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Eat Fats…. Eat More Fats

Eat Fats….Eat More Fats

Fats in foods have been the villain since post WWII. They donned the black hat when we became a fat phobic nation. The advent of the original cholesterol blood tests, margarine, and low fat everything were the important triggers.

For more than sixty years we cut our fat intake. Meat consumption was reduced by 25%. Low fat and skim products filled everyone’s refrigerators. Butter was exiled. The results of this great experiment were astounding and contrary to every expectation. Heart disease rates doubled. Type 2 diabetes soared. We became the most obese country in the world. An experiment that met with abject failure.

All modern data analysis and research now directs us differently. Fats are necessary for our pursuit of health and vitality. Their restriction is dangerous.

Fats provide the greatest amount of energy for our bodies. Far outdistancing proteins and carbohydrates. Fat is our storage fuel, broken down and used when needed. When there is not enough food or there are seasonal variations in food availability it is our fat stores that maintain us. In America today, food is widely available. We eat too much and too poorly. Fat is not the cause. Fat is instrumental to our well being.

Fats provide and store energy. They are needed to absorb fat soluble vitamins (Vitamins A, D, E and K). Every cell wall and membrane is lined with fat (phospholipids) which protects and allows proper passage, in and out of nutrients and wastes. Blood clotting and muscle health are also fat dependent. Every nerve sheath is made of fat. Hormone precursors are all built from fat. Bone density. Testosterone levels. Immune system efficiency. The list goes on. And fats are the ONLY foods that signal satiety to the brain. The only way we can tell we have eaten enough and not too much.

Fats are chains of carbon atoms with attached hydrogen atoms. The length of the chains and the number of hydrogens that are attached (saturation) determine the properties of the fats.

There are two types of naturally occurring fats. Saturated (Many hydrogens attached) fats are in meats, butter, coconut oil and bacon, and are solid at room temperature. Unsaturated (including mono and poly) have fewer carbons attached and are liquid at room temperature. These include nuts and seeds, olive oil, plants and fish.

There is one more fat. The evil one! Industrially made by forcing hydrogenation of unsaturated fats in the presence of a heavy metal facilitator. Platinum is frequently this metal. Platinum makes a wonderful fountain pen nib or electronic parts, but does not belong in the human body as a food. Heavy metals in our body are never eliminated. They compete with binding sites in many organs of our body. They are carcinogenic. Transfats were made to improve shelf life of many foods. They take healthy oils, make them solid and prevent rancidity (never eat anything that can’t spoil) so they can sit on the shelves forever. This hugely increases the profit margins. Margarine, baked goods, shortening, chips, breads, french fries, etc., etc. Transfats became ubiquitous in our food supply.

It took too long, but finally they were exposed. Harvard studies showed that eating only 2% of daily calories as transfats increased the risk of heart disease by 23%. Cancer, diabetes and stroke were also implicated.

California was first to order labeling of transfats in foods. The rest of the country followed in short time. BE WARNED! The government left a loophole. If the transfat content is below a certain amount per serving it can be labeled as transfat free. It is NOT. Who eats just one serving anyway? If partially hydrogenated anything is listed as an ingredient, it contains transfat. Don’t eat it.

Unsaturated fats have been long thought of as healthy. Eat to your content. Essential (our body can’t make it so we have to eat it) fatty acids from fish,olive oil and plants provide omega 3s in abundance. Legumes, avocado, nuts and seeds. Any oils that are liquid at room temperature are unsaturated. Eat them regularly.

Saturated fats were frowned on until recently. We were urged to eat less red meat, whole milk, bacon and coconut oil. These fats were thought to increase risk of all the major diseases. These conclusions were based on many studies like the “China Study” and the “Seven Country Study”. All of these studies are seriously flawed. They never isolated other contributors. Especially the real enemies (as we know now) refined sugar and carbohydrates. Newer and more reliable data shows just the opposite.

Meta analysis of 21 studies (over 350,000 people) show conclusively that saturated fat has no influence on the incidence of heart disease. More importantly, the replacement of saturated fat in the diet by refined sugar and carbohydrates will significantly increase all risk factors of all the major diseases (Cancer, Heart Disease, Diabetes and obesity).

Although decreasing saturated fat in the diet will decrease low density lipids(LDL), it is not the Lipoprotein B (the heart dangerous type) of the LDL that is decreased. Increased carbohydrate consumption has been directly related to increasing this critical blood value. Saturated fat is no longer the enemy. Eat to your content.

Harvard analyzed 1.2 million people and concluded that there is no relationship between red meat and heart disease. They did show increased risk from consuming processed meats. (Circulation, 2010). Saturated fat is not the enemy. Eat to your content.

Saturated fat improves liver health by diminishing the size and number of fatty liver cells (Journal of American College of Nutrition, 1994). Butter and coconut oil improves white blood cell recognition and destruction of viruses and bacteria.

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Eat food. Eat clean food. Grass Fed and hormone free beef, wild caught fish, free range chicken and fresh eggs. Raw milk and cheese. Know your local farmers and food sources.

Sweden has become the first country to advocate a high fat diet to its citizens. They won’t be the last. Hopefully, the food pyramid will meet the death it deserves.

The greatest food enemy is sugar and refined carbohydrates (Internal Medicine Journal, 2012). Not fats. No more fatphobia. No more low fat and skim. Fats taste wonderful and they are good for us.

Eat fats…….Eat more fats.

Comments, suggestions, likes, and shares are encouraged.

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Brown Rice Raises Blood Sugar

https://www.dietdoctor.com/new-study-degree-brown-rice-processing-increases-blood-sugar-insulin

Be Present….Feel Better

Be Present….Feel Better

Life has become overfull, perhaps overwhelming. We are inundated with demands on our lives and time. Work, family, finances, school, relationships, activities and life’s list goes on. It starts early. Perhaps at 7 or 8 years of age and continues unabated for a lifetime. The digital age, and especially the smartphone, has increased and brought to the forefront the heaps of demands, both obligatory and self-imposed.  Modern society is a constant mental juggle. Anxiety levels are high, the immune system is depleted and the digestive system is taxed. We are constantly trying to rework the past and worried about the future. We have lost the present. We are rarely in the moment and suffer for it.

     Harvard University studies have shown that less than half of our waking hours are spent living in the present. We are making poor use of our only non-replenishable resource; time.

     Chop wood, carry water. A famous Zen quote. We can only do one thing at a time. Multitasking is humanly impossible! We can do a number of serial tasks in rapid succession. We can mix automatic tasks with some that are less so. We can not do two things at once. Chop wood, carry water.  The NTSB (National Transportation Safety Board) considers texting while driving the equivalent of having three times the legal blood alcohol content.  Drink a glass of water. That is all you can do. Distractions of the past and future rob us of the present.

     Our mind is always frenzied. Our thoughts (experience) of the past direct us to our anxieties for the future. We can learn from the past. We can change our relationship with it, but the past is immutable.  

     We can not control the future. We can make plans, set an intention or formulate goals.  The outcome is still unknown.  “I never think about the future.  It comes soon enough.” Albert Einstein.

     A fulfilling life. A more healthy life. A better connected life. These can only occur if we become more present. More in the now. More mindful. It is impossible to maintain present time consciousness all the time. We need to practice and get better at it.

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     Take a breath. Literally. This is the first step. In and out slowly through your nose. After the breath focus completely on what is in front of you. Your work, your child, your spouse, your homework. And only that.  True focus removes all the past/future distractions. Total present time engagement. This connection to now will quiet all the mental chatter affording better clarity in thought and action.

     Time slows when we are focused on the now. We interact more completely with others. We empathize better. We hit the baseball or score the goal more easily. Stay engaged. Use your five senses to keep you present time anchored. Subdue that internal frenzy.

     Social skills greatly improve. Being present in conversations makes you less self-conscious and more free in your interaction. Staying focused permits you to listen better and generally be more engaging.

     Creativity is improved in your work and hobbies. With no temporal distractions, everything flows better. Unlock that right brain. Edit later.

     You will worry and overthink less. Anxiety is reduced. The world around you will actually seem more vibrant (try it before you scoff).

     Consider the things you do that make you feel best. These are your most present time activities. For me, it is when I am at work with a patient. I am 100% present time conscious. I think and evaluate clearly. I feel fulfilled. Going out to dinner with my spouse. Hiking with my kids. Writing (with pen or pencil). Journaling. Reading a book. Make your own list. Get more present.

     “The secret of health for both mind and body is not to mourn the past, nor to worry about the future, but to live the present moment wisely and earnestly.” Buddha

     One of my mentors, Dr. Scott Walker said it best.  “All we have is the moment, savor it.”

     Chop wood, carry water.

As always comments and suggestions are welcome.

     

     

The Sun Is Out….Don’t Hide

The Sun Is Out….Don’t Hide

     Summertime.  Warm weather. Vacations.  Less scheduled.  Beaches and boating.  Golf and tennis.  All the activities we look forward to.  We are outside for much longer.  Exposed longer to the sun.  Do we hide or embrace it?  Lower the risk of skin cancer or create Vitamin D?  Is the sun bad or good?

     Think of this; if sun exposure was truly dangerous why aren’t we extinct?  The short answer is that exposure to the sun, especially in the summertime is critical to our health and vitality.  We must soak up the sunshine.

     Excessive skin exposure, especially with sunburn(five lifetime sunburns doubles your risk of skin cancer) damages our skin.  The DNA in the deep epidermal layers can be altered or destroyed.  Ultraviolet (UV) waves can destroy skin proteins.  Wrinkles are the least of the effects.  Skin cancer is the harshest product. Without sunglasses to block those rays, 90% of UV light is absorbed by the cornea.  Corneal damage, cataracts and macular degeneration are possibilities.

     There are three major types of skin cancer, for which excessive sun exposure is the cause.  Basal cell and squamous cell carcinomas account for nearly 98% of skin cancers.  There are about 4,000,000 cases each year in the USA of basal cell and another million for squamous cell.  This is a  high incidence in the general population.  They rarely metastasize and are almost always cured.  The 2000 Americans who die each year from these cancers are usually elderly, immune challenged and rarely seek timely medical help.  

     Melanoma is much more dangerous.  It is only 1% of all skin cancers but is responsible for the vast majority of resulting deaths.  It can metastasize.  Over 9000 Americans die each year.  This number has stabilized and is now decreasing, likely because of earlier detection and better treatment. The five-year survival rate of early detected melanoma is now at 98%!  Oh…most melanomas and the most dangerous types occur on the skin where exposure to the sun is the least!  

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     The WHO (World Health Organization) has stated that skin cancers are a nearly insignificant health problem.  Though there is a high incidence it only represents 0.1% of the global health burden, reducing its significance relative to other health issues.

     According to the WHO we have a conundrum.  Excessive sun exposure increases skin cancer risk.  Underexposure increases the risk to a plethora of our most common and deadly health issues.  Incidence and morbidity (deaths) from these diseases are all greatly increased with not enough sunshine on our skin. Not through clothing or windows or sunscreen, but direct sunshine.  

     There is a simple formula.  UV rays (sunshine) + skin, via a photosynthetic reaction, produces Vitamin D.  We can not eat enough food to provide adequate amounts.  We can not supplement enough to replace the need for sunshine, though year round Vitamin D is an important part of the health equation.  

     Excessive exposure is never needed.  Thirty minutes in the summer, with our skin 40% exposed, while your shadow is shorter than you, will produce almost 50,000 units of Vitamin D in the body.  This number lessens for those who are tanned or dark skinned so more exposure is needed.  Increased Vitamin D production can be stored for those bleaker months of the year where supplementation becomes a must.  It is estimated that more than 80% of Americans suffer from low Vitamin D levels.  Even in California and Florida.

     We are more of a cave man than the caveman was. The caveman (or woman) slept in his cave. When the sun rose he was out all day.  Hunting, collecting berries and exploring.  Then he would return to his cave at nightfall.  We live in our cave homes, travel in our cave cars, work in our cave offices, exercise in our cave gyms and are rarely outside in the sun.  When we are, we wear too much clothing and are covered with sunscreen.  Yikes!

    The most basic effect of Vitamin D in our blood is to balance calcium and phosphorous so normal bone growth and formation can be maintained.  Severe D deficiencies result in Rickets.  We do not see much bow legging here, but there is more than you think.  Worldwide it is a significant problem.

     Research data from many, many studies over the last decade are beginning to show us the importance of Vitamin D.  High levels, 40-60 ng/ml (nanograms/milliliter in the blood) and perhaps 80 and above, have been shown to significantly decrease the risk of almost every major disease:  asthma, TB (by 32%), osteoporosis, osteomalacia, Hodgkin’s lymphoma, MS, type 2 diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, psoriasis, eczema and more.  Breast cancer, prostate cancer, colon cancer, ovarian cancer and pancreatic cancer all have reduced incidence with high levels of Vitamin D.  Taking about 3000 units a day of Vitamin D3 daily as a complement to sunshine has been shown to reduce all cancers in women by 50-70%.  There are nearly 600,000 deaths due to cancer each year in America.

     If Vitamin D levels are high in young children their risk of developing type 1 diabetes is reduced by 80%.  High levels of D also boost your immune system, significantly reducing bacterial and viral infections, especially in the respiratory system.  Cholesterol levels and high blood pressure are reduced as Vitamin D is cardioprotective.  Ironically, increased sun exposure on early stage melanomas increases survival rates from this skin cancer.  Continuous occupational exposure to the sun will reduce the risk of forming melanomas in the first place.

     Shorter and more frequent sun exposure is most efficient at producing Vitamin D.  Fair skinned people need less exposure.  Sunburn should be avoided.  Sunglasses, that are UV blocking should be worn.

     Sunlight also increases daytime serotonin production which in turn increases melatonin production at night.  This leads to a better night’s sleep and improved mental focusing while awake.  

     Endorphin production is raised.  This results in a “sunbather’s high”.  Sunbathing really can make you feel better!

     Optimal levels of Vitamin D are still uncertain.  They are much greater than the recommended daily allowance (RDA).  Most studies with positive results have been done with levels at 60-80 ng/ml.  The dosing levels of Vitamin D3 (D2 is ineffective) during the non-summer months are still under contention.  Most will agree that 5000-7000 units/day will be optimal (don’t worry extra Vitamin D will rarely have a negative effect).  Perhaps 10,000 units or more each day if you suffer from seasonal affective disorder (SAD).  

     Soak up the sunshine, frequently for short periods.  Don’t burn.  Use less sunscreen.  Wear sunglasses.  Stay hydrated.  Have fun.  Go out….don’t hide, and your health and vitality will improve.

I appreciate any comments and suggestions. I apologize for the length.  It should have been longer.  I didn’t even mention the foods and supplements that can be taken to reduce sunburn risk, improve tanning and Vitamin D production.  Any questions?  docsol22@gmail.com.  

Journaling To Health

Journaling To Health

                                                                                                                                    July 18, 2017

     We are too connected.  Smartphone, tablet, PC, and laptop.  Our hands and brain linked, for too long, each day to digital outlets.  Work, play, school, social media, and shopping.  Much of our waking day for nearly every age group.  Overconnected.  Few sustained breaks.  Not quite healthy.

    Unplugging is impossible.  We need a pause, a (temporary) disconnect.  A more health promoting alternative.  Something Old School and new school.

     Journaling, a written (and/or artistic) record of ideas and thoughts, has been around for thousands of years.  Dating back to at least 10th century Japan and prevalent throughout history, lending historical and cultural insight and perspective.  It is the act of hand writing into a personal notebook for any reason at all.  In this last decade, there has been a modern resurgence.

     There is a good deal of scientific data and clinical observation highlighting the many health benefits of Journaling.  The simple act of writing by hand (cursive or print) and the connections this makes with the brain (and body) provide the foundational blocks for health gains.  The paper and pen (or pencil) can be powerful health tools.

     Foremost among scientists in this field is James Pennebaker (Writing To Heal) of the University of Texas.  He is not alone.  Schools like Stanford and Yale have provided insights about the neural connections formed from Journaling.  There are many therapists who are having patients journal to improve their mental and emotional health.

     Regular Journaling, five minutes (20 minutes is a therapeutic goal) or more each day:

     -Strengthens the immune system.  Probably by increasing T-lymphocyte production.

     -Reduces symptoms (both intensity and frequency) of asthma.

     -Reduces symptoms of Rheumatoid Arthritis.

     This is just the beginning.  The emotional impact of Journaling is enormous.  The process of writing down your frustrations and negative emotions makes those less intense.  Resolutions become clearer and more attainable.  Journaling helps clear the chaos of too many unresolved thoughts in our minds.  This allows us to make a better connection with our internal world so we function better in the external one.

     We can more easily identify, control and eliminate the toxic thoughts that burden us.  Writing reduces the negative effects on our health.

     There is still more….  Writing demands eye-hand coordination and the formulation of concrete thoughts.  This fully engages the left side (rational and analytic) of our brain while freeing up the creative right side to innovate and emote.  Creative mental blocks are removed while analytical abilities are heightened.  This promotes clarity of thought and emotional vision.  Problem-solving is improved.  Cognitive processing is enhanced as we form and write sentences from thoughts and memories.

     When we write as opposed to the keyboard:

     -Memory improves.

     -Critical thinking is more stimulated.

     -Problem-solving skills are better focused.

     -Improved creativity.

     -Less distraction.

     And some more…..What you write may be less important to improving health than the writing itself.  There are some unexpected benefits.  Vocabulary and sentence structure improves.  Writing down specific and attainable goals triggers the brain to seek solutions even when you aren’t writing.  Communication skills improve.  Speaking improves.  As creativity improves it will unexpectedly overlap into other endeavors.  Self-confidence improves dramatically.

     A Yale study with elementary school children showed that print or cursive was superior to keyboarding.  Not only were more words produced but more ideas were expressed.  Writing unlocked their brains.

     When we are Journaling we are present time conscious.  We are more mindful.  We are unfettered by past mistakes or future concerns.  This reduces stress, improves creativity and makes us more analytical.  This is a great formula for improved production.

      And more……Journaling is fun!  All you need is a writing instrument and paper.  Of course, you can use your favorite writing instruments, stationery, and notebook.  You can add color and drawings.  Just look at Instagram and Pinterest.  Some journals are works of art.  Mine is a mess.  But it is mine!  I do prefer fountain pens and inks of many colors.  Or pencils.  Yes, there is a plethora of great pencils out there.  You have not experienced greatness until you have used my favorite, the Blackwing 602.  The internet is full of Journaling ideas.

     Journals can be diaries, goal lists, daily planning, emotional journeys or anything you please in any combination.  There are no rules.  It is your journal.  For you.  Just write.  A little or a lot.  Every day.  Writing forces you to slow down.  This is healthy.  Writing stimulates the cortex of the brain.  Dopamine and endorphins are released.  Much like the runner, there is “writer’s high”.  More clarity, reduced stress and better health.

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     One more thing…..I would be remiss if I didn’t mention a form of journaling that has grabbed the country’s attention.

     Ryder Carroll was a 12 year old boy with ADD and ADHD.  Available educational resources were useless for him.  He invented his own over the next 20 years.  He did well in school and became an application designer.  Some friends liked the system he was using and asked to learn.  Then more friends.  He made a Youtube channel.  He was excited when he hit 100 views.

     Bullet Journaling (BuJo) was born.  There are more than 5 million views of the free BuJo tutorials. It is a system of journaling that is simple and all encompassing.  Or minimalistic.  Or whatever you prefer.  I have incorporated it.  It is worth exploring.  There are no rules but yours.

     Now.  Sit down, take a breath and start Journaling To Health!!!

Comments and suggestions are appreciated.  If you think this worthwhile please share it with others.  If you want to discuss Journaling, writing instruments or stationery I will gladly talk your ear off!

 

Step Away From The Keyboard: How Our Hands Affect Our Brains | Psychology Today

https://www.psychologytoday.com/blog/thinking-about-kids/201407/step-away-the-keyboard-how-our-hands-affect-our-brains?amp

Farmers Market

Farmers Market

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     Ahhhhhh……summertime.  The best season of the year.

     It is also the healthiest of times.  More activity, more sunshine (soak up that Vitamin D) and more time off from our regular (over)scheduling.  Life is generally easier.

     Food is everywhere. The greatest variety of vegetables, fruit, cheeses, meats and fish.  In abundance.  And local.  And less expensive.

     The Hudson Valley sprouts farm markets in nearly every village on a weekly basis through the summer months and often beyond.  Vegetables of every color and variety.  Seasonal fruits including the very low glycemic/high fiber cherries and berries (gooseberries are my favorite).  Artisan cheeses. Fresh pickles and sauerkraut.  Jams and jellies.  Honey.  Sausages.  Eggs.  All locally raised and prepared.

     These foods don’t need to be trucked in from thousands of miles away.  None of it sits on shelves for an indeterminate time.  Most of it goes directly from the farm to your table on the same day!  

     Fresh tastes better.  Nutritional values are much greater.  There are more nutrients and more types of nutrients in fresh food.  There are far fewer chemicals used (often none) even if the farmer is not certified organic.  When a farmer can sell quickly and locally no preservatives are needed.  No food colorings.  And did I say fresh tastes better?

     An often overlooked advantage of farmers markets is the direct communications between farmer and buyer.  When have you been able to talk to the person who grew your vegetables or raised your beef?  Certainly not in the big chain supermarkets.

 

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     When farmers and consumers directly interact there is more responsibility taken by the farmer and more understanding from the shopper.  A farmer is usually proud of his growing and harvesting practices, rarely being able to share this.  The consumer can more fully understand the quality of the food they are getting as a direct result of the grower’s hard work.

     A final note.  Organic is always healthier.  Especially in a supermarket.  Local farmers are often unable to become certified organic because of the prohibitive expense involved.  BUT….their growing practices may be of the same quality of any organic farmer.  Their products are usually far healthier than any of the organic foods at stores like Sams or Walmart.  Those companies tend to test the definitions of what organic is, in pursuit of higher profit.  Talk to the sellers at the farm markets.  Taste.  Buy.  Stock up for the winter.  Get healthier and support your local community.

     And did I say it tastes better?

 

photo credits:  Harrison Solomon