Minding Your Mitochondria, Primitive Diets, and Potatoes

As you may very well know, I have a strong distaste for the Paleo diet.

The way most people follow this diet is dumb.

Point blank.

BUT My friend, we’ll call him The Trainer, shared an interesting video with me a couple of days ago, which I’d like to share with you all.

(Here is the text if you prefer to read.)

The Trainer and I had a little discussion a la Facebook, and I think it’s worth repeating.


The Trainer: Argue with this please! I would like to hear the other side!

Me: First of all, I’d like to say that this is the first intelligent argument on Paleo/Primitive based diet that I’ve heard. I am very impressed that the focus on vegetables and hardly nothing on meat, except for the maybe two sentences on fatty fish consumption. You can even look at her sample plates and deduce that she is consuming appropriate serving sizes of meat (3 oz).

I completely on board regarding her recommendation to consume more fruits and vegetables to obtain (at least) the RDAs for vits&minerals. Her recommendation of 9 servings of vegetables a day remind me of the DASH diet (8-10 servings fruits and veg per day), which has proven beneficial for chronic diseases across the spectrum. Now, if we focus in specifically on the vitamin and mineral content of grains, dairy, and potatoes, I think you may be surprised.

Here are the nutrients she discussed in her article:

  • B Vits
  • Vit C
  • Vit A
  • Calcium
  • Magnesium
  • Zinc
  • Iron
  • Iodine
  • Omega-3

Take a look at these nutrient analyses:

1 Slice Whole Grain Bread

1 C Skim Milk

1- 8 oz white Potato

Not too shabby.

My choice to go vegetarian does not mean that I think it’s the best diet for everyone. But massive consumption of bacon does not a healthy diet make.

P.S. If you think meat improves athletic performance, I beg you to reconsider – After going vegetarian, I cut 30+ seconds off my mile time, almost 8 minutes of my half marathon time, and 17 minutes off my marathon time. What upppp!

The Trainer: First of all, thank you. This is what I think good discussion should look like. A look at the facts, not the outlier idiot examples.

Second: Dont mess with bacon.

Third: Endurance athletes are a very small percentage of (college or professional) athletes, and, since they have very different nutritional needs (before, during, and after competition) should not be viewed as a good representation of Athletes as a whole. Some of the best Ultra-endurance athletes in the world are vegetarian, but I would happily challenge those herbivores to a pushup contest.

Me: Check it yo: Successful Vegetarian Athletes.


Okay, so there you have our nice, pleasant discussion.  Eyes opened on both sides, I would say.

But then a few other Facebookers got involved, namely, The Doctor, who commented on the nutrient analysis of the potato…


The Doctor: empty carbs?

Me: Not at all. Check out all those vitamins and minerals. The potato gets a bad name because the way it most frequently gets prepared (i.e., fried…) Potatoes are a nutrient dense food!

The Doctor: so is steak! just without the insulin spike

Me: I could argue the negatives for steak, but I encourage you to look at nourishment from a non-food police perspective!

The Doctor: i’m not sure there are any negatives for a good grass fed steak esp as compared to a high glycemic index carbohydrate such as white potatoes which can raise ur blood sugar faster than consuming spoonfuls of pure table sugar… but I would love to hear ur argument

Me: Well, we could discuss the average American portion size for steak, common cooking techniques, or even take a trip down memory lane and revisit Nutrition 101 and metabolism. My previous non-food-police comment was referring to my strong belief that there is no.bad.food. There is room for everything in the diet– in moderation. :) Now, if you eat a whole bag of potatoes – eh, not so great. Eat a 12 oz steak – eh, not the best idea. Or even eat that white potato all by itself, you’re definitely going to see an insulin spike- a normal homeostatic control mechanism. (Remember, glucose is the body’s preferred energy source.) BUT, if you pair that potato with 3 oz of protein, or a little healthy fat, the GI effect decreases significantly. In my opinion, it’s about eating smart, not completely cutting out entire food groups. :)


Shocking and interesting, huh?

In conclusion, I’d like to share this research article with you, entitled, “The Status of Nutrition Education in Medical Schools.”

Distribution of the total number of hours of required nutrition education at US medical schools. US medical schools responded to a survey conducted in 2004. Ninety-seven schools responded to this question (2 other schools did not indicate the number of hours).  

The majority of doctors receive only 11-20 hours of nutrition classes in their training! Hardly enough to qualify them as experts in the field.

I don’t want to make any blanket statements, but do you see the lesson here, folks?

Please contact a Registered Dietitian for nutrition information!

That is all.

Stepping off my soap box now.

Have a Lovely Thursday!

Labeling Lingo (Part 2): Free, Low, or Reduced?

In the last installment of Labeling Lingo, we discussed the difference between Nutrient Claims and Structure/Function Claims.  Before moving on, check that out here.

We are going to dive in a little deeper to the world of Nutrient Claims.

If you remember, Nutrient Claims must follow FDA guidelines.  Yay! That’s good right?! While these claims can help guide you to choosing healthier options, it’s important to always check the label!

Sometimes these Nutrient Claims can trick consumers into thinking a product is better for you than it actually is, so here’s the dirt:

Less than 5 calories per serving
40 calories or less per serving

Meals or Main dishes: 120 calories per 100 g
At least 25% fewer calories than the appropriate reference food


Total Fat
Less than 0.5 g per serving
3 g or less, and not more than 30% of total calories from fat
At least 25% less fat than the appropriate reference food

Tricky, tricky:
Remember these calorie-free butter sprays?

Definitely NOT calorie- or fat-free.  The serving size (one squirt) is so small that it sneaks past the FDA definition. If you analyzed the entire bottle, you would find a total of 900 calories and 90 grams of fat. Shocking, isn’t it?
Saturated Fat
Less than 0.5 g saturated fat and less than 0.5 g trans fat per serving
1 g or less and 15%  or less of calories from saturated fat
Meals or Main dishes: 1 g or less per 100 g and less than 10% from saturated fat
At least 25% less saturated fat than the appropriate reference food
This is where it gets really scary.  Notice the “less than 0.5 g trans fat per serving” part? Yikes! Not good!  No one needs to consume Trans Fat, EVER!  Ever heard of the phrase, “Hidden Trans Fat?” Well, this is exactly what they’re talking about.
Notice how they sneak in “Per Serving?” It doesn’t mean that there isn’t Trans Fat in the product.
Check the ingredients list for partially hydrogenated oil, shortening, or margarine.
Even “Reduced Fat” items may contain Trans Fat!  
Also, compare the Total Fat with the Saturated Fats.  For instance, if a package reads 2 grams of Saturated Fat, but 5 grams of Total Fat, some of those unaccounted-for grams may come from Trans Fat.
Be cautious when purchasing baked, processed or fried foods.
Less than 2 mg per serving
20 mg or less
At least 25 % less cholesterol than the appropriate reference food
Very Low
Less than 5 mg
140 mg or less
35 mg or less
At least 25% less sodium than the appropriate reference food

Sodium content can also get tricky.

Remember this guy:

“Reduced Sodium.” Great, yes?  Well, first let’s check out his brother, Hearty Tomato.

The sodium content has been reduced from 690 mg in Hearty Tomato in one cup to 480 mg in Tomato Parmesan.

But who really only has one little cup of soup?

Remember the New Dietary Guidelines?  Most Americans should aim to reduce their sodium intake to 1,500mg.

Add a few crackers on the side, and you’ve reached your sodium intake for the day!

If you really want to reduce your sodium intake, look for Low or Very Low Sodium on the label.

Less than 0.5 g per serving
Not defined.  May not be used.
At least 25% less sugars than the appropriate reference food

Low sugar may not be used on labeling, but it’s possible to find “Lower Sugar” which is synonymous with Reduced or Less.

Also, be careful for “No Added Sugar” or “Unsweetened.” These terms mean that no sweeteners or sugars were added during the processing of the food item.  It does not mean that there is no sugar in that product.

Oh boy. That’s enough for the ole’ brain for tonight. Time to decompress.



Debunking Myths

As I mentioned in a previous post, I am taking a Sports Nutrition class this quarter.  I have been shocked, flabbergasted, and frustrated regarding the misconceptions of protein intake.  So, listen up!

It’s Story Time with Stephanie: Protein Myths!

The Myth:  “An athlete needs meat in their system to get adequate protein.”

How It Actually Works:

When an individual consumes food, the mouth begins mechanical digestion through chewing.  Food is propelled down the esophagus and into the stomach where chemical digestion of protein begins.  Gastric juices denature proteins and break down cell walls of plant foods forming large polypeptides.  As the contents of the stomach empty into the small intestine, pancreatic enzymes break the large polypeptides into smaller polypeptides and individual peptides.  It is not until polypeptides and peptides encounter brush border enzymes on the villi on the small intestine that they are broken down into amino acids.  The amino acids diffuse into blood circulation and enter the amino acid pool (the body’s total supply of free amino acids).  The body uses the amino acid pool as it’s source for protein synthesis (building of muscle tissue and other structural components, plus a few other things).  A complete set of amino acids must be present for protein synthesis to occur.  So you see, the body does not distinguish between “meat” versus “powerbar” versus “plant.”  As long as an individual has consumed all of the essential amino acids, the body can happily do it’s job.


The Myth:  “Energy comes from things found in meats.”

How It Actually Works:

As you probably know, a calorie is a unit of energy measurement.  One dietary calorie (kcal or Cal) is approximately the energy required to raise 1,000 g (1 kg) of water by one degree Celsius.

All the macronutrients we consume provide the body energy, not just Protein or meat. Protein renders 4 calories of energy per each gram consumed, Carbohydrates 4 Cal, and Fats 9 Cal.

Individuals who engage in regular physical activity, carbohydrates should supply about 60% (400-600g) of total daily calories.  During intense training, carbohydrate intake should increase to 70% of total calories consumed.”  400 – 600g of carbohydrates is the equivalent of 1,600 to 2,400 calories.  Quite a lot of energy, wouldn’t you say?  And remember, muscle glycogen (stored polysaccharides) serves as the major source of carbohydrate energy for active muscles during exercise.

 Most Americans consume too much protein. 
Are you?

RDA* 0.8 g of protein per kilogram of body mass (1 kg = approx. 2.2 lb)
Endurance athletes 1.2 – 1.4 g/kg of body mass
Resistance training 1.8 g/kg of body mass
*Recommended Dietary Allowance – standard nutrient intake for the majority of healthy individuals

For example:
A 160 lb, healthy man would require only 58 g of Protein.

160 lb / 2.2 lb = 72.7 kg
72.7kg * 0.8 g = 58 g of Protein

A can of tuna and a cup of low fat cottage cheese provides more than enough protein for the entire day (68 g total; providing 10 grams extra!)

Here is a list of a few common protein sources:
  • Chicken Breast (medium size): 30 g of Protein
  • Tuna: 6 oz can – 40 g
  • Tilapia Fillet: 6 oz – 45 g
  • Pork Chop (medium size): 25 g
  • Steak: 6 oz – 47 g
  • Deli Turkey: 1 slice – 5 g
  • Large Egg – 6 g
  • Skim Milk: 1 C – 8.5 g
  • Lowfat Cottage Cheese: 1 C – 28 g
  • Nonfat Plain Yogurt: 1 C – 14 g
  • Soy Beans: 1/2 C cooked – 14 g
  • Peanut Butter: 2 Tablespoons – 8 g
  • Whole Wheat Bread: 1 slice – 3 g
  • Whole Wheat Bagel: 11.5 g 
  • Brown Rice: 1 C cooked – 5 g
  • Black Beans: 1 C cooked – 12 g
  • Garbanzo beans: 1 C – 12 g
  • Lentils: 1 C cooked – 47 g
  • Peas: 1 C cooked – 9 g
  • Oats: 1 C – 26 g
  • Almonds: 1/4 C – 7.5 g

The Myth“My friend lost a ton of weight by cutting carbohydrates.  You can lose major lbs by only eating protein.”
How It Actually Works: 
Your friend was most likely in metabolic ketoacidosis.  This is an accumulation of ketone bodies in the blood occurring during times of inadequate carbohydrate intake.

Gluconeogenesis is the process of forming new glucose molecules from noncarbohydrate sources such as lipids or protein, allowing the brain (which is fueled only by glucose) and other body tissues to maintain functioning.

Lipolysis is the process of breaking down stored fats into glycerol and fatty acids.  Glycerol is converted to glyceraldehyde phosphate, which can then enter the Kreb’s cycle for fuel.  Fatty acids are broken down into acetic acid which then is converted into acetyl CoA.  Typically, acetyl CoA would be picked up by a carbohydrate substrate (oxaloacetic acid) and enter the Kreb’s Cycle to continue the metabolic process.  In the absence of carbohydrates, acetyl CoA accumulates in the blood.  The liver converts acetyl CoA into ketone bodies which are then released back into the blood.

When the lack of carbohydrate intake continues over time, weight loss is bound to happen, along with liver and kidney damage, respiratory distress, and dangerously low blood pH levels which can depress the nervous system, leading to coma or death.

Ketoacidosis (DKA or diabetic ketoacidosis) is also found in patients with diabetes.  Without insulin, glucose can not enter cells to begin the energy production process, and so the body switches to burning lipids for fuel.

Not exactly a healthy diet, I would say.

So now you know!  Don’t strain your liver and kidneys through over-consumption of protein.  Be good to your body and it’ll be good to you!