Chronicles of Less Urban Living, Fresh from In the Night Farm

Primal Nutrition

Stop Being Stupid

Last Friday night, as a houseguest, I witnessed the following:

A loving grandmother, whose cooking options were limited due to the recent demise of her stove, fed dinner to an 18-month old, a 4-year old, and a 12-year old.  Cereal came out first.  Cheerios and something along the lines of Cinnamon Toast Crunch.  Cow’s milk (especially for the baby — good god, what is she, a calf?).  Orange juice — oh goody, liquid sugar!  And (blessedly), a salad with black olives.

As soon as the new stovetop was working, Grandmother heated water for Kraft mac n’ cheese.  She usually makes it from scratch, she told me, as if that excused shoveling gut-damaging pasta down the children’s unsuspecting throats.  It seems the grandchildren regularly visit on Fridays, so they always have dessert and “kid food.”

“Kid food,” apparently, is what one feeds to little brats whose parents have been too lazy to feed them real, healthful food.  Or maybe the parents just assume that kids “won’t” eat healthful food, so there’s no point trying.  Or maybe Grandmother just wants to make the little children smile.  Whatever the case, surely anybody in their right mind (even if their only health information comes from quacks like Dr. Oz and the USDA) knows that cheesy hotdogs and macaroni isn’t going to build healthy individuals.

Think the easy, cheap food choices don’t matter?  (After all, they’re young and resilient!)  Just look at the eldest grandchild.  She has fat rolls and weighs more than I do.  Her belly hangs over her waistband and bulges out beneath the hem of her shirt.  She has more than one chin.  She is clearly metabolically deranged and insulin resistant.  Type II diabetes nips at her heels.  She is twelve years old.

Does anybody else feel sorry for this kid?  Does anybody else wish that, when exposed to information about how to effect better heath through proper nutrition, the adults in her life would listen?  Does anybody really believe that feeding her even a single swallow of muffin or juice or cereal isn’t killing her?  Her situation is dire, folks.  Without major nutritional changes, this kid is doomed to a short and painful life.  And how many years will it be before her young cousins exhibit similar symptoms? 

Oh, I know this isn’t all Grandmother’s fault.  She doesn’t provide most of the kids’ meals.  But really, are “treats” that kill really treats?  Are they okay because they kill slowly, over decades rather than minutes?  Is “just a little” french toast drenched in sweet pancake batter and topped with powdered sugar acceptable because it’s…What?  Saturday morning?  Company is here?  We have a new oven?  Am I missing something that would make this decision appropriate?

Let’s review:

Grains create holes in the lining of the small intestine.  The more you eat, the worse it is, but even small amounts cause some damage (worse in some people than others).  These holes permit foreign or incompletely digested substances to enter the body.  There, they aggravate the immune system, resulting in inflammation and allergies, and they contribute to autoimmune conditions ranging from eczema and rheumatoid arthritis to acid reflux and IBS to Parkinson’s and MS. 

Whole grains also feature phytates in their bran.  These substances bind the minerals in the grain (and whatever is consumed with it), making them unavailable for use by the body.  So, while it is true that “healthy whole grains” contain some nutrition, your body can’t use it.  It may as well not be there.  (Get your fiber from a butternut squash, dummy.)

Finally, grains represent a calorie and carbohydrate dense, nutrient poor, food source.  Sure, they’re cheap and yummy and will make you feel good as their morphene-like compounds reach the pleasure centers in your brain, but they’ll also send your blood sugar skyward, demanding the release of insulin to bring it back into a safe range by storing it in the tissues…bodyfat tissues, unless you just completed a substantial amount of high intensity exercise.  As a result, you get a blood sugar crash (and cravings for more carbohydrate) about 2 hours later.  Over time, excessive carb intake and resultant excessive insulin release leads to insulin resistance, type II diabetes, obesity, systemic inflammation, and high triglyceride levels.  Enter cancer, cardiovascular disease, and autoimmune conditions.  Hooray!  Just what we want for the grandkids we adore.

So…remind me why anyone would want to feed a child cereal, pasta, and toast.  Anybody?  Anybody???

And if your answer was “it’s all they’ll eat,” just shut the hell up and spare me the whining.  Cut the crap.  Grow a backbone.  When they get sufficiently hungry, they’ll eat real food.  Until then, at least you won’t be killing them with stabs and scoops of their spoons and forks.

Pass it on.

Five Days

I’ve been busy.  It has been all I could do to jot down my food journal, which you’ll find below.  You’ll see how I navigated the ubiquitous “work food” problem, elected for less physical stress in the face of other stressors, and thoroughly enjoyed a week of food and motion despite the frenzy.  I’m finally learning.

PBC Day 7

Fuel:  Coffee with heavy cream.  Grassfed burger (no bun) with grilled tomatillo salsa, sauteed onions, and cotija; sweet potato roasted in coconut oil; grilled asparagus.  Grilled lamb ribs with homemade barbecue sauce; baked sweet potato with butter; squash ribbons with sizzled garlic and sage leaves.

Workout:  None whatsoever.  I was busy checking out my new camper, plus I was dealing with a minor cold on top of seasonal allergies.  AaaaCHOO!  It’s nice that farm life requires at least forth minutes of general activity per day, no matter what else is going on.

PBC Day 8

Fuel:  Scrambled eggs with hot sauce.  The meat and lettuce off a Quiznos sandwich (I was at an all-day meeting, with lunch provided.  In anticipation of the usual lunch boxes, I brought a plastic fork and was able to dissect my sandwich with relative grace.  I donated my chips and cookie to my endurance-athlete friend and colleague, wincing sympathetically as I did so.)  Nuts and dried cherries.  (Supplementary lunch supplies!)  Kippered herring.  Primal enchiladas (beef and sauce, no tortillas, topped with cheese); plantains oven-fried in grassfed butter.  Shiraz.

Workout:  Bodyweight.  4x rotation of pushups, thrusters, pullups, planks, side planks.  Toss in some farm chores and an evening walk with my staghound, Wyrsa.

PBC Day 9

Fuel:  Coffee with heavy cream.  Eggs over easy with primal enchiladas (beef and sauce) topped with grassfed cheddar.  Watermelon.  BBQ lamb ribs, roasted sweet potatoes, grilled asparagus and garlic.  Blackberry, mango, and banana with cinnamon and heavy cream.  Gin on the rocks.

 I find it interesting that I’m eating more fruit lately than I normally do.  Usually, I come in around 2-3 servings per week — not per day!  I’m guessing it’s due to the end-of-summer abundance of fresh, local fruit combined with an uptick in my workout schedule.  No biggie.  Fruit isn’t the devil, especially for individuals who are already lean, but it’s an observation worth noting.

Workout:  Heavy day!  5x rotation of backsquats, military presses, deadlifts, and bench presses.  Also, a generally active day as I prepared for next weekend’s 5-day endurance race and moved around some hay bales to make way for another delivery.

PBC Day 10

Fuel:  Coffee with heavy cream.  Four scrambled eggs with hot sauce.  (Easily ignored pile of bagals and sweetened cream cheese at staff retreat.)  BBQ pulled pork, potato salad, fresh fruit, and a few veggies.  (Passed on the buns, chips, cookies, and brownies.  Relatively easy to navigate, as catered lunches go, though I’m sure there was plenty of sugar in the pork.)  Raw nuts and a few dried cherries.  Ground lamb curry and coconut-roasted sweet potato.  Gin.  (Ahhh, so nice to be home alone after all that slow-paced, touch-feely team-building, tools-for-idiots-who-don’t-know-how-to-plan stuff.)

Workout:  Just farm chores and a long, barefoot walk with Wyrsa.  Wore as little clothings as possible to soak up the evening sun.

PBC Day 11

Fuel:  Coffee with heavy cream.  Breakfast (at 11:00am — back on my own schedule, thank heavens!  Leftover bagals in the breakroom held little appeal.  The addiction is broken!) of leftover sweet potatoes and enchilada sauce with ground beef.  A few nuts and berries in late afternoon.  Lamburger with onions sauteed in butter, sliced tomato, sweet and yukon oven fries with seasoned salt and primal barbeque sauce.  Gin.

Workout:  Just chores and another walk with Wyrsa, again barefoot-ish (with Soft Stars) and wearing Vitamin D gear.  Part of me wanted to do more, but the other (smarter) part recognized that I’d had quite a stressful day at work, less-than-ideal sleep, and a weekend of hay stacking ahead.  Just walk, dummy!  So I did.

Embracing Discomfort

A Facebook friend of mine recently posted something to the effect that, in order to achieve optimum health, people need to learn to be hungry.  That is, they need to accept temporary hunger as a natural and even beneficial state. 

The thought stuck with me.  I tossed it around for a couple weeks and eventually realized that I believe my friend is onto something with regard not only to hunger, but other physical states as well.  Modern society seems determined to disconnect us from the world, with its attendant unpleasantness, as much as possible. 

We have vehicles to minimize the obstacles of terrain and distance; convenience stores, refrigerators, and plastic wrappers to ensure immediate access to food; heavily padded furniture, floors, and shoes to minimize our contact with natural surfaces.  We have high-tech clothing and HVAC systems and insulated homes to shield us from weather’s whims; machines to dig our holes and raise our beams; drugs to quell the unpleasant side effects of our own immune systems hard at work.

I’m not saying we should all go live in the woods.  I like my automatic dishwasher and flush toilet as much as the next guy.  I’m just saying that, given the extraordinary ability of our bodies to adapt to adverse conditions, perhaps we would be healthier if we actually asked our bodies to deal with more discomfort than our modern environment strictly requires.

Which leads me back to hunger.  Just because food is available on every corner doesn’t mean we are best adapted for a lifetime of full bellies.  Even if we take Chik-fil-A and Peanut M&M’s out of the equation, and assume a squeaky-clean paleo diet, we still don’t need to nosh constantly.  Like many paleos, I have discovered the unique pleasure (yes, pleasure) of hunger.  (I’m talking intermittent fasting, people, not anorexia or Auschwitz.)  It’s a kind of fasting that comes naturally when you really start listening to your body.  I talked about appropriate IF in this post.

But hunger is only one form of healthful discomfort.  What about physical effort?  I once read a Fitness Black Book article hypothesizing that fitness levels tend to correspond with pain tolerance.  That is, elite athletes have an unusually strong ability to push through pain (not injury, ideally) while unfit people are prone to “wimping out.”  Interestingly, exercise may increase pain tolerance over time.  Even if you’re the type that hates physical effort, whether it be occasional white-buffalo-in-the-sky hill sprints or 1RM tests under the bar, it seems you can improve your feelings about exercise by doing more of it.  You can certainly improve your health.

How about temperature?  I’ve mused lately over a series of posts at Critical MAS, in which the author experiments with cold exposure and its role in improving leanness, adaptability to stress, and more.  It’s interesting stuff, particularly since the nights are dropping into the 50’s now and I’m sleeping with the windows open, waking to invigorating chill, choosing to head outside with fewer layers than would keep me perfectly cozy.  Doing so encourages physical activity and, over time, broadens my comfort zone.  I behave similarly in the heat of summer, eschewing air conditioning in favor of letting my body experience the seasons in all their (ahem) glory.

There are other things.  I choose to sleep on an unusually hard surface.  I often avoid backrests in favor of core-enhanced posture.  I delay dinner for an hour or two while I do the farm chores and take an evening run.  I carry a box of tissue instead of swilling Dayquil.

It’s nothing major.  Certainly nothing dangerous.  And as discomfort goes, it feels surprisingly good.

You see, physiological benefit notwithstanding, we stand to gain mental and emotional fortitude by bearing up under — even seeking out and embracing — discomfort.  Call it “building character” ala Calvin and Hobbes, if you will, but it seems to me that improving our ability to deal with stressors makes us stronger.  And I really like being strong.

Just something to think about.

PBC Day 5

Fuel:  Coffee with heavy cream.  Eggs over easy, bacon, spaghetti squash fried in bacon fat, blackberries.  Coconut cream concentrate.  Tomato-cucumber salad topped with cotija, oil, vinegar, and dill.  Ground lamb and onion cooked in coconut milk with garam masala; sweet potato roasted in coconut oil.  Chardonnay. Apple with almond butter.  (And wow, that apple did me in.  Waaaay too much sugar.  I went to bed early, feeling as though I’d eaten a pint of Tin Roof Sundae.  Ugh.  I haven’t eaten a whole apple in so long that I’d fogotten how they affect me!)

Workout:  Barefoot trail run.  I also rode 16 miles on two horses and generally kept moving most of the day.

Hoofing It

I have weird feet.

It’s an unfortunate fact that severe bunions are not particularly attractive.  I’ve had mine so long that I remember when I didn’t realize that my feet were the abnormal ones, and all those people with people with perfectly straight feet weren’t cursed with an absurdly boring podiatrical condition.

It’s another unfortunate fact that severe bunions typically result in early and severe arthritis, as bones jammed together in unorthodox ways wear through the cartilage that is intended to slide between them.  I remember many nights during my undergrad work when my late-night studies were accompanied by burning pangs in my the large joints of my big toes.  There was nothing to do but grimace and let it pass.

Years of running (nothing impressive, just 4-6 miles most days, and a half-marathon in my early twenties) did the arthritis no favors.  It continued to stab at me almost daily, growing worse in winter and at night.  Fortunately, I have a high pain tolerance and didn’t figure the fiery pangs compared to the 3-month incapacitation associated with bunion surgery, which involves the chiseling away of large amounts of scarlike calcification, plus the intentional severing and re-setting of several  bones.  No thanks.

So here’s the cool thing:  I’m 33 now, I’ve been primal/paleo for over two years, and the arthritis pain is gone. 

Erm…isn’t arthritis supposed to get worse with age?

I still run sometimes.  In fact, I ran yesterday — just a couple miles along the rutted and rocky irrigation road that runs along the downhill side of my farm.  And get this:  I did it “barefoot.”  (I wore Soft Stars, which are comparable to the better-known Vibram Five Fingers  but lack the toe-shoe feature that I suspect would not accomodate my bunions.)  Barefoot running requires a toe-first landing that I would have dreaded three years ago.

While I’ll never be a yogi, I now make a habit of performing exercises that require the kind of extensive toe flexion that was impossible in my twenties.  Walking lunges.  One-legged barbell squats heavy enough to make my glutes sore for days.  Planks.  Pushups.

Winter still comes and goes.  I’m very active, spending entire weekends and weeknights on my feet.  I wear heels to work, though nothing steep or featuring pointed or narrow toeboxes.

And I hardly ever feel the arthritis.  Maybe once every 4 months.  Really.

Super.  Cool.

I don’t fully understand this.  Alleviation of rheumatoid arthritis, an inflammatory condition related to autoimmune problems, is a well-documented benefit of paleo nutrition.  However, osteoarthritis caused by a mechanical defect, like bunions, would seem to present a different challenge.  My bones are still crunching past each other at awkward angles, right?  So why is the pain gone?  Decreased inflammation?  Improved healing capacity?  Mark Sission shares some ideas here.

Whatever the details, I’ll take it!

PBC Day 4

Fuel: Coffee with heavy cream.  Grassfed ground beef sauteed with bacon and onions; eggs over easy.  Grassfed ground lamb in coconut milk with onions, garlic, garam masala, and sundried tomatoes served over sweet potato roasted in coconut oil.  Chardonnay.  Banana with almond butter and coconut cream concentrate.  (Yes, I often carb up a bit on Friday nights.)

Workout:  Nothing official.  I took a dog and my nano (yay!) for an hour’s walk/run along the canal.  Barefoot running is amazing for calf development.  You gotta try it.

(Not) Too Common

I’m thinking about entering Wednesday’s MDA contest.  It involves submitting my Primal success story, with photos.  The thing is, my success story isn’t dramatic.  I didn’t lose 100 pounds or put MS into remission or reverse type II diabetes.

On the other hand, I did get strong and sexy, and I solved a bunch of minor-but-persistent health issues that I was previously conditioned to accept as “they way things are.” 

So many people accept eczema, GI issues, heart disease, diabetes, acne, arthritis, hypoglycemia, mood swings, cravings, and myriad other conditions — not to mention the supposed age-induced creep of bat wings and spare tires — as “normal.”

These things are not normal.  They are common

My story is about being the exception.

Is yours?

PBC Day 4

Fuel: Coffee with heavy cream.  Grilled lamb chop and shrimp with pesto (no dairy) and garlic butter; herb-roasted potatoes, sweet potatoes, and onions.  Buttered spaghetti squash; stuffed pasilla.  Grilled grassfed burger (bunless) with smoked salt, avocado, bacon, and sauteed onions; cucumber-tomato salad with olive oil, vinegar, and dill.  Coconut cream concentrate.  Red wine.

Workout: 5x backsquats, bench presses, one-legged barbell squats, and military presses.  Feels fantastic to be back under the bar!  I also scurried about the farm for a while as soon as I got home from work, preparing for tan incoming thunderstorm that lasted half the night.  Rain!  And, I did a Feldenkrais lesson before bed.

Sound and Bites

I got a nano! 

Yeah, yeah, everyone else on the planet already has one.  But you have to understand, I am SO not the music or technology type.  But I like podcasts.  And audiobooks.  And it’s so teeny-weeny cute!

I ordered it a little, red jacket for clipping to my shorts for long walks or hill sprints.  I set up speakers in my gym so I can listen while I lift.  Now I just need some good music and a pair of earphones that don’t 1) fall out or 2) hurt my ears.

#2 applies to both the music and the headphones.  Any suggestions?

PBC Day 3

Food as Fuel:  Coffee with heavy cream.  Eggs scrambled with pulled pork, peppers, onions, and tomatoes; plantain roasted in coconut oil.  Coconut cream concentrate.  Grilled lamb chops with walnut-pecan-mint-sundried tomato-raisin-olive oil pesto; grilled shrimp with garlic butter; herb-roasted purple potatoes, sweet potatoes, and onions; anaheim peppers stuffed with cheese, jalipenos, and sundried tomatoes.  Gin on the rocks.

Workout: Play day.  Took my endurance horse out for a quick, 8-mile ride.  Did the usual farm chores.  Set up iTunes and nano.  (Hey, for me, that was a workout.)

I Didn’t See It Coming

…but I’m going!

By lucky coincidence, yesterday’s MDA post broke through my ongoing status of Paleo on Autopilot.  Lo and behold, the annual Primal Blueprint 30-Day Challenge is just getting underway, and I’m on board.  I was already planning on a Whole 30 from October 20-November 20; the PB Challenge will just be a warmup.

It’s time.  As is typical, I’m at my lowest fitness level for the year (in terms of strength as measured by weightlifting) because I’ve spent the summer being active in other ways — farm work, endurance riding, horse training, whitewater rafting — instead of officially “working out.”  That’s all well and good.  It gets “play” points from Mark Sisson and “periodization” points from Robb Wolf.  But I’m ready to shift into a higher gear.

The PB Challenge sets up a perfect opportunity for this transition.  In my contribution to yesterday’s mini-contest, I committed to the following:  1 bodyweight workout, 1 heavy lifting workout, and 1 sprint workout per week, plus 100% Primal eating.

Sure, it’s minimal.  That’s the idea.  I still have some decent horse training weather ahead, and I still have 150-250 miles of races to ride.  I’m not giving that up in favor of my full-on, winter workout schedule.  This is just to prime the pump.

As for the food, check out the PB Challenge link above for the rules.  They’re standard Primal, which is rather more hedonistic than Paleo.  (Note particularly the inclusion of moderate alcohol and dairy.)  I’ll simply steer around the rare exception (like corn tortillas) and eat as I usually do.  Finally, I’ll try to keep a little food and workout journal going here, for those who like to see examples of what this lifestyle looks like in practice.

Who else is doing the challenge?  Why not give it a shot?

PBC Day 1

Food as Fuel:  Black coffee.  Pulled pork with grilled tomatillo salsa and cotija.  Ceviche.  Coconut cream concentrate.  Grilled sirloin tip with grilled onions; roasted sweet potatoes; cucumber and tomato salad dressed with olive oil, vinegar, and chopped cilantro.  Gin on the rocks.

Workout:  Bumped to another day due to errands and extra farm chores.  Did a couple sets of pushups (max 33, which isn’t bad considering how long it has been) and pullups while cooking dinner.

Ancient Culture

I am not Catholic.  I am pissed off.  I am giving up Monsanto for Lent.

This is Day 19.

…but it’s Sunday, which isn’t counted in Lent, so I’ll take a little holiday from talking about Monsanto.  I’ve been experimenting with some new sources of nutrition lately, including grassfed beef liver (fail) and raw milk yogurt (win).

I talked last week about the benefits of raw dairy, primarly to dispel the government-promoted myths about the “necessity” of pasturization.  Incidentally, did you know that pasturization destroys phosphatase, making calcium unavailable to the bones?  Said calcium is instead deposited in muscles, joints, and blood vessels.  Great.

Raw milk, on the other hand, offers not only a panoply of vitamins and minerals, but also beneficial enzymes and bacteria.  Better yet, the health benefits of raw milk are multiplied by the process of lactic acid fermentation — which is why I went hunting for a source of local, grassfed, whole, raw milk in the first place.  I wanted to make yogurt.

At first, the idea of intentionally leaving a quart of milk in a warm place for half a day sounded insane.  And disgusting.  But consider this:  Beneficial bacteria trump pathological bacteria every time. 

Here’s an experiment for you:  Set out a pint each of raw milk and pasturized milk.  Smell them after 48 hours.  Which would you rather eat?

Not only is raw, fermented dairy safe, it actally confers magnified benefits including enhanced nutrient bioavailablity, reduced lactose content (the friendly bacteria eat the milk sugar during fermentation, which is why yogurt tastes sour), improved intestional health, and strengthened immune system.  Read more on the subject in this excellent post by Emily Deans, M.D.  No wonder fermentation has been used for thousands of years not just for preservation, but for healing.

I took my first shot at homemade yogurt last Saturday, following this recipe from Nourished Kitchen.  The resulting product was tasty, flavored very much like the Greek yogurt I used to innoculate it. 

However, it wasn’t particularly pretty.  Unlike the thick, creamy product you buy at the grocery, my yogurt was rather runny, featuring small, white lumps floating in whey.  I gathered from a bit of googling that this is common.  Suggested solutions included:

  • Add powdered milk to the yogurt.  (Eww.  No thanks, for so many reasons.)
  • Use less starter, because the bacteria need elbow room to grow and using too much is counterproductive.  (Sounds reasonable.)
  • Add gelatin to the yogurt.  (Many reject this on textural grounds, and so did I.)
  • Use half milk, half cream to make yogurt.  (Sounds delicious, but expensive, and raw cream is hard to find.)
  • Add pectin to the yogurt.  (Ah.  There’s a thought.)

For yesterday’s batch, I modified my technique to implement #2 and #5 above.  I used 3 Tbs of live yogurt to innoculate the 1-quart batch (I didn’t measure last week, but probably used a bit more).  And, I added 2 teaspoons of pectin, dissolved in a tiny bit of warm water, to the heated milk just before putting it in the jar to ferment.

This morning, I have an improved product.  The flavor is milder (maybe a little too mild — I think I’ll let it ferment a couple hours longer next week) and the texture more consistent.  The lumps and watery whey are gone, replaced with a still-thin, but smooth and white, perfectly respectable yogurt.  (Next time, I might try adding a little more pectin to thicken it up more.)

I love how simple this is.  Active time?  About 20 minutes per batch.  Cost?  $3.99 for a half-gallon of raw milk.  That’s the price of a quart of pre-fab Greek yogurt around here.  Benefits?  Myriad.

I should note that fermented dairy is still insulinogenic (all dairy is), so it may not be the best choice for someone whose primary goal is loss of bodyfat.  In a metabolically healthy person, however, it looks like an ideal post-workout snack…which is exactly what I’ll be doing with most of mine.  It’s delicious over a few berries, topped with chopped, raw almonds.

Up next?  I have my eye on cultured butter ala Mark’s Daily Apple, maybe some goat cheese, and other fermented products like saurkraut and preserved lemons.

Tomorrow, though, it’s back to the Monsanto Project.  Be sure to check out the coffee posts if you missed them over the weekend.

Liver Pills

I am not Catholic.  I am pissed off.  I am giving up Monsanto for Lent.

This is Day 16.

One of the pleasant side effects of this Monsanto Project is that it has refocused my energy on finding new sources of safe, affordable, nourishing food.  This has led me to experiment with raw dairy, fermentation, and my most recent interest:  organ meat.

I started with a 2.34 pound hunk of local, grass-fed beef liver.  Slicing the shuddering, bloodred, gelatinous mass was entertaining, and the dogs enjoyed lapping up the raw milk I used to marinate the meat.  Ugly as it had been in its raw form, the liver looked pretty decent fried it up in plenty of bacon grease with caramelized onions and garlic.  It was crispy on the outside and tender to the knife.

Ironman and I really wanted to like it…but we didn’t.  The flavor was tolerable, but that “creamy” texture?  Eww.  I’m pretty sure meat should not be creamy. 

Or as Ironman called it, “glipey.”

Fortunately, I’d been listening to Chris Kresser podcasts and borrowed his plan for ingesting the 1.89 pounds of liver we didn’t care to choke down.  (Sure, I could “hide” liver bits in meatballs and marinara, but why bother?  I want to enjoy my food, not simply bear it.)  I chopped the cooked organ into tiny pieces and froze them in a single layer on waxed paper.

Now, all we have to do is swallow them whole.  Voila!  All the nutrition and none of the pain.  Liver pills!

…not to be confused with Carter’s Little Liver Pills, a form of the laxative stimulant bisacodyl that was popular up through the mid-1960’s.  Want a giggle?  Check out their radio ad from the ’40’s.

The Raw Truth

I am not Catholic.  I am pissed off.  I am giving up Monsanto for Lent.

This is Day 12.

Ahh, Sunday.  Technically, Sundays are not counted in the official number of days that comprise Lent.  Opinions differ regarding whether one’s Lenten fast may be broken on Sundays.  Not that it matters; I’m not interested in a weekly Monsanto splurge.  I will, however, take advantage of this opportunity to write a post about something other than Monsanto. 


 I bought a half-gallon of raw milk on Friday.


Yeah.  And the earth is flat.  It is also the center of the universe.  Furthermore, our government says raw milk is toxic.  Our government says pasteurized, homogenized, skim milk is a health tonic.  Our government cares about us.  Our government wouldn’t lie.  Let us bow before our government’s greatness.


Okay, okay.  I’ll take off my bitch wig for a moment.  I understand the difficulty of looking beyond a lifetime of education about nutrition and food safety that says things like “fat is bad” and “raw milk is dangerous.”  But as the flat earth theory illustrates, the mere fact that a belief is dominant in society — and supported by the authorities — does not make it true.

I, myself, have largely avoided dairy (with the exception of organic butter and heavy cream) for many years.  At first, this was due to concerns about the carcinogenic effect of casein, milk’s predominant protein, thanks to the well-debunked China Study.  More recently, I learned that dairy is insulinogenic (causing a greater insulin spike than its sugars alone can account for) and capable of exacerbating an already-leaky gut.  All things considered, it seemed a substance best avoided.

The more I investigate the issue, however, the better I understand that pasteurized, homogenized, skim milk is as different from whole, raw milk as carrot cake is from carrots. 

Let’s look at the issues:

Dairy Intolerance — We’re all aware that many people don’t tolerate dairy well.  The products that upset their stomachs, erupt their skins with acne, and even spark allergic reactions are nearly always commercially mass-produced, pasteurized products.  It turns out that most individuals who are allergic or intolerant to pasteurized milk have no problems whatsoever with raw milk.

Why?  One of the predominant reasons is that pasteurization kills the enzymes present in raw milk.  These enzymes, left alive, produce lactase — precisely what is needed for the digestion of lactose.  Amazing.

Food Safety —  The FDA would have us believe that a sip of raw milk is bound to infect us with E.coli, listeria, salmonilla, or other harmful bacteria.  But guess what!  Various enzymes in raw milk, such as catalse and lysozyme, actively protect the milk from unwanted bacterial infection.  Pasteurization not only destroys these enzymes, but also kills beneficial bacteria in the milk, leaving it vulnerable to the proliferation of pathogenic bacteria.

Speaking of pathogenic bacteria, that’s exactly what you’ll find in milk intended for pasteurization.  Here’s why:

Large, commercial dairies typically feature “supercows” selectively bred to have overactive pituitary glands.  These cows are then treated with artificial hormones such as Posilac (a Monsanto rBGH).  The result is increased milk production of up to 13 gallons per day, which is more than twice the natural quantity.  The cows are not built to handle this overproduction.  Their udders become infected (mastitis), which results in the need for extensive antibiotic use — not to mention pain to the animals and pus in the milk

Raw milk, on the other hand, usually comes from small, local, responsible, farmers who provide their cattle with natural feeds and avoid the use of hormones and the antibiotics that are subsequently required.  Cleanliness standards at a quality dairy are considerably higher than those at a commercial dairy producing milk intended for pasteurization.

You might be interested to know that most outbreaks of disease related to contaminated dairy involve pastuerized dairy — and the pathogens involved sometimes show resistance to antibiotics.  Ouch. 

Basically, the only raw milk worth worrying about, from a safety perspective, is raw milk that was mishandled or intended for pasteurization.

Nutritional Benefits — Remember the carrot vs. carrot cake analogy?  When it comes to nutrition, there’s simply no comparison between raw and pasteurized dairy.  Raw milk is a whole, natural food. Pasteurized, homogenized dairy is a highly processed food whose benefits are largely replaced with costs.

– Raw milk contains all 22 amino acids, including the 8 essential ones; every known fat and water soluble vitamin (including A, C, D, E, K, B1, B2, B3 (Niacin), B6, B12 pantothenic acit, biotin, and folic acid); and numerous minerals (including sodium, potassium, chloride, iron, zinc, phosphorus, magnesium, copper, manganese, iodine, selenium, cobalt, chromium, molybdenum, nickel, silicon, vanadium, and calcium).  Pasturized milk contains many of the same nutrients — but it lacks the carrier proteins that make them bioavailable. 

– Homogenization modifies the structure of milk such that its proteins can be absorbed directly into the bloodstream (leaky gut), the end result of which is autoimmune disease.  Raw milk is not homogenized.

– Enzymes in raw dairy aid digestion of the healthful proteins and fats naturally present in milk.  Pasteurized dairy lacks these enzymes.

– Dairy’s predominant protein is casein, which is demonstrably cancer-promoting.  However, milk also contains whey, which is anti-carcinogenic.

– Grassfed dairy is a rare source of Vitamin K2 (also present in goose livers, but who eats those regularly?), which is necessary for proper processing of calcium.  Basically, it helps the body direct calcium to the hard tissues, such as bones and teeth, rather than to soft tissues, like arteries, where it doesn’t belong.  K2 deficiency is common, and it is linked to heart disease and osteoporosis.

– The beneficial bacteria (aka probiotics) present in raw dairy but absent in pasteurized dairy have been demonstrated to relieve conditions ranging from irritable bowel syndrome to psoriasis to depression.

It’s this last benefit, the probiotics, that led me to purchase my half-gallon of raw milk.  I’m not going to drink the stuff; I’m going to ferment it. 

More on that next Sunday.

Meanwhile, feel free to read more from Raw Milk  We’ll get back to the Monsano Project Series tomorrow.

Too Much of a Good Thing: Estrogen and Breast Cancer

Holy smokes.  This cancer prevention series, sparked by my longtime frustration with “crap for the cure,” has turned into a research monstrosity.  If there’s one thing most everyone agrees on, it’s that cancer is a complex disease with multiple modalities and causes.  This is what makes finding The Cure difficult to the point of impossible (let’s face it: all our medical advances over the past 70 years have increased the average life expectancy of cancer patients by mere weeks).  While prevention is rather simpler, the study of decreasing risk still leads me in many directions.

We’ve already discussed many avenues of cancer prevention, including anti-angiogenic dietary choices, adequate sleep, low carbohydrate intake, stress reduction, and more.  Now, it’s time to talk hormones. 

Hormones are a critical part of the biochemical courier system by which our bodies’ myriad components communicate with each other to maintain homeostasis. As with most health factors, the effects of hormones can be thought of as lying on a U-shaped curve.  Too little of a given hormone is detrimental, the right amount is beneficial, and too much becomes detrimental again.

Consider estrogen.  Most women are aware that excessive levels of this important hormone are correlated with substantially higher risk of breast cancer.  High estrogen levels (along with high cortisol, low iodine, low progesterone, and low vitamin D-3) are part of the classic breast cancer patient profile.  Furthermore, over 65 percent of breast cancers are defined as estrogen-dependent (Epstein et al, The Breast Cancer Prevention Program). 

Of course, correlation does not prove causation, but there is sufficient evidence of the estrogen-breast cancer link that women would do well to pay attention to their levels of the hormone.  Happily, even if the estrogen theory ultimately proves incorrect, the action plan advised for reducing estrogen levels will benefit your health in other ways.   

Here’s what most researchers currently believe:  Estrogen itself doesn’t cause cancer, but the ability of carcinogens to produce tumors increases in its presence.  In other words, “Estrogens can take a cell that is capable of becoming cancerous and increase the probability that it will do so” (Dr. Lindsey Berkson, Hormone Deception).

Unfortunately for women, our modern environment is an estrogenic soup.  Dietary phytoestrogens; xenoestrogens in herbicides, industrial waste, cosmetics, and everyday plastics; even prescribed, synthetic estrogens that wind up in the food chain – all these pass through or build up in our systems, sending our lifetime exposure to estrogen skyrocketing well beyond normal levels.

Still, we can take action to reduce estrogen dominance in our bodies:

The most obvious step is to address the quantity of estrogen produced by our own bodies.  We can accomplish this by reducing bodyfat.  Particularly in postmenopausal women, bodyfat is the primary source of estrogen production; in fact, the Harvard Nurse’s Health Study found that overweight women had estrogen levels as much as 100% higher than those of lean women.

Once you understand that insulin promotes the storage of bodyfat, and that cancer cells thrive on sugar delivered courtesy of insulin, you will be unsurprised to learn that chronically high insulin levels, like excessive bodyfat, are associated with increased breast cancer risk.  So, we are well advised to minimize insulin secretion, which will also lead to lower bodyfat levels.  But how?

At peril of sounding like a broken record:  Stop eating foods that spike your blood sugar, necessitating the release of insulin to normalize blood glucose levels.  Specifically, don’t eat grain, legumes, or sugar in any form.  Enjoy meats, vegetables, and healthful fats instead.  You’ll find it easy to keep your total (not net) carbohydrate intake around 50-100 grams per day – and if you compare the nutrient density of your new diet to that of your old one, you’ll be amazed by the super-RDA results.

What other steps can you take to reduce your body’s estrogen production?

Participate in frequent, moderate exercise, which is demonstrated to reduce blood estrogen levels.  “Moving slowly,” as Mark Sisson calls exercise at about 70% of your maximum heart rate (think brisk but comfortable walking), also sets up other hormones to send metabolism-speeding signals and increases insulin sensitivity. 

Limit alcohol consumption.  Sorry, ladies, but alcohol boosts circulating estrogen levels.  According to the New England Journal of Medicine, partaking of 2-3 drinks per day (as opposed to none) increases the breast cancer risk of postmenopausal women by 15%.  (The good news is that one drink per day scarcely increases risk at all, and may provide other benefits ranging from cardiac protection to stress reduction.)

The alcohol effect is amplified in overweight women, premenopausal women, and women taking hormone replacement therapy, because their base estrogen levels are higher.  In fact, E.S. Ginsburg found in a double-blind, crossover study that estradiol (natural estrogen) levels increased by 327% following alcohol consumption by women on HRT.  Not good.

Next, we need to look at any estrogens and estrogen-mimicking substances we are intentionally putting into our bodies.  Hormonal contraception, anyone? 

Yes, I know.  My ObGyn – like yours, no doubt – said the Pill now contains “safe, minimal levels” of estrogen and/or progestin.  Oh yeah?  My thermogram revealed excessive vascularity indicative of a highly estrogenic state — and increased cancer risk.

Even the package inserts admit that use of oral contraceptives increases risk.   This is particularly true when these pharmaceuticals are used by young women and/or for prolonged periods.  Early use of oral contraceptives, like postmenopausal use of HRT, increases a women’s lifetime exposure to estrogen.  The Pill also induces many women to retain excessive bodyfat.

This is tough, I know.  It’s hard to find an option that can compare to the ease, affordability, and effectiveness of hormonal contraceptives.  (My reading on the subject leads me to favor the non-hormonal, copper IUD.)  It’s easy to shrug off the warnings…again and again…but I beg you to reconsider.

If your own health isn’t enough of a motivator, consider the environment, which affects everyone else’s health, too:  synthetic estrogens are showing up in measurable levels in wildlife that is part of our food chain.  How do these substances get from pharmacy to fish?  Through your urine.  Be responsible.

Take  care with hormone replacement therapy, too.  Breast tissue is, by nature, particularly sensitive to hormonal influence — especially the balance of estrogen and progesterone.  HRT is too big a topic to tackle here, but suffice it to say that if you’re going to mess with it, you’d better be darn sure your provider knows how to properly balance your hormonal levels.

Okay, so you’ve reined in your own estrogen production as much as possible, and you’ve ceased the blatant addition of unnatural hormones to your system.  Unfortunately, there’s a whole other set of estrogen-related factors we need to consider:  environmental toxins.  We’ll cover those in this series’ next post.


Previous posts in this series:  Cancer for a FortnightBefore Early DetectionIn the Beginning:  The Cancer-Inflammation Connection, Only YOU Can Prevent Inflammation, Supply Lines:  The Importance of AngiogenesisShort-Circuit:  Inhibiting Angiogenesis Naturally, Please Don’t Feed the Cancer, Blaming the Victim?, Fighting Mad(ness)Crap for the Cure.

I Can Squat! and Other Amazing News

Eight afternoons ago, I was coiled in a ball on frozen ground, dialing 911 while my horse bucked off into the sunset.  I couldn’t walk the length of my ER gurney without breaking into a cold sweat and battling nausea from the pain.  I couldn’t even lift my own feet to recline on the sofa.

Today, I did air squats.  5 sets of 10, perfect, ass-to-grass air squats.  Yesterday, I walked 2.5 miles.  The day before, 1.5.  The day before, I climbed stairs without crutches.

What is going on here???  I’ve done some major soft tissue damage before (the most notable incident involved an aggressive border collie and a torn hamstring, and then there was the time I parked my raft on a rock in a major rapid and slammed into the oar with my thigh) but this is my first trauma since going paleo in August 2009.  And let me tell you, I have never experienced this kind of recovery.

8 days out from incapacitation, and I’m squatting?  And doing planks?  And messing about with dumbbells?  This paleo schtick, to borrow from Robb Wolf, is potent stuff. 

Okay, they’re only air squats.  Big deal.  But I didn’t expect that have that range of motion back for weeks.  It has occurred to me to wonder whether the injury wasn’t as severe as it seemed.  Those who saw me in the first 48 hours, however, insist that’s not the case.

More than one person has pointed out that had I not been so fit, I would likely have suffered even more upon impact; and, had I not been so well-nourished, I’d probably still be on Vicodin and crutches.  As for intense workouts, I reckon it makes sense that a body accustomed to frequent, minor repairs is better equipped to handle major repairs when necessary.

Nerd that I am, I spent some time searching for information on paleo nutrition and injury rehabilitation.  I didn’t find much, but Dr. Loren Cordain’s comments in this Q&A are worth a read.  Anybody got more for me?

Now, don’t worry.  I’ll still be spending plenty of time on my ice pack.  I’m taking this slowly. Hey, I could have gotten under the bar today…but I refrained, like a good little invalid.  Day by day, I’ll do what I safely can, and nothing more.  It surely feels good to have pumped biceps again, though.

Go forth and eat well, my friends.  Lift heavy things.  Sprint occasionally.  Be strong.

On Intimidation

More than once, trusted friends have explained to me why I don’t have more friends.  “You scare people,” they say.

I scare people?

Not physically, they hasten to add.  It’s not like anyone thinks I’m going to beat them up.  “But, you know, physically.  And intellectually.  And you’re kind of…”

Confident?  Intense?

“Yeah, that’s it.  And you’re so driven.  They feel like they can’t compete.  Most people need to chill out more.  And…”

They assume I’m judging them.

“Yeah.  That.”

Well, ladies and gentlemen, let me be the first to tell you:  A personality like mine is a double-edged sword.  It’s true that there are great rewards to being an intrinsically motivated, goal-driven, will-powered, laser-focused, athletic nutrition geek.  I accomplish just about whatever I put my mind to, and I do it well.

On the other hand, I tend to put myself under a lot of unnecessary pressure.  Nobody but me cares whether I accomplish X goal within Y time period.  I know that, and yet I must do it.  I am compelled.

Secretly, folks, I envy the ability many of you have to Just.  Chill.  Out.

Would I prefer to be different?  Honestly, no.

But here’s the thing:  I wouldn’t want you to be different, either.

Are you intimidated by the intensity of my commitment to paleo eating and primal workouts?  Do people like me sometimes scare you away from starting because you fear you can’t finish?  Please,  don’t let our idiosyncracies hinder you from making more moderate changes!

Poke around the primal and paleo communities for a while, and you’ll find hundreds — no, thousands — of people who get tremendous benefit from a less-than-pristine shift toward primal living.  Many of them, including Ironman, thrive on Mark Sisson’s 80/20 concept; that is, shooting for 100% compliance but not beating themselves up over 20% slippage.  I explored “80/20″ in my post Halfway House and have subsequently observed its effectiveness again and again.

For those who want to give primal living a shot, but don’t want to go whole-hog, here are some priorities on which to focus.  You can take a shotgun approach and put a few pellets through all of them, or you can start at the top of the list (with the most important stuff) and baby-step your way along as you adjust. 

1.  Remove gluten grains.  There’s just no getting around the damage wreaked by wheat, barley, and rye.  Non-gluten grains like rice, oats, and corn are still high in carbohydrate, but at least they won’t tear up your intestinal lining as badly as gluten will.

2.  Remove sugar.  This is tough at first, but the addiction will release its hold after a week or two.  Remember that almost all packaged/processed foods contain sugar — but really, did you want to eat all those nasty preservatives anyway?  Also remember that as long as you’re removing most dietary sugar, a little sweetener in your coffee or honey in your salad dressing isn’t that big a deal.

3.  Remove legumes and non-gluten grains.  Yes, I’m afraid these are very high-carb and contain gut-damaging lectins, too, though they aren’t as bad as gluten.  Grains are addictive — they activate the same pleasure centers as opiates — so here’s some advice on how to go shift toward grain-free living.

4.  Find your inner athlete.  You’re not trying to burn calories!  You’re simply flipping the hormonal switches that tell your body to burn bodyfat.  So, feel free to skip those long, daily sessions on the stationary bike.  Go for walks at a brisk but comfortable pace.  Lift weights or do a few pushups and air squats twice a week or so.  When you’re in the mood, try a few 10-20 second sprints.  Mark Sisson’s free e-book offers an excellent program.

5.  The other stuff.  Sure, there’s more if you want to explore it.  Many people feel best when they eschew dairy products.  Some break fat-loss plateaus by cutting down their nut consumption or eating less fruit.  Some thrive on a very low carb regimen (under 50g daily), while others feel best when they eat 100g or so.  Individuals struggling with touchy innards may want to try going without nightshades (tomatoes, eggplant, etc.) for a while.

But for most people, all that is gravy.  Feel free to pour on the strictness when you’re trying to lean out for your wedding or a cruise, or exploring solutions to chronic health issues.  If you’re like me, you’ll be extra strict because you actually enjoy it — but if you don’t enjoy it, no one says you have to do it!

Will 80/20 get you the best possible results?  Physically, of course not — but it’ll come darn close, and the mental ease of such an approach is worth it to many people.  (Ironman calls it “staying sane.”)  Even 70/30 will make you much healthier and leaner than the conventional wisdom approach.

Besides, not everyone wants to be ripped.  Not everyone likes the super-lean look.  Not everyone cares how much iron they can press or how fast they can sprint.

That. Is. Fine.  Really!

Never let a perfectionist keep you from being exactly who you want to be.

Halfway to Forever

No sugar.  No grain.  No dairy.  No alcohol.  No, no, no, no, no!

It’s the 16th.  Ironman and I are halfway through our 30-Day Crackdown.  We aren’t alone.  All around the world, primals and paleos are engaged in variations on the Whole 30.

Just about everyone is singing its praises in terms of results, but there’s also a fair amount of talk (obsession?) about the “freedom” to come on Day 31. 


I’m not feeling it.  I feel free now.

It’s an attitude thing.  For me, the 30 isn’t about a list of THINGS I WANT BUT WILL DENY MYSELF.  It isn’t about no-no’s or forbidden fruit, nor is it an exercise in willpower wielded as a weapon against guilt.

The 30 is an opportunity.  This is my chance to pour health into my body, to the exclusion of illness or even compromise.

Have you looked at my food logs lately?  I’m consuming 12-20 different varieties of produce per day, in addition to quality meats, fats, and a few nuts and seeds.  There simply isn’t room for Greek yogurt, let alone a donut.

It’s like running water into a bowl of vegetable oil.  The incoming nutrition leaves no space for crap, or even cravings.  The 30 is about what I’m pouring in, not what I’m pushing out, see?  That’s what makes it easy.

Eating this way is fascinating.  It is life-changing and life-giving.  I already know that 30 will not be enough.  Good thing it doesn’t need to be.


My Food, My Medicine:  black coffee; green tea; salad: spinach, red leaf lettuce, red cabbage, parsley, celery, carrot, red onion, apple, pecans, and poached cod with a dressing of fish oil, olive oil, apple cider vinegar, turmeric, black pepper, potassium salt, and Italian herbs; steamed cauliflower, brussels sprouts, broccoli, carrots and olive oil over baked spaghetti squash; avocado; Barnyard Soup: onion, leeks, garlic, chicken stock, beef stock, vegetable stock, smoked ham hocks, tomato, sweet potato, turnip, carrot, rutabega, cabbage, parsnip, cayenne, thyme, sage, and bay.

Workout:  Rest day.

Only YOU Can Prevent Inflammation

[Earlier posts in this cancer prevention series:  Cancer for a Fortnight, Before Early Detection, and In the Beginning:  The Cancer-Inflammation Connection.  See also Crap for the Cure.]

Cancer is a wound that doesn’t heal.  It turns our bodies’ own immune systems against us, thriving on the inflammatory process that is intended to be acute and healing, rather than chronic and destructive.  If inflammation is pro-cancer, then it stands to reason (and research) that we can combat cancer by reducing the inflammation that runs rampant in our bodies.

Perhaps surprisingly, the lifestyle changes that will reduce chronic, systemic inflammation — thereby making our bodies less hospitable to cancer cells — are relatively simple and inexpensive.  Sure, some of them will take you outside the norm.  Some will involve plunking down extra change at the supermarket.  But compared to rounds of chemo, months of pain, and years of life lost, I reckon it’s a small price to pay.

What follows are daily choices you can make to reduce your risk of cancer development or recurrence by reducing your body’s susceptiblity to inflammation.  Because this is a blog post, not a book, I’ll focus more on the what than the why.   Upcoming posts will expand substantially on the scientific support for these choices.  In the meantime, understand that they will work…but only if you do them. 

 1.  Reduce carbohydrate consumption.  During the digestive process, carbohydrate is broken down into glucose (sugar) and, ideally, stored in the liver to be burned as fuel in the near future.  The liver’s storage capacity is limited, so any excess glucose is packaged up as triglycerides and sent into the bloodstream.  If not used to provide immediate energy, it is stored as bodyfat.  The storage process must occur quickly because blood sugar must be maintained within a narrow range; excessive blood sugar is toxic to the point of being fatal.

In order to facilitate the movement of glucose into our cells, the pancreas secretes a hormone called insulin.  One of insulin’s primary jobs is to turn on the “storage” function, so it’s easy to see how chronically elevated insulin (resulting from chronic carbohydrate consumption) leads to obesity — a well-known risk factor for cancer.  Not only that, but constant insulin release leads to insulin resistance, which means that we need more and more of it to keep our blood sugar within a safe range.

Unfortuately, all that insulin does more than make us dread bikini shopping.  It also activates enzymes that result in increased blood levels of arachodonic acid, which contributes to inflammation in individuals with compromised metabolisms.  Furthermore, insulin provokes the release of pro-inflammatory eicosonoids (short-lived hormones that act locally rather than systemically).

In brief, excessive dietary carbohydrate results in systemic inflammation.  How much is “excessive?”  For most people, about 100 total (not net) grams of carbohydrate per day is plenty.  In case you’re wondering, most Americans consume 300-400 grams per day.  Ouch.

2.  Eliminate sugar.  Sugar (and all its nasty little friends like high fructose corn syrup, honey, and agave) is a simple, high glycemic index carbohydrate.  When consumed, it causes a rapid rise in blood sugar, which requires insulin release as discussed above.  It also hampers white blood cell function, compromising the immune system, and subjects the body to oxidative stress, thereby rounding the turn in the vicious cycle of inflammation.

(As an astute reader pointed out in yesterday’s comments, sugar is also the finest cancer food on the planet.  Tumors love the stuff — and many can be starved by eliminating it.  More on that in a later post.)

3.  Eliminate grains.  Above and beyond their obviously problematic status as high carbohydrate foods that are little more than slow-digesting sugar, grains bring with them a host of additional problems. 

Several of the most common grains in our food supply (wheat, oats, barley, and rye) contain a protein called gluten.  Gluten irritates the gut lining to the point of breaching its defenses (yes, even in non-celiac individuals), allowing whole, foreign proteins direct access to the bloodstream.

The result is a chronically leaky gut, which necessitates constant immune response, which we know by now is undesirable.  Worse, the immune system learns quickly to attack these foreign proteins on sight — and some of them look very much like our bodies’ own tissues.  So, we attack ourselves.  Voila!  More inflammation. 

Legumes, by the way, have very similar effects as grains and should also be avoided.

4.  Eliminate dairy.  Many people have observed that the consumption of dairy worsens conditions such as arthritis, asthma, and acne.  Why does this happen?  Because dairy, too, is inflammatory.  Similar to grains, dairy proteins cause microperforations in the gut, provoking immune response and eventual auto-immune disorders.  Dairy is also responsible for an insulin release above and beyond what can be accounted for by its carbohydrate content alone.  And we all know about insulin by now, don’t we?

5.  Balance essential fatty acids.  Most people are aware that our diets tend to be too high in Omega-6 fatty acids and too low in Omega-3’s.  This is the result of a diet packed with vegetable fats and grain-fed meats, both of which tip our fatty acid ratio drastically in favor of Omega-6.  Unfortunately for our cancer risk, Omega-6 is pro-inflammatory, while Omega-3 is anti-inflammatory.

The obvious solution is to simultaneously decrease Omega-6 intake and increase Omega-3 intake.  How?  Switch to grass-fed, grass-finished meats and wild-caught fish.  Eliminate vegetable oils (including corn, soy, canola, safflower, and sunflower) in favor of animal fats, palm, and coconut oils.  Supplement with high-quality fish oil such as Carlson’s or Nordic Naturals.  If you insist on eating dairy, make sure it’s from pastured cows.  Finally, look for eggs from chickens that are pastured and/or fed flax in favor of grain.

6.  Sleep more.  In 2006, researchers at UCLA demonstrated that “even a modest loss of sleep for a single night increases inflammation.”  Inadequate sleep causes our white blood cells to increase their release of immune-enhancing substances…which sounds good until you remember that an excessive immune response causes damage not only to invaders, but also to healthy cells.  What constitutes “adequate” sleep?  Nine or more hours per night, especially during the winter months.

7.  Reduce toxin exposure.  In our modern world of plastics and pesticides, we are all exposed to chemicals whose ill effects are myriad, cumulative, and alarming.  For example, certain toxins (such as phthalates in cosmetics, bisphenol A [BPA] in hard plastics, and tributyltin in disinfectants and fungicides) all mimic hormones, resulting in bodyfat gain.  Research shows that these toxins can even increase the number of fat cells in a developing fetus.  Excessive bodyfat leads to excessive levels of C-reactive protein and interleukin-6.  Remember those?  They’re inflammatory factors!

Inflammation is only one of the reasons to seek out organic produce and meats, BPA-free canned goods, and safe body care products whose ingredients you’d be willing to eat.  Be mindful of obvious poisons, too, such as cigarette smoke, lawn fertilizer, and household cleaners.

8.  Reduce stress.  We all know that stress results in excessive production of the hormone cortisol.  (For the record, so does lack of sleep.)  Ironically, cortisol is supposed to be a natural anti-inflammatory that helps your body deal with acute stressors.   Unfortunately, most of us experience more chronic stressors than acute ones.  Chronic stressors result in incessant cortisol release from the adrenal glands, which leads to adrenal burnout. 

In the meantime, all that excess cortisol messes up our other hormones and treats us to complimentary helpings of brain fog, low sex drive, bodyfat accumulation, and mood swings — not to mention mineral imbalances that disrupt heart function.  Hormonal imbalance also results in insulin resistance, which is directly linked to cancer development. 

Advice to reduce stress is so common as to be cliché, but it can take some serious effort to actually accomplish.  Consider weeding your activities down to only the most necessary for income, relationships, and personal satisfaction.  Work fewer hours, if you can, and be sure to take a good look at the huge body of evidence supporting the health benefits of yoga, meditation, and similar forms of focused relaxation.

9.  Exercise.  Anyone who has experienced soreness after a workout knows that, where inflammation is concerned, exercise is a mixed bag.  Unaccustomed physical effort results in minor (hopefully!) muscle damage that leads, upon repair, to increased strength.  On the other hand, physical effort is well-documented to relieve stress and improve insulin sensitivity, both of which result in decreased inflammation.

Regular, moderate exercise is associated with lower CRP levels, while excessive exercise increases cortisol.  So, use your body — but use your brain, too.  Favor strength training and high-intensity interval training over long, cortisol-inducing cardio sessions.  Engage in plenty of low-level physical activity.  Play.  And for goodness sake, throw in some rest days!

10.  Understand specific foods.  Some foods are pro-inflammatory, while others are anti-inflammatory.  Knowing which is which enables you to make the best choices for you, as an individual.

As discussed above, sugar, dairy, legumes and grains are inflammatory for just about everyone.  MSG and other food additives also negatively affect most people.  Some individuals are sensitive to additional foods; common offenders include nightshades (potatoes, eggplant, sweet and hot peppers, tomatoes, etc.), eggs, soy, and nuts.  Note that you may be unaware of your sensitivity to a particular food until you try going without i for a month, then reintroducing it to see what happens.

Make a conscious effort to include plenty of anti-inflammatory foods such as coconut, olive oil, sea vegetables, salmon, turmeric, Japanese green tea, shiitake and other mushrooms, berries, cruciferous vegetables (broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, etc.), and alluims (garlic, onions, leeks, shallots etc.).

There’s more to each of these factors than simply controlling inflammation.  They also impact angiogenesis and hormonal balance, both of which contribute to cancer development or prevention.  We’ll explore those topics in upcoming posts.

Next in the series:


Bonus round (Is anybody still reading?):  Inflammation is also the major, causative factor in other diseases of modern civilization, most notably coronary heart disease, type II diabetes, and stroke.  Worse, it’s a two-way street.  Inflammation fuels the above conditions, which incite additional inflammation, which fuels the conditions…

Making lifestyle changes to cool inflammation will dramatically lower your risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes — plus, you’ll likely vanquish other ailments ranging from acne to arthritis to Chrohn’s disease to irritable bowel syndrome to Alzheimer’s to allergies.  Why?  They’re all about inflammation.


Low-Carb Diet Reduces Inflammation, Science Daily, 2007

Inflammation, Woman-to-Woman

The Definitive Guide to Sugar, Mark’s Daily Apple

The Definitive Guide to Grains, Mark’s Daily Apple

The Dairy Manifesto, Whole 9 Blog

Health Benefits of Grass-Fed Products, Eat Wild

Lack of Sleep Causes Inflammation, Immune Response, FuturePundit, 2006

Lights Out:  Sleep, Sugar, and Survival by T.S. Wiley

Environmental Toxins Cause Inflammation and Weight Gain, Life Extension Blog


My Food, My Medicine:  black coffee, duck eggs fried in coconut oil with potassium salt; steamed veggies: Brussels sprouts, carrots, broccoli, and cauliflower with olive oil, dried garlic, and thyme; sausage sautéed with leeks, yellow onion, and mushrooms; jasmine green tea; salad: spinach, red leaf lettuce, red cabbage, carrot, red onion, celery, apple, poached cod, pecans, and dressing of fish and olive oils, apple cider vinegar, turmeric, curry powder, cinnamon, black pepper, and salt; lamb meatballs in marinara:  lamb, egg, tomatoes, herbs, onions, garlic; baked spaghetti squash, olive oil, salt, ginger tea

Workout:  Primal Blueprint Fitness bodyweight progression (pushups, pullups, chinups, squats, handstands, planks)

Cancer for a Fortnight

Here’s what happened:

Three weeks ago, I had a thermoscan done.  The appointment was a gift.  All I knew about thermography was that it checks for inflammation throughout the body and can detect future disease sites by reading higher temperatures in body parts that are at risk.

A week later, I received my results.  The computerized analysis noted that “a localized elevated reaction has been detected in right breast.  This measurement indicates a high risk of a possible breast cancer development in the right breast…The high chaos index in the chest area identifies an area of concern, as this is an indicator of possible disease development.  This could be related to a disease process in the breast, lungs, or heart.”

I knew it was not a diagnosis.  I also knew it was highly unlikely that I was actually sick, right then, that day.  But that was how it felt. 

Was it possible?  I listed risk factors.

Sure, I eat paleo now.  I buy grassfed and organic now.  I supplement with Viamin D now.  I choose natural bodycare products and household cleaners now.  I avoid grains, sugars, and dairy now.

But what about the vegan years, when I believed I was doing everything right?  When I trusted whole grains, legumes, soy, “low hormone” birth control pills, backyard pesticides — indeed, conventional wisdom itself — with my life?

Yes.  It was possible that I’d come too late to the truth.

I was afraid…and I was furious.  This situation was exactly the one I lambasted in my Crap for the Cure post in October.  What the hell are we doing pouring billions of dollars into a “Cure” machine when we could be educating women about the myriad simple, relatively inexpensive steps they could take to minimize their risk of getting cancer in the first place?

I wished someone had told me sooner.  Because it looked like I might have learned too late.

Not that the possibility of “too late” was going to stop me.  I dove headlong into 100% application of the paleo lifestyle.  No more was it a casual bid for long-term health.  Now, I was betting my life on it.

In the meantime, I did more homework.  On breast health.  On cancer.  On cancer prevention and reversal.  And, of course, on thermography.

It turns out that thermography, or medical infrared imaging, has been around since the 1960s or so.  It is much more common in other countries, thanks mostly to a bungled research study that discredited the idea shortly after its arrival in the U.S.  It has since been proven both safe and extremely accurate.

For me, this was not good news.  I had wanted to discover evidence that thermography, and therefore my frightening results, was bunk.

Instead, I learned how thermography identifies inflammation in the body by measuring temperatures to detect areas harboring unnatural heat.  Inflammation, of course, is the first sign of disease — including cancer.

Breast thermography, in particular, offers a highly accurate means of detecting developing breast cancers by offering graphical evidence of angiogenesis (increased blood vessel growth that occurs to feed a tumor).  Thermography can identify pre-cancerous changes 5-10 years before a mammogram detects a lump.


Despite this discouraging news, I had reason to doubt the reliability of the naturopath who had performed my scan.   I wanted a second opinion.

And so, just this week, I drove 8 hours into my neighboring state to get it.  I visited a practitioner with extensive experience (unlike the naturopath), top-notch equipment (unlike the naturopath), and a glowing professional reputation (unlike the naturopath). 

And I learned that the naturopath was wrong.

The broad, silver lining is that I learned a lot of other things, too — particularly about breast health and cancer prevention.  There’s too much to share in one post, but stay tuned, ladies, because what I have to say should change your life.

[More posts in this cancer prevention series:  Before Early DetectionIn the Beginning:  The Cancer-Inflammation Connection, Only YOU Can Prevent InflammationSupply Lines:  The Importance of Angiogenesis, and Short-Circuit:  Inhibiting Angiogenesis Naturally.  See also Crap for the Cure.]

November in the Garden of Eating

Ironman and I have big plans for November.

To start with, he’s moving to the farm.  Hooray!

But BESIDES that, we have each (independently) arrived at the conclusion that it’s time to batten down the paleo hatches.  Our summer was fantastic.  We lived, as a friend of mine puts it, with passion.  Indeed, the ability to live passionately is the gift of fitness.

But superior fitness doesn’t come free.  If you want to get to the next level (or return to your preferred status after relaxing for a bit), you have to put some effort into it.  Here’s what we have in mind:

Deep-Six the Usual Suspects.  Sugar, grain, processed food.  Duh.  This will be pretty easy for me, as I’ve not strayed much on this front.  Ironman, who is less obsessive by nature and also more frequently confronted with opportunity to eat crap, will have to work harder.

Cut out the dairy, with the exception of pastured, organic butter.  (I’m doing some reading on this subject and may decide to skip the butter as well; stay tuned.)  For me, the Greek yogurt will be hardest to give up; for Ironman, it’ll be the coffee pollutants. 

Choose quality.  All grass-fed meats, all organic everything.  This one was Ironman’s idea, and he plans to be more strict about it than I.  I’ll be 100% at home (I’m about 80% at home now), but am willing to have a restaurant salad with conventional greens and chicken if I get stuck at a business meeting or some such.  Fortunately, I rarely eat out.  The coffee will be tough, though.  Going organic on coffee means giving up my favorite Rocket Java.  Cross your fingers that I can find beans that are extremely dark (darker than espresso), rich, full-bodied, not-too-acidic…and organic.

Toss the alcohol.  Up until a month ago, I drank only socially.  I’ve relaxed my standards lately, but now it’s time to get serious about nixing the stuff — social occasions included.  I know from experience that this makes a big difference in my training. 

Speaking of training…  This isn’t just about food.  With wet weather and dark evenings comes the cessation of outdoor play and a renewed focus on fitness goals.  Ironman and I are both planning to return to regular workouts.  My new, 10-day rotation will include:

  • 3 heavy lifting workouts
  • 2 bodyweight workouts, one focused on strength (max reps) and the other on muscle endurance (no rest between sets).  I’m basing these on Mark Sisson’s free Primal Blueprint Fitness e-book.
  • 1 sprint workout
  • 1 distance workout
  • 3 rest/play days

A few other things.  We’re pondering additional ways to reduce our toxin exposure.  Can we replace laundry detergent with something safer, but still effective?  House cleaning with vinegar and baking soda works pretty well.  I’m still pooless.  Tropical Traditions’ coconut oil soap is our newest darling.  What else, what else?  Like I said, we’re pondering.

Fine Print.  Ironman plans to go all out, making an exception only for Thanksgiving.  I’ll make the holiday exception as well, but will also need to ingest a few illicit bites in the form of taste-tests for a dinner party I’ve been hired to cater.  (Bad timing on that one!  It’s why I’m, sadly, not doing the Whole 30.)

So.  Why are we doing this, again?  The usual reasons.  Superior health.  Superior strength.  Looking superior naked.  Besides, it’s fun!

Crap for The Cure

Did you ever have something you wanted to say for a long time, but held off because you knew you’d offend a bunch of people?

Good.  Then you know where I’m coming from on the subject of The Cure.

I bit my tongue through the fun runs, the yogurt lids, the bumper stickers.  I said nothing about “tough enough” cowboys in pink shirts.  I kept my silence regarding the beribboned teddy bears and advocacy days, the special credit cards, the posters and preachers and ads and fads. 

And then it happened:  The camel’s back broke when I stumbled across someone’s Facebook lament that the latest “I like it…” meme is a lost opportunity because it fails to make a connection raising awareness for breast cancer.

Excuse me?

Is she serious?!

Raise awareness?!?!

Does anyone honestly believe that we still need to “raise awareness” for breast cancer?  I don’t think there’s a rock big enough that you could live under it and fail to be aware of breast cancer. 

That’s proof that raising awareness works!

Erm, no.  I’ll bet you’re aware of pancreatic cancer and esophageal cancer and bladder cancer, too.  When was the last time you saw a ribbon “reminding” you of them?

But it isn’t just about awareness!  We’re raising money for The Cure.

Congratulations.  How’s that working for you?

According to Susan G. Komen for the Cure, despite over $1 billion raised since 1982, 1 in 8 women are still diagnosed with breast cancer during their lifetimes.  Statistics indicating slightly decreased mortality rates over the past 30 years are the result of changing diagnostic patterns rather than an actual decrease in mortality among cancer patients.  Furthermore, researchers have yet to discover a cure for any cancer since Nixon “declared war” in 1971.

That’s why it’s so important we keep searching for The Cure!

For existing victims, yes, I’d say it is extremely important.  But wouldn’t the majority of us, who don’t have breast cancer but stand a good chance of developing it at some point, be better served to put our money on prevention?

You don’t have to cure something that never occurs in the first place.


Don’t you think we would already be preventing breast cancer, if we knew how?

Frankly, no. 

Scientists have known for years that lifestyle factors, particularly nutrition, have a dramatic impact on the incidence of most cancers, including breast cancer.  It turns my stomach that they understand this stuff, but go on letting millions of people, and their families, suffer anyway.

Want to know what they know, but aren’t bothering to tell you?  Here’s a summary:

Sugar feeds cancer.  You can prevent or starve many cancers by changing your diet to eliminate sugar (including grains and excessive fruits, as well as the more obvious refined and unrefined sources like HFCS, table sugar, and honey).  I particularly like this quote from Dr. Dan Ayer: “It’s been known since 1923 that tumor cells use a lot more glucose than normal cells.”  Since 1923.  Nice.  

Visceral fat (belly fat surrounding the organs) contributes to cancer development.  You can reduce risk by changing your diet to reduce your girth.  Dr. William Davis explains:  “Visceral fat…produces large quantities of inflammatory signals…that can trigger inflammatory responses in other parts of the body. Visceral fat also oddly fails to produce the protective cytokine, adiponectin, that protects us from diabetes, cancer, and heart disease.”  He goes on to note that eggs, meats, vegetables, and natural oils do not contribute to the accumulation of visceral fat.  Wheat, corn, potato, and fructose do.

 Other preventative measures you can take include the following:  Getting adequate Vitamin D; avoiding environmental toxins such as pesticides and added hormones in food; avoiding damaged and processed fats in favor of natural, healthful plant and animal fats; getting plenty of sleep; ensuring adequate Omega-3 intake; and increasing fitness through exercise.

You claim animal foods aren’t a risk factor.  What about The China Study? 

What about it?

Wouldn’t someone tell us if we could really prevent cancer with lifestyle changes?

I just did.

But no, the government and industry aren’t likely to say anything.  Cancer is a cash cow for the medical and pharmaceutical industries — and the politicians they support.  Why prevent something when you can make billions “curing” it, especially when the “cure” often contributes to return business a few years down the road?  (Radiation, anyone?)

You don’t really still trust those guys, do you?

Use your brain.  And your money.  To prevent instead of pretend.

You sound like a heartless bitch.


Did you hear me say that breast cancer isn’t a devastating disease?  Or that it wouldn’t be wonderful if we did discover a cure for cancer?  Or that anyone is stupid for desperately wanting a cure? Or that we shouldn’t rally around cancer sufferers and their families?  Or even that some cancers won’t still occur among the fit and well-nourished? 

I didn’t say those things, and I didn’t mean them.

What I said is that the tremendous amount of time and money we pour into research for The Cure would be better spent on educating and aiding people in prevention.  How’s this for a plan:  Let’s teach people what they can do to avoid getting cancer in the first place.  Then, let’s help them afford the whole, real, unprocessed, fat- and protein-rich, low-carbohydrate foods they need to pull it off.

Unless, of course, you’d rather see them undergo some new, painful, and expensive attempt at The Cure.

[Now, before you get your bra in a bramble -- if you're so inclined -- please take time to read the rest of the series:  Cancer for a FortnightBefore Early DetectionIn the Beginning:  The Cancer-Inflammation Connection, Only YOU Can Prevent Inflammation, Supply Lines:  The Importance of AngiogenesisShort-Circuit:  Inhibiting Angiogenesis Naturally, Please Don’t Feed the Cancer, Blaming the Victim?, Fighting Mad(ness), Too Much of a Good Thing:  Estrogen and Breast Cancer]


A few good resources on cancer and its prevention:

Robb Wolf on Cancer and Ketosis

Cancer’s Sweet Tooth, Quillin, 2000

The Cancer Files:  Why are the Best Cancer Treatments Not Used?

Can a High Fat Diet Beat Cancer, Friebe, 2007

Animal Fats Don’t Cause Breast Cancer, Groves, 2008

The Cancer-Carbohydrate Link, Blackbird Clinic

The Paleo Diet Breast Cancer Testimonial

Anti-Cancer, a New Way of Life, Servan-Schreiber, 2008 (book)

Beating Cancer with Nutrition, Quillin, 2001 (book)

Garlic Roasted Tomatoes & Sausage with Zucchini “Noodles”

Ahh, September!  Tomatoes, peppers, zucchini — all summer’s heat-lovers ripen in droves.  Gardens and farmers markets burst with produce, and cooks scramble to serve it all.

This dish made its debut on my table in the middle of last week.  I’ve made it twice since.  I can’t resist. 

Garlic Roasted Tomatoes and Sausage with Zucchini “Noodles”

  • 6 medium-to-large garlic cloves, peeled and quartered (adjust quantity to taste, bearing in mind that roasted garlic is much milder than garlic in its raw or sauteed state)
  • 1/2 cup onion, roughly diced
  • 3 cups mixed cherry and pear tomatoes, halved
  • 1/2 cup sweet red, orange, or yellow bell pepper, diced
  • 1/4 cup olive oil
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 2/3 pound pork sausage
  • 1 medium zucchini
  • 1/4  cup fresh basil, chopped

Pre-heat oven to 425 degrees.  Place quartered garlic cloves in 9×13 baking dish and drizzle with 1/8 cup olive oil, stirring to coat.  Put garlic in oven to being roasting while slicing onions, tomatoes, and peppers.  Add sliced vegetables, remaining olive oil, and salt to baking dish.  Stir to coat with oil, then spread in a single layer before returning to oven.  Roast 45 minutes, stirring every 15-20 minutes.

While tomato mixture roasts, use a vegetable peeler to pare the entire zucchini into wide, flat “noodles.”  With 5 minutes of roasting time left, steam the zucchini in a small amount of water, then drain and keep hot until serving.  Meanwhile, crumble sausage in stovetop skillet and cook over medium heat until done.

Combine sausage and tomato mixture.  Serve over zucchini “noodles” and top with fresh basil.  Makes 2 servings.

Keema & Sweet Potato Omelette

Omelettes again.  Omelettes, omelettes, omelettes. They’re delicious, sure, but they’re such a staple on the paleo breakfast menu that we’ve seen them all. Haven’t we?

Not quite. This Keema & Sweet Potato Omelette is the best I’ve had in recent memory — fluffy, creamy, savory, salty, sweet, and 100% delicious.

Before you can make the breakfast, however, you need to make dinner. (Oh, darn. Two meals for the price of one.) What’s for dinner? Keema, of course! Keema is a simple Indian dish featuring ground lamb and the spice blend known as garam masala.

Here’s how it’s done: Saute together 1 pound ground lamb (beef works too), 1 medium chopped onion, and a couple cloves of garlic. When the meat is nearly done, add 2 Tbs garam masala and 3/4 tsp salt. Saute another minute or so, then add 1/2 cup beef broth and 1/4 cup tomato paste. Stir and simmer until the tomato paste is well incorporated.

Serve your keema with a side of cubed sweet potato roasted in coconut oil with a few red pepper flakes. Be sure to save some for your omelette!


Growing Costs: The Value of Food

I’m going grass-fed. I promised.

My freezer is nearly empty of conventional meats. A pound or two of bacon remains. And some organic ground beef from Costco, which is New Zealand grassfed mixed with American organic grainfed. After that’s gone, I’m all in.

I’ve found a vendor of quality, local, grassfed meats just one town over. They sell beef tenderloin for around $20/lb, but I’ll be ordering the ground beef, stew beef, and mixed cuts of pork that average $5.50/lb.

I may have to close my eyes while entering my credit card number. I will try very hard not to think about conventional prices of $1.98 for ground round or pork shoulder at $1.79 or whole roaster chickens under $3.00 on sale.

This, after all, is simply how much food ought to cost. Unsubsidized, allowed to mature at a natural rate without being poisoned by a grain diet that would kill them in months despite heavy antibiotic loads, if they didn’t go to the slaughterhouse first, livestock is not cheap to raise.

In fact, given the dinner I enjoyed last night, $5.50/lb for local, grassfed beef looks downright reasonable. Yesterday evening, I cooked up two, broiled lamb chops with mint pesto and side of sauteed summer squash and onions with thyme.

Simple, right?

Sure, if you picked it all up from the grocery. But I didn’t. Those chops came from lambs born here at In the Night Farm. I grew the herbs and onion. The squash came from a co-worker’s garden.

Cheap, right?

Hardly. Not even if you picked it all up from the grocery. Which I didn’t.

Those chops came from lambs born here at In the Night Farm, remember? They were grass (actually, mostly hay) fed, which meant they took their time maturing to slaughtering size. Quite aside from the daily labor of caring for livestock, the monetary cost can’t be ignored. Care to have a look?

Quality alfalfa/grass mix hay runs $125 a ton around here. That’s about $0.0625 per pound. A sheep eats 5 pounds a day, for a daily feed cost of $.32. The sheep in question was 450 days old when slaughtered, and therefore consumed $144.00 worth of hay.

Well. That’s not too bad!

But wait. I also had to feed my breeding stock — one ewe and one ram. I’ll only add in the price of one parent, since the lamb I’m calculating was a twin.

So, $144 in lamb feed plus $144 for its mama’s feed (and that’s assuming I didn’t have to feed mama during gestation, which of course isn’t true), for a total of $288 in feed.

Now, add butchering costs. I paid $207 for both lambs, so let’s call it $103.50 for one.

$288 in feed plus $103.50 butchering = $391.50 for one lamb.

How much meat is in a lamb? About 40 pounds.

$391.50 / 40 pounds = $9.79 / pound.

Oh, my.

Is it worth it? To eat a healthy animal? A healthful animal? An animal I raised from birth, cared for daily through winter’s snow and summer’s blaze? An animal that, well-nourished, can provide real nourishment in return?

An animal that gave its life for mine?

$9.79 per pound.

That’s value.

You might also like
A Tale of Oregon Elk: On Food and Gratitude
Practically Impossible: The Challenge of Sustainable Living
The Organic Pocketbook: A Struggle Survived

Tuesday Tallies

My occasional answer to the frequently asked questions, “What do you eat?” and “How do you work out?”

Saturday’s Food as Fuel

Breakfast: Two eggs over easy with avocado, cottage cheese, and primal chili.

Lunch: Moroccan chicken. Half an apple with almond butter.

Dinner: Bunless hamburger with smoked gouda, sauteed mushrooms and onions, and fresh garden salad with olive oil and balsamic vinegar. Half an ounce of 99% chocolate and coconut cream.

Saturday’s Workout: Long day on the farm. 11+ hours of “moving slowly,” with occasional lifting of heavy things. Horse training, riding, chores, gardening…

Sunday’s Food as Fuel

Breakfast: Moroccan chicken over jicama and carrot “rice.”

Lunch: Three eggs scrambled with onion, jalipeno, and spinach, topped with avocado and hot sauce.

Dinner: Harvati rolled in deli roast beef. Salad with sugar snap peas, strawberries, apple, walnuts, and olive oil-cinnamon vinegar dressing.

Sunday’s Workout: Even longer day on the farm. All the above, plus rototilling.

Monday’s Food as Fuel

Breakfast: Intermittent fast totaling 16 hours.

Lunch: Spinach and garden lettuce salad with canned wild salmon, avocado, olives, sundried tomatoes, olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Dinner: Primal hamburger casserole. Roasted carrots and zucchini. 1 oz. 99% chocolate.

Monday’s Workout: 4x rotation of barbell lunges, weighted HLRs, pullups, deadlifts, and weighted bench situps. Evening walk with Wyrsa the staghound.

Tuesday’s Food as Fuel

Breakfast: Three eggs scrambled with onion, jalipeno, and spinach, topped with avocado and hot sauce. Strawberries and blueberries blended with coconut milk.

Lunch: Spinach salad with canned wild salmon, avocado, roasted carrots and zucchini, and olive oil and balsamic vinegar.

Dinner: A handful of Primal Energy Mix, and maybe a tin of sardines.

Tuesday’s Workout: Rest day. Concealed carry class tonight!

Bloody Marvelous

I just received the results of my first-ever blood panel.

Normally, I avoid conventional medicine (aside from emergency care, which is a whole other — and much more impressive! — ballgame) like the plague that it (mostly) is.

But, when Central District Health brought a $22 cholesterol screening and fasting blood glucose test clinic to my office, I couldn’t pass up the chance for some cheap numbers. My inner geek demands regular feedings, after all, and I was dying to know whether this high fat, moderate protein, fairly low carb diet was killing me.

I’ve been primal (closer to paleo, actually) for a good 7 months now. Unfortunately, I don’t have “before” blood work. A comparison would be fascinating, particularly as I’d been mostly vegan for the previous three years.

Anyway, here are the numbers as they came off the report. Interpretation to follow.

Fasting blood glucose: 84 mg/dL (Optimal is 60-100. Higher puts you in the pre-diabetes or diabetes category.)

Total cholesterol: 216 mg/dL (Optimal is under 200. Or so says conventional wisdom. Wait for it…)

Triglycerides: 38 mg/dL (Optimal is 30-150.)

HDL: 101 mg/dL (Optimal is 40 or more. This is the “good” cholesterol.)

LDL: 107 mg/dL (Optimal is under 100. According to conventional wisdom.)

I know enough about cholesterol to be unconcerned about these numbers, but for all the gory details, I pulled up this fantastic post, written by a knowledgeable member of the MDA forum. “Griff” has actually reversed full-fledged, type II diabetes with diet alone, and he knows his stuff.

As Griff explains clearly and thoroughly, total cholesterol is much less important than the ratios between the numbers, and LDL cholesterol numbers from a simple test like this are inaccurate in anyone with triglycerides below 100 mg/dL.

Let’s start with that second point. LDL is typically calculated using the Friedwald formula, but it is well known that the formula only works properly, mathematically speaking, if trigs are higher than 100 mg/dL. Therefore, because my trigs only came in at 38, I know that the 107 listed for my calculated LDL is inaccurate.

Fortunately, there is a different and more accurate formula available. According to the Iranian calculation (detailed in Griff’s post, if you’re curious), my LDL is actually only 71.7 — well within the optimal range of 100 or fewer mg/dL. So there.

Now, let’s talk about ratios. There are three that count. Here are mine and what they mean:

Total:HDL = 216:101 = 2.1 (Ideal for women is 4.4 or lower. This indicates that my LDL cholesterol is predominantly Pattern A, or “large fluffy,” which is neutral rather than dangerous.)

Trigs:HDL = 38:101 = .37 (Ideal is 2 or lower. This indicates low risk of heart disease, as well as low free insulin, which is a good thing.)

LDL:HDL = 71.7:101 = .7 (Ideal is 4.3 or below. Even using the inaccurate, Friedwald formula, my ratio is still stellar at 1. This indicates that I have very little carotid plaque.)

So. It looks like I’m not going to keel over from coronary heart disease anytime soon.

Pass the bacon n’ barbell, please.

For details of what I’ve been eating these past 7 months, check out the posts labeled Tuesday Tallies. You’ll see that they’ve changed some over time (mostly in a carb-lowering direction), but the central principles have remained intact.

PSA: If you have bloodwork results of your own handy, please, PLEASE do yourself a favor and run the ratios on them. Your numbers can be low enough to satisfy your doctor, yet your ratios could put you in the danger zone. Conversely, you may have been prescribed statins (and all their nasty side effects) when your ratios are actually quite safe. See the MDA post linked above for easy instructions on how to do the math.

For further reading, there are lots of links in the post. See also Protein Power by the Drs. Eades.

Coconut Fried Plantains

Here’s an easy, 100% primal dessert I’ve been serving lately as part of my commitment to reintroduce a reasonable quantity of carbohydrate to my diet. (More on that in an upcoming post.) A whole, medium plantain contains about 60 grams of carbs, but just a quarter of a fruit fried up in healthful coconut makes a remarkably satisfying, barely-sweet end to a meal.

The medium-chain fatty acids and monoglycerides in coconut oil are widely credited with health benefits ranging from enhanced longevity to fat loss to anti-viral impact to the elimination of candida.

Tropical Traditions is a good source of quality coconut oil. Get on their e-mailing list for a steady stream of notifications about excellent deals on their products.

Coconut Fried Plantains

1 medium plantain, peeled and cut lengthwise, then width-wise into quarters
1/2 cup unsweetened, dessicated coconut
2 Tbs coconut oil
1 cup coconut cream
Dash of cinnamon

Melt coconut oil in the bottom of a glass bread pan. Roll each plantain quarter in the oil, then in the dessicated coconut to coat generously. Return plantain quarters to pan and bake at 350 degrees for about 30 minutes, until coconut is well toasted. Serve each plantain quarter on a small plate with 1/4 cup coconut cream and a sprinkle of cinnamon. Serves 4.


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