26 October 2011

...wake up at the same time every day?

I first want to say that this very blog entry is the start not only of my return to the blog world but also committing to a new blog post at least once every month. 

If you don't have a blog, you are probably thinking that once a month is not that often. But let me tell you non-blogger, it takes a lot of freaking time. First, you have to know what you're writing about and make sure it's a. worth your time and b. worth your friends' time. Then, if you are blogging about anything of substance, you have to research. This is the real killer but also the most important. Next, you have to make sure it's written with a logical thought process, grammatically correct and every word is spelled properly. This makes it sound like I'm voluntarily submitting myself to school without getting any grades or diploma but oh well. It's enjoyable. 

If you do blog, you probably understand how easy it is to waste copious amounts of time.

The point here is that I have decided from here on, I will be doing a 30 day challenge every month for the rest of my life. It's overwhelming to think of all the changes that could be made in my life. However, I find that if I think about only one major change for the month then let it become a habit, it's much more bearable. 

Enter bad news. Remember how I just said a few paragraphs earlier that research is sooooo important? Well it is. I was about to tell you that it takes 21 days to form a habit so that's another great reason for doing 30 day challenges. I decided to research it so I could put a link backing up my argument but much to my surprise, I was wrong. 

"Everyone knows that it takes 28 days to develop a new habit, or perhaps 21, or 18, depending on who you ask; anyway, the point is that it's a specific number, which makes it sound scientific and thus indisputably true. We probably owe this particular example of pop-psychology wisdom to Maxwell Maltz, the plastic surgeon who wrote the 60s bestseller Psycho-Cybernetics. He claimed to have observed that amputees took an average of only 21 days to adjust to the loss of a limb. Therefore, he reasoned – deploying the copper-bottomed logic we've come to expect from self-help – the same must be true of all big changes. And therefore it must take 21 days to change a habit, maybe, perhaps!This is, of course, poppycock and horsefeathers, as a new study by the University College London psychologist Phillippa Lally and her colleagues helps confirm. On average, her subjects, who were trying to learn new habits such as eating fruit daily or going jogging, took a depressing 66 days before reporting that the behaviour had become unchangingly automatic. Individuals ranged widely – some took 18 days, others 245 – and some habits, unsurprisingly, were harder than others to make stick: one especially silly implication of the 28- or 21-day rule is that it may be just as easy to start eating a few more apples as to start finding five hours a week to study Chinese. (Another myth undermined by the study is the idea that when forming a new habit, you can't miss a day or all is lost: missing a day made no difference. Indeed, believing this myth may be actively unhelpful, making it harder to restart once you fall off the wagon.)" -Oliver Burkeman | The Guardian

A link to Lally's research: here.
And her webpage: here.

Since every 30 day challenge isn't necessarily trying to break bad habits, I'm going to continue as planned. That's not to say I won't be readjusting later if need be :) Despite the research from earlier, I would like to highlight a website that I find extremely helpful:

It's free to join and I've used it for a year now. This is how it works: you enter your goal, they email you every day with a little inspirational quote and ask "did you meet your goal today?" Then you click yes or no and it tracks your progress each day. The thing about this site though is that they make you do 21 consecutive days before you complete your goal. If you mess up, it kicks you back to 0. They don't mess around over at Habit Forge. Like I said, I've used this for a year now and I am just now about to win at this game. The good thing about kicking you to 0 if you miss a day is that you will probably take longer to fill up your success bubbles, thus making you closer to the 66 day average. Also, the research shows that missing a day isn't detrimental to achieving the overall goal, so don't feel bad.

Now that I have written a bazillion more paragraphs than I intended, let me tell you the current 30 day challenge and whence it came. I was doing my daily stumbles on stumbleupon. (I'm going to have to pause here to say that stumbleupon is one of the biggest black holes of wasting my time but also very rewarding. I have found some great things, including Habit Forge incidentally.) So back to stumbling. I came across this article: How to Become an Early Riser.

Also on his website I found these great articles: The Importance of Self Discipline and 30 days to success. I strongly suggest you read all three, unless you are already an early riser. In that case, congrats. I was at one point a successful early riser but I no longer have anywhere to be in the morning. I would not call myself a "night owl" either though. I am a champion of sleeping. I can sleep 12 hours every night even without doing anything taxing all day; I LOVE SLEEP! But I can be real with myself and admit that I am wasting time and sleeping my life away. Starting tomorrow until December 1, I will be waking up at 0700 every day. Then I will get back on and write alllll about it. 

21 March 2011

the grain saga continues

It seems that beans have large amounts of lectins. The book Food Poisoning by Anthony T. Tu documents cases of one hundred percent mortality rates in cases where rats were fed black or kidney beans. But according to this book, 100% removal is possible using heat. 5 hours of heating at 80 degrees C (176 F) inactivated 90% of toxins and raising to 100 degrees C ( 212 F) for 20 minutes "abolished hemagglutinin activity completely."

In "cereal grains" (oats, barley, rice, rye, sorghum and wheat) lectins are contained in the germ. They are heat stable (not destroyed by cooking) and can survive the digestive process. It's important to note that this book states that the lectins in rice are heat labile (can be removed with heat). This next bit was far too important to paraphrase since it answers such a key question in my grain biology hunt.

"Based on evidence available in the 1950's, Jaffe proposed that a possible explanation for the toxic action of lectins, resistant to gastric and intestinal digestion, is that they combine with cells lining the intestinal wall, causing lesions and nonspecific interference with the absorption of nutrients. Since then several groups of researchers have produced direct evidence to substantiate the fact that bean lectins interact specifically with intestinal epithelium cells, damage, and even kill them both in vivo and in vitro."

This is the scientific backing I needed in order to believe that lectins: a. exist b. are actually harmful. (That quote was riddled with source references but since I gave you the link I didn't type them all out. Go look at them all yourself if you need further convincing). This still begs the question, "Why is no one concerned about lectins in raw vegetables!?" And as I read on, JACKPOT!

"The concentration of toxic bean PHA in blood is higher than that of nontoxic tomato agglutinin. Up to 10% of bean lectin was detected in blood vs 0.1% of the tomato lectin. The latter, taken up at a lower level of the intestinal villi by endocytosis than PHA, is retained in the liver and detoxified. The former can act on various organs of the body, carried by blood circulation." 

So I feel like progress has been made. More questions remain.
1. If cooking beans removes all toxins, why cut them out completely?
2. How much is your liver designed to process? 
3. What foods are above the "liver limit"?

( I also just noticed the actual speck check feature blogger provides. No excuse people, no excuse.)  

20 March 2011

the truth behind grain

During my Whole30 experience, Cliff has been asking a lot of questions about the scientific reason behind the Paleo diet. I am of course also interested not only for the obvious reason that I want to continue eating in this manner but also that I don't think you should do something without reason.

So here is my soapbox: if you lack purpose for an action then don't do it. Be excited about your life and the things you are involved in.  Do what makes you happy and do the best possible job you can at it. From the coolest president ever: 
"Whatever you are, be a good one."
Abraham Lincoln

Moving on, why does the paleo diet cut out grain?
(Please keep in mind I am not a nutritionist nor do I have any formal education in the following subject. Here is interesting information but please take it with the knowledge that again: I am a design student NOT a nutrition expert). 

According to this article, "avoiding grains", it's because grains contain the following bad guys in the food realm:

1. Phytates-part of the "antinutrient" group. The claim is that the phytates gang up on "calcium, magnesium, iron, copper and zinc" which are also hypothetically the nutrients the grain would provide to the body. It then acts as a bouncer to your digestive track. Not only does it deny access but it can storm through and kick out other nutrients already in the club. They are also said to hinder protein digestion. 

2. Lectins. These little d-bags are the reason peanuts, legumes and soy beans are cut from both Paleo and Whole30. These are said to wreck the microvilli. If you don't remember that from way back in 7th grade biology, then here is a little microvilli background:

They are described as "hair-like" structures that line the surface of the small intestine (for our purposes). I guess they are also in your ear but that is irrelevant for the discussion of protein absorption. They exist to increase surface area of the small intestine and therefore help with digestion. If you really want to get in depth, google image search for it. I tried to put a picture but people are really strangely strict with their microvillus copyrights. Watch out! Someone might use your biology diagram to learn! 

3. Gluten. The article states that in animal studies, gluten has irritated the digestive track every time. 

So I googled for hours and hours looking for scientific studies to fact check that article. While I'm putting my personal rants into blog form, let's pause on this topic for a second. If you have a blog and you are displaying information as correct you BETTER be fact checking it. If it's controversial, put that out there! Also, while we're on this, SPELL CHECK too! It's 2011. Most programs even underline misspelled words with red lines. Come on.

The findings:

1. Phytates. Incorrect. According to "Food Phytates" by N. R. Reddy and Shridhar K. Sathe, phytates will mostly be harmful to cases in third world countries where people are living off grain. In these cases, the phytates become a problem because they are consumed in much larger amounts with grain being the main nutrition source. 

In addition, red meats contain tons of iron which is making it subject for investigation as a carcinogen. In this case, phytates are possibly beneficial for removing some of the excess iron. Further research is being done to find the benefits of phytates.

Last to debunk: Paleo and Whole30 cut out peanuts, soy and legumes for the reasons above. But according to research of phytic acid by percent in certain foods, pumpkin and squash both contain 4% with soybeans only at 1.55%. (There are many more examples like that one).

2. Lectins. I think there is some substance here but it's been a challenge to dig up some hard facts. It's even harder to find specific applicable information. I'm going to keep looking and update this post further later but here is what I've got for now.

It seems pretty well agreed upon that lectins can be pretty resistant to removal (soaking, boiling, even stomach acid). It appears that the "avoiding grains" article was spot on with their assessment that lectins damage the small intestine through the microvilli and inhibit proper digestion and absorption. 

According to Dr. Laura Power, "Lectins can also disrupt carbohydrate absorption and metabolism. Lectins can reduce intestinal glucose uptake by 50%." (Read on here.) Another big problem for me is that in this research the following foods are listed that contain damaging lectins: coconut, bananas, celery, strawberries, salmon, and the list goes on. Clearly these are all paleo endorsed foods. This seems contradictory to me. 

One more little wrench to throw in the mix: "The irony of this is that high-lectin diets are also high-fiber and whole-grain diets, which contain more nutrients needed for better health. High-fiber diets have been associated with low incidence of bowel cancer, ischaemic heart disease, and diabetes." (Also from Dr. Power's information.)

Clearly, I have more research to sort through.