Monday, September 12, 2011

Assorted Links and Random Comments

  • A study finds that cognitive impairment correlates strongly with mortality. It makes sense that general body damage leads to both cognitive impairment and higher mortality level. So makes sense measuring changes in cognitive function to evaluate impacts in health.
  • "In two experiments, participants who took placebo pills that they believed were dietary supplements, compared with participants who were told the pills were a placebo, exhibited the licensing effect across multiple forms of health-related behavior", via Deric Bownds' Mindblog
  • An amazing talk about differences between human and chimp DNA and what makes us human, by Dr. Katherine Pollard.
  • In a post on Seth's blog, I hypothesised an explanation to his findings that flax seed oil (ALA) affects brain function more than fish oil (EPA/DHA). My idea is that "maybe flaxseed oil is more effective than fish oil to improve cognitive function, not because of ALA conversion to EPA and DHA, but mainly because ALA and EPA conversion uses fatty acids elongase, thus reducing fatty acids elongase available, needed to LA conversion into arachidonic acid, wich could increase inflammation." He thinks that it makes sense, but he can't judge how plausible it is.
  • Great documentaries about evolution here.
  • Cute parasites in this blog. My favorite parasites are the ones that manipulate the host's behaviour to favor itself. Nature is so beautiful in its capacity to produce that wonderful relationship between species!

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Results on my (almost) Paleo-diet

I've been on a paleo diet for about 5 months, and yet in this short length of time I have felt some great changes in myself:
  • The major perceptible difference was caused by the magnesium supplementation: my response to stressful situations is much less intense, I'm more calm. It's incredible. Really, the quality of my response to stress changed completely after I begin to supplementate with magnesium (with 260g mag/d, in 2xcaps 760g of magnesium glycinate, before and after bedtime);
  • Another great difference I felt was the elimination of inflammation: I had frequent ear inflammation. Now I don't have ear inflammation anymore, it was a great improvement! I suppose the reduction in omega-6 intake (vegetable oils), increases in nutrient density and reduction of toxins are the main causes. I've supplemented EPA and DHA (fish oil) before my changes in diet.
I don't think that my diet is perfect: to me, my today's diet is a plateau in a serie of continuous improvements. I'm measuring my blood glucose and my brain function to identify other changes to make. I'll take a regular blood test any other day.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Activity density

Today, I was not in mood to do strenght training in the gym, and it was late to play drums. So, I went for power walking into the night, to think about some things, some ideas etc. One idea that I've had before and came back to my mind is 'activity density'. It's not a revolutionary idea but it's a nice one. The idea is increasing our 'productivity', not by multitasking, but by picking activities that contribute to more than one area in our lives. For example, for me, playing drums has a high density: this is a very good exercise; a wonderful musical pleasure; a great cognitive training; a great way to make friends; and so much fun! (though it's not so good to my ears, but I use ear plugs - sometimes). The very same power walking has a good density: it's an exercise; a moment to think without distractions; an experiment (yes, I copied the Seth Roberts' idea - again - of monitoring glucose and evaluating what things affect it); a moment to feel alertness (when I see suspicious people on the dark streets, booooooo! :-D).

So, a great way to be productive is increasing the activity density of our time.

Productivity = Σ(Activity Density x Mental Focus x Time Spent)


Sunday, August 21, 2011

Lovely beans, wonderful beans

Well, there's egg and bacon;
rice and beans; rice bacon and beans;
beans bacon egg and beans;
beans rice beans beans bacon and beans;
beans egg beans beans bacon beans rice and beans
I have posted about rice and beans, one of the most traditional brazilian dishes. Unsurprisingly, the most eaten foods in Brazil are rice, beans and coffee, with a daily average consumption of 182 grams, 160 grams and 220 ml, respectively.

Well, first, we'll examine the nutritional qualities of beans; then, we'll examine how to prepare and consume it properly for unlocking its nutritive potential. After that, we'll cook brazilian beans. Go on then:

  • Plenty of folate: As Chris Marterjohn points out,  the greater your ingestion of muscle meat and eggs (high sources of methionine), the higher your needs for homocysteine-neutralizing nutrients (vitamins B6, B12, folate, betaine, and choline) and for the amino acid glycine. Folate is the most important of those nutrients for it, because "betaine and folate can generate glycine in addition to neutralizing homocysteine, although the effect of betaine is restricted primarily to certain tissues such as the liver and kidney". And, what are the main sources of folate, gram per gram? Liver and legumes. 100g of cooked black beans provides 140mcg of folate, the same that 138g of broccoli and 160g of collard greens (two of the greatest vegetable sources). One cup of orange juice, the major food contributor of folate to the US diet, has 80 mcg. I highly recommend that you read the excellent Chris' article about this.
  • Good source of minerals: beans provide very nice quantities of magnesium (170% DV/kg), iron (120% DV/kg), manganese (220% DV/kg), zinc (70% DV/kg), copper (100% DV/kg), phosphorus (140% DV/kg) and potassium (100% DV/kg). However, beans contain phytates and tannins, that reduce the absorption of minerals, and need be soaked before cooking to unlock its minerals. The bean soaking water must be discarded too.
  • Other benefits: slowly digested starches and low glycemic index (about 30), high in protein, high content of phytonutrients... I didn't address all the benefits in details, but I did try to give a good vision of why beans are a great food to include in one's alimentation.

Brazilian rice and beans are a meal with complementary foods, the strenghts covering the weaknesses of each other. Isn't  it beautiful? Beans providing folate to address methionine from meat; rice providing aminoacids that make rice and beans a source of complete protein; vegetables increasing the absorption of minerals in meat and beans, because of their vitamin C content. Oh, the wisdom in the traditional food... :-)

Now, the recipe! This is a simple brazilian beans recipe, but some people include sausage and/or bacon and/or pork bits and/or tomato and/or bell pepper and/or whatever in the beans.

Brazilian beans:

  • 250g dry black beans or pinto beans
  • 1 1/2L water
  • 3 cloves garlic minced/crushed
  • 1/2 onion chopped
  • 1/2 or 1 tablespoon lard, coconut oil or butter
  • 1 bay leaf (optional)
  • things (sausage, bacon, pork bits, tomato, bell pepper...) (optional)
  • salt to taste (1 teaspoon?)
  1. First, soak the beans overnight (about 12 hours), 2 cups of water for each cup of beans
  2. Drain the beans; throw away the soaking water
  3. In a pressure cooker, put the beans, the bay leaf and the things (optional). Add the water to cover by about 2 inches
  4. Cook the beans for 30 minutes, at 180ºC
  5. In another pan, heat the lard and fry the garlic and onion, until they turn a light golden brown
  6. Add the garlic and onion to the beans
  7. Verify if the beans are tender.
  8. If it is still too runny, you can let it boil without the top until the liquid thickens up a bit
  9. Discard the bay leaf and serve.
Number of servings: 3

I eat this recipe about everyday in lunch. In Brazil, the beans are always eaten in companion of rice, it's sort of a romantic relationship. As a "carioca" (a person born at Rio de Janeiro), I prefer the black beans (despite the fact that pinto beans are named as "feijão carioca").

P.S.: I've never eaten canned beans, what is the flavor of it? Are they tasty?

Sunday, August 14, 2011

A Traditional Brazilian Way of Eating

There is nothing more traditional in the brazilian cuisine than rice and beans*.

Rice and beans are eaten in everyday lunch, accompanied by some meat (beef, chicken, fish etc) and salads. It's normal to be accompanied by fried or boiled eggs, too. Despite the fact that the fast/junk food is replacing it more and more on the brazilian's table. Sadly.

Rice and beans on steroids. Yummy, it was delicious! :-)

In the photo above, we have rice and beans (more like beans and rice); "couve mineira" (slightly cooked collard greens and bacon), another traditional dish from Minas Gerais; "bife à rolê" (cooked steak with bacon, carrot and bell pepper inside), sliced tomatoes and arugula. And fresh orange juice.

In the next posts, I'll show that beans are a highly nutritious food, specially if adequately prepared and if consumed in combination with some other foods. In addition, I'm gonna post a simple but awesome recipe of brazilian beans (don't try it or you could be addicted to! I warned you.)

*Rice and beans are more traditional in Southeast and South regions of Brazil.

EDIT: The continuation of this post is here. Recipe included.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

"There is more wisdom in your body than in your deepest philosophy."
Thus Spoke Zarathustra (1885). Part I, Chapter 4, "On the despisers of the Body"

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The mine's canary revisited and other matters

I guess that I should update this blog just a bit more frequently, but my full-time job and my part-time nano startup enterprise (a nice product coming soon! ;-)) prevents me from mantaining it properly updated. Well, let's go to what interests us here.

Firstly, I updated the Arithmetic Speed Test to make it more useful for our goal: measuring someone's reaction times, that seems to be correlated with IQ and body health as a whole. I have eliminated the division operation and reduced the range of values (0 to 9) of the terms to measure more effectively reaction times.

I have found two interesting articles/sites supporting the correlation of the reaction time with IQ and health: the ability to respond quickly to circumstances is a far better gauge of longevity than blood pressure, exercise levels or weight, says this study. Though this study is an epidemiological one, it is on the side that the environmental brain's sensibility turns to be a good indicator of the organism's health. The other article presents the high correlation between reaction time and IQ as an argument in support of one general intelligence theory, citing Eysenck (1982): "IQ correlates very highly (.8 and above, without correction for attenuation) with tests which are essentially so simple, or even directly physiological that they can hardly be considered cognitive in the accepted sense".

Secondly, after reading about magnesium here, here and here, I'm taking supplementation in the form of magnesium glycinate (200mg daily aprox., in two doses). It works wonderfully! I'm more calm and relaxed yet focused, the effect is as clear as mineral water! :-)

Thursday, June 30, 2011

Measuring brain function - the canary in a coal mine

As Seth Roberts, I believe that brain function is more sensitive to the environment than the other body's organs; thus it's easier measure the impact of nutrition and lifestyle changes by measure the impact on brain function. The brain is the canary in a coal mine, making possible to detect early the effects of changes in someone's lifestyle.

I did want replicate the arithmetic speed test to measure brain function, used by Seth Roberts in various self-experiments (removal of mercury amalgams, ingestion of flaxseed oil, ingestion of butter), but I don't wanted to use R for it. Then, I implemented a similar algorithm in Python, with a desktop interface. It can be downloaded here. This is a rough version, developed on my lunch time yesterday and today, but it just works fine, saving the result of the tests in a SQLite database file, that can be accessed for analysis purposes (this version don't have the 'view results' function implemented yet, but i'm going to implement it in the next version).

To use the Test of arithmetic speed, download it and execute the file ''. You need the Python interpreter (2.6 or later) to run it.

I'll use it to measure brain function changes and evaluate my changes in lifestyle and nutrition, and so can you!

Wednesday, June 22, 2011

My first post! This is a temporary post, I'll create an appropriate first post soon. But the basic idea of this blog is to have a channel to present the results of my research, my experiments and related things about nutrition. Nice content coming soon...