Sunday, September 25, 2011

Chocolate Pudding

Everybody loves chocolate, yes everybody. I'm pretty sure it's a fact or something.

Here's a very simple recipe for what I think is an awesomely good chocolate pudding. Very easy to make, and healthy to boot!
1 can coconut milk (not light)
1 medium to large size Japanese sweet potato (you could also sub bananas or apples instead)
2 squares of 100% cacao baking chocolate bar

Pour the coconut milk into a pot or pan, and start heating on medium-high. Peel the sweet potato and then slice/dice/chop/peel/whatever-your-favorite-method the sweet potato into small pieces and toss them in with the coconut milk. Cook and stir occasionally until the sweet potato is soft and the whole mix is a little bit thicker. Take the pot/pan off the heat and break up the 2 squares of chocolate into the mix and stir them in. Let the mix cool enough to toss into the blender, then puree/liquify it. Pour/scrape it all out into a container and stick it into the fridge and let it cool. If you need to eat it sooner, you can always put it in the freezer for about 45 mins or so instead. I like to serve it with shredded coconut sprinkled on top. Try experimenting with it too, sprinkling some cayenne pepper, chili, or chipotle is really tasty. Adding slices of banana on top with a little bit of cinnamon and maybe some ginger is great too. Even some throwing some pieces of bacon on top works surprising well.

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Cholesterol in a nut shell

Lets get this whole cholesterol mess straightened out. There is so much information and misinformation out there,  a lot of it gets pretty technical, and it can be very confusing. I'll try to use the latest information and explain it in a simplified, easy to understand fashion, keeping it brief and focusing on the main points and what really matters.

First off, cholesterol is necessary for proper body function. It's part of cell membranes, part of synapse formation in your brain, is a precursor to all steroid hormones in your body, and essential for vitamin D and bile production. Basically, cholesterol is not bad, cholesterol is good, you need it.

So what is measured in a cholesterol test? It's actually the amount of cholesterol inside LDL and HDL particles. LDL (Low Density Lipoprotein), and HDL (High Density Lipoprotein) are lipoproteins that basically transport cholesterol, fat, and nutrients around the body where they're needed. Again, this is necessary and essential for proper body function.

So what is it that actually causes damage to the arteries, otherwise known as atherosclerosis? It turns out it's oxidized LDL.
When the LDL particle becomes oxidized(damaged), it sort of becomes toxic, the immune system takes it up behind the artery wall and eventually forms a plaque "cap". This really isn't a huge problem until it happens a lot, or there's some type of inflammation in the artery that causes the cap to rupture and break off, which could potentially cause a heart attack or stroke. Atherosclerosis is actually a disease of oxidation and inflammation, not an overabundance of cholesterol.
So what causes the LDL particle to become oxidized? Oxidants in the blood. The LDL has antioxidants packaged inside to help combat oxidative damage, but they can become depleted. Think of LDL as a bubble or ball with a membrane on the outside. The membrane of LDL particles is partially made up of fats. PUFA (poly unsaturated fatty acids) that comprise part of the membrane of LDL are the most easily oxidizable of fats. MUFA (mono-unsaturated fatty acid) would be next, and then SFA (saturated fatty acid), which are the most stable and least susceptible to oxidation. This is why if you put something like fish oil (high in PUFA) outside in an open container it will go rancid/bad fairly quickly, yet you could put coconut oil, lard, or tallow (all high in SFA) out in the open and they would be fine for a long time. It's also why cooking with saturated fats is recommended over other fats as they are more stable and don't get damaged as easily. Think of building a house with PUFA being straw, MUFA being wood, and SFA being brick. They are all useful in certain scenarios, but you wouldn't want to build a house mostly of straw as it would be very susceptible to damage. This is one of the reasons we want to minimize PUFA intake to just whats needed and not take in an excess amount of them. The more PUFA, the more potential there is for oxidative damage. So other than how much PUFA there is making up the membrane of the LDL particle, what else affects how much the LDL particles get oxidized? How big of a supply of antioxidants are packaged inside, how many oxidants there are in the blood, and how long the LDL particles are out there in contact with them (which is dictated by LDL receptor function, which is influenced by thyroid function and leptin sensitivity among other things).

 I like to think of it all like this (nerd alert): Imagine you have a sci-fi spaceship (our LDL particle) traveling around and transporting things in a hostile environment (the blood). This spaceship has a force field barrier (the membrane) around it to protect it. When the force field is in contact with the hostile environment outside it drains the ships force field energy supply (antioxidants), which the ship has in limited supply and needs to recharge when it docks. If the ship loses it's force field it gets damaged, falls apart and crashes. The stronger the force field (less PUFA, more SFA), the greater the force field energy supply (antioxidants), the less toxic the environment outside (less oxidants and inflammation), the less amount of time is has to spend out in the toxic environment (if LDL receptors are functioning correctly and uptaking the LDL particles), the more likely the ship can transport its cargo without any damage or trouble.

So what do blood cholesterol test values actually tell you?. When your cholesterol is "high" it means that in the measured blood, your cholesterol carrying particles weigh more, that could be from having more of them, or they could just have more cholesterol inside them. When LDL particles become oxidized they seem to get smaller and denser, there are multiple reasons that this happens that we wont get into for now. If you have LDL particles that are bigger, more "fluffy" and "buoyant", then you should have a lot lower risk for heart disease. Is having "high" cholesterol a death sentence? Actually there are studies out there where mortality rate increases when cholesterol gets too low, and is less when cholesterol is higher up to a point. I think cholesterol can be an indicator that you have a potential problem, and can even show issues with things like your thyroid. Having "high" cholesterol in and of itself doesn't concern me if the particles are big/fluffy, everything else is in line, and you're living healthy. If your cholesterol is high, and so are your triglycerides and you have other markers out of whack too, then that might be an indicator of a problem. If your cholesterol is very high (over 300mg/dL) that could mean you have Familial Hypercholesterolemia, which is a whole other can of worms we won't open.


Time for the most important question, what can you do to prevent these cardiovascular woes from happening? Basically be healthy. Eat a healthy diet (paleo). Take in the necessary amount of PUFA, but not a lot more. Keep omega-3 to omega-6 ratios in line. Eat good saturated fats, they are healthy and resistant to oxidative damage. Don't worry about eating cholesterol, it's healthy too. Keep out unhealthy and inflammatory foods (grains, trans fats, excess fructose and sugar, vegetable and seed oils, etc.). Get good sleep and minimal stress. Stay active and exercise intelligently.


To learn more about all this stuff, the history behind it, the studies, etc. check out
http://www.cholesterol-and-health.com/cholesterol-and-health.html which is a great site done by Chris Masterjohn where you can find a ton of information and more links and references

http://thehealthyskeptic.org/the-healthy-skeptic-podcast-episode-11 a great podcast by Chris Kresser, with this episode interviewing Chris Masterjohn where they go over all this stuff and more.

http://high-fat-nutrition.blogspot.com/search?q=j-litt is where you can find some of
 Peter's very interesting posts on statins and cholesterol over at Hyperlipid

I also recommend reading Good Calories Bad Calories, and Why We Get Fat: And What To Do About It by Gary Taubes for a good history regarding cholesterol, saturated fat, etc., and how everything got so screwed up.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Ancestral Health Symposium Videos and Slides

Videos are now being posted up from the Ancestral Health Symposium, along with most of the slides from the presentations as well.  Go to http://ancestryfoundation.org/ for info and links to all of them, and keep checking back as more videos are added.

Videos
Slides

Sunday, July 31, 2011

Paleo on the go

So what do you do when you're out and need food?

In a pinch you can always get some type of meat and veggie from most restaurants (even fast food places).
Many burger places like Hardees/Carls Jr. have the option of getting the burger wrapped in lettuce instead of a bun. Actually at most restaurants that have some type of sandwich/burger you can just order it without the bun/bread and sauces. Burrito places like Chipotle and Moes have bowl options where you can get your choice of meat and veggies (and some guac for good measure). If there's a Whole Foods or similar grocery store, some of them have some decent buffets and food choices (Whole Foods has all their ingredients listed above the foods too). You could always go into a grocery store and just buy some grocery food as well, canned fish works well in a pinch)
What if you're not around any restaurants? Well if there's a gas station nearby you can grab a pack of nuts, just be careful about finding ones not roasted in vegetable oils. Usually pistachios are a good bet. Pork rinds/skins, while probably coming from questionable sources and poorer quality animals, might be an acceptable choice. Again, find ones that aren't cooked in any added oils. It should just say pork and salt on the ingredients. You might be able to find cans of sardines or tuna or something similar at a gas station as well. Again, be careful about them being packed in soybean or other kinds of junk oils.

The best option of course is to be prepared.
Bring a can of sardines, herring, salmon, or whatever you prefer. I like to stick a can of fish in my pocket just in case (yay for cargo pants/shorts!)
Bring your own bag of nuts, coconut flakes, carrots and celery, or anything else you can think of.
A can of coconut milk can even work as a snack. The light stuff, like a can form Trader Joe's, will usually work better than a can of the full fat milk for straight drinking like that.
Make your own jerky.
Bring an insulated lunch bag/cooler and put an ice pack in it if carrying something that needs to keep cool. You can easily take delicious home prepared paleo meals in containers in one of these.
Last but not least, just skip eating (intermittent fasting). If you're metabolism is in proper working order, you're fat adapted, and your insulin levels are where they should be then you can skip meals without getting really low blood sugar or having problems. After a little while the hunger will subside some and you can just eat later when food becomes available. No you won't die or lose muscle or anything crazy at all. Healthy people should be able to do this. Ah, the joys of not being insulin resistant.

Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Does it have to be so complicated?

As some of you may know, I like to keep things simple. I see no need to complicate things more than necessary. Do you really need to measure, weigh, and count every bit of food you eat, making something so basic and essential to survival a neurotic endeavor? Do you really need to do 20 different exercises, timing and calculating every rest period and weight percentage, isolating every muscle, every workout? For most people the answer is no. People have been surviving, very healthily I might add, and staying in good shape for thousands of years without driving themselves crazy with this stuff. All I'm trying to say is that there's advanced and specific methods out there, and they should only be used for advanced and specific needs/goals. If all you want to do is be healthy, then eat well (good "paleo" type foods), and stay active. Start off simply, listen to your body. When you're hungry, eat, and when you're not, don't. Move around, maybe lift some heavy stuff, or do some activities you enjoy. When you feel good and have more energy, really go for it, and at times when you feel really tired and beat down, take it easy. You can get a pretty long way just doing those simple things. Now are there circumstances or goals where things need to get a little more complicated than that? Well yes. All I'm saying is start simple, then if need be, take it from there. It's kind of like building a base, get your basics down, then if you need to advance from there go ahead, but don't get your cart ahead of the horse. Why not save the complicated stuff for only when it's really needed? I know, many people are impatient, we like the quickest results, and we like to analyze things and make sure everything is going as planned, but being healthy doesn't have to be so complicated. We all know how unhealthy stress is, maybe a little more simplicity could help keep you in better health in and of itself.

Thursday, June 23, 2011

Super Salivatingly Succulent Ribs, Sasquatch Style

Ribs...mmm... I love them! I get mouth watery just thinking about them. Nothing says delicious like juicy, melty, sliding off the bone, succulent ribs.

I ended up finding a gorgeous rack of local grass-fed beef spare ribs (a little over 4lbs).
I use the oven most often for cooking ribs. I like them in the crock pot too, and they're probably best cooked on the grill or smoker, but for the best combination of easy and delicious I tend to go with the oven.
Tip: never boil your ribs, yes it can make them tender, but it removes all of the flavor! You'll be eating bland meat and just tasting whatever sauce you slather them with, ugh.

Get a big glass pyrex type baking dish, and grease the bottom lightly with coconut oil (or suitable substitute).
Rinse off ribs, pat them dry with a paper towel, then set in the dish. Some people remove the membrane on the bottom of the ribs, I always leave it on, I like the texture, and it helps hold things together. If you're going to remove it though, go ahead and do so now. Using a spoon to slide under it after you get the edge started will probably make it easier. Then make up a dry rub consisting of coriander, cumin, smoked paprika, paprika, chipotle, salt, and pepper. You can also use mesquite seasoning, and salt to make it simpler. Then rub the ribs all over with the rub mix. Cover the dish with tin foil, and set in the fridge for a few hours.
When ready to cook, preheat the oven to 250F, insert dish of ribs covered with foil, and cook for 4 hours. You can also cook them at 300F for about 3 hours. After the allotted time, remove the foil with something other than your hand (be careful, its hot and very hot steam will probably come out), turn on the broiler and broil for just a minute (watch them and be very careful not to let them burn). Another option is to finish them on the grill. If you're using a barbecue sauce, spread it on before broiling, this will firm up the sauce on them.
after removing foil and applying a little sauce on part of them to try

You could try the barbecue sauce in the Primal Blueprint Cookbook (which is a great cookbook btw), or another paleo barbecue sauce like the one here from Son of Grok that seems to be pretty popular. I made an experimental mustard based barbecue sauce (here in SC mustard based is how BBQ sauce is done, haha) to try on part of the ribs, as you can see in the pictures. I also tried a little coconut cream concentrate on a couple of bites too just for the heck of it, heh heh, couldn't help myself. I think I actually liked them best without anything else on them, the dry rub and the natural flavor of the ribs was pretty spot on fantastic. They were actually so freakin good I ate 3/4ths of them, Sasquatch appetite :)
out of the oven, that lone rib at the top is because the dish wasn't long enough

Pork Osso Buco (sort of)

I ran across an Osso Buco cut of local pastured pork the other day at the store, which is basically a pork shank, it was a good price so I picked it up. Osso Buco means marrow bone in Italian, and "Osso Buco" recipes are traditionally made with veal shanks. I decided to whip up something similar to osso buco with what I had laying around.

4-qt pressure cooker
I busted out the handy pressure cooker for this one. Most recipes call for braising in the oven, a crock pot would work too. The pressure cooker saves a lot of time though.


I also got some pork neck cuts (they were super cheap) from the same place when I got the osso buco shank, I figured I'd cook them in with it too. I put them all in a bowl, and dredged in coconut flour (note: dipping the meat in mixed up raw egg before dredging would probably have made the flour stick better when cooking it).





Chopped up a few carrots, a couple stalks of celery, and half an onion, and a couple of cloves of garlic.

I then heated up the pressure cooker, greasing the bottom with some lamb tallow I had. Then browned the meat on medium high heat, tossing in the onions about half way through. After meat was browned I tossed in the rest of the veggies, and poured in probably about 1/4 cup of marsala cooking wine. Then I put in about a cup of homemade stock I had a few made a few days before. After everything was in the pot I sprinkled in some parsley, rosemary, black pepper, a little cloves, a couple of bay leaves, and squirted in a little lemon juice.  Next I stuck on the lid, locked it in place, and when the pressure valve popped up I turned the heat down lower, just enough to keep the pressure steady.

After cooking for 45 mins, I took the pressure cooker off the burner and let it cool down using the "natural release method", which is just letting it sit till it cools enough that the valve releases on its own.
after cooking was finished


final result
I served it in a bowl, with some broccoli I had steamed while it cooked, and salted to taste. End result: melt in your mouth, tender, and tasty.