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Category Archives: nutrition

A Quick Start Guide to Plant Based Eating

As they transition to plant based eating, different people will find themselves confronting different challenges. Some of us view food as an exciting adventure and look forward to new and exotic food experiences. We like trying out new recipes and sharing our discoveries with friends.

Some of us regard food as a dear friend that has been there for us for years and we rely on the familiarity and comfort of specific tastes or even food items to help us get through the day.

Some of us simply regard food as fuel and just want it to be there when needed with as little fuss and bother as possible.

Perhaps some of us even find ourselves moving from one category to another at different times. In any case, our differing relationships with food create differing challenges for us as we think about transitioning to a greener, more healthful way of eating.

Do you consider yourself a skilled cook or chef? Do you enjoy exploring new foods? Do you look forward to your next culinary adventure? Do you consider yourself competent in the kitchen? When you eat out, do you plan what to have based on your knowledge of the restaurant’s menu and your past experience there? Do you want your food to be familiar and comforting? Do you get lost when you go in the kitchen? Do you want your food to just show up? Now!? Is the most important thing about food to you that it be quickly and easily available? Can you eat more or less the same thing every day?
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Posted by on 2013/05/19 in ecology, nutrition, wellness

 

My sister teaches about health and recently asked me for sources representing my views on agriculture, food production, and nutrition

Here’s her e-mail and my response
On 2011 Aug 28, at 16:25 , Sis wrote:

Hi, again. I have a question.

I am compiling material for a lesson on agriculture and food
production for class. I want to present different points of view so
that the students can evaluate and discuss the information. Could you
point me to some of your soureces of information that you use on
nutrition? Tom already sent me one site (thanks). Anything else that
is easy to pass along would be great.

Sure. I’m not sure what I already sent you, so I may repeat myself.

http://www.fao.org/docrep/010/a0701e/a0701e00.HTM

This first one is a report from 2006 by the Food and Agriculture Organization of the UN. It estimates that 18% of greenhouse gases are generated by livestock production, more than any other single source. The PDF (19M) can be downloaded from the page above.

http://www.worldwatch.org/node/6294

This is a follow-up report from the World Watch Institute that says that the FAO underestimated the greenhouse gas production of the livestock industry. They put it at about 51%. Again, the PDF can be downloaded from the page at the URL above.

The take away message I get from the above reports is that the most significant thing a person can do to help avert global warming is to stop eating meat, dairy, and eggs.

Of course, the meat, dairy, and egg industries have done what they can to obfuscate and oppose this information. I still think it’s true. In June, NPR published this story, http://www.npr.org/2011/06/21/137309964/climate-change-public-skeptical-scientists-sure, which talks about how 97% of scientists are convinced that global warming is real and caused by human activity but less than a quarter of the US population (13%) understand how strong this scientific consensus is.

What I find amazing is that, given this, more scientists aren’t vegetarian.

http://www.drmcdougall.com/index.html

This is Dr. McDougall’s website. He makes his entire program available on it for free (http://www.drmcdougall.com/free.html), so a person doesn’t have to buy anything to put his recommendations into practice. His basic primer on nutrition (which to some extent reflects his philosophy about what to eat) is here: http://www.drmcdougall.com/medical_nutrition.html. And of course, there’s lots more.

http://www.jeffnovick.com/RD/Blog/Blog.html

This is Jeff Novick’s blog. He is a Registered Dietician and teaches about healthy eating by focusing on foods low in calorie density (mostly fresh and frozen fruits and vegetables, legumes, and grains, optionally with a small amount of nuts and seeds).

http://chiphealth.com/

This is the website of the Cardiovascular Health Improvement Project (CHIP), run by Dr. Hans Diehl. His message is very similar to Dr. McDougall’s.

My big take-away from Dr. McDougall, Jeff, Dr. Diehl, and others, is that humans don’t need to eat animal products for health and in fact we’re generally healthier when we minimize animal products or avoid them altogether. Of course, there’s more than that to their message — minimize or eliminate refined products, keep dietary fat levels low, exercise moderately, get plenty of sunshine, fresh air, and clean water, and so forth.

Again, various industries have a vested interest in making sure the public doesn’t understand how simple it is to eat in a healthy way. If everyone stuck to unprocessed fruits, vegetables, legumes, and grains, the meat, dairy, and egg industries would go out of business. If people stopped being chronically sick because their diets got healthier, the pharmaceutical and medical industries would lose their markets of chronic patients who require care and medication for the rest of their lives. Health insurance would lose its importance and the insurance industry would lose revenue. The banking industry that finances expensive hospitals, medical equipment, and drug research would lose their investment if those facilities became unnecessary. So a large segment of the economy depends on a steady supply of sick people to justify the way the system works.

Of course, if everyone went veg tomorrow and all the chronic diseases went away, we’d still need a medical system. People would still have accidents and infectious diseases would still be a threat. What can be greatly reduced through diet and lifestyle is the epidemic of chronic degenerative disease.

I can probably dig up more if you want. Just let me know, and I hope this helps. Also, thank you for asking. It feels good to write all this down.

Tom

 
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Posted by on 2011/08/28 in ecology, nutrition

 

Soylent Green is people!

“Every day forty thousand children die in the world for lack of food. We who overeat in the West, who are feeding grains to animals to make meat, are eating the flesh of these children.” — Thich Nhat Hanh, quoted in The World Peace Diet [5]

The United Nations Food and Agriculture Organization reported in 2006 that an estimated 18% of green house gases generated by human activity come from producing meat for humans to eat. [3] The Worldwatch Institute subsequently updated this estimate to 51% when they took other factors into account. [4]

National Public Radio recently reported that 97% of scientists believe that global warming is real and mostly or all due to human activity. However, only a small percentage of the population at large understand that the scientific consensus is that strong because the picture presented in the media is much more conflicted. [1, 2]

In his book, Comfortably Unaware, Dr. Richard Oppenlander describes how raising livestock degrades and depletes land, fresh groundwater, and human health. The resources consumed, land and water, are not renewable in our life time. [6] These are resources that could feed future generations. In consuming and destroying these resources now, we are consuming the flesh of future generations.

About a billion people in the world don’t have enough food. These are people in places like Ethiopia, where grain crops are raised and exported to Europe to be fed to livestock. When we eat meat, we are eating the flesh of those billion people who could be fed by the grains being given to livestock. [6]

You might think that the 97% of scientists who believe in the global warming science would make the connection and stop eating meat and other animal products. Humans are very good at not making connections they don’t want to see. The people who work at national labs, who gather, analyze, and report the numbers on which global warming science is based eat just like the rest of the population. Their healthcare costs are similar to those of other large organizations.

Research has shown that we respond more to advertising than we think we do. [7] We are embedded in a System that is invested in the status quo. The System abhors change even more than most individuals do, even though it is gradually changing constantly, just like most individuals. The System consists of all of us and includes the UN, the meat industry, Big Pharma, the medical establishment, WorldWatch Institute, the banking system, vegetarian organizations, government, farmers, the economy, vegans, carnivores, the media, Bill Clinton, George Bush, Al Gore, and everyone.

Some components of the System have a lot of influence. This is commonly called having “deep pockets”, meaning the entity in question has a lot of money that can be used to buy public relations and advertising. Over time, the System has evolved to a state in which all its components have very short time horizons. Politicians are mostly focused on the next election and are unwilling to do or say anything that would reduce their chances of re-election. Financial decision-makers are mostly focused on the next quarterly report and are unwilling to do or say anything that would reduce their profits. Business leaders are focused on what the populace is buying today and next week and are unwilling to do or say anything that would have a negative impact on their revenues. Few minds are focused on the long term and the few that are have very little influence within the System.

Some parts of the System are actually invested in keeping you confused and sick. If everyone had a clear and accurate understanding of nutrition, the animal industries (producing pigs, chickens, cows, fish, dairy, and eggs for human consumption) would see their revenues shrink drastically. Without sick people, the medical establishment and Big Pharma would lose their market. The banking sector, which finances hospitals, high tech diagnostic equipment, costly drug trials, and the like, would see their investments threatened. Much less money would flow through insurance companies as the population got healthier and needed fewer healthcare interventions.

“Beef, it’s what’s for dinner.” “Got milk?” “The incredible edible egg.” If they can seduce you with advertising, they will. If advertising doesn’t work and you learn enough to be motivated to change, as Oprah Winfrey did when Howard Lyman appeared on her show in 1996, they’ll use intimidation. The National Cattlemen’s Beef Association sued Oprah and Howard, costing them a great deal of time and money. The NCBA eventually lost the suit, but the intimidation was effective: from that point on, Oprah avoided any potentially controversial discussion of food on her show. [6]

So, important elements of the System are committed to maintaining the status quo and they do so through advertising, intimidation, and peer pressure. It’s not that they want to kill the planet or their customers, particularly, they just don’t want to see their revenues drop.

The only elements of the System that are free to change are us — the individuals making day-to-day choices about what to eat and how to live. In the movie Soylent Green, the main character discovers that the main food of the culture portrayed was made from the flesh of people who had died. Ultimately, the meat eaten in North America and Europe, and increasingly in China and Brazil, is the flesh of the people who might have been fed, both starving today and future generations, if our ways were less wasteful.

References

  1. Climate Change In The American Mind: Americans’ Global Warming Beliefs and Attitudes in May 2011. (pdf)
  2. Climate Change: Public Skeptical, Scientists Sure, NPR, June 21, 2011
  3. Livestock’s Long Shadow: Environmental Issues and Options, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations
  4. Goodland & Anhang. Livestock and Climate Change: What if the key actors in climate change are…cows, pigs, and chickens?
  5. Tuttle, Will. The World Peace Diet.
  6. Oppenlander, Richard. Comfortably Unaware.
  7. Cialdini, Robert. Influence: The Psychology of Persuasion.
 
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Posted by on 2011/07/22 in ecology, nutrition, statistics

 

Where do you get your protein?

photo courtesy of nickandmel2006 on flickr

This is a question often asked of vegans, people who eat no animal products — no meat, no milk, no eggs, no cheese, no ice cream, no butter, no lard, no fish, no chicken, no pork, no honey. Generally, they don’t even wear leather, feathers, fur, or any product made from a dead animal.

In US culture, protein is considered the gold standard of nutrition. We hear about how eggs are “high quality” protein or “perfect” protein, as if any other source of protein can’t be quite as good. Actually, eggs, and all animal-based foods, contain cholesterol and fat our bodies don’t need. They actually aren’t health-producing in a human body, especially in the quantities typical of the Standard American Diet.

Protein comes in the form of amino acids. Most of the amino acids humans need are produced in the body from the materials consumed in the diet. However, there are eight amino acids that are termed “essential” that human bodies don’t know how to synthesize. Wikipedia provides a table listing the essential amino acids and their relative daily requirement for adult humans according to the World Health Organization:

Amino acid(s) mg per kg body weight mg per 70 kg mg per 100 kg
I Isoleucine 20 1400 2000
L Leucine 39 2730 3900
K Lysine 30 2100 3000
M Methionine+ C Cysteine 10.4 + 4.1 (15 total) 1050 1500
F Phenylalanine+ Y Tyrosine 25 (total) 1750 2500
T Threonine 15 1050 1500
W Tryptophan 4 280 400
V Valine 26 1820 2600

(Methionine and Cysteine can be interconverted from one to the other, so the diet only has to include a pool of one or the other, although it may include both. The same holds true for Phenylalanine and Tyrosine. See the Wikipedia page linked above for more details.)

Eggs happen to contain these amino acids in amounts very close to these proportions. That’s why they are considered a “high quality” or “perfect” or “highly digestible” protein source. Plant foods also contain plenty of these amino acids. They aren’t necessarily in the same proportions in plant foods but they’re all there. It’s not necessary that the amino acids be present in the proportions in which the body uses them, just that the diet provide enough of the least prevalent amino acid.

As it turns out, if a person eats enough calories, it’s almost impossible for them to be deficient in any of the amino acids, no matter which foods they choose to eat. Here’s what the Wikipedia entry says, with references:

Although it is possible to induce deficiency of one or more of the individual essential amino acids in a laboratory setting by providing an elemental diet or a diet based on gelatin (the only “incomplete” protein that is commonly found in human diets), it would be highly unusual for such a deficiency to occur in a community setting. It is practically impossible to design a diet based on unrefined starches and vegetables that would fail to provide enough protein, including sufficient amounts of all of the essential amino acids, to support human health.[8] Nor is it necessary to combine “complementary” plant sources to provide complete protein.[12]

So, where do vegans get their protein? The same place everyone does, from their food. They just happen to make different food choices, which provide all the protein they need.

Let me ask another question. Where do wild elephants get their protein? Here’s Wikipedia on elephant diets:

Elephants are herbivores, and spend up to 16 hours a day eating plants. Their diets are highly variable, both seasonally and across habitats and regions. Elephants are primarily browsers, feeding on the leaves, bark, and fruits of trees and shrubs, but they may also eat considerable grasses and herbs. As is true for other nonruminant unglulates, elephants only digest approximately 40% of what they eat.[60] They make up for their digestive systems’ lack of efficiency in volume. An adult elephant consumes 140–270 kg (300–600 lb) of food a day.

They digest less than half of what they eat, they don’t eat the same thing all the time, clearly their diets are not carefully planned or thought out, yet they get enough protein from what they eat to build a huge, strong, robust body. Cattle of all kinds, horses, and giraffes are other examples of large animals who get all their protein from plant sources. Clearly, plants must contain plenty of protein if such large bodies can be built entirely from plant-based nutrition.

Or how about our nearest genetic relative, the chimpanzee? According to the Honolulu Zoo’s website, chimp diets are largely vegetarian with only 5% of their diet coming from hunted meat (mostly juvenile red colobus monkeys). Although The Predatory Behavior and Ecology of Wild Chimpanzees emphasizes chimpanzee hunting behavior, it says that only 3% of their calories come from hunting. The vast majority of chimps’ calories, 95% – 97%, and therefore most of their protein, come from plant foods. On average, Americans get around 25% of their calories from animal sources in their indoctrinated fear of protein deficiency. Yet the typical chimpanzee has five to seven times the muscular strength of the strongest human. If the animal foods were providing so much more or higher quality protein, why aren’t we stronger than the chimps?

The bottom line is that plants provide all the protein humans need, without any special planning or care given to combining or sequencing foods. That’s where vegans get their protein.

 
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Posted by on 2011/05/31 in nutrition

 

Forks Over Knives

Last night we went to see Forks Over Knives, a documentary describing the life journeys of several ordinary people, scientific researchers, and medical doctors. The researchers discovered and demonstrated that eating a diet of whole, plant based foods and eliminating or greatly reducing animal foods (meat, dairy products, and eggs) can control or reverse a range of degenerative diseases. The medical doctors applied this finding in the treatment of their patients, getting them off medications and into vibrant, glowing health. The ordinary people were the patients who benefited, including people like Ruth Heidrich, a marathon running cancer survivor who switched from the Standard American Diet (SAD) to follow Dr. John McDougall‘s recommendations 25 years ago after her cancer diagnosis and then continued training and winning races. Or Joey Aucoin, who went from five medications and two injections every day to losing weight, beginning to exercise, and feeling great. Or Lee Fulkerson, the maker of the film, who dropped his cholesterol from over 200 to 154 without any medication at all.

Dr. T. Colin Campbell and Dr. Caldwell B. Esselstyn conducted research into the effects of animal- and plant-based nutrition. Dr. Campbell discovered that by controlling the animal protein as a percentage of calories fed to laboratory rats, he could turn on or turn off cancer growth. Low levels of animal protein (5% of calories consumed or less) turned off cancer growth. Higher levels (20% or more) turned it on. Through the China Study, Dr. Campbell showed that a similar relationship holds for human nutrition as well, based on examining diets and disease rates in 65 rural counties of China.

Dr. Esselstyn started out with 18 cardiac patients who had been told to go home and die by their cardiologists. By adjusting their nutrition, he was able to arrest their heart disease and in some cases reverse it. All of the participants outlived their original doctors’ predictions for their survival. Perhaps the most amazing outcome Dr. Esselstyn achieved was reversing the heart disease of Dr. Joe Crow, a colleage of Dr. Esselstyn’s at the Cleveland Clinic. At 47, Dr. Crowe had a heart attack and almost died. By following Dr. Esselstyn’s dietary recommendations, Dr. Crowe reversed his heart disease and cleared his arteries of blockage.

In the 1970s, Dr. John McDougall worked on the Hamakua sugar plantation in Hawaii. He observed that first generation immigrants from traditional Asian cultures were trim, healthy, and functional into their 80s and 90s. Second and third generation immigrants were fat and sick like the rest of Americans. What was the difference? The first generation had learned a plant-based eating style in the culture they grew up in. When they came to the U.S., they brought their approach to eating with them. The second and third generation adopted the eating style of their adopted culture — lots of meat, dairy, and eggs, fast food, and refined and processed products.

The movie touches on the other reasons for adopting a plant based diet besides one’s own health — reducing harm to animals and saving the planet from the environmental catastrophes we are creating — but the main emphasis is on the health effects of plant based nutrition.

 
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Posted by on 2011/05/29 in nutrition, reviews

 

Staying GLAD in a SAD world

SAD, of course, stands for the Standard American Diet, characterized by lots of animal foods (meat, eggs, dairy), lots of refined and processed foods (breads, cakes, chips, crackers, spreads, sodas), and very little whole, unprocessed plant foods (vegetables, fruits, legumes, whole grains).

SAD also stands for how we feel about where the Standard American Diet is taking us. Two thirds of residents of the US are overweight and half of those are obese. The rest of the world is working hard to catch up with us. As it is exported to other countries around the world, the Standard American Diet is making the world both SAD and sad.

Everyone wants to live like the Americans — in a large house, driving their own car, and eating lots of animal and refined foods. The only problem is that Americans make up 5% (one twentieth) of the world’s population but consume about 40% (nearly half!) of available resources. If everyone in the world lived like an American, consuming at the same rate as the average American, the world would need 800% of available resources (40% x 20). SADly, 100% of available resources is all there is.

Continued export of the expensive American way of life is setting the world up for a shopper’s riot worse than any Walmart stampede ever seen as nations, tribes, and individuals struggle to get “their share” of the world’s diminishing bounty.

This is the sad outcome toward which the SAD pushes us.

GLAD, on the other hand, stands for Green, Lean, Active, and Delighted. GLAD describes a way of life that strives to reduce its impact on the environment, to consume less, and to make itself sustainable.

GLAD also describes how we feel when we do our best to live this way.

Green means living in a way that is kind to the environment, that doesn’t depend on rainforest destruction, topsoil erosion, desertification, greenhouse gas emission, or pollution of the oceans.

Green means feeding ourselves in a way that is efficient and safe. Livestock production consumes about 54 calories of energy for each calorie of food delivered to a hungry human. Plant food production consumes only around 10 calories of energy for each calorie of food delivered. Livestock production accounts for between 18% to over 50% of greenhouse gases generated by human activity. Livestock accounts for about 20% of all farm worker injuries, according to the Encyclopaedia of Occupational Health and Safety. Livestock production for food is neither efficient nor safe.

Lean means feeding ourselves in a way that will produce optimal health. Since the late 1800’s, a handful of researchers and doctors have documented the powerful health-producing effects of a diet based on whole, unrefined, unprocessed plants. As it turns out, what’s best for us is also best for the animals (we don’t have to kill them for food) and the planet (producing plant foods is much less damaging to the environment than producing animal foods).

In addition to the epidemic of overweight and obesity, in the US and other western countries (and everywhere else people are choosing SAD-like diets), chronic diseases of affluence are on the increase. Despite “wars on” the various killer diseases, cancer, heart disease, stroke, and diabetes are becoming more common and killing more people.

Eating in a way that keeps us lean, by choosing a diet based on whole, unprocessed plants (vegetables, fruit, legumes, and grains) helps us avoid these chronic diseases and live a healthy, active life right to the end. The SAD generates disease and causes years of suffering before life finally ends.

The ability to be active is both a result of making green and lean choices and a contributor to the health outcome we want. We can be more green and more lean by using our muscles to provide some of our energy needs instead of burning fossil fuel (thereby driving mining and global warming). Being able to bike to work, for example, is both a reward for making healthy food choices and a way we can be even greener and leaner.

Delighted is where we wind up when we do our best to live GLADly. Choosing to be green, lean, and active naturally fosters an attitude of delight — with the world, with ourselves, with our cousins of other species.

So, be GLAD and help the world get over its SADness.

 
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Posted by on 2011/05/09 in ecology, nutrition

 

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Weight Loss through the Magic of Calorie Density

In 2002, I weighed 260 pounds. In January, 2003, my wife started working at losing weight. Her doctor had threatened her with having to take hypertension medication for the rest of her life and she didn’t want to do that, so she was strongly motivated to reduce her salt intake and lose weight to get her blood pressure under control.

I wanted to weigh less and feel better, so I joined her. At first, we counted calories and tried various strategies we had learned in the past. We had both done Weight Watchers, so we used what we had learned there.

After we had each lost about halfway to our respective goal weights, we ran out of steam. It got very difficult to continue losing. Remembering a book she had read years before, Karen went to our local used book store and tracked down another copy of Dr. McDougall’s book, The Mcdougall Program for Maximum Weight Loss. We started implementing Dr. McDougall’s ideas and started making progress again. Dr. McDougall’s approach also helped us find new ways to reduce our sodium consumption, so our blood pressures continued to improve as well.

In 2004, I was weighing in at around 190 pounds. In the summer of 2006, I hit my low weight of 175. Over the course of the next couple of years, I gradually regained to 190, not because I went off the program, but for reasons that will become clear as we explore the concept of caloric density.

I eat about 4 pounds of food every day. If each of those pounds contained 1000 calories, I’d be eating around 4000 calories a day. But a pound of what I eat averages around 500 calories. So I wind up in the neighborhood of about 2000 calories per day.

Foods available to humans vary widely in terms of how many calories each pound contains. Oil is the most calorie dense food on the planet at 4000 calories per pound. Green and yellow vegetables (kale, lettuce, spinach, broccoli, carrots, summer squash, etc.) comprise the least calorie dense group of foods there is, averaging around 100 calories per pound. That’s a ratio of 40:1. Caloriewise, oil is 40 times as concentrated as vegetables.

Fruits and vegetables have the fewest calories and the most nutrients

Photo courtesy of pdphoto.org.

That this is the case offers us an amazing way of reducing the number of calories we take in without deprivation or hunger. If we adjust the average caloric density of our diet downward, we’ll take in fewer calories while eating the same volume of food.

Researchers like Roy Walford have found one reliable way to extend the lifespan of experimental animals of all kinds. It’s not a genetic manipulation. You would think that well fed animals would be healthier and live longer than animals that receive less, but that has not turned out to be the case. In fact, research has consistently shown that as long as nutrient requirements are met, calorie restriction over time within limits leads to greater longevity in experimental animals. Restricting calories too much (over 50%) eventually results in starvation. However, more moderate calorie restriction has consistently produced extended lifespans in the animals studied. There is every reason to believe that the same will hold true for humans.

Survival of Mice on Various Degrees of Calorie Restriction

Source: Roy Walford, M.D., "Beyond the 120 Year Diet: How to Double Your Vital Years", 2000.

Calorie restriction through portion control leaves the victim hungry and wanting more. Calorie restriction through reducing the average caloric density of the diet, so that we continue eating the same volume of food, has the potential to painlessly, effortlessly (well, almost) let us shed pounds, regain glowing health, and live longer with less illness.

The only way to achieve calorie restriction without reducing the amount of food eaten is by eating mostly foods lower in calorie density. So, what does that mean in practice? How can we tell which foods to choose and which to avoid? We can learn the average caloric density of various groups of food and let that knowledge guide our choices. Here it is:

Food
Average Cal/LB
Examples
Vegetables
100
brocolli, cauliflower, spinach, kale
Fruit
300
apple, banana, watermelon
Starchy Vegetables
500
white potatos, sweet potatos, winter squash
Whole, Intact Grains
500
rice, wheat berries, oats, millet
Legumes
600
beans, lentils
Lean Meat
800
lean beef, skinless chicken
Steak, Eggs
1000
beef, chicken eggs
Refined Grains
1200 – 1500
breads, cakes, pastries
Cheese
1200 – 1800
mozzarella, cheddar
Nuts and Seeds
2600 – 2800
walnuts, peanuts, almonds
Oil
4000
canola, olive, sunflower

Experiments based on the concept of calorie density have shown that when humans eat a diet averaging 400 calories per pound or less, they lose weight. Eating between 400 and 800 calories per pound on average, they stayed about the same, subject to their level of exercise. Eating over 800 calories per pound caused almost everyone to gain weight. The only exception was elite athletes who were very active. Over 1200 calories per pound, everyone gained, no matter how active.

In choosing foods with low caloric density, water is our friend. Water content tends to reduce caloric density by increasing the weight of the food. Pasta and Italian bread contain the same ingredients but a pound of cooked pasta will contain about half the calories of a pound of bread because of the water absorbed during cooking the pasta. In general, baked and fried foods (i.e., food cooked without water) tend to be more calorie dense.

Photo courtesy of pdphoto.org

So now you know the secret. Simply focus on the foods that fall near the beginning of the table and avoid or minimize the foods toward the bottom of the table. If you find yourself hungry, eat some more. Eating this way, there’s never a need to deprive yourself. It’s not a good idea to gorge, but you can eat veggies and fruit to satisfaction and still lose weight. It’s the foods high in calorie density that get us in trouble.

You also know why my weight crept up between 2006 and 2010 — the average caloric density of the food I was eating was a little too high. Between the ages of 8 and 17, I lived in Indonesia and learned to love Indonesian peanut sauce. One of the recipes in one of Dr. McDougall’s books is a simple and yummy peanut sauce recipe that I was using almost every day. That was enough to raise the caloric density of my diet a little too much.

Since the foods near the top of the table (i.e., veggies and fruit) are the most nutrient dense foods, you don’t have to worry whether you’re getting all your nutrient requirements. The government recommends that we eat 5 to 9 servings of fruits and vegetables a day because that’s where the nutrients are. Cows and pigs and elephants grow big and strong because they eat plants. They get all the protein and fat and calcium and other nutrients they need from the plants they eat. We can, too. All the protein we need is available in whole plant foods.

We can get along fine without animal foods, eating only plants (I’m living proof, having eaten essentially no meat, eggs, or dairy since 2004). I call my way of eating a “holophyte” (meaning whole plant) diet. Words like “vegetarian” and “vegan” only tell what a person doesn’t eat. What we do eat is what really matters, so I prefer a name that reflects what I do eat rather than what I don’t.

We cannot thrive on a purely animal food diet. Societies that have tried, like the Inuit, tragically have a somewhat elevated incidence of osteoporosis and shortened average life span. The human organism is very adaptable, but some foods do work better than others.

In contrast, societies that have exceptional lifespans, like the Okinawans, have traditionally subsisted primarily on vegetables and starches — sweet potatos, rice, and greens. And the Okinawans have traditionally practiced what they call hara hachi bu — eating only until they are 80% full. Their culture has taught them to practice calorie restriction, which may help explain their unusually long lifespans.

So the peanut sauce is gone and I’m eating my food “undressed” these days, and the extra ten or fifteen pounds I’ve been wanting to lose are starting to come off.

Note: I am not a doctor and this article is intended only to be informative. Please don’t take it as medical advice. If you have health concerns, please consult your health care provider.

 
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Posted by on 2011/04/15 in nutrition

 

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