This blog is about the intersection between evolutionary biology and food. But also about practical applications, sustainable agriculture, and general tasty things.
Between moving, work, school, and the very very sad state of my inbox, I haven't had much time to post.
I haven't had much time for anything, which is why I've been eating out quite a bit. I've had a bit of a sea change recently because I found out that my staple eating out food, Chipotle, isn't so great. It just reminds me that you have to question things you love after awhile or you'll get burned. First I found out via Diane from Balanced Bites that Chipotle uses soy oil. I hadn't looked at their site for awhile, so I guess I hadn't noticed. And since carnitas has SO MUCH natural fat WTF are they using soy oil for? It makes me very afraid that for "health" reasons they are skimming off the pork fat and replacing it with soy oil or something awful like that.
Also, it turns out the meat is sourced less carefully than I thought. A few years ago I heard some Chipotle executives speak at a conference and I thought they were pioneers at sourcing well, but according to Nate Appleman, their new spokesman "The chain uses local and organic ingredients when practical and meat from animals raised without antibiotics or added hormones."
What does "when practical" mean? And without antibiotics or added hormones is a sad low standard. It's like saying "we raise these animals without tormenting them with daily sessions of Justin Bieber's greatest hits."
Once I started getting disillusioned with Chipotle, I started thinking...why bother? NYC is full of nice restaurants using pastured lard, duck fat, and other good foods, but to be honest I don't live or work near those restaurants. So if Chipotle is not that great, why not patronize the local Thai joint that uses a mixture of olive and canola oil? I even found that after talking with the owner, I could get some dishes made with just coconut fat. Supporting a local business + delicious food = win. After moving I kind of went on a bonanza of doing this and honestly I feel great. Maybe it's because coconut is so dominant in many of the local cuisines (which include Thai and Filipino)? Maybe my gut is fully healed? Maybe conventional meat isn't so evil? (though I definitely want to get more local/grass-fed meat on the market). Either way, it's amazing to be eating out and having great digestion too. I'm really enjoying exploring all the cuisines of the world, which is a major benefit of living here. Whenever I can, I ask these local restaurants about what fat they use. If people ask, perhaps they'll change. The local Thai joint even brags about having wheat free food now. Trans fats are banned here, so the only ones I worry might be used are corn or safflower oil.
It brings me to the point that while I think lard/tallow/duck fat are great for me, they probably aren't a public health solution. If I went to a health conference and said restaurants should use them, I'd be laughed at. But high-oleic seed oils ARE definitely better for you and perhaps not even bad for you. They are possible to produce cheaply and are considered highly by almost every conventional standard. Imagine if they replaced soy and corn at restaurants and in schools? That would be a solution that would benefit everyone.
Instead we have public health programs that encourage things like eating low-fat and "moving more." I was somewhat amused when I read that Rush Limbaugh said Michelle Obama had gotten fat from eating ribs. It's quite clear that Michelle is not fat and I wonder if Rush got the right conclusion
Michelle My Belle, minus the husband, took the kids out to Vail on a ski vacation, and they were spotted eating and they were feasting on ribs, ribs that were 1,575 calories per serving with 141 grams of fat per serving. Now I'm sure some of you members of the new castrati: "This is typical of what you do Mr. Limbaugh, you take an isolated, once in a lifetime experience, and try to say that she's a hypocrite." She is a hypocrite. Leaders are supposed to be leaders. If we're supposed to go out and eat nothing -- if we're supposed to eat roots, and berries and tree bark and so show us how. And if it's supposed to make us fit, if it's supposed to make us healthier, show us how.
Hmm, I'd venture that she's healthy because she doesn't follow the government's advice- because she's eating ribs rather than tofu. Wouldn't that be hilarious. Kind of like how her kids don't attend government schools perhaps? Meanwhile, Rush is losing weight by restricting his calories, which may have caused a recent bout with chest pains. Maybe he should just eat ribs and stop worrying about calories?
Some of you asked if I could re-post my list of meat priorities I did on paleohacks. Here's how I chose my meat:
1. My first choice will always be grass-fed local meat from farmers I know.
2. Generic grass-fed beef or lamb, wild fish.
3. Organic beef or lamb because of highly favorable fat content.
4. Pastured poultry or pork.
5. Halal beef or lamb(or goat) is more likely to be grass-fed because it's often imported from New Zealand. In addition, some Hispanic restaurants import their meat, particularly Argentine places. New Zealand and Australia pasture most of their ruminants.
6. Natural beef or lamb. Natural is kind of vague, but it's better than nothing I guess.
7. Feedlot beef or lamb. Spends at least some of its life on pasture.
7. Natural chicken = really just a factory farmed mass of soy.
Things I won't eat: farmed salmon, CAFO pork
Notice I will eat a wide variety of meat. For me, not being hungry and being nourished is more important than anything. I'm not the kind of person who will order a plate of greens in the absence of perfect meat.
It's funny because when I eat out, the places that make me feel the worst are the healthy places. Ugh, I think hell is other people's idea of healthy. Like my office cafe, which stocks such healthy options as low-fat strawberry shortcake yogurt, those sugar-packed Odwalla smoothies, Special K, and Vitamin Water. I would definitely get really sick if I ate those things, but I feel awesome after going to the local Argentine place for a skirt steak and plantains. Another offender for me is BBQ places. At first I thought it was the meat that was bad for me, but then I realized that the sauces at most BBQ restaurants is full of total crap. Sugar + meat = bad.
And now for a new feature: The Paleo Shitlist, featuring products that masquerade as healthy, but that kind of aren't. First up is Annie's Green Goddess Dressing:
It makes me very sad because green goddess dressing is one of my favorites. But most of the calories in this dressing comes from refined "organic soy oil." Because it's organic, I guess people think that means healthy, but soy oil is anything but! Soy oil is probably responsible for the "Israeli Paradox"— a term coined for the fact that Israelis consumes a diet fairly low in saturated fat and high in "healthy" polyunsaturated fats, but have a high incidence of heart disease. Soy oil has an omega-6 to omega-3 ratio of about 8:1 and one tablespoon has a whopping 7 grams of pro-inflammatory omega-6 fats. Furthermore, the peroxide value of soybean oil is around 26, compared to around 9 for good olive oil. Peroxide value is an indicator of rancidity and the last thing your body needs is rancid fats stressing your arteries and causing further inflammation. Even worst, shelf-stable dairy products, like the "sour cream" in this, are often those used in studies that show the negative effects of dairy and is a potential source of rancid cholesterol.
So here's a product marketed as healthy and probably millions of people think they are eating healthy when they dump it on their salad, but the devil is in the details. The only bright spot is the fact that refined soy oil probably doesn't have much in the way of soy estrogens...
I suggest making some animal fat mayo(sub out canola for good olive oil) and using this excellent recipe for Green Goddess Dressing. If you don't do dairy, it's pretty good even without the sour cream.