Now I am responding to questions from a reader about bodybuilding. He asks tf bodybuilding mitigates the harmful effects of a high-protein diet. I think it does to some extent- if you are gaining new muscle, because if one is building new muscle, then obviously the protein is going somewhere; it is being stored. But,when you eat a high-protein diet without laying new muscle, then the excess protein has to be broken down, and that's burdensome. And it raises an important question about proper goals. I am 60 years old, and I am definitely not trying to gain new muscle. I would very much like to hold on to the muscles that I have. My goal is to cruise through my 60s and reach 70 without atrophying at all. That is actually a very ambitious goal because the vast majority or people, both men and women, lose muscle during that decade of life. But, I am not trying to grow my muscles larger, because in order to do so, I would have to lift a lot heavier weights, with all the risk of injury that that entails, and I would have to increase my food and my protein consumption to levels that I consider undesirable for health. We have to keep our eyes on the ball, and the ball is health. Strength is a part of health, but there is no health advantage going from strong to very strong. So, my plan is to keep exercising and very persistently, but only at the level that I am accustomed, and to keep eating healthily but without protein loading, which I have never done, and also to maintain my hormones at youthful levels, which I think is very important. And that's how I plan to reach 70 as strong as I am today. I think I can do it.
The reader asked about whey protein powders. I am not interested in them because they are made from milk. However, I admit that if you are going to take milk at all, whey is probably the best form of it. At least it avoids dairy fat.
He asked about taking creatine. Creatine can definitely improve workout results, however I am not tempted to take it because it is a nitrogenous compound, and I am wary of increasing my body's nitrogen load. And for the same reason, I don't take branched chain amino acids, which are valine, leucine, and isoleucine, even though I am impressed with the research. Recently, for instance, it was reported that rats given branched chain amino acids in their water lived significantly longer than controls. That is certainly impressive, but we can't assume that the same thing would happen if it were done to humans. Maybe it would, but we just can't assume it.
I realize that there are a lot of supplements I could take which could potentially help me. But, I can't take all of them, and it's partly because of financial limitations, and partly because of limitations in how many pills and capsules I can swallow in a day without it becoming too cumbersome. And people have different tolerances that way. To those who don't take supplements at all, the number that I take must seem like quite a lot. However, there are plenty of enthusiasts who take many more than I do. So, there is discrimination involved, and none of us can jump at every bright idea. To see the list of supplements I currently take, you can click on the Daily Program tab in the top menu bar.
Finally, he asked about ideal body fat percentage and getting it down to the single digits. Obviously, single digits would be too low for a woman. She just wouldn't look good, and it would not be healthy for her. For instance, she wouldn't ovulate. But even for men, I think high single digits is OK, but not low single digits. You hear about guys who are 3%, but to me, that's just a form of emaciation- muscular emaciation. Body fat does have a purpose: it insulates us, keeps us warm, protects our organs, and it also constitutes a reserve. Who is to say which of us is going to get mangled in a car wreck next week? To me, as a man, being tight and lean is important. My body fat is probably about 10%. I wouldn't mind if it were a point or two lower, but not lower than that.
We'll make this the final installment of our discussion of soy vs. the soyafoes. They correctly point out that soy cannot be relied upon as a source of Vitamin B12, but that is true of every plant food. Not just every bean, but every nut, seed, grain, vegetable, and fruit. The fact is that Vitamin B12 is a nutrient that is best obtained from supplements- and that's true even if you do eat meat. Even meat and other animal foods can have false Vitamin B12 analoges- sometimes in large amounts. Plus, Vitamin B12 has got major absorption issues which only worsen with age because of stomach atrophy, lack of hydrochloric acid, and more. Vitamin B12 was discovered in relation to pernicious anemia among patients who were not vegetarians. So, anyone can develop a Vitamin B12 deficiency, and the best insurance against it is to take a good Vitamin B12 supplement, such as methylcobalamin. But, there is no reason to beat up soy over it.
As I've said, I don't eat that much soy. I use the tofu from sprouted soybeans to make my fruit shakes. I don't use soy milk because I make nut milk using almonds, pecans, and walnuts. It's fast, easy, and very delicious. I don't use any of the fake meats made from soy because I'm not interested in eating fake meats. There is an acclaimed vegetarian restaurant in Austin called Mother's which offers fabulous tempeh enchiladas, which I always order when I go there. But, that's all I can think of regarding my soy consumption. I take no soy supplements. I'm not being paid by the United Soybean Board, and I don't own stock in Archer Daniel Midland. And I'll admit that you don't have to eat soy at all to be well nourished. If you never ate it once your life, you could still live, thrive, and survive. However, if you are going to take their diatribe against soy to heart and apply it to all beans and legumes, that would be a real shame. Then, you would be denying yourself a valuable nutritional resource and for no good reason. Beans belong in a healthy diet, and I'm hardly alone in thinking so. Plenty of doctors agree, and I'd like to bring up one in particular, Dr. Joel Fuhrman.
Dr. Fuhrman is a medical doctor and a leading alternative/complementary physician in the New York/New Jersey area. He's written several highly acclaimed books; he is often interviewed on the radio; and he is a consultant to many organizations, including both consumer groups and doctor groups. Dr. Fuhrman believes in the value of beans and legumes. He takes on severe cases of heart disease, diabetes, and obesity, and I've seen that beans and legumes figure prominently in the therapeutic diets that he prescribes. Why is that? First, when it comes to "phytonutrients," beans are unsurpassed. Phytonutrients refers to a myriad of plant compounds that include antioxidants, polyphenols, flavinoids, and more. The only food class that rivals beans for the top spot in phytonutrients are berries, and I see that Dr. Fuhrman also pushes berries.
Did you know that the highest source of antioxidants in the average American diet is coffee? How could that be? It is because coffee is a bean. And you've probably heard that chocolate is being praised for being extraordinarily high in antioxidants with significant cardio-protective effects. How could that be? It is because cocoa is a bean. Beans are not only non-atherogenic, they are anti-atherogenic. The phytonutrients in beans serve to prevent and dissolve arterial plaques.
And in regard to diabetes, beans have a stellar effect. Although they are high in carbohydrates, beans have a stabilizing effect on blood sugar. By switching patients from animal products to vegetables and beans, Dr. Fuhrman is often able to get type 2 diabetics off medication. The same is true for hypertensives.
And as for obesity, forget about it. Beans are slenderizing. Dr. Fuhrman puts obese patients on his bean/vegetable/berry diet, and their body fat falls off about as quickly as if they they were fasting.
And, we've seen many cases like this. I remember during the Whitewater scandal during the Clinton years that Susan McDougall got jailed for refusing to cooperate with the Special Prosecutor. She spent several months in prison. And when she got out, weighing 35 pounds less, she told reporters that, while incarcerated, she lived on vegetables and beans. And she looked good too.
Beans are high in protein- the highest of any plant food. And the quality of bean protein is such that pea protein is now being offered as a protein supplement for bodybuilders. Beans are high in minerals including calcium, magnesium, iron, and more, and notwithstanding their phytic acid content, beans support good mineral status. It's been shown repeatedly that bean-eating populations have healthier bones and teeth than dairy-eating populations. My dentist tells me that my teeth are doing great, and I avoid dairy completely and eat beans.
The fiber in beans is soluble fiber, similar to the pectin in fruits, and it is considered to be athero-protective. It has been shown to have a very favorable effect on blood lipids.
The carotenoids in the outer skins of beans are very beneficial, and that's why richly colored beans are superior to white beans- not that there is anything wrong with eating white beans. But yes, if you have a choice between red kidney beans or white kidney beans, you're better off having the red ones. By the way, a very wonderful and delicious bean is the anasazi, which was named after the Anasazi people of the American Southwest. The anasazi bean is mutli-colored with a purple cast, and when cooked it has a creamy texture and a mild, sweet flavor. And they cook pretty fast too. Unfortunately, they are not widely available, but you can find them, including online.
The bottom line is that beans belong in a healthy diet, and there is a very wide and broad concensus about that- in Mainstream Medicine, in Alternative Medicine, and in organizations of dieticians and nutritionists spanning the globe. So, I say, don't let a handful of individuals with a radical agenda and a lot of internet savvy sway you. Eat your beans! I do, and I do so often.
This is a continuing series in response to the Weston Price Foundation attack on soy. This time we'll look at the anti-nutrients in soy, including protease inhibitors, trypsin inhibitors, and hemagglutinins.
Protease inhibitors are substances that inhibit or neutralize protein-digesting enzymes. The claim is that the protease inhibitors in soy cause the pancreas to work too hard, enlarge, and even become cancerous.
First, note that protease inhibitors are common in plants. Naturalnews.com lists the following foods as being rich in protease inhibitors: chickpeas, broccoli, lentils, brussel sprouts, potatoes, spinach, oats, corn, cucumber, pineapple, rice, soybeans, whole grain wheat, barley, almonds, and in that order. So, chickpeas are the highest. And keep in mind that they regard protease inhibitors as a good thing because they are considered anti-cancer. But, this proves that the attack on soy is really an attack on plant foods in general.
Protease inhibitors are destroyed by cooking. A North Dakota State University study found that 20 minutes of cooking at 100 degrees Celsius destroyed 87% of protease inhibitors in soy. Other studies have demonstrated up to 95% destruction of protease inhibitors from cooking.
Trypsin inhibitors are the best known protease inhibitors. Standard cooking methods destroy almost all of the trypsin inhibitors in foods. However, Dr. Messina of Loma Linda University reports that research using miniature swine showed that loading them up with even very high amounts of trypsin inhibitors caused no demonstrable harm.
But, the first sign of harm from trypsin inhibitors would have to be failure of protein utilization. What would that look like? Well, obviously, much protein goes into muscle, so there would be muscle atrophy and weakness. Protein is involved in immunity because the immunoglobulins which fight disease are proteins. So, you would have increased susceptibility to infections. And, protein is very much involved in digestion since digestive enzymes are proteins. So, you would have weak, faulty, symptomatic digestion.
Well, I'm not a big soy eater, but I do eat some, and as I look at myself, clearly, I am not being harmed. At 60, I'm as strong as I was in my 30s. When it's time to move heavy furniture, I can handle my end of the load, don't worry. When it comes to immunity, I practically never get sick. I can't tell you when I last had the flu because it's been too many years. And as for my digestion, I get a little bit of gas, but considerng how much fresh produce, whole grains, and beans I eat, it's not an inordinate amount, and overall, my stomach is a happy camper. My protein utilization seems to be just fine, so why should I worry about trypsin inhibitors?
Hemagluttinins are compounds in plants, particularly beans and legumes, that cause red blood cells to clump together. Some beans and legumes contain enough hemagluttinins to kill- if they are eaten raw. But soy is far from being the highest in hemagluttinins. Raw black beans contain far more hemagluttinins than raw soy beans, and red kidney beans contain the most of all common beans. Here in Austin, Texas where I live, black beans are king. They are served as a side dish in all the restaurants- it's part of the Tex-Mex culture. But if you go a few hundred miles east to New Orleans, it's red beans that rule. Red beans and rice are very popular, and not just in New Orleans but all across the South. And it doesn't stop there. Throughout the Carribean, red beans and rice are popular. When I went to Dominican Republic, I learned that red beans and rice are the national dish in that country. And I was impressed with the Dominicans; they're nicely proportioned, trim and slim compared to Americans. The little red bean used to make red beans and rice is actually a small red kidney bean.
So how big a problem are hemagluttinins in beans? Virtually none at all, if they are cooked properly. It certainly doesn't cause me any worry.. I buy the organic red kidney beans in cans. The USDA lists the small red kidney bean as the highest antioxidant food on the planet, followed by the wild blueberry, followed by the large red kidney bean. But, I'll have more to say about the extraordinary nutritional properties of beans in a later post. Next time, we'll look at soy and the thyroid. Stay tuned.
Let's continue discussing the attack on soy by our butter-and-lard-loving friends at the Weston Price Foundation.
They don't like the soy isoflavones. They think they're the equivalent of human estrogen. Actually, they are phyto-estrogens, and plants are full of them. All beans and legumes contain them. Wheat germ is a very potent source of phytoestrogen. And oil-seeds are extremely high in them. However, in oil-seeds, they are referred to as lignans. Flaxseeds are very high in lignans, and sesame seeds are even higher. Sesame seeds may be the highest phytoestrogen food on the planet. So, why are they beating up on soy when it's just one of many plant foods containing phytoestrogen? And what is the real scoop on isoflavones?
First, isoflavones are not estrogen. They are "estrogen-like" compounds, meaning that there is some molecular similarity. But, in biochemistry, it doesn't take much variation to alter the effects of something radically.
Dr. Mark McCarty PhD, an internationally recognized authority on isoflavones, says that soy isoflavones act on different receptors than human estrogen, which bypass the potentially harmful effects of estrogen. He says that soy isoflavones exert "a restraining influence" on cell proliferation in opposition to the stimulatory effect of regular estrogen. That is why soy isoflavones are considered anti-cancer.
The Life Extension Foundation reports that: "Dozens of epidemiological studies document the broad array of health benefits associated with a high-soy diet. Diets rich in soy isoflavones are associated with lower rates of cardiovascular disease, osteoporosis, cancer, and Type 2 diabetes."
But, will soy isoflavones turn boys into girls, as the Weston Price Foundation suggests? Well, let's take me as an example. I eat some soy. I'm still having my fruit and tofu smoothie in the mornings. I also eat beans regularly- at least 4 or 5 times a week- and they're all high in isoflavones. I rarely eat flax seeds, but I regularly eat sesame seeds, which again, are even higher in phytoestrogen. Then, the whole grains and nuts I eat daily also contribute phytoestrogens. So, with all that, what's my testosterone level? Total testosterone is given a normal range of 280 to 800 nanograms per decaliter. It's a big wide range because testosterone flucturates according to a man's age. Younger men tend to have a lot of it, and older men tend to have much less. So, theoretically, younger men would be closer to 800 and older men would be closer to 280. What's mine at age 60? My total testosterone is 803.
But what about the anti-thyroid effect of isoflavones? There is a kernel of truth to that. Isoflavones do reduce the body's utilization of iodine, and the same is true of isothionates, which occur in cruciferous vegetables, such as cabbage, broccoli, cauliflower, and brussel sprouts. These effects have been known and studied for a long time, and the American Board of Endocrinologists says that moderate consumption of both is safe. However, I realize that is hardly going to quell the controversy. But here is how I look at it: millions of Americans- perhaps tens of millions- are hypothyroid, and most of them are standard eaters. They haven't been loading up on soy or broccoli, yet they still became hypothyroid. The most common form of hypothyroidism is Hashimoto's thyroiditis, also called auto-immune thyroiditis, and it's not caused by soy or broccoli. Avoiding too many dietary goitrogens is one thing, but if you were going to try to avoid them completely, you would have to avoid cruciferous vegetables completely. But, that would surely be an over-reaction because cruciferous vegetables are extremely valuable foods. So are beans and legumes.
Besides, a much bigger problem than goitrogens in the diet is the amount of iodine in the diet. Iodine is a scarce nutrient. Plants don't need it, and they can grow perfectly well without it. The richest sources of iodine (if we forget about iodized salt) are seafood and seaweeds. Most Americans don't eat much fish, and they don't eat any seaweeds. In Japan, they eat a lot of fish and a lot of seaweed, and as a result, their average daily intake of iodine is 13 mg. In the US, the RDA for iodine is only 150 mcg. Do you know how much difference that is? 78 fold! Many complementary physicians believe that Americans are woefullly short on iodine, and they recommend iodine supplements, such as the Iodoral supplements developed by Dr. Guy Abraham, considered by many to be the world's leading authority on iodine. Anyway, rather than throw beans and broccoli completely out of your diet because of goitrogens, I think it would be better to take steps to insure you are getting enough iodine. That's what I do.
One thing is absolutely sure: the concensus in Medicine- including both conventional Medicine and complementary Medicine- is that both beans and cruciferous vegetables belong in a healthy diet. And I'll have more to say about that next time, in my last post on whether soy can kill.
So says Dr. Joseph Mercola, as he reissues, for the umpteenth time, the Weston Price Foundation diatribe against soy. Realize that they are advocates for eating a lot of animal foods: meats, fish, full-fat dairy (including butter, which they consider a premiere health food) and eggs. Even lard is great! They attack soy because soy is often used as a meat-substitute. But, soy is simply a bean, and whatever problems it has, it shares with other beans. Moreover, it shares them with other seed foods, including nuts, whole grains, and oil-seeds. So really, this is an attack on plant foods in general. But, what I would like to do, in a series of short articles to be posted here, is take their highly inflammatory charges against soy and dissect each one in the light of day. And when I'm through, then you can decide for yourself whether soy can kill and whether these people are worth listening to.
This entry will cover their first charge against soy: high levels of phytic acid. First, note that they often fail to mention the fact that many foods are high in phytic acid, that many have as much phytic acid as soy, and that some have significantly higher amounts than soy. Sesame seeds have about twice as much phytic acid as soy, but they're not bellyaching about sesame seeds. Brazil nuts have even more phytic acid than sesame seeds. Almonds have slightly more phytic acid than tofu, which is made from soy, but almonds have 50% more phytic acid than whole soy beans. Even flax seeds and pinto beans have more phytic acid than soy. So how fair is it to attack soy because of phytic acid?
Phytic acid is the primary form in which phosphorus is stored in seeds of all kinds. Undegraded phytic acid cannot release its phosphorus to the human body. Moreover, undegraded phytic acid tends to bind other minerals, including calcium, zinc, and iron. Note that it has been clearly established that the human intestine does produce some phytase enzyme to break down phytic acid. However, it's not much. Relatively speaking, we only produce 1/30 the phytase of a rat. But, you have to look at the big picture.
Under normal conditions, even under ideal conditions, we only absorb a small amount of the minerals in our food. For instance, it's estimated that we absorb about 20% of our calcium. We absorb about 16% of our zinc. And we absorb only about 10% of our iron, but even that gets us into trouble. The RDA for iron for men is 10 mgs daily. However, that assumes a man absorb only 10% which is 1 milligram/day. So, one milligram of iron is all a man has to replace each day- unless he's anemic to begin with. But, it's easy to absorb a lot more than that. In affluent countries, there are more people suffering from excess iron than from too little. Iron is an oxidant. It accelerates free radical formation, and hence aging. It is even considered a cancer promoter. Obviously, you need iron, but you want to avoid an excess. But, it's hard! And that's because it's difficult for the body to excrete iron. Unlike calcium, you don't urinate it out (unless you have urinary bleeding). You only excrete iron in your stool. But, the problem is that the body tends to recycle and reabsorb iron very efficiently, and often, not enough comes out in the stool. That's where phytic acid can help. There are people today taking phytic acid supplements to increase their excretion of iron, and they're doing it to treat or prevent heart disease and/or cancer. It's available on this website. Do a search for IP6. I'm not taking it, and I am not recommending it for general use either. I'm sure I am getting enough phytic acid from my food. But, I'm glad it's in my food.
Let's take me as an example. I include some soy tofu in my diet. As I mentioned previously, in the mornings, I like to make a smoothie with pomegranite juice, tofu, and some fruits, such as bananas, blueberries, persimmons- whatever I have around and feel like having. But, in addition, I eat Brazil nuts regularly because I like them and because I want to obtain their selenium. I also eat sesame seeds regularly as hummus and also as tahini. I also eat whole grains every day. I also eat nuts every day, including almonds which are high in phytic acid. I also eat other legumes, including pinto beans and black beans, which are high in phytic acid, higher than soy. So, how much phytic acid am I getting in total? I don't know, but it's got to be a lot.
So, how am I doing? Well, let's look at my blood work. My blood count is completely normal, and my serum iron last tested was at 112. The normal range for a man is considered to be 40 to 150. The median, therefore, would be 95. So, I am significantly above the median for iron, yet I take no iron supplements, I get no readily-absorbed heme-iron from meat, and I am dependent entirely on these high-phytate plant foods. Well, it's a good thing the phytate is in there because otherwise I could be in serious trouble. Remember, I only need to replace 1 milligram of iron a day. How much iron am I getting? I have seen analyses of the iron content of an unrefined plant-based diet such as mine, and it can be higher than 30 milligrams a day! Imagine if I were absorbing most or all of that iron? I'm 60, and I have been eating this way for decades. If I had been absorbing all that iron all that time, I might have had a heart attack in my 30s! I say thank God for phytic acid!
So, does that mean there is nothing to the clamor about the phytic acid in soy? Yes, that's what it means. Unless you are eating a ton of it, you have got absolutely nothing to worry about. It is a non- problem.
Next time, I'll tackle the next sky-is-falling charge against soy by the ever fear-mongering Weston Price Foundation and Dr. Mercola. So stay tuned!