With The Bonus Years Diet, Dr. Chef makes it easy for you to prepare wholesome meals that taste great.
But proper diet means much more than just maintaining your ideal weight. Along with regular exercise, your diet is the key to promoting good health and preventing disease.
While many details yet remain to be understood about the link between diet and disease, the broad outlines are clearly in place. Unfortunately, they are too often obscured by fad diets, which tend to confuse people and overwhelm them with competing advice.
Central to the recent diet debate is the controversy concerning the appropriate role of carbohydrates, fat and protein in a healthy weight-loss program. Three popular diets in particular—the Atkins Diet®, the Power Protein Diet®, and the Zone Diet®—all recommend increasing protein and fat intake, while decreasing carbohydrates—an approach not generally endorsed by medical authorities, but one which yields short-term weight-loss for many people.
Given their results, even the most health-conscious consumer may find it frustrating to counter the validity of these fad diets. Each side in the diet debate attempts to bolster its claims by invoking issues such as the glycemic index, insulin resistance and hormone homeostasis. Without the technical background needed to critically evaluate such complicated and often contradictory claims, many people have simply given up on maintaining a healthy diet.
Fortunately, the principles of good nutrition are not so complex. And with a little background, you can easily apply them in your kitchen.
Fat: You Are What You Eat
Most people are familiar with the close link between high levels of blood cholesterol and the increased risk of heart attack and stroke. What many people are surprised to learn is that the major dietary factor that raises our blood cholesterol is not the actual cholesterol in foods, but rather our total fat intake.
Now, not all fats are created equal. They differ chemically in the way their molecules are linked. Of the three types of fat—saturated, monounsaturated and polyunsaturated—it is the saturated fats that contribute to higher cholesterol levels.
Saturated fats are found in abundance in meats and dairy products, which is why the intake of those foods should be limited. Vegetable and plant oils are preferred because they are generally high in mono- and polyunsaturated fats, and so do not significantly raise blood cholesterol levels.
Free Radicals And Antioxidants
Nutritional research over the past decade has helped illuminate the importance of plant foods (grains, fruits and vegetables) in actively preventing disease. Studies have focused on two critical areas: Antioxidants and phytochemicals.
During the normal process of metabolism, oxygen reacts with molecules in the body to form what are called ‘free radicals.’ These free radicals, in turn, can damage a cell’s outer membrane, or even its internal genetic material.
Antioxidants neutralize these free radicals, rendering them harmless and helping protect the body against heart disease and cancer. Beta carotene (which is converted to vitamin A), and vitamins E and C have all been found to have high antioxidant properties.
Beta carotene is found in deep green and yellow fruits and vegetables. The best sources of vitamin E are vegetable oils such as soybean, corn and safflower, with dark green vegetables providing lesser amounts. Vitamin C is found prominently in citrus fruits and juices, bell peppers, cauliflower and broccoli.
Phytochemicals are substances produced by plants to help protect them against microorganisms such as fungi and viruses. Unlike vitamins and minerals, phytochemicals have no known nutrient value. Nevertheless, scientists are intently studying phytochemicals based on the possibility that they may help prevent cancer. Numerous studies have shown that eating a diet rich in plant foods protects against certain cancers, including prostate, bladder, colon and rectal cancers.
Different phytochemicals differ in their mode of action. Some, such as those found in broccoli and cauliflower, appear to act by blocking cancer-causing agents from damaging a cell’s genetic material. Others, such as those in beans and lentils, apparently work by directly interfering with the cancer cell’s ability to multiply.
A Word About Cholesterol
The relationship between cholesterol intake and actual levels of blood cholesterol is a complicated one. Although cholesterol forms an important component of cell membranes, there is no requirement for cholesterol because the body makes all of the substance that it needs. Researchers have found that, for many people, the level of blood cholesterol is not affected by their daily cholesterol intake. For others, their bodies seem to be very sensitive to the amount of cholesterol they eat.
Because there is currently no way to predict how much a particular individual will respond to dietary cholesterol, the prudent approach is to limit your cholesterol intake. Cholesterol is found only in animal foods, such as meat, seafood and dairy products; plants have none. So, while government recommendations call for eating less than 300 mg of cholesterol a day, it is quite easy to bring daily cholesterol intake below 100 mg while still including seafood, poultry, non-fat dairy products and lean meat in your diet.
Weight Loss and Diet
The general public seems to have an unlimited appetite not only for calories, but also for new diets that promise to help them eliminate those calories. With up to one-half of people in the U.S. alone ‘on a diet’ at any given time, there is no shortage of diet “gurus” ready to offer them advice.
Despite the fact that legions of dieters have tried and failed—in many cases, over and over again—to maintain their weight loss, these people gladly embrace the latest fad diet that promises effortless weight loss. Often unfamiliar with the principles of nutrition, dieters can be fooled by plans that claim to be based on “new scientific discoveries”.
In fact, though, many of today’s high-protein/high-fat diets are really nothing but a clever repackaging of old and discredited diet schemes. But because many dieters have failed to sustain their weight loss with low-fat diet plans, they assume that an alternative approach might work. Let’s explore which diets do work, and why.
The recommendation of a low-fat diet is based on these two proven premises:
The first premise directly relates to dieting and weight loss, because the physical laws of energy demand that, to lose weight, you must take in fewer calories than your body needs to operate. And since fat has twice as many calories as carbohydrate, it’s much easier to load up on calories by eating the same volume of fat-based food, versus carbohydrate-based food.
However, this doesn’t mean that eating a diet high in carbohydrates guarantees weight loss. Eat enough bread and potatoes, and you can take in the same surplus of calories you’d get from a diet of steak and cheese. In the end, the goal is to reduce the total number of calories consumed, because the body stores excess calories as body fat—no matter if they come from carbohydrates, proteins or fats.
Advocates of the high-protein/high-fat diets are quick to point out that, even as their fat intake has decreased, North Americans have become fatter than ever. Their implication is that low-fat diets are to blame.
But the real culprits are the many highly processed, low-fat foods that are often laden with empty calories, often from sugar. Again, remember that a low-fat diet can still add unwanted pounds if you forget about calories and portion sizes.
So, what’s the conventional recommendation? Choose a diet that’s rich in whole grains, fruits and vegetables, that provides abundant fiber and bulk, and that’s naturally low in fat and calories. In addition to controlling weight, this type of diet serves to naturally regulate your appetite.
Insulin And The Glycemic Index
More recently, critics of the higher-carbohydrate/low-fat diets have begun to invoke a new demon: Insulin. A hormone released by the pancreas in response to a rise in blood sugar, insulin promotes the storage of fat. According to some of these critics, higher-protein diets promote weight loss by reducing insulin levels, in the process, retarding fat storage. What the high-protein/high-fat advocates fail to mention is that protein intake is also a stimulator of insulin release.
Furthermore, not all carbohydrates have the same effect on insulin release. Carbohydrates such as mashed potatoes cause an almost immediate release in blood glucose and insulin because they are quickly absorbed in the digestive process (leading to these foods being labeled “high-glycemic index” foods.)
Lentils, beans and long-grain rice, on the other hand, are carbohydrates which are absorbed much more slowly by the body, and their effect on blood sugar and insulin is not nearly as great. These “low-glycemic index foods” are ideal for dieters because they are low in fat, don’t promote a quick surge in insulin and create a feeling of fullness or satiety without being high in calories.
Understanding The Misunderstandings
This doesn’t mean you should avoid all high-glycemic index foods. In fact, many fruits and vegetables have a high glycemic index but, because they provide valuable nutrients, they should remain part of a well-balanced diet.
A fundamental misunderstanding of the glycemic index concept has even led one diet ‘guru’ to recommend avoiding carrots, an very nutritious vegetable. But to take in 50 grams of carbohydrates—the amount needed to trigger a high-glycemic index effect—you’d need to eat more than a pound of carrots, all at one sitting.
The key point to remember is that our meals are typically—and should be—complex, containing not just one type of carbohydrate, but a mix of different carbohydrates, proteins and, yes, fats. The total insulin effect of a meal depends on the proportion of the individual foods we take in.
So, by combining high- and low-glycemic index foods together in each meal, we can regulate our body’s insulin response. And because both carbohydrate and protein are powerful stimulants of insulin release, scientists have found that, in general, the total calories of a meal correlates well with insulin levels. Eat fewer calories and you’ll lower your insulin levels—and lose weight.
Harmful To Your Health
Not only are the high-protein/high-fat diets based on half-truths, they also may be detrimental to your health. Carbohydrates (which are broken down by the body into the most basic form of sugar, glucose), are the main source of energy for the brain and nervous system. When carbohydrates are significantly restricted, the body alters its metabolism by breaking down proteins and fats to produce alternative “fuels.”
The loss of protein can cause muscle loss. In the absence of carbohydrates, the burning of fat for energy becomes inefficient, producing substances called ‘ketones’, which serve as a glucose substitute. The kidneys attempt to rid the body of these ketones and protein by-products by passing them in the urine, causing significant water loss.
Thus, the initial weight loss experienced by people on low-carbohydrate diets reflects water loss, not the loss of fat. This loss is quickly regained when carbohydrates are added back into the diet.
In addition, a high level of ketones significantly alters the blood chemistry, causing its acidity to rise. This can contribute to bone loss, nausea and fatigue. Too, a higher intake of protein is often accompanied by an increase in saturated fat, which predisposes the body to heart disease, stroke and cancer.
Trouble In The Zone
A recently popular example of a higher-fat/higher-protein diet is the Zone diet, which requires that a specific ratio of carbohydrates, fat and protein be eaten at each meal. By modifying its approach and providing for more carbohydrates than the standard high-fat/high-protein diets, the Zone diet prevents ketosis and its associated complications. In addition, the Zone diet recommends limiting saturated fats, another positive.
Nevertheless, other difficulties remain. High-protein diets in general cause excess accumulation of the ammonia products that are a natural result of protein metabolism. This leads to a diuretic effect, increasing the loss of calcium through the urine and promoting osteoporosis.
As noted before, protein directly stimulates insulin secretion by the pancreas, and synergistically increases the release of insulin caused by carbohydrates. The net result is that a substitution of protein for carbohydrate does not reliably lower insulin levels. To consistently lower insulin secretion, you need to emphasize lower-glycemic-index carbohydrates in the diet and eat fewer calories.
Finally, the Zone recommends a four-to-three ratio of carbohydrate calories to protein, based on a postulated effect on the body’s production of eicosanoid hormones. The eicosanoids are compounds that are widely produced throughout the body, and help to regulate such diverse functions as blood pressure, clot formation, the immune system and fat metabolism.
According to Zone theory, all disease—from heart ailments to cancer—can be ascribed to derangements in eicosanoid production. While these hormones are important to the body’s function, it is difficult to imagine that they exert this much effect on health.
Moreover, the actual effect of the Zone diet on eichosanoids has not been measured. And consistently maintaining the 4:3 ratio of carbohydrates to proteins at each meal is a difficult regimen to follow. In the end, the Zone diet appears artificial in its implementation and unrealistic in its expectations.
Obesity, Insulin Resistance And Diabetes
Researchers have known for three decades that many diabetics, particularly those who develop the disease later in life, do not produce too little insulin but, rather, too much. The difficulty faced by these diabetics appears to be that the body doesn’t respond properly to insulin, a condition known as insulin resistance, leading the pancreas to overcompensate by making too much of this hormone.
This syndrome of insulin resistance has been further linked to obesity, hypertension and lipid disorders. Now, some proponents of the high-fat/high-protein diets have used this association to claim that these higher levels of insulin are what cause obesity. They further suggest that elevated insulin is the cause of obesity in the general population, a conclusion that represents a significant distortion of the research data.
We know that about 25% of the general population is genetically predisposed to insulin resistance, probably due to abnormalities in the way their bodies process the hormone. This tendency usually becomes clinically evident when such a person becomes overweight, a condition that dramatically worsens insulin resistance and causes diabetes to appear.
Cause And Effect
But it isn’t the insulin that causes people to become overweight—it’s overeating. For example, in Arizona, members of the Pima Indian tribe suffer terribly from diabetes, with about 50% of all Arizona Pimas developing diabetes before the age of 50. On the other hand, Pima Indians residing in northern Mexico—who are genetically the same as their Arizona cognates—weigh, on average, 50 lbs. less and rarely develop diabetes.
The Pima Indians of northern Mexico eat a high-carbohydrate diet, but don’t eat the highly processed, energy-dense fried foods typically consumed by their Arizona cousins. In addition, the Mexican Pimas lead a much more active lifestyle.
So, eating lots of carbohydrates may increase insulin levels, but it doesn’t result in weight gain and diabetes in genetically similar populations. From this evidence, and other similar data, we can conclude that obesity, not a carbohydrate-rich diet, promotes insulin resistance and diabetes.
Eschewing The Fat
While most people would benefit from a more plant-based diet, there are those who go further and advocate vegetarianism, with fat restricted to 10% of daily calories. This approach is based on the results gained from studies conducted among patients with established severe coronary artery disease who have sought to reverse their disease through dietary regulation.
Whether such stringent requirements are necessary for the general population seems unlikely. Over the past decade, there has already been a significant decrease in the prevalence of heart disease in North America as a result of very modest lifestyle changes.
As an alternative, lowering the average daily fat intake from the current 40% to 20-25% would undoubtedly reduce the incidence of coronary disease and aid in the prevention of many cancers. Such fat levels permit great flexibility in the inclusion of poultry, seafood and lean meats in a diet, helping people maintain their diet resolutions.
For example, rural societies in Asia commonly stir-fry fish and meat (in small quantities) with vegetables in their plant-based diets. Not coincidentally, these societies have practically no coronary heart disease.
A Plan For Healthy Eating
The message for us is that we need not give up seafood and meat, or forego cooking with fat. We do need to be judicious in our selection of foods, choosing those that are low in saturated fats.
How we prepare our food is just as important as what we cook. Many techniques, such as steaming, oven roasting and stovetop grilling require little, if any, fat. Moderation is the watchword, allowing us to prepare food which is both tasty and satisfying, but that doesn’t compromise our health.
As a chef, I love to eat. In fact, I love everything about food. Just looking at fresh produce or seafood is exciting, because I’ve learned that you don’t have to sacrifice taste or variety in your diet to keep a healthy kitchen.
High flavor doesn’t necessarily equate to high fat. A diet low in fat, skillfully prepared, with emphasis on low-glycemic-index, low-energy-dense foods, not only helps prevent disease, but it virtually guarantees weight loss for dieters. That’s because, as noted before, a gram of fat has more than twice the calories as a gram of carbohydrate.
In place of food laden with fat, we can choose to eat well-prepared whole grains, fruits and vegetables accented with meat and seafood. Not only is this type of diet delicious, but it also helps prevent disease, rather than promoting it. And this balanced, plant-based diet can be enjoyed without sacrificing variety or flavor.
This is the diet of a lifetime, designed to promote your long-term health and well-being. There’s no need for “breakthroughs”, fads or unproven speculation. Simply use common sense and follow the examples of people whose diets offer all the benefits of good flavor and good health. To get started, check out some of the recipes posted on our website, and get cooking with Dr. Chef!
Misconception #1: Calories donít count
But they do. Ultimately, to lose weight, you need to burn more calories than you eat. It’s that simple. Some of the recent fad diets claim that your hormones, rather than too many calories, make you gain weight. Get the right hormone balance (e.g. insulin), they assert, and you can just forget about calories. But in the end, the body’s hormones respond to its caloric intake. Eat more calories than you expend, whether those calories are from fat, carbohydrates or protein, and the body has to somehow store them. Unfortunately, the body has only one major long-term storage depot, and that’s fat.
Misconception #2: Excess calories from carbohydrates causes more weight gain than those from protein
Again,any excess calories,whether from carbohydrates,fat or protein, will ultimately be stored as fat. The body is,however,more efficient at storing excess calories from fat than excess calories from protein or carbohydrates. That’s because ingested fat (the fat in the foods we eat) has almost the exact same chemical structure as the stored fat in your body—so it requires very little chemical manipulation to store ingested fat. About 98% of excess calories ingested from fat will be stored. Excess calories from protein and carbohydrates require significant energy to convert them into fat, meaning that about 75% of these surplus calories typically wind up as stored body fat.
Misconception #3: High protein/low carbohydrate diets must be good because people lose weight
Any diet in which you take in less calories than you burn will allow you to lose weight. Eat 1,200 calories of chocolate a day and you are guaranteed to lose weight—although most of us would agree that this isn’t a very nutritious plan. So the question isn’t whether you can lose weight on a given diet. That’s the easy part. It’s whether the diet is sustainable over a lifetime, while promoting health and protecting against disease. Without the necessary carbohydrates required to efficiently burn fat, the high protein/low carbohydrate diets cause the blood to become too acidic, due to an abnormal accumulation of fat metabolites (a process called ketosis). The body’s response is to break down bone to buffer this excess acidity, promoting osteoporosis. Furthermore, ketosis is metabolically an unnatural state which often leads to fatigue and nausea, in addition to bone loss. The initial weight loss experienced with high protein/low carbohydrate diets is due to decreased body water, not fat. When confronted with a very low-carbohydrate diet, the body responds by first mobilizing its glucose stores in the liver and muscle. The stored glucose is actually packaged into the compound glycogen, which has a water coating. The water, which is removed when the stored glucose(glycogen) is utilized for energy, and then eliminated in the urine. This, along with the diuresis induced by the excess ketone bodies accounts for the prominent initial weight loss—weight that’s gained right back after a normal carbohydrate balance is restored.
Misconception #4: You need to avoid foods such as carrots, parsnips and beets
A good diet is a balanced diet, and should include these and other fruits and vegetables which provide you with many needed micronutrients and phytochemicals. One would have to eat unrealistically large amounts of these foods to get a significant insulin response. The total insulin effect of a meal depends on the proportional contribution of each of the individual foods we eat. By balancing your meals with high- and low-glycemic index foods, you modulate your insulin response. The total calories provide the best measure of the actual insulin response to a meal. So eat less, and you’ll lower your insulin levels and lose weight.
Misconception #5: A high-protein, low-carbohydrate diet reduces insulin levels
The amino acids in protein act by themselves as a powerful stimulus to insulin release. In addition, protein increases the insulin release triggered by carbohydrates. So substituting protein for carbohydrates in hopes of lowering your insulin levels doesn’t make much sense. The best way to ensure lower insulin levels is, again, just to eat less.
Weight Loss and Nutrition
Desperate to lose weight, millions of Americans are increasingly confused by the conflicting claims offered by the myriad of new diet books. Central to the debate is the controversy concerning the proper role of carbohydrates and protein in a healthy weight loss diet.
The Atkins Diet®, The Power Protein Diet®, and the Zone Diet® all recommend increasing protein and fat intake while decreasing carbohydrates. What may be surprising is that various versions of these high-fat and protein diets have come and gone since the 1950s.
But in spite of their constant rejection by such mainstream medical organizations as the American Heart Association and the American Dietetic Association, their popularity remains unabated. And the reason is clear. Steak, butter, cream and rich desserts are all severely restricted on traditional low-fat diets, but are enthusiastically embraced by the high protein/low carbohydrate advocates.
Sorting out the validity of these various diets is frustrating, if not impossible, for even the most motivated health-conscious consumer. Each diet proponent attempts to bolster their claims by citing scientific studies and physiological theories on such topics as the glycemic index, insulin resistance and hormone homeostasis. Without specialized training and knowledge in these areas, it is almost impossible to critically evaluate the various arguments.
And so the diet wars continue. With the public unable to reach a consensus, the individual is left to make sense of competing diets, all of which promise weight loss—but often based on dramatically different assumptions and rules.
So, what should you do? Here’s some sound, medically backed advice that sheds a little light on the most common diet myths and misconceptions—and may be able to help you in your own quest to lose weight and maintain a healthy lifestyle.
Bonus Years Nutrition
The Bonus Years Diet distinguishes itself from every other diet by targeting the locus of most heart disease, kidney disease and strokes: the lining cells of the blood vessels (endothelium). The endothelium (lining cells) dilate the blood vessels and provide a "teflon" like coating which allows the blood to flow smoothly through the blood vessels. When the endothelium is injured, as with hypertension, smoking, or high cholesterol, holes are created in this "teflon" like coating (endothelium), disrupting its life preserving functions. Clots form, decreasing blood flow to the heart, brain, and kidney, ultimately leading to heart attacks,strokes, and kidney failure.The important action all takes place here, at this critical interface between the flowing blood and the blood vessel walls.
All of the seven Bonus Years Foods have been chosen to work individually and synergistically to protect the endothelium and its important role: keeping your blood vessels healthy and well functioning. Each of the Bonus Years Foods is “dosed, just as doctors prescribe individual medications. This assures that the Bonus Years Diet will decrease blood pressure, decrease bad cholesterol(LDL), decrease inflammation and clotting in the blood vessels, while increasing the good (HDL) cholesterol. These all are critical to protecting the endothelium. This leads to a simultaneous decrease in the most important risk factors for cardiovascular disease and translates into a 75% overall risk reduction, adding on average 6.4 Bonus Years to your life.