Category: Recent Articles

What Does Fiber Do, And Do You Need More?

The health world is fixated on fiber, constantly telling us how important fiber is and how we should all be eating more of it. Back in the day, our cultural obsession with fiber was all about being “regular.” You had to load up on fiber to keep things moving, so to speak. Nothing was more important. So we started our days with bland, tooth-cracking breakfast cereal that tasted like tree bark and sparked no joy. But hey, it was loaded with fiber and therefore good for us, right? 

I’ve long been skeptical of that particular story, mostly because every major health agency that recommends higher fiber intake also says that we should get much of that fiber from whole grains. And you know how I feel about that. If whole grains aren’t essential (or even healthy, if you ask me), then how could the fiber they provide be essential? It doesn’t add up. 

Now, though, as we learn ever more about the emerging science of the microbiome, the fiber story is starting to shift. It’s become less about pushing “roughage” through our colons to create bulkier, more impressive bowel movements (although some people still promote this supposed benefit). Certain types of fiber, it turns out, are essentially food for the microbes living in our guts. 

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New and Noteworthy: What I Read This Week—Edition 205

Research of the Week

NAC protects against COVID infection.

Donating blood might be one way to lessen the risk of Parkinson’s.

The effects of cousin marriage bans in the US.

Is impulsivity ever adaptive?

Heart rate during competition predicts athletic success.

Muscles control liver circadian rhythm.

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What is PEMF Therapy?

In today’s world, we are constantly being exposed to electromagnetic fields, which tends to make people nervous. Who hasn’t heard concerns about EMFs and their potential health harms? We’re supposed to keep our cell phones away from our heads, turn the wifi off at night, avoid living under big power lines. 

So it would make sense if you were wary of PEMF therapy. In both cases, the “EMF” stands for electromagnetic field (the P standing for pulsed). But while just-EMF is supposed to be harmful (although the degree to which we need to worry is still up for debate), the pulsed kind is supposed to offer wide-ranging benefits. What gives?

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Are Canned Vegetables Healthy?

I’m lucky to live in warm climates with year-round access to fresh produce, but not everyone can pop over to their local farmer’s market or co-op whenever they want and grab the ingredients for a big-ass salad. Farm-to-table cuisine is great, the Primal ideal even, but the reality is that cooking with fresh, local ingredients requires access and time to shop and prepare food that not everyone enjoys, not always. Many people rely on preserved food for much or all of the year to meet their meat and produce needs, “preserved” meaning frozen, canned, dried, or fermented.

Whenever the topic of canned food comes up, I inevitably get questions about whether canned vegetables are nutritious, safe, or even Primal. (And I inevitably get comments about how we don’t need vegetables at all, which I discuss in my Definitive Guide to the carnivore diet.) Sure, Grok wouldn’t have eaten canned vegetables. But modern humans spend almost every minute of every day engaging with technology our ancestors couldn’t have imagined, from highly engineered mattresses topped with cooling pads to regulate our sleep temperature to air fryers to whatever device you’re reading this post on right now.

So I’m not too concerned about drawing some Primal line in the sand at food canning. The other questions are important, though. How does canned food stack up to fresh or frozen?

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Keto-friendly Vegetables

When the keto diet first skyrocketed in popularity in the late 2010s, it quickly gained a reputation as the “bacon and butter” diet. Vegetables might appear on one’s plate as a small side of spinach or, more likely, cauliflower masquerading as everything from rice to pizza crust to wings. By and large, the focus was on limiting consumption to “keto vegetables” while focusing mainly on increasing fat intake. (I’m talking mainstream keto, mind you, not the Primal Keto Reset approach.) This, as you’d expect, led to no end of pearl-clutching from mainstream medical professionals and the popular media, who quickly branded keto as a dangerous fad diet, a heart attack in the making. It was true that many early adopters of keto went hard on butter, cream, cheese, bacon, and other high-fat foods, probably as an understandable backlash against the low-fat diet dogma that dominated the previous four decades. Some people still do, I’m sure. However, I think most keto folks now understand that they cannot (or should not, anyway) live on butter alone. At least in more forward-thinking health circles, contemporary keto looks less bacon-and-butter and more like a lower-carb version of the Primal Blueprint way of eating, complete with bountiful salads and larger servings of protein. Personally, I’m all for keto eaters embracing a wide array of produce (keto-carnivore diets notwithstanding). At some point, though, the carb question comes into play. By definition, keto requires you to limit your carbohydrate intake to keep glucose and insulin low enough to facilitate ketogenesis. All vegetables contain carbohydrates, some more than others. You can’t eat unlimited amounts of vegetables, especially the higher-carb ones, if you want to stay in ketosis all the time.  So how do you decide which ones are best?  What Vegetables Are Best for Keto? In order to achieve ketosis, most people need to limit carbohydrate intake to a maximum of 30 to 50 grams per day. Hence, the best vegetables to include on a keto diet are the ones that deliver the most nutrients with the fewest carbs. That sounds straightforward, but in practice, it can be hard to know where to draw the line.  The internet is rife with lists that sort foods into discrete “allowed on keto” and “not allowed on keto” categories. They mean well—and they do help simplify the often confusing transition from SAD eating to keto—but they lack nuance. No food will knock you out of ketosis in a single bite. There are no “bad” vegetables. There are only serving sizes and carbohydrate content and fiber. Why does fiber matter? Because fiber is not absorbed into the bloodstream and converted into glucose. It’s counted as a carbohydrate, but it does not contribute to the glucose-induced insulin spike you want to minimize on keto. Fiber, especially the soluble type, is mostly just food for your gut microbes. From a ketosis perspective, fiber is neutral.  And in vegetables, especially the leafy and above-ground non-starchy varieties, much of their carb content is actually fiber, meaning their glucose/insulin impact … Continue reading “Keto-friendly Vegetables”

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New and Noteworthy: What I Read This Week—Edition 204

Research of the Week

Less autophagy, more heart disease.

Donating blood might be one way to lessen the risk of Parkinson’s.

Ketones may help chemotherapy patients (again).

Even if aspartame doesn’t increase anxiety in humans as it does in rodents, what do you have to lose by using stevia or monk fruit instead?

The more boosters a person had, the greater their risk of getting COVID.

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