What to eat
For the average person who wants to eat simple, or lose weight
All specified weights (grams, ounces) are relative to the average person that consumes 2'000 kilocalories per day.
The following is the result of my research during and after I've (willingly) lost over 20% of my weight, at a rate of about 1 kilogram (2.2 pounds) per month; after more time I've lost 25% (from the top weight).
I wanted to lose this weight because I had an undesired amount of fat on my abdomen (which is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease), my knees started shaking while going up the stairs, and I had a general state of fatigue after walking for a while.
The result is that I've reached the weight that I had when I was thin and I was 20 years old, and some times I feel like a feather when I walk.
Most of the physical exercise that I did was to walk (only during the warm season, 30...60 minutes a day, and much faster than most people). This was contrasted with sitting on a chair for 10 hours a day. While I have returned to the weight from my youth, I have not been able to get a flat abdomen, and some fat is still on the abdomen (even years later). This is to be expected considering that I have not done strenuous physical exercise.
I can't say how my new way of eating has affected my mental capacity, which is critical in my line of work, because I have been living under tremendous stress for many years both before and after the weight loss, and I am aware that stress and exhaustion are the main enemies of a sharp mind.
This article is written for the average person who wants to eat simple, or to lose weight. People who have diseases usually associated with obesity, like diabetes, should perform extra research which refers specifically to their condition.
The one sentence summary of this article is: reduce the ultra processed food as much as possible, and eat proteins, fats and vegetables.
The body asks for food because it needs energy, water and essential nutrients (like vitamins, minerals and aminoacids which form proteins). In general, most nutrients are found in vegetables, while most aminoacids are found in meat. Energy (which is measured in calories) is found in all types of food, but is mostly present in foods made from seeds and meat.
The main reason why people get fat is that they eat foods which contain more calories than their bodies consume. However, the body doesn't require a fixed number of calories, but a range which varies significantly even during a single day.
Because of this variation of energy, for reasons that you will read later, you must not adopt a diet which starves you, you must change your eating style forever.
If you eat more calories than your body's average needs are, the body will either store the extra calories (which means that you will get fatter) or will send more energy to the muscles (which means that you will feel more energetic).
If you eat less calories than your average needs are, the body will reduce its activity and will send less energy to your muscles. This means that if you simply eat fewer calories, you will just feel less energetic and you will not lose weight.
This is why, if you want to lose weight, you have to eat the smart way.
You can lose weight by either doing some physical tasks, or you can reduce the number of calories that you eat.
The average person will not lose weight by doing strenuous physical activity because the body consumes energy very efficiently, so it's much easier to reduce the number of calories that your body assimilates by reducing the amount of calories that you eat. The big problem is that the faster you consume energy, the more intensely your body will ask you for food to compensate the lost energy. Also, tiredness resulted from physical effort leads to muscle exhaustion not (abdominal) fat consumption.
As an example, the body consumes about 800 kilocalories while running 12 kilometers in an hour, 450 kilocalories per hour of swimming, 400 kilocalories per hour of jogging, 200 kilocalories while walking 4 kilometers in an hour (meaning, 600 kilocalories while walking 12 kilometers), 100 kilocalories per hour of vigorous sex. Yet, 100 grams (0.2 pounds) of bread contains about 250 kilocalories, meaning that you have to run for more than 20 minutes in order to consume the calories from 100 grams of bread.
You can see that if you walk or run the same distance (not time), you consume about the same amount of energy (600 versus 800 kilocalories), but running will make you much more tired and will also trigger hunger.
Genetics plays an important role. Someone who is fat may think that the people who do strenuous physical activity are thin to because they do such activity, but in reality they are thin because their genetics sends more energy to the muscles rather store it as fat. The genetics of these people makes them feel energetic, so they subconsciously try to consume their energy by doing strenuous physical activity. Women's bodies are genetically inclined to store more fat than men's bodies. However, the majority of people should not be concerned about this; with the correct diet, their bodies would have a normal amount of fat.
There is no magic in losing weight. There is no need for and there are no secrets, magical diets, recipes or potions. Most people can lose weight if they live by common sense phrases like "stop eating before you feel full" and "eat slowly so that your body can have the time to tell you that it's full", and if they understand some of the effects that various foods have on their bodies.
A calorie is a unit of energy, not a substance.
An approximate number of calories that are necessary for an average person is 2'000 kilocalories per day. Pizza (whose dough is mainly made from flour) contains 200...300 kilocalories per 100 grams, so a 700 grams pizza can even exceed the 2'000 kilocalories daily threshold.
The human body can obtain calories from the following types of food components / macronutrients, each of which contains a different amount of calories:
Through digestion, the body assimilates a number of calories equal with or lower than the one listed above. The actual amount varies significantly depending on the composition of the food and of the bacteria present in the digestive system. For example, some foods, like vegetables (including seeds, nuts) and fruits, can only be partly digested by the body, due to their high content of fiber (which is not easily digestible).
Cooking such foods breaks down the fiber, making the food more digestible, and also makes available more essential nutrients. However, some essential nutrients are destroyed by heat, so there is a balance in cooking.
The body constantly consumes calories, even during sleep, and varies considerably from person to person. This is called basal metabolic rate (BMR). The highest observed difference between the minimum and maximum BMR was 700 kilocalories.
Physical activity requires extra calories, but the body is very efficient in this regard. For example, the body's basal metabolism uses about 70% from the total consumed energy, physical activity uses about 20%, and the digestion of food uses about 10%.
The number of calories consumed by a person's body is not fixed, but is an interval. Depending on how many calories are available, the body generates more or less energy, so the person feels more or less energetic. Therefore, simply consuming more or less calories on a short term doesn't make a person fatter or thinner, but does make that person more or less energetic. The body must get used to assimilating a higher or lower amount of calories in order to change its weight.
If the body receives fewer calories than what it was used to get, it adapts to the conditions which it considers "difficult" and uses fewer calories to generate energy instead of consuming the extra required energy from the stored energy (which would lead to weight loss).
The number of calories which are necessary to a body depends on the body's weight, but also its composition. For example, while the body's fat does require energy, it requires fewer calories than the rest of the body, per gram.
When the body assimilates more calories than what it needs, it stores the extra calories as fat. It's recommended to go to sleep early, before midnight, else various hormones don't get a chance to act and fat gets deposited easier. It's also recommended to eat lighter and preferably with several hours before going to sleep.
The type of food also affects the rate of storing. For example, the digestion of carbohydrates requires that the body produces insulin, and insulin favors the storing of fat.
Proteins, in a large amount, are essential to people.
Be aware that "proteins" is a generic word which encompasses any combination of aminoacids, but the body needs a specific combination of aminoacids which are essential for it, and meat provides a better balance among the essential aminoacids, than vegetables do. It's more difficult to get the essential aminoacids from vegetables than from meat.
The minimum amount of proteins should be 10% (50 grams), and the maximum should be 35% (175 grams) because some negatives effects were observed; 25% is the recommended safe maximum.
The percentage of calories from proteins should increase for old people.
The proteins should contain the essential aminoacids that people need, with the necessary balance; animal proteins (from meat, eggs, dairy) meet this requirement much better than vegetables.
Many cheeses contain 25% proteins, similar to meat, whose essential aminoacids balance is on par with that of meat.
Some people insist that the amount of proteins that should be eaten has to be expressed as an absolute value instead of a percentage from the calories. While that is technically correct, it's also impossible for the vast majority of people to use it like that because the absolute value is per lean mass of the body, that is, the mass without fat, which most people don't know.
Aside from this, the absolute value refers to the stable lean mass of people, not to the increasing or decreasing mass, so diets and weight loss are irrelevant, so the protein percentage can be used. Anyone who has special dietary requirements must make adjustments to the percentage of proteins, but the overwhelming majority of people can simply use the recommended percentage limits.
People should eat the types of food and the number of calories that keep their weight stable and their bodies able to function in the real world. This means that the amount of proteins that should be eaten can be expressed as a percentage, and this value can be widely known because anyone can add up the calories they eat in the specified context.
But what about (old) people who lose weight from their muscles and eat fewer calories than healthy people? In this case the absolute value doesn't apply either since their lean mass decreases, so just use the percentage and increase the value.
If you want to avoid eating meat, you need a vegetal source of balanced proteins, with aminoacids in the ratio that people need.
Red kidney beans, chickpeas and lentils are good enough vegetal sources of proteins; if canned, the label has to show close to 9% proteins. Hemp seeds are better, but harder to include in meals. See this for the essential aminoacids balance.
Hemp is a vegetal source of essential aminoacids, that rivals meat in balance; hemp seeds lack the known hallucinogenic component of hemp.
Hemp seeds taste a bit like sunflower seeds, whereas hemp powder (made by the same manufacturer) tastes more like dirt.
Hemp seeds composition, per 100 grams (3.5 oz): 660 kilocalories, 34% proteins, 37% polyunsaturated fats, 6% monounsaturated fats, 5% saturated fats, 3% carbohydrates, 6% fiber. Fatty acids: 8% omega 3, 29% omega 6, 6% omega 9.
Fats should mostly come from polyunsaturated fats from fish and monounsaturated fats from plants. See details.
Animal proteins (from meat, eggs, fermented dairy) are other potentially good sources of fats.
Saturated fats have a different health effect depending on their source and their combination. The negative effects can be compensated by eating foods with a positive effect, so the net result depends on what exactly you're eating.
Oil should be obtained through cold pressing and stored in dark glass recipients.
Fats / oil digestion doesn't produce gas.
Oil has over twice the amount of calories that proteins and carbohydrates have, so be very careful; it's about 910 kilocalories per 100 ml, so 1 tablespoon (about 15 ml) has about 140 kilocalories.
It's safer to cook at high temperatures with oils which contain monounsaturated fats, like canola or extra virgin olive oil, because polyunsaturated fats (like in sunflower oil) get oxidized easier when heated.
The body doesn't require carbohydrates to be eaten because it makes the amount it needs. However, not eating carbohydrates leads to losing electrolytes, which then have to be consciously replaced.
If you eat anything that contains sugar, eat vegetables first because they'll form a (fiber) layer that delays the absorption of sugar. Fruits already have fiber.
If you feel that you want to eat something but you don't know what, or you eat and your cravings are not satisfied, it's likely that you have a deficiency of some essential nutrient(s) or water.
To get the daily recommended dose of many essential nutrients you would have to eat daily several kilograms (double for pounds) of foods for each specific essential nutrient (because each type of food usually has a single type of essential nutrient in a significant amount). Obviously that's not going to happen, and this puts into question the relevance of those doses.
The daily recommended doses are here.
Centuries ago it was easy to have such severe deficiency of essential nutrients that people died. An example of this was scurvy. In modern times, the available food is varied enough and contains enough essential nutrients that this doesn't happen, except for people who don't eat enough food, or varied enough food.
Essential nutrients are not magic, they are essential (just like air and water). They don't heal diseases (just like air and water), they don't make you a super-hero. They make the body function at peak efficiency, and therefore they strengthen the immune system and reduce the chances that you get sick. Eating more essential nutrients than the daily recommended dose will have no beneficial effect, and some of them might have a negative effect, but having too little of them is likely to increase the chances that you get sick.
Essential nutrients are essential for life. Without them, you might simply feel weak, or you might have muscular cramps, or your teeth might degrade faster, or in extreme cases it's possible to die (which is unlikely in modern times, but those who eat very little are exposed to this possibility).
Take calcium for example. The daily recommended dose (for adults) is about 1 gram per day. This can be absorbed from 100...200 g (3.5...7.1 oz) of cheese, 800 g (28.2 oz) of kefir, or 800 g (28.2 oz) of bread. A low amount of calcium intake may lead to muscular cramps, weak bones and teeth. However, a too high amount may lead to kidney stones.
The most efficient way to lose weight over a long term, that is, without shocking the body, is to reduce the number of calories that the body assimilates.
Don't follow crash / quick diets, change the way you eat forever! Don't starve your body, eat whenever you feel hungry, but eat varied foods, like vegetables and meat. If you starve your body, it will reduce the energy that it gives you and you would feel less energetic, and you will not lose weight (because your body will effectively consume less energy / calories).
The most important thing in life is to be happy, not slim. The mind has a fundamental effect on the body, on its mental and physical health, so if you feel bad about eating a certain way then that would not improve your life. Find your own long term balance.
Eat solid food, without overcooking. On one hand, the cooking (heat and cutting) destroys some nutrients from foods, but on the other hand it releases some nutrients and calories from the destroyed fiber, so there is a balance which depends on the type of food.
If you're not a vegetarian, eat meat for its proteins. It's more difficult to get the essential aminoacids from vegetables than from meat.
Avoid eating the foods which are made with refined carbohydrates (like sugar, flour, cereals) or refined fats (like oils), in particular ultra processed (= factory processed) foods which keep most calories from these types of foods but throw away the parts that make your body tell you that it's full.
Foods like bagels, chips and sweetened beverages should be avoided, or at least consider them occasional treats.
The sugar from fruit juice has the same negative effect on health as the sugar from sodas.
The main problem with the foods to avoid is not necessarily that they contain a large number of calories, but that they don't make you feel as satiated as other foods which contain fewer calories. What's more, refined carbohydrates (like sugar, flour, cereals) are easily digested, but uncooked vegetables (including seeds, nuts) and fruits are only partially digested, and actually require more calories to be used to digest them, which means that the body can only assimilate fewer calories even though, for example, nuts contain more calories than sugar (for the same weight).
It's important to understand that satiation is not proportional with the number of calories of food. It is currently unknown what causes satiation. One possible explanation is leptin.
You will hear that vegetables (including seeds, nuts) and fruits are awesome and that they contain all sorts of essential nutrients. But you will not hear that you would have to eat every day a huge amount of those foods (and many others) in order to get all the essential nutrients which can benefit you.
Vegetables and fruits have some advantages:
You should severely limit the amount of foods that are made from refined carbohydrates (like sugar, flour, cereals) or refined fats (like oils) because they contain a lot of easily digestible calories. For example, bread contains about 60% more calories that grilled chicken breast, and much easier to digest, which means that it's much easier to gain weight by eating bread than chicken. Even worse, foods which contain a lot of refined carbohydrates (like sugar, flour, cereals) will give you a lower feeling of satiety, so you are more likely to eat a greater amount of such foods, therefore ending up getting several times more calories than you get from meat.
You should stop eating before you feel full, and you should eat a low volume of food so that your stomach doesn't extend to allow more food. This way the stomach will get used to allowing a small amount of food, and you will therefore feel satiety quicker.
You should avoid overcooking food; cooking can mean various things, like applying heat or mincing. Through cooking, food must be made digestible (and dangerous bacteria must be destroyed), but not turned into mush. This means that the foods which can be eaten without cooking should be cooked as little as possible. Overcooking decreases satiety and increases the amount of calories absorbed by the body.
You should avoid eating soup and a second course, eat only one of them. Soup contains a lot of calories since it's made with oil, or even flour, and many people eat bread with soup.
If until now you were used to eat meat together with, say, rice or potatoes, you should reduce the rice and potatoes as much as possible, in order to reduce the amount of calories.
Don't try to lose weight quickly by starving your body because that would lead to reduced energy (and a general feeling of being tired), and a lack of nutrients (for example the lack of salt could lead to fainting).
It's recommended to drink water after eating, and especially after eating fruits which contain a lot of acids (like oranges, lemons, pineapple). Don't brush your teeth soon after eating such fruits because the acids may soften the enamel of the teeth, and the brushing could peel it slowly away. These acids, especially when they come from fruit juice rather than the fruit itself, may cause stomach problems to some people.
You should get used to reading the food composition from the product labels, so that you can compare the number of calories from various types of food. Make sure that you look at the number of calories for the same food weight, and perhaps calculate it for the portions that you actually eat. Be aware that some producers show with a big font the number of calories for a lower weight than standard (100 grams) so that the buyers would think the food actually contains fewer calories.
You should avoid sweets, or at least consider them occasional treats, not food. This is because they are usually made with 50...75% refined sugar, flour and fat, which means that a cake could easily contain 3 times more calories than 100 grams of chicken breast. You should be most careful about sweets made with a lot of fats and a lot of sugar, like cakes, doughnuts; this combination appears to make it very difficult for the body to tell you to stop eating.
Juices (from fruits or artificial) contain a lot of calories due to the high amount of sugar (natural or factory added). For example, sodas have about 10% refined sugar (sugar), which for a 1 liter bottle a day is enormous. Fruit juice contains the same amount of natural sugars, and the negative effect on health is the same.
A kilogram (2.2 pounds) of vegetables offer, for example, the same amount of calories as 100 grams of average chocolate (with 50% sugar), but while such a chocolate is easily eaten at one time, a kilogram of fresh vegetables fits with difficulty in the average stomach. What's more, the body will assimilate, more slowly, a smaller amount of the calories from the vegetables because of their fiber.
The most important thing to know about diets is that there is no one single diet which is good for all people. Because of this, you have to experiment to find out what combination of foods works for you.
Much of the dietary advice clings to very specific mechanisms that various foods trigger, without specifying what's the relevance of such mechanisms and in what context, especially when considering that all foods interact together, and interact with the lifestyle of people. The only thing that matters (for human health) is the result, not the individual mechanisms. Your diet should be result driven, not mechanism driven. This means that your diet should be driven by personal experimentation.
For example, while the sugar from fresh fruits has the same negative health effect as refined sugar has, fruits aren't just sugar and come with various nutrients and fiber. Eating fruits in their entirety may have a very different outcome (than refined sugar), and, indeed, in the Mediterranean diet, oranges and mandarins are correlated with a positive health effect.
Besides, how many people do you know who eat large amounts of fresh fruits daily and are sick because of those fruits? I'm not referring to the vegans who have problems that are related to the absence of certain foods (not to the presence of fruits). You can get sick from fruits very quickly (from too much sugar or water), but the thing is that the result is immediately visible and you're forced to correct your eating habits.
It should also be kept in mind that not everyone lives to be in the best physical shape, so following diets that eliminate life's pleasures is for few people.
No matter what the dietary science and studies say, you are not the average (from those studies). What is the profile of the average people for whom the recommendations are made? Even if the studies are correct, on average, you can never know if the results apply to you in any way. Because of this, the only correct way to eat is to test what works for you, and adapt as necessary.
Healthy food isn't fancy. Focus on the quality of food.
Ignore the fights of communities which focus on macronutrients (proteins, fats and carbohydrates).
Studies that talk about "low fat" or "low carb" diets are misleading. Ignore the dietary studies that don't specify exactly what foods were used, which is most studies. This is because you have no idea what was the source of those macronutrients, and what other things they came with, so you can't compare them with your own diet.
For example, saturated fats have a different health effect depending on their source and their combination. There are 10 main types of saturated fatty acids, some with a positive effect, some with a neutral effect, some with a negative effect. Add to this many other types of unsaturated fatty acids, and you can see that talking about "fats" as one thing is misleading.
Be sure to read my experience with inflammation to see that foods which are considered to have either a positive or negative effect can have opposite effects in certain scenarios or in various combinations, which is why the dietary studies that don't publish the exact foods used are not useful.
Studying generic food components in isolation and then pretending that they work in the same way when combined in diets is a stretch too far. The most useful way to study the effect of food is to study several complete diets, specifying the exact foods and cooking methods (preferably providing the food to the participants), and even specifying the lifestyle. The health risks, like smoking and diabetes, should be excluded in order to see the effect of the diets, not of the preexisting risks.
One thing that studies should take into consideration is that while randomness is considered to be the correct scientific method, it may be wrong to randomly assign diets to people. This is because if some people feel the need to eat a certain diet, that may be because their bodies know that such a diet is healthier for them, so assigning a random diet may be detrimental. Obviously, this makes studies even more difficult because they should test both the random diet assignment and the preferred diet assignment, in order to see if there are differences for the same people.
When you research dietary advice, be careful with the terminology and labeling that shorten complex explanations. For example, "high carb diet" is likely to mean a diet which is rich in vegetables, fruits and pasta, not in bread and cereals.
Dietary advice is filled with bad advice and meaningless comparisons. For example the comparison "calories in versus calories out" is supposed to mean that a person can maintain a lean body by either decreasing the amount of ingested calories, or by increasing the amount of calories burnt through physical activity. This is meaningless because it ignores how different types of food create satiation, and how the body processes foods with massively different results, both for people in general and for individuals. A basic example is that refined carbohydrates reduce satiation, so people (desire to) eat much more calories than they need.
Another meaningless comparison is "all carbohydrates are sugar". Why don't the people who use this comparison try to eat 135 grams of pasta, 125 grams of rice and 100 grams of pure sugar, all having 100 grams of carbohydrates, and see which one they barely survive? Not the same, are they? That's because the terminology is irrelevant, only the results matter. (Don't try this experiment, you might not survive the sugar.)
Because of the way the body produces energy, most calories should come from fats and carbohydrates, split based on the personal results and the desired lifestyle. The body first uses carbohydrates for energy, then fats. To clarify, the body can use both carbohydrates and fats in a single day. The body uses proteins to build tissue (like muscles), but the excess proteins are converted into carbohydrates / glucose by the liver.
If your diet is very high in fats and you have low energy, it's possible that you eat too little salt.
The calorie balance of some fatty meats, eggs and some types of cheese, where the fats and proteins are in about equal amount (check the product label), is 70% for fats, and 30% for proteins. Since fats have 9 kilocalories / gram and proteins have 4 kilocalories / gram, an equal amount of proteins and fats (equal by either percentages or grams) gives 13 calories / 2 grams, which means that the fats provide 70% (9 / 13), while the proteins provide 30% (4 / 13) of the calories.
Keep in mind that the macronutrients (proteins, fats and carbohydrates) are a percentage of the entire food, and differ even for the same type of food, so check the product labels. For example, wheat bread is half made of carbohydrates, so 100 grams (3.5 oz) of bread contain 50 grams (1.8 oz) of carbohydrates, which has 200 kilocalories, which makes 10% from the 2'000 kilocalories daily dose recommended for an average adult.
In general, most of the weight loss will come from reducing the amount of calories you're eating, but in many cases it will come from what you're avoiding to eat (like refined carbohydrates), or from what you're eating new.
When you're trying to decide what kind of diet to follow, what foods you will eat most of the time, consider which best fits your lifestyle, rather the health claims being made for each of those diets. Always ask yourself what you have to spend now (in terms of time, money and energy) in order to prolong your life at its end.
For example, would it be worth for you to spend 3 years of your life when you are young, doing things that you don't want to do, in order to prolong your life with 3 years at its end? What if you add to this the fact that some diets make you feel miserable (for example gassy and bloated) all your life? Would it be better to prolong that misery instead of living a, perhaps, shorter but better life?
The greatest trick that dietary science ever pulled was to start using the expression "eating food X will increase / decrease the risk of disease Y with percentage Z", which is now being waved in front of the public with all the power and fervor of religious relics and magic tricks, in order to get people to follow a specific diet, hoping that they won't notice the sleight of hand: (practical) relevance.
But what does that risk mean for actual human life, outside of the data of the study? How does that risk translate over the entire lifespan of humans? The answer is that it doesn't, and there are no decade-long studies to show that translation. In fact, most risks get lost in the noise of life.
For example, consider a study which says that eating dirt correlates with an increase of heart disease by 50%. The average human listening would think that "I have to stop eating dirt or I have a fifty-fifty chance of dying in the next 12 months, and so on after that. But that's not the correct interpretation of the risk, and this is why, for example, people who eat wild fish (which is highly correlated with a decrease of heart disease) don't get to live 120 years while the average people live 80 years.
Another trick is to direct people's attention to very limited factors, like the number of centenarians in certain areas (like the Blue Zones). But what's the relevance of the fact that for the entire population of a Blue Zone there are a few hundred extra centenarians? You can find anomalies of anything, somewhere in the world, if you look for them; they are likely the result of multiple factors, not just one thing, like food. What's the average lifespan in those zones? You were told that the people in the Blue Zones eat very little meat (and other animal derived foods, like dairy products and eggs), while conveniently hiding the fact that in some of those zones (or in nearby zones with a similar lifespan) some people eat a lot of meat. Even more, you were not told that in at least 2 of those 5 zones only men have an increased lifespan (while women don't, talk about anomalies), and in another zone it wasn't possible to confirm the ages of the centenarians.
You've heard people saying that the "evidence shows X". The evidence shows nothing because the data that's gathered by studies can't speak any words, can't point to anything, can't draw any chart. It is humans who look at the data and create narratives based on their (lack of) knowledge and, possibly, ideology and even corruption. Physics and chemistry are different because there the constraints of Reality are immediate and absolute when you probe the rules / laws.
It's unfortunate that people get away with claiming that the results of dietary studies are a binary choice (because it's a simple information to convey), as if doing things one way means life and the other way means death. What is the practical result of dietary studies? How is lifespan (or quality of life) affected by what was studied and recommended in the conclusions?
For example, some studies say that saturated fat is bad for health. Is it? Which type? In what amount? From what sources? What else was eaten? What is the actual chart / curve of all the people involved in the study? How far away are the results of all the people from the average? What about the people who eat contrary to what the study recommends, but are still healthy at the end of the study? Why don't studies show those results and recommend doing what those people do? Because their genes are extreme? But those people are out there and they are recommended the same things. What if someone were to eat healthy food instead of average food? How is lifespan affected? How is the quality of life affected?
The received answer is "Better safe than sorry." Aside from the fact that this answer doesn't prove anything either way (so it's just a manipulation technique), the problem is that many people aren't interested (for various reasons) in the diet and lifestyle that studies are recommending, especially considering that the vast majority of the recommendations don't change the lifespan and quality of life of people, they just get lost in the noise of life.
The conclusion is that people must stop giving recommendations that were determined for the average person, as if the recommendations are good for everybody. The people whose results are contrary to the average matter as much as the average people do. The average is why dietary advice is in a catastrophic state, and why people were better off when there was no dietary advice and people were eating as they were used to in their families (and they had no ultra processed food in their diet).
It's better to optimize the diet and lifestyle for the quality of life first, then for lifespan, within reason. It's better to have a diet that keeps away excessive body fat (which means a reduction of the number and severity of the potential accidents that can break bones), and keeps away a general state of bloating, energy roller coaster, tiredness and health misery.
A good way to enjoy foods which have negative health effects is to also eat foods which have positive health effects, to compensate the negative effects. For example, perhaps at the price of one daily dose of omega 3 supplements people can enjoy the foods which are rich in saturated fats.
It's better to have a diet that can be enjoyed the entire life, even if it slightly reduces the lifespan, not merely add a few extra years at the end of life (when life can be least enjoyed). And, perhaps, the enjoyment and the lack of stress (with the reduced cortisol) bring health benefits and even compensate that lifespan reduction. In other words, do you want to live, or do you want to Live?
The most important thing that will improve your health will likely be what you avoid eating. Limit as much as possible the following:
In the case of foods which are labeled "organic" / "bio" make sure that it doesn't also say "engineered" because "bio" and "bio engineered" are opposite things.
This is just a recommended starting point. You can avoid eating some of the listed foods, or you can eat other foods.
Focus on the quality of your food.
The indicated amounts are recommended per day, if you eat that food in a day. They are not limits, so you can eat less or more.
The indicated foods and amounts are meant to be satiating, satisfying and healthy.
Eggs: 270...400 g (9.5...14.1 oz) / 4...6 large eggs. Their essential aminoacids balance is on par with that of meat. See this for the essential aminoacids balance.
Meat from land animals: 150...250 g (5.3...8.8 oz). Examples: chicken, turkey. Chicken and turkey breast has about 25% proteins, but has no fats or carbohydrates, so it's not a good source of energy, which means that you have to add fats or carbohydrates to the meal.
Meat from wild fish: 150...400 g (5.3...14.1 oz) per week. Examples: salmon, dorada, sardine, herring, mackerel (not king), cod.
Pasta (100...150 g; 3.5...5.3 oz). Add a similar amount of fermented cheese, but don't melt it (because that destroys the fermentation bacteria), just put a block of cheese on the plate.
Fermented vegetables and fruits. The fermentation should happen in water with salt, not in vinegar (because that destroys the fermentation bacteria).
Fresh vegetables and fruits.
Quick foods (very easy to prepare):
I eat as recommended above. I focus on fermented cheese and chicken eggs because they are the most complex foods that animals can provide for a long time (unlike meat). Both have a lot of calories, proteins, fats and vitamins, and their essential aminoacids balance is on par with that of meat (see this for the essential aminoacids balance).
The food category that provides me the highest percentage of calories is fermented dairy, about 40...50%.
I also eat turkey and chicken breast. I limit fish because I don't have access to wild fish (other than canned fish, which has its disadvantages).
I eat virtually no red meat because I don't like its taste.
I never drank coffee because I strongly dislike its smell and taste.
Vegetables and fruits cause me some abdominal inflammation, gas and bloating, so I limit them.
My experience with inflammation left me sensitive to some inflammation from some foods, especially anything containing sugar. Even if I eat fruits that contain just 50 g (1.8 oz) of sugar, I get some inflammation. It's also possible that this sensitivity was always there but I didn't pay enough attention to it, or that now it's a bit more intense.
I've stopped eating nuts regularly because, aside from my experience with inflammation, their satiation per calorie is low. If left unchecked, I can eat 300 g (10.6 oz) of (lightly salted) peanuts in under 2 hours, which have almost all the calories that the average person needs in a day.
I take multivitamin supplements at least twice a year, in the spring and autumn (when a slight fog appears in the air). At the very least they keep away the cold I'm catching when I don't take multivitamins.
I try to avoid having snacks (= foods that can be readily eaten, without cooking) in the house because I would eat them.
I eat breakfast and dinner.
I don't do fasting, unless it's accidental.
I eat about half of my calories in the morning.
I snack late, although it's still a few hours until sleep.
I go to sleep very late, well after midnight.
I spend most of my life sitting in a chair (at the desk) or sleeping. The only physical exercise that I do is to walk a lot, fast. This means that my results are due to my diet, and in no way related to strenuous physical exercise. I have a slim body with a BMI of 20 (maximum was about 26.5). I do have around 1...2 liters of unneeded abdominal fat, but you can't see that even if you see me dressed in tight clothes.
I don't have energy slumps after I eat, unless I overeat significantly, or I eat sugar or carbohydrates.
I have virtually no bloating and no gas, unless I eat (in a significant amount) refined carbohydrates (like flour and sugar) or fiber (from vegetables, fruits, some nuts). Eating a large amount of food does cause abdominal swelling due to the size of the food, but doesn't cause bloating due to gas. Because the calorie density of the food that I eat is high, there is little abdominal swelling.
If I eat a diet which is very low in carbohydrates, for a significant period of time, my personal scent (skin, perspiration and output) is much improved compared to when I eat a diet which is average in carbohydrates (which produce a somewhat unpleasant sugary smell). The best scent I had by far was when I was eating a lot of blanched almonds, it was sweetish nutty / buttery, but I don't recommend that because of my experience with inflammation.
Low abdominal size
The biggest factor that made a difference in the reduction of abdominal size, after I've achieved a slim body, was to eliminate from my diet sugar, fruits, vegetables and nuts.
Other carbohydrates, like pasta and rice, were also limited, but not necessarily eliminated; they do cause abdominal swelling but only temporarily.
I've replaced the calories with commercial chocolate with 85% cacao (and under 15% sugar).
It's possible that the extra abdominal size was caused by the size of the digested matter, not by fat; the extra size was persistent throughout the day.
This isn't a recommendation of what to eat, it was a test to see what happens.
Proteins and muscles
One experiment I did, that may help performance athletes, was to eat a lot of proteins. I had a months-long period when I was eating 400 g (14.1 oz) of salmon (farmed), every evening; I wasn't eating anything else with it, except for some lemon juice. That's about 100 g of proteins in one meal, for an average, slim body.
After the meal, I was going for a walk and I was feeling exceptionally light and strong. My body posture felt like that of an athlete, with muscles effortlessly supporting the upper body, and with shoulders clearly wanting to spread out. Eating that much protein felt like my muscles were powering up in the half hour that I needed to eat.
At some point, when I looked in the mirror I was shocked to see that my (naked) torso looked like that of a swimmer, with the size of the upper torso and shoulders looking clearly impressive compared to before.
Chicken and turkey breast appeared to have a similar effect, but the amount was limited to 250 g (8.8 oz), and the intensity of the effect was clearly lower, while the swimmer torso was gone. I did try the same experiment with only 200 g (7.1 oz) of salmon, and the effect appeared to be similar but slightly better than with the chicken / turkey breast, perhaps because the extra fat from the salmon provided some extra energy, or perhaps the salmon does have some extra nutrients that help.
Now, I do technically eat a similar amount of proteins from cheese and meat, split between morning and evening, yet my body doesn't look like that anymore. I can look like that only if I breath in and hold.
If I eat carbohydrates or fats to replicate the so called "energy for the gym", my body is no way at that level of look, posture and energy.
Is this effect worth the price, for the average person? Absolutely not. But a performance athlete might benefit from it.
I've been eating about 150 grams (5.3 oz) of peanuts every day (the kind with a red peel), together with oranges (1 kg / 2.2 lbs), for about 10 years, without a visible negative effect. Sometimes I was replacing the peanuts with 125 g (4.4 oz) of other types of nuts (like peeled almonds and macadamia).
At some point I started following a high fat diet because it was easy to eat most calories from nuts (50% of calories) and cheese, and no more oranges (for the last 2 years of the period). It was laziness.
After a few years of this diet, inflammation started to occur whenever I was eating fats or carbohydrates. In less than half an hour I was feeling some abdominal organ having no more room in my body. The inflamed organ was, perhaps, either the stomach or the pancreas tail. The location was mostly on the left-front side of the body, at the level of the lower half of the ribs, and sometimes below the ribs. When the intensity wasn't at the maximum, the inflammation was occurring in slightly different places, from the middle of the body all the way to the left side (next to the arm, slightly above the elbow).
The inflammation was the main problem.
A secondary problem was that when I was trying to eat a lot of fruits, even if the inflammation wasn't present, there was soon a need to eliminate them (on the other end), and the need appeared to be proportional with the amount of sugar (and maybe of water, water by itself wasn't a problem). Oranges were relative fine, but nectarines were really bad, even though the weight of the nectarines (with the seed) was smaller; watermelon was in the middle, as I had to eat 2...3 times the weight (rind excluded) of the nectarines to have the issue.
The first time the inflammation occurred was when I ate a lot of olive oil. I was testing with about 60 grams (2.1 oz) of high quality 80% fat organic butter, and 80 ml (2.7 floz) of high quality, organic, cold pressed, unfiltered, extra virgin olive oil, at breakfast and lunch, each with 100 grams of bread; this is the equivalent of about 125 grams of fat and 100 grams of carbohydrates; I've also tried only with oil. In less than half an hour I've felt the inflammation occur. In this case, the inflammation appeared immediately and disappeared after two days of not eating fat. Because of this, I can't blame the nuts for the inflammation, but maybe it was a coincidence, for whatever reason.
Not eating for lunch and stress have caused the same kind of inflammation, but to a lower degree.
For the foods that did cause the inflammation (some didn't), the effect appeared to be proportional with the amount of fats and carbohydrates. I couldn't clearly determine any specific element that was causing the inflammation, especially because some (unknown) elements were able to block the inflammation (when present in some foods that did contain a lot of fats and carbohydrates).
Foods that have caused (at least some) inflammation:
Foods that have caused little to no inflammation:
One possible cause of the inflammation is that I've developed some sort of reaction to nuts in general. Not an allergy, but a reaction, since I can still eat them occasionally, in a small amount, without serious problems.
Another possible cause of the inflammation is an excess of oxalate from nuts. This doesn't explain why nuts did cause the problem, but not oranges (the 1 kg / 2.2 lbs I was eating at times is high in oxalate). It also doesn't explain why it happened with olive oil. Olives contain a lot of oxalate, but olive oil appears to not contain any (I couldn't find something definitive).
I've done further tests with macadamia nuts, which have caused a mild nausea, and pistachio, which have caused gas.
Another possible cause of the inflammation is a vitamin C deficiency. Vitamin C is required for the body to use fats for energy, through the production of carnitine, and since my diet was extremely restricted and I was eating a lot of fats (mostly from nuts) and no more oranges (which contain vitamin C), this could have been the cause. However, I had inflammation even in the days when I ate bell peppers and oranges, which have a high amount of vitamin C.
The inflammation started to decrease in intensity only after I've stopped eating nuts for several weeks and added more diversity in my food (although the diversity could have been a coincidence).
Another possible cause of the inflammation is the farmed salmon that I was eating at the restaurant, 400...600 g (14.1...21.2 oz) per week, for over 2 years. I knew for a long time that something was... fishy. Considering all the factors (especially the taste), the quality of the fish had to be low. As more time was passing, I was feeling that my digestive system was becoming more and more sensitive, but since this wasn't synchronized with eating the fish, I've ignored the possible link.
The only issue I was having with the fish was a small sensation of the fish moving in the abdomen for a short while (something that wasn't happening with any other food, at least not immediately), but I was thinking it may be from the lemon juice I was eating with the fish.
This is how my attention was directed toward the nuts. But it's possible that the fish was the problem, although a delayed problem, and the nuts only amplified it.
The reason why the fish seems to be the most likely cause of the root problem is that even two months after I've stopped eating nuts, I was still having inflammation (although with a significantly lower intensity than before), and some sort of slight angina and slight tingly feelings around the heart (on the left side).
In the meantime, I've stopped eating farmed fish (I was barely eating canned fish anyway), and the issues decreased a lot in less than a week. My body also appeared to get much better at processing fruits. I'm still experimenting, monitoring what's happening, taking multivitamins and omega 3 supplements. In the future I intend to retest small amounts of nuts.
Clarification: When the inflammation first occurred, I was rarely eating dairy and eggs.
You can eat various types of nuts, but only occasionally because they have high levels of oxalate.
Macadamia nuts are medium in oxalate. Pistachio nuts are also medium in oxalate, but cause thirst and gas. Almonds have a very high level of oxalate (11 times of what macadamia nuts have).
If you eat nuts daily, limit them to a maximum of (based on the oxalate level):
Mixing the nuts doesn't mean that you can add their limits together, in fact it makes it very difficult to understand what the daily limit should be.
You should read my experience with inflammation.
Prefer nuts without peel / skin (= blanched) because the peel is useless fiber that makes the nuts taste bitter, create thirst, may create microcuts on the tongue (especially the peel of almonds), and may create gas.
Eat nuts that are either baked or roasted without oil, or raw.
Avoid nuts that have a lot of salt on them, since too much salt isn't healthy and creates microcuts on the tongue.
If you don't know the effects of nuts on your body, don't mix several types of nuts (to eat at the same time) because if they cause you problems, you wouldn't know which type is responsible.
If stored for a long period of time, nuts should be stored in a cool place, preferably in a refrigerator, in airtight containers.
Almonds contain a substance called amygdalin that is toxic in a large amount; this is present in a massive amount in bitter almonds. For sweet / non-bitter almonds, the risky dose for the average adult is 500 g (17.5 oz) per day.
I've found that organic-labeled almonds are softer but contain a few bitter almonds.
Some studies show that cacao is good for health, despite its very high amount of saturated fat.
Pure cacao contains theobromine, magnesium and tryptophan, and reduces blood pressure, and all these elements may create relaxation and improve sleep, despite the caffeine present in cacao.
To get the healthy benefits of cacao, look for chocolate which:
If you eat commercial chocolate, whose cacao was likely ultra processed, eat the one with 85% cacao and maximum 15% sugar.
Ultra processed cacao:
Cacao contains contaminants, like heavy metals, specifically cadmium and lead. Contaminants are very slow to eliminate from the body. In some cases it takes decades for the level of contamination to be reduced to half, and in the meantime the contaminants have negative effects in the body.
The reality is that the entire environment is contaminated with various elements that are toxic for human life.
Tea (black and green) and coffee also contain contaminants, so you're not any better by avoiding only cacao. Unfortunately, these plants grow in exotic areas, in countries where such contamination is not a priority.
It doesn't matter if the cacao, tea and coffee are organic or not because the contaminants come from the soil, water and air, not (necessarily) from pesticides.
It's important to note that the total amount of ingested contaminants matters, not their mere presence, so the more cacao, tea and coffee you eat and drink, the more contaminants you ingest.
Children should not be exposed to lead at all.
A person's consumption of chocolate with at least 80% cacao should be maximum 30 grams (1 oz) per day. To benefit from the healthy properties of cacao you need less chocolate than this.
Chocolate with less cacao contains proportionally less contaminants.
See a list of contaminants in chocolate here.
Olive oil must be labeled "extra virgin" and "cold pressed".
Olive oil should have the production date on the bottle, and should be consumed within one year from that date; the expiration date from the label is not important. Commercial olive oil only shows the expiration date.
Olive oil must be stored in dark-colored glass (or steel) bottles.
Olive oil must be stored in a kitchen cabinet, away from heat and sunlight.
Olive oil must not be stored in the refrigerator.
Olive oil is naturally bitter / tangy and creates a slightly burning sensation in the throat (when drank plain).
Olive oil has a lot of calories, about 910 kilocalories per 100 ml, so 1 tablespoon (about 15 ml) has about 140 kilocalories.
Olive oil contains mostly monounsaturated fats.
Add olive oil, unheated, to a meal only when you really need to supplement the amount of fat or calories from your diet.
Good extra virgin olive oil is very expensive, so it's better to use that money to buy more food. For example, 3 tablespoons of oil (that I would add to fermented cheese at breakfast) cost 25...35% from the cost of the cheese. I would rather buy more cheese or better cheese.
How do you pick a good watermelon? The more of the following statements are true, the better the watermelon is:
All other indicators of ripeness are unreliable. You will find people who show you various signs of ripeness, but they don't cut open the watermelons that are supposedly bad, to compare the "good" with the "bad".
I like to slap the watermelon (when it's on other watermelons), to feel the propagation of the vibration, and expect it to sound like a wood beam, but this is more a need to tell myself that I did everything that I could, than an indicator of ripeness. I've eaten very good watermelons that sounded dull (= the opposite of a wood beam).
The best indicator of ripeness is the trust you have in the seller. The farmers and the sellers have more options at their disposal to check the ripeness, like knowing when they planted the watermelons and actually cutting them open and tasting them.
Buy watermelons within their season, but avoid those brought from thousands of kilometers / miles away. As with all fresh products, you should buy them from the market, not from the supermarket.
A green stem is an indication of a fresh watermelon, while a dried one is an indication of a potentially stale watermelon.
Watermelons which sit for a few days in the sun at the market become soft inside, so you might want to buy them from shaded shops. The rule about the firm rind might not apply because the fiber inside gets soft faster than the rind, so the rind may be hard when the fiber is soft.
Watermelons don't continue to ripe after they are harvested, but they do get softer inside as time goes by. A watermelon is good, perhaps, up to about two weeks after being harvested, unless they are kept in a cool place (which for most people is not available).
Don't keep sliced watermelons in the refrigerator; keep them at room temperature, away from sunlight. When you slice them, cover the uneaten parts with plastic foil and put them in the refrigerator, but eat them within a few days.
Don't simply accept the seller's advice. Always follow the rules!
To slice watermelons, use a sharp, thin and rigid knife; the blade should be 20...25 cm (8...10 in) long. A pointy tip is useful in creating a starting spot for slicing, a safety measure.
During watermelon season, I usually eat about 1.5 kg (3.3 pounds) of watermelon (without the rind) per session, which is 450 kilocalories, and 3 kg (6.6 pounds) per day (in two sessions that are several hours apart), which is 900 kilocalories.
A thin rind has about 50% from the entire weight of the watermelon, a thick one has about 60%. So, to understand how much watermelon with rind I was eating, multiply the weights without the rind with 2.0...2.5.
The amount of natural sugar in watermelon is 6...7%; it's not specified whether the rind is included in the weight.
Watermelons contain mostly water, and a few liters / kilograms (for example, 4) of water a day can dilute your intestinal microbiota so much that it makes you sick.
The sickness limit for me, discovered after a few days of overindulgence, is around 4 kg (8.8 pounds) of watermelon (without the rind), of average sweetness, in two sessions per day. If eaten in a single session, in under 60 minutes, the limit decreases even down to 3 kg (6.6 pounds). This limit appears to be because the water dilutes too much the intestinal microbiota, but appears to depend on how sweet the watermelon is (that is, the sweeter, the lower the limit).
Generally, the smaller the fish is, the less mercury it contains.
Fish which is low in mercury (starting with the lowest): sardine, salmon, trout (not saltwater), herring, mackerel (not king), cod, light or skipjack tuna.
This research indicates the maximum amount of fish that can be eaten by pregnant mothers daily, amount below which the fish has a beneficial or neutral effect in their children (these are the more restrictive values):
Here is a study about the advantages and disadvantages of wild and farmed salmon, which includes data about mercury and other chemicals.
A high oxalate content in food can cause kidney stones and other health issues.
The average adult who has kidney problems should limit the oxalate intake to 50 mg / day. The limit isn't clear for people who don't have kidney problems, but should generally be under 100 mg / day.
Meat and dairy contain virtually no oxalate.
A possible replacement for table sugar is allulose, a sweetener that is usually made from corn (but can be made from other plants as well).
Allulose is less sweet than sugar.
Allulose doesn't increase blood sugar or insulin.
Allulose has about 10 times fewer calories than sugar (for the same amount, to keep recipes unchanged).
The amount of ingested allulose should be limited to 0.5 grams per kilogram (0.23 grams per pound) of body weight, per day; above this, it can upset the stomach.
Allulose is much more expensive than sugar.
Before you eat fruits and vegetables whose rind / peel can be removed, like oranges, wash them vigorously by hand. If you wash them with soap, the chemicals with which the food was sprayed will be easier to remove and will not be able to stick as much on your hands.
Before you eat fruits and vegetables that you can't vigorously wash by hand, and whose rind / peel can't be removed, like berries and grapes, soak them in water.
Get a bowl and pour (room-temperature) water in it, enough to contain the food without it being crowded. For example, for every 250 g (8.8 oz) of berries or grapes, you need (less than) 1 liter / quart of water.
To better clean the food:
Put the food in the bowl and let it sit in the water for 15 minutes.
Don't drop the food into a strainer because that would only move the dirt back, from the bottom of the bowl, over the food, and would leave all the dirt in the strainer's small holes (making it very difficult to clean).
Take the food out of the bowl, with your hands, and rinse it with fresh water. Baking soda is similar to salt, so if it's left on the food it can cause dehydration of the tissue that it touches, like lips.
It's actually cheaper to get the essential nutrients from multivitamins than from food because multivitamins are made either from the actual chemicals that form the essential nutrients, or from plants that are not normally used as food and are easier to grow than food is.
However, since people have to eat, and since they can live well without having the extra amount of multivitamins, taking multivitamins may be an unnecessary cost.
Fluorescent-yellow pee indicates that some component of the multivitamins that you are taking is being eliminated by the body because either it doesn't need it, or because it can't assimilate it. Usually, multivitamins contain this component in a dose much higher than the body needs because it is known that such a high dose has no negative effect, and is likely used as a simple way to see that the body does process (though not necessarily assimilates) the multivitamins.
If you see any side effects, like itching skin or headaches (but which can even be as severe as blood loss), immediately stop taking the multivitamins. Your body is reacting to the specific recipe with which those multivitamins were made.
Some people, including some physicians, might tell you that the yellow pee is proof that you are wasting money on multivitamins, but this shows that they misunderstand and misrepresent several factors: both food and multivitamin cost money, the recommended doses of vitamins and minerals can't be obtained from food by most people, multivitamins contain larger than recommended doses because the body absorbs what it needs, but only a part of the multivitamins are absorb by the body.
There is in fact a trend of denigrating multivitamin supplementation. However, if you read such articles you can see that the people writing them, aside from trying to provoke emotions instead of explaining facts logically, imply that the people who take multivitamins do so in order to heal themselves of various diseases, a fact which is false (excluding what is told by the people who have a financial interest to say that they heal diseases).
Nutrients, vitamins and minerals don't fight diseases, but taken in appropriate doses they give the immune system the resources with which to fight the body's enemies. That's it. So, while they may help the body avoid a cold, they will not work against disease X (unless the body's immune system can fight it with the extra resources).
While multivitamins may prevent a cold, if a cold has (nearly) installed, it will continue its usual course, but the symptoms of the cold may be less severe (although the duration stays the same, even though it may seem shorter).
Personally, when I've started to lose weight, I've also taken multivitamins for 2 years, almost continuously. Before that, I used to catch a cold about every spring and autumn. During those 2 years none of this happened, but afterward, when I stopped taking them, the problems have gradually returned over half a year, and have stopped again after taking multivitamins again, and so on. I've found that when taking at least two thirds of the daily dose, I've only had reduced symptoms of colds, but this might not be enough for a more virulent form.
In order to avoid catching a cold, you have to take multivitamins with several weeks before you are exposed to the (common cold) virus, so that your immune system can have the time to build its defenses. If you start sneezing more often than usual, it's a sign that your body is successfully fighting the virus.
So, why do some people who change their diet to vegetables think that these have cured their disease? It's not because of the magic nutrients from vegetables, it's because they have stopped eating whatever foods were poisoning their bodies before the change, or because some vitamin or mineral deficiency that they had was filled.
These clarifications are not meant to be merely semantic, they are meant to limit any potential irrational enthusiasm regarding the healing potential of vegetables, multivitamins and "supernutrients".
As for the ability of various vitamins to decrease the chances of cancer, there is no evidence that they do so with a significant relevance. In fact, vitamin E taken in a daily dose of 400 IU appears to increase the risk of prostate cancer by 17% (this increase represents an extra 1% of the total male population). The most popular multivitamin supplements contain less than this dose of vitamin E.
Should multivitamins be from a natural or artificial source?
Generally, it doesn't matter because the essential nutrients are literally chemicals, not magical elements, so they can be precisely created in laboratories.
More important are the absolute amount and ratios of the components, in what amount they are assimilated by the body, and what potentially toxic chemicals do the pills contain (chemicals which are used during manufacturing).
When you decide which to take, go for the company that you trust most, and for the ones that you can afford.
Should I take breaks from taking multivitamins?
It's generally recommended to do so, for example take multivitamins for 3 months then stop for a while, and so. The main claimed reason is that the body gets used to them and therefore they become less useful.
I have not seen scientific evidence that this is necessary, or that the claimed reason is based on studies rather than mere precautions.
Vitamins and minerals are chemicals that the body uses in its normal operation, like water, air and food. When things are put in this perspective, it sounds silly to say "stop eating because the body will get used to food or to the vitamins and minerals from it". Just as well, it sounds silly to say "stop taking multivitamins because the body will get used to them".
However, it's important to note that multivitamins usually contain some elements which are in a dose far higher than the daily recommended dose.
Studies have shown that they don't present a risk on the average population, but you can never know how your body will react to them on the long term. You also can't be sure how your kidneys will react while processing (for elimination) huge amounts of those vitamins and minerals. Then again, you also can't be sure how your kidneys will react while processing the calcium (/ limestone) from the water you drink.
One way to follow precautions and still take multivitamins is to take a dose smaller than the daily recommended dose, like two thirds.
Should I eat foods with added multivitamins?
You should avoid foods (including water and milk) which are specifically marketed as having added multivitamins and minerals, because you can't control their type and amount.
There are studies which show that food fortification benefits people on the average, and people with a low income in particular. However, you can't know if you are part of that average, especially if you don't have a low income, so you can't know that you are indeed deficient with regards to those multivitamins and minerals.
Multivitamin pills can be easily controlled, especially by not taking them, but you can't avoid the food that you want to eat (and is fortified).
If you avoid fluoride water / milk / salt, brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste.
Omega 3 Supplements
Some fatty wild fish are rich in omega 3 (DHA and EPA). Examples (per 100 g / 3.5 oz of fish): salmon 500...2'000 mg, sardine 1'000...1'400 mg.
Most farmed fish doesn't have omega 3 because it's fed with grains, whereas wild fish gets its omega 3 from oceanic algae. Some farmed fish is fed omega 3 supplements.
If you don't eat fish which is rich in omega 3, you can take omega 3 supplements. Look for supplements in the form of capsules with krill oil (phospholipid form) or fish oil (triglyceride form).
Check the label of the supplement for how much DHA and EPA is in a capsule; ignore the total content of the capsule because it contains other things as well. The combined daily dose for DHA and EPA should be 1'000...3'000 mg; for krill oil, the dose can go as low as 700 mg.
If a capsule contains less than the minimum dose, you can take several capsules per day. Take this into consideration when you're evaluating whether a specific product is worth the price.
Take each capsule with a meal. If the supplement is in the form of ethyl ester (check the product label), the meal has to contain fat, else the omega 3 is not absorbed well.
Keep the supplements in the refrigerator, especially after they are unsealed. A high temperature makes fish oil prone to oxidation.
Omega 3 supplements are more useful for people who have a high level of triglycerides.
Omega 3 supplements may make bleeding more likely.
Should I count the calories that I eat?
No, because you have no idea how many calories your body needs.
However, you should compare how many calories are in the types and amounts of foods that you eat, so that you can choose the ones with fewer calories.
How fast should I be losing weight?
If you can lose at most 1 kilogram (= 2 pounds) per month, that's great, but if you want to lose your extra weight faster than you can increase this limit several times without negatively affecting your health.
If you lose a lot of weight, especially if it happens fast, your body will not lose fat everywhere just as much or just as fast, and some fat will remain in certain areas, like on the abdomen, making the skin look floppy.
While losing weight, fat isn't the only thing that you will be losing, but muscles as well. Read this for details.
What about fried foods?
Beware of fried foods!
Fried oil can be toxic. See here when oils become toxic.
Cooking in oil can bring you a large amount of unnecessary fats.
Raw potatoes contain about 93% carbohydrates but have a small amount of calories (per 100 grams). However, home made french fries have 2 times the number of calories because they absorb the frying oil; the ones fried at fast foods restaurants have 4 times the number of calories (I don't know why, but you can check this at the USDA food list).
What if I crave sweets?
Try fruits. If you don't know what to start with, try oranges first.
If you were to abstain from eating something sweet, you would increase the probability that you would simply drop your new eating habits and start eating without limits again.
It's important to eat the way that you can sustain for the rest of your life.
What can I eat to improve my sleep?
An agitated sleep or the lack of dreams could be indicating that you are stressed, and this means that your body, especially your brain, can't fully regenerate.
A restless and unsatisfactory sleep may make you look frowny in the morning.
Go to sleep early, before midnight, else various hormones don't get a chance to act and fat gets deposited easier.
In order to allow the body to regenerate to the maximum extent possible, sleep for at least 8 hours per night. It doesn't matter that you can sleep for 6 hours and feel fine, your body doesn't have the opportunity to regenerate to the maximum extent, and the effects will be visible after years or decades.
The bedroom should be as dark as possible. Any (night) light in the first part of the night will block the production of various hormones, which will restrict the body's ability to regenerate. Noise / stress will have a similar effect.
Eat lighter and preferably with several hours before going to sleep.
In the evening / night, avoid eating a significant amount of vegetables, fruits and foods that contain refined carbohydrates (especially sugar), because fiber and carbohydrates cause gas, so abdominal pressure, and water, which creates pressure that has to be eliminated during the night.
If you like to read books before sleep, read this.
Should I eat a lot of food fewer times a day, or little food more times a day?
You should eat satiating food, when you feel the need. You have to find your own balance depending on how you feel.
Refined carbohydrates reduce satiation, so people (desire to) eat much more calories than they need, which makes it very difficult for people to stop eating only the calories they need.
It's better to eat a small treat every day than a lot of them once a week.
I feel the need to eat a lot as if my body is looking for a specific type of food, but I don't know which. Why is this?
Leaving aside any possible medical condition that you may have and the medical tests that you could take, one possible cause is that your body is low on some essential nutrients, and perhaps most importantly, low on water.
Many people delay drinking water when their bodies request it, and when they get used to it and feel no more thirst, they think that they don't need water so much. However, the body simply starts getting water from food, and asks for a lot of food in order to get the needed water.
If at the same time you feel that you are low on energy, you should reduce the ultra processed food as much as possible, and eat proteins, fats and vegetables.
If you are limiting the number of calories for fear that you may gain weight, you could eat more and at the same time do some physical exercise in order to burn the extra energy.
Should I avoid eating meat?
There is no scientific reason for the average person to avoid eating meat. To the contrary, avoiding to eat meat will make it more difficult for you to get the vitamins and essential aminoacids needed by the human body, will most likely push you to eat things that should never be part of a diet (like refined carbohydrates and refined fats), and will produce massive amounts of gas (from the fiber and carbohydrates of the vegetables and fruits). Avoiding to eat eggs and dairy makes it even more difficult.
Be aware that "proteins" is a generic word which encompasses any combination of aminoacids, but the body needs a specific combination of aminoacids which are essential for it, and meat provides a much better balance, among the essential aminoacids, than vegetables do. It's more difficult to get the essential aminoacids from vegetables than from meat.
If you want to avoid eating meat, you need a source of balanced proteins (with aminoacids in the ratio that people need). Hemp is a vegetal source of essential aminoacids, that rivals meat in balance; edible hemp seeds lack the known hallucinogenic component of hemp.
Red kidney beans, chickpeas and lentils are good enough vegetal sources of proteins; if canned, the label has to show close to 9% proteins. See this for the essential aminoacids balance.
Keep in mind that the food industry has something called "ultra processed meat" (for example, burgers), which is in fact not meat because the entire food may contain (for example) 30% meat (where the rest is anything except meat).
Frequent eating of ultra processed meat has been linked to some health issues.
Should I avoid eating carbohydrates?
The dominance of refined carbohydrates (like sugar, flour, cereals), causes serious health problems.
Also important is what type of food you eat and how it's cooked, because the carbohydrates from raw vegetables and fruits are absorbed much more slowly by the body.
Carbohydrate content examples: oranges 12% (9% sugar), bananas 22%, pasta 75%, nuts 10...30% (40...50% fats, 20% proteins), rice 80%, bread 50% (10% proteins), and sugar 100%.
Wheat bread is half made of carbohydrates, so 100 grams (3.5 oz) of bread contain 50 grams (1.8 oz) of carbohydrates, which has 200 kilocalories, which makes 10% from the 2'000 kilocalories daily dose recommended for an average adult.
Does eating carbohydrates cause tooth decay?
Yes, eating carbohydrates (especially sugar), creates an acidic and sticky environment in the mouth which significantly increases the risk of teeth deterioration (like cavities).
A high risk is indicated by the presence of the biofilm, which is a soft and white substance between the gums and teeth, which mostly forms when eating carbohydrates.
The frequency of sugar ingestion, not the amount, is the most important factor of tooth decay. When sugar is eaten, the formed acids soften the tooth enamel and leave it vulnerable for about half an hour. Eating more sugar doesn't increase this time, but eating sugar more often leaves the enamel vulnerable for longer, so it's better to eat sweets once a day rather than eat a bag of candies throughout the day.
Tooth decay can be reduced by flossing and brushing the teeth with an electrical toothbrush (twice a day, after breakfast and dinner).
Does salt increase the risk of cardiovascular disease?
It's commonly thought that salt (actually the sodium from salt) increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. The maximum daily dose of sodium is 2300 mg, which means 6 g of table salt. This dose includes the sodium from the eaten food, it doesn't refer strictly to the sodium from the table salt that you add to food.
Some studies indicate that this may not be the case, and in reality refined carbohydrates (like sugar) are the problem.
Nevertheless, too much salt has some effects which indirectly cause health issues, like creating cravings for sweets, that is, for sugar.
Which is better: fruits, fruit juice, vegetables or vegetable juice?
Fruit juice isn't fruit, it's water with sugar. The fact that the sugar comes from fruit makes no difference.
Avoid drinking fruit juice / smoothies because it has the same amount of sugar as sweetened beverages, so they have the same negative effects on the body (both on the flora of the digestive system, and on the liver).
Fruit juice contains a concentrated amount of calories and acids, due to the high amount of natural sugar, more specifically, about the same amount as sodas, which is about 10%.
If you drink fruit juice, sip it with a straw in order to keep the acids off your teeth (as much as is possible).
The fruit in its entirety has a smaller effect because its fiber slows down the digestion of the fruit, and makes you feel full before you ingest too many calories.
If you want to drink juice, choose (unsweetened, unsalted) vegetable juice, but still avoid drinking it in large quantities. There are practical advantages to drinking vegetable juice over eating vegetables, like availability (can be purchased all year around).
The amount of sugar from vegetable juice can be close to that from fruit juice. For example, apple and orange juice contain about 10 g of sugar for 100 ml of juice. Beet juice also contains about 10 g. Tomato juice contains only 2.5 g.
Be very careful with the salt as tomato juice often contains 2% salt (in grams), which for 1 liter is 20 g, several times the daily recommended amount.
Some people say to not eat many vegetables because they can't be digested by the body. Is that correct?
It can be, but the amount depends on how your body handles each type of vegetable.
Some vegetables may have to be cooked in order to partly destroy their fiber's resistance to digestion. It depends on each type of vegetable, and also on the specifics of your digestive system (mainly on what types of bacteria reside in your digestive system).
For example, it's unlikely that your digestive system requires apples and oranges to be cooked, but it's most likely that it requires potatoes and beans to be cooked to some degree.
An unfortunate side effect of eating vegetables and fruits is that the digestion of their fiber causes gas, but so does the digestion of carbohydrates; carbohydrates are also present in vegetables, fruits and nuts. The amount of gas produced depends on how you prepare the food for eating; for example, a cream soup of vegetable X produces less gas than the whole, uncooked vegetable X.
Is canned food safe?
Canned food is very practical, but it's important to understand its health effects, and what can be done to minimize the possible health risks.
In part, canned food is safe to eat if you throw away the fluid from the can (which is likely to contain particles from the material of the can, or a sugary sauce). Fat / oil should not be thrown down the drain because it solidifies and will clog the pipes.
However, despite the cooking at a high temperature and the complete insulation from the air outside, most canned food still contains preservatives to protect it from bacteria.
It's recommended for the fish to be canned in water / brine. If it's in oil, the oil isn't going to be of the best quality.
Canned sardines are very tasty, but the details matter. Try large sardines (compared to the tiny usual ones) and remove the bones and the skin before eating.
In modern times, the cans are made of steel, aluminum or tin, possibly coated inside with a plastic layer which prevents the metal from leaching into the food; some producers even use plastic envelops instead of metal. The healthiest choice is to use glass jars, but they are also the most expensive products (if available at all).
However, the plastic layer usually contains bisphenol-A. Some producers use a plastic layer which doesn't contain bisphenol-A, but there is no guarantee that the replacement is safer.
The problem is that the bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical which may be dangerous to health, leaches into the food. The amount of leached bisphenol-A which ends up in the body depends on the type of food, with canned soup being by far the worst. This doesn't necessarily make the canned food unsafe, because the absolute amount of ingested bisphenol-A is still below the level which is considered safe.
Both Europe's and USA's food safety administrations say that bisphenol-A is safe to use in the packaging of foods.
Bisphenol-A is present in most plastics, including plastic water bottles, so it's quite difficult to avoid. There are some alternatives to this chemical, but there are no guarantees that they are any safer.
Buy canned food with a lower shelf life (below 5 years), presumably because these contain less preservatives.
Look for cans which are close to their manufacturing date, because the metal or plastic had less time to leach into the food.
Throw away the cans that are bulging, dented, cracked, leaking or rusted.
Wash the lid, especially its rim, before you open a can.
After you empty the can, smell it inside. If you have a tingly sensation, if it smells like metal / oxidation, don't buy that product / brand again. You may even be able to smell the oxidation in your breath, after you eat the food. Basically, the metal of the can has leached into the food, which makes it taste bad and unsafe on the long term.
Looking at meat from a metallic can, you can see that it's pink inside, but grayish on the outside. This is because the meat has oxidized on the outside. This doesn't happen with meat from glass jars.
If there is oil in the metal or plastic can, throw away the oil because it attracts bisphenol-A. Oil should not be thrown down the drain because it solidifies and will clog the pipes.
Throw away the liquid from the can because the it contains (more) microparticles from the material of the can (either metal or plastic). If possible, rinse the food with water.
Don't scrape (the inside of) the can.
Never cook food in the can, first move it in your normal cookware.
Since heat is normally used during canning, vitamins B and C are destroyed in part. However, this also happens during cooking at home, it's not limited to canning.
Should I do strenuous physical activity to lose weight?
Studies show that the average people don't lose weight if they do strenuous physical activity over long periods of time, and that the composition of their bodies doesn't change either. That's because the body is very efficient at energy consumption while doing strenuous physical activity (no matter how tired you feel afterward), because the body asks for the consumed energy to be replaced by eating afterwards, and because the caloric intake from small amounts of food overwhelms the calorie burning that happens during the strenuous physical activity.
Strenuous physical activity should be done for health reasons, not for losing weight.
However, simple exercise, like walking at an average pace, or even standing rather than sitting, should complement a healthy diet and may help losing weight because it doesn't triggering hunger to compensate the loss of energy (like strenuous physical activity does).
However, some types of strenuous physical activity may be particularly effective at removing fat from specific areas of the body. When you realize that you can't lose the fat from, say, your abdomen, by dieting, some strenuous physical activity may help you do that.
Why do I feel tired after eating?
A possible cause of fatigue after eating is that you've eaten a lot of carbohydrates, especially refined carbohydrates (like sugar, flour, cereals). The digestion of carbohydrates requires the body to generate insulin, and the need of the body to produce a high amount of insulin causes the fatigue.
Why do most people get fatter as they age?
This is because the physical activity of older people is reduced, because the body's basal metabolic rate (BMR) is slightly reduced with aging, yet people continue to eat as much as they were used to eat when they were young.
Older people should eat fewer calories than they were eating when they were young, in order to maintain their weight.
What are some general habits of people who maintain a normal weight?
Stop eating when their bodies tell them that they are full, not when their plates are empty, and not when their parents or friends tell them to stop.
Eat mostly unprocessed food, meaning the way it grows in nature, without heavy processing, without extracting it's "essence", without adding preservatives to it.
Walk a lot (like an hour every day).
Prefer to stand or walk rather than sit.
The USA and UK governments specify a maximum of 150 ml of wine (5 fluid ounces) (with 13% alcohol) for men and women, 400 ml (13 fluid ounces) of beer (with 5% alcohol). The USA government allows for men a maximum that's double, but, considering other sources, this appears to be too much. This amount is per day, you can't accumulate a week's amount in a single day of the week.
Since women generally have a lower mass than men, they should drink less than men in order to get the same amount of alcohol per unit of mass (kilogram or pound).
Alcohol should be drank during meals in order to slow its assimilation.
Constant alcohol drinking increases the risk of cancer. Studies show that daily drinking of an amount of alcohol found in 180 ml (6 fluid ounces) of wine increases the risk of cancer by 5%.
Should I do what the studies say it's good for health?
One of the biggest problems of studies is that they are either performed in test tubes, on animals, or on very few people. You are neither of these and human bodies, maybe yours included, often reacts in opposite ways.
Worse, the researchers measure several (even tens) of health parameters, and in small studies one of them is bound to come out looking good / bad, looking as if eating whatever is studied has made a difference. But the difference exists because there is a huge variation in human physiology and behavior, and in environmental factors. And the more parameters are measured, the higher is the chance that one of them will look good / bad. This is why many studies of the same thing show opposite results.
For details, read the Skirts don't cause cancer principle.
But leaving aside the weakness of studies, what you should do depends on what matters to you. Is it health, happiness or a long life? Ask yourself how happy are the people who follow that path (compared to those who don't). Are you sure that something which appears to improve health also increases the life expectancy?
Studies don't normally look at these factors. In fact, some studies which do look at these factors show that even though some foods and life styles do improve various health characteristics, they don't increase the life expectancy of the people who eat those foods and have those life styles. In other words, in terms of longevity, the improved health has been lost in the noise of life. So, if people feel miserable when eating something and their life expectancy stays the same, why should you eat that?
Sometimes, a nutrient which shows a positive effect in a certain amount, shows a neutral or even a negative effect when the amount is increased. This is called hormesis. This is a possible explanation why, for example, antioxidants from some foods show a health benefit, but show none or a negative effect when the antioxidant is taken in a larger dose as part of a food supplement.
I hear a lot about antioxidants and polyphenols. Are they really good for health?
While you will hear that they are very good for your health, you will not hear how much the dose should be (= how much you should eat), how they compare with each other or with other things (= which one is worth the trouble), or by how much they improve your health.
Most studies regarding these things are done in test tubes, and at best on animals. People are neither of these and the human body often reacts in opposite ways, especially when you consider that it needs a large amount of these things in order to be affected by them.
There have been some studies done on people, but while some of them show health benefits, some show no health benefits, and some show a negative health impact.
The most important thing is that they don't cure any fatal disease, as claimed by the fans and sellers of the foods which contain antioxidants and polyphenols.
When you read any health claims about a nutrient, think about this: if it can't keep the common cold away, never mind heal it, how could it possibly keep away cancer or whatever other serious disease?
All of this is just not working. I barely eat, I have no energy and I'm still gaining weight. Why?
If you want to lose weight, you should avoid barely eating.
It's possible that your metabolism is storing calories rather than using them to generate energy. You may have to seek medical advice if you want to lose weight.
Does a diet with caloric restriction increase the lifespan?
Yes and no, depending on what you actually eat.
According to the largest such study, if you are eating a lot of refined carbohydrates (especially sugar), there is an increase in longevity if you then change to a calorie restricted diet. However, if you are eating very little refined carbohydrates, there is no increase in longevity if you then change to a calorie restricted diet.
Was cooking food necessary for human evolution?
Some people claim that cooking food has been an important factor in human evolution, and this claim is used as argument in favor of cooking food today.
However, cooking food was only a tool for, not a cause of, evolution. The actual cause was an increase of calorie availability in the diet of primates, calories which the body has used to develop, transform and evolve.
As it happens, in those times, cooking food was almost the only way that the primates could use to obtain more calories, since calorie rich foods were scarce.
Today, calories can be found in abundance without cooking, with virtually no physical effort, so cooking food is not necessary to increase the availability of calories.
Any tips about wine?
Red wines are (usually) astringent, white wines are (usually) not astringent. Rose wines are in between. Astringency is a feeling in the mouth similar to that produced by the dentist's numbing spray.
The alcohol level of wine doesn't change with the wine's age. This is because the alcohol level remains fixed once the fermentation process ends (and wines are not sold before this happens). However, the changes which occur during the aging process do modify the perception of the alcohol level, usually amplifying the taste of alcohol.
If you dislike the taste of alcohol, try wine with an alcohol content around 7...8%, rather than the usual 12...14%. Also try this with a frizzante wine, that is, a lightly sparkling wine.
How can I get rid of constipation?
Eat more fats and make sure that you drink enough water (or eat fruits because they contain mostly water).
Any other advice?
Stress makes people eat more.
The digestion of the fiber present in vegetables (including seeds, nuts) and fruits causes gas, but the level varies wildly depending on the type of food and on the bacteria present in the digestive system.
The digestion of carbohydrates causes gas.
The digestion of fats and proteins doesn't cause gas.
Fruits, vegetables and nuts may cause colon contractions or spasms (a few hours after they are eaten).
If you like tea but dislike the astringency of black and green tea, try mint, chamomile or rooibos tea. Just make sure they are not mixed with black / green tea. The taste may also be better than that of plain water, which would make you want to drink it and be hydrated. Warm chamomile tea may be relaxing enough to facilitate sleep, which may cause drowsiness at night.
These tips are about cooking everyday food, in maximum 15 minutes, but they are not recipes.
All the heating powers below are specified for an induction cooktop with a maximum power of 14 (the power boost mode is extra). Therefore, all the values are very precisely expressed relative to the maximum (of 14). At heating power 14, the used electrical power is 2.3 KW, which is common for household induction cooktops.
An induction cooktop is an electrical cooktop which uses induction in order to directly heat the bottom of the cookware. This results in it working like a gas stove, where changing the heating power results in an immediate transfer of temperature changes on the cookware's bottom, and therefore on the food.
An induction cooktop is extremely efficient in transferring energy to the food, as the energy is only transferred to the iron in the bottom of the cookware, not around the cookware.
Unlike a gas cooktop, an induction cooktop always transfers the exact same electrical power to the food, for a given heating power. However, professional gas cooktops may be able to produce more heat, which some cooks may need.
An induction cooktop is hot only in the area where the cookware's bottom is in contact with the cooktop. The surrounding area remains cold to the touch.
An induction cooktop is very easy to clean because of its glass top, although some induction cooktops have a stainless-steel edge.
Since induction cooktops are already using electricity, they usually have an integrated timer, so they're great for timed cooking.
Gas burning produces water vapors, but induction doesn't, and this results in induction cooking producing less humidity in the kitchen. Keep in mind that the actual cooking of food produces water vapors because food contains a lot of water.
A plain electrical cooktop, without induction, directly heats the cooktop surface which then heats the cookware's bottom. Because of this, changing the heating power of the cooktop results in a slow transfer of temperature changes to the cookware's bottom. This slowness makes a plain electrical cooktop inferior to an induction cooktop.
After cooking, before you wash the cookware, wipe any fat / oil from it with paper towels and throw those in the trash bin. Fat / oil should not be thrown down the drain because it solidifies and will clog the pipes.
After you wash your cookware, wipe it dry as soon as possible, starting with the silverware; wash knives last and wipe them first. If you don't do this and let the water dry naturally, limestone (and even rust) marks will remain on stainless-steel, glass and ceramic.
If you get burn marks on a glass cooktop (like an induction cooktop has), the only way to remove them is to scrape them with an utility razor. Knives don't work (because the handle must be perpendicular on the blade in order to let you push the blade with force).
When food has to be cooked in a pan, in oil, beginner cooks are likely to see: the food sticking to the pan, food that is burned underneath and around the edge, hot oil flying out of the pan, lots of smoke rising from the burning food and oil, burned / black oil in the pan, burn / black spots in the pan, and burn marks on the cooktop (underneath the pan).
All these problems are very simple to avoid: heat the pan at a medium power before you put the food in, and cook at a medium power.
At all times, the handle of the pan must be on your left / right, not toward you (/ the edge of the cooktop). This ensures that if anyone accidentally pulls or presses on the handle downward, the hot oil and food doesn't fall over them.
Start by putting the pan on the cooktop and setting the power at medium. Pour some oil in the pan before you start the heat. In a stainless-steel pan the oil can be poured after the pan is hot, without fearing that the empty pan would degrade under heat.
If the pan has a non-stick coating, use just a bit of oil (nowhere near the point of covering the entire bottom of the pan). The reason why you have to put oil in a non-stick pan is that there should be something in the pan to absorb the heat, not because it's going to keep the food from sticking to the pan (like is needed for a stainless-steel pan).
The oil should have a high smoke point. Extra virgin olive oil and butter have a low smoke point, although since you're cooking the food at a medium power, so the oil is sizzling not frying heavily, it's fine to also use extra virgin olive oil. Even butter is fine if you're using a medium heating power (maximum 10), but keep in mind that butter has a smell and taste that overpower the smell and taste of other foods. Refined oils have a higher smoke point than their unrefined / virgin versions. Clarified butter has a very high smoke point.
You should heat the pan at the power you intend to use for cooking. At heating power 10, leave the pan to heat for 3 minutes. It's fine to put the food in the pan even a few more minutes later, but keep in mind that the longer you heat the oil, the hotter it will get, and will start to smoke and sizzle when you put the food in the pan. From time to time, move the oil all around the bottom of the pan, by tilting the pan left to right (it's best to avoid tilting it toward you). When the oil heats, it becomes more liquid and it's easier to move it around by tilting the pan. There is no need for the oil to lubricate the vertical sides of the pan.
Once the pan is hot, if you want, you can wipe the oil off the pan using paper towels. Hold the paper with grill tongs, not with your hand! Careful, the oil is very hot and sticky!
You can now put food in the pan. Keep in mind that the food will cool down the pan a bit, so adjust the heating step if necessary. The food should be at room temperature, else it would cool down the pan and oil too much. If the food is meat, and you keep it vertically, place first in the pan the side of the meat that's away from you, in order to avoid the oil splashing toward you (especially if you accidentally drop the meat in the pan).
Put in the pan vegetables (like a bell pepper) that have to be cooked just enough to taste cooked (instead of raw) but not enough to turn them into mush. You can cook the vegetables separately from the meat.
Add seasoning in the pan.
Move the food around the pan in order to avoid it sticking to the pan. For eggs use a spatula, for meat use either a spatula or grill tongs.
In the last minute of cooking, put in the pan vegetables (like tomatoes) that you want to warm, not cook.
The heating power at which cooking should be done is a matter of taste. A low power makes the food soft and cooked homogenously (throughout the food's thickness), whereas a high power makes the food crisp on the outside while the inside is less cooked (than the outside). Keep in mind that the crispy outside hardens as the food cools, and becomes unpleasant if the food is not eaten quickly.
In a pan which has a non-stick coating:
As the heating power is increased, the oil starts to sizzle, the smell of the seasoning intensifies, and smoke may start to appear. Make sure to reduce the cooking time for the higher heating power.
I avoid cooking at powers above 11 because it's messy, and at 14 there is hot oil splashing, some smoke, the food gets burned easily, the food smell is quite intense, and requires a very fast cook.
If you add any fluid in the pan, the food (especially meat) will cook as if steamed instead of fried, so it will be soft and moist instead of crunchy. The same can happen if you cover the food with a lid.
If you add any fluid in the pan, the cooking time will have to increase because the fluid absorbs some of the heat that would otherwise go into the rest of the food.
Using a high heating power will evaporate the fluids from the pan, making the vegetables drier, so you should use a maximum heating power of 10 or use a lot more fluids.
The easiest way to cook food is to put in the pan all the food (almost) at the same time. All the food would then be cooked at the same heating power, for the same amount of time, but each food may need to be cooked more or less. The only way to influence how much food gets cooked is the size of the cut of each food, from minced, to diced, to sliced. The smaller the cut is, the faster the food gets cooked.
In doesn't matter if the pieces are equal in size because having some pieces cooked less and some cooked more brings interesting variety. You can't cut bones (like the backbone of fish) with a normal knife, you have to chop it with a chopping knife.
Cooking with the skin can be useful for salmon, for example, which becomes flaky the more it's cooked; salmon can be cooked perfectly fine with or without the skin. The skin protects the meat from getting burned, but it also blocks its caramelization. An alternative is to cook the fish with skin for a few minutes, on the skin side, after which the fish can be flipped over to (easily) remove the skin, after which the fish can be flipped over again to continue cooking that side.
If the pan's bottom is covered with meat and the vegetables have to sit on top of the meat, the meat blocks the cooking of the vegetables.
When the food is overcrowded it will cook less than when it's not crowded, in the same amount of time.
If you follow these steps, you will have none of the issues above. While there will be no smoke, it's still a good idea to turn on the kitchen hood for practical reasons (like water vapors and lingering food smell). If you do see (a trace of) smoke raising from the pan, it's possible that the pan is not up to the task, that is, it heats up irregularly. While the oil may sizzle a bit in the pan, it will not splash out of the pan, unless you use the highest heating powers.
Have everything ready to eat because the food will cool down very quickly once it's out of the pan. So, if you want to add (uncooked) vegetables on the plate, chop them before you put the food in the pan, because you'll be busy moving the food around the pan, so you won't have time to do anything else. If you cook at a high heating power, the temperature of the food will be higher, so it will remain warm for longer.
If you want meat to get caramelized on the outside, you can do several things: increase the heating power so that you can see the oil sizzling, don't move the meat around the pan, put the meat over sizzling oil (make sure there is enough oil), avoid adding any fluid (other than oil) in the pan, use a stainless-steel pan (not a pan which has a non-stick coating).
Caramelization is blocked by covering the meat with a lot of seasoning because a protection layer is formed between the meat and the pan; salt is an exception because it melts quickly. Caramelization is also blocked by skin; if meat has skin on it, it will be soft and fatty under the skin.
Caramelization is blocked by fluids other than oil and butter (= fats).
Follow the steps from the section Cooking in a pan.
This is about cooking fish that cooks quickly, like salmon, sardine, dorada (gilt-head bream), sea bass, herring. Dorada and sea bass have a bland taste, so they need strong seasoning.
A portion (for a person) should be about 200...400 g (7...14.1 oz) of fish, depending on what you serve it with.
Take the fish out of the refrigerator and leave it at room temperature for a few minutes. You should lightly wash the fish with water.
I prefer to cut the fish in small pieces in order to cook it faster and to get it infused with more of the taste of the vegetables.
Cooking with the skin can be useful for salmon, for example, which becomes flaky the more it's cooked; salmon can be cooked perfectly fine with or without the skin. The skin keeps the meat soft and fatty, on the side with skin. It's possible to cook the fish with skin for a few minutes, on the skin side, after which the fish can be flipped over to (easily) remove the skin, after which the fish can be flipped over again to continue cooking that side.
You can season the fish, on both sides, or you can mix the seasoning with the vegetables.
Once the pan is heated, you can put the food in the pan.
Put in the pan vegetables (like a bell pepper) that have to be cooked just enough to taste cooked (instead of raw) but not enough to turn them into mush.
Put the fish in the pan.
Cook the fish until the original color of the meat disappears, on the outside. For example, salmon is cooked well when it turns entirely whitish instead of pink. Once the fish in cooked on one side, flip the fish over (with a spatula / tongs) and cook the same way on the other side. Use either a spatula or grill tongs to move the fish around the pan in order to avoid it sticking to the pan.
If the fish is thick, like salmon, I cook it for 10...12 minutes at power 10. I flip it over at half time. This way, the fish is well cooked inside, without being overcooked on the outside. I've noticed that my body prefers the way I cook salmon (more white fat in between the salmon flakes) rather than how it's cooked at restaurants, but it's more likely just the difference in fish quality.
Herring is one fish that I think tastes better when it's crispier, so try cooking it at a high power, which also breaks down most of its tinny bones.
Serve with various vegetables that don't need to be cooked, like fresh tomatoes.
You could squeeze one lime or some lemon over fish, especially herring.
Follow the steps from the section Cooking in a pan.
If you're making omelet, put the eggs in a bowl, add seasoning and whisk the eggs. You can also add fermented cheese.
There are types of cheese that you can put in the pan from the beginning, which will barely melt. In the last minute of cooking, you can put in the pan types of cheese which will melt quickly, like the yellow-colored hard cheese; these will continue to melt even after you turn the heat off, because the eggs are still hot.
If you want to add fresh vegetables (like a bell pepper, minced onion) to an omelet, put it first in the pan and cook it for a few minutes, then move it in the omelet bowl, mix, and put the whole mix in the pan.
Once the pan is heated, put the eggs in the pan. I heat it for 3 minutes at power 10.
Add seasoning in the pan, over the eggs. Mint gives eggs a fresh, breakfast-like taste.
You can add salt at any time, either at the beginning or at the end of cooking, with virtually the same result.
Let the eggs cook until the white becomes solid enough to move.
From time to time, insert a spatula under the eggs and move them around the pan in order to ensure that the eggs don't stick to the pan and that the oil doesn't burn.
I cook the omelet for about 10 minutes at power 8. If the power is higher, the omelet may have to be flipped over at half time. You should avoid cooking eggs (too) dry.
At a high power, the eggs must be flipped over, else the bottom would be overcooked while the top would be undercooked; this is difficult to do because the top side is still liquid.
You can add various vegetables that don't need to be cooked, like fresh tomatoes.
Have ready 100...120 grams (3.5...4.2 oz) of pasta, per person. It's that little because pasta is very satiating when combined with other foods, like cheese.
When you decide what type of pasta to use, note that shell-shaped pasta is unlike any other type of pasta because each shell may trap moisture and other parts of food inside, like other shells, sauce or minced meat, making each shell like a small package. This is very interesting because the moisture makes oil / fats / sauce unnecessary and, for example, when several shells clump together, the texture becomes a bit firmer for the same amount of cooking.
Get a pot that can contain all the pasta that you'll be cooking, and has some space left for the water to boil. For 2 portions, the pot's volume should be at least 2 liters / quarts. Put cold water in the pot. The water should more than cover the pasta because some of the water will evaporate.
Put a lid on the pot and let the water boil at the highest power of the cooktop.
Once the water starts to boil, turn the kitchen hood on in order to absorb the water vapors, and take the lid off the pot. When exposed to the colder air, the boiling will cool down for a few moments.
Put the pasta in the pot. The pasta will absorb some heat from the water, so the boiling will reduce for a few seconds. After that, a foam will start to bubble up from the water and try to overflow from the pot, so you must reduce the heating power enough to stop the foaming, but keep the water boiling. I use power 12 or 13, depending on how the water is boiling (which, oddly enough, depends on the type of used pasta).
Add seasoning in the pot, especially salt. Mint gives pasta a fresh, breakfast-like taste.
Some seasoning will make the water foam and bubble up, so be ready to stir it in order to slightly reduce the temperature of the water (or temporarily reduce the heating power). The pasta will absorb a bit of the seasoning; for example, salt will make the pasta taste a bit salty. Most seasoning will remain in the water, so the amount of seasoning has to be quite high. If you want all the seasoning to be served with the pasta then put it in a sauce.
For fine salt, add about half of a teaspoon per liter / quart of water. For coarse salt, add about three-quarters of a teaspoon. For Himalayan coarse salt, add about a teaspoon, because it's less salty than table / sea salt.
Some types of cheese are so salty that you don't need to add any salt for seasoning.
You should keep the water boiling for at least the amount of time specified on the pasta package. Personally, I find that the time from the package always produces severely undercooked pasta, so, for example, if the package says to cook them for 7...8 minutes, I cook them for 15; the time from the package is probably for cooking at the maximum heating power (which requires a very large pot to keep the roiling water in).
From time to time, stir the pasta in order to keep it from sticking to the pot's bottom.
Be extremely careful when you (slowly) pour the pasta into a colander to drain the water! The water was just boiling and will splash in the direction in which you pour it, so pour it away from yourself and away from other people and pets!
Make sure to have everything ready to eat because the pasta will cool very quickly once it's out of the boiling water.
Add fermented cheese on the plate, but don't melt it (because that destroys the fermentation bacteria), just put a block of cheese on the plate. Personally, I don't like cheese melted on pasta, neither taste nor texture.
Follow the steps from the section Cooking in a pan.
The smaller the food is cut, the faster it gets cooked.
The less crowded the food is in the pan, the more cooked it gets.
Some fresh vegetables that cook fast:
For a vegetal meal to have enough proteins, you need about 400...600 g (14.1...21.1 oz) of red kidney beans, chickpeas or lentils; if canned, the label has to show close to 9% proteins. They are close to each other in terms of amount of proteins, so you can mix them in any way you want.
In the pan, first add the onion and the bell pepper, and stir for a minute; then add the other vegetables. Onion absorbs all available oil and becomes soft, so don't put too much oil in the pan before cooking the onion for a minute. This layering will improve the smell of the food.
You may have to add in the pan some fluids other than the initial cooking oil, like: (olive) oil, lime or lemon juice, tomato juice. Various vegetables, like tomatoes and beetroot, release some of their juice. As the vegetables are cooked, the fluid will thicken, but will ultimately evaporate.
Adding in the pan fluids like water or orange juice has a steaming effect on the vegetables, which is not what you want in fried vegetables.
Add in the pan various canned vegetables. Since these are already cooked, you can add them after the other vegetables have been cooking for a few minutes. Throw away the liquid from the can because it contains (more) microparticles from the material of the can (either metal or plastic). If possible, rinse the food with water.
Personal variant (per person): red kidney beans / chickpeas / lentils (canned), large bell pepper, medium kohlrabi / beetroot, small onion. Total vegetables: 700...900 g (25...32 oz). Cooking: 15 minutes at power 12, in a 28 cm (11 in) non-stick pan.
The "output" of beetroot will be red, so you should not worry that you're bleeding.
Asparagus gives a strong smell to urine, although not all people can detect the smell. Some people say that this smell is repulsive.
Fisherman recipe for (pike) roe, refined by my mother.
Ingredients: 100 grams (3.5 oz) of roe, 100 grams (3.5 oz) of oil, 1 teaspoon of vinegar (average wine vinegar), lemon juice squeezed from a quarter of a lemon, water (only if the roe is too viscous), a small onion.
In the original recipe, the oil is canola oil because (my mother said that) its taste is more neutral. Using less oil than what is specified is not recommended.
Place the roe in a soup plate (because of its depth). Using a fork, softly move the roe around to find the threads and other abnormal things that have to be removed. It's easier to work with a large fork.
Add the vinegar in the roe and softly mix it in.
Add oil, little by little, while you continue to mix the roe. If the roe is too viscous, add a tablespoon of water.
When all the oil is in the roe, cut the onion very finely and mix it in the roe.
The roe can be served spread on (toast) bread. The entire preparation and serving is meant to offset the fatty nature of the prepared roe. Personally, I eat about half of the resulted roe, with 100 grams (4 slices) of (toast) bread, although that is too fatty for most people.
Because they are eaten raw, roe must be preserved with salt for a minimum of two weeks in order to destroy any bacteria they may contain.
The row should be taken out of the refrigerator one hour before they are prepared, to be at room temperature. If the roe is cold then the oil must be cold too; the plate should also be cold.
While the roe can be mixed the day before you eat them, the onion must be added at the time of eating.
The mixing must be done in a single direction, not in both, and without interruption (other than that necessary to add the ingredients) from the moment the preparation begins.
This recipe makes very high density roe compared to store bought prepared roe (where a lot more oil is used).
The type of roe is critical for the quality of the result. You can see this before you prepare them. For example, pike roe have little interstitial matter and this makes them look and taste very well defined. On the other hand, carp roe have a lot of interstitial matter and this makes them look and taste mushier and fattier.
Tools to use
One or two pans with a 25...28 cm (10...11 in) diameter. While you don't necessarily need the space for eggs, you need it for vegetables and meat. You can start with a single pan.
A pot with a volume of 3...4 liters / quarts.
One or two chopping boards of 45 * 30 cm (18 * 12 in) each, made of soft wood (to reduce the wear of knives). You can work with slightly smaller ones. You can start with a single board.
A chef's knife with an 18 cm (7 in) blade. Learn to cut vegetables with the rocking method.
Vegetable peeler, the vertical kind (with a blade perpendicular on the handle).
Don't use too many types of vegetables at once. Focus on making the vegetables and the meat taste as good as possible.
When you add seasoning to the food which is in a hot pan or pot, you expose the spoon with seasoning (or the seasoning itself) to hot water vapors, and if you reuse that spoon to get more seasoning from a seasoning jar, that jar will get wet inside. So, before you put the seasoning on the food, gather it all elsewhere, like in a small cup.
In pans that have a non-stick coating, use silicone tools (not stainless-steel tools because they can scratch the non-stick layer). Food fragments stick to plastic / nylon, but not to silicone, when used in pans with sizzling oil. Silicone is also more resilient than plastic / nylon.
Seasoning to try: salt, lime / lemon juice, herbes de Provence, peppercorn (powder), (granulated) garlic, coriander, ginger (powder), dill, parsley, dry mint, chili. Mint works with spicy foods too. The smell of fresh mint is too strong for most food. Put all seasoning in a small cup, and mix it.
Be careful with store bought seasoning. For example, most powder seasoning contain around 50% salt. Why? Because similar seasoning but without the salt is twice the price. The problem is that the salt makes it impossible to adjust the flavor with more seasoning, since the amount of salt is proportionally increased. Also, make sure they don't contain food additives and preservatives because they are not required and don't improve anything for you.
Dry seasoning, like the store bought ones, have a less intense smell than fresh seasoning.
Some examples of food that I cook.
The following blood tests should be performed in the morning, before 10 AM.
Don't eat (or drink anything other than water) for at least 10 hours (preferably 12) before the blood sample is drawn. Don't take multivitamin supplements for at least 48 hours (/ 2 days) before the blood sample is drawn.
The reference values below are orientative only, for adults, and may vary based on age, gender, ethnicity, time of day and lab used to perform the test. The test report should contain the proper values.
If the results of the tests are outside of the specified range of values, your diet may be causing you health problems.
Tests evaluating cardiovascular risk:
Combined rules for decreased risk:
Combined rules for increased risk: