotic supplements, which do not always guarantee potency; they certainly do not have the wide range of bacteria that sauerkraut offers.

 

 

 

 

 

Kale: A Real Superfood Star

Kale is a member of the cruciferous family of vegetables and if the cost was based on the nutrition and health promoting value, it would be more expensive than lobster; fortunately it is dirt cheap.

Although the other members of the family (broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage etc) get more notoriety, don’t underestimate this gem, whose nutritional profile is unrivalled among green leafy vegetables.

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To think that this healing and nutritional powerhouse has been relegated to almost obscurity at least in the UK after being encouraged for backyard cultivation during World War II to help address the food shortage, mainly through the “Dig for Victory” campaign that likely saved many from sickness and starvation.

Over 50 years on and kale still doesn’t have the recognition it deserves, so let’s try and change that.

Kale and amino acids
Similar to meat, kale contains all 9 essential amino acids needed to form the proteins within the human body: histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan and valine plus 9 other non-essential ones for a total of 18.

Not only that, the amino acids are more bioavailable than those of meat.

Kale, the king of carotenoids
Now to the vitamins. Kale is a king of carotenoids. Its vitamin A activity is astounding. One cup contains over 10,000 IU’s, or the equivalent of over 200% the daily value. Also, consider that most of this vitamin A (retinol) is delivered in the form of beta-carotene, which in its natural form is the perfect delivery system for retinol (two retinol molecules attached to one another), as it is exceedingly difficult to get too much. If you compare it to the synthetic vitamin A used in many mass market foods and vitamins, it is safer and more bioavailable.

Kale for eye health
Kale boasts 26g of lutein and zeaxanthin per serving, the consumption of these two nutrients helps prevent macular degeneration and other retinal diseases associated with ultra violet, light induced oxidative stress.

Kale, the new cow
Hold on, it gets better; Kale generally has the ability to provide an excellent source of minerals, in what is known as food state. Unlike inorganic minerals, e.g. limestone, bone meal, oyster shell, the calcium in kale is vibrating with life sustaining energy and intelligence. At 90mg per cup, this highly bioavailable calcium actually contains more calcium per gram than whole milk! Also, the calcium from Kale is 25% better absorbed, proving that the marketing in support of milk as the ultimate source of calcium isn’t as compelling as commonly believed.

In fact cow’s milk is not that good for you from both a health or weight loss standpoint, but that’s for another day. Suffice to say for the moment, milk actually results in calcium loss from bones and teeth.

Kale is also an excellent source of magnesium, which is why it is green. That deep, dark chlorophyll within its leaves contains appreciable amounts of magnesium, and considering how many of us are dying from excess calcium, adding additional sources of magnesium, which acts to balance out calcium, can have live saving health benefits.

Finally, kale is more than just a nutritional “superfood.” It comes from a long line of plant healers and if the drug approval agencies get their act together, they could approve this as a viable medicine. Newly emerging literature now shows it may be of value in the treatment of cancer, elevated blood lipids, glaucoma, and various forms of chemical poisoning.

Also, kale, like most cruciferous vegetables, is exceedingly high in several other extensively researched anticancer compounds, such as sulforaphane and indole-3-carbinol. The data set on these are even more impressive than on kale, with over 140 disease conditions potentially eradicated by sulforaphane alone.

I find Kale slightly bitter on its own and therefore use it for green juice, which preserves all the nutrients, since it is fresh and not cooked with heat. This juice is packed with cancer and other disease fighting antioxidants, enzymes, vitamins, minerals and other chemo preventative compounds.

See under recipes.

References
http://articles.mercola.com/sites/articles/archive/2013/11/06/kale-benefits.aspx
http://www.nj.com/cooking/index.ssf/2013/11/kale_the_new_super_food.html

 

 

Green Super Juice

If there is only one thing you could do to improve your general health, it would be to consume a pint of green juice daily or at least a few times a week.

This juice is packed with cancer and other disease fighting antioxidants, enzymes, vitamins, minerals and other chemo preventative compounds.

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Ingredients
Good bunch of kale
2 carrots, chopped
2 sticks of celery, chopped
Handful of flat leaf parsley, chopped
1 inch piece of fresh ginger (no need to peel)
½ an apple, cored and roughly chopped
Squeeze of lime juice
Pinch sea salt
250ml of water (or green tea)
Sprinkle of cayenne pepper (optional)

Method
Put all ingredients in a blender or a jug if you are using a hand blender and blend for about 30 seconds until a puree. Push the juice through a sieve with a spatula (remembering to squeeze the leftover pulp with your hands) or squeeze through muslin into a bowl and then transfer to a glass. Drink immediately or chill in the fridge before drinking. Make sure you consume within an hour or two to prevent loss of nutrients.

When available and affordable, use as many organic ingredients as possible.

Variant
You could use other variations including beets, cucumber, tomatoes and other greens (watercress, spinach, rocket, spring greens, collards etc.).

Tip
Have a teaspoon of EV olive oil or coconut oil before you drink the juice; this is crucial for the absorption of the fat soluble vitamins, A, D, E and K.

 

 

 

Spicy sweet potato and butternut squash soup

This delicious, health promoting and tasty soup serves 6. Chock-full of disease busting, fat burning spices and herbs as well as carotenoids from the tubers and 200 active compounds from garlic and oinions.

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Ingredients:
25 g grass fed butter
1 large onion
2 cloves garlic
1 butternut squash
1 medium sweet potato
2 tsp chilli powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
About a 3 to 4 cm piece of fresh ginger, peeled and grated
Sea salt and black pepper
750ml vegetable or chicken stock
2 to 3 tbsp of reduced fat crème fraîche
Fresh coriander, chopped
1 fresh, red chilli, deseeded and finely chopped (optional)

Method:
In a large saucepan melt the butter over a low to medium heat. Peel and chop the onion and add it to the pan. Cook, stirring occasionally. Crush or finely chop the garlic and add to the pan.

Chop the butternut squash into 2.5cm cubes.

Once the onion is soft, add the chilli powder, ginger, cumin and the coriander and salt and pepper. Fry for a few minutes, then add the butternut squash to the pan and stir.

Peel and chop the sweet potato into 2.5cm cubes and add to the pan.

Pour in the stock and make sure everything is covered and give it a good stir ensuring you get to the bottom. This is where a lot of flavour likes to hide! If the stock is not enough to cover everything add hot water from the kettle. Bring to the boil and simmer until the vegetables are soft. Add extra hot water if things start looking too dry.

Blend to the desired texture, stir in the crème fraîche and serve with fresh, chopped coriander.

Tip:
You could also garnish with a deseeded, chopped fresh red chilli for extra heat and colour

Dopamine: The false promise of reward

 

The neurotransmitter or brain chemical, dopamine is responsible for most societal ills in capitalist countries. If you read about “dopamine and the false promise of reward”, you will start to appreciate how futile the quest for pleasure, happiness and satisfaction through the constant pursuit of rewards really is, and the fact that they are not entirely connected.
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In fact the brain is not actually that interested in happiness; it is more interested in preserving our primal survival instincts like passing on our genes, climbing that tree for the nuts or fruits, hunting that animal for meat, fishing for that fish and taking on extra calories when the opportunity presents itself as extra insurance against famine or shortage.

Dopamine not only makes up part of our drive to survive and excel, but part of our reward system in the brain. Therefore in a cruel sort of way, the brain uses the “carrot and stick” approach to achieve its primary objective i.e. survival of the species.

We mistake the “promise of reward” for happiness
We mistake the experience of wanting for a guarantee of happiness and we are prepared to work and even suffer e.g. debt, for what we want as evidence that the object of desire must make us happy. We humans find it nearly impossible to distinguish the “promise of reward” from whatever pleasure or payoff we are seeking.

The “promise of reward” is so powerful that we continue to pursue things that don’t make us happy and consume things that bring us more misery than satisfaction.

This evolutionary survival mechanism worked effectively for our primal ancestors, but unfortunately it has found its way into our modern day living, where we are tempted with all the modern day convenience including online shopping, gambling, on demand sex and drugs, 24 hour supermarkets, fast food outlets and specifically engineered processed foods with the optimum combination of salt, sugar, bad fats and chemical additives to highjack the reward circuit in our brains.

Of course we can experience pleasure and satisfaction, which contributes to happiness, but only when we consume in moderation and adopt meaningful lifestyles. This is the “carrot and stick approach” the brain uses to keep you getting out of bed in the morning. However when you exceed the brain’s “pleasure budget”, the quest for happiness backfires.

I only learned this two years ago when I started doing research for my fat loss book and there is not a better example of this relationship between dopamine, the false promise of reward and happiness, than with food.

The obesity crisis is linked to this relationship and is exacerbated by the fact that there is so much choice and temptation, which has allowed this primal survival instinct to be responsible for an unhealthy relationship with food, including overeating and eating things that are not real foods.

Unfortunately these “foods”, which were never intended to be consumed by humans, hijack the reward circuit in the brain, flooding our systems with dopamine giving us that euphoric feeling, which we also get from many other modern day temptations such as gambling, drugs, shopping, alcohol, sex, collecting material goods.

The only problem is that it is short lived. Why? Because with every messenger chemical e.g. dopamine, insulin, leptin, serotonin, there is a receptor waiting to pick up the message or command. However when that chemical is circulating in high amounts, the corresponding receptor, in our case dopamine down regulates (reduces in density and functionality or becomes resistant to the signal) because it is being bombarded by excess dopamine from the excess stimulant (food, drugs, shopping, etc).

The result of this is that the “high” is never the same as the first few times you consume something in high quantities or with regularity and hence you get the “false promise of reward”. It never delivers the same hit and so you are constantly looking to increase the consumption to experience that initial euphoric feeling.

Just ask the alcoholic or cocaine addict who constantly chases the “high”; it becomes elusive with regularity and excess because the dopamine receptors have down regulated or became resistant to the signal.

Has evolution given us any tools to cope with the endless choice and temptation?
As a matter of fact, yes we have a chunk of brain at the front of the head (see diagram above) called the pre-frontal or frontal cortex (in blue), which has developed over time to help us adapt to the challenges of modern living.

This includes the ability to exercise willpower when we need to make important decisions that will prevent us from harm or help us stay on the path to reach our long term goals; for example, resist that chocolate cake in order to lose the excess fat and live a healthier, happier and longer life.

This part of you recognises that the cake threatens your long term goals and so it will do whatever it can to deal with this threat by helping to control intense emotions and impulses. This is your willpower instinct.

The problem is modern day stimuli like alcohol, drugs, stress, sleep deprivation actually impair this sensitive part of the brain to the extent where it mimics actual brain damage, albeit temporary. This can impair our ability to think rationally and make the correct decisions to reach our long term goals.

The paradox of reward
There is nothing wrong with desire until we mistake the wanting for happiness. A life without wants may not require as much self-control, but it’s also a life not worth living.

The “promise of reward” doesn’t guarantee happiness, but no “promise of reward” guarantees unhappiness; listen to the “promise of reward” and we give in to temptation.

Without the “promise of reward”, we have no motivation. To this dilemma, there is no easy answer. It’s clear that we need the “promise of reward” to keep us interested and engaged in life. If we are lucky, our reward systems won’t stop serving us in this way, but hopefully they won’t turn against us either. We live in a world of technology, advertising and 24 hour opportunities that leave us always wanting and rarely satisfied.

If we are to have any self-control, we need to separate the real rewards that give our lives meaning from the false rewards that keep us distracted and addicted. Learning to make this distinction may be the best we can do. This isn’t always easy, but understanding what’s happening in the brain can make it a little easier and we may find just enough clarity in moments of temptation to not believe the brain’s “big lie”.

Desire is the brain’s strategy for action. As we have seen, it can be both a threat to self-control and a source of willpower. When dopamine points us to temptation, we must distinguish wanting from happiness. In the end, desire is neither good nor bad; what matters is where we let it point us and whether we have the wisdom to know when to follow.

Final thoughts
Big business, including retailers and advertisers know all this and go to great efforts to trigger the “promise of reward”. Knowing that cues have been carefully chosen to tempt you can help you see them for what they are and resist them.

In summation, the only way to achieve a stable level happiness is to balance the amount of dopamine and dopamine receptors, which can only be achieved by a combination of strategies.

These strategies include proper diet (limiting sugars and grains, eating good fats, meats, fish, vegetables, nuts, seeds and minimising processed junk foods), intermittent fasting, proper exercise (high intensity), proper sleep, stress management, meditation, the pursuit of interests, hobbies and meaningful relationships with friends, family and spirituality. This ensures a balance of dopamine and optimum functioning of dopamine receptors in concert with other hormones and neurotransmitters, which is what the body strives for, aka homeostasis.

It’s that simple! But why don’t Governments teach this in schools? We know the answer to that and that is there would be no mass consumerism/consumption or at least not to the same extent or scale.

If you like the article, fee free to share it with friends.

References
http://www.psychologytoday.com/articles/200411/addiction-pay-attention
http://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/evolutionary-psychiatry/201105/dopamine-primer
http://www.wisegeek.org/what-is-the-prefrontal-cortex.htm
“Maximum Willpower” by Kelley McGonigle

Whole Grains: Going against the grain

With the New Year upon us and every man and his dog on a diet, most of them will fail because a lot of diets include whole grains since it is so entrenched into the psyche of so called “experts” and you will learn the reasons for this in this article, which is my gift to you for the New Year. Cut these disease inducing “foods” from your diet and see your health and weight loss take a positive direction.

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How can “foods” that offer very little nutrition, cause a plethora of disease including obesity and are not biologically designed for human consumption, play such an integral part in most of our diets? The answer is savvy marketing by the grain producers (Big Agra) and food companies in an effort to protect one of their key cash cows.

You see them recommended by most mass market diet books and diet companies, Government health sites, nutrition and dietary organisations; something has gone horribly wrong here and the power of the food companies including “Big Agra” is there for all to see. Let’s take a look at the claims and a counter to those claims.

The cereal companies say they lower cholesterol
If it’s not statins, it’s whole grains that are claimed to be the “white knight” in the cholesterol battle. The fact is neither is desirable for optimum health. This is a complicated area to explain in such a short article, mainly because “Big Pharma” and the food industry have hijacked the true messages for cholesterol and health. Cholesterol is not the enemy as they would have you believe; rather it is inflammation that leads to all disease including heart disease. [1]

But they are full of health promoting fibre
This is just more marketing hype form the big cereal companies and “Big Agra”. In terms of preventing constipation; it is actually healthy gut flora and not fibre, which creates a healthy digestive system.

Fibre, particularly excessive insoluble fibre that you find in whole grains, offering a quick jump start to things is not the natural catalyst for a healthy excretory system.

Too much fibre can cause small intestinal bacterial overgrowth (SIBO), which is linked to many gastrointestinal problems including GERD and IBS.

Get your fibre from REAL whole foods, NOT whole grains; nuts, seeds, fruits especially berries, milled flax seed and vegetables (including some root veggies) should be the main sources. Here is an excellent, detailed article on fibre. [2]

But whole grains are full of nutrients

On the contrary; grains are full of anti-nutrients including the main three; phytic acid, lectins and gluten.

Phytic acid is a mineral blocker, preventing the absorption of calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc.

Lectins form part of some plant’s defence or survival mechanism to prevent their seeds or babies being digested by birds and rodents. They contribute to insulin and leptin resistance; insulin and leptin being two key weight loss and health promoting hormones. Lectins bind to insulin receptors [3], attack the stomach lining of insects [4], bind to human intestinal lining [5], and they seemingly cause leptin resistance. [6] And leptin resistance predicts [7] a “worsening of the features of the metabolic syndrome independent of obesity”.

These chain reactions created by grain consumption are shown to increase your risk of:

  • Various cancers including pancreatic, colon, stomach and lymphoma
  • Autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s Thyroiditis
  • Infertility
  • Diabetes
  • Osteoporosis
  • Depleted calcium and vitamin D3 levels; vitamin D3 is critical for disease prevention including cancers.
  • IBS and Crohn’s disease
  • Obesity
  • Arthritis
  • Alzheimer’s
  • Autism
  • Depression, anxiety and schizophrenia
  • Allergies
  • Dermatitis and acne

Gluten may even prove to be worse and is present in wheat, barley and rye. Gluten is composed of two proteins, gliadin and glutenin. Most people think of gluten intolerance as Celiac disease, which affects about 1% of the population. However there are studies to show that 29% and even up to 50% of populations [8] can have some sort of allergy to gluten, which compromises the gut, in turn leading to inflammation, which is the catalyst for many if not all disease.

The nutrients in whole grains are minimal at best and pale in comparison with vegetables, fruits, meats, fish, poultry and healthy fats, most of which have significantly less calories without all the health problems highlighted in this article. Also the vitamins and minerals that are present are not absorbed due to phytic acid, an anti-nutrient.

Gut flora and inflammation
This gluten intolerance (immune reaction) causes fat storage by inducing gut inflammation, which destroys your gut flora in turn causing poor insulin [9] and leptin [10] function (resistance) and adrenal resistance [11] due to elevated cortisol (stress hormone) levels, leading to fat storage. This hormonal cascade also leads to poor nutrient absorption leading to malnourishment and overeating, leading to more fat storage. Fat cells are factories for inflammation; hence the vicious cycle in which people can find themselves.

The combination of leptin, insulin and adrenal resistance affects the P53 gene, the guardian gene of our entire genome, in turn giving rise to disease including cancers. [12]

NB Don’t be fooled by the fact that you may not have any disease symptoms since they build up over time; chronic inflammation starts as a slow burning log and then erupts into a volcano i.e. the first signs of disease symptoms.

But these “foods” have been part of our diet for years
Yes but they are not real foods and some of them have only been around for about 10,000 years; not a long time in our ancestral history. We have actually not adapted biologically to metabolising these grains without the aforementioned health problems.

It really got out of control in 70’s America during the McGovern years with the quest for cheap sources of food to alleviate the pressure of rising food costs; you will have to Google this due to word constraints, to find out how this health disaster unfolded. Alternatively you can read it in my eBook, The Fat Loss Puzzle

Also in terms of the gluten grain, wheat; an even more disastrous scenario developed when scientists decided to cross breed different strains about 50 years ago to meet the increasing demand. Not only did this increase the insulin response significantly, but increased the amount of anti-nutrients.

Why do food companies use them in so many foods?
To bulk up products and also charge premium prices for what are only junk foods with a “health halo” attached to them.

Why do we hear nutritionists, dieticians and Government recommending them?
Simple! Money in the form of tax revenues, corporate profits and donations as well as lots of jobs are dependent on the food industry. If you scratch under the surface of dietary organisations, you will find that they are heavily sponsored by large food companies.

Take a look at the UK Government’s “Eatright Plate”; full of starchy foods including whole grains, which are one of the key culprits in obesity and ill health. Our biology was not designed to cope with the huge amounts of glucose flooding our bloodstreams, mainly from sugars and starches. Even if you exercise regularly, you still won’t burn the reservoirs of glucose and you can only store so much of unused glucose as glycogen in the liver and muscle cells before you encounter fat storage.often referred to as “fat spillover”.

Sources

[1] http://www.naturalnews.com/040234_high_cholesterol_heart_disease_medical_myth.html

[2] http://chriskresser.com/myths-and-truths-about-fiber

[3] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC433288/

[4] http://legacy.jyi.org/news/nb.php?id=890

[5] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1115436/?tool=pubmed

[6] http://www.biomedcentral.com/1472-6823/5/10

[7] http://www.marksdailyapple.com/leptin-fructose-appetite/#axzz2n51dWjfo

[8] “The Gluten Syndrome” by Dr Rodney Ford

[9] http://diabetes.diabetesjournals.org/content/34/12/1253.short

[10] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17456850

[11] http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/12466357

[12] http://www.jackkruse.com/chapter-one-on-leptin/