25 June 2016

Do Carbs Make You Fat?

There is a common misconception that eating fat does not make you fat and that only carbohydrates make you fat.

This is completely wrong. You can get fat from eating fat.

If you're sitting around all day eating carbs, the excess carbs do get stored as fat. I don't deny that. However, if you're sitting around all day eating fat (e.g. butter, coconut oil, etc), the excess fat gets stored as fat as well.

In fact, the study below shows that excess fat in your diet is stored as fat with greater efficiency than excess carbohydrates:
We overfed isoenergetic amounts (50% above energy requirements) of fat and carbohydrate (for 14 d each) to nine lean and seven obese men. A whole-room calorimeter was used to measure energy expenditure and nutrient oxidation on days 0, 1, 7, and 14 of each overfeeding period. From energy and nutrient balances (intake-expenditure) we estimated the amount and composition of energy stored. Carbohydrate overfeeding produced progressive increases in carbohydrate oxidation and total energy expenditure resulting in 75-85% of excess energy being stored. Alternatively, fat overfeeding had minimal effects on fat oxidation and total energy expenditure, leading to storage of 90-95% of excess energy. Excess dietary fat leads to greater fat accumulation than does excess dietary carbohydrate, and the difference was greatest early in the overfeeding period.


Bollinger Bands on the S&P 500

Notice how well Bollinger Bands can predict market booms and busts. Buy when the index hits the top band and sell when the index hits the bottom band.

15 June 2016

How to Explain Why You're Vegan Without Offending Anyone

Everyone is different, but I find that there are people I feel more comfortable talking about veganism to than others. For example, talking to close friends and family about veganism is not too difficult, but talking to work colleagues is more difficult, probably because I feel like I am under more scrutiny at work whereas among close family and friends I am accepted for who I am.

It is great for someone to have the courage to defend his vegan beliefs to others, but not everyone is always confident to all people. I will talk in this post about ways that you can explain your vegan diet to others in a way that is unlikely to offend them.

More science, less ethics

Personally, I find that when you're among people you don't want to offend much, it is best to not talk about ethics. Talking about ethics (i.e. what is right and what is wrong) is like talking about politics or religion. Talking about politics and religion is a good recipe for tension and offence.

Rather than talk about ethics, it is best to talk about health and science. If you talk about ethics, people will think that you are trying to force your beliefs on them, but if you talk about health and science, people will think you are just trying to be be healthy.

For example, when ordering an almond latte, someone might ask you why you're ordering an almond latte rather than a latte with dairy milk. You can then explain that one cup of dairy milk contains 9 grams of sugar and about 150 calories compared to one cup of almond milk that contains 2 grams of sugar and about 60 calories. You can then explain how dairy milk has high levels of estrogen. Dairy milk has also been shown to decrease testosterone levels in men.

Suppose you go to a restaurant and ask that any fish be replaced with tofu. Someone then asks you why you did this. You explain that our oceans are polluted and fish contains high levels of mercury, cadmium, flame retardants, PCBs, and other waterborne contaminants.

Food tribes

When most people hear you explain that you want to reduce intake of mercury, estrogen, or cholesterol, they will likely just shrug and move on with their lives. However, this is not always the case. Diet has become almost like a religion, so if you refuse to eat, say, fish, and fish makes up a very important part of someone else's diet, e.g. because he is following the paleo diet, he or she may be offended and start attacking you.

For example, if you claim that fish contains high levels of mercury, someone following the paleo diet may criticize you for being a vegan or may claim that paleolithic men ate fish.

The solution to this problem is never talk about specific diets (Paleo, vegan, gluten free, etc) but to always talk about specific food.

Never say that the vegan diet is healthier than the paleo diet because a vegan diet can be healthy or unhealthy depending on what you eat. If you are eating french fries and Diet Coke all day, that is classified as a vegan diet, but the acrylamide in french fries will increase your risk of cancer.

Instead, talk about specific food. Don't criticize the paleo diet or the vegan diet or the vegetarian diet. Criticize specific food such as fish due to the risk of heavy metal contamination or dairy milk for its estrogen levels or eggs for its cholesterol.

What if someone disputes the science?

If you are going to use science to back up why you are eating tofu or beans rather than meat or almond milk rather than dairy milk, you need to do your research. That is obvious. Be prepared to send papers from medical journals to people to back up your arguments. Always be willing to email the studies to them via your smartphone.

Like I said, usually people just accept that you want to be healthy, but this is not always the case. There are many people who will dispute your food decisions and may even provide you with studies of their own.

The way to resolve this is to simply explain that this is based on the research that you have done and that you are willing to hear the other person's arguments, and you can even request that they send you the papers that they based their arguments on so you can reevaluate the evidence and, if necessary, alter your position or policy. The scientific method involves evaluating the evidence and reaching a conclusion based on the evidence. The conclusion reached will vary depending on the evidence. A good scientist is always willing to change his conclusion as the evidence changes. In the field of nutrition, the evidence is always changing as more and more studies come out, so it is not a black and white field of study.

For example, suppose you are eating tofu rather than fish. You explain that fish has high levels of mercury. Someone then claims that there is no mercury in fish and that our oceans are clean. A paleo person may say, "Our ancestors ate fish! Therefore it is healthy and our oceans are clean and there is no pollution in our oceans." If this is the case, you can politely say, "That is interesting. I just want to be healthy. Based on my research, fish is heavily polluted with mercury and other heavy metals, but if you don't think so, then please could you email me the evidence that this is not the case."

When you get home, you can evaluate the evidence and decide for yourself.

What if there is overwhelming evidence against a vegan diet?

There are many arguments against a vegan diet, but based on my experience, there is no valid scientific argument to prove that a vegan diet is unhealthy and that you must go off a vegan diet in order to be healthy.

There is no chemical or nutrient that we know of that the body needs that we cannot get from non-animal sources or that is already produced from within our own bodies.

I am open to evidence that suggests otherwise, but based on what I a have seen, science supports the vegan diet.

If you know of any scientific argument against the vegan diet, write it in the comments section below.

12 June 2016

Am I Vegan Enough?

I've run out of almond milk. It's night and I'm about to go to bed. At night, I always drink milk because I cannot sleep with an empty stomach, and my tummy rumbles in the middle of the night.

I used to drink dairy milk at night, but since I've become vegan I now drink almond milk, and I don't drink unsweetened almond milk because I like to drink something sweet (sweetened almond milk still contains less sugar than dairy milk). I really don't like the taste of soy milk by itself, so even though there's plenty of soy milk in the house, I didn't want to drink it, so I decided to just put on some jeans, walk out of the house, and go to the local Woolworths to buy some almond milk.

It takes me less than five minutes to drive to my local Woolworths, so it wasn't a big deal. While there, I saw many people doing late night grocery shopping, and many of them were buying dairy milk, which disappointed me. I hate the dairy industry. I wish I could destroy all dairy farms on earth.

While at the supermarket, I not only purchased two cartons of almond milk but also purchased two boxes of Linda McCartney vegan sausage rolls, which were discounted. I love these sausage rolls! They are super delicious.

While shopping, I kept thinking about veganism. Veganism is always on my mind. I think I've become absolutely obsessive about it. I think about it all the time. It's the only thing that gives me any meaning in life now. I have nothing else to live for. Nothing else matters when there's a holocaust happening. The scale of animals being killed is so enormous that it eclipses any possible trivial issue I as an individual may have, whether it's me caring about what other people think of my clothes or my car or whether I should get married or not. Veganism gives you perspective on what really is trivial in your life. 

I need to do everything I can, which of course means I should be a good vegan and consume lots of vegan products, from vegan food to vegan clothes. I need to boycott the industries that exploit animals.

But is this enough? What else can I do? Should I do something political? Should I start a vegan business? If something matters so much to me, I want to do it to the extreme. If something is worth doing, it's worth doing to the extreme.

Wisdom from Bruce Lee

Grill'd Vegan Burger - Veggie Vitality

It might seem weird for a grown man to watch Bonnyrebecca videos, but that's what I was doing last night. While most people like to binge on alcohol on a Saturday night, I like to binge on YouTube. To be honest, I have a crush on Bonny. She's a beautiful young vegan girl, so I love to follow (or perve) on her via YouTube.

In her latest video, she is in Chiang Mai, Thailand for the now controversy-marred 2016 Raw Till Four Bike Festival, and for some reason she has decided to try out a raw vegan diet. See the entire video below. During her vlog, she randomly mentions the Grill'd vegan burger at the 2:40 mark of the video.

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PZiEIgh6dmw]

When I heard from Bonny that Grill'd suddenly had a vegan burger, I was shocked. I did some research on Facebook. Supposedly Grill'd had changed their menu to cater to different "tribes" such as those who want a gluten-free burger. As such, the burgers at Grill'd not only caters to vegans and vegetarians but also to people who are anti-gluten as well as those on a low-carb diet. The new vegan burger is called "veggie vitality." Not only is this burger vegan but it is also gluten free (not that I am anti-gluten).

[caption id="attachment_1432" align="alignnone" width="587"]13407312_10154016852435342_4975842243746971028_n Credit: Candice Nertney[/caption]

I admit I'm not a fan of the picture above. The veggie patty looks very bright red, which makes it look weird.

Reading further into various Facebook comments, it's clear that there are many vegans who, even though Grill'd has a vegan burger, do not want to support this business because they cater to meat eaters in addition to vegans, but I believe that Grill'd producing a menu that is 5% vegan is better than a menu that is 0% vegan, so they should be rewarded for this, and if they are rewarded enough, they will likely increase that percentage. The bottom line is that money must flow towards vegan products. Demand creates supply.

[caption id="attachment_1360" align="alignnone" width="537"]IMG_20160612_153817 Credit: Candice Nertney[/caption]

As soon as I'd heard about this burger, I went to the local Grill'd with my father. My father is not a vegan, so he ordered a lamb burger. I told my father than I wanted the vegan burger. The menu stated clearly that the chips are all vegan, so I agreed to share sweet potato chips with him. He went to the counter and ordered the food. However, when the food came, I realized that I didn't think about the dipping sauce, which I suspect may not be vegan! Vegans are not omniscient. They should try their hardest, but if a mistake is made then learn from your mistake and move on.

[caption id="attachment_1399" align="alignnone" width="519"]IMG_20160612_132443 Vegan sweet potato chips served with possibly non-vegan dipping sauce.[/caption]

When the waiter handed my father his food, he said, "Here's your lamb burger." He then handed me the vegan burger and blandly said, "Here's yours." There was no announcement that it was a vegan burger. I didn't know what to make of that, but nevermind. I digress.

[gallery ids="1408,1409" type="square" columns="2" orderby="rand"]

What I found interesting about the burger is that it didn't try to replace the meat with meat-like products such as soy protein or wheat protein. The patty is a true veggie patty made of beetroot, sweet potato, spinach, and quinoa. It tastes quite nice, full of flavour, and the beetroot gives it a very nice bright red colour. On the downside, like most veggie patties, it is not firm but quite soft. However, the softness of the patty is partially compensated for by the firmness of the bun.

[caption id="attachment_1414" align="alignnone" width="3264"]IMG_20160612_132743 A close-up of the internals of the veggie patty clearly showing the red beetroot.[/caption]

What really redeems this vegan burger is the avocado, which goes well with everything else in the burger and gives it a nice creamy taste. I've been to Grill'd before when they had three vegetarian burgers but no vegan burgers. I veganized a vegetarian burger by ordering a falafel burger (called "Friends of Falafel") and, following advice from Peta, made it vegan by removing the tzatziki, which is a Greek cream that may have dairy or eggs in it. However, as a result of removing the tzatziki, the falafel burger was very dry, which turned me off Grill'd burger, and I have never been there since. Thankfully, the avocado in the new Grill'd vegan burger not only provides you with healthy fats but also gives the insides of the burger a creamy texture.

[caption id="attachment_1420" align="alignnone" width="2448"]IMG_20160612_132548 Avocado is spread on the top and bottom, giving the burger a creamy texture.[/caption]

After the vegan burger, I went to San Churro and ordered a long black. An easy way to be vegan at a cafe is to order either a long black (coffee with water) or a soy latte (coffee with soy milk).

[caption id="attachment_1424" align="alignnone" width="2276"]IMG_20160612_141134.jpg Long black at San Churro.[/caption]

Nowadays I try to subtly encourage cafes to use almond milk by always asking them for a "latte with almond milk." Many cafes are starting to provide almond milk now, but about half the time they tell me that they don't have almond milk, just soy milk, so I go with soy milk instead, and I act as if I am really dissatisfied. Usually when I go back to the cafe in a month or two, all of a sudden they have almond milk! It's important to understand that the customer is king, and the vegan customer should use his or her purchasing power to influence businesses so that they provide more and more vegan products. Demand creates supply, as I said. If you make it a habit to pay assassins to kill people, businesses (and contractors) specializing in murder will be created. If you make it a habit to eat meat or other animal products, businesses specialising in the torture and slaughter of animals will be created and will grow in dominance. It's a battle between good and evil, and the best that vegans can do is to keep ensuring that money flows to vegan products as much as possible. Keep in mind the vegan flow of funds!

[youtube https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9k9NnGyCUV8]

ANZ Apple Pay

At work, I hear many people talking about Apple Pay and how great it is, but I have researched it and don't see what the big deal is. I use a 2013 Nexus 5, so a three year old is quite old in the smartphone world. I may upgrade, but I feel that my current phone is adequate. The phone already has the Commonwealth Bank app, which allows you to use PayPass with your phone. The problem with this is that, in order to use PayPass on your phone, you need to first log into your phone and then enter a PIN in the app. It's far easier to use your credit card. An advantage of using your credit card is that you can hand the card to the person taking your order and have him do all the work of tapping the card and processing the payment. The only thing you need to do is say, "PayPass, please." (I sometimes use PayWave as well since I also have a Visa debit card.) Asking for Apple Pay, and then handing a giant phone to someone, just doesn't seem right. I know that handing over your credit card to someone is not the best in terms of security, but it's fairly easy to monitor how much money is coming out from your account using your phone (the Commonwealth Bank app has a widget that updates how much money is on your account on your home screen), so if you monitor your balance all the time and everything looks regular, there's no reason to not trust them.

I also admit that I have a bias against Apple products, and the people who always tell me to use iPhones and Apple products don't seem to be able to articulate a good reason for it other than blind faith that the product is good because of how great Apple products are.

11 June 2016

Should Vegans Take Omega 3 Supplements?

When I was a meat eater, I took fish oil supplements. Many people asked me why I didn't eat fish, and even when I was a meat eater I was aware that fish is contaminated with mercury, cadmium, PCBs, microplastics, and flame retardants. Fish is not safe. However, fish oil supplement companies claimed that their products were tested for mercury, which gave me confidence. I have no idea whether fish oil supplement companies test for other waterborne contaminants such as PCBs, flame retardants, etc.

If you want omega 3 DHA and EPA in high quantities without taking supplements, you need to eat fish. The problem with eating fish is that fish is contaminated, so if you try to avoid supplements and eat fish because you somehow think that natural food is better, eating fish will actually ensure that you are supplementing your diet with mercury, dioxins, etc.

Supplements are the answer. Natural is not always better. If we lived in a world where we had clean oceans, we could rely on fish to provide DHA and EPA, but we don't live in that world. For too many companies, it is more profitable to dump waste directly into the ocean than it is to dispose of it properly.

Now that I am vegan, I simply replace fish oil supplements with vegan DHA and EPA supplements derived from algae. I personally buy Source Naturals DHA and EPA supplements from iHerb.

When looking for omega 3 supplements, vegans should look for DHA supplements. If the supplements have both DHA and EPA in it, that's fine, but DHA by itself is fine because EPA can be produced in the body from DHA and ALA.

Taking omega 3 in ALA form by itself (e.g. walnuts, chia seeds, and flaxseeds) may not be sufficient because ALA can be converted into EPA, but it is unclear whether the body can adequately convert ALA into DHA. There are some studies that show that ALA can be converted into DHA just fine, but there are some that show the opposite. Just to be on the safe side, it's best to take DHA supplements.

Just because ALA may not convert to DHA efficiently, it doesn't mean we shouldn't forget about ALA. There is evidence that ALA has health benefits in and of itself, so my recommendation to vegans is to take an EPA DHA algae oil supplement and to also eat food that is high in ALA, such as flaxseeds, chia seeds, and walnuts.

Note that even though I take DHA EPA supplements, this is a personal preference. The only supplement that vegans absolutely must take is vitamin B12. Whether we need to take DHA and EPA is still up in the air. According to Dr Tom Sanders, a professor at the Department of Medicine in King's College London, there is insufficient evidence to show that vegans and vegetarians should take EPA and DHA supplements.

Further Reading:

Jack Norris RD's Omega 3 Fatty Acid Recommendations for Vegetarians