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Today on Dana’s Low Carb For Life, we talk about the latest diet study in the news, my favorite summer fruit, and continue talking to low carb chef George Stella. So stick around!
Hey, Gang, welcome to episode 22 of Dana’s Low Carb For Life, brought to you by CarbSmart.com, your smart choice for a low carb lifestyle. This week we’ll talk about a diet study that’s been hot news recently, I’m going to tell you the pluses and minuses of my very favorite summer fruit, and we’re going to hear more of my conversation with low carb celebrity chef George Stella; you’ll want to hear that!
Before I get to all that, though, I have a couple of announcements. First of all, I’m delighted that 300 15 Minute Low Carb Recipes now has three reviews and a five star rating at Amazon.com. Thank you very much! In the interests of shameless self-promotion, I thought I’d share a review with you. Constance Culbertson says:
I find this book to be very easy to navigate and use. True to its word, the recipes take 15 min or less to make. Every recipe has been great. It is so nice have someone already de-carb my favorite recipes. I have yet to find one I don’t like. If you only get one of Dana’s cookbooks, I would strongly suggest this one.
Thanks, Constance, and the rest of you who have reviewed the book! I’ll share more reviews in future podcasts. And of course, we’d love to have you review the book if you haven’t yet. Unless you hate it. Then we want you to keep it to yourself. But how could you hate it?
More exciting, though, is that Jimmy Moore and I are planning another Low Carb Meet and Greet at my home in Bloomington, Indiana. Low carb blogger Amy Dungan will also be here. The date is August 13th, we’re planning to for noon to four. Last year we got about 20-25 people, and had a great time, eating low carb food and socializing in my back yard. We’re still hammering out the details; we may need to limit registration, and we may ask a modest donation – no more than $5 – to defray the cost of food. I’ll keep you posted. But in the meanwhile, if you’re within striking distance of Bloomington, Indiana, you might mark the date on your calendar, or put a reminder in your smart phone.
Moving right along, let’s get to the show! In a while I’ll give you the rundown on my favorite summer fruit – it might be yours, too – and we’ll talk some more with George Stella. But first, let’s talk science. Did you see the news this past week? Potatoes make you fat, nuts don’t. I’m shocked, shocked I tell you.
The study cited, coming out of Harvard, and published in the New England Journal of Medicine, states that potatoes are particularly strongly associated with weight gain. Indeed, potatoes were more strongly associated with weight gain than sugar-sweetened desserts were. Sugar-sweetened beverages were also strongly associated with weight gain.
Yet the researchers were surprised to note that consumption of nuts was associated with weight loss. Nuts are extremely high in fat, and quite calorically dense, so according to the “calories in/calories out” theory of weight control, their consumption should make us fat. Yet it appears – from this study at least – that it doesn’t.
It was easy for low carbers to gloat about this study, but closer reading convinces me that the whole thing is a wash for us, and the whole study nowhere near as consequential as some might think. Low carbers love to point out that potatoes and soda make you fat, and yummy, low carb nuts do not. But this study also showed an association of red meat intake with weight gain, and of whole grain intake with weight loss. Not exactly what low carbers want to hear.
Truly, the whole thing strikes me as inconsequential. Why? Because this is a prospective or observational study. What that means is they simply asked people what they ate, and then correlated the foods with various health trends. Most diet studies are of this type, for a simple reason: They’re cheap to do. Asking people to fill out a questionnaire every so often is inexpensive, even if you do it with a huge number of people. Putting as few as a couple of hundred people in a metabolic ward so you can actually control and record what they eat? That’s expensive. Really expensive.
But the filling-out-the-questionnaire thing has its drawbacks. Do you remember what you ate for lunch three weeks ago last Tuesday? Because I sure as heck don’t. People’s recall of what they eat is inaccurate, at best, and the larger the interval they use for filling out questionnaires, the less accurate it gets.
More importantly, one of the most basic rules of science is that correlation is not causation. It’s so important that anyone who claims to be a scientist should have it tattooed backward on their forehead, so they see it every time they look in the mirror: Correlation is not causation. Just because two things happen together does not mean that one is causing the other. I have noticed a correlation between daffodils blooming in my yard, and obnoxious boom cars going past my house far faster than they should on my quiet country road. Are the daffodils causing the speeding? If I cut them down, or better yet, dig up the bulbs, will the idiots stop speeding past my house, blaring heavy bass out their windows? Of course not. Daffodils and speeding cars blasting music are both caused by a third thing: Spring. They happen together, but one is not causing the other. Correlation is not causation.
In just this way, this sort of prospective study can turn up interesting correlations, but those correlations are properly ONLY used to stimulate thought about avenues for controlled studies, studies that might actually demonstrate a causal relationship – or not.
So drawing any sort of conclusions from this study is, at best, premature, and at worst, dishonest – and that includes drawing conclusions that favor low carb. Yes, I believe potatoes are, indeed, a food that is causal in weight gain, but I also think that is true of whole grains, and not so with red meat. So let’s think about other possible associations.
Is it possible that people eating potato chips and French fries frequently are less health conscious in general than those who rarely eat those things? You bet it is. I’d bet that people who eat French fries and chips often are also likely to drink more soda than, say, people who eat a lot of whole grains. I’d also guess they’re less likely to work out regularly. So what is causing weight gain or loss?
Similarly, in our society people have been told that red meat is bad for them; indeed, it has been beaten into people’s heads. Is it likely that people who shun red meat also eat a salad instead of the potato? Is it likely they get iced tea instead of soda pop? You bet. Is it likely that people who eat a lot of red meat are also eating a lot of French fries? Or even baked potatoes? Texas toast? Blooming Onions? I’m guessing the answer is yes.
On the flip side, are people who eat whole grains more than they do refined stuff also likely to shun soda pop? I’d guess so. Might they also be less likely to eat Lucky Charms for breakfast, fries with lunch, and a Klondike bar after dinner? I’m thinking that’s a big yes.
In short, this study PROVES NOTHING, neither pro-low carb nor agin it. It does suggest – suggest, mind you – that food quality has more to do with weight than does simple quantity, and that the endless, pious assertion that it’s just a matter of “moderation in all things” is off-base. But it only suggests those things, because, once again, and let us repeat it till it is burned into our brains: Correlation is not causation.
This study is interesting, and I very much hope that it stimulates controlled dietary studies. But by itself it proves exactly zero.
But I’m still not eating potatoes.
Gosh, I love cherries. Talk about Nature’s Candy –– cherries couldn’’t be sweeter or more delicious. I have a vivid memory of a summer afternoon in my youth, when I ate a whole pint of cherries while walking home from the grocery store. Even my pug, Dexter, loves cherries! (And really, it’s hard to think of a more charming diversion than feeding cherries to a pug.)
Cherries are among mankind’s oldest foods; cherry pits have been found in the detritus of paleolithic settlements. Wild cherries were abundant in Europe and Asia, and it’s believed that cherry cultivation began well before written history.
Cultivated cherries, both sweet and sour varieties, were brought to the Americas by European immigrants, who wouldn’t have dreamed of doing without them. Michigan is the chief producer of sour cherries, while Washington and Oregon grow most of our Bing cherries. (Interesting factoid: Bing cherries are named after Ah Sit Bing, a Chinese immigrant who helped develop the breed.)
Let’’s look at the numbers. One cup of fresh sweet cherries has a big 74 calories. Sadly, sweet cherries are one of the fruits that are pretty high in sugar; you’ll get 18.7 grams of carbohydrate, with 2.5 grams of fiber, for a usable carb count of 16.2 grams. On the other hand, cherries are quite nutritious. You’ll get 40% of your vitamin A, 26% of your vitamin C, and 8% of your potassium, with a smattering of B vitamins, a little folacin, and even a touch of calcium and iron.
Sour cherries are little higher in calories than sweet –– 88 in a cup. Logically enough, you’ll get less sugar than in sweet cherries, just 12.5 grams, with 1.6 grams of fiber, or 10.9 grams of usable carb. Sour cherries have considerably less vitamin C than sweet cherries, just 9% of your RDA, and a little less vitamin A, 37%. They’re a surprisingly good source of iron, however, with 19% of your daily requirement.
But as is so often the case, the big news about cherries isn’t the vitamins. Cherries are bursting with antioxidants. Take a look:
* Quercetin, which show great anti-tumor potential. One study published in the British Journal of Cancer showed that the combination of quercetin and ultrasound therapy killed 90% of cancer cells, without hurting normal cells. Quercetin also appears to combat inflammation of many kinds, including allergies and asthma, and reduce the risk of heart disease.
* Ellagic acid, which also appears to have anti-cancer properties, killing cancer cells in lab tests. Ellagic acid may also improve liver function.
* Queritrin and isoqueritrin, which lower inflammation, are particularly high in sour cherries. They may also slow the aging process. Gives new meaning to calling something well-preserved “cherry,” doesn’t it? Again, these antioxidants appear to fight cancer.
* Anthocyanins, which are responsible for the rich red color of cherries, also lower inflammation. Indeed, they are comparable to ibuprofen and naproxen in their ability to calm arthritic joints and relieve pain.
* Melatonin, known as the sleep hormone, is also a potent antioxidant, and cherries are one of the best food sources. This means that cherries not only combat oxidation in your body, but may also help you to sleep. Consider cherries for a bedtime snack.
Some list! Their nutritional value marks cherries as a good choice for your carbs. You’ll still want to go easy on the quantity, but a dozen or so cherries for dessert is a nutritionally superior choice to, say, a dish of sugar-free ice cream. However, you do have to watch your portion size. Do NOT repeat my performance with the pint of cherries on the way home, your blood sugar and your waistline will not thank you.
One caution: Cherries are among the fruits likely to have high levels of pesticide contamination. You could buy organic cherries, but around here the difference in price between conventionally grown and organic cherries is $2-5 per pound. I certainly would understand if you simply washed your cherries well. I plan to plant cherry trees in my yard so I can get unsprayed cherries free.
Please tell me I don’t have to explain how to eat cherries! What part of “stuff them in your face, get stains all over your tee shirt” don’t you understand? If you’re lucky enough to have a source of sour or pie cherries, you won’t use them to make a pie, of course. Instead, make a cherry cheesecake! Make a plain cheesecake with your favorite recipe. While it’s chilling, pit your pie cherries, and simmer them with a little sweetener, to taste, and a touch of plain gelatin. You can add a little red food coloring if you want to make your cheesecake look professional. Spoon this evenly over the cheesecake, and put it back to chill some more, preferably overnight. I generally get enough sour cherries in a season to make this just once; to use a word I talked about in a recent podcast, it’s a very special treat.
Speaking of treats, I’ve asked a couple of weeks running for folks to call in and let us know what their favorite low carb treat is, and also what their favorite non-food treat is. I’ve only had one response, and that was through the Facebook Fan Page, Dana Carpender’s Hold the Toast Press. I wish I could find the post, so I could credit the nice person who wrote in, but she stated that her favorite low carb treat is lobster. Great choice! One of our favorite low carb treats is super- good cheese, especially five year old aged gouda. It’s too pricey for us to buy it often, so it really is a treat – something we have infrequently, but really, really enjoy. I put expensive cheese in That Nice Boy I Married’s Christmas stocking every year. He’d far rather have that than chocolate.
So I’m asking one more time: How do you reward yourself without blowing your nutritional program? Call (412) 385-DANA, that’s (412) 385-3262, and let us know!
Okay, let’s get to the interview with George Stella! As I mentioned last week, this interview was supposed to go just 15 minutes, but George and I wound up yakking for over an hour. So here’s the second half – if you haven’t heard installment 1, you may want to listen to episode 21.
Thanks, George! So great to talk to you; it had been way too long.
If you have any friends you think might like the show, please steer ‘em to the show page at Dana’s Low Carb For Life, and if you like it, how about leaving a review at Itunes? We’d love it.
Remember that this week’s question for Low Carb Voices is still What’s your favorite low carb treat, and how do you reward yourself without blowing your nutritional program? Call (412) 385-DANA, that’s (412) 385-3262, and let us know!
Don’t forget to check out the blog at Hold the toast.com, and join my facebook fan page at Dana Carpender’s Hold the Toast Press
And of course, 300 15 Minute Low Carb Recipes is now available at Amazon.com, or order through CarbSmart.com along with your other stuff. If you’ve already got it and you like it, go review it!
That’s it! Remember, till next week, stay low carb for life!