Friday, December 23, 2011

Forks over Knives

Maybe you've heard of Forks over Knives; maybe you've seen this movie. Perhaps you've heard of the China Study, which is the research that underpins the whole foods, plant-based diet (the kinder, gentler way of saying vegan) that Forks over Knives encourages.

If I hadn't already read Denise Minger's excellent review and critique of the movie, and in particular, the science behind it, I think I might have been left wondering whether I had my own nutritional belief system all wrong.  As it turns out, there was enough that I didn't buy, and I don't think I'll be changing my mind any time soon.  Let me explain.

Like Denise, I'll start with what I loved about the movie.  I'm in total agreement that the industrialized food system lies at the heart of the problem.  From the way animals are treated in CAFOs, the environmental impacts of factory farms, to the way the Standard American Diet undermines the health of millions, if not billions, of people, I can say we're on the same page entirely.

Like Drs Esselstyn and Campbell, there is no doubt in my mind that if you're serious about treating health issues with diet, a critical component is eating whole foods, and never touching anything processed or manufactured.

I also thought the presentation of the whole foods in the movie was inspiring.  The variety of colours and textures was infinitely more appealing than the gooey pink sludge we saw employees processing into ground beef in the meat plant (I shouldn't have to mention that I don't eat any of that disgusting stuff myself).  I find the idea of competitive eating off-putting.  And I didn't think the many shots of meat on the barbecue to be attractive, even though I do enjoy barbecued steak from time to time.

I also have no argument with the people interviewed in the movie, who all claim a variety of health benefits from their whole foods plant based diet.  The athletes among them were all much fitter than I am, without a doubt.  If these people's medical issues cleared up after following a vegan diet, then it must be working for them.  It made me wonder whether perhaps both paleo and plant-based diets can be right - if both can result in perfect health, as their proponents claim, then we might be wasting our time looking to trip up each other's science.  It is more productive to find points of commonality.

So what did I not like about the film?  Well, a couple of things struck me:

Both in the movie and in the accompanying book, we are told that: "Over time, as people ingest dietary fat and cholesterol, the endothelial cells become "sticky" and plaque begins accumulating" (direct quote from page 11).  It bothers me no end when dietary fat and cholesterol are implicated like this without mentioning the role of carbohydrates.  The science just doesn't support it.  The fact is that dietary cholesterol is not very relevant to the cholesterol in your bloodwork - it's not the cholesterol you eat, but the cholesterol your body producesIt's your carbohydrate intake, rather than how much cholesterol you eat, that is relevant to the plaque build-up in your arteries.

Something else that irks me whenever I see it (admittedly it's not just in this movie, but all over the media, and the major nutrition sites do this all the time), and which I'm beginning to obsess about, is the focus on total cholesterol and LDL, which is always accompanied by the irritating little "the bad cholesterol".  In the movie, we saw one of the patients discussing his improved bloodwork with Dr. Lederman, and I scanned the relevant section from page 29 of the book below:

Do you see any mention of his HDL?  I don't either.  Nor is its relevance mentioned in the movie.  That HDL is a better predictor of coronary heart disease than LDL or total cholesterol isn't discussed at all.  That not all LDL is bad, is of course not mentioned either.

While I know moviemakers have to be careful not to get too scientific on their audience, who might not be spending as much time thinking about the ins and outs of cholesterol as I do, I get really irritated every time I see this omission.

The third issue I have with the movie lies in its absolute non-mention of the effects of wheat.  It's not listed in the index of the book, and I don't recall hearing it mentioned once in the movie, though I may be mistaken.  Yet I firmly believe it deserves some discussion when it comes to cardiovascular disease.  Even if you're not in Dr. Davis' Wheat Belly camp as I am, it should be mentioned that wheat is one of the most inflammatory whole foods available.

You'll be extremely interested to see this table Denise Minger posted from the China Study:

Correlations with death from heart disease, ages 35 to 69.

I don't claim to know much if anything about the statistical accuracy of this data or the way it was collected, but I think it's highly relevant to note that wheat enjoys the #1 spot when it comes to positive correlations with death from heart disease. Note too that animal fat enjoys a hefty negative correlation in the same table.   But Dr. Campbell, the western researcher behind the China Study, is the same Dr. Campbell behind Forks over Knives.  To me this completely undermines the credibility of the premise of his plant-based diet.

Finally, I'd like to mention that as much as the above-mentioned aspects of this movie bother me, it also leaves me wondering whether there is more to Campbell and Esselstyn's dietary plan than what is specifically mentioned.  For example, though I didn't notice any discussion about the harmful effects of wheat, I didn't see it on the table displays, and the book only lists one bread recipe.  Could it be that, like me, Campbell and Esselstyn consider bread to be a processed food?  Perhaps they don't encourage gluten consumption, even though this wasn't the focus of Forks over Knives?

Either way, I didn't find that the film provided a sufficiently strong argument for me to change the way I eat.  If anything, what I learned from Minger's review of the data in the China Study, and how these relate to Forks over Knives, reinforced my resolve to stay away from wheat in particular, most carbohydrates in general, and to continue to consume animal proteins and fats from pastured sources.  And of course, what we have in common is the belief that a whole food diet is a must for good health.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Using a hunter gatherer diet to overcome MS

This is a fascinating and very inspiring TED talk. Dr. Wahls was once confined to a zero gravity chair, because of the effects of her progressively worsening multiple sclerosis. Then she started researching diet and developed a hunter-gatherer style meal plan for herself that got her back on her feet.

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Atkins vs. Paleo

I admit I was one of those people who thought the Atkins Diet was a weird eat-all-you-can-eat steak and cream fad that skimped on the fresh produce and had a low long term success rate.

I didn't pay it too much thought until a year or two ago, and it was actually quite recently that I picked up a copy of Dr. Atkins' New Diet Revolution at a thrift store.

Knowing what I know about low carbohydrate eating as a lifestyle, I have to say I was very pleasantly surprised to discover that the Atkins approach is much more similar than I ever realized.  The fact that it has been around for a very long time means there are many excellent resources available online.  The book has a carb counter in the back, which should be very helpful for anyone starting out.

I do have one or two reservations about it, which I'll get out of the way.

Firstly, the introductory chapters draw you in with a picture of a cornucopia:
...mounds of seeds and nuts, platters of fish, a lobster in drawn butter, well-seasoned fish, turkey and duck and certainly a juicy steak.  You'll spy an omelette that would do any breakfast table proud.  There's no lack of variety here.  I see vegetables in abundance, fresh green salads drenched in healthy olive oil-based dressing overflowing their bowls, and peeking out through the foliage, blueberries, strawberries and raspberries topped with whipped cream.  There's a variety of cheeses.
While it goes on to explain that this is what you'd be eating after losing your extra pounds, it still paints a utopian picture.  It strikes me that what I'm reading on Guyenet's Whole Health Source blog is that the key to weight loss lies in eliminating food's reward factor.

In other words, Atkins entices you with the promise high reward foods.  Quite honestly, I don't know how any diet program is likely to be successful by promising a lifetime of low reward bland food, but I do think this is important to point out.  Or maybe the listed foods aren't really excessive, as long as you don't eat them all at once.  What do you think?  After all, individually, pretty much all the items listed commonly find their way to our table.

Secondly, Atkins sells a lot of ready made products and low carb baking aids.  I have never been big into any kind of processed food, and have absolutely no need for their products today.  That's not to say they might not be useful for people who are on the go a lot, and particularly if they don't enjoy cooking.  I also believe rather strongly that our culture of baking is one of the root problems of the obesity all around us.  By selling carbohydrate reduced baking aids, Atkins doesn't confront this issue head-on.  Maybe that too, isn't a bad thing, but it's not for me.

The third and final big difference I see with Atkins, is that it reintroduces grains, including wheat, after you reach your weight goal.  Admittedly the quantity is limited.  I have read enough about the harmful long term effects of wheat-based foods, that I have no desire to ever reintroduce gluten into my diet again.

If this is enough to put you off looking at the Atkins diet approach, I think that would be a mistake.  Because if you can think beyond these reservations, I think it's a very useful and healthful way to lose weight, especially if you are looking for a long term approach that is effective and easy to incorporate into a modern lifestyle.

Want to learn more?  I would recommend starting with this article, which succinctly dispels 11 of the most prevalent myths surrounding the Atkins Diet.

Tuesday, November 29, 2011

Counting Carbs

Like me, do you almost automatically turn over containers and look at the carb count?  I find myself deducting the fibre count too, almost subconsciously, to see how many net digestible carbohydrates there are per portion.

I recently discovered this isn't always a good idea.  You see, some food producers deduct the fibre for you, so if you deduct it too, you're consuming more carbs than you think.

For example, look at these hemp hearts, which are available at Costco:

If you add the sugars and the fibre, they exceed the carbohydrate count, so it's pretty certain that this is a net number.

For Maranatha almond butter we see the following:

Do you see the difference?  The hemp hearts list "Carbohydrates", whereas the almond butter count is for "Total Carb." 

I don't know how I missed this important little detail before, and it's one more thing to look out for if you're counting carbs.

Wednesday, November 23, 2011

Soda in Drag: Chocolate Milk

Soda in drag.  That's what the Renegade Lunch Lady, Chef Ann Cooper calls chocolate milk, and rightfully so.

Did you know grocery store chocolate milk provides around 26g to 28g of sugars per 250ml serving, and that this is comparable to the sugar in soda pop?  That's around 5 teaspoons of sugar in one little carton

That doesn't seem to worry America's Milk Producers, whose campaign named Refuel America promotes chocolate milk to teen athletes and school kids.  It promises to provide information on the science behind low fat chocolate milk.  However, when I clicked through to the links all I found were links to a Facebook page:


I had read about a study from a couple of years ago that supported chocolate milk as a recovery drink for athletes, but until this morning, I hadn't bothered to dig it up.

You can read the 2006 study online here.  First and foremost, you need to know that

Here is what I believe is the most important information to take away from the study:
  • It studied the effects of chocolate milk, a carbohydrate replacement drink (with the same carbohydrate and protein as chocolate milk) and a fluid replacement drink (a drink with less sugar or protein than the carbohydrate replacement;  its function is to replace electrolytes) on nine endurance-trained athletes who were exercised to exhaustion in 3 separate trials.  In other words, there were 27 outcomes in total.
  • The researchers expected the chocolate milk and the carb replacement to show similar results
  • In fact, none of the three drinks stood out particularly, except in the time it took the athletes to become exhausted - unexpectedly, the carbohydrate replacement drink was the worst performer, and the chocolate milk and fluid replacement drinks were roughly equal.  The researchers speculated that the types of sugar and the amount of fat in the chocolate milk may have been the cause.

So, based on a limited study with limited results, the researchers concluded:
The dairy industry, as the sponsor, is delighted to claim that athletes of all ages are smart to choose chocolate milk.  Why not, when sport drinks are increasingly less welcome (as of this school year, energy drinks are no longer allowed to be offered by Ontario schools). 

The vast majority of people working out are hardly endurance athletes, and most never work out to exhaustion.  Certainly the dairy industry has much more money to make by aiming at young people as a group, rather than a tiny group of real endurance athletes.

I wonder how many people who believe chocolate milk has superior properties have actually read this study, which incidentally did not compare the effectiveness of chocolate milk to regular white milk.  Do people realize how underwhelming the results were and that there doesn't appear to be a whole lot of rigorous science behind the study?  And how many of them realize the dairy industry sponsored it?

Presumably there are other studies to back up the dairy industry's claim.  But I found this one to be  frustratingly flimsy, and I am afraid other studies might have little more scientific rigour to back them up.

Chocolate milk is a drink that you ought to stay well away from if you are limiting your carbohydrate intake to lose weight - even regular milk should be consumed cautiously, for the same reason.  But if you have children who are active and not at all overweight, please don't be fooled into believing you're doing them any favours by giving them chocolate milk.  Unless they are endurance athletes, it's unlikely that it's going to do them much good, and chances are much greater that the excessive sugar is setting them up with some very poor dietary habits.

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Feeding teenagers: the prevailing pizza culture

The Ontario Ministry of Education brought in new food rules at the beginning of the 2011/12 school year.  Out went the fries and pop, to be replaced by healthier options (read: lots of whole grains and less processed ingredients) as recommended by Canada's Food Guide.  While I remain critical of the new rules, which give chocolate milk the go-ahead (even though it contains just as much sugar as pop), I certainly believe they are better than the old way of feeding the next generation to have babies and enter the workforce.

We're barely three months into the new system, and the local press has a negative story to hype:  apparently high school students hate the new rules.  They prefer to leave the school grounds to buy their highly processed junk food at restaurants in the neighbourhood rather than facing what the cafeteria has to offer.  This is negatively impacting school revenues from food sales, which are down as much as 30%, so some administrators aren't very happy either.

Reading the article made me wonder if there is any hope for healthy food for teenagers.  At my children's school I listen to the parents discussing food matters at the monthly parent council meetings, and it's evident to me that quite a few of them do not have a problem with the status quo.  I also regularly see the high school students in my neighbourhood crossing the road to the local McDonald's or convenenience store during their lunch hour.  Where are they getting the money from?  Their parents must be supplying them with the cash to purchase lunches every day, rather than insisting on them bringing a healthy lunch from home.

British schools are ahead of us in the fight against poor nutrition at schools, and for some time their councils have had the power to ban fast food outlets from setting up shop within a specified distance of a school.  To my knowledge, this is not something that has been seriously discussed in Canada.

In our household, where we eat completely differently, I know it's sometimes hard for my children.  Kids generally don't like to stand out from their group, after all.  While our kids don't eat the same way that my husband and I do (their consumption of grain in the form of pasta and bread being the big difference), I have noticed that even they are eating a little more primally than before.  And their sugar consumption definitely lags that of all their friends.  What a contrast it is to live in a household where pizza is served less than once a month, as opposed to their friends' houses, where it might be on the table as often as three times a week?

We have several years to go before my kids enter high school.  Maybe things will improve a little by then, as both students and their parents get used to the new rules.  However, I am afraid the well-intentioned new food regulations won't go far enough to change the prevailing junk food culture.  I am afraid it will take more than provincially-mandated rules to turn it around.  To me, it often seems like an unwinnable battle against corporate interests with very deep pockets that enable them to market their heart-clogging offerings on every street corner.

At least, that's my observation from this city of 200,000, where the concentration of fast food outlets exceeds the national average, correlates positively with our residents' waistlines, and where there appears to be no political will at the municipal level to promote access to healthier eating.

It's really very sad.  Most of us are aware that many of today's teenagers will experience more weight-related health problems at a much younger age than their parents or grandparents who grew up on real food.  And as a community, we aren't doing enough to help turn the tide.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Half the man he used to be

"Vainglory" is the pseudonym of a remarkable man.  He is a 30 year old who weighed 538 lb in March 2010.  Today, just 20 months later, he is 257 lb lighter.

What's even more remarkable is that he did this without surgery.

Sometimes I think that all bets are off once you reach a certain weight;  maybe there's something to all those bariatric surgery ads for people who are morbidly obese.  After all, what do I really know about severe food addiction or morbid obesity?  I have spoken to people who have had bariatric surgery and they are convinced this was the only way they could have regained a normal life.

It sounds plausible, though I don't understand why the numerous bariatric surgery centres make their pre-op patients follow a specific diet for several weeks prior to surgery.  And afterwards, there are also strict dietary rules.  The FAQ will often mention that failure to lose weight occurs when post-op patients eat starchy foods.

In other words, the surgery will only work if you stick to a low-carb eating plan.

So what I've always wondered is that if it weren't for the lucrative nature of the surgery, wouldn't it make more sense to have prospective bariatric patients follow a ketogenic (i.e. extremely low carb) diet, together with extensive counselling and support to understand why this is necessary, for, say, three to six months?  Only if that failed, would it make sense to me to start investigating surgical options.

But here is a man who, not very long ago, appeared to be a lost cause.  Something connected in his brain after he learned about the role of carbohydrates.  First he reduced his daily carb count to 100g, then, he cut it even more.

Today, he looks like a completely different man.  Please take a look at his blog.  If a man weighing half a ton can cut his bodyweight in two and transform his life, everybody else can take charge of their lives as well.

You just have to believe that you can do it.  Just like he did.

Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Coca Cola's $2billion Investment in the World's Diabetes Capital

The Coca Cola Company announced yesterday that it will be investing $2 billion to increase its market share in India's non alcoholic beverage market. India is a strategic growth country for The Coca-Cola Company and ranks among its top 10 markets in global volume.

Ahmet C. Bozer, Coca-Cola's President, Eurasia and Africa Group, said, "India is one of our most important growth markets as we work toward our 2020 Vision of doubling system revenues and servings this decade. The opportunity in the packaged beverage segment is immense, and our efforts in India are focused on being the beverage of choice all day, every day. If we continue to do the right things each day and at all times, it would not surprise me if India becomes one of the top five markets for the Company globally by the end of this decade."

Coincidentally, and certainly ironically, yesterday also marked World Diabetes Day.  Of course not all Coke products are sweetened, but I read the announcement of this investment with some alarm.

You see, India has the dubious distinction of having the most diabetics in the world.

Some stats on the severity of India's diabetes pandemic:
Over 30 million have now been diagnosed with diabetes in India. The CPR (Crude prevalence rate) in the urban areas of India is thought to be 9 per cent. In rural areas, the prevalence is approximately 3 per cent of the total population.
According to the Hindustan Times,
Various studies have shown that the high incidence of diabetes in India is mainly because of sedentary lifestyle, lack of physical activity, obesity, stress and consumption of diets rich in fat, sugar and calories.
The most prevalent is the Type 2 diabetes, which constitutes 95 per cent of the diabetic population in the country. 
When I visited India almost 20 years ago, we were advised to drink bottled pop rather than risking picking up malign amoebae from the drinking water.  Although the country has developed considerably since then, I know there are still significant problems with its water supply.

As India's middle class continues to grow, more and more people have the money to buy bottled beverages.   From Coca Cola's point of view, it certainly makes sense to capture a piece of this lucrative market.

I think it's a terrible pity that the $2 billion investment is going towards products that will only contribute to India's health care problems.

A $2 billion investment towards providing India's billion inhabitants with access to clean drinking water would be so much more helpful.

Monday, November 14, 2011

The Elephant in the Room

If you are an NPR listener, you may have caught today's piece on Morning Edition on doctors  who don't directly address weight issues with their patients, even though it is standard practice to weigh each patient on arrival and to record their weight in their chart. 

In many cases, patients would welcome support and advice on how to shed their excess pounds, but family physicians typically face a number of barriers which lead to them skirting the issue.

Some of the barriers mentioned include the following:
  • The reimbursement system is typically based on treatment, rather than prevention.  It is based on treatment of specific medical issues, like hypertension or diabetes, even though these are usually weight-related.  So nutritional counselling might not be reimbursable.
  • Doctors typically lack training to provide weight counselling and nutrition is not something that is covered in detail in their medical training. 
  • There is often too little time in a typical doctor's visit (an average of 8 minutes was mentioned), to address weight issues.
These are all valid points that are worthy of further discussion, but I would add a couple of points of my own. 

Some patients are easily offended when their physician addresses their weight.  They may be in the office for something they don't believe to be related to their weight, and with visits being undeniably brief, there might not be enough time for their physician to explain the relationship of weight to health.  More complex issues like the relationship of excess weight to the risk of wound-healing complications when it comes to surgery are even trickier to cover.  The linkage between fast and processed food consumption and health is another touchy one, and it doesn't take much for some patients to feel their doctor has crossed over into interference in an area of their lives that has nothing to do with them.

Another barrier many doctors face, ironically, comes from the nutrional profession.  Almost all the official nutritional guidelines from Canada's Food Guide, the USDA's My Plate, the Heart & Stroke Foundation, the Canadian Diabetes Association, as well as all the other governmental channels promote a "balanced" approach to nutrition that involves eating "more healthy grains." They never advise people to radically restrict carbohydrates, not least if they have diabetes.  They prefer to tell people instead, erroneously, as it happens, that carbohydrates are essential for health.  These organizations often enjoy hefty financial support from big food corporations, and the potato and grain lobbies, and they can't bring themselves to say an outright NO to sugar and starches that cause blood sugar to spike.  This is in spite of a growing body of credible evidence that excessive sugars underlie our society's weight and health problems.

In our litigious society which allows patients to make College complaints whenever they feel their doctor is out of line, doctors have to be careful when they offer opinions or advice that don't enjoy mainstream support.  Having been married to a doctor as long as I have, I have heard enough stories of shoddy patient treatment by some of his less competent colleagues to believe very strongly in the complaint process.  On the other hand, I do understand very well how stressful and time-consuming it is for doctors to answer the College when a complaint is made, even if it is trivial or unjustified. 

This is why it is perfectly understandable to me why risk-averse doctors with busy practices choose not to address weight issues and nutrition with their patients, even though they may be fully on board with the literature and increasing number of peer-reviewed studies that support carbohydrate restriction as the key to losing weight and improving long-term health. 

They are simply too busy, many patients are too easily offended.  Avoidable unjustified College complaints are the last thing they want to deal with.

Thursday, October 20, 2011

Guilty Secrets and Baby Steps

I have a guilty secret, and after I tell you what I'm doing, you might think I'm compromising my integrity.

I know I'm compromising my integrity.  But where should I draw the line?  Let me explain:

My oldest child is in grade 7, and I have been volunteering at elementary schools since he was in Kindergarten.  Much of my involvement has been in food related ways.  So I know a thing or two about how to put together a meal for a crowd of kids, and make good money at it too.  Canadian public elementary schools don't usually serve lunches the way they do in the U.S., but it is normal for parent councils to sell what they call "hot lunches" on a monthly basis to raise funds for school extras.  Over the years we have progressed from serving pop and chicken nuggets, to a variety of healthier choices.

Here is a piece the now-famous Mrs. Q (the teacher-author behind Fed Up With Lunch) published last year in a guest blogpost I wrote about what we were doing in my kids' last school:

I really loved that program, but we have since moved to a brand-new school that is much closer to our home.  This is the third school I have been involved in, and for the most part, it's great.

However, the school is only a year old and we don't have enough systems in place to offer the whole school lunches like the one you see in the guest post.  However, we do run a monthly pasta lunch for the kindergarten classes.  This is how it works:  parents pay $10 to sign up their child at the beginning of the year, and we serve a hot pasta lunch once a month for each of the ten months of the school year.  Any parent who has ever been involved in counting money for school functions will immediately appreciate the brilliant simplicity of what we are doing.  It's affordable for almost everyone (this is very important in difficult economic times), and yet, because we rely on frugal procurement, we make a decent profit too.  I buy pasta when it's on sale, we get donated canned tomatoes, and I bring in carrots, garlic and herbs from my own garden.  Usually several parents get together to make a large batch of pasta sauce in the school kitchen.  We freeze it in smaller portions and use these to throw together a very simple but tasty lunch in very little time.

Me, organizing pasta lunches for children... can you see my moral dilemma?

Both of my children are beyond Kindergarten.  This is somewhat unfortunate for them, because the program is fantastic.  For one thing, there is a big emphasis on food.  The children grow herbs and vegetables, they bake in class, and they are encouraged to explore different flavours, textures and methods. (Ed Bruske, eat your heart out!)  I used to bake no knead bread myself, and when I stopped eating grains, I brought some of my pots and pans to the school for the kids to use.

The children now bake their own no knead bread in class once a month.  These four, five and six year olds bake their own bread with confidence!  It looks pretty good and I'm told it tastes great too.  (They offered it to me, but as you know, I stopped eating bread.)

But let's get back to the hot lunch. Today I served our October lunch, which for the most part, went down very well in the kindergarten room.   I topped a bowl of noodles slathered in a delicious tomato sauce generously with grated cheese before heating the dish in the oven, just like regular parents might do at home all over the developed world.  I did add one extra ingredient, and that was chopped parsley, which I picked in my garden last night.

Now I have been a parent long enough to have a good idea about how children's minds work.  I have been volunteering at school long enough to know firsthand that children are often hesitant to eat something unfamiliar, though in a group sitting, it's usually possible to encourage them, especially if they are younger, to try a little bit, and it's not uncommon for them to realize that they like it.

There's another part to this story.  In addition to the paid lunches, we also always make another bowl of pasta for a group of older kids.  This group consists of a motley assortment of kids who either forgot to bring their lunch, or they have difficult family circumstances.  Some of the kids have behavioural issues and need supervision at lunch time.  I don't get into any of the details, but poverty is a common theme.  I feel it is dealt with professionally, and I don't get any sense that they feel marginalized by their peers for being in this group.

The feedback this afternoon from this group of kids was something I totally expected.  But I'm somewhat subversive by nature, and I already have this moral dilemma in trying to reconcile being grain-free myself, while happily feeding it to children.  So the parsley was going to be served if I had anything to do with it.

When they saw me bringing the dish, one of the girls asked if it was spinach.  They did eat it, but were less than enthusiastic about the green bits.  Give them pizza, and they will clean the plate in one go, but if it's anything unfamiliar, they aren't interested.  For example, there wasn't a single taker to even try the spaghetti squash I offered last month.

As usual, we overcatered this afternoon, and on my way back to the kitchen, I stopped into a random grade 8 classroom (yes, unfortunately the kids eat in the classrooms at their desks) to offer some "free pasta".  In no time, they had polished off the dish, and not a single kid complained about the parsley.

To me, this was a great example of how socio-economic differences play into people's health and well-being and their nutrition.   All the students in our kindergarten classes are very fortunate to be exposed to a variety of foods in class.  There is a much greater likelihood of them growing up to be open to a variety of healthier options than children who haven't had exposure to such a great program, particularly if they aren't exposed to different foods at home either.

It is clear to me as well that carbohydrate-rich meals will be with us forever.  They are affordable, easy to prepare, and deeply embedded in our culture.   Even though I don't eat them myself (and I've noticed quite a few of the teachers don't either), grains are fully endorsed by the nutrition authorities and our Ministry of Education.  While I feel I am compromising my integrity by being so closely involved in this program, I am also acutely aware that the alternatives of serving more processed foods (which is what most other schools do), or nothing at all, are both worse.

And maybe cutting out grains, for the most part, is the cherry on the nutritional cake.  Part of me wonders if processed and sugary foods aren't the bigger hurdles to overcome in our school system.

If we can score well on those two fronts, maybe there is a case to be made for serving carbs to kids, especially if they are combined with plenty of other freshly prepared ingredients that do add to their nutritional well-being.

I have to keep reminding myself these are still early days in the school lunch revolution.  Perhaps we should consider this to be a first step, and if we keep working at improving what we offer the children, we will eventually be able to tackle the third hurdle as well.

Big Box of Baking Soda

Since writing about boxed foods earlier this week, I've been racking my brain to think of grain-free foods that typically come packaged in boxes.

I do have a couple of grain-free low carb foods in boxes in my cupboards (well actually, everything is currently on the floor in the living room, because of the renovation).  However, they are all small items like creamed cocout, agar-agar, sea salt and stock cubes.

The largest box that makes the grade is baking soda.

Though these days I use it more for cleaning my pots and pans than for cooking, so maybe it doesn't even count as a food, and more as a household cleaner.

Have you ever wondered why boxed foods typically contain a lot of grains?

The main reason why grains have historically been such a mainstay of human diets is that they can be easily stored for periods of drought, poor weather or famine.  The other major food groups that provide energy (proteins and fats) go bad or rancid quickly without processing.  But grains can be stored well for long periods of time without processing or refrigeration.  Pulses and legumes are combination carb/protein foods and share the same advantage.

The interesting thing about grain foods is that they lend themselves to a variety of cooking processes, after which they typically become much more brittle than when they are in their whole form.  Think of cookies, pies, and breakfast cereals.  When heated, the starch in the grains hardens, which adds to the flavour and texture.  But it also means the foods need rigid packaging to keep them from getting crushed.

Also, people who cook a fair amount themselves know how cheap it is to make a grain-based food.  I'm thinking, for example, of puffed rice (yes, I admit to having tried to make it on an experimental day, long ago).

Don't get me wrong:  I'm not suggesting that it's practical for grain-eating consumers to make their own puffed rice for breakfast, but if you compare it to popcorn (it's a similar process), it's easy to see that a handful of a dirt-cheap commodity easily expands into a much larger amount.  The box packaging allows the producer to illustrate the product being sold in a way that convinces consumers to pay a much greater amount of money for the product than its underlying value.

When you think about it this way, it's easy to see how our societal predeliction for grains and starches has contributed to our consumerism and the wasteful environmental practice of single-use packaging.  By switching to a simpler diet that eliminates grain-based foods, the consequences go beyond simple nutrition, and start impacting other facets of our lives as well.

Tuesday, October 18, 2011

Kitchen Renovations

Our kitchen used to be new, but that was almost 50 years before we bought our house, and we've already been living in it for 15 years. In other words, a renovation is long overdue. We knew this when we bought the house, but I could never figure out what I wanted.  And so we continued to live with the kitchen we hated.

For years I looked in magazines and at other people's kitchens and although I saw plenty of individual features that were lovely, I could never envision the whole picture. Part of the problem lies with me just not liking the styles that are popular here. We live in a small city, and most people go for the traditional look. Lots of granite and country features. I have always preferred contemporary lines, like you see in bigger cities, but I wanted functionality too, and the higher end European kitchens I saw seemed to be more about style than function. On top of that, it was hard finding a local kitchen designer who could deliver what we wanted, but we did, eventually.

Looking back at the notes I made over the years, I realize that many of the features I thought were essential for my new kitchen, have now fallen away.  And this is purely because of the way we now eat.

For example, I used to bake a lot of bread, so my ideal kitchen had a baking corner with a kneading station. We wanted lots of pantry space. We thought of creating a walk-in pantry underneath our staircase.  I wanted appliance garages to store countertop clutter like the toaster and the bread bin.  I also wanted large bins for efficient bulk storage of grains and sugar.

Now that we live more of a paleo lifestyle - or at least, my husband and I do, and the children are inbetween - we have very different needs:
  • Since I'm no longer baking bread, we aren't using the KitchenAid stand mixer very much any more, so it won't need to be up on the counter at all times.
  • We need lots of counterspace for bringing in and prepping produce from our garden outside, and a large sink to wash it in. Our new counters will be stainless steel. I want them to be highly functional, durable and easy to wash. 
  • There is an enormous kitchen window that lets in lots of light and fresh air, and provides a good view of the vegetable garden.  This is good for inspiring us to pick fresh veggies and herbs for cooking with, rather than storing packages of frozen or storebought refrigerated produce.
  • We store far fewer foods on our pantry shelves than we used to. Although we will have a fair amount of storage space, it won't be much more than we currently have. The big difference is that it will be more efficiently designed. But the pantry idea has gone out of the window. I do buy canned tomatoes when they are on sale and we always have a selection of other cans in storage, but the boxes are gone.I realized with a shock that I virtually never eat anything from a box anymore. Why is that, I wonder?  Low carb foods come in cans and jars, and some are packaged in cellophane or plastic e.g. seeds and nuts, but I am struggling to think of boxed foods that make the low carb grade. Hmmm... I wonder if that could be a variation on Michael Pollan's rule of avoiding all foods with more than 5 ingredients?
  • The other big change is that we are bringing our dining room table (it's a heavy farmhouse-style table made of reclaimed teak) into the kitchen. The idea behind this is to focus more on family meals, and what better way to do this than to eat in the kitchen?   To me this is symbolic of a simpler, more straightforward way of life that brings us closer to the things that matter.
Maybe the reason we struggled so long to decide on the right kitchen design was because much of what you see in the media focuses so much on spaces designed for entertaining and showing off. Until the financial crisis started to gain traction, I used to watch HGTV renovation shows in total frustration at the emphasis on entertaining. I'm so glad those days are over.  Yes, I know it's still happening, but it's not quite as in your face as it used to be.

We wanted our house to be for us to live in, not our friends, even though they will be very welcome to join us around the dinner table when the construction is finally complete.

And now, the end is in sight.  I received a call yesterday that the cabinets will be ready for installation in two weeks. I can't wait.  We'll have contemporary design but this will be married with lots of functionality for a low carb lifestyle.  I will update you when it is done.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Very high GI in whole grain bread: Canadian Living response

Do you remember my post from last week about the glycemic index of whole grain bread being similar to that of white bread?  Well, this morning I received a very nice reply from Canadian Living (I am still waiting for a response from Liberte regarding the sugar in their yoghurt):
Thanks for getting in touch with your concerns about our writer's whole grain bread recommendation in the September 2011 issue of Canadian Living. I shared your email with our registered dietitian, writer Cara Rosenbloom, and thought I'd in turn share our rationale for including whole grain bread in that feature on foods that boost your brainpower.

As you know, the GI values for foods all come from – the definitive database of the GI value of thousands of foods tested by researchers at University of Sydney. If you search the database for "bread," there are 315 different entries. There is a range of glycemic index (GI) values for whole grain bread -- some have a higher GI than others (up to 71) - but the vast majority of whole grain breads have a GI between 36 and 54, which is considered low. Those are obviously the breads we'd recommend. White bread usually has a GI of 70 -100, which is considered high. 

Of course, it you take just two outlying examples from the database (in this case, a whole grain bread that has a GI of 69, and a white bread with a GI of 71), they can look similar. At the other extreme, you can compare a whole grain bread with a GI of 34 with a white bread with a GI of 89. The idea that whole grain and white bread have similar GI levels is true for some brands of bread, but false for many others. As with any science, the same literature can be interpreted many ways. But, in general, whole grain breads do have a lower GI than white breads, so we stand by our initial recommendation. 

Thanks again for sharing your concerns about out nutrition feature. We do appreciate your perspective!
I hope you aren't thinking at this point that I got my facts all wrong.  I totally disagree with that the vast majority of whole grain breads listed on have a lower GI.

I have also scrolled through the 315 different entries, and in fact, the ones with the very low GI readings are not even bread on their own, but whole meals and sandwiches.   For example, 37g of "Greek lentil stew with a bread roll, home made" is one of the 315 low GI entries.  

When we are told to eat more whole grains, my understanding is not that we are being asked to seek out specialty grains like spelt, buckwheat or einkorn.  

The vast majority of whole grain breads available to us in the stores on a day to day basis are not the specialty low GI ones.   

It is widely understood (albeit mistakenly so) that regular whole grain bread in the grocery store is a better nutritional choice than white bread.

Have you ever heard a nutritional expert advising the public to stay away from commercially produced whole grain sandwich loaves - the kind that are served in cafeterias and institutions?  The kind my husband's diabetic inpatients are served on a daily basis?

When they tell us to "eat more whole grains", do you understand that to mean that products marked "whole wheat" are nutritionally acceptable?  

Because that's the message I'm hearing from the nutritional authorities.

So, this is the response I sent:
Thank you for your detailed response to my email.  Your point about varying GI's is well taken, and I do understand the difficulties involved in making blanket statements about whole grain bread as a category.  Also, as someone who has baked a lot of bread, I am fully aware of the possible GI impact of the ingredients that are used in different recipes.  Many recipes add sweeteners, powdered milk, refined white flour and even mashed potatoes to the dough to improve the flavour and the texture of the crumb. 
This makes it very difficult to assign one average GI reading to a food category as broad as whole grain bread.
However, I think you would agree that the vast majority of whole grain bread consumed is in the form of the common sandwich loaf.  This is what one would typically see in cafeterias, hospitals, schools, old age homes and all other institutions. It is also the kind of bread that most children would eat, when they eat whole grain bread.  As much as I or other health-conscious consumers would be naturally drawn to coarser artisanal loaves, which may indeed have a lower GI, it is simply not what the majority of people consume.
I know that Wonderbread is a particular brand name, but it is a popular one both in the US and here in Canada.

This is what the Harvard Medical Schools GI index listing shows:

Wonder™ bread, average
Whole wheat bread, average
71± 2

Furthermore, lists the following range of whole wheat breads*.  As you can see, these all in a close range in the high end of the GI scale.

Food Name GI serve (g) carb/serve (g) GL
Wholemeal (whole wheat) bread (Hovis, UK) 68 30 11 7
Wholemeal (whole wheat) bread 69 30 13 9
Wholemeal (whole wheat) bread (Sainsbury's, UK) 71 30 11 8
Wholemeal (whole wheat) bread 72 30 12 9
Wholemeal (whole wheat) bread 74 30 14 10
Wholemeal (whole wheat) bread (Hovis, UK) 74 30 11 8
Wholemeal (whole wheat) bread 75 30 13 9
Wholemeal (whole wheat) bread (Tip Top Bakeries, Australia) 77 30 12 9
Wholemeal (whole wheat) bread (Tip Top Bakeries, Australia) 78 30 12 9
Wholemeal (whole wheat) bread 85

It seems to me that the two examples I originally sent you were not outliers, and in fact, are fairly representative of many of the items listed above.
This is why I would disagree with Ms. Rosenbloom that the GI impact of the vast majority of whole grain breads is much lower.

* Try this yourself by searching for "bread whole wheat" on

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

More Canadian radio Thanksgiving treats

I've seen a couple of well-argued critiques of Wheat Belly from the Paleo community, even though they stand united in their opposition to wheat and gluten.  While I don't entirely disagree with their viewpoints, I think the point the critics are missing is that this book is an excellent start for anyone who is new to the low-carbohydrate way of thinking, and especially those who want to lose weight after years of gains.

Luckily, CBC, the Canadian public radio, has been on a low carb tear this past Thanksgiving weekend.  Yesterday, the popular morning show, The Current hosted an interview with Dr. Davis.  Please take a listen.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

The Sunday Edition with Michael Enright

CBC listeners were treated to a great interview with Gary Taubes this morning on Michael Enright's radio show, The Sunday Edition.  If you missed it as I did, you can listen to it online.

It's a half hour discussion on why Taubes believes carbohydrate consumption underlies obesity, and how, as a journalist with a solid science background, he came to write about it.

I believe his book "Good Calories, Bad Calories" is excellent, but at over 500 pages, it's not a quick read.  This is why he also wrote the much shorter "Why We Get Fat".  It covers most of the same material, but in a way that is more palatable for people who don't have the time or the inclination to work their way through the original book.

Whether you'd like to know more about why Taubes is making waves in the world of nutritional science before deciding which of the two books is best for you, or if you simply want to hear him speak, it's well worth listening to.

As Canadians celebrate their traditionally carbohydrate-rich Thanksgiving across the country this weekend, this interview couldn't have been more timely.

Monday, October 3, 2011

Did you know white and wholegrain bread have the same GI?

No?  Well, you're not alone.  Canadian Living doesn't either.

The September 2011 issue features an article titled "Feed your brain:  Mind-mending miracle foods for breakfast, lunch and dinner" on page 51.

Unfortunately the author's recommendation to eat whole grain bread is flawed, and I felt compelled to send the following letter to the Editor:
Cara Rosenbloom advised eating whole grain bread in the September 2011 issue (Health is Happiness) because it is less refined than its white counterpart, stating that the higher fibre and protein content would slow down the stream of energy.  I would like to point out that any difference in glucose release between the two is normally so small as to be negligible.  This can be easily verified by referring to a glycemic index table.

Also, although it is true that the brain's main source of fuel is glucose, it is a common misconception to believe that this glucose comes only from carb-rich foods.  In fact, while carbohydrates can provide a quick source of fuel that can be helpful in times of famine, the human body can technically thrive on a diet that is totally devoid of carbohydrates because of a metabolic process named gluconeogenesis.  Far from being an uncommon process, it is widely used by animals as well as plants, fungi, bacteria and microorganisms to generate glucose from non-carbohydrates.
It's really easy to compare the glycemic index of different foods, and if you didn't know it already, you might be really surprised to learn that the glucose load from whole grain bread is virtually the same as that of white bread.  This is what I found on

Remember that this is typically one slice of bread.  Most people eat two slices in a sandwich.  And a can of pop has about 26g of sugars.

Just because it's made with whole grain, it's not going to give you a slower energy release.  Some whole grain bread can even give you a more rapid energy release, depending on the ingredients it's made with.  Suffice it to say that I totally disagree with Ms. Rosenbloom.  Not that I'm defending white bread, mind you.

I recommend staying away from both.

As for the comment about the brain's main source of fuel being glucose, this is something I already wrote about in May:  It is true that glucose fuels the brain.  However it is not true to imply that when we eat glucose, it makes its way there via a direct path and that this makes carbohydrates good for our brain function.  If it did, people would be far more susceptible to hypoglycemia than they normally are.  And it would be the really-bad-for-you kind of hypoglycemia, not just a shaky feeling.  Don't believe me?  Go back and read my post, and feel free to check out the references I provided.

Bottom line: Canadian Living isn't the only guilty party.  After all, Mother Earth News published something very similar, which is why I wrote that post in May.  Given the extent of the misinformation, and the fact that it's commonly propagated by people with nutritional credentials that make them appear to be experts in the field, it's not entirely surprising to me that so many people believe carbs from whole grains are good for you, essential even for optimum brain function.

But I do think the registered dieticians who write these erroneous articles are doing the public a disservice, and it's time to set the public straight. 

It would be very nice to see my letter published, though I'm not going to pin too much hope on it happening.  I'm sure their letters department is inundated with reader comments.

Saturday, October 1, 2011

Wheat Belly

I've been following Dr. William Davis' blog for a long time, and I've made enough links to it, that I have sometimes felt like a bit of a groupie.  So when his book came out recently, I didn't think I needed to read it.  After all, I thought I'd already absorbed his message.

But then I did recommend it to a friend who had been diagnosed with a dairy allergy in childhood and has been living with IBS for most of her life.   As it happens, we went camping together on the trip I described last week, and she couldn't believe how good she felt after a couple of days of eating almost no grain.  I had told her about going grain free before (I was worried I was beginning to sound like a proselytiser), but for the longest time she wasn't convinced.  We share an interest in wholesome cooking, and like most people, she found it very difficult to believe that whole grains might be bad for you.

Yet she felt so good after our camping trip.  And she lost 4 lb as well, which was a bonus.  So when I told her about Wheat Belly, she picked up one of the last few copies on the shelf at her local bookstore, and has been most enthusiastic about ditching grains ever since.  Not only is she feeling fantastic after about a month, but she has continued to lose weight and is now down almost 16 lb.  Effortlessly.

You see, she realized her dairy allergy was most likely either a misdiagnosis, or she may have grown out of it.  Because she doesn't have it anymore.  However, she most definitely does have a severe gluten intolerance that she hadn't been aware of. This would explain the chronic IBS symptoms.  Incidentally, her family physician had told her there was little to do about this, and that she would most likely have to live with it for the rest of her life.  He never mentioned that avoiding gluten is often an effective way to alleviate IBS symptoms.  How pathetic is that?

While I was at her house the other day, I peeked inside Dr Davis' book lying on the coffee table.  I realized it was worth a second look.  For one thing, it has some interesting looking recipes in the back.  I happened to open the book on his recipe for a pizza crust made of cauliflower.  I had found a very similar recipe online myself some time ago, and have made it several times already.  It's a big hit at our house!

If you haven't encountered it before, I'm pretty sure you are totally doubtful.  However, it's really delicious and even if you eat loads of it, it doesn't leave you feeling bloated afterwards the way regular pizza does.  I don't cook the cauliflower beforehand though;  I mix the raw florets in the food processor until they resemble coarse breadcrumbs.  I like to lay the crust on a sheet of parchment and bake it in the barbecue on a pizza stone.  Oh, and since I'm incapable of following a recipe, I throw on ingredients that catch my fancy.  The version in the picture above had tomatoes and yellow peppers from the garden, blobs of pesto from last summer's harvest, and mozzarella.  Yum.

But to get back to Wheat Belly, I decided to buy it after all.  Actually, I downloaded it onto my eReader, thinking this will be a useful format in the kitchen if I want to try out the recipes at the back.  If you're unfamiliar with eReaders, you should know that you can download the desktop application for free, and download books either from the store, or from your local library.  It's much cheaper than buying the book itself, and doesn't take up any shelf space either.

And I don't regret that I did it.  I'm finding the book very enjoyable to read - he writes humorously and explains metabolic processes in an easy-to-read manner that people who are as biology-challenged as I am can understand.  As he says, bear with him, and you'll understand more about lipoproteins than 98% of physicians.

I won't write a review, because I haven't finished the book yet.  Besides, you can find plenty of them (70 at last count), including many descriptions of personal experiences, on Amazon.  The only negative review I found seems to come from somebody who likely didn't read the book.  (Dr. Davis suspects it came from a grain lobby insider).

Go check it out - this book is especially well-suited for anybody who can't seem to lose weight in spite of eating "healthily".  Or if you (or somebody you know) suffer from celiac disease, arthritis, diabetes, heart disease or poor cholesterol.  Or even if you are simply curious about what the low-carb movement is all about.  I'm pretty sure you'll agree with me that Dr. Davis makes a compelling case against the consumption of wheat.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Eating out while on the road

About a year after starting my new way of eating, I started eating out again.  That sounds really restrictive, but in reality, I honestly hadn't felt much like eating out until then.  The food we were cooking at home was delicious - deliciously simple.

Then, in August, we spent some time in hotels and with family on trips to Toronto and Ottawa, as well as a few days camping in a provincial park.  I had to make some choices about what to eat and learned a couple of things in the process.

The first thing I learned is that when staying with relatives, it can be hard to turn down homemade breakfast pancakes, especially when said relatives take pride in their "healthy" approach to food, and load up generously on whole grains as recommended by Canada's Food Guide.  I made a couple of executive decisions based more on tact than I would have normally preferred, and which admittedly compromised my diet a little.  But since we were only there for two days, no great harm was done.  For breakfast, I ate just one pancake with some fresh raspberries rather than a stack slathered in butter and maple syrup.  At a barbecue where hamburgers were served with corn on the cob, brown rice salad and green salad, followed by apple pie and ice cream (5 carb portions when you include the bun), I limited myself to the burger without the bun, a large portion of green salad with a small helping of rice salad on the side.  I was able to gracefully pass on the desert because this was plenty. 

We also ate at a couple of restaurants which were resounding successes.  At a Vietnamese restaurant, I ordered a delicious barbecued chicken dish, which, according to the menu, came with salad, bean sprouts and rice noodles.  The owner was more than happy to substitute more salad for the rice noodles.  Similarly, at a Thai takeout, I ordered a magnificent stir-fry.  When I asked if they would hold the rice that came with the dish, the server asked if I would like bean sprouts instead.  The way she asked me, I realized I wasn't the first customer who had made this request.

The third unmitigated success was at a sushi restaurant, where I ordered sashimi. It came served on a thick bed of julienned daikon radish.  The salad and miso soup that came with the meal were great low carb choices, and the absence of rice on the fish, while making the meal a little more expensive than it would have been had it been sushi, certainly enhanced my sense of culinary enjoyment. Sushi rice, after all, doesn't do much more than fill you up.

I expected our camping trip to present some problems, but in fact, it wasn't hard at all.  We brought fresh tomatoes and peppers which we cooked into a basic pasta sauce and served on a bed of quinoa (I don't eat much quinoa, which counts as a carb, albeit a healthy one.  But I do enjoy it on occasion).  A package of frozen ground beef stayed sufficiently cold in the cooler to be turned into tacos (without the tortilla) one day, and burgers the next.  We brought plenty of farm eggs with us, and used them to make delicious menamen on the campfire.  Bacon and eggs were wonderful for breakfasts, as was a bowl of leftover quinoa served with crudely chopped nuts with a little almond milk.

I learned that eating out and camping are perfectly possible while eating low carb.  Sometimes you have to decide whether refusing a particular dish will offend, and other times carefully choosing your restaurant strategically and asking for substitutions make it possible to make menu choices that don't stand out excessively from those of your carbohydrate-loving dinner companions.

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

A tub of lard a day to keep your weight at bay?

I've been wanting to post this for a couple of weeks, but wasn't sure just how to approach what I want to write without coming across as patronizing or insensitive to the Health At Every Size movement, otherwise known as HAES.  If you've never heard of it before, it's an approach to food emphasizing intuitive eating, rather than dieting, and the followers believe in Fat Acceptance.  In short, judge me based on who I am, not my weight.

This is an offshoot of feminist thinking that rejects the obligation so many women feel to control their weight and eating habits in order to be more attractive to men.  Many HAES followers know a thing or two about dieting, and are as uninterested as I am in deprivation and a lifetime of tiny portions and boring salads in order to look like a barbie doll.

HAES most definitely is not into deprivation. 

They point out, and on this one I don't disagree, that while many medical problems are associated with obesity, having a high BMI doesn't necessarily mean you are unhealthy or will live a shorter life.  I had noticed this anomaly myself:  although it's a medical fact that obesity is a factor in many diseases, it's hard to find statistics that look at it the other way around.  For example, I would love to know:
  • what percentage of people with a BMI over 30 suffers from coronary heart disease?
  • what percentage of people with a BMI over 30 suffers from arthritis? 
  • how do these rates compare with the general population?
In the absence of information like this, if proponents of Health At Every Size feel comfortable with their weight and are totally healthy, what right do the rest of us have, medical professionals in particular, to tell them they need to reduce their weight?

Many proponents of Health At Every Size recognize specific emotional factors at play in their obesity, and believe it's more important to focus on the emotional issues, rather than diet in isolation.  In some cases, for example, there might be a history of abuse which is at the root of the person's weight.

It's a complex issue, and I'm sure I'll get myself into trouble if I interpret too much. If you're interested in reading more, there's an excellent blog at The Rotund.  You can also check out The Fat Nutritionist.  These ladies are eloquent, their arguments are well-thought out, and the comments to their posts are both intelligent and thought provoking.

In the meanwhile, let me get to the point of my post.

Reading one of the more popular posts in The Rotund, I came across a comment which caught my eye:
ALL FOOD provides some form of nutrition to your body. So, you know what? If the option is no food or that tub of lard in the morning? I am going to support your choice to eat a tub of lard.
Did you get that?
 ****  tub of lard  ****
As I read that, it occurred to me that perhaps there's more going on in HAES than most people realize.

You see, I'm not into dieting or going hungry either, and yet I managed to lose about 25 pounds in less than a year, after slowly putting on weight from puberty onwards.   I did it for myself, for a couple of reasons:  I knew my BMI was slowly creeping up, I was starting to feel ominously creaky around the time I turned 40, and I was beginning to feel what I thought might be the beginnings of arthritis in some of my joints.  In short, I would have preferred to weigh less, even though I wasn't interested in starving myself to get there.

The trick to my own weight loss was so staggeringly simple that my mind still boggles, even after a year.  I cut out sugar and starch, and stopped worrying about the fat.  I didn't go out of my way to eat fat, but I did consciously stop eating low fat and skim products.

I have now read enough to know that if I had eaten a tub of lard every morning, it is unlikely to have affected my weight loss.

Could it be that many of these intelligent ladies (most of them are female) have been taken in by the low fat, high carb indoctrination that has blanketed the nutrition world from the seventies onwards?

Even more so, given the feminist slant of this movement, and the strong links between feminism and vegetarianism, could the feminist movement be steering women towards a diet that's too heavy on the grains and starches?

Might it be sacrilege to propose eliminating sugar and starch in certain radical feminist-vegetarian circles? 

I wonder if at least a couple of HAESers wouldn't be interested in knowing they could lose weight without deprivation or going hungry.  Because while I know that being overweight doesn't necessarily mean you're going to be unhealthier, it can affect your mobility as you get older, and that can affect your quality of life.

Having been there myself, and having unexpectedly reversed my own weight trend at a point in my life when I was resigned to following in my mother's overweight footsteps (and her mother's before her), I know which body state I prefer. 

This is especially so because I'm pretty sure I've figured out how to beat the middle-age spread that plagues so many people after they hit their forties.  Carrying a bit of extra weight in my twenties and thirties really wasn't a big deal, because I felt perfectly healthy.  The creakiness only started a little later.

What it mostly involved was a paradigm shift in my own mind, and from then on, it really wasn't difficult to do.  I feel as healthy as ever before in my life, but I don't feel I have compromised my own feminist principles.

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Canada's Best Yoghurt, by Far

Dear Liberté:

I know I’m not the only one to tell you this, but you definitely make Canada’s best yoghurt!  It’s creamy and the texture is so luscious that I would never need to try another dessert ever again if I could just live on Liberté.

There’s just one thing that puzzles me:  why is it that you put so much sugar in your yoghurt?

After all, there are lots of us who are eating low carb foods these days.  There is a strong contingent of low carb adherents who include dairy products, especially fermented ones, in their meal plans. 

As you are no doubt aware, low carb generally does not mean low fat. 

I, for one, lost over 25 lb in the past year by avoiding grains and added sugars and everything with a low fat label on it. 

This would make Liberté yoghurt a low carb dieter’s dream food, if it wasn’t for all the sugar.  I mean, 39g of sugar in a 175g portion?  That’s the sugar equivalent of almost 2 whole cans of soda when you include the sneaky but obligatory additional last spoonful of creamy deliciousness after you’ve measured out your serving.  What were you thinking, Liberté?

I know artificial sweeteners are controversial, and I’m not crazy about them myself.  But in my quest for foods without the additional carbs, I prefer a spoonful of Splenda over one of sugar.  But then, I also often find foods are oversweetened.  I’d be more than happy with about a third of the amount of sweetening agent.  I’m sure there are others who are like me.

Of course we could all stick to plain Greek yoghurt, but think of all the additional sales you could be making to those of us who aren’t afraid of creamy rich foods.

So how about it, Liberté?  Do you think I could convince you to dip your toes into the low carb niche market?  I think you’ll find your customers are ready for it.  I know I am.