Monday, August 31, 2009

Din Din

Wild Pacific Salmon with homemade cured meat topping (thanks Mr. Graziosi!).  BBQ'd on a cedar plank, it ended up tasting like a salmon and pepperoni pizza... Strange but tasty.  The kale was baby Lacinato fresh picked from our garden.

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Inflammation, More numbers....

Here are a few more numbers.  Remember +Good, -Bad

*Free Range Elk
*Whole Milk (couldn't find raw)
*Black Beans
*Cream Cheese
*Almond Butter
*White Rice
*Brown Rice
*Pork Chops
*Beef Jerky
*Alfalfa Sprouts

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Feeling a little inflamed?

The other day I suddenly thought, what the heck does it mean for a food to be inflammatory...  The word is thrown around a bunch, but to me it didn't really make sense.  My first thought was, "I bet meat is going to be inflammatory, and fruits are definitely anti-inflammatory".  Well a few google searches later and I was on to some interesting information.

I'm in Flames!
Inflammation can be described as that feeling you get when sprain your ankle, or develop a blister on your toe.  You have twisted your ankle and it is swelling, painful, and turning red from irritation. This is your body responding to injury, and it is one form of inflammation.

Unfortunately Inflammation is not so simple and benign.  In fact it is the ouch behind arthritis. It is also linked to heart disease and stroke, and may be putting your whole immune system in peril! Doctors can't see inflammation, but it leaves a clue in your bloodstream.  The chemical C-reactive protein (CRP) is a byproduct of inflammation in your body. You can have this tested at your next physical, but I'm sure you have to request it prior to the appointment.

Here is what the American Heart Association has to say about CRP and inflammation:

"Scientific studies have found that the higher the hs-CRP levels, the higher the risk of having a heart attack. In fact, the risk for heart attack in people in the upper third of hs-CRP levels has been determined to be twice that of those whose hs-CRP level is in the lower third. These prospective studies include men, women and the elderly. Studies have also found an association between sudden cardiac death, peripheral arterial disease and hs-CRP. However not all of the established cardiovascular risk factors were controlled for when the association was examined. The true independent association between hs-CRP and new cardiovascular events hasn’t yet been established."

Food as medicine to quell the fire

Well here's the kicker, food can make you or break you.  I found a cool website called NutritionData that gives the inflammatory/anti-inflammatory levels of many foods. I was pretty surprised at some of the results!

Some meat as it turns out is anti-inflammatory, and most fruit is mildly inflammatory.  Below is a list of some common foods and the inflammation levels + is anti-inflammatory, and therefore the higher the number the better. The - is inflammatory and the higher this number the worse:

*Grass fed strip steak         +60
*Apple                               -21
*Liverwurst                       +34
*Spaghetti                          -173
*Wild Salmon                    +816
*Multi Grain Bread            -71
*Kale                                 +257
*Garlic                               +4863 (note to self: eat more garlic!)
*Lentils                              -11
*Chocolate Shake              -216
*French Fries                     -229
*Grass fed ground bf         +1
*Banana                              -115
*Olive oil                            +1137
*Cod liver oil                    +16539 (not a typo!!)

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Why Fat is where it's at!

In case you haven't heard, fat will not make you fat.  Thats right, I said it, fat is actually what your body craves and needs!  Not all fats are good however, and you may be surprised at who the true villains are.

What the body desires more than anything is balance. It's not that Omega 3's are good and Omega 6's are bad. The body needs a balance of these two polyunsaturated fats, ideally a 1:1 ratio. However the typical American diet is steeped in Omega 6's and stripped of Omega 3's, and the one sure fire food to bring it into balance, fish, is often tainted with contaminants. This is the one grey area were it is advisable to supplement.  I suggest a high quality cod liver oil for the vitamin A and D, plus a purity certified fish oil for  the Omega 3's.

Now for the bad.  In America we have been told eat vegetable oil, it's heart healthy, and reduces cholesterol.  This is a load of crap, spoon fed to us by some of the largest corporations in America like Archer Daniels Midland.  These companies spend a lot of money lobbying politicians and funding research, and it works to their favor.  The evidence is indisputable that high consumption of corn oil, soybean oil, rapeseed oil (aka canola), cottonseed oil etc. correlates to higher cancer rates.  Many links to this here, and here and here  and here.

Now for the unexpected. Foods we've been told are bad: eggs, butter, saturated fats such as coconut milk, animal fats, raw milk, avocados, and nuts have many positive health benefits.  The real issue with these foods is not are they good for you, it is how were they cultivated. We must be sure to eat at the very least Free Range and Organic (at least 80% of the time, as Mark Sisson from Mark's Daily Apple says). At best we would be consuming pastured chickens and eggs, grass finished ruminants, and organic nuts, veggies and fruits.

Nature has a plan, and in eggs it is to eat the yolk with the egg white.  In milk it is to consume the whole milk, fat and all!  The fats are important for our body because they help us carry out numerous functions at the cellular level. Fat is used in the cell structure itself, and is the body's preferred method of energy storage.  In fact carbohydrates have to be converted to triglycerides (a type of fat) in the liver before being stored away.

Saturated fat, gets the award for being the underdog in the world of fats.  It is in fact vital for our bodies to function properly.  For simplicity sake I am going to quote Mary G. Enig, PhD from her article The Importance of Saturated Fats for Biological Functions :

"When researchers looked at the fatty acid composition of the phospholipids in the T-cells (white blood cells), from both young and old donors, they found that a loss of saturated fatty acids in the lymphocytes was responsible for age-related declines in white blood cell function. They found that they could correct cellular deficiencies in palmitic acid and myristic acid by adding these saturated fatty acids.

Most Westerners consume very little myristic acid because it is provided by coconut oil and dairy fats, both of which we are told to avoid. But myristic acid is a very important fatty acid, which the body uses to stabilize many different proteins, including proteins used in the immune system and to fight tumors. This function is called myristoylation; it occurs when myristic acid is attached to the protein in a specific position where it functions usefully. For example, the body has the ability to suppress production of tumors from lung cancer cells if a certain genetically determined suppressor gene is available. This gene is called fus1 and is a protein that has been modified with covalent addition of the saturated fatty acid myristic acid. Thus, the loss of myristic acid from the diet can have unfortunate consequences, including cancer and immune system dysfunction."

Doesn't seem like saturated fat is our true enemy.  Definitely read the whole article if you get a chance, it is very informative.

Here is the way I see it.  If fat is found naturally in a whole food, plant or animal, eat it.  If fat is created through a refining process, most specifically vegetable oils, avoid it like the plague! Especially avoid hydrogenated fats!  These are the dreaded source of transfatty acids. The only exceptions to this rule are high quality, virgin cold pressed, hopefully organic olive oil, coconut oil, and palm oil.

Of course there is one more fat you should avoid.  It is one that you don't see, because it starts out as carbohydrate. Avoid refined carbohydrates (flour, sugar, rice etc.) because they convert to triglycerides in the liver.  The naughty triglyceride is perhaps the single highest indicator of heart disease, above and beyond LDL cholesterol.  Worse yet, as Gary Taubes points out in Good Calories, Bad Calories, "Carbohydrate drives insulin, and insulin drives fat storage".  What he is saying is fat does not make us fat. Our bad guy is Refined Carbohydrate, and his companion insulin.

Wednesday, August 26, 2009

Lunch n Dinner!

This is a strange lunch even for me.  I wanted to get in a few extra carbs since the Crossfit WOD ("workout of the day", crossfit lingo) was especially brutal today. Fruit is a great way to get carbs!  I sliced one apple, and dipped each slice in almond butter. Then sliced a farm fresh nectarine.  In the middle is the weird stuff, Pemmican from U.S. Wellness Meats. Pemmican is basically rendered fat (or tallow), with "grass fed beef jerky, touch of honey, dried cherries and sea salt".  Not bad, tastes a bit like bacon... It is apparently taken from a historic Native American recipe.

Here is a simple, yet delicious dinner.  The Pork Chop is from pastured pigs.  Pigs can't be grass fed, they eat a much more diverse diet than cows.  Pastured means they are allowed to scavenge around for bugs, tubers, and other goodies they might find in the wild.  Unfortunately they need to be supplemented with some feed, which likely means grains.  The process of being pastured is much more humane than conventional pig farming.
First I brined the Chops overnight with some herbs. Then I barbecued the pork chop on a cedar plank we bought at Costco on recommendation from our neighbor.  It had a wonderful smoky flavor, very juicy too!  Amanda made a raw cabbage coleslaw.  She used Purple Cabbage, Veganaise, pepper, sea salt, garlic and chopped onion.

Tuesday, August 25, 2009

Slow Cooking is all the rage!

Everyone needs a Dutch Oven (not the dutch oven where you pull the blankets over your partner, dirty birdies)! Trade in your microwave, and get ready to salivate before dinner.

Instead of coming home from work and zapping, nuking, or basically destroying some already nasty frozen food try this.  Pick up the best quality meat you can find, (ideally grass fed chuck roast or rump roast, from your local farmers market).  In the morning before you go to work, preheat the oven to 200 degrees.  Add 2-3 tablespoons olive oil or butter to your Dutch Oven, 1-2 cups cooking wine or 50/50 vinegar water mix, and some dried herbs (garlic cloves too for the garlic lovers). Drop in the meat, cover, and put it in the oven.

When you come home from work 9 hours later, a delicious meal is waiting for you!  You could add onions and carrots, perhaps a sweet potato (no white potatoes! all starch, little vitamins) some peppers etc.. then let it stew for another hour.

I guarantee it will be the most juicy and tender meat you've ever cooked. The best part, it's real food!
                   I love seeing this when I come home from work!

Want to order a Dutch Oven?  Target has some great prices.  Williams Sonoma has the high quality, mines better than yours, dutch ovens.  Mine is a Mario Batali, at $109 it's a pretty good deal

It's time to Eat!

A very delicious treat my wonderful wife concocted. The Whole Foods butcher accidentally gave me ground chicken instead of chicken breast! No worries Amanda sauteed the onions and ground meat in butter and Marsala (a sweet cooking wine traditionally used in Sicily for chicken marsala). She added grilled Portabellos, italian spices, and garlic to the mix. A quick and easy treat, very tasty!

Here is a salad Amanda made with cucumbers and heirloom cherry tomatoes from the farmers market. For the dressing she used olive oil, nasturtium vinegar (a gift from Amanda's mother inlaws garden!), and grated fresh ginger root.
Served with a meal I slow cooked in the dutch oven. 3 pounds grass fed goat shoulder from the farmers market (I will make sure to get the name and contacts of the farmers at the market next week). Topped with grilled onions, slow cooked carrots, sweet potato, and a yummy pepper from the garden. To see the basic formula for slow cooked meals read this post.

This salad is a true work of genius, only Amanda could concoct. She chopped Kale and Swiss chard from our garden. Added some Purple Cherokee heirloom tomato slices from the market. Olive oil and vinegar with pressed garlic and grated ginger for the dressing. To top it off she added Nasturtium flowers from our garden! They are actually quite tasty too...

Monday, August 24, 2009

Grocery List

I remember the good old days when grocery shopping used to be simple. In college I'd push the cart to the cereal section and get some Cheerios. Then push it to the frozen aisle and peruse pizzas, as if one were better than the other. Add a couple frozen dinners, maybe a gallon of milk, a case of beer, and buzz out of there.

Nowadays it's a bit more complicated. I have to hit up the farmers markets for local grass fed meats, and the freshest veggies (we survey what's available in our own garden first so I don't buy that). Then I put in my weekly order for Raw Milk, butter, and cheese with our local cow share. Then it's off to Whole Foods to buy anything else we can't find ( I cant wait for the Dill Pickle Co-Op to open in our neighborhood: Logan Square, Chicago). Finally, I may order grass fed meats online if nothing else is available (us wellness or slankers grass fed).

I know it seems like a lot of work, but it's a labor of love. It truly pays off when we sit at the dinner table and know we are enjoying some of the most delicious food in town!

Here's a sample of our grocery list:

2lbs grass fed rump roast
2lbs pastured chicken breast
1lb pastured pork chops
1lb pastured bacon
1 gallon raw pastured whole milk
8oz raw pasture butter
8oz raw cheddar or goat cheese
2lbs pastured shoulder of goat
1-2 heads of kale
4-8 tomatoes
1 box of spring mix
1lb almonds or almond butter, walnuts or macadamia
3-6 cans OG coconut milk
1 bunch fresh herbs
1 bottle of cooking wine
4-8 sweet potatoes
4-8 carrots
1 head of celery
1 bunch parsley
2-4 raw kombucha
1 bunch spinach or collards
1lb OG blueberries
1 OG cantaloupe or watermelon (or both!)
2-8 OG apples
1 six pack micro-brew or red wine

Sunday, August 23, 2009

What if you have to eat out?

The meat between the buns was absolutely delicious! I wasn't in the mood to say "just give me the meat, hold the buns" This is from Boat House Pub, in Kenosha, WI. They smoke the meat right in the restaurant, and my wife and I couldn't resist the good smells (we hadn't eaten for 7 hrs...)

It's no problem if you live in an urban area that has many healthy restaurants. The above meal was made with organic eggs, and all real food (even virgin olive oil for the salad)! This is from Tweet, located at 5020 N. Sheridan, in Chicago. It was delicious btw

Friday, August 21, 2009

Ode to green tea

Delicious and full of antioxidant power
You invigorate my soul
Drink a cup to stay awake
share a mug to meditate

Green Tea is not just a beverage, it is a way of life! So much so that in Japan they have rituals for a proper tea ceremony. I have a morning ritual for espresso, but that's mostly to help the ol bowels out. It seems in the east the beautiful emerald beverage actually transcends to a spiritual hierarchy.

Of course we all have heard the many health benefits of green tea. The high amounts of antioxidants in the form of catechins, and a very unique one know as "EGCG". We've heard tea attributed to reductions in certain cancers, and having benefits for our cardiovascular system. Maybe even lowering cholesterol (though that may not necessarily be a good thing: lower cholesterol scores are tied to higher total mortality rates!), and preventing strokes and diabetes.

Despite all the possible benefits, it is important to first enjoy Green Tea. The asian populations that seem to benefit the most, are the ones who hold it in highest esteem (Japan and China). It is not just medicine to them, it is the beverage of choice, drinking as much as 8 cups per day. Remember that tea is not meant to be drunk super concentrated, it is meant to be sipped throughout the day, while the same leaves are steeped several times. I highly recommend getting a ceramic teapot with several teacups like this one or this one. These have built in filters so loose tea can be placed in the pot and sipped through inspiring mugs throughout the day. I actually feel that besides all the health benefits, it improves my mood, enhances creativity and may even cause spontaneous moments of zen meditation (known as "satori")!

If you don't like the flavor of tea at first, keep it up, much like coffee it has an almost addictive nature! A chinese proverb goes " better to be deprived of food for three days, than tea for one".

There are a lot of different varieties of green tea, and all are healthy. My favorites are Sencha, Genmaicha, and jasmine pearls (little tea leaves, rolled into a ball that slowly unfurls in hot water).

Mountain Rose Herbs is my favorite company to buy tea from. Based in Eugene, OR. they have a great selection of Organic green tea, as well as many other Organic herbal varieties.

Thursday, August 20, 2009

Lunch n Dinner!

Dinner is grass fed rump roast, cooked for 8 hours in a dutch oven at 200. Simply added white cooking wine, butter, olive oil, salt n pepper, and some herbs. At hour 6 added sweet potatoes. Hour 7 added onions and homegrown peppers. My wife loved it!

Here's a light lunch... Organic watermelon, organic raw cheddar, and homemade cured meats. To drink a 50/50 blend of og coconut milk and plain kefir.

Ode to Grass Fed/Finished Beef

Oh you beatiful bovine, roaming on Earth's bounty
The ground below so green is your sustenance
Sky above you, your life is simple
No grain is needed to nourish you
No antibiotic to cure your ills
I am grateful for your sacrifice!

If you have not discovered Grass fed/finished beef yet, it's time to look into it. These cows live a good life, and eat the grass and flowers they were meant to eat. In the winter they only eat hay. This ensures that their omega 6 to 3 ratio is something close to 3:1. Just remember cows are fed grains to fatten them up. Grain changes the omega 6 to 3 ratio upwards of 10:1. Cows are not meant to eat massive amounts of grain. Grain bad grass good! Not to mention the wonderful efforts sustainable farmers use to keep there animals healthy and clean. Not to mention how inhumane conventional cattle farming is, and how toxic the pollutants are.

Need more reasons to eat grass fed?
Need to order some grass fed beef, bison, pastured chickens, turkeys or pork?
slankers is really high quality, but you have to call in, can't order online
u.s. wellness meats offers a good selection, but be careful, I'm not sure everything is grass finished
north star bison has tasty bison options, and since it's operation is in Wisconsin, it is most sustainable for the midwest

organic pastures for your raw dairy needs

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Why I'm not a Vegetarian anymore

Yes, I have to admit I was a vegetarian for 8 long years. I was young and impressionable at the time, and I liked the idea of being nice to the cute little animals. I mean ever boil a lobster?
(I have recently, it still feels oddly sadistic). I was guilty of scorning meat eaters the way non-smokers harass smokers. Turning down delicious homemade foods at dinner parties, and then defending myself at Christmas from relentless taunts of relatives. The worst part is deep down inside, I wanted that cheeseburger so !@#%ing bad. I actually believed that eating vegetarian was the gold standard for health, and that meat eaters lived short brutish lives, and died young of heart attack and cancer.

The truth is that as a vegetarian, I was plagued with upper respiratory infections, the flu, colds, and a general lack of ambition. I became abnormally thin at first. Later as my cravings grew, and my consumption of carbs (especially beer!) grew, so did my waistline, and worse yet lovehandles. I was most likely becoming insulin resistant. In my first year of vegetarianism I went from being a jock like 6'2 and 190lbs., to a scrawny 160! My body literally had ate itself! Those 30 lbs. were all muscle, and now I looked like an ethiopian. Within less than 3 years I had reached 210, and when I finally quit being vegetarian I had grown to 230 lbs. (and despite working out 5 days a week it was not muscle).

Like a lion who was being deprived blood, my cravings for something carnal began to haunt me! Under the influence of alcohol I would find myself at 7-11, devouring a pair of 99 cent chilidogs. When I finally came back to being an omnivore, it was like a layer of fog lifted. I could stop this lie, I could finally release the beast, and it felt good!

I think my first wake up call was reading The Zone by Barry Sears, followed by The South Beach Diet by Arthur Agatston. Then came Paleo Diet by Loren Cordain, and all the Weston Price literature. By far the most convincing, and paradigm shattering book is Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes. If you have not read it, read it! Especially the a-hole who wrote this article: Why Exercise Won't Make You Thin. He has a point, but then fails to let us know what will make us thin... and by this point it should be so obvious!

CUT THE CARBS AND SUGAR. When I started cutting carbs, I realized just how much sugar and flour I consumed as a vegetarian. Sugar and carbs in coffee, muffins, almond croissants, pies, frappuccino, pancakes, juice, whole wheat bread, pasta, ketchup, rice. The whites were giving me the blues. It was when my wife quit smoking that I finally took the plunge to do something equally drastic, cut all refined sugar 100%. You can cut the carbs, but until you cut the sugar, you're still an addict. I swear I got the shakes that first week of cold turkey.

The six pack came back. Thats right, my weight has finally returned to the jock like 190, and I am now a 35 year old sporting six pack abs. After so many years of trying to figure out the secret to health, so much chronic cardio, weightlifting, dieting etc... The secret was eating simply. If it grew from the ground or was alive eat it, but if man had to process it push it aside. I like to think about what a caveman would do. I am sure he would pick an apple, or eat a grub. Tubers sure, Broccoli why not. Wooly Mammoth, thats food for a month! Grain? How often have you tried to gather 1000's of tiny seeds at just the right time, just for a boring meal? Got to have a lot of time on your hands.

In conclusion, being a vegetarian has a lot of wonderful aspects... but it just is not practical for health. Us meat eaters still have a lot of responsibility. It doesn't mean eating Mcdonalds without the bun. Far from it, we should be hunting out the most humane grass fed beef, pastured chicken and eggs, hitting up the local (and sustainable) farmers markets, hunting your own wild game and fish, or raising your own farm animals. On top of that we must always eat our veggies!

Thursday, August 13, 2009

Welcome To Mike's Healthy Caveman

Thank you for looking at my blog site! It is my hope that you will return to learn more about the future of health. My experiences have led me down a long and winding path of different health practices, and I believe much of what I have learned can benefit you.

Without getting to in depth (I'm on vacation after all!), I am currently a Primal eater, and a Paleo workout fool... I belong to Windy City Crossfit (for those of you who don't know about Crossfit you should check it out : Crossfit). My experiences as an athlete have ranged from soccer to Bagua, Hsing I and Tai Chi. I am a certified yoga teacher (who currently does not practice... more on that later). Alternative health systems I have studied include Ayurvedic, Traditional Chinese Medicine, and Herbal Therapies.

I have currently been focused on living a more Primal existence ( book credits: "The Paleo Diet"," Good Calories, Bad Calories", "The Warrior Diet" etc...), and have experienced the best health in my life. Looking back, I can't believe how simple the recipe for health is! Simply, as Jack Lalanne once said, "If man made it, I don't eat it!" . Sure there's quite a bit more to it, like turning your workouts back into PLAYouts, and supplementing with powerful herbs, fatty acids and vitamins. At the heart of health though, is living simple!

That's it for now, much more to come!