Saturday, March 17, 2012

Dietary Articles of Faith

This is the last post on the Low Carb Wisdom blog. But I will be continuing my blogging at a new blog, Real Food Wisdom (more on the new blog below). I am abandoning this blog as I no longer consider myself to be following a low carb way of eating. I am grateful for the introduction to the low carb lifestyle, as it opened my previously closed eyes to the realities of eating nutrient dense foods. But I no longer believe the central, low carb article of faith: the Taubesian hypothesis that carbohydrates elevate insulin levels, which in turn drives fat storage. I also reject the belief that you must only count carbs, not calories and I reject the belief that exercise does not help with weight loss. These three ideas are elaborated on at length in Gary Taubes' book, Why We Get Fat.

This means I do believe there are good carbs (e.g., potatoes, white rice) and bad carbs (e.g., refined wheat or sugar), just as there are good proteins (e.g., meat) and bad proteins (e.g., gluten) and good fats (e.g., butter or lard) and bad fats (e.g., soybean or corn oil). I am also put off by all the low carb dogma out there, where you are a "sinner" if you eat a potato or white rice. Also, there is a growing recognition that the low carb way of eating is not a magic bullet, that low carb can cause problems (and abandoning low carb may actually cure those problems), and that some carbs may actually help with weight loss.

So what do I believe? How will I be eating in the future? I now consider myself to be following a version of the Paleo diet and briefly considered creating a blog called "Paleo Wisdom" (the name is available), but I didn't want to lock myself into another diet mode (repeating the "Low Carb" mistake by linking my way of eating to a specific, named dietary approach). The version of the Paleo diet that I follow most closely is the Jaminets' Perfect Health Diet, which is controversial in the Paleo community, because it doesn't shun potatoes, rice, and dairy. But I reserve the right to change my mind in the future about what I eat, as new evidence comes along.

So what do I believe? And how will it affect my future diet?

I believe that natural, real, whole foods are best, foods with very little or no processing. This means I am open to some non-Paleo belief systems, such as the Weston A. Price view of nutrition. It also means that things like potatoes and bananas are fine to eat, in moderation, and perhaps even correctly prepared, ancestral wheat.

I believe that eating animal products is essential to good health.

I believe that correctly rendered lard, butter, egg yolks, meat, coconut and olive oils, tree nuts and other high fat items are healthy for you and won't give you a heart attack. I am grateful to Good Calories, Bad Calories by Gary Taubes for opening my eyes on this point.

I believe that calories count, that this is the biggest determinant of weight loss and maintenance. I also believe that calorie restriction is necessary for maintaining appropriate blood glucose levels. It is not all about eliminating carbs, it is also about limiting calories. Adding in potatoes and rice, while watching calories, actually helped me stabilize my blood glucose levels.

I believe in eating vegetables. Lots of vegetables. And some fruit.

I now believe that food reward and palatability are crucial concepts to understand in losing and maintaining weight. I believe that simple foods are best, for most occasions. Thank you, Stephan Guyenet.

I believe in exercise. Both resistance training and cardio vascular. Just not to excess.

I believe that eating nutrient dense, whole, real foods is a high fat, moderate protein, and low carb approach to eating. Therefore, it is not necessary to add fat just to be more healthy. It is already high fat.

I believe in (this may surprise you) the Weight Watchers approach to losing weight. Not their low fat mantra nor their fat phobia, but their psychological perspective on weight loss, the weekly accountability of weighing in and the community support one gets from interacting with others on a similar weight loss journey. One of my most gratifying experiences in life was when I was a leader at Weight Watchers. I have written about this before and I am now actively considering re-joining Weight Watchers, but on my own terms. Calories count, but counting calories is a bummer. Counting points is easier. I can eat Paleo using their point system to track calories and I will lose weight. Plus I will gain the support of the people in the weekly meetings and perhaps influence some of their attitudes about eating real food.

So if you have enjoyed what I have written on Low Carb Wisdom, consider following me as I transition to Real Food Wisdom. The first post will be up shortly, probably tomorrow.

Sunday, March 11, 2012

Dinner at the Paleo Restaurant Sauvage in Berlin

I was recently in Berlin, Germany, and had dinner at the Paleo restaurant, Sauvage (sauvage is French for "wild" or "savage") and want to report on the experience.

First of all, the only lighting in the restaurant was candle light, so most of the following photos are blurry, as my not-so-smart-phone had trouble focusing on the dishes.

Also, this is upscale, fine dining. Berlin has some very inexpensive restaurants, but this one is for the foodies among you, and, consequently, has prices to match. I ordered a starter, main dish, dessert, and bottle of designer mineral water. I do not drink, so wine is not included in my total. I spent 45 euros on the meal, or approximately $60. But I am a foodie and it was so very worth it. The only thing missing from the experience was my wife, who is also a foodie, but who did not accompany me on this trip. The other professors on this study abroad trip had no interest in eating "caveman" food and I know them well enough to know they are not foodies. So I went alone. Melissa McEwan, you are not the only one who dines alone from time to time.

The restaurant is rather small and I doubt it could hold more than 35 to 40 patrons. It was minimally decorated, but that was fine because they only used candles for lighting and you couldn't really see a lot (though there were electric lights in the kitchen and bathrooms). Very Paleo, that. The wait staff was very friendly and helpful, but professional and unobtrusive. They never interrupted my meal to ask me how if I liked it (I hate it when American, non-professional wait staff interrupt my meal to ask me that banal question). The staff at Sauvage only asked about the meal when they removed the plates.

Here is the menu in German (click to enlarge). The wait staff was very helpful with the translations.

Not all items were available, and the menu changes often, depending on the fresh foods they can obtain. So what did I order? In addition to the designer bottle of mineral water, I had a Paleo antipasti plate as a starter.

The plate had some crackers made with nut flours and other natural ingredients (crunchy and tasty), some dried seeds, two types of fermented vegetables, some carrot chutney, a roasted garlic clove, and a meat sampler. It was served on a stone plate and was very, very tasty.

Here is the main dish (sorry for the poor quality of the photo):

The main dish was a 100% grass fed filet mignon with  a garlic and coconut oil topping, a salad, some mashed celery root, and some fermented beet and carrot shreds. I must say this was an exceptionally good choice that delighted my taste buds. I eat a fair amount of steak, including filet mignon, and this was perhaps the most tender piece of beef I have eaten in a good, long time. Perhaps ever. And it was cooked to medium rare perfection.

This was my dessert:

It was an orange custard cake on a Paleo crust, though I am not sure what the crust was made with. This was called a "Primal" dessert choice, not Paleo, since they used butter in the custard (egg yolks, orange blossoms, butter, and spices) and was topped with a small amount of cooked apples. The apples were the only thing that was really sweet about the dessert, but it was perfect and I have lost my sweet tooth anyway.

This was an excellent meal and in all my future trips to Berlin, I will stop by, if it is still open. Which I think it will be, since the restaurant was full on a non-weekend night. I made a reservation a few weeks in advance and I was very glad I did.

The meal was very European in the sense that it took several hours to complete and was served by a professional wait staff who were also very knowledgeable about the Paleo lifestyle. I arrived at 6:30 p.m. and left at 10:00 p.m. The thing I love about European cuisine is the savoir vivre that accompanies the food. You don't do dinner and something else, such as a show, dinner is what you do. You savor the flavors and spend time on conversation. Unfortunately, I was alone, but the experience will be a treasured one for me. And the best possible compliment I can pay Sauvage is this: I will be back the next time I am in town with another group of students. And not because I wish to support Paleo restaurants (though I do), but because the cuisine was simply superb.

Directions using public transportation: Make your way to the Alexanderplatz station on either the S-Bahn or the U-Bahn. From Alexanderplatz, take the U8 (direction Hermannstrasse) and get off at Schonleinstrasse. Head south on Kottbusser Damm for a couple of blocks and turn left at Pflugerstrasse until you get to number 25. All in all, about a 10 minute walk from the Schonleinstrasse U-Bahn station.

Friday, March 9, 2012

Dinner Tonight

I am still trying to decide what to do with this blog, since it is called Low Carb Wisdom and since  I no longer believe in the carbohydrate-insulin-fat hypothesis. I have converted to a more ancestral way of eating, more Paleo, more Perfect Health Diet, with a focus on real, whole foods, and without the dogma I see on so many low carb sites. So until I decide what to rename the blog, I thought I would post some photos of what I have been eating. Most people are curious to know what I eat anyway.

Here is a photo of dinner tonight (click to enlarge):

I ate a 250 gram (roughly 8 ounce) Irish rib eye steak (100% grass fed) cooked in a small amount of coconut oil (perhaps one or two teaspoons). Since I am not in Ireland (sad cries), the steak is obviously imported. The salad is what the British call "rocket" (and what the French call roquette); we in the states call this "arugula." The photo also shows some freshly grated Parmesan cheese. For a dressing: olive oil (the good stuff: first cold pressing from Italy) and balsamic vinegar, with a bit of salt and pepper. Two large cups of filtered water to drink, and for dessert, 10 grams of 70% Cote d'Or dark chocolate. Total calories: about 1,000, give or take. I doubt I have consumed more than 2,400 calories today and have walked a lot (13,000 steps and counting).

Blood Glucose reading one hour after eating: 109.