Keeping it Simple

Keeping it Simple

Since the beginning of the year we have removed car loads of junk and ‘stuff’ either to the tip or to the charity shop. This consisted of (amongst other things):

Magazine supplements going back over 10 years

Clothes that have not been worn for decades

Old newspapers

Kitchen stuff like plates, bowls, old mugs, etc. that either have never or will never be used

Old wires, bits of wood, plastic bags, tins of paint

Drawers full of bits and pieces – bent screws, plastic tops, old paintbrushes

Carrier bags (!)

Old vcrs, tape machines, amps and various electrical equipment that were broken

This list could go on and on and on…

For quite a while we were at the local dump every Sunday, joining a never-ending procession of people pulling up in their cars and getting rid of ‘stuff’. Mountains of it. Accumulating in the vast skips labelled ‘wood’, ‘hard plastic’, ‘glass’, ‘magazines’, ‘electrical.’ Each of these skips a testament to our consumption. On these trips we would sit and wait, looking at the ever-increasing heaps as people walked back and forth from their cars with junk and wondering just how we all managed to consume and accumulate so much; imagining this same scenario taking place at dumps all over the country, and then widening this out to think about the sheer amount of stuff that humans produce and discard – often with the most detrimental effects to the planet. It is mind-boggling.

What brought this on? Why were we not doing something more relaxing on a Sunday instead of sitting at the tip and mulling over our contribution to the world’s pollution problems?

The answer to that is this film. Just after Christmas, I watched Minimalism on Netflix, then as soon as it was finished I watched it again. Then I watched it with my partner and then I watched it with my mum (I did the same with the Happy Movie). Then I started to research and began reading more…

Minimalism: a documentary about the important things in life – if you haven’t heard of it yet – is an extremely thought-provoking documentary about the stuff that we accumulate in our lives and the profound affect that it has upon us as we place value on things that are ultimately meaningless. In the film, Joshua Fields Millburn and Ryan Nicodemus (The Minimalists) tell their story of transitioning from poor and volatile backgrounds to successful corporate careers, setting them both on a treadmill of rabid consumerism as they sought to add value and meaning to their lives by acquiring more and more stuff. It was Joshua who first became intrigued by a minimalist lifestyle after the death of his mother and the realisation that the things that he had once though important were actually insignificant. The order of things was turned upside down. It was the very things that he had previously taken for granted (or may have even neglected) that were important…

I will stop there with the description of the film as it really is a ‘must-watch’. Of course this is an issue that has been tackled by other people in many different ways and of course this is not the first time that we have thought about the impact of our consumerism, but for some reason the message in this film seems to resonate so strongly and really tap into something. I was struck immediately about the relationship of the minimalism philosophy to an ancestral health lifestyle. The overwhelming message of minimalism is one of simplicity and focus upon those things that add value to our life. Stripping away the superfluous until we are able to see what really matters – possessions, activities, thoughts, actions – allows us to concentrate on things that equip us to live a more meaningful and less stressful life. When we begin to do this, we are able to think more clearly about the purchases we make, how we spend our time, the people that we surround ourselves with and the work that we do. 

Following a Paleo lifestyle has for us also been a process of simplification; most dramatically with food but also in regard to all aspects of health and general lifestyle. Over the years, learning to look at many things through an evolutionary lens has pared things down; helping to focus judgement and see what is really important. Even down to thinking about the food choices and behaviour of the animals that we eat, what could be simpler than cows eating only pasture or large groups of animals moving from one place to another as they did millennia ago, regenerating the land underfoot? Some problems require complex solutions, but for many problems the solution is elegantly simple, it just might take a bit of work to get us there.

We obviously live in a completely different world to our hunter gatherer ancestors, along with all the benefits and advances in science, technology and medicine that we often take for granted. However, physiologically and psychologically we are not very different from our distant relations. It is no wonder that the 24/7 media and consumer-driven culture that we live in sends many of us spinning. We are still trying to adapt and paying a heavy price in the process. Looking at how our ancestors lived and thinking about what may have been important for them – shelter, food, social bonds, being in nature, creativity – pares things down to the essentials and helps us to reflect upon the necessities of these things to own lives.

Minimalism is not about discarding all our possessions, any more than Paleo is about just eating meat. It is about increasing the things that add value to our lives and decreasing the things that don’t. The particular things that do this may be different for each of us. I love books and music so I am hardly about to throw out my book collection but what I have found is that by getting rid of piles of additional magazines and other rubbish I am able to organise and focus on my books more, which brings me more enjoyment. This is applicable not just to material things but to how we spend our time, who we choose to be around, how we work… Freeing up time and energy allows us to contribute more, to interact more with people that are dear to us or that we can help. This is an essential part of the Minimalism message.

The Minimalist movement has taken some criticism – you can hear more about this here. People say that we are in an extremely privileged position to be able to discard possessions that others living in abject poverty may only dream of. This is true, but it doesn’t detract from the validity of the approach. We are consuming and wasting the earth’s resources as never before. The hedonic treadmill that results in more and more purchases – an insatiable drive to accumulate ‘things’ and thus to find ‘happiness’ – keeps us tied to the very behaviour that is harmful to both ourselves and the planet. In the condemnation that Minimalism has received in some parts of the media, there is an element of overlooking the message to criticise the messenger. To dismiss a philosophy that we truly believe is beneficial to us and the wider world around us just because some people have issues with those who espouse it is sad. I listened to an interview with the absolutely wonderful Matthieu Ricard (Buddhist monk and humanitarian) in which he talked about our value systems and the importance we place upon possessions. Whether it comes from relatively wealthy people or Buddhist monks, it’s the message that counts and this message is gathering pace.

“I’m simply asking the critics to consider whether they’re just being defensive, or if they’re arguing from an honest place with rational objections.” blogpost answering critics from Leo Babuata, Zen Habits

I believe that the Paleo community is naturally in tune with a minimalist philosophy and I was so excited to see that the Minimalism film was being shown at this year’s Paleof(x). The attention that Paleo gives to careful and conscious choices regarding lifestyle as well as the issue of personal responsibility (an important part of the movement) leads us to question how the choices we make affect not only our own health and wellbeing but that of the planet. Getting rid of our junk and questioning further purchases is only a tiny part of the Minimalism message and only the beginning of the journey, just as our diet is only part of the message with Paleo. Widening this out to look at our value systems in general and helping us to really decide what is important is the real (and increasing) power behind both these movements.

 

RESOURCES

A few to get started…

Minimalism: A Documentary About the Important Things – a fantastic film that also got me back to meditating – see my post here.

The Minimalists website and podcast

Zen Habits – Leo Babauta’s excellent website. Thought-provoking and very, very helpful advice.

Slow Home website and podcast – some really good interviews on here (check out ‘The simple art of meditation with Kevin Janksas’) well as practical advice on simplifying the home – from clothes to cleaning products

Becoming Minimalist – Joshua Becker gives some great practical tips on here.

Be More With Less – Courtney Carver’s diagnosis of MS forced her to re-examine her priorities and simplify her life

The Happy Movie – if you have not seen this film, it is an absolute must. It is available on Netflix if you have it. Watching this introduced me to the work of Buddhist monk, photographer and humanitarian Matthieu Ricard.

One of Richard’s favourite photographers is Eric Kim who approaches his art within the realms of a minimalist philosophy. He writes about this thoughtfully and to great effect on his blog

 

 

Thinking and Evolving

Thinking and Evolving

In the chaos that is life, we can find it increasingly difficult to pause, to take a step back and breathe, and to think clearly about our situation or the task at hand. The ability to do this simple thing can make a radical difference to the way we cope with everyday life and the situations and events that it throws at us.

Of course this is nothing new for the human condition – we have faced situations and challenges that may stress or overwhelm us from the beginning of time (fleeing from predators, fighting for our lives, recovering from injuries, defending our tribe) – but life in the 21st century presents us with a very different set of circumstances. In addition to (hopefully) very rare and extremely stressful events, we may experience the majority of our stress and anxiety very differently. Ongoing problems, worries or health issues that seem so much a part of contemporary living for many of us mean that cortisol (the ‘stress hormone’) released while fleeing from a Palaeolithic predator is now stretched over time; a continuous drip-drip effect of chronic stress which eventually proves detrimental to body and mind.

 

PALEO FUNDAMENTALS

There are a number of things that we can do to help mitigate the effects of stress and anxiety. Firstly – and true to Paleo-principles – we can ensure that the following are in place:

Getting enough sleep is the number one priority. This is often a hard thing when stress and worry take over but as with everything – any little improvement that can be achieved is a big bonus. As much as possible, everything should take a back seat to dialling in sleep patterns.

Eating real food, with a particular emphasis on good quality sources of fat (particularly important for brain health) is essential. But the cycle of stress (particularly if accompanied by reduced sleep) is like a vortex that drags us into irresponsible food choices often centered around carbs (sugar). Again, being gentle and kind to ourselves by making small improvements where possible (rather than spinning into self-recrimination) will help.

The will to exercise often disappears at times of stress yet it is so beneficial to our well-being. The very thing that we need becomes the thing we avoid if we are feeling unmotivated and lacking in energy. Keeping it simple – in particular getting out into nature for a walk – can be hugely beneficial.

Contact with friends, family or a local group reinforces the social bond that is so often neglected in times of stress. Interaction with others helps us to look outside ourselves; whether through engaging in group activities or through listening, chatting and just being with others.  This is particularly effective when we experience a feeling of contribution; a sense that we are helping with something bigger than ourselves. Making time for these things – and learning to ‘Be‘ instead of ‘Do’ – may help tremendously.

Making improvements wherever we can (and however small) in these areas will pay dividends – not only in periods of stress but in our everyday lives. But what else can we do?

 

FOCUSING IN

As research continues to show, practising meditation may be very effective in helping people overcome stress and anxiety. Of course,the addition of meditation fits well within a Paleo approach and mindfulness may contribute to making (and reinforcing) wise choices in how we sleep, eat and exercise. 

“Meditation is not just blissing out under a mango tree. It completely changes your brain and therefore changes what you are.” Matthieu Ricard, Molecular Geneticist, Buddhist monk and humanitarian

I recently began meditating again after a long break of many years. I used to go to my local Bethnal Green Buddhist Centre and practise basic meditation (in particular what is known as loving kindness meditation or ‘metta bhavana’). This was sometimes regular and sometimes sporadic but circumstances changed and I eventually stopped. Meditation inexplicably fell away and despite knowing that I should probably be meditating (and after many recommendations from people to practise), I never made the time. This was due to a mixture of perceived time poverty, rational scepticism and a feeling that I just wasn’t the sort of person (too hyper) that could meditate (even though it had helped me in the past). Clearly these excuses were a load of old nonsense but it made sense at the time (a bit like eating a low fat high carb diet)…

This changed at the beginning of the year after watching an interview with Dan Harris, journalist and author of the book and podcast 10% Happier on the wonderful documentary Minimalism (more to come on that in a future article – a MUST WATCH!). Here was a man who seemed like the last person on earth that would be meditating.  His live meltdown on Good Morning America is excruciating to watch and it was this watershed moment that prompted him to begin meditating in an effort to deal with soaring stress levels. His persuasive and enthusiastic approach made me rethink and I began cautiously with a 9-minute guided vipassana (mindfulness) meditation by Neuroscientist Sam Harris which you can find here (Sam is no relation to Dan, and has an excellent podcast).

I figured that I could spare 9 minutes out of a day in which I seem to fill every second and despite misgivings, I persevered. Needless to say, and being the sort of person that I am, I wanted to read the scientific research behind the effectiveness of meditation and it is fascinating and compelling. In combination with Cognitive Behavioural Therapy (which I have also tried), meditation can be extremely effective as a therapeutic tool to fight stress, anxiety and depression, obsessive compulsive disorders and generally improve mood (for more on the effectiveness of this dual treatment – see the video link below).

The nine minutes gradually crept up and I am making time to meditate on a daily basis, fitting it in wherever I can (although first thing mornings and last thing evenings work best). I have found guided meditations to be very helpful. These can be accessed via the internet and also with apps (for instance Buddhify, which has a huge selection of guided meditations for various situations). There are a number of sources below to help you get started.

I have definitely noticed and improvement in mind state after beginning meditation again. Feeling much more focused and calmer as well as learning to ‘let things go’ are some of the many benefits for me but of course it is different for everyone. The best thing is to begin with 9 minutes or even 5 minutes a day and do not deviate from this for a while. The problem is if you are like me, you will jump from 5 minutes to 30 minutes too soon, consequently fail to fit it in, and then begin to stress due to failing to achieve perfection (which is partly why I need to meditate in the first place). Like all of the areas listed above – sleep, food, and exercise – a little change is better than none at all…

 

ANCESTRAL PERSPECTIVE

I wondered about the evolutionary perspective on meditation and how it fitted in with ancestral health.  In an absolutely fascinating paper entitled ‘Did meditating make us human? (2007)’ Matt Rossano (Department of Psychology, Southeastern Louisiana University) posits a theory that ‘campfire rituals of focused attention’ through meditation-like periods of reflection or shamanic healing enhanced working memory capacity and symbolic thinking for our Homo sapiens ancestors. He suggests that such traits were essential for advances in the brain’s ability to innovate and experiment, thus leading to evolutionary advances:

‘Consciousness-altering rituals, often taking the form of shamanistic healing rituals, constituted an important and unique aspect of the human selective environment. This environment targeted those areas of the brain involved in focused attention and working memory, and in time, facilitated the genetic mutation(s) that ultimately fixed enhanced working memory and symbolic function in the human population…’

Rossano suggests that periods of reflection or meditation may have been an integral – but very natural – feature in the life of early humans:

‘ …The campfire rituals of focused attention practiced by our hominid ancestors need not have been as meditatively disciplined as that of Tibetan monks to have activated the brain regions important for attention and memory.’

He also highlights the increasing amount of research to show the benefits of meditation to brain function and general health:

‘…meditation produces short-term and long-term effects on both the structure and function of those areas of the brain closely associated with working memory and focused attention such as the dorsolateral pre-frontal cortex’. Such changes may have helped to propel Homo sapiens towards innovative and successful development as a species.

‘What is critical is that these rituals required focused attention which activated those areas of the brain associated with attention and working memory. Those whose brains were most ‘ritually-capable’ would also have been the ones to reap the greatest fitness reward. Enhanced working memory capacity was a by-product of ritually-induced fitness enhancing brain changes.’

The practice of ‘being’ rather than ‘doing’, of observing our thoughts dispassionately and with curiosity and detachment, a fluidity to the concept of ‘the self’ and a feeling of interconnectedness (particularly with the natural world), an ability for precision-like focus… These traits would have been beneficial to our hunter-gatherer ancestors and in some cases, may have meant the difference between life and death. Perhaps they came naturally to them without a conscious need to be cultivated or were partly induced through certain practices, as Rossano suggests. What we do know is that in our 21st century world, many of us have lost the ability to detach ourselves from the cacophony of chaos that surrounds us; from social, financial and personal pressures and from a 24/7 media culture, and to focus on what is important. Finding the time to pause, take a step back and breathe might go a little (or a long) way to helping us overcome this. In conjunction with a Paleo approach to health, meditation may provide wonderful benefits and yet again, our ancient ancestors may have more to teach us than we think.

‘…nightly around the fire – singing, chanting, eyes fixated on the hypnotic flame – our ancestors built their brains into human brains.’

 

RESOURCES

There is a wealth of information out there on this subject. To get started, here are some videos, sites and article I have found interesting and helpful:

The Happy Movie – if you have not seen this film, it is an absolute must! It is available on Netflix if you have it. Watching this introduced me to the work of Buddhist monk, photographer and humanitarian Mathieu Ricard (tagged by the media as ‘the happiest man alive’ – a label that he has been trying to shake off with little success ever since). While I depart from Mathieu over the subject of eating animals, he seems a truly fascinating and wonderful person. His father was the famous French philosopher Jean-François Revel and they come together to discuss their relative views in the book The Monk and the Philosopher.

Minimalism: A Documentary about the Important Things – a wonderful film. Definitely check this out!

Sam Harris blog: Guided Meditations and article on How to Meditate. Great blog and podcast.

10% Happier with Dan Harris – Dan has quite a few guided meditations led by guests on his podcast, as well as some interesting interviews.

There is a wealth of meditation apps available such as Imagine Clarity (with Mathieu Ricard), many with a monthly charge but Buddhify seems to be one of the only apps with a one-off payment of £4.99. I have Buddhify and use it in combination with various other resources.

UCLA Health – free guided meditations. I have been using these and really enjoying them. There is also a great lecture by Diane Winston of UCLA on Introduction to Mindful Awareness.

Youtube: Jon Kabat-Zinn guided meditations are really helpful (Jon created the mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) program and is associated with the Center for Mindfulness in Medicine, Health Care, and Society at the University of Massachusetts Medical School. There are also some excellent interviews on YouTube with Jon.

Youtube: Joseph Goldstein interviews and guided mediations. Joseph is the co-founder of the Insight Meditation Society (IMS)

The simple art of meditation with Kevin Janksas on the Slow Home website and podcast 

Extremely interesting lecture on Applying Mindfulness-Based Cognitive Therapy to Treatment

7 Ways Meditation Can Actually Change The Brain – great article with links to research papers on the benefits of meditation

Wandering mind not a happy mind

Does Meditation Reduce Pain through a Unique Neural Mechanism?

Wild Celebration

Wild Celebration

We do not have a large deer population in the Brecon Beacons but numbers in Wales have certainly increased over the last few years and continue to do so (although further towards the Wye Forest populations are much larger). Of our native species, Fallow Deer are the most common in Wales (introduced in the 11th or 12th Century. Roe Deer migrated into Wales in the 1970’s from the borders and are particularly at home in woodland areas. There are a small number of Red Deer in the Beacons (Wales’ largest native land mammal) that apparently originated from a deer farm in the 1980’s. Non-native Sica and Muntjac Deer are present in small numbers and the Chinese Water Deer are yet to become established in Wales. Obviously these increasing deer numbers have to be sustainably managed as they have no natural predators. Venison is a wonderful by-product of this management. The meat has an excellent Omega 3:6 ratio as the deer feed on their natural diet of grass and vegetation. It also has the highest amount of iron in any red meat.

I used my diced venison in a casserole with chestnuts and mushrooms and it was absolutely delicious. It had a very strong ‘gamey’ flavour which I love and was melt-in-the-mouth soft. For more information on game see the following excellent websites:

Taste of Game – fantastic recipes, news and information on this site. They are also promoting Great British Game Week. Check it out!

Game to Eat – Countryside Alliance campaign dedicated to increasing the eating and enjoyment of British wild game with lots of game facts, recipes, news and events.

The Wild Meat Company – mail order game birds and meat from Suffolk.

Wild Harvest Table: a US-based resource for game and fish recipes, nutrition information, and preparation techniques. Founders Moira Tidball and Dr. Keith G. Tidball also call for more research into the following:

1) Determining the importance of wild fish and game consumption to food security in local NYS communities;

2) Evaluating why people are motivated to eat, or not eat, wild fish and game;

3) Examining the importance or “legibility” of nutritional analysis for wild fish and game, and the way labeling influences consumer choices; and,

4) Determining how people learn about processing and preparing wild fish and game, and barriers to finding and adopting this information.

Check out Jeff Shaw’s Hunter Angler Gardener Cook blog for a huge resource of game recipes and videos.

We are now in the run-up to Great British Game Week which takes place 22nd- 29th November and celebrates all that is good about game. Game meat is increasing in popularity and from a Paleo perspective, game must surely represent one of the best choices if we wish to eat as closely as possible to a hunter-gatherer template. Choosing our meat sources wisely and taking into account the ethical and sustainable factors in its production is something that I believe is crucial to a Paleo lifestyle. It is sometimes easy to forget about including game in our diets and it is great to see it promoted as a healthy, seasonal, locally sourced and sustainable food (along with 100% pasture raised meat).

I was surprised to see that one of my local supermarkets (Morrisons) is now selling wild venison (Fallow Deer) from The Wild Meat Company based in Suffolk and formed in 1999. It is quite tricky to get hold of wild venison locally unless we are lucky enough to buy some from our friends (although farmed venison is easily available). The Wild Meat Company also sell directly to the consumer via mail order and offer a range of game meats and birds.

Marvellous Mutton

Marvellous Mutton

We tried a leg of mutton yesterday for Sunday lunch from John and Patsy Price over at Bryn Belted Galloway Beef and it was fantastic.

It was the first time we have cooked roast mutton and have been eager to try it. The flavour is more developed and stronger than lamb with a firmer texture, but definitely not tough at all.  The fat also tasted wonderful.

Mutton is from a sheep over two years old, while Hogget (also very nice!) is from sheep between 1 and 2 years of age. Mutton is a beautiful dark red meat and is often cooked on a lower temperature for longer (thus suited to slow cookers).

Prince Charles has been an avid campaigner for mutton – see the Mutton Renaissance website. Also, check out Bob Kennard’s Much Ado About Mutton website (he has recently published a book by the same name). On both websites there are tips on choosing and cooking mutton as well as some historical facts about this much-underused meat. There is also a new campaign just launched called Make More of Mutton, so hopefully demand for mutton will increase.

I was interested to hear Helen Pickersgill from Weobley Ash Farm in Herefordshire talk about mutton on a recent episode of Countryfile (hat tip to Make More of Mutton for the link). Helen explained that research has shown mutton from a pasture-raised animal around 5-7 years old has an even better Omega 3:6 profile (around an ideal 1:1) than that of younger sheep (the profile increases favourably with age).

We prepared our joint by making small cuts in the skin and stuffing in garlic and fresh rosemary. We then seasoned it and placed the joint in a slightly oiled roasting dish with some small onions from the garden cut in half.

We gave the joint a 15 minute sizzle on around 220 degrees before lowering the temperature to around 180 and cooking for 25 minutes per pound, basting frequently. We then covered and rested it for 20 minutes while making a gravy with the juices and onions. We served it with swiss chard from the garden and roast squash.

I noticed that the roast mutton recipe on Much Ado About Mutton favours a much longer cooking time (150 degrees for 2-3 hours covered in foil). Although ours came out very succulent and not at all tough, we will try the slower method next for comparison.

We will definitely be cooking more of this lovely meat!

PPP Catch-up 18/08/15

PPP Catch-up 18/08/15

Things have been really busy in the vegetable garden and we are getting back on top of things at last – see the photos below. At the moment we are harvesting kale, chard, lettuce, carrots, beetroots, onions, basil, rhubarb, mini curcurbits called Melothrie from Real Seeds (which are running riot – see picture above) and cucumbers. Tomatoes are ripening nicely. We tried two varieties this year (also from Real Seeds), Red Zebra and Dr Carolyn (which apparently has an exceptional flavour) and look forward to trying them. Cabbages are growing well and we have also planted some oriental greens and cauliflowers too.

We have also been using the nettle tea (see photo below) that I made a while ago on the leafy greens and heavy feeder vegetables such as courgettes and squash. We have tried this in previous years and it is a great way to use nettles (other than in cooking of course). You could use comfrey or seaweed instead. Be warned – this stuff smells bad (and our dogs have a weird fascination for it). We dilute it 10:1.

Ketosis experiment was relegated to the back-burner in the midst of a stressful couple of months. I suspect that my intake of berries and other starchy vegetable produce has pushed me out on more than one occasion but I am not worrying about this too much at the moment…

Had some fantastic beef again from John and Patsy at Bryn Belted Galloway. See their new Facebook page here and check out the recent addition to their herd called Bryn Bella! We love the slow cooked brisket that just melts in the mouth. We can’t recommend their meat enough!

Also tried some 100% pasture-fed hogget from Sarah and Nick at Black Welsh Lamb, at Pen y Wyrlod Farm in Monmouthshire. We cooked chops first (very simply) to get the true taste of the meat and the flavour was fantastic. We then cooked a hoggett, shallot and date tagine with the shoulder. The meat was incredibly tender and held up its taste against the spices. We look forward to trying other cuts. Like John and Patsy, Sarah and Nick are great ambassadors for the 100% pasture-fed movement.

Tried some beetroot and courgette crisps this week when cooking for Paleo friends. Complete success – they were delicious although it was hilarious how much they shrink (see the photo below). We ran out of time to do any more so they were quite precious! So much better than those steeped in vegetable oil that you buy from the shop and we will definitely be making these again.

 

Around the web

In light of the ongoing debate around the issue of fat in the media, is it any wonder that people are so confused and fed up with mainstream dietary advice that apparently flips from one position to another? Why follow any advice at all if the experts are likely to do another u-turn in a few years – or even a few days – time? After the headlines announcing that it is fine to eat saturated fat, we see a BBC News article declaring that ‘Low-fat diets ‘better than cutting carbs’ for weight loss’ even though the original paper declares: ‘reducing dietary carbohydrate from the RC (reduced carbohydrate) diet (with a corresponding addition of fat to maintain calories) was predicted to decrease body fat to a greater extent than the experimental RC diet.’ This is just plain confusing…

In addition to this, an article in the Quarterly Review of Biology which argued that carbohydrates was ‘critical for the accelerated expansion of the human brain over the last million years’ caused quite a stir. Cue the headlines that the Paleo diet is plain wrong and is all about eating meat and zero carbs etc. Norah Gedgaudas wrote an excellent reply to this, reminding us of the importance of the consumption of fat to human health and in particular to brain development, as well as questioning the motives behind the continued insistence that carbohydrates should make up a large percentage of the human diet. A really great read.

‘Innumerable corporate interests stand to profit handsomely by investing in the promotion of carbohydrate-based diets for every man, woman and child on planet Earth. They are enormously cheap to produce, highly profitable and they keep everyone perpetually hungry.’ Norah Gedgaudas

Diabetes Warrior Steve Cooksey also posted an excellent response to the paper relating his own experience and experimentation in managing his diabetes through lifestyle changes:

‘Ultimately it makes absolutely no difference to me how our ancestor’s ate.  I have eaten high, moderate and low carbohydrate diets in numerous experiments;  I am thriving on the meal plan that works best for me, a very low-carb, high fat,  paleo style meal plan.’ Steve Cooksey

A reminder that if it works for you – don’t be put off by the headlines.

The news that Diabetes cases have soared by 60% in the past decade and that Diabetes accounts for 10% of the NHS drug bill provides a reminder that when it comes to health in the UK, things are looking bleak. I had a quick look at Diabetes on the NHS Choices website which – in the case of Type 2 Diabetes – advises:

‘It’s therefore important to take preventative measures by making any necessary lifestyle changes, such as eating more healthily, losing weight (if you’re overweight) and becoming more physically active.’

Clicking on the links regarding healthy eating take us to pages which recommend ‘Plenty of potatoes, bread, rice, pasta and other starchy foods’, as well as suggestions for breakfast that includes cereals such as porridge and wholegrains with added fruit (bananas), wholemeal or granary bread and sugar-free jams and marmalades (presumably with added sweeteners). Recommendations for snacks include ‘lower-sugar (and lower-fat) versions of your favourite snacks’.

I just don’t see anything changing unless there is a fundamental, root and branch rethink on dietary advice in this country.

 

On to brighter things!

Update on Polyfaces: The Film produced by Lisa Heenan and Isaebella Doherty of Regrarians (Australia). This is a documentary film about Joel Salatin’s Polyface Farm in Virginia and is about to preview at film festivals. I was lucky enough to see Darren Doherty and Lisa Heenan of Regrarians, as well as Joel Salatin speak (twice!) at the Savory Institute Conference in 2014 and was totally blown away by the work that they do, so I can’t wait to see this film.

‘Regrarians Ltd. is an Australian-based non-profit organisation whose primary objective is to the regenerative enhancement of the biosphere’s ecosystem processes. It does so through delivering world-class education, media, advocacy & extension to farmers & consumers across the world, having had nearly 15,000 people attend its events since 2007.’

We Love Paleo, a documentary film about the Paleo lifestyle is due to premiere in London on August 31st 2015, 9pm at The Gate Cinema, Notting Hill, W11 3JZ. Directed by Caroleen Moise Reimann and produced by Tjard Reimann, this documentary film will feature people whose lives have been changed through adopting a Paleo lifestyle. Hopefully it will raise awareness of the movement and encourage people to look beyond the increasingly silly headlines and articles about Paleo in the news recently. Can’t catch it in London but look forward to hearing all about it and watching the video when available.

A Probiotic Life is currently in production and you can view the trailer here. Film makers Toni Harman and Alex Wakeford are the team behind Microbirth (which I have yet to see). The documentary features interviews with doctors, nutritionists and families on the importance of the microbiome to health and looks at the cutting edge research taking place in this fast-moving area of science. Very excited about this!

 

Videos and podcasts

Lovely short video from Rebecca Hosking and Tim Green from Village Farm in Devon on ‘Building Soil with Regenerative Agriculture’.

Found this video from Stacey Murphy of Backyard Farmyards5 Tips for New Growers: Save Time Energy & Money. Definitely worth a watch – particularly the tips about increasing your growing area by plotting shade throughout the year and also how to prioritise jobs in the garden. Stacey produces between 25 and 80lb of produce weekly on a 450 square foot site!

Great podcast from Robb Wolf with Dr. Charles Sydnor on Grass Fed Cattle and The Future of Sustainability. Check it out!

Very interesting talk by Dr Ron Rosedale on cancer from the 2013 Annual International IPT (Insulin Potentiation Therapy) /IPTLE conference via Me and My Diabetes website. This was reposted on Facebook a few weeks ago and I bookmarked it to listen to it but can’t remember who posted the link so hat-tip to you! Dr Rosedale features in the excellent Keto Clarity book and advocates a high fat, moderate protein, low carbohydrate real food approach and in particular is an advocate of lowering protein to around 1g or less per lean (ideal) bodyweight. This is an extremely fascinating talk concerning the role of insulin, leptin and the mTOR pathway in disease. Dr Rosedale leaves us with this warning:

‘Your health and lifespan will mostly be determined by the proportion of fat versus sugar you burn over a lifetime.  I’ve said that for 20 years.  I’ve not found anything to contradict it.  All the evidence that has occurred in the last 20 years has supported that one statement. Everything there is to know about health, and aging, can be summarized right there.  Your health and lifespan will be determined by the proportion of fat versus sugar that you burn over a lifetime.’ Dr Rosedale

Let’s be clear – when Dr Rosedale says ‘sugar’ he includes non-fiber starch such as potatoes, bread (including wholemeal), rice, pasta, cereal, corn and all grains that eventually get turned to sugar by the body. In light of the recent headlines concerning Diabetes, this advice would be well-heeded…

PPP Round-Up 23/04/15

PPP Round-Up 23/04/15

Mega-busy time in the vegetable garden at the moment – read my article Return to the Garden for more on that. Seeds progressing nicely, despite a mouse/bird attack on the lower shelf of the staging in the greenhouse. All replanted and we will just have to cease using the bottom shelf until we decide what to do. This means space is limited so seeds and seedlings have taken over the house!

Enjoying lamb breasts roasted with garlic and herbs (above) – hugely economical and taste superb. Will try stuffed and rolled lamb breast this week.

First sauerkraut experiment a massive success and am addicted to it! Beats that stuff they sell in massively overpriced jars in the deli. Next on list: Kimchi…

IMG_8948

Using half minced beef and half minced beef heart for dishes like burgers and bolognese sauce. So delicious! Great way to get heart into the diet.

Paid a visit to John and Patsy Price to get some fantastic 100% pasture raised beef.

Currently eating the last of 2014’s swiss chard and kale before pulling them up. Also we have the first rhubarb of the year appearing. Stewed with cinnamon and mixed spice (no sugar!) and served with coconut cream and vanilla.

Ketosis going very well and feeling great!

 

News

It’s that time of the year again – the awesome Paleo f(x) is here! Running Friday, April 24th to Sunday, April 26th this is the biggest event in Paleo with a stellar line-up of speakers. There are some fantastic talks, in particular Travis Christofferson of Single Cause Single Cure and author of Tripping Over the Truth: a metabolic theory of cancer talking about The Metabolic Theory of Cancer: The Evidence, Consequences and Treatments. Really happy to also see Chris Kerston of the Savory Institute talking on Eating Healthy Meat to Save the Planet! Emily Dean’s talk on The Microbiome and Mental Health looks great. Dr Michael Ruscio’s talk The Gut Microbiota; Clinical Pearls Vs. Marketing Ploys & Regaining Your Ancestral Gut will be interesting to get a balanced view on the latest research into microbes and the gut. I listened to the first couple of Dr Ruscio’s podcasts here and they are very good. Josh Whiton’s talk The Best Meat is Illegal to Buy: Ending the Ban on Wild Hunted Meat would also be one to attend. I had no idea that most of the venison consumed in America is shipped from New Zealand and it would be good to get a US perspective on hunting. Wish I was going to Austin this year but hopefully back again next year and until then, look forward to catching up with all the videos when they become available.

Very excited to hear that Human Food Project is planning to spend some time with the Reindeer Herders of northern Mongolia – look forward to hearing more about that. Robb Wolf had also posted a link to this article: Mongolia’s Meat Diet: An Inconvenient Truth for Veganism which is a great read. Check out some amazing pictures of Mongolian Reindeer tribes here.

Grass-fed meat vital for a healthy diet, MPs are told – via Farm2Fork Great to see the health benefits of 100% pasture-fed meat being promoted by Professor Robert Pickard, of Cardiff University at the All Party Parliamentary Group (APPG) on beef and lamb.

 

 

Website articles

My favourite article of the month has to be Toby Hemenway’s Permaculture: The Design Arm of a Paradigm Shift. I first heard about Tony from an interview called Liberation Permaculture he gave on the Survival Podcast (which I found via a fermentation website). I was fascinated by what he has to say and felt that his philosophy chimes perfectly with Paleo and with the holistic management approach of organisations such as the Savory Institute. I have been listening to Toby a lot in the last few days.

‘After your world changes, there’s plenty of work to be done. That work is permaculture.’

Antibody against ?-gliadin 33-mer peptide: Is the key initiating factor for development of multiple sclerosis during gluten sensitivity? via Robb Wolf – a ‘must-read’. The forthcoming research has the potential to be hugely important for the study of autoimmune conditions.

Dietary carbohydrate restriction as the first approach in diabetes management: Critical review and evidence base – check out this important article from quite a team!

Worth mentioning the following points in full:

‘Here we present 12 points of evidence supporting the use of low-carbohydrate diets as the first approach to treating type 2 diabetes and as the most effective adjunct to pharmacology in type 1. They are proposed as the most well-established, least controversial results. It is not known who decides what constitutes evidence-based medicine but we feel that these points are sufficiently strong that the burden of proof rests on critics…

Whatever the extent to which the correlation between carbohydrate consumption and diabetes is causal, the lack of association between the levels of dietary fat and diabetes in humans is of real significance. A lack of association is generally considered strong evidence for a lack of causality…

In practice, reduced-carbohydrate diets are not generally high-protein diets except in comparison with low levels recommended in high-carbohydrate diets. It is also generally recommended that carbohydrate is replaced by fat…

Several large and expensive clinical studies have been carried out since the so-called diet–heart hypothesis was framed in the middle of the 20th century [40,41]. From the original Framingham study [42] to the WHI [26], as well as more than a dozen additional studies, have failed to show an association between dietary lipids and risk for cardiovascular disease (CVD)…

There is now a large volume of literature of both scientific papers [43–47] and popular books [48–51] documenting the failure of attempts to support the diet–heart hypothesis. Few rebuttals have been offered [52]. The very strong recommendations from health agencies predicted that none of these trials should fail. In fact, almost all of them have failed…

Dietary SFA does not correlate with CVD. On the other hand, it is increasingly understood that plasma SFAs are associated with increased risk for CVD and insulin resistance [59]. in humans, plasma SFAs do not correlate with dietary saturated fat but, rather, are more dependent on dietary carbohydrates [5,60–62]…

Total and/or LDL cholesterol are the most commonly assessed lipid markers for CVD risk despite the general recognition that they are not good predictors. Several other parameters have been shown to provide stronger evidence of risk and these tend to be reliably improved by dietary carbohydrate restriction. These include apolipoprotein (apo) B [71], ratio of total cholesterol to HDL, higher populations of the smaller dense LDL known as pattern B [72,73], as well as the ratio of apoB to apoA1. The ratio of TG to HDL, which is also improved more by carbohydrate restriction is taken as a correlate of the smaller dense LDL, which is not routinely measured…

Dietary carbohydrate restriction, because of its increased effectiveness in glycemic control, frequently leads to reduction and often complete elimination of medication in type 2 diabetes…

Finally, it should be recognized that the use of low carbohydrate diets is not a recent experiment and may well approximate the diet used by much of humanity for tens of thousands of years before the rise of agriculture…

Replacement of carbohydrate with fat or, in some cases, with protein, is beneficial in both types of diabetes leading to better glycemic control, weight loss, cardiovascular risk markers, and reduction in medication. This is what we know…

Both the scientific [92,93] and popular literature [94] have been unrestrained in attributing harm to fructose. Generally, fructose is known to have unique effects compared with glucose, although most of these are seen on a high-carbohydrate diet [95] and there may be little difference as carbohydrate is lowered. It is likely that on a low-carbohydrate diet, most fructose that is consumed will be converted to glucose. We have provided a perspective on the metabolism of fructose [96] where we emphasize its integration into general carbohydrate metabolism. The fact that up to 60% of ingested fructose can be converted to glucose makes the analysis of which sugar does what very difficult…

Given the current state of research funding and the palpable bias against low carbohydrate approaches [4], it is unlikely that an RCT can be performed that will satisfy everybody. The seriousness of diabetes suggests that we have enough evidence of different types to reevaluate our current recommendations for treatment…

We would recommend that government or private health agencies hold open hearings on these issues in which researchers in carbohydrate restriction can make their case. We think that traditional features of the analysis of evidence such as vigorous cross-examination should be part of the process…

How Networks Bring Down Experts (The Paleo Example) – hat-tip to Mr Wolf. I really loved this article:

 ‘…leadership is earned not by sitting atop an institutional hierarchy with the plumage of a PhD, but by contributing, experimenting, communicating and learning with the rest of a far bigger hive mind.’

Metabolic and physiologic effects from consuming a hunter-gatherer (Paleolithic)-type diet in type 2 diabetes – abstract (full article behind pay wall):

‘Even short-term consumption of a Paleolithic-type diet improved glucose control and lipid profiles in people with type 2 diabetes compared with a conventional diet containing moderate salt intake, low-fat dairy, whole grains and legumes.’

Neuroscience: an epileptic target: Interesting abstract (full article behind pay wall) regarding the development of drugs to treat epilepsy that mimic the metabolic effects of a ketogenic diet via LDH inhibition: ‘…the first anti-epileptic drug known to act on a metabolic pathway.’

Scientists identify novel mechanism by which ketogenic diet could delay effects of aging

‘Dr. Verdin and colleagues found that at lower concentrations, BOHB helps protect cells from “oxidative stress”-which occurs as certain molecules build to toxic levels in the body and contributes to the aging process.’

Beta-hydroxybutyrate is the primary ketone body in the blood.

One of the many criticisms of the Paleo diet is that it is potentially low in calcium. Check out this excellent article from Chris Kresser: How To Keep Your Bones Healthy On A Paleo Diet. There are some lovely foods in the top ten sources of calcium, including sesame seeds (wiz up tahini, garlic, olive oil, a little water and lemon juice and parsley to make a creamy salad dressing), tinned salmon and sardines, spinach…

New Research Shows Poorly Understood “Leaky Gut Syndrome” Is Real, May Be the Cause of Several Diseases via Ethical Omnivore Movement

Bring in the cows: grazing may be the best hope for a threatened butterfly – via Savory Institute. Really lovely article highlighting the importance of intelligently managed ruminants to biodiversity:

‘One of his goals was to dispel the widespread impression that cows are always bad for conservation. While ill-controlled herds have damaged landscapes across the West, Weiss says, well-managed herds can help preserve native ecosystems, including these flowery grasslands.’

Vegan Zealots And ‘Meat Kills The Planet’ Nonsense – Tom fights the fight yet again in this great article! An excellent argument for the important role that ruminants play in creating a healthy and sustainable biosystem.

World’s oldest stone tools discovered in Kenya

‘…tool making apparently began before the birth of our genus.’

The FDA’s phony nutrition science: How Big Food and Agriculture trumps real science — and why the government allows it

How the recommended low levels of salt in your diet might actually be dangerous – Interesting article on salt – time for a rethink on guidelines? Heard that one before!

 

 

Videos and Podcasts

A lovely video here about Conygree Farm, based in the Cotswolds who keep rare breed Cotswold and pedigree Lleyn sheep, Traditional Hereford (as opposed to crossed Hereford) cattle and native breed pigs, producing lamb, hogget, mutton, beef and pork. I first heard about this farm via the PFLA, so if you are looking for a supplier of pasture fed beef and lamb (and hogget!) in the Cotswolds area – check them out. Nice to see a mention of Deerhounds too!!

 

Books

Really enjoying reading Swallow This: Serving Up the Food Industry’s Darkest Secrets by Joanna Blythman. Check out my article on Joanna’s recent radio interview here.

‘These days cooking is a powerful political statement, a small daily act of resistance that gives us significantly more control of our lives…

The prevailing sentiment amongst food manufacturers is that the less we have a mental picture of how our food is made, the better.’

Joanna explains that when questioned about their methodologies, the implication from the food industry is that ‘…anyone who is suspicious of processed food is an irrational, confused hysteric.’

The description of some of the things on offer at the Food Ingredients trade show is mind-boggling.

Great read so far.

Gaia’s Garden: A Guide to Home-scale Permaculture by Toby Hemenway. Would really like to read this after listening to Toby’s presentations online – looks hugely interesting.

The Good Gut: Taking Control of Your Weight, Your Mood, and Your Long-term Health (available to pre-order from Random House Publishers).

 

Websites

The Conygree Farm video above was posted on Grow Eat Gather – a really nice new website that promotes locally grown, real food in the UK.