Ancestral Health And Stress, Part 2: Food Stressors

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Last week I talked about the stress we put our minds through on a daily basis.  We discussed some good ways to work through it, with the main takeaway being we need to do more mindful activities.

We also put our bodies through a large amount of stress daily.  Some stressors on our body are good.  These include things like exercise, cold and hot exposure, and fasting.  These are what we could call “hormetic” stressors, activities that triggers a response in our cells to respond and adapt to.

Are bodies are built to benefit from these sorts of stressors.  However, many people today are exposed everyday to things that our body just can’t keep up with.  These can include over exposure to blue light, eating way to much grain, oxidized vegetable oils, chronic exercise, and omega-6 to omega-3 imbalance. Today ill dig into the common food stressors.

SAD Diet

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This is short for the Standard American Diet.  It is categorized as a high-fat, high carbohydrate diet (a recipe for disaster).  For the high-fat portion, it has been recommended by conventional wisdom and shoddy science to replace saturated fats (lard, butter, coconut oil) with PUFA-rich  vegetable oils (soybean, canola, sunflower, rapeseed).  There is nothing inherently wrong with Polyunsaturated Fatty Acids.  Olive and fish oils contain amounts of PUFA’s, along with nuts and seeds.  The problem is that most people are getting their fat intake from fried and processed foods that contain vegetable oil.

PUFA Rich Oils

When we eat vegetable oils, there are a couple of things happening.

  • Most vegetable oils are heat and light-sensitive, and are oxidized by the time we consume them.   This means they are continually breaking down into smaller compounds, and damaging our cell membranes and DNA.
  • Byproducts of PUFA oxidation like 4-Hydroxy-2-nonenal, causes mitochondrial malfunction.  Research is coming out on how this may influence cancer.
  • This study shows how when we replace saturated fats with fragile oxidized PUFA’s, more calcium is deposited on the artery wall, and blood clots more. These are pre-cursors to cardiovascular disease.

Whenever we eat commercial fried foods, packaged baked goods, cereals, and other processed products, we are taking in massive amounts of these vegetable oils.  The result is an imbalance in our omega-6 to omega-3 ration.  If we are not ingesting anti-inflammatory  omega 3’s to counterbalance the inflammatory effects of omega 6’s,  we get widespread systemic inflammation in our body.  How do we solve this? Instead of using PUFA rich vegetable oils for cooking, use saturated and monounsaturated fats like animal fat, butter, coconut oil, avocado oil, and olive oil.  These are much more stable, less prone to oxidation, and provide essential nutrients like omega 3’s, CLA, butyric acid, lauric acid, and vitamin E, A, and K2.

Anti-Nutrients

I think we all know that white bread, pasta, and rice,  are little more than shuttles for whatever is being served with them.  They serve no purpose beyond adding empty calories to a meal.  But what about whole grains? What about fiber?

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I’ll point out one big problem: Anti-Nutrients.  The two main culprits are phytates and lectins.  Phytates (also known as phytic acid), are found in grains, nuts, and legumes.  They prevent the absorption of minerals like calcium, magnesium, iron and zinc.  Our main source of phytic acid would be from grains.  Not only does it prevent us from getting any nutrients from the grain, but it prevents us from getting nutrients from the meal we are eating them with.  Take brown rice, for example.  This is often seen as a healthy choice.  While it has more vitamins and minerals than white rice, that ends up being nullified by the fact that the phytic acid is preventing the absorption of the nutrients.  Phytic acid brings whole grains in general down to the nutritional level of their bleached and refined counterparts.  This study in dogs actual showed that too much phytic acid interfered with bone growth, and vitamin D metabolism. Interestingly enough, the most common worldwide nutrient deficiencies are calcium, iodine, iron, and zinc as well as vitamin A, vitamin D.  These are all nutrients that Phytic Acid bonds strongly to.  Most of the world depends on grains as a source of calories, and we know that phytic acid affects our mineral absorption.  I know that before I stopped eating grains, my teeth were an absolute mess. Cavities, sensitivities, and a mounting bill with my dentist.   Within a few weeks of eliminating grains my teeth started to become less sensitive, and I haven’t had a cavity since.  I attribute this to being able fully absorb calcium, Vitamin A, D and K from limiting phytate rich foods.  These nutrients are essential for bone health.

Lectins are an anti-nutrient found in many plants, especially when consumed raw.  They are also in every grain we eat, and all of the oils we make out of those grains and seeds.  These include corn oil, canola oil, soybean oil, and peanut oil.  Lectins function as a plants defense again mammals and insects.  Lectins bind to carbohydrates, and specifically the carbohydrate molecules found in the protein molecules of our intestinal villi.   This causes cell death and the inability to repair rapidly enough to keep up with it.  After enough time this causes what is known as leaky-gut.  Leaky-gut is when there is a breach in our intestinal lining, allowing particles to escape into our blood stream.   This is the basis of many autoimmune conditions like psoriasis, Hashimoto’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, crohn’s disease, and many more.

Anti- Nutrient intake is inevitable and in a way a good stressor on our body in small amounts.  However, the SAD diet is almost completely made up of foods containing large amounts of these two compounds.  The best we can do is limit the foods that are the worst offenders.  Grains, and soy namely.  For other things like legumes, traditional cooking methods like soaking and sprouting gets rid of much of the lectin and phytate content.

Insulin Sensitivity

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I’ll get right to the point.  The reason the vast majority of us don’t need as many carbohydrates as we are eating is because we haven’t earned the amount we are consuming. Here’s the process summed up.

When we eat something containing carbs,  they are converted to glucose in our bloodstream,  the pancreas secretes insulin, and the insulin ferries the glucose to our muscles and liver to be stored as glycogen.  When our muscles and liver are full, excess glucose is sent to our fat cells to be stored for later.  Weight gain happens when we are constantly sending glucose into the bloodstream while our muscle and liver stores are full, and the glucose has nowhere to go except our fat cells.  The way to mitigate this is either cutting back dramatically on carbohydrates, or being active enough that the glucose goes to refill muscles and liver because we are depleting them with intense exercise.  This is why athletes or active people in general can “get away” with more carbs.

Over time as we continue to supply more glucose than our body needs, our cells become less sensitive to insulin.  As a result, people become insulin resistant.  When this happens, the pancreas keeps sending out insulin to ferry the excess glucose away, but our cells become desensitized to the insulin, and the glucose remains trapped in the bloodstream.   The glucose then binds to other proteins in the bloodstream and make what are called AGE’s (advanced glycation end products).  These causes systemic inflammation in our arteries and a rise in our triglycerides,  beginning the path to heart disease as well as type-2 diabetes.

The solution? Get rid of grains and replace them with vegetables.  You will still get the amount of fiber you need.  You will get an abundance of vitamins, minerals, antioxidants, and other phytochemicals.  This will lower your carb count to 150 grams a day or less, much lower than the 300-600 grams most eat a day.  Weight will effortlessly fall off and markers for inflammation, arterial health, and insulin sensitivity will improve.

That’s it for this week!  Thanks for reading everyone.

 

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