coffee

What’s in your coffee shop beverage?

Australians love their coffee, although not as much as several Nordic and European countries (we didn’t make the list of top 20 coffee drinking countries in 2017). Australia is also a big consumer of tea, ranking #13 according to the same source. From the results of the latest Australian Health Survey (2011-12), 53.6% of women and 38.9% of men 19+ years old drink tea; 57.5% of women and 57.0% of men (19+ years old) drink coffee or coffee substitutes (1). If you fall in these groups, do you know what’s in your coffee shop beverage?

Caffeine

The main reason people drink coffee is caffeine, a stimulant found in coffee, tea, chocolate, etc. Caffeine affects people in different ways, mainly due to the individual metabolism variability.

Current recommended caffeine intake is less than 600 mg per day for the general adult population and less than 200 mg per day if you are stressed or pregnant (2).

The following graphs are based on data from the Australian Health Survey 2011-12 (1). See graph below for average caffeine content in coffee shop drinks (assuming an average regular coffee is 250ml, an average espresso is 30ml and an average macchiato is 40ml).

Fluid

Coffee and tea are liquids, and as such, do count toward your daily consumption of fluid. Some people think they shouldn’t because they “are diuretic” but under normal circumstances, the net contribution of these beverages is positive fluid.

Milk

According to The 2017 Square Australian Coffee Report, these are the most popular beverages ordered at cafes:

  • Latte (39%)
  • Flat white (24%)
  • Cappuccino (16%)
  • Long black (8%)
  • Hot chocolate (4%)
  • Mocha (4%)
  • Iced drinks (3%)
  • Chai (2%)

Below is the flat white vs latte consumption per state from the same source:

Energy

Note that the vast majority of beverages sold at coffee shops are milk-based. Milk is a nutritious food, but, as mentioned above, it can make a huge difference in energy intake, particularly if you drink full-fat milk. Every gram of fat contributes 37.7 kilojoules (~9 Calories).

See graph below for average energy content and energy from fat in coffee shop drinks. Note that energy will vary with size, type of milk, added sugar and added syrups/toppings.

Carbohydrates

Milk also contains carbohydrates, which contribute 16.7 kilojoules (~4 Calories) per gram. Most of the carbohydrates in unsweetened milk-based beverages come from sugars such as lactose in the case of cow’s milk and anything from plain cane sugar to maltodextrin in the case of non-dairy milks.

See graph below for average carbohydrate (in grams) and sugar (in teaspoons) in coffees/teas. Note that these figures do not include any added sugars.

Protein

The protein in milk-based beverages comes from whey and casein in the case of cow’s milk, soy protein in the case of soy milk, etc. Protein contributes 16.7 kilojoules (~4 Calories) per gram. If you are either looking to limit or increase protein, be mindful of your beverage choice (black vs milk-based) or milk choice (you can always order half, 3/4 or extra milk in most cafes if need be).

Calcium

Cow’s milk and enriched soy milk contain calcium, which is important for bone health, neuromuscular and cardiac function, blood clotting and hormone release. Note that the calcium content in other non-dairy milks, such as almond milk, is likely to be significantly lower.

See graph below for average protein and calcium content (in general, directly proportional) in coffee shop drinks. Note that I’ve only included drinks made with full-fat and skim cow’s milk and regular soy milk.

Coffee and health

A 2017 umbrella review of studies summarised coffee effects on all cause mortality, cardiovascular disease, cancer, metabolic disease, as well as liver, gastrointestinal, renal, musculoskeletal, neurological, gynaecological and antenatal outcomes. The authors concluded “Overall, there is no consistent evidence of harmful associations between coffee consumption and health outcomes, except for those related to pregnancy and for risk of fracture in women” (3).

References

  1. Australian Bureau of Statistics. 43640DO004_20112012 Australian Health Survey: Nutrition First Results – Foods and Nutrients, 2011–12 – Australia. 2014.
  2. Centre for Population Health. Caffeine 2013 [updated 11 July 2013. Available from: https://www.health.nsw.gov.au/aod/resources/Pages/caffeine.aspx.
  3. Poole R, Kennedy OJ, Roderick P, Fallowfield JA, Hayes PC, Parkes J. Coffee consumption and health: umbrella review of meta-analyses of multiple health outcomes. BMJ. 2017;359.
SunRice rice cups

Product review: SunRice rice cups

SunRice rice cups are made by one of the main brands rice available in Australia. Back in the day rice used to be just rice, and people would have whatever rice was common in their place of origin. For example, medium grain rice is the norm in Perú, and we use it for most things – savoury and sweet. Brown rice became popular as people got more interested in health and other types of rice started appearing on shelves as consumers got interested in trying other cuisines (e.g. basmati for Indian curries, glutinous rice for sushi, arborio for risotto, bomba for paella).

Similarly, a greater interest in consuming other grains considered highly nutritious, has created a market for blends of grains which can be used as a substitute for plain rice. In parallel, the convenience factor has driven a market of microwaveable foods which, as you will see, doesn’t necessarily mean hyper-processed unhealthy junk.

The cups

SunRice cups contain blends of rice and other grains that have been precooked and are ready to be reheated. I got the following samples at a conference:

  • SunRice Super Grains Gluten Free Tri Blend Cup with brown rice, red rice and quinoa
  • SunRice Super Grains Gluten Free Super Duo Cup with brown rice and riceberry rice
  • SunRice Super Grains Gluten Free Multigrain Blend Cup with brown rice, red rice, buckwheat, quinoa and chia

Pros

  • Convenience
  • Good portion size, particularly for people who have problems regulating their servings
  • Higher in protein and fibre than plain rice
  • More interesting flavour and texture than plain rice
  • All cups are gluten-free

Cons

  • Plastic. No matter what the manufacturer says, I don’t like to heat plastic in the microwave. Also more packaging that goes to landfill.
  • It can be too big of a portion size for people who need to regulate their carb intake, and the cup can’t be re-sealed when opened. If that’s the case, you might be better off eating cauliflower rice or mixing a small amount of rice with lupin flakes instead.
  • Higher in protein and fibre than plain rice
  • Apart from the cooked grains, the cups contain sunflower oil and stabiliser (471), presumably to improve the texture of the final product, but I find it gives the rice a chalky mouthfeel. Also, some people with food chemical intolerance can be sensitive to the stabiliser.

Nutrition

See the panels below for 2 of the SunRice rice cups that I tried:

Super Duo:

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 125g
Servings Per Container 2

Amount Per Serving
Calories 214 Calories from Fat 38.7
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 4.3g 7%
Saturated Fat 1.0g 5%
Trans Fat g
Cholesterol mg 0%
Sodium 18mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 39.9g 13%
Dietary Fiber 2.6g 10%
Sugars 0.9g
Protein 4.1g 8%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

Multigrain Blend:

Nutrition Facts
Serving Size 125g
Servings Per Container 2

Amount Per Serving
Calories 220 Calories from Fat 35.1
% Daily Value*
Total Fat 3.9g 6%
Saturated Fat 0.8g 4%
Trans Fat g
Cholesterol mg 0%
Sodium 16mg 1%
Total Carbohydrate 41.5g 14%
Dietary Fiber 3.1g 12%
Sugars 0.9g
Protein 4.8g 10%

*Percent Daily Values are based on a 2,000 calorie diet. Your daily values may be higher or lower depending on your calorie needs.

The verdict

I think SunRice rice cups are good to have in hand if you absolutely have zero time to cook. If you are somewhat organised and have some spare minutes, you can batch-cook your own blend of grains, portion them up and freeze for later.

More info

Head to SunRice’s website to learn more about their steamed rice (and other) products:

food photos

Food photos: the good, the bad, the ugly

No, this is not an article about good/bad/ugly photos on social media. Rather, it’s a brief analysis of potential pros and cons of what’s happening with food photos in social media.

My food photography story

I was born in the pre-digital camera era. My first camera was a black and white film Kodak. I was 8 or 9 and would take photos of me and my sisters, the dog, etc. Back then, it didn’t even occur to me about taking pictures of meals, even though I’ve always loved food. In retrospect, that’s a good thing, considering what I used to eat until well into my 20s.

My first blog, which started in Feb 2006, was in Spanish and had a decent amount of articles about food. However, there were not many photos; taking pictures of your meals was not a thing yet, at least not in Perú. See screenshot below of a post about coriander in which I mention 15 different dishes and a restaurant without a single photo. Even when I started my food blog Lateral Eating in 2009, taking photos of food in public was not always socially acceptable.

And then Instagram happened. Soon after its launch in October 2010, more and more people started taking and posting pictures of their food. In the beginning, some (most?) restaurant owner/managers were not very keen on people taking photos of their meals. Some claimed it was annoying to other diners, but I think it was more of a fear of exposing the actual plated meals to public scrutiny.

For a percentage of the population, Instagram is just an instrument of procrastination. Yes, they look at food pictures which might make them hungry or crave a burger, but they don’t engage at a deeper level with the images. Likewise if they are the ones posting the photos: they snap it, don’t filter it, post it and forget about it. The rest of Instagram users might experiment some sort of effect, either positive or negative, after posting or seeing food photos.

Food photos – the good

As a dietitian, I take diet histories all the time. Some people are pretty good at remembering what they ate, some people need a bit of help, some people just lie. I once saw a young Asian guy in hospital who had a procedure earlier that day and couldn’t remember his meals. FOrtunately, he had snapped a photo of his tray, so writing down his diet history was a piece of cake. Similarly, there are a number of diet tracking apps that allow you to attach photos of your meals to your logs so that your dietitian can see what you actually ate. This is super useful.

A small study (convenience sample of 16 females) summarised all the things that are great about posting food photos, specifically on Instagram (1):

  • You can keep track of your food intake and how it relates to your goals
  • You can connect socially with people who share the same interests
  • You can motivate other people to cook, eat healthy, etc.
  • You can share information, such as recipes
  • You can use it as an accountability tool for yourself and others

Food photos – the bad

Once you realise that posting a photo on social media means that it’s out there for the entire world to see, posting pictures of your meals can get stressful in a few different ways:

  • You might feel bad if you have not posted any photos in the last X amount of time
  • You might feel guilty if you haven’t had anything healthy to eat and therefore you decide not to post a photo of what you actually ate
  • You might feel disappointed because your food photos don’t look as good as someone else’s
  • You might annoy/embarrass your dining companions by taking photos of your meal in public
  • You might miss out on quality time with your loved ones because you were focusing on taking the perfect shot

Food photos – the ugly

A larger study (convenience sample of 680 females) explored the relationship between social media and othorexia nervosa, an unhealthy obsession with “clean eating”. The prevalence of this condition (note: it is not recognised as an official diagnosis yet) is estimated to be less than 1%. Participants answered a questionnaire about social media use and eating habits, to determine their tendency towards othorexia nervosa. The researchers found that this tendency was greater in people who had higher Instagram use. In addition, other studies have found associations between social media use and depression, negative social comparison and isolation (2).

Parting thoughts

Given the rapid growth of social media users (as an example, see chart below), it is concerning that the percentage of people who are negatively affected by food photography on will grow in a similar pattern.

Our best bet is to keep our eyes and ears peeled for potential signs of emotional distress and/or obsessive behaviours in ourselves and people around us.

References

  1. Chung CF et al. When Personal Tracking Becomes Social: Examining the Use of Instagram for Healthy Eating. Proc SIGCHI Conf Hum Factor Comput Syst. 2017 May 2; 2017: 1674–1687.
  2. Turner PG and Lefevre CE. Instagram use is linked to increased symptoms of orthorexia nervosa. Eat Weight Disord (2017) 22:277–284.
collagen supplements

Collagen supplements

Collagen is a main structural protein in connective tissues of bone (1, 2), skin (1, 3, 2), tendons, ligaments (4, 2) and cartilage (2). Collagen forms a matrix which is responsible for the elasticity, firmness (4) and structural integrity (3) of those tissues.

The peptides in collagen contain large amounts of the amino acids hydroxyproline, glycine and proline (3).

Types of collagen supplements

Collagen supplements are usually sold as hydrolysed collagen (a.k.a. collagen hydrolysate or collagen peptides. As its name implies, the peptides in the collagen have been broken down for easier absorption. They come in liquid, powder and capsule form. These supplements are easily digested and have good bioavailability (5, 2, 4). A common dose is 10gr per day (5, 2).

Collagen can also be found as UC-II, a product that contains a patented form of undenatured type II collagen.

Sources of collagen supplements

Collagen supplements are commonly derived from bovine, porcine and fish tissues, such as skin, bones and scales (in the case of fish (1, 3).

Joint health

UC-II collagen and collagen hydrolysate have shown improvements in joint range of motion and pain (6, 5, 4, 2). Thus, collagen supplements may be useful for athletes and patients with osteoarthritis or rheumatoid arthritis.

Bone health

Some studies suggest that intake of collagen may improve bone density, especially in subjects with calcium deficiency (5).

Skin health

Collagen hydrolysate may help reverse UV-B damage on skin. It can also improve skin qualities such as hydration, elasticity and density (5). Marine collagen, in particular, may help prevent skin ageing and wrinkling, presumably due to its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties (1). Collagen supplements have also been reported to improve the appearance of cellulite (7).

It is important to note there is no strong evidence supporting the use of collagen supplements for skin health (3).

Musculoskeletal pain

Collagen supplementation may help alleviate musculoskeletal pain, such as the one experienced by fibromyalgia patients (5).

Muscle mass

Collagen peptides may help preserve muscle mass in individuals with poor protein intake and low muscle mass, such as elderly people (5).

Mechanisms

On one hand, collagen breaks down into amino acids and peptides, which are used for tissue collagen synthesis. In addition, the presence of these amino acids and peptides stimulate collagen synthesis (5, 4). In the skeleton, collagen stimulates the production of osteoblasts, the cells that build bone (1).

Besides supplementation the body also requires loading of the connective tissue (via acute exercise) to stimulate collagen synthesis to occur (4, 2).

Finally, vitamin C may act as a cofactor to increase collagen production (2).

How to take collagen

Collagen can be dissolved in any liquid, from water to smoothies or tea. It can be also added to yoghurt, soups or stews. I recommend buying the unflavoured powder version. Popular brands are Great Lakes, Vital Proteins and Sports Research (we use this brand). You can find them in my collagen list at iHerb.com.

There are also some protein bars (such as Primal Kitchen and Bulletproof) that include collagen and some bone broths are a decent source of collagen.

References

  1. Venkatesan J et al. Marine Fish Proteins and Peptides for Cosmeceuticals: A Review. Mar Drugs. 2017 May 18;15(5). pii: E143.
  2. Shaw G et al. Vitamin C–enriched gelatin supplementation before intermittent activity augments collagen synthesis. Am J Clin Nutr 2017;105:136–43.
  3. Spiro A, Lockyer S. Nutraceuticals and skin appearance: Is there any evidence to support this growing trend? Nutrition Bulletin. 2018;43(1):10-45.
  4. Dressler P et al. Improvement of Functional Ankle Properties Following Supplementation with Specific Collagen Peptides in Athletes with Chronic Ankle Instability. J Sports Sci Med. 2018 Jun; 17(2): 298–304.
  5. Figueres Juher T and Basés Pérez E. Revisión de los efectos beneficiosos de la ingesta de colágeno hidrolizado sobre la salud osteoarticular y el envejecimiento dérmico. Nutr Hosp. 2015;32(Supl. 1):62-66.
  6. Lugo et al. Undenatured type II collagen (UC-II®) for joint support: a randomized, double-blind, placebo-controlled study in healthy volunteers. J Int Soc Sports Nutr. 2013 Oct 24;10(1):48.
  7. Schunck M et al. Dietary Supplementation with Specific Collagen Peptides Has a Body Mass Index-Dependent Beneficial Effect on Cellulite Morphology. J Med Food. 2015 Dec;18(12):1340-8.
portable breakfast

Portable breakfast ideas

I was recently motivated to come up with some portable breakfast ideas. Based on recommendations by Dr Valter Longo and others, I’ve been aiming to keep my food intake within a 12 hour window every day. The main reason I’ve struggled to comply with this rule is that sometimes I get home pretty late (8pm or later) after working out.

The solution

To solve this, I’ve adjusted my breakfast time to ~8am, which means I now eat breakfast at work. This means my breakfast has to be: a) portable and b) not too weird (okay, maybe just a little).

The breakfast ideas

Below is the nutritional breakdown of several combos that work for me. Keep in mind that I eat low(er) carb in the morning and high(er) carb at night because that’s what works for my work/training schedule. Also, the nutrition information is taken from generic foods rather than specific products (except for the soups)

Breakfast Energy (kJ) Protein (g) Fat (g) Carbs (g) Calcium (mg)
Yoghurt + peanut butter 2067 21.8 35.3 20.2 341.5
Yoghurt + peanut butter + collagen peptides 2251 32.8 35.3 20.2 341.5
3 boiled eggs + 1 tbsp avocado or olive oil mayonnaise + greens 1480 18.44 30.4 1.2 70.1
3 boiled eggs + 1 tbsp avocado or olive oil mayonnaise + kimchi 1469 18.1 30.4 1.3 63.1
1/2 avocado + 2 eggs + kimchi 1494 13.8 32.3 1.1 55.7
1/2 avocado + 2 eggs + 1 tsp fish roe 1504 14.2 32.5 0.4 51.2
1/2 avocado + small can of tuna in springwater 1307 19.8 25.2 0.4 19.0
1/2 avocado + small can of salmon in springwater 1533 20.6 30.9 0.4 205.3
1/2 avocado + can of sardines in springwater 1225 10.6 27.2 0.4 230.0
Macadamias + coffee (long black) 1822 5.8 44.4 3.0 37.2
Cup soup (Pho) + 1 boiled egg 395 8.5 5.4 3.6 18.3
Miso soup + 1 boiled egg 287 5.9 4.5 0.9 18.8

Notes

When buying foods that come with labels, always read the ingredients list at the minimum and the full nutritional panel if you’re more invested in managing your nutrient intake. More natural and less sugar is generally better. For example:

  • Yoghurt: choose Greek or natural, with no sugar or thickeners. Rokeby Farms and YoPro are brands I tend to buy because they’re higher in protein.
  • Peanut (or other nut butter): choose those made with nuts +/- salt, no sugar or oil. I like Mayver’s.
  • Nuts: choose raw or dry roasted
  • Canned fish: choose fish in brine, springwater or 100% extra virgin olive oil (evoo) if you can find it (I haven’t been able to find canned tuna in evoo lately – sardines are still available). When buying canned salmon, make sure it has the skin and bones because that’s where the vitamin D and calcium come from.
  • Mayonnaise: make it at home with egg yolks, evoo, lemon juice and mustard or use a high quality product such as Primal Kitchen avocado oil mayonnaise. If you’re afraid of mayo, use plain evoo or some homemade pesto.

Beyond breakfast

Despite the old adage that “breakfast is the most important meal” and studies that show that people who skip breakfast are more likely to be overweight, it is possible that skipping breakfast (ala 16:8 diet) works for you.

Four Sigmatic

Product review: Four Sigmatic

Four Sigmatic is a brand of mushroom-based beverage blends. The company was born in Finland and now operates from the US. Their beverage blends are highly regarded in the biohacker community and are endorsed by influencers such as Tim Ferris, Ben Greenfield and Emily Schromm.

What are functional mushrooms

Mushrooms have been used for their nutritional and medicinal properties for centuries in several cultures (1, 2, 3). Thus, many mushrooms can be considered “functional”.

Nutrients in mushrooms

Mushrooms contain:

  • carbohydrates, mainly polysaccharides (i.e. many sugars) which act as dietary fibre and prebiotics (i.e. food for gut bacteria), etc. (3, 4)
  • amino acids (3, 4)
  • polyunsaturated fatty acids (3)
  • other molecules such as ascorbic acid, carotenoids, tocopherols (3), triterpenoids, nucleosides, phenolics, and flavonoids (4)
  • vitamin D, especially mushrooms that have been irradiated with UV-B and UV-C light

Benefits of mushrooms

There is evidence that mushrooms do or may have the following benefits:

  • antioxidant (1, 2, 3, 4), antimicrobial (1, 3, 4), anticancer and anti-inflammatory properties (3, 4)
  • help relieve fatigue in the muscular system, body antioxidant system, cardiovascular system, hormone system, and immune system (4)
  • protect the intestinal mucous membranes, support the immune system and help regulate blood lipids (3)

It’s important to note that most experiments have been carried out in animal models (4) and that not all mushrooms have the composition or properties.

Four Sigmatic beverages

The sample pack that I bought contains the following beverages:

Beverage Benefit(s) Ingredients
Reishi Sleep & stress Reishi mushroom dual-extract (1,500 mg), rose hips, tulsi, field mint
Chaga Antioxidant properties Chaga mushroom dual extract (Inonotus obliquus, 30% polysaccharides, 2% triterpenes) (50%), Siberian gingseng (750mg), mint, rose hip
Cordyceps Energy & performance Cordyceps mushroom dual extract (Ohiocordyceps sinensis, 40% polysaccharides) (50%), mint, rose hip, gingseng (200mg), liquorice root, sweetener (steviol glycosides)
Lion’s mane Brain & nervous system Dual-extracted lion’s mane mushroom (1500mg), field mint, rose hips (300 mg), rhodiola (200 mg), stevia (50mg)
Mushroom coffee mix with lion’s mane & chaga Productivity Instant coffee powder, lion’s mane dual-extract, wildcrafted chaga dual-extract, wildcrafted rhodiola root extract
Mushroom coffee mix with cordyceps & chaga Performance Organic arabica coffee, organic cordyceps mushroom (150 mg), wildcrafted Siberian chaga mushroom (350 mg), organic eleuthero extract (100 mg)
Mushroom hot cacao mix with reishi Relax Cacao powder, coconut palm sugar, reishi dual-extract, cinnamon powder, cardamom extract, Reb A (stevia extract)
Mushroom hot cacao mix with cordyceps Energize Organic cacao powder, organic coconut palm sugar, organic cordyceps extract, organic chili extract

Four Sigmatic mushroom beverages

Taste test

I like the taste of all of the beverages taken with hot water. The mushroom coffee tastes like regular instant coffee to me; having said that, I have a pretty good tolerance to bitter flavours. A friend of mine tried the coffee with water but had to add milk to make it palatable.

The hot chocolates do contain sugar (coconut sugar is sugar), so they’re belong in the treat category for me. They are pretty good with hot water or unsweetened almond milk and, optionally, collagen peptides.

Functional test

I have bought a few boxes of Four Sigmatic products but I don’t take them consistently. Having said that, I must admit I have not felt any sort of supernatural powers after using them. However, I don’t discard the possibility of these products having beneficial effects on health, potentially upon regular consumption.

More information

To find more about Four Sigmatic and their products and/or to shop online, visit the links below:

US website
International website
On Facebook
On Instagram
Shop @ iHerb.com
Shop @ optimoz.com.au

References

  1. Pennerman KK et al. Health Effects of Small Volatile Compounds from East Asian Medicinal Mushrooms. Mycobiology. 2015 Mar;43(1):9-13.
  2. Sánchez C. Reactive oxygen species and antioxidant properties from mushrooms. Synth Syst Biotechnol. 2016 Dec 24;2(1):13-22.
  3. Muszyńska B et al. Anti-inflammatory properties of edible mushrooms: A review. Food Chem. 2018 Mar 15;243:373-381.
  4. Geng P et al. Antifatigue Functions and Mechanisms of
    Edible and Medicinal Mushrooms. Biomed Res Int. 2017;2017:9648496.
beef mince with organs

Product review: Feather and Bone organic beef mince with organs

Feather and Bone is my favourite butcher in Sydney. They have the best quality ethically sourced meat in town, as well as pastured eggs and amazing charcuterie. One of their newer products is a mix of beef mince with organs, which contains 10-15% of heart, liver and/or kidneys.

Why buy beef mince with organs

There are people who cringe at the thought of consuming organs (or meat, for that matter) and, on the other end of the spectrum, there are people like me (my favourite meals as a kid include my grandma’s liver soup and my mum’s liver with onions; I also enjoyed having liverwurst as a spread on my breakfast roll). I realise most people fall in the middle of the bell curve, and they might need a bit of encouragement to buy and consume this product. Here are some reasons you might want to give beef mince with organs a go:

  • It’s more convenient than mixing your own, especially if you don’t have a food processor or similar tool to grind the organ meats
  • Good quality organ meats can be hard to find
  • Organ meats (a.k.a. offal) are nutritionally superior than muscle meats (e.g. steak); more about this below
  • Less food waste as more parts of the animal are being used
  • Organ meats are, at least in theory, cheaper than muscle meats
  • The mix might be more palatable for people who are not used to the taste of organ meats
  • The taste might be more interesting than that of plain beef mince for people with adventurous palates

Nutrients in organ meats

Organ meats are nutritional powerhouses. History seems to indicate that our early ancestors ate the organs of dead animals first, presumably because they intuitively knew those were more nutritious than the muscle meat. Similarly, most traditional cuisines incorporate offal in their menus.

Organ meats are rich in:

  • Protein, important for tissue growth and repair
  • Iron, important for the transport of oxygen and enzymatic activities
  • Zinc, important for many enzymatic activities in the body
  • Vitamin A, important for vision, growth and development
  • Vitamin B12, important for preventing megaloblastic anemia and demyelination of the central nervous system (myelin is the fatty sheath that protects and insulates neurons)
  • Vitamin D, important for bone and immune health
  • Folate, important for the development of the nervous system

It is important to note that different not all organ meats have the same levels of particular nutrients. The graph below shows a nutrient comparison between beef mince, heart, kidney and liver.

beef mince and organs nutrients

How to use beef mince with organs

You can use it instead of regular beef mince in casseroles and stews (such as cottage pie, chilli con carne, Bolognese), burgers, meatballs, meatloaf, etc. There’s a recipe coming soon!

More info

To learn more about Feather and Bone and/or shop online, follow the links below:

Website
On Facebook
On Instagram

longevity diet

Book review: The Longevity Diet (Prof Valter Longo)

The Longevity Diet is one of these few diet books worth reading. It was written by Prof Valter Longo, one of the leading scientists in the field of longevity. Prof Longo has been experimenting with fasting-mimicking protocols in order to extend life and vitality.

One of the coolest facts about Prof Longo I learned from his book is that he wanted to become a rock star and that’s why he travelled from his home town in Italy to the US. He was on his way through a jazz composition major when he decided to change gears and pursue an interest that had been dormant in his mind: to study the science of how to stay young.

Blue zones

The main motivation for Prof Longo was knowing that living a healthy life beyond a century is not only possible but relatively common in certain parts of the world, known as blue zones, which include Sardinia in Italy.

Prof Longo has also spent time studying a population in Ecuador who suffer from a disease called Laron syndrome, in which the growth hormone receptor is defective. Interestingly, these very short individuals have lower incidence of cancer diabetes, despite poor lifestyle habits.

Aim of the Longevity Diet

Prof Longo’s thesis stems from the fact that most diseases and ageing occur due to cellular/DNA damage. Science usually focuses on addressing the symptoms caused by this damage (a reactive approach). Conversely, the Longevity Diet aims to awaken the body’s mechanism that is meant to protect and repair itself from damage but has become dormant due to the advances in exogenous protection from damage (aka technology).

Benefits of the Longevity Diet

Multiple animal experiments and several human trials have been performed in order to explore the effects of this diet in health. Potential benefits include weight management, longevity, cancer, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, neurodegenerative diseases (such as Alzheimer’s), inflammatory and autoimmune diseases.

The longevity plan at a glance

Now, the bad news (just kidding!). This diet is a stricter, low protein, low calorie version of what we know as a Mediterranean diet. It includes lots of vegetables, whole grains, legumes, nuts and olive oil, but it limits animal protein to seafood a few times per week and dairy products, which are only permitted for adults over 65 years old who are losing weight or muscle mass.

The actual foods included in the diet should match what our ancestors used to eat.

The plan also include 5 days of a fasting-mimicking diet (very low calorie diet). The frequency and need for medical supervision vary depending on each individual’s health conditions, body composition, age, etc. Note that fasting-mimicking diets are not recommended for pregnant women, underweight people, high-charging athletes, etc.

The book also addresses the need of exercise, brain engagement and social interaction.

The daily diet

Below is a summary of the daily diet portion of the plan:

  1. Eat mostly vegan, plus a little low-mercury fish (two or three servings per week).
  2. Keep protein intake to 0.68 to 0.79 grams per kilogram of body weight (higher for people over 65 years old). Protein should maily come from legumes.
  3. Minimize saturated fats (with the exception of coconut oil) and sugar. Eat whole grains and high quantities of vegetables with generous amounts of olive oil and nuts.
  4. Supplement with a multivitamin every three days.
  5. Eat what your ancestors would have eaten.
  6. Have 2 meals and a snack per day if you need to lose weight, otherwise 3 meals and a snack.
  7. Eat all your meals within 12 hours.

Rationale

The diet is low in protein (and relatively low in calories) because proteins activate the growth hormone receptor (leading to increased insulin and insulin-like growth factor 1) and TOR-S6K. In addition, the diet is low in sugar because sugars activate PKA. The end result may be diabetes, cancer and accelerated ageing.

Following our ancestors’ diet (if they did eat a reasonably healthy diet) ensures our bodies are familiar with those particular foods and thus less likely to develop allergies or intolerances.

The fasting-mimicking portion of the protocol puts healthy cells in an antiageing state, promotes destruction and replacement of damaged cells and shifting the body’s fuel utilisation to abdominal/visceral fat. It is fasting-mimicking and not “real” fasting to provide enough energy for the immune system and other important functions.

The exercise

Below is the exercise part of the plan, which aligns well with the Australian guidelines:

  1. Walk fast for an hour every day, emphasise incidental exercise (e.g. stairs instead of escalators, walking instead of driving).
  2. Do moderate exercise for 2.5 to 5 hours a week.
  3. Do resistance training.
  4. Eat your largest protein meal (with 30+ grams of protein) after resistance training to maximise muscle gain.

The meal plan

The book comes with a 2-week meal plan with recipes for every meal and snack suggestions. Keep in mind the recipes are based on Italian traditional cuisine, which might not apply to you based on your ancestry. Also, you might need to adjust the recipes due to food allergies or intolerances.

More information

For more information on Prof Valter Longo’s work follow the links below:

Valter Longo Foundation
Prof Valter Longo on Facebook

To learn more about the book and/or buy it online, click here. All proceeds go toward funding more longevity research.

comfort food

Comfort food

Comfort food is defined as “food that provides consolation or a feeling of well-being, typically having a high sugar or carbohydrate content and associated with childhood or home cooking.” (1)

I recently went to a concert and realised that nostalgia does the same thing to music than to food, at least for me. Comfort music is generally music I grew up listening to. There are bands that I don’t necessarily consider my favourite ones but that made a strong impression in my life as a youngster, and give me that warm, fuzzy feeling when I listen to their music.

Back to food. It is key to note that, for the most part, comfort food is associated with childhood, because that means we can potentially influence the comfort food choices of new generations.

Regional variations

Comfort foods can vary greatly by country. For example, according to Wikipedia, Australians and kiwis find comfort in sticky date pudding, potato wedges and chiko rolls, while Indians prefer biryani, samosas and mutton soup and Polish would rather have bigos, pierogi and vodka (2). The photo at the top of this article is lomo saltado, a traditional Peruvian dish that is comfort food for many Peruvians.

Interestingly, a study done with 3 different cohorts: from the US, Singapore and the Netherlands, found that the Dutch did not have a word or phrase for “comfort food”. I checked the Diccionario de la Real Academia de la Lengua Española (the only official source of Spanish vocabulary) and it doesn’t have entry for “comfort food” either.

Age variations

Comfort food preferences can vary with age. Apparently, there is a tendency for younger people to prefer more intense flavours and for older people to appreciate blander but more complex flavours (4). I think this can be true for adults and middle-aged people but, because all senses lose their edge with age, elderly people might prefer foods that are seasoned more aggressively.

Gender variations

Apparently science has determined that men more than women choose savoury over sweet foods when stressed (4).

Do comfort foods work?

Most studies on the topic have been done by psychologists, in laboratory settings that don’t necessarily replicate real-life situations. Having said that, these studies seem to indicate that comfort foods don’t really work differently than other foods for improving mood (3, 4, 5).

How do comfort foods work (if they do)?

The most common hypothesis of how comfort foods act at a biological level involve the release of dopamine (a neurotransmitter linked to reward) in the brain. Others have theorised that leptin (a hormone that signals hunger) concentrations has something to do with mood. And, of course, we cannot rule out the placebo effect.

Do comfort foods have a place in a health diet?

Absolutely. Remember that comfort food does not necessarily equals junk food. Therefore, it depends on what is your weapon of choice, the frequency and the quantity. A chiko roll every day is likely to be more detrimental to spaghetti Bolognese once a week. Similarly, a regular-sized lamington is way better than an extra-large serve of potato wedges with sour cream and sweet chilli sauce.

These days, with the increasing interest in healthy/clean eating, the consumption of comfort food can have the opposite effect, i.e. depress one’s mood out of guilt. However, if a weekly cheat meal (or day) works for you, save your favourite comfort meal for this occasion. If you half self-control issues, you can follow Charles Spence’s advice at the bottom of this article.

Therapeutic uses of comfort food

While there is no consensus about the effectiveness of comfort food for lifting healthy people’s moods, there are potential therapeutic applications for these meals. Examples include palliative care patients, elderly people who are undernourished, patients with anorexia or conditions where metabolic demands are increased.

It’s your turn

I’m curious to know more about comfort food variability. If you have a spare moment, please fill out the survey below.

References

  1. comfort food. 2018. In OxfordDictionaries.com. Retrieved July 17, 2018, from https://en.oxforddictionaries.com/definition/comfort_food
  2. Wikipedia contributors. Comfort food. Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia. July 17, 2018, 01:28 UTC. Available at: https://en.wikipedia.org/w/index.php?title=Comfort_food&oldid=850626453. Accessed July 18, 2018.
  3. Ong LS, IJzerman H and Leung AK-Y. Is Comfort Food Really Good For The Soul? A Replication of Troisi and Gabriel’s (2011) Study 2. Front. Psychol. 2015;6:314.
  4. Stein K. Contemporary Comfort Foods: Bringing Back Old Favorites. J Am Diet Assoc. 2008 Mar;108(3):412, 413.
  5. Wagner HS et al. The Myth of Comfort Food. Send to
    Health Psychol. 2014 Dec;33(12):1552-7.
16:8 diet

The 16:8 diet

The 16:8 diet is a form of intermittent fasting or time-restricted eating. The numbers in the ratio stand for 16 and 8 hours (of fasting and eating, respectively).

Intermittent fasting vs time-restricted feeding

These days, the term “intermittent fasting”, is being thrown around all over the place. Prof Valter Longo is the opinion that we need to stop using term “intermittent fasting” because it’s being used to talk about different protocols that have different effects on health (minute 1:01 in the video below).

Simply put, fasting = not eating. If you do it intermittently (i.e. not all the time), you are intermittent fasting. Humans, and all creatures, have fasted since the beginning of time. It can be argued that intermittent fasting is what our bodies are hard-wired to expect.

Time-restricted feeding is a specific type of intermittent fasting that happens every day (in contrast, intermittent fasting can be done, for example, once a week). The focus here is placed on the number of hours in which eating is “permitted”, i.e. 8 in the case of the 16:8 diet.

In some forms of fasting and all forms of time-restricted feeding, the idea is not alter the quantity or quality of food, but to consume it within a fixed window of time.

One more nuance: circadian rhythms

Circadian rhythm is what underlies any biological 24-hour cycle. Many organisms, including our own human cells, function according to a circadian rhythm that is influenced by the natural light/dark cycle and feeding/fasting periods. During the fasting periods, the body has an opportunity to repair damaged cells, proteins, etc. (2, 3).

Unfortunately, our modern lifestyles with 24/7 artificial light stimulation, disrupted sleep and eating patterns interrupt our body’s natural processes, predisposing us to obesity, diabetes, cardiovascular disease, etc. Hence, the aim of time-restricted feeding is to re-establish the body’s innate circadian rhythms (2, 3).

Prof Satchin Panda is dedicated to the study of circadian rhythms and health.

Benefits of fasting

The health benefits of fasting have been well documented thanks to large observational studies of populations who practice religious fasting. There have been also numerous studies in mice and other creatures that have given insight into the physiology of fasting, due to the fact that several cellular processes are conserved across species (2, 3).

Fasting promotes ketogenesis, increased cellular stress resistance, breakdown of fats (lipolysis) and cell destruction (autophagy). Clinical applications include the treatment of neurodegenerative, metabolic and inflammatory diseases, aging and certain types of cancer (particularly to reduce side-effects of chemotherapy) (1). Fasting may also help lower blood pressure and body fat (2).

Does the 16:8 diet work for weight loss and health?

A recent paper reported on a 12-week pilot study with 23 obese sedentary adults who followed a 16:8 diet. Subjects were allowed to eat from 10am to 6pm and their results were compared to matched subjects from another weight loss study. The experimental group more lost body weight and systolic blood pressure than the control group, but no relative fat mass, lean mass, diastolic blood pressure, heart rate, cholesterol, triglycerides, glucose, insulin nor homocysteine (a risk factor for cardiovascular disease). The authors of the paper acknowledge that alternate day fasting may be more effective for weight loss than time-restricted feeding (4).

On the flip side, an 8-week study with 34 lean young adult subjects explored the effects of combining a 16:8 diet with exercise. All subjects had been lifting weights for at least 5 years and followed a classic bodybuilding protocol 3 times per week. The time-restricted group ate between 1pm and 8pm and lost more of the following: fat mass, total testosterone, IGF-1 (but maintained fat-free mass), blood glucose, insulin, triglycerides, TNF-α and IL-1β (pro-inflammatory cytokines) (5).

Any fasting protocol may have detrimental side effects, so consult with your doctor or dietitian before trying the 16:8 diet, especially if you have health challenges or risk factors.

In the media

The 16:8 hour in the media was popularised under the name of 8 hour diet by American publisher David Zinczenko of Men’s Health back in 2012.

My experience with fasting

I don’t follow a structured fasting protocol but I do try to do some sort of fasting at least once a week. Sometimes it’s a 24 hour fast, sometimes it’s a protein fast (which triggers autophagy without requiring an actual fast), sometimes it’s a 8-12 hour time-restricted feeding period. The day and length depend on what else I have going on, i.e. training and social events. I try to implement fasting on recovery days, in which I do minimal physical activity (such as stretching, yoga or sprints). I learned the hard way: I tried fasting on a day I did clean heavy singles and I almost fainted.

References

  1. Longo VD and Mattson MP. Fasting: Molecular Mechanisms and Clinical Applications. Cell Metab. 2014 February 4; 19(2): 181–192.
  2. Longo VD and Panda S. Fasting, circadian rhythms, and time restricted feeding in healthy lifespan. Cell Metab. 2016 June 14; 23(6): 1048–1059.
  3. Melkani GC and Panda S. Time-restricted feeding for prevention and treatment of cardiometabolic disorders. J Physiol. 2017 Jun 15;595(12):3691-3700.
  4. Gabela K et al. Effects of 8-hour time restricted feeding on body weight and metabolic disease risk factors in obese adults: A pilot study. Nutr Healthy Aging. 2018 Jun 15;4(4):345-353.
  5. Moro T et al. Effects of eight weeks of time-restricted feeding (16/8) on basal metabolism, maximal strength, body composition, inflammation, and cardiovascular risk factors in resistance-trained males. J Transl Med (2016) 14:290.

[Photo by petradr on Unsplash]