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3 Reasons Why You Need to Ditch Low-Carb Diets

The great ‘low-carb’ con

Low-carb fad diets such as Atkins and Paleo have gained a lot of attention (and sales) from the general public, hungry for solutions to our ever-growing obesity problem. The basic premise is essentially the same – cut right down on carbohydrate foods such as bread, potatoes and pasta, and focus mainly on animal protein and fat, with some vegetables thrown in.

The idea with these diets seems to be that if you fill up on protein-rich foods such as eggs and meat, you won’t crave the foods such as bread, pastries and sweets that supposedly make you fat.

Certainly there are reports of some people losing weight on these diets, and then extolling their virtues. On the flip side, anything to do with grains, legumes and even soybean products have been demonized as causing weight gain, high cholesterol, and dietary intolerances (particularly gluten). This anti-grain anti-legume stance appears to me to be a vague attempt to revert back to a mystical, mythical past where he-men with spears and six-packs hunted down mastodons with Amazonian women applauding from the sidelines. The problem is, it’s all a giant con.

The fact that the vast majority of animals bred and killed for food are genetically mutated, artificially inseminated, and in many cases housed in filthy, cruel and unnatural factory farms (a relatively recent development), doesn’t seem to concern people who are happy to reject established grain crops that have been cultivated and consumed for many thousands of years (long before anyone had heard of an ‘obesity epidemic’).

Why you should ditch low-carb/high animal fat and protein diets

Low Carb Diet

 

1. Eating too much meat and animal fat is bad for humans, period.

Excessive meat and egg consumption has been linked to a host of health problems, including some cancers, heart disease and high cholesterol. Although most people are omnivores, our teeth and digestive system are much closer to those of herbivorous animals. Too much meat in our system, along with not enough fibre, clogs up and causes a toxic reaction, which simply does not happen with true carnivores like cats or dogs, with their much shorter digestive tract and stronger stomach acid. Saturated fats and cholesterol from animal products further clog our arteries and lead to atherosclerosis, heart disease and stroke.

  • For example, a study reported by ABC News in March 2014 showed that consumption of animal-based protein is linked to an increased risk of early death for people in their 50s and early 60s. The study, published in the journal Cell Metabolism, found that more than 6,000 American adults between the ages of 50 and 65 with diets high in animal protein were 74 percent more likely to meet an untimely end than those who consumed less animal protein or got their protein from non-animal sources. For deaths due to cancer, the risk was four times higher. Eating plant-based proteins like nuts and beans seemed to reverse the unhealthy trend.

According to Dr Joel Fuhrman, “Animal protein also elevates IGF-1, which is not only associated with cancer, but cardiovascular disease as well. High-protein, low-carbohydrate diets have now been linked to increased risk of cardiovascular disease and premature death.”

  • A low-carbohydrate diet high in animal products is associated with an increased risk for dying. As reported by the American Heart Association, researchers analyzed the diets of 4,098 women and men who had previously had heart attacks. They found they were 33 percent more likely to die from any cause and 51 percent more likely to die from heart disease if following a low-carbohydrate diet high in animal sources of protein and fat, compared with those whose dietary patterns consisted of fewer low-carb, animal-based products. Source: PCRM

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2. Avoiding fruit, vegetables, whole grains and legumes means that you are less able to prevent disease and premature death.

  • A study presented at the European Society of Cardiology Congress and reported by the Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine, daily intake of fruit may decrease the risk of heart disease by as much as 40 percent. To quote from the PCRM News site, researchers followed 451,681 participants for seven years and found that in addition to reducing the risk of heart disease, daily fruit consumption reduced the risk of dying from heart disease and stroke by 27 percent and 40 percent, respectively, compared with less than daily fruit consumption.
  • Another study published online in the European Journal of Nutrition found that reducing dietary fat while increasing carbohydrate intake is best for people with type 2 diabetes. Researchers followed the diets of 1,785 type 2 diabetes patients as part of the TOSCA.IT Study, and found that an increase from less than 45 percent to 60 percent or more in complex carbohydrate intake lowered all levels of triglycerides, LDL cholesterol, and HbA1c. They also found that increasing fibre and lowering added sugar intakes also had positive effects on cholesterol and blood sugar levels.
  • A meta-analysis published in the American Journal of Cardiology and reported by PCRM found that adding whole grains to your diet may protect against our biggest killer, heart disease. Researchers summarized results from 18 studies that included 400,492 total participants, of which 14,427 had diagnosed coronary heart disease. The studies showed that people who ate the most whole grains experienced a lower risk for heart disease when compared to those who consumed the least.

 

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3. High-carb diets are best for weight loss

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Good Carbs, Bad Carbs

By way of definition, ‘bad carbs’ are made from highly processed ingredients, such as refined white flour and sugar. Think donuts, muffins, cookies and cakes. They are made from flour with much of the fibre and goodness stripped out, and often mixed with loads of animal fats in the form of butter, milk and eggs. It’s unlikely that anyone would promote these types of foods as appropriate for healthy weight loss, let alone a healthy diet.

‘Good carbs’, on the other hand, refer to relatively unrefined or whole foods, foods such beans, lentils, chickpeas, quinoa, buckwheat, barley, and oats. This list would also include wholemeal bread, wholemeal pasta and brown rice. For good carbs think of foods close to, or within their natural state, and naturally high in fibre, and low in fat and sugar.

And don’t forget, good carbohydrates also include nutrient-rich, low-calorie vegetables and fruit, which, due to their high fibre, vitamins, minerals, antioxidants and phyto-chemicals, should form the bulk of your caloric intake.

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How much carbs should you eat?

The truth is that rather than avoid carbs, we should base our diet on whole-food carbohydrates. These provide a host of health benefits, as well as being a major source of energy. Based on my research, medical advice and experience, I advocate a whole-food plant-based diet, following classic 80-20 principles. By that I mean, basing your diet roughly on 80% good, high-fibre carbohydrates, including fresh vegetables and fruit, beans, legumes, whole grains, and 20% fats and plant protein.

Plant-food nutrition expert and guru Dr T. Colin Campbell, in his recent book ‘The Low Carb Fraud’, outlines some of the unsavoury side-effects of a low-carb diet: more headaches, bad breath, constipation, and muscle cramps.

Even more alarming was a report on the low-carb diet and health, referred to by Dr Campbell in his book, which was a summary of 17 studies published in January 2013 involving 272,216 subjects. According to this report a low-carb diet showed a statistically significant increase in total deaths.

By contrast, Dr Campbell summarizes the benefits of the WFPB – Whole Foods Plant Based – diet, which provides “an exceptionally rich bonanza of anti-oxidants, complex carbohydrates, and optimum intakes of fat, protein, vitamins, and minerals; many of which contribute to disease prevention.”

Carbohydrates, available almost exclusively from plants, provide the body with the most efficient form of energy, and is the only source of fuel for the brain. Whole-food carbs include the most nutrient-dense foods on the planet: vegetables, fruit, beans, whole grains, seeds and nuts. Foods that all of us should base our diet on.

Tom Perry

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Meat, Cancer and prevention, Paleo myths, Statins and Heart Disease risks

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One of my top 5 nutrition news items this week focuses on recent controversial research indicating that red and processed meats cause cancer. This research, published by the WHO (World Health Organisation), received a lot of publicity online and in the mainstream media. What isn’t quite as well publicized are dietary guidelines for preventing cancer. According to the Physicians’ Committee there are 6 main dietary guidelines for cancer prevention.
There was also recent Aussie research punching more holes in Paleo dogma, and Dr Fuhrman’s advice on the dark side of statin drugs, used for people (like I was) with high cholesterol. Then, related to high cholesterol levels, a video report by Dr Michael Greger from Nutrition Facts about the dangers of moderation when it comes to preventing heart disease.

Red and Processed Meats Cause Cancer

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A UN health body has ranked bacon, sausages and ham among most carcinogenic substances along with cigarettes, alcohol, asbestos and arsenic.

The World Health Organization (WHO) recently released a report that found that meat, especially processed meat, causes cancer.

A panel of 22 international experts reviewed decades of research and conducted a meta-analysis of over 800 studies on the link between red meat, processed meats and cancer.

The panel found a 17% increase in risk for colon cancer per 100 grams of red meat consumed; and an 18% increase risk with 50 grams of processed meat consumed, and quoted figures suggesting that 34,000 cancer deaths a year worldwide were attributable to diets high in processed meats.

According to Kurt Straif, an official with the World Health Organisation’s International Agency for Research on Cancer, which produced the report:

“For an individual, the risk of developing colorectal cancer because of their consumption of processed meat remains small, but this risk increases with the amount of meat consumed.”

“In view of the large number of people who consume processed meat, the global impact on cancer incidence is of public health importance.”

Researchers also found links between red and processed meat products and stomach, pancreatic, and prostate cancers.

*Yet another recent study found that two or more servings of red or processed meat a week can increase your risk for colorectal cancer.

As reported by PCRM, researchers looked at dietary data from the UK Biobank, encompassing 500,000 men and women, for red meat consumption and bowel cancer incidence rates. Participants who ate red meat four or more times per week had a 42% increased risk for colorectal cancer, compared with those who ate it less than once per week.

An estimated 21% of bowel cancers in the UK are linked to eating red and processed meat.

Dietary Guidelines for Cancer Prevention

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Aside from the wealth of evidence linking meat to cancer, what about foods that actually protect against cancer?

In June 2014 PCRM reported on a study published in the Journal of the American College of Nutrition, that advocates a diet rich in plant-based foods, such as soy beans and cruciferous, allium, and carotenoid vegetables.

“The key recommendation is to build meals around fruits, vegetables, and legumes,” said study author Neal Barnard, M.D., president of the nonprofit Physicians Committee and an adjunct associate professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences.

“Plant-based foods provide an antioxidant boost and help promote a healthy weight, reducing the risk for all types of cancer in the long run.”

Among the six dietary recommendations were foods that help to reduce cancer risk:

Guideline #5. Consume soy products to reduce risk of breast cancer and to reduce the risk of recurrence and mortality for women previously treated for breast cancer

Findings: “Evidence from Asian and Western countries shows that soy products are associated with reduced cancer risk. Chinese women who consume more than 11.3 grams of soy protein, equivalent to half a cup of cooked soybeans, each day during adolescence have a 43% reduced risk of premenopausal breast cancer, compared with women who consume 1.7 grams.
“Research in Shanghai shows that women with breast cancer who consume 11 grams of soy protein each day can reduce mortality and risk of recurrence by about 30%.  U.S. populations show similar findings: the higher the isoflavone intake from soy products, the less risk of mortality and recurrence in women with breast cancer.
Note: “When choosing soy products, opt for natural forms, such as edamame, tempeh, or organic tofu, as opposed to soy protein concentrates and isolates, common in powders and pills.”

Guideline #6. Emphasize fruits and vegetables to reduce risk of several common forms of cancer.

Findings: “Fruits and vegetables, especially leafy greens, help reduce overall cancer risk. A high intake of cruciferous vegetables, such as broccoli, kale, and cabbage, is associated with an 18% reduced risk of colorectal cancer and reduced risk of lung and stomach cancers.

“Women who consume the most carotenoid-rich vegetables, such as carrots and sweet potatoes, lower their risk of breast cancer by 19%. Overall, women who consume the highest quantities of any kind of fruit or vegetable reduce breast cancer risk by 11%.  A high intake of tomato products has been shown to reduce risk of gastric cancer by 27%. Garlic and other allium vegetables, such as onions, significantly reduce risk for gastric cancer, while a Western diet (high amounts of meat and fat with minimal amounts of fruits and vegetables) doubles the risk.”

*We thank and acknowledge Dr Barnard and the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine for information about this study and dietary guidelines.

Paleo cops a punch as researchers highlight importance of carbs for human evolution

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A new Australian study, recently reported in the Brisbane Times online, questions the Paleo diet’s claimed role in fuelling human evolution, as proposed by Vaclav Smil, author of Should We Eat Meat?: Evolution and Consequences of Modern Carnivory:

“Killing animals and eating meat have been significant components of human evolution that had a synergistic relationship with other key attributes that have made us human, with larger brains, smaller guts, bipedalism and language,”  – Vaclav Smil.

However this new study, which was co-written by researchers from the University of Sydney, challenges the belief that meat deserves all the credit for our rapid rise in the evolutionary stakes. According to the researchers, starchy carbohydrates “were essential for the evolution” of the human brain nearly 1 million years ago.

The human brain uses as much as 25% of the body’s energy and up to 60% of blood glucose, the researchers say, which is not consistent with a low-carbohydrate diet.

“The research is a blow to advocates of the Paleo diet, which shuns starch-rich vegetables and grains,” according to the University of Sydney.

“The evidence suggests that Palaeolithic humans would not have evolved on today’s ‘Paleo’ diet,” said Professor Jennie Brand-Miller, one of the study’s co-authors.

“After cooking became widespread, starch digestion advanced and became the source of preformed dietary glucose that permitted the acceleration in brain size,” co-author Professor Les Copeland said.

“There was no one Paleo diet,” said dietitian Dr Joanna McMillan. “Humans were smart enough to learn how to get nutrition from eating certain plant foods by cooking and other means of preparation [soaking for example]. In that we differ from other animal species.”

Dr McMillan expressed her hope that this research will help put an end to the fashion of carb-phobia.

* Refer to our blog post for more information about Paleo vs Plant-based diets.

Risks Associated with Statin Drugs

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I have taken Lipitor, a statin drug, for over 2 years now. Statins are drugs which block an enzyme in the liver involved in the production of cholesterol. They are very effective, as I can personally attest to, and they are one of the most prescribed types of drugs in the world.

Too much cholesterol in the bloodstream can lead to the build-up of atherosclerotic plaque, and is a major risk factor for heart disease.

In an article by Dr Joel Fuhrman, a 2010 study looked at the medical records of 2 million statin users. The study found “increases in the risk of liver dysfunction, muscle-related side effects, acute kidney injury and cataracts associated with statin use”.

As Dr Fuhrman writes, “larger doses of statin drugs are associated with greater likelihood of side effects, and additional risk factors such as other drugs, older age, diabetes and high triglycerides also increase the likelihood of adverse effect”.

Statins are further implicated in the increase of type-2 diabetes, a muscle pain, reduced fitness, severe breakdown of muscle called ‘rhabdomyolysis’, and even, paradoxically, heart disease.

The alternative to statins, which is a high-fibre, high-nutrient diet including vegetables, fruit and nuts was found to reduce cholesterol by 33% within two weeks.

Dr Fuhrman feels that prescribing statins for increased cholesterol levels “is counterproductive”. He believes that patients taking a statin drug may downplay the importance of lifestyle and dietary changes that would “drastically improve health, life expectancy and quality of life”.

Dr Fuhrman’s firm belief is that a health-promoting diet and lifestyle “not only reduces cholesterol but also reduces blood pressure, reverses heart disease and protects against diabetes, dementia and cancer”.

As always, you should seek the advice of your doctor and other qualified health care professionals for treatment of any medical condition.

Everything in Moderation? Even Heart Disease?

heart Dr Greger from Nutrition Facts proposes that rather than opt for a ‘low-risk’ chance of heart attacks, perhaps we should aim for ‘no risk’. Dr Greger cites strong evidence that we should keep our cholesterol levels below 150 mg/dl (about 3.9 mmol) to stem coronary heart disease (CHD), rather than the sub-200 mg/dl (about 5.2 mmol) levels as advocated by the American Heart Association.

As Dr Greger points out, in many cultures heart disease is almost unknown when total serum cholesterol levels are below 150 mg/dl. Few of those develop the disease, and none die of it.

The famous Framingham Heart Study demonstrated that 35% of heart attacks occur in people who have cholesterol levels between 150 mg/dl and 200 mg/dl. This means that a target level of only around 200 mg/dl ensures that millions of US citizens will die of coronary disease.
As we have previously asserted, sometimes cutting back in ‘moderation’ is not going to save lives, and it might even destroy them.

Tom Perry

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The Truth about Soy

Soybeans Soy – good or bad?

I went to buy a litre of soymilk recently, and the lady serving me commented “oh, I heard that stuff is bad for you!”

Wait,…what? Who would think it’s not only ok, but almost their duty to warn a perfect stranger – about to buy one of their shop’s goods – about the dangers of soy! Anyway, I smiled and told her that I’d drunk this ‘stuff’ for years (since 1983 for the record!) and it was perfectly healthy.

Apart from the dubious practice of making negative comments about a customer’s product choices, this demonstrated to me the power of propaganda against certain plant foods. And yet, I can’t really blame her. It seems that on a regular basis there’s some crack-pot article or online diatribe about the many ‘dangers’ of the humble soybean.

Recently on some website called ‘Living Traditionally’ (whatever that means!) they posted an article with the catchy (some might say hyperbolic) title of ‘Top 10 Shocking Reasons to Avoid Soy Milk’. Apparently, according to this article, drinking soymilk is “destroying your health”.

To summarize, some of the allegations listed were that:

  • 99% of soy is genetically modified (truth: most commercial soymilk brands state ‘GM free’ on their cartons);
  • soymilk contributes to vitamin B12 deficiency (truth: most soymilk brands are fortified with B12);
  • the isoflavones in soy cause breast cancer (truth: according to Dr Joel Fuhrman, “…it appears that isoflavones have a number of anti-cancer effects that are unrelated to their ability to bind the estrogen receptor”)
  • plant estrogens found in soy, called phytoestrogens, disrupt endocrine function and lead to infertility and  breast cancer in women (truth: again, Dr Fuhrman advises: “the large body of evidence that convincingly suggests that whole and minimally processed soy foods protect against breast cancer”)

Other articles on soy make all sorts of sensationalist claims, and would have the nutritious soybean and its food derivatives cast as a toxic villain of international conspiracy proportions.

Some of the other main claims against soy are that:

  • Soy causes malnutrition and digestive distress
  • Soy increases the risk of cancer and heart disease
  • Soy consumption is linked with immune system breakdown, thyroid dysfunction, cognitive decline, reproductive disorders and infertility.

Soybeans

Soy doesn’t stop you having babies

The last claim of soy causing infertility has no basis in reality. I have been a vegetarian – and now vegan – for 33 years, and successfully produced 4 children. A vegan brother of mine, another big soy consumer, has 3 big healthy boys. None of the vegetarian or vegan men I know of or have heard of have experienced any fertility problems. That is not to say it has never happened, but there is not a shred of evidence to show that men (or women) who consume high levels of soy have greater fertility problems, on average, than the rest of the population. Indeed, the huge populations of big soy consumers in Asian countries such as China and Japan would suggest this claim is more than a little fanciful!

Soy is safe for kids

The anti-soy lobby’s claim (led by Joseph Mercola) that we are damaging our children by feeding them soy is not supported by the evidence. An article titled Is Soy Milk Safe for Children? By Shereen Lehman notes that:

“The American Academy of Pediatrics states that soy formulas are safe and effective for infants, and research shows no hormonal effects in long-term feeding of soy formulas.”

A 2005 study compared the nutritional status and growth of 168 infants who were allergic to cow’s milk and were fed either soya-based infant formula or hydrolyzed whey formula. In both groups, nutrient intake and growth were ‘within reference values’ – in other words, they grew normally (Seppo et al., 2005).

All four of my children had soy formula as babies, and still enjoy soy milk on a regular, daily basis. All are healthy and developmentally normal; in fact taller than average for their age.

Soy Milk

Soy protects against cancer

Most evidence suggests that soy protects against many types of cancer, rather than increases the risk of it. Consider these facts:

  • The average Japanese person consumes 50-80 grams of soy food daily
  • The average American eats 5 grams of soy a day
  • Japanese people have much lower rates of colon and lung cancer than Americans
  • Japan has the lowest rate of death from heart disease for men in the world, and the second lowest for women
  • American women are 5 times more likely to die from breast cancer than Japanese women
  • American men are 5 times more likely to die from prostate cancer than Japanese men

As noted in an online article by Neal Barnard M.D, Adjunct Associate Professor of Medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and President of the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine in Washington, DC:

“…regular consumption of at least a modest amount of soy products cut the risk of recurrence [of breast cancer] by 25 percent.”

Dr Joel Furhman advises that:

“…a 2009 meta-analysis of studies on soy and prostate cancer found that higher soy intake was associated with a 26% reduction in risk.”….and also: “soy foods are not only associated with decreased risk of hormonal cancers, but also lung, stomach, and colorectal cancers.”

Soy good for you

As Dr Barnard explains, studies show that soy protein is “highly digestible”.

Dr Barnard also says that soy foods “do not cause thyroid problems in people with normal functioning thyroids”, and that, despite the presence of some phytates in soy, studies show that “calcium [in soy products] is absorbed as well as calcium from cow’s milk.”

The good news is that tests have shown that soybean protein is equivalent in quality to protein found in beef, milk and egg white. Soybeans are packed with iron, zinc and calcium; are high in fibre; low in saturated fat and contain no cholesterol.  Their polyunsaturated and omega 3 fats help lower blood cholesterol and prevent blood clotting.

Want more proof of the health benefits of soybeans?

The Truth about Soy

The Truth about Soy’s health benefits

The Victorian government’s Better Health Channel (with information produced in consultation with and approved by Deakin University here in Melbourne) states that:

“Soybeans are members of the pea (legume) family of vegetables…and contain hormone-like substances called phytoestrogens that mimic the action of the hormone oestrogen. The health benefits of soy for menopausal women could include fewer hot flushes, protection from coronary heart disease (CHD) and lowered risk of osteoporosis.”

This website lists all the other health benefits of soybeans:

  • high in fibre
  • high in protein
  • low in saturated fat
  • cholesterol free
  • lactose free
  • a good source of omega-3 fatty acids
  • a source of antioxidants
  • high in phytoestrogens.

The incredibly versatile soybean can be consumed in a myriad of forms, including miso; soy breads and cereals; soy cheese; soy milk; soy flour; soy grits and soy flakes; soy meats; soy pasta; soy sauce; soy snacks; soy bean oil; tempeh; Textured Vegetable Protein (TVP); tofu, and tofu desserts such as soy ice-cream and yoghurt.

As always, for optimal health I recommend that you focus mainly on whole soybeans, or foods made with whole soybeans, and traditional soy foods with minimal processing, such as tempeh and tofu.

Tempeh

Meat eaters consume the most soy

With all the anti-soy propaganda around, perhaps the ultimate irony is that people who eat pork, beef, chicken, dairy and fish indirectly consume the most amount of commercially farmed soy.

According to online reports by the soy industry:

“about 85% of the world’s soybeans are processed, or “crushed,” annually into soybean meal and oil.”  Nearly all (98%) that soybean meal is further processed into animal feed. Most of the oil (95%) is consumed as edible oil; the rest is used for “industrial products such as fatty acids, soaps and biodiesel.”

So, if you genuinely want to boycott the commercial, GM soy crop industry, you have only one choice: avoid consuming edible oils (better for your health anyway) and to go vegan!

Final word on soy

I urge you to pay no heed to the ‘chicken littles’ who would convince you the sky will fall down if you consume some tempeh, soymilk or tofu. I have happily consumed soy products for over 30 years, and as part of a healthy, balanced diet I, and my family, can heartily recommend them (just quietly, so can billions of other people all over the world, too!).

Bean appetit!

Tom Perry

Further References:

The Book of Tofu, by William Shurtleff and Akiko Aoyagi
All You Need to Know About Soy – Sanitarium Health Food Company
Soy Miracle, by Earl Mindell
Eat to Live, by Sue Radd and Dr Kenneth Setchell

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Omega 3 – which is best: fish or plants?

What are Omega 3 fatty acids?

Omega-3 fatty acids, also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs), play a crucial role in brain function, as well as normal growth and development. Omega-3 fats include eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA), which are typically found in fish and fish oil. Some plant-based foods, including flaxseeds, walnuts and chia seeds, also contain omega-3 in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), which also helps heart health.

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Why is Omega 3 good for you?

Omega-3 fatty acids are necessary for human health, but our bodies can’t make them. Research indicates that omega-3 fatty acids EPA and DHA found in fish oil can help lower triglycerides, cholesterol and blood pressure. Some studies suggest that omega-3 fatty acids may help with other conditions, including improving immune function, allergic reactions, rheumatoid arthritis, depression, asthma, ADHD, Alzheimer’s disease and many more.

Problems with fish oil supplements and fish consumption

When I was a kid, the main source of fish in my diet was occasional ‘fish and chips’ (typically on a Friday night), with the fish being shark-meat (‘flake’) fried in batter; tinned sardines, or tuna casserole. ‘Fish oil’ was unknown as a dietary supplement then, and it was only relatively recently that fish oil became marketed as an essential part of a healthy diet.

Fish and Krill oil supplements are big business, and are the main dietary source of omega 3 fatty acids for most people. Sales of fish oil supplements reached $1.1 billion in the U.S. in 2010, up 11%, according to Nutrition Business Journal. A report by a market research firm in 2012 predicted that global retail omega 3 sales was predicted to reach $34.7 billion by 2016.

But before we all swallow the line that fish oil is some sort of ‘super food’, is there a downside? The short answer is ‘yes’ – there are many problems with consuming fish and fish oil!

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High Fish diets do no favors for your heart

A Forbes Magazine article  referred to a large study conducted at McMaster University which raised questions about whether consumption of fish oil has any effect on preventing heart attacks at all. In this large study, the 6,281 patients who took fish oil were no more or less likely to die from cardiovascular causes than the 6,255 who received a placebo. The study found that consumption of fish oil did not lead to fewer heart attacks, fewer strokes, fewer hospitalizations for heart problems, fewer stent procedures, or less chest pain.

According to a study in the Canadian Journal of Cardiology, diets high in fish do not promote a healthy heart, and may increase risk of heart disease.

The diets and health of Eskimos and Inuits in Greenland and North America were analysed by researchers in a review of ten different studies. Researchers found that Eskimos in Greenland have similar rates of heart disease, an overall mortality rate twice as high, and a life expectancy 10 years shorter, compared with non-Eskimos. Compared with non-native populations, North American Inuits have similar if not higher rates of heart disease.

The authors conclusion was that an “Eskimo diet” has previously been wrongly identified as heart healthy and that such a high-fat diet is better labelled dangerous.

Melissa Breyer from the Mother Nature Network writes: “although many studies link consumption of fish oil to reduced depression, a 2011 meta-analysis by Yale University researchers debunked the idea that omega-3s alleviate the blues.”

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Increased fish and fish oil consumption increases prostate cancer risk

Men who eat fatty fish or take fish oil supplements have a 71 per cent higher risk for dangerous high-grade prostate cancer, according to research published in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute. This research was widely reported in the Melbourne Age, the Herald Sun, and ABC Science online.

In 2011 the same team of researchers published similar findings, that high blood concentrations of DHA more than doubled the risk of prostate cancer.

According to Ian Olver, chief executive of the Australian Cancer Council:

“The reality is that if something is good for you, it doesn’t mean that 10 times of it is better. It is unlikely someone would be diagnosed with a deficiency of fish oil. There is a view out there that extra vitamins and antioxidants are good for you. And people take more thinking that more is better.”

Fish oil won’t make your baby brainer

It has been thought that omega-3 fatty acids, consumed via oily fish or in fish oil capsules, could possibly boost fetal brain development in the womb.

However, research indicates that pregnant women taking fish oil supplements don’t improve their baby’s brain function or intelligence.

In this study, researchers led by Maria Makrides of the South Australian Health and Medical Research Institute in Adelaide analyzed date gathered from 300 families in which the mothers had consumed 800 milligrams of an omega-3 supplement per day during their pregnancy.

The study authors compared results from the children of mothers who hadn’t taken the supplements with the children of those who had. Crucially, by the time they reached the age of 4, boys and girls born to the group taking the supplements showed no advantage when it came to language, memory, problem-solving and/or reasoning skills, according to the researchers.

Dr. Catherine Herway, assistant director of maternal-fetal medicine at Staten Island University Hospital in New York City, was quoted in an online article as saying:

“It is very appealing to say to a woman that if she takes a pill every day, her baby will become smarter. The reality is that despite all of our advancements in modern science, the best advice remains the same: To optimize maternal and fetal health, there remains no substitute for a well-balanced diet.”

There are several potential pitfalls with using fish oil, including:

  • Fish oil may contain toxins and contaminants that have accumulated in the environment, including arsenic, cadmium, lead, mercury, PCBs and dioxins.
  • Fish oil supplements may cause nausea, diarrhea, loose stools, decreased appetite, constipation, vomiting and fat in the stool.
  • Fish oil has a limited shelf-life, and may become rancid (researchers at New Zealand’s Crop and Food Research Institute tested capsules from an array of brands from countries all over the world and discovered that a majority of the capsules they tested had begun to oxidize).
  • Some people have fish or shellfish allergies.
  • Regular consumption of fish oil can cause unpleasant fish breath or “fish burps”.
  • Over-fishing of target species and krill for oil production can seriously deplete fish stocks and food for other marine animals. For example, an April 2011 article published by “Nutra Ingredients” reported that some penguin populations have fallen 50 per cent due to a fall in the availability of krill.

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Plant sources of Omega 3

As a vegan, I do not eat fish or take fish oil. So, if I don’t get my omega 3 fats from fish or fish oil, then where from?

Flaxseed (flax) is the richest source of ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) containing 50 – 60% omega-3 fatty acids, and lignans (powerful anti-oxidants), that researchers have found helpful in preventing heart disease, protecting against inflammatory disorders and certain cancers, and lowering your cholesterol. Flaxseeds add a mild, nutty flavour to a variety of foods and are an excellent source of fibre, high quality protein and potassium.

One of the limitations of Flaxseed Oil (apart from not being recommended for heating and cooking) is that the body has to convert its ALA (alpha-linolenic acid) into EPA and DHA, the omega-3 fatty acids found in fish oil. Some researchers think that flaxseed oil might have some of the same benefits as fish oil, but the body is not very efficient at converting ALA into EPA and DHA (conversion efficiency may be as low as 5 per cent).

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Omega 3 from algae – getting it from the source

Did you know that fish don’t naturally produce omega 3? The omega 3 fatty acids obtained from fish that humans eat originally comes from the algae the fish eat. Extracting DHA and EPA omega 3 fatty acids from algae means you’re getting it straight from the source – clean and green.

There are several benefits by taking omega-3 supplements from a plant (algae) source, including:

  • You get all the benefits of fish oil omega-3, without concerns about impurities, contaminants, or of course diminishing fish stocks – this is a fully sustainable source of omega-3, and much more environmentally friendly.
  • It’s better for everyone, including vegans, vegetarians, pregnant and breastfeeding women.
  • Research indicates that pure algae-sourced omega-3 is more effectively absorbed by the body than fish oil.
  • The balance of DHA and EPA fatty acids is at least as good, if not better than fish oil in terms of health benefits, and superior to Flaxseed Oil.

Some brands of plant-sourced omega-3 oil I have used and recommend are Dr Fuhrman’s vegan supplement DHA+EPA PurityDeva, which is 100% vegan, vegetarian and is certified by the Vegan Society, the non-profit organization that actually invented the word “vegan”, and Opti-3.

Other brands that you may like to investigate include Green Omega 3  and Lifestream V-Omega 3 .

A final word: please follow this advice from Web MD : Before you start using any supplement, you should always discuss it with your doctor or health care provider. He or she may have specific recommendations — or warnings — depending on your health and the other medicines you take.

Tom Perry

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Oats – for health and weight loss

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My Oat Obsession

When I was young I ate so much oats and oatmeal porridge that my older brothers nicknamed me ‘Hoss’ (partially as a nod to the famous character on the 1950s-60s TV show ‘Bonanza’ – RIP Dan Blocker!). I was known to regularly fill up a small saucepan (read “chaff-bag”!) with thick oat porridge, sprinkle it liberally with brown sugar, splash on some milk and sit down for my favourite feast.

Over the years I haven’t quite kept up the same oat consumption, but I still enjoy the delights of oatmeal porridge, muesli, and even a sprinkling of rolled oats over my breakfast cereal.

It turns out that my oat obsession wasn’t such a bad thing health-wise either. When I was recently diagnosed with high cholesterol, one of the foods I researched that was recommended to help reduce high cholesterol levels was, you guessed it, oats.

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Health benefits of oats – a whole grain superfood

Did you know that oats are a great source of phosphorus, selenium and manganese? They’re a good source of soluble dietary fibre, iron, zinc and magnesium, and vitamin B1. Oats are also rich in carotenoids, tocols (Vitamin E), flavonoids and avenanthramides – a class of polyphenols.

Oats, oat bran, and oatmeal contain a specific type of fibre known as beta-glucan, which has been shown in many studies to reduce blood cholesterol levels, thus reducing the risk of heart disease. The intake of the equivalent of three grams of oat fibre (in one bowl of oatmeal) daily generally reduces total cholesterol by 8 to 23 percent.

According to an article from The George Mateljan Foundation, recent research suggests that oats may have another cardio-protective mechanism.

A study conducted at Tufts University and published in The Journal of Nutrition found that an antioxidant compounds unique to oats, called avenanthramides helps prevent free radicals from damaging LDL cholesterol.

Another study also conducted at Tufts and published in Atherosclerosis, researchers exposed human arterial wall cells to purified avenenthramides or oat phenols from oats for 24 hours, which significantly suppressed the production of several types of molecules involved in the attachment of monocytes (immune cells in the bloodstream) to the arterial wall—the first step in the development of atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries.

We know that consumption of dietary fibre and whole grain products such as oats can reduce the risk of high blood pressure and heart attack. Harvard researchers looked at the effects of cereal consumption on heart failure risk by following 21,376 participants in the Physicians Health Study over a period of 19.6 years. After adjusting for other factors (age, smoking, alcohol consumption, vegetable consumption, use of vitamins, exercise, and history of heart disease), the researchers discovered that men who enjoyed a daily morning bowl of whole grain (but not refined) cereal had a 29% lower risk of heart failure.

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Other oat health benefits

  • Management of diabetes. Oat’s beta-glucan has beneficial effects for diabetics. Type 2 diabetes patients given foods high in this type of oat fibre or given oatmeal or oat bran rich foods experienced much lower rises in blood sugar compared to those who were given white rice or bread. Researchers in Mannheim, Germany carried out a dietary intervention with 14 patients who had uncontrolled type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance. The patients were introduced to a diabetes-appropriate diet containing oatmeal during a short hospital stay, then examined again four weeks later. On average, patients achieved a 40% reduction in insulin dosage – and maintained the reduction even after 4 weeks on their own at home.
  • Protection against breast cancer. When researchers looked at how much fiber 35,972 participants in the UK Women’s Cohort Study ate, they found a diet rich in fibre from whole grains, such as oats, and fruit offered significant protection against breast cancer for pre-menopausal women. (Cade JE, Burley VJ, et al., International Journal of Epidemiology).
  • Immune system booster. In laboratory studies reported inSurgery, beta-glucan significantly enhanced the human immune system’s response to bacterial infection.
  • Lowering risk of colorectal cancer. Researchers in Britain and the Netherlands pooled published evidence that covered nearly 2 million people to evaluate whether a high fibre diet (mainly from whole grains and cereals like oats) is linked to a lower risk of colorectal cancer, and found that for every additional 10g of fiber in someone’s diet there is a 10% reduction in their risk of developing colorectal cancer.
  • Management of blood pressure. An article published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition concluded that a diet which includes plenty of whole-grains (such as oats or wholemeal bread) is just as effective as taking anti-hypertensive medication in lowering blood pressure.
  • Protection against hormone-dependent cancer. A phytochemical especially abundant in whole grains including oats are plant lignans, which are thought to protect against breast and other hormone-dependent cancers as well as heart disease.

Several studies suggest that eating whole grains such as oats has been linked to protection against atherosclerosis, ischemic stroke, diabetes, insulin resistance, obesity, and premature death. A new study and accompanying editorial, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition explains the likely reasons behind these findings and recommends at least 3 servings of whole grains should be eaten daily. So much for the Paleo proponents’ claim that whole grains aren’t any good for you!

Oats for weight loss and appetite control

Studies have revealed that starting the day with a nutritious, fibre-rich meal such as oats can help with maintaining a healthy weight. A cup of oatmeal is only 130 calories. It stays in your stomach longer, making you feel full longer, with less hunger and cravings.

Australian researchers studied fourteen people who ate a control meal and three different cereals with different levels of oat beta glucan. They then collected blood samples for four hours after each meal, and found a significant dose response between higher levels of oat beta glucan and higher levels of Peptide Y-Y, a hormone associated with appetite control.

Also in Australia, researchers at the University of Sydney fed 38 different foods, one by one, to 11-13 different people, then asked them to report their “satiety” or fullness every 15 minutes for the next two hours. From this, they ranked all 38 foods in a “Satiety Index.” Oatmeal rated #3 overall for making people feel satisfied and full, and it rated #1 in the breakfast food group.

Information Sources:

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Cooking and eating oats

The distinctive flavour associated with oats is partly due to the roasting process they undergo after being harvested and cleaned. Oats are then hulled, though this process does not strip away their bran or their germ, which allows them to retain a concentrated source of their fibre and nutrients.

Versatile oats can be eaten raw or cooked as porridge; made into oat flour; oat bran (the outer layer of the grain that resides under the hull); added to baked goods (oat cookies, oat cakes), and even consumed as oat milk.

Tom’s Quick and Easy Oatmeal

I have a favourite, very quick and easy way to cook low-fat healthy oatmeal porridge:

Ingredients:

  • Half-cup of rolled oats
  • One cup of water

Method:

  • Add ingredients to a microwave bowl with lid.
  • Microwave (or alternatively cook in saucepan) for 2 minutes.
  • Stir ingredients well, then serve.

Depending on taste, you can then add fresh fruit such as banana, berries, or dried fruit for texture and natural sweetener. I also add some ground flax seed for omega 3 fats, and soy-milk (I drink fat-free), although you can add the milk of your choice (oat milk is also recommended).

How do you like your oats? Maybe you enjoy other oaty treats like our Anzac biscuitOat Bread, or our Steel Cut Oat Power Porridge.

Let us know in the comments.

Tom Perry

 

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3 Reasons Why You Should Eat Flaxseeds

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Flaxseeds – a nutritional powerhouse

What are flaxseeds?

Flaxseeds, otherwise known as linseeds, are tiny seeds that were cultivated as early as 3000 BC in Babylon. They are found in many processed foods, from crackers to frozen waffles. The American Flax Council estimates close to 300 new flax-based products were launched in the U.S. and Canada in 2010 alone.

Copy of 3 Reasons Why You Should Eat Flaxseeds

Why is flaxseed good for you?

A WebMD article by Elaine Magee, MPH, RD lists the health benefits of this little seed that packs a huge punch in the healthy food stakes.

The myriad health benefits of flaxseed can be attributed to three main factors:

  1. Flaxseeds are one of the best plant-based sources of essential omega-3 fats. Flaxseeds contain 50 to 60 per cent omega-3 fatty acids in the form of alpha linolenic acid (ALA). A tablespoon of flaxseeds contains about 1.8 grams of omega-3.
  2. Flaxseed contains 75 to 800 times more lignans than other plant foods. Lignans are phytoestrogens which researchers have found helpful in preventing heart disease, protecting against inflammatory disorders and certain cancers, and lowering your cholesterol.
  3. Flaxseeds are also rich in B vitamins, dietary fibre, protein and potassium.

Golden vs Brown Flaxseed

There are two types of flax seeds, golden and brown coloured flaxseeds. Brown flax seeds is usually easier to find than golden flax seeds. Some argue that golden flax seeds are superior than brown but according to a recent study done by Canada Grain Commission, evidence points to nutritional equality of brown and golden flax seeds

Lignans may help protect against cancer by blocking enzymes that are involved in hormone metabolism and interfering with the growth and spread of tumor cells. Studies indicate that flaxseed may have a protective effect against breast cancer, as well as other cancers such as prostate cancer, and colon cancer.

Plant-derived omega-3 fats may help the cardiovascular system through several different mechanisms, including anti-inflammatory action and normalizing the heartbeat. New research also suggests significant blood pressure-lowering effects of flaxseed.

“Lignans in flaxseed have been shown to reduce atherosclerotic plaque build-up by up to 75%,” says Kelley C. Fitzpatrick, director of health and nutrition with the Flax Council of Canada.

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Eating flaxseed daily may also help manage your cholesterol levels. The level of LDL or “bad” cholesterol in the bloodstream has been linked to an increased risk of heart disease, obesity, diabetes, and metabolic syndrome.

Findings published in the American Journal Of Clinical Nutrition found that the seeds (not flaxseed oil) can reduce total and LDL (bad) cholesterol by a significant amount, particularly in post-menopausal women. A study published in the Journal Of Clinical Oncology found that ground flaxseed slow the growth of prostate cancer tumours.

How should you use flaxseed in your diet?

  • Add flaxseed (ground or whole) on cereal, added to homemade bread, mixed into soups and stews, or blended into smoothies.
  • Make flaxseeds gel by combining ground flaxseed with water, and use it to thicken soups or dessert.
  • Make flax-egg by mixing 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed with 3 tablespoons of water and used it as an egg replacement in baked goods.

Do you have flaxseed in your diet, and if so, how do you consume it?

Tom Perry

Further Reading and References:

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Paleo vs Plantbased

Paleo vs. Plantbased

Where did Paleo come from?

I loved watching ‘The Flintstones’ when I was a kid (showing my age, I know!). This cartoon, set in the stone-age, was a pioneering sitcom reflecting 1960’s suburban life in America, and poked fun at the vain, lazy, and self-absorbed Fred Flintstone; long before Homer Simpson existed.

But did I believe that ancient humans actually lived like that? Of course not!

It’s a natural human tendency to idealise or romanticise the past, especially when it’s so far back in the mists of time.

The ‘Paleo’ diet is a food fantasy cleverly marketed as dietary ‘cure-all’ harking back to a mythical stone-age past. It’s been around for quite a while, too, in some form or another.

In his 1975 book ‘The Stone Age Diet: Based on in-depth Studies of Human Ecology and the Diet of Man’ Walter L. Voegtlin argued that that the ancestral human Paleolithic diet was that of a carnivore — chiefly (animal) fats and protein, with only small amounts of carbohydrates.

In 1988 S. Boyd Eaton, Marjorie Shostak and Melvin Konner published a book about Paleolithic nutrition. From the end of the 1990s, some medical doctors and nutritionists promoted a return to a so-called Paleolithic (pre-agricultural) diet.

In 2002, Dr Lauren Cordain, who holds a doctorate in physical education, published his bestselling book “The Paleo Diet” that summarized research on the subject and provided practical advice on “the diet you were designed to eat”.

So, was Fred Flintstone and his buddies really hairy-chested hunters of woolly mammoths? While it’s true that Fred worked at the Slate Rock & Gravel Company in the town of Bedrock, the short answer is ‘no’.

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The Problem with Paleo

The Paleolithic period is the earliest period of human development, and lasted from 2.6 million years ago to about 12,000 years ago, across many continents, and during a wide range of climatic conditions (including a few ice ages). Apart from the huge variations in time, location and climate, there are several other anomalies with Paleo that were detailed in a Scientific American article:

  • Put simply, true Paleo foods are not around anymore, and certainly not in your local supermarket. Almost every species commonly consumed today—whether a fruit, vegetable or animal—is vastly different from its Paleolithic predecessor. Animals and plants used for consumption have been genetically bred and modified to increase production and favour preferred features (such as bananas without seeds) to such an extent that it is now impossible to eat like a human from the Paleolithic period – short of taking a historical ride in a time machine!
  • Contrary to Paleo proponents’ claims, Paleolithic humans did eat grains and legumes, and may have even cooked them. Recent research out of Italy shows that humans were eating grains well before modern agriculture. Marta Mariotti Lippi and her colleagues at the University of Florence found traces of oats on an ancient grinding tool in Southern Italy dating 32,000 years ago, about 20,000 years before farming was developed. Lippi says this isn’t the only instance of evidence pointing to ancient people eating starch. “In Central Italy they ate starch from cattail,” Lippi said. “In the Middle East, starch from wild wheat. In Russia and Moravia, they were eating starch, but we do not know which plants they processed.” And don’t forget, legumes and whole grains are excellent sources of fibre, protein, and other phyto-nutrients that form part of a healthy diet.
  • Humans have evolved since 12,000 years ago, in contrast to Paleo lore, which teaches that our eating preferences are stuck in the stone-age. Genetic mutations, such as a tolerance for dairy in some populations, blue eyes, some people evolving extra copies of the amylase enzyme so they can more easily digest starches, have all occurred with the last 5,000 to 10,000 years. It is clear our bodies are easily capable of evolving fast enough in 12,000 years to accommodate new foods.
  • Paleo diets can induce weight loss, but in an unhealthy way. Too much animal fat and animal protein can lead to a host of health problems. It is also ethically problematic. According to vegan dietitian Amanda Benham;

“Any diet [such as Paleo] that requires animals to be slaughtered, exploited or kept in captivity has something seriously wrong with it from an ethical viewpoint. Also I don’t recommend them on health grounds. They encourage unhealthy eating patterns such as high consumption of animal products (such as meat and eggs), which are loaded with saturated fats and cholesterol and devoid of fibre and other beneficial plant components. In the long run they unsustainable and any weight lost is readily regained.

“Another problem with diets high in animal products is that they have a much larger environmental footprint than plant-based diets. Producing food from animals requires a much greater use of resources such as land, water and fossil fuels than producing food from plants. It is also a waste of food itself to get our calories and protein from animal products, as many more times the amount of protein and calories from plants must be fed to animals than is actually produced. Also, raising cattle and other ruminants for meat and/or milk production is a major contributor to global warming via methane gas production.”

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Our true Paleo history

In a Scientific American article Rob Dunn, science writer and biologist in the Department of Biology at North Carolina State University, argues that when taken too literally such diets are ridiculous.

One problem is deciding which group of ancestors to take our dietary advice from. Are the stone-age diet gurus Neanderthals, Homo Erectus or the Flintstone Family (Brontosaurus ribs anyone)? If we look at our closest ape relatives, chimpanzees, the answer to our dietary past is clear – it was mostly vegetarian. Chimpanzees do sometimes kill and devour a smaller animal like a monkey. However the proportion of the diet of the average chimpanzee composed of meat is small, less than 3% by mass. As Rob Dunn notes:

“The majority of the food consumed by primates today–and every indication is for the last thirty million years–is vegetable, not animal. Plants are what our apey and even earlier ancestors ate; they were our paleo diet for most of the last thirty million years during which our bodies, and our guts in particular, were evolving.”

So, to return a healthy, halcyon ancient diet regime Rob Dunn has more advice:

“If you want to return to your ancestral diet, … you might reasonably eat what our ancestors spent the most time eating during the largest periods of the evolution of our guts, fruits, nuts, and vegetables—especially fungus-covered tropical leaves.”

Hmmm – perhaps we’ll leave the fungus-covered leaves out of our green salad for now…

Rather than dwell too much on what our ancient ancestors ate, the key question is, what is the healthiest option right now, today? Whether you eat meat or meat alternatives, it is clear from mainstream nutrition advice that most of our diet should consist of fruit, vegetables, legumes, nuts and complex carbohydrates (whole grains).

References:

http://www.nutritionaustralia.org/national/resource/healthy-living-pyramid

http://www.helpguide.org/life/healthy_eating_diet.htm#tip4

https://www.drfuhrman.com/library/foodpyramid.aspx

Tom Perry
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7 Ways Whole Plant-Based Foods Help You Lose Weight Without Counting Calories

Most people who try to lose weight usually count calories and reduce portions. While this may work in the short term, it can be difficult, if not impossible, to sustain over time.

Can you really lose weight without counting calories? The answer is yes – if you eat the right foods.

Early this year, PCRM – Physician’s Committee for Responsible Medicine – published research showing that a healthy plant-based vegetarian diet helps you lose weight without counting calories.

This meta-analysis, conducted by PCRM, was published in the Journal of the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics on Thursday, January 22, 2015. A total of 15 studies were reviewed, that were conducted with 755 participants in Finland, Norway, Poland, Spain, Sweden, and the United States. The studies, some short as four weeks, with others last as long as two years; showed an average weight loss of 10 pounds over a 44-week period.

Neal Barnard, M.D., lead author of the study, president of the Physicians Committee, and an adjunct associate professor of medicine at the George Washington University School of Medicine and Health Sciences, was quoted as saying:

“The take-home message is that a plant-based diet can help you lose weight without counting calories and without ramping up your exercise routine. We hope health care providers will take note and prescribe this approach to patients looking to manage their weight and health.”

Here’s the 7 ways whole plant-based diets work to help you lose weight without counting calories.

Green Nutrition News 25 Aug 15

1. The main ‘secret’ ingredient of whole plant based diets can be summed up in one important F word: FIBRE.

Or for those in the US – fiber. Fibre is a special type of carbohydrate found only in plants that cannot be digested by the body. It is naturally low in calories, yet it helps fill us up, and is critical in preventing or combating such conditions as high cholesterol, diabetes, obesity, cancer and heart disease.

2. Choosing whole plant foods means you avoid consuming foods made with white, refined flour and sugar, which tend to be calorie-dense but nutrient-poor.

This means consuming mostly whole vegetables (raw and cooked – especially dark leafy greens), whole fruit, beans, legumes, nuts, seeds, and whole grains, such as oats, brown rice and protein-rich quinoa. Avoid foods that are processed to the point where they lose most of their fibre and other micro-nutrients (such as fruit juice). Choosing whole plantbased food means choosing plant food that is in, or close to, its natural state.

3. If you eat mostly, or all whole, natural foods, you don’t have to worry about getting too much (or not enough) fat, carbs, or protein.

The beauty of healthy, whole plant foods is that they are balanced in all the very best nutrients, including vitamins, minerals, anti-oxidants and phyto-chemicals, and, (not to mention; again) fibre.

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4. Whole plant foods are mostly low in fat, which has more than double the calories of protein or carbohydrates.

With the exceptions such as raw nuts, seeds, avocado and whole olives (not oil) which are healthy sources of  good fats, essential omega 3, omega 6 and protein. Several studies have also shown that eating small amounts of nuts helps with weight loss because the fibre and protein help you feel full longer.

5. Whole plants foods are naturally low in salt and sugar.

Even the natural sugar in fruit is of the low GI variety, as the fibre in whole fruit ensures as low release of the energy.

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6. Plant foods provide a kaleidoscope of colours, tastes, and textures that add interest, flavour and variety to food – without piling on the pounds!

Instead of mixing fatty, creamy sauces and dressings, or adding lots of butter, cheese or refined oils, you can utilise the vast range of natural herbs, seasonings and spices that add both zest and healthy nutrients to your dishes – without adding extra calories.

7. Whole plant foods are non-addictive and health-promoting.

Foods that are high in fat, salt and sugar (think cheese, pastries, sweets, fried food, processed meats) tend to over-stimulate our palate, and can lead to food addiction, or at least over-consumption. Fast, or ‘junk’ food is a prime example of this. Sugary white buns, fatty meats and cheese, rich sauces and condiments, ice cream, fried chips – all these type of foods are loaded with calories, are not very filling, and can have a devastating effect on our health.

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It turns out that the best diet to lose weight – and keep it off – is also the most protective against the main killer diseases that afflict so many people in our society; including cancer, heart disease, stroke, dementia, type 2 diabetes and obesity.

The answer to the question, ‘what is the best diet to enable you to have and maintain a healthy weight and body?’ is simple: whole-foods, plant-based.

Let me know in the comments what you think is the best eating plan for you, or if you have any questions.

Tom Perry

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Losing Weight On Plantbased Diet

This week my top 5 nutrition news items includes a study that showed people on a vegetarian diet lost more weight than omnivores (vegans lost the most!); a recent case study of a doctor who lost 75 pounds (34 kg) simply by switching to a plant-based diet; research showing that healthy vegan diets can ease the pain and other symptoms of diabetes; further proof that plant-based vegetarian diets boost metabolism (independent of exercise), and evidence that phytates in pulses and beans protect against colon cancer.

Green Nutrition News Aug 17

Shed Pounds – Go Veg!

A recent study published online showed that people on a vegetarian diet overall lost more weight than people on an average American diet.

Vegetarian, or plant-based diets have been linked to a decreased risk of type-2 diabetes and coronary heart disease. Recent studies have also showed people can lose weight if they cut out meat.

Researchers affiliated with Harvard University T.H. Chan School of Public Health analysed published clinical trials that looked at the effects of vegetarian diets on weight loss.

The research team focused on lacto-ovo vegetarian diets that allow milk and eggs as well as vegan diets with no animal products, and compared them with non-vegetarian diets. Results of the meta-analysis, published in the Journal of General Internal Medicine, found that those on vegetarian diets lost around 4.4 pounds more than the control group, while those on a vegan diet lost 5.5 pounds.

More Fruit & Veg = Less Calories

One possible reason for the weight loss may be the large amount of fruit, vegetables and whole grains consumed by people on the vegetarian/vegan diets, and the fact the plant-based foods usually have fewer calories than animal-based foods, according to the researchers.

It has been established that whole plant foods like vegetables, fruit and beans have the highest density of nutrients and the lowest calories; not to mention plenty of zero-calorie fibre that helps fill you up without putting on weight. This meta-analysis is yet more proof of what we already know!

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How a family doctor lost 75 pounds without portion control

The Forks Over Knives website recently featured another ‘good-news’ plant-based diet story about a family doctor who rediscovered good health and learned how to get off the ‘weight-loss roller-coaster’.

This 6’2″ (188 cm) doctor, Dr Steve Lawenda, weighed up to 255 lbs (115 kg) at his peak, qualifying him as obese.

Steve only knew of 2 strategies for weight loss: eating less and/or exercising more. Steve found that eating less, namely calorie counting or portion control, repeatedly failed, leaving him hungry and craving more of his favorite foods.

Diets Don’t Work

He found that his weight continually fluctuated over years of intermittent portion control and periods of exercise. As Steve notes, he wasn’t alone following this familiar cycle. Statistics show that calorie-restricted diets fail 95% of the time. In other words, dieting doesn’t work!

Steve found out about the science and logic of a whole-foods, plant-based diet from the book Eat to Live by Dr. Joel Fuhrman; watching the inspirational Forks Over Knives documentary; and later reading books from Drs. Caldwell Esselstyn (Prevent and Reverse Heart Disease), T. Colin Campbell (The China Study), and John McDougall (The Starch Solution).

Eat More (Plants) – Weigh Less

For the first time Steve was aware of a weight-loss strategy that involved eating MORE of something (whole plant foods), not less, and where portion control and calorie counting were not only unnecessary, but discouraged.

Steve was amazed to realize that he could eat as much as he wanted, feel full every day, and yet see his weight drop at such a steady pace. As Steve puts it, this seemed to defy some law of physics; and it felt great!

The end result was that Steve lost 75 pounds (34 kg) with relative ease over eight months, and he has maintained this loss for over a year and a half. Steve now realizes that he wasn’t a failure; the food he was eating failed him.

Steve found that he enjoyed eating vegetables in soups and salads, and came to realize that many of his favorite cuisines, including Italian, Mexican, Chinese, and Thai, had many delicious plant-based dishes. Steve found he could make relatively simple modifications to favorite dishes that still preserved their taste and essence. He even found ways to continue enjoying ice cream and chocolate – with delicious whole-food, plant-based versions of these treats.

As Dr Steve says, “Not only does this lifestyle consistently improve the lives of those making the change, but it also has the potential, over time, to transform healthcare as we know it—reversing obesity and related chronic diseases, and reducing skyrocketing healthcare costs”.

 

Are Vegan Diets Effective Against Diabetes?

A May 2015 article on the Gazette Review reported on a small pilot study suggesting that switching to a plant-based diet helps ease diabetic neuropathy, which refers to nerve damage and pain caused by the effects of diabetes.

Over half of adults with type-2 diabetes may develop diabetic neuropathy, which occurs when your blood is not circulating normally and has high levels of glucose. This can lead to ulcers and all kinds of infections on the legs and feet, and is the leading cause of limb amputation for those who suffer from the disease.

In this study, featured in the journal Nutrition & Diabetes, and led by doctors and nutritionists at the Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine (PCRM), researchers chose 17 overweight adults with diabetic neuropathy on a low-fat, high fibre vegan diet for 20 weeks. The group of adults attended nutrition classes every week and took a vitamin B12 supplement, a very important nutrient that is good for the nerves (I take a daily supplement with B12, and encourage other vegans to do the same).

Going Vegan Improves Diabetic Symptoms

The study participants were compared with 17 other adults, who received vitamin B12 but were not on the vegan diet. People on the plant-based diet said they felt better and had less pain. Tests done to these people also showed better blood circulation, improved nerve function, and ability to control their levels of glucose, which helped them to lower the dose of their medication. As an added bonus, the participants lost an average of 14 pounds.

A dietary intervention reduces the pain associated with diabetic neuropathy, apparently by improving insulin resistance” notes Neal Barnard, M.D., president of the Physicians Committee. “The same diet also improves body weight and reduces cholesterol and blood pressure.”

According to PCRM, 60% percent of diabetes patients suffer from peripheral neuropathy, which is associated with hypertension, obesity, gait disturbances, amputations, anxiety, depression, and reduced quality of life.

The dietary intervention is easy to prescribe and easy to follow,” says Cameron Wells, M.P.H., R.D., acting director of nutrition education for the Physicians Committee. “Steel-cut oats, leafy greens, and lentils are widely available at most food markets and fit well into most budgets.”

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Vegetarian Diets Increase Metabolism

According to a study published in Nutrients in July and reported on PCRM Breaking News online, vegetarian diets are associated with higher metabolic rates. A total of 24 vegetarian and 26 non-vegetarian participants had their diets; metabolic rates; biochemical analyses and inflammatory markers monitored.

Eat Plant-based and Boost your Metabolism by 16%

The study also showed that vegetarians lowered their cholesterol levels and had higher levels of anti-inflammatory cytokines compared with non-vegetarians, and complements other research that shows vegetarian/plant-based diets increase metabolism. Studies carried out by Dr Neal Barnard and the Physicians Committee, and detailed in the 21 Day Vegan Kickstart program, found a 16 percent increase in after-meal metabolism that lasts for about three hours after each meal.

Preventing Colon Cancer – is it Fibre or Phytates?

As Dr Michael Greger of Nutrition Facts advises, the most important environmental risk factor for cancer is diet.

Studies have highlighted the health-promoting plant-based substances known as phytonutrients, which have proven beneficial effects on certain cancers.

Pulses and beans, including chickpeas, split peas and lentils are packed with nutrients, but how do they protect against degenerative disease such as cancer? The reason may be due to non-nutritive compounds, or even so-called “antinutrient” compounds like phytates.

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Fight Cancer with Phytates

Previously phytates have been criticized for binding to certain minerals like iron, zinc and manganese and slowing their absorption. However, this dietary feature of phytates may be more of a boon than a burden.

In the US and Australia colon, or bowel/colorectal cancer is the second leading cause of cancer death. This is not the case in parts of world where a predominantly whole-food plant-based diet is consumed.

The famous surgeon Denis Burkitt spent 24 years in Uganda and most of the hospitals he contacted there had never seen a case of colon cancer. Dr Burkitt thought that it was the fibre in the Ugandan’s whole plant foods diet that was so protective.

Some studies have since questioned Dr Burkitt’s theory. For example, Danes appear to have more colon cancer than Finns, yet Danes consume almost twice the dietary fibre.

An Adventist study highlighted in Dr Greger’s video Phytates for the Prevention of Cancer found “excess risk of cancer for higher intakes of both red meat and white meat, suggesting all meats contribute to colon cancer formation — about twice the risk for red meat eaters, and three times the risk for those eating chicken and fish”.

As Dr Greger explains, “phytate is known to be a powerful inhibitor of the iron-mediated production of hydroxyl radicals, a particularly dangerous type of free radical. So the standard American diet may be a double whammy, the heme iron in muscle meat plus the lack of phytate in refined plant foods to extinguish the iron radicals”.

People who eat meat can reduce their risk of colon cancer in two ways: by cutting down on meat; or by eating more beans, which are an excellent source of phytates. To improve your chance of avoiding colon cancer even further, why not do both?

 

Tom Perry

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The Secret Ingredient For Health And Weight Loss

Green Nutrition News 8 Aug

What if I told you that I had a secret food ingredient that is guaranteed to help you feel full for hours, aids in digestion, reduces your risk of diabetes, heart disease, cancer and high cholesterol, helps flush fat out of your system, adds texture to food, keeps you regular, and has ZERO calories? Would you want to get some of this? What would you be willing to pay for this magic supplement?

As it turns out, not only does this fantastic food component exist abundantly in nature, it costs you virtually NOTHING! So what is the big F-word for health and weight loss? The answer is simple: fibre (or, if you’re in the US, fiber).

According to research published in The Journal of Nutrition the ‘secret’, proven way to prevent weight gain or even encourage weight loss without dieting is, of course, to consume more fibre.

As reported in a recent ‘Eating Well’ article, researchers at Brigham Young University in Utah followed the eating habits of 252 middle-aged women for nearly two years and found that those who increased their fibre intake generally lost weight. Women who decreased the fibre in their diets gained weight.

The research scientists found that increasing fibre by 8 grams for every 1,000 calories consumed resulted in losing about 4½ pounds (2kg) over the course of the study.

While it helps you feel full, “fibre has no calories,” says Larry Tucker, Ph.D., lead researcher and professor in the Department of Exercise Sciences at Brigham Young.

Plantbased for weightloss

How much fibre should you eat?

The USDA recommends 14 grams of fibre for every 1,000 calories consumed by healthy adults. So a person eating 2,000 calories a day should aim to get at least 28 grams (or more) of fibre daily.

Most Australians do not consume enough fibre. On average, most Australians consume 20–25g of fibre daily, whereas the Australian Heart Foundation recommends that adults should aim to consume approximately 25–30g daily.

You could easily meet or exceed the recommended amount of daily fibre by eating the following healthy plant foods over the course of a day:

  • ½ cup oatmeal (3 grams fibre)
  • 1 small banana (3 grams)
  • ½ cup cooked red or black beans (7 grams)
  • 1 small apple (5 grams)
  • ½ cup lentils (8 grams)
  • and ½ cup blueberries (3 grams)

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Dangers of a low-fibre diet

Reducing the amount of fibre-rich, whole plant foods in your diet is dangerous to your health. Disorders that can arise from a low-fibre diet include:

  • Constipation
  • Irritable bowel syndrome
  • Diverticulitis
  • Haemorrhoids
  • Heart disease
  • Bowel cancer

Note that animal products have no fibre at all, so the more meat, dairy and eggs you consume, the less room in your diet for this important food component.

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What is dietary fibre?

Dietary fibre is a type of complex carbohydrate made up of the indigestible parts or compounds of plants, which pass relatively unchanged through our stomach and intestines. Other terms for dietary fibre include ‘bulk’ and ‘roughage’, which can be misleading since some forms of fibre are water-soluble and aren’t bulky or rough at all.

Unlike other food components such as fats, proteins or carbohydrates that your body breaks down and absorbs, your body doesn’t digest fibre. Rather, fibre passes relatively intact through your stomach, small intestine, and colon, and out of your body.

Types of fibre

There are two categories of fibre, commonly classified as soluble (dissolves in water) or insoluble (doesn’t dissolve), and we need to eat both in our daily diets. They are:

  • Soluble fibre – includes pectins, gums and mucilage, which are found mainly in plant cells. This type of fibre dissolves in water to form a gel-like material. One of its major roles is to lower LDL (bad) cholesterol levels. Good sources of soluble fibre include fruits, vegetables, oat bran, barley, seed husks, flaxseed, psyllium, dried beans, citrus fruits, carrots, barley, lentils, peas, and soy products.
  • Insoluble fibre – includes cellulose, hemicelluloses and lignin, which make up the structural parts of plant cell walls. A major role of insoluble fibre is to add bulk to faeces and to prevent constipation and associated problems such as haemorrhoids. This type of fibre promotes the movement of waste material through your digestive system and increases stool bulk, which helps with constipation. Good sources include wheat bran, corn bran, rice bran, the skins of fruits and vegetables, nuts, seeds, dried beans and whole-grain foods.

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Health benefits of fibre

Both types of fibre are beneficial to the body and most plant foods contain a mixture of both types – soluble and insoluble fibre. However, the amount of each type varies in different plant foods. To receive the greatest health benefit, eat a wide variety of high-fibre (whole plant-based) foods.

Individuals with high intakes of dietary fibre appear to be at significantly lower risk for developing coronary heart disease, stroke, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and certain gastrointestinal diseases. Increasing fibre intake lowers blood pressure and serum cholesterol levels. Increased intake of soluble fibre improves glycaemia and insulin sensitivity in non-diabetic and diabetic individuals.

Why fibre is important for healthy weight loss

  • High-fibre foods require more chewing time, which gives your body time to register when you’re no longer hungry, so you’re less likely to overeat.
  • A high-fibre diet tends to make meals feel larger and linger longer, so you stay full for a greater amount of time.
  • High-fibre diets also tend to be less “energy dense,” which means they have fewer calories for the same volume of food.

Your best food choices for fibre

Your best choices for fibre are healthy whole plant foods. These include:

  • Whole-grain foods
  • Fruits
  • Vegetables
  • Beans, peas and other legumes
  • Nuts and seeds

Remember, fibre is only found in abundance in relatively unprocessed, whole plant foods. Refined or processed foods such as canned fruits and vegetables, pulp-free juices, white breads and pastas, and non-whole-grain cereals are lower in fibre. The grain-refining process removes the outer coat (bran) from the grain, which lowers its fibre content, as does removing the skin from fruits and vegetables.

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6 Ways To Fit Fibre Into Your Food

  1. Bulk-up at breakfast. For breakfast choose a high-fibre breakfast cereal such as rolled oats or a whole-grain cereal. Or try baked beans on whole wheat toast
  2. Have the whole grain. Choose breads that list whole wheat, whole-wheat flour or another whole grain as the first ingredient on the label. Have brown rice, wild rice, barley, whole-wheat pasta and bulgur, instead of white rice and pasta.
  3. Vegify your mealsAdd fresh or frozen vegetables to soups and sauces. For example, mix chopped frozen broccoli into prepared spaghetti sauce or toss fresh baby carrots into stews.
  4. Love your legumesLentils, beans, and peas excellent sources of fibre. Use lentils and beans in curries, stews, salads, Mexican dishes and soups.
  5. Go fruityApples, bananas, oranges, pears and berries are all good sources of fibre.
  6. Plant-power snacks. Instead of cookies, cake or chocolate, snack on fresh fruits, raw vegetables, low-fat popcorn and whole-grain crackers. An occasional handful of nuts or dried fruits also is a healthy, high-fibre snack, although be aware that nuts and dried fruits are high in calories.

High-fibre foods are not only important to assist and sustain weight loss, but they’re good for your health. Be careful adding too much fibre to your meals at once, however, as this can lead to intestinal gas, abdominal bloating and cramping. Gradually increase your dietary fibre over a period of a few weeks. This allows the natural bacteria in your digestive system to adjust to the change.

Finally, drink plenty of water. Fibre works best when it absorbs water, making your stool soft and bulky.

Where Do You Get Your Fibre

Information sources:

Tom Perry