Wednesday, October 29, 2008

I'm dreaming of a Green Thanksgiving

One of the things that makes me proud to be on low-carb is that it can be one of the greenest ways to eat, and no I'm not talking about the veggies.

Eating low-carb in a nutshell is simple. Eat whole foods that are the foods your paleolithic ancestors thrived on. Since our ancestors grew to thrive all over the world, you can find anything you need to live on near you. Eat some plants, eat some animals, eggs, full fat dairy products, and some nuts. Everything beyond that is an indulgence and is physiologically unnecessary, but sometimes emotionally or psychologically necessary.

So, eating green on low-carb is much easier than it is when trying to consume a diet high in refined foods. Grain products will tend to have a fairly large carbon footprint because they are grown in centralized areas and distributed all over the country and the globe. The same is certainly said of all the packaged goods you buy. If you want to reduce the carbon footprint of your dinner plate, try buying veggies grown locally from your local farmer's market and talk to the sellers there to see where you can buy locally raised meats. You might have to change the way you buy a little, but it could be a big payoff for everyone and give you a new perspective.

To find your local farmer's market, check out the following links
(if you're not from New England, try this link and add your state to get your local market)
Maine Farmer's Markets
New Hampshire Farmer's Markets
Massachusetts Farmer's Markets
Rhode Island Farmer's Markets
Connecticut Farmer's Markets
Vermont Farmer's Markets

I haven't transitioned to completely local eating, but I do take a lot of satisfaction in buying local produce or picking some fruits and pumpkins from the local orchard.

My goal this year is to have an "as green as it can be" Thanksgiving. I'm looking to find a local turkey farm where I can buy a fresh, and perhaps organic, turkey. I also plan to try to get all veggies from local growers and to get my dairy from local sources as well. Anything I can't get from a local source, I'm going to get organic. The other part to my plan is to make as much as possible from scratch. If you know any great places to get this stuff, spill the beans.

It's only one meal, followed by a few days of delicious leftovers, but I think it's a cool way to get started. I think it will be kind of a fun adventure in eating and will bring a little different perspective to the food which we so often take for granted.

For some interesting reading, check out a recent article by Michael Pollan "Farmer in Chief". I may not agree with all of Michael's philosophies on eating, but with regard to his discourse on the globalization of the food supply and the absurdity of the way our food is shipped all over the world, I do agree with him. I also agree with him that our food an nutrition is an essential topic for our next Commander in Chief.

Well, I'd love to have some people join me in the spirit of having a "green" Thanksgiving. Are you with me?

I'd love to hear what you think too! Think I'm crazy, off my rocker, overreacting? I'd love to hear it. Think I'm too much of a softy and not being strict enough? Let me have it!


PS. Don't fear the fat!

Tuesday, October 28, 2008

Crispy Fried Pork Chops

My wife, daughter, and I just had these for dinner tonight, so I figure I ought to share this with all of you.

  • 3 - 4 lbs pork chops - I used center cut bone-in, but I just buy whatever's on sale
  • 2.5 cups soy flour - I prefer organic soy flour, but I've had a hard time finding it lately
  • 2 tsp kosher salt
  • 1 tsp garlic powder
  • 0.5 tsp onion powder
  • 1 tsp black pepper
  • 1 tsp basil
  • 1 tsp oregano
  • 0.25 tsp crushed red pepper
  • 1 Tbsp parmesan cheese
  • 3 eggs
  • 0.25 cups heavy cream
  • Enough frying fat to cover the bottom of the pan with about a 1/4 to 1/2 inch of oil - I used rendered chicken fat, but lard or tallow would work great too. I would only use vegetable oils if you have no other choice. Please don't use vegetable shortening it is hydrogenated and no one should be eating it.
  1. Add your fat to a deep skillet and heat over medium heat until the oil is hot. The oil should be somewhat thin, but not smoking.
  2. Preheat your oven to 400 F.
  3. Combine eggs and cream in a dish that is large enough to dip your pork chops in.
  4. Combine dry ingredients in another dish large enough to dip your pork chops in.
  5. Dip each pork chop into the dry ingredients, then the wet ingredients, then the dry ingredients. When moving from wet to dry, let the excess egg wash drip off the pork chop before dipping in dry ingredients again.
  6. Gently shake the excess breading off the pork chop.
  7. Place the dipped pork chop into the hot oil carefully. Be careful not to drop the pork chop causing the hot oil to splash.
  8. Fry each chop until is dark brown on the bottom, then gently turn over. Again, be careful not to splash the hot oil.
  9. Fry until the new bottom side is dark brown, then remove from the pan and place on baking sheet or broiler pan.
  10. When all chops have been fried, put the the baking sheet or broiler pan in the preheated oven. Bake chops for 10 - 20 minutes. Thicker chops or bone-in chops will take longer than thinner or boneless chops. My chops were bone-in and about 3/4 inch thick, they baked for 20 minutes.
If you don't care for or can't find soy flour, I imagine you could use almond flour. I haven't tried it yet. I've tried coconut flour, but that turned out to be a little grainy tasting.

So, what are you waiting for? Get your oil heated up and start frying!

If you try this, let me know how it turned out and what, if anything, you tried that was different.


PS. Don't fear the fat! It's what makes these chops sooooo tasty.

Friday, October 24, 2008

I'm back!

Sorry I haven't posted much for the past month or so.

For those of you who don't know me personally, I've suffered from reactive hypoglycemia for a long time. I'll give you a little background on it and some information about it and get on to how I've dealt with it.

Clinically speaking, reactive hypoglycemia, also known as post-prandial hypoglycemia, is when blood sugar drops "too low" (sorry I don't know the numbers) within 2 to 5 hours after a meal. The symptoms can include anxiety, shakiness, light-headedness, sweating, nausea, difficulty concentrating, depression, heart palpitations, flushing, epileptic-type response to flashing lights, headaches, craving sweets, and increased appetite.

I personally experienced almost all of the above and the symptoms I didn't develop my wife did. In retrospect, my and my wife's symptoms have been evident for a long time, but people know so little about this problem that many people don't get the treatment they need because the symptoms can be attributed to all sorts of problems.

The general advice that many receive is to drink some juice or eat some crackers. People are told to eat every two hours or so. I took this advice and it worked to temporarily relieve symptoms, but never offered permanent relief.

It took a long time to start to make the connection between what I ate and the severity and frequency of my symptoms, but when I was around 19 I started to make the connection. At first I thought sugar was my whole problem, but I later learned that all carbohydrates contributed to the problem, not just sugar.

After years of suffering and reacting to symptoms of low-blood sugar by eating, my weight had skyrocketed until I was nearly 100 pounds overweight and my wife was about 60 pounds overweight. We were hooked on a high-carb diet. We tried losing weight by reducing fat, cutting calories, exercising and failed at every turn.

About 6 years ago I started reading books about low-carb eating. I read "The Zone" by Barry Sears, "How I Gave Up My Low-Fat Diet and Lost Forty Pounds" by Dana Carpender, and "Dr. Atkins New Diet Revolution" by Robert C. Atkins. I found a little bit of information about normalizing blood sugar levels in these and I thought this way of eating might work for me. I experimented with reducing some of the carbohydrates in my diet and immediately my weight started to drop and my symptoms improved. I had the evidence I needed to move forward with trying the Atkin's Diet. I talked to my wife and persuaded her to try it with me.

Within a couple weeks, most of our maladies disappeared. My wife's migraine headaches got better, we both had energy again, shakiness, anxiety, and depression appeared to be a thing of the past.

We later found that these weren't all gone completely. Artificial sweeteners and caffeine also turned out to be culprits as well. These affected me more substantially than they did my wife.

I have intermittently removed these from my diet with positive results. One of the things that plagued me for years is that even when I avoided all the "culprit" foods in my diet, I still developed many of the same symptoms I had experienced in the past. I tried going "no-carb" and very low-carb without any positive results. I went to my doctor and she said "eat 6 or 7 small meals a day" and "eat a little bit of everything". She didn't listen when I told her I was eating low-carb, she was too busy giving advice that sounded right to her.

I kept careful food logs for a month that detailed when I ate, what I ate, how I felt, and what I did. I saw my doc again in a month and brought my food log. She wasn't interested. I told her I noticed that when I ate, I experienced symptoms, but when I fasted for long periods I had no symptoms. She remarked "that's odd, you would expect it to be opposite". Her final advice, "just keep eating small frequent meals". I knew she was insane and that she just wasn't listening. I had spent $300 on blood tests that told me nothing. I had to figure things out for myself.

I was desperate for some help because the anxiety, depression, and inability to concentrate were really taking a negative toll on my life, so I wrote to Dr. Jay Wortman at He suggested that too much protein could be part of the problem. He advised me to try to eat about 1 - 1.5 g of protein per kg of body weight. I started experimenting with that advice with some positive results, but I still was developing symptoms intermittently.

Next I stumbled upon the "Optimal Diet" by Dr. Kwasniewski read more here and here. It is a low-carb diet, in which you avoid eating too much protein and get the majority of your calories from fat. I did that for a month and saw, in general, a tremendous improvement in my symptoms.

Finally, I ready a post on Stargazey's site about reactive hypoglycemia with advice to wait 5 - 6 hours between meals. The advice is based on allowing insulin levels to drop between meals. For me that advice has turned out to be spot on.

I have since combined that advice with eating the prescribed amount of protein by Drs. Mike and Mary Eades in "Protein Power Lifeplan".

Since I have made these most recent changes, I have finally been relieved of my symptoms. Now I eat about 34g of protein at each of three meals a day, I get most of my calories from fat, and I get a few calories from carbohydrate. I am able to take some amount of artificial sweeteners, but I don't eat them during the day when my symptoms are more likely to occur.

If you have symptoms of reactive hypoglycemia, I encourage you to seek out information as I have and don't be afraid to ignore your doctor's advice if they're not really helping. Try keeping a food log with details about when, what, and how much you eat and any thing you notice about how you feel. Talk to people and don't stop searching until you get the answers you need. I don't know if I've solved the problem, but I think I have just made a major breakthrough.

I couldn't have done it without the help of so many of the websites, blogs, and books out there. Each shed a little more light on a poorly understood subject.

The positive changes in my health, my weight, and my mental health have all come from the low-carb community. That's why I'm proud to be a part of it. I hope that someday someone's life will be improved by something they found on my site.

So, there's your glimpse into some of the craziness of my life. If you have any questions, feel free to post them in comments or of course email me at


PS. Don't fear the fat! Without it, I wouldn't have anything to eat!

Monday, October 13, 2008

Getting started.

Like anything, there's a right way and a wrong way to get started on your low-carb lifestyle.

The wrong way...

"I'm doing Atkins!"
-I've never read any of Dr. Atkin's books, but I heard it was an all you can eat meat, egg, and cheese diet.

The right way...

"I'm not happy with my health, weight, or I just want to see if I can feel better."
-I'll read up on the subject so I'll be well informed. Blogs and websites are a great way to get information, but always remember, "trust, but verify"
-I'll commit to reading a book by one of the major authors on the subject (Eades or Atkins are the two that come to mind)
-I'll pick a day to start once I understand what I need to do
-I'll get rid of the foods I shouldn't eat so I won't be tempted
-I'll commit to trying this new lifestyle for some amount of time before I start
-I'll weigh/measure myself before I start
-I'll see my doctor to evaluate my health before I make a dramatic lifestyle change

The first approach is the sort of haphazard, half-hearted attempt that gives low-carb a bad name.

The second approach is the secret to success. I'm not saying it's the only way to start and that you'll certainly fail if you don't do everything I say, I'm simply saying that if you want to give low-carb a fighting chance at really improving your health, then I recommend a well thought out approach.

Good luck and I'd love to hear from you if you think there are some important steps I've missed.


PS. Don't fear the fat!

Thursday, October 2, 2008

The Skinny on Fat... Fat Facts

In my last post, I wrote about the inevitability of consuming more fat when you eat low-carb.

Now, I'd like to talk about some fat facts. Types of fats, what makes fats different from one another, and where you find them.

When we speak of fat, we are really talking about fatty acids. All fatty acids are chains of carbon atoms linked together surrounded by hydrogen atoms. If a carbon atom doesn't have a hydrogen atom to bond to it will bond to a neighboring carbon atom. This is what defines the difference between a saturated fatty acid and an unsaturated fatty acid.

Fatty acids are grouped into three categories based on their chemical construction.
  1. Saturated fatty acids - SFAs
    All of the carbon atoms are bonded to hydrogen. Hence all the carbon atoms are "saturated" with hydrogen.
  2. Polyunsaturated fatty acids - PUFAs
    Several of the carbon atoms are not bonded with hydrogen and consequently bond with one another. So there are multiple "poly-" carbon atoms that are not saturated with hydrogen atoms "unsaturated".
  3. Monounsaturated fatty acids - MUFAs
    There are two carbon atoms which are not bonded with hydrogen, but are bonded to one another. So, there is one "mono-" bond between two carbon atoms which is not saturated with hydrogen "unsaturated".
Alright, we've laid out the basics for the difference between the fatty acids. Let's quickly cover some of the

Saturated fats tend to be more stable than unsaturated fatty acids. Saturated fats are less susceptible to spoilage and are less susceptible to oxidization when exposed to heat. They are solid at higher temperatures and have higher smoking points than unsaturated fats.

Unsaturated fats tend to be liquids at lower temperatures than saturated fats and may be referred to as "oils". They smoke at lower temperatures than saturated fats. Polyunsaturated fats are the least stable and are the most susceptible to becoming rancid or oxidizing when exposed to heat. If you say "why on earth do I care?". I'll tell you why. We've all heard of antioxidants, right? I can't go into all the science of all of this, but basically, things that oxidize are more likely to be carcinogenic , cancer causing, and antioxidants help protect us from oxidative damage. So, things that can cause oxidative damage should be avoided and things that protect us from oxidative damage should be consumed.

So, you're going to consume more fats on low-carb, you now know the difference between the different fats from a chemical standpoint, and you know a little more about the stability of fats in the face of heat and age. What you don't know is where you can find each of these fats.

A common belief about fats is that animal fats are largely saturated and that plant fats are largely unsaturated. Both statements are incorrect and misrepresent where different types of fats are found.

There is a lot of debate about the health of particular fats, but for now we will make only one assumption, because it is fairly widely accepted. The assumption is that monounsaturated fat, the primary fat in olive oil, is good for you. It may be good for your heart, it may do other good things for you.

Let's talk about the fats found in animals, then we'll talk about the fats found in plants.

First off, we'll take the most insidious of all fats, lard. I'll bet that if you ask anyone, they will tell you that lard is the stuff that heart disease is made of and it's probably worse than just about any other fat. Lard is rendered pork fat and it is obviously the worst of the worst. The fatty acid profile of lard is as follows (doesn't total 100% because of rounding):
45% - monounsaturated fat
39% - saturated fat
11% - polyunsaturated fat
So, the premise that animal fats are mostly saturated is apparently false. This means that the fat of bacon and pork chops and spare ribs is mostly monounsaturated, presumably heart-healthy fat. How about that?

If pork fat is mostly unsaturated fat, then surely beef with all that solid white fat must have nothing but saturated fats for you. Or does it? Check out the fatty acid profile of a delicious rib eye steak (doesn't total 100% because of rounding):
41% - monounsaturated fat
39% - saturated fat
4% - polyunsaturated fat

Personally I found it fascinating when I found out that beef fat too was mostly unsaturated fats. It seems far from what I thought I knew about types of fats and their food sources.

When we look at plants, we'd assume that those are pretty much unsaturated, but I think this deserves a closer look too.

Olive oil, purportedly good for your health and your heart. We'll assume it is for now, but maybe we don't know why. It's lipid profile:
14% - saturated fat
73% - monounsaturated fat
11% - polyunsaturated fat
So, this is clearly much higher in MUFAs than the animal fats we looked at, but far from free of SFAs.

How about coconut oil?
87% - saturated fat
6% - monounsaturated fat
2% - polyunsaturated fat

Corn oil?
58% - monounsaturated fat
8% - saturated fat
29% - polyunsaturated fat

Soybean oil?
58% - polyunsaturated fat
23% - monounsaturated fat
16% - saturated fat

So unsaturated fats do come from both plant and animal sources and the same appears to be true for saturated fats.

Animal sources appear to be largely made up of monounsaturated fats and saturated fats, with little polyunsaturated fat. Plants seem to vary widely in the percentages of saturated, monounsaturated, and polyunsaturated fats they contain.

I've gone on long enough with facts about fat, but I have a couple more things I should add. I hope you've read this far, because I think this will be a good lead in to the next post.

There is one food we were all designed to eat, indisputably. Breast milk. We don't all get it and I don't feel the need to entertain the debate over whether we need to or not, but the fact remains that it is indisputably the one food we were designed to eat and make us grow up strong and healthy. Before the advent of foods that were easy for infants and toddlers to eat, mothers used to nurse much longer than they do now. So breast milk was designed to sustain our growing youngsters for the first few years of life, providing much if not all of the essential nutrients for a healthy body.

I wonder what the lipid profile of breast milk is? Could it be:
48% - saturated fat
35% - monounsaturated fat
10% - polyunsaturated fat

So the lipid profile of the single most significant food in your life, which all humans were made to eat is mostly saturated fat, followed closely by saturated fat.

Finally, I'll leave you with this thought. We as humans have evolved to get our food from natural sources. Forgetting the rhetoric we hear from our doctors and government health officials for a minute, doesn't this then mean that we should endeavor to get our nutrients in the most natural form possible. Don't people say that it's better to eat broccoli than to take a vitamin, or better to eat an orange than drink orange juice?

If so, why not get your fat from natural sources that we have evolved to eat? Meats, eggs, fish, full-fat dairy products, olives, coconuts, palm are all great natural sources of fat. Corn, soy, rapeseed (canola) are not good sources of fat. They are not edible without processing and their fat content is too low such that they require large amounts of processing to extract their fat.

Next time, we'll talk some more about fat and some of the controversy over what kinds of fat you should eat and why.

Until then, we're trying to start a dialogue here, so help me out with some comments. I want to hear your thoughts. Positive, negative, neutral, share them all, please. As I said in my previous post, we need to talk about fat. We need to take some of the big scary out of this and get past the misconceptions, preconceptions, and get to the truth. It may not be what I have to say, but we won't know unless we talk about it.

If you have some good stuff to say about fat and what its done for you, that would be great too! I now have over 400 hits on this site, so I know some people are reading it. I'd love to hear more from you.


PS. Don't fear the fat! (Especially now that you know a little more about it)