Wednesday, October 10, 2018

Know Your Macronutrients, Part 1: Protein

Over the next three weeks, I cam going to discuss the three main types of nutrients found in the food we eat. We call these building blocks Macronutrients. These are distinguished from micronutrients like vitamins and minerals because we need macronutrients in large quantities and micronutrients in small quantities. The three macronutrients are protein, carbohydrates, and fat. This week, we will begin with protein.

"Eat more protein" has been a catch phrase in marketing campaigns in the last several years. However, what exactly is protein and why is it important?

What is Protein

Protein is a large molecule chain of various amino acids. While there are hundreds of naturally occurring amino acids, we will focus the 9 essential amino acids. Although there are 22 proteinogenic (or protein building) amino acids in total, these nine cannot be synthesized in our bodies and must come from our food intake. They are histidine, isoleucine, leucine, lysine, methionine, phenylalanine, threonine, tryptophan, and valine. Therefore, it is important that we eat protein sources that will provide all 9 essential amino acids. A food that provides all nine amino acids is a "complete" protein; complete in the sense that no additional amino acids are needed. When a food contains some amino acids, but not all, then it is an "incomplete" protein.

Meat, egg, and dairy protein sources are complete, so the concept of complete, incomplete and complementary proteins is important to those who eat a vegan diet primarily. I remember many years ago when I was in high school biology, I learned that there are to plant-based, complete proteins. However, this is not true. Soy products, hemp seeds, buckwheat, quinoa, and pumpkin seeds do provide all 9 essential amino acids. You should note that hemp seeds, however, do provide very low amounts of lysine, so making sure you eat some beans or lentils which are both high in lysine.

This brings us to another method for those eating a plant-based diet to get the proper protein intake known as complementary foods. The idea here is to combine two protein sources to make sure you get all needed amino acids. For example, eating beans or lentils (high in lysine but lacking methionine) with brown rice (high in methionine, but lacking lysine) provides an excellent balance of all amino acids. Spirulina is a high-protein algae but also lacks methionine, so combining it with brown rice or tree nuts forms a complete protein.

Why Is Protein Important?

Protein is important for the function of almost all cells in your body. Your body needs protein to build new cells and repair damaged tissue. So, if cuts are taking a long time to heal, that could be a sign of protein deficiency. The amino acids that form protein are also the building blocks for enzymes, hormones, skin, blood, muscles, cartilage, and bones. Basically, it is the chemistry set of your body.

While the diets of the day invite you to eat more and more protein, most Americans eat much more than the recommended daily allowance (RDA). The RDA for protein is 0.8 grams per kilogram of body weight. To convert this easily, multiply 0.36 by your body weight in pounds. For example, if I weight 150 pounds, that means I should consume 54 grams of protein per day (about 2 ounces). Yes, that is not very much protein! New research indicates that this number might be too low. In any case, you want to be sure that you are getting high quality protein, but not in excess. A good rule of thumb that many nutritionists recommend is a serving about the size of your palm with each meal.

Protein Quality

In general, I would recommend against dairy products as a source of protein. While advertisers claim that milk, cheese, and yogurt are good sources of protein, the fact is that dairy products come with variety of digestive concerns. Therefore, I recommend avoiding dairy. (Note: butter and ghee are fats and will be discussed in a later post.)

I also recommend avoiding processed meats like ham, sausage, salami, and bacon. (Yes, avoid bacon.) Processed meats have a lot of additives and typically come from feed-lot stock. This is one reason why processed meats are classified as "likely to cause cancer."

If you are going to consume animal protein, then I would stick to the following:

  • Grass fed, pastured beef
  • Bison
  • Elk
  • Wild boar
  • Free-range, organic poultry
  • Wild-caught salmon
  • Organic eggs

If you want to limit yourself to plant-based proteins, then these are all healthy choices:

  • Beans
  • Lentils
  • Whole grains (brown rice, quinoa, etc.)
  • Seeds (pumpkin, flax, chia)
  • Nuts 
  • Tofu, tempeh, and soy-based products (make sure organic, non-GMO and limited quantities)

Problems with Too Much Protein

Finally, my discussion of protein requires a quick look at the dangers of eating too much protein. First, when your body digests protein, especially animal protein, it creates ammonia as a by product. This leads to "keto breath." The build up in ammonia causes ammonia breath and also ammonia in the urine. While annoying, this does not cause any serious health risk as long as you are drinking enough water to allow your body to flush the ammonia build up.

Too much animal protein can leads to too many unhealthy fats. Most animal protein comes with its share of fat as well, especially when processed. For example, fried chicken comes with a good serving of bad fats. Processed meats like hot dogs, bologna, or sausage, often includes a high percentage of fat compared to protein. In part 3 of this series, I will discuss healthy and unhealthy fats.

Finally, research is beginning to show that excess protein, especially animal protein, can contribute to insulin resistance. While still controversial, if you are diabetic, or pre-diabetic, I would be careful to eat moderate amounts of protein, especially animal protein.

Next week, I will discuss the new Public Enemy #1: Carbs

Wednesday, September 26, 2018

How to Fix the Health Crisis

There can be little doubt that we are in the middle of a health crisis in the United States and it is rapidly being exported to the rest of the world. Obviously there is no simple solution to a very complex problem, but I would like to propose, at least, a start.

King for a Day

One of my favorite podcasts is Mark Hyman's The Doctor's Farmacy. In this podcast, he interviews well known figures in the areas of functional medicine, nutrition, health, and spirituality. One question Dr. Hyman always asks each guest is, "If you were King/Queen for a day, what is the one policy you would like to enact to have the greatest impact?" As I listen to his podcast, I like to think about how I would answer that question.

In a recent episode with Dr. Dariush Mozaffarian, I was very intrigued by Mozaffarian's answer to this question. Since listening to the episode, I have been thinking more and more about this. So I decided to write out my answer this question in this week's blog. If I were King for a Day, this would be my "executive order."

My Executive Order

Date: September 26, 2018
Executive Order Number 1
Title: Overhaul of Health and Nutrition Policy
The following measures are to be implemented immediately:
  1. All government subsidies for corn, wheat, soy, and dairy will be immediately terminated.
  2. All pasturing of animal livestock on government and public lands will be immediately terminated.
  3. The funds that were previously used to subsidize wheat, corn, soy, and dairy will be used to create farmer subsidies for organic, non-GMO green vegetables, fruits, and root vegetables. In particular, government assistance would be given to those farmers who wanted to change from the production of wheat, corn, soy, or dairy to the production of organic, non-GMO green vegetables, fruits, and root vegetables.
  4. All tax cuts for the production of processed foods will be eliminated.
  5. All sweetened carbonated soda (where sweetened with sugar or a substitute) will be taxed at $0.05 per fluid ounce.
  6. All processed foods will face a federal tax of 1% of the retail price.
  7. All processed foods that contain added sugar will face a federal tax of 3% of the retail price.
  8. The funds from the soda and processed foods taxes will go into a fund that may only be used for nutritional education and assistance with healthy lifestyle change
  9. Income tax deductions will be created in the tax code for activities that support health and exercise. Examples include yoga classes, gym memberships, nutrition classes, etc.

Faithfully executed,
Mark Andres
King for a Day

My Reasoning

While I know there is very little likelihood of this actually happening because it would be violently opposed by the medical establishment, big pharma, big food, big soda, and the agriculture lobby. However, I do think it is a system that would in time allow these industries to continue to do business, just under a more healthy and sustainable model. The only way to make this work is to involve big business and allow them to continue to be profitable.

The problem that we see right now is that almost all of the big players are rewarded for keeping us sick. Obviously, big pharma and the medical establishment makes more money if the general population is chronically ill. Currently, big food is rewarded with tax breaks for producing highly processed, unhealthy food that contributes to diabetes and obesity. Likewise, farmers, both small and industrial, are rewarded for producing crops that are designed primarily to feed animals rather than humans. In addition, their subsides support wheat, corn, soy, and dairy which contribute to many chronic diseases.

Therefore, my solution is to simply flip the rewards. If we can reward these industries for keeping us healthy rather than keeping us sick, they will be motivated to do so. While we may never be able to make this palatable for big pharma and big medicine, we can certainly do this for other industries. 

I would love to hear your ideas either in the comments or by contacting me directly.

Wednesday, September 19, 2018

MSP Rescue

Over the past month, I have been busy working on a new project and I would like to unveil it today. As you may know, I have worked in IT for over 25 years with the last 12 or so years being an IT Consultant. My long term goal was to eventually work as a "consultant to the consultant" helping new IT consultants start and develop their business. Well, as they say, the future is now. Recent circumstances led me to start this now. Thus, MSP Rescue was born!

What is MSP Rescue?

MSP Rescue is a service to help sole IT consultants or small managed service providers (MSP) build their businesses. This involves a few services:

  • Business development coaching and consulting - I can help them learn all aspects of sales and marketing so they can learn how to attract and land ideal clients.
  • System setup - I can help with setup and use of basic software systems for MSPs such as PSA (Connectwise, Autodesk) or RMM (Kaseya, N-Able, Labtech).
  • Project management and staffing - I can help manage and/or execute large client projects such as office moves, cloud migrations, or AV setups.
  • Temporary staffing - I can provide temporary staffing and back-fill work for staff loss or vacations.
  • Remote hands staffing - For consultants not in the San Francisco Bay Area, but with clients that have some presence here, I can provide on-site remote hands work such as equipment installation, network configuration, etc.

Why I Started MSP Rescue

Throughout my career, I have always been passionate about working with small businesses and helping entrepreneurs attain success. To that end, I decided to focus on helping smaller MSPs and consulting firms (especially, one or two person operations) be successful and learn how to compete with the "big firms." I believe that by following the right steps, you can build a successful IT consulting business and I want to help you do just that.

In particular, I have learned that "selling" services, and especially IT services, is vastly different from selling products. Unfortunately, many sales books, seminars, and techniques are designed for selling products and do not translate well to selling services. I want to help IT consultants learn how to market and sell their services, so they can build successful MSP companies.

My Core Values

  1. Building a lasting relationship with your client is the key to long-term success.
  2. Trust is the most important element in the relationship. When trust is broken, the relationship is doomed.
  3. Integrity and honesty will set you apart from your competition.
  4. You have to know where you are going to get there. A failure to plan is a plan for failure.
  5. How you do one thing is how you do everything. You can't fake a successful mindset.

Check out my new website:

In addition, I also have have a new MSP Rescue blog that comes out on Fridays:

Wednesday, September 12, 2018

Is Sugar the New Cocaine?

Several years ago, when I first heard sugar compared to cocaine, I thought the comparison sounded a little bit exaggerated. I mean, come on! How can something we eat everyday be compared to a very serious drug? However, the more I researched into processed sugar, the more I feel that the comparison holds up.

Processed vs. Natural

Cocaine comes from the coca leaf, native to the northwestern regions of South America. In its natural form, the leaves have been used as a traditional medicine to treat altitude sickness, digestive issues, and headaches. Used as both an anesthetic and a pain reliever, the coca leaves were considered a sacred plant in traditional Andean cultures. They would chew the leaves or make a tea (mate) from the leaves.

To become cocaine, humans process and refine the chemical compounds in the coca leaves to produce the white powder that we call cocaine or Benzoylmethylecgonine. In fact, cocaine is so processed, that eating or ingesting cocaine typically has little or no effect because it is neutralized the acid in our stomachs. To get any effect from ingesting cocaine, you typically have to consume it with a highly alkaline substance such as lime. This is why cocaine is typically snorted or injected.

In sum, in its natural form, coca leaves provide a mild analgesic and stimulant effect and were prized in traditional medicine for their curative powers. When you refine it into a white powder, it becomes dangerous and very addictive. What about sugar?

In nature, sugar is found in many plant-based foods such as fruits and vegetables as well as in milk. In breast milk, the lactose (milk sugar) is there to provide energy for a growing baby. However, humans, like all other mammals, are evolved to stop drinking milk after being weaned. The sugar that is found naturally in plants is accompanied by fiber. Even a sugar cane, the juice of which is used to make table sugar, is very fibrous.

Sugar cane, sugar beets, and many fruits all have a high content of sugar. However, typically, those foods that are high in sugar are also high in fiber. For example, a mango has a lot of sugar but also a lot of dietary fiber. The fiber helps to slow the absorption of the sugar into the blood stream, preventing the blood sugar spike that you get from eating processed sugar.

Like cocaine, humans process and refine these plants until you end up with a white powder: sugar. Alternatively, they take corn, which is produced in an extreme over-abundance in the United States, and they process the corn to extra the fructose, leading to high fructose corn syrup.

Addictive Qualities

While still not accepted completely in scientific literature, increasing research shows that sugar is highly addictive. The study that stands out is one where rats that were addicted to cocaine gave up cocaine for sugar or saccharin and became addicted to those instead. Here is the original journal abstract.

There are some who oppose this view. Here is a journal article that disputes the addictive nature of sugar in humans. One thing to note is that the food and sugar industry regularly sponsor research that only gets published if the results shine a positive light on sugar or other processed foods.

The Food Industry's Role

Which brings us to the food and sugar industry. If I told you that the manufacturers were adding cocaine to baby formula in order to get babies addicted to cocaine so they would later crave and buy foods with added cocaine, you would probably freak out. However, that is exactly what is happening with something even more addictive. Baby formula has added refined sugar and this is exactly what the food industry wants. Over the last several decades, the food industry has purposely added sugar to more and more foods to get consumers both addicted to the sugar and hooked on the "sweet taste" of foods. Here is a graph that shows the increase in sugar consumption over time in the US.

A Final Note

If you would like to kick the sugar habit, I have a free gift for you. I created an e-book with eight simple steps to help you kick processed sugar and end your addiction. It is free for anyone to download. Just follow this link.

I am back after a week off. I am working on a new big project and I will be unveiling that project in next week's blog.

Wednesday, August 29, 2018


From time to time, I would like to add in book or movie reviews that I think are helpful. Here is a movie review of an important documentary that I believe all Americans should watch.

Documentary, 2014 (90 min.)

This film by Kip Andersen looks at the primary cause of green-house gas production: animal agriculture. Andersen explores the levels of destruction that factory farming has on the earth and the environment. He asks the question, "Why are environmental groups ignoring this?" He points out the real inconvenient truth behind Al Gore's "An Inconvenient Truth."

Throughout the movie, Andersen tries to meet with large environmental groups like Greenpeace, The Sierra Club, Oceana, and the WWF to see what their position is on animal agriculture being the main cause of environment destruction. Time and time again, he is turned away. He also attempts to talk government officials with the same basic results. In between, you get commentary from experts willing to talk about the real issues. Finally, Andersen intermingles cases where the animal agriculture business has used influence, intimidation, and even murder to protect their turf. He notes that groups continue to focus on fossil fuels as the cause which animal agriculture is responsible for a much higher percentage of green house gas emission.

If you consider yourself an environmentalist, then you should probably watch this movie. If you are concerned about climate change, then you should probably watch this movie. And after you watch this movie, you might want to consider eating plant-based more often.

Available on Netflix and Amazon as of this post.

Read Greenpeace's after the movie release response here.

Wednesday, August 22, 2018

My Trinity of Good Health

One of the main reasons why I eat plant-based whole foods is because I want to eat healthy and feel good. Therefore, it is only natural that I am also seeking out other ways to feel healthy. As I feel fitter and healthier, I have found what I call my "Trinity of Good Health." This trio works well for me. Your mileage may vary.

Doing Tai Chi

In 2004, I started doing Tai Chi with the Taoist Tai Chi Society, Columbus (Ohio) Branch. I did Tai Chi with TTCS until 2009 when life sort of got in the way. In 2016, I started the year by going back to the TTCS and starting to do Tai Chi with the Palo Alto location. Since then, I have been going regularly and recently became a beginning instructor. In addition, I am now the Palo Alto location leader.

The reason why I do Tai Chi is that it has helped me tremendously to loosen my back, strengthen my legs, improve my balance, and most importantly, help me to relieve stress. When you do Tai Chi, you are focused on the movements and your body positions. You have to concentrate, so Tai Chi becomes a moving meditation. And there is a lot of stretching and strengthening, especially in the back. After a Tai Chi class, I feel completely relaxed and in what I call a "blissed out" state. That is what keeps me coming back for more.

Doing Yoga

I have been doing yoga on and off since I was in college. My first experience with yoga came in a class on Indian religion and culture. As part of the class, in the last 10 minutes, we were invited to learn some yoga practices like pranayamas (breathing techniques) and yoga asanas (postures). I remember using an old blanket since I did not have a yoga mat and really enjoying doing yoga.

In Columbus in the early 2000s, I started doing yoga regularly, as in taking classes. Yoga teacher extraordinaire Kit Spahr introduced me to Yin Yoga and it was love at first asana. Yin Yoga involves stretching the tendons and ligaments (yin in Chinese medicine) as opposed to stretching the muscles (yang in Chinese medicine), You passively let gravity do the stretching and you just relax into it. You are stressing the tissues and it takes patience and practice to learn to relax into certain poses. At the end of class, you feel all melty and relaxed. In Columbus, I mainly did Yin and Restorative yoga, with an occasional Hatha Yoga class thrown in.

Again, at the end of 2009, life got in the way, and I put my yoga practice on hold. I occasionally did yoga at home, but did not take any classes or do a sustained practice. My yoga mat mostly collected dust. So after restarting my Tai Chi practice in 2016, I decided to kick off 2017 by restarting my yoga practice. I especially like Yin and Restorative yoga, but I have also been exploring more active yoga classes to pair with the Yin and Restorative. I have tried Iyengar Yoga, but I am not really sold on it. For now, I am adding Hatha and Vinyasa classes to my yoga practice. I really enjoy taking yoga at Prajna Center in Belmont, CA. IT has the most wonderful energy and atmosphere.

Eating Plant-Based

Obviously the third part is eating a healthy vegan diet. I cannot speak for every person, but I know for myself that when I eat plant-based whole foods, I feel better. My body is lighter and healthier. My skin and sinuses are better. I sleep better.

This may sound strange, but I really feel that the cells of my body are happier when I eat a plant-based diet. It is as if the actual cells of my body are saying, "Yes! This is what we want!" After I eat a healthy vegan meal full of veggies, I feel the same happy, blissed out feeling that I feel after a Tai Chi or Yin Yoga class. That is what motivates me to continue eating healthy plant-based meals.

Wednesday, August 15, 2018

Why Say No to GMO?

GMO stands for genetically modified organism and refers to "living organisms whose genetic material has been artificially manipulated in a laboratory through genetic engineering. This creates combinations of plant, animal, bacteria, and virus genes that do not occur in nature or through traditional crossbreeding methods." (reference) While a wide variety of GMOs exist, I want to focus on the those that we consume as food.

According to the USDA, over 90% of the corn, soy, and cotton produced in the USA is genetically modified. The same reports indicates that the two primary types of genetic modification are insect resistance and herbicide tolerance. The former reduces the need for sprayed on insecticides because the insecticide is "built in." The latter allows the spraying of herbicides that kill all weeds and unwanted species and leaves just the desired crops for harvest. Let's examine how these could affect the food we consume.

The primary argument against the use of GMO crops is that they increase the likelihood of allergies and inflammation. While the links are controversial and there are studies on both sides of the issue, the contention is that since these genetically modified plants are actually producing insecticides, humans are consuming produce with built-in poisons. For example, the USDA report linked above indicates that corn has been genetically modified to be toxic to corn rootworm and corn earworm pests. If it is toxic to worms, how can we be certain that it is safe for human consumption.

The Reason Why I Say No to GMO

The main reason why I avoid GMO products like corn, soy, and wheat lies in the second main use of genetic modification: herbicide resistance. Basically, corn, wheat, soy, and other crops have been genetically modified so that they are immune to the effects of glyphosate. You may not have heard of glyphosate, but you have probably heard of Roundup weed killer.

In March 2015, the World Health Organization, after extensive research, classified glyphosate as a type 2A carcinogen (2A = probably causes cancer in humans). Other type 2A carcinogens include DDT, anabolic steroids, and creosotes. (Complete WHO list here.)  While the EPA in the USA says that Roundup is safe for garden use, that does not refer to ingesting Roundup. And if you are eating GMO corn, wheat, soy or other crops, you are probably ingesting glyphosate residues. Here is why.

If you have ever used Roundup on the weeds in your lawn or garden, you know what a powerful herbicide it is. It kills everything green. Well, everything green except for those genetically modified crops. So the farmers spray the GMO crops with loads of glyphosate which kills everything except the crops. This makes for easy week control and easy harvest. Unfortunately, that means there is glyphosate in the bread (wheat), vegetable oil (soy), and Doritos (corn) that you are eating.

In the end, the decision is yours as to whether you want to consume GMO foods or not. I invite you to inform yourself first. As for me, I prefer to be Roundup and GMO free.

For an examination of the Pros and Cons of GMO crops, please see this Healthline article.

PS: FYI, on the WHO report linked above, "Consumption of red meat" is also a type 2A carcinogen.

Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Coconut Oil Healthy or Harmful?

Like the good for you or bad for you debate surrounding eggs and milk, a perennial debate follows the benefits and ills of coconut oil. Let's examine this controversy and I will show you why I consume coconut oil almost every day.

The Argument Against Coconut Oil

The primary argument against coconut oil is that it is primarily a saturated fat. We know that some saturated fats, like animal fats (butter, lard, etc.), lead to elevated cholesterol levels which in turn can lead to heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. In fact, the American Heart Association advises against using coconut oil among all other saturated fats. The "truth seeking" website Snopes weighs in on the controversy here.

However, there is also scientific research that shows coconut oil "reduced total cholesterol, triglycerides, phospholipids, LDL, and VLDL cholesterol levels and increased HDL cholesterol." LDL is the "bad cholesterol" and HDL is the "good cholesterol." This link explains the difference.

My concern over the AHA's ban on coconut oil lies in the main corporate sponsors of the AHA. Without big corporate sponsors, most large non-profit organizations could not continue and the American Heart Association is no exception. If you check out their annual report, you will see that several big pharmaceutical companies (AstaZeneca, Bayer, and Phizer) and Monsanto. Monsanto is the controversial company that has patented the seeds for corn and soy among other agricultural crops. So, if Americans start eating more coconut oil and less corn or soybean oil, that might cut into Monsanto's profits. If people start getting healthier by eating coconut oil, the pharmaceutical companies will not see as many drugs. Sadly, I feel that the inherent conflict of interest here makes me suspicious of the AHA's recommendation.

The Case for Coconut Oil

To me, the most exciting potential benefit of coconut oil is in the treatment and possible prevention of degenerative brain conditions like dementia, Alzheimer's disease, and multiple sclerosis. Here are some studies showing the benefits of coconut oil: herehere, and here.  One theory on how this works is that the neural pathways that connect brain cells are made of the substance called myelin. Myelin is composed primarily of cholesterol and when the body cannot create myelin, you get brain degenerative diseases like Alzheimer's  and MS. Hence, the belief is that the fatty acids in the coconut oil are used in the creation and regeneration of myelin. Even for those without a diagnosed brain disease, studies show that it helps improve memory.

In addition, the consumption of any healthy fat, be it coconut, olive, avocado, walnut, or almond oil, is going to help your skin, hair, and nails. In addition, like other oils, you can apply coconut oil directly to the skin as a moisturizer. It also acts as a mild sunscreen. Studies recently appearing also show other benefits to include: improves digestion, reduces insulin resistance, reduces inflammation, reduces joint pain, suppresses appetite, and acts as an anti-bacterial and anti-fungal. In particular, studies demonstrate the effectiveness of coconut oil to kill the fungus Candida Albicans, a common source of yeast infections in humans (link and link).

My Thoughts

In the end, the decision is yours as to whether you want to include coconut oil in your diet. Personally, I am on the pro-coconut oil side of the fence.

If you want to get your health and vitality back on track, I invite you to sign up for my FREE Get Healthy Now Strategy Session. 

Additional Links:

Dr. Axe
Organic Facts
Eat This, Not That
The Guardian
Time magazine

Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Vegan vs Plant-Based

Recently, in the US, 6% of the population identify as being vegan. However, the word vegan may conjure up images of someone with long hair, tattoos, and dressed in hemp clothing. However, this is not consistent with the majority of people who identify as being vegan. As a result, many people are now using the term "plant-based" as opposed to vegan to refer to their eating choices. Let's look at the differences, which may seem superficial at first, but are actually quite important.


The Vegan Society defines being vegan as "a way of living which seeks to exclude, as far as is possible and practicable, all forms of exploitation of, and cruelty to, animals for food, clothing or any other purpose." As you can see, the focus here is on avoiding cruelty to animals rather than healthy eating. The main thing for eating "vegan" is to make sure that animals are not harmed in any way in any food or products used. Because healthy eating is not the focus, often people eating vegan can have serious nutritional deficiencies.

I have personal experience with vegan eaters, whose primary motivation is ending animal cruelty, having a very poor nutritional diet. Many unhealthy processed foods such as French fries, potato chips, and even Oreo cookies are vegan. It is very common for vegans to eat too many  starches and carbs, and not enough healthy proteins or fats. Because of this, in addition to lacking in vitamin B12 and iron, they also deficient in many other vitamins and minerals.


The "plant-based" diet (aka plant-based whole foods diet) "is centered on whole, unrefined, or minimally refined plants. It’s a diet based on fruits, vegetables, tubers, whole grains, and legumes; and it excludes or minimizes meat (including chicken and fish), dairy products, and eggs, as well as highly refined foods like bleached flour, refined sugar, and oil." Originally developed by Dr. Caldwell Esselstyn to treat patients with coronary heart disease and later endorsed by Dr. Joel Furman, Dr. Neal Barnard,  and T. Colin Campbell, this diet focuses on eating whole plant-based foods, but strives to exclude animal sources of protein and fat. In its pure form, it also limits fats of all kinds, but for those who do not have heart disease, you can include the consumption of healthy plant-based fats like virgin olive oil, avocado oil, and virgin coconut oil.

In addition to avoiding animal-based foods such as meat, fish, dairy, or eggs, this diet aims to eliminate processed foods of all finds as well as sugars. Potato chips and Oreo cookies are definitely not on this diet. Following this plan will help you lose weight, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, and still get all the vitamins and minerals that you need. You may still want to take a B12 supplement if you don't eat nutritional yeast every day and possibly and iron supplement.

Vegan or Plant-Based

So, which is best? Nutritionally, the whole foods plant-based diet is the way to go. This will provide you with a balanced, healthy diet that is truly sustainable. If you became vegan for ethical reasons, because you love animals, that is great. You can continue to do all the things that you do like not using leather or consuming honey. I would just also try to follow the whole foods, plant based diet. It is like vegan+ because you are still eating vegan, but you are also eating healthy.

Not quite ready to give up animal products 100%? You can do it in steps.

Step 1 - Eliminate dairy products and processed meats. With the possible exception of ghee, your body is not really designed to digest dairy products. Lactose intolerance is actual natural. If you have to eat meat or fish, try to limit it to wild animals (bison or venison), grass-fed beef, or wild caught Pacific salmon. Also, eliminate processed sugars and carbohydrates like cookies, crackers, etc.

Step 2 - Eliminate all animal products but eggs. Eggs should be bought locally from free-range farmers if possible. Try getting your eggs at the farmer's market and talk tot he farmer about the feed (ideally plant-based) and the living conditions of the chickens. Another alternative is to raise chickens yourself. This is a trend that is becoming more common even in urban settings. This way, you can be sure of the source of the eggs. At this stage, you want to eliminate as many processed foods as you can.

Step 3 - Finally, cut out all animal products. In addition, you want to eliminate all unhealthy fats and carbs. As much as possible, use whole grains like brown rice, millet, or quinoa in place of white wheat flour. Use healthy fats like olive, avocado, coconut, or nut oils. Eliminate deep fried foods and use oils sparingly in cooking. The goal here is to eat foods in as natural a state as possible.

You can do it! Any steps that you take to eating healthier are worth it. If you need help or advice, please contact me through my website and I will be happy to help and support you.

Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Why Diets Don't Work

According to recent studies, approximately 40% of American adults are obese with that number approaching 47% for Hispanic and African Americans. Even for those people who are not classified as "obese," losing weight is a common goal. So, it is not surprising that dieting and weight loss is a $66 billion industry in the US.

Unfortunately, while every year millions of Americans will try various diets or weight loss programs, most will not succeed in the long term. Over the years, many will become stuck in the cycle of weight loss and gain known as "yo-yo dieting." There are important scientific reasons why fad diets and rapid weight loss does not work in the long run. I would like to examine the three main reasons why diets don't work.

Reason 1: Deprivation of Macronutrients

Most fad diets or weight loss programs that promise rapid weight loss rely on the reduction of one of the three macronutrients: fat, protein, or carbohydrates. Over the past decade or two, "low-carb" diets such as Atkins or Keto diet have gained popularity. In the 1960s, fat was vilified as the cause of obesity and chronic disease lading to many low-fat or fat-free diets. Fortunately, there are very few diets that want to restrict protein, as the limiting of protein could be very dangerous.

The problem with long term restriction of any of the macronutrients is that you are using willpower to overcome the body's natural desire for a balance of protein, fat, and carbs. If you deprive yourself of carbs long enough, you will crave carbs more and more. If you keep yourself from having any fat, you will end up craving fats. Rather than depriving yourself of a particular macronutrient, I would suggest improving the quality instead. Rather than having two slices of white bread, try having some brown rice. Instead of using vegetable oils or margarine, try using coconut or olive oil. Avocadoes also provide a healthy fat.

Reason 2: Leptin

Basically, leptin is the hormone that tells your brain and your body that you have had enough to eat, so you feel full and do not want to eat anymore. We also have known for some time that when you lose weight rapidly, your body will suppress the production of leptin as part of the starvation response. This is a survival mechanism designed to get you to eat more calories to replace the weight that you are losing when you are "starving."

Now, when you lose weight rapidly, the body goes into starvation mode and suppresses leptin production. As you begin to gain weight back, your body will typically resume normal production of leptin. However, there are indications that when you gain and lose weight repeatedly (yo-yo dieting) or lose a really large amount of weight rapidly, leptin production can remain lo or suppressed, even when you are gaining weight.

Reason 3: Persistent Metabolic Adaptation

When I was in college, I lived close to my aunt. One day, she found a stray cat on her doorstep emaciated and near death from starvation. She decided to take the cat in and the cat survived under her care. Six months later, the cat went from being a walking skeleton to a rather chubby cat. A year later, the cat was obese and I used to joke that it looked like it ate a watermelon. That cat would be obese for the rest of its life. Why? Persistent metabolic adaptation. When your body thinks it is starving, it slows down your metabolism to conserve energy, sometimes permanently.

Since scientists cannot starve people and then study them, research on this has been sparse. In 2016, however, a study was conducted on 14 former contestants of the TV show The Biggest Loser.  They found 13 of the 14 had gained back a significant amount of the weight and 4 out of 14 actually now weighted more than their original starting weight (gained back more than they lost). In their study, researchers found that the common denominator was lower metabolism for the former contestants. Even the one contestant that had kept the weight off had a lower metabolism. Interestingly, this lower metabolism persisted even six years after the initial weight loss.

New York Times discussion of the study. Business Insider discussion of the study.

As with leptin resistance discussed above, metabolic adaptation is a survival mechanism from the feast or famine days from which we evolved. When you lose weight rapidly by severely restricting calories or macronutrients, you body "thinks" you are starving to death and survival mechanisms kick in. Even if you are obese and have plenty of fat reserves, if you lose weight too fast,your body goes into starvation mode and it lowers your metabolism to try to conserve calories and keep you alive. When this state persists for weeks instead of a few days, your body makes a permanent adaptation. Your body "assumes" that you are not in a condition where you can reliably provide enough calories, so it stays in starvation mode permanently in an effort to keep you alive in what it perceives as a persistent famine state.

Thus, you body is 1) lowering your metabolism, and 2) sending out signals saying "whenever you get a chance to eat, consume as many calories as possible." You can see how this makes it nearly impossible to be successful long term. This method relies completely on willpower and there are very few people who can maintain that level of willpower, going against their own biology, for the remainder of their lives.

A Better Way 

If dieting does not work, then what does? My recommendation is lifestyle change, combined with gradual weight loss. While it may not be as flashy or grab headlines in the tabloids, eating a healthy, balanced diet with proper food portions, will help you lose weight sustainably and permanently. The first step that I would take is replacement rather than deprivation. Rather than saying, "I am not going to eat any sweets for dessert," say, "I am going to have a piece of fresh fruit for dessert." If you can make this a habit, in a few weeks, you won't miss the cake or ice cram any more and will welcome the sweetness of an apple or pear. In addition, whenever possible, replace processed or pre-packaged foods with natural foods. For example, have some natural dark chocolate instead of an oreo cookie.

If you are struggling with weight loss, I would be happy to put together a plan of action for you to achieve your goals once and for all. You can sign up for a free strategy session and together we can take the first step to weight loss mastery.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

The Garden of Vegan

First of all, I do not consider myself a Christian, nor do I practice any specific religion. However, I do like to read spiritual books. I often read The Bible as a source of wisdom and inspiration rather than the literal and only word of God.

However, I am very interested in the creation story in Genesis. In the Book of Genesis, I read the creation story to indicate that God commands man (Adam) that he should only eat fruit and vegetables. I find this interesting that in the Bible, humans are originally supposed to eat plant-based food.

Genesis 1:29 (New International Version):

Then God said, "I give you every seed-bearing plant on the face of the whole earth and every tree that has fruit with seed in it. They will be yours for food."

Granted, this is before the fall where Adam and Eve eats the forbidden fruits from the tree of the knowledge of good and evil. However, even after the fall, Adam is commanded to till the soil. This first stage can correspond to the "hunter-gatherer" times before agriculture when humans foraged for food and probably gathered, much more than hunted.

Genesis 3:17-19, 23 (New International Version):

To Adam he said, "Because you listened to your wife and ate fruit from the tree about which I commanded you, 'You must not eat from it,' "Cursed is the ground because of you; through painful toil you will eat food from it all the days of your life. It will produce thorns and thistles for you, and you will eat the plants of the field. By the sweat of your brow you will eat your food until you return to the ground, since from it you were taken; for dust you are and to dust you will return." ... So the LORD God banished him from the Garden of Eden to work the ground from which he had been taken.

So while man is not relegated to manual labor, he is still ordered to till the soil to grow crops; not to eat animals. It is only after God floods the earth and Noah and his family are saved, that God allows man to eat animals.

Genesis 9:2-3 (New International Version):

The fear and dread of you will fall on all the beasts of the earth, and on all the birds in the sky, on every creature that moves along the ground, and on all the fish in the sea; they are given into your hands. Everything that lives and moves about will be food for you. Just as I gave you the green plants, I now give you everything.

I should note, however, that even though God allows humans to eat meat, rules were set up to ensure that animals be killed in a humane way. This is the origin of the concept of eating kosher in the Jewish faith and halal in Islam. God is basically saying, "OK, you can kill animals and eat meat, but you have to do it according to these rules."

So here is my conclusion in all of this. I think The Bible points to three different levels of diet.

  • Fruits, leafy vegetables, nuts and seeds. This is the ideal diet that we ate in the Garden of Eden and is the ideal diet for humans. In this case, man forages for available foods readily available.
  • Grains and other plant-based foods in addition to fruits and vegetables. This requires more effort as we have to till the soil, plant seeds, and eventually harvest the food.
  • Animal products. This is the diet of those who have "evil in their heart." In line 8:21 God says "every inclination of the human heart is evil from childhood."

And so, to all my Christian fiends, I ask you, which diet sounds like God's preferred diet to you?

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

A Couple Sweet Recipes

Eating healthy means giving up processed sugar and unhealthy treats like doughnuts, candy bars, and junk food. However, sometimes you really want something sweet and satisfying. So, I thought I would share a couple of my favorite summer sweets. They are both sweet, delicious, and naturally healthy. By using fruit to provide the sweetness, we can these enjoy guilt-free treats.

If you try one of these recipes, I would love to hear your reaction, positive or negative, in the comments below.

My Simple "Chocolate Bar

Instead of reaching for a candy bar, this is a super simple, yet healthy way to enjoy chocolate. You get all the wonderful anti-oxidants and polyphenols of dark chocolate and the natural sweetness and fiber of the dates. Try to find 100% cacao chocolate. If you eat it as is, it is quite bitter, but eating it with the date makes it a nice treat.


2 dates (I prefer organic pitted deglet dates)
2 small chunks of 100% cacao chocolate


Step 1: If the dates have pits, remove the pits and break open the dates length-wise

Step 2:  Add a small chunk of pure chocolate for each date

Step 3: Enjoy!


Chocolate Fruit Parfait Recipe

This recipe is for a delicious vegan chocolate chia pudding parfait. You can use it with the fruit of your choice. I love it with bananas, raspberries, or blueberries.


1 cup of almond milk (I recommend Califa Farms Toasted Coconut Almondmilk)
1/4 cup of chia seeds
1 tablespoon of cocoa powder (I recommend Navitas Organic Cacao Power)
Fruit of your choice (banana, raspberries, blueberries, etc.)


Step 1: Thoroughly mix the chia seeds and almond milk in a bowl. Cover and refrigerate overnight or at least 3 hours. If possible, stir again after 1 hour.

Step 2: Add cocoa powder and mix thoroughly under the powder is no longer dry.

Step 3: Chop your choice of fruit into small pieces.

Step 4: In a small glass, add a layer of chia pudding, a layer of fruit, another layer of chia pudding, and a final layer of fruit.

Optional: Garnish as desired. Chopped walnuts are great for banana parfait. A small mint leaf works well for raspberry parfait.


With raspberries

With bananas

Before adding cocoa powder

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

What Is the Keto Diet?

In 2018, the "Keto" diet or ketogenic diet is the diet craze of the year with celebrities like Halle Berry, Megan Fox, Gwenyth Paltrow, and several Kardasians all jumping on the bandwagon. However, what exactly is it and why would you want to try it?

What is the Ketogenic Diet?

The "Keto" diet is a high fat, medium protein, and very low carbohydrate diet (70% fats, 25% protein, and 5% carbohydrates) that is designed to put the body into a state of "ketosis." This dietary protocol has actually been around sine the early 1920s as a treatment for epilepsy. Even after the development of anti-convulsion drugs to treat epilepsy, the protocol was still used to treat patients who did not have success with medications. By limiting carbohydrate intake to around 20 grams per day, the body is not able to produce enough glucose for use in the body, especially in the brain. As a result, the body converts fat into "ketones" which the brain can use as an alternate energy source. The theory behind using this for weight loss is that you train the body to burn fat instead of sugar (glucose) as fuel.

What is Ketosis?

When a person's body is producing ketones and using them for fuel rather than glucose, this state is known as ketosis. Because ketones are acidic and human blood is alkaline, a possibly dangerous condition called ketoacidosis can occur, but it is usually associated with starvation, diabetes, or alcoholism, rather than just following a ketogenic diet. However, there is a slight risk.

When you start a ketogenic diet, it usually takes a few days to get into the state of ketosis. You can test this by using Ketostix to test for ketonuria. Ketonuria simply means that there are ketones present in the urine. Thus, if you are trying to achieve a state of ketosis through diet, you want to be sure that it is actually working by testing your urine. If you are consuming a lot of fat, but your body is not in ketosis, you end up just consuming a lot of extra calories.

An "Easy Way" to Get into Ketosis

Another way to get into a state of ketosis is to fast (i.e., eat no food, only consume water). After a few days of not eating, once the glucose in your system is exhausted, your body will begin to convert existing body fat into ketones. This is a way to put your body into a state of ketosis for a short period of time as obviously fasting is not sustainable long term.

Recently, especially in Europe, there is significant research on fasting as a treatment for cancer; the theory behind it being that cancer cells can only feed on glucose. So if you create a state of ketosis, you can starve the cancer cells to shrink malignant tumors.

What is Ketosis Good for?

As mentioned above, the ketongenic diet was originally used to treat epilepsy, especially in cases where anti-seizure medicines did not work. Since this diet is known to help with epilepsy, beginning in the 1990s, researchers started looking at using the diet to treat other brain and nervous system related disorders. Recently, research is being done on the use of this diet to help treat the following diseases:

  • Alzheimer's disease
  • Amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS)
  • Autism
  • Parkinson's disease
  • Multiple sclerosis (MS)

In addition, there is promising research on the use of the diet to help treat many types of cancers as mentioned above. There is still research to be done, but now scientists are looking at a keto diet as opposed to fasting as a more sustainable treatment plan for cancer.

My Opinion

If you have been diagnosed by a physician to have any of the above maladies (epilepsy, cancer, Alzheimer's, ALS, MS, or autism), then I definitely think it is worth looking into the ketogenic diet as a possible method of treatment. I would work closely with your doctor and/or licensed dietitian. In particular, I would recommend finding a medical doctor who practices functional medicine. These doctors have taken additional training in nutrition that your typical family doctor has not.

If you have not been diagnosed these diseases, and especially it you are mainly interested in weight loss, then I would be very cautious about using the keto diet. It might be fine in the short term, but long term effects of this diet are not well known. In addition, any diets that promise rapid weight loss are likely setting you up for failure in the long run.

Either way, should you decide that the ketogenic diet is worth trying, I would strongly recommend that you work with a nutritionist or dietitian who has experience with this diet. There are known side effects such as ketoacidosis and a lower of the immune system commonly known as "keto flu." This is one case where you definitely want to consult your doctor before proceeding. Finally, since it is a high fat diet, you want to be sure that you are consuming healthy fats that will not cause heart or blood problems later.

Wednesday, June 27, 2018

Homemade Toothpaste

All my life, I have used commercial toothpaste, all of which had fluoride as one of the main ingredients. Until recently, I never really questioned it. However, the more reading and research I did into health and wellness, the more I started to see reports connecting fluoride to possible cancers and issues with brain development. The research remains controversial and I will leave it up to you to decide for yourself.

Link to a debate between two dentists.
Link to Dr. Josh Axe's discussion of the health risks.
Link to discussion of fluoride's role as a neurotoxin.

In the end, each person has to make their own decision. I decided that I wanted to try to make my own toothpaste, not only because of the fluoride, but also because of the artificial sweeteners and other toxic chemicals they put in toothpaste. Of course, you could buy a more natural toothpaste like Tom's of Maine, but even those contain a lot of chemicals. So, if you want to try an experiment, here is my super simple recipe for making your own toothpaste.

Recipe for Homemade Toothpaste

With 3 or 4 simple ingredients, you can have healthy teeth and gums. Note that the measures are approximate, as I rarely measure things out when I am making my "creations." You may have to adjust the ratios to your own taste.


1/3 cup of extra virgin coconut oil
2 tablespoons of baking soda
Oil of peppermint
Oil of spearmint (optional)

Preparation Instructions

  1. Warm the coconut oil slightly until it gets soft, but not completely liquid. 
  2. Stir in the baking soda until it is mixed thorough.
  3. Add several drops of peppermint oil and, if you like, spearmint oil. 
  4. Mix thoroughly and let it return to room temperature

I prefer mine "minty," so I use about 10 drops of peppermint oil and 8 drops of spearmint oil. You can adjust according to your taste.

Directions for Use

I use the back of toothbrush to scrape up a "ball" of toothpaste about the size of a half of a teaspoon. Then, I scoop it up with the bristle side of the toothbrush and brush as usual.


It will not foam because it has no added 'foaming agents." This is normal.
Because it is mostly coconut oil, your toothbrush will get a little bit oily. I wash the handle with a little bit of soap and warm water when I am finished.

My Observations Using Natural Toothpaste

After using my natural toothpaste for about one month, here are some of my observations.

  1. I don't have that "dry mouth" feeling after brushing that I have always had after brushing.
  2. My tongue has lost the white film that was always on it. I used to think that was due to the dairy products. But then I went vegan. So I thought maybe it was the almond milk I use in my coffee. Or something else. I could never get it to go away. Now, it is gone. I truly believe it was the toothpaste. And I have always scraped my tongue after brushing for years.
  3. My teeth are getting whiter. I drink coffee almost everyday. However, I always tried to avoid "whitening" toothpastes, because my dentist said that they can damage your enamel. While it has only been a month, the difference in my teeth in noticeable.

If you try my recipe, I would love to hear about your experiences in the comments.

Wednesday, June 20, 2018

Drink more water, really!

We hear it all the time, "Drink more water. Drink extra water. Remember to drink water." In the past, no one was more skeptical of this refrain than me. However, I eventually became a believer and I will tell you how.

For most of my life, I have not been a big water drinker. I always wanted something with "flavor" (i.e., sugar). Luckily, I never really liked soda that much. I do not like carbonated drinks, so I would drink much less soda than the average American. However, I made up for it by drinking fruit juices, sports drinks, or non-carbonated drinks like "vitamin water." Up until recently, I also drank a fair amount of coffee. Years ago, I did train myself not to drink coffee with sugar and I always used unsweetened almond milk or cashew milk in my coffee.

As part of eating more healthy, I decided to cut out processed fruit juices, sports drinks, soda, and other sugary drinks. But even after cutting out those drinks, I did not really drink more water. Maybe I would drink 16-24 ounces a day. I did get liquids from coffee, green smoothies, herbal teas, and such, but I am sure that it was not as much as I should.

As I started doing tai chi, yoga, and exercising more, I really noticed that the next day, my muscles would often be sore. At first, I just chalked this up to getting older. However, again and again, I heard the answer to soreness as well: "drink more water!" In particular, my daughter who is a dancer and fitness instructor would harp on me to drink more water.

Finally, I wanted to put it to the test for myself. While my wife was travelling several months ago, I decided to do a "mini-retreat" and challenged myself to do tai chi or yoga everyday for 10 days. In addition, I resolved to put the water theory to the test by drinking three liters of water each day during that time.

I kicked it off on a Sunday with double yoga. Sunday morning's first yoga class was rather strenuous so I expected to be sore on Monday morning. To my pleasant surprise, I wasn't sore on Monday. On Monday, took a very hard vinyasa yoga class. This time I knew I would be sore the next day for sure. Again, to my delight, I was not. That pattern continued for all 10 days.

Since then, I have been monitoring my water intake and noticing the results when I do drink plenty of water and when I do not. Here are some things I have found for me:

  • When I drink plenty of water, I am not sore or stiff after exercise
  • When I drink plenty of water, I don't get headaches
  • When I drink plenty of water, I have more energy, need less caffeine. and feel less sleepy in the afternoon
  • When I drink plenty of water, I sleep better
  • When I drink plenty of water, my skin is clearer and my sinuses are clearer

I would be interested to hear your experiences with drinking water. Please add them to the comments below.