I like Dr Mercola. Despite him pushing products, I find his advice generally well considered. “Pasta, Not Bacon, Makes You Fat. But How?” is the name of his latest blog entry. It’s a must read. But for those of you who are more visual, or want the abridged version, the above infographic from Massive Health that tells it like it is.
This blog post may change your life.
Back in April 2010, Amanda from Lamb’s Ears and Honey posted a Facebook link to an article in the New York Times with the title “Is Sugar Toxic”, written by a science researcher called Gary Taubes. Amanda doesn’t know it, but by posting that link, she saved me from almost guaranteed diabetes and heart disease. Thank you Amanda! At the time, I weighed 122kg and had a waist circumference of 122cm, and with those measurements, I was obese. After reading Taubes’ article, I watched the amazing video, “Sugar, The Bitter Truth” by Dr Robert Lustig that discusses the health dangers of eating high amounts of fructose. I also saw that Taubes had written a book entitled “Why We Get Fat: and What to Do About It”. Having always thought that getting fat is all about calories-in/calories-out, I was intrigued to find that there may be another explanation to the problem I had suffered with all my life (having dieted non-stop for 15 years) so I bought Taubes’ book and read it. That book changed my life forever.
Zoom forward to today, my nutritional re-education continues as I weigh 98kg and my waist circumference is 98cm. My diet has switched from one focused on carbohydrates to one that that uses fat for energy. My energy comes from grass-fed and free-range animals, fish, eggs, low-starch vegetables, olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, and berries. To a lesser extent I also eat full-fat dairy (cheese, cream and sour cream), bananas and sweet potatoes. I eat around 2700 calories a day, so by any definition, I am not on a diet. Having lost the weight I did without caloric restriction may seem to defy the laws of thermodynamics, but what I found out during my reading is that the well-established adage of calories-in/calories-out is a big fat lie. For almost all people, we gain weight because of hormonal issues. The main way to lose weight is to reduce insulin levels and make our body more receptive to the action of leptin (which, being a hormone discovered only relatively recently may not be known to most doctors).
Having (effortlessly) lost the weight is great, but I realize now that weight was not a problem in its own. It was merely a physiological indicator that my body wasn’t healthy. The health of our body is greatly determined by our diet. Using my newfound way of eating, I have helped many friends with their weight and health issues. My father, a long-term diabetic, now has stellar blood sugar levels. I personally enjoy vastly improved energy levels, no longer have the acne problems that plagued me throughout my life, no longer have plaque, have less/no joint pain, and I feel more clear-headed and happier.
As I continue to learn new things, I try to keep it simple to introduce people I care about to the diet that I know will change their lives for the better. I try to explain that there are 3 things I believe cause most of the health issues we encounter
1- Fructose – this is a sugar found naturally in fruit (and natural sweeteners like agave). It is used in massive quantities as a sweetener for soft drinks, junk food and mass-produced food. Though it doesn’t cause insulin spikes on its own, it does cause fatty liver disease. I highly recommend you watch Dr Lustig’s video “Sugar, The Bitter Truth” as it will give you all the info you need on why you should avoid fructose.
2- Omega 6/PUFA oils. For years, we have been told to eat margarine as a healthier alternative to butter. Poly-unsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) found in margarine, canola, corn oil and other seed/grain/nut oils. These fats are easily prone to oxidation and as we consume them in the large quantities we do, we create an unfavorable ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 (found in fish) oils in our body. The right ratio is crucial for our liver function and the makeup of our cell membranes and many other bodily functions. I have personally cut out all PUFAs (no more margarine, canola, grapeseed, rice bran or vegetable oils) and the fats I eat are either fully saturated (butter, animal fat and coconut oils are saturated and that makes them stable and not prone to oxidation) or mono-unsaturated oils like macadamia or olive oil. I do not fear cholesterol. Cholesterol is a healthy, healing substance and is largely misunderstood. I suggest you read Gary Taubes’ life changing book, Why We Get Fat: and What to Do About It to re-educate yourself on the real science of fat.
3- Grains – It amazes me to see a diabetic being prescribed a diet high in complex carbs and whole grains and low in fat! Seriously? Diabetics have a problem with blood glucose and insulin. Why are they being fed food that will turn into sugar in the body at all? My diabetic father made the switch and only gets his carbs from leafy greens and non-starchy vegetables. The rest of his diet is protein and fat based and his blood sugar levels are now AMAZING. If you are not diabetic, there are still plenty of compelling reasons why grains are not a good idea for you. Grains increase gut permeability (they penetrate the gut wall and allow dangerous material in our gut to leach into our blood stream which leads to chronic inflammation) to grains’ anti-nutrient properties (which depletes the body of vitamins and minerals). People with acid reflux, coeliac or autoimmune diseases can reverse or control their condition by eliminating grains. For more details on the dangers of wheat and grain, and the amazing health benefits to be gained by eliminating them, read Dr William Davis’ book Wheat Belly.
I am not giving anyone medical advice. I firmly believe that health is a journey and that people need to make their own decisions on where they want to go. What is clear to me is that a carbohydrate centric, fat fearing diet is not the answer. Read through the links and books I suggest. You’ll feel like Alice going down the rabbit hole. If you decide that you are convinced and want to follow the advice in these websites and books, let me know. I’d love to hear from you and to learn about your journey.
When you are convinced and want to start straight away, here’s a great recipe to help kick-start things. Macadamia Oil Mayonnaise. When I stopped eating oils rich in Omega 6, I found that I can no longer eat mayo. All commercial mayo is made with either canola or soybean oil and that’s just poison. Olive oil doesn’t make good mayonnaise – the flavour is too strong and bitter. Macadamia oil, on the other hand, is a wonderfully aromatic oil with a beautiful buttery texture and a heady aroma. It’s not a neutral oil (because it’s not chemically processed unlike vegetable and seed oils). This delicious mayonnaise takes 1 minute to make, is high in monounsaturated fat from the macadamia oil and saturated fat from the eggs, and, yes, it’s SUPER-HEALTHY! Just don’t eat the bread.
Macadamia Oil Mayonnaise Recipe:
- 2 egg yolks (if you are worried about bacteria, simply pasteurise the whole eggs by keeping them at 63 degrees C water for 5 minutes)
- 1.5 cup macadamia oil
- 2 tsp dijon mustard
- 2 tsp apple cider vinegar
- salt (to taste) – use real salt like Celtic Sea Salt.
- lemon juice
- Put the egg and mustard in an upright blender and whiz it up.
- Add the oil (shouldn’t take more than 20 to 30 seconds) from the top opening until the mixture thickens.
- Add apple cider vinegar and salt
- Add more oil if thicker mayonnaise is needed
- The process should take 1 minute or less
- Once done, you can adjust the salt and lemon juice. Heck, you can even add more mustard if you want. Go crazy!
The excerpts below from Bill Bryson’s book At Home is especially interesting to me. My diet over the last year has largely been Paleolithic – pastured animal fat and protein, roots, greens and berries – with some Neolithic food thrown in, namely butter, cream, cheese and olive oil. Health-wise, I’ve never felt better. Have a read. There is such an obvious link between Neolithic food and disease and Bryson describes it so wonderfully. You’l enjoy this one.
“It is not as if farming brought a great improvement in living standards. … A typical hunter-gatherer enjoyed a more varied diet and consumed more protein and calories than settled people, and took in five times as much vitamin C as the average person today. Even in the bitterest depths of the ice ages, we now know, nomadic people ate surprisingly well – and surprisingly healthily. Settled people, by contrast, became reliant on a much smaller range of foods, which all but ensured dietary insufficiencies. The three great domesticated crops of prehistory were rice, wheat, and maize, but all had significant drawbacks as staples. As the journalist John Lanchester explains: ‘Rice inhibits the activity of Vitamin A; wheat has a chemical that impedes the action of zinc and can lead to stunted growth; maize is deficient in essential amino acids and contains phytates, which prevent the absorption of iron.’ The average height of people actually fell by almost six inches in the early days of farming in the Near East. Even on Orkney, where prehistoric life was probably as good as it could get, an analysis of 340 ancient skeletons showed that hardly any people lived beyond their twenties.
“What killed the Orcadians was not dietary deficiency but disease. People living together are vastly more likely to spread illness from household to household, and the close exposure to animals through domestication meant that flu (from pigs or fowl), smallpox and measles (from cows and sheep), and anthrax (from horses and goats, among others) could become part of the human condition, too. As far as we can tell, virtually all of the infectious diseases have become endemic only since people took to living together. Settling down also brought a huge increase in ‘human commensals’ – mice, rats, and other creatures that live with and off us – and these all to often acted as disease vectors.
“So sedentism meant poorer diets, more illness, lots of toothache and gum disease, and earlier deaths. What is truly extraordinary is that these are all still factors in our lives today. Out of the thirty thousand types of edible plants thought to exist on Earth, just eleven – corn, rice, wheat, potatoes, cassava, sorghum, millet, beans, barley, rye, and oats – account for 93 percent of all that humans eat, and every one of them was first cultivated by our Neolithic ancestors. Exactly the same is true of husbandry. The animals we raise for food today are eaten not because they are notably delectable or nutritious or a pleasure to be around, but because they were the ones first domesticated in the Stone Age.
“We are, in the most fundamental way, Stone Age people ourselves. From a dietary point of view, the Neolithic period is still with us. We may sprinkle our dishes with bay leaves and chopped fennel, but underneath it all is Stone Age food. And when we get sick, it is Stone Age diseases we suffer.”
Hello dear reader. It’s been a while, hasn’t it? The Food Blog has been on a break – I realised in November that the blog has turned 5 and I thought, hey, why not, have a break over Christmas and New Year and relax.
Well, I’m soon to be back in full swing, having recovered from a mostly unbelievable year. I’m kicking off the year with a dinner event with The Social Dinner Club. The theme for this month is Lebanese, so I’ve designed some really fantastic dishes for the night. For more information on the event, the Social Dinner Club’s concept and details on how to book, go to the event’s page by clicking here.
Set menu for Social Dinner Club $63^ p.p
Baba ghanouj with pomegranates and chili pistachio relish
Red hummus with sujuk
Five herb and shanklish salad
Rozz a Djej – slow-cooked lamb shoulder and chicken with spiced rice pilaf, cashews, almonds and caramelised onions
Baba ghanouj with pomegranates and chili pistachio relish
Red hummus with pine nuts
Five herb and shanklish salad
Trick kibbeh – pumpkin kibbeh with caramelised onion stuffing in a garlic and goat yoghurt soup
Walnut and candied chickpea trifle
Truffle oil is one of those ingredients that are so fashionable to hate right now. Vilification and bigotry are so common when it comes to food, and if some big shot decides truffle oil is a crap ingredient, everyone else blindly agrees. You hear it over and over again: “it’s not the real thing” or “it’s a cheap rip off”. It becomes so hard to disagree when everyone make such quick judgement. I happen to like truffle oil. I don’t care if it’s not the same as shaving a hundred dollar piece of fungus on a perfectly cooked egg. In my opinion, truffle oil has its place in the kitchen, just like chili oil or lemon oil. It adds so much flavour to food that it’s a shame not to use it.
What gives truffle oil its bad reputation is a family of oils infused with artificial truffle aromas – some chemical made in a lab and engineered so that it smells like truffle. Completely fake. But there are also great products out there. Real olive oil infused with real truffle. I get mine from Simon Johnson and there’s a small slice of black truffle floating around in the oil. It’s strong and earthy and I use it in small amounts when I roast my mushrooms. Try and get your hands on some good truffle oil. Toss thick slices of mushrooms in some salt, olive oil, chopped garlic and a drizzle of truffle oil. You can also sprinkle a bit of dried thyme on top. Bake in a tray covered with aluminium foil for around 30 minutes at 190c. Take the foil off and bake for a further 30 minutes until the mushroomy liquid has evaporated and the mushrooms are soft and dark. I love making big batches of these mushrooms and I keep them in the fridge for days. They go with anything – eggs, pasta, steak, sandwiches – and the truffle oil only makes them more delicious. A good truffle oil is a beautiful thing.
Man it’s good to have my own kitchen once more. I get to cook what I want again! Sometimes, the things I like are not so popular, so I apologise if today’s recipe doesn’t appeal to everyone.
Liver. Offal. Are you into it? I sure am. Apart from being a Lebanese who, like many of my countrymen, eats liver for breakfast, this blogger is, mostly, a low-carber (20kgs lost so far!). I see this photo and I salivate. Maybe my fat-fueled body craves the organ meat or maybe I salivate because because I know how bloody delicious this dish is.
OK. Forget the fact that it’s liver for a second. Look at the remaining ingredients. Butter (from Pepe Saya), cumin, paprika, chili and wild, free-range thyme. Yes, thyme that has freely roamed the hills of Lebanon and has made the long journey to Sydney back with me. Doesn’t it sound awesome? Even Lainy, who usually takes the liver-let-die option, ate and enjoyed it. I first tried this dish at Efendy. In Turkish, it’s called yaprak ciger: leaf liver. I guess it’s so named because the liver is thinly sliced into shapes that resemble leaves. Not sure. Don’t quote me. But does it really matter?
Here’s the recipe, passed down to me by none else but Somer, my main man at Efendy. I’ve changed it a bit but it still works miracles. Buy some fresh calf’s or lamb’s liver. Get your butcher to thinly slice and clean it. Mix a good deal of paprika, pepper, red or black Turkish chili, thyme and cumin together. If you want, dust the liver with flour after washing and drying it, but you don’t have to. Heat up a skillet or a frying pan. Toss in a good deal of quality butter. Add the liver (don’t overload). Add the spice mixture and some salt. Fry the liver, turning occasionally when there’s a bit of colour to it. Don’t fry for more than 3 minutes or so, otherwise it gets too dry. Take off the heat and rest for 3 minutes – if the liver is fresh, it shouldn’t release much liquid. Add some thinly sliced onions and stir around to coat the liver and the onions with the spices. Destroy.