Bloody Marvellous – Blood Test Results Come In…

A week back I got my blood taken for analysis and I got the results on Monday. I wanted a baseline to work from and by good chance I also had a test back in January after having been a few months (sporadically) on Atkins. On top of that I’ve had quite a few over the years here in Belgium – seems to be the first thing doctors do when you go to them here – but most of them weren’t for lipids. A few were though so I’ve been able to generate a bit of history:

What’s interesting here is that in 2006 the doctor told me my cholesterols were way too high: total cholesterol 255, triglycerides 303, LDL 147 and HDL 47. She told me that if I kept like that then I would have a 50% risk of a heart attack at the age of 65 and that I needed to reduce them somehow or take drugs (statins I guess). Of course I didn’t want any drugs and at that time I was quiet overweight at 94 kgs on the old scales (which translates into around 98 kgs on the current ones). I chose to try the natural route and lose some weight at the same time. This was when I followed Chris Aceto’s super book Everything You Need To Know About Fat Loss… - while being quite badly written, lacking references and touting a few odd viewpoints, this book was my first introduction to the idea that carbs were bad for you. I followed Chris’ guidance exactly and dropped off 10 kgs in just under three months.

I thought I’d had a test not long after that, but couldn’t find anything, so perhaps it was a year later, but what you can see there is already a dramatic improvement of my total cholesterol to 203 and LDL to 99 – triglycerides still above 300 though. Then the test in 2008 shows a gradual degradation once again as I reverted to old eating habits (bread and beer being my worst enemies).

January this year, after some Atkins, show some improvement with the triglycerides down to 161 and the total cholesterol at 233. HDL tends to stay fairly stable around the 50 mark, but LDL too high at 141. Cut to the present, so we’re talking four months of quite strict Atkins from January to May, a lapse in June & July, then started Paelo at the beginning of August: total cholesterol 185, triglycerides 92 and LDL 118 – very positive changes!!

But not yet good enough. Robb Wolf states that Palaeolithic man had the following, and this is my target: total cholesterol 130, triglycerides 80, HDL 50, LDL 80 – I’m not far off in some of the measures, I’ll get another test done in 3 months, see how it has changed.

Fasting blood sugar level has been below 100 pretty consistently.

One thing that always seems to be high for me is uric acid levels. They’ve always been around 7.5, but in the recent test they were even higher. This could be because I was still drinking quite a lot of booze until recently, or I’ve also been reading that ingesting high levels of purine from red meat can cause it to increase, but also to decrease – work that one out. High uric acid can lead to gout, which nobody wants, so I’ll keep my eye on it and do the research in the meantime.

More Food

For breakfast I tried something a little different with my smoothie as I’ve been wanting to get myself off soy milk for some time now. Despite having grown to like it very much  it’s stuffed full of lectins which is quite toxic to humans and also contains quite high levels of oestrogen, despite what the soy producers would like to you believe… (just Google and you’ll find a wealth of info, here’s one link in case you’re too lazy to do that) Now I think my man-boobs are quite big enough, thank you very much, so time for change. I had tried some various alternatives in coconut and almond milk, both pre-packaged like the soy, pasteurised and unfortunately with added sugar; regardless of that the taste of both made me want to vomit. My friend and work colleague, Ramona, has recently bought a Vitamix blender and she made her own almond mil, so I though I’d try too.

I soaked 50g of almonds overnight in 300ml of water, then threw this in the blender this morning with a handful of frozen forest fruits, handful of fresh blueberries, 35g of pure whey protein, 10g each of olive, avocado and linseed oil. Pulsed for 30 seconds, then on full blend for about 2 minutes. Now my blender isn’t as good as a Vitamix and it’s not a crappy one neither, but the whole thing was still a bit gritty with nit bit. Regardless of that it was way better than using the bought stuff with an overriding sensation like marzipan – if anything a little too strong, perhaps 30g of almonds would be enough in future.

Sorry to say that I didn’t take a photo, will make the same tomorrow and take a picture.

For lunch I cobbled together the left-overs from some nice steak I had for dinner yesterday: fired up some onions in olive oil, added some chopped mushrooms, once cooked added the steak diced, stir for a few minutes, added three teaspoons of tomato puree concentrate and some dried basil.

Vegetables are even easier: half a leek, half a courgette, handful of cauliflower. I boil/steam the cauliflower and leek first, then add the courgette after about 4 minutes just for two minutes more, that was the courgette doesn’t disintegrate into poo-slime. Drain the water into a glass to drink later add some good oils and a pinch of salt & pepper (normally I’d use a bit of soy sauce, but I noticed all my soy sauces have flour in then, so they’re going in the bin and I need to get some more. Note that soy sauce doesn’t have the same lectin issue as soy milk as it’s fermented and the fermenting process removes most of the lectins). Smash the veggies with a potato masher.

I put the rocquette on top as an afterthought so that anyone seeing it would think I was a chef, or posh…

For dessert it’s a couple of organic plums and an organic nectarine, which are in season right now. Note that most of the food I buy is organic. I know there’s a raging debate about whether it’s really that much better in nutrients or not. Personally I prefer to err on the side of caution, but it goes deeper than that. Organically farmed food is kinder for the environment and more importantly for me the standards of animal husbandry are much higher. So regardless of the debate I’ll keep buying it. It’s not even that much more expensive, I buy all our meat for instance from a small organic, Marché Vert, shop here in Uccle and it’s cheaper than the meat in the Delhaize supermarket next door (and far, far superior). Their bio (as organic is called in French) cucumbers are less than half the price of the ones in the supermarket too. It pays to shop around a little.

Now this isn’t organic, but it is fresh – a trio of lettuces sold live with roots and soil, 59 cents  twice the quantity of pre-packaged, a quarter of the price and fresher. Bargain!!

And yes, it’s all paleo (more on that soon)

Update 29th August: here’s a photo of that smoothie I promised

Intermittent Fasting Week 2

After last week’s first fasting effort, it was time to go for it again. Experience is a wonderful ally so I adapted a little to try and mitigate the negatives, mostly feeling so tired in the evenings. The logical solution of course was to shift the single daily meal from breakfast to the evening, that also opened the door for a better quality meal with the time-constraints of getting to work removed, here’s what I ate the two days:

Monday: Fried (olive oil) chicken breast (rubbed with garlic and onion powder, cinnamon & four-spice), half a cauliflower – drizzled with olive oil and linseed oil, home-made salsa & guacamole

Tuesday: Two beef and one chicken brochette – which I couldn’t finish, plus the other half of the cauliflower with the salsa and guacamole

With some linseeds and psyllium husks during the day to try and keep the intestines moving along… I chose cauliflower for many reasons: it’s low in calories so you can eat a lot and fill yourself up, it’s highly nutritious being packed with vitamins and minerals, we had a spare one in the fridge and I just love it; just be sure not to overcook or it turns to a farty mush, I find 6 – 7 minutes is enough. I don’t have a steamer so I cook with a small amount of water which I pour into a cup before serving and dink afterwards with a drop of olive oil, salt and pepper – it’s a delicious drink and ensures you get all the of vitamins.

What can I say, this fast was night and day different from the first time! Whether this was due to being able to anticipate the situation, the change of meal timing or the change of meal composition I don’t know, but I felt great for the two days. I was actually quite reluctant to eat and suffered no loss of energy at all – it was really liberating. And you wouldn’t believe the time you save when you don’t have to prepare or eat food!!

It’s a positive response on the scale too, with 1 kg lost on Tuesday morning compared to the week before (which was already 1 kg less than the previous week). Bear in mind that I’m eating as much as I can every meal during the week, I’m not craving for anything, I’m rarely hungry, I’ve energy enough for some short but intense workouts (more on that another time), so I believe I losing fat and gaining muscle as we go along.

Only downside is that I didn’t take a decent crap for three days (despite the countermeasures), but that’s back to normal again today. Here’s the weight progress:

Maybe I’m weird, but I’m looking forward to next week’s fast already :)

Obesity hastens cognitive decline claims study…

I had other things to write about today – for instance I’m on my second intermittent fast and also I visited the doctor yesterday to have my blood taken for analysis, and I was also planning a brief introduction to paleo, but then I read this on BBC:

Obesity ‘bad for brain’ by hastening cognitive decline

Now on first glance this might seems like a reasonable conclusion: 6000 people tracked over 10 years and the fat ones lost their brains quicker. Simple, right?

I would posit that it’s not a cause and effect, but rather a single root cause. I would be very interested to know the dietary specifics of these individuals, specifically the quantities of omega-3′s they were getting, what about their omega-6′s, were they too high? And how about carbohydrate intake, especially wheat?

Basically, high glycemic index foods, especially grains and HFCS (high fructose corn syrup), lead to insulin de-sensitivity, which is a pre-cursor to diabetes and obesity. Furthermore, modern wheat is really quite toxic to humans leads to obesity and can pass into the blood, through the blood/brain membrane and cause havoc there too.

On top of this, a diet low in omega-3 and high in omega-6 (so too much trans-fats, processed food, processed vegetables oils etc.), leads to deficiencies in EPA and especially DHA - Docosahexaenoic acid – is a major component of brain composition and function, a lack of it can lead not only to cognitive decline and dementia, but to eyesight problems and yes, you guess it, insulin de-sensitivity. ALA - alpha-Linolenic acid – which is found seed oils like rapeseed and flax can be converted in the body to EPA and DHA, but the process is highly inefficient, you need to get some in your diet, mostly through fish or fish oils, more on that another day though.

So I don’t think the scientific establishment has cracked the puzzle yet, but I think they’ve found another piece of the jigsaw and they’re heading in the right direction. Unfortunately for many people it will be too late.

Eating Out on Paleo

It’s hard, but not impossible to eat paleo when you’re at a restaurant. We were in Domburg, Holland, for the day and I still managed to get some highly nutritious, healthy foods. Firstly for lunch, some fish with some veggies. This also came with fries and some kind of sauce. Normally these sauces are made with flour, so I asked them to provide it separately and I requested that the fries were replaced with an extra serving of vegetables. I’m not convinced they did give the extra veggies, but it was sufficient as it was and kept me going until dinner.

Then for dinner we ate at our favourite restaurant in the town: De Bommelje, good food, very friendly staff and all organic too! And they do bring extra vegetables too when requested as well as some very good olive oil to drench over the veggies.

I pigged-out with a started of smoked salmon with mango & salad, a main of lamb with rosemary and two extra vegetable portions and two bowls of fruit for dessert. A lot of food I guess, but it had been a very active day with the kids, so I was pretty hungry.

Apparently it’s: gemarineerd in Zeeuws gerookte thee, gerookt zeezout, mango met rode pepers en krokante peterseliewortel

And the main: Proeverijtje van lam met geroosterde zoete aardappel, groene groenten en rozemarijnjus

So it is possible to eat well while you’re out and about:

  • Keep it simple: steak; fish, veggies, salad
  • Avoid overly prepared dishes as they can hide all sorts of ingredients
  • Ask for sauces to be given separately and salads to be undressed
  • Request extra veggies or salad

and despite this huge feast I found myself 87.9 kgs this morning :)

What’s for Dinner?

Well I was home a little late from work and I wanted to do some exercise before I ate – so time was a but limited. Nevertheless I managed to throw this together:

  • 6 organic chicken wings – these are delicious beyond belief and I eat pretty much everything except the bones and gristle. They’re so easy to cook that even an idiot like me can do it: coat in olive oil, salt, pepper and dried basil, put in a tray in the middle of the oven 185°C for 1 hour, turning after 30 minutes. The skin’s cripsy and the meat soft, bloody super-yum! And not expensive either – around €3 for the packet from Delhaize – bio too!! No excuses…
  • Then there’s a salad of course. I love salads and I ate them pretty much daily even when I wasn’t doing this low carb thing. This one isn’t especially fancy though, but it is BIG and it does contain a whole avocado. I feel salads without avocado are like sex with a condom – it’s nice, you want it, but it could be much, much better. For the rest it’s LOTS of leaves and roquette, bean sprouts, cucumber, tomatoes, olives, red pepper, olive oil – balsamic – salt & pepper
  • Then there’s dessert – that’s a handful of blueberries, almonds and pistachios, with a very few salted peanuts as a treat – didn’t really enjoy those, they tasted synthetic, will avoid in future
  • And last, but perhaps not least, I had a spoon of high EPA/DHA fish-oil that I bought on the way home – I’ll write about the importance of that another time

30 minutes before the meal I had 6 teaspoons of psyllium husk in water with a little lime juice. This stuff keep things moving along nicely inside, will also cover that at some point.

Now to bed…

 

 

Lunchtime at the Office

OK, we laugh and joke here about the poor quality of the food at the European Commission employee restaurants, but to be honest we are far luckier than many office workers who’s only choice in their bought lunch is the filling of the sandwich. So whereas most of the meals offered here are not really suitable – potatoes, rice, breadcrumb coatings, sauces made with wheat etc. it is possible to construct something that fits both a low-carb and paleo diet.

More often than not I tend to head to the grill where they have steaks, chicken and fish, if it’s doesn’t look too toxic then I go for the fish every time. OK, I have to admit that two years ago I had incredibly bad food poisoning from EC restaurant fish, I was bed/toilet-ridden for two days and couldn’t keep food in my system properly for nearly two months, but on the positive side I did lose 6 kgs :-)

Here’s today’s “best effort” – even with a bit of photo enhancement it still looks rather unappealing:

So that side-plate is roasted aubergines, mushrooms and courgettes with olive oil and balsamic. In fact I had to leave the courgettes as they were coated with some kind of slime that I couldn’t identify a) I think it was sugar and wheat based, b) it was totally disgusting!

The main dish is colin fish – also amusingly called “pollock” in the UK. It’s high in vitamin B12 & selenium as well as providing all essential amino acids and a decent amount of Omega-3 fatty acids. The rest was haricot beans, mixed veg and mixed salad.

Not the highest quality food by a long way, but way better than the average get to eat, so I’m pretty satisfied with that.

What does always make me laugh though, every day, is the look on the face of the restaurant staff when I don’t have any rice, potatoes or fries with it. They clearly think I’m insane, mind you, who’s to say they’re wrong?

Dinner Time

A lot of my friends and my dear wife often say “If you can’t eat bread, pasta, oats, sugar, potatoes and dairy, what’s left?” (well they don’t say that, but you catch the drift…); plenty actually. Sure there’s a lot of fish and meat, veggies and salads, nuts and seeds, berries and fruits, but really the choice amongst all these and the many ways they can be combined and prepared make for really delicious eating.

So in order to perhaps provide a modicum of inspiration, I’ll post pretty much everything I eat – not that I’m a paleo guru or gourmet cook of course, just to show that an average person with a busy life can make choices and live with it quite comfortably.

As I had a late breakfast today I skipped lunch and had a late afternoon snack with the remainder of the morning’s smoothie along with a handful of almond and pistachio nuts.

And here’s today’s dinner:

What have we got here then?

  • Steak: this is a “Pelé Royale”, which after looking at a picture of beef cuts appears to be the hamstring from the rear leg of the animal. It’s a pretty tender and fat-free cut. I brush with olive oil and fry on a high heat for about 5 minutes each side so it’s still rare in the middle
  • Not seen in this photo as I added it afterwards was a dollop of coarse-grain mustard
  • Then there’s some sautéed brown mushrooms with onions, garlic, olive oil and Kikkomans soy sauce
  • A large piece of cauliflower which I drenched with more olive oil (I like olive oil) and a bit of salt – when eaten like this, the much maligned vegetable tasted really great
  • The salad is half young leaves and roquette, soy bean srpouts, cherry tomatoes, cucumber, red pepper, green olives, beetroot and feta. Then at the table I’ve added (guess what) olive oil, balsamic vinegar, salt and pepper

This was not so time-consuming to prepare and in parallel I cooked the kids some sausages and made them vegetables & potatoes (that’s where I stole the cauliflower from). I’m not great cook and yet this was damn tasty and very healthy food without a grain on sight.

And the benefit of this – I eat until I’m full, sometimes stuffed, but I lose weight at the same time and I won’t feel hungry for a long time afterwards. I’m pretty sure my main health indicators are good too – I will get them checked soon and will post a comparison with how they were before I started all this.

You may notice that I eat (drink?) a lot of olive oil. In fact I have it with every meal: I put it in my breakfast smoothie, pout it over salads and vegetables, fry with it, grill and bake. Even in the office restaurants they have bottles of the stuff and I use it there too on the meals I buy. I reckon I have about 75ml per day, which equates to 675 calories, in principle around 25% of my calorific intake. More on that another day…

 

Intermittent Fasting – Part 3: The Morning After

So after two days of fasting, well except breakfast, I was back to normal eating habits this morning. Strangely enough I wasn’t really feeling so hungry and had to force it a bit, and then I found I couldn’t eat that much, probably I even over-did it as I felt a bit sick. Here’s what I munched this morning (well half of the smoothie was left-over for lunch):

  • Fresh blueberry & strawberry smoothie: 75g blueberries, 60g strawberries, 200ml sugar-free soy milk*, 200g sugar-free full fat natural yoghurt*, 30g whey isolate protein powder & 30ml olive oil
  • 4 scrambled eggs, 2 slices ham, a load of grated Emmental cheese (didn’t measure this), generous amount of olive oil (of course!) and a handful of arugula (rocket/roquette) which I have to admit had seen better times & was yellowing…
  • The ubiquitous 30g overnight water-soaked linseeds with a dash of lime juice
  • Loads of water
  • Six espresso’s, yes six, I know, maybe that’s what made me feel a bit queer!

The eBook is The Paleo Solution by Robb Wolf. I’m halfway through this excellent book and it’s proving to be both an informative and entertaining read. Robb covers quite a few topics in depth that have been glossed-over in other books I’ve read and he writes with a good dose of humour – albeit in a overtly American manner. Anyway, highly recommended.

So how did the fasting go? Well I must admit that yesterday especially I wasn’t particularly hungry, but I was feeling tired and lethargic especially in the evening. As I said yesterday, this could have been due to insufficient sleep as well; will have to compare with future attempts when I actually get my ass into bed at a decent time!

As regards weight, well of course I’m going to lose weight after two days of hardly any food, if for no other reason than the stomach and intestines being relatively empty. That being said, my regular personal waste-disposal mechanism was totally out-of-order yesterday, so could have been better. Here’s the chart, 1.5 kgs down for the two days:

If you’re interested in intermittent fasting then Precision Nutrition’s website provides an excellent primer and free eBook, written (and personally tested) by Dr. John M. Berardi.

* Yeah, I know, soy milk is definitely not Paleo and according to what I’ve read is really quite bad for you, I’m working on eliminating it from my diet. Yoghurt is slightly more of a grey-zone – milk is a no-no, cheese is considered OK, yoghurt falls in the middle. Not sure yet on that one…