Staying Healthy and Eating Real Food on the Road (Challenges & Solutions)

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If you follow me on instagram, you might think I’ve been aimlessly gallivanting around the U.S. all summer without a care in the world.

But in reality, my trips have consisted of driving to and from two family weddings and one family reunion — and bumming food/places to stay off of family members along the way!

Not exactly the most luxurious or fancy kinds of vacations (but still fun nonetheless).

And if you’ve ever been on a road trip, you know how difficult it can be to eat REAL food and stay healthy while on the road.

While it’s almost impossible to be 100% perfect in these situations (or ever) there are certainly things that can be done to minimize damage without compromising the fun factor. I’ll go through some of the challenges I’ve faced below and what I’ve done to mitigate them. If you think I’ve missed something, feel free to let me know with a comment at the bottom of this post!

  • CHALLENGE #1: Avoiding drive-throughs. You wake up feeling motivated and decide to get an early start on your drive without stopping for for breakfast or even a quick snack. But a few hours into your drive, your stomach starts to rumble.

    And within a matter of 5 minutes, you’re starving.

    Suddenly, the Del Taco coming up at the next exit starts to look reeaaallly good (even though you haven’t eaten there in years).

    I feel your pain. And while I would never pass judgement on anyone for eating Del Taco in this situation, there ARE ways to avoid it.

    Snacks, for one, can be a lifesaver on road trips. Since I’m one of those people who doesn’t know how to stop eating, I usually try to avoid snacking and instead stick to eating 3 balanced and hearty meals every day.

    But road trips are a different story.

    And a bit of planning ahead can save you from compromising your otherwise healthy diet for food that will leave you feeling gross and possibly even sick.

    carcooler

    Farmer Jeff and I usually stock up on Larabars, Jackson’s Honest Chips, and a few other non-perishable “healthy junk food” snacks for road trips.

    While these things are great, they’re no substitute for complete meals. That’s why I’m dying to try this cooler (pictured on the left) on our next road trip! It plugs into your car’s cigarette lighter for power, allowing you to easily travel with foods that would otherwise go bad if not kept cool. How awesome is that!?

    But regardless of how much pre-planning and preparing you do, there’s still going to be times when you just have to work with what you’ve got. And in these cases, it’s always a good idea to weigh your options and make the best decisions you can considering the options at hand.

    Sometimes that means opting for a baked potato and apple pecan chicken salad from Wendy’s (been there, done that)…or getting beef jerky and a banana from the closest gas station just to hold you over.

    It isn’t ideal, but that’s life. So rather than beating yourself up over these small compromises, realize that you’re doing your best and move on with life!

  • CHALLENGE #2: Finding ways to exercise. A little bit of travel is no reason to not get your daily sweat on!

    If you’re staying in a hotel that has a fitness center, this should be easy enough. But if you’re staying with relatives or friends or somewhere that isn’t equipped with an exercise area, you may have to improvise a bit.

    CrossFit is my drug exercise of choice. So I brought a kettlebell, jump rope, and wall ball along in the car during our trips this summer.

    With these few pieces of equipment combined with body weight movements and weighted back squats (my 100 lb. little sister was nice enough to volunteer as my barbell), I was able to come up with countless on-the-go WODs during our trips.

    bozeman

    I also did more outdoorsy stuff (hiking, trail running, etc.) than normal, which felt amazing. There’s nothing quite like going OUTSIDE and connecting with nature — road trips are perfect for that!

    Whether you’re a runner, yogi, crossfitter, or whatever, the important thing here is to do SOMETHING. Go outside. Play a sport. Take a walk. Be creative and have fun!

  • CHALLENGE #3: Being gracious to hosts. Explaining why you eat the way you do can be a pain. Because for some reason, eating real, unprocessed food is an extremely foreign and strange concept to most ordinary folk.

    In general, explaining food choices should always be done in an extremely casual and non-defensive manner (check out Real Food Liz’s video, Explaining Food Choices (What to Say & Why), for some sound coaching on the subject).

    But when you’re a guest in someone’s home, this matter becomes all the more delicate and tricky. You want to be polite and kind, but also don’t want to feel obligated to consume edible products that just aren’t food.

    I’ve found that the best way to handle — or prevent — this from happening is to chat with your hosts ahead of time. Otherwise, they’ll end up slaving away on a meal that will you will either 1) eat against your will or 2) not eat and risk offending them.

    Neither situation is good.

    Instead, casually fill them in on your new diet and lifestyle. Offer to pick up some groceries and cook a meal or two for your hosts while you’re there. Chances are, they’ll be receptive if approached in a friendly and non-condescending way. And who knows, you might just leave a lasting impression that will transform their health for the better!

  • CHALLENGE #4: All the sitting. I can’t stand sitting still for long periods of time, so road trips are challenging for me. But there really isn’t any way to get around this one — only ways to minimize the suffering.

    These things, unfortunately, involve looking kind of silly in front of people. Oddly enough, people tend to stop and stare when you start doing air squats immediately after exiting your car at the gas station.

    I realize this approach isn’t for everyone.

    Stretching at rest stops is a good, more socially acceptable way to get the blood flowing after hours upon hours of sitting in a car.

    It also helps to do things that involve movement before and/or after your drive. For example, if I’m in Bozeman, MT and need to drive 6 hours to Salt Lake City, I’ll get up and hike for an hour or two before making the drive (instead of doing something else that involves sitting beforehand). The endorphins from the hike are usually enough to help me power through the long and tedious drive ahead.

  • CHALLENGE #5: Remembering the essentials. There’s a few things that I just don’t like to be without.

    OrganicCoconutOil

    Coconut oil is one of those things. I use it to wash my face, moisturize my skin, fatten up my coffee, and more. Without it, I’m lost. Okay, that might be an exaggeration — but only a slight one.

    Having a healthy, stable, Omega-3 rich source of fat (like coconut oil) on hand is especially important considering all of the unhealthy vegetable/seed oils that most of us are inevitably exposed to while traveling.

    Apple cider vinegar (for digestion) and sardines (for their impressive fat, protein, and vitamin content) are some of my other road trip essentials.

    And whenever I’m lucky enough to pass through a town that happens to have a Sprouts, Whole Foods, or Natural Grocers, I always stock up on Kombucha, Coconut Water, and whatever other goodies I can get my hands on!

I’m certainly not suggesting that anyone HAS to do all of these things on road trips in order to enjoy them. But I tend to feel better and have more fun when I’m making healthy choices, so it’s worth it for me to put some extra thought/effort into this stuff!

Do you agree or disagree? What are some things you can’t travel without? Have a personal experience that relates to one of the challenges listed above? Share it in a comment!

The China Study Fallacy (And Why I Stopped Being a Vegetarian)

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People who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease. Even relatively small intakes of animal-based food were associated with adverse effects. People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease.

This bold statement (along with many others) made by T. Colin Campbell in The China Study has influenced many into ditching meat and other animal-derived foods and instead adopting a diet consisting entirely and exclusively of plant-based foods.

Often thought of as the “final word” on the scientific superiority of veganism, the evidence presented in The China Study seems so compelling that many intelligent minds have fallen prey to it and completely re-vamped their outlook on food and nutrition as a result of it.

But under scrutiny, the information laid out as facts in The China Study shatters — into tiny, pathetic, protein-deficient pieces. I’ll explain why later — but first, it’s story time! (Feel free to skip ahead to the next section if you’re not interested).


6 Meatless Months

During my sophomore year of college, I decided to give up meat — a decision that was heavily influenced by a combination of my co-workers at Trader Joe’s (devout China Study fans), terrifying PETA videos, my ongoing battle to try any and every diet that might help me lose 10 pounds, and sheer curiosity.

At the time, I was so positive that I was doing the best thing possible for my body composition, overall health, and humanity as a whole by giving up meat. When people asked me how it was going, I automatically began thoughtlessly raving about how amazing it was to be a vegetarian. I ignored the digestive troubles, worsening acne symptoms, and weight gain that my new lifestyle had perpetuated.

It wasn’t until I went on a camping trip at the beach with my family that I ever considered the notion that my new meat-free diet could be doing me more harm than good.

After spending a day feeling incredibly self-conscious and insecure in my swimsuit at the beach, it was time for dinner — and burgers were on the menu.

My “burger” consisted of a bun with re-fried beans inside.

It was terrible. But it didn’t have any unhealthy, cancer-causing, artery-clogging red meat…so I was good, right? Despite everything I had been told about how “healthy” my new lifestyle was, something about what I was eating in that moment just seemed so terribly WRONG.

I paid close attention as my cousin’s wife ate ONLY the hamburger patties accompanied by some veggies — the complete opposite of what I was doing. Her dinner wasn’t the only thing about us that was different. She was slim and toned, I was thick and pudgy. She had loads of energy, I was constantly feeling sluggish. The list went on and on.

“How can this be?” I thought to myself. It just didn’t add up to everything I thought I knew about nutrition.

A few months after the trip, it started to become more and more clear that the vegetarian thing just wasn’t working for me. After taking some hints from my body and realizing that there ARE alternatives to the inhumane and unnatural factory farming practices that I was so opposed to (something that the author of The China Study completely fails to address), I ended my short stent as a vegetarian — and boy, am I glad that I did!

*Important Note — There are vegetarians and vegans out there who go about their lifestyles in a much healthier and whole food-based way than I did at the time. The purpose of this post is not to belittle or criticize any particular way of eating, but instead to expose the inaccuracies in a book that has (and continues to) influence many to adopt a plant-based diet under the false pretense that animal-based foods cause chronic disease.


My Beef With The Vegan Bible

Just hearing the title The China Study, you’d think that the book would focus almost entirely on… The China Study.

But it doesn’t.

Only one chapter of the book (39 of 350 pages) actually focuses on the China-Cornell-Oxford Project — a large observational study conducted throughout the 1980s in rural China.

And even within that one teensy little chapter, author T. Colin Campbell makes some serious sins of omission in his interpretation of the study’s original data. Nutritional experts Loren Cordain, Chris Masterjohn and Denise Minger (just to name a few) have all succeeded in shedding light on these these discrepancies (and there are many) in separate and comprehensive critiques of The China Study.

The resounding message of this chapter of the book can be summed up in the following quote from Campbell (also mentioned above):

People who ate the most animal-based foods got the most chronic disease. Even relatively small intakes of animal-based food were associated with adverse effects. People who ate the most plant-based foods were the healthiest and tended to avoid chronic disease.

But the evidence taken from the actual China-Cornell-Oxford Project tells a different story. In what is widely considered to be the most comprehensive and meticulously researched smackdown of The China Study out there (seriously, stop reading this and head over to her post if you’re really interested in this stuff), Minger pulled out the top 5 counties from The China Study with the lowest animal protein intake per year and stacked them up against the top 5 counties with the highest animal protein intake per year.

Though she admits that these graphs alone aren’t enough to draw confident conclusions from, they should still show stark contrast in support of Campbell’s claims. Here’s what they showed instead:

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Additional graphs included in her critique compare rates of stroke, diabetes, and a myriad of cancers in nearly vegan vs. meat-eating counties. All show similar results — the counties that consumed the most meat were no worse off (and were often even more healthy) than the counties that consumed less than one gram of animal protein per day on average.

Campbell also fails to give any credit to Tuoli, a county that ate 45% of their diet as fat and 134 grams of animal protein each day (twice as much as the average American). Yet according to the raw data, they were generally much healthier and suffered lower rates of cancer and heart disease than many of the counties that were nearly vegan.

Instead of demonstrating a direct causal relationship between animal consumption and chronic disease (there isn’t one), Campbell added another variable (cholesterol) into the mix in order to justify his vegan ideals. He reported that:

Plasma cholesterol in the 90-170 milligrams per deciliter range is positively associated with most cancer mortality rates. Plasma cholesterol is positively associated with animal protein intake and inversely associated with plant protein intake.

But there’s a lot more to the story. According to Minger,

Campbell never took the critical step of accounting for other disease-causing variables that tend to cluster with higher-cholesterol counties in the China Study—variables like schistosomiasis infection, industrial work hazards, increased hepatitis B infection, and other non-nutritional factors spurring chronic conditions. Areas with lower cholesterol, by contrast, tended to have fewer non-dietary risk factors, giving them an automatic advantage for preventing most cancers and heart disease. (The health threats in the lower-cholesterol areas were more related to poor living conditions, leading to greater rates of tuberculosis, pneumonia, intestinal obstruction, and so forth.)

Even if the correlations with cholesterol did remain after adjusting for these risk factors, it takes a profound leap in logic to link animal products with disease by way of blood cholesterol when the animal products themselves don’t correlate with those diseases. If all three of these variables rose in unison, then hypotheses about animal foods raising disease risk via cholesterol could be justified.


And then there’s the rats.

Campbell also pushes his vegan agenda through a series of experiments he conducted with rats in which he proves that casein, an incomplete protein found in milk, promotes cancer growth in rats.

In order to prove this, Campbell first poisoned his rats with aflatoxin (a mold-related contaminant often found in peanut butter). The poisoned rats given a 20% casein diet all developed cancer or cancer-like lesions, while the rats fed a 5% casein diet did not. Campbell said that casein “proved to be so powerful in its effect that we could turn on and turn off cancer growth simply by changing the level consumed.”

Based on these results, Campbell somehow concluded that ALL forms of animal protein promote cancer growth. In every circumstance. Period. This claim, however, hinges on the following far-fetched and unproven assumptions (as pointed out by Minger):

  1. The casein-cancer mechanism behaves the same way in humans as in lab rats.

  2. Casein promotes cancer not just when isolated, but also when occurring in its natural food form (in a matrix of other milk substances like whey, bioactive peptides, conjugated linoleic acid, minerals, and vitamins, some of which appear to have anti-cancer properties).

  3. There are no differences between casein and other types of animal protein that could impose different effects on cancer growth/tumorigenesis.

You see — whole, unprocessed foods work in synergy to fight against disease and provide us with nutrients. When used in isolation, they don’t always have the same beneficial effects.

Whey, the other major protein found in milk, appears to have qualities that protect against cancer. But instead of including whey (or any other animal-based protein) in his experiments, it was more convenient for Campbell to stop with casein.

Chris Masterjohn also speaks to the faults of Campbell’s casein conclusions in his critique of the book:

What powdered, isolated casein does to rats tells us little about what traditionally consumed forms of milk will do to humans and tells us nothing that we can generalize to all “animal nutrients.” Furthermore, Campbell fails to address the problems of vitamin A depletion from excess isolated protein, unsupported by the nutrient-dense fats which accompany protein foods in nature.

It’s also important to note that, although they didn’t develop liver cancer, the rats that were fed less casein were anything but healthy. As stated by Liz Wolfe in Eat The Yolks,

What Campbell failed to state in his book — although the evidence was present in his own research — is that these rats experienced tissue damage and liver cell death. They may not have developed liver cancer, but they still suffered major health problems.

…like cell death. Not good!


But your family sells meat! Of course you don’t want us to be vegans!

This is true. I would be lying if I claimed to support veganism in any way, shape, or form. And there’s no denying the numerous health & environmental benefits of consuming healthy, humanely raised, pastured animals. But all seriousness, I wouldn’t be telling you these things if:

a) I didn’t believe them myself.
b) I didn’t practice these things myself.
c) There wasn’t substantial evidence to support my beliefs/opinions.

Every creature in the animal kingdom is classified as an herbivore, carnivore, or omnivore. They are what they are because of the nutritional needs required by their species and their innate desire to eat certain foods.

The same rationale applies to humans. Why would we have the immense need for nutrients that are extremely bioavailable in meat if we weren’t meant to eat it? It also doesn’t strike me as fair to blame relatively modern diseases on foods that our ancestors have been enjoying since the beginning of time in excellent health. Just my two cents!

But don’t take my word for it. Check out what all of these really smart people have to say about the benefits of eating meat:

What are your thoughts on The China Study? Are you loving life as a carnivore or are you set on being an herbivore? Whatever your stance is, tell me about it with a comment!

5 Reasons to Eat Pastured Meat

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I was raised on conventional meat. As a kid, I lived for dinosaur-shaped chicken fritters (who thinks of this stuff?) and 39 cent cheeseburger Wednesdays at McDonalds.

This madness went on for quite some time. Until (long story short) I found paleo and my family started Primal Pastures.

Since then, I’ve ditched the fritters and cheeseburgers and have committed to eating high quality, pasture-raised, beyond organic meats — MOST of the time (I don’t feel bad about sometimes eating out at restaurants that don’t use quality meats. Perfection has never been my goal).

But I do realize that not everyone lives and works on a meat farm. And accessing high quality meat isn’t always easy (check out this video from Real Food Liz for tips on finding – and paying for – good meat). Yet we’ve all heard that pastured meat is better — meat that comes from animals that are raised responsibly and humanely, in their natural habitat, eating grass, with plenty of space to roam.

It’s a nice mental picture (much better than envisioning the CAFO alternative). And we all feel better about ourselves when we eat this type of meat. But why exactly is this better than the conventional, factory farmed stuff? After all, it does take a bit of extra effort (and sometimes extra cash) to acquire it. And if you’re anything like me, you want to be sure you’re getting the biggest bang for your buck!

In my opinion, if you’re going to be spending your hard-earned dollars and time on high-quality anything, it should be meat. Not organic produce and not even lululemon swag (though it’s a close second) — MEAT. Here’s why:

  • REASON #1: You won’t be ingesting harmful toxins. Pasture-raised animals are not given hormones, antibiotics, or any other type of drug. “Who cares if my hamburger was once fed antibiotics?” you might say. “That stuff doesn’t affect me.” If only that were the case.

    In reality, the overuse of antibiotics in factory farms contributes to the development of antibiotic-resistant pathogens that are becoming increasingly difficult to treat in humans. I referenced the statement below in a recent post all about chicken, and I’m going to do it again here. This applies to ALL types of livestock that are fed antibiotics.

    According to CAFOs Uncovered: The Untold Costs of Confined Animal Feeding Operations:

    Many of the bacteria found on livestock (such as Salmonella, Escherichia coli, and Campylobacter) can cause food-borne disease in humans. Furthermore, recent evidence strongly suggests that some methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and uropathogenic E. coli infections may also be caused by animal sources. These pathogens collectively cause tens of millions of infections and many thousands of hospitalizations and deaths every year.

    The potentially harmful effects of added hormones are just as scary. Nearly all animals in conventional feedlots in the U.S. are given a combination of 6 anabolic steroids (3 natural and 3 synthetic).

    Measurable levels of all of these hormones are found at slaughter in the muscle, fat, liver, kidneys and other organ meats of the animals they were given to. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration has set “acceptable daily intakes” for each of these drugs. But due to the embarrassingly large research gap on the topic, these standards are virtually meaningless.

  • REASON #2: Better source of fat. Remember those toxins we just went over? Much of that nasty stuff ends up getting stored in the fat of the animal. And because of their unnatural diets and lifestyle, factory farmed animals usually have more fat than their pastured counterparts.

    If you’ve been reading this blog for awhile, you know that I’m all about eating quality sources of healthy fat (read more about my stance on fat here). But when it comes to eating conventional meat, you’re better off choosing the lean cuts. This isn’t true for pastured meats which contain extremely beneficial and nutrient-dense sources of fat.

  • REASON #3: More vitamins and minerals. The nutritional profiles of pastured meats are ALWAYS more robust than their CAFO counterparts (Think about how much better/healthier you feel when you eat real food — the same is true for animals when they’re eating natural diets!). Although specific vitamin and mineral levels vary for each animal, pastured meats generally contain more of the following:

    • Vitamin E
    • Vitamin C
    • Beta-carotene
    • Omega-3
    • B Vitamins
    • Magnesium
    • Calcium
    • And much more!

  • REASON #4: More humane & responsible. We’ve all heard the factory farming horror stories. And they’re no exaggeration. CAFO animals are crammed tightly together, fed a constant stream of antibiotics to prevent infection, left to trudge around in their own feces, fed unnatural feed, and processed inappropriately.

    Not only are these practices grossly inhumane — they’re also terrible for the environment. According to Cornell University ecology professor David Pimentel, it takes roughly 284 gallons of oil to make the fertilizer to grow the corn to feed just one feedlot steer during his short life (14 to 16 months, on average).

    That’s. A. Lot. Of. Oil. — and if it weren’t for the $50 billion + that the government has poured into the corn industry, corn wouldn’t even come close to being an economical choice for feedlot operators.

    On “top” of all of this, crops like corn, soy, and wheat have also created a major topsoil problem. Because of their shallow roots, these crops use up the surface layer of soil much more quickly than it can be restored by earth’s natural processes. This causes all sorts of problems for the environment, including increased greenhouse gas emissions, mineral-depleted soil, flooding, and polluted runoff.

    These issues do not exist with pastured livestock (not fed corn or soy). When animals are rotationally grazed on perennial pastures with roots that extend deep below the surface in addition to the more shallow ones, the land is able to heal itself naturally and topsoil nutrients are consistently replenished.

  • REASON #5: It tastes better! The difference in taste of pastured vs. conventional meat is unreal. Our customers rave about it all the time. Natural and responsibly raised meat really is the real deal, folks! If nothing else, do it for your taste buds.

What’s your take on meat? Is it worth it to get the good stuff? If so, why? Let me know in the comment section!

Why Time Magazine Says “Eat Butter”

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“Scientists labeled fat the enemy. They were wrong.” This quote (placed directly above a delicious looking swirl of butter) recently graced the cover of TIME Magazine – a stark contrast to the 1984 cover of TIME, which showed a sad face constructed of eggs and bacon.

This controversial cover has sent many into a frenzy. Some are ecstatic at the thought of being able to eat real butter, egg yolks, and bacon once again – free of guilt. Others (like me) have already emailed and text messaged pictures of the cover to family and friends who all thought my “fat doesn’t make you fat or sick” stance was a bunch of quack (they have to believe me now, right!?). But many are still skeptical.

Whether you’re a fat lover or hater, it’s worth delving a bit deeper into this issue to discover the truth about this dietary staple turned public enemy #1 of the last four decades.

Left: 1984, Right: 2014

Left: 1984, Right: 2014



How Fat Became the Enemy

The article in TIME places a large amount of the responsibility for America’s saturated fat hysteria on a scientist named Ancel Keys. The Wall Street Journal Agrees, stating in a recent article titled The Questionable Link Between Saturated Fat and Heart Disease that Keys pushed his way to the top of the nutrition world through “sheer force of will,” and that he was guilty of, “relentlessly championing the idea that saturated fats raise cholesterol and, as a result, cause heart attacks.”

Keys’ pushy antics came at a time when heart disease was responsible for nearly half of all deaths in the United States. And after President Eisenhower’s heart attack in 1955, people were seriously spooked. The nation was ready to place the blame on something, and Mr. Keys knew it.

According to TIME,

Keys had an explanation. He posited that high levels of cholesterol–a waxy, fatlike substance present in some foods as well as naturally occurring in the body–would clog arteries, leading to heart disease. He had a solution as well. Since fat intake raised LDL cholesterol, he reasoned that reducing fat in the diet could reduce the risk of heart attacks. (LDL cholesterol levels are considered a marker for heart disease, while high HDL cholesterol seems to be cardioprotective.) In the 1950s and ’60s, Keys sought to flesh out that hypothesis, traveling around the world to gather data about diet and cardiovascular disease. His landmark Seven Countries Study found that people who ate a diet low in saturated fat had lower levels of heart disease. The Western diet, heavy on meat and dairy, correlated with high rates of heart disease.

The Seven Countries Study was ultimately responsible for the 1984 cover of TIME Magazine (shown above) that kickstarted America’s fear of fat. It was also the driving force behind the American Heart Association’s decision to begin advising Americans (for the first time ever) to cut down on saturated fat. The USDA also created their dietary guidelines (The Food Pyramid and now My Plate) for Americans based on Keys’ findings.

It wasn’t long before the American people started listening and responding in the worst of ways. We began ditching nutritious yolks for egg whites, buying turkey bacon (don’t even get me started on turkey bacon) over regular bacon, and choosing margarine over butter. The list goes on and on.

But times have changed. And new (more legit, advanced, and higher budget) studies are disproving Keys’ work — which had some serious flaws to begin with. As stated in the article,

He cherry-picked his data, leaving out countries like France and West Germany that had high-fat diets but low rates of heart disease. Keys highlighted the Greek island of Crete, where almost no cheese or meat was eaten and people lived to an old age with clear arteries. But Keys visited Crete in the years following World War II, when the island was still recovering from German occupation and the diet was artificially lean. Even more confusing, Greeks on the neighboring isle of Corfu ate far less saturated fat than Cretans yet had much higher rates of heart disease.

As a result of this twisted information, we as a nation have been living in fear of red meat, coconut oil, and all sorts of other natural, unprocessed, real food sources of fat that our bodies need and crave. Nearly four decades following our nation’s massive shift from a fat and protein based diet to one rooted in refined carbohydrates, Americans are sicker then ever. Type 2 Diabetes has increased 166% from 1980 to 2012, over a third of the country is obese, and cardiovascular disease remains the nation’s #1 killer.

IMPORTANT SIDENOTE: While the butter on TIME’s cover serves as an excellent attention-grabber (representing a much larger message of encouraging individuals to dump their fat-phobic attitudes), it’s also important to remember that not all butter is necessarily healthy. And not all sources of fat are created equal.

This is a subject for another post. But for now, check out this article by Diane Sanfilippo (complete with PDF Guide!) titled Fats: Which to Eat and Which to Ditch.

Why Fat is Your Friend

Keys based his research on the notion that saturated fats raise cholesterol and that elevated cholesterol levels cause heart disease. But it’s actually much more complex than that. There is evidence suggesting that saturated fat raises cholesterol levels in the blood. However, it raises both HDL (“good” cholesterol) and LDL (“bad” cholesterol). HDL is considered to be cardioprotective and removes the LDL cholesterol that can accumulate on arterial walls.

There are two types of LDL cholesterol particles: small, dense ones and large, fluffy ones. The light and fluffy ones appear to be harmless while the dense, small LDL particles have been linked to heart disease. Can you guess which type of particle saturated fat is responsible for raising? Yup — the large, fluffy ones.

It’s the refined carbohydrates (like whole grain cereal, whole wheat bread, etc. – basically everything that has been marketed to us as “healthy” for the last 4 decades) that actually raise the levels of small, dense LDL particles, potentially contributing to heart disease. For more info on why wheat and other grains are destroying your health, click here.

Aside from the fact that fat does not actually harm us, there also many benefits to consuming whole, unprocessed sources of saturated fat. This article on Tim Ferriss’s blog (author of The 4 Hour Workweek), written by Dr. Michael Eades and Dr. Mary Dan Eades (two of the top obesity treatment doctors in the country) points to all of the major benefits of consuming saturated fats. Here they are, paraphrased and summarized for easier mental digestion:

  • Improved Cardiovascular Risk Factors – Saturated Fat reduces the levels of a substance called lipoprotein that correlates strongly with risk for heart disease (there are currently NO medications capable of lowering this substance). It also raises “good” HDL levels (as noted above) and has been shown to promote weight loss.

  • Stronger Bones – Mary Enig, Ph.D. (one of the foremost research experts in dietary fats) believes there’s a case to be made for having as much as 50% of the fats in your diet as saturated fats to promote bone mass – a recommendation that is supported by the fact that the vast majority of women who are told to avoid saturated fat and to selectively use vegetable oils instead are faced with a loss in bone mass and the threat of osteoporosis.

  • Improved Liver Health – Medical research has shown that adding saturated fat to the diet encourages the liver cells to dump their fat content — a critical first step in halting middle-body fat storage. Saturated fat has also been shown to protect the liver from the toxic insults of alcohol and medications.

  • Healthy Lungs – The airspaces of the lungs need to be coated with a thin layer of lung surfactant (the fat content of which is 100% saturated fatty acids) in order to function properly. When the body low in saturated fat and exceeding in other fats, faulty surfactant is made – potentially leading to breathing difficulties and collapse of the airspaces.

  • Healthy Brain – Many people are now familiar with the importance of the highly unsaturated essential fatty acids found in cold-water fish (EPA and DHA) for normal brain and nerve function. But the majority of the fatty acids in the brain are actually saturated! A diet that skimps on healthy saturated fats robs your brain of the raw materials it needs to function optimally.

  • Proper Nerve Signaling – Certain saturated fats (particularly those found in butter, lard, coconut oil, and palm oil) function directly as signaling messengers that influence the metabolism. Without the correct signals to tell the organs and glands what to do, the job doesn’t get done (or gets done improperly).

  • Strong immune system – Without sufficient saturated fatty acids in the white blood cells, their ability to recognize and destroy foreign invaders (such as viruses, bacteria, and fungi) is seriously compromised. The saturated fats found in butter and coconut oil (myristic acid and lauric acid) play key roles in immune health.

Read the full article here.

Despite the rapidly increasing amount of research that continues to debunk the “fat will kill you and make you fat” myth, this message is still deeply ingrained into our psyches. And reversing this false conception (along with all of the 100 calorie snack packs and nonfat yogurt that came with it) is going to take some time.

But that doesn’t mean you need to wait for the rest of the world to wake up before you start eating the yolks (from pastured eggs of course) and regularly enjoying nice, juicy cut of grass-fed sirloin – without the self-inflicted guilt trip.

For more information on the saturated fat myth, check out the articles below:

And for even more myth-busting health information, check out my article, 7 “Healthy” Habits That are Killing You Slowly.

Primal Chicken 101 – The Answer to the Tragedy of Factory Farmed Poultry

letsdobetter

The principle of this so-called animal science is derived from the industrial version of efficiency. The designers of animal factories appear to have had in mind the example of concentration camps or prisons, the aim of which is to house and feed the greatest numbers in the smallest space at the least expense of money, labor, and attention. To subject innocent creatures to such treatment has long been recognized as heartless. Animal factories make an economic virtue of heartlessness toward domestic animals, to which we humans owe instead a large debt of respect and gratitude.
—Wendell Berry, Stupidity in Concentration

The factory farmed poultry industry is worse off than any other CAFO (Concentrated Animal Feeding Operation) in America. 7 billion chickens are processed for consumption every year in the United States alone. At any given time, up to 40,000 birds are crammed tightly into a single shed resulting in disease, increased susceptibility to infection, immobility, sleep deprivation, and frustration.

These chickens are pumped full of grains (never getting the chance to enjoy their natural diet of bugs and grass) for their entire lives and grow so abnormally large that their legs often give out and break under the extreme load. They’re fed a constant stream of preventative antibiotics to reduce the risk of infection and are kept in artificially lighted sheds for 20 hours each day to keep them awake and eating for unnatural amounts of time.

But wait – it gets worse.

The USDA will soon allow for chickens to be shipped to China to be processed (killed, gutted, and prepared for human consumption) – and then shipped back to the states to be sold to you and your family in stores. According to this article from Nation of Change,

This arrangement is especially disturbing given China’s subpar food safety record and the fact that there are no plans to station on-site USDA inspectors at Chinese plants. Also, American consumers won’t know which brands of chicken are processed in China because there’s no requirement to label it as such.

As horrific and hazardous as it is, this news really isn’t all that surprising. For decades, we as a nation have turned a blind eye to the way that chickens are “farmed” right here in the United States. And we’re about to do the same in regards to how they’re prepared for us to consume.

So How Does This Affect Me?

If the conditions described above weren’t enough to convince you of just how terrible the chicken industry really is, please continue on.

According to the Center for Science in the Public Interest, chicken has caused more food borne illness outbreaks, hospitalizations, and deaths between 1998 and 2010 than any other meat in the American food supply.

In addition, the overuse of antibiotics in factory farms is contributing to the development of antibiotic-resistant pathogens that are becoming increasingly difficult to treat in humans. According to the CAFOs Uncovered: The Untold Costs of Confined Animal Feeding Operations,

Many of the bacteria found on livestock (such as Salmonella, Escherichia coli, and Campylobacter) can cause food-borne disease in humans. Furthermore, recent evidence strongly suggests that some methicillin-resistant Staphylococcus aureus (MRSA) and uropathogenic E. coli infections may also be caused by animal sources. These pathogens collectively cause tens of millions of infections and many thousands of hospitalizations and deaths every year.


What Am I Supposed To Do? Become a Vegetarian?

When I first learned the truth about how chickens (and other meats) are raised and produced, my first instinct was to become a vegetarian. So about 6 years ago, I did just that – for 6 (long) months. It obviously didn’t work for me (I’ll try to get a post out soon about my experience with vegetarianism and why I started eating meat again).

Personal anecdotes aside, there are many reasons why I don’t believe that vegetarianism is the answer to this widespread problem. Here’s a few of them:

  1. The majority of people are not going to stop eating meat (no matter how many scare tactics PETA throws at us).
  2. Meat is an excellent source of protein, rich in a multitude of vitamins and minerals.
  3. There is a better way. More on this below!

The solution, rotational grazing for pastured poultry, offers numerous benefits to farmer, the consumer, and the environment. Rotational grazing implements the key principle of biomimicry, in which the farm uses nature as a template for farm method design.

This is not a new concept. Every species of livestock (cattle, sheep, goats, chicken, ducks, and turkeys) all rotate in the wild. They move to fresh green pasture, eat and soil the area, and then move on (only to return once the manure has been absorbed into the soil and plant/insect life has returned). Nomadic populations were also rotational grazers. They used herding animals to move their cattle and sheep from pasture to pasture, forcing them to constantly move their camp to accommodate the livestock.

The environmental benefits of rotational grazing are not to be understated. Rotationally grazed animals dramatically decrease soil erosion potential, require minimal pesticides and fertilizers, and decrease the amount of barnyard runoff. Pasturing livestock in a rotationally grazed system reduces the amount of nitrates and pesticides leaching into groundwater and also cuts down on the contamination of streams and lakes.

All About Pastured Poultry (And the Health Benefits Associated With It)

Sometimes chickens escape, but they never wander too far from their Salatin Pen, fully equipped with fresh water and Organic, non-GMO, soy-free supplemental feed.

Sometimes chickens escape, but they never wander too far from their Salatin Pen, fully equipped with fresh water and Organic, non-GMO, soy-free supplemental feed.


Primal Pastures implements a modern-day style of rotational grazing developed by Joel Salatin (American farmer, lecturer, and author) that allows chickens to be chickens, foraging and pecking for grass and bugs in their natural habitat (chickens are NOT vegetarians, contrary to what companies who play up the “vegetarian-fed” angle would like you to believe).

By using a 12’x10’x2’ tall floorless “chicken tractor” (like the one pictured above) that is rotated every day to fresh pasture, farms like ours can take full advantage of rotational grazing for poultry while providing massive benefits over the industrial system, including:

  • Natural habitat (grass)
  • Natural flock size (75-90 birds per flock, same as nature)
  • Natural distance to feed/water
  • Reduced feed costs (20% pasture consumption)
  • Environmental benefits
  • Protection from heat/predation
  • 1/3 of the Cholesterol of factory raised chicken
  • 1/4 of the Saturated Fat (toxins in factory-farmed chickens accumulate in the fat)
  • 2/3 more Vitamin A
  • 2 times more Omega-3 Fatty Acids
  • 7 times more Beta Carotene

In addition to their natural diet of bugs and grass, Primal Pastures chickens are also supplemented with organic, non-GMO, soy-free feed. This healthy diet combined with plenty of sunshine, fresh pasture, and space to move around produces chickens far more nutritious and delicious than anything available in stores.

Hey, you with the short attention span – read this!

If you’ve barely scanned over this post (like most people do on the internet) take a few seconds to read over the summarizing points below before wandering off to facebook or peopleofwalmart.com:

  • The industrialized poultry industry is worse off (and more risky) than any other factory farming operation in the United States.
  • Poultry factory farming practices are inhumane and present a slew of hazards to the animals, environment, and the consumer.
  • The USDA will soon allow for chickens to be exported to China for processing and shipped back to the U.S. for human consumption, presenting a host of additional health risks to those who consume it.
  • Vegetarianism is not a realistic answer to this problem.
  • Rotationally grazed (pastured) chickens are able to pick and forage for bugs and grass just like they do in nature.
  • Pastured poultry is better for the animals, the land, and the consumer.
  • Pastured poultry contains two thirds more Vitamin A, two times more Omega-3, and 7 times more Beta Carotene.
  • Eating pastured poultry ensures that you will not be supporting inhumane farming practices or consuming meat riddled with antibiotics and toxins.
  • Pastured chicken tastes BETTER!

Check out Eat Wild to find out how to get your hands on some delicious pastured poultry from a farmer near you. And here’s one more picture of happy, healthy chickens for good measure. Enjoy!

chickens3

Grains: Necessary for Health or Worse than Soda?

aregrainshealthy

I grew up eating a lot of grains.

Every day consisted of cereal (lots of cereal), a sandwich for lunch, and varied dinners — always consisting of some sort of grain either as the main dish or side. And every day I felt awful. My stomach rumbled constantly. I was tired and groggy almost constantly (especially after eating). I came down with a cold every few months and struggled quite a bit with acne and allergies…I could keep going for awhile — but I won’t bore you with all of that now.

I thought these ailments were just a part of life…things that come along with being human. After all, it seemed like everyone I knew had their own list of annoying health issues they dealt with.

It wasn’t until my senior year of college when I met my husband Jeff that I even considered the notion that some of my problems could be related to the foods I was eating. Almost all of Jeff’s family was on either paleo or gluten-free diets and had healed some of their own health problems by eating that way. Farmer Paul got rid of his arthritis. His wife Lynsey saw major improvements in her dental health. And Farmer Tom lost about 70 pounds. It all sounded pretty wacky to me…

Until I gave it a try.

The first thing to go was grains. All grains. I’ve never been a big bread, pasta, or rice junkie — so that stuff wasn’t such a big deal for me to give up. But cereal was a different story. Not only did I often eat multiple bowls of it for dinner (in addition to breakfast), but would many times cap off normal meals with the stuff after I was already full. From sugary sweet Cocoa Puffs to “heart healthy” Kashi…I loved it all. That was a tough habit to kick.

But when I did, the changes were remarkable. My digestion and constant state of sluggishness improved immediately. And little by little (while making more changes towards a real food only diet) my other health ailments gradually all but disappeared.

So there it is in a nutshell — grains have never agreed with me and giving them up has improved my health tremendously and changed my life in major ways.

Yes, I realize that I’m probably more intolerant to grains than most people. And no, I’m not trying to suck the fun out of life for everyone else just because of my sensitivity to our culture’s beloved whole grains. But the fact is, there are extremely compelling health reasons for all of us (noticeably intolerant or not) to seriously consider whether or not we should be consuming the plant at the bottom of the food pyramid.


Humans Were Healthier Pre-Agricultural Revolution

10,000 years ago, people didn’t eat the cereal grains (grass seeds) that make up the overwhelming majority of the grains we consume today. Instead, our hunter-gatherer ancestors were dependent on meat, seafood, vegetables, fruits, and nuts for sustenance (and we were much healthier for it).

It wasn’t until the Agricultural Revolution that our diets changed dramatically. In Cereal Grains: Humanity’s Double-Edged Sword, Loren Cordain lists the conditions that resulted from early cases of grain-based diets replacing the primarily animal-based diets of hunter-gatherers:

  • Reduction in stature
  • Increase in infant mortality
  • Reduction in lifespan
  • Increased incidence of infectious diseases
  • Increase in iron deficiency anemia
  • Increased incidence of osteomalacia, porotic hyperostosis, and other bone mineral disorders
  • An increase in the number of dental caries and enamel effects

Though the advent of agriculture has allowed for the advancement of society in many ways, these massive gains have come with a price — our health. The foods we eat have drastically changed (as grains now make up the bulk of most modern diets), even though our genetically determined nutritional needs have virtually stayed the same. Because of this (along with other dietary and lifestyle factors), degenerative and autoimmune diseases are common in modern society. But common as they are, these modern ailments are anything butnormal.


Grains Are Genetically Adapted to be Toxic to Humans

Grains contain anti-nutrients that are toxic to the body and prevent the absorption of important vitamins and minerals that our bodies need (in addition to falling short in vitamins, minerals, amino acids, and more in comparison to the high density of nutrients in meats and vegetables).

They contain these toxins and anti-nutrients as a means of survival. Every living thing on this planet was designed with defense mechanisms. Animals can run, swim, fly, or hide from danger. Plants cannot. Mark Sisson writes,

Plants, though, are passive organisms without the ability to move, think, and react (for the most part). They must employ different tactics to ensure propagation, and they generally have to rely on outside forces to spread their seed. And so various methods are “devised” to dissuade consumption long enough for the seed to get to where it’s going. Nuts have those tough shells, and grains have the toxic anti-nutrients, lectins, gluten, and phytates. (Of course there are some obvious exceptions. Fruits are tasty, nutritious, and delicious so that animals will eat them whole and poop out the seeds, preferably into some fertile soil. The seed stays intact throughout the digestive process; it is indigestible by design. No seed “wants” to be digested, because this would defeat the purpose. They “want” to be swallowed, or borne by the wind, or carried by a bee to the next flower, but they do not want to be digested.)

According to Mark, our bodies may have adapted to tolerate the anti-nutrients in grains (as birds, rodents, ruminants, and other species can), had our ancestors diets’ contained a greater concentration or focus on grains. But they didn’t. And now we’re suffering from society’s shift to a diet rooted in a food that our bodies are not equipped to consume, especially in the large quantities that we eat them in today. Now, let’s tackle some of these anti-nutrients in greater detail…

Anti-Nutrients in Grains

We’ve already established that grains are not essential or even remotely necessary to survival or health — there are no nutrients found in grains that can’t be found in meat and vegetables (in much larger quantities).

Okay, so their nutritional profile isn’t all it’s stacked up to be. So what? I’ll exchange empty calories for a nice bowl of Cheerios or a fluffy dinner roll. But there’s much more to it than that. Aside from not being in any way beneficial, grains are also extremely harmful to the body for three main reasons:

  1. Phytic Acid: This compound binds to important minerals in the foods we eat (calcium, iron, magnesium, zinc, and more). Because phytic acid is indigestible and binds with minerals in the GI tract, these minerals are eliminated from the body instead of ever being absorbed — leaving us vulnerable to the many negative conditions that result from mineral deficiencies. As Diane Sanfilippo writes on page 83 of Practical Paleo,

    Mineral deficiencies can result in a myriad of symptoms that include, but are not limited to, suppressed immunity, fatigue, insomnia, irritability, heart palpitations, muscle cramps, restless leg syndrome, muscle spasms, asthma, migraines, constipation, and hormonal imbalances like premenstrual syndrome (PMS), polycystic ovarian syndrome (PCOS), and infertility in both men and women.

  2. Gluten: Celiacs aren’t the only ones who should steer clear of gluten. Up until very recently, grain intolerance was only tested by the presence of antibodies to transglutaminase and alpha-gliadin, only two components of the gluten compound. But we now know that people can react to several other components of gluten besides just tranglutaminase and alpha-gliadin, suggesting that far more people are intolerant than conventional wisdom would tell us.

    Dr. Kenneth Fine, a pioneer in gluten intolerance research, has demonstrated that 1 in 3 Americans are gluten intolerant and that 8 in 10 have the genes that predispose them to developing gluten intolerance.

    Symptoms of gluten intolerance aren’t always obvious and can include a myriad of problems such as:

    • dermatitus
    • fatigue
    • joint pain
    • acid reflux
    • abnormal menses
    • infertility

  3. Lectins: These proteins (found in large quantities in grains — especially wheat) can impair digestive function by inhibiting the GI tract’s natural repair mechanisms. When lectins disrupt the cell wall, our bloodstream becomes vulnerable to unwanted materials from the digestive system potentially leading to leaky gut and autoimmune disease. The over consumption of lectins can also contribute to leptin resistance, a major perpetrator of weight gain and hormonal dysfunction.

*Sidenote: I know that many readers follow the teachings of Weston A. Price and practice traditional methods of preparing grains, which does effectively neutralize most of the harmful anti-nutrients in grains. I have not experimented with these methods myself (mostly because I’m too lazy and find it easier to just steer clear of grains completely), but do have much respect for individuals who take on this level of commitment and effort in regards to preparing food and fostering health.

Insulin & Grains

Not to be outdone by anti-nutrients is the havoc that grains cause on our bodies’ natural insulin response. Just two slices of whole grain bread has a higher glycemic index (GI) rating than a can of Coke or a Snickers bar. Consuming foods with a high GI leads to a spike in blood sugar which results in the pancreas secreting more insulin to move the glucose from the bloodstream to the muscle and liver cells (where it is stored as glycogen and burned during exercise). But when these cells are already at their max capacity of glycogen, (as they usually are from the excess of grains we eat), things get messy.

With too much glucose in the blood with nowhere to go, the pancreas continues to release insulin to move the glucose to the muscle and liver cells (even though the cell receptors are full) resulting in toxic amounts of insulin in the bloodstream. The excess of insulin results in an inflammatory response and the excess of glucose in the bloodstream leads to insulin resistance, weight gain, and diabetes…all over a measly few slices of whole wheat bread.

The Bottom Line

To sum it up, grains are not healthy. Their nutritional benefits are minimal at best, they prevent us from properly absorbing minerals, wreak havoc on our digestive systems, and contribute to a slew of modern diseases.

It took me about 6-9 months to fully give up grains — a lifestyle change that my body thanks me for daily. But that’s not to say that I never indulge. I’ll occasionally still chow down on sushi with white rice or even gluten-free treats (BJ’s has incredible gluten-free pizookies) from time to time. These compromises usually result in slight fatigue and some digestive discomfort. But sometimes (5% of the time) it’s worth it to me if the enjoyment of the moment is greater than the potential consequences.

That’s really what all of this nutrition and health stuff is about, right? Eating (and living) in ways that optimize wellness and maximize the enjoyment we get out everyday life. And 95% of the time, grains hold us back from that.

Now that I’ve shared my take on grains, what’s yours? Have you experienced better health after eliminating them? Or are you still dead set on having your 6-9 servings a day? Let me know!

7 “Healthy” Habits that are Killing You Slowly

7healthyhabits

We’ve been fed contradicting information on what “experts” say we should and shouldn’t do for decades. One day coffee is good for you, the next day it will kill you. Some say CrossFit is the greatest thing since protein powder and others swear it’s more dangerous than swimming in a pool of great white sharks.

The list goes on and on.

But there are some things that have generally been viewed as healthy and safe for far too long (when they’re really anything but). And it’s time for these lies to be exposed — once and for all.

Stay Away From These 7 Things:

  1. Soy. Every time I see an otherwise health-conscious person order a soy latte or tofu salad, I cringe. Here’s why.

    • Soy contains more phytoestrogens than just about anything. Phytoestrogens are plant-based substances that latch onto the receptor sites of our cells meant for estrogen. Consuming them can contribute to hypothyroidism, early onset puberty, breast cancer, testicular cancer, and male fertility issues.
    • The high levels of phytic acid in soy make it extremely difficult for the body to absorb adequate levels of zinc, calcium, copper, iron, magnesium, and other important minerals.
    • 93% of soy produced in the United States is genetically modified.

  2. Fluoride. I’ve used fluoridated toothpaste for my whole life (up until a few months ago). I’ve drank fluoridated water for most of my life. I even got regular Fluoride treatments from the dentist as a kid.

    You can imagine the shock and horror that I experienced after finding out that Fluoride is a toxic chemical that has been linked to a lower IQ, impaired thyroid function, bone cancer, and many more serious health conditions. And it’s not even good for your teeth. In a major study done by the National Institute of Dental Research, no difference was found in the dental health of children living in areas with fluoridated vs. unfluoridated water.

    Think it’s a bunch of hog wash? Harvard doesn’t. And neither does the National Research Council. According to Dr. Ludgwig Grosse, Chief of Cancer Research at the U.S. Veterans Administration,

    The plain fact that fluorine is an insidious poison — harmful, toxic and cumulative in its effects, even when ingested in minimal amounts, will remain unchanged no matter how many times it will be repeated in print that fluoridation of the water supply is ‘safe.’

    Still not convinced? Read this. Or watch this.

  3. Vegetable Oil. Often praised for its low levels of “artery clogging” saturated fat and high levels of “healthy” polyunsaturated and monounsaturated fat, vegetable oil is in reality one of the most processed, toxic foods on the market.

    The process that vegetable oil goes through in order to even be considered edible is nothing short of ridonkulous. Unlike coconut oil or butter which can be extracted through natural pressing or separation, vegetable oil must be chemically removed, bleached, deodorized, and more before being put into your salad dressing, sauce, or condiment. The chart below shows the lengthy process in greater detail:

    kyf-conola-oilchart

    Vegetable oil and other highly processed oils (canola oil, soybean oil, safflower oil, etc.) can be extremely damaging, especially when used in place of the healthy saturated fats that our bodies need and crave.

    These oils have a disproportionately large amount of omega-6 fats relative to their low omega-3 content (safflower oil is 75% omega-6 and 0% omega-3). As a result, omega-6 fats are used almost exclusively for cell repair and hormone production (the desired ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 in the body is 1:1). This creates an inflammatory response that leads to an increased risk of developing diseases such as cancer, cardiovascular disease, autoimmune disease, and many more.

  4. Sunscreen. Conventional sunscreen contains dangerous chemicals that disrupt hormone balance, cause allergic reactions, and contribute to a slew of additional complications. One chemical commonly used in sunscreen, Retinyl Palmitate, is known to cause reproductive toxicity and increase the growth rate of skin tumors.

    On top of all of that, sunscreen does little to nothing to protect us from the sun. It shields us from UVB rays that cause us to burn and also provide Vitamin D, but offers very little protection from the UVA rays that cause the more serious, lasting damage to our skin at a DNA level. Read more about the harmful effects of conventional sunscreen (and what to use instead) here.

  5. Low fat/fat free Products. Dietitians, personal trainers, and other “health experts” have been singing the praises of “low fat,” “fat free,” “reduced fat,” and “light” foods for years. But let’s get one thing straight — healthy fats aren’t bad for you. They won’t make you fat and they won’t make you sick. And there’s no reason to remove them from foods they’re meant to be in — other than for the companies who produce them to make big bucks at the expense of your health.

    “Fat free” or “low fat” labels are simply a way for marketers to make their product seem more appealing and healthy to the naive consumer. Foods that brag of such labels are often highly processed and are labeled as “fat free” as an attempt to make up for the massive amounts of sugar and artificial ingredients that they contain.

    Don’t fall victim to this marketing ploy. And never use these labels as excuses to eat “foods” that by every other standard would not be considered healthy!

  6. Antibacterial soap. This subject has recently gotten a surprising amount of attention from the mainstream media, with good reason. Here’s a few points that may cause you to reconsider your soap of choice:

    Bottom line? Your body knows what it’s doing. It’s already equipped with all sorts of good bacteria that constantly work to fight infections and disease. By overusing antibacterial products, we get rid of the good stuff along with the bad stuff, preventing our bodies from fighting off anything on their own. And when something really bad comes along that necessitates the use of antibiotics, our resistant bacteria renders the antibiotic useless — not good.

  7. Grains. These highly genetically modified foods wreak all sorts of havoc on our bodies. In short, they’re addictive, highly inflammatory, and they make us sick and fat — don’t eat them! According to Dr. William Davis, author of Wheat Belly,

    Documented peculiar effects of wheat on humans include appetite stimulation, exposure to brain-active exorphins (the counterpart of internally derived endorphins), exaggerated blood sugar surges that trigger cycles of satiety alternating with heightened appetite, the process of glycation that underlies disease and aging, inflammatory and pH effects that erode cartilage and damage bone, and activation of disordered immune responses. A complex range of diseases results from consumption of wheat, from celiac disease—the devastating intestinal disease that develops from exposure to wheat gluten—to an assortment of neurological disorders, diabetes, heart disease, arthritis, curious rashes, and the paralyzing delusions of schizophrenia.

    Want more information before swearing off bread and pasta for good? Read Wheat Belly. Or Grain Brain.

Okay, I get it — these things are bad. Now what?

Maybe some or all of this is new information to you — maybe it isn’t. That’s irrelevant. What matters is where we go from here and how we use this information to shape the decisions we make every day.

Always question what “they” say is good for you. Heck, question what I say is good for you too! This is your life, your body, and your health. And ultimately, you are the one who decides what’s best for yourself and your family. But every one of us can benefit from making these choices based on research and careful consideration (instead of just doing as we’re told).

Can you think of any other “healthy” habits that are really anything but healthy? Tell me about them!

Want more info on any of the points listed above? Let me know by commenting below — I’ll write a blog post on whichever subject gets the most interest!

5 Major Misconceptions on Sun Exposure

Farmer Paul's son Noah enjoying some naked time in the sun!

Farmer Paul’s son Noah enjoying some naked time in the sun!



I’ve gotten into my fair share of friendly discussions with friends and family members about sun exposure. Aside from the many myths and falsities surrounding which foods are and aren’t healthy to consume, this seems to be one of the most widely misunderstood and debated topics out there.

The sun has garnered a pretty a bad wrap in the last decade or so. We are taught to avoid it at all costs. And if we really must venture out into the sun’s dangerous rays of death, we are taught to slather sunscreen all over ourselves so that no patch of skin remains exposed — or risk the possibility of developing skin cancer.

The media has demonized and scrutinized the sun more than Miley Cyrus, turning us into a bunch of overly cautious solar-phobes.

But with sun protection awareness and sunscreen use at an all-time high, one would think that skin cancer rates have declined. Nope. Not even close. On the contrary, skin cancer rates have skyrocketed in recent years, despite people spending more and more time indoors.

So what gives? Where are the gaps in the conventional “wisdom” that we’ve been fed surrounding sun exposure?


Top 5 Sun Exposure Misconceptions

  • #1: You don’t need sun exposure to be healthy. Baloney! Getting adequate amounts of sunlight (for your skin type) is a vital piece of achieving an optimal level of health. And one of the most important benefits it offers is Vitamin D — proven to positively affect everything from happiness level to blood pressure. Low levels of Vitamin D were linked to a higher likelihood of dying from cancer and heart disease in two major recent studies.

    Because exposure to sunlight accounts for 90% of most individuals’ Vitamin D intake, it’s no wonder that 41.6% of adults in the U.S. are deficient in this important vitamin — we aren’t getting anywhere near the amount of sun that we need!

    In addition to providing us with cancer-fighting Vitamin D, the sun’s UVB rays also produce melanin. Melanin acts as an antioxidant and protects us from sun damage by scattering solar radiation across the surface of our skin.

    But there’s a catch. We’re only able to produce certain amounts of melanin (that vary from person to person) at a time — if time spent in the sun exceeds melanin’s ability to protect us, sun damage or sunburn will occur. The upside? It’s possible to take in all of the sun’s natural health benefits without incurring any sort of damage. Individuals with darker skin require greater amounts of sun exposure to get enough Vitamin D, while fair-skinned individuals often times only need a few minutes of sunlight at a time to get adequate levels!

  • #2: Sunscreen will protect you from sun damage. This might be the worst (and most harmful) myth of them all. Yes — sunscreen is great at blocking the UVB rays that cause us to burn (and produce cancer-fighting Vitamin D). But it does almost nothing to protect against the UVA rays that penetrate much deeper than UVB rays, damaging skin cell membranes and the DNA inside. And sunscreens that claim to protect against both UVB and UVA rays simply can’t be trusted. According to Liz Wolfe in her book Eat the Yolks,

    So-called broad-spectrum sunscreens, which claim to protect against both UVB and UVA rays, attempt to combine SPF-based UVB protection with chemicals meant to absorb or disperse UVA rays. However, the Environmental Working Group cautions that broad-spectrum sunscreens sold in the United States are protected according to FDA criteria that are “the weakest in the modern world.” In Europe, broad spectrum sunscreens must provide UVA protection at least one-third as potent as its UVB protection. In the United States, not a single broad-spectrum sunscreen meets even this minimally effective criterion.

    Sunscreen provides us with a false sense of protection by blocking UVB rays (sparing us the temporary discomfort of sunburns) while letting UVA rays penetrate deep into our skin to do the more serious, lasting damage. Sunburns aren’t necessarily the enemy here. Our bodies are equipped with mechanisms to alert us when enough is enough of any given thing. In this case, our skin’s ability to burn is a warning signal for us to get out of the sun.

    And sunscreen gets in the way of that.

    Yet, we’ve been told over and over that using it is the healthy and smart thing to do. So without giving it much thought, we spray ourselves and our children down in misty clouds of chemicals before spending hours upon hours in the sun (and reapplying every 60 minutes, of course). When instead, we should be practicing responsible sun exposure by covering up or retreating to the shade/indoors when our bodies have had enough (more on that later).

  • #3: Sunscreen is 100% safe to use. A few years ago, Banana Boat recalled a number of their popular spray-on sunscreens due to, “the potential risk of product igniting on the skin if contact is made with a source of ignition before the product is completely dry.” In other words, people were literally catching on fire when they used it.

    This is an extreme example. But it does point to the fact that many of the chemicals used in conventional sunscreen are harsh and dangerous. Retinyl Palmitate (a chemical known to cause reproductive toxicity and increase the growth rate of skin tumors) is practically a staple in most sunscreens. Oxybenzone (another common ingredient in sunscreen) is equally destructive, causing hormone disruption and allergic reactions. These harmful ingredients play no part in offering any sort of real sun protection to the user.

  • #4: What you eat does not affect how your body reacts to the sun. Rates of skin cancer (as well as other cancers and diseases) have risen dramatically in the past few decades, “coincidentally” coinciding with the SAD (Standard American Diet) evolving to include more processed foods, an increased use of chemical additives, and a higher consumption of Omega-6 fats like vegetable oil.

    Since taking up a paleo/primal type of diet 3 years ago, sunburns have become a rare occurrence for me (and it wasn’t always that way). Real, natural, and unprocessed foods can do wonders in terms of allowing the skin to burn less and tan better. The following three basic tips can also help to improve the way our bodies respond to the sun:

    1) Consume more Omega-3 and less Omega-6: Healthy fats like coconut oil, olive oil, and avocado oil are essential to our skin’s tissue regeneration abilities. When these healthy Omega-3 fat sources are not available in our bodies, highly processed Omega-6 fats (canola oil, soybean oil, etc.) will be used instead — potentially leading to cancerous mutations.
    2) Stay away from grains: Grains cause more inflammation in the body than just about anything. Inflammation is known to contribute to the development of cancer. ‘Nuff said.
    3) Eat more antioxidants: Antioxidant-rich foods (like berries and dark chocolate) reduce inflammation in the body. Individuals who don’t consume grains and chemical-laden processed foods on a regular basis will have less inflammation to fight off in the first place, but can still benefit from a diet rich in nutrient-dense antioxidants that help to fight against and prevent cancer-causing free radicals.

  • #5: BUT WHAT ABOUT THE TRUCKER!?

    photo (7)

    It always comes back to the trucker. The picture above shows the face of a man who spent many years driving a delivery truck. The sun-facing side of his face clearly shows an abundance of wrinkles, while the other side appears to be in much better shape. This image has been widely used (and often abused) by dermatologists and sunscreen enthusiasts alike as ammo to encourage society to “wear sunscreen constantly,” as suggested by this article in the Huffington Post.

    But here’s the thing. We’ve already established that overexposure to UVA rays can cause serious skin damage at the DNA level (while UVB rays cause temporary sunburns but also offer many health benefits). There’s no denying that. But similar to how most sunscreens only protect against UVB rays, the same is true for car windows.

    This driver’s car windows were more than likely blocking the UVB rays that would have triggered a sunburn. Without ever getting a sunburn to clue him in, this driver probably had no idea that any sort of UVA-induced sun damage was taking place. Had his windows let UVB rays in as well as UVA rays, he would have also reaped the benefits of Vitamin D and Melanin. It’s a harrowing picture, but the facts behind it present more of a case for responsible sun exposure than anything.


A Smarter Approach to Sun Exposure


I am in no way suggesting that we should practice any sort of wreckless sun worshiping. I am, however, against living in fear of something that offers so many health benefits (and makes us happy). So instead of erring on either extreme, let’s try to be responsible about this whole thing.

Our bodies are much smarter than we give them credit for. It’s time we started listening to them! When we see or feel ourselves starting to burn (and hopefully before that happens), it’s probably a good idea to get out of the sun. Go inside, retreat to the shade, or cover up with a hat or some other article of clothing. For those who have fair skin or aren’t used to getting much sun, take it slow. There’s no need to force an overexposure that could potentially result in serious damage.

It doesn’t take long to learn how much sun your body will be able to handle at a time. Like I said earlier, it may only be a few minutes. Or it may be a few hours — this varies for everyone.

For days when there’s no getting around spending hours upon hours in the sun (family beach days, long hikes, etc.), choose a sunscreen that doesn’t contain dangerous chemicals. My natural DIY sunscreen recipe contains non-nano Zinc oxide (which protects against UVA rays as well as UVB) and other safe ingredients.

Non-nano (or non-micronized) Zinc oxide is made from particles that are too large to be absorbed into the skin and ultimately into the bloodstream — but still offer excellent broad spectrum protection. The downside? Because of the larger particles, it can leave a white pasty film on the skin — not such a bad price to pay in my opinion! Because Zinc oxide blocks virtually EVERYTHING, it also (unfortunately) blocks the cancer-fighting Vitamin D in UVB rays from penetrating the skin — which is why I only use it when I’m outside for extended periods of time.

What’s your stance on sun exposure? What tips and tricks have/haven’t worked for you? Let me know!

Why You Shouldn’t Buy Free Range Eggs (And What to Do Instead)

Eggs

We all know that factory farming practices are bad. Really bad.

Most chickens are raised in big production houses and are confined to an area the size of an oven for their entire life. These poor birds are also pumped full of cheap grain feed to fatten them up as quickly as possible. As a result, their legs are often unable to support their body weight and break under the strain of the extreme load. They’re often injected with antibiotics that sturdy up the legs and allow them to survive to six weeks. At this point, they’re processed for production, wrapped in plastic, sold to you at the grocery store, and fed to your families.

None of this is news to you. Knowing full well the inhumane and downright disgusting practices of factory farms, you probably pay close attention to labels when purchasing eggs from the grocery store:

Labels like…  “Free Range”   “Organic”   “Hormone-Free”   “Antibiotic-Free”

 Think these words somehow make your eggs more healthy, humane, and natural? Think again.  Most of the token labels that you’ve been paying $3 + more for per dozen mean absolutely nothing. 

 

Organic Shmorganic

The term organic simply means that the chickens’ feed has been certified by a government agency to contain no unnatural fertilizers or pesticides. However, the chickens may still be living their lives stacked two-high in a feed house, defecating on one another in a life of chicken misery.

Most of these big-box chickens are de-beaked, a process that involves half of the beak of each chicken being chopped off.  This prevents the chickens from resorting to the cannibalism and suicide that occurs as a result of living under such cruel conditions. These behaviors aren’t difficult to imagine. Chickens were designed to pick and scratch for their entire lives.

 

What about free range?

This certification has been widely abused throughout the poultry community.  One might think the term should mean that the birds have room to explore, play, and forage. But this has come to mean something entirely different.

Take that same feed house from the previous few paragraphs, cut a little hole in the wall, and it’s suddenly considered “free range.”  These chickens are considered free range because they have the “option” to explore  (even if the feed house is surrounded by dirt and the chickens literally never go outside to act like chickens).  You may want to rethink paying the extra $5 for this “upgrade” the next time you’re at the supermarket.

 

Hormone + Antibiotic Free

The phrase “hormone free” is a convincing selling point for store bought eggs. But that’s all it is – a term to make you believe that the product you are purchasing is superior to others.

In the United States, it’s actually illegal for commercial egg-laying hens to be given hormones — for good reason. But I can’t blame any company for bragging about the “hormone-free” status of their product as most people have no idea this is an industry standard.

Antibiotics are another story. According to USpoultry.gov,

“Antibiotic-free claims on egg cartons can be only be made by egg producers who choose not to use any antibiotics in feed or water during the growing period of pullets or while hens are laying eggs. Flocks producing certified organic eggs must be antibiotic free by regulation.”

Although this label does carry more weight than it’s “hormone-free” cousin, it still doesn’t count for much. If a chicken’s living conditions necessitate the need for disease-preventing antibiotics, you can bet that chicken is far from living on a pasture with plenty of space to roam and forage.

 

The Solution

Yes, Primal Pastures does sell eggs. But this post isn’t an advertisement for them (though our eggs are amazing).

Instead, I (we) would rather you raise them yourself. Seriously! It’s not as difficult as you might think.

That being said, we have definitely had our share of “learning experiences” in raising hens for eggs (detailed post coming soon), but the reward has been more than worth it. We’re even working on a few projects to keep you from making some of the mistakes we’ve made in trying to  raise egg-laying birds as efficiently and effectively as possible (sign up for our mailing list to be the first to know)!

Aside from buying pasture-raised eggs from your local farmer, raising them yourself is really the only other option if you aren’t into supporting inhumane farming practices and feeding antibiotic infested chicken eggs raised on grains and soy to you and your family. By raising your own eggs, you can guarantee that they will be…

  • Beyond Organic
  • Truly Free Range
  • Free of hormones, antibiotics, and chemicals
  • More nutrient-dense (note the rich color of the pastured egg above)

Plus, it’s fun! With hens laying eggs in your own backyard, every day feels like Easter (minus the candy overload). You’ll be providing yourself and your family with the best possible source of eggs available. And saving a ton of money! Give it a try – what do you have to lose?

Have you already started raising your own egg-layers? If so, how’s it going??