Starches Are the Solution to Your Weight and Health Problems

For years, the best­seller lists have been dom­i­nat­ed by books urg­ing peo­ple to eat plen­ty of meat and fat but to shun car­bo­hy­drates. The Atkins Diet led the parade; but there have been many imi­ta­tors, such as the Zone, the South Beach Diet, the Paleo Diet, and the Dukan Diet. Even some of the veg­an-ori­ent­ed books encour­age peo­ple to avoid starch­es. Yet the sci­en­tif­ic evi­dence shows us that human beings are specif­i­cal­ly adapt­ed to thrive on a starchy diet. So I was delight­ed to see that the title of Dr. John McDougall’s lat­est book is The Starch Solu­tion. He explains some­thing that nutri­tion­al epi­demi­ol­o­gists and experts on clin­i­cal nutri­tion have known for many years, name­ly that human beings stay nat­u­ral­ly slim and healthy on a diet based on unre­fined starch­es and veg­eta­bles.

Con­tin­ue read­ing “Starch­es Are the Solu­tion to Your Weight and Health Prob­lems”

How to Cure Vitamin D Deficiency

Accord­ing to my cal­en­dar, win­ter began just a few days ago. But as far as my abil­i­ty to make vit­a­min D is con­cerned, win­ter actu­al­ly began in Octo­ber and will last until the mid­dle of March. If I run short of vit­a­min D before March, I have three options for get­ting more vit­a­min D: take a trop­i­cal vaca­tion, go to a tan­ning salon, or take vit­a­min D pills.

Vit­a­min D isn’t real­ly a vit­a­min. It’s a hor­mone that is made when the ultra­vi­o­let light from sun­light hits your skin. Some of the sun’s ultra­vi­o­let light gets fil­tered out by the atmos­phere, espe­cial­ly by the ozone lay­er. Where I live, the sun­light is at such a low angle from Octo­ber through March that prac­ti­cal­ly all of the ultra­vi­o­let light gets fil­tered out. Thus, we have a tan­ning index of zero even if there isn’t a cloud in the sky.

A light-skinned per­son in Boston can get enough vit­a­min D from get­ting only a few min­utes’ worth of sun expo­sure on his or her face, arms, and hands at mid­day two to three times a week dur­ing the spring, sum­mer, and fall. A per­son of African ances­try might need ten times as much sun expo­sure to make the same amount of vit­a­min D.

Nat­ur­al sum­mer sun­shine is the best way to get vit­a­min D. Sun­shine may have oth­er impor­tant effects on the body besides pro­duc­ing vit­a­min D. Of course, too much sun expo­sure can cause skin dam­age and increase the risk of skin can­cer.

Sun­lamps or a tan­ning bed can also help restore nor­mal vit­a­min D lev­els in the win­ter­time, espe­cial­ly in peo­ple who have an intesti­nal dis­ease that makes it hard for them to absorb fat-sol­u­ble vit­a­mins from their food. Tan­ning beds should be used cau­tious­ly because the ultra­vi­o­let light they pro­duce is so intense.

You can also buy vit­a­min D sup­ple­ments, but one nutri­tion expert warns that vit­a­min pills should be used as a last resort. Although low vit­a­min D lev­els have been asso­ci­at­ed with var­i­ous dis­eases, such as mul­ti­ple scle­ro­sis, treat­ment with vit­a­min D sup­ple­ments has not nec­es­sar­i­ly been shown to be use­ful in treat­ing those con­di­tions. 

Lessons From Slavery: Malnutrition and Rickets Stunt Children’s Growth

Here’s an inter­est­ing arti­cle about research that attempt­ed to fig­ure out exact­ly why Black children’s growth was so bad­ly stunt­ed in the 19th cen­tu­ry Unit­ed States. It con­clud­ed that most of the stunt­ing was due to gen­er­al mal­nu­tri­tion. The growth of some dark-skinned chil­dren, espe­cial­ly in the north­ern states, could also have been lim­it­ed by short­ages of vit­a­min D, the sun­shine vit­a­min.

Plants Provide Everything But Vitamin D and Vitamin B12

Vit­a­min D Comes From Sun­shine, Vit­a­min B12 From Bac­te­ria

How can a diet con­sist­ing main­ly of leaves give goril­las enough pro­tein to grow big and strong? It’s because leaves con­tain pro­tein. Leaves are low in calo­ries, but a lot of their calo­ries come from pro­tein. In fact, most ordi­nary plant foods con­tain more than enough pro­tein to meet human nutri­tion­al needs. Nutri­tion sci­en­tists have known for near­ly a hun­dred years that as long as you are eat­ing any rea­son­able plant-based diet, if you take care of the calo­ries, the pro­tein takes care of itself.

It’s hard even to design a plant-based diet that would be defi­cient in pro­tein while pro­vid­ing enough calo­ries. You’d have to include noth­ing but some low-pro­tein fruit, such as apples. Or you could cheat and use sug­ars and fats that have been extract­ed from plants, leav­ing the pro­tein and oth­er nutri­ents behind.

Not only do plants pro­vide enough pro­tein for human nutri­tion, the pro­teins they con­tain are nutri­tion­al­ly “com­plete,” as far as human pro­tein needs go. That means that they con­tain enough of all of the dif­fer­ent amino acid “build­ing blocks” that human bod­ies need.

The only “incom­plete” pro­tein you are like­ly to find on your din­ner plate is gelatin, which comes from ani­mal bones. Gelatin is incom­plete because tryp­to­phan is destroyed in the man­u­fac­tur­ing process. You’d get very sick if you tried to use gelatin as your sole source of pro­tein.

Plant foods also con­tain the min­er­als that are essen­tial for human nutri­tion. Plants absorb these min­er­als, such as cal­ci­um and iron, from the soil. After all, where did the cows get the cal­ci­um that goes into their milk? Where did they get the iron that goes into their flesh?

Plants also pro­vide near­ly all of the vit­a­mins that are essen­tial in human nutri­tion. The excep­tions are vit­a­min B12, which is made by bac­te­ria, and vit­a­min D, which your body can make for itself if you go out­side in the sun­shine. Peo­ple who eat a pure­ly plant-based diet are gen­er­al­ly advised to take a vit­a­min B12 sup­ple­ment. Whether you need a vit­a­min D sup­ple­ment depends on how dark your skin is and where you live. Your doc­tor can do a sim­ple blood test to see whether you have enough of both of these vit­a­mins.