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Category Archives: Nutrition

Paleo nutrition and diet information, as well as rants and ravings.

Bread? Maybe…

If you are a die-hard Paleo purist, you probably shouldn’t read this post. I’m going to say some things that go against the whole strict Paleo thing. However, if you are someone that is considering Paleo or at the very least a gluten-free diet, read on. This might help you with your transition to this type of nutritional lifestyle and in my opinion, could help you be more successful at sticking with it.

I bought a bread machine.

Yes, that’s right. But, not for the reasons you may be thinking. After the holidays are now over, I am transitioning back to a more Paleo-ish lifestyle. And notice I didn’t say full on Paleo. Why? Well, its all well and good to be an annoyingly faithful strict Paleo follower, but there are some drawbacks. Namely, convenience, boring food and damn, sometimes I just want to eat bread or cookies, okay?

The last couple of months my lifting volume has picked up and my CrossFit-ish workouts have decreased depending on how close to a meet I am getting. On a heavy day and the day right after, I am starving all the time. I feel like I just can’t get enough calories in me, regardless of where they come from. And sometimes, I just don’t have time. This is the obstacle that our modern lifestyle imposes upon us. In exchange for conveniences like technology, we give up the simplistic nature we used to have. So, I can’t always be picky about where my food comes from if my main goal is just to replenish after a day of 10×10 back squats at 75% 1RM (felt like I would never regain feeling in my hamstrings). And, for all the low calorie fanatics and people that promote the whole low-moderate carb all the time, here’s the thing: you can’t do it all the time. It needs to be relative to your training volume and physical activity levels. Low carb for me is about 100g/day on a normal training day and about 200g/day on a really heavy day. That carb cycling needs to be worked into training to replenish the glycogen that’s been drained over the previous 2-3 days.

So back to the bread thing (sorry for the diversion). I have done some heavy thinking and I have come to the realization that I am just not willing to give up fried eggs on toast (if you’ve never used a piece of toast to soak up egg yolk, you are missing out on magic). But I really do have reactions to gluten that I’d rather not have to deal with if I don’t have to. The answer? Get a bread machine and make your own fresh gluten-free bread. That’s why I said Paleo-ish. Its really not Paleo since the bread itself is rather starchy and made from things like white rice flour, sourghum and other grain-ish substances, just without the problem-causing gluten proteins.

I’ll explain my reasoning here and hope that this will help some of you overcome some of the tougher decisions you’re facing with going Paleo or not. The years of dietitian and nutritional counseling training in me tells me that someone is not going to change their lifestyle if they are not ready or if the change falls outside the scope of what they are willing to do or capable of doing right now. Some people can quit huge things cold turkey and never look back while others need to make 20 small changes gradually in order to effect a major lifestyle change. Most of us fall somewhere in the middle. Personally, I care more about getting the calories into myself on those heavy days than I care about whether I’m pleasing the Paleo fairies. I already drink raw dairy, so what’s the occasional slice or two of gluten free bread going to do? (and by occasional I probably mean daily)

My point is, find what you’re willing to change now and work on the other stuff over time. If you can’t go 100% Paleo right away, that’s okay. Start with things like Gluten-free foods and cutting out vegetable oils. Then you can work on cooking more Paleo-friendly foods and increasing your intake of things like nuts, seeds and berries, along with fresh veggies and fruit. While going strict Paleo for at least 2-3 weeks initially is the best way to get started, I know how challenging it can be to remove entire food groups from your diet at once without proper planning.

Here is the fruit of my bread machine labors:

This bread loaf was from a mix of Bob’s Red Mill Gluten Free bread from Hy-Vee. I followed the instructions exactly on the box and the bread machine’s user manual and it turned out perfect. It also tasted better than regular store bought wheat bread (in my opinion). The texture was great, very fluffy and still had enough protein to feel like regular breads. The drawback is obviously that the loaves are smaller than regular bread loaves, but I guess there are sacrifices in every turn we take. You will also have to toast it longer than regular bread if you are planning to make toast with it. It does need to be stored in the refrigerator, also.

This loaf below was from a mix from the Gluten Free Pantry (bought a case of mixes on Amazon).

I actually prefer the Gluten Free Pantry mix as the crumb and texture are a little more consistent and more like regular bread.

What are some things that some of you have made substitutions for to transition into Paleo-ish eating?

Pizza, sauce and getting around the salt issue

Kelly was so kind as to send me a pic of the paleo pizza she makes for her and Ryan in order to make it through the day without losing her mind (like we all so often need). She used a large Portabello mushroom for the ‘crust,’ warmed it up either in the over or for a few seconds in the microwave before adding sauce, fresh mozzarella, and fresh pepperoni (not of the packaged kind, remember the post on gourmet deli meats?). I think she got both the cheese and pepperoni at Carollo’s Italian deli in the River Market.

This is a great idea for those of you that really miss some of the grain-based foods that you used to eat a lot but have decided to give up for 30 days. For many of us that have been doing paleo consistently for awhile, we might experience what I call ‘cheat day letdown.’ Recently we had a cheat day and ate at the Dish here in Liberty, arguably one of the best pizza places in the metro area. Needless to say, it wasn’t everything I thought it would be. It was bland and overly salty, at the same time. I guess I have just gotten used to fresh flavors and very little salt in my food, let alone very little sugar (although, the spinach dip was still pretty amazing).

Back last fall, I posted a recipe for tomato sauce that you can make at home in about 10 minutes in a pan on the stove. Its more of a red sauce, not so much a marinara, like what you would use on pizza. In the U.S, if you go to any grocery store and look at food labels, you’ll likely notice that the main difference between a regular tomato or red sauce and pizza sauce is the salt content and sugar content. The traditional Italian marinara sauce is usually mostly tomatoes and herbs, while pizza sauce is more of an American bastardization of the marinara, to make it flavorful by adding lots of sodium and sugar. This will vary greatly, however, by brand these days.

The original tomato sauce recipe I posted will work just fine for your pizza and here it is:

Spaghetti or tomato sauce

1/3 cup olive oil
2 to 2 1/2 tsp garlic, chopped or minced
1/4 C chopped or diced green onions
3 Roma tomatoes (or garden tomatoes), sliced or diced
1/2 teaspoon salt (optional)

Sauté 2 teaspoons of garlic in half of the olive oil. Add onions. Sauté until garlic is golden. Add tomatoes. Cook over medium heat and mash tomatoes with a potato masher or thick wooden spoon until they separate into sauce. Add remaining olive oil and garlic. Add salt. Simmer 5 more minutes. Remove from heat and serve.

If you want it a little thicker or tangier however, like a more traditional pizza sauce flavor, here is how you can alter it and still keep it paleo and it definitely won’t need a lot of salt!:

  • Add up to a whole can of tomato paste (the amount you add will depend on thick you want the sauce). The only ingredient on the label should be tomatoes. Tomato paste is really just really concentrated and slightly dehydrated tomatoes. Its probably best if you buy organic, but if you’re watching your budget, its not a huge deal to get a non-organic brand and save a little.
  • Add fresh or dried basil (fresh is always best, but again, we don’t all have fresh growing in our kitchen and dried gets you more for your money) ASK ME ABOUT FRESH BASIL PLANTS THAT I WILL HAVE FOR SALE AT THE GYM THIS WEEK!!!
  • Add a little more garlic or pepper, depending on your tastes.
  • You can also puree the whole thing in your blender if you want the really smooth texture of a pizza sauce.

Personally, I like the big chunky and interesting look of fresh tomato sauce and all the stuff I added to it. Let’s face it, paleo can get a little mundane sometimes and getting to see chunks of all the fresh stuff I just put in my sauce is cool. Yes, I’m a food nerd.

Here are some pics of my endeavor at this paleo pizza:

This is what I mean by scraping out the 'gills' of the underside of the mushroom

Before they were baked for 6 min...

Here is what I put on them: sauce (see below for how I modified the recipe), fresh pepperoni, fresh mozzarella, fresh basil, fresh green onion diced. Bake at 350F for 6 min.

For the sauce, I took the above recipe and added a whole can of tomato paste, a light sprinkle of sea salt (maybe 1/2 teaspoon in the entire pan) and pepper. It was delicious! Wayne stood at the counter while the pizzas were cooking just dipping pepperoni into the sauce because he could not stop eating it.

And the final product…

Here they are!

So not to make this post even longer, but I have to say that I was not as huge a fan of these as I wanted to be. Mushrooms and I have a love/hate relationship. I really want to like them, honestly. But they get so slimy when they’re cooked that I just cannot like them wholeheartedly. They lent a really nice flavor to this and if you like mushrooms, you will really love this mini pizza. I was brave and ate all but a couple bites of the second one of mine, which Wayne was more than happy to polish off for me.

In all, great project. I would make these for him again and probably force one down, but I was left a little hungry by the lack of substance in the dish. If you’re interested in what mushrooms have to offer nutritionally, from a macronutrient standpoint (carbs, protein or fat) its very little, which is likely why I was starving about an hour later. Here are some notable micronutrient qualities that portobella mushrooms possess:

In 1 mushroom top:

306 mg Potassium

15.6 mcg Selenium (DRI for most adults is 55 mcg/day)

3.775 mg Niacin (DRI for most adults is 14-16 mg/day)

So, in all, not a loss. I will still keep looking for something higher in fat and protein that will not have a slimy texture or overpower the tomato sauce, which was amazing, by the way, in case you missed it before 😉

Starting another Paleo Challenge!

Okay, here we go again, Combat CrossFitters. You guys asked for it, so we’ll bring it back. The 30 day Paleo challenge. I know a lot of you never left Paleo, but some of you never started either ;). This time around the rules will be simple and fool-proof. There will be no buy-ins or money pot. Before/after pics are optional, but before/after body fat measurement is REQUIRED. This must be taken BEFORE you begin the Paleo challenge and before you do a WOD, or even warmup. The measurement is highly sensitive to hydration status, so it needs to be done before you start messing with your circulation and drinking lots of water. Ask me to do this for you sometime this week before your class.

I am going to go ahead and start mine as of yesterday, because well, that works nicely. That’s when Wayne started his, so I’ll go with that, since we’re keeping each other in check. Any questions, please ask. This challenge is open to members and non-members, for those of you that have spouses or friends that want to do it too. Also, those in ON-RAMP can also participate. Its highly recommended you attend the next Newbie Nutrition class to get directions and get acquainted with how it all works. You do not have to start on a particular date, but I think most people have decided on Monday, April 18th.

Good luck!

Kansas City’s (not so) hidden places to buy fresh, natural meats, vegetables and fruit…

The picture above is of the onions I just bought from my vegetable and dairy supplier,        Providence Farms. They are a CSA located in Trenton, MO and they make deliveries to the north Kansas City area on Tuesdays during the winter months. They also have a booth at the Liberty Farmers Market during the season. If you have ever bought green onions/scallions from the grocery store, compare them to a carton of eggs. They’re maybe about as long, but definitely not longer. And then look at how big around those things are! One stalk is about the circumference of my middle finger, if you can imagine. The eggs next to them were also from the same farm, as was the butter. Oh, and the butter….

There are so many advantages to buying fresh and naturally grown/produced foods. Flavor, freshness, quality and knowing the source of your food. Back to the butter…The butter is in a 1 lb tub and costs about $7. Yes, I know that’s probably at least 2-3 times what you would pay for butter at a grocer. But have you ever tasted or cooked with this stuff? As a big dairy and animal product fan, I can honestly say that nothing compares to hand made fresh butter from the farm. Brush it on your sweet potatoes before you broil them, put a little in the pan before you sautee your bacon or fish, or add it to a glaze on your veggies. Creamy would be an understatement.

One of the main reasons why I buy the majority of our foods fresh and from local farmers is the quality control. They are almost always willing to let you come look at their place, how things are grown and how clean their operation is. They also don’t add a bunch of junk to the growing process. Limited natural herb- and pesticides are used, if any at all. You can look at the produce and see how much it hasn’t been tampered with by the marks and grooves in it. No, it doesn’t look like something out of a gourmet magazine or like the perfectly selected, shiny and color enhanced things you see at your supermarket, but you’re getting ready to chop it up and put it in your food, not photograph it in a bowl on the table, right?

And number two, it just plain tastes better! The flavor of the vegetables you will get from Providence Farms and other local farmers is NOTICEABLY more concentrated and rich than something you buy from the grocery store. Its almost like you can taste the soil nutrients and sunshine, weird, I know. Try going down to the Liberty Farmers market while its in season, or take a trip to the Kansas City River Market. You will be overwhelmed with the variety and selection of fresh produce, most of which is grown locally without harmful pesticides and herbicides and also costs far less than what you will pay from your typical supermarket chain. Yes, you are getting fruit and vegetables that need to be eaten within the next 5-7 days, they are not going to last weeks in your fruit bowl or refrigerator.

But, I ask you, is it normal for produce to last that long? No, its actually not. In nature, things begin to ripen, then rot as soon as they’re picked or plucked from their plant, roots or other nutrient and water support system. Something that stays good for weeks in your kitchen or refrigerator is likely the result of genetic modification to enhance shelf-life and probably best left alone. Now, that’s not to say that you can’t ever eat it. Sure, we all get in a bind and run out of something if we haven’t planned ahead for dinner for the week. No biggie. But over-use of these items has raised some very pointed questions from scientists about the reactions we have to GMO and how they are handled in our bodies, most importantly, our digestive system. I would say the main concern is from the ability of the genes, which are specifically engineered to cross species barriers and implant into DNA of other species, to potentially invade host cells in our bodies after we eat the GMO foods. If you ever want to be scared to ever touch food at the store, Google the terms ‘Monsanto’ and ‘GMO’ and spend the next few days reading about where most of your grocery store produce really comes from.

But enough about GMO and scary corporations for now, we can come back to that later. My main purpose with this post was to pass along resources to you, my Paleo loving members and readers about where in the Kansas City area you can find or purchase Paleo and Paleo-friendly foods, including meats, fruits, and vegetables. Below is a list of places that I have personally used or still do use and would have no problem recommending to you:

Cooking oils:

Heavenly oils and vinegars (only olive oil, no other types)

Beef:

Pisciotta Farms Can be found at the River Market on weekends (their beef is grass fed, but grain finished, so not 100% Paleo, but if you’re not that picky, its not a huge concession to make)

Providence Farms (packages of 2 lbs of ground beef) Makes deliveries to KC area, north of the river; grass fed

Bryant Family Farm (contact them about this beforehand, as they do not always carry all cuts), located in Easton, just outside of Leavenworth in Kansas; grass fed

Buffalo:

KC Buffalo Company You can buy their ground meat, summer sausage and breakfast sausage at area Price Chopper and Hy-Vee stores, but not all of them carry it. For their full line of available products, pretty much any cut you want in beef, you can get in buffalo, plus more, visit them at the River Market on Saturday mornings.

Pork:

Pisciotta farms (their pork is pasture-raised, grain supplemented for texture)

Poultry:

Pisciotta farms (their chickens are free range, and very tasty; you can get whole, or cut up) Also has eggs.

Bryant Family farm (chickens come whole, you cut them up; one of the best chickens I’ve cooked!) Chickens are available, and you can get enormous turkeys at Thanksgiving! Also has eggs.

Providence Farms Eggs and retired laying hens that you can use as soup chickens–they don’t make for good fryers

Dairy:

**write me or call me about raw milk, because there was recently a farm bill passed where the government decided that they are going to tell us what is best for us and ban the sale, trade or bartering of any raw dairy. Thanks big dairy conglomerates, ’cause I still refuse to buy grocery store dairy.

Bryant Family farm chevré, feta and butter (some of the best feta I’ve ever had!)

Providence farms homemade butter!!

Vegetables

Kansas City River Market and Liberty Farmers market, various vendors (depending on what you’re looking for, you can pretty much find it all, from rare to common)

***I would recommend the River Market over the Liberty Farmers market vendors when it comes to vegetables because the price is so much lower. The vendors in Liberty scoot their prices up a little and many people have commented that they are the same or even higher than what you’d pay at the grocery store

Providence farms Seasonal veggies and herbs, plus flowers in the spring

Hopefully the above sources will get you started if you’re looking for naturally grown, affordable meat, vegetables and fruits. There are a few delivered-to-your-door organic vegetable programs in Kansas City that you can subscribe to, but I personally haven’t used them, so I can’t say one way or another whether I’d recommend. Let me know if you are looking for something specific that you don’t see in the above links.

Making Venison Steaks Work

So, I know I’ve been posting about venison a lot lately, but well, we’ve been eating a lot of that. I have found an excellent method for cooking these lean cuts (mostly through trial and error and eating some pretty tough cuts!). Here are my suggestions:

First of all, lets talk about what cut of meat you’re using. This will determine how you can cook it and for how long.

The above is an official depiction of deer meat and what the cuts look like 😉 Similar to a cow or buffalo, the deer will have cuts of meat named the same, which works great for simplicity. The age of the deer, the gender of the deer and they area of the animal that the meat comes from determines how tender the cut is and how you need to cook it. For instance, veal is very tender and soft because it comes from baby cows that don’t move around, therefore the muscle has no chance of becoming hardened, as it would in older animals. Think about your muscles before you did CrossFit and then feel them now after you’ve been doing CrossFit for at least a few months. Hard, right? Same thing with animal meat. The more the muscle gets used, the harder it becomes and the less tender. That’s not to say that harder cuts can’t be cooked well and softened.

As a rule, the most tender cuts of the animal will come from the loin (also called sirloin) and the rib and/or brisket. These are the areas of the animal that are used the least, muscularly speaking. The other areas, such as the rump and shoulder are used very often when walking, running, bounding, leaping and whatever else deer do. These muscles will be more developed and therefore tougher. These cuts generally don’t do well in dry heat cooking methods such as baking or broiling. They are best in slow cookers or braised. The softer cuts like sirloins and fillets can be cooked moist or dry, but I find the best method is a little moisture in the form of fat.

Now, if you’re a die hard ‘steak well done’ type of person, venison may not be the best meat for you because when its well done, its tough. Even the sirloins and fillets can get dried out pretty quick when well done. The best way to cook the meat is to about medium, then pull it off the cooking surface and eat it right away before it can cook too much more internally. This will have some pink in the middle, but OMG the meat is so tender like this. And yes, it is fully cooked through. Out of habit (call it 5-6 years of dietetics school) I always temp my meats before serving to make sure they’ve reached the minimum safe internal temperature to kill microorganisms. The venison sirloins I cook to medium are around 150-155F internally when I pull them off the skillet (145F is considered the minimum internal cooking temp for cuts of full muscle meat).

How do you keep the meat soft and tasty?

Before it starts to cook too much, I stab it with the tip of a knife about 6-7 times on each steak and then I put a little slice of butter on top of each steak. Add whatever seasonings you like. Garlic powder and onion powder combined with a little sea salt and pepper are just about perfect. Cover the skillet or pan you’re using and cook on medium and turn the steaks after about 5-6 minutes. Sometimes if you have a thin cut, if you go to temp it, you may need to run your thermometer through more than one steak to get an accurate temperature.

On a side note, Matt K. asked for the jerky recipe. I don’t have one officially written down because I change it up a little differently each time. Here’s where I would start for a good basic jerky:

1 lb backstrap or other tougher meat

1-2 tsp sea salt

1/4 tsp chili powder

1/4 tsp ground white pepper

1/2 tsp ground black pepper

1. Cut the meat into strips about 1/8 inch thick (this is hard, and most likely your strips will be closer to 1/6 or 1/4 inch thick). The thicker the strips are, the longer it will take for them to dehydrate.

2. Combine the spice mixture in a baggy or small plastic dish.

3. Toss the strips of meat one at a time in the spice and salt mixture and lay evenly on the rack of your dehydrator.

4. Should dehydrate on the highest setting (usually 160F) for about 4 hours. Check the meat after about 3 hours to see how its coming along, especially if you were able to cut it pretty thin.

Optional: seal it in a vacuum sealed bag if you have a sealer, but you can generally keep these in the freezer for months and thaw and eat them within about a week after thawing. I have not really done experiments to see how long they keep at room temperature. The more salt you add the better they are preserved, but then you’ve just added lots of sodium, which can defeat the purpose of paleo, technically.

Here’s where backstrap cuts come from:

j/k, have a great weekend everyone!

An Unfounded Fear of Fat

Many of you have previously attended our low-carb weight loss seminar and we’ve mostly cured you of your fear of fat. For the rest of you, that still need some reassurance that you DO NOT need to be counting fat grams or worrying about saturated versus unsaturated fats, here’s a quick breakdown of fats, in your diet and how they work in your body:

First of all, fat is essential. You must have it. Without it, your body will go into fatty acid deficiency and some of the symptoms or consequences of that are: scaly dermatitis, alopecia (hair loss), thrombocytopenia (too few or reduced platelets in the blood), and, in children, growth retardation. Think about this: your brain is over 60% fat. It takes only about 3% of dietary intake from fat to prevent fatty acid deficiency, as long as at least a small amount of that is coming from essential fatty acids (EFAs) such as omega-3-and-6.

Secondly, if you’re not eating enough fat, what are you eating in its place? Likely its carbohydrate, and as we’ve all learned before, too much carbohydrate intake, regardless of the sources leads to:

  • weight gain
  • hyperinsulinemia, which leads to: hypercholesterolemia, hypertension, inflammation, reduced kidney function or stress on the kidneys and insulin resistance
  • Chronic hunger

Types of Fat…How to Decipher the Terminology

So lately, the newest trend in the food and nutrition industry is labeling things with ‘good fat’ or ‘healthy fat’ etc. And then don’t forget ‘omega-3s’ and ‘omega-6s.’ The food industry counts on the fact that you, the consumer, knows relatively little about fats, what they do and what the terminology actually means. The latest tactic in the war on fat is to condemn saturated fat and applaud unsaturated fats. So lets take a look at different fats and then we’ll look at some of the research relating to those.

Fat 101:

First of all, a fat, or lipid, can take on many forms in nature or in the body. The main component of all fats, however is long carbon chains with hydrogens attached to each carbon like these examples below:

(you may need to click on the image to see it larger if it is hard to read in your browser)

Saturation: What does it mean?

A saturated fat is a fat that has no double bonds between carbon atoms on its chain. Saturated fats are usually always solid at room temperature and they are almost exclusively found in animal sources, however there are definitely a couple of plant sources that are highly saturated, such as coconuts. The more saturated a fat is, the thicker it will be in its natural form. Unsaturated fats are generally liquid at room temperature because they contain at least one, but sometimes many more, double bonds. This is when two carbons next to each other are bonded by not one, but two covalent bonds and each has one less hydrogen because of it. This is significant in nutrition because double bonds are highly reactive in your body. All it takes is a molecule with even a slight charge to break that double bond apart and let something bond to it, like free radicals and such. This causes a lot of damage to cell membranes if it happens in the wrong place, and in general, these unsaturated fats are usually quick to spoil and become rancid, unless those double bonds are created in processing as trans fats.

So now that we know what a fat looks like physically and chemically, lets look at what happens to it once you eat it.

Once the fat reaches your stomach, it triggers the release of gastric lipase, which does a small amount of fat digestion, however, the majority of fat digestion occurs in the small intestine. Once fat enters the duodenum (the upper or first part of the small intestine), bile is released from the gall bladder. Bile is a substance called an emulsifier. Essentially the bile salts bind to fat globules to keep them from clumping together in huge clumps of largely undigestible fat. When the bile salts keep the fat into smaller clumps, pancreatic liapses (enzymes from the pancreas that break down fat) can get to the fat molecules easier and break them apart, yielding short, medium and long chain fatty acids, mono-glycerides and di-glycerides. These fat molecules can now passively cross the cell membranes of your intestinal cells, where they are repackaged as triglycerides, some cholesterol and given protein carriers to form various  lipoproteins such as chylomicrons and mycelles. Then they are shuttled into your lymph system, which carries fat soluble nutrients that cannot go directly into your bloodstream because the high water content of your blood would cause the fat particles to precipitate out and clog things up.

The lymph system empties its contents into the thoracic duct, which eventually ends up carrying the fat molecules to your liver for processing. And here’s where people fall short on the ‘saturated-fat-is-bad-for-you’ hypothesis.

The liver packages cholesterol and fats into lipoproteins that circulate throughout your body in your bloodstream to bring these important molecules to cells that need them. Everyone has likely heard of ‘good cholesterol (high density lipoprotein or HDL)’ and ‘bad’ cholesterol (low density lipoprotein or LDL). Those are two types of cholesterol that circulates as a lipoprotein but you also have VLDL (very low density lipoprotein) that is of the light and fluffy kind, full of big fat molecules that get picked off rather quickly, not causing problems. High density lipoprotein carries cholesterol and fats to the liver for recycling once cells have used what they want. LDL cholesterol carries cholesterol and fats to the cells for use. VLDL also carries cholesterol and fats to the cells for use.

What is wrong with thinking in terms of good and bad cholesterol? Well, the current hypothesis (and yes its a hypothesis because it has not been proven, rather, it has been disproven by a few studies, but we won’t mince words here) is that high levels of LDL cholesterol put you at higher risk for heart attacks because the LDL cholesterol will bind to artery walls and form hardened plaques. Those plaques  harden the arteries, making them less elastic, thereby causing the heart to work even harder to pump blood through them (remember the post about blood pressure?). This eventually leads to heart failure. However, another supposed consequence of LDL is that it will build up in cardiac arteries (the main arteries carrying blood and nutrients to the heart’s muscles) which leads to a myocardial infarction, or heart attack, because the muscles cannot get enough oxygen to pump and they stop pumping, stopping the heart. Here’s the problem with this hypothesis:

  • Here is a research article published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. In this project, researchers looked at the trends of LDL cholesterol levels in Americans and compared it to rates of heart attacks, because they were out to prove that higher LDL cholesterol levels mean you will have more attacks. However, they found from the data that as LDL cholesterol levels declined and were the lowest, heart attack rates did not statistically change. That’s right. With lower LDL cholesterol levels, heart attacks were just as common as with higher LDL cholesterol levels. Then the researchers, in finding that their hypothesis was not supported, switched and baited and pointed out that many more people could be taking statins to lower their cholesterol than are taking it. Wow. So your hypothesis wasn’t supported, but you still feel like people should take a drug for a condition that it may or may not even help.
  • The famous Framingham study, which set out to monitor diet and compare it to factors that were believed to contribute to heart disease, fell short of proving that dietary saturated fat and cholesterol had any effect at all on serum cholesterol (cholesterol circulating in your blood). The researchers buried the results that actually proved that there was no connection between these factors (you can read more about this here on the blog of Dr. Eades). However, to this day, this study is heralded as ground-breaking, as long as you don’t actually dig up and look at the data the original researchers suppressed that made them look ridiculous. Here is but one excerpt from the data that were suppressed and later released: “There is no indication of a relationship between dietary cholesterol and serum cholesterol level. If the intake on animal fat is held constant there is still no relation of cholesterol intake to serum cholesterol level. If (further) a multiple regression is calculated [using animal fat and dietary cholesterol] there is also little suggestion of an association between this pair of variables and serum cholesterol level.”
  • In the Seven Countries Study, which was supposed to have shown that dietary saturated fat intake increased risk for heart disease and raised cholesterol levels, actually showed that in the countries compared, men with similar levels of serum cholesterol (anywhere from 180-250 mg/dL) had grossly varying rates of heart attacks. There was no standard showing that a high cholesterol level (generally considered anything over 100 mg/dL) made the participants any more at risk for heart attacks than did a lower cholesterol level. And the rates were across the board, regardless of the region of the world or the ethnic background of the participants. You can read more about that here.
  • And last but not least I’ll leave you with this article. It describes, in a very well written way, the path a couple of researchers took to arrive at the conclusion that the SIZE of the LDL particles is really what matters. If LDL particles are small and dense, then yes, they are much more likely to lead to heart disease or heart attacks. If LDL particles are big and fluffy, there is virtually no risk. However, the catch here is that when a lipid panel is ordered by your physician, they do not report the particle sizes, nor do they routinely screen for those at most medical institutions. We certainly have the capability to do so, but its not yet common practice, as many old school medical professionals don’t want to admit that maybe they’re not totally correct in stating that LDL cholesterol is bad.

I’ll leave you there with that much to digest and we’ll pick back up next time with a, hopefully, much shorter post examining why certain types of dietary fats are better than others, and its not what you’re being told by the American Heart Association, either.

Sea Salt…

Its about time to address the salt issue…one of the many reasons why we don’t eat the processed foods is the sodium content. Things that can keep in a package for weeks or months at a time are usually extremely loaded with salt, because its a very cheap and accessible preservative. Food with high salt content is generally an inhospitable environment for bacteria to grow, hence the high sodium content in processed meats.

On a Paleo diet, the small amount of salt you use should come from sea salt, and not because its any lower in sodium…because its not. Sea salt is a naturally derived and unprocessed salt, and usually comes with some added bonus minerals such as magnesium and calcium (up to 2% usually). You still don’t want to go overboard with the salt because it does definitely have some very real health risks if you use too much. While I’m not at all a fan of the American Heart Association’s rhetoric on ‘low-fat heart healthy diets,’ part of their heart healthy diet is low-sodium, which is a real legitimate concern.

Let’s take a look at what can happen to your blood pressure when you’ve got too much sodium in your body and why this is a bad thing:

Salt, or sodium as we’ll call it when its in your body, is the primary extra-cellular ion. This means it is in larger quantities outside your cells than inside. Its counterpart, potassium, is the intra-cellular ion that keeps the delicate charge on either side of the cell membrane in check if hydration status is adequate. Salt attracts water, so in your body, if there’s too much sodium circulating, it will pull water out of the surrounding tissues and into your circulation, which increases the volume of your blood. This increased blood volume causes your heart to work a lot harder to pump that extra blood. Here’s the important part: your heart working harder to pump the extra blood is not the same as you running a few miles to get your heart rate accelerated for cardio-vascular exercise. Its your heart literally pumping harder for a longer period of time, which it can’t sustain over the long haul.

In addition to the stress you’ve just placed on your heart, your kidneys are also working extra hard to try to filter out and excrete all that excess sodium from your circulation. This causes strain on the kidneys, which are not renewable. Once they start to fail, they don’t regenerate or heal. As your heart is over-worked trying to pump the extra volume, your kidneys are overworked trying to get rid of the extra volume. When the sodium in your diet starts to pull fluid from other tissues in the body, you get a thirsty feeling. You go drink more water, then you’ve just added more fluid to the mix. And that’s if you’ve just had water. If you went and drank something else, such as soda, you’ve added even more charged particles to the equation and even more load on your kidneys to try to clear out, when they’re already struggling as it is.

It is estimated that the average American consumes between 3000 and 6000mg of sodium a day. The daily requirement in your diet is about 500mg. You can easily get that from fruits and vegetables, because, yes, there is some small amount of naturally occuring salt in vegetables. Also, seafood is an excellent source. In order to meet the guidelines for a ‘heart-healthy’ sodium intake your salt should be no more than about 1500mg per day.

On the Paleo diet, you’re really only getting about 500mg naturally from vegetables and a small amount in some spices. The rest should come from tiny and moderately used sea salt or the occasional bite of grass-fed dairy cheese.

I think I was talking to someone about my favorite sea salt and I mentioned that I use a Pele Red Hawaiian sea salt, which has a little bit of a sweet zip to it, with the salty flavor. Here is a pic of it and you can buy it here on Amazon. I have also seen Himalayan pink salt, which may or may not be the same type of flavor profile, so I can’t say for sure.

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