Marks Daily Apple
Serving up health and fitness insights (daily, of course) with a side of irreverence.
18 Jul

Dear Mark: Ramadan, Excessive Fish Oil, the Warrior Diet, and Dipping Alternatives

fishoilcapsulesI love Mondays. Maybe it’s because I actually like what I do and Dear Mark posts are the easiest and most enjoyable to write, but I get a good feeling whenever a new week rolls around. A new batch of questions, a new series of posts, tons of new content all over the web. It’s like the Primal world gets a reset. Yeah, Monday gets too bad a rap, in my opinion. We should take it back. Own it. Reclaim it! What say you, readers?

Okay, enough of that. On to the questions. This week, I try to help a reader with food choices during his Ramadan fast, discuss excessive amounts of omega-3 supplements, address the Warrior Diet, and attempt to find a replacement for bread dipped in oil and vinegar.

Dear Mark

I followed the primal lifestyle for 6 weeks and broke through my plateau barrier weight of 82kg which have been struggling to do for 10 years.

Ramadan is com in up in August where Muslims worldwide abstain from food and water before sunrise until sunset. Could you please advise of foods you would recommend to remain primal during Ramadan?

A typical Ramadan would involve me eating oat porridge and bread for my early breakfast but that was last year.

Your advice would be much appreciated.

Ps. I bought the primal quick and easy meals cookbook from Amazon and thought it was great.

A big fan.

Abdul

I’m glad to hear you broke your plateau and enjoyed the cookbook. Plateaus are tough to deal with, and knowing the PB helped beat another one gives me inspiration. So thanks! As to your question, I would focus on several criteria when choosing your food: micronutrient density and potential for satiety.

One of the big draws of fasting is that it forces a shortened eating window, which can be extremely helpful for people who need that kind of structure. Couple the eating window with the positive hormonal effects induced by fasting and you’ve got yourself a potent weight loss tool. If you’re not careful with your food intake, however, the shortened eating window associated with fasting of any kind can lead to nutrient deficiencies. Some people simply don’t eat enough food, which makes it more difficult to get the vitamins, minerals, and macronutrients our bodies require to work the way we expect them to work. And then, with a serious, long term, highly regimented fasting protocol like Ramadan, the danger for malnutrition is that much greater. The eating window in Ramadan isn’t a spurious thing to be cast aside just because “you got hungry,” like you can do with a regular fast. You “have” to follow it, if you wanna do it right – and it lasts for an entire month.

Essentially, you want extremely nutrient-dense foods that will keep you fuller for longer. You’re not going to be able to cram as much volume in, nor will you be able to spread it out, so you’re going to have to make each food choice count. I’d get a nice whack of protein at each meal, especially in the morning, alongside some fat. There’s nothing like fat and protein together for keeping you sated. Some sort of roast would work well; slow cook a big hunk of animal every few days and have it ready to go when you’re able to eat. Keep a diverse collection of quick cooking, nutrient-dense, calorie-scant green vegetables on hand – spinach, chard, kale, broccoli – that can be easily cooked in olive oil, butter, or some other fat and be ready (and totally digestible and bioavailable) in five minutes. Don’t get too elaborate. Instead, keep your meals extremely simple, tasty, and consistent. Nail down a menu that hits all your nutrient requirements and stick to it.

Good luck!

Thanks for your website and efforts. It really is excellent and I really appreciate all the work you must put in.

Is it possible to take too many omega three supplements?

Thanks again!

Dan

Thanks for the kind words! It’s a lot of work, true, but well worth the effort.

It is possible to take too many omega-3 supplements. First of all, it’s a polyunsaturated fat (PUFA) and, like all PUFAs, extremely prone to oxidation. Leave a bottle of fish oil open on the counter, exposed to air, light, and ambient temperature, and it will rapidly oxidize. Once it’s oxidized, fish oil becomes pro-inflammatory (rather than anti-inflammatory) in the body. It also tastes really, really bad, so you know not to eat it. Problem solved? Usually. Avoiding already-oxidized omega-3s is paramount, but that same thing can happen to the omega-3s inside your body if you eat an excessive amount, even if they were untouched and pristine going in. One study found that supplementing with omega-3 fats provided little to no benefit in patients with mildly elevated cholesterol, but it did make their LDL cholesterol more susceptible to oxidative damage. Oxidized LDL, as you probably already know, are strongly associated with heart disease. The fragile omega-3s, having been incorporated into the LDL, were putting the entire operation at risk.

Too much fish oil also thins the blood. This can be of benefit to heart disease patients with the opposite problem, but a large daily dose of omega-3s might be problematic and increase your chances of excessive bleeding. The risk is mostly theoretical and reports thus far remain anecdotal, since the most recent comprehensive review of the literature (PDF) found that doses up to 21 grams per day of EPA/DHA in the short term were safe and resulted in zero bleeding complications, but I’d still be wary of doses anywhere near that high – especially long term.

I wouldn’t worry too much about taking too much omega-3. Instead, just keep total PUFAs relatively low and focus on getting that omega-6 content as low as you can, so you don’t have to supplement a huge amount of omega-3 to balance out your ratios. If you find yourself popping tons of fish oil capsules, there’s probably something seriously wrong with the rest of your diet – so get that taken care of first, and the omega-3 issue will sort itself out.

Dear Mark,

Have you ever heard of the warrior diet/anti-oestrogenic diet?

The simalilarities between these and the paleo approach are incredible: intermitent fasting, cutting carbs and eating more veggies to name only a few. These guys have basically discovered how to get amazing results using a very similar diet.

Could we have found a new group of friends in the diet comunity? What are your views on this?

Kind regards

Hamish Warren, UK

I’m somewhat familiar with the Warrior Diet, and I mostly like what I’ve heard. Ori Hofmekler, the author, recommends a pretty Primal list of foods. He’s against modern, processed stuff, and lists wheat as the “worst grain.” Like the PB, the Warrior Diet takes a soft stance on carbohydrate intake, recommending lower-glycemic fruits and vegetables in general but leaving the door open for higher intakes if you need them. You’ll often hear it reported as a daily fast with a single large meal at night, but that isn’t entirely accurate. You snack lightly throughout the day on things like fruit, vegetables, and the occasional nut, keeping your hunger at bay while never reaching the fed state. This could be a good way for people interested in IF to get their feet wet without committing to a full fast. Overall, it seems pretty congruent with the Primal lifestyle.

Did you have any questions about a specific aspect of the diet?

Hi Mark,

I really miss dipping chunks of bread into olive oil and balsamic vinegar! Any suggestions? What else could I dip that would be as satisfying?

Thanks,

Kathleen

Good question. I, too, was a big fan of dipping bread into oil and vinegar (still am and I’ll enjoy a bite or two if I’m at a nice Italian restaurant with good bread. Any more than that and I pay the price). Unfortunately, nothing can quite recreate the experience. Still, here are some options I enjoy:

  • Broccoli florets – Raw (though beware stinky raw broccoli breath) is okay, but I prefer parboiled in a bit of salty water. When parboiled, a submerged broccoli floret will soak up the submerging medium. Super easy.
  • Deli meat – A good quality sliced, cured meat works when rolled up. The meat either soaks up the sauce, or sauce gets trapped between the rolled layers. Either way, you enjoy a saucy piece of meat.
  • Bacon – Examine a piece of bacon up close with a microscope and you’ll notice something startlingly beautiful: subtle nooks, crannies, and an overall rough texture. Oil and vinegar cling to these “imperfections,” as bacon winds its way to your mouth.

Readers, have you given up on bread/olive oil/vinegar altogether, or have you found a satisfying Primal substitute?

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading, I hope my words were worth your time, and keep the questions coming!

You want comments? We got comments:

Imagine you’re George Clooney. Take a moment to admire your grooming and wit. Okay, now imagine someone walks up to you and asks, “What’s your name?” You say, “I’m George Clooney.” Or maybe you say, “I’m the Clooninator!” You don’t say “I’m George of George Clooney Sells Movies Blog” and you certainly don’t say, “I’m Clooney Weight Loss Plan”. So while spam is technically meat, it ain’t anywhere near Primal. Please nickname yourself something your friends would call you.

  1. At a swanky Italian restaurant recently I had an appetizer of young raw veggies served with olive oil and sea salt for dipping. It was awesome and I’ve done it at home (and brought it to parties) to great effect. The key is to use the freshest veggies possible, good oil, and big flake sea salt. Recommended veggies: small young turnips, radishes, carrots, cucumbers, asparagus, peppers, and basically any other crudite-appropriate vegetable. Even my friends who make fun of my “caveman” diet love this!

    Insufferable Foodie wrote on July 18th, 2011
  2. This coconut flour/zucchini bread recipe is delicious and has a foccacia like texture that would be FANTASTIC with olive oil/vinegar: http://blog.middlinplus.com/2011/04/24/zucchini-cheese-coconut-flour-bread.aspx

    Works great with italian seasoning added to it.

    Stephanie wrote on July 18th, 2011
  3. Hydration is often a bigger challenge during Ramadan and am also wandering how to or whether I even should maintain a workout programme during the 30 days.

    In any case, a High fat and protein meal with a coconut milk shake will definitely be the way I start in the early hours so will keep you all posted and will also keep a diary of the 30 days on http://myramadan.co.uk/primal from 1st August. I’m really looking forward to it now :)

    Thanks Mark, for a great site and answering the Q about Ramadan.

    Abdul wrote on July 18th, 2011
  4. I like the notion of dipping deli meats instead of bread. THere is something wonderful about dipping turkey rollups into a Paleo friendly sauce. Although…its hard to beat a warm piece of bread and olive oil

    WhatAboutJason wrote on July 18th, 2011
  5. I just cant believe Mark said “bacon” and “imperfection” in the same sentence! Does.not.compute.

    Alyssa wrote on July 18th, 2011
  6. does 3g of omega 3 thin your blood more than say 1 aspirin?

    Richard wrote on July 18th, 2011
  7. You sometimes go to Italian restaurants? What in the world is even close to primal at an Italian restaurant?

    Jim wrote on July 18th, 2011
  8. I like to dip pork rinds in all kinds of stuff when I really have the urge for bread/crackers or chips, I dip them in cheese,olive oil & ranch dressing sometimes, but cheese on them is my favorite.

    Shannon wrote on July 19th, 2011
  9. Thanks for the info about the fish oil. I never thought about how important it is to store it correctly….

    Thrive Lancaster wrote on July 19th, 2011
  10. Wanna dip a vegetable? Try an artichoke. Delicious!

    Swintah wrote on July 19th, 2011
  11. I was just talking with a friend about missing Dipping Bread. Its just one of those little things. We have yet to find a good alternative, but I have it on one of my goal lists with learning to make homemade mayo….I would really like to make a good Almond/Coconut Flour Bread….but they tend to come out very dense. Still working on that one!

    The Real Food Mama wrote on July 19th, 2011
  12. As usual, love your advice. I miss dipping bread into oil too! Gonna have to try those alternatives. Or maybe make almond bread?

    dani wrote on July 19th, 2011
  13. While all the substitutes for bread dipping are intriguing, nothing really quite matches the real deal. I don’t think there’s anything wrong with enjoying it on a very irregular basis and I fully appreciate Mark saying he enjoys certain things like this on occasion. Complete deprivation just doesn’t make sense to me. If anything, it will reinforce why you make the choices you make. Thanks Mark for keeping PB so real to life!

    Lynda wrote on July 19th, 2011
  14. All this talk about food made me even hungrier. :/

    hcg drops diet wrote on July 19th, 2011
  15. Re: dipping bread, try castagnaccio, a traditional, dense cake-like bread made with chestnut flour. Google some recipes and try it out. Just beware of some recipes that call for wheat flour. Jenn Cuisine has a good one that is gluten free and savory – a lot of recipes are for sweet castagnaccio. I’ve been successful using 1/2 almond and 1/2 coconut flour in place of the very expensive chestnut flour, but the bread comes out a bit more crumbly with the almond meal.

    Madbiker wrote on July 20th, 2011
  16. linkee for Jenn Cuisine castagnaccio recipe: http://jenncuisine.com/2009/11/castagnaccio-italian-chestnut-cake/

    Madbiker wrote on July 20th, 2011
  17. The bread issue is a constant mind over matter issue with me. I totally love sandwiches and the talk of bread dipped in oil had my mouth watering (literally). I’ve been meaning to ask Mark about what could be done as far as bread substitutes and I know there’s plenty. I found mine today tho.

    Call me crazy, I was about to make a tuna scramble and instead just made scrambled eggs like a pancake or large crepe and used that as my bread. Added the tuna and a few tomato slices, rolled that sucker up like a wrap and BAM! CHEERS TO GOOD EATING!

    Jon wrote on July 20th, 2011
  18. Hi Mark

    your comments here on omega 3 and cholesterol clash a bit with the cholesterol section of your blog. I am at my wits end. Been primal for 8 months, whilst my son who eats exactly what I do, has lost 12kg’s and has great blood results. My cholesterol has gone through the roof (350) as have my s-ferratin and uric acid. The doctors (italy) are horrified with my diet and blame everything on my high meat intake and lack of eating bread and pasta. Any ideas? ps I take 4g of omega 3 a day

    thanks

    Riccardo

    Riccardo wrote on July 22nd, 2011
  19. from America’s Test Kitchen.
    http://goo.gl/oodnC
    Watch the video through to the end where they’ll demonstrate dipping chicken into olive oil.

    tim_lebsack wrote on July 22nd, 2011
  20. Great article. I think the warrior diet is a great alternative to those who don’t want to totally fast for long periods of time.

    You eat great food and the snacking during the day keeps you feeling great.

    Fitness Guy wrote on July 22nd, 2011
  21. What about MDA levels and fish oil? And I’m unaware of any studies showing that fish oil doesn’t oxidize in the body, sure the vitamin E keeps them nice and safe in a bottle, but in the human body?

    Most blogs I go to (Archevore, Healthy Sketpic, Daily Lipid) seem to agree that 4% of caloric intake from PUFAs is optimal, and Chris Masterjohn recently told one person on his Facebook page that fish oil should be considered a drug- and I agree.

    It is not natural to have huge amounts of EPA and DHA, and research shows that EPA will compete for synthesis with AA, when AA and DHA are the only two polyunsaturates we need- and we certainly don’t need a lot, especially if taken from liver. I recently said I’ll go with the research and just eat a variety of grass-fed red meats and butter, with fruit and the occasional veggies and omega-3 eggs (if the eggs fits in with my PUFA target, usually my total PUFAs are below 20 grams).

    I don’t really believe the 4:1 omega-6:omega-3 ratio anymore either. I just think we need to get small amounts of PUFAs as possible while indulging in saturates, monounsaturates, and CLA. Heck, even the AHA recommend a relatively low amount of PUFAs (10-12% of caloric intake).

    Jay Miller wrote on July 22nd, 2011
  22. Thanks so much for the Ramadan advice Mark!

    Will wrote on August 1st, 2011
  23. Re the Warrior Diet – I think this is pretty much how I’m supposed to eat. I don’t need regular meals (happily go through the day with small snacks), but then I like to really eat to fullness when I do have a meal. This makes sense to me – do you see any animal in the wild leaving a carcass to rot because it’s concerned about “portion control”? Then trying to hunt for another modest meal a few hours later…!

    That said, I think things work differently for guys and gals. This style of eating doesn’t seem to work well for my wife who gets hungry despite paleo foods, but doesn’t feel the need to wolf out. Perhaps something to do with her body reassuring itself from a child-bearing POV that regular food is available? Dunno.

    Tom wrote on April 10th, 2012

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