I watched 3 really interesting videos in the last 3 days. The first was a documentary on Hulu called Fat Head. Here’s the summary:
Have you seen the news stories about the obesity epidemic? Did you see Super Size Me? Then guess what? … You’ve been fed a load of bologna.
Comedian (and former health writer) Tom Naughton replies to the blame-McDonald’s crowd by losing weight on a fat-laden fast-food diet while demonstrating that nearly everything we’ve been told about obesity and healthy eating is wrong. Along with some delicious parody of Super Size Me, Naughton serves up plenty of no-bologna facts that will stun most viewers, such as: The obesity “epidemic” has been wildly exaggerated by the CDC. People the government classifies as “overweight” have longer lifespans than people classified as “normal weight.” Having low cholesterol is unhealthy. Lowfat diets can lead to depression and type II diabetes. Saturated fat doesn’t cause heart disease — but sugars, starches and processed vegetable oils do.
The last video I watched was called Sugar: The Bitter Truth. It became somewhat of an internet sensation back in 2009 but I guess I missed it. It’s a 1.5 hour lecture on why fructose is a toxin. (I’m sold.) The lecturer is a doctor by the name of Robert H. Lustig.
If you have some time (each video is over an hour) I highly recommend them. The gist of all of them is that the obesity epidemic is caused, not by fat/saturated fat/meat, but by too much sugar and too many carbohydrates. My take on them:
The first link (Fat Head) “proves” that a high-fat diet is good for you. Um, duh. Tom Naughton’s high-fat diet consists of a lot of meat; I am still kind of undecided on the meat issue. Two more of his points are that 1) grains are doing a lot of damage (he does go into detail but I don’t want to right now) and 2) processed vegetable oils (corn oil, soybean oil, etc… – and not just he partially hydrogenated trans fat ones) are also killing us. Humans are not used to eating either of those things.
Now – I like meat, and I would eat it, but I am morally opposed to the way meat is produced in our country, and I can’t bring myself to eat it anymore. If meat were truly ethically raised? I’m still unsure nowadays. I’m getting off topic, but my takeaway from this one – fat is good. Eat more of it. Eat veggies too, though. It may be possible to have a semi-healthful fast food diet, but it’s probably better to just be more primal.
Mmm… bacon and eggs and butter.
Personal side notes:
My “Bring on the Fat” post from last year (one year ago – to the day). Sadly I didn’t keep up with this as much as I’d have liked. Now that I’m a veggie I need to get my animal fat from butter, ghee, eggs (with yolk), and dairy (goat’s and sheep’s milk yogurts are my faves; regular ol’ organic whole cow’s milk for my coffee). Since I went veggie I have been eating too many carbs and not enough fats.
The Great Fat Animal Experiment. This was from a year and 3 days ago; it was an intro to my passion for animal fat. I still do love animal fat; again, I’m just going to try to get it from non-meat sources.
Way back in July 2009 (4 days before I got engaged… can’t believe I am married now!) was one of the first times I started trying to eat more fat. I didn’t really follow through, at least not to the extent that I should have. I have come a long way since then.
Big Fat Lies
The second link (Big Fat Lies) discusses the matter of why people are getting fat; is it simply that we eat too much and sit on our asses? Gary Taubes seems to think that it’s because we have too much insulin (I’m leaning towards agreeing with him, but I think the reason we have too much insulin is because we… eat too much). He basically says that we aren’t getting fat because we’re eating more; we’re eating more because we’re getting fat. He debunks Ancel Keys’ Lipid Hypothesis/Seven Countries Study which states that:
Saturated fat increases cholesterol. (If A then B.)
High cholesterol associated with heart disease. (B associated with C.)
Saturated fat must cause heart disease! (If A then C.)
What a load of bologna! Ugh, too much to say about this horrible study, will post about this later (if I don’t remind me). I tend to agree with Taubes’ conclusions, but I think that there are a lot of people out there who do simply “eat too much” for probably mental reasons. It’s not just hormones that are making us fat. We have issues that also make us eat too much which starts the vicious cycle of greedy fat cells –> eat more –> greedier fat cells –> eat even more –> also be lazy because we’re too fat.
Sugar: The Bitter Truth
The last link, Sugar: The Bitter Truth, Robert H. Lustig discusses how fructose is metabolized in the body. It turns out that fructose is very similar to ethanol, which is a toxin. He also debunks the Seven Countries Study (though for different reasons than Taubes does). He’s not a low-carb advocate (unlike the other two); he thinks we just have to eat the right carbs, which does not include sugar at all. His diet prescriptions for his patients (mostly kids) are (this is around the 1:10 mark):
Only beverages should be water and milk
Eat carbs with fiber (ex: fruit is fructose but has fiber built in)
Wait 20 minutes for second portions
If you’re gonna stare at a screen (tv/video games) you have to do equal amounts of activity (playing outside)
His prescriptions are probably easier and more reasonable to follow than what Taubes thinks we should do (low-carb, lots of meat); they’re also probably more sustainable (we can’t all live on steak due to overpopulation). I’m still on the fence about carbs though. I love ’em, but they make me feel like shit. Maybe I’m just more sensitive than some people; my husband could probably live on just carbs and get along fine. (Though he did lose 10 pounds in the last month from being vegetarian – 10 pounds he did not need to lose and he is worried about. He’s practically as skinny as I am.)
What are your thoughts? On grains? On carbs? On sugar? On fructose? On saturated fats? On animal fats? On “healthy” fats? On a low-fat diet? On a low-carb diet? On Tom Naughton/Gary Taubes/Robert Lustig?
Or, if you wanna stop with the heavy topics…
What are you doing for Valentine’s Day?
Bobby got us reservations as a restaurant we haven’t been to yet but that I hear great things about.
I wanted to learn a new language (didn’t do this), go to Hawaii (yes!), I cultivated patience, I ate more fried rice, ate less meat, I didn’t drink more Kombucha, I did drink less diet soda (overall), and I ended the year on a yoga streak (though I’m not sure I did much yoga throughout the whole year).
This was for stress and hormone stuff. Unfortunately at the time I wasn’t ready to commit to everything that I needed to do for acupuncture to work properly, so I quit after two sessions. I may give this another shot sometime though.
This post was written as a response to anyone who doubts that vegetarians (or even vegans) can get enough protein on an animal-free diet. I don’t know the answer to this – I know that I need animal protein, but maybe not everyone does. My opinion on protein has changed (for the better) since I wrote the post. I’m now more into a high-fat, moderate-protein, and low-carb lifestyle.
I came up with a plan for my IBS – my IBS Management Plan. I didn’t stick to it as much as I would have liked. This year one of my resolutions is to get it under control as much as possible! Recent changes in my eating (eating more fats, fewer grains, more protein) have helped a lot.
I want to preface this by saying my skin is not perfect, but it is getting there! I’ve struggled with skin issues since I was about 18. Oddly enough, I had great skin in high school:
(Do you know who you are, people with cropped arms? I know at least one of you is reading…)
But in college it began to deteriorate. I don’t have a single picture that illustrates how bad my skin was at its worst because I deleted them all! I just couldn’t make skin glow. You can see a bit of acne here, even after a round of photoshopping, wedding day makeup, and strict use of the AcneFree skincare line leading up to the big day (this is from July of this year at my wedding):
I could never figure it out, and all the medications from my dermatologist did not work. I have tried a bunch of different ones – the only one I didn’t try was Accutane (my mom wouldn’t let me, thank goodness). I have also gotten facials (I’ve done them monthly, semi-monthly, or as little as once or twice a year) but they haven’t had any lasting results.
How to Get Glowing Skin
BUT – This is my skin now (not the best picture, but the lighting shows that my skin really is clear; photo courtesy of Coco) – definitely making progress towards glowing:
Finally, about 2 weeks ago (the day of the eat like a kid post) I got a facial from this lady. (More of my recommendations from that week here.) She actually explained to me how my skin works! Which was fantastic. For me to listen to someone and do what they say, I have to understand completely what is going on. (This is why I hate when doctors don’t explain anything!) I will break what she said down into one major issue: blackheads v. whiteheads (there are also enflamed red things, but those are just more advanced black- or white-heads).
Blackheads: these are clogged (open) pores. They’re also called open comedones. They’re filled with sebum and dead skin, and the reason they are black is because they’re exposed to the air and they have oxidized.
Whiteheads: these are not pores! They are (closed) follicles. They’re also called closed comedones. They’re filled with sebum and dead skin, but they are completely under the skin. So no oxidizing, which is why they stay white.
You can extract blackheads yourself, but don’t try to extract the whiteheads. Some people might say you can get them out with a hypodermic needle, but I wouldn’t trust anyone but a facialist to do that for me! Unfortunately, until 2 weeks ago, I thought that whiteheads *did* have an opening and that it was possible to get them out by squeezing. Bad idea! Don’t do it! Leave them alone. You should probably leave the blackheads alone too, because in general, my new rule of thumb is:
Don’t Touch Your Skin
Just don’t touch it. If you try to “help” speed up the process of getting rid of pimples (blackheads, whiteheads, or those mean and nasty red guys), you will undoubtedly spread germs and bacteria from your hands and from the pimples all over your face. Just don’t touch them. Please. They will heal on their own and you just have to trust that your skin knows how to fix itself. I know it’s hard to trust your skin, because it seems like it doesn’t know what it’s doing, but I’m going to hazard a guess and say that you probably touch your skin often (even if you don’t realize it) – which is not helping matters.
Don’t Dry Out Your Skin
Even if you have oily skin you should not try to dry it out! If you try to dry out oily skin, it will just make more oil which will make lots more of those fun whiteheads I talked about. This was another major problem I was having. I tried to dry my oily skin, which made it get whiteheads, and then I would try to get them out because I thought they had an opening. Instead, use an oil-free moisturizer 2-3 times a day. Your skin will learn that it doesn’t have to make so much oil and it will eventually start to chill out. (This may take a week or so because it was so used to over-producing.)
Things that should not go anywhere near your skin in any situation include (but are not limited to):
If you dry out your skin you’re going to piss it off – and maybe it will be clear for a little while, but it will definitely not be clear forever. Drying out your skin is not getting to the root of the problem.
Have a Skincare Routine
My skincare routine now is:
Morning: rub my face with a lemon slice then rinse with water, moisturize with oil-free moisturizer, makeup, and go
Mid-day and / or After work: splash face with water if I’m feeling icky and pat with a paper towel
Night: rinse with water; if I’m wearing makeup I will wash it with a plain old face soap that doesn’t have any sorts of weird chemicals
(The only reason I have 2 moisturizers is because I thought I lost one, but then I found it. I like both of them; the Garnier feels less oily even though both are oil-free. I will buy more Garnier when I run out but probably won’t buy Mario Badescu again.)
Agnes asks, “I would love to hear your opinion on breaking-out on a very clean vegan diet. Any advice would be greatly appreciated!”
My response: This could be a variety of things. First, make sure you’re doing the things I talked about above for how to get glowing skin. Next, make sure that:
You are getting enough fat (I say 40% of calories should come from fat, but this can be different for different people). I notice my skin is bad when I don’t eat enough butter/nut butter/avocado. (Since you’re vegan I guess you can’t have butter though.) I honestly do have better skin when I’m eating meat and animal fat, which could be because the animal protein is easily converted into the protein that our body uses to repair itself, or it could be because my body likes animal fat. That is just me though.
You are not too stressed. This is another huge factor. Stress can also lead to touching your face which leads to breaking out. If you know you’re going to be stressed, drink extra water and try doing something every single day that relaxes you (like yoga or listening to your favorite music).
You might have a food allergy. This is iffy. 15% of the population thinks they have a food allergy when in reality only 5% actually do. I might experiment with a gluten-free week to see if that helps things.
Mimi asks, “I used to have perfect skin. Now, I have mild acne. A facialist said it was probably my birth control. However, this one works better for me in all other areas than previous ones I’ve been on. And skin recommendations, or should I just switch?”
My response: Hm. I have been on and off the pill and I eventually opted to go off of it for a number of reasons. It probably is your birth control, but try all the things I talked about above if you really like the one you’re on! Another option for birth control is the hormone-free IUD, which I have heard great reviews of. And since it doesn’t have hormones it shouldn’t affect your skin.
Coco asks, “How to deal with stress-caused acne? I’ve been breaking out a lot lately because of work stress.”
My response: There isn’t much you can do about this aside from making sure you drink water and making sure that you do something every single day to relax. You have to take care of yourself. Stress shows up in your skin, but it’s also damaging to your health in ways that aren’t quite so visible. Drink water, don’t touch your face, moisturize, and do something like yoga or meditation daily.
Pearl asks, “I have oily skin so i can’t get away with [not washing my face often]… what did the facialist say about the scrubs?”
My response: Be wary of scrubs. Read the labels. If they have the ingredients I listed above, don’t use them. You should probably only exfoliate 1-2 times a week. If your skin is oily, try just rinsing it by rubbing your face (gently) with a slice of lemon and rinsing. You can use a plain old regular (not an acne product) soap if you really want to. If you don’t try to dry your oily skin, it’ll definitely start to realize that it doesn’t have to be so oily!
Stop Picking on Me! (picking / touching your face is more than just a habit – it can be due to stress or anxiety or other underlying issues, and it’s majorly hard to stop. This also goes into much more detail about how your skin is structured and what happens when you try to pop things, and how your skin works.)
I have had a really amazing 6 day streak of happiness. Ever since Wednesday night I’ve been over the moon. Since I’m in such a good mood I wanted to give an update about the thing that makes me the happiest girl in the world: getting married to Bobby, the most amazing man I have ever met! (The engagement post is here.) I am also excited about a product review that I’m going to do for a company that sells bar stools – stay tuned 🙂 Maybe I will get some bar stools for my wedding, hehe.
We have picked a place for the ceremony – the meetinghouse I grew up going to in Yardley, PA. Here is a nice picture (this is in the winter):
They are so sweet – when my dad told them I was getting married they blocked off every weekend in July for us (we still haven’t picked the exact date).
Now for the reception! We have a few options. We may be able to have it at the meetinghouse, if we can get them to let us have wine and beer (Quakers typically do not drink, myself included). If that doesn’t work out, we will likely have it at my parents’ house in New Jersey. My really sweet Auntie Jo and Uncle Morris (remember our gingerbread houses?) offered their house (in Flushing) for the reception as well – they have a great backyard. I think we will have a party there this summer anyway even if we don’t hold the reception there.
Speaking of Auntie Jo, we took a really awesome cooking class last week… I must update about that. Soon, I promise. It was called “Eat Local, Drink Global” and the focus was fish. The very talented Peter Berley was the teacher. I think Bobby is jealous of my celebrity crush on him.
Onto the food! Here are some yummy things I have eaten recently: frozen yogurt from Berrywild – The Art of Yogurt.
Berrywild has two kinds of yogurt – “berry smooth” and “kinda icy”. Bobby and I both got “kinda icy”. So good! I will definitely go back. Bobby always gets toppings but I am too cheap for them.
I like to switch up my morning breakfast grains (when I go for grains). This is grits with lots of cinnamon (that’s why it’s kind of brown and looks like oat bran). I topped it with agave nectar and coconut oil.
I don’t understand what the difference is between coconut oil and coconut butter. The oil is solid at room temperature, so it’s kind of buttery. The butter melts really easily just like the oil. Are they the same?
I went through a phase once where I did not eat much oil or any fats in general, and I was miserable. I couldn’t get full not matter how much I ate, I was cold, my skin was dry, and I was cranky as hell. Healthy fats can be revitalizing for your skin, hair, hormones, etc… Fats are so necessary in a healthy diet! I would even go so far as to say that eating more fat will help you lose weight, provided that you don’t overdo it. When I eat more carbs and less fats, I gain weight; when I do the opposite, I lose (or maintain, if I want to).
What’s your favorite healthy fat? I think mine is coconut oil or butter. Love them both.
Title inspired by Caronae (I love her blog – a beautiful writer and wonderful woman).
This morning I woke up at 10:10am. Meeting starts at 11. Bobby had said he would go with me this week, so I got him out of bed at 10:30 (late) and we showered and went on our way. We were only 20 minutes late and I enjoyed the silence and the few spoken words for the next 40 minutes.
We left meeting and began to walk. Our promenade followed 15th street over to Union Square, and then into the Trader Joe’s wine store where we got three bottles of three buck chuck. We sauntered down to Souen but it was closed; something wrong with the boiler room. Then I remembered hearing about a fantastic vegetarian lunch place nearby: Quantum Leap.
To celebrate pancake Sunday I ordered the multigrain pancakes with fresh bananas and apples ($8 something). My condiments were butter (healthy animal fat) and minimal syrup. It was a satisfying and satiating meal and some of the best pancakes I have ever had (the best are from my dad’s recipe).
Bobby ordered “The Mexican” ($10 something), which consisted of a vegetarian chicken enchilada thing with guacamole, sour cream, salsa, fake sausage, and eggs. It was fine. I’m not a savory breakfaster.
We walked over to Peanut Butter & Co where I realized I should never work in a place like that unless I want to be obese. (We didn’t get anything.)
We followed 5th avenue all the way home. I got votive candles at Pier 1 and a tea at Starbucks with half and half and all the spices.
Came home. Went back out to Gap and Banana. Got some things on sale. Came home. Made dinner (teriyaki turkey and tofu for bobby; lamb and veggies and various animal fats for me). Drank wine. I drink wine now. It was cabernet.
And now I will either go get frozen yogurt or relax in front of the olympics. I don’t know how much I like the olympics. It seems like everyone in them has serious food or body issues. Did you notice that? I guess it takes a considerable obsession to be as good as those athletes are.
Signing off now. Big week ahead. What did you do this weekend?
This is an overview of the treatment for hormonal imbalance and treatment for stress. Acupuncture treatment can be very helpful for both. It’s an effective natural treatment for stress.
I’ve had a few people emailing me asking for recommendations that my acupuncturist told me. So I will just put them out here for you all to see. A lot of the mindfulness exercises can be good for anyone.
Acupuncture is great for: stress, digestion, hormonal problems, and more. I mainly went because of my digestion and a hormone thing!
Eat: lamb and bison, lightly spiced. (Cinnamon and chili are good.) (This is for the hormone thing.) (I made lamb here and here. Used spices here.)
Eat: Eggs and bacon. Alternate between turkey and regular bacon so I don’t get bored. (Reasoning: animal fats are good for hormone regulation as long as they are from free-range/organic animals.) (Also for hormones.) (I made bacon here. Eggs and bacon breakfast here.)
Eat: lemon rind/zest in cooking; oranges. Something about the rid of these citrus fruits is good for digestion.
Eat: ginger and garlic. Good for digestion. Also very warming.
Snack idea: rice cakes with coconut oil.
It is good to keep a balance – meat and carbs are acidic in nature, so to balance them out, we need alkaline green leafy veggies. Lots of them!
Soak feet in hot water with lavender and epsom salts. Don’t let the water get cold! Do this for 20-30 minutes.
Take a hot bath after dinner with lavender and epsom salts.
Meditations to try:
Lie on your back (savasana). Breath in and out with your chest. Imagine your heart is expanding and making your chest rise. Keep focusing on the strength and power of your heart. (5-15 minutes.)
Sitting or savasana. Focus on an area of your body that may feel neglected or needing love. Imagine a tiny light the size of a dime radiating from the center of that place. Now imagine it growing and radiating out from that body part until it is big enough to envelop your whole body. Now take all that energy and begin to compress it back into a smaller and smaller light. Eventually the light goes back to the size of a dime (still in the same location). Repeat if necessary. (5-10 minutes.) I got this one from an intenSati class with Lindsay.
Feeling Good by David D. Burns. Cognitive therapy isn’t just for depression!
Today was the longest day. The internet was down at work all day (and I was the one on the phone trying to get it back on again) and now I think my blackberry is dead! At least I have cake.
I bought this chocolate piece of heaven on Saturday during my Whole Foods trip with Marina; Bobby and I broke into it last night (it was one of my Valentine’s day presents to him). Then we had it again tonight – it is a chocolate cake with rich fudgey topping.
I wanted to share one of my presents from Bobby:
Sabon soap! This one is a coconut and olive oil base, and it’s vanilla and coconut scented. It’s great for the skin. I adore Sabon and it’s closeby.
After dessert (pictured above) I had dinner:
goodies: bacon and coconut oil and whipped cream cheese
healthies: Brussels sprouts, broccoli, peas, and corn
spicies: cinnamon, chili powder, garlic powder, and Kikkoman ponzu sauce from Foodbuzz (love this stuff!)
I also had some black beans. My acupuncturist told me to eat black beans so I obliged. I topped them with some maple syrup, salt, and more whipped cream cheese (Heather, I blame you for this addiction!). I think I will have to try without the syrup next time – too sugary.
Moving on… I wanted to do an exercise update. I am back to my gentle routine of walking, and I couldn’t be happier. I walk to work in the morning (2 miles) and I try to get in another half mile or so throughout the rest of the day (running an errand for example). I haven’t been doing as much yoga. I did do my DVF exercises (Diane von Furstenburg exercises) 3 times this past week though. They are relaxing stretching moves.
Just goes to show, you don’t have to exercise a lot to stay thin! Moderation is the KEY. (I can say this but moderation is still the thing I struggle with.)
Another cool thing I’m doing right now is soaking my feet in hot water with epsom salts and lavender (it’s a lavender oil that the sweet Clare sent me for Christmas). Both Coco and my acupuncturist recommended this, so I figured I’d give it a shot. It’s relaxing but the water cools quickly and I have to keep reheating it.
I am off to do some work that I did not get done today (no productivity since there was no internet). I’m glad I have blogging to de-stress 🙂
2 pieces of organic, free-range (pork) bacon (from Whole Paycheck)
2 organic, cage-free eggs (also from Whole Paycheck) cooked in bacon fat
This meal was inspired by both Heather’s manly breakfast and my acupuncturist. It seems that my new motto is “eat more animal fat“, and it is working for me. Some people seem to do fine without – my sister is a vegetarian/vegan and my brother is vegetarian and experimenting with adding in more raw foods. My mom was a vegetarian for most of her 20’s (including when she was pregnant with me!) and my dad follows the accidental vegetarian diet because he lives with so many vegetarians.
My dad actually ends up eating more meat than the rest of them (in the form of lunch-meat on sandwiches, the occasional meat chili, and sometimes some bacon on the weekends), and… well – I take after my dad. We look alike, we talk alike, we think alike, and when we hang out together we usually end up working on some project (reorganizing something, or nitpicking about the way something has been put together, or making a mess unintentionally as we try to fix something) and not talking that much – but that’s how we like it.
Anyway, this is not about what we do, but rather how our food needs might be similar as well. That side of my family has digestion troubles (to put it mildly!) and I seem to have inherited them. They flare up when I am not eating meat. (Last time my stomach felt good was when I was driving across the country – and eating meat at almost every meal.)
Anyway, onto another meal (dinner).
organic ground lamb from Whole Foods (you actually can’t see it much, but I probably had 4-5 ounces)
garlic + frozen veggies (broccoli and an Asian stir fry mix) cooked in coconut oil
topped with cream cheese (this is full fat by the way)
spices: pepper, ginger powder, cinnamon
This is an acupuncture-inspired meal. He said to try eating lamb, lightly spiced. Also garlic (good for digestion), ginger (warming and good for digestion), and cinnamon (just good – I don’t remember why). He also recommended coconut oil, so I threw that in there as well.
I made this beauty for lunch yesterday:
veggies cooked in remaining bacon fat and coconut oil (frozen broccoli, fresh okra, green peas)
cream cheese topping
Coconut oil is a great source of saturated fat (NOT always bad for you), great for the skin, doesn’t create harmful byproducts when heated, reduces stress, and aids in weight loss (these are just google results).
Speaking of weight loss… Did I mention I lost 2-3 of those pesky intenSati pounds? This happened in one week, and I didn’t eat fewer calories (if anything I ate more). What I did was eat more fat (and meat) and fewer carbs (but not no carbs! I still had lots of oatmeal and rice, and of course many many veggie carbs). Fat can be really good for you.
I am actually off to a blogger brunch that has been postponed for far too long… So I’ll update on that later.
What are you plans for Valentine’s day? We actually don’t know yet!!
Just be careful as it cooks – unless you have a very large rice cooker it will overflow. What I like to do is let it start to boil (on the “cook” button), and then turn it to “warm” and let it sit overnight. In the morning you have creamy, chewy, luscious steel-cut oats. They’re just as good as Jamba Juice‘s.
Or how about this guy…
Veggies cooked in 1-2 tablespoons of organic butter, topped with whipped full-fat cream cheese. I actually didn’t have this yet because my boss bought us lunch today (snow day!) – so I saved it in the fridge for tomorrow.
What are your thoughts on diet and healing? Do you think that food can really have that much of an impact on your well-being?
A few weeks ago, raw food was abuzz in blogland. I gave it a try to help my digestion, but that way of eating didn’t work for me. Now that it’s fall I’ve noticed less and less talk about raw food, and more and more posts about oatmeal, baked squash, and delicious apples. It’s propitious that Bobby alerted me to this article yesterday… Did Cooking Give Humans An Evolutionary Edge? – a transcript of an NPR talk from Science Friday. It has to do with the differences between humans and other primates (like this gorilla that lives in the San Francisco zoo)…
I thought the transcript was incredibly interesting. You can also listen to the program (it’s just under 30 minutes). If you don’t have time to read or listen though, I’ll summarize here…
Dr. Wrangham proposes that cooking has actually been a key aspect of evolution and our bodies have changed over the years due to the fact that we can cook our food. It’s given us a huge evolutionary advantage because we have more time to use our brains instead of foraging and chewing all day long. (This is called biocultural evolution, when you evolve along with the tools/methods of your culture.)
Apes show either a preference for cooked food over raw food, or they are neutral… they never prefer raw to cooked food.
A human’s digestive system is 2/3rds the size of an ape’s (if you adjust for the size of the ape versus the size of the human) and we have small teeth and small mouths – not ideal for lots of chewing.
We’ve adapted to a “high quality” diet. (High quality meaning mostly cooked and easy to digest… not talking about the processed, industrial “food” crap that most people live on.) Cooking is what increased the “quality” of our diet.
We don’t have to eat large amounts of food and we don’t have to retain and ferment food for many many hours to digest it.
The changes to our digestive system happened about 1.8 million years ago.
Cooking our food increases the proportion of nutrients and energy that we’re able to digest. While a cooked carrot may technically have the same number of calories as a raw one, we are able to access more of the calories from the cooked one. Another example – when you cook an egg and eat it, you can digest about 94% of the protein. A raw egg? You digest about 60%. That’s a big discrepancy.
Why does cooking make things easier to digest? For protein, the process is called denaturation. The protein cells are kind of like a big ball of yarn; cooking unwinds the yarn so it’s easier to digest. One way to denature something is to put it in acid. So our stomach acid can do some of this, but cooking makes it that much easier for our bodies to digest protein. A similar process happens with starch – chains of sugars open up during cooking so that they are more readily available to absorb.
Humans are one of the only species that typically does not thrive on a raw diet… about half of women following a raw diet stop menstruating and most people lose weight (due to an energy shortage = significant calorie/nutrient deficiency).
Now this doesn’t mean that a raw diet can’t be beneficial – a lot of people are eating too much currently, so a raw diet may help them reduce the amount of food they eat (because it’s so limiting) so they can maintain their weight and feel better. A lot of the benefits that come from a raw diet are due to cutting out processed foods and chemicals. Many people have undiagnosed food allergies (gluten, wheat, dairy, etc…) and since those foods aren’t common in a high raw diet, people will feel better since they’re not eating them anymore.
Again, eating more raw food is not necessarily bad or unhealthy, but you should not follow a high raw diet. If you live in a place where food is scarce, you should especially *not* follow a raw diet… if you live in the US or another developed country, incorporating more raw foods into your diet is a fabulous idea if it will help you eat less and eat fewer processed, industrial foods.
Many people think that following a raw food diet is the most “natural” way to live… not true. We have evolved away from eating raw food. And one of the major reasons that we’ve been able to advance so far in terms of knowledge and technology is due to the fact that we are NOT like other primates – we don’t have to eat all day to get enough food, giving us time to use our gargantuan brains.
I’m learning about some similar concepts in my anthropology class. There is the idea of biocultural evolution, which basically says that our culture (using tools, cooking food, etc…) has a large influence on our evolution. The invention of tools allowed us to evolve away from huge teeth. The cultural idea of wearing clothes might be the reason that we aren’t covered in hair. And maybe cooking is responsible for changing our digestive system, our mouths, and our teeth.
What works best for me is a fairly natural diet (no processed foods) with a little bit of raw food. I am influenced by macrobiotics (completely cooked, nearly vegan but with fish, and very Japanese). I’m also influenced by the paleo diet (limited grains and carbs, lots of animal fat and protein, lots of veggies – mostly all cooked). When I eat fruit it’s usually raw I do snack on raw veggies sometimes. I love salad (obviously, again) but I don’t eat salad every day unless it’s the summer. I love my oatmeal, oat bran, baked and steamed squash, and many other cooked foods, especially in the cooler months.
What works for you? What do you think of the ideas that this guy is proposing?