May 182014

I was in Barnes and Noble recently and wandered into the cookbook section, since cooling is a passion of mine.  I was struck by the number of cookbooks aimed at very specific dietary restrictions:  gluten-free, paleo, vegetarian, and more.  And, indeed, you don’t have to look far to see that nutrition, like hem-lengths, goes through fads.

We seem to be in a low-carb fad at the moment, at least if the number of people I meet who claim to be following a paleo diet is any indicator. Never mind that paleo man died pretty young and that following a true paleo diet is impossible since the same animals and conditions don’t exist today, and especially never mind that paleo man ate a an awful lot of insects, which is something Ive yet to encounter any follower of this diet advocating.  The claim is the man has been farming for only 10,000 years (never mind evidence that shows grains were consumed as much as 100,000 years ago) and that this is not long enough for human bodies to have adapted to grain consumption, hence, it – along with beans and legumes – should be eliminated from one’s diet.

To be sure, there are competing diet philosophies, such as the “starchivore” movement led largely by John McDougall. His diet postulated that man should eat lots of grains and legumes, little meat, and moderate to low fat.

No matter what the diet, there are seemingly countless studies supporting the science behind each one. I sometimes lose myself for hours reading such studies and, although I think I have a fairly good mind, confess that I don’t always know what to conclude.  For one, rigorously controlled dietary studies are hard to conduct, since compliance tends to be an issue and people either forget or don’t want to admit some of what they’ve eaten.  And even the most rigorous studies are conducted for a matter of months, not a lifetime., so how is anyone supposed to know what to eat?

I turned to the internet, of course.  Where do people live the longest?  Most sources pointed to these top 5:

  1. Monaco
  2. Macau (China)
  3. Japan
  4. San Marino
  5. Hong Kong

No, the United States isn’t on the list.  It ranks a paltry 35.  And in spite of our images of Monaco as the home of the wealthy, there is no correlation between wealth or health care expenditures and longevity.

So, what do people eat in these countries:

Country Meat Fish Vegetables Grains Beans and Legumes Fats
Monaco Low High High Moderate Moderate Moderate (olive oil)
Macau Moderate Moderate Moderate Moderate Moderate Moderate
Japan Low High High (esp. sea vegetables) Moderate High (soy) Moderate(unsaturated)
San Marino Moderate Moderate High High Moderate Moderate
Singapore Moderate Moderate High High Moderate Moderate


Hmmm.  This chart looks…  balanced.  Not a single hint of a fad diet in the group and definitely no eschewing of grains.  In fact, the greatest commonalities between these diets are:

  • Food is locally grown
  • Little to no processed foods are eaten
  • Vegetables comprise a significant portion of calories

Pretty simple, isn’t it?

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May 132014

One of the items in my Facebook feed this morning was a post from a friend saying she was giving up chocolate because she’d just learned that resveratrol was no good for her.  Intrigued, I did a little googling.  Sure enough, I immediately found lots of reporting on this topic.

Resveratrol May Not Be The Elixir In Red Wine And Chocolate (NPR)
Resveratrol in the diet is no help at all (LA Times)
Resveratrol in Red Wine Not Such a Health-Booster? (WebMD)

Each source duly reported that a new study revealed no correlation between resveratrol and increased longevity or reduced incidences of heart disease or cancer.

Next, I went to the JAMA site and looked at the actual study. The finding there was a little different than what I’d read elsewhere.  The study authors’ conclusion was that

In older community-dwelling adults, total urinary resveratrol metabolite concentration was not associated with inflammatory markers, cardiovascular disease, or cancer or predictive of all-cause mortality. Resveratrol levels achieved with a Western diet did not have a substantial influence on health status and mortality risk of the population in this study.

What jumps out at me is the phrase “achieved with a Western diet.”  A Western Diet is typically defined as one that is high in red meat (and not of the grass-fed variety), sugars, refined grains/cereals, and fried and processed foods.  According to HealthDay News:

People who eat this kind of diet — which includes fried and sweet foods, processed and red meat, refined grains and high-fat dairy products — are at increased risk for premature death.

Notably, none of the articles that reported on the resveratrol study bothered to discuss how a Western Diet may have affected the study outcome, or indeed, that eating a typical Western Diet is so detrimental to good health that there is no compound that can miraculously un-do the damage it causes.

It is perhaps true that there is no benefit to resveratrol.  But it is far truer that consuming a Western Diet is a fast-track to heart disease, metabolic syndrome, obesity, diabetes, cancer, and more.



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May 132014

Sound easy, doesn’t it?

Three rounds of

  • 20 long jumps (feet together, jump as far as possible)
  • 50 jumping jacks

I found this online, as a Crossfit WOD that can be done at home.

It was surprisingly tough.

I like it.  Try it and see what you think.

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May 092014

I’ve been reading about the benefits of resistant starch from several sources, here, here, and here. It’s been credited with helping improve gut flora, improving insulin sensitivity, reducing triglycerides, and reducing the risk of colon cancer. Increased butyrate production is the scientific explanation (description here, for those interested in knowing the “why”)> These are good things.


Resistant starch is found primarily in green bananas, beans, raw oats, and potatoes/pasta that has been cooked and cooled. None of these are things that I currently incorporate in my diet with any regularity.

Then I read about potato starch and tapioca starch, which are good sources of resistant starch that can be mixed into my morning smoothie (or any cold drink). A perfect solution for me, since my morning shake is already a bit of a kitchen sink of vitamins and supplements. Potato starch contains about 8 grams of resistant starch per tablespoon. And it doesn’t contain any carbs, since it isn’t digested in the stomach but passes straight through to the gut. So I bought some Bob’s Red Mill Potato Starch and some Bob’s Red Mill Tapioca Flour (in this case, flour=starch), and I plan to try them in my morning shake. A little at a time. Apparently, gut discomfort (think bloating and gas) can result from too much, too soon. So a tablespoons a day too start and then I’ll take it from there.

How about you? Have you tried incorporating resistant starch into your diet? What were your results?

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May 052014

I was blessed with good glutes as a teenager, most likely from years as a sprinter. As I got older, though, maintaining a perky, upside-down heart-shaped rear view became more challenging. Conventoinal advice said that squats and lunges were all I needed to build and maintain great glutes but the problem was that I was already squatting and lunging and it just wasn’t enough. Over time, I came up with this list of best glute exercises. Do them once or twice a week and see what you think.

Single-Leg Hyperextension – If you’re just starting out, you may find it easier to do these with two legs, but the single leg version gets the best results. Pause briefly at the top of the movement for best results. And make sure it’s your glutes, not your upper boady, providing the muscle as you move up and down.

Glute Bridges – Make these harder by using a barbell or doing them one leg at a time.

Lateral Band Walks – Do these at the start of your workout to prime the gluites.

Sprints – If you can do these outdoors, great, but another option is on the treadmill. Using the treadmill allows you to adjust the incline to really target the posterior chain. Try sprinting for 45 seconds and resting for anywhere from 45-90 seconds. Repeat this cycle 6-8 times. Do it at the end of your routine.

Front Squats – Front squats do an even better job than barbell (or back) squats for shaping the glutes. Don’t expect to be able to use the same weight you use on a back squat.

There’s the list. Now, does this mean you should stop squatting, lunging and deadlifting? Of course not. But include two or more of the above exercises in your routine and to see positive changes in your glutes!

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