Does the Tryptophan in Turkey Make You Tired After Thanksgiving?

We can stop the mythical complaints: turkey does not make you tired after Thanksgiving Dinner. It has just as much tryptophan as other meat. In fact, red meat has slightly more.

What makes you tired after turkey dinner is the sheer amount of food you ate and the culturally expected proportion of that this is carbs—and the high-glycemic kind at that.

With all those carbs, the regular amount of tryptophan in turkey gets shuttled into the brain unlike usual, triggering conversion to serotonin and then melatonin: the sleep hormone. So the insulin spike may make you feel groggy regardless, but with a higher than normal spike and plentiful amount of meat, Thanksgiving Dinner takes you out.

Wikipedia has a great explanation of the pathways for tryptophan after ingestion

Tryptophan content of foods From highest to lowest

Great article from Psychology Today discussing tryptophan as a precursor to serotonin


P.S. As a warning, you probably don’t ever want to eat sea lion with a high carb meal like Thanksgiving. Or any carbs for that matter. It’s over double the amount of tryptophan in our typical meats. I don’t know what would happen but it probably wouldn’t be pretty if you planned on being active or chipper at all in the next 24 hours.

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This is a Paleo Life

Whatever it may be defined as or what people claim the paleo diet to be about (usually by people patently dismissing it), this, from an anthropological perspective, is what it’s about. How that’s defined or how that’s realized for you in the current world is for you to seek understanding in and decide for yourself, but not for defining what the food movement is at its core. So I guess this is my first take at a Mere Paleo-anity.

If you wanna consume 75% of your calories in coconut oil, go ahead, but that’s not what the paleo diet is. That doesn’t belong in diet books claiming to be a source on paleo—that’s quite a far extrapolation from the ancestral health movement.

While we’re on the topic of defining the paleo life, you should really go here: What Should We Call Paleo Life.

What We Historically Consumed
For long enough that nothing about our biology regarding these things has been found to have changed
A mess of plants without too many unopposed phytates

Water from flowing sources containing minerals from its source and the rocks and sediment it flows over

As many animals as you can manage to actually catch

What We Didn’t Have
No amber waves of grain

No “what do you feel like tonight” from a global scope of diversity

No sugar isolated from its plant (and bee) sources

Nothing that’s been done to food after that

Beyond Food
No lack of sunlight leading to Vitamin D deficiency and developmental myopia

No shampoos and soaps to strip away skin oils

No birth control altering the hormonal cycle of a woman’s body

No separation from “work” and food source

What Scientific Advances We Used to Have
Traditional knowledge of plant species and their uses accumulated over millenia

Intimate knowledge of the environment in which we lived, an ear to the ground of what’s going on in the natural world around us

Modern Achievements of Great Value to our Bodies
Dental care to make our teeth last longer than they’re used to

Shelter and technology to prevent predation and accidental deaths in the wild

Running water to give everyone a river to wade in

Technology for medical treatment of accidents that still occur and to attempt to mitigate diseases of civilization

Technology to curb the course of naturally being selected against (avoiding deaths that would result in nature, e.g. C-sections)

Knowledge and technology to prevent sexually transmitted disease and irresponsible pregnancies

Exponentially increased knowledge of the world and universe and the ability to explore those cognitive frontiers without subtracting the time required for food acquisition

American Ghee

Milk fat or butterfat, standard of semi-sweet chocolate and confounding “Contains: Milk” indications, is actually just clarified butter, which, depending on how it is prepared and how the ghee you’re familiar with is prepared, is the same thing. So all that again: milk fat (spacing irrelevant) = butterfat (spacing irrelevant) = clarified butter = ghee.

So basically milk fat is American ghee.

We’ve been eating it this whole time. In Tollhouse Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips even! And we didn’t even know. We first hear of “geee”, yes with a hard g, and we think it’s soo exotic, yet there’s a good chance butterfat sans milk solids is in our intestines right then when we hear about it. Thank you, America, thank you.

If you’re lactose intolerant, casein sensitive or allergic, or otherwise dairy-free paleo (hopefully not vegan paleo, but it is technically possible…), then don’t be alarmed at seeing milk fat or butterfat as an ingredient and ignore the “Contains: Milk” portent as the expected ignorant vagueness from the American food industry. It’s all because the masses are too stupid to make their own food/ingredient decisions—no sense in clarifying all-of-it milk vs. lactose vs. casein vs. just the leftovers. Only people with milk allergies are paying attention to this, so our job here is done! That’s right, FDA.

I’m either severely lactose intolerant or casein sensitive (not sure yet which it is, but I’ve operated for 2 years as lactose intolerant and avoided it like the plague) and nothing with milk fat in it has noticeably affected me. And believe me, the way milk affects me, I would notice.

So go forth and happily consume chocolate (and I guess other foods, don’t know why you want to eat anything other than chocolate…) with milk fat, all who flee from lactose and casein!

With a Grain of Salt

Health programs at work display tables like this, saying 2,300 mg is the magic number you shouldn’t go over.

How much sodium is in salt?

¼ teaspoon salt 575 mg sodium
½ teaspoon salt 1,150 mg sodium
¾ teaspoon salt 1,725 mg sodium
1 teaspoon salt 2,300 mg sodium

That equals about 1/4 tsp of salt 4 times a day or 1/4 tsp every meal with one to spare and use as you like. I don’t have a salt-tooth so it might not be too bad.

As with everything else, though, I wonder where they got that number. It could be just like the 8 glasses of water myth. I have half a mind to measure out my 4 1/4 tsps and see how far that gets me in a day. The only problem is bacon. They’ve already added who knows what amount of salt to our butcher-made bacon. No-salt bacon does not exist anywhere for a price not unfair to the entire rest of humanity. I guess we could go with out bacon, for the sake of science…

In a recent talk at OSU, Jared Diamond even suggested that not using salt and not using sugar were the best things you could do for your health, to avoid the disease of civilization. He’s coming from the perspective that we have a lot to learn from traditional societies, so that has indeed piqued my potential to believe it. Still it could be only a correlation that traditional societies don’t use salt and don’t experience the diseases we do.

Authority Nutrition has a pretty good discussion on the topic, but comparisons and analyses of studies and their methods would be needed to really evaluate the claims of both sides. I like the conclusion though: focus on eating real food and wrestle a little with your cravings, following what your body is telling you, but also not letting yourself get use to what you intellectually know might be an unnatural (read: not available anywhere in the 6 million years of human evolution) amount. Anthropological theories about the sources of sodium during the majority of our biology’s history and whether we’ve made any major adaptations to greater or lower amounts of sodium in the diet would be the key to knowing for sure.

Save Your Skin’s Frontline of Defense

The Skin’s Surveillance System

This is why people say that dowsing yourself every single day in hard water and bottles of chemicals intended to make the opposite sex fly to you like iron filings to a magnet is not good for your immune system. Here is the connection. If that’s your norm you can be wreaking ecological havok on the populations of good bacteria like S. epidermidis.

This paper takes previous observations that commensal bacteria can have an anti-inflammatory role in the skin one step further and shows how these organisms can affect T-cell maturation

Basically, we kinda knew it mattered before, but now we see more of the mechanism. So now there is the gut microbiome to hack and the skin microbiome. Inside and out.

Judge Food by the Packaging

Packaged Food Puzzle: What’s the Smart Choice?

I thought they would actually have smart choices on here. Instead they compare crappy food with maybe-not-so-crappy food. The test becomes difficult cause they don’t give the most important part: the ingredients lists. Here’s why each number on the quiz is a loaded question:

  1. Surprising, but the numbers are pretty close and what else is in either of them?
  2. Probably more calories because the nutrients have been squeezed out of it. Fat and real cheese and other calorie-filled things also known as food.
  3. Type of sugar matters! Fruit sugar in figs is different from just the refined sugar in Oreos. Plus, everything else with the sugar is what matters.
  4. These differences in sodium don’t matter! Now gluten-free? Were you contaminating it before? Fruit snacks shouldn’t ever have had gluten in them so it’s vacuous to say that. (Although certified GF might matter for some severe Celiac’s, but still wouldn’t matter for the worst.) Made with real fruit is always better!
  5. Amount of calories says nothing about nutrients. Real food can tend to have more calories because it’s not reduced with wacky ingredients.
  6. What kind of sugar? There’s so many! If there’s a lot of sugar alcohols instead, then that has whole other intestinal implications.
  7. Less fat and more calories means more carbs! Not good.
  8. Ugh, please talk about different types of sugars. There’s not only one!
  9. These aren’t the issue on the table. CW says less fat is good so Kashi would win. Would CW take more fat to have less sodium? The world may never know!
  10. There’s bigger pieces of celery and carrots and no corn on the Chunky. Easy

Needless to say I got 6 out of 11 because I don’t buy any of these things. (OK, my wife buys Naked juice occasionally, but there’s so many different great vegetables there’s no way, when adjusted for sugar type, that your body gets more out of Welch’s.)

Shoulda looked at the title closer. The smart choice? Don’t buy packaged food.

Busting the Purveyors of Myths

UCR Magazine: Busting GMO Myths

By making a list of 10 beliefs about GMOs and giving their response, UC Riverside scientists Norm Ellstrand and Alan McHughen ignore the biggest myth about GMOs—and directly keep it going. I do appreciate the design of the article and the information that they are spreading, but it needs some unraveling.

I believe that it’s possible for instances of genetic engineering—aka plant sex in a laboratory (or more precisely, artificially selected third-party genetic recombination, but that sounds too kinky)—to be perfectly safe. It’s important that we don’t take or leave the whole technology, but rather be gravely cautious about each gene we pick for anything more ecologically significant that GloFish in Walmart. We need to look at every possible implication of making a (very) non-evolutionary change to a organism (cf. hybridizing, which still uses reproduction). We may get immunity to malaria, which is the single goal we had in mind, but then we get sickle cell anemia. We have to be aware of the trade offs if we’re going to take to the frontlines of evolution’s game.

That covers number 1 on the list, except for that process create or release things, so separating them is a little ignorant. You cook an ingredient one way, it creates one flavor, cook it another way, it creates another flavor, but all the “things” are the same except maybe at a very small scale, say, different chemicals are being released. So I think it’s OK for the public to think in processes, but to not accept or reject such a general process like I indicated above. Doing that with genetic engineering would be like discussing whether baking was safe or not. (A debate which may have happened at the rise of agriculture.) It all depends on what you’re doing it with and what all the products of that process are.

The logic for number 2 is messy. IT’S NO BIG DEAL THAT CROP GENES GET INTO WILD POPULATIONS. Gosh, this almost has to be a post on my linguistics blog. Let’s see… It is not a problem when GMO genes get into wild populations. This one I agree with! It can cause big problems, especially when people try to patent genes like manor lords withholding fishing and hunting rights for rivers and forests. “Excuse me, kind sir, your plants have naturally reproduced with mine so you owe me money.” You can kill of the bees, but until then, you can stop pollen from gettin’ around. So then the conclusion in the list is that because non-GMO genes can cause problems that GMO genes are no more of a threat. The issue people have with this is that the genes selected may be for bioluminescence or spider silk proteins, which are complete foreign to the organism, so the consequences could potentially be greater than one kind of beet genetically invading another.

Number 3. We don’t know that yet. That’s the point. We just aren’t sure enough of all the implications yet. The Romans loved their lead (even though people then did see warning signs about it),  we sprayed crops with DDT,  and we still used lead in paint up until the 70s. What’s this generation’s DDT going to be? PVC, BPA, Roundup Ready corn? Something we’re sitting on or licking or eating right now that we haven’t thought of yet? Hopefully not, but we’re not immune to that kind of ignorance. We haven’t evolved into some special generation of scientific progress that knows what every substance we manufacture may be doing to us. We’re not there yet and we need to humble ourselves to that fact. We just wanna be sure about what each technology or major change will do long-term.

For number 4, ho hum. Number 5 and 6, straw men. Statements so alarmist they’re easy to dismiss. The could mess things up. What does “drought-resistant” mean? What was changed about the plant? What’s everything those new genes do? Any sickle cell? Any difference in what it does to the soil? These problems need to be expanded for people so the crowd of critiques, observations, analyses, and myriad angles on the problem can be applied. “It’s drought-resistant, so it’s good” is too much presupposition for me to be comfortable with.

I do like the point in number 7 that if it’s not organic an it’s one of the big American crops, then it’s probably GMO. Buy organic and you’ll know for sure that it’s not. But for organic practice farms that can’t afford the organic certification that would be a present an issue. And as the list of GMOs grows, simple labeling would help the public keep up with list; even now it would help people learn what the current list is. I don’t see how a simple indication of honesty on the back of the box—with everybody grandfathered in so that packaging already out there or in production doesn’t have to be pulled—is such a big thing to ask of the industry. We already have a long list of allergens, additives, organicness and other features which are indicated so adding GMO to that sounds like a natural step in knowing what’s in our food.

Number 8. Genes transferred by bacteria between taxonomic kingdoms means swapping whatever genes we need in test tubes is exempt from questioning. That’s like saying because some kids do get into guilty-looking situations, but aren’t actually doing anything irresponsible, that kids should be exempt from all questions from your parents. EllstrandMcHughen Reality: “Hey, son, where’re you going?” “False. Some kids may be further questioned by their parents if they reveal what they’re up to and quick descriptions can on occasion sound incriminating, even though it’s fine, so you can’t make me answer you. Read the internet, dad.” Reality: “Hey, son, where’re you going?” “Up to Dairy Queen.” “Oh cool.” [The example family is not paleo.] Now the dad and son have related—and as a bonus, if Timmy doesn’t show up for 8 hours the family can compare that with the usual length of a trip to Dairy Queen and get worried. It’s just passing information between parts of the network. We need to do a lot more of that with genetic engineering. Just because there are some rare gene transfers that do happen, it’s possible they’re rare because they may be going though some kind of ecological “filter”—not just any gene could get passed on. This just sounds like an oversimplification of the process. I don’t even know enough about it to form an intelligent-sounding hypothetical scenario for the counter argument. So clearly that’s not enough of a reason—without further explanation—to say that genetic engineering is already proven to be completely natural.

I was surprised by number 9. The word on the street is that the EU banned GMOs. But I guess that just means most places in the EU don’t grow it themselves, a few places grow some GMO corn, but they all still import American food that’s GMO. Interesting. The freedom to import is good, though I think they should keep the ban on growing it so they can be the control group in this experiment.

And number 10 is absolutely false. They must be Wizard of Oz fans because there’s another straw man! Which brings me to the ultimate point: this article ignores the main concern with GMOs. It’s not technology. I’m typing this on a MacBook, while showing my wife an article on an iPad. Technology’s awesome! The main concern with GMOs is not cancer by association. The main concern with GMOs is pesticides.

Everyone always talk about how altering the genes of our food crops will make frankensteins that will march down our digestive systems, most likely giving us cancer. That’s not very likely. If evidence of that emerged, I wouldn’t be surprised and would have a sense of I-told-you-so, but we haven’t seen that yet. The real issue with GMOs is why they’re genetically modifying them in the first place. The most common reason is to make the plants resistant to pesticides so they can spray more on them. That translates to more pesticides in the end product. Hopefully you can wash it all off—and hopefully it’s not in the plant. Some crops, like potatoes, are particularly absorbent and suck up all that industrial chemical goodness. So really the GMO debate is about the overall pesticide load for humans and the environment. “If we make it about technology, then we’ll easily win the debate. Let’s take the focus off the pesticides.” GMOs aren’t a new debate. It isn’t luddites vs. science. It’s the pesticide debate and I think we know who’s winning that one. The list doesn’t mention pesticides at all, so I guess belief number 11 is THE DANGER OF GMOS COMES FROM THE PESTICIDES THEY ARE DESIGNED TO WORK WITH. TRUE.

We need to be more mindful of this powerful tool than Ellstrand and McHughen suggest us to be.

On the Hunt

We were inspired to start this blog as a place to easily access information about good food and healthy living. It will be about a few things, all surrounding what we should and shouldn’t be doing to our bodies.

We’ll be sharing the recipes we concoct on the fly and good recipes we find that aren’t hard to implement. We’ll be sharing our exploration of healthy diet, drawing from various traditions, though we’ve been most inspired to test the claims of the primal diet. We’ll share ideas on how to stay active and live a healthy and sustainable lifestyle. We will also share the great restaurants that we find, which will mostly be in our hometown Columbus, Ohio.

So we have health and great food. The goal is for those to be the same, but that won’t always be the case. You’ve gotta live a little.