Cellular Health

If we heal our cells, we heal ourselves. You & I are trillions of cells, all working together trying to be awesome. And then there is the control centre – our brain and neurons which will dictate the quality of your life and help you achieve your life’s dreams. And that is why, my bigger focus is on improving brain health, reducing inflammation and especially brain inflammation and improving health at cellular level. Proteins, fats and carbs of course still matter and so do micro nutrients but there is only so much you can fiddle around with that stuff. You really can’t have a beautiful thriving brain in a body that’s falling apart. And it’s also not a guarantee that a drop dead perfect brain resides in a well sculpted body, the one we see on cover of health magazines. Or as Dr Daniel Amen, 9 times New York time bestseller author and a brain expert explained – He sees most beautiful brains in people who are active and workout a few times a week but not excessively or heavy workout every single day. Overdoing in the gym may make you look good naked but it leads to inflammation and elevated stress levels. So not ideal for your brain or anti-ageing efforts. I often find myself walking this tight rope between increasing my strength as much as I can and yet I don’t want to it to interfere it with my anti-ageing and keeping inflammation at as low levels as I can. Of course it all depends on what’s your priority. Muscles and strength above everything on one hand vs caloric restriction to achieve anti-ageing on the other? My top priority is to have energy to go after all of my life’s dreams and never not be able to achieve them for lack of it. Secondly avoid the big chronic diseases plaguing our modern culture for as long as possible. An ideal scenario in this regard would be that up until the day I died I wasn’t suffering from a chronic and degenerative disease like MS, Alzheimer’s, Type 2 diabetes or cardio vascular issues. So if I could, I want to spend a total of 60 minutes for the rest of my life in hospital on account of my health.

The master plan has below 4 as major components:

  1. An elastic-plastic brain – A thriving brain that’s willing to unlearn and learn new things.
  2. Extremely low inflammation levels – So that I am not besieged by chronic or auto immune diseases or worse auto immune diseases that are neurological like MS, Alzheimer’s, Dementia.
  3. High blood sugar control or insulin sensitivity – Insulin is the hormone general which keeps all other hormones in check. If your food and lifestyle keeps you Insulin sensitive, you are doing a pretty good job.
  4. A lean and strong body – I don’t need to be the most buffed up guy in the room but neither do I want unwanted fat.

This is where ensuring cellular health comes in to address these cross cutting concerns. A bit more complicated than just working on your biceps.

And healthy cellular membranes underlies cellular health. Imagine your cells are like a football or a child’s plastic ball and membrane is the thick shell or thin skin of this ball. Now some problems are obvious if there were to be holes in this skin. It’s actually far more complex than that. You don’t really end up with holes but you could end up with an unstable membrane. Fats are an essential ingredient needed to build the cellular membranes. If the fats you eat are unstable so will be the cellular membranes. For example, if you have lived on a diet of vegetable oils and margarines which are primarily unstable PUFA (poly unsaturated fatty acids). Compare this with MUFA (Mono Unsaturated Fatty Acid) or Saturated Fat found in avocado, olive oil, butter, coconut oil or meat of ruminants like goat and lamb, which tend to be stable fats especially the Saturated Fat. It takes nearly 4 years for the cellular membranes to recycle themselves. High quality undamaged fats are one of the big focus of my diet and have been for last 2 years. What this means is that I am nearly half way through fixing my cells and results have been palpable and very pleasing – whether its resilience or getting stronger.

But the job is only half done as of now and a nutrition Ninja has more than one weapon they can wield.

Calcium 2 AEP aka Vitamin M1

Enters Ca-2AEP also known as Vitamin M1. Calcium 2-Amino Ethyl Phosphoric Acid. Ca-AEP is a vital component in the cell membrane.

Consider some of its functions:

  1. Cell sealer and protector – Ca-AEP decreases water solubility and seals the membrane pores, decreasing the permeability of the outer cell membrane by foreign substances. This protects the cell from invasion by toxins, bacteria, viruses etc.
  2. Nutrient carrier – A cell has nutrient carriers in the membranes. We eat fat, proteins and carbs which are broken down into fatty acids, amino acids and glucose. Ca-AEP helps with the absorption of these and vitamins through the ‘active transport pores’ of cell membranes.
  3. Maintains cell electrical charge – Ca-AEP maintains and repairs cellular neurotransmission.Restoring levels of Ca-AEP in the cellular membranes improves membrane integrity.

If you are still not impressed, consider diseases involving disturbance of cell membranes

  1. Multiple Sclerosis
  2. Inflammatory disorders like arthritis
  3. Diabetes and diabetic complications like diabetic neuropathy
  4. Osteoporosis (brittle bones)
  5. Lung diseases like Asthma


It’s a bit hard to join the dots between healthy cellular membrane and treating diabetes. How can Ca-AEP possibly help with Diabetes?

Consider this. Sometimes it’s not a problem of reduced insulin production but rather cells becoming insulin resistance or inability to transport glucose into cells (look at the point number 2. Nutrient carrier above). So when you eat excess carbohydrates, you have excess blood sugar in the blood which is not getting clear fast enough. The solution is not to not eat enough, you could end up with low blood sugar. By fixing the cell membranes and glucose transport by extension, this problem goes away.

Elevated glucose and insulin levels create other complications as well. For example, they damage numerous body structures like protein, red blood haemoglobin. This incrementally damages major body system and causes degenerative diseases. Ca-AEP seals the cell membrane that prevents toxic glucose metabolites from entering and damaging the cells.

Ca-2AEP Supplementation

First when I found out about Ca-2AEP I wondered why I can’t seem to find it in health stores especially given its importance. Folks working over at the health store didn’t seem to know as well. And that’s because it’s available as a Cell Repair supplement.

Cell Repair

Here is what Ca-2AEP that I have ordered from New Zealand Longevity Foundation has to say:


CA-2AEP also known as the Vitamin M1 or membrane integrity factor, performs this function in every cell of the human body tissue by restoring/maintaining the electric voltage potential in the cytoplasm of the membrane. This will deny entry to unwanted cells invaders…..”


1. Fix your cells by fixing the cellular membranes.

2. Undamaged and stable fats will lead to stable cellular membranes.

3. Supplement intermittently with Ca-2AEP.

Mars and Venus

So what’s the first thing that came to your mind when you read the caption? Perhaps ‘Men are from Mars and Women are from Venus’? Dr John Gray, author of several books in this Mars and Venus series was recently on BulletProof Radio. The podcast kind of blew my mind. Most times I listen to a health podcast like BulletProof Radio or Paleo Solution I hope that I will  learn one new thing about healthy lifestyle. I think I walked away with at least 5 gems in this podcast and not just the usual fats-proteins-and-carbs. Important as it is, that stuff gets boring really fast. Brain health and brain anti-ageing is much more fun because brains at the center of everything and pretty much a mystery. Reducing brain inflammation is fun. Mind you, food and lifestyle choices that lead to body inflammation will also cause brain inflammation because brain and body are one. It’s fascinating to hear about health and nutrition from the lens of brain rather than body weight. You want to look good and be healthy for as long as possible and thriving brain has to be the focal point of this strategy. Mars Venus series Dr John Gray has sold over 50 million books and his work has been in translated into 50 languages. He is considered one of the foremost relationship experts and so I expected them to talk about relationships and sexuality and how men and women are different. The first book has been out for 2 decades now. Around 15 years ago, the Dr shifted his focus from just relationships to relationships and brain health. Not to mention that he was facing a personal crisis, he was in early stages of Alzheimer’s. Conventional medicine has a pathetic record for treating such complex and chronic diseases. So he ended up not taking this route. Through  lifestyle change, nutrient dense diet and vitamin-mineral support he managed to reverse his symptoms. He also inadvertently fixed his ADD which he always had but never really thought about it till his wife mentioned to him that he was much calmer now or doesn’t procrastinate. It’s amazing that Dr understands not only the big picture about male female relationships in terms of emotional and sexual differences, but has mapped these down to hormonal differences, all the way down to mineral and nutrient deficiencies in our body and brains. No small feat. And he totally digs BulletProof coffee. Super impressed with the guy. Let’s dig into the show:

1. Attention Deficit Disorder(ADD), stimulants and Dopamine effect – ADD manifests in 4 different forms – Hyper sensitive, Hyper focussed, Hyper distracted, Hyper compulsive. Dopamine is pleasure, motivation, focus and interest. When you hear something new and you are interested, huge amount of dopamine gets produced. So whenever you have high dopamine response the brain gives you fewer dopamine receptor sites and then it’s gone. So you need to do it again and again. If you over stimulate, you lose receptor sites! On first use of cocaine, you lose 30% of receptor sites temporarily, so life feels 30% less pleasurable, interest and focussed and so they seek that cocaine stimulation again. Kids with ADD have low dopamine levels in the brain. So these kids are pushing too hard and seeking stimulation. When they are given a drug like Speed, Adderall basically Methamphetamine, these kids calm down. Why? Well it produces dopamine. If you allow the brain to make more dopamine, it slows down or starts behaving normally – calm and focussed. Other stimulants are sugar, processed carbs, video games and pornography. You will have to take away the over stimulation (cocaine, sugar, porn) for the receptor sites to come back up. Coffee works through a different pathway than methamphetamine or sugar or Speed which are dopamine stimulants. Coffee doesn’t overstimulate unless you do too much. And putting butter and MCT oil prevents this overstimulation. Dr jokes half seriously – “Why don’t you just give the kid coffee or bulletproof coffee and parents are horrified that they can’t give coffee. So they don’t have a problem giving a drug with effects like cocaine but coffee is a problem?”

2. Flow state – Flow state is not quite over stimulation but you can easily deplete you brain of nutrients and minerals by being in flow state for too long. I can personally attest to this that whenever I have done my best work in the morning after bulletproof coffee in flow state, once you are done with that creative piece of work, you feel exhausted afterwards. You are like a race car and you deplete nutrients and minerals. You also need healthy gut flora to make these nutrients. Lot of high performers in the history get into flow states, produce master pieces and then crash and burn until next time when body has again enough nutrients to get into flow state. Dave: “It takes more zinc and copper to lift more, create more, remain longer in flow state.”

3. What else triggers dopamine? Success stimulates dopamine. So does Danger. If you have a successful career or relationship, you are making enough dopamine. But imagine a 19 years old with bleak outlook who seeks dopamine dose. He may end up joining a gang and introducing a bit of danger in his life and that becomes his addiction. Drama in marriage between the couples – arguing and yelling. Anytime you are yelling and shouting it implies danger. Grieving – You can become addicted to grieving to get dopamine dose especially if you don’t have a nutrient dense diet. Parents are chronically grieving loss of a child – they are hopelessly depressed and on medication and can’t get out of the state. When parents were shown the photo of the child, same parts of brain lit up on the brain scan as when you take cocaine.

4. Dr eats good high quality meat (not a lot) and doesn’t demand perfection in his food. He is not dogmatic about it. Whole food based.

5. Blood sugar – Imbalance in blood sugar, hiking and falling, is one of the biggest problems because glucose is one of the fuels for the brain and you brain goes haywire. Your blood sugar spikes and falls and your brains a mess. This is where Dr revealed 3 amazing supplements (2 of which I didn’t know). First two have to with calcium regulation and first one is important for blood sugar regulation–

i. Membrane support via AEP (Calcium 2-AEP Or Calcium-Mag-Pot-2AEP) – Work of Dr Nieper from Germany has patent on this and he bonded calcium, magnesium and potassium.  It provides cellular membrane support. Dave has been taking Calcium 2-AEP for 15 years to get membrane support and kidney protection (Dave has only 1 kidney). I think it’s vital to stress this point – healthy cell membranes. That is what can stop pathogens from getting into the cells or health of receptors on the cells (think insulin receptors if you are wondering how it helps with blood sugar regulation). Cell membranes are made of fat and this is why you would want to eat butter and avocado (undamaged fats) and not margarine. It’s the raw material for your cells folks and it takes time to rebuild them. Dr: “Nobody knows about this guy (Nieper) and everyone should be taking this.”

ii. Vitamin K2 – Calcium regulation and metabolism is vital. Anybody who is depressed is not making enough GABBA in the brain because there is issue with calcium regulation. It allows brain receptor sites to remove calcium and regenerate themselves. Calcification also stiffens the veins leading to cardiovascular issues. I already supplement with K2 and I also get it nutritionally via butter, pastured egg yolks and chicken livers.

iii. Lithium-Orotate – One of the minerals people lose most when they eat sugar is lithium. One of the functions of lithium is to regulate calcium in the brain and lithium is considered a medicine for ‘bi-polar’ people. You would want lithium orotate and not lithium carbonate which is want psychiatrists recommend. Food that has the most lithium in it is beetroots. Where do we get most our sugar from? Beets. As always things naturally exist in a balance and that’s how they should be consumed. Personally, I intend to make Calcium 2-AEP and Lithium-Orotate part of my supplement stack. A very close family member has a history of nerve issues and bipolarity and is already on some lithium supplementation probably the carbonate one. I really hope this helps them.

6. Women and blood sugar – When women get hungry, their blood sugar has already dropped and drops much further than men. It’s already an emergency situation, cortisol rises and it’s like a bear is chasing her. Too bad, you are the only person around and so she will remember every mistake you have ever made. Get her some food already with a bit of healthy carbs. Nut and goji berries? An apple?

It’s astonishing the amount of supplements he has reviewed on his website.


Wonders of Activated Charcoal

It’s not surprising that we don’t hear much if at all about health practices that are effective and cheap. Eating sulphur rich vegetables just don’t get the attention to detox yourself and are not as flashy as 500 $ detox program involving magic pills and carrot juice. No one gets to make money off Brussel Sprouts, Broccoli or Onion. Besides, part of us believes in magic pills or one simple trick that will burn all the fat.

My knowledge about Activated Charcoal at times makes me feel like I have a secret, a tool in my tool box which gives me an unfair advantage. Shout out to BulletProof executive Dave Asprey – I first learnt about it on BulletProof Radio.

A word on detoxification first….

Detoxification according to functional medicine is one of the 7 fundamental systems. It’s a truly essential job – getting rid of both endogenous (that is produced within our bodies) toxins as well as exogenous (external via food or environment) toxins. You could eat a very nutrient dense diet but if your cells aren’t getting cleared of the toxins or you are getting inundated with exogenous toxins, you are going to feel the terrible effects sooner or later.

Let me illustrate this with 2 examples.
You are eating the best possible lean meat proteins in the form of let’s say salmon and tuna and you feel really great about making these healthy choices. Unbeknownst to you, you are also getting a trace dose of mercury and other heavy metals. Now it’s the dose which makes the poison and so these trace amounts don’t make any difference in 1 or 2 or even 5 years. However, if your body is not detoxing as well as it can, these minute amounts will add up over time and you end up with heavy metal toxicity.
Or imagine you eat out and drink and soon after you don’t feel too great. A little bit of brain fog. It’s happened to me several times after I have eaten out. Eating out is fun but a bit of compromise in terms of quality.

Liver is the seat of detoxification in the body and in charge of detoxifying our bodies from internal as well as external toxins. While I feel less concerned about a healthy liver clearing cellular toxins – because liver has dealt with these for millions of years and perhaps understands them much better. It’s the external toxins coming into the body via eating food outside that can make liver’s job harder. And every hero can use a sidekick.
Enters our sidekick: Activated Charcoal. World’s oldest and most reliable detox.

Now before you get the idea that I have lost my marbles and eating charcoal would kill us, let me allay your fears.
0) If nothing else, stuff given to infants has to be absolutely safe?
Gripe water is given to infants and young children if they experience stomach indigestion.
Have a look at Colic Calm Gripe Water and it’s first ingredient is Activated Charcoal.


So it’s considered a food supplement.

1) Charcoal is not digested or absorbed in the gastro-intestinal tract.
2) There is a 10,000 years of history of charcoal use in Chinese medicine, Ayurvedic medicine as well western medicine to soak up poisons and improve intestinal health through a process called ADSORPTION. (That’s not a typo. Adsorption means to bind and not absorb.)
3) In fact, Activated Charcoal (A.C.) is commonly used in hospital emergency rooms. Why? Because charcoal is an age-old remedy for counteracting poison. If you ingest poison as fertilizer or bad alcohol or a large dose of medicine by mistake, then a large dose of A.C. will help your body flush out the poison faster.
4) What do you think is present in water filters and purifiers?


So what is ACTIVATED CHARCOAL (A.C.) really?
A carbon source like wood or coconut shells is burnt and the black charred carbon that is left behind is charcoal. These tiny charcoal particles have a large surface area. This charcoal is then activated with oxidizing gases like steam or air at high temperatures and so it becomes negatively charged. This further increases its surface area or adsorption capacity. Consider this, just 2 g of A.C. has surface area of a football field! It has a very strong negative charge and a lot of toxins in the body or those we eat are positively charged. So it ends up attracting all these toxins and taking it out of the body.
If you look at a bottle of A.C. it will say somewhere that it is a “digestion aid”.


This brings up an important question – Can A.C. bind to the nutrients in our food?
First there is very little evidence that A.C. binds to organic nutrients in our food. More importantly, when you eat out and suspect less than ideal food, nutrient density becomes a lot less important. I am less concerned about losing some nutrients or proteins to A.C. and more interested in getting rid of anti-nutrients or toxins.

More important question though is – Can A.C. charcoal interfere with medication?
Yes, it definitely can. The recommendation is not to mix your medicines and A.C. and talk to your doctor about it. There is very little evidence that A.C. can block uptake of synthetic vitamins\minerals. However, this can be alleviated to a large extent by timing when you take A.C. Common sense dictates that you shouldn’t take your vitamin\minerals and A.C. together. A general guideline is to take A.C. in-between meals or one and half hours after the meal.

Another clever use of A.C. is for dental hygiene. If it can bind to toxins in the gut, it can bind to toxins in the mouth. Check out Katie’s experience on wellnessmama.com.

You can really go for any decent brand. But If you are in a bit of mood to splurge and want to get the best A.C., look no further than Upgraded Charcoal, the charcoal is obtained from coconut shells only.

Upgraded Charcoal

French don’t snack!

The little boy was only 5 years old at the time of this incident. His family went over to their uncle’s for dinner. They were joined there by other aunts and uncles and so the dinner was a grand affair. Sometime after this lavish dinner, this 5 year old boy was still hungry and so requested for an apple. His father informed him that he can’t have an apple post-dinner. So, as expected, the boy started throwing a temper tantrum and was stomping around the room. In circumstances like these, seniority matters and one of the aunts pleaded on the boy’s behalf and suggested that perhaps he could have half an apple. But the father of the boy was firm about his decision and would have none of it. Little boy did not get an apple that night and eventually had to sleep without eating one.

This happened a while ago. That 5 year old boy is now a PhD in neuro biology and an obesity researcher and author. He clearly remember the story because this is the only surviving video of him as a child – him throwing this temper tantrum over not getting an apple after the dinner. His name is Stephen Guyenet.

The incident is not very strange according to him and what most people don’t realize is that boy’s father is French! I didn’t know it myself but French generally speaking, don’t snack between meals. Same is expected from children. In fact, children pretty much eat the same food as their parents and if you are coming from a culture where children are actually encouraged to snack and eat children-friendly (pasta, noodles and other crap) food, this will seem counter-intuitive. It’s not that they spend less time cooking and eating food, quite the opposite actually. They put in a lot of effort and time in cooking and enjoying their food. If Americans love their fast food, then French love their slow food. Children in French schools get a 2 hour break in the afternoon to enjoy their 4 course lunch. But once they have had their lunch and are fully refreshed for the rest of the afternoon, no more snacking until the next meal.

Now the reason this story is very interesting is because French children have one of the lowest rates of obesity amongst first world countries and the obesity rates have not risen for last one decade. One could be tempted to think that it’s the quality of food alone or macro-nutrient ratio is behind this.  But a survey indicated that French actually know less about basic nutrition. So food quality can only be one of the variables in this multi factorial equation of health. The French relationship to food and eating behaviour is another variable.

Child Obesity Rates

I ran into Karen Le Billon’s wonderful blog and Karen explains the French relationship to food.

From her blog

Of the four countries surveyed (the US, France, Japan, and Belgium), the US stood out: Americans tend to associate food with health, not with pleasure…

When shown a picture of a chocolate cake, the most frequent responses from Americans were ‘guilt’ and ‘calories’. The French response: ‘celebration’ and ‘pleasure’. The French associate a picture of ‘heavy cream’ with the word ‘whipped’, whereas the Americans described it as ‘unhealthy.

It’s called the French paradox but I don’t consider it a paradox at all: French spend twice as much time as Americans eating and they consume dairy and meal products in large quantities, yet are less overweight or obese, and have lower rates of heart disease than Americans.

Now this is not a call to eating unholy amounts of meat and dairy. And before you get the idea that they can have their cake and eat it too, French intuitively understand that food quality matters. They are extremely smart about imparting food wisdom to children. Again from Karen’s blog

In part, it’s because French school lunches are used as a pedagogical tool, introducing a broad range of dishes, fresh vegetables, and fruits. Strict Ministry of Education regulations ensure that fried food is served no more than once per month, children drink only water at lunch; instead of flavored milk, traditional cheeses or yogurts are served. Ketchup is served a maximum of once per week–and only with foods with which it is traditionally used as a condiment, such as steak. Portion sizes are limited (one piece of delicious baguette per child, at my daughters’ school). And vending machines are banned in all schools. Yes, that means no soda pop, no processed food, and no fast food. Kids learn to like the taste of ‘whole food’. This doesn’t mean deprivation, but rather moderation: sweet treats (like Cherry Clafoutis in cherry season, or Chocolate Mousse) are served once a week. So French kids learn to ‘treat treats as treats’, to use Michael Pollan’s phrase.”

She has authored couple of books, one of them called “French Kids Eat Everything

French Kids Eat Everything

Parents typically ask the children “if they are still hungry” and not “if they are feeling full”. Subtle difference. Children are encouraged to taste (and not eat) green leafy vegetables because they realize that it takes up to 7-15 times for a child to start eating a new food.

So this food educations starts in school and is actively supported at home.

I have over time managed to convince my 4 and a half year old daughter to eat egg yellow. It works better when she’s also offered blueberries with eggsJ. It could be the case of trying to impress dad but she has come a long way from having nothing to do with the yellow portion to tasting bits of it to having the whole yolk in one go.


One of the points that struck me is that healthier societies are not healthier because they know a lot about nutrition. In fact, if you look at modern hunter gatherer societies like Katavans or Hazda, they are not even consciously thinking about avoiding diabetes or obesity. They don’t have access to modern education and perhaps know very little about enzymes and cellular bio chemistry.

Katavans diet is up to 70% carbs (fruits, tubers, honey) and they are essentially chronic disease free. Ironically, the fattest women are the ones who are in their prime to deliver a child and from there on, they will continue to lose fat. The most important point to note is that the carbohydrates in their diet is not the artificial kind – it’s not refined flours or soda or sugar candies and skittles. I bet the disease statistics will look very different if they had access to a supermarket or if you had orange juice growing on the trees.

Vitamin E is complex

Vitamin E is a complex vitamin. Complex but not complicated hopefully. Complex because it’s a compound that includes both tocopherols and tocotrienols. It’s not a simple one like Vitamin D


It will matter when you do decide to supplement with Vitamin E (or B for that matter because it’s complex too). You may think what you have bought is Vitamin E but that may only be half the truth (or even less). It will be an incomplete Vitamin E. You basically get a bad deal. You think you have a Tesla but it’s really Corolla under the hood.

Consider that you are pro-active about your health and don’t want to actually sit around for rickets or soft bones to happen to know that you are Vitamin D3 deficient. So you get a bunch of lab tests done and the blood work confirms your suspicion that you are low in Vitamin D and Vitamin E. Chances are that you are going to follow this up with Vitamin D3 and Vitamin E supplementation. This is where the simplicity of D3 and complexity of E will trip you up.


You go to the pharmacy and request for a good brand of Vitamin D3 and E and you hope that you are sorted. Alternatively, you go to www.iherb.com and do a bit of research on best brands. So you settle on Life Extension for Vitamin D3 and some other brand for Vitamin E.

You end up buying Life Extension Vitamin D3 5000 IU (that’s what I use myself).

(IU stands for International Units)

Look at the back and you can see that each capsule contains Vitamin D3 as cholecalciferol. It’s really that simple. The bio-available form of Vitamin D called D3 is cholecalciferol.

Vitamin D3

Vitamin D3


In the same vein, you search for Vitamin E and you decide to buy some brand of Vitamin E.

Let’s examine the ingredients.

Just alpha tocopherol. Where are Bravo, Charlie and Delta.

Just alpha tocopherol. Where are bravo, Charlie and Delta.

So each capsule contains 400 IU worth of Vitamin E as d-alpha tocopherol. That should trigger the next logical question? Is there a Bravo, Charlie and even a Delta type tocopherol J. And it definitely doesn’t have the tocotrienols form.

Let’s see if we can find something better. Here is another reputed brand:

E tocopherol

E tocopherol

What do you know? We don’t quite have Bravo, Charlie and Delta but you do have Beta, Delta and Gamma. So you at least have E complex now but still no tocotrienols.

Let’s search for “Vitamin E tocotrienols”. I recognize couple of my go to brands, Jarrow Formulas and Life Extension.

Vitamin E Complete

Vitamin E Complete

Or consider LifeExtension, which looks even more loaded and the real deal.

Vitamin E - fully loaded

Vitamin E – fully loaded

See how very quickly we moved from a simple and incomplete Vitamin E supplement -> Vitamin E tocopherol complex -> Complete E (full spectrum and containing both the forms).

Fortunately, most of us don’t need to supplement with Vitamin E and you can get enough from almonds, green leafy vegetables and Avocado (bit of show-off fruit-vegetable I say). When it’s possible to get all of your vitamin needs from whole foods, it’s the perfect scenario.


Each to his own but my philosophy to supplementation is very simple. Where food can’t suffice, I resort to supplementation. Modern food, even organic whole foods are deficient is certain vitamins and minerals. The nutrition ultimately comes from the soil and if it’s lacking in soil, it’s going to be lacking in the food we eat. And sometimes where and how you live affects how much Vitamin D3 you can really make.

For example, you can’t make enough Vitamin D3 in New Zealand for 8 months of the year. And for the 4 months that you can, how much time do we really spend outdoors and our skin’s exposed to the sun? Most of us are holed up in sterile office environments for major portion of the day. I got myself tested for Vitamin D3 levels (I was supplementing with nearly every day with 4000 IU on average every day) to make sure I am overdosing on D3. I was actually discouraged by my GP to not get the test done and GP was quite surprised that I supplement with D3. Well the 25-hydroxy vitamin D test confirmed that I just managed to sneak into the optimal range. Similarly, it’s nearly impossible to get adequate magnesium from foods we eat.

There is a very small risk that we can overdo on certain vitamins and thus create toxicity at the cellular level so it’s worth learning the basics.

I have a pretty small list of supplements at the moment which includes:
Vitamin D3 and K2 (better together)
Omega-3 (fish oil)
B12 and Folate (not folic acid)
Magnesium (before I sleep).


I have a feeling that this post is going to be salty.

So what’s the first thing that comes to your mind when I say SALT. I wouldn’t blame you if you think I am talking about Angelina Jolie as Evelyn Salt in the movie SALT.

Salt is also that whitish crystal powder we put in our foods and you got to be careful with that thing, right? After all, the conventional wisdom will have us believe that high salt intake could be responsible for heart attacks, hyper tension and high blood pressure. Well, read on.

This salt may be even better than Himalayan sea salt
Before we get into what salt really is let’s take a historical digression. Nearly every society that has ever existed has had salt as part of its cuisine. Animals lick salty rocks and deposits and we followed the paths created by these animals and we humans settled close to these salt deposits. Salt has always been one of the most sought after commodities in the world, up until very recently.
Or consider these popular quotes which are part of our modern lexicon:
“Are you worth your salt?”
“Let there be work, bread, water and salt for all.”
Most worthy amongst us are called “salt of the earth”.
Culture and history aside, at a personal level it’s undeniable that an otherwise boring soup or bone broth is rejuvenated with a pinch of salt. It starts to taste better. Notice how we crave salty food if we haven’t had it in a while. It’s an essential tool in the cooking trade.
So how did salt get such a bad rep anyways?
There were couple of studies done in 70s and 80s and one of them showed how giving 500 g of salt to rats killed them and the legend grew. But we can also kill a rat or a human by giving them too much water!! We know people who have died in ‘who can have the most water’ competitions. So always remember that it’s the dose which makes the poison. Another reason for salt’s fall from the grace is excessive amount of sodium in our modern processed foods and very little of balancing minerals like potassium. So something needs to be fixed and as usual it’s far easier to put the blame on something like salt (or saturated fat).
Let’s look at the Himalayan sea salt sitting in front of me
Himalayan rock sea salt
First you will notice that it’s pink-ish and not the dead white kind you may be used to. This actually looks like it was part of a salt rock formation. On the wrapper I am informed that this kind of “Pink rock salt is a natural source of over 84 minerals and trace elements including Iodine, Calcium, Magnesium, Potassium, Zinc, Silica and Selenium.”
Let’s check out the typical analysis of this rock salt. Of 1000g, 388g is sodium and 598 g is chloride. Then you have 3.6g of sulphur, 1.7g of potassium, 1.45g of calcium, magnesium, zinc, copper and so on and so forth.  
This is the sodium-salt connection and why sodium is loosely thought of as salt in the bag of chippies or Coke. It begs the question: Are sodium and chloride vital to us?
Here are some of benefits of sodium and I quote this from www.marksdailyapple.com (When Mark has already done the research, it just makes sense to quote one of the Masters)

Supports the nervous system – both sodium and chloride (also known as sodium chloride, or salt) are necessary for the firing of neurons.

Regulates blood pressure – keeps it from going too low or (usually) too high.
•Helps maintain acid-base balance and blood volume.
Supports the function of the adrenal glands which produce dozens of vital hormones, including the stress and sex hormones.
Institute of Medicine recommends 1500mg (around 4g of salt) of sodium for a healthy adult.
Let’s talk about chloride and digestion. As you eat your food and it reaches your gut, your body generates HCL (hydrochloric acid) to create an acidic environment in which enzymes can work to break down proteins, fats and carbohydrates and kill pathogens in our food (how very clever). We are talking about pH levels as low as 1 or 2, which is highly acidic. Now chloride ions in the salt help with generation of HCL. If your stomach can’t generate enough of this acid then you can’t basically extract nutrition out of the food you just ate or kill the bad guys (pathogens) in your food.
I should put in a note here about antacids – to give you acid reflux relief, they supress the creation of  HCL. I speak from person experience when I tell you that be afraid of them and use them extremely rarely. Most of us due to less than optimal diets and excessive use of anti-biotic don’t make enough acid in the first place and so our digestion is poor to begin with. On top of that, conventional wisdom tells us that if you feel an acid reflux you should take an antacid!! We are making a bad situation worse by doing that. It’s like putting water on the fire that is cooking your food. You could eat the best food in the world but if you can’t generate enough acid to digest it, it wouldn’t mean much. Worse, long term use of antacid will prevent the absorption of Vitamin B12 and so you could end up in a very dangerous territory. You have been warned.
I know the ad on TV tells you to follow up your Mexican lunch with an antacid but that’s not normal. If the tacos and nachos are giving you an acid reflux, prudent course of action would be to fix the underlying issue with your digestion and keep off the tacos for a bit.
Time for a bit of biochemistry geek out. If that’s not your thing or you are a bit heartless, skip this paragraph.
There is a phenomenon happening at cellular level called sodium potassium pump. I have tried to capture the essence of it in this photo. What’s shown below is portion of a cell and the pinkie below is a protein channel.
Step 0: You have 3 sodium ions that get sucked into the protein channel and attach themselves to the protein channel. At the bottom right corner you can see an ATP molecule creeping up.
Step 1: One of the phosphate from the ATP is going to provide energy to change the shape of the protein channel and the bottom will close and it will open up from the top.
Step 2: The sodium ions are release outside of the cells and now the protein channel has high affinity for potassium ions.
Step 3: Two potassium ions now get pulled into the protein channel and phosphate ion is still bound to the protein channel. This will again cause a change in the shape of the channel.
Step 4: Once the shape reverts to as it was in Step 0, the phosphate ion is release. Eventually potassium ions will be release and we will be back to Step 0.
Rinse and repeat.
The most important point that I would like you to takeaway from this is: This phenomenon is super critical for our nervous system and we actually know about it and it relies on sodium potassium. What will happen if sodium potassium levels go out of whack? How will that affect this pumping, what will that do to your nervous system? And this is just one of the phenomenon we know about. There are perhaps 100s of other events happening that we don’t even know about. So it’s a bit silly to just say that sodium or salt is bad.
I should also talk about how salt came to my rescue 6 months ago. Unfortunately the topic is not as sexy as talking about skinny jeans and six pack abs.  It’s about pooping. A good poop in the morning is one of the best starts you can get to the day right? It tells you that stuff is moving through the pipes ok and you don’t have toxic stuff sitting in you for 3 days. Invaluable.

Now 6-9 months into my whole foods diet, I started experiencing mild constipation. This was in spite of me eating plenty of plants and salad in both my meals, so fibre was not the issue. I also tried increasing my water intake and that would help some days but not the other. What was really going on was that my whole foods diet is a low carbohydrate diet. Vegetables don’t contribute all that much by way of calories and I also eat very little of processed and sugary food that trigger insulin spikes. Because my insulin is relatively low most of the time, my kidney was dumping sodium and body was shedding excess water. Now like I have already mentioned earlier, sodium is a key electrolyte and low sodium can induce side-effects like light headedness, fatigue, headaches and even constipation. And so I started adding a bit of salt to my water throughout the day and just like that I went back to being awesome in the loo again. I drink normal amount of water and I don’t really buy the ‘we must drink 8 glasses of water everyday’ nonsense. I respect my thirst instincts and so drink appropriate amounts.
Recently I have also learnt that salt in the morning provides adrenal relief – you get up and your body needs to generate cortisol and enough blood pressure to wake you up from your sleep. Salt helps with generation of adrenal hormone cortisol.  As far as I am concerned, salt is a superstar.

After a  big workout or a long run, you don’t need the Gatorade crap or drink excessive amounts of water to hydrate yourself. Moderate amount of water with salt will do the trick.
So you are not a bad person if you like to use some salt, ok?  We are hard wired to seek out salt.
Salt is ubiquitous in the modern processed diet and it’s estimated that Americans consume 10gms of salt per day. However most of it is from the processed food and only the remaining 20% is from discretionary use, like adding it to your food when you cook it. And it’s reasonable to extrapolate that this is true not just for Americans. We are getting too much sodium from processed foods like bread, pasta, noodles, chips and fast foods and little of other minerals so things get out of balance. You wouldn’t think but even sweet tasting 12 ounce Coke has 40mg of sodium in it. Adding Himalayan sea salt to the meal you are cooking at home is nothing like having sodium from the Coke or other processed foods.
Our Palaeolithic diets were low in sodium and you could argue that we don’t need that all that much sodium or salt. But bear in mind that Palaeolithic diets were also high in potassium rich plants. Now we are at an exactly opposite situation with very high sodium and very low potassium (and that’s true for most nutrient minerals) in our diets. So potassium:sodium ratio may be important and that itself may just be an indicator of a healthy diet.  I think it’s downright silly to pin the blame on sodium or salt.
There have been numerous studies in recent times showing the exact opposite – low salt is related with overall increase in mortality. Look at this recent article in nytimes:
1. Use Himalayan natural sea salt and avoid the dead white processed kind.
2. If you are convinced that salt is not the enemy and have upped your salt intake, follow it up with the blood pressure test and don’t just take my word for it.  My last test was normal and I plan to get another test done sometime in next 6 months.
3. Balance salt in your diet with potassium.  Good sources of potassium are green leafy vegetables, sweet potatoes (what else do you expect from this superhero starch), potatoes, avocadoes, bananas.
As always, the solution is really simple and it lies in eating whole foods, real foods. Body is infinitely intelligent and when you have a genius working for you, you don’t micro manage their work. Just give it the right input and you will get the right output.

Food marketing deception

As I was crossing the underground railway pass to get to work, this advertisement for Coke Life caught my eye. This bottle has green colour instead of the iconic Coke red and it promises 33% less sugar and in fact it uses natural sweetness of stevia. I mean, it could be a health drink for all you know, just look at it.

Coke Life…if it’s green it must be healthy?

What if I told you it’s nothing but regular Coke with a little less sugar. It’s basically

I decided to compare regular Coke with Coke Life. Here is a chart showing nutritional information (lack of nutrition I should say) in 330 ml of each.

Classic Coke vs Coke Life

Several important points to note:
1. By default the website shows information for 100 ml. Now seriously, who drinks just 100 ml of Coke?  It doesn’t work like that. So let’s be really honest here and let’s look at the amount of sugar in a can of Coke or 330 ml. 

2. Regular Coke has 35g of carbs and all of it is sugar. Life Coke has 24.1 g of sugar and 6.9 g of carbs. That’s a bit interesting. So are we talking about an overall carbohydrate load of 31 g? Either ways, we have 35 g vs 24 g sugar and then some 6 g of carbs. This is apparently not sugar but then I cannot imagine this being fibre carbs. So basically instead of getting diabetes by Coke binging  in 10 years, now you can get it in 12 years. 

3. Let’s compare their ingredient list.

So if you cut through the noise, they are the same, cut from the same cloth. Both are equally bad (or equally good some would argue).

So you got to look past the shiny green colour, the low sugar message, the promise of natural sweetness. If it’s sweet, it’s sweet. Period. Especially when it’s this processed. Natural sweetness of stevia or for that matter from any natural source will have the same metabolic effect on your body as the garden variety table sugar. Excessive use of both will make you insulin resistant. Raw honey on the other hand is a different animal altogether and is an enzyme rich food with hundreds of nutrients and minerals.

Coke Zero or Diet Coke should be avoided like a plague. There was a time when I would enjoy a can of Diet Coke each night as I would watch Seinfeld but I digress. The promise of sweetness with actually 0 calories means you will bend the laws of biology and hose yourself with artificial sweeteners – research is showing these are carcinogenic and have a terrible impact on your gut microbiome. I thought I would never say this but if you have to have Coke, just have the regular one and let you body deal with sweetness in a form that it can at least understand.

Few other deceptions used by food marketers are like these

1. Low FAT: These are meant to target fat phobic people. This product is healthy because it’s low FAT. Low fat processed cheese, low fat cheese, skimmed milk. They are meant to take the focus away from the fact that they could be loaded with sugar, processed carbs, cooked in refined vegetables oils (and so you are left with  damaged and denatured fat)

Low fat and a bit sea salt, must be good aye?

Whether you love FATs or hate FATs, never ever eat foods that have high fat content in their natural form and have been processed to be low fat like low fat milk or low fat cheese. These Frankenstein foods have been so messed with that they have had their natural occurring fats removed and thus are damaged goods.  The fats in it are damaged and denatured and worse have been replaced with refined and inflammatory vegetable oils. If you avoid fats in general (even in whole foods like avocadoes which I think is a mistake) and generally think of them as evil, don’t mistake low fat foods as the cure. So if you have low fat milk and especially margarine lying around in your home, dump it in the bin.

Don’t let 65% less saturated fat fool you, it belongs in the bin not in your stomach.

2. Low carb or low glycaemic: They know that folks like me prefer a lower carbs (and higher fat) diet. So they try to impress us with the promise of low carb chips. It’s even got 8g of protein. Impressed yet?

Let’s dig a little deeper into the nutritional info:
It has 16 g of carbohydrates out of which 3 g is dietary fibre, 160 mg of sodium. But this is not the whole story. Let’s look at the ingredients. 

Scared yet? I don’t know if I am more alarmed about the low fat soy flour or high oleic sunflower seed oil or the white cheddar. And I bet even ingredients don’t tell the full story.
In short, low carb means eating whole foods (vegetables, fruits, fish, fowl, eggs, butter) and not this monstrosity.

3. Gluten free – Food marketers have their finger on the pulse of the market. They have caught onto the gluten free trend. I too try to remain gluten free as far as possible by avoiding gluten free grains especially wheat. It’s tempting to think of gluten-free cakes and cookies as somehow healthy. But make no mistake, junk foods are now just gluten-free junk foods. They are still processed and loaded with sugar and chemicals.
So if you have decided to go gluten free, then ditch the gluten free grains and don’t embrace the gluten free cookies and chips.

It’s not junk food, it’s gluten free junk food.

4. Low fat and gluten free – Imagine a food product that is gluten free and low fat. Must be good right? Well, I give you …..Coke of course.

Low fat, gluten free…..(infinite sugar)

While we are on the topic of understanding labels, I should mention an important fact about the ingredient list. Did you know that ingredients are listed in the decreasing order of weight or percentage? So the first item in the list is most abundant. Let’s compare the ingredient list of 34% Green & Black milk chocolate vs 85% Green & Black dark chocolate
Notice the difference? The raw cane sugar moves from being the number one item in 34% milk chocolate to being the fourth item in 85% dark chocolate. In fact first three items are all cocoa in the 85% dark chocolate.

All said and done, avoid eating  products out of boxes, ones that come with nutrition label and energy charts on the back because they are mostly processed, artificial and so not whole foods. If you see a product with an ingredient that you can’t even pronounce, avoid it like plague.
Is everything packaged bad? Well, as always use common sense and  we do have exceptions to this rule :).

We don’t say no to the greatest chocolate and awesome butter here.

Many ways to think about food

I often wonder about how we relate to our food. Is it just fuel and calories? Do I have a deeper relationship with my food than just ensuring it’s low carb and fat-protein heavy?

Here are a few common and not so common ways to think about the food.

1.       Calories
2.       Macronutrients
3.       How chewy is my food
4.       Colourful
5.       Whole foods vs processed foods
6.       Biological information


Calories – At the first glance, calories sounds like a great way to think about the nature of food when you get interested in health or trying to lose weight. The reason it sticks is because it’s simple and everyone appears to get it. Just read the energy chart and as long as you get X calories in a day and you can burn Y calories in a day and X < Y, you are sorted. This concept is so dumb and so incomplete on so many levels that books have been written about it. 

The reason calories-in-calories-out is dumb is because it’s just restating the first law of thermodynamics or primary school arithmetic. Consider this analogy. Bill Gates is rich because he makes more money than he spends. You see X – Y > 0. Or our team lost the match because opponents scored more points. You are restating the problem in another way without understanding or explaining “the why”. Do you see the stupidity of this system? So, calories-in-calories-out claims that if you want to lose weight, then you should spend more calories that you should eat. At the level of physics, it makes sense. You see emaciated kids who get very little or nothing to eat and they are starving and they sure look like that.  You could also argue that I will only eat 500 calories every day for next 60 days and I will lose weight. Yes, you will but this is impractical and will not work 99.9% of the time for normal people in normal circumstances. You basically won’t have normal levels of energy on a 500 calorie diet and eventually, you wouldn’t have any will power left to carry out this task. On the other hand, let’s talk about all the lean people who appear to eat well. Are they always ensuring a caloric deficit? It’s almost impossible to measure the calories flowing into the system and even harder to measure the calories you are burning. You say, look at my tread mill or fitbit device. In truth we expend most energy on a 24 hour period in activities like sitting or sleeping or basically when you think you are doing nothing, that’s your basal metabolic rate.

Leaving the dumbness aside, this concept is a bit dangerous in my opinion. It sets up a very superficial relationship with the food you eat and is quality agnostic. It doesn’t differentiate between 100 calories from sweet potato vs 100 calories from beer vs 100 calories from steak vs 100 calories from french fries. In this system, there is no difference between a meal of salad and grass fed steak vs meal from a fast food joint as long as they both are giving you 500 calories. It equates junk processed food with natural whole foods. You may want to precisely track calories if you are preparing for the upcoming summer Olympics though. It’s really hard for me to tell the calories in my spinach-avocado-berry smoothie and it doesn’t matter because it nutrient dense and made from whole foods. Calories-in-calories-out is like measuring the quality of your relationship with your spouse in terms of how many times you go out to party.


Macro nutrients – Another popular way to look at our food. Macros come from macronutrients – that is proteins, fat and carbohydrates. The focus here is fuel partitioning. So a person trying to get rid of excess body weight (fat) is recommended a high protein diet and that is why chicken breasts are so popular. We have all seen health-conscious folks having protein shakes.  You see cyclists carrying gels – basically dense and processed carb sources.  You also see schools of low carb high fat (LCHF) and of course low fat is a pretty old fad now. 2 things are still missing here. The awareness of quality of macro-nutrients and hormonal impact of macro-nutrients. If you are trying to lose excess body weight (fat), a high protein diet will work initially but not all proteins are equal and it’s also important to understand what is this high protein doing to my hormones. Does it matter which kind of protein I eat – processed Whey protein vs pastured chicken or pastured eggs? So, they tell a very important story about the nature of the food you are eating but it’s not the full picture. When you combine quality with macronutrients that’s a much better picture.

The 3 amigos. Green for fats and orange for carbs is coincidental 🙂


Chewy – Sounds a bit odd at first but  it’s an interesting way to think about food. How much would I need to chew the food to get the energy out of it. Saliva has your DNA and food digestive enzymes. As you chew, the food mixes with your DNA and becomes self, a part of you. Chewing also sends a signal to the gut to get ready for incoming food. It’s interesting that starchy foods tend not to be chewy – rice, kumaras\sweet potatoes (which I love just for the record). Processed high-carb foods like chips, cookies and breads require very little chewing, they just melt in your mouth. Vegetables, salads, meats, nuts and seeds definitely require ample chewing. I like to eat food I can chew.

Very chewy


Colourful – It’s impossible to look at a salad of colourful vegetables and fruits and not think of it as healthy. Everyone intuitively understands that. Colourful veggies and fruits represent richness of phytonutrients or plant chemicals. Now unlike vitamins and minerals, they are not essential to keep you alive but they are extremely important to prevent diseases. Look at carrot – you can tell by its colour that it’s rich in beta-carotene which our body can convert to Vitamin A. The redness of tomato comes from Lycopene. Look at blueberry or any berries for that matter. Sometimes I eat a piece of fruit just because it’s got a bright colour (and hopefully that’s not poison). If anything, I am a bit guilty of not making my salad colourful enough.

Whole foods – I love the concept of whole foods. Doug McGuff, the author of Body by Science was asked about what kinds of food does he eat and what he said has stayed with me. He talked about eating foods that lie in a straight line between us and the sun. So get sunlight (vitamin D). Eat plants and vegetables for the same reason. And eat animals that eats those plants. So simple. Basically you can eat all the veggies and salad, fruits, meats, nuts, seeds, eggs etc. Another way to think about whole foods is if someone from 50000 years ago recognize it as food. If you eat from a variety of whole food sources, you are eating a nutrient dense diet by default and your body, brain and cells will thrive. It’s natural food and your body exactly knows what to do with it.  You don’t really need to know the science and bio-chemistry or hormones or what goes on inside our cells or how to regenerate the mitochondria just like you don’t need to know what’s under the hood of your car. It’s like black-box testing in computer science. You put in good stuff (input) and you get the right output. Use food as medicine and exercise as preventative medicine.
 Quality matters here too and it will be wise to ensure the quality of meat you eat. Pastured eggs, pastured chicken, grass fed lamb, grass fed beef. I have no doubt that gaining optimum health on a diet of whole foods will work for 99% of the people. You can of course tweak the macro nutrients to achieve your fitness goals whether it’s gaining more muscle (up the proteins) or losing weight (high fat or low fat depending on who you believe) or managing pre-diabetes (low carb).
Yet you don’t often hear this message because nobody stands to make money off broccoli, kale and steak. Or at least not the 700% profit you can make off the chips, cookies and cereals.

Whole foods

Biological Information – I remember Arnold the Terminator talking to Tim Ferris about meditation and mindfulness. As Arnie would work on his biceps, he could feel himself in his biceps. Awesome right? That he could relate to his workout at such a deep level. So we put food into our mouth and it sustains us and hopefully we thrive and not just survive. But if you look under the covers as to what’s going on – the DNA or bio chemical information in what you put into your mouth is going to interact with your SELF DNA and eventually it will be absorbed by you. At the end of the day, all food is bio chemical information for your body. It prompts the body to behave accordingly by release right hormones and digestive enzymes to make this outside food part of us. 

If we were just heat engines, calories would suffice. We are bio chemical electro magnetic beings.




Why I don’t believe in cheat meals or cheat days

Couple of days ago, the day before Good Friday to be precise a normally quiet lady at work remarked as I was preparing my typical lunch salad that she has never seen anyone eat so clean and healthy. And she’s never seen me having the occasional doughnuts or muffins.  I quote “It’s really very impressive, I have never seen anyone eat such healthy food, every single day.” I thanked her for the compliment and this post is not to toot my own horn.  2 days later it’s made me ask a bunch of questions about my lunch and food in general and I believe this enquiry will be helpful to the readers of this post. How do I manage to eat clean and nutrient-dense lunch every day? For that matter, how do I manage to eat clean nearly all the time? Less than 2 years ago, I used to love high-sugar processes foods and junk-foods. There is something that has definitely shifted?

Let’s talk about my typical office lunch which invariably gets health approval from all and sundry. If I could get a cent for every time I heard the world ‘healthy’ to describe my lunch.

So as the photo suggests, it’s typically mixed salad leaves, some colourful vegetables like purple cabbage, carrot, a big avocado. If I want a bit more colour, I will put half a beetroot. Sometimes I put goat milk feta.  So the foundation of salad is plants based. On this I will add meat of some sort: canned wild caught salmon or canned sardines or organic chicken livers or lamb curry or wild goat or steak cut into pieces. I will sprinkle some sunflower seeds and pumpkin kernels and maybe a spoon of MCT oil – this is my dressing. I absolutely don’t use any commercial salad dressing. So, all in all, I am getting a lot of plants and proteins and fat into the first of my 2 meals of the day. More importantly, I am getting a lot of live enzymes. Everyone intuitively knows this is a healthy meal (well, some may frown upon the meat), yet most find it very hard to eat this even once a week let alone every single day.

How have I managed to be so consistent day in and day out with my lunch? It’s not the tastiest lunch in the world you know. It also takes a bit of time to eat it unlike a sandwich or a scone or a quiche which passes off as lunch these days. Is it just my will power? Is it just that I feel awesome about how the food makes me feel and so I keep eating the same way? That’s a bit chicken and egg.

One of the secrets to my success with eating healthily has been has been my dislike for the concept of “cheat days”. I don’t think of my meal as something I only need to do for 5 days a week and then for 2 days of the week, anything goes in the name of lunch. Of course I crave variety and I almost never have salad again in the night. The weekend lunches again are a bit different from the 5 weekday lunches, but they are again whole food based as well. I don’t cheat over the weekends or I don’t treat the whole day as a cheat day. ‘Cheat days’ is a slippery slope. Human beings have a tendency to get away with as much as they can. If we can get away with less sleep, we will keep doing it. If we can get away with eating ice cream every night without any apparent health impact, we will keep doing it. In fact, before you know it, you will start doing it twice a week and worse. In my opinion, ‘Cheat days’ takes the control away from you and eventually weakens your will power overtime. It may sound a bit subtle but it breeds the notion that what you day 5 days a week is a bit different from what you do other 2 days of the week.

So, what’s the alternative? What are we supposed to do?

I am definitely an 80/20 guy. In food terms it could mean that you eat well 80% of the time and 20% of the time, you cut yourself some slack. My 80/20 is more like 95/5. The important point is that I don’t considering eating less than optimal cheating or failure. It is what it is. I am aware of the choice I am making and I understand the impact of my choice. Orange cake with cream on the side or kumara fries are two of my weaknesses. I don’t indulge in them 95% of the time but when we are out by the waterfront and it’s a clear day, I find myself ordering a slice of orange cake. I am aware of the consequences – it’s going to raise my blood sugar, turn of fat burning, I am getting some gluten too. But like I have often said and I don’t know who to credit for this quote ‘Eat the most restrictive diet you can enjoy, not the most restrictive diet you can tolerate.’  So eat the damn slice of cake or pizza and get done with it and don’t look back or worry about it. Here is another trick I have learnt – often we only need one quarter or half of what you are pining to eat to get over the craving. You don’t need to eat the entire pizza or entire doughnut – you will find that half or even quarter of doughnut would get you over the sugar crave or the junk-food delight.

To cake or not to cake? If a little slice will help you eat the salad…

 Food is not just about nutrient density. Sure it fuels our body and brain and provides vitality to our cells. But we have also have emotional and spiritual connection to the food we eat. There is a reason why some foods are called comfort foods. Foods your mother made lovingly for you as a child.  It’s also important to be at peace with the food you are eating. I could give you the best grass fed steak in the world, but if it’s odd with your world view and you don’t want to consume meat, what good is it?

Maasai – What I have learnt from them about paleo and human dieting

I was watching a show called Wildest Africa couple of weeks ago and the episode 3 show cases – Ngorongoro (pronounced as “goron goro”). Ngorongoro conservation area covers 8,292 sq kilometres out of which 100 square miles is occupied by a crater, no kidding. By the time I was done watching this episode, I was in awe of Maasai people that occupy this region and it made me ask a much bigger question about our relationship with food and why humans have been so successful as a species. So bear with me for a few minutes and you will see that what we eat and how we live is an integral part of the environment we live in. Perhaps we need to look at a bit more than a cut and dry way of looking at food as dictated by some diets. Eating only raw fruits and vegetables or eat only fats and proteins may sound like just an imposition on what really should constitute a diet on which you can thrive.
Ngorongoro is a very unique place and one of highlights is Ngorongoro crater. From Wikipedia “The crater, which formed when a large volcano exploded and collapsed on itself two to three million years ago, is 610 metres (2,000 feet) deep and its floor covers 260 square kilometres (100 square miles).” So basically it’s a big hole and because of its unique geography, parts of it are forest, parts are open grassland and parts bush land dotted with trees. Words don’t do justice, here is a photo from Wikipedia.

Ngorongoro crater

Maasai who occupy a big area between Kenya and Tanzania, share Ngorongoro with big game animals.  You know, lions, cheetahs, bulls, rhinos, elephants.  Maasai are interestingly herders. They have herds of cattle and goats and you can imagine the relationship between these carnivore animals especially the lions and Maasai. Lions would love to eat their goat and Maasai will have none of it. So Maasai fiercely protect their herd and what I can tell you is that when Maasai men have the spear in their hands, lions have learnt to keep their distance from them.
Maasai and their herd

The rite of passage (used to be) for a young boy to become a man was to kill a lion by himself using nothing but a spear! Even if that sounds like a bit of hyperbole, these guys have been tested for their physical fitness and their strength were considered to be of ‘Olympian’ level. Young men often jump high like this to showcase their strength and agility.

Jumping high, showcasing their strength

400 Maasai men had their blood work done and none of them showed any sign of inflammation or modern chronic diseases like diabetes 2, cardio vascular or coronary issues. In fact, Maasai aren’t any different from other modern hunter-gatherer tribes in this aspect. None of them seem to suffer from diseases of civilisation and they all eat varying ratio of macro-nutrients. Let’s talk about Maasai diet. A lot of region Maasai occupy is arid and it’s pretty amazing how they manage to thrive so well on seemingly so little. Remember they are herders and they have relied heavily on their herd to meet their food and nutritional requirements. Raw milk, raw meat and raw blood. They even mix and blood and milk. Yep, you heard that right. This is what used to be the bulk of their diet. So as you can see, they get plenty of fat and proteins in their diet.

Which also brings me to the point that humans are obligated omnivores and this is a big reason why we have been so successful as a species. Wherever we have lived and whatever environment has offered, we have adapted to that and thrived on it. Humans haven’t insisted on eating only grass and vegetables and fruits (notice we don’t exactly have 4-cylinder stomach like cows) or being exclusive carnivores. If push comes to shove, we can live for long times as exclusive herbivores or exclusive carnivores. Now imagine a group of scientists walking up to Maasai and telling them that they have it all wrong. They should actually only be eating vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds and absolutely no animals fat and proteins. Or they should be on a low-carb diet – that is eat high fat and moderate protein and they may want to take it easy on tubers.  If I ever get a chance to spend time with Maasai I will just shut up and watch and learn from them.

Having said that, I don’t mean to say that we should eat whatever we want. In fact, you and I live a lifestyle that is nothing like Maasai. That is fortunate and unfortunate. We live in a made up environment which provides us with unlimited variety of foods – whole foods, junk foods, processed foods, toxic foods. We are encouraged by corporations to take the short cut and eat whatever takes the shortest time.  Maasai have lately incorporated Maize in their diet and they appear to be doing fine. But I absolutely don’t intend to start eating grains again. If you can live like Maasai, you can eat like Maasai. We on the other hand have to be careful about what we put in our mouths and what we do with our bodies. If you don’t think you are thriving, have a good look at your diet, sleep, stress and physical activity levels. For me, I have come to realize that I am thriving on a diet of whole foods – lots of plants – salads and vegetables, moderate high-quality meat, nuts and seeds. I like to eat as much whole foods as I can enjoy and no more. High quality dark chocolate, high quality and slightly processed oils and coffee also have a place in my diet. And ‘thriving’ is not an abstract concept or just a feeling. You can get the blood work done and know for sure that your bio markers confirm the awesome feeling. 

If you have specific issues you need to work with, LowCarbHighFat (LCHF) or high fat vegan or low fat is what you may need. I think it’s a big mistake to think that everybody in the world should convert to paleo or veganism or what have you. Basically eat from a list of foods and no more or no less. That doesn’t make sense because had we been like that, human species would have been extinct long ago.