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I like the idea behind the paleo diet.
It seems sensible to try to emulate the diet our ancestors ate while we were evolving. However, even though I like the idea, I don’t like the way the diet is prescribed in many cases.
It seems to have gone beyond just science and started becoming more about ideology. There are many modern foods that are healthy, but actively discouraged on the paleo diet. I think this is a mistake.
Nutrition should be about science and doing what works best for the individual, NOT ideology or “nutriligion” as someone has called it.
Humans evolved eating a variety of foods and our genes have changed (not much, but some) since the paleolithic period. I think the idea of a paleo “template” is more reasonable. That is, eat the foods humans evolved eating, then add the modern foods that you like, tolerate and science has shown to be healthy.
Here are 4 foods that technically aren’t paleo, but are still super healthy.
1. Full-Fat Dairy Products From Grass-Fed Cows
One of the pillars of a strict paleo diet is the elimination of all dairy products.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
I think this is a mistake, because plenty of people tolerate dairy just fine. Although a large part of the world is lactose intolerant, many populations have acquired an enzyme to break down and make full use of lactose, the main carbohydrate found in milk.
Full-fat dairy products are particularly healthy, as long as they come from grass-fed cows. This includes foods like butter, cheese and full-fat yogurt. Full-fat dairy contains bioactive fatty acids like butyrate, which is potently anti-inflammatory.
Best of all, full-fat dairy products are loaded with Vitamin K2, a powerful but often ignored nutrient that regulates calcium metabolism in the body. Most importantly, Vitamin K2 helps to keep calcium inside our bones and outside of our arteries.
Studies have shown that Vitamin K2 is highly protective against fractures (lowering the risk by 60-81 percent) and cardiovascular disease. The Rotterdam study showed that people who had the highest K2 intake had a 57 percent lower risk of heart disease and a 26 percent lower risk of death from all causes, over a 7-10 year period.
In countries where cows are largely grass-fed, consuming full-fat dairy products is linked to major reductions in the risk of heart disease. One study from Australia showed that those who ate the most full-fat dairy had a 69 percent lower risk of dying from heart disease than those who ate the least.
A lot people are concerned that because full-fat dairy is high in fat and calories, that it can cause weight gain. However, the evidence disagrees. In fact, eating dairy fat is linked to a reduced risk of obesity in numerous studies.
That being said, there are some people who can’t tolerate dairy. If you get some sort of negative reaction from eating dairy products, then by all means avoid them. But for people who do tolerate and enjoy them, then there is absolutely no scientifically valid reason to avoid quality dairy products from grass-fed cows.
Bottom Line: Unprocessed, full-fat dairy products from grass-fed cows are incredibly healthy. They are high in important vitamins like Vitamin K2, as well as beneficial fatty acids like butyrate.
2. Dark Chocolate
There are also studies showing that dark chocolate can reduce insulin resistance, a major risk factor for metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Photo courtesy of Shutterstock
Dark chocolate is one of those rare indulgent foods that happen to be incredibly healthy and nutritious.
One problem with chocolate in general is that it often contains some sugar. However, if you choose dark chocolate with 70-85 percent (or higher) cocoa content, then the sugar amount will be minimal and the benefits will far outweigh the negatives.
There have actually been numerous studies on the health benefits of dark chocolate and cocoa, especially for heart and brain function. Dark chocolate and cocoa can lower blood pressure, raise HDL cholesterol and protect LDL particles from oxidative damage.
There are also studies showing that dark chocolate can reduce insulin resistance, a major risk factor for metabolic syndrome, type 2 diabetes and heart disease. In some studies, people who eat the most cocoa and dark chocolate have a 50-57 percent lower risk of heart disease, which is an insanely high number.
Of course, these types of studies are observational in nature and can not prove that the chocolate caused the reduction in risk. But given the confirmed effects on important risk factors like blood pressure, insulin resistance and LDL oxidation, I find it plausible that dark chocolate and cocoa could in fact reduce heart disease risk.
That being said, the benefits of dark chocolate don’t end with the heart. There are also studies showing that it can cause major improvements in brain function (at least in the elderly) and give the skin natural protection against sunburn.
Dark chocolate wasn’t available in the paleolithic period, but it’s still one of the healthiest foods you can eat.
Just make sure to choose quality, organic dark chocolate with a high cocoa content, and don’t eat a lot of it, think of it more as a supplement.
One or two squares per day or a few times per week should be enough.
Bottom Line: Dark chocolate is a “modern” food, but numerous studies show that it has powerful health benefits, especially for heart health.
3. White Potatoes
The original paleo diet book took a hard stance against potatoes.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
I don’t think this makes a lot of sense, because potatoes are a root vegetable that was available in the paleolithic period. Some other versions of paleo, like the Perfect Health Diet, actively encourage foods like potatoes, which they refer to as “safe” starches.
Potatoes are actually incredibly nutritious. A single potato contains lots of Vitamin C, potassium, magnesium, manganese, iron and various other nutrients. Really, potatoes contain almost every nutrient we need in some amount, including a decent amount of protein with all the essential amino acids.
There have even been accounts of people living on nothing but potatoes for long periods of time, without any apparent negative effects on health.
Another important feature of potatoes is that they may just be the most fulfilling food in existence. In fact, they score higher on a scale called the satiety index than any other food tested. What this means is that by eating potatoes, you will feel naturally full and end up eating less of other foods instead.
If you want to make your potatoes even healthier, you can allow them to cool after cooking them. This greatly increases the resistant starch content, which is a an indigestible type of starch that functions like soluble fiber.
The only problem with potatoes is the high carb content, so people who are on a very low-carb diet may want to avoid them. But for people who are active and metabolically healthy, potatoes are pretty close to being nature’s perfect food.
It makes absolutely no sense why they shouldn’t be allowed on a paleo diet. They’re as “real” as a food can get.
Bottom Line: White potatoes were discouraged in the original version of the paleo diet. However, they are incredibly healthy, highly nutritious and among the most fulfilling foods in existence.
Despite having been demonized in the past, studies have now shown that coffee is actually very healthy.
Photo credit: Shutterstock
Studies have consistently linked coffee consumption to a lower risk of many diseases, especially type 2 diabetes, Parkinson’s, Alzheimer’s and liver diseases. Not only that, but numerous studies suggest that people who drink coffee live longer than people who don’t.
Coffee is actively discouraged in the original paleo diet book, although others like The Primal Blueprint (my favorite version) do allow for coffee.
Although some people are overly sensitive to caffeine, most people can tolerate coffee just fine. As long as you don’t drink too much and don’t drink it late in the day (which can have negative effects on sleep), then there is absolutely NO reason to avoid coffee if you enjoy it.
Coffee was probably not consumed in the paleolithic period (neither was tea, for that matter), but it’s still very healthy and incredibly enjoyable.
Just make sure to choose quality coffee and don’t put sugar in it.
Take Home Message
The truth is, we don’t even know exactly what our paleolithic ancestors ate and there is also no “one” type of paleo diet.
What people ate varied greatly between regions, depending on the food that was available at the time. Some ate a high-carb diet high in plants, others a low-carb diet high in animal foods.
The one thing we do know for certain is that paleolithic humans didn’t eat anything made in a factory.
This includes refined sugar, refined grains, trans fats, veggie oils and any sort of processed food that is impossible to make naturally.
Humans evolved eating real food, plain and simple. That’s what we should be focusing on.
It is a good idea to consider the foods humans evolved eating, because it is likely that these foods will be both safe and healthy for our bodies.
But there are plenty of “modern” foods that are healthy too. Just because it’s new, doesn’t mean it’s bad.
If you enjoy a food, get good results eating it and science has shown it to be healthy, then avoiding it just because it isn’t “paleo” according to some narrow definition of what that means, is ridiculous.
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By Tom Duszynski
The coronavirus is certainly scary, but despite the constant reporting on total cases and a climbing death toll, the reality is that the vast majority of people who come down with COVID-19 survive it. Just as the number of cases grows, so does another number: those who have recovered.
In mid-March, the number of patients in the U.S. who had officially recovered from the virus was close to zero. That number is now in the tens of thousands and is climbing every day. But recovering from COVID-19 is more complicated than simply feeling better. Recovery involves biology, epidemiology and a little bit of bureaucracy too.
How does your body fight off COVID-19?<p>Once a person is exposed the coronavirus, the body starts producing <a href="https://www.mblintl.com/products/what-are-antibodies-mbli/" target="_blank">proteins called antibodies to fight the infection</a>. As these <a href="https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/27/serological-tests-reveal-immune-coronavirus/" target="_blank">antibodies start to successfully contain the virus</a> and keep it from replicating in the body, symptoms usually begin to lessen and you start to feel better. Eventually, if all goes well, your immune system will completely destroy all of the virus in your system. A person who was infected with and survived a virus with no long-term health effects or disabilities has "recovered."</p><p>On average, a person who is infected with SARS-CoV-2 will feel ill for about seven days from the onset of symptoms. Even after symptoms disappear, there still may be small amounts of the virus in a patient's system, and they should stay <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/steps-when-sick.html" target="_blank">isolated for an additional three days</a> to ensure they have truly <a href="https://health.usnews.com/conditions/articles/coronavirus-recovery-what-to-know" target="_blank">recovered and are no longer infectious</a>.</p>
What about immunity?<p>In general, once you have recovered from a viral infection, your body will keep cells called lymphocytes in your system. These cells "remember" viruses they've previously seen and can react quickly to fight them off again. If you are exposed to a virus you have already had, your antibodies will likely stop the virus before it starts causing symptoms. <a href="https://dx.doi.org/10.5114%2Fceji.2018.77390" target="_blank">You become immune</a>. This is the <a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK27158/" target="_blank">principle behind many vaccines</a>.</p><p>Unfortunately, immunity isn't perfect. For many viruses, like mumps, immunity can wane over time, leaving you <a href="https://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2016/04/160421145747.htm" target="_blank">susceptible to the virus in the future</a>. This is why you need to get revaccinated – those "booster shots" – occasionally: to prompt your immune system to make more antibodies and memory cells.</p><p>Since this coronavirus is so new, scientists still don't know whether people who recover from COVID-19 are <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/faq.html" target="_blank">immune to future infections of the virus</a>. Doctors are finding antibodies in ill and recovered patients, and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/clinical-guidance-management-patients.html" target="_blank">that indicates the development of immunity</a>. But the question remains how long that immunity will last. Other coronaviruses like <a href="https://doi.org/10.1002/jmv.25685" target="_blank">SARS and MERS produce an immune response</a> that will protect a person at least for a short time. I would suspect the same is true of SARS-CoV-2, but the research simply hasn't been done yet to say so definitively.</p>
Why have so few people officially recovered in the US?<p>This is a dangerous virus, so the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention is being extremely careful when deciding what it means to recover from COVID-19. Both medical and testing criteria must be met before a person is <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/hcp/disposition-in-home-patients.html" target="_blank">officially declared recovered</a>.</p><p>Medically, a person must be fever-free without fever-reducing medications for three consecutive days. They must show an improvement in their other symptoms, including reduced coughing and shortness of breath. And it must be at least seven full days <a href="https://health.usnews.com/conditions/articles/coronavirus-recovery-what-to-know" target="_blank">since the symptoms began</a>.</p><p>In addition to those requirements, the CDC guidelines say that a person must test negative for the coronavirus twice, with the <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/if-you-are-sick/care-for-someone.html" target="_blank">tests taken at least 24 hours apart</a>.</p><p>Only then, if both the symptom and testing conditions are met, is a person officially considered recovered by the CDC.</p><p>This second testing requirement is likely why there were so few official recovered cases in the U.S. until late March. Initially, there was a <a href="https://www.nytimes.com/2020/03/18/health/coronavirus-test-shortages-face-masks-swabs.html" target="_blank">massive shortage of testing in the U.S.</a> So while many people were certainly recovering over the last few weeks, this could not be officially confirmed. As the country enters the height of the pandemic in the coming weeks, focus is still on <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-nCoV/hcp/clinical-criteria.html" target="_blank">testing those who are infected</a>, not those who have likely recovered.</p><p>Many more people are being tested now that states and private companies have begun <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/cases-updates/testing-in-us.html" target="_blank">producing and distributing tests</a>. As <a href="https://www.dispatch.com/news/20200406/coronavirus-in-ohio-from-its-rocky-start-testing-for-covid-19-slowly-ramping-up" target="_blank">the number of available tests increases</a> and the pandemic eventually slows in the country, more testing will be available for those who have appeared to recover. As people who have already recovered are tested, the appearance of any new infections will help researchers learn <a href="https://www.statnews.com/2020/03/24/we-need-smart-coronavirus-testing-not-just-more-testing/" target="_blank">how long immunity can be expected to last</a>.</p>
Once a person has recovered, what can they do?<p>Knowing whether or not people are immune to COVID-19 after they recover is going to determine what individuals, communities and society at large can do going forward. If scientists can show that recovered patients are immune to the coronavirus, then a person who has recovered could in theory <a href="https://www.vox.com/2020/3/30/21186822/immunity-to-covid-19-test-coronavirus-rt-pcr-antibody" target="_blank">help support the health care system</a> by caring for those who are infected.</p><p>Once communities pass the peak of the epidemic, the number of new infections will decline, while the number of <a href="https://www.newsweek.com/china-says-passed-peak-coronavirus-epidemic-covid-19-1491863" target="_blank">recovered people will increase</a>. As these trends continue, the risk of transmission will fall. Once the risk of transmission has fallen enough, community-level isolation and social distancing orders will begin to relax and businesses will start to reopen. Based on what other countries have gone through, it will be <a href="https://www.nature.com/articles/d41586-020-00154-w" target="_blank">months until the risk of transmission is low</a> in the U.S.</p><p>But before any of this can happen, the U.S. and the world need to make it through the peak of this pandemic. Social distancing works to slow the spread of infectious diseases and <a href="https://www.cdc.gov/coronavirus/2019-ncov/need-extra-precautions/what-you-can-do.html" target="_blank">is working for COVID-19</a>. Many people will <a href="https://www.yalemedicine.org/stories/2019-novel-coronavirus/" target="_blank">need medical help to recover</a>, and social distancing will slow this virus down and give people the best chance to do so.</p>
By Elizabeth Claire Alberts
The future for the world's oceans often looks grim. Fisheries are set to collapse by 2048, according to one study, and 8 million tons of plastic pollute the ocean every year, causing considerable damage to delicate marine ecosystems. Yet a new study in Nature offers an alternative, and more optimistic view on the ocean's future: it asserts that the entire marine environment could be substantially rebuilt by 2050, if humanity is able to step up to the challenge.
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By Zulfikar Abbany
Bread has been a source of basic nutrition for centuries, the holy trinity being wheat, maize and rice. It has also been the reason for a lot of innovation in science and technology, from millstones to microbiological investigations into a family of single-cell fungi called Saccharomyces.
Chemical leavening<p>If you like a little heft in your loaf, you will need a leavening agent.</p><p>For those short on time, you can use baking soda. That's a chemical compound of sodium bicarbonate mixed with potassium bitartrate, or cream of tartar.</p><p>Soda breads have their traditions in parts of eastern and central Europe, and in Ireland and Scotland, with Melrose loaves and "farls."</p><p>They can taste a bit bland, though, and are often considered only as an emergency solution on Sundays. No disrespect intended: They taste just fine fresh from the oven.</p><p>Whether it's chemical or more "natural," leavening relies largely on the production of carbon dioxide.</p><p>When you mix an acid, such as vinegar, buttermilk, yogurt or apple cider, with an alkaline compound like baking soda, you get CO2. That CO2 creates bubbles, which in turn capture steam in the oven and allow a bread to rise.</p><p><span></span>But it's better with yeast. Tastes better, too. It just takes more time. </p>
What is yeast?<p>There are yeasts all around us — on grains, in the air, in biofuels. It even lives inside us, but that's not always a good thing.</p><p><a href="https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1090575/pdf/1471-2334-5-22.pdf" target="_blank">Candida yeast</a> can cause infections of the skin, feet, mouth, penis or vagina if it builds up too much in the body.</p><p>One of the most common yeasts, however, is <em>Saccharomyces cerevisiae</em>. That's <a href="https://www.dw.com/en/an-early-beer-archaeologists-tap-ground-at-worlds-oldest-brewery/a-45480731" target="_blank">"brewer's"</a> or "baker's" yeast.</p><p>You can get fresh baker's yeast, often in 42-gram (1.48-ounce) cubes, or as dried yeast (quick action or active, which requires rehydration) in a sachet of 7 grams.</p><p>There's little difference: One is compressed and the other is dehydrated and granulated. But they do the same thing, essentially. </p><p>Some commercial yeast producers add molasses and other nutrients. But natural yeast has plenty of useful nutrients in it anyway, including B group vitamins, so who knows whether it's good or necessary to add them. </p>
How does yeast work?<p>When you mix flour, yeast and water, you set off a veritable chain reaction. Enzymes in the wheat convert starch into sugar. And the yeast creates enzymes of its own to convert those sugars into a form it can absorb.</p><p>The yeast "feeds" on the sugars to create carbon dioxide and alcohol. The yeast burps and farts, releasing gases into the mix, and that creates bubbles to trap CO2. </p><p>It's a vital fermentation process that breaks down the gluten in the flour and helps make your bread more digestible.</p><p>The yeast cells split and reproduce, generating lactic and carbonic acid, raising the temperature and ultimately adding flavor to the mix.</p><p>The longer you leave the yeast to do its thing, the better for your bread. Time is more important than the amount of yeast. </p><p>In fact, that's an enduring question — how much yeast? I'll use 20 grams fresh yeast for 500 grams of flour. Others say that's enough yeast for 1 kilo. If you are converting a dry-yeast recipe to fresh yeast, some bakers advise tripling the weight. So, if a sachet of dried yeast is 7 grams, your fresh yeast is 21 grams.</p><p><span></span>But that also depends on the flours you are using, temperatures in the bowl and the room, and a host of other things. You'll just have to experiment and see. No number of books (and I've read a stack on bread) will help as much as trial and error.</p>
Wild yeast: Sourdough<p>So, good bread needs time. If you have a lot of time, why not move it up a notch and grow wild yeast — a sourdough starter — in your own home?</p><p>A sourdough starter is not to be mistaken (as it often is) for the leaven, or "mother," "sponge," or <em>levain</em>. That's more a second stage, a descendant of the starter. You take a scoop from your starter and add it to another flour and water mixture when you prepare the dough for a new loaf. </p><p>The sourdough process utilizes yeasts naturally present in flour and … yet more time. A longer fermentation process allows a richer lactic acid bacteria <em>lactobacilli</em> or LAB to evolve, and that can be healthy for your gut microbiome.</p><p>It's simple enough to start a sourdough starter. All you need is flour, warm water and time.</p><p>Some suggest equal measures of whole-grain flour and water at 28 degrees Celsius (82 degrees Fahrenheit), some say room temperature — just don't let the water exceed 40 C or the yeasts will die. Some suggest two parts flour to three parts water. But it's up to you whether you want a drier or wetter starter. You will know only through experimentation. </p><p>Some say you should filter tap water to remove chemicals like fluoride and avoid using water that's boiled and then cooled. Others say that really doesn't matter.</p><p>The main thing is, keep it clean and give it time. Days, weeks, months and years.</p>
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