Pulled pork is one of my favorite things ever! So easy, too. I put a frozen pork butt (shoulder) in my Instant Pot with a cup of water, sea salt and smoky chili lime seasoning for 30 minutes per pound. Then I take out the meat, trim any fat I don’t want, shred it with 2 forks, and put it back in the pot with the juices and some added BBQ sauce so it stays juicy hanging out in the fridge (dried out pulled pork is no bueno). That’s all there is to it!
I was recently having a conversation with someone who sells health supplements regarding the veracity of clinical research. I was telling him that the conclusions reached by many applied researchers are often erroneous or at the very least incomplete due to methodology errors. It’s difficult to get a good picture of what’s happening in a human sample when one can only control several of the almost infinite number of variables that may influence the conclusions of the study. But that doesn’t stop researchers, then doctors and the press, from running with those erroneous conclusions and providing bad or incomplete information to patients and the public at large and reducing laypeople’s confidence in scientific studies.
A perfect example of this came into my inbox this morning, thanks to Mark Sisson, of Mark’s Daily Apple fame, who sends out musings on Sundays. He was unpacking a recent study that’s been talked about a lot lately from the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition. It was actually well done, as clinical trials go, but the conclusions leave us with many big questions – or should leave us with questions. The press has left us with the conclusions, “White Meat No Better Than Red Meat”, “Whether White or Red, You’ll Still Be Dead”, and “There’s No Escape: Even Chicken Kills”.
The researchers looked at the type of protein people were eating, either beef, chicken or plant protein, as well as the amount of saturated fat. Their aim was finding what was most risky for cardiovascular disease (CVD), but their measures constitute their first big flaws in the study. The biggest risk factors for CVD are now known to be triglyceride level (you make triglycerides from eating carbohydrates, which were not controlled in this study – everyone was eating a high-carb diet) and HDL level. The beef and chicken eaters had higher levels of large LDL particles, which have not been shown to impact CVD, but not higher levels of small, dense LDL, which are known to be problematic. So what can we conclude from this study? Not much, and nothing impactful.
Why would the researchers not control for carbohydrate intake, knowing the role triglycerides play in CVD? Because they went into the study thinking about how eating more meat or more saturated fat must cause CVD, and they set out to see if they were right. They set up the study to ignore the most important factor, carbohydrate intake. Anyone who is research-savvy and knowledgeable in this area, including the authors of this study, should see this huge confounding variable and not draw any conclusions until they do more research to test this. But, alas, they did not do that. So we are left with more questions at best and potentially fatal nutritional advice at worst.
From previous research in this area, we know that the effects of meat and saturated fat are dependent on the amount of carbohydrate one eats. Those on low-carb diets who eat plenty of meat and saturated fat don’t have the CVD risk factors that high-carb eaters do who also eat meat and saturated fat. Reducing the saturated fat in a high-carb eater’s diet improves some of their markers for CVD risk (e.g., cholesterol, which is no longer considered to be a risk factor, though most doctors aren’t aware of this because they don’t keep up on the latest), though some are made worse (e.g., triglycerides, HDL – now considered the most important ones). Additionally, high-carb diets are known to increase risk for (or flat-out cause) diabetes, obesity, and all related issues (joint problems, hormone imbalances, etc.), and increase symptoms of autoimmune and neurological diseases such as IBS, Crohn’s, Alzheimer’s, and Parkinson’s, among many others. Why take these risks with a high-carb, low-fat diet? Why increase triglycerides and lower HDL, giving you the highest risk for CVD, by eating a high-carb, low-fat diet? Why not just lower the carbs and lower your risk for all of these conditions?
This has been a methodological issue in many similar studies, but the medical and nutrition communities are not correcting it, so the research into these significant questions is done in fields such as bioenergetics, or the science of metabolism, which is more controlled research that gives us much more solid conclusions. And when you add in the political influence for a high-carb diet (think corn and soybean farming – if they were to fail our economy would fail), you can see how there might be a blind spot in the more publicized clinical trials. There are career-related strings attached to those trials.
We turn to science for the correct information about the way the world works. The problem is that laypeople don’t understand how science works. Not every study is proving something unequivocally, but rather is providing evidence for a theory, which may be correct or incorrect. A lot of different good studies from good labs give us the best picture of that is real and what we just want to see to get another publication or sell a product. We must pick apart the issues in our own and our peers’ studies to see what questions still must be answered to know what’s true. This isn’t always done well in one branch of research, so other researchers in other branches keep them honest. Replication of research is the name of the game, and basic and clinical research should be moving in that direction. In the field of nutrition, however, they are worlds apart and the clinical questions being raised are not being tested by the clinical research community; they are ignored. They seem more interested in finding evidence for their current low-fat, high-carb, plant-based dogma than answering the questions that are coming out of their research. Politics infests everything, including science. Thankfully, science has checks and balances, so we’ll eventually get to the truth. Until then we have to take what we hear with a grain of salt until we analyze the actual studies or look to people we trust to do that for us.
We’re hearing this a lot lately, that we should increase the plants in our diets and decrease the animal products, so I wanted to add my two cents. There is some correlational (relationship based, not causation) and some clinical (applied with many variables, not basic science) research that supports this idea. These studies tend to lump Big Macs (bun included) in with 100% grass-fed steaks, so there are big problems with this research. There are also studies that support the opposite. Like any other fad dietary change, the notion has taken off as gospel truth throughout all industries, and there are now many products to help us incorporate more plants into our diets or to decrease the effects of eating too many animals. It’s an incredibly lucrative industry, and it seems like everywhere I go I encounter people trying to sell me on the idea that their product or service can help me and my clients with the problems of eating too much meat and not enough plants.
First let me say that anyone eating the Standard American Diet (SAD) has to get off of the processed foods (including any fast or prepared foods) and eat real food of any kind, preferably cooked at home, and any move in this direction is a move in the direction of health. I don’t care what diet you’re following, if it is composed of real food your health will improve.
What are the effects on our bodies of moving to a more plant-heavy diet? The first thing people think of is getting more fiber to help with smoother elimination. I have clients come in all the time saying they are trying to eat more fiber to be healthier. I’ll talk more about fiber and gut health later, but one thing is becoming more and more clear: not everyone responds positively to a heavy-fiber diet. Fiber can actually have the opposite effect, gunking up the works, making elimination more difficult and uncomfortable. Plants are very hard to digest, which is why herbivores (plant-eaters) have very long intestines (and sometimes multiple stomachs) and carnivores (meat-eaters) have short intestines (human intestines, by the way, are somewhere in the middle, as we are omnivores, eating both meat and veg). You know all of those scary ads for colonics and whatnot that say that we have undigested meat in our bowels? Yeah, that doesn’t happen. Ask any nurse. The only undigested food found in bowels is plant matter. So why are doctors pushing fiber on us? Because with our SAD diet we don’t get enough to move all of the junk food through our bodies at a decent rate. Stop eating SAD foods and you won’t have this problem and won’t need to bump up the fiber.
Because meat is much more easily digested than plants, backing off of the amount of fibrous plants eaten can help normalize digestion and elimination. One of my clients had been eating a very plant-heavy diet her whole life with no processed foods and had gas and constipation that kept getting worse. What did her doctor do? Put her on Metamucil to add more fiber to her already extremely high-fiber diet. I encouraged her to reduce the plants and ease her way into eating more and more meat. She’s feeling better now for the first time. Increasing the fiber in one’s diet is not necessarily a good thing.
Another thing we know is that a plant-heavy diet drastically reduces the amount of protein that we consume. Consider that the best and only complete source of protein (that has all essential amino acids, or protein building blocks that we have to get from our diets) is quinoa. It takes 6 cups of quinoa to equal the protein we can get in a small steak or a bit larger piece of fish. Who eats that much quinoa? Nobody. Nor should they, just on the basis of carbohydrate toxicity, if nothing else.
There is debate in the clinical research community concerning how much protein we really need. The plant-promoting folks say we should eat less protein than we’re typically told we need, and there are some clinical studies to support this idea. The big scare about eating too much protein has to do with the metabolic pathway that is related to cancer growth. That is the same pathway (mTOR) that allows us to build muscle. It relies on our sugar-burning metabolic system rather than our fat-burning system, so proponents of ketogenic, or fat-burning, diets try not to eat much protein so they can stay in ketosis all the time. That’s why almost all ketogenic diet plans you’ll see have pretty low percentages of protein in their macronutrient allotments.
There are some problems with this approach, however. Dr. Ben Bikman on the basic science end and Dr. Gabrielle Lyon on the clinical end have been doing a fantastic job shining light on the importance of eating more protein, not less. On the basic science end, Bikman has shown in a series of wonderful studies that just because our liver can engage in gluconeogenesis to make sugars from proteins, it won’t do so unless it has a need to do so. So keto dieters need not limit the protein they ingest, because it won’t throw them out of ketosis. The evidence for this assertion keeps piling up. Likewise, those worried about feeding cancers and pre-cancers, which eat sugar almost exclusively, need not worry, either, as engaging the mTOR pathway won’t increase risk of cancer growth.
Dr. Lyon is a former figure competitor with extensive experience and expertise in the health of elite athletes and older populations. She is a muscle-centric physician who keeps up with both basic and clinical research. Muscle is the largest organ in the body, and it is metabolically active. Sarcopenia, or age-related muscle loss, is seen as a normal thing in our society, but it isn’t normal in the history of humans. Many chronic illnesses can be argued to start with sarcopenia, which changes our biochemistry to perpetuate those illnesses. Early in life, our hormones dictate the amount of muscle we have on our bodies. As we get into our 30s, however, muscle tissue is supported not as much by hormones as by protein intake, specifically complete proteins containing branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs). We need a certain amount of them to stimulate that mTOR pathway for muscle growth and maintenance. This may kick us out of ketosis briefly, but that’s normal. We shouldn’t be chasing ketones, anyway, but drifting in and out of ketosis as we shift from one metabolic pathway to another throughout the day. Our bodies evolved to use both pathways for metabolism, or they wouldn’t both be there. We should not be trying to shut one down completely. Dr. Lyon recommends eating at least 30 grams of complete protein (not including collagen) three times per day – more if you’re older or out of shape. There is really no practical way to get anywhere near that much protein from plants, unless we supplement with processed vegetable proteins (not a natural thing for humans to do). The bottom line is that the jury is still out when it comes to the amount of protein we need, but it’s looking like we may need more than we thought.
And that’s just muscle-supporting protein. We also need collagen for healthy hair, skin, nails, connective tissue and joints, which we make less of as we age and which we can only get from animals. There are no plant sources of collagen. We get it from eating the skin with our chicken, the membrane on the back of a rack of ribs – all animal protein has collagen packaged with it. It also has the healthiest, most easily digested fats packaged with it (no, animal fat does not cause heart disease or clogged arteries). Those fats are the necessary raw materials to make all of our cell membranes, hormones, nerves, etc. Going meat-free clearly does not constitute a diet for optimal human health.
Another argument for a plant-heavy diet is that an animal-heavy diet makes our bodies too acidic, which they say causes all kinds of chronic diseases. Plants alkalinize our bodies, which is healthier, they say. This scare also turns out not to have any basic research behind it. Our ancestors ate varying amounts of plants and animals, sometimes almost exclusively one or the other, depending on what food sources were available, and no chronic illness existed. None. Different parts of our bodies need to be kept at different pH levels or we die, so our bodies have mechanisms to keep our pH levels right where they need to be for optimal body functioning, regardless of the amount of plants or animals we’re eating. If eating a meat-heavy diet made any part of our bodies so acidic that we wound up with a chronic illness, humans likely would have died out many, many years ago. What we know precipitates chronic illness is stress coupled with toxins, including high carbohydrate intake, or infection. This acidity argument, in short, makes no sense.
Then there’s the gut microbiome argument. Now here’s something to consider! We are only 10% human genes – the other 90% are bacterial. We are walking bags of bugs and would not survive otherwise. We have to feed those beneficial bugs so that we stay healthy, and they really, really like probiotics, or fiber, from plants. If we do not feed them, they die and other, not-so-beneficial and potentially harmful bugs take their place. These bad bugs like Big Macs and fries. They also like sugar and chemical-laden Frankenfoods, like honey buns and Snickers bars. What we feed ourselves in part determines what bugs are there, and we want more of the helpful ones and less of the bad ones. This probably also greatly impacts chronic disease, though the science on this is very new. But here again, some of our ancestors didn’t eat lots of plants to feed their good bugs and had no chronic illness. Today, there are many people with autoimmune conditions who cannot eat some plants or any plants at all if they wish to stay symptom-free. There is no research on carnivore (all meat) diets, yet, but there are too many people benefitting from this way of eating to make the bug argument air-tight – unless those bugs also really like a good 100% grass-fed steak.
So where does that leave us? Eating the greatest variety of plants and animals – real food, raised naturally, not by corporate farms that deplete the nutrition in the soil and in the food – logically gives us the most nutrients to feed our good bugs and give us the protein we need. When we get rid of the Frankenfood and the grains and beans that we never really evolved to digest effectively, we might feel great with all of the meat and veg/fruit we want. We may need to back off of the fruit due to the extreme and unnatural sugar content of modern fruits. Some of us may still not feel optimal, though, so we may need to back off of nightshade and/or FODMAP veggies or even stop eating all plants entirely. Or if you feel better eating less meat and more plants, do that. A very cool thing happens when we eat real food: we are more tuned in to what our bodies tell us they like or don’t like. Eat everything that your body tells you it likes and don’t eat what makes it feel uncomfortable in any way. Your body should be the final authority that you listen to, not anyone else.
Starting my day as I always do – with an iced coffee that contains 32 g protein (a mix of whey, casein and collagen). I put some ice in my shaker cup, pour in 10 oz freshly brewed coffee, add a scoop of BSN Syntha-6 Chocolate Cake Batter (or any flavor you want, any brand you like) and a scoop of Primal Kitchen Grass-fed Collagen Peptides, shake, and top it off with more ice. So much better than Starbucks!!!
I use a combination of whey and casein proteins to get the branched-chain amino acids (BCAAs) I need to feed my muscles over the course of several hours. The collagen doesn’t help build or maintain muscle, but it is essential for healthy hair, skin, nails, joints, etc. We need more of both types of proteins as we get older, so I start the day supplementing both. I’ve never been a breakfast eater but love a big iced mocha in the morning, so this is a great way to start each and every day.
For someone who always hated cauliflower, it’s amazing how I eat these pancakes almost every day! I make them a couple of different ways: sweet and savory. They’re both delicious.
I start with ricing a whole head of cauliflower (or you can use riced cauliflower in a bag) and mixing it with 2 eggs and some sea salt. Then I divide the mixture into 4 equal servings and refrigerate 3 of them. I fry up one slice of bacon extra crispy, remove the bacon from the pan and add the cauliflower mixture to the bacon grease, patting it into a round pancake shape. I let it cook until the edges are brown and it slides easily in the pan, then flip it over and let it cook on the other side for a bit.
Half of the time it falls apart spectacularly, but it doesn’t matter – it still works out great! I put it on a plate and top with the bacon.
If I want sweet, I’ll add some more bacon, pulled pork or breakfast sausage and some sugar-free maple syrup (I like Lakanto).
If I want savory, I love to add a scrambled egg, guacamole and sprouts for a sort of avocado toast dish (pictured above).
Get creative and add whatever you want. It’s a really versatile thing. Want more protein? I sometimes add unflavored whey or collagen peptides to the “batter” and it works out great. Enjoy!
I love soup, and it’s so easy to make. Want a meal fast but don’t have anything made? No problem! Put some bone broth in a pot and add meat (can cook in the soup or be pre-cooked) and veggies and season to taste. That’s it!
For the chicken zoodle soup above (one serving just for me), I put a cup of chicken bone broth in a small stock pot and added 5 oz of cooked chicken breast, a cup of chopped spinach, 2 oz of zucchini noodles and 1/4 cup of diced fire-roasted canned tomatoes. I seasoned it with Jane’s Crazy Salt and heated through – just a few minutes. Muy delicioso!
I also love the combination of pork breakfast sausage, chopped butternut squash (I buy it frozen) and chopped kale. Throw together whatever you like. Great way to use up leftovers!
Not only do you get great nutrition from the meat and veg, but you get collagen from the bone broth. Collagen nourishes your skin, hair, nails, and joints, and you get it whenever you eat the skin and connective tissue of your meat. Just make sure it’s “bone broth”, not plain ol’ “broth”, which is made from muscle tissue that has no collagen in it. You can buy it at the store or make your own with bones you buy at the store. I love buying a seasoned rotisserie chicken, eating the meat or using it in a pot of soup or something, then boiling the rest of the carcass, skin and all, for several hours. I’ll strain it, toss the chicken parts, let it cool, and then skim off the fat to save in the freezer for cooking. What’s left is liquid gold, already seasoned. Put in containers and freeze til you need it for soup or other recipes. Easy peasy! 🙂
Done torturing yourself trying to adhere to that new hyped diet and/or exercise plan? Good! Time to get serious and take steps toward metabolic flexibility and optimal gene expression – in a word, longevity. Let’s turn off those chronic illness genes – or keep you from turning them on in the first place. When you’re in fat-burning mode these are the bennies you get, and then some.
Start down this path by making some easy, comfortable changes of your choice. For the next 21 days, you’ll make a change a day in one of ten different aspects of your life. This is not one-size-fits-all. You’ll get to choose what exact changes to make and how much to change them, so that you won’t feel any suffering or deprivation, and you’ll have an easier time maintaining these changes long-term. Even little changes in the right direction can make profound improvements in your health.
Participants are encouraged to share ideas, successes, recipes, support each other, ask questions, and help each other work out what to do or how to do it. Find an exercise buddy. Have a cooking party. Let’s get creative and have fun!
There will be NO COUNTING CALORIES, NO STRUCTURED WORKOUTS, NO DIET PILLS and NO EQUIPMENT TO PURCHASE. I want you to be free of all of that nonsense and fit the changes you make into a convenient revised lifestyle that doesn’t disrupt your life but rather enhances it. This is all about easy, because nobody loves easy more than me! 🙂
We’d love to have you join us! Just go to THIS Facebook group and request to join, and you’re in! It formally starts on February 4, but we’ve already started interacting in the group – feel free to do so, as well.
Take a breather from the calorie counting, macro tracking and rigid workout schedules to focus on making some gradual changes as you feel like making them, all while taking it easy and enjoying your life. My philosophy is simple: work with your body, not against it. It’s amazing how often we get in our own way when trying to live healthier lives. Sometimes we need to outsmart our brains to do what’s best for us.
This is a book of body/mind goals to help you move toward optimal gene expression at your own pace, moving a little more toward each goal as you can, so you feel better and have more energy every day and no feelings of deprivation or suffering. Get out of a dieter’s mindset and into a mindset of longevity with this simple guide. No research or expert opinion to wade through here; I’ve already done that footwork for you. This is a quick reference for those who want to cut to the chase and just know what they should start working toward, in their own way at at their own time.
This course is interactive, so just leave comments or questions at the bottom of any lesson and they will be answered! Use the last section of the class to keep yourself accountable, too – an accountability buddy will always be there for you! You can also request that certain information be included in the lessons, and I’ll be happy to do so. I’ll be continually updating the course with new tips, tricks, information, recipes and anything else I think might be helpful or fun!
Whether you’re wanting to start on the right road to optimum health or tweak the road you’re already on, this course will give you the tools you need to be successful.
Learn more and get started HERE!
Here’s another “kitchen sink” dish that I love to make with whatever I have on hand!
Fathead dough is a wonderful thing. You can make anything with it – pizza crust, bagels, cinnamon rolls – all of the great comfort foods that carbaholics miss after going keto!
Preheat oven to 425 degrees. Combine in a large, microwave-safe bowl:
Microwave for 1 minute, stir, then microwave for another 30 seconds. Stir until mixed well, then add:
Turn out onto a baking sheet with a nonstick surface and pat into a thin, round pizza shape. Bake for 12 minutes or until lightly brown. Add pizza sauce, mozzarella and any toppings you’d like. Sprinkle lightly with dried oregano and sea salt. Put back into the oven for 5 minutes or until cheese melts.