The Truth About Cholesterol (Part 1)

The Truth About Fat

What actually is cholesterol? Well if we believe the propaganda perpetuated by public health and medical bodies over the last 50 years you would think it is a highly dangerous sticky fat that clings to the walls of our arteries forming plaques, creating arthrosclerosis and causing heart disease, stroke and death!!!

In fact every cell of our body is made from it – cholesterol is one of the most vitally important bodily substances. ALL of our steroid hormones are manufactured from cholesterol, including our sex and adrenal hormones!

Why on earth are we told to lower it then? Good question and I will attempt to explain this later! I say attempt because I find it difficult to understand how the combined brain power of all of the researchers on this subject over the past 50 years have actually concluded that cholesterol is dangerous and the major cause of heart disease, despite the fact their studies have found no such link!

First though let me tell you all of the wonderful things that cholesterol does for us.

The six steroid hormones our bodies need to function are all synthesized from cholesterol and they include :

  • Glucocorticoids which are vitally important for the metabolism of carbohydrates. In particular cortisol, a powerful adrenal hormone that has multiple functions in the body including blood glucose control and anti-inflammatory actions that oppose the hyper reactions of our immune system.
  • Mineralcorticoide hormones, in particular aldosterone which is in charge of electrolyte balance. In lay man’s term keeping sodium and potassium in balance with each other. (Remember that awful feeling of dehydration that comes with a hangover – that comes from an electrolyte imbalance!)
  • Adrogenic hormones such as DHEA and testosterone are critical for libido, bone density, memory and anti-aging, (if you are sick of using the ol’ headache as an excuse get your man on some cholesterol lowering statins – they will take care of his libido! Yes it is one of the most common side effects of statin drugs).
  • Progestagens such as progesterone are vital in regulating women’s menstrual cycles and maintaining a healthy pregnancy.
  • Estrogens such as estradiol are critical for sexual development and bone and brain health.
  • Vitamin D, actually a sterol but don’t worry about that, as it behaves as a steroidal hormone which is converted in the liver and has hundreds of vital immune supporting functions along with calcium regulation in the blood.

As you can see cholesterol is vital for survival!

In fact I am living proof that we need good levels of cholesterol to function. During my acute phase of anorexia when I was living on lettuce leaves, low fat yoghurt and black tea my total cholesterol plummeted to 3.2mmol/L. Along with a multitude of other issues this created, I regressed back to my pre-pubescent years (I was 17 and built like a 9 year old!) everything shrank to the size of a lentil!!!! And I mean everything!!! I was surviving, just, but my clever body knew that I was not fit to bring life into this world and reacted accordingly.

Why I Love…A Keto Diet

A keto (or ketogenic) diet is a low-carb, moderate protein, high fat diet (read our post Keto Diet 101 here). There are a number of health benefits of a keto diet – the number one reason often touted is weight loss, and fast weight loss! Here are the top 5 reasons we love a keto diet.

1.Reduction in blood sugar levels and insulin resistance

Type 2 diabetes is caused when the body can no longer bring spikes in blood sugar levels back to normal. When we eat carbs, the body breaks them down into simple sugars (typically glucose), which is then transferred to the blood stream, elevating our blood sugar levels. As high blood sugar levels are actually toxic, the body has to respond to this spike by pumping out insulin. Now, when people are healthy, this response is often quick. However when we continually eat high carb diets (re a lot of the western world) a lot more insulin is required and this reaction becomes slowed, leading to insulin resistance and eventually type 2 diabetes. As we reduce our carb intake (as per a keto diet), we reduce the need for all of that insulin and our blood sugar levels reduce and stabilise.

2. Reduction of triglyceride levels

Triglycerides are an indicator for heart disease – the higher they are, the higher the risk of heart disease. Whilst triglycerides are fat molecules, the main driver of high triglyceride levels is actually carb consumption (and especially fructose consumption). When people reduce their intake of carbs their triglyceride levels fall (in comparison, low fat diets lead to increases in these levels). Therefore, eating more saturated fat can actually reduce your risk of heart disease!

 

3. Fat loss

When you reduce your carb intake and replace it with fat, your body goes into a metabolic state called ketosis. In ketosis, instead of using your glucose stores for energy, your body taps into its fats stores and burns those for energy instead. Studies have shown that people on low-carb diets tend to lose more weight (and faster), than people on low-fat diets. And because fat is filling, low-carb dieters often aren’t left feeling hungry. On the keto diet, appetite tends to be suppressed and dieters end up eating fewer calories without even trying. These studies also show that a large percentage of this fat loss comes from the visceral fat (i.e. the bad fat) that gets lodged around our organs.

4. Improvement in metabolic symptoms

Metabolic syndrome is a cluster of symptoms including obesity, high blood sugar levels, high triglycerides, low HDL levels, high blood pressure and insulin resistance. It is also highly correlated to diabetes and heart disease. As we mention above, a low carb diet can actually reverse these symptoms and reduce the symptoms of metabolic syndrome.

5. Improved brain function

Saturated fat is a key building block for our body. In fact, our brains are made up of 60% saturated fat. When we eat a low fat diet, we starve our bodies of the key nutrients they need to function. Saturated fat is actually one of the main components of brain cells, and is therefore necessary for healthy brain function. Studies have shown that people who included more saturated fat in their diet reduced their risk of developing dementia by 36%. Other studies have also shown that a keto diet improves memory.

10 reasons fructose is poison

That heading might sound a little bit extreme, but if you have read our series Fructose – What’s the problem with it? you will know that our bodies metabolise fructose differently to other sugars. In fact, when we eat fructose in excess, our body stores it completely as fat.

Here are 10 reasons why excess consumption of fructose is so damaging to our health:

  1. Excess fructose makes you fat

As we said, fructose is metabolised by our bodies differently to any other sugar. In fact, fructose can only be metabolised by our liver. Unlike glucose, fructose can’t be used by our cells for energy and hence is completely useless! Now, when we eat fructose in excess, or day in, day out, our liver has to work over time to get rid of it…and how does it do this? The liver transforms the fructose into fat and sends it straight to our fat cells!

  1. Fructose causes leptin resistance

Leptin is one of our hormones that controls appetite and metabolism. It is the hormone that helps us maintain a healthy weight. However, when we eat fructose in excess, we rapidly develop leptin resistance, meaning our stomachs don’t send the “stop eating, you’re full” message to our brain and we can’t control our weight as easily…so just looking at that muffin makes us gain 10kg.

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  1. Excess fructose raises ghrelin

Fructose not only doesn’t send the “stop eating” message to our brain, making us think we are still hungry…but it also can raise the levels of ghrelin. Ghrelin is a hormone in our body that stimulates appetite, therefore when we eat fructose, this hormone is raised, making us even hungrier! A double whammy for our appetite!

  1. Fructose can cause insulin resistance

Excess fructose can damage the liver. As we said in point 1, our liver transforms the excess fructose we eat as fat and this fat is in the form of triglycerides. High triglycerides are more of an indicator of potential heart disease than HDL/LDLs, so the lower the level of triglycerides the better. High triglyceride levels can be a factor in causing insulin resistance.

  1. Fructose is more toxic to the liver than alcohol

Yep, you read that right – fructose is more damaging than alcohol to our liver. Excess fructose consumption can lead to non-alcoholic fatty liver disease.

  1. Excess fructose causes inflammation and chronic disease

This one is extremely important for us sufferers of autoimmune diseases. When we consume fructose in high amounts, the sugar reacts with the proteins and polyunsaturated fats in our bodies to create advanced glycation end-products (AGEs). As AGEs compound they create oxidative damage in our cells, leading to inflammation and chronic diseases.

  1. Increased risk of heart disease

Because of the damage to our livers caused by excess fructose, chronic consumption can cause your blood lipid markers to rise, indicating a higher risk for heart disease.

  1. Fructose consumption messes with your gut

Our gut health is integral to our bodies’ functioning. Whilst our cells can’t use fructose for energy, the bacteria in our gut can. Therefore, when we consumer fructose in excess, the bacteria grow and multiply leading to gut flora imbalances and bacterial overgrowth (which, when not treated can have some serious health implications).

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  1. Fructose consumption impairs brain function

In line with the impact fructose has on our gut, excess fructose can also affect how our brain functions. We know from points 2 and 3 that fructose sends horrible signals to the part of our brain that controls appetite, but it also can impair memory (couple that with brain fog from an autoimmune disease and it’s a surprise we are still managing to function at all!).

  1. Excess fructose can cause the problems of metabolic syndrome

Diabetes, heart disease, obesity – all of the problems of metabolic syndrome can be caused, and exacerbated, by excess fructose consumption. Now we’re not going into the debate about causation and correlation, but just think about this graph:

obesity-levels-and-sugar-consumption

http://goo.gl/EvKt2Q

 

Keto Diet 101

Fat – the macronutrient demonized by ‘healthy guidelines’ dietary professionals. For a very long time now people have believed that eating fat, and especially that dreaded saturated fat, is what causes obesity and heart disease.

But if you’ve read our post on The Truth about Fats, you will know that this is all wrong! In fact, fat is probably the most important nutrient for weight loss, healthy cholesterol, brain function and overall health!

Including more saturated fat in your diet is a great start to improving your health. The keto diet is essentially the name given to the diet that focuses on this.

What is a Keto Diet?

Simply put, a keto (or ketogenic) diet is a low-carb, moderate protein, high fat diet. On a keto diet, healthy meals are structured around keeping carbs to only 5% of your total macronutrient intake. Protein consumption ranges from 20% to 35% and fat intake ranges from 60% to 75%. At an extreme level, fat can make up 80% of the diet with 20% coming from protein, and no consumption of carbs!

The idea behind the keto diet is that if you reduce your carb intake and replace it with fat, your body goes into a metabolic state called ketosis. In ketosis, instead of using your glucose stores for energy, your body taps into its fats stores and burns those for energy instead.

Why go on a Keto Diet?

There are a number of benefits to a keto diet. The number one reason often touted is weight loss, and fast weight loss! When you move into a state of ketosis your body becomes highly efficient at burning fat for energy. Not only that, fat is both tasty and filling – a number of studies have shown that, when compared to a low-fat diet, low-carb dieters lose 2 to 3 times more weight. And because fat is filling, low-carb dieters often aren’t left feeling hungry. On the keto diet, appetite tends to be suppressed and dieters end up eating fewer calories without even trying.

But a keto diet offers a number of other health benefits too, including:

  • Improved insulin sensitivity
  • Reduced risk of heart disease
  • Reduction in visceral fat (the bad fat that lodges around your organs)
  • Improved brain function and memory
  • Reduced risk of Type 2 diabetes
  • Reduced symptoms and progression of Alzheimer’s disease
  • Reduction in epileptic seizures
  • Improvement in skin conditions such as acne
  • Reduction in triglyceride levels

What food should be avoided?

As we mention, the keto diet is all about reducing carbs from your diet and replacing them with fat. Therefore, any foods high in carbs should be limited. This means limiting:

  • Sugary foods: Soda, fruit juice, smoothies, cake, ice cream, candy, etc.
  • Grains or starches: Wheat-based products, rice, pasta, cereal, etc. (Read why here).
  • Fruit: All fruit, except small portions of berries like strawberries.
  • Beans or legumes: Peas, kidney beans, lentils, chickpeas, etc.
  • Root vegetables and tubers: Potatoes, sweet potatoes, carrots, parsnips, etc.
  • Low-fat or diet products: These are highly processed and often high in carbs.
  • Some condiments or sauces: These often contain sugar and unhealthy fat.
  • Unhealthy fat: Limit your intake of processed vegetable oils, commercial mayonnaise (you can make your own here), etc.
  • Alcohol: Due to its carb content, many alcoholic beverages can throw you out of ketosis.
  • Sugar-free diet foods: These are often high in sugar alcohols, which can affect ketone levels in some cases. These foods also tend to be highly processed.

What food can I eat?

Rather than focusing on what foods you can’t eat, its best to look at what foods you can eat to heal and nourish your body. The majority of your meals should focus on:

  • Meat: Grass-fed steak, pork, bacon (check out our home-cured bacon recipe), chicken and turkey
  • Fatty, sustainable fish: Such as salmon, trout, tuna and mackerel/sardines.
  • Eggs: Read our blog on eggs 101 to workout which eggs you should be buying.
  • Grass-fed butter and cream: If you’re intolerant to lactose you might want to try our recipe for ghee.
  • Cheese: Unprocessed cheese…raw milk cheeses are even better.
  • Healthy oils: When cooking with heat, use coconut oil, for drizzling over salads use virgin olive oil or avocado oil and when making homemade mayonnaise use macadamia nut oil.
  • Avocados.
  • Low-carb veggies: These include leafy greens, zucchinis, spaghetti squash, celery, tomatoes, onions, capsicum, etc. As a rule of thumb, veggies grown above the ground have fewer carbs than those grown below the ground.
  • Condiments: You can use Celtic sea salt (in fact, to help overcome any withdrawal symptoms in the first week, you should add Celtic sea salt to your water and sip throughout the day), pepper and various healthy herbs and spices.

Just remember to switch up what meat and veggies you are eating…whilst technically chicken breast with a keto-fied dessert may still keep you in ketosis, it’s doing nothing to nourish and heal your body…and you’ll get bored very quickly!

Fructose – What’s the problem with it? Part 2

This post is Part 2 in our series ‘Fructose – What’s the problem with it?’. Read Part 1 here.

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It is really scary how much fructose we consume.

Today, however, the typical teenager gets 73 grams of the stuff per day…and that’s only from sweetened drinks!!

All of this excess is playing games with our brains and causing our metabolisms to go haywire. When we eat fructose, not only does it suppress the message to our brain that we are full, it sends the message that we are still hungry! And it is addictive!

In fact, the part of your brain that responds to what you eat is the same part that responds to nicotine, morphine, amphetamine, alcohol, exercise and sex! That’s why people taking drugs tend to overeat.

Fructose actually undermines the normal satiety signals, increasing calorie consumption in a couple of ways:

1. Fructose does not stimulate a leptin rise (the hormone that sends the message to our brain that we are full), so your satiety signals are diminished. Fructose raises triglycerides and reduces the amount of leptin crossing our blood-brain barrier.

2. Unlike glucose, fructose doesn’t suppresses ghrelin (the hormone that makes us want more food).

Fructose increases insulin levels, interfering with the communication between leptin and the hypothalamus, so our pleasure signals aren’t extinguished. Our brain thinks we are starving and tells use to eat more.

Interestingly, fructose alters our hedonic response to food, driving excessive caloric intake and setting up a positive feedback loop for overconsumption.

Our next post will cover the 10 reasons why you should limit your fructose consumption. But for the meantime, it’s important not to stress too much about your diet. If you are eliminating other toxic things in both your diet and environment (such as grains and vegetables oils – you can read our posts about why) your body may become more tolerant to a little extra sugar (key word being little! This is not an excuse to binge on high amounts of fruit and sweetened goods).

Fructose – What’s the problem with it? Part 1

sugar-cubesMetabolic syndrome, obesity, chronic disease and inflammation – what do they all have in common? They can both be caused and exacerbated by the consumption of excess fructose.

Dr. Robert Lustig has been working hard to get people, and especially the medical professionals, to realise just how damaging and toxic sugar is to our health. At the time of writing, Dr. Lustig’s YouTube video “Sugar: The Bitter Truth” has had over 6 million views.

So what does Dr. Lustig say about fructose?

Fructose is poison. It is uniquely fattening, is as toxic to our livers as alcohol and has seriously damaging long term health implications.

Going back to basics, ordinary table sugar (or sucrose to be scientific) is made up of 50% glucose and 50% fructose. What is different between these two types of sugars is the way our bodies metabolise them.

Glucose is easily broken down by the cells in our bodies. Our body can source energy from any three of the macronutrients protein, fat and carbohydrate, however, energy from carbs is the easiest. When we eat carbs, our body breaks them down into glucose, which is then transferred to our cells for energy.

When we eat fructose however, only our liver can break it down. Unlike glucose, fructose can’t be used by our cells for energy, so really, it is completely useless! Now, when we eat fructose in excess, or day in, day out, our liver has to work over time to get rid of it. Chronic fructose consumption then overloads the liver, meaning it spends so much time trying to get rid of the fructose that it begins to be so preoccupied that it can’t carry out its other functions.

How does the liver get rid of the fructose? It transforms the fructose into fat and sends it straight to our fat cells. This fructose dump on the liver then results in fat storage.

That’s right – eating fat won’t make you fat…but eating excess fructose will!

But fructose is found in healthy foods like fruit and veg? Does that mean we should stop eating them?

No, it doesn’t – fruit and veg contain other important nutrients. The problem is however, the massive doses of fructose we are exposed to today. If we sourced our fructose from vegetables and fruits only (where it originates) as most people did a 100 years ago, we’d consume about 15 grams per day. Today, however, the typical teenager gets 73 grams of the stuff per day…and that’s only from sweetened drinks!! (Don’t get us started on low-fat products – read our post here on The Truth about Fats).

 

 

Rosemary and Sage Roast Turkey

Rosemary and Sage Roast Turkey Recipe

This recipe is taken from our Healed by Bacon Autoimmune Protocol Friendly Christmas Menu eBook.

AIP low fodmap gluten free sugar free christmas

We used to ask each of our guests to bring a dish to our Christmas lunch – sounds like a good plan in theory, less cooking, less cleaning up and save on money…turns out the plan is only good in theory.

One of our guests, Aunty Jane, liked to bring a “meat” dish to our Christmas dinner. Problem is, no one could ever tell what meat it actually was. In fact, one year another guest mentioned to Aunty Jane that she had slightly overcooked the pork she brought – that it was a bit tough and dry (and trust us, this guest was being very generous with ‘a bit’ tough and dry. Think chewing on a rubber boot and the dry feeling you get if you were to eat a spoon of coconut flour by itself). Looking confused, Aunty Jane replied with “Oh, I didn’t bring pork, I brought Turkey”. And from then on, (1) any meat dish Aunty Jane ever brought was just called “Mixed Miscellaneous Meat”, and (2) we started to cook the meat for Christmas dinner.

Continue reading

Tackling the Buffet Breakfast Bar

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Holiday season is on its way…and if your heading to a hotel to relax and unwind, chances are you’ll also be taking a visit to the buffet breakfast bar. Now we love a buffet breakfast as much as the next person! But we also get tempted by those donuts and chocolate croissants…and we know that those pastries and baked goods don’t help with autoimmune diseases!

So we’ve come up with a basic plan that can tackle those temptations and make sure we don’t come back with a body feeling more inflamed and stressed than when we left.

 

  1. Bring on the bacon!

Fat – the saturated kind – and protein will keep you feeling full and stabilise your blood sugars to make sure you don’t reach for the Danish pastries.

Head for the egg station and order a couple of poached or hard/soft boiled eggs. If you decide to have an omelette or scrambled eggs, make sure they crack the eggs in front of you – most buffet breakfast bars actually use a pre-made omelette mix which is ‘enhanced’ with pancake mix to make sure the eggs served a fluffy. As nice as fluffy scrambled eggs are, the pancake mix is filled with sugar and gluten.

After you’ve ordered your eggs its time to find the bacon. Bacon, especially if it is cured with only salt, is a good breakfast option. The saturated fat in the bacon will help to keep your hunger satisfied.

If you’re not into bacon and eggs for breakfast, other good options for sources of protein and fat include roast chicken, sausages and fish – just make sure the roast chicken and sausages are gluten free. If you’re looking for more fat, add some butter to your meal or your coffee.
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  1. Bulk up with leafy greens and veg

Buffet breakfasts usually have some sort of salad bar. Fill up the other half of your plate with some leafy greens, or if you’re looking for a cooked breakfast, add some steamed vegetables. A word of warning – even though the roast tomatoes are yummy, check first that they haven’t been seasoned with sugar.

 

  1. Spice it up

This one is optional – when we travel to an Asian country, there is always some sort of chilli condiment at the buffet bar. To give our food an extra thermogenic boost, we like to add some chilli flakes or grated ginger to our dish.

Other things we like to do at the buffet breakfast bar is add some lemon to water to sip on an help digestion, as sometimes when we travel, the other foods we come across can sometimes surprise our digestion.

And if you’re looking for a special breakfast while on holidays, why not try some soft boiled eggs with soldiers…but instead of using toast, dip bacon in the gooey yolks instead!!

Bacon Jerky

Bacon Jerky Recipe

Homemade Bacon

Bacon. Jerky. Recipe. Do we need to say more?

Ingredients

  • Rashes (as many as you like…or can fit in the oven/dehydrator) of grass-fed, preservative free bacon – check out our home cured bacon recipe
  • Ground fennel seed (optional)

Method

  1. Lay the rashes of bacon in the dehydrator and sprinkle with the ground fennel seed (if you are using it, otherwise leave it off!).
  2. Dehydrate on the ‘meat’ setting for 8 – 12 hours.
  3. Eat!!!!!!!

Vegetable Oil: The Ugly Truth

Veg Oil

You know when you roast pork, all of the fat swamps the roasting pan. That fat is lard, natural, healthy lard. Now picture roasting vegetables…when you take them out of the oven, they’re not swimming in their own fat. So what is vegetable oil then?

Vegetable oil is typically made from applying heat and pressure to seeds (sunflower, canola, corn, grapeseed, safflower, rice bran and soybean oils) and them treating them with chemicals to make sure they look like natural fats, such as butter and lard.

These seed oils are now a core component of our food supply and the world is sicker now than ever.

Unlike animal fats, vegetable oils are very high in polyunsaturated fats and in particular, omega-6 fat. Anthropological research shows that our hunter-gatherer ancestors consumed omega-6 and omega-3 fats in a ratio of roughly 1:1. It also shows that these hunter-gatherers were free of the modern inflammatory diseases such as heart disease and diabetes.

Today, the ratio of omega-6 to omega-3 fats ranges from an average of 10:1 to 25:1. The problem with omega-6 fat is that it is pro-inflammatory. This means a diet with a lot of omega-6 fat (and not much omega-3) will increase inflammation.

When vegetable oils interact with oxygen they release neurotoxic chemicals. These toxic molecules are dangerous because they interact destructively with our DNA.

But aren’t vegetable oils ‘heart healthy’?

It’s been drilled into us that the cause of heart disease is too much saturated fat and the secret to curing it is to eat vegetable oils instead. Unfortunately though, if you’ve read our post ‘The Truth about Fat’, you’d know that the people actively encouraging us to eat these toxins are doing so because of their industry sponsors and BIG Food.

So what? A little vegetable oil wouldn’t hurt right?

Wrong. Every spoonful of vegetable oil is doing damage to your body. Elevated omega-6 to omega-3 ratios are associated with increases in all inflammatory diseases (aka pretty much all diseases). These diseases include:vegetableoilpoison

  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Autoimmune diseases
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Macular degeneration
  • Rheumatoid arthritis
  • Asthma
  • Cancer
  • Psychiatric disorders
  • Irritable bowel syndrome & inflammatory bowel disease

So in short, avoid vegetable oil if you want to stay healthy and live a long life!