Where does your food come from paleo network-min

So you think you know where your food comes from?

I saw a documentary the other day that was both fascinating and disturbing. I’ve given so much thought to the quality of what I eat, eating locally and seasonally – and avoiding processed foods. But it turns out there’s a significant aspect to what I eat that I hadn’t considered.

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Who is involved in getting your food from the field to your plate?

The documentary focused mainly on fruit and vegetable farms right here, in Australia. I’m always careful to make sure all of my produce is Australian and I’d naively assumed those involved in picking and packing would be protected and treated fairly. Apparently this is not the case.

Whilst the majority of the work force at these farms is lawful and “on the books”, many of them were reported to rely on cheap workers, who are often forced to work incredibly long hours, underpaid, and in some cases struggle to get paid at all. The farms go through 3rd party labour providers, which seems to be a way they can bury their heads in the sand, claiming they had no idea the workers were being mistreated. Many of the third party labour providers were reported to with-hold part of the minimum $21 hourly wage the workers had earnt, which is clearly illegal.

Significant numbers of the farm workers are in Australia on Working Holiday Visa’s –the exact visa I first came into the country on. This visa enables the holder to work for 12 months, but it is possible to extend it to two years on completion of qualifying farm work. It appears the promise of granting the valuable second year visa extensions allows a lot of the farms to manipulate the workers even further.

I was also amazed at the sheer volume and range of well-known companies and brands some of these farms were reported to be supplying. With salad, fruit and vegetables going to all of the major supermarkets (often packed as their own brand) as well as restaurants and fast food outlets, it seems almost impossible to have the confidence to buy produce that you can be certain is not from exploited workers.

Is there any way we can be certain the food we’re eating was picked and packed ethically?

The Age Victoria Newspaper article Melbourne Australia paleo diet the paleo network interview-min

Melbourne Paleo

Welcome to those who’ve found the site through the article in this weekends “The Age” newspaper.

It’s great to see Paleo getting more and more publicity and for more people to consider removing the grains and changing their diets.

If you’re interested in finding out about Paleo there’s lots of information on the site and a free guide to Paleo Australia ebook you can download now, sign up to my newsletter on the right to get your free guide.

Butter guilt trip paleo diet-min

Butter Guilt Trip

Here in Australia a commercial that I find particularly irritating, is for a brand of Margarine, MeadowLea.  Their advert is centred on concerned mothers promising to switch from butter to margarine.  If the product was pixelated out and the words replaced, you could easily think the mothers were pledging to give up hard drugs for the sake of their families – such is butter vilified in the advert.

The MeadowLea website explains how Saturated Fats are bad fats which increase cholesterol in the blood and should be limited.  They list fatty meats, butter, chicken skin, cream, full cream milk, cheese, coconut oil and palm oil in the danger category.  (I wonder how much longer until the lipid hypothesis is finally laid to rest?)

The monounsaturated and polyunsaturated categories – which they say can be included in “everyday healthy eating”, include margarine spreads, canola oil, sunflower oil, corn oil, soybean oil and cottonseed oil.  So basically they pretty much recommend the complete reverse to Paleo, as you’d expect from a company making money from selling margarine.

Think of the Children!

Their new campaign is to encourage Australian families to improve their diet by swapping butter for (their brand of) margarine – and once enough people make the pledge* they will plant seed gardens in children’s hospitals in Australia.

From a corporate perspective, it’s actually a pretty smart campaign.  They know mothers tend to procure the families groceries and therefore control the family diet.  They also know mothers are concerned about their families’ health.  Tying the campaign in with children’s hospital almost puts an extra pressure on mothers; it almost feels as though if families don’t stop eating butter, they won’t be helping out children’s hospitals – how selfish.  I also think tying the campaign in with hospitals will make people subconsciously associate their choice of butter or margarine, with ill health – particularly the ill health of children.  “Swap butter for margarine and we’ll build an animal rescue centre” just wouldn’t have the same emotional pull, would it?

Imagine the outcry if a cigarette company promised to build hospital wards, if enough people converted their families from non-smokers to smokers?  Surely there is enough information in the public domain now, for substantial objection to the health claims of a margarine manufacturer?  Yet they are allowed to guilt-trip mothers into making ill-informed decisions into the nutrition of their families.

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 Mainly Natural Sources

In case you wondered, the ingredients for MeadlowLea are:

Vegetable Oils 65% (containing 52% Canola & Sunflower Oil), water, salt, <1% (emulsifiers (soy lecithin, 471), preservative (202), food acid (lactic)), milk solids, maltodextrin, natural colour (beta-carotene), vitamins A & D, flavour.

I’m very curious as to what the mysterious 13% of vegetable oils is, that isn’t listed?  Their site and labelling seem very coy on this.  But hey, “99% of the ingredients in MeadowLea are from natural sources” – so it must be good!  Using that logic, it must be positively healthy to add Petroleum to lunch, given that it’s a natural product from natural sources.

The typical ingredients in butter:

Cream, water.

People only seem to eat margarine because they buy into the health claims – I’m yet to hear of anyone who actually prefers the taste.  Once the mainstream come to accept they’ve been mislead on fats, I can’t see how companies making products like margarine will be able to survive.  Campaigns like this are perhaps an inevitable part of the companies’ frantic journey through the unwinding of the lipid hypothesis.

Have you seen the advert yet?  Did you feel similarly irritated by it?

*If you happen to look at their website and see the number of people who have made the promise, reduce the number by one.  I accidently clicked the promise button – and they don’t have a button for un-promise’s.  As much as I don’t like breaking promises, this is one I will take pride in breaking – starting with lots of animal fat for dinner.
It's Dangerous to Quit Grains sponsored by Kelloggs paleo diet-min

It’s Dangerous to Quit Grains (Sponsored by Kelloggs)

I received an interesting comment pointing me to an article on the website of the Dietitians Association of Australia (update: this has since been removed), all about the Paleo Diet.  The four paragraph critique questions whether there is any merit to this way of eating.  It concludes that they do not support the diet, as

It excludes nutritious core foods such as breads and cereals, and dairy foods

They are also concerned that

The Paleo Diet encourages restrictive eating – an approach that is not sustainable in the long-term. And by banning certain nutritious foods, followers of the diet will be at a greater risk of falling short on important nutrients, such as calcium. Like many fad diets, the Paleo Diet, is no substitute for expert, individual dietary advice from an Accredited (SIC) Practising Dietitian.

There is a lot of evidence to suggest calcium balance, rather than calcium intake is of crucial importance – something that a paleo diet promotes.  Sadly they don’t mention the other nutrients they are concerned about.  This would interest me greatly, as when I have tracked my daily diet I have greatly exceeded all of the micro-nutrient RDA’s (except calcium) by eating in this way.

They say Australians should eat a diet with a wide variety of food from all food groups; that meets their health needs; that is sustainable in the long term and that fits in with their lifestyle.  This implies that they don’t consider a Paleo diet meets these criteria.  I know I’m not alone in finding Paleo is the best diet for my health; very sustainable and fits in easily into my lifestyle.  The fact that it is restrictive in not including processed foods and grains, certainly isn’t what I’d call restrictive.  I don’t consider grains a proper “food group” and I think my diet is far more varied than those who eat from the food pyramid.

It's Dangerous to Quit Grains sponsored by Kelloggs paleo diet-min

Before I let the inaccuracies and complete lack of research and studies bother me further, I had a look at the partners of the Dietitians Association of Australia.  It might surprise you to see that their partners include Kelloggs, Nestle, Unilever, Dairy Australia and the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council!

Just to be completely clear, that’s Kelloggs, who make “healthy” high-carb breakfast cereals.  Nestle who make drinks, snacks, breakfast foods and confectionery – which for the most part all share grains, sugars and other un-Paleo “foods” in their ingredients lists.  Unilever – whose products include margarine and diet meal replacement shakes.  I think we can guess which foods Dairy Australia and the Grains & Legumes Nutrition Council endorse.

Sadly I think the more popular Paleo becomes, the more we will read stories like this warning about the dangers of a Paleo diet.  There just isn’t the same degree of money for the food industry in real, unprocessed foods like meat and vegetables.

How can we trust an organisation that has a financial relationship with these partners, to give us true, researched dietary advice?  I wonder what would happen to their partnerships if they were to take a different stance on grains?

Eat more gluten magazine article paleo network-min

Eat More Gluten!

I can’t wait for the day when the “health” magazines start advocating more of a Paleo approach, with real food and eating of  fat encouraged.  But it seems like we still have a long way to go.

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I came across the snippet below in the March edition of “Weight Watchers” magazine.  Just in case any of their readers had been considering avoiding carbs, they warn that

“carbohydrates provide the body and brain with their primary source of fuel and are essential for energy levels”

Interesting. I tend to have fewer than 50g of carbs a day, so presumably I must have no energy?  Yet, bizarrely, I find I have more energy than ever before.  Just yesterday I had so much energy I felt compelled to break out into a sprint on my way home.  But I must be mistaken! It says so in a magazine after all.

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Without eating enough carbohydrates you might get

“fatigue, light-headedness, headaches, sugar cravings and irritability”

and they advise that you choose carbohydrates like

“wholegrain bread and cereals, grainy crackers, oats, fresh fruit and low-fat dairy”

Well, I’ve somehow managed to avoid any of those symptoms.  I’m not sure that avoiding sugar cravings, by eating foods that break down into sugar, really counts either.  And as for low-fat dairy being a good source of carbohydrates?

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The other article I read was from the March/ April 2012 edition of “Australian Diabetic Living”.  They ran a piece on Celiac disease.  The question was

“Should I avoid gluten products, just in case I might have Celiac disease?”

My answer would be that since gluten has detrimental effects on so many people, even those who don’t test positive for Celiac disease, it certainly should be avoided by everyone.  Given how long gluten stays in the body for, I think a strictly gluten-free diet is the right approach, for everyone.  Did they come up with a similar answer?

“No.  You can actually make it harder for your body to digest gluten if you cut most of it from your diet without good reason”.

Unfortunately there were no references for this startling revelation, which I’d have been very interested to check out.  So basically the diabetic magazine wants its diabetic readers to make sure they eat lots of gluten – which often come hand in hand with the not so diabetic friendly refined carbs?

What do you think?  Do you struggle to find the energy to function without bread and cereals?  Do you make sure you eat lots of gluten, to, er, help your body digest the gluten that you eat?

Eat more gluten magazine article paleo network-min

Butter-or-Margarine-min

Another Margarine or Butter “Health” Article

I was reading the Summer 2012 edition of “Woman’s Weekly Health” earlier, when I came across this double page spread debating whether Margarine or Butter is better for your health.  Fighting the corner for butter was a cook, Fran Abdallaoui.  Arguing the case for margarine was Barbara Eden, Nutrition Manager at National Heart Foundation of Australia.  I’m not sure how pitching a cook against a nutritionist (especially one representing the national heart foundation) is a balanced debate.  I don’t think they want their readers to side with butter, do you?

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Eden says “It comes down to your health and that’s the main factor your (SIC) considering when choosing between margarine and butter, there’s really no choice to make”.  She also tells readers that “A regular butter is made up of… more than four per cent trans fat”, which I find frustratingly misleading, since natural, completely inert trans fats – as found in animal products – are completely different to the harmful trans fats found in many processed foods.

This is all because Eden believes “It’s the saturated fat and trans fat in our food supply that elevates your blood cholesterol levels which increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, and that’s one of the leading causes of death in Australia”

The article also adds “there is the convenience factor of the immediately spreadable product with a longer shelf life” as another reason we should go for margarine instead of butter.  Well, using that argument, shouldn’t we all have frozen pizza for dinner – it’s a lot more convenient and has a far longer shelf life than whole food…

In a “health” magazine, readers are going to place much more confidence in a nutritionist (especially one representing the national heart foundation) than they would a cook.  If they really want to present a debate, surely they should present both sides, equally?  Or better still, finally run an article about how wrong they’ve had it for the past few decades.  I must stop reading “health” magazines – they raise my cortisol levels more than almost anything else and that’s definitely not good for my health!

Breakfast for a prime minister paleo diet healthy-min

Breakfast Fit for a Prime Minister?

I was interested to see photos of a typical Breakfast for British Prime Minister David Cameron.

  • Lurpak butter ( Ingredients: Organic butter (69%), organic rapeseed oil (25%), lactic culture, salt (0.9%))
  • Shredded Wheat Cereal (judging by the rest of the meal, I bet the milk isn’t whole fat)
  • Toast with Jam
  • Low-fat yoghurt
  • Fruit

That’s certainly a very carb-heavy Breakfast, without much fat or protein in sight.  They must need regular carbohydrate based snacks for when their blood sugar levels crash shortly after eating.

I’d have loved to see them tucking into a proper cooked Breakfast!  Perhaps Julia Gillard starts the days with bacon and eggs, cooked in coconut oil?

Breakfast for a prime minister paleo diet healthy-min

What's so bad about soft drinks fizzy coke paleo not healthy-min

Another Nail in the Coffin for Soft Drinks?

It’s good to see yet another study on the detrimental effects of Soft Drinks.  This time a study from the University of Oklahoma compared two groups of women over a five year period.  One group in the 4,000 strong study consumed two or more sugary soft drinks, whilst the other group drank one or less.  The participants had their weight, waist size, cholesterol & triglyceride levels measured and compared over the course of the study.  The study concludes that woman drinking two or more soft drinks a day are at a higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease and diabetes.

What's so bad about soft drinks fizzy coke paleo not healthy-min

The study indicates that whilst the woman’s weight didn’t necessarily increase on this soft drink regime, their risk of developing high triglycerides increased four-fold – therefore bodily fat doesn’t appear to be the sole reason for the risk.

An observational study like this has far too many variables, yet it is still useful, especially if it leads to further (ideally clinical) studies.  It’s also useful if it makes those who consume soft drinks question their nutrition.   I think it likely a woman who consumes several soft drinks a day isn’t likely to be following a healthy Paleo diet in every other aspect of her nutrition.  This makes it impossible to attribute the declining health of that group to their soft drink consumption alone.  I also have trouble with the category of “one of less” soft drinks, as I’d consider one soft drink a day to be very high use – especially where those drinks contain High Fructose Corn Syrup (HFCS)!  I look forward to the full peer reviewed study which may address some of these points.

I think a lot of slim people consider themselves healthy and have an attitude that they can “get away” with a poor diet, including drinking regular soft drinks.  This study goes some way to challenge those views, and perhaps might help make people realise even though they may feel healthy today, they may be storing up problems for their future health.  I just hope studies like this don’t lead to diverted consumption of diet soft drinks, which in my opinion are often even more harmful.

What’s wrong with drinking water?

What do you think of observational studies like this?  Do you think they will they one day start to change nutrition en masse?

Swapping Red Meat for Whole Grains newspaper health article healthy paleo diet

Swapping Red Meat for Whole Grains?

I found this enlightening little article in November’s “Good Health” magazine (I wish they’d be more accurate and add “not” before the magazine name). When will they get over their obsession with “Health Whole Grains”?

Red-Meat-Swap-swapping red meat for whole grains

The article tells us to “replace one serving of red meat a day with one serving of nuts, low-fat dairy or whole grains”, which apparently will significantly reduce your risk of developing type two diabetes.  This really misleading (and anti Paleo!); it makes it sound like replacing your organic, grass-fed steak with a few slices of carb-heavy whole grains will actually be a positive health move!  It’s becoming widely accepted that the blood sugar rise caused by carbohydrates causes the problem – not consumption of good quality red meat.

Looking into the actual study, it is apparent that processed AND unprocessed red meat have been put into the same category.  It’s no wonder processed meat, with all the additives and chemicals would have a detrimental effect on health.   Also, people who eat processed meats are, I would argue, are more likely to eat without concern for their health, with the rest of their diets.  Reading further, the study was not a clinical study, but an observational study, based on questionnaires over a 20-year period.  Unless a study is controlled, or subjects are monitored around the clock, how accurate are their survey responses anyway?

Swapping Red Meat for Whole Grains newspaper health article healthy paleo diet

Diabetic sweets fruit slim sugar free paleo diet

Diabetic Sweets

I picked up the November issue of “Diabetic Living” magazine yesterday.  The piece below tells diabetic readers how good Fruit Slim sweets are, “sugar-free, fat-free, fibre filled”, which will “halt food cravings in their tracks”.  It then goes on to say that there is more fibre in five of these sweets, than there is in two-cups of spinach or 15 raw almonds!  This makes me slightly want to cry!

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So, the ingredients of “Fruit Slims” are: Gum Acacia, Maltitol, Sorbitol, Xylitol, Acidifier (330), Fruit Juice Concentrate, Flavour, Vegetable Oil, Sweetener (955), Natural Colour ( Paprika), Coating Agent (901).

Sweetener (955) is sucralose.  This sweetener has been linked with liver and kidney damage.  There is also a lot of uncertainty with artificial sweeteners and some evidence to suggest that they may cause an insulin response; clearly not desirable in diabetics!  Maltitol, Sorbitol and Xylitol are all sugar alcohols, which might be classed as “sugar-free”, but are carbohydrates and do have an effect on blood sugar levels.  Fruit juice is also sugar, which clearly impacts blood sugar levels.  “Flavour” could mean anything and as for the “vegetable” oil; well, that’s certainly not Paleo!  The ingredients of these “crazy good” sweets look more like a chemistry experiment; there are no real foods in sight.

I think it’s really irresponsible to promote these as a good product to anyone, never mind diabetics.  To imply they are a better choice than almonds or spinach seems reckless.  They might have more fibre, but when eating a Paleo diet rich in vegetables, fibre won’t be an issue.  Besides, for diabetics, blood sugar is a far more pressing issue than fibre?

I’ve not found anything to back up the claim that these sweets will “halt food cravings in their tracks”.  In fact from what I’ve read, artificial sweeteners appear to have the opposite effect, increasing cravings for carbohydrates.

Compare the chemical composition of “Fruit Slims” to the “alternatives” of almonds and spinach.

Almonds provide high natural amounts of many nutrients, including manganese, vitamin E, magnesium, tryptophan, copper, vitamin B2 (riboflavin) and phosphorus.

Spinach is a fantastic source of vitamin K, vitamin A, manganese, folate, magnesium, iron, vitamin C, vitamin B2 (riboflavin), calcium, potassium, vitamin B6 (pyridoxine), tryptophan, vitamin E, copper, vitamin B1 (thiamine), phosphorus, zinc, omega 3 fatty acids, vitamin B3 (niacin) and selenium – and many other nutrients.

Am I missing the benefits of this swap?

Diabetic sweets fruit slim sugar free paleo diet