Tag Archives: paleo

The Ultimate Guide to Cooking Oils

Cooking oil is a ubiquitous pantry item, no matter what your diet–high-fat, low-fat, vegan, and paleo eaters all need it. This isn’t a bad thing, as fat is vital to the proper functioning of the body. However, unlike in the days of your grandmother, when there was butter, olive oil, canola oil, and maybe one other fancy shmancy oil for special dressings, the modern grocery shopper has their choice of a dizzying array of liquid lipids.

First, a Handy Dandy Chart

I’m giving full credit to theconsciouslife.com for this chart. It’s fantastic and I immediately recognized that I could not do better at this time.

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 7.42.11 PM Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 7.41.59 PM chart of cooking oilsLegend:
SFA: Saturated fatty acids
MUFA: Monounsaturated fatty acids
PUFA: Polyunsaturated fatty acids
Ω-3: Omega-3 fatty acids
Ω-6: Omega-6 fatty acids
Ω-9: Omega-9 fatty acids
Ω-6:3 Ratio: Omega-6 to omega-3 ratio
Smoke Point: The temperature at which a cooking oil starts to burn and produce chemicals that are potentially harmful.

 

What Does It All Mean?

The Omegas

Science tells us that no matter what your budget, or how delicious butter is, it’s really important to balance your omega-3 and omega-6s. What are these silly things? They’re essential polyunsaturated fatty acids, and are crucial for proper brain and body function.

Though omega-6 is necessary for a brain function, hair and skin growth, bone health, regulation of the metabolism, and maintenance of the reproductive system, too much can cause inflammation. Most Westernized eaters consume far too much, which leaving out it’s counterpart, omega-3 (which cuts down on inflammation). This lack of balance has been been blamed for a host of common 1st world diseases, from dementia to Complete Regional Pain Syndrome.

Omega 9, the fairly new kid on the health awareness block, is equally important for hearth health and blood sugar control. This omega is also likely to increase your metabolism with consumption, and improve your moods. It’s most likely found hanging out in canola oil, nuts, and avocados.

Screen Shot 2013-12-16 at 8.03.01 PMfrom goodfats101.com

The bottom line: you’re probably getting enough omega-6, so it’s a good idea to focus on getting more omega-3 and omega-9. 

Smoking Point

When an oil starts to smoke, it means that it’s breaking down. What that means for you, as a chef, is that if it gets any hotter, your food is not going to taste very good, and you’ll some of the health benefits from your dish. Lastly, the blueish smoke you see rising from your dish is made up of acrolein, which can really do a number on your eyes and throat. If your pan starts smoking, turn off the fire, turn on a fan or open a window, and give it some space to cool down.

In general, for high heat operations, such as sauteeing, deep frying, or grilling, you’ll want to use vegetable oils. The main exception to this rule is hydrogenated vegetable shortening. The only animal fat that is suitable for this kind of operation is ghee, or clarified butter.

Lower smoke point oils, such as coconut and oil, are great for everything from coatings to salad dressings. Their more pronounced flavors will lend that special flare to your dish, without you having to worry about losing them to the heat of cooking.

Flaming_wok_by_KellyB_in_Bountiful,_Utah

What oil is your favorite to use? Do you have any unique oils in your pantry?

 

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Healthy Holiday Potluck Recipes

Thanksgiving just scooted by, Christmas is just around the corner, and it seems like every weekend is another holiday party! In honor of it being Friday (you probably are going to something festive tomorrow, right?) I’ve made a list of delicious, healthy potluck items to bring to wow your friends and your trainer.

“It Only Took You 10 Minutes? Liar!” (Easy)

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“Oh My, You Didn’t Have To Do All That!”(Medium)

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“You Know, Not Everything Is A Competition…” (Hard)

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Do you have a favorite I’ve forgotten? Let me know in the comments!

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The Big Four

Want to lose weight? Control your acne? Improve mental clarity?

These four diets are what I believe to be the “extremes,” with most other (safe and healthy) eating plans being a combination of qualities from them. They each have unique pros and cons, which I’ve listed in each description.

For any diet, it’s important that calories are kept within a reasonable limit, and that you do what feels right for your body.

Let’s start out with the majority of readers’ “ground zero”…

Western Pattern, Meat-Sweet, or the Standard American Diet (SAD)

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This way of eating has overtaken the majority of Westerners, and is spreading through the world as each new fast food chain is opened. Most calories are taken in through red meat, sugary desserts, and refined grains, along with high fat foods. A large amount of dairy is typically added, along with highly sugared beverages and processed animal products.

The macronutrient breakdown is generally about 50% carbohydrates, 15% protein, and 35% fat–which, if eaten through different foods, could make up a healthy intake, but the concerning aspect of this way of eating lies more with the overly processed nature of the foods. (1)

Pros: Easy to maintain as it fits with cultural habits, generally inexpensive, low prep time per meal.

Cons: Difficult to maintain control over calories as the high glycemic load of this diet induces cravings and blood sugar variances in most adults. 

Now on to the good stuff…

The Paleolithic Diet

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get the recipe

This diet is based off of the idea that if it can’t be found in nature, don’t eat it if a human wouldn’t eat it before the agricultural revolution, it’s not food (thanks Mike D for correcting me!). Because of that guideline, those who follow a Paleolithic–usually shortened to just “paleo”–diet plan eat plenty of meats, vegetables, fruits, and tubers, while scorning dairy, grains and processed foods (from wheat to bologna). This diet’s macros are highly variable, and depend on what the eater prefers.

If using this diet for weight loss, or to treat diabetes, it’s a good idea to go light on the fruits and tubers, and eat mostly meats and vegetables. If this diet is adopted as a possible remedy for various maladies such as acne, frequent headaches, and hormonal imbalances(2)–many of which are theorized to be caused by various allergies, excessive sodium intake, gluten, unnatural chemicals in food, or high blood sugar–the dieter should experiment with macronutrient amount and timing to achieve their desired result.

Pros: Is reported to help treat many diseases, allergies, and, depending on your choice of food, can assist with weight loss. 

Cons: Can be moderately difficult to maintain in social settings. Because grass fed meats and dairy, and organic produce are highly recommended, this diet can be expensive to maintain. 

For more information: The Beginner’s Guide, What To Eat On The Paleo Diet, The Paleo SubReddit

Ketogenic Diet

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get the recipe

This diet, often simply referred to as “keto,” has a similar menu to the Paleo diet, but for different reasons. Originally used to treat some forms of child epilepsy, this way of eating was popularized for weight loss by Dr. Atkins. The keto diet as we know it today maintains the recommended maximum of 30 grams of carbohydrates a day–shared by both the medical diet and the Atkins diet–as well as a defined macro recommendation that the daily calorie breakdown should be 30% protein, 65% fat, and 5% or less carbohydrates (remember that fats are 9 calories per gram, whereas protein and carbohydrates are 4 calories per gram).

This diet consists almost entirely of leafy green vegetables, fatty cuts of meat, eggs, hard cheeses, and small amounts of nuts and berries. Because of the diuretic effect of this plan, users should be careful to both drink plenty of water, and ensure that they are consuming enough electrolytes (sodium, potassium, magnesium).

Unlike many other diets, this plan must be adhered to diligently to get results–dieters will not get nearly the same benefits by partially adhering, either by only following the “rules” some days of the week, or by not cutting carbohydrates out enough. Do not be mistaken, there is benefit to lowering carbohydrates, but the dramatic results that are associated with keto–improved mental clarity, acne cessation, hunger suppression, and rapid weight loss for those with 30+ pounds of extra fat–will not take effect until the body enters ketosis, as this diet’s success relies on hormone and energy regulation, and has a chemical impact on the functioning of your body:

Ketosis is a state in which your body has run out of glycogen (sugar), and is using fat for energy, including your brain. This can take anywhere from 3-10 days to achieve, during which many experience the “keto flu,” a state in which the body is adjusting to the new energy source. The dieter will feel sluggish and dim, and possibly experience headaches and mild nausea. Once the body is adjusted, however, dieters report feeling “smarter,” more alert, free of cravings and severe hunger pangs, and even (in some, not all) needing to sleep less hours every night.

Pros: Can remedy many maladies caused by high blood sugar and gluten. Is very helpful for those suffering from diabetes, or are pre-diabetic. Regulates hunger and greatly diminishes cravings. Some evidence that the diet “starves” cancerous growths. (3)

Cons: Can be very difficult to maintain in social settings. Many, including some doctors, combat the diet openly, as there is a belief that fat and red meat will lead to cancer, high cholesterol, and heart disease–though keto dieters tend to have improved blood panels after a few months. 

For more information: The Keto Calculator, Diet 911 by Muscle & Fitness, The Keto SubReddit

Vegetarian

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get the recipe

The majority of vegetarian dieters are lacto-ovovegetarian, in that they do not eat animal products, save for eggs, dairy, and honey. (4) Fruits, vegetables, grains, and legumes are all encouraged.

Those who are looking to lose weight should be mindful of their grain intake, as calories can accumulate, though it can be tempting to turn to breads and pastas out of convenience. Dieters should also be mindful of their protein intake, and ensure that they are eating plenty of beans, dairy, eggs, and nuts. The healthfulness of eating excessive amounts of soy is still under debate, though some–especially men–have reported ill effects.

This diet can be extremely nutritious if the dieter primarily eats vegetables and fruits. It’s easy to have a wide variety of tastes, as many are culturally vegetarian.

Pro: Easy to maintain in a social setting. Wide variety of foods available.

Cons: Some foods that qualify as vegetarian are low in nutritional value, so a high level of self control is necessary for maintaining or losing weight. 

For more information: Becoming Vegetarian, Vegetarian Times

Vegan

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get the recipe

Like vegetarians, vegans do not eat animal products–and also do not eat eggs, dairy, or honey, which can make it a little bit harder for them to get adequate protein. With the right planning, this diet can be just as complete as any other, though the same precautions against excessive refined carbohydrates (namely bread and pasta) should be taken as with vegetarians.

Because of the extensive restrictions on food that can be eaten, it’s highly recommended that those considering adopting this lifestyle plan out how they will eat to ensure that they get enough fat, protein, and minerals.

Veganism has been reported to have many health benefits, often in ways unique to the particular dieter, and can include allergy and asthma relief. If done right, the food a vegan consumes is much lower in calories than the same volume of non-vegan food, and can be a very effective diet for weight loss. (5)

Pros: Is reported to help alleviate hypertension, obesity, and may play a part in preventing cancer. (6If the dieter avoids processed grains, the food is generally very low in calories, and thus conducive to weight loss. 

Cons: Can be very difficult to maintain in a social setting, as many dishes include non-vegan ingredients, such as butter while cooking. 

For more information: 10 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Went Vegan, How to Be a Vegan and Stay Healthy

How do you like to eat? What makes you feel best? Have you tried any of these?

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The case for Intermittent Fasting

This past weekend was the Jewish holiday of Yom Kippur. On this day, Jews around the world (and their doting husbands, apparently) do not eat from sun down to sun down, and reflect on their misdeeds of the previous year and how they can better themselves.

The effects of fasting has many purposes. For the very religious, the belief is that the spirit–the life force that animates the physical body–is forced to be uncomfortable as it’s “home” suffers. For the not-so religious, such as me and my husband, the mental and emotional blunting that comes along with fasting serves as an official time to reflect and be in a semi-meditative state for much longer than is usually possible. We have made it our “family” custom to spend this time together, really appreciate each other as people, and talk out any problems that may have been festering throughout the year.

And for everyone, the effects fasting has on blood sugar, insulin sensitivity, and disease prevention can be interesting, to say the least.

“Eat like a lion”

That quote seems to be fairly popular within the intermittent fasting(IF) community, and it’s not hard to see why. Our ability as humans to run long distances serves as proof that we were, for a long time, a persistence hunting species (we actually still are in some parts of the world).

If you’re interested in learning more about our long distances abilities, this is a great talk to watch:

The major take-away quotes from this video that relate to fasting are:

Two million years ago the human brain exploded in size. Australopithecus had a tiny little pea brain. Suddenly humans show up — Homo erectus — big, old melon-head. To have a brain of that size, you need to have a source of condensed caloric energy. In other words, early humans are eating dead animals — no argument, that’s a fact. The only problem is, the first edged weapons only appeared about 200,000 years ago. So, somehow, for nearly two million years, we are killing animals without any weapons. Now, we’re not using our strength because we are the biggest sissies in the jungle. Every other animal is stronger than we are — they have fangs, they have claws, they have nimbleness, they have speed. We think Usain Bolt is fast. Usain Bolt can get his ass kicked by a squirrel.”

“Maybe we evolved as a hunting pack animal. Because the one advantage we have in the wilderness — again, it’s not our fangs and our claws and our speed — the only thing we do really, really well is sweat. We’re really good at being sweaty and smelly. Better than any other mammal on Earth, we can sweat really well. But the advantage of that little bit of social discomfort is the fact that, when it comes to running under hot heat for long distances, we’re superb, we’re the best on the planet. You take a horse on a hot day, and after about five or six miles, that horse has a choice. It’s either going to breathe or it’s going to cool off, but it ain’t doing both — we can. So what if we evolved as hunting pack animals? What if the only natural advantage we had in the world was the fact that we could get together as a group, go out there on that African Savannah, pick out an antelope and go out as a pack and run that thing to death? That’s all we could do. We could run really far on a hot day.”

It can be logically argued that it is not natural for us to eat 3 small meals and snacks a day. This is the foundation for the theory of intermittent fasting as a whole.

What is Intermittent Fasting?

IF is the practice of fasting for a period of 10+ hours.

The most popular options are not eating for 14-16 hours every day, and having a “window” of allowed caloric intake, or fasting completely for 24 hours, twice a week, with normal intake the other 5 days.

Brad Pilon explains it best here:

Benefits to IF

There is evidence that regular fasting for short amounts of time (under 48 hours) has a similar effect on the body as regular exercise on both heart and brain function and disease resistence, though there are still some unknowns. Multiple studies have found implications that fasting regularly can reduce the risk for disease, even in those genetically prone:

“After 3 months of IF or regular every-day feeding (control) diets started in 2-month-old rats, myocardial infarction (MI) was induced by coronary artery ligation [tying]. Twenty-four hours after MI, its size in the IF group was 2-fold smaller, the number of apoptotic myocytes in the area at risk was 4-fold less, and the inflammatory response was significantly reduced compared with the control diet group. ”

— Cardioprotection by Intermittent Fasting in Rats
Ismayil Ahmet, MD, PhD; Ruiqian Wan, PhD; Mark P. Mattson, PhD; Edward G. Lakatta, MD; Mark Talan, MD, PhD
Available here: http://circ.ahajournals.org/content/112/20/3115.long
 

Essentially the findings of that study are that rodents kept on an IF schedule suffered less cell death, and repaired more efficiently from the injury of having one of the valves in their heart tied closed (as close as researchers could get to mimicking a heart attack).

There are some studies that also suggest IF could have a hand in preventing Alheimer’s and Parkinson’s disease when started by middle age or sooner:

“IF may therefore protect neurons against adverse effects of Aβ and tau pathologies on synaptic function. We conclude that CR and IF dietary regimens can ameliorate age-related deficits in cognitive function by mechanisms that may or may not be related to Aβ and tau pathologies.”

– Intermittent fasting and caloric restriction ameliorate age-related behavioral deficits in the triple-transgenic mouse model of Alzheimer’s disease
Veerendra Kumar Madala Halagappa; Zhihong Guo; Michelle Pearson; Yasuji Matsuoka; Roy G. Cutler; Frank M. LaFerla; Mark P. Mattson,⁎
Available here: http://matsuokalab.georgetown.edu/pubs/2007%20Neurobiol%20Dis%20Caloric%20restriction.pdf

Lastly, there is evidence that IF can provide the same benefits to resting glucose and insulin sensitivity as a reduced calorie diet, even if the subject ends up eating as many calories (over a 48 hour time period) as they would had they not been restricted in any way:

“The findings of this study suggest that IF can enhance health and cellular resistance to disease even if the fasting period is followed by a period of overeating such that overall caloric intake is not decreased.”

– Intermittent fasting dissociates beneficial effects of dietary restriction on glucose metabolism and neuronal resistance to injury from calorie intake
R. Michael Anson, Zhihong Guo, Rafael de Cabo, Titilola Iyun, Michelle Rios, Adrienne Hagepanos, Donald K. Ingram, Mark A. Lane, Mark P. Mattson
Available here: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC156352/
 

Conclusion

I have never done IF, but writing this article has made me reevaluate my eating schedule. I’d love to try this, my only concern is the social aspect of it.

Have you ever fasted for health reasons? How did it go?

Do you practice IF? Why?

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Curry Chicken without the Coconut

Hello all! Welcome to my very first recipe blog.

I’m going to show you how to cook one my very favorite weeknight dinners. It’s super easy and super keto. Also it’s a curry with NO COCONUT in it! Hurray! One of my biggest trials with keto is that a lot of my favorite resources have started talking about how wonderful coconut is for you, and how helpful it is with LCHF diets…but alas, I am terribly allergic.

Without further ado, here is Chicken Curry, as performed by the newest Gatesman.

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Get out a nice big frying pan. I used stainless steel but there’s no reason not to use whichever one you want–just keep in mind that this recipe serves either 2 very hungry people or 3 normal people.

Add about 2 tablespoons of some kind of fat, I used olive oil because that’s what I had. Turn the pan to low to warm up.

While the pan is warming up, cut one of those big white onions in half. Put away one half, and dice the other half, like so:

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The oil should be hot now, so put those suckers in the pan. Add a cup of water right after you put them in…

….I know I know But Becca! this doesn’t let them caramelize. Keep in mind that this is my go-to week night dinner for when I want to be not-cooking ASAP. If you have the time to let them, then please, caramelize your onions. But it you don’t and you’re just going to burn them and call them caramelized, put the water in so you have tender onions, not burnt cracklings.

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Stir that sucker around. This is a good time to also add a heaping tablespoon of diced garlic or garlic in olive oil (what I used)

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Next up, get out two chicken boobs, or about 20 oz worth, raw. For you on the East coast, I used two of those massive ones from Wegmans.

Cut them up into pieces equal to or smaller than the size of your thumb. Put them in the pan with the onions and garlic.

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You can turn the heat up a little bit at this point, to low-medium. Or y’know, whatever you feel is appropriate–gas ranges are like that.

This is how high mine was, though:

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Alright, here comes the fun part!

I usually do a base layer of Badia Curry Powder. This is a pretty standard, American palate friendly curry powder, and it’s about $1.50 for 6 months worth.

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After the base layer is applied, it’s time for The Expensive Curry. These are my pistols in my own personal cooking Western.

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I usually apply 2-3 of the 5 options, depending how I feel and what smells like dinner to me that night. For this particular meal I used Tandoori, Balti, and a little bit of Maharajah.

This is also when you should apply your spice–I used about 2 teaspoons of Huy Fong Foods’ (that’s the company that makes Sriracha) Chili Garlic Sauce. Think strong thoughts. 

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Stir that bad boy up. Add another cup of water.

At this point, if you want to have a low fat meal, continue to simmer until done. It’ll look something like this

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However, those on the keto goodness track, add yer dollop of sour cream now. Or I guess your coconut oil if you’re reading this post for no good reason.

Yes, I’m using sour cream as a replacement for coconut. No, I’m not ashamed or sorry.

Yes, I’m using a cow product in Indian food. Deal with it. I’m just sacrilegious like that. If you can’t handle the heat, get out of the kitchen. And so on…

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Stir that bad boy up, simmer for a few more seconds until it’s pleasingly combined, and you’re done!

I served mine over cauliflower in various forms. My husband eats his over rice. We both win.

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2 tbsp olive oil
2 cups of water
2 chicken breasts
2 tbsp sour cream
generous curry powder
generous garlic
half a white onion
1 tbsp chili garlic sauce
1 tsp kosher salt

1. Add 2 tbsp oil to a pan. Turn flame on low
2. As the pan is warming up, chop up the onion
3. Add the onion to the pan. Add 1 cup of water and stir
4. Add diced up garlic, or garlic in olive oil (what I used, I’m lazy). Stir
5. Cut the chicken into pieces the same size as, or smaller, than your thumb
6. Add chicken to pan. Stir
7. Allow chicken to cook until halfway through, or about a minute.
8. Add curry powder, the second cup of water, and chili garlic sauce to pan. Stir
9. Add the sour cream (this is used in place of coconut milk, I find it’s a perfect replacement!). Stir
10. Check one of the bigger pieces of chicken for doneness, but it should be all set.

Serve over “rice’d” cauliflower, mashed cauliflower, or regular rice. If you put in as much chilli as I direct, you may want to put an extra dollop of sour cream on top 😉

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For the whole recipe: 

980 calories, 16 g total carbohydrates, 3 g fiber (13 g net carbs), 119 g protein, 43 g fat

For 1/3 (one serving)

327 calories, 5 g total carbohydrates, 1 g fiber (4 g net carbs), 40 g protein, 14 g fat

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Hello World, And How Are You?

Hello all. My name is Becca, and this blog is going to be my…thing.

I have a degree in advertising, but in my free time, I like to play nutritionist and science writer.

What this blog will contain:

  • Layman explanations of scientific articles, with sources, focusing on fitness and nutrition
  • My personal food experiments on myself and their results
  • Recipes
  • Occasional keto/paleo evangelistic posts. If you don’t agree with these life styles please just keep scrolling, I can’t help myself, really.
  • Life
  • Pictures and comics that may or may not be on topic…

I just want to say right now that I do not have any degree or certification. All advice you find here should be taken as from a friend, not a doctor.  

As far as feedback, please feel free to comment! I love discussing this stuff, and if I post anything that you find confusing or offensive or amazingly inspired, please let me know!

 

And here….

                ..we…..

                                ….GO!

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