Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Showdown at the Canola corral

There will be more posts on this topic, but I had to get something down after my conversation with a representative from the Alberta Canola Producers Commission this afternoon. They had a display set up in the Students' Union Building at the University of Alberta this afternoon. I noticed it on my way back to my office after my Ashtanga Yoga practice and thought I would check it out. There was a large version of the graph on the top of this figure (below) that caught my eye.
Canola oil is listed at the top of this chart because it has the least saturated fat content of the oils listed. The representative asked if I used canola oil. Here is a paraphrased excerpt of our conversation.

Me: No I don't use canola oil.
Rep: What oil do you use?
Me: Coconut oil, lard (bacon grease actually, butter and olive oil.
Rep: Don't you know those have a lot of saturated fat?
Me: Is that bad?
Rep: Yes, saturated fat has been linked to heart disease.
Me: What studies showed this?
Rep: Studies as far back as the 1960s.
Me: Did you know those researchers selected countries for their studies that fit their theory that saturated fat is bad, and that if all the countries were included in their analyses, there would be no relationship?
Rep: That's one interpretation.

There was more back and forth about rates of heart disease increasing in countries in Asia that have increasing use of saturated fats that I countered with the question of refined carbohydrate use also increasing in these countries - to this the reply was that there are a number of factors. I then asked why focus on saturated fat? The rep asked about my blood work, to which I replied that it was even better now that I used saturated fats more and no canola oil. I can't remember if I mentioned that I also don't eat any grains. 

Here's my "unhealthy" breakfast this morning. Fortuitous, I know. A two free-run egg omelet (eggs from Big Coulee Farms in Athabasca; they sell pastured chickens, beef, and pork too), with German salami (from the Grapevine Deli in St. Albert - go there for gluten/preservative-free deli meats and imported goodies, tell them I sent you), mushrooms and asparagus all fried in bacon grease (gasp!) from triple-smoked European bacon from, where else, the Grapevine Deli!

I then asked about the high percentage of omega 6 in canola oil and pointed out that the n6:n3 ratio is already a problem in society so why would we want more in a product like canola oil? The reply was that the 6:3 ratio in canola was respectable at 2:1. I noted that the fraction of n6 in coconut oil was tiny by comparison to canola (2% in coconut vs 21% in canola). No real answer. (I didn't get into the other issues like the production process and the issues with GMO plants.) The rep had not much more to offer at this point. I left the display and went back to work.

I'm not sure anything was accomplished, except that I engaged the rep in, what I thought, was a meaningful discussion, and presented a counterpoint to the conventional wisdom that canola (and other seed oils) is good for health.

My student Ashley suggested that I put some information up about where to source coconut oil in the greater Edmonton Area. Here is the brand I buy I get mine from the Great Candaian Superstore for $8.99 per 454g (1 pound) container. In honour of my conversation(s) (there was another one that I had with nutrition students about grains and carbohydrates in diet - I'll post on that later) I ate a large tablespoon full of the oil pictured below when I returned to my office.

Friday, March 25, 2011

Bacon night!

Our "bacon night" dinner night looked like this tonight. Simple, delicious and nutritious.
Lisa's had tomatoes.
Mine had the sauteed chard. Yum.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

It's all about you

People are becoming increasingly aware of the importance of good nutrition as a part of good overall health and well being. This is good. The problem is that everyone wants a quick fix to their problems, whether it is carrying too much weight, hypertension, digestive issues, or whatever. And they want their quick fix to "fit into" or to "work" with their very busy lives. 

But at the end of the day, the only person responsible for your health and wellness is you. Not your spouse, children, friends, relatives, neighbours, colleagues, and certainly not spokespeople for the current "solution" du jour.

You. 

And while you may be busy, or busier than the next person whom you compare yourself with, you control your health choices. And if you make poor, or suboptimal decisions, do you know who is going to pay the price?

You.

Oh, your family, friends and the like will be saddened that you have to spend time with doctors, in hospital or whatever. But they'll get over it. Eventually. You may not. In fact, your choices may result in very serious consequences and even contribute in a very real way to your eventual demise.

Now I'm not claiming that I have always made excellent, or even mediocre decisions at some points, when it comes to my health and wellness. It has been a long, ever-evolving process. I have made plenty of missteps along the way. I like to delude myself into thinking that I have learned from them and will avoid them in the future. Who knows? Only time will tell. 

What I do know is that each one of us as individuals have to decide for ourselves how to make the most of our time here, and that nutrition plays a key role. And nutrition starts with the consumption of food. Real food. Not as Michael Pollan calls it, "food-like substances". Food.

My own road has led me to adopt a Primal/Paleo style diet, that is leading more and more towards strict Paleo (started with no grains, legumes, sugar, processed food, and now moving towards an elimination of dairy too). I feel great, eat great food, and exercise in a manner that is consistent with our evolutionary history. 

I encourage everyone to more carefully consider their health and wellness as the primary focus at the centre of their busy lives, and not something peripheral that only needs to be dealt with when an MD directs them to "eat healthier and get some exercise".
Here's some banana-almond pancakes as a reward for reading this long-winded post. 

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

sturdyteam registered for the MS Walk 2011!

sturdyteam at the 2011 St. Albert Enerflex MS Walk

It is time to start building an increased awareness of multiple sclerosis and to start fundraising again as the 2011 MS Walk is only 2 months away (15 May 2011). This year, we are participating in the Edmonton Enerflex MS Walk instead of the St. Albert MS Walk because of conflicts with the girls' dancing schedules. Like last year, we'll be doing the 10 km walk. Please click here to donate to sturdyteam or our individual members.

I was diagnosed with relapsing remitting multiple sclerosis in May 2009. I am currently taking Copaxone, a standard MS disease modifying drug (DMD), via daily injections. Before this I was on Rebif for two stints, but it caused nasty side effects so I moved over to Copaxone (Glatiramer acetate is its generic name - Copaxone is the trade name used by Teva Pharmaceuticals).

Although there are many new therapies being researched and introduced all the time (here's a new pill-based therapy introduced in Canada just two days ago), my goal/hope is that research will be directed towards uncovering what causes MS so that people can avoid "modifying their disease" through DMDs and instead live a long, healthy life, free of MS. Here is an example of the direction I think we need to be pursuing more vigorously, especially the dietary suggestions that are in line with a Paleolithic diet (and related to a recent blog post of mine).

Sunday, March 13, 2011

The western diet and lifestyle and diseases of civilization

This is a very important article just published in an open access source, that clearly, and with all of the appropriate materials cited (including counters to the standard counterarguments), outlines why we as a society are suffering needlessly. It also outlines what can be done about it by identifying patterns of nutrition, fitness and other lifestyle factors that can be easily modified to avoid diseases that are by and large a product of our modern world. I was directed to this paper by Jamie Scott on his blog and Julianne Taylor on her blog (I am sure many others in the blogosphere are commenting on and linking to this very important paper.

And now, following the recommendations in the paper, here's some vitamin D (Melbourne Beach, FL, March 2011; Conference on Comparative Cognition)!

Don't forget the Paleo/Primal approved meal (prime rib, veggies, red wine and dark chocolate @ CO3's banquet honouring Alex Kacelik)!!
Please send this paper to any/all who may benefit from reading it (basically, anyone who hasn't yet read it, Paleo/Primal practitioner or not).