Tuesday, January 23, 2007

on the glycemic index

So most people in the developed world eat a tremendous number of carbohydrates with a high glycemic index.

A glycemic index measures the rate at which carbohydrates get into your blood. A high index food is generally bad because it overloads your blood and hormones with a huge rush of carbs all at once. Foods with a low glycemic index are healthy (even if they have the same amount of total carbs) because the carbs are introduced into the blood at a lower rate.

High amounts of carbohydrates encourages an oversupply of insulin. This is the master hormone which tells your body's cells to store fat for energy.

So, gee, is it any wonder so many of us are overweight?

In fact, given our diets, it's a tribute to our bodies that more of us are not more overweight than we are.

Lack of exercise is certainly a contributing factor. But the real villain behind our epidemic of obesity is the overabundance of high glycemic carbohydrates (generally vegetables have very low indexes, fruits somewhat higher and grains and sugar have very high glycemic indexes).

Plus that's what leads to diabetis, high blood pressures, strokes, heart attacks and possibly cancer and a whole range of chronic diseases.

Monday, January 22, 2007

many carbohydrates

With modern food processing we've come a long way toward producing mass quantities of food. To be fair, this does include protein as well as carbohydrates, though the mass production of protein involves the massive raising of beef cattle, pigs and chickens in less than wonderful conditions. And to tell the truth this doesn't produce meat as healthy as wild meat or even that from cattle that roam freely and eat grass -- their meat has a lot more Omega 3. Feedlot raised cattle have way too much Omega 6.

But it's also true that given a choice we are eating way too many carbohydrates. We eat a lot of protein compared to times past, but even more carbohydrates. Meals still revolve around meat and carbs, but snacks tend to be entirely carbs, and unhealthy ones at that. We don't snack on cheese or apples, but candy bars.

And even with the meals where we do eat some protein, we eat a lot of highly processed carbohydrates with it. Bread, spaghetti and so on.

Sunday, January 21, 2007

transitioning to big-time carbohydrate diets

Obviously things changed when we began to depend upon agriculture as the main source of our daily food. When bread not fish or a rabbit steak became the staff of life.

We did not suddenly go from being healthy to the way we are now, of course. Farmers depend upon their crops for most of their food, but most farmers have always been hunters when they had the time. For most of the last 10,000 farming and hunting have co-existed as a source of food.

This is not much true now due to increased human populations decreasing the amount of wild food available, but I'm sure it's still true in areas of Africa and South America and scattered parts of Asia where there's still significant sources of wild protein.

It's not much true for most of us living in the developed world. So we depend upon carbohydrates, and highly refined ones at that.

Not fruit and vegetables that have the fiber to keep our insulin levels relatively low, as well as antioxidants, vitamins and minerals -- but white bread, spaghetti and so on.

Not to mention sugar-based foods from candy bars to soda.

Saturday, January 20, 2007

more on the cave diet

So what it boils down to is that for our first million years or so, we ate a diet very different that what we do now. We know that our ancestors didn't have McDonalds, but at least they had the meat. It was really the bun they lacked.

I'm not sure how somebody figured out that the typical cave person diet consisted of 40% carbohydrates, 30% proteins and 30% fats. With an uncertain food supply, these figures no doubt varied a lot. I have little doubt that when a group of cave people stumbled on a patch of fresh strawberries or apples, they gorged themselves but didn't eat any more for another year.

Same with meat - after killing a large wooly mammoth they would have had a huge feast and probably didn't try to balance the wooly mammoth steaks with any leaves or roots to get carbohydrates.

But such times would have been the exception. Maybe they ate a balanced diet just because they had to, to feel full at the end of the meal. Not enough squirrel meat to go around for everybody? Just add in some ants, some leaves and a bird's egg.

So if cave people weren't always in the Zone, it's also unlikely that except for stuffing themselves with fruit in season they ever got an overload of carbohydrates.

Thursday, January 18, 2007

Zone diet is what we evolved on

The Zone Diet of Dr. Barry Sears makes the most sense of anything, when you examine both our history and the scientific evidence. I'm not a medical researcher, but I do understand that for most of human species we were hunter gatherers. We didn't grow wheat, rice, corn or any other grains we consider so important now. "Bread" is often used a synonym for life in The Bible, but that's relatively recent history, since it dates back only to the Agricultural Age.

Most of the time men went out and hunted wild animals, probably mostly small rodents, rabbits, squirells and so on. Maybe when we developed spear we could kill a few deer. And cave men did apparently kill off the wooly mammoths of Europe by herding them with fire into enclosed areas.

So we ate wild meat which is lean.

While the men were off doing that, the women stayed back home and collected leaves, fruit (in season),nuts and roots. Probably also collected some tasty bugs and bird eggs. Or maybe it was the little kids who were sent to climb up trees to check out bird nests.

So we got lean meat, vegetation-based carbohydrates and some fat (though not a lot compared to what we call meat now) from the wild game and the nuts.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

The Zone Diet

One change in the information that's been discovered about our bodies and health by medical science is the importance of the correct balance of the major food groups -- fats, proteins and carbohydrates.

I personally really like the Zone Diet by Dr. Barry Sears. Other experts have come up with other versions -- Protein Power, South Beach and others. But the point is to greatly reduce the amount of carbohydrates we injest, especially the low nutrition ones from grains and sweets.

So in a way, traditional weight loss methods of not eating candy, cake etc. can work not because of reducing calories (which are not as important as we've been told), but by reducing excess carbohydrates.

Dr. Atkins went too far in this direction, eating almost only proteins and fats -- too much of those and not enough carbohydrates.

So I personally think the balanced approach of Dr. Barry Sears is a great re-discovery.

Xtend Life now best supplement company

Of course, the alternative health marketplace is much more complicated. Health food stores in general are no longer the cutting edge. The only time I go to GNC when I'm travelling in another country and the local GNC is the only place I know to even look for probiotics or golden seal.

Though, to be fair, there's a health food store near where I live that is still privately owned and still has that tiny little cubby hole feeling.

But there's also a vast array of products available through mail order and network marketing. And yes, much of that is overpriced and simply relabeled, not original products.

However, about 10 years ago I was with a network marketing company called LifeTronix and we sold products of liquid formulas that were unique. And because of their nature, they were absorbed much more easily and efficiently than tablets.

And of course, a ton of stuff you'd never otherwise hear about is available online. These days my preferred provider is a company in Australia -- Xtend Life -- that has very high quality products.

Advances in alternative health

So it's amazing to me how much the field of alternative health has advanced -- both in terms of its popularity and in terms of how much more we know now and the products that're available.

We've gone from cod liver oil as a source of Vitamins D and A to pharmaceutical grade fish oil that's had almost every molecule of PCBs refined out of it as a source of Omega 3. Try to find any reference to Omega 3 oils in an Adele Davis book.

We've gone from getting calcium in smoothed down tablets of limestone rock to highly sophisticated, bio-available liquid vitamins.

We've gone from relying solely on vitamins and minerals to having a vast array of herbs from all over the world at our disposal. I could be wrong, but I doubt if any herbs are mentioned or recommended in any of Adelle Davis' books. Now we know that although certainly vitamins and minerals are important, that complex molecules can perform very useful functions in our bodies.

Monday, December 18, 2006

the old days of alternative health

I've been interested in alternative health long before it became a hip thing to do. When I first started visiting a local health food store, they were all tiny, cramped little shops in out of the way places. To think of a health food store in a mall such as GNC and others would have been ludicrous.

PREVENTION was around, and was a small niche magazine, not a wide circulation slick magazine as you see it in every supermarket these days.

And it was progressive back then if you could find a supermarket selling yogurt, let alone a wide line of whole grains, breads, low-chloresterol this, low-fat that, and on and on.

The big health guru of that time was Adelle Davis. I'm not sure if her books are still in print. They were long, heavily footnoted tomes on the scientifically proven beneficial effects of vitamins and minerals.

Great Health Forever

This blog is about something that's even more important than money, but one which we often don't think about until we lose it -- good health. Last year I wrote a book on how to protect yourself from bird flu.

I learned a lot about our immune systems and how to keep them strong so that they can protect us from diseases. Also, I learned a lot about infectious diseases, bacteria, germs, the efforts of the CDC over the years to protect us, the United Nations World Health Organization (WHO) and so on.

Nobody has all the solutions, but I want to learn more and share it in the process to benefit all of us.