Beans (Legumes)

Should I eat beans?

    If you aren’t eating beans, there are no compelling arguments to deliberately add beans to the diet.

    If you are eating beans, cutting beans from your diet for 30 days may improve your digestion and overall health. You can add them back in after to see what kind of impact they have.

    Beans are not necessary for human health. Any nutrients found in beans are available with less trouble and less risk from other foods.

    Beans are not a straight substitute for animals. The primary arguments in support of beans are taste, variety and the use of beans as an alternative to eating animals. However, animals provide more nutrients than just protein.    Beans are an incomplete protein (beans lack adequate amounts of specific essential amino acids) and lack many of the vitamins and minerals found in animal products. The Mayo Clinic and USDA positions on using beans as a meat substitute are based on an outdated viewpoint (“saturated fat and cholesterol are bad”).

    The risk associated with eating beans varies widely. While eating beans will increase the probability of nutrient deficiencies, digestive trouble and hormone imbalances – the risk varies between slight and significant depending on the quantity, frequency, type of bean, preparation method and other foods in the diet. Beans are a significant part of many traditional diets, so the risk from beans appears to be much lower and much shorter duration than the risk from grains. As with grains, the ability to tolerate the risks depends on the level of other stressors (sleep, stress, physical demands) placed on the body.

    Beans store well and beans are cheap. Beans can provide some benefit in the absence of higher quality food.

    Proper preparation of beans prior to consumption is essential. There is increasing evidence that the production methods for many commercial soy based products are not as effective as the traditional preparation methods used for tofu and other soy products found in traditional diets.

    Wikipedia: beans
    Wikipedia: legumes


  • The Argument For Beans.  The Mayo Clinic website has succinct description of the argument for beans (legumes).
  • “Legumes are typically low in fat, contain no cholesterol, and are high in folate, potassium, iron and magnesium. They also contain beneficial fats and soluble and insoluble fiber. A good source of protein, legumes can be a healthy substitute for meat, which has more fat and cholesterol.”
  • The Argument Against Beans. Dr. Loren Cordain, one of the Founders of the Paleo Diet has a comprehensive post on the downside of beans.
  • The protein and minerals in beans have poor bio-availability (the protein and minerals are present in the beans, but only a fraction is absorbed during digestion).
  • Lectins, saponins, tannins and protease inhibitors may contribute to the development of “leaky gut”. (“leaky gut” is intestinal permeability, a condition where the walls of the intestine aren’t providing an adequate barrier to defend the inside of the body. There is increasing evidence that leaky gut is a significant cause of many auto-immune diseases.)
  • Phytoestrogens in soy products may be responsible for disrupting thyroid function and female hormone balances.
  • The Argument For Neutrality. Chris Kresser provides a comprehensive argument for neutrality.
  • Chris Kresser is not “Pro-Bean”. Beans are not necessary for human health. They contain no nutrients that we can’t get from other foods—often with less trouble. He argues that, although beans aren’t for everyone, the risk from typical consumption of properly prepared beans is relatively low.




The top five questions I use to check my health:

1) How’s my hunger? What am I craving?

  • My health and performance are determined by a combination of sleep, stress level and food quality.  Hunger and food cravings are the first indicator my chemistry is out of whack.  “Out of whack” is almost always caused by some combination of too much stress (mental or physical), too many carbs and not enough nutrients.

2) How’s my mood? How clear is my head?

  • Along with hunger & cravings, mood and mental clarity are early warning signals that I need to take better care of myself.  Sleep and stress play huge roles in how I feel and how well I’m making decisions.  If my food, stress levels, and the quantity and quality of my sleep aren’t supporting clear thinking, I know I’m negatively impact my health.

3) How’s my skin? Do I have any aches & pains?

  • Skin quality, aches and pains are indicators I use to track systemic inflammation.  The frequency and size of any rashes or skin issues and the intensity and longevity of any aches and pains provide indicators of my inflammation levels. I track systemic inflammation because elevated inflammation levels lead to longer recovery time from workouts, injuries, and illness and a higher probability of developing chronic health issues.

4) How’s my digestion?

  • Right now our son is a year and a half.  My wife and I talk about our son’s poop everyday. Size, frequency, color, the works. I don’t talk about my poop but I pay attention to it.  The consistency and frequency of poop and the absence or presence of indigestion are all indicators of how healthy my gut is. I know that a healthy gut is critical for adequate nutrient absorption.  I know the body is a tube, skin controls what gets into the body from the outside of the “tube”, the gut controls what gets into the body from the inside of the “tube”.

5) How much fat am I carrying? Where am I carrying it?

  • Fat is a lagging indicator – there’s a delay between when I eat pizza and when it shows up as a load of laundry on my washboard abs or bagels on the waist band. There is a direct correlation between how much fat I’m carrying and how many carbs I’ve been eating. There’s a direct correlation between my hormone levels and where I’m carrying the fat.  Excess pounds and/or uneven distribution are indicators that I’ve been running with excess blood sugar and/or excess stress for a prolonged period of time.

Actions Steps

Regardless of the symptoms, if my health and performance are not 100% there are five items that I always start with to make things better (I’m always trying to be better, so I’m always tweaking one or all five of these).

1) Lowering stress.

  • Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS) and Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS) are the fancy terms. I know some stress is good – stress keeps the pipes clear and promotes adaptation. Too much stress and cortisol levels remain high, the maintenance system (i.e. the PNS) never kicks in and the body doesn’t do maintenance and healing. Stress can be driven by thoughts, not enough sleep, too much exercise or not enough food. I know that eating less and exercising more is a “double whammy” for driving up stress levels and elevating blood sugar.

2) Improving sleep quality and quantity.

  • My wife and I have a toddler. He eats well and has a ton of energy – so my wife and I rarely get the sleep quantity we need.  I know we can’t “bank” sleep, so we catch up where we can and I try to improve the quality of sleep as much as I can with cool, dark rooms and clearing my brain before hitting the pillow. Quantity and quality of sleep indicators I track are: (1) how hard is it to fall asleep at night? (2) how easy is it to wake up in the morning? (3) how often do I wake up in the middle of the night? (4) If I do wake up in the middle of the night, how hard is it for me to get back to sleep?

3) Improving food quality and drinking more water.

  • My meal planning is: (1) choose a vegetable. (2) choose a meat. If my chemistry is out of whack it’s usually due to laziness. If I’m “hangry” (hungry + angry), it’s usually because I’m eating too many carbs (i.e. pizza) and not enough nutrients (eggs, soup, green leafy vegetables). To fix the situation I make sure and get green leafy vegetables (spinach, kale, etc) and nutrient dense foods (eggs, butter, soup) back in my meals ASAP.  It’s possible to drink too much water, but I usually run at the “too little” end of the spectrum. More water is an easy first step for headaches and fuzzy thinking.

4) Getting 15 minutes of focused movement a day.

  • I’ve found that the greatest return on investment for exercise is 15 minutes of mobility work per day.  I know my over all physical fitness (the measure of my physical capacity to do work) is a combination of mobility, coordination, strength and endurance. Without a strong base consistency of mobility (range of motion for the work) and coordination (movement efficiency) strength and endurance will suffer and injuries are guaranteed.  I know my lymph system (waste management system) relies on muscle contractions and gravity to do it’s job. My goal is 10 to 15 minutes of focused movement a day, no gym, no equipment required. More workout time yields bigger gains in capacity, but the first 15 minutes provide the largest return on investment.

5) Thinking and sorting it out.

  • The goal is to be present – to be aware of what is going on around me and enjoy the little things.  For me, being present requires preparation. A few minutes everyday thinking about what my priorities are and sorting out what gives me energy and what sucks the life out of me helps make decisions easier and reduces stress. I know the brain has a remarkable ability to adapt to anything. I know all my emotions are driven by triggers. I know the triggers aren’t always obvious or conscious.


  • Primary Protein Concerns: Quality & nutrient density of the source.
  • Protein deficiencies are rare in developed countries.  Consuming adequate micro-nutrients (vitamins & minerals) is the challenge. Fish, eggs, beef, lamb, pork and chicken provide protein along with other essential vitamins & minerals.  Most people consume too much protein and not enough micro-nutrients.
  • Beans are a neutral food at best (neither good, nor bad). Beans provide a cheap source of protein but lack many of the other nutrients in meat, fish and eggs and may have a negative impact on digestion.
  • Quality is important when consuming animals.  Healthy animals eating a natural diet are higher quality.  Grains are not a natural diet for grass eaters. Chickens are not vegetarians.  Lean cuts are recommended to reduce toxin levels – animals store toxins in fat.
  • Appetite provides a very good guide for protein intake. Inadequate protein generates hunger, excessive protein intake reduces the appetite for protein. Force feeding yourself protein is rarely a good idea.
  • Nuts, especially pre-packaged nuts (salted, honey-roasted, kona coffee glazed…mmm) are easy to over-eat. Salt & sugar will over-ride the body’s natural “off” switch for eating.
  • When building muscle, adequate total food intake is more important than increasing the amount of protein in the diet. Building muscle is a slow process that an excessive amount of protein consumption will not speed up. Inadequate carbohydrate intake will result in muscles being broken down and burned for fuel.
  • Perfect Health Diet by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet recommends 8 – 16 oz of meat, fish or eggs per day (24 oz for a competitive athlete). A day’s meals consisting of 2 eggs and a 3.5 oz piece of sausage for breakfast, 3.5 oz of chicken on a salad for lunch, and 3.5 oz of steak with vegetables for dinner would contain ~78 grams of protein (from ~14 oz of meat & eggs).
  • The most recent Dietary Guidelines for Americans (2010) recommends 5.5 “oz equivalents” of protein a day. An “oz equivalent” = 1 oz of meat, 1 egg, 1/2 oz of nuts, or 1/4 oz of cooked beans. A 5.5 oz day consisting of 3.5 oz of fish and 2 eggs would provide ~ 40 grams of protein.
  • Everyone’s protein requirements will be different and an individuals protein requirements will vary based on illness, diet and activity level. From Perfect Health Diet “Protein needs are increased during infection, wound healing, carbohydrate restriction (since protein is converted to glucose to avert a glucose deficiency), and endurance exercise (one reason long distance runners have trouble maintaining muscle mass).” Appetite for protein and changes in body composition (fat gain/loss and muscle gain/loss) are important indicators for adequate protein intake.
  • Rough estimates of protein content:
    • 1 oz of beef, lamb, chicken or fish = ~ 7 g of protein
    • 1 egg (50g) = ~ 3.5 g of protein.
  • Excessive protein intake will stress the kidneys and may cause digestive issues.
    • As the amount of protein consumed exceeds the digestive capacity of the small intestine, undigested protein is passed to the large intestine where it can ferment and increase the amount of bacteria in the large intestine – leading to gas, bloating, cramps and/or stomach pain.
    • As dietary protein levels continue to increase, the result is excess ammonia which will cause nausea & diarrhea and can lead to death (protein processing produces nitrogen, nitrogen processing produces ammonia, ammonia is converted to urea and excreted in urine. Exceeding the body’s ability to process the ammonia will stress the kidneys and generate toxicity.  It is estimated that 230 g of protein per day or protein consumption that exceeds 45% of calories comsumed will lead to toxicity in most people).
  • There is some evidence that protein fasts can be beneficial.  With a reduction of available dietary protein, the body will scavenge protein, typically taking damaged protein first and resulting in beneficial cell maintenance. Estimates on the duration of fasts vary widely – anywhere between 16 hours a day to a 7 day fast once per year.
  • (Protein quantities & daily protein intake recommendations are provided for awareness only. Few people will need to monitor protein intake).


Perfect Health Diet by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet, provides the most comprehensive discussion on protein I have found. The book provides an excellent overview of protein undereating and overeating along with recommendations on quantities and timing of protein consumption.



“The low-fat, high-carbohydrate diet may well have played an unintended role in the current epidemics of obesity, lipid abnormalities, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome. This diet can no longer be defended by appeal to the authority of prestigious medical organizations.”

– Dr. Sylvan Lee Weinberg, former President of the American College of Cardiology.   Link


  • The primary fat sources in my diet are butter & cheese from grass fed cows & goats, avocado, coconut oil, coconut milk, wild caught fish and grass fed meat. I cook with butter, coconut oil and coconut milk. I use a 50/50 mix of coconut oil and balsamic vinegar as salad dressing. I put avocado on salads and breakfast and I occasionally eat cheese as a snack or dessert.
  • The guidance to minimize saturated fat and replace saturated fat intake with polyunsaturated fat was based on a hypothesis that saturated fat caused heart disease. There has never been solid scientific evidence to support the “fat is bad” hypothesis. You can read Dr. Weinbergs article in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology here, or a well written piece from the New York Times here on how it happened.
  • Fat is an essential macronutrient. Fat operates like a ship, transporting nutrients and building materials throughout the body via the bloodstream.
  • Animals store toxins in fat, so the quality of the animal (measured by the health of the animal) is important. I keep animals in my diet because there are nutrients in animals that cannot be found in plants.
  • The lower the saturation level of fat, the higher the reactivity.  (Reactivity = oxidation potential. A simplified statement is that polyunsaturated fatty acids are pro-oxidants or, put another way, polyunsaturated fatty acids are anti-anti-oxidants).
  • “Essential” does not equal “good.” While a healthy diet may contain anywhere from 40% to 70% of the calories from fat, omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are polyunsaturated fatty acids typically contributing less than 4% of total calories. Omega-6 and omega-3 fatty acids are essential nutrients, but excessive amounts of either will cause problems. I do not count calories or measure the percentage of fat in my diet. I have found that minimizing sweeteners (natural and artificial) and avoiding concentrated seed oils is a more effective way to reduce inflammation and blood pressure than tracking fat and calories. Fat (unless it is mixed with sugar and/or salt) quickly satisfies hunger and takes a concerted effort to over eat (try eating a stick of butter by itself…).
  • Omega-3 fatty acids are highly reactive, the best sources are wild caught cold water fish.  The length of the fatty acid chain is important for omega-3 fatty acids. As an example, flax contains medium-chain fatty acids, which most people have a tough time converting to a useable form. People use the long chain fatty acids found in fish.  Omega-3 deficiencies are rare in a diet of high quality plants and animals. The problem is typically an excess amount of omega-6 rather than an omega-3 deficiency. Omega-3 oils are highly reactive and spoil easily (including the omega-3 fatty acid in fish oil).
  • Omega-6 oils are polyunsaturated (they have two or more carbon bonds without a linked hydrogen atom). Omega-6 fatty acids are highly reactive. Increased consumption of omega-6 fatty acids drives up inflammation levels and suppresses the bodies ability to use omega-3 fatty acid (among other nasty side effects).
  • Omega-6-to-omega-3 ratios can reach 10 times the natural levels in grain fed beef and 20 times natural levels in grain fed chicken. The grain which is fed to commercial livestock is high in omega-6 fatty acids which drives up the omega-6 fatty acid concentration in the animals (and our food).
  • High concentrations of seed oils (safflower, soybean, canola, corn, etc.) in processed food also drive up polyunsaturated fatty acid (PUFA) levels in a typical American diet, further contributing to excessive inflammation in the general population.

General dietary guidelines drastically over-simplify fats. For a good primer on the different kinds of fat, check out the Weston A. Price “Skinny On Fats” post. It’s a good overview but an in depth subject, the “Skinny on Fats” post and the Perfect Health Diet book are resources I frequently go back to in order to clarify my understanding on the different types of fat and what they’re good for.

Perfect Health Diet, by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet has an extensive discussion on recommended fat consumption and the impact of under or over consumption.

I highly recommend checking out Chris Kresser’s site for more information on fats and cholesterol. Setting up a free log-in is required, but worth the hassle. There is a ton of good, free information on his site concerning heart disease, thyroid and digestion.

If you have serious concerns about heart disease or high cholesterol, I recommend purchasing Chris Kresser’s High Cholesterol Action Plan. The course is extremely in depth (it explains many complex concepts) and gives detailed recommendations for testing and dietary adjustments. (I purchased the course myself and DO NOT receive any compensation for the recommendation).

For a good free overview of the latest theory on how heart disease begins, check out Robb Wolf’s interview of Chris Kresser on Episode 151 of the Paleo Solution Podcast.

For a free non-Robb Wolf / non-Chris Kresser information source, check out Dr. Peter Attia’s Multi-Part Part explanation of Cholesterol.

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  • High cholesterol is an indicator of a problem, it is rarely the problem.
  • The safest way to lower cholesterol is to lower blood sugar levels and lower inflammation levels through a change in diet. Less carbs = less sugar. Less seed oil and less grain fed animals = less inflammation.

The Story – It’s the Burns not the Band-Aids.

Once upon a time there was a man who loved lighters.

This man really, really loved lighters. He had hundreds of lighters.  Everyday, three times a day, he sat down to play with one, or two or all of them.

Every time he played with a lighter, he burned himself. Every time he burned himself, he put a band-aid on the wound. He had a lot of wounds covered by a lot of band-aids.

When the man died, a famous doctor performed the autopsy. The doctor was astounded at the number of band-aids but not the cause of death. He was seeing more and more men and women with the same symptoms.

“Yes, I know what causes this disease.” The famous doctor proclaimed.

“Yes, I have a recommended cure for the disease.”

“The disease is called ‘Syndrome Z’. As you all are aware, Syndrome Z is on the rise. Syndrome Z is responsible for the death of more and more Americans every year. We need to put an end to Syndrome Z.”

“I have determined that Syndrome Z is caused by excess band-aids. Every autopsy I perform on a victim of Syndrome Z reveals the same characteristic indicator of an excessive amount of band-aids. I propose that we educate the public on the danger of excess band-aids.”


Ancel Keys declared in 1956 that saturated fat and cholesterol cause heart disease. According to Dr. Keys, individuals should do everything they can to reduce cholesterol and individuals should replace saturated fat from animals with polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fats from vegetable oils.

Cholesterol is used by the body as a building block and a band-aid.  Cholesterol is the base for many important hormones and cholesterol is used to shore up weak cell walls and repair damage in inflamed tissue.  Cholesterol is vital for life and we would die without it.

High cholesterol is an indicator of a problem (it’s the body producing and using a lot of band-aids), cholesterol is rarely the problem.

While some individuals do need to eat less cholesterol, lowering blood sugar and lowering inflammation will lower cholesterol levels by getting at the root of the problem – inflammation.

Blood sugar can be safely lowered by lowering the amount of sugar in the diet by reducing or eliminating flour, sugar and potatoes.  There are no critical nutrients in flour, sugar or potatoes.  Chronic consumption of excess carbohydrates will generate nutrient deficiencies, weight gain, and chronically elevated blood sugar.

Inflammation levels can be safely reduced by eliminating seed oils and improving the quality of meat consumed.  Seed oils are high in omega-6 fatty acids. Grain fed livestock (beef, pork, chicken) are also high in omega-6 fatty acids. Omega-6 fatty acids are used like smoke alarms in the body. Omega-6 fatty acids are unsaturated which causes them to be highly reactive. When the omega-6 fatty acids react or oxidate, it triggers an immune response (calls the fire department). If there are 12 smoke alarms in the house and one goes off every time someone burps, no maintenance on the house is getting done because the fire department keeps knocking down the front door and putting hoses through the windows.

There are no nutritional requirements for consuming concentrated seed oil. There is increasing evidence of the negative effects of consuming concentrated seed oils (canola oil, safflower oil, soybean oil, corn oil, etc). Seed oils are cheap to produce and are present in a wide variety of commercial products. While a small amount of omega-3 and omega-6 fatty acids are required in a diet – the required amount is significantly exceeded in a typical American diet.

There is no debate on the health benefits of reducing blood sugar and reducing inflammation.


Targeting cholesterol shoots the messenger, it doesn’t fix the problem.  Cholesterol is the band-aid, not the burn.



  • Gary Taubes does a fantastic job of explaining how the Fat Hypothesis came to be the accepted dogma in his book ‘Good Calories, Bad Calories’.
  • ‘Perfect Health Diet’, by Paul and Shou-Ching Jaminet has the best explanation I have found on how consumption of concentrated seed oils increases inflammation.

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“Only a fool learns from his own mistakes. The wise man learns from the mistakes of others.”  -Otto Von Bismarck

I am not a wise man.

There have been more mistakes related to nutrition than I care to admit.  The first ‘diet’ I can remember going on was Bill Phillips’ “Body for Life.”  I started the diet sometime in the late 90’s when I bought into all the before and after photos.  I bought the protein powders, bars and meal replacement drinks.  I enthusiastically embraced the once a week cheat day where all bets were off and I could eat anything I wanted. The cheat day and protein powders are all I remember about the ‘diet’.  My focus during that first diet was to gain muscle, I wasn’t too concerned about a few extra pounds.

After stumbling through ten years of different diets, my concerns had changed dramatically.  I was completely focused on losing extra pounds. I’d tried being a vegetarian, I lived the Mediterranean diet, I tried the zone, and I tried tracking glycemic index and glycemic loads. Lots of work, not much return.

By the Spring 2007 Navy physical I was carrying an extra 25 pounds – and it wasn’t muscle.  The extra weigh was frustrating. The Navy Physical Readiness Test has two parts – a height vs weight measurement and a performance test of pushups, situps, and endurance (run or swim).  I’ve always been active and I have never had a problem passing the performance portion of the test.

When I stepped up to get measured in May 2007 I was heavier than I had ever been.  I’m pretty sure I was holding my breath as I stepped out from beneath the ruler.  It was the first time I had really sweated the height vs weight measurement.

I wasn’t exactly sure where the weight had come from, the pounds had snuck on, little by little. In addition to the consistent increases I was seeing on the scale, I kept having the rug ripped out from underneath my food pyramid.

I’d be feeling pretty good, even excited, about a new diet. The next day, I would read a headline story about how the scientifically proven diet I was on had been scientifically proven to kill me.

I can understand arguments about a diet being hard, or not efficient, but how can a diet go from being the best ever to responsible for certain death?

‘Scientifically Proven’ was an addictive idea for me. The idea that all essential nutrients had been identified was comforting. Having the recommended daily allowances for every nutrient precisely measured and available in a vitamin, pill or powder is an awesome idea.  Knowing what all the nutrients are and what the nutrient RDAs are would cure cancer, solve world hunger, bring us halfway to world peace, and give everyone a new puppy.

A ‘scientifically proven’ healthy diet is a great concept but we’re not there yet.

Gary Taubes gave me the first peek behind the curtain. Gary Taubes is a writer who built his career covering science. He was interviewing a nutritional scientist one day and quickly realized the scientist he was talking to was positively the worst scientist he had ever interviewed.  So, Gary Taubes started pulling the string on the science behind the ‘Fat Hypothesis’. The Fat Hypotheisis states unequivocally that eating saturated fat & cholesterol is what makes us fat and causes heart disease.  According to the Fat Hypothesis, cholesterol was invented by the Nazi’s and it is the responsibility of every American to eliminate cholesterol in any way possible.  Replace steak with soy, substitute oatmeal for eggs, and eat it all on low-fat cardboard crackers.

If saturated fat and cholesterol are the problem, the solution is easy – eliminate saturated fat and cholesterol from your diet and everything will be peachy.

Losing fat and improving health wasn’t that easy.  Throughout the spring and summer of 2007 I got serious and eliminated fat and cholesterol from my diet. I had heart healthy oatmeal for breakfast, salads for dinner, low fat Subway sandwiches for lunch (hey, it worked for the other Jared…). I lost 3 pounds in 3 months.  I had borderline high blood pressure and borderline high cholesterol.

I was 179 pounds in August 2007 when I made it through enough of Gary Taubes’ 400+ page ‘Good Calories, Bad Calories’ to believe he was on to something. I cut out all the white stuff (sugar, pasta, bread, rice, potatoes) and by the end of the year I was down 19 pounds.  I hovered around 160 for a few months.

In the spring I tightened up more on the carbs. I stopped eating tortillas, throttled back on beans and switched from a beer with dinner to a glass of wine with dinner.  By May 2008, I was down to 148 pounds. I had lost 31 pounds in 9 months. Even though I was eating more steak and more eggs, my cholesterol was down and my blood pressure was down.

148 pounds is not a good look for me and I missed carbs, so I partied. Pizza was back, pasta was back, beer was back, cookies, sandwiches, brownies, ice cream all came storming back. The pounds came back with them. By August 2008 I was back up to 167 pounds.

By this time I didn’t need to be particularly wise to see the connection. More carbs equaled more weight, less carbs equaled less weight and “moderation” was a lot smaller portion than I had previously believed.  Yes, exercise levels had some impact, but exercise only amplified what was going on in the kitchen.  The food I was eating determined which way the scale was trending.

I yo-yo’d around for another couple of years until finding my ideal weight at 158. A funny thing happens below 160. Back in 2007/2008 I had been prepared to give up bread, pasta, rice and potatoes for good. But below 160, I found I had to keep some easily digestible starch in my diet or I would keep losing weight.  Above 160 my weight would start creeping up unless I was very strict with my eating habits.

For the past 3 years I’ve stayed at 160 +/- 5 pounds.  I’ve gone months at 158 +/- 2 pounds before slipping off the wagon, drifting above 160 then buckling down to get my eating habits back in order.  Managing the fat is simple, but not easy.  Our society doesn’t make it easy to maintain a healthy weight. Most of the readily available foods to eat are carbs.  Carbs are cheaper and have a longer shelf life.  Carbs are conveniently packaged and marketed as meal replacements for a life on the go.

There is still a lot of debate over how to manage obesity, but there shouldn’t be.  I was fortunate to be part of the 60% of the population that a simple reduction in carbs was all it took to get weight down.  For others, the initial weight loss can be a little more complicated. In addition to getting blood sugar under control, the gut has to be healthy and glands have to be working correctly for hormone levels to stabilize.

Whatever the steps, weight management is not easy but it is relatively simple. Nutrients are hard, but that’s another journey and another story…


The Good:

  • Tasty. Bread is tasty. Pasta is tasty. Tortillas are tasty. Pizza dough is crazy tasty.
  • Cheap. Wheat, corn and rice are cheap to produce in mass quantities.
  • Shelf Life & Transportation. Grains are a strategic commodity. Grains can be stored for long periods of time and easily transported over long distances.

The Bad:

  • Tough on the gut. Grains are tough to digest. Whole grains are tougher to digest than processed grains. Most grains which are bred or manufactured to be resistant to insects are also harder for humans to digest.
  • Possibility of auto-immune issues. There is a developing awareness of a correlation between a leaky gut, grains and auto-immune diseases. There are increasing numbers of individuals who have been able to reverse auto-immune symptoms and diseases by eliminating grains and healing the gut. Prolamins (gluten and others) resist digestion, resulting in amino acid chains passing through the intestinal wall. The undigested amino acid chains stimulate an auto-immune reaction in the body.
  • Pesticides and chemical additives. Bulk commercial farming and grain manufacturing involves pesticides for growing, shipment and storage and chemicals for manufacturing flour from grain. Additional information here.

Benefit vs Cost: Negative

  • The costs (digestive impact / possibility of generating an auto-immune response) outweigh the benefits (taste & convenience).
    • There are no grains required for a healthy diet. Humans have been around for the past 195,000 years, agriculture has only been utilized for the past 10,000.
    • While many people are able to tolerate and digest grains, it’s a matter of tolerating grains, not thriving because of them.
    • Tolerance of grains is dependent on inflammation levels, sleep, stress and gut flora.
    • Fiber is available from vegetables.
    • There is debate over the availability of many of the nutrients present in whole grains (nutrients are present but there is a direct correlation between the amount of nutrients present and ease of digestion – less processing equals more nutrients but tougher digestion).
    • Increased consumption of flour and sugar = More nutrient deficiencies.
    • The nutrients present in grains are readily available from other vegetables and fruit.
    • I eat sweet potatoes, squash and occasionally white rice for carbohydrates. (White rice is not perfect but white rice is easier to digest than wheat & oats and tends to have less of a chemical load. Brown rice is harder to digest than white rice).
    • While my goal is zero consumption, I do occasionally have bread, pasta and baked goods when I am eating out or eating food that others have prepared. I view any grains as doing physical damage, so while I can recover from the occasional consumption of beans or sugar quickly (days), I realize the consumption of grains carries a bigger penalty and longer recovery time (weeks). I don’t keep bread, crackers, pasta or flour in the house.

Eating Strategy (2014)

Eating Strategy

  • Pay attention to how I feel and perform.
  • Cook. Cook efficiently. Aim for 1 hour or less of meal prep time per day (2 hours of batch cooking on Saturday or Sunday). Spend more time cooking and experimenting with new recipes when time allows.
  • Choose a vegetable. Choose a meat. Cook it up.
  • Use eggs, grass-fed butter, broth and seafood to cover micro-nutrient requirements.
  • Liberal use of butter, coconut oil and avocado to ensure adequate fat intake.
  • Monitor starches (sweet potato, squash, white rice) to throttle weight (more starch to gain weight, less starch to lose weight).
  • Avoid grains, legumes, and grain-fed dairy.


  • I am what I ate. What I eat today will determine how I feel and perform tomorrow.
  • My diet is what I normally eat. The goal is sustainable eating habits, not a temporary fix.
  • My health is dependent on the quality of my food and the health of my digestive system. A traumatized digestive system will not absorb nutrients and will not provide an effective barrier for the immune system.
  • There are no super foods. A healthy diet requires variety.
  • Food is simple.  Food marketing makes nutrition confusing.  Buzz words (organic, gluten-free, scientifically proven, 100% vegetarian diet) shift focus from the real issue (the issue is food quality) and cause confusion.
  • Vegetarian diets are nutrient deficient.
  • Going 24 hours without eating is uncomfortable, not unhealthy. There are no nutrients that have a daily consumption requirement. Nutrient consumption requirements vary greatly between nutrients and between individuals.
  • There is a difference between the amount of nutrient required to correct a deficiency and the amount of a nutrient required to maintain proper body function.
  • Meat / animal products do not have to be eaten every day.
  • There is no such thing as an essential carbohydrate. Excess carbohydrates compete for nutrient absorption.  Consistent consumption of excess carbohydrates will generate nutrient deficiencies.
  • Excess carbohydrates are stored as fat.
  • There is no such thing as an essential grain. Pizza dough and flour tortillas are tasty, but grains are rough on the digestive system.  Whole grains are REALLY rough on the digestive system.
  • Beans taste good but beans are not a super-food. Legumes are a fancy word for beans. Beans are rough on the digestive system.  Beans generate gas. Gas is amusing to your friends, not to your wife or digestive system.
  • The best restaurants don’t serve hot-pockets. The best restaurants serve real food. Fresh vegetables are tasty. Steak is tasty. Soup is tasty. Omelets are tasty. Seafood is tasty. Eating is fun. I like to eat.


  • Optimum protein intake. Protein is a required macro-nutrient but there is no definitive information on optimum amounts of protein intake. There is compelling evidence that protein fasts are necessary for optimum health.  Protein fasts encourage the recycling of damaged protein within the body. There is still debate on how long a protein fast should last.
  • Optimum carbohydrate intake for performance athletics. There is still considerable debate on the timing of carbohydrate consumption and the amount of carbohydrate consumption for optimum performance.
  • An optimum micro-nutrient consumption strategy.  Recommended Daily Allowance (RDA) started during World War II as a food rationing tool.  Nutrition studies are notoriously complicated and notoriously inaccurate. The challenge is isolating the effects of single micro-nutrients for a prolonged period of time under changing demands.
  • A thorough understanding of the link between the presence of a nutrient in a particular food and the benefits of consuming the food. Liver is a good example. The liver contains a high concentration of nutrients, but the liver is also a filter and the effects of regular liver consumption over a long period of time is unknown.


  • Micro-nutrient availability.  Filtered water = depleted nutrients. Depleted soil = depleted nutrients (Micro-nutrients in vegetables come from the soil).
  • Food quality. Healthy meat and healthy animal products (eggs, cheese, butter, etc.) require healthy animals. Healthy animals require a healthy natural diet and healthy surroundings. Americans have voted with their wallets for fast and cheap, with devastating impact to the quality of animal products in the food system. The situation is slowly improving with increased demand for higher quality food.
  • Real food availability.  Corn, wheat and soy are cheap and plentiful. Real food has a shelf life and is harder to find. Eating high quality food on a budget requires shopping, cooking and planning ahead.

Food Brings Joy


This week’s question was from Donna:
“What about metabolism? What can be done to work towards a better metabolism”

Donna’s question was directed towards the wiser generations (“folks moving toward the backside of 50”) and I think Harry Rosen has the best answer:

Eat real food.

Harry Rosen dines out every night in some of the finest restaurants in Manhattan. A nice dinner is his therapy.  Harry Rosen is 103, but he usually tells people he’s 90.

He says “If I tell them my real age, it becomes the whole subject of conversation and makes it look like I’m looking for attention, which I’m not.”

For Harry Rosen, and for many people, food bring joys.  If you eat right, you feel good.  Not just while you’re eating, but all the time.  Your car doesn’t need to take a nap every time you fill up the gas tank and you shouldn’t either.

Harry Rosen always has fish but you don’t have to eat fish from the finest restaurants in Manhattan to eat well.

Real food tastes better.  A healthy diet is a healthy diet.  Eat lots of vegetables.  Eat high quality animal products (wild caught fish, grass fed beef, eggs, soups). The only thing that changes as you get older is the amount of food, not the type.

Metabolism (the rate you burn energy) does slow down as you get older, but it shouldn’t change your food choices, just your portion sizes.

Decreasing stress and lowering blood sugar won’t necessarily increase the rate you burn calories, but decreasing stress and lowering blood sugar are the best steps for improving body composition at any age.

Stress causes a rise in blood sugar and sugar in food causes a rise in blood sugar.  Your body burns blood sugar before anything else.  High blood sugar is toxic, so burning blood sugar isn’t just easier, it’s necessary for survival.  As blood sugar levels drop, your body will start releasing fat for fuel.

The more your body burns fat, the better it becomes at burning fat.  If your body runs on sugar all the time (because there is a constant supply in your diet), it starts becoming less efficient at burning fat.  Carbs are the simplest macro-nutrient to judge adequate amounts. If you’re always hungry and putting on weight, you’re eating too many carbs and not enough fat and protein.

Getting blood sugar, stress, and inflammation under control usually improves body composition for about 75% of the population. If lowering stress, blood sugar, and inflammation doesn’t help, a check of hormone levels might. Hormone levels are another thing that tends to fluctuate as we get older. Improving your diet will help normalize hormone levels but additional treatment may sometimes be required.

Metabolism, or basal metabolic rate, or resting metabolic rate, gets a lot of play from food and exercise advertisers.  A food or exercise routine that raises metabolic rate offers the holy grail – eat this food or do this routine and you’ll “burn fat while you sleep.”

Harry Rosen doesn’t worry about his metabolism. Move enough everyday to stay capable and eat enough food to support your movement. Eat real food, watch the carbs, and enjoy your dinner!

  • Picture of Harry Rosen by Dave Sanders for The New York Times
  • You can read Corey Kilgannon’s New York Times’ article on Harry Rosen here.


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Sorting It Out

Image 2Whether it’s frustration, stress, or anger, the last straw isn’t what it’s all about.

Here’s a pop quiz:

IF X = Frustration, Y = Happiness, A & B = things you see, C & D = things you hear, THEN:

a) X = (20%A + 40%B – 75%C) / 43 and Y = 27 (50%A – 33%C + 17%D)
b) Y = X * D / A
c) X = A + B/4.3 – 5.6*D
d) None of the Above
(hint: The answer is ‘d’)

People are complicated, most of the time it’s tough enough figuring out what makes us happy or not happy, let alone our spouses, family or friends.  We are all constantly bombarded with information and it’s hard to figure out exactly what makes us happy and what stresses us out. The last straw, the event that triggers a conscious emotional response, is rarely the root of the problem.

We need time to sort it out, time to figure out what’s causing us to act the way we do.  We need quiet time to figure out what causes us to behave well and what causes us to behave poorly.

Meditation works but meditation isn’t what you think.

Meditation doesn’t have to be some mystical feat, it doesn’t have to be sitting in a lotus position chanting “om”.

Meditation is simply quiet time to sort things out.  It can be done sitting, walking, running, or surfing (my favorite). You can do it alone or talk through things with a friend.

Meditation does three things:
1) Helps your attention span (attention regulation).
2) Helps you figure out what triggers your emotions (body awareness).
3) Helps you control your emotions (emotion regulation – from knowing the triggers).

(Here’s an Article from the Atlantic with a longer discussion)

Control over your emotions is the most important.  Chronic stress is bad.  Chronic stress prevents adaptation, healing and recovery.

Figuring out what is really triggering the stress response is the first step in reducing stress.

Three tips to get you started:
1) Start small. Start with 5 – 10 minutes a day. Try and fold it into something you already do every day (walking from the parking lot, exercise, etc.)
2) Start with whatever’s on your mind. You can work on “just being” later. Start with whatever issues you can’t stop thinking about.
3) Pull the string.  Sure you remember the last straw, the thing that pushed you over the edge. What happened before that? What were the assumptions you made?

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