So What the Hell Do We eat?
Confusion amongst the ‘experts’
Recently I was at a Health Conference in London called The Truth Matters. It was set up by a lady named Ann Knox from Scotland who, three and a half years ago was diagnosed with cancer. Her story is both tragic and a ray of sun shine. I hope to have Anne submit her story on here or maybe do a Q&A with her so I won’t go into her story now but needless to say Anne beat cancer through ‘alternative’ medicine against the advice of her doctor, and even after they wanted to section her! Anne first set this conference up to bring together the people that helped her beat cancer so that the word could be spread to others. People need to know that they have a choice!
It is a great idea and I was excited to go to the event. I was particularly looking forward to hearing Brian Clement from the Hippocrates Institutes speak, along with a representative from the Gerson Institute and also Jason Vale from the UK (known for selling Juicers, juice bars etc)
Each speaker had one hour to talk and I thought this would be far long enough but in actual fact it was no where near long enough. Not allot you can do about that as the organisers would have to make it a week long conference if you were to give each person enough time to cover topics in-depth. The whole event was a little too ‘meatless’ and even anti-meat for my liking but I knew this would be the case.
The information was all good but a little contradictory and confusing. By the end of the day I heard many people saying “I am confused, who do we believe?”. Many people went to the conference to be enlightened and I think many were. Still, some people left with more questions than answers. Allot of the information with regards to diet went against what most people believe a healthy diet is. That is one thing but the contradiction between some very experienced and educated people on stage really left some people wondering. I know Anne realised this and is working to have a kind of ’round up’ at the end of the next Truth Matters conference. Check out the site http://www.thetruthmatters.org.uk/
The confusion for some people started at the conference when up first was Brian Clements from the Hippocrates institute who boldly claimed that coffee enemas would give you cancer! Cottage cheese would give you cancer! Next up a representative from the Gerson institute stepped on stage and explained how she beat her cancer by taking regular coffee enemas and went on to a maintenance diet of cottage cheese……. This kind of confusion is rife in the diet/ fitness/ health/ holistic living industries and I think we need someone to address this (someone more educated than me) I am sure at the next conference of The Truth Matters someone will put all this into perspective, which will be great to help people.
You only have to look Into the body building world to see how confusion is every where as some people advocate high fat, high protein and low to no carbohydrate diets, and compare that to vegans who say protein gives you cancer (most people quoting the China Study). Then take a look (or not) at the new vegan film that was launched this year called ‘Fork Over Knives’ which tells how protein and fats, even the much loved olive oil will cause cancer. This goes against many peer reviewed studies as well as tons and tons of anecdotal evidence that suggests olive oil and the people that consume it tends to be health promoting! Propaganda in rife!
The whole world is pumping Omega 3 fats from fish oils as almost a ‘cure all’ but then other people (Brian Clement to name just one) says Fish oils WILL cause cancer!!! Flax oil has been touted for years by hippies and herbalist (I study Herbalism so no insult intended here) but then other groups and new research say that flax seed contains too many phyto-estrogens and goes rancid too fast and they say the omega 3 contained in flax seed is ALA (alpha Linolenic Acid) and does not always convert readily to DHA or EPA . The specific omega 3 components that we really need……….. If you feel like blowing your brains out or saying SOD IT! And popping out to KFC for a bucket of the kernels finest crispy coated chicken with that special mix of 11 secret herbs and spices, I can’t say I blame you.
If the ‘experts’ can’t agree and don’t have a clue then how are we supposed to???
I think I will write a book, but for now let’s break some of this down into manageable chunks, dispel some myths and use some common sense to build what should be a safe and healthy diet. Remember this is only my opinion and you must always talk to your GP before starting a new eating programmed….. Also, please remember that I am NOT a trained, accredited clinical dietitian (So I probably know what I am talking about!)
Where to Start
Please remember that this is just my humble opinion. I believe you need to look at multiple factors which include the information available, look at what the ‘experts’ say and how they back up their information, look at history, and look at what is tried and tested. You also have to think about practicality and how people (or yourself) will stick with it. There is no point making a list and looking up negative effects of each food because you would not eat of drink anything! And all that stress of worry will probably kill you faster than the mercury fillings you have in your mouth!
Ok, so the thing to look at is what is actually needed by the body. First up is water. Bla bla bla your thinking but the fact is it’s true. We are roughly 70 % water and without water we die relatively quickly. I won’t bang on about it here but I will just say, do a little research on UK Tap water, and its contents. To summaries, here goes, Cancer causing pharmaceutical drugs, Female hormones, Fluoride, pesticides, nitrates, and many heavy metals (toxic). Just check out a Google search, its not good reading. Spring water is better, but the best type that is easily accessible is distilled. The only problem you may come up against is that some people say distilled water drains minerals from your body… it is debatable but rather that than all the crap in our tap water. Out side of that go for an Evian or similar type bottled water. It may not be perfect but it’s better than what flows from your tap! Any way, you are about to build a good diet so you will be ok for all your vitamins and minerals. People may also mention the fact that distilled water comes in a plastic bottle and endo-toxins from the plastic have a negative health impact. This is true but they do not even compare when we against most tap water’s toxicity.
Ok, after water we have food, and when we break food down into categories, we can see that we need proteins fats and carbohydrates.
There are essential fatty acids (which make fats) and essential amino acids (which make protein) but there are no essential carbohydrates(as such) Saying that, when we take in the right kind of foods containing carbs, we normally get a boat load of essential nutrients like vitamins, minerals, antioxidants as well as phytonutrients. So let’s not throw them away just yet.
Next up – Fats
As I said before there are essential fats. Every one of your body’s 100 trillion cells (I can’t help hearing Jay Kordich every time I say or type that line) contains fat in its membrane. Also your brain is around 60+% fat. This should tell you that we need fat from our diet and you can see you should not be afraid of fat, you need fat to live! There are many types of fat sources some better than others. We all know (or we all should know by now) Trans fats are nasty man-made things that we don’t want in our bodies and these are being faded out (finally) from our foods. Always check to make sure your products NEVER contain Hydrogenated oils (trans-fats). There is never a ‘safe amount’ of these fats, they are man made crap and serve no good in the human body and you have no reason to consume them, so enough said on that.
Here are some sources to get your fats from: Small Oily fishy like sardines, Omega 3 eggs, Butter from organically raised, grass fed cows, milk or cream from the same animals, although some people have to be very careful with milk as even Raw, grass fed dairy can cause gut irritation and allergies. Avocado’s, Avocado oil on salads, olives and olive oil, nuts, although not too much as they are high in omega 6 and not omega 3 and this adds to the already one sided imbalance of omega 6 to 3 ratio (we should have something like a 1/1 or 2/1 ratio of omega 6 to 3 ) Today the average persons diet supplies too much omega 6 fat and not enough omega 3 fat at about 15 or 20 to 1 ratio in favour of omega 6 which is causing major health problems. This out of balance ratio causes excess inflammation in the body and can be harmful. Coconut oil is another good fat to be used; macadamia nut oil can be used too. Walnut oil contains the omega 3 fats ALA but if used it should never be used for cooking as omega 3 fatty acids go rancid easily. In fact use cold pressed walnut oil and keep it in the fridge and use it fairly soon after opening it.
Stay away from soy, canola (rapeseed),vegetable oil’s, grape seed oil, margarine’s and spreads. None of them are any good. Fat from grass fed cows; goat, sheep etc will contain good fats and fat-soluble antioxidants. If you can find pork that has been raised on apples and natural food stuff then go ahead and indulge but this is normally hard to find and expensive. If you cannot afford organic, then buy lean meats and cut off any fat on the meat. Fat is where excess hormones and toxins are stored most and if you’re avoiding gluten you may have a reaction when eating animals fed on wheat / gluten or stuffed with corn. NEVER cook with polyunsaturated oils!
So What Do We Eat?
Good Fat to eat
Small oily fish, Avocado, Butter from organic grass fed cows, meat from organic grass fed cows (and other animals), coconut oil, Omega 3 eggs, olive oil (extra Virgin), walnut oil keep refrigerated as this can go rancid easy) and macadamia nut oil for salads, some nuts and seeds (not too many) are all good sources of fats If you stick to the above list your cells will be healthy, flexible and will work efficiently allowing nutrients in and toxins out of the cell. Your hormones will love you for it too.
Good Fats to Cook with
(Remember to cook as a rule on a low heat for longer and never burn/brown the foods)
Olive Oil, Coconut oil, Lard from organic animals, Ghee’s and butter from organic grass fed animals, Macadamia nut oil are the better oils too cook with as they can withstand heat to a decent degree before they become damaged and cause problems in the body.
Fats to avoid cooking with
Omega 6 containing oils (most vegetable oils) , margarine, all high omega 3 containing oils such as walnut oil and Rapeseed oils etc. as these are highly unstable and will turn from a health promoting fat to a toxic poison once heated so never use omega 3 or omega 6 containing oils to cook with
Next up Protein Sources
Protein is made up of smaller particles called amino acids which most people know these days. Some of these amino acids are known as essential amino acids. There are eight essential amino acids. They are called essential because we need them to stay alive and we cannot produce them ourselves within the body so we need to consume them regularly in our diet. The remaining 12 amino acids or the non-essential amino acids can be synthesized the human body from the essential eight.
Vegetables fruits nuts and beans contain amino acids but not in large amounts and they do not always contain the full eight essential amino acids and for this reason they are known as ‘incomplete’ proteins which need to be mixed together e.g. rice and beans to get the full eight essential amino acids in one meal. These sources will keep you alive, this is proven throughout the world where large populations are vegetarian, but they will not allow you to thrive.
Meat, fish and eggs are your be source of proteins in my opinion as beans, nuts, seeds, vegetables etc often contain anti nutrients. These anti nutrients are just that, they are the plants natural defense system to stop them being eaten into extinction by draining your vitamin and mineral reserves in the processing of them in the body, as well as directly effecting the cells that line your intestinal tract with specialised proteins called lectins. There are ways to neutralise some of these anti nutrients and lectins but not always 100%. I recommend (for non vegetarian and Vegans) clean raised organic grass fed beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, bison, as well as fish, small oily type plus some wild caught salmon and omega 3 eggs. These sources of protein contain all of the eight essential amino acids in abundance(as well as most if not all of the non-essential amino’s) and have been proven time and time again to be the best building blocks for muscle, bones a and for just about every other structure in your body.
Please remember this if nothing else: Food QUALITY is the most important thing. A steak from a healthy cow that has feed on grass its whole life and not been force fed grains, and corn and has therefore never had to be constantly given anti biotic and hormones, will have a very different effect when eaten, on your body’s physiology than a cheap piece of meat from a commercial farm that has been feed grains, corn, and therefore needed to be given anti biotic to keep them alive and hormones to make them grow faster for more profit for the farmer. These two meats will be worlds apart. A South African friend of mine recently told me that anyone in his country that lives hands on and does hunting for their food will tell you that a stressed animal is a poisonous animal. Think of that. He doesn’t know the biochemical sequence of events that happens when an animal is stressed, it comes purely from experience. So what happens when you eat a sick animal that has been fed food it was not designed to eat such as grains and corn, and then fed drugs to keep it alive and hormones to make it grow? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to work out the answer.
If you are a dairy drinker then this can also be a good source of protein but dairy is a hotly debated topic. As a rule I would suggest dairy should not be a foundation food group for protein for most people. The clean meats and eggs and fish are better with less controversy and potentially less harmful. As we are building a solid diet here I will leave dairy out for now as a main stay but you can add it later if you like. I would suggest you only consume dairy from grass fed organic cows and goats, and consume it in its raw state. That means unpasteurized. It can be hard to find but it’s the only dairy worth consuming. You should also take notice of how you feel after you consume dairy having eliminated it from your diet for at least two weeks. After the elimination period you will reintroduce dairy and take notice so see if you start having any recurrence old ailments, or any type of reaction like mucus build up or maybe gut irritation.
Vegetarians and Vegans Protein
For people not eating meat or fish eat omega 3 eggs and for people not eating eggs or meat and fish then you will have to be creative. Look toward sprouted seeds and nuts. You will need to work hard and combine your food sources intelligently to make sure you get a good combination of amino acids. Try juicing dark greens by the pint, and use non dairy bacteria to help ferment your soaked/sprouted seeds and nuts to help break down the proteins into more usable forms that your body will utilize easier. It won’t be easy to make sure you get your full quota of protein and resulting amino acids in the right quantities and ratios but it is doable!
People will tell you that there are no essential carbohydrates. When broken down all carbohydrates become glucose in the body. If you didn’t eat another sugar in your life you would survive as your body has more than one way to get glucose. In the absence of dietary carbs your body can convert amino acids into glucose in a process call gluconeogenesis. It can also use fatty acids as fuel.
The thing is, your brain and central nervous system prefers glucose as its source of fuel. Also, when we are talking about natural, organic foods, we often get many nutrients, phyto nutrients, minerals and vitamins and even enzymes (raw foods) from carb sources. I have to stress that when I say that I am talking about vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds and not pizza, white bread, doughnuts etc!
As I have mentioned before nuts, seeds, beans and legumes all come with their own problems. They often contain a good amount of fiber with their sugar which make them a low GI or low GL food (as long as you don’t eat too many in one go) but they also contain potentially damaging proteins like lectins and anti nutrient phytates that causes your body to loose vitamins and minerals when you eat these foods. For this reason I leave nuts, seeds, beans and legumes out for now as a ‘staple’ or foundation food.
So what carb source does every variety of nutritionists agree are good… that’s right, green veggies. Amongst this group there is tons of variety. Eat your broccoli, green beans, kale, collard, cabbage, spinach, watercress, cucumber, celery etc we can also add all fibrous veggies and unless you have sensitivity you can include plants from the knight shade family. These include tomatoes, potatoes, peppers and (sweet and hot) egg plants. (Google for a full list) Knight shade plants contain alkaloids that can be poison to humans and some people have reactions to them. Many people with arthritis stop eating knight shade plants and find pain to be relieved. If you have no negative side effects then go ahead.
Enjoy some fruit but don’t over do it as the sugars in fruits can be detrimental to health, although putting it into perspective, you are probably better off eating five apples that drinking a bottle of coke, or even shop bought apple juice! Just don’t over do it as I have seen people unable to loose fat due to fruit consumption. Dried fruit should be a treat and not part of your main crab source.
Putting it all together
So there you go some good sources of protein, fats and carbs that should form the foundation or the ‘core’ of your diet. Anything other than foods listed should not be staples and should be had infrequently. Once you are healthy and lean we find most people can get away with an 80/20 style diet. Meaning stick to eating the core foods and doing everything right for 80% of the time and let loose the other 20%.
This of course varies and some people seem to be able to get away with something more like 60/40 or 50/50 where as other seem to have to stick to a 90/10 ratio but 80/20 will probably do well for most people and don’t forget that even though someone seems to eat crap, never exercise, drinks too much and smokes and still seems ok in their 40’s….. It all crumbles pretty fast at some point so don’t believe what you think you are seeing!
Below I will list the food types that are good for each macro-nutrient for convenience. This is not a complete list so use your initiative if you have access to vegetables that are not listed you can swap them in, like for like but don’t go swapping out some broccoli and swapping in some KFC.
Remember all meat I refer to should be organic grass fed or natural diet fed.
Protein Sources: beef, chicken, turkey, lamb, bison, as well as fish, (small oily type plus some wild caught salmon) and omega 3 eggs.
Fats : Small oily fish, Avocado, Butter from organic grass fed cows, meat from organic grass fed cows (and other animals), coconut oil, Omega 3 eggs, olive oil (extra Virgin), walnut oil and macadamia nut oil for salads, use lard, ghee,
Cook With: butter, Coconut oil, Macadamia nut oil, Olive oil, Lard, Ghee
Carbohydrates: Green vegetables masses of choice), fibrous vegetables like cauliflower, some sweet potatoes or Yams (not too many) plus salad items like Romaine lettuce, cucumber, celery, spring onions, garlic.
Don’t believe what you hear you don’t NEED grains or legumes in your diet; in fact there is growing evidence that most if not all of us would be better off removing them completely from every one’s diet. The same with pasteurised milk from sick cows. You don’t need this to build bones, in fact inorganic calcium also known as bio-unavailable calcium from pasteurised milk can cause the body many problems including gut irritation and allergies which cause inflammation and can create an ‘acid’ based environment which will lead to leeching of calcium from the bones. Also dangerous calcium deposits can accumulate from inorganic sources of calcium.
All in all if you stick to the above foods 80% of the time (100% if you’re sick or overweight, until you get to where you wish to be health wise) you should do well. Below are some final thoughts for do’s and don’t to help you on your way.
Buy certified organic vegetables and fruits if you can afford them. If you can’t and I mean REALLY can’t (and for most people it’s a case of they don’t want to as they say they can’t afford organic foods but them go out and spend £4 a pint all night long Thursday to Sunday, prioritise is what I am trying to say) If you can’t afford the organic stuff grow your own, and when you do buy stuff from the local supermarket bring it home, wash it through and then put it in the sink in salty water, for half an hour, or use food grad hydrogen peroxide, or grapefruit seed extract, or vinegar. After half an hour rinse through well again. This might not be 100% effective but it should get rid of allot of the crap that get sprayed onto our foods.
Buy organic grass fed beef. Again if you can’t afford this then it is probably better to stick to leaner cuts or leaner meats all together as most of the toxins from meats will be stored in the fat content. Also add lots of herbs and spices as they all have various health promoting benefits that will help your body fight and clear toxins from your system.
Juice. Green Veg mostly. Use celery, cucumber, courgette as a base and add plenty of spinach, kale, cabbage, water cress, parsley, etc and add the odd lemon and lime. This will do your body wonders but I have found this can turn out fairly expensive. Also add some ginger, turmeric and garlic with the occasional inch of cayenne pepper if you are man enough!
Drink herbal teas. Make them yourself, nice and strong, put 1 to 2 oz of herb in a large jar and fill with boiling water. Leave over night. Mix the herbs up a bit, have rosemary, thyme, green tea, sage etc the combinations are endless and by mixing them up you get all different health benefits.
Enjoy the odd treat other wise what’s the point of living, but if it causes any distress internally, you will have to make a choice if the cost / benefit is worth it.
Drink clean water from distilled or spring sources or invest in a home filter system (good ones can cost quite a bit)
Get plenty of sun as many people are vitamin D deficient and this is your best way to get vitamin D. Vitamin D has been shown to directly affect around 5% of your genes! That is a big involvement so it is easy to see why a deficiency of vit D can be detrimental.
Get 8 to 10 hours of quality sleep every night. This is a large subject but we are getting more and more information all the time about how important sleep is. I read this for years but never made the effort to sleep well but it is MASSIVELY important! So start using the sky + function and get to bed!
Get enough Fat and Protein as these two macro nutrients are what we are constructed of and we need them regular. Put down that jam on toast, sugar loaded, insulin spiking breakfast and have some eggs instead!
Eat refined sugars, flours or any other refined food.
Consumes ANY Hydrogenated fats and oils. These are nothing more than toxins that you will be consuming.
Cook with any oils containing polyunsaturated fats. Again these are particularly toxic when heated.
Rely on Dairy for your main protein or calcium needs. Dark leafy greens are best for your minerals and meat / eggs for your protein.
Get involved with fad diets or gimmicky shake replacement meal type diets.
Drink tap water if at all possible. There are lots of nasty things in there, and although you won’t drop down dead within seconds of drinking it, there is growing evidence that tap water is detrimental to health and this can be seen world wide over a period of time.
Train 7 days a week and try to get by on 3 hours of sleep a night. At some point your body will falter and you will really know about it!
Drink and tell yourself it’s healthy. Drink if you must but never to excess and don’t convince yourself that you have to open your third bottle of wine for the resveratrol content! We all know that you just want the buzz!
Drink fruit juice from cartons and tell yourself it’s healthy! It’s not, it’s a glass of sugar water!
Parallels Between Cancers, Infection Suppression: Same Proteins Involved, but Cancer Takes Hold When Response Gets out of Control
ScienceDaily (Jan. 3, 2011) — Tiny parasitoid wasps can play an important role in controlling the populations of other insect species by laying their eggs inside the larvae of these species. A newly hatched wasp gradually eats the host alive and takes over its body.
The host insect is far from defenseless, however. In Drosophila (fruit flies), larvae activate humoral immunity in the fat body and mount a robust cellular response that encapsulates and chokes off the wasp egg.
New research by Dr. Shubha Govind, professor of biology at The City College of New York, and colleagues reveals parallels between how this mechanism fights the wasp infection and the way blood cancer develops. “There are fundamental similarities in the processes,” she explains. “The response to wasp infection is similar to acute inflammation while the cancer is akin to chronic inflammation in mammals, where regulation of the response to an infection also goes out of control.”
Professor Govind reports that the immune system that counters wasp egg infection is highly restrained. The system works like a thermostat, with certain proteins detecting the infection and triggering the immune reactions. Once the egg has been destroyed the immune reactions come to a halt.
However, when the regulating mechanism goes haywire, cancer can develop. Through sumoylation, the correct balance between positive and negative factors is achieved, Professor Govind and colleagues report.
“There is strong evidence that the fundamental mechanism of regulation uncovered in flies also works in humans,” she notes. “Because of the molecular similarities between flies and mammals, it may be possible to use flies to test drugs for potential anti-inflammatory effects in human disease.” While such drugs would not cure cancer, they could control inflammation and, perhaps, delay cancer progression.
Other potential applications are in pest control for agriculture. Instead of using insecticides, parasitoids with the ability to suppress the hosts’ immune systems could be used to kill insect pests. Also, insecticides could be developed that, at very low concentrations, would weaken the immune systems of host insects and enable parasitoid eggs to succeed, Professor Govind adds.
The findings were published last month in PLoS Pathogens, a peer-reviewed, open-access journal published by the Public Library of Science. Contributing scientists were: Indira Paddibhatla, Mark J. Lee, Marta E. Kalamarz and Roberto Ferrarese. The work was funded by the National Institutes of General Medicine, U.S. Department of Agriculture and PSC-CUNY.
Protein Restores Learning, Memory in Alzheimer’s Mouse Model
ScienceDaily (Dec. 13, 2010) — Scientists at the UT Health Science Center San Antonio restored learning and memory in an Alzheimer’s disease mouse model by increasing a protein called CBP. Salvatore Oddo, Ph.D., of the university’s Department of Physiology and Barshop Institute for Longevity and Aging Studies, said this is the first proof that boosting CBP, which triggers the production of other proteins essential to creating memories, can reverse Alzheimer’s effects.
In patients with Alzheimer’s disease, accumulation of a protein called amyloid-β (Aβ) blocks memory formation by destroying synapses, the sites where neurons share information. Autopsies of the brains of some Alzheimer’s patients also reveal tangles caused by a protein called tau.
Enhancing CBP does not alter the Aβ or tau physiology but operates on a different recovery mechanism: It restores activity of a protein called CREB and increases levels of another protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF).
“One way by which CBP could work is by setting off a domino effect among proteins that carry signals from the synapse to the nucleus of the neuron,” Dr. Oddo said. “Getting signals to the nucleus is necessary for long-term memory.”
A viral vehicle
The research team engineered a harmless virus to deliver CBP to the hippocampus in the temporal lobe. The hippocampus is the brain’s key structure for learning and memory. At 6 months of age, when the CBP delivery took place, the specially bred mice were at the onset of Alzheimer’s-like deficits. Learning and memory were evaluated in a water maze that required mice to remember the location of an exit platform. The mice treated with CBP were compared to diseased mice that received only placebo and to normal, healthy control mice.
Identical to healthy mice
Efficiency in escaping the maze served as signs of learning and memory. In the Alzheimer’s mouse model, performance of the Alzheimer’s mice treated with enhanced CBP was identical to the healthy mice, whereas the placebo-treated Alzheimer’s mice lagged far behind.
Disclaimer: This article is not intended to provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Views expressed here do not necessarily reflect those of ScienceDaily or its staff
The Glycemic Index Revisited
“Diets rich in high-glycemic index foods, which cause quick and strong increases in blood sugar levels, have been linked to an increased risk for diabetes, heart disease, and [becoming] overweight, and there is preliminary work linking high-glycemic diets to age-related macular degeneration, ovulatory infertility, and colorectal cancer. Foods with a low glycemic index have been shown to help control type 2 diabetes and improve weight loss.”
– The Nutrition Source (Harvard School of Public Health)
I’m sure that you can appreciate the importance of optimizing your blood sugar levels; not only for the quest of a lean, muscular physique but, as the opening quote illustrates, the pursuit of good health and a longer life.
But considering that walking around with a glucometer and sticking ourselves after every meal just isn’t practical – or polite – a more efficient method of measuring the effect of carbohydrates on blood sugar levels needed to be determined.
Unfortunately, what athletes, bodybuilders, and TNation readers find scientifically relevant usually doesn’t find its place on the National Institute of Health’s “Top 10 Research Programs to Give Funding To” list.
Sometimes though, we get lucky, and while it wasn’t with the NIH, the British Diabetic Association and the Medical Research Council decided in the late 1970s to find out more about the differing effects of carbohydrate-based foods on blood sugar.
Fast forward to 1981, and the Glycemic Index (GI), a method of ranking the effects of different carbohydrate based foods on blood sugar, was born.
The GI of a food is measured in a two-step process. Researchers will give a person 50 grams of pure glucose and then measure their blood glucose levels over the course of several hours. This pure glucose serves as the control, as theoretically, nothing can be digested faster than pure glucose.
Next, researchers give the same person 50 grams of the food in question (like carrots, rice cakes, or black beans), and measure their blood glucose levels for several hours afterwards. As the diagram on the right and the following technical definition of the GI shows, the blood sugar responses for the two foods are then compared.
“…the area under the blood glucose response curve for each food expressed as a percentage of the area after taking the same amount of carbohydrate as glucose.”
One key component to how the GI is measured has to do with amount. The amount of food used is always the same, 50 grams. As a result, the GI only takes into account the type of carbohydrate and not the amount. This is a point of criticism that many GI critics often bring up; for example, how practical is the GI when 50 grams of carbs from rice can be ingested with ease while 50 grams from carrots would require Bugs Bunny-like dedication?
The Glycemic Load
To make the GI more real world applicable – as no one eats food in 50-gram increments – scientists came up with the Glycemic Load (GL). The GL is a carbohydrate/blood sugar rating that accounts for both type and amount of carbohydrate.
It’s defined by this equation:
Glycemic Load = (Glycemic Index x Amount of Carbohydrate in Grams) / 100
Here’s an example of how the GL works versus the GI:
|Food||Standard Serving Size||Glycemic Index||Glycemic Load|
Traditionally, the much-maligned carrot is vilified by GI disciples because they have a higher GI than most vegetables (one study found the GI of carrots to be 90 but these findings were never replicated), but as you can see the average GI for carrots is only 47 – which actually makes carrots a low GI food – and when you take into account the amount most non-hares would normally eat, the GL for carrots is really very low.
The GI is a property of a food, just like the amount of protein or fat in a food, while the GL refers to the composition (type of carbohydrate) and size of your meal (amount of carbohydrate).
Dr. Wolever, an Oxford trained physician, nutrition PhD, and world leading expert on the Glycemic Index, hammered this point home repeatedly in a seminar I attended recently. This is an important designation, as it makes a food’s GI rating applicable across different populations.
The Insulin Index
You might have heard about a study published over a decade ago talking about the Insulin index. Like the GL, the idea behind the Insulin Index is that scientists wanted to quantify the effects that different foods had on insulin levels.
But one problem with the Insulin Index is that the insulin response can vary tremendously between individuals, thereby requiring a lot of extra data on the effects of different foods in a variety of populations to have a standardized version of the Insulin Index.
To further complicate matters, the Insulin index concept never really took off in the scientific community – at the time of writing this article, there were 22 times more scientific papers in PUBMED about the GI compared to the Insulin Index.
Now that we’ve established the various indexes, let’s see how you can best apply them to your physique pursuits. Here are two important points:
1. Glycemic Index versus Glycemic Load is more of an academic debate than practical one
I always stress this point with clients when we discuss carbohydrates, blood sugar, and the Glycemic Index. Generally (and practically) speaking, foods with a low GI will also have a low GL.
Green leafy vegetables have a low GI, and while you can eat a large volume of these foods, the actual gram amount of carbohydrate that you’re consuming will also be low (making the GL low as well), while foods with a higher GI are usually more carbohydrate dense (meaning that if you eat a large volume of these foods, you’ll also be eating a lot of carbohydrates).
Long story short: Meals with low glycemic carbs will naturally have a lower GL and meals with higher glycemic carbs will naturally have a higher GL. Why make it more complicated than it has to be?
2. High Glycemic Foods versus Low Glycemic Foods is what really matters to You
Another point of criticism regarding the GI is consistency. While the measuring of a food’s GI is supposed to be a standardized procedure, different labs have calculated different GI’s for the same food. While this might sound like a problem, it really isn’t. Why?
As you can see by the chart below, when using the GI to categorize foods, three main categories are used: High, medium, and low.
High: GI > 70
Medium: GI = 55-69
Low: GI < 55
|High GI Foods||Medium GI Foods||Low GI Foods|
|Shredded Wheat||Apricots||Green Vegetables|
|Bagel||Long Grain Rice||Nuts|
|White or Whole Wheat Bread||Pita bread||Apples|
If you follow my recommendations and use the GI as a tool to improve your carbohydrate choices, high versus low GI is what really matter. When researchers combined discrepancies found between laboratories and published studies, low GI foods were always low GI foods and high GI foods were always high GI foods.
Jasmine rice and rice cakes don’t suddenly become low GI foods simply because two labs can’t agree on a score.
The Glycemic Index of Foods Can Change
Remember when I mentioned above that the GI of a food was a property of the food? After reading that, you might’ve thought that means that the GI rating of a food always stays the same. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case due to some interesting food science – and more recently, the unrelenting efforts of food companies to get ‘whole grains’ into our diets.
There are three common ways that the GI of a food can change: processing, ripeness, and cooking. Let’s take a look at how cooking can influence the GI.
The Potato Story
This is where it gets really cool. Let’s say you take a potato; prepare and eat it two different ways and it’ll have two different GI ratings.
Raw potatoes, cooked potatoes, and potatoes that are cooked and then cooled all have different GI ratings due to the potato’s unique starch make-up. Certain types of potatoes, like red potatoes, contain high levels of amylose. When cooked, amylose is released, mixes with water molecules and forms a gel like substance. By letting the potatoes cool, you’re giving the gel a chance to solidify into a state that’s more resistant to digestion. If you eat it while it’s still hot, the gel is still gelling, and it will get digested faster.
Lest you think this is the spud-inspired version of splitting hairs, think again: according to one researcher I talked, to the difference between eating a warm potato versus waiting for it to cool and then eating it can be a GI rating of 75 versus 40!
Who would have thought that potato salad could be better for you than a steaming baked potato?
Here’s a muscled-up version of potato salad for you to try:
- 3 medium red potatoes
- 1/2-cup olive oil mayonnaise
- 5 chives, minced
- 2 strips turkey bacon (not the processed Jennie-0 stuff that looks like play-dough pressed into a bacon form – try Applegate Farms)
- 1/2 medium onion, diced
- 1 stalk celery, diced
- 1 Tbsp yellow mustard
How to Prepare:
Place the potatoes in a medium-sized pot with boiling water. Cook for ~15 minutes, until the potatoes are fork tender. While the potatoes are cooking, cook the turkey bacon in a nonstick frying pan over medium heat. Once the potatoes are cooked, remove them from the pot and let cool.
Next, dice up the turkey bacon and place in a bowl with the mayonnaise, chives, onion, celery, and yellow mustard. When the potatoes have cooled, cut them up into 1-inch cubes. Add to the bowl and mix thoroughly. Add salt, pepper, and Frank’s Red Hot to your desired taste. Makes 2 servings (see nutrition facts below).
Enjoy this with a roasted chicken breast or grilled flank steak for a great post training meal.
Protein and Carbohydrate Affects on Glycemic Index & Glucose Response
Another criticism of the reliability and effectiveness of the GI is that it ranks foods by themselves, when in reality, when we eat carbohydrate-based foods, we eat them together with protein and fats.
Another factoid I frequently hear bandied about is that “adding protein and fats to a meal reduces the GI of rice/potato/Pop Tarts/etc.”
However, as stated earlier, one of the important points about the GI rating is that it’s a property of the food, so adding fat and protein to a meal containing white rice for example doesn’t change the GI of rice, it only will reduce the rise in blood sugar…or will it?
In 2006, Dr. Wolever published a study that was the first to systematically examine the ‘mixed meal’ question. In this study, participants received shakes containing glucose (50 grams), protein (0, 5, 10, or 30 grams), and fat (0, 5, 10, or 30 grams).
The researchers found that gram-for-gram, protein had almost a three times greater effect than fat at reducing glucose response to the meal. They also found that the effect of protein was linear across the protein dosages (0 grams to 30 grams), so that the more protein that was in the shake, the greater the reduction in glucose response.
Dr. Wolever cautioned against taking these findings out of context, as the study used liquid shakes and not whole food meals. But as a TNtaion reader who probably has a second pantry dedicated to tubs of Metabolic Drive, this research is especially relevant to you.
To further explore the ‘mixed meal’ question, Dr. Wolever ran another study, this time using whole food meals. The meals contained 0-18 grams of fat and/or protein and 16-79 grams of carbohydrates (with GI’s ranging between 35-100).
They found very different results than the previous smoothie study: when using whole foods, the protein and fat content of the meals had a negligible effect on glucose levels. The total carbohydrate content of the meal and the GI of the foods in the meal were able to predict glucose response with almost 90% accuracy.
While they might have found different effects at higher protein dosages, when these two studies are taken together the message is pretty clear: if you’re having a shake, then adding protein to that shake is a good way of controlling your blood sugar response.
If you’re having a whole food meal, then eating low glycemic carbs and reducing your total carb intake (which can be done by eating low glycemic carbs) is the best way to control your blood sugar response.
Glycemic Index, Nutrition Timing, and Your Diet
What’s the best way to use glycemic index in your diet? You can use the glycemic index to optimize the nutrient timing of your diet.
|Hypertrophy Phase||High + Medium GI carbs||Mainly High GI carbs||Low & Medium GI carbs|
|Maintenance Phase||Low + Medium GI carbs||Mainly High GI carbs||Low GI Carbs|
|Fat Loss Phase||Low GI carbs||Mainly High GI carbs||Low GI carbs|
The Glycemic Index Wrap Up
• The Glycemic Index has been around for three decades and isn’t going away anytime soon.
• Eat raw or lightly cooked oats to maximize the blood sugar lowering effects of beta-glucan.
• When having a shake, adding additional protein is a very effective way of controlling your blood sugar response.
• When having a whole food meal, eating less carbs and lower GI carbs is the best way to control your blood sugar response.
• You can use GI to easily optimize the nutrient timing of your diet.