Happy Thanksgiving!

Enjoy your Thanksgiving everyone! Don’t worry about going paleo. Live it up, it’s a holiday.

I’ll be on the road with family and friends, so no posts til Monday!

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Did Paleolithic Cavemen Die at a Young Age?

This is one of the arguments against eating a paleo-style diet. “Cavemen died very young, so why should I try to eat like them?” I don’t know, and I’m too busy sharpening my spear and gathering roots to think about it. I think this argument is silly, obviously, but I still thought I would explore it to see what the real life expectancy of people living in the paleolithic era was. According to this article (1), the life expectancy then was 33 years old at birth. So this included babies and children. If the person made it to age 15, the life expectancy increased to 54 years. This article is peer reviewed I believe, but it is still more anthropology and is considered “soft science.” Now some would say that babies and children should be included in the measurement, but think about this. Babies then were not born in sterile hospitals, there was no medical care, and starving was common. Infectious diseases are now well-controlled in developed countries, and so are wild animals that could eat you. It seems that agriculture was not the miracle we all thought it was. It makes sense to be able to conveniently produce more food, but not if that food is unhealthy. The following article is not peer reviewed, it’s merely an opinion of a researcher, but he makes some good points. The Worst Mistake in the History of the Human Race. One interesting point that is made is that a hunter-gatherer lifestyle means fewer people living in one place. They also moved around more to follow food. This spreading out kept diseases from killing huge amounts of people. A disease may be airborne, but it’s not going to travel 20 miles without a body. Agriculture allowed people to gather in larger groups and not move often. There was no tuberculosis and no diarrheal disease before the beginning of farming, and measles and bubonic plague were not around until cities began to develop. Yes, the crowding caused this, not necessarily the agriculture, but one encourages the other.

LOWER PALEOLITHIC

I am not the only blogger interested in this. Check out this post by Turning the Tide. There is no good way to conduct any hard science in this area as the subjects of interest are long dead. I encourage all readers to consider the information presented and make a logical decision on what they think happened, but don’t just assume that agriculture is the best thing ever. Do some research, and consider what the effects of agriculture have been on our society. I’ve posted a few more articles in the sources that are considered reliable. There are also plenty of articles out there that tell a different story. This has been debated for a long time, mostly because no one can really prove anything. I encourage you to read both sides and make a logical decision.

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1. http://www.unm.edu/~hkaplan/KaplanHillLancasterHurtado_2000_LHEvolution.pdf

2. Tellier, Luc-Normand (2009). Urban world history: an economic and geographical perspective. PUQ. p. 26.

3. Jared Diamond (2012). The World Until Yesterday. Viking. p. 353.

No Rant Today

No rant today because I don’t have anything by which I am irritated. Also, my rant from last week was pretty popular, and there is still a debate going in the comments section. If you want something to be irritated about, go read that. I also want to remind commenters that YouTube videos and personally written books do not qualify as reliable sources. Believe it or not, anyone can say anything they want in a YouTube video and a book.

Sorry_but_it's_true

I’m feeling very happy today, but I do wish cheap wine was healthy. At least it’s paleo.

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This is me trying some elderberry wine at a small local winery. It was too sweet for me (hence the face), but it had a very different flavor than wines made with grapes. I’m sure there is a fancy way I could make my own wine to ensure that it’s paleo, but that just sounds like too much work.

Around the holidays, a lot of people like to have a few cocktails. Here is a list of all the alcoholic beverages that are paleo.

  • Potato vodka
  • Red wine
  • Rum
  • Sparkling wine
  • Tequila
  • White wine

 

I also wish beer was paleo because I’m a huge Steelers fan, and beer and football just go together.

steelers

Coconut Oil

Coconut oil is a staple in any hard core paleo-eater’s diet. This is because A. we aren’t afraid of saturated fat, B. we know the dangers of rancid oils, and C. we like to have nice skin. It’s also an acceptable way to fry food because of the high smoke point.

800px-Coconut-butter

Coconut oil is extracted from the meat of mature coconuts by one of two methods: wet processing or dry processing. Most coconut oil is dry processed because it is more economical (higher yield) and more appealing (1). The dry process involves  removal of the coconut meat from multiple coconuts, drying it in a kiln, and pressing what is left. Two products come out of the press: coconut oil, and copra which is a high-protein fibrous mash that is used in ruminant feed and not suitable for human consumption. The copra is strained out, and the coconut oil remains (2).

Commercial coconut oil is about 91% saturated fatty acids, 6% oleic acid (healthy monounsaturated fatty acid), and 3% polyunsaturated fatty acid. It’s smoke point (why we love it) is 350 degrees F (3).

Many health organizations including the FDA (4), WHO (5), American Heart Association (6), etc, advise against the ingestion of coconut oil because of the high saturated fat content, but if you’ve read my post about saturated fat, you know how I feel about that.

According to a 2003 meta-analysis (7), the use of coconut oil as a replacement for other sources of saturated fats (just partially, not entirely) increased overall cholesterol, but much of the effect was on the HDL (good) cholesterol. One of the most accurate predictors of cardiac events is the following ratio total cholesterol: HDL cholesterol. The lower this ratio is, the safer you are. Consumption of coconut oil, decreased this ratio compared to the addition of CARBS. Replacing saturated fatty acids with carbs had little effect on the cholesterol ratio, but it did increase the concentration of triglycerides when fasting (7).

Besides its uses in cooking, coconut oil is great for skin and hair topically (8, 9). I know this from my personal experience, as well.

Also, as I mentioned earlier, coconut oil has a very high smoke point compared to other oils like olive (3). When an oil reaches its smoke point, it begins to break down to its components, fatty acids and glycerol. The glycerol will continue its breakdown to a substance called acrolein which is a compound in the smoke that is irritating to the eyes and throat (10). It is also a component of cigarette smoke (11). Since coconut oil has a high smoke point, it is safer to cook with. As oils break down, they also begin to lose nutritional value making olive oil healthy when raw, but not so much when heated.

Coconut oil does have a mild coconut scent and flavor. I prefer to cook with ghee or butter because the flavor is better, and the smoke point is still adequate. I mostly use coconut oil for topical purposes because the smell is nice. Different skin types react differently to the oil. For instance, my skin is firm, so it doesn’t absorb the oil quickly. The oil makes my skin look great, but I have to wash it off before going anywhere as it looks greasy. I’ve heard other people say that their skin soaks it right up. Trial and error. I’ve also used it to treat rashes, scrapes, burns, and even acne. It can even be used as a mouthwash, but I don’t do this anymore because it uses a lot of oil, and coconut oil is expensive. This is the brand that I use.

coco

Anyway, I encourage you to give it a try, topically if not in cooking, and see how you like it. I think it’s pretty wonderful.

1. Grimwood et al., 1975, pp. 193–210

2. Grimwood, BE; Ashman F; Dendy DAV; Jarman CG; Little ECS; Timmins WH (1975). Coconut Palm Products – Their processing in developing countries. Rome: FAO. pp. 49–56.

3. Katragadda, H. R.; Fullana, A. S.; Sidhu, S.; Carbonell-Barrachina, Á. A. (2010). “Emissions of volatile aldehydes from heated cooking oils”. Food Chemistry 120: 59.

4. “Nutrition Facts at a Glance – Nutrients: Saturated Fat”Food and Drug Administration. 2009-12-22. Retrieved 2011-03-16.

5. “Avoiding Heart Attacks and Strokes” (PDF). World Health Organization. Retrieved 2011-04-06.

6.  “Tropical Oils”American Heart Association. Retrieved 2011-03-16.

7. Mensink RP, Zock PL, Kester AD, Katan MB (May 2003). “Effects of dietary fatty acids and carbohydrates on the ratio of serum total to HDL cholesterol and on serum lipids and apolipoproteins: a meta-analysis of 60 controlled trials” (PDF). Am. J. Clin. Nutr. 77 (5): 1146–55.

8. Agero AL, Verallo-Rowell VM (September 2004). “A randomized double-blind controlled trial comparing extra virgin coconut oil with mineral oil as a moisturizer for mild to moderate xerosis”. Dermatitis 15 (3): 109–16

9. Rele, A.; Mohile, R. (2003). “Effect of mineral oil, sunflower oil, and coconut oil on prevention of hair damage” (pdf). Journal of cosmetic science 54 (2): 175–192.

10.  Morgan, D. A. (1942). “Smoke, fire, and flash points of cottonseed, peanut, and other vegetable oils”. Oil & Soap 19: 193.

11. Feng, Z; Hu W, Hu Y, Tang M (October 2006). “Acrolein is a major cigarette-related lung cancer agent: Preferential binding at p53 mutational hotspots and inhibition of DNA repair”Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences 103 (42): 15404–15409.

Egg Muffins Recipe

egg muffin

 

This recipe is very very easy, even easier than the frittata. Egg breakfasts are my favorite, and anyone that goes paleo tends to get sick of cooking them. This is another recipe that can be made ahead of time and heated up in the microwave for a quick, satisfying breakfast.

Ingredients

  • 1 dozen eggs
  • 12 slices bacon or 6 deli slices ham or 6 deli slices turkey
  • half cup chopped scallions
  • 1/2 cup cheese (optional) If you eat cheese, these are best with feta or cheddar, but are just fine without cheese

Directions

  • Preheat over to 375 degrees F.
  • Grease a 12-muffin muffin tin with non-stick cooking spray.
  • Line each hole with 1 slice bacon or half slice ham or half slice turkey
  • Crack one egg into each hole. You can beat them if you want, but I kind of like the whole yolk in mine
  • sprinkle the top with scallions and cheese (optional)
  • Bake for 25 minutes or until the muffins no longer jiggle when you shake the pan
  • These are easiest to get out if you let them cool and use a butter knife around the edges

Makes 12 muffins.

egg muff

These muffins are as diverse as the asparagus and bacon fritata. You can add any veggie you like although I recommend cooking firmer veggies a little before adding them to the muffin pan. I have tried this with all three suggested meats and had success. You can also dice the meat and put it inside the muffin instead of using it as a liner. Either way is good. I like to enjoy 2 at a time with a little sriracha and a side of fruit.

Grass-Fed Vs. Grain-Fed Beef

I have mentioned before in passing the differences in the fatty acid profiles of grass-fed vs. grain-fed beef. But today, I’m going to go a little more in depth. Or rather, CNN went in depth and I’m going to highlight some points from their article, and add on where I see fit.

http://www.cnn.com/2011/HEALTH/03/29/grass.grain.beef.cookinglight/

1. Cost

It is widely known that grass-fed beef costs more than traditionally-fed beef. However, it can be much more affordable purchased in bulk directly from a local farm. A single cow can often be split by multiple families with deep freezers. Also, many different cuts of meat will be included, which means that filet mignon will be cheaper by the pound straight from the farm than the grain-fed filets in-store. But grass grows by itself. Grain doesn’t. Why should grass-fed meat cost more? It seems cheaper to produce. What gives? Cows grow faster with a typical diet of grains, corn, some grass, some growth hormones, and some antibiotics. Bigger animals = more meat per animal = lower price.

2. Environment

I’m not one of those people who gets really into environmental issues. I recycle, and I try not to use Styrofoam. But it is definitely true that less energy is expended upon grass-fed cows (they eat grass) than grain-fed cows where the grain has to be grown with whatever pesticides and farm equipment may be necessary. Another benefit is healthier animals. The fatty acid profile of grass-fed animals is not only healthier for us to eat, it’s a healthier way for the animals to live. Not to mention, most feedlot practices are awful and inhumane.

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Appetizing, eh?

Lastly, it makes healthy, economic sense to buy beef from a local farmer.

3. Taste

I’ll be honest in my experience that it is harder to make grass-fed beef taste amazing. With all that fat missing, what do you expect? But with a little care, I came to the same conclusion that CNN did. Grass-fed beef can be just as good if it is cooked properly. When it isn’t, you just have to chew more.

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4. Nutrition

The big one. Before I get really into it, there are some skeptics that CNN mentions. The first is Chris Raines, a professor of meat science at Penn State. (I had no idea you could be a professor in that topic.) His quote: “Some people get very excited about the fatty-acid profile of grass-fed beef. Then, in the same breath, they’ll talk about how wonderfully lean it is. We’re talking up the good fats that aren’t really there.” Overall, this seems like a legitimate statement. However, the fatty acid profile IS better. Isn’t it better to eat good fats even if there is less fat there? Also, there are more antioxidants, vitamins A and E, beta-carotene, and way less calories! Considering the average American eats 67 pounds of beef per year, these nutrients add up. Just the calories, you would save about 16,600 aka 5.5 pounds of body fat.

The other skeptic is Shalene McNeill, PhD, who is the executive director for human nutrition research at the National Cattlemen’s Beef Association. This expert’s place of employment should lead you to take anything she says with caution. She says “… if you look at it (the difference between grass- and grain-fed beef) in terms of a whole diet, it’s not a significant advantage to human health.” I’d rather not have that extra 5.5 pounds, but maybe that’s just me.

Now, not only does grass-fed beef have benefits, but it’s also usually organic and raised without hormones and antibiotics (check the label). The growth hormones should worry you enough, added hormones can be extremely disruptive. But how about the antibiotics? Why should healthy animals need strong chemical treatments? Here’s why. Inside the gut of a beef cow, there is a huge amount of E. coli bacteria. It is supposed to be there. Grass is tough to break down, and bacteria help. That’s why humans don’t eat grass. We can’t digest it. The highly specialized digestive systems of cattle are meant for the high fiber of grass. When cows are fed grains, especially corn, the high carbohydrate and low fiber content becomes a breeding ground for bacteria. Seriously, there is an 80% increase in gut bacteria (harmful strain of E. coli) of grain-fed cows (1). Before you swear off beef all together, this strain of E. coli is not necessarily harmful to us in naturally-fed beef. Our stomach acid kills it. However, it is very unhealthy for the animals. It creates bloating, and an increase in the animals’ stomach acid (trying to kill it) which increases the likelihood that the bacteria will become resistant. This ups the risk of E. coli contamination for us (2). And that is why there are antibiotics in most beef.

bacon

Not paleo, but still hilarious.

1. Russel, James B. Rumen Microbiology and Its Role in Ruminant Nutrition, 2002.

2. Pollan, Michael. The Omnivore’s Dilemma. (New York: Penguin Press, 2006.) 82.