The DNA in our cells is principally still hard-wired to process the diet of our primal ancestors. They are still programmed to digest and derive benefit from a similar diet to that of our hunter-gatherer forefathers, and not the manufactured and highly processed foods that we consume today. Since the agricultural revolution around 10,000 BC, our food has steadily become less and less rich in nutrients, vitamins and minerals, and progressively manufactured with more and more starches, unhealthy sugars, hydrogenated oils and fake food ingredients that we are simply not designed to consume. While the quality of our food has been in a slow decline for circa 12,000 years, it’s fallen off a cliff in the past 50 years. The food we consume en masse in Britain today is almost completely unrelated to that on which the human race has evolved.
If you are heavily overweight or obese, then there is no doubt about it – getting your weight under control is the most important step you can take to a healthier, longer and more enjoyable life. So let’s get straight to one of the most important principles of living primally. Today, more people are going to gyms, jogging and cycling than at any point in the history of mankind, yet as a nation we are the fattest we have ever been. The same goes for most of Europe and America – in fact the whole modern world! Look at the statistics. In the UK, more than 9 million people are now paying for gym membership, and as a result there are now more than 6,500 gyms. Yet, even with our new gym obsession, according to the NHS, “Obesity levels in the UK have more than trebled in the last 30 years”.
How is it that more and more people are going to the gym and yet we are getting
fatter and fatter? Before you jump to the wrong conclusion, it is not the gym that is necessarily making us fatter, it’s that more people are believing that getting fit is the best way to lose weight, when in reality we must first tackle what type of fuel we are putting in our tank. As Dr Aseem Malhotra says, ‘You can’t out exercise your fork!’
Dr Jason Fung
In the United Kingdom from 1997 to 2008, regular exercise increased from 32 per cent to 39 per cent in men and 21 per cent to 29 per cent in women. There’s a problem, though. All this activity had no effect on obesity at all. Obesity increased relentlessly, even as we sweated to the oldies. The phenomenon is global. A recent eight-country survey revealed that Americans exercised the most - 135 days per year compared to a global average of 112 days. The Dutch came in last at 93 days. Weight loss was the main motivation for exercise in all countries. Did all this activity translate into lower rates of obesity? Glad you asked. The Dutch and Italians, with their low exercise rates, experienced less than one-third the obesity of those excessive exercising Americans.
Hopefully by now you realise that excess CARBS (other than fibre) are just terrible for our health. Just as we realised decades back that there was an undeniable link between smoking and cancer, in the same magnitude we are now aware that there is a direct link between CARBS and obesity. Recently the BBC ran an article on its website titled, “Obesity ‘to be linked to more female cancers’ than smoking”, which went on to say, “Obesity is set to overtake smoking as the biggest preventable cause of cancer in UK women by 2043”. Now I am going to repeat this probably 100 times throughout this book because it’s the root cause to the vast majority of chronic diseases that are devastating so many families across our county. It doesn’t matter which CARBS we are talking about, they all get entirely broken down into sugar in the body, and too much sugar causes a spike in insulin, and the health effects are cutting short millions of lives. I genuinely believe that the case against processed CARBS, sugary drinks, packaged foods, chemically grown crops, and so on, should be made as strongly as the case against cigarettes.
Eat Plenty Of Protein – But Not To Excess
Remember, it is protein that creates life. After a big session in the gym, if we don’t consume sufficient protein (amino acids), then our muscles won’t repair themselves. Plus, as we get older our ability to process proteins declines – meaning that we need to consume more to achieve the same results.
But it is important that we don’t go all-out on protein consumption. While CARBS are quickly turned into sugar, excess protein can also be converted too. Therefore, if we overdose on protein there is a chance we might put on weight. Plus, a by-product of protein is nitrogen. When we consume too much protein, the nitrogen can cause problems for our liver and kidneys. However, when we get the balance right this nitrogen just passes through our system and exits in urine.
Consume Plenty of Good Fats, but Avoid the Ugly Ones
We have already discussed that it is not the consumption of fat that makes us fat,
but CARBS and other sugars. However, while some fats are healthy for us, others are outright dangerous. At first the subject of fats can be overwhelming and appear difficult to comprehend, so I have decided to simplify the matter by breaking it down into a few subheadings and to only focus on the information that makes the biggest difference.
No wonder the subject of fats is so bewildering. For the past 50 years or so the government, backed by inaccurate research, has informed us that saturated fats are bad for us and we should eat polyunsaturated fats instead. That meant meat got a bad rap, as about half the fat found in cattle, sheep and pigs is saturated. The demonisation of saturated fats led to the decline of many breeds of British cattle such as the Hereford and Shorthorns and the import of leaner breeds of cattle from the continent.
And the poor pigs, who were once fat to keep them warm in winter, had their natural diet dramatically modified so that they are much leaner. If we look at photos of pigs from 50 years ago compared to those reared today, we will notice they are far skinnier in comparison. We have basically changed our breeds and reared them differently because we once thought saturated animal fats caused diseases. Today, other than in newspaper and BBC headlines, most leading doctors and I firmly believe that as long as the meat is organic, consuming the fat is actually healthy.
It has to be, this is how our species developed. And what’s more, as you will read later, organic meat actually protects the environment and helps in slowing down the advancement of global warming.
How did everyone get it so wrong? When the deadly trans-fats started to appear en masse, some misguided and ill-informed individuals lumped all fats under the same heading and deemed them all unhealthy. Yet, natural animal fats vs factory-created, chemically enhanced fats is like comparing chalk and cheese.
In the incredibly insightful book Smart Fats, written by Dr Steven Masley and Jonny Bowden PhD, CNS, they write, “We’ve been so concerned with ‘saturated fats vs unsaturated’ and ‘animal vs vegetable’, that we’ve lost sight of a far more important distinction: toxic vs non-toxic fat – or, as we call it, dumb fat vs smart fat”.
Not only are most fats healthy for us, they are so much better at making us feel full. Unlike deadly CARBS, which spike our glucose and insulin levels, and then bring them crashing down shortly afterwards making us crave even more food, fat leaves us feeling full for longer – much longer. In fact, it is exclusively fat that has zero effect on our blood sugar levels. Remember, even our beloved protein can spike both blood glucose and insulin if over-consumed.
One of the reasons fats make us feel fuller for longer (satiety), is that it doesn’t begin to get processed in the stomach, but instead has to wait until it reaches the intestines. Fat, just like a balloon, floats on water. The enzymes that break down fat are lipases. Lipases struggle to get at the fat in the stomach while it’s floating on top of the watery mush being tumbled in our internal washing machine, and patiently wait for it to drop into the intestines. While the body is busy processing carbohydrates and protein, the side- lined fats make us feel fuller for longer.
Oils & Fats Are The Same Thing
While I mentioned earlier that trying to understand fats can be a little bit daunting, there are two fat facts that once known help put the rest of the more complicated stuff into perspective.
- The only difference between oils and fats is that oils are liquid at room temperature.
- All fats and oils fall into one of two categories – either saturated, or unsaturated.
The following chart shows the main groups of fats and oils and how they relate to one another. It’s also important to understand that the overwhelming majority of the foods we eat, contain more than one type of these fats.
You need to fall in love with this fat, as it plays a leading role in being healthy. It is often the solution to so many problems and carries the key to health, happiness and longevity. We will discuss the merits later, but for now start eating plenty of nuts (especially macadamia nuts), organic oily fish, olives, dark chocolate, avocados or go out and source a quality omega 3 supplement, sourced from deep water fish. Or if you are vegetarian, be sure to consume plenty of flaxseed (also known as linseed) oil.
Why is omega 3 so beneficial? There are literally hundreds of reasons! For a start, it makes platelets, which are microscopic particles in our blood, less sticky. As a result, it reduces the likelihood of blood clots, which among other side effects can lead to heart attacks.
Omega 3 also reduces the risks of cancer, arthritis and makes our brains brighter
too. And that’s just for starters! If you’re of my generation, your mother might have given you cod liver tablets as a child. Although they didn’t have a nice taste, even 40 years ago our mums knew more about health than most people do today. I personally recommend omega 3 supplements to almost everyone I meet.
Omega 3 vs Omega 6
Firstly, although it’s a little bit geeky, let me explain where the word ‘omega’ and how its bunch of numbers came about. Omega is the last letter in the Greek alphabet. The various numbers associated with them refer to how far from the end of the molecule chain the first double bond occurs. For example, in omega 6, the double bond occurs on the sixth carbon atom from the end (the omega).
Nature designed us to consume omega 3 and omega 6 in roughly the same quantities. Our body ideally needs this 1:1 balance for us to function properly. However today, it is estimated that those who consume a lot of fats via fast foods, packaged foods and vegetable oils actually consume a ratio closer to 1:20. That means the balance is out by a massive 2,000%. Is this a worry? You bet! Omega 6 causes inflammation and inflammation is a root cause of many deadly diseases.
It’s not that omega 6 is a bad fat, it’s just that it behaves like a reckless child in the absence of its sensible sibling omega 3. On a diet primarily based on CARBS the balance can be as far out as 25:1. That spells danger. Plus, if you love meat but always buy beef originating from corn-fed, hormone- and antibiotic-enabled cows, then you are probably consuming omega at about 7:1, rather than the 1:1 we get from organic, grass-fed cows. For the correct ratios of omega 3 to omega 6, look no further than some of the items in the Top 20 Superfoods on page 225.
Why all the talk about omega 3 and 6? Aren’t there more omegas? Yes there are. They have some pretty special siblings that are quite advantageous for more niche health benefits, but as our body can create them naturally, they are not essential in our diet.
For completeness on the subject, scientifically omega 3, 5 and 6 are all poly-unsaturated fats, while omega 7 and 9 are mono-unsaturated.
Firstly, not all saturated fats are exclusively from animals. Coconut oils contain saturated fats too. While there is no need to take any precautions with the holy coconut, saturated animal fat is slightly different. With saturated animal fats, they are only truly healthy (and I am talking about all meat, dairy and poultry produce), if they are from an organic source. If we talk about meat from a cow forced to eat corn and pumped full of drugs, then the resulting fat is very bad indeed. If researchers and newspaper headlines were to separate organic saturated fats from saturated fats derived from factory reared animals, then I would then probably agree with their health warning for the latter. But sadly, they don’t, they simply lump all meats together.
What Oils To Keep In Your Pantry
Let’s look in detail at some of the oils we will find on supermarket shelves, from the great through to the deadliest.
Coconut & Medium-Chain Triglycerides
Medium-chain triglycerides (MCTs) are the really good fat guys, and the king of the MCT jungle is the coconut. MCTs are the fats that just keep on giving! When consumed they turn almost immediately into fuel, kick start the body’s process of converting body fat into energy and help suppress hunger. Because they have a shorter chain length than other fats, they travel rapidly from the digestive tract to the liver, where they are quickly converted to energy or morphed into ketones.
When we live life more naturally, MCTs help increase our energy levels and, while I don’t subscribe to endurance sport as part of a healthy lifestyle, on the odd occasion when playing a long game of tennis or if I do get roped into going for a run, I will consume a few serving spoons of coconut oil as my fuel. It provides energy just as fast as CARBS and other sugars, but without any of the negatives.
Although we don’t count calories when living life naturally, it’s interesting to know that MCTs have a lower caloric content than other fats. Not only are they low in calories and provide almost instant energy, they actually help the body burn its own fat stores in a process called thermogenesis. In the absence of sugar, MCTs encourage our body to create ketones (much more on ketones coming up).
Other than coconut oil, smaller concentrations of MCTs can also be found in other saturated fats including organic butter and full-fat yoghurt. However, virtually all other fats, whether they are derived from animals or plants, are what are known as ‘long-chain fatty acids’ (LCFA). MCTs are so good for our body that they are starting to be used in the treatment of cancer, obesity, Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s and many other diseases.
Fat Facts - MCTs are a saturated fat. Let me explain something about their complicated name. Triglycerides are a type of fat (lipid) found in our blood and in certain foods. MCTs are beneficial triglycerides that have a reduced chain length, meaning that they are more able to quickly enter through the membrane of our mitochondria. This rapid absorption by our cells means they almost immediately become fuel for our organs and muscles.
Grant Petersen in his book Eat Bacon, Don’t Jog preaches, “Olive Oil is good but not God: God is a coconut!” The mighty coconut is my favourite flexible friend in the kitchen. I use it as an oil, as milk to thicken curries, as a flour, as flakes in a salad... in fact I use it in every way I possibly can. I add it to smoothies, and I put it in my morning coffee. I use it as a moisturiser, sunscreen and even as a mouthwash.
Understanding The Types Of Coconut Oils
Sadly, unlike the labelling of olive oils, which are heavily regulated by the IOC (International Olive Council), there isn’t currently a body that regulates the naming of coconut oils. For example, there is no official difference between extra virgin coconut oil and virgin coconut oil. It appears the ‘extra’ is just an invention of the marketing departments.
Virgin coconut oil, sometimes labelled as ‘pure’, means that the raw flesh (known as copra) of the coconut has been naturally dried and then cold pressed, maintaining the maximum amount of nutrients and beneficial oils. Virgin coconut oil should not be refined and should be processed without heat and exposure to sunlight. Regular coconut oil may have been dried artificially, boiled, bleached, deodorised or otherwise chemically treated.
Even though the labelling of coconut oil isn’t strictly regulated, as long as you select a brand that you trust, don’t let the lack of regulation put you off consuming it. Not only is it great to cook with, it is also fuel for the brain and medicine for the body. Here are just some of the benefits associated with coconut oil:
- May help to prevent Alzheimer’s
- An instant source of energy that won’t get stored as fat
- In the winter it helps to stop us feeling cold by boosting circulation
- Helps improve the quality of sleep
- Great as a mouthwash and whitens teeth
- Increases the absorption of magnesium and calcium
- Accelerates weight loss
- Boosts hormone production
Algae (a.k.a. Algal) Oil
A friend recently asked me about algae oil. My immediate reaction was that, although it would be great if we could buy it in a bottle, I hadn’t yet seen it on a supermarket shelf or in a health store. So I did some research and lo and behold, we can now get algae oil in a bottle – and a glass bottle to boot! Double goodness! You will discover later why I love glass bottles, or more importantly why I loathe and discourage the use of plastic in their manufacture.
Why is this so exciting? Have you ever stopped to think why fish are such a rich source of omega 3? The reason is they eat algae, or if they don’t eat algae, they eat other fish that eat algae. Or if they don’t eat other fish that eat algae they... well, you get my point. Even when we eat fish towards the top of the food chain, such as tuna, we still get the benefit of some omega 3. Now algae oil is derived directly from algae, which is predominantly made up of omega 3 – docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). DHA is said to make up almost all of the omega 3 in our brains. Put simply, consuming algae oil (or the smaller fish in our oceans that eat algae) is going to give us a higher dosage of the fats that fuel our brain.
Butter and Ghee
Here is another health U-turn. For several decades, margarine had been masquerading as a healthy alternative to saturated butter. We now know that it is full of deadly hydrogenated fats. It might spread nicely on our toast (not that you will eat much toast after turning primal), but it is just not good for our health. Its smoothness might not put holes in our bread, but will put holes in the lining of our gut.
Butter, which has been demonised over recent decades, is in fact super-healthy as long as it originates from organic grass-fed cows. Yes, the fat is saturated, but we now know that saturated fat is no longer the enemy.
But even better than butter is ghee. Until recently, I never entertained having ghee in my primal pantry and assumed it was just for cooking Indian dishes. But then, while researching how to get my fitness back on track, I read an article singing the praises of its miraculous health benefits. To make ghee, water is evaporated (clarified) out
of butter, leaving behind a higher concentration of fat and making it more suitable for cooking at higher temperature. As a by-product of the simmering process, the ghee often becomes more aromatic and can sometimes develop a pleasant, light nutty flavour. Many remote cultures around the planet use ghee as a natural medicine and some even make it from human breast milk.
We all know that olive oil is good for us, and is said to make all those Mediterranean people healthy, but when you’re standing in a supermarket aisle looking at a plethora of olive oil nomenclature on labels, no doubt you’re wondering, ‘which ones do those Mediterranean people actually consume’? To answer this, I studied the International Olive Council’s (IOC) website and, whilst there was some confusion, I got some help from a lovely lady in their office. To class as a virgin olive oil, the IOC insist that, “Virgin olive oils are the oils obtained from the fruit of the olive tree solely by mechanical or other physical means under conditions, particularly thermal conditions, that do not lead to alterations in the oil, and which have not undergone any treatment other than washing, decantation, centrifugation and filtration”. The following is to clarify the choices:
- Extra virgin olive oil – this is the Rolls-Royce of olive oils, as it is the richest in antioxidants and polyphenols. To achieve its ‘extra’ status, it has to have an oleic acid level of not more than 0.8g per 100g, and this provides it with a better taste and maximises its health benefits.
- Virgin olive oil – to achieve its ‘virgin’ status, it must have an oleic acid level of not more than 2g per 100g.
- Ordinary virgin olive oil – to have an ‘ordinary virgin’ status, it must have an oleic acid level of not more than 3.3g per 100g.
- Refined olive oil – this is obtained from virgin olive oils by refining methods that must not alter the initial glyceridic structure. It must have an oleic acid level of not more than 0.3g per 100g.
- It’s important to note that refined oils often lack the antioxidants and anti- inflammatories that are found in virgin olive oil.
- Olive oil – a blend of refined olive oil and virgin olive that must have an oleic acid level of not more than 3.3g per 100g.
In addition to the above, you might come across olive pomace oil. These are second- class oils that can be produced with the use of solvents and can be blended with all sorts of other oils. With such stringent IOC governance over what constitutes the different grades, it’s about finding a brand of oil that tantalises your taste buds and still fits your budget.
What about first cold pressed? Why is this not listed above? Simply put, it is not an IOC nomenclature. Many years ago, when they used mats to press olives, there was such a thing as first press and second press, but this is no longer the case these days. Today, it’s just pure marketing hype. Speaking of marketing, don’t be fooled by those who label their oils as ‘light’. It’s not an approved IOC description, and has nothing to do with calories. If anything, they tend to be lighter in flavour only.
Another useful thing to understand is that olive oil, unlike red wine, does not get better with age. Therefore, look at the labels and try to find those with the most recent harvesting dates. They should also be stored in cool, dark places - so even in the UK, during the summer, you might want to store it in the fridge. Once opened, really use
it generously and try to consume it within a month or two. Regardless of the bottle’s expiry date, regardless of how nice its aroma remains, the longer it’s open and the more it’s exposed to warm air and sunlight, the fewer health benefits you will receive from it. And, as always, go for a glass bottle so that it doesn’t leech nasty chemicals into what should remain a bottle bustling full of pure healthfulness.
Sunflower, Safflower, Sesame, Cotton and Rapeseed Oils
They sound healthy, don’t they? Sadly, they’re often not. Their omega 3 to omega 6 ratios can be out-of-kilter by as much as 1:1,000. But an even larger danger lies in how the oils are extracted. The method is often less about nature and nurture, and more about science, technology and highly toxic processes.
While our body thrives on olive oil, coconut oil, and fats from meats, seed oils are often chemically extracted, bleached and deodorised in a way that just isn’t fit for human consumption.
Soybean and Corn Oils
I am pretty sure you have already guessed that oils from soybeans and corn are not good for our health. Not only are they extracted from genetically modified crops, but they are extremely high in omega 6. When we heat these oils, they become easily damaged, and as a result can clog up our arteries.
Peanut Oil and Almond Oil
While nuts themselves are a primal Superfood, when their oils are extracted without all of the other nutrients and fibres, they become exposed to air and sadly oxidise – and oxidised oils are detrimental to our health. Plus, just like seed oils, the process used to extract nut oils is often extremely un-primal. Nut fans should look for cold-pressed and unroasted.
Trans-Fats (a.k.a. Hydrogenated Oils): Toxic, Ugly And Deadly
In the early 1900s, German chemist Wilhelm Normann discovered that you could add hydrogen to some cheap fats and make them even cheaper. Plus, when added to almost any packaged food, this deadly chemical cocktail massively extended the product’s shelf life.
In Smart Fats, Dr Steven Masley and Jonny Bowden PhD, CNS, write, “Artery- clogging trans-fat, which we have likened to embalming fluid that turns our tissues to plastic, is a killer, pure and simple... great for shelf life, but not for your life”. Why are they so unhealthy? Because before being hydrogenated or partially hydrogenated to solidify these nasty oils, they are often infused with chemicals. These cause havoc with our immune system, raise insulin levels and are most likely responsible for many types of cancer.
Where are these life-shortening oils used? Breads, cakes, junk food, fast food, fried food, biscuits, crackers, microwave meals, soups, doughnuts, microwave popcorn, margarine, coffee creamers, crisps and virtually every type of packaged or processed food we can buy in a supermarket. Hopefully, by the time you finish reading this book you will be put off purchasing packaged food and fast food for life. However, if occasionally you wander from the primal path, please read the labels carefully and make sure you avoid these poisonous oils at all times.
It turns out, vegetable oils don’t actually come from vegetables, but to differentiate them from fats derived from animals (and of course they are not minerals), they became known as vegetable oils. But be sure about one thing, they neither contain nor are derived from vegetables!
Even worse they are created from corn and soybeans, two ingredients that are in no way primally acceptable. The oil industry has misled us into believing that vegetable oil is made of vegetables and therefore must be healthy. Wrong! As in, really wrong!
Ever since the birth of the low-fat diet – a diet I sadly followed for more than two decades, the diet that kept me overweight and gave me a foggy brain – vegetable fats have been praised for being unsaturated, and therefore good for the heart. This is simply incorrect. It is just as wide of the mark as when the government told us to purchase diesel cars, as they were supposedly better for the environment.
Vegetable oils are rich in omega 6 which, on its own without the balance of omega 3, causes inflammation. And, as you will discover later, inflammation is the catalyst to nearly all Western diseases. In his book Toxic Oil (which on the cover states, ‘Why vegetable oil will kill you & how to save yourself ’), David Gillespie writes, “Vegetable oil makes you exceedingly vulnerable to cancer. Every mouthful of vegetable oil you consume takes you one step closer to a deadly (and irreversible) outcome. Every mouthful of vegetable oil you feed to your children is doing the same to them”.
Maybe think about it like this. Around 100 years ago vegetable oils did not exist and cancer was very rare. Today one in two people living in Britain will develop cancer and it’s almost impossible to avoid vegetable oils in packaged foods.
A Fat Summary
If all this talk on fats was a little too much, then here is quick guide. Be sure to only consume the good fats listed below.
The Smoking Point Of Fats
If we overheat certain fats and oils then, not only can we kill off their goodness, we turn them toxic. As a general rule of thumb, we don’t want to make our fats and oils smoke. Therefore, depending on what we are cooking, we are going to need a few different healthy oils in our cupboard or fridge. And as oils are sensitive to light, make sure you keep them in the dark.
Let’s start by reaffirming that living primally is not a diet - we’re simply committing to eating as close to what primal man ate, and eat what our body has evolved to thrive on.
When it comes to animal produce, it is critically important to buy as natural as we can possibly afford. I am sure you have heard the saying ‘we are what we eat’ but, when it comes to animal produce, the saying should be extended to ‘we are what our food eats’.
Free-range eggs, free-range chicken and grass-fed cows all provide us with heaps of benefits. They are rich in vital vitamins and have a really healthy omega 3 to omega 6 balance. Cows, pigs, chickens and lambs that are allowed to live naturally, in their natural habitat, feeding on their native primal diet, are really good for our health. But those that are forced to eat corn and grains, foodstuffs that we now understand turns to sugar in the gut, are nowhere near as healthy for us to consume. Remember, one of the core principles of living a more natural life, is that we should only eat what we are designed to eat. It’s exactly the same for cattle. They were designed to eat grass, not mass-produced cheap corn full of omega 6. The food is so unsuited to them that their stomachs bloat like a hot air balloon, and often the factory farmer has to stuff their feed full of antibiotics.
The antibiotics are not just used so that the cattle can digest food that they weren’t designed to eat, but also to supersize them. The antibiotics kill off all of the bacteria that inform the cow that they are full, so it keeps on eating and becomes obese. As we are what we eat, there is a lot of research to suggest that if we eat meat or poultry that has been enhanced with antibiotics, a certain amount of it makes its way onto our dinner plate. So, if we are constantly eating meat produced in factories and not fields, we will undoubtedly damage the helpful bacteria in our gut and our hormones too.
We are not just talking the odd cow that is being stuffed full of drugs. In the USA, more than 75% of all antibiotics sold are consumed not by humans, but by factory-grown animals that make their way into the American diet. It’s not just antibiotics, some cows are on hormones and steroids too! Add all of this to the immorally cramped conditions they live in, and we start to realise that factory meat has virtually nothing in common to the meat our primal ancestors once hunted.
In the excellent book written by Dr Mark Hyman, Eat Fat Get Thin, he informs us, “The ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 fats in grass-fed beef is about 1.5 to 1. In grain- fed beef it is about 7.5 to 1”. Dr Hyman then further promotes the virtues of organic grass-fed meat, saying, “It also has two or three times as much conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) as grain-fed beef, a potent antioxidant that is protective against heart disease, diabetes and cancer and even helps with weight loss metabolism”. So, next time we read a newspaper article saying meat is not good for us, it probably either stems from misinterpreted research or the article is just referring to chemically injected, industrialised factory-produced meat!
If you are still not convinced that we should go organic for everything we consume, then get hold of a copy of Eat Your Heart Out by Felicity Lawrence. The book’s subtitle is, ‘Why the food business is bad for the planet and your health’. Felicity goes behind the scenes of milk production, cattle and pig farming, and much more. It’s a brilliantly insightful book, however the thing that took me most by surprise was SalmoFan. Felicity reveals, “I have personally never felt the same about farmed fish since discovering the SalmoFan – a little fan of colour charts that look for all the world like a sheaf of Dulux paint charts. The SalmoFan specify how much food dye a salmon farmer should administer with his feed depending on how strong a pink colour he wants his end product to be”.
If it was a bit of a challenge to get you to realise that potatoes, pasta and bread make us fat and shorten our life, surely grains with all of their fibre can’t be bad for us? Sadly, they are. Just like CARBS, grains get easily converted into sugar in our digestive tract. But aren’t they full of healthy fibre? Yes they are, however, just like the strawberries in strawberry ice cream might be good for us, there are other ways of getting our strawberries without eating bucket-loads of sugary ice cream. We should get our fibre from nutritionally rich sources such as nuts, seeds and greens, but not from grains. Grains, just like CARBS, spike our insulin levels and turn to fat on our waistline faster than you could possibly imagine.
Hang on a minute, what about whole grain and brown rice – aren’t these proven to
be good for us? Sorry, no. They might be marginally less bad for us than their heavily processed brothers, but they still aren’t primal and therefore our body is not designed to eat them. At the end of the day, while they might have a little more nutritional value, they are still just mutton dressing up as lamb.
One more thing. I hate to be the bearer of bad news, but corn isn’t a vegetable – it’s another form of grain. While corn on the cob might not be as unhealthy, as most of it normally passes straight through the body - popping perfect little yellow cubes out in our poo - just like other grains and CARBS, those pieces that do become digested are converted into sugar. In fact, stop and think about this for a moment. Since the mid 1960s, scientists in America have been able to genetically modify corn, so much so that it is now used across the globe as a sugar (high-fructose corn syrup) in packaged foods. Corn syrup will most likely one day in the future be regarded as an even bigger killer than cigarettes. High fructose corn syrup (HFCS), consumed en masse in packaged foods and sauces, ruins our healthy flora, fauna and colonises an army of deadly bacteria. In a recent report, the average American now eats 27kg (60lbs) of HFCS every year. This is simply way too much for the human body to absorb.
The Colour of Our Food
In the main, edible white stuff is not healthy. Bread, rice and wheat not only turn into sugar in the body, but also have most of their beneficial nutrients sucked out of them during their refining process.
So, with a broad-brush approach, if we avoid the white stuff then we are on our way to a healthy life. The only white foods we want to consume come in the form of vegetables, such as onions, garlic and cauliflower.
When you read through the list of primal foods in chapter 12, you will notice the appearance of some phytochemicals such as lutein, carotenoids and curcumin. A phytochemical (from the Greek word ‘phyto’ for ‘plant’) is a chemical compound normally produced by plants to help protect themselves. Several of these phytochemicals are associated with a colour, and when consumed in food, they will provide similar benefits to our health. All fruit and vegetables contain phytochemicals (which I tend to refer to as phytonutrients as it sounds nicer), and they are so beneficial to our wellbeing that many of them can now be bought as a supplement.
Orange & Yellow Fruit and Vegetables
These tend to contain carotenoids (I will let you figure out where this phytonutrient gets its name), which are known to slow down the ageing process and reduce the risk of various cancers. Foods such as carrots, apricots and bananas all get their colour from carotenoids. Yellow spices such as turmeric and mustard don’t get their colour from carotenoids but from curcumin, which also has many health benefits, such as being a natural painkiller and a potent antioxidant.
Green Fruit and Vegetables
These normally contain the phytochemical chlorophyll, which is known to protect against cancer and to help heal wounds. Most dark green vegetables and seaweed contain high doses of chlorophyll.
Blue & Red Fruit and Vegetables
Blueberries, strawberries, cranberries and red onions contain quercetin. This gets to work in the body fighting off inflammation and battling with free radicals (more on these bad boys later). As inflammation is the root cause of many diseases, then consuming plenty of red and blue fruit and vegetables could be the most important colours to include in our daily diet.
Purple Fruit and Vegetables
These contain an antioxidant called anthocyanin. Blueberries are rich in anthocyanin, which has been linked to the prevention of neurological diseases such as Alzheimer’s and Parkinson’s. Other healthy purple foods include blackberries, plums and radishes.
Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC)
The Oxygen Radical Absorbance Capacity (ORAC) database was compiled by scientists in 2007 working at the National Institute of Health and Aging (NIH) in the US, run by the Department of Agriculture. It measures the antioxidant capacity of different foods (foods that best absorb free radicals). Why don’t more doctors talk about this? Because just like vitamins and minerals, as foods aren’t patentable, big pharmaceuticals can’t make money out of them. And if big pharma can’t make money, this type of research, even though it is hugely beneficial for our health, rarely makes it into medical journals. I also find it most interesting that the foods that are rich in antioxidants also seem to be rich in vitamins and minerals. This is particularly interesting if you are worried about dementia, Alzheimer’s or Parkinson’s, in fact any degenerative illness that relates to free radicals.
Dr Patrick Holford
If you can eat the equivalent of 6,000 ORAC a day, the more you will protect your memory. (While the Food and Drug Administration in America recommend 3,000 to 5,000 ORAC units per day for optimal health, I think Patrick’s figure is much closer to where we need to be).
We have below listed the gram weight needed to achieve an ORAC score of 3,000. As long as we consume two or more of the listed foods each day, we will devour the necessary volume of antioxidants recommended by Dr Patrick Holford. But do bear in mind that the amount assumes the food is organic. If it is not, then to achieve the same antioxidant benefits, we will most likely need to consume considerably more.