Coconut Oil; has beneficial fats helpful for digestion. Its antimicrobial properties can help fight irritation and infection in the gut from Candida. Candida can be considered a “superbug” candida species known as Candida Auris and has emerged as a dangerous health threat in several countries. Candida albicans is the most common type of yeast infection found in the mouth and intestinal tract. If the immune system is healthy, this type of yeast infection is rarely serious but a candida infection can migrate to other areas of the body, including the blood and membranes around the heart or brain, causing serious candida symptoms. Gut health would become important to me but more of that later.
Over 50% of the fat in coconut oil is lauric acid. Lauric acid is found in breast milk, coconut oil is the second richest source. Lauric acid is more easily absorbed by the body and has a host of other associated health benefits, including potentially helping with weight loss, it is classified as an MCT. Medium-chain triglycerides, or fatty acids, such as lauric acid, are characterized by a specific chemical structure that allows your body to absorb them whole. This makes them more easily digestible and our body processes them as it would carbohydrates. They are used as a source of direct energy. This really appealed to me because I was always paranoid I need carbs for energy. This has really affected me previously when I had undertaken low carbs diets before.
I read that a study published in 2007 had found that a diet high in MCTs could potentially help with weight loss. The study was conducted on moderately overweight people, half of whom were given MCT oil. Throughout the course of the study, researchers noted those taking the MCT supplement had decreased body weight as a result of choosing to consume fewer calories, as well as a reduction in waist circumference. However, other research studies resulted in contradictory results. This was beginning to get confusing but I need to be obsessed with an idea for it to become habitual so I continue my searches. Other studies indicated that MCT’s improved the immune system, supports the immune system and can result in focus and increased mental performance.
There were some warnings; coconut oil is apparently 90% saturated fat, which is a higher percentage than butter or even lard. Too much saturated fat in the diet is unhealthy because it raises "bad" LDL cholesterol levels, which increases the risk of heart disease. But what's interesting about coconut oil is that it also gives "good" HDL cholesterol a boost. Evidently fat in the diet, whether it's saturated or unsaturated, tends to nudge HDL levels up, but coconut oil seems to be especially potent at doing so. Saturated fat is divided into various types, based on the number of carbon atoms in the molecule, and about half of the saturated fat in coconut oil is the 12-carbon variety, called lauric acid, the benefits of which we have already discussed, plant-based oils are more than just fats. They contain many antioxidants and other substances, so their overall effects on health can't be predicted just by the changes in LDL and HDL. This comes to fruition in later chapter when I have a health check. But, there was advice to use coconut oil sparingly but I made the decision to use it to cook with. I didn’t really plan to consume it in any other way.
My staple that I would replace meat with were mushrooms; As I indicated I had hypothyroidism; my wife had been told by a friend who has been to a conference by a gut that lived clean in Bali (I didn’t realise you could live clean there?) that if I ate a cup of mushrooms a day it would cure the thyroid issue. So, in this mood that was good enough for me! However with me obsessing at this found out that mushrooms are disease fighting apparently. They are low in carbohydrates and calories but a great source of B vitamins, trace mineral and fibre with some protein. They are also anti-inflammatory, containing high levels of beta-glucan compounds that keep immune cells ‘energised’. They are also an ergothioneine that help lower inflammation. Ergothioneine is an amino acid; these are essential for the structure, function, and regulation of the body's tissues and organs. This was something I really felt appealing because Dr Bovell had also expressed that exercise was also important. I felt I was relatively active but always had aches and pains being so heavy. More reading and the proven benefits of mushrooms included immune boosting properties, important vitamins minerals and enzymes.
I always thought mushrooms as vegetables; new they were fungi but threw them in with vedgies. Evidently fungi are a separate food group. The term “mushroom” refers to any macrofungus with a distinctive form large enough to be seen with the naked eye and picked by hand. There are at least 14,000 different species identified and climbing. Scientists estimate there could be as many as 140,000; medicinal benefits are continually being explored and ‘magic’ mushroom are now being used to treat post dramatic stress disorders and the like. In summary mushrooms were very low in carbohydrates, calories, fat, sodium and sugar. Meanwhile, provide a high level of nutrients — especially antioxidants, energizing B vitamins, copper and selenium. I found on the BBC website that one cup of raw white button mushrooms has about:
3 grams protein
Less than 1 gram fat
1 gram fibre
2 grams sugar
2 grams carbs
0.4 milligrams vitamin B2 riboflavin
5 milligrams vitamin B3 niacin
4 milligrams vitamin B5 pantothenic acid
0.3 milligrams copper
9 milligrams selenium
305 milligrams potassium
83 milligrams phosphorus
I’d use two cups as the meat for my soups.
More research on the web found Mushrooms are also a high antioxidant food, many mushrooms contain a wide variety of bioactive molecules that have anti-viral, anti-inflammatory and antioxidant abilities. Again important points if the exercise was going to increase. At forty six I was expecting sore back and knees. The more I was putting this plan together the more are starting to think holistically. I did want to lose weight but I wanted to be fitter too. Even at my heaviest I would still go to the gym, get out on a bike. Play a game of six aside soccer. So subconsciously I was looking at these pointers to improve my wellbeing. Something I’d never really understood. Mushroom nutrition benefits also include capability to inhibit viruses and decrease the severity of illness in those who are already sick. (This is something that became very important to me.) Certain types of mushrooms increase production of B and T lymphocytes, which are the crucial immune cells that help control our response to harmful bacteria (pathogens), viruses and toxins that can make us fall victim to disease. Cancer prevention was really prevalent when researching the mushroom benefits. Evidently for centuries, Asian cultures have used certain mushrooms as a natural cancer treatment, whether they knew it or not I’m never convinced but research suggests that the fungi’s ability to lower the risk for cancer by supplying germanium, a nutrient that boosts oxygen use in the body that also fights free radical damage. Free radicals are toxic by-products of oxygen metabolism that can cause significant damage to living cells and tissues in a process called "oxidative stress." The vitamins and minerals the body uses to counteract oxidative stress are called antioxidants. Simply search mushroom and antioxidants and you are inundated with articles proclaiming they are full of them. Another tick from me; I found an article proclaiming that over 200 mushroom species are used in traditional Chinese medicine practices, and a quarter of these it is believed have effectively fought harmful tumours. So to conclude; Mushrooms fight cancer, they are known to be a natural cancer remedy and one of the best foods for increasing “natural killer cells” the type of immune cells that seek out and destroy dangerous cancerous cells and are acclaimed to be powerful anti-cancer foods. They improve immunity and lower Inflammation; mushrooms can enhance almost every system in the body and protect you from numerous diseases. They are associated with lowering inflammation the root of most diseases and help alkalize the body, which is associated with improved immunity. A balanced pH level is apparently crucial to health because things can’t grow in an alkaline environment. Eating more mushrooms is one way to lower cholesterol levels naturally. Many types of mushrooms help lower LDL “bad” cholesterol and keep arteries from hardening, which are risk factors for heart disease. This counters the earlier risks associated with cooking with coconut oil, well it certainly did for me. Mushrooms have compounds that inhibit the production of cholesterol in the liver, yet at the same time they can raise HDL “good” cholesterol. They also contain potent phytonutrients that help keep cells from sticking to blood vessel walls and forming plague build-up, which maintains healthy blood pressure and improves circulation. I’d never experienced high cholesterol or blood pressure but this was good to know. B vitamins help support adrenal function and turn nutrients from food into useable energy. Something again I liked because of my intent to increase the exercise. B vitamin also benefits the ability to help with neurotransmitter function, which makes them stress-defying nutrients that help with brain function and at last I found something underpinning my wife’s friend’s claim that they prevent thyroid disorders and support a healthy metabolism and then the eutopia…. Studies find that regularly substituting mushrooms for meat might help you to lose weight, since mushrooms are a low-calorie; nutrient-dense food eating them several times per week is linked with a healthy body weight, reduced waist circumference and better overall health. Every day for me!! Additionally I found that the different varieties gave different benefits and whilst I would go and source these varieties in reality I was going to consume in the main the standard mushroom I would kind in the local grocery store. A comforting surprise you is just how many benefits of the white button mushroom. The ordinary mushroom is still dense with nutrients, especially when you cook them down and eat more than one cup at a time. Mushrooms in then!
Low Starch Vegetables
Low starch vegetables were the other element to be added; low starch vegetables are lower in carbohydrates and calories about 25 calories per cup apparently. They include leafy greens, lettuces, cauliflower, broccoli to name but a few. Vegetables are labelled starch when they contain more carbohydrates and more calories; common vegetables in the starchy group are corn, peas, potatoes, parsnips, and squash. Non-starchy vegetables deliver a powerful punch of vitamins, minerals and phytonutrients. Many of these are said to provide a wealth of benefits ranging from cancer prevention to taming inflammation to improving cholesterol.
I used Bok Choi, Broccolini and asparagus. Unbeknown to me nutrients in Bok Choy belongs to the cruciferous family of vegetables. It was first cultivated in China thousands of years ago. Cruciferous vegetables include kale, broccoli, cauliflower, Brussels sprouts, cabbage, collard greens, rutabaga, and turnips. Bok Choy and the other cruciferous vegetables have certain anti-cancer properties with studies showing that people who eat more cruciferous vegetables have a lower risk of developing lung, prostate, colon, and breast cancer.
The glucosinolates found in these vegetables are converted into isothiocyanates in the body, and these compounds help the body to fight cancer. Glucosinolates are sulfur-containing compounds found in cruciferous vegetables, glucosinolate-containing foods offer benefits that may extend well into the prevention of serious illnesses including cancer. Among the evidence I read was a 2009 article that presented analysis that had been coordinated by the US National Cancer Institute where it reviewed 31 studies into the association between cruciferous vegetable intake and lung cancer risk and concluded that high intake may decrease the risk by anywhere from 17 percent to 23 percent, to underpin this a 2012 study from the Department of Epidemiology at the Institute of Pharmacological Research in Italy further reported that the regular intake of cruciferous foods offered between a 17 percent and 23 percent reduction in the risk of colorectal, breast, kidney, mouth and throat cancers. The conclusion being that the isothiocyanates, which is released into the system when glucosinolate-containing foods are eaten, may be key to this effect. (This is the thought of scientific reasoning which I give gravity to even if I do not fully understand the compounds referenced.) Other studies have suggested that cruciferous vegetables may provide protective benefits against cardiovascular diseases such as heart attack and stroke. Further when the glucosinolates are broken down into other compounds called metabolites. Metabolites are the naturally occurring substances that affect the pace of metabolism; again, another thing that will assist with the thyroid problem I have. The metabolites also have an antibiotic-like effect and help ward off bacterial, viral, and fungal infection in the intestines and other parts of the body. Further still Bok Choy also contains folate. Folate plays a role in DNA synthesis and repair, so it prevents cancer cells from forming due to mutations in the DNA. Vitamin C, vitamin A, and beta-carotene function as powerful antioxidants that help protect cells against free radical damage.
Selenium is a mineral that does not occur in most fruits and vegetables, but it can be found in Bok Choy. It plays a role in liver enzyme function, and it helps to detoxify some cancer-causing compounds in the body. Additionally, selenium prevents inflammation, and it also decreases tumor growth rates.
Cruciferous and other vegetables also offer protection because they provide fiber (I read a book years ago championing a high fibre diet, probably the first nutrition/diet book I ever read. I was playing a decent level of soccer in England, not professional but probably eight tiers below the EPL so was keen to read more with regards to diet and performance. My intake in Fibre increased and I felt good on it. My take away from this book is that my stools should be buoyant with fluffy ends? I have always considered my shits should look like this and still do today. I’ll come back to that later in the book.) What is a fact is that fibre keeps the stool moving. This keeps the bowel healthy and reduces the risk of developing colon cancer.
The iron, phosphorous, calcium, magnesium, zinc, and vitamin K in Bok Choy all contribute to building and maintaining bone structure and strength. Iron and zinc play crucial roles in the production and maturation of collagen. Collagen is the glue that holds the body together; it improves circulation, promotes healing and relives joint pain. All things that I’ll be requiring if an increase in exercise is going to happen.
Potassium, calcium, and magnesium are all present in Bok Choy. They have been found to decrease blood pressure naturally. Bok choy's folate, potassium, vitamin C, and vitamin B-6 content, coupled with its lack of cholesterol, all help to maintain a healthy heart. One study I read indicated that those who consumed around 4 grams of potassium per day had a 49 percent lower risk of death from heart disease compared to those who consumed about 1 gram per day.
Choline helps with sleep, muscle movement, learning, and memory. It also helps in maintaining the structure of cellular membranes, the transmission of nerve impulses, the absorption of fat and the reduction of chronic inflammation, The selenium found in Bok Choy has been found to improve immune response to infection by stimulating production of killer T-cells. T-cells are a type of white blood cell that circulate around our bodies, scanning for cellular abnormalities and infections they are essential for human immunity. There are several different kinds of T-cell; broadly speaking they can be divided into two different types, killer T-cells and helper T-cells. Killer T-cells are able to see inside our bodies own cells simply by scanning their surface. This mechanism allows killer T-cells to hunt down and destroy cells that are infected. The other main type of T-cells is called helper T-cells. Helper T-cells orchestrate an immune response and play important roles in all arms of immunity. Increasing consumption of plant foods, including Bok Choy, has been shown to decrease the risk of obesity, diabetes, heart disease, and overall mortality, while promoting a healthy complexion and hair, increased energy and overall lower weight. Some studies have provided strong evidence that cruciferous vegetables can help people with diabetes to maintain their blood sugar levels, this I considered an important aspect to me, I’d obviously got some issues converting carbs and appreciated that blood sugar level was an indicator of this.
I am not a fan of broccoli; I can’t even make my kids eat it so I thought the best alternative would be broccolini! Apparently a cross between broccoli and Chinese broccoli (also known as Chinese kale), broccolini is not as bitter as broccoli and has a milder taste than broccoli, when chopped can be easily added to the stir-fry then added to the broth. Broccolini apparently has similar nutritional benefits. Again member of the cruciferous family of vegetables, with the benefits as previously explained for Bok Choy but in even greater concentrations. Additionally Brocollini is a rich source of vitamin C, high in calcium. The rich fibre content present in broccolini helps with digestion, and for me at least appeared to regulate bowel movements (my stools were apparently better when I ate Broccolini than when I didn’t).
Another Study I read was conducted on dietary fibres. It was from2009, but in essence its conclusion was that regular consumption of foods high in fibre, like broccolini, may help in preventing heart ailments, cholesterol, diabetes, haemorrhoids, ulcers and gastroesophageal reflux disease. Gastroesophageal reflux disease occurs when stomach acid frequently flows back into the tube connecting your mouth and stomach. This backwash (acid reflux) can irritate the lining of your throat and is commonly known as heartburn. This this something I had been experiencing and always worried me as I related it to heart disease. My Grandad had a heart attack in his early sixties, my uncle had one in his forties. I put it down to them smoking but subconsciously I had always worried about it. Many people experience heart burn from time to time occurring at least twice a week, or moderate to severe acid reflux that occurs at least once a week. I was more often than that.
Broccolini has a considerable amount of Vitamin K present in it which is necessary for promoting calcium absorption in the body to build and strengthen bones. Therefore including this vegetable as a part of your daily diet along with other Vitamin K and calcium rich foods, may lead to a sound bone health, lessening the possibilities of osteoporosis and other bone-related problems. Broccolini contains about 65% of the RDA of Vitamin C, an effective antioxidant required to fight against free radicals, thus lessening the risk of cardiovascular diseases. It also has antihistamine properties that that may help relieve common cold. This vegetable has a high amount of beta-carotene, certain trace minerals such as selenium, zinc and iron as well as Vitamin A – nutrients that contribute in stronger immunity while boosting metabolism. Again in my mind, assisting with the Thyroid deficiency was managing. Just like broccoli, broccolini contains kaempferol, a kind of flavonoid with high anti-inflammatory properties, which has been shown to help our body to fight various allergies.
Flavonoids are one of the largest nutrient families known to scientists, some of the best-known flavonoids include quercetin, kaempferol, catechins, and anthocyanidins. This nutrient group is considered for its antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits as well as the support of the cardiovascular and nervous systems. They also help support detoxification of potentially tissue-damaging molecules and their intake has been associated with decreased risk of certain types of cancers, including lung and breast cancer. I would like to add that this is well above my understand, that the amount of flavonoids required to provide these benefits I could not ascertain, and I read some conflicting research findings in this regard. Much of the research on flavonoids as anti-inflammatories has involved their ability to block the production of messaging molecules that promote inflammation. Since many problems in the cardiovascular system involve problems with when our cells “rusting” when we breathe due to oxidative stress and inflammation, the antioxidant and anti-inflammatory benefits from food flavonoids provide direct support for this body system. In the bloodstream, flavonoids have been shown to help protect LDL cholesterol molecules from oxygen-related damage. This LDL protection, in turn, helps to lower risk of blocked arteries. Flavonoids including rutin and hesperidin which have also been shown to increase the strength and integrity of the blood vessel walls, lowering risk of blood vessel problems. In a 2014 study, a research group looked at cardiovascular benefits related to the flavonoid content of fruits and vegetables. These researchers were able to determine that six total fruit and vegetable servings a day did a better job at protecting cardiovascular health than four total servings. They also decided upon six total servings of fruits-plus-vegetables as their minimal recommendation for heart health. Protection of nerve cells from oxygen-based damage, and help during the slow and demanding process of nerve regeneration (outside of the brain and spinal cord), are both demonstrated benefits of flavonoid intake for the nervous system. There is some preliminary evidence that the onset of certain chronic neurodegenerative diseases—including age-related dementia and Alzheimer's disease—may be delayed when long-term intake of flavonoids has been strong. Because flavonoids may help to improve blood flow in the brain, there is also preliminary evidence to suggest the possibility of better brain functioning in some areas, including areas involving cognitive function.
Other Health Benefits
In terms of their anti-cancer potential, research on flavonoids has been somewhat mixed. Due to their well-documented antioxidant and anti-inflammatory properties, flavonoids would be expected to lower risk of certain cancers since chronic oxidative stress and chronic unwanted inflammation can place cells at greater risk of becoming cancerous. Furthermore, because flavonoids are known to modify the body's detoxification pathways, it might be expected that flavonoids would help lower exposure to unwanted toxins that could pose increased cancer risk. In studies on animals and on isolated cell types, the above expectations seem to be fully met, with flavonoid intake improving detoxification, oxidative stress, unwanted inflammation, and initiation of cells into pre-cancerous states. However, in larger scale studies on humans and risk of human cancers, greater intake of flavonoids has not been consistently associated with decreased risk of cancer. To date, the strongest evidence appears to involve breast cancer and lung cancer where decreased risk is a more consistent finding.
It is suspected that part of the mixed findings in this flavonoids-and-cancer area might involve the complex nature of flavonoids as a group. For example, it may be the case that certain subgroups of flavonoids are particularly helpful for lowering risk of certain types of cancer. It might also be the case that studies have had trouble accurately quantifying flavonoid intake. There are thousands and thousands of food flavonoids, and yet some studies have only focused on very select examples or limited types of foods.
Improved detoxification is a very likely benefit that we get from strong flavonoid intake; yet, like with the area of cancer risk, research here has been somewhat mixed. When the cells in our body detoxify unwanted contaminants, there are two key steps involved in the process. In a first step (called Phase 1), potentially damaging molecules are made more reactive so that they can be passed on to Phase 2. In this second, Phase 2 step, the activated molecules get neutralized by being combined with a second neutralizing molecule. Flavonoids can impact both steps in detoxification (Phase 1 and Phase 2). With Phase 2, these influences seems fairly consistent because they tend to promote the combining/neutralizing goal of Phase 2. However, with respect to Phase 1, the role of flavonoids is more complicated since they can switch Phase 1 either on or off. In other words, they can both facilitate and block this first step in detoxification. This complicated relationship between flavonoids and detoxification has resulted in some mixed research findings, although overall, most researchers have concluded that strong flavonoid intake modified detoxification in a helpful way and decreases our risk of problems from unwanted toxins.
A final potential health benefit we want to mention is better regulation of cell cycles. Most cells in our body go through stages of activity where they rest, divide, or go into a self-dismantling and self-recycling process called apoptosis. In the health of all our body systems, it is important for these cell cycle stages to stay in balance. Ample intake of food flavonoids appears to promote these cell cycle balances, most likely through regulation of signalling that takes place between cells and their surroundings.
The presence of iron and folic acid in broccolini make it potentially beneficial for pregnant women. However, it is still safe to consult your doctor about all the vegetables included in your diet during your nine-month stint.
Last but not least Asparagus; always been my favourite green vedge and considered a luxury in the Bridges household growing up in the UK but in Australia seems more ready available and a staple. Asparagus is a very good source of fibre, folate, vitamins A, C, E and K, as well as chromium, a trace mineral that enhances the ability of insulin to transport glucose from the bloodstream into cells, this as I’ve mentioned was a major consideration for me at this stage as I believed that Ketosis and blood sugar levels was key to me losing my weight. Not only is asparagus low in fat and calories (one cup apparently has 32 calories), but it also contains lots of soluble and insoluble fibre, making it a good choice if you’re trying to lose weight because your body digests fibre slowly, it keeps you feeling full for longer and some research suggests it may help lower cholesterol.
Asparagus contains high levels of the amino acid asparagine, making it a natural diuretic which means eating more can help flush excess fluid and salt from your body, potentially good for weight loss but needs considering when exercising because of cramping. It is possible that a diet rich in asparagus could prevent these painful infections from developing, since urinating more can help move bad bacteria out of the urinary tract. Asparagus is also a source of vitamin E, another important antioxidant. This vitamin helps strengthen your immune system and protects cells from the harmful effects of free radicals. To fill up on its benefits, our body absorbs vitamin E better if it’s eaten alongside some fat, so me stir frying it was potentially a benefit I did not realise but stumbled on? More on this later. Additionally the veggie is a natural aphrodisiac thanks to vitamin B6 and folate, which can help boost feelings of arousal and the vitamin E stimulates sex hormones, including estrogen in women and testosterone in men. When it comes to fighting bloat, helps promote overall digestive health and thanks to prebiotics—carbohydrates that can’t be digested and help encourage a healthy balance of good bacteria, or probiotics, in your digestive track—it can also reduce gas and as a natural diuretic, asparagus helps flush excess liquid, combating belly bulge. Along with other green, leafy vegetables, asparagus is a good source of vitamin K. The vitamin is crucial for coagulation (which helps your body stop bleeding after a cut) as well as bone health. Asparagus is full of folate, a B vitamin that could lift your spirits and help ward off irritability (needed this). Researchers have found a connection between low levels of folate and vitamin B12 in people who are suffering from depression, leading some docs to prescribe daily doses of both vitamins to patients with depression. Asparagus also contains high levels of tryptophan, an amino acid that has been similarly linked to improved mood.
Limiting Alcohol; Alcohol is a depressant; I have felt this for years now and found it harder to bouncing back from a good drink harder and harder. I have always been bought up having Alcohol around me, never as an issue, none of my family, parent or grandparents have been alcoholics but it been there at meals, parties etc. and I was never discourage to try. That evolved into enjoying alcohol as a social stimulant which invariably ending in binge drinking. Getting pissed and going hard were worn like a badge of honour and was a norm. Accepted by my nearest and dearest as the result of a long lunch or a night out; to be fair I’ve never been one to drink alone, certainly not since I’ve had kids to my drinking was limited, if can call it limited to the big afternoon/nights out.
I decided that Alcohol would initially be abstained from; it was evident that alcohol was contributing to my moods. I certainly had a cloud of doom post a drink as well as making existing problems worse and I frequently felt low after drinking. It followed that therefore cutting these binges would improve my holistic wellbeing. Alcohol did affect how well I slept and I was starting to appreciate how important sleep is to your wellbeing. As few as two drinks before bed can interrupt your REM sleep apparently which result in waking up feeling tired. Alcohol has a high calorie count; regularly drinking increases your calorie intake. A pint of beer with an alcohol content of 4.5% contains roughly 160 calories, which means that a drinking session could have an intake of over 1200 calories, 1.5 times the low calories set out as a daily target.
What I wanted to do was to successfully learn how to drink in moderation; not easy when for the past thirty years you’ve gone out and got blind. So I now decided to only occasionally indulge in alcohol, I started to realise that in some way I was an alcoholic, often drinking was an “all or nothing” affair for me. As soon as I realised at times I drank too much, my mindset would change but this was going to take time. You can have a problem with alcohol, and not be an alcoholic. You can have a problem with alcohol and still enjoy it. We need to reflect on our experiences to feel motivated and comfortable in making a change.
Low-Risk Drinking Guidelines recommend planning non-drinking days during the week to avoid forming a habit; I just cut it out for all of January. I had two beers, Mexican bollocks crap to wet the baby’s head of a colleague. Boy it tasted good! But that was it and I’ll roll into February with the same mindset.