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  • 20 health related facts that I didn’t know 20 years ago


    1) Most Western diseases are related to diet and lifestyle.
    2) Sugar is worse for you than saturated fat.
    3) Most people (including myself) are deficient in vitamin D.
    4) The type of fat that you eat is more important than the total amount.
    5) The type of carbohydrate that you eat is more important than the total amount.
    6) The Palaeolithic Diet diet is the healthiest diet.
    7) Most people are deficient in vitamin K2.
    8) Adequate levels of Vitamin K2 prevent osteoporosis and arterial calcification.
    9) A calorie to me isn’t the same as a calorie to you, because we both metabolise them differently.
    10) The importance of our gut bacteria.
    11) The benefits of High Intensity Interval Training.
    12) The benefits of muscle strength training for older people.
    13) The benefits of fasting (even though I’ve been fasting for 40 years!)
    14) The blood triglyceride level is more important than the cholesterol level.
    15) Unprocessed red meat from grass-fed animals is not bad for you.
    16) Dairy products are detrimental to health.
    17) The existence of the field of epigenetics.
    18) Epigenetics is almost as important as genetics.
    19) Some mental illnesses might be diet related.
    20) Teaching of the importance of nutrition in most medical schools is woefully inadequate and out of date.

    Posted in History of Nutrition, Home Page, Quick Soundbites.


    1. Hi Madhvi,
      I am a vegan and wanted some advice on what vitamins I need to be aware of in order to maintain a healthy diet. I am researching what are the best proteins (not derived from animals) but would love to hear your recommendations.
      Thank you.

      • Hi Ellen,

        Vegans need to be very careful about their diets – there are a fair number of nutrients which vegans are at risk of running low on, and others of which they have too much.

        Some nutrients which vegans might end up being low on:
        Vitamin B12, vitamin D, vitamin K2, Zinc, long chain omega-3 fatty acids, essential amino acids (this isn’t a comprehensive list – there are probably others that I don’t know about).

        Nutrients which vegans might end up having too much of:
        omega-6 fatty acids – high levels in vegetable oils
        lectins – high levels present in wheat, lentils and soya
        phytates and protease inhibitors – present in wheat and soya

        Vitamin B12 stores in the liver last a long time (years), so if you’ve recently become vegan a blood test might show that you have adequate levels of B12, but you will eventually run low. There aren’t any good vegan sources of B12, so it would probably be best to take a B12 supplement. The best type of B12 is methylcobalamin (try and avoid cyanocobalamin).

        Vitamin D – the best way to get this is to spend a little bit of time in the sun every day. If you are fair skinned 15 minutes a day in the sun is enough (with your arms and legs exposed). This also depends on which part of the world you live in – above certain latitudes your skin can only make vitamin D in the summer months. (People who live in the Arctic regions get around this because of their high intake of fish, seal, whale fat and liver, all of which have high levels of vitamin D).

        Kelp is a good source of zinc and other minerals.

        Wakame Seaweed is the only good vegan source of long chain omega-3 fatty acids that I could find. (This fatty acid is crucial for brain development in babies – it is very difficult for vegan babies to get adequate long chain omega-3 fatty acids). And high levels of long chain Omega-3 are associated with a reduced risk of cardiovascular disease in adults – another good reason to up your intake.

        As far as protein goes, a combination of lentils with rice provides all the essential and non-essential proteins for vegans. It’s best to cook lentils in a pressure cooker because this reduces their ‘lectin’ content.

        Here’s a link explaining what lectins are.

        Small amounts of Macadamia nuts are a healthy snack – out of all the nuts they have the best omega-3 to omega-6 ratio.

        Try and use macadamia or avocado oil for cooking instead of other vegetable oils.

        And finally try and increase your intake of green vegetables, and reduce your intake of sugar and wheat.

        I hope this helps!

    2. That’s helpful – thank you-I’m going to print out your 20 health related facts as a daily reminder!
      A few more questions?
      With fact number 15-did you mean grain fed or grass fed? The big supermarkets have now grass fed meat as a choice so we have made the change.
      How can you tell if butter is made from grass fed animals- ? I get organic new zealand butter.
      Is there an advantage in using Ghee over butter?
      Do you know if chicken liver or Miso as in miso soup has Vit K2?
      Also what do you know about at what age our children might benefit from these changes when there are very few studies done on children- are there observational studies on children from different cultures?

      • It’s nice to know that people are following my advice!

        I meant to say grass-fed in Fact number 15 (Unprocessed red meat from grain-fed animals is not bad for you).
        I think I need an editor to proof read my posts…
        Although it is also true that unprocessed red meat from grain-fed animals is unlikely to be harmful because studies comparing total mortality rates in people who consume either processed or unprocessed meat have shown that only the processed red meat consumers have a higher mortality risk.

        As far as butter is concerned, if you want to be sure that it is from grass-fed cows then have a look at the website of the company from which you buy the butter – if it is grass-fed they usually say so on their website. In all likelihood most meat or dairy products from New Zealand are from grass-fed animals because they have so much pastureland there, but I don’t know for sure.

        The main advantage of ghee over butter is that it has a higher ‘smoke point’ which makes it better for cooking because it is less likely to burn.
        When oil or butter are heated to the point when they start smoking, their chemical composition changes and you get all sorts of nasty toxic substances forming (including free radicals and AGEs – Advanced Glycation End products. AGEs are formed when food ‘browns’ – it’s called the Maillard reaction; this usually enhances the taste of food – as in grilling on a barbecue or caramelising sugar, but too much of it is harmful).

        The other advantages of ghee over butter are:
        1) The more favourable omega-6 to omega-3 ratio in ghee.
        2) Ghee doesn’t have any of the milk proteins in it (it is probably the milk proteins which are one of the harmful parts of dairy products).
        I know that it’s not very scientific to quote isolated cases, but my grandmother grew up on ghee and lived to the ripe old age of 105. However in those days they must have used ghee very sparingly because it would have been either home made or expensive to buy.
        Ghee was probably also the only cooking oil they used; I would imagine that mass produced refined oils didn’t exist at the turn of the last century in India (my grandmother was born in 1901).
        The French used to have a very low cardiovascular risk and they also used to use clarified butter (=ghee) to cook their food.

        Here’s a good link explaining why refined vegetable oils are bad.

        And to answer the vitamin K2 question – chicken liver is supposed to be a good source of K2.
        I couldn’t find the exact amount of K2 in miso soup, but miso soup isn’t on any of the lists of good sources of K2, so I presume it doesn’t have much.

        The risks of atherosclerosis, diabetes, dementia and most Western diseases depend on the habits of a lifetime, so the earlier you start eating healthily the better.
        One study comparing the effects of milk protein and meat protein on 8 year olds found that the fasting insulin levels in the milk-fed group doubled after only 1 week, whereas the insulin levels of the meat-fed group were unchanged.
        (In this study 24 boys were given an extra 53g of either milk protein or meat protein every day for a week).

        I’ll have a look for other studies on children and get back to you – in the meantime my advice would be to start young with dietary changes!

        • I wonder if you could comment further on probiotics- friends take Kombucha( fermented probiotic tea) and my kids like yakult- im sure more for the sugar content.

          Also we have cut down grains and sugar- is rice a grain? or is mainly the gluten containing grains that are the problem?

    3. Are K2 supplements good enough and what dose do you recommend?

      Also its very hard for me to give up desserts- with your cooking background- could you come up with some sweet recipes using glucose please

      • As a rule I don’t like advertising and I don’t like taking supplements, but the K2 that I’ve bought is this one:

        MK-7 100 micrograms

        It’s made from natto extract and you’re supposed to take one a day, but I give my children one a week because it’s hard to know what the exact dose should be as there’s so little information on K2, and most of the research on it is relatively new.
        Most of the studies on K2 use MK-7 (menaquinone 7) in a range of between 100 and 200 micrograms per day.

        Personally I try to eat either natto, kim chi or sauerkraut. Sadly I haven’t managed to persuade my boys to eat any of them yet!

        A study on postmenopausal women showed that supplementing with 180 micrograms of MK-7 daily for 3 years prevented bone loss.
        Also if you are on warfarin you have to be careful with K2 supplements (re-check your INR as the K2 does affect it).

        As far as sugar is concerned, I substitute glucose powder for ‘sugar’ in dessert recipes with about 30% extra glucose compared to the original sugar quantity. It works well in my brownies recipe, banana muffins and carrot cake. I’m not sure how well it would work in recipes where the sugar is used to make a light sponge.
        But remember that glucose powder isn’t healthy; it’s a bit less unhealthy than normal sugar (sucrose).

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