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Hippocrates said “Let food be thy medicine and medicine be thy food”.

Centuries later, Michael Pollan said “Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.”

These quotes demonstrate that the foundation for excellent health has not changed much through time – it is still very rooted in our diets. These delicious recipes will entice you to improve your health through the power of nutrition and the pleasure of good food.

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Strategies for Managing Dietary Protein

What are some strategies to sneak more protein into one’s diet?

It’s not difficult to get enough protein. Adults require a 0.8 – 1 gram per kilogram of body weight.

Once you work out what your target intake is, familiarize yourself with the protein content of your favourites. If you can’t tolerate a lot of meat, try more easily digested protein sources, such as poultry, fish, eggs and tofu or tempeh. Chicken breast is 31% protein by weight; tuna is 30%; eggs are 12% and tofu is 8%.

For example, if you weigh 150 lbs or 68 kilograms, you need about 54 – 68 grams of protein per day, depending on your level of physical activity. If you have a 3 egg omelet for breakfast (18 grams), lentil soup with swiss cheese on soda crackers for lunch (23 grams) and a chicken caesar salad for dinner (29 grams), you will have consumed 70 grams of protein. This total does not include protein from beverages or other foods you would probably consume in a day.

If you need to, you can increase your protein intake by having a protein drink once per day as a snack. You can purchase prepared products (e.g. Glucerna, Boost or Ensure) or make your own using Greek yogurt, milk or soy milk as the protein source.

This article originally appeared as an answer on Quora.

Demystifying Popular Diets

The internet is a great source of information but unfortunately not all of the information is of good quality, and this is especially true regarding diets, nutrition and health.  As a result, many people are confused about diets: low carb, low fat, high protein, Keto, Paleo and so on.  Here are some typical questions:

What is the difference between the Paleo and a Keto diet?

A key difference is whether the diet causes ketosis or not.  The Paleo diet is not necessarily ketogenic and the Keto diet is necessarily ketogenic.

Ketone bodies are chemicals that are created when your metabolism shifts from using carbohydrate as its immediate source of fuel to using fat for that purpose.  The Keto diet takes its name from its propensity to generate ketone bodies, or to induce ketosis, the process of creating ketones.  It is intended to cause ketosis.  The Paleo diet restricts the intake of starchy foods but doesn’t obligate you to skew your caloric intake towards foods that are high in protein and/or fat.  As a result, it doesn’t have to cause ketosis.

Most of the early research on ketogenic diets was done in connection with their use as a treatment for people with neurological illnesses such as epilepsy[1]. In the 1970’s, Dr. Robert Atkin’s popularized the ketogenic approach as a treatment for obesity and heart disease[2].

The Paleo diet is mostly what people who are not anthropologists imagine paleolithic people ate. In my opinion, the theory (propaganda) behind it is mostly BS.  According to National Geographic,

“There’s been a consistent story about hunting defining us and that meat made us human,” says Amanda Henry, a paleobiologist at the Max Planck Institute for Evolutionary Anthropology in Leipzig. “Frankly, I think that misses half of the story. They want meat, sure. But what they actually live on is plant foods.” What’s more, she found starch granules from plants on fossil teeth and stone tools, which suggests humans may have been eating grains, as well as tubers, for at least 100,000 years—long enough to have evolved the ability to tolerate them.


The notion that we stopped evolving in the Paleolithic period simply isn’t true. Our teeth, jaws, and faces have gotten smaller, and our DNA has changed since the invention of agriculture. “Are humans still evolving? Yes!” says geneticist Sarah Tishkoff of the University of Pennsylvania.[3]

That said, the Paleo diet can be a healthy option for many people.  I just think it’s unfortunate and unnecessary to eliminate entire food groups (dairy, legumes, grains) based on an imagined impression of how our ancestors ate.

What kind of diet should I follow?

If you are in good health, you do not need to follow any particular kind of diet.  Most people thrive on a varied diet that emphasizes vegetables.  This does not mean you need to become a vegetarian or a vegan.  It does mean you should consider Michael Pollan’s advice to

Eat food.  Mostly plants.  Not too much. [4]

Pollan has also recommended that we not eat anything our grandmothers would not recognize as food.  Since this recommendation  has a shelf-life by virtue of the speed at which food products are developed, I think we should interpret this to mean we should focus on food in a natural or near-natural state.  Visually, this translates into an intake that looks something like this:

What you see illustrated is balanced portions of proteins and starches served with an abundance of non-starchy vegetables as a reminder to pay attention to portions as well food content.  This approach typifies the advice given in programs such as Weight Watchers and Jenny Craig but it works for people who want to maintain a healthy weight as well as those who want to lose a few pounds.

While there is no one-size-fits-all dietary solution, this approach will work for most people, especially those that do not have metabolic issues, such as type 2 diabetes, for example.    If you have problems with your blood sugar, you might need to reduce the proportion of starchy foods and sweets (including fruits) further.  In this instance, discuss your needs with your MD, and ND or a dietician.

Footnotes

[1] Ketonemia and Seizures: Metabolic and Anticonvulsant Effects of Two Ketogenic Diets in Childhood Epilepsy

[2] Atkins Diet | Encyclopedia.com

[3] The Evolution of Diet

[4] 7 Rules for Eating

Parts of this article originally appeared on Quora.

9 Tips For Easier Dieting

How can you make dieting easier?

Some people find changing the way they eat incredibly difficult. They view it as a committment to a lifetime of deprivation. If you have to stop eating foods that cause symptoms of disease, such as gluten, the “deprivation” will result in better health. If you are making changes to assist with weight management, the deprivation is likely to be temporary, and viewing how you eat as a long term lifestyle choice instead of a temporary change to deal with weight, for example, can make committing to the changes easier.

The tips below focus on these strategies: controlling appetite, controlling calories, and promoting a satisfied feeling.

  1. Drinking water when you feel hungry can reduce your caloric intake; some people have difficulty distinguishing between hunger and thirst. The feeling of fullness created by the water can be satiating. Studies show drinking 500 ml of water before a meal can increase metabolism[1] and reduce caloric intake by suppressing appetite[2].
  2. Food journalling can make it easier to be mindful of portion sizes and calorie intakes. There are apps, such as Cara and Samsung Health, that can track food, mood, exercise, sleep and other factors in your health[3].
  3. Learn what a portion is[4]. It’s easy for portion sizes to become distorted, resulting in a greater than needed caloric intake. As little as an extra 100 calories per day can amount to a 10 pound weight gain in a year. Use your hand to estimate an appropriate portion size, as illustrated below.
  4. Think about what you can eat, instead of focusing on foods you want to avoid, to mitigate feelings of deprivation. If your eating plan includes foods that are not familiar or favorites, saying “I get to eat [unfamiliar food]” instead of “I have to eat [unfamiliar food]” makes the attitudinal shift easier to manage.
  5. Deal with any tendency to eat for emotional reasons, such as stress. Your food journal can include notes about your mood or stressors. Externalizing how you feel by writing it down can make the feelings and the need for comfort less intense. Deep breathing exercises can be powerfully stress-reducing. Exercise, even if it’s in the form of going for a gentle walk, can ease stress[5] and temporarily suppress appetite[6].
  6. Alter the content of your food to make your diet work for you. Healthy fats[7]and fiber suppress appetite[8]. An avocado might be labelled as fattening, but if you account for its calories in your daily limit, what you get in exchange is heart-healthy mono-unsaturated fat and 7 grams of fiber per 100 grams (about a quarter of your daily intake), plus vitamin C, vitamin B6, magnesium and iron[9]. Nutrient dense foods with a low impact on blood sugar like this should be your focus.
  7. Use caffeine in moderation to control appetite. Caffeine sources such as coffee and green tea can boost metabolism[10] and promote fat burning[11]. A moderate intake is considered to be 2 – 3 cups (500 – 750 ml) per day. Remember to include substances such as cream and sugar used in your drink in your calorie count for the day.
  8. Chew slowly and thoroughly. The way you chew can make a difference to your metabolism[12] and caloric intake[13].
  9. Make sure you get enough sleep. The amount and quality of your sleep have significant impacts on hormone regulation and metabolic effects with respect to body weight[14].

Parts of this article originally appeared on Quora.

Footnotes

[1] Water-induced thermogenesis.

[2] Water consumption increases weight loss during a hypocaloric diet intervention in middle-aged and older adults.

[3] Barriers and Negative Nudges: Exploring Challenges in Food Journaling

[4] Overweight and obesity – use of portion control in management.

[5] Exercise and stress: Get moving to manage stress

[6] Exercise-induced suppression of acylated ghrelin in humans.

[7] Gut fat signaling and appetite control with special emphasis on the effect of thylakoids from spinach on eating behavior.

[8] Addition of Rye Bran and Pea Fiber to Pork Meatballs Enhances Subjective Satiety in Healthy Men, but Does Not Change Glycemic or Hormonal Responses: A Randomized Crossover Meal Test Study | The Journal of Nutrition | Oxford Academic

[9] Avocados

[10] Can Coffee Increase Your Metabolism and Help You Burn Fat?

[11] Effects of caffeine on energy metabolism, heart rate, and methylxanthine metabolism in lean and obese women.

[12] Eating slowly increases the postprandial response of the anorexigenic gut hormones, peptide YY and glucagon-like peptide-1.

[13] Increased chewing reduces energy intake, but not postprandial glucose and insulin, in healthy weight and overweight young adults.

[14] Role of sleep and circadian disruption on energy expenditure and in metabolic predisposition to human obesity and metabolic disease

Dealing With Stress-Eating

How do I stop stress eating?

The silver lining in this cloudy situation is the fact that you recognize you are stress-eating.  This gives you more power over your behaviour than you might think.

While your question targets eating as the source of your concern, the underlying problem is stress.  If you deal with the stress, the binge eating will become easier to resolve and may subside on its own.

The adrenal glands are significantly involved in the physiological experience of stress which is mediated by hormones, adrenaline (also called epinephrine) and cortisol in particular. 

Adrenal hormones:

  • help regulate your body’s stores of salt and water,
  • influence the physiology of stress, metabolism and inflammation, and
  • contribute to sex hormone levels for androgens such as DHEA and testosterone.
Image result for adrenal glands actions

Image source: https://slideplayer.com/slide/9713487/

Chronic and/or recurrent levels of high stress cause your adrenals to work hard and they can eventually begin to underperform.  Naturopaths call this “adrenal fatigue”.

Adrenal fatigue can be characterized by abnormal patterns of cortisol secretion that contribute to cravings for sugar, salt and comfort foods.  The alteration in the pattern of cortisol secretion can result in chronic low energy or low energy in the morning and a high energy “wired” state at night.

Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (CBT) is a fantastic tool for managing perceptions that promote stress.  Support from a therapist or counsellor can be very helpful too.

There are, however, two very simple things you could begin to do RIGHT NOW that would make an immediate difference:

  1. Substitute water for soda – even diet soda.  Cortisol can distort your blood sugar level, as can the caffeine and aspartame in diet soft drinks – you need to stabilize your blood sugar.  Moreover, there are several studies that show aspartame can affect cognitive function and mood.
  2. Until you feel ready to get regular exercise, do deep breathing exercises.  Your body’s response to stress is largely controlled by the part of your nervous system called the Sympathetic Nervous System.  It’s partner, the Parasympathetic Nervous System, is the main controller of the relaxation response.  Deep (diaphragmatic) breathing triggers parasympathetic activity. This page on marksdailyapple.com provides details on the how’s and why’s.

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Parts of this article originally appeared on Quora.