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.

 

 

 
Advertisements

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.

Why weight regain is so common + Is gluose impairing your immunity

For this post I have got a 2 parter. Couple of interesting questions:

1. Why do we regain weight so easily especially if we were formerly fat?
2. Is glucose (sugar) weakening our immune system?

The first question is a direct result this Mark Sisson post, so I have basically just simplified the message.

Ever wondered why it’s easier for a formerly fat person to regain the lost weight, especially when they were fat as kids? The answer as usual lies in our bio chemistry or how we got fat in the first place. There are 2 ways to get fat:
a.      Hypertrophy – Your existing fat cells get bigger.
b.      Hyperplasia – Entirely new fat cells are created.
To paint a very simple picture, vast majority of fat cells are created in early childhood and adolescence. During early infancy and between ages of 9-13 appear to be crucial stages for creation of new fat cells, so after that age you are pretty much stuck with number of fat cells your body has made. Now weight loss doesn’t remove these fat cells but rather pulls fat from existing ones, leaving empty cells behind. If you had 35% body fat and after a drastic lifestyle change involving diet and exercise you got it down to 15%, you still have same number of fat cells.

So, now you have 2 people who have exactly the same weight and body fat %, let’s say 20%. Individual A was a fat kid and a teenager and Individual B was lean all along.  Individual A is a lot better now at age 35 and has an active lifestyle whereas Individual B is your typical desk jockey, makes his living by pressing keys on computer. They both are at same body fat % and both are serious now about maintaining their body fat %. The formerly fat person will always be at a disadvantage compared to the formerly lean person when it comes to maintaining weight. Not fair right?

To understand what’s going on, you will need to understand how Leptin hormone behaves. Our fat cells secrete leptin hormone and remember that body stores energy as fat. So leptin in a sense is an indicator of how much energy is stored in the body.  So, if you have eaten a meal of good quality fats and moderate proteins (like you mostly should), once you have had enough to eat, your body or fat cells will start releasing leptin to let the brain know that we have had enough.  ‘Hunting has been good’ so to say. Now the amount of leptin that is released depends on the fat mass % as well size of fat cells.

Individual A who has 20% body fat (formerly obese) has way more fat cells that are relatively empty compared to Individual B who also has 20% body fat but has relatively fewer fat cells that are fuller. So what ends up happening is that Individual A is releasing far less leptin compared to Individual B. So your brain is thinking you don’t have enough energy saved. This stacks up the odds against formerly fat by increasing their appetite, making them less active and the fat cells have a ‘fat memory’ that are just dying to store fat when it becomes available. Phew. It’s like growing up in bad neighbourhood and you are at a huge economic disadvantage for rest of your life.   

Vitamin C and Glucose, brothers from same mother

Could a sugar spike be weakening your immune system as well? Well, the answer is looking like a yes.
I remember listening to Mark Sisson and him mentioning that he clearly remembers couple of instances when he fell sick and that sick day was preceded by consuming higher than usual carbs. I am not dying to repro the experiment by gorging on sugar but I would love to see some anecdotal evidence.

It’s to do with relationship between glucose and Vitamin C at cellular level. If you don’t care about what is happening at cellular level, short story is that higher the levels of circulating glucose in the blood, the more difficult it is for Vitamin C to get into the cells and the more difficult it is to create immune cells. If you do care about cellular level details, read on.

Vitamin C is made naturally in nearly all living animals with notable exceptions being humans and primates. In mammals, the glucose is extracted from glycogen (stored sugar) and liver transforms it into vitamin C. Humans unfortunately lack an enzyme which is necessary for synthesis of Vitamin C and so we must get it from diet.

Vitamin C is important for building collagen (think bones, connective tissue) and promoting strong immune function. It turns out that Vitamin C and glucose may be competing for same receptors on the cells. They have very similar chemical structure and both rely on insulin signalling to get into the cell. This receptor is called Glut-1 and glucose has higher affinity to this receptor.  So this means that if your meal has generated excessive levels of glucose, then Vitamin C may not be able to get into the cells. So what you say?

Remember our friends White Blood Cells? If you think hard enough about what you were taught one school day in your biology class, white blood cells are used to fight pathogens. Levels of Vitamin C in WBCs may be tens of times higher compared to other cells and they need 50 times more Vitamin C inside the cell than in the blood plasma to handle the oxidative stress – that is ingesting these pathogenic bacteria and virus.

It doesn’t stop here. Glucose and Vitamin C also seem to have opposite effect on creation of new immune cells or raw material for new white blood cells. If the immune system is under attack, it needs to quickly produce new white blood cells.  If blood glucose is high enough, it will reduce the amount of new immune cells being formed.

Credit: Dr David Jockers has a great article on this topic.

Excessive light at work place and reducing eye strain

 

Before I get to the meat of this post, which is about protecting your eyes and reducing eye strain at the work place a slight digression.

 

While I am a big advocate of ancestral\primal style of eating, I am also a big fan of using modern technologies to deal with modern stressors. It reminds me of a Mark Sisson quip “Primal living is not about living in the dark or hunting your neighbors pets.” In my mind, there is absolutely no conflict between eating a whole food based diet which feels very natural on one hand but supplementing this diet with eating wild salmon from a can, wearing blue blockers in the evening while watching TV or eating highest quality supplements I can find (because even the best modern food is no longer as nutrient dense). The outside world has evolved at a much faster rate than our genes and now there is a massive mismatch between the environments in which our genes were cooked and what is actually out there. We no longer live in jungles and caves and no longer need to protect ourselves from tigers. On the other hand, most of us spend majority of our times cooped indoors, breathing artificial air all day long and exposed to excessive amount of fluorescent light. Since I am a software developer by trade, I get the added bonus of staring at a computer screen all day long and the computer screen staring back at me. You can see how we have traded one set of stressors (jungle and tiger) for another. I will do everything in my power to prevent macular degeneration of my eyes and keep them healthy for as long as I can – whether it’s eating whole foods or getting enough sleep or using right shades of light. So as far as I am concerned there is no contradiction here – eating ancestrally but relying on 21st century inventions.

 

Back to lighting and eye strain.

 

My focus here is not to talk about the health and nutrition aspects of eye care but rather alleviating external lighting conditions. And the problem ironically is not lack of it but excess of it. Excess of high-energy, blue light, UV and artificial light. I have no doubt and science proves it that artificial high-energy blue light is damaging our eye muscles. What has made this problem obvious to me in my work environment is that I have just moved into this building.  In the previous building my workstation was next to a large window. So as I would stand and work at my work station, I could see as far as eyes could see, towards the sky and Pacific Ocean just outside. (I am not kidding, the previous building is next to Wellington waterfront). And then next day I found myself cooped up in a horribly designed buildings with so much fluorescent white light that it feels like you are in torture chamber. It’s like building designers wanted to make sure that people don’t doze off at work and made the environment super bright. I think they did a pretty good job. And then there is also the light from 2 computer monitors.

 

What a view

 

 

Now some may call me a delicate flower but here is what The Vision Council has to say about it and I quote– “Nearly 70% of American adults experience some form of digital eye strain due to prolonged  used to electronic devices. Some of the common symptoms are headache, dry eye,   blurred vision and eye strain.”  In my case, the excessive fluorescent lighting was making this bad situation worse. Check, check, check and check for me.

There is a strong connection between amount of light you are exposed to and circadian rhythms.  You see, you want lots of natural bright light in the day as you are active and post sun set, light should gradually fade away. Try wearing blue blockers in the night for a few weeks as you watch TV or read something on your tablet to feel the difference and this will translate to good sleep. Too much light towards the end of the day inhibits melatonin production, that’s the sleep hormone. It’s our bio-chemistry people, I am not making this stuff up. While we have naturally evolved to bright light during the day, this was light from the sun and not this junk fluorescent light we are exposed to from our computers, tube lights and other electronic devices.

So the point is that I knew I was struggling with this brightness and my eyes were feeling the strain which means brain was stressed too. Remember, it’s the brain really which does the processing behind the scenes. There are 2 white fluorescent tube light directly above my head and another pair a few feet apart.  I got rid of one of the tube lights from the pair directly above my head and I was hoping this would help the situation. It seemed to help the first day but I couldn’t tell the difference a few days later.

Tube light  not very from from my monitor and a lot closer to my eyes when I stand and work

 

Let there be light, yep let’s put lots of them together

I didn’t want to wear my awesome blue blockers at work. I mean who wants to look like a superhero or a rock star at work.  Besides these completely block the blue colour. So I needed right tool for the right job. When you need a laptop, a tablet or smartphone won’t do and while you can talk into your 9” 3G iPad, I prefer a smartphone in that situation.
 

Since most of us don’t get to work outside under the blue sky or work in intelligently designed building which smartly lets outside light come in, what are our options? You can try convincing your boss to install CoeLux. Yep they have found a way to mimic sunlight using LED. In fact they are so good that it convinces your brain and eye that it is sunlight. However it costs $61, 000 so it could be a while before you get one of these.
LED or sun light, you decide

 

So began my search for blue-blocker-like-glasses that I could wear at work. I wanted something functional and fashionable. It should block the excessive white-blue light hitting my eyes and should look good.

 

Enters www.gunnars.com. If I had million dollars and millions of hours at my disposal, the research would culminate with glasses like they sell.

Quoting www.gunnars.com: “GUNNAR offers the only patented computer eyeglasses and optical lens technology solution, recommended by doctors, to protect and enhance your vision. In addition, custom tints and premium coatings block high-energy, artificial blue light, UV and glare to protect your vision. The result – improved clarity, focus and performance designed to meet demanding visual needs of a digital generation…”.  Just look at them.

 

 

I finally settled on the Phenom style of Computer glasses.

 

 

My experience so far with the glasses:

 

1.   They have dimmed the brightness around me just enough. It’s like f.lux is running in the background.

 

2.  They are doing a pretty good job of blocking blue spectrum without blocking the blue colour entirely, so it’s not a compromise.

 

So essentially it meets the functional requirements.

 

3.  Wifey tells me they look good too.

 

4.   I can attest to the good quality and they just fit perfectly.

 

Phenom in real world

 

Now these are not cheap and glasses alone cost me $99. If you are not in the U.S, the shipping will cost another $40, so it adds up. But the big question is how much are my eyes worth to me?

 

50 Glucose Readings

At some point during last year I understood the dangers of eating foods that spike blood glucose levels. I knew in theory that fat and proteins don’t spike your blood sugar and refined carbs and sugary foods do. So I decided to put the theory to test and watch the effects of food I eat on my blood sugar in real time. So I took nearly 50 readings using a glucometer over the course of a week. It was a regular work week and I tried to keep everything as normal as I could.

Talking of glucometer, it’s one of the most effective tools at our disposal. Add to the fact that it’s so inexpensive, anything that can give you instant feedback on the food you have just eaten and how it affects your blood sugar is priceless. For example, everyone tolerates carbs to a different degree. An insulin sensitive person should be able to clear out the blood glucose a lot more effectively compared to a person who is insulin resistant. A leaner person who is insulin sensitive may have even higher carb tolerance and they may be able to get away with higher levels of carbs. A person who already has some degree of insulin resistance may not have the luxury of eating over 100 grams of carbs in a day barring a very active lifestyle.  It also helped me decide how I can smartly use starches like sweet potato or rice after a heavy training session to get some quick energy without causing a glucose\insulin spike.

Even 2 days worth of data will be invaluable and more importantly it’s unique to you. And it’s not something you have to do every single week. Even once in 3 months or 6 months or even a year may suffice.

One of the hallmarks of eating whole foods ancestral style is that your blood sugar remains in a very tight range, just like how body likes to keep it in. Because you will be consuming large amounts of vegetables, salads, healthy fats and high quality proteins.  Eating refined foods and sugar foods on the other hand will generate massive amounts of glucose and body responds by spiking insulin production. High blood sugar damages proteins and fats in the flood causing Advanced Glycation End products – AGE. See how ironic that is, it AGEs you. High blood sugar is also a proxy for high insulin and this incessant insulin spike meal after meal over the years will make you insulin resistant bit by bit, first making you pre-diabetic and eventually resulting in full blown Type-2 Diabetes.

Couple of points to keep in mind as you read the table.


1. Body likes to keep blood glucose in a very tight range. For example, it should normally be between 4.4-6.6 mmol/L before a meal. 2 hours after eating it should be less than 7.8 mmol\L. If you eat a massive dessert on top a regular modern meal, your blood sugar may spike to 11 or 12 mmol\L and body will galvanize chief hormone player insulin to deal with this situation and bring blood sugar levels back in the normal range. If post your meal you don’t wander too far away from the ideal range, I hope you can see how that’s a good thing.


2. What I mean by Lag in the third column is that how much have passed since this activity. Here are 2 entries from the table:
My blood glucose levels were 5.2 mmol\L 1 hour 10 minutes later after lunch of chicken broth and a bit of cream. And 2 hours and 5 minutes later, levels were at 5.7.


Date    Time        Lag         Reading       Notes
23rd     15 20      1h 10m     5.2               Chicken broth, cream
23rd     16 15      2h 5m       5.7               Having green tea with jasmine


Here are the 50 readings from the week and chart view.


Date    Time        Lag         Reading        Notes
21st     22 20       1h            6.2                 Gym night   
22nd    09 00       1h            5.6                 After bulletproof coffee
            10 55       1h            5.2                 After cream and lamb curry breakfast
            13 55       1h            5.2                 Big breakfast at cc, steak, eggs, bacon, sausages

23rd      7 51        0h           6.5                 After getting up
             9 55        0h           5.8                 Before breakfast
           11 20        1h 13m   4.8                 Bulletproof coffee at 9
           13 24        3h 17m   4.8                 Did swimming
           15 20        1h 10m   5.2                 Chicken broth, cream
           16 15        2h 5m     5.7                 Having green tea with jasmine
           19 40                       4.3                 Had MCT oil ten minutes ago
           20 40                       6.2                 Gym
           22 43      1h             6.1                 Steak, broccoli, Brussels sprouts, bit of rice

24th    07 48                      6.2                 Just woke up
          10 24      0h             5.6                 Before breakfast
          12 10      1h 30m     5.6                 Eggs, avocado, bacon, mushroom, spinach
          13 40      3h             5.6
          16 00      1h             5.5                 Had subway salad with Salmon
          18 00      3h             4.3
           21 27     1h 12m     4.7                 Had beef burgers, few spoons of  ice cream
           22 27     2h 12m     6.3

25th    07 25                       6                    Just woke up
           09 35                       5.1                 Had bulletproof coffee an hour ago
           11 30      1h 37m     5.3                 Usual breakfast eggs, bacon
           15 22      2h             5.5                 Lunch – salad, liver, paneer
           19 15      3h             5.3                 Had almond butter, butter, dark chocolate
           22 25      1h 30m     6.2                 chicken, broccoli, Brussels sprout, Kumara

26th    07 33                       6.1                 Just woke up
           09 40      0h             5.6                 Bulletproof coffee at 8
           11 30      1h 50m     5.5                 Usual breakfast
           13 00      3h 20m     4.5                 Just had a short walk
           18 00                       4.9                 Had apple at 4
           22 12     1h 20m      4.6                 Gym, kumara, rice, veggies, chicken, broth

27th    07 43                       6.1                 Just woke up
           11 30     1h 40m      4.8                 Usual breakfast
           15 58     1h 30         5.8                 Mixed Salad, okra, beef curry
            22 10    2h              5.7                 Mixed salad, fish, kumara

28th     07 00                      5.8                 Woke up at 06 45
            11 40    2h 20m      5.5                 Usual breakfast
            16 20    1h 40m      5.6                 Mixed salad, steak, chick peas
             09 50   20m           7.6                 Salmon can, rice, lamb curry, kumara

Observations from the week long glucose readings:

1. My glucose levels go down after bulletproof coffee. Alternatively what I have not shown here is that my ketone levels go up. It’s the magic of MCT oil in the bulletproof coffee and it’s pretty clear from the cognitive boost I feel. Look at what happened on 23rd before I went to the gym – my glucose levels dropped from 5.7 to 4.3. I was playing around with MCT oil as a pre workout.


2.      My glucose levels are almost the same – before and after the breakfast. Typical breakfast here means pastured eggs done in butter typically accompanied with wild bacon. So it was pretty much all proteins and fats, almost negligible carbs which explains almost no fluctuation in blood glucose levels.

3.      Consuming a typical dinner of veggies with some meat AND starches with it after a gym session doesn’t move the glucose levels a lot. This tells me that my muscles are glycogen depleted and take up most of the glucose that’s generated from sweet potato or rice. On 28th however I didn’t go to the gym and decided to have starches along with my dinner which I typically don’t do. 20 minutes after the meal, glucose had already elevated to 7.3 and that’s when I ran out of the glucose strips. I suspect it peaked at around 8 or so before it started dropping.


 

Shawn Stevenson Story

I recently learnt about Shawn Stevenson on Living La Vida Low Carb Show and his story of recovery from a degenerative bone and spine disease is pretty amazing.

Below is a summary verbatim in Shawn’s own words from the podcast:

He was an athletic scholar , kind of performing at a high level for his school. At age of 16, he was doing a time trial for 200 metres when he broke his hip. This kind of phenomenon is reserved for 90 years old. The trainers managed to get him back on the track at the time but no one really asked the question “Why did this happen at all?”. But it all came full circle when he was 20 and was diagnosed with degenerative bone disease.  –  his spine  was degenerating. The doctor shows him MRI scan of his back and tells him “you have spine of an 8 year old.” Unfortunately the condition couldn’t be cured and can only be managed. Shawn remembers asking the doctor “Does this have anything to do with what I am eating?”. Doctor replied that this condition has nothing to do with what you put in your mouth but put these pills in your mouth anyways because they will help him deal with the pain. 2.5 year later, Shawn was sick and tired of being sick and tired and something moved in his consciousness. He took a decision that he will be in charge of his health and not focus on negativity.

Trivia – Decision derives from a Latin word which means to cut away (think incision), so he decided to cut away any thought of he is not going to be healed.

He put a plan into play and it worked in 3 phases:
1. Movement: Body needs to move to heal itself. Doctors were just recommending him bed rest and more bed rest. He came upon a study of horses , all of whom had broken a bone or two. So they were being supplemented with calcium to increase their bone density. The horses were divided into 2 groups: one were given calcium only and the second group was given calcium and were encouraged to move. The group which moved ended up with much higher bone density and the other group had negligible impact.

2. Body requires raw material to build itself: Just like if a house porch is broken, you will need raw materials to build it. Shawn asked an interesting question to himself : what is my spine actually made of ? He started to understand some big misnomers in convential medicine like doctors recommend calcium supplements to increase bone density but such individual end up with 33% higher chance of dying due to cardio vascular diseases. Shocker?  This is because of calcification – this is an end product (See my explanation below) Another one of the big end product is silica and Shawn was eating Papa Johns and chinese food every day. He realized he was deficient in silica, magnesium, vitamin C and sulphur. Vitamin C and sulphur through a process called Biological Transmutation, they create new tissues!!! So he stopped eating fast food, started cooking at home and using whole foods.
In 30 days, his pain vanished.

3. Sleep: As he was healing, his sleeping patterns changed. His circadian rhythms kicked in and he naturally started to go to bed earlier and started getting up earlier. Benefits of sleep have already been covered in a previous post.

So for Shawn, food was his medicine. And he went a step further and took supplements for his special situation when food wouldn’t suffice. I tend to support this view as well that we can’t entire rely on the food alone to get all micronutrients we need to thrive. Almost everyone is deficient in Vitamin D3 and Magnesium and it’s nearly impossible to get enough of these from the diet.

To understand what Shawn means by calcium supplementation increasing the risk of cardiovascular diseases – When certain supplements like calcium are taken without their co factors or activators, they don’t quite work like they should. For example in this case, you reason that Calcium is an essential raw material for bone formation so you supplement with  Calcium hoping it will increase your bone density but how do you know it’s going to stick on your bones and teeth and not end in your arteries. If calcium ends in your arteries, you end up with calcified arteries and now you are a higher risk of death due to cardio vascular diseases. The correct protocol is to have Vitamin D3, Vitamin K2 and Calcium together because they work synergistically. K2 acts like an activator for Calcium and Vitamin D3 and ensures that  calcium should end up on our bones and teeth and not in our arteries.

If you really want to geek out on Vitamin K2 and how it took us 62 years to understand it’s role as an activator, check out this article from Chris Masterjohn.
On the trail of elusive X-factor

Shawn Stevenson has a pretty popular podcast called The Model Health Show

Here is TEDx talk by Shawn Stevenson and like me you will end up  becoming a big fan of cacao, the mother of chocolate. That’s raw cacao and not your Cadbury’s or Lindt milk chocolate.
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uV2ynZ1VcnE