Tuesday, June 30, 2015

It's a matter of balance


I spent some time introducing carbohydrates, fats and proteins, their roles in the body and the importance of each of them in a balanced diet. I haven’t yet discussed what balance means, and that will be the topic of this long article.

The following chart describes the ideal ratio between the macronutrients, based on caloric intake. Remember, we are speaking about the ratio (percentage) of the macronutrients, not their absolute caloric contribution.


This is the theory, according to biochemical individuality and actual needs, people require different ratios. You can’t obviously compare the carbohydrate requirements of a desk-jockey with that of an endurance runner. Or of a person with Type-II insulin-dependent diabetes with a person who is insulin resistant. Nor the requirements for fats of an individual who followed a low-fat diet for years and needs now to renourish themselves. However it is a good starting point and the personalized ratios don’t vary excessively from it.

The first thing that is evident is that there is a certain balance between the macronutrients. The more you reduce one, the more the other two (or worse, one of the two) will expand to fill the pie-chart.

Proteins

As a rule of the thumb, a healthy person whose purpose in life is to keep staying healthy, should never limit their proteins intake under 0.8g/Kg of lean body weight mass. In an ideal world there are no sedentary people, so the previous is just a lower limit. Active and sportive people may require from 1.2 to 1.5 g/Kg of good quality proteins.

People training for competitions, trying to build muscle mass or ectomorph individuals (like me) should keep around 2g/Kg. Eating more than that has proven to be useless as well as expensive. Proteins are the most important macronutrient I introduced so far and every diet should revolve around an adequate and regular intake of good quality sources of the same. Once the need for proteins is satisfied, we can move other macronutrients.

Fats

The second most important nutrient are fats, for all the reasons I already mentioned: some of them are essential or conditionally essential, they satiate, they are a long lasting source of clean fuel for the body, are the building blocks of cell membranes and of many hormones, make food taste good and (as bizarre as it seems) won’t make you fat.

Carbohydrates

Last but not least carbs. Touted both as the base of the pyramid or alternatively the cause of all diseases in the world, carbs play major roles in the body so they are important… but not essential. I personally prefer to use them to make up for the missing calories for the day after I ensured an adequate intake of the essential nutrients.

Carbohydrates, when taken in an after-workout meal (and not as pre-workout snack), refill the stores of glycogen in the muscles and the liver: there is no risk of insulin resistance, and therefore no fattening or reactive hypoglycemia. Additionally the insulin produced by the temporary increase of blood sugar levels will also have anabolic effects and will help the body use proteins to repair the tissues.

Finally, carbohydrates should be eaten together with proteins and fats (more on juicing and smoothies in future posts). Proteins and fats slow down the absorption of carbs thus reducing even more blood sugar spikes and insulin production, and ensure that the same are used properly.

Breaking the ratio

What happens when we break the 30/30/40 ratio in one meal? Unless there are serious underlying conditions (diabetes, chronic renal failure, thyroid issues, etc), probably nothing.
What happens if we disrupt it regularly, meaning: we adopt a particular regimen or lifestyle that systematically limits or exaggerates the intake of one or two macronutrients? This is what I will discuss now, with specific examples.

Low-fat diets (the typical do-it-yourself diet)

By their own definition, low-fat diets reduce the intake of fats. This is done to honor the wrong pre-concepts that:
  • fats will make you fat
  • fats cause heart disease
  • fats raise cholesterol levels
  • fats cause diabetes
  • fats can “anyway” be produced by our bodies in the correct amount if needed
Okay, you convinced me: let’s reduce fats. How do we get to 2000KCal per day? We don’t have many alternatives, so it is either proteins or carbohydrates (or alcohol... yes the high-alcohol diet really exists).

High-protein diets are not sustainable in the long term as already mentioned: the waste products of the catabolism of proteins put a heavy burden on the kidneys who are in charge of eliminating them. You can occasionally feast at a BBQ party, or eat more proteins to recover from a ironman competition in order to repair the damaged tissues, but you can’t overeat chicken breast and egg whites every day.

High-carbohydrate diets, this is what we have been brought to believe is safe and healthy: the base of the infamous pyramid is a monoblock of carbohydrates. If you are eating low-fat, be reassured: you are bingeing on sugars and starches. If you don’t believe me, just try to do your math on one of the many websites or smartphone apps which calculate your ratios. Regular and prolonged high intake of carbohydrates, especially from high-glycemic load sources, have been linked to:
  • diabetes
  • insulin resistance
  • obesity (it is not the fats)
  • high LDL cholesterol levels
  • triglycerides
  • chronic fatigue
Fats have multiple roles in the body, other than being a source of calories that's why I insist so much on them.

Low-carb diets (Atkins, Dukan, LCHF, mis-interpretations of the paleo diet, etc)

Low-carb-high-fat diets are quite popular nowadays and the reason is evident: when it comes to weight loss they can’t be beaten.  For some therapeutic purposes they are beneficial and even required, for example in a sugar-detox diet.

But proud owner of a six-pack does not mean healthy, and LCHF diets should be properly prescribed and supervisioned.

The quality itself and variety of the fats is important and can make the difference. When people decide to opt for a high-fat diet, they erroneously assume that any fat will do. Some will focus on specific fats, with coconut oil (saturated) being the trend these days. Or that they can ignore the correct balance of the different fatty acids (see below).

Low-protein diets (vegetarian/vegan diets)

I can feel tsunami of hate heading towards me. That’s good, because it means my provocation has been successful. As I mentioned in the beginning, I am always speaking about ratio, not absolute intake. I don’t (and will never) claim that vegans cannot get enough proteins, because it is not true. Anyhow they DO get too many carbs, often exceeding their actual needs.

Despite their noble efforts in favor of animal welfare, vegans and vegetarians are not exempted from eating their daily share of proteins. Their sources may not always be optimal: there are indeed plant-based sources of proteins, some being of good quality, but plants (seeds, pulses, etc) contain plenty of carbohydrates as well.

Although the health-conscious attitude of vegans brings them to make choices that are generally healthier (no sodas, no refined sugars, ...) the ratio is unfavorably pending towards carbs. In addition, no respectable vegan eats just lentils alone, three times per day, but also some vegetables, fruits, etc: the ratio carbs/proteins drastically raises.

In short, a vegan diet which eliminates eggs and dairy is high-carbohydrate diet. With the potential long term risks I already listed.

Fatty acids balance (SFA, MUFA, ω3/ω6)

The ideal ratio of the different types of fatty acids is resumed in the following diagram:


Confused? I hope so.

The monounsaturated fats (in green, like oil of olive) occupy the biggest portion of the graph and to those already into nutrition this should sound familiar: oil of olive, avocado, sunflower, cashew nuts, macadamia nuts,  fats from grass-fed animals, etc. It is a matter of fact that the Mediterranean Diet (the true one) is still considered one of the best.

Saturated fats (in yellow, like butter) take 30% of the pie, sources are: coconut products, red palm oil, butter, ghee and animal fats. This probably came as surprise, especially for those who believe that saturated fats will clog your arteries (they won't). It is however less that what some paleo-dieters would eat on a daily base from coconut sources. There are important reasons why our daily intake of SFA should be around one third (and not 0% or worse >60%), and this will be discussed soon: there is simply not enough room left here.

Polyunsaturated fats (pink for salmon, brown for nuts) are only 10%, with a ideal 1:1 balance between ω3 and ω6. This is in clear contrast with the guidelines of the last fifty years which promoted the alleged superior benefits of vegetable oils (mais, canola, soy, ...) over animal fats. It also redimensions the ratio ω3:ω6 which, were we to follow the official guidelines, would be 1:20 or even more, with an excessive unbalance towards the ω6.

Help!!!

If at first look everything seems so complicated, relax: eating healthy does not involve entering every bite you eat into an Excel Spreadsheet to calculate amounts and ratios. There is an easy way to it and it's called Traditional Diets.

Thanks...

If you made to the end of the post, thanks. It was a long one and particularly full of information. I hope you enjoyed reading it at least as much as I enjoyed writing it. I stay available on the comments area for any doubt you may have.

In the following days I will continue with the general recommendations, more interesting stuff to come so... stay tuned!

Saturday, June 27, 2015

Macronutrients: proteins


There is a myth that is dangerously spreading in some circles today, that “anyway we eat too many proteins”. Some invoke health issues, others environmental concerns (which in any case are being proven wrong).

I noticed a curious thing: the sentence is always reported exactly this way, with a leading “anyway” which supposedly validates the statement by giving the impression that this is the deeply pondered outcome of a longer analysis.

In reality the sentence is just repeated as-is and nobody ever cares to check how much of this is true. Just look around at other people’s plates or even yours: unless you happen to be attending a BBQ party or a post-workout dinner with a group of crossfitters in a brazilian churrascaria, the reality is that "people eat too many carbs". Anyway.

Good sources of proteins are fundamental

I mentioned that carbohydrates are an important macronutrient and that low-carb or zero-carb diets, although interesting under certain aspects, are not meant to replace a well-balanced diet, especially on the long term. I will however come back on this topic with more detailed explanations.

Fats are even more important than carbohydrates, with some being essential or conditionally essential.

What about proteins? Proteins are long chains of amino acids. There are 20 amino acids in nature. Of these 20 building blocks, 9 are essential and 6 more are conditionally essential. Just like it happens for the fats, the requirements of the conditionally essential ones vary from individual to individual and depend on special pathophysiological conditions and sometimes genetics.

Not all protein sources are made equal, some have a well balanced composition of aminoacids, some others are unbalanced or even missing some of the essentials. In short, just like with fats, quality matters.

Unlike fats, amino acids cannot be stored efficiently by the body and must therefore be introduced regularly through one’s diet on a daily basis. In reality, for optimal health, there should be a source of proteins at every meal (more on this).

Excellent sources of complete proteins include animal sources, this shouldn't come as a surprise: eggs, meat (both muscle tissue and internal organs), fish and dairy products. Good sources of proteins also exist in the vegetal kingdom, they include:
  • pulses (beans, chickpeas, lentils, peas, fenugreek, ...)
  • nuts (almonds, pecams, wallnuts, hezelnuts, brazilnuts, ...)
  • seeds (pumpkin seeds, pineseeds, chiaseeds, flaxseeds, ...)
  • cereals (wheat, oat, rye, ...)
  • pseudo-grains (millet, quinoa, amaranth, buckwheat...)
Soy, a favourite amongst vegetarians and vegans, is a problematic source of proteins with several drawbacks. I will dedicate a number of articles on this because I want to empower people with good information and the current information about soy is not good at all.

Requirements, not an easy answer

Failure to introduce and to properly digest and absorb enough high quality amino acids to satisfy the requirements, forces the organism to satisfy the needs for proteins through the downregulation of some processes, or via catabolism. Catabolism is the destruction of your own muscular tissues to obtain aminoacids, which are then used either as energy (gluconeogenesis) or in metabolic processes. In short, your body will eventually eat meat: yourself. I guess you never saw it in this way, I know what you are thinking right now and I agree: it’s creepy.

On the other side, eating too many proteins puts a lot of stress on the kidneys which are in charge of eliminating the nitrogenous waste products (carbamide) of the metabolism of proteins. These extra proteins, those not used in physiological processes or in building/repairing processes, will be either converted into glycogen and burnt as an overly expensive source of energy or converted to fat and stored.
Which means in other words: too many proteins won’t make you more muscular, just fatter. In case you were wondering why your protein shake isn’t delivering that six-pack.

How many to eat, then?

I shouldn't repeat it, but this is another example of biochemical individuality. We all agree that adolescents and athletes need more than adults and couch potatoes. The requirements of the elderlies is less, but that’s just the theory: in reality, considering that they may have an impaired absorption, the intake would reasonably be the same as a healthy adult.

It gets confusing so I prefer to close here: the role of this post is just to introduce the macronutrient proteins and to raise awareness on the importance of good quality sources of them same. I will spend a lot of time presenting the details of this interesting and once again controversial subject.

For the time being I prefer to list the...

Roles of proteins in the body

Similarly to carbohydrates and fats, proteins have multiple roles. Examples are:
  • Proteins are the building blocks for tissues (muscles, bones, nervous system, blood, etc)
  • Antibodies (immune system) are made of proteins
  • Enzymes are made of proteins
  • Some hormones are made of proteins
  • Proteins, like other essential nutrients, satiate: you will keep craving food as long as you haven't had your requirements
  • As already mentioned, proteins are also a source of energy

Starting from the next post I will start discussing some general guidelines to healthy eating, proper ratios and common errors. There will be place for myth busting, too. Things get practical, always keeping an eye on the theory, so... stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

Macronutrients: fats


Here comes my favorite macronutrient: fats. Or more properly, fatty acids.

This is for sure the most controversial topic in nutrition, that’s the reason why in this post I will just introduce some basic information and will dedicate the space required to be as comprehensive and exhaustive as possible for each point in another moment. I said my objective is to empower people and I believe this is particularly true when it comes to fats.

Types of fatty acids

Depending on their chemical structure, which I won’t discuss now, fatty acids can be classified as:
  • Saturated (coconut oil, red palm kernel oil, butter, dairy ghee, cocoa butter)
  • Monounsaturated (oil of olive, avocado, macadamia, lard fat)
  • Polyunsaturated ω-3 (oily fish, fat from grass-fed beef, flax/chia and relative oils)
  • Polyunsaturated ω-6 (nuts, pulses, seeds)
  • Trans/Hydrogenated  (margarines, spreads, butter substitutes, etc)
Fun fact: this is what margarine becomes if you hydrogenate it too much.

Important consideration

Any fat, butter or oil is made of a mix of different fatty acids, so the above classification is just indicative. For example, although coconut oil is made of 92% by SFA, making it the most saturated of all naturally occurring fats, there is still a decent 8% of unsaturated component. Other examples are less extreme however each fat or oil has a predominant component.

Good fats and bad fats?

The question is once again a trap: there is no such thing as a good fat or a bad fat. With the exception of trans and hydrogenated fats which are man-made and which I personally don’t consider fats at all but rather plastic, all the others are healthy in the ambit of a diet which includes them in a properly balanced ratio. This last observation is particularly addressed both to those readers who still avoid saturated fats because of some highly flawed studies from the 60ies, and to those who only use coconut products in their preparations because they are the trend now.

The way fats and oils are produced, stored and used in your preparations is also extremely important and makes quite a difference on how our body will respond. I will dedicate an individual post for each of them to discuss their nutritional roles and optimal use in the kitchen. With practical examples (recipes).

Essential Fatty Acids (EFA)

While our bodies can easily manufacture fats (I think I heard some sighs), there are some specific fatty acids for which we, as humans, do not have the instructions in our DNA to produce and therefore need to assimilate regularly through foods that contains them. They are the Linoleic Acid (LA, ω-6) and the Alfa-Linolenic Acid (ALA, ω-3). Some sources refer to them as Vitamin F, to enforce their importance.
Sources of LA include most seeds and nuts and relative oils, for example sunflower, safflower, evening primrose, hemp, walnut, sesame.
ALA can be found in chia seeds, kiwifruit seeds, flax seeds and flaxseed oil, or oily fish.

Some fatty acids are considered Conditionally Essential, they are DHA and EPA (both ω-3). Some people can manufacture them from the ALA but they apparently are a minority. Most people cannot or do it inefficiently: for them DHA and EPA are to be considered essential. The reason is still being investigated but the suspect is that there is a strong genetic component.
DHA and EPA can be found in good quality animal sources like grass-fed beef and oily fish.

Roles of fats in the body

Like carbohydrates, fats have long been associated with calories. That’s actually the reason people check how many lipids a yoghurt contains before buying it (big-big-big mistake!).
The existence of essential fatty acids and conditionally essential ones should already had planted a seed of doubt in your minds. That’s a good starting point because fats are not just 9KCal/g.
Roles of fats:
  • fats improve the taste of food, this should be enough to make anybody a fan
  • fats are a steady and long lasting source of energy
  • fats slow down the absorption of sugars (thus reducing blood sugar spikes)
  • fats satiate and reduce the tendence to snaking
  • fats are required for the absorption of fat soluble vitamins (A, D, E and K)
  • fats are a required component for the structure of the cells membranes
  • fats are required for the regulation of inflammation processes in the body
  • fats are the precursors of some hormones
  • fat constitute a cushion against shocks for internal organs
  • the fat layer in our body is also metabolically active and like a gland can produce hormones
In other words: fats are more than calories and are not negotiable if the objective is optimal health.

Final word for those who still don’t know: eating fats doesn’t make you fat (hint: sugars do). Yes, we have been lied all these years as I will explain in future posts so… stay tuned!

Sunday, June 21, 2015

Macronutrients: carbohydrates


There are two major classes of nutrients: macronutrients and micronutrients.

Macronutrients include Carbohydrates, Fats, Proteins and Water. They are called macro because our daily requirements of them is big, in the order of several grams for the first three, up to liters (and so kilograms) in the case of water. With the exception of carbohydrates, which our body can produce through several metabolic processes, the other three are essential and must be supplied regularly through a balanced diet.

Vitamins and Minerals are the so called micronutrients. Micronutrients are required in traces, nevertheless they are fundamental for health. One notable example is vitamin B12 which, although the requirements are in the order of micrograms (millionth parts of a gram per day), its deficiency is pernicious and subtle, especially in growing kids.

Another example is iodine, a mineral. Chronic deficiency of iodine or bad absorption of the same impairs the correct production of thyroid hormones and causes goiter (enlargement of the thyroid gland itself).

In this post I will introduce the carbohydrates. The post doesn’t have the pretention to be complete, there is really too much to say. It is just and introductory post and I will share more on this extremely important and controversial subject in the incoming articles.

Types of carbohydrates

Depending on their complexity, carbohydrates are generally classified as:

  • simple sugars: monosaccharides,  disaccharides (white table sugar, brown sugar, honey, maple syrup, agave nectar, fruits juices, sodas, candies, ...)
  • starch sugars (rice, white bread, pasta, pizza crust, cookies, yellow potatoes, ...)
  • resistant starches (plantain, banana, sweet potatoes, jerusalem artichokes, cold pasta...)
  • soluble fiber (legumes, oats, rye, chia seeds, sweet potatoes, onions, nuts, ...)
  • insoluble fiber (whole grains, lettuce, cabbage, beets greens, the peel of most fruits, ...)
I will discuss more and in detail with regard to the different roles of each.

Carbohydrates, friend of foe?

If you’ve read my previous posts it should be clear that the question is a trap.

The infamous FDA pyramid recommended a consistent intake of carbohydrates in the form of grains. Recent advertisements in Europe recommend that we continuously snack fruits throughout the day. Industrial dog food itself is being filled with carbs “to give your puppy more energy to play”. These have been the official guidelines for the last 50 years and instilled us the dogma that sugars are good, so white.

On the other side anybody familiar with diabetes, either directly or through a relative, knows that chronic excess in the intake of carbohydrates dramatically raises the risk to develop this disease. So it looks like sugar is black. Additionally I just mentioned that carbohydrates (under the form of glycogen) can be produced by our body so why bothering eating them at all? Let’s go low-carb or even better: zero-carb!

This practice, pretty much in vogue amongst paleo adepts, is a huge mistake and, while it is true that in today’s society we eat too much sugar, they are an important macronutrient which belongs to our genetic heritage. Pretty much like its abuse, the chronic low intake may have important health impacts, as I will have the opportunity to explain in future posts.

Roles of carbohydrates in the body

To finish this introductory article on carbohydrates, some words on the roles.
We have been taught to see carbohydrates uniquely as source of energy. Eat some candies to fuel the brain when you feel mentally tired and foggy, eat a bowl of pasta before running a marathon, etc. This is very unfortunate because in reality carbohydrates are more than that.
Roles of carbohydrates in the body include:

  • source of quick energy for the muscles (this stays)
  • required source of energy for some of the activities of the brain
  • regulation of protein and fat metabolism
  • help fight infections and modulate the immune system 
  • lubricate the joins
  • regulation of the growth of tissues, such as bones and skin
  • eating the right sugars and the right time improves insulin sensitivity
  • resistant starches and soluble fiber are required for the health of large intestine
  • insoluble fiber helps slow down the absorption of other nutrients and to eliminate the waste

Well, seems like sugars are worth more than just calories...

The next macronutrient I will introduce are the fats, an even more controversial topic, so… stay tuned!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

One size to fit them all

Before I start writing the first articles on nutrition topics, I think I need this additional short post to introduce another very diffused behavior people adopt when choosing a diet, may it be for life or for just for getting ready for summer. The one size fits all.

There is a huge number of diets out there, both traditional and recently defined by MDs and nutritionists. Try to organize a catering with 20 invitees from different countries and different ages and you’ll see what I mean: you must make sure there are gluten/lactose/nut free options, vegetarian and vegan alternatives, non-alcoholic drinks, diabetic-friendly food choices, etc. And they were just twenty.

Almost all diets have a body of evidence to support their claims, this is particularly true for traditional diets, some with generations of success stories dating back to centuries if not millennia.
However, while some people can stay healthy (read: lack of illness) and there are cases for each diet of people thriving (read: optimal health), for others it doesn’t work and in some cases it is a total disaster, with potentially serious implications.

The explanations usually given tend to blame the dieter (s/he didn’t do it correctly): of course it is never the diet. Or, if you belong to another faith, yes: it was definitely the diet. Black or White, again.

Biochemical individuality

How can two diets which are at the exact opposites both work? And why doesn’t the same diet systematically work for everybody?

What we forget is that we are not all clones of one pair of humans born 200K years ago. Everybody is different, both because of our genetic heritage, the environment we live in of course, the way we lived our lives so far, the age... We have therefore different needs: things do not work the same for everybody and sometimes it is at a molecular level. I have an interesting article with concrete examples in my head what I will surely publish during the next weeks.

Common guidelines

Is there such a thing as an optimal diet? Yes, indeed!

Everybody, in every specific period of their life, has different but specific needs: growing kids, adolescence, getting ready for or sustaining a pregnancy, breastfeeding, preparing a competition, recovering from a competition, detoxifying from a previous bad diet, healing from traumas or illnesses, etc.

Things are not perforce complicated and for healthy people, those not requiring specific actions,  there are some common guidelines. This will be the topic of my next posts, things start getting interesting so… stay tuned!

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Nutritional manichaeism

Do you remember the scene in Star Wars III where Obi-Wan Kenobi says to Anakin Skywalker that "only a Sith deals in absolutes"? I can't think of a better example of absolute statement. The adverb only puts a heavy burden on the affirmation.


What is going on here? Is Obi-Wan himself a Sith? Maybe in a moment of weakness he turned to the Dark Side just for those five seconds needed to pronounce the declaration, but then I would see a problem with this: to make a correct statement he had become a bad guy!

Or he misquoted himself and actually what he meant was that "A Sith deals only in absolutes", while Jedis have a higher level of consciousness because their thinking in not obfuscated by the Dark Side of the Force, so they have the unique privilege to decide when it is appropriate to make an absolute statement and when it is not. Again there is a problem as the fact that young Skywalker is dealing in absolutes right now does not imply that he turned to the Dark Side (correlation is not causation, I'll discuss a lot about this).

My explanation is simpler, Master Kenobi is wrong and Jedi Knights as well deal in absolutes just like anybody else. This is because he is human and humans have the bad habit of making things either Black or White.

Black or White

Nutrition is the most controversial of sciences and there are countless examples of such manicheistic dogmas: saturated fats and cholesterol have been demonized for long enough to give us sufficient case studies to prove how a diet low in these two important nutrients does not promote optimal health. This does not mean that from now on you are allowed to binge on coconut products either.

Fish oil has been touted as a panacea which, in the ambit of today's diets containing an excess of omega-6 fatty acids from vegetable oils and grain-fed beef, doesn't even sound a bad idea. But proponents forget to mention that there is indeed a risk in having too much fish oil. Yes, you can overdo omega-3 pretty much like you overdo omega-6.

Milk is bad. I read researches about the nefast effects of milk, being accused to promote cancer, osteoporosis, inflammation, autoimmune disease, etc. It is also one of the few topics where vegans and paleo dieters peacefully agree. Again, most of these studies are seriously flawed or employ a cherry-picking strategy to prove a dogma. And I'll show why.

Red meat, that's a typical example of one thing that is either black or white and in fact no, it is just red. Anybody in their right mind will swear that red meat is bad, that’s why I am happy to think with what is left of my mind (be patient, I like word games).

Grains!!! That’s the warfare horse of the paleo diet, but also of raw vegans and glutenphobics. While I totally agree that modern wheat “has some problems” and am myself not a big consumer of cereals, there are some important points to be discussed both on grains themselves and on the allegedly healthier alternatives.

The list can continue forever and I need to close the post, I’d just like to mention one last trend very popular these days, which is the low-carb, the aversion to sugars and the glycemic index diets in general. This topic too will be extensively discussed, so stay tuned!

Sunday, June 14, 2015

My vocation


Yet another blog on nutrition? You bet! And the reason is simple: as I look around to the latest tendencies, I see a very dangerous derive in that domain. After spending almost a decade learning (mostly from mistakes) I feel the time has come. My role is to inform. The better I will do it, the more people I will be able to deliver the message to, the best I will have fulfilled my vocation. Hence a blog.

The current situation and the alternatives

The first and most important thing is to realize that the official guidelines are wrong. Period. For more than half a century we have been proposed nutritional advice that simply don't work and for the most part are themselves the root cause of the ailments, symptoms and diseases (even chronic ones) that plagued the second half of the previous century and wide opened the door to an even worse century to come. It is a matter of fact that people are sick and sicker, fat and fatter. Chronic fatigue anyone? We are constantly performing funambolic drills on the edge that separates health and disease and we congratulate ourselves when we manage to go out in a windy day without getting cough. This doesn't mean thriving, this means surviving.

I don't want to investigate the political or economical reasons that brought us to this disaster. Although it would be educative to see how did we mess it up, I am not interested in fighting the old. I find it more useful to build the new. And the new happens to start very far in the past, from our genetic heritage. For those who still haven't yet understood, I am speaking about the paleo diet although this is probably one of the last times I will use this word in my posts.

Paleo? Cavemen? Cro-magnon?

The paleo diet is a great starting point. Unfortunately no matter how good a starting point is, you can always go to the wrong direction, and that's exactly what I see these days. I do not agree with the dogmatic approach proposed by some authors or top commenters. My impression is that people are playing with fire: there are no long term studies on the paleo diet, at least not in the way people are currently interpreting it. What? We did it for 6 million years? I disagree. Almond muffins exist since a decade at most and be ready to hear the bitter truth about your favorite sweet treat (pun intended): chances are that they are less healthy than properly prepared muffins.

Green mania

My analysis wouldn't be complete if I didn't spend time speaking about other trends, such as the vegan diet. What I appreciate (because there is a lot to appreciate) and what are the errors. Ironically, the root cause of the issues with the vegan diet is the same as with paleo: dogmatism, conveniently disguised into science based facts, cherry picking of statistical results and anecdotal reports.

What can you expect from this blog?


  • Valid, reliable and undogmatic information. This is my first and most important engagement: information is power and I want to empower people.
  • Recipes? Definitely! My cooking style takes its origins mostly from European Medieval and Renaissance kitchen, with a lot of influences from the Mediterranean and Middle-East cultures. The drawback is that if you really want to prepare them you need to roll-up your sleeves and spend some time in the kitchen. Nobody will blame you if you are not prompt to like their latest post on FB because your hands are dirty (with good food, anyway).
  • I will spend some time explaining how the body works. This may sound tedious and boring to many, but it is fundamental to understand why one direction is wrong, why one other is correct and why "it depends". To this end I'll try to make it simple and accessible and leave to readers the pleasure to investigate further if they are curious.
  • Open, honest and respectful discussion. If the criteria are met interventions are not just welcomed, they are encouraged.