Monday, May 25, 2015


Me and one of the best reasons I have to stay healthy
This blog was a way for me to keep track of my food experiments and a way to share what I was learning about food and health. It's been an interesting five years and I'm a healthier person for it. Here are the most important things I learned:
  • Adding a lot of vegetables to one's diet is the best way I know to improve health. Starting back in the summer of 2010 I made the rule that all my meals had to be half fruits and non-starchy vegetables. That was my springboard to good health and I've never looked back. 
  • Sugar sucks. It's really bad for us and makes us fat. I found that my weight and particularly belly fat was caused by sugar. And I don't respect the idea of replacing sugar with sugar substitutes – that's just trying to trick the brain. Bad idea. Whenever I'm off sugar I feel and look the best.
  • Fructose is particularly fattening. Fructose is the sugar that is in fruit. When you eat fruit your body can process the fructose pretty well because it's bound up with fiber. But as soon as the fructose is separated from its source – for example, when the juice is squeezed out of fruit or corn is made into HFCS (high fructose corn syrup) – the body stores it as fat (unless you're doing some pretty incredible exercising).
  • Calories aren't as important as the types of food you eat. The whole idea of calories in/calories out is now proven to be baloney. 100 calories of candy no way equals 100 calories of salad. This is because the body processes them differently. Sugar gets stored as fat (unless you're doing some pretty incredible exercising). Salad does not.
  • Processed food is terrible. Our bodies – not machines – are supposed to process our food. Our bodies burn calories processing food and it needs to process food in order to stay healthy, because...
  • There are little dudes called microbes living in our guts that depend on helping us process our food, and they actually help us get more nutrients out of the foods we eat. That information only started getting media attention while I was writing this blog. I took the Coursera gut microbiome course taught by Rob Knight, one of the leading scientists doing research on gut microbes. In that class I learned it's vital to good health to keep the good microbes in the body stoked with the food good microbes like to eat – which, according to  the latest research, appears to be plant fiber. Bad microbes thrive on sugar. I also learned that probiotics and prebiotics are worth adding to our diets. 
  • Gluten free is not a fad. Everyone, IMHO, should do the experiment – give up gluten for a month (or at least a few days) and see if you feel better or different. I certainly felt better and I certainly didn't expect to (I thought I felt fine). Anyone who poo-poos giving up gluten/wheat but hasn't tried it himself is an idiot. Giving it up might profoundly improve your mental and/or physical health, so it's worth trying.
  • Ditto for dairy. And, seriously, dairy can do all kinds of things to you. I eat dairy but I also know it makes me fat! Here's why:
  • I love potatoes, corn, and beans. (Did you know beans are part of the diet of every Blue Zone community that's been studied?) I just don't count them as vegetables – neither does the National Diabetes Association.
  • One has to exercise. There's no way to be healthy without it, plus it's very good for improving your brain function. But it's impossible to start out doing a lot of strenuous exercise and maintain it – strenuous exercise, if you're not used to it, just makes you tired and hungry. One should start slowly and build.
  • Sticking to a diet that's dramatically different from your standard one is virtually impossible. My theory is that this has to do with the body's symbiotic relationship with its gut microbes. Different microbes depend on different foods and when you cut off their food supply they get pissed and make you miserable. But if you start adding plant foods first, you build an army of healthy gut microbes and they make it easier for you to make other diet improvements like giving up sugar or alcohol or gluten.  
  • Losing weight is a stupid goal. Feeling happy, getting healthy, having more energy – those are goals that make sense. Food helps with all those things. Eat healthy and exercise moderately and your weight will straighten itself out. 
  • While a little coffee and a little alcohol aren't bad IMHO, they're definitely habits that have to be balanced with exercise and plenty of vegetables. They can make you feel terrible and they're hard to give up, so they may not be worth messing with at all.
  • Meat. I eat it, but it's no longer the centerpiece of my meals. Vegetables are.
So here ends this blog. It's been an interesting five years. I can't claim I never got sick during them, but overall I've felt the best I've ever felt, and I've recovered faster from illnesses than I did in the past. Having a baseline of good health is very helpful when you get something like Lyme disease or the flu.

I've just finished my first novel, and for the foreseeable future I'm going to concentrate on writing fiction. So goodbye for now blog, you were a big help.

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