Losing weight

For the average person who wants to lose weight




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Purpose of food

Technical explanations

Effect of food

Essential nutrients

Multivitamins

QA

Terminology accuracy

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What to eat

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The following is the result of my research during and after I've (willingly) lost over 20% of my weight, at a rate of about 1 kilogram (2 pounds) per month; after more time I've lost 25% (of the top weight).

I wanted to lose this weight because I had an undesired amount of fat on my abdomen (which is associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease), my knees started shaking while going up the stairs, and I had a general state of fatigue after walking for a while.

The result is that I've reached the weight that I had when I was thin and I was 20 years old, and some times I feel like a feather when I walk.

Most of the physical exercise that I have done was walking (only during the warm season, 30...60 minutes a day, and much faster than most people). This was contrasted with sitting on a chair for 10 hours a day. While I have returned to the weight from my youth, I have not been able to get a flat abdomen, and some fat is still on the abdomen (even years later). This is to be expected considering that I have not followed a strict diet and I have not done (hard) physical exercise.

I can't say how my new way of eating has affected my mental capacity, which is critical in my line of work, because I have been living under tremendous stress for many years both before and after the weight loss, and I am aware that stress and exhaustion are the main enemies of a sharp mind.

This article is written for the average person who wants to lose weight. People who have diseases usually associated with obesity, like diabetes, should perform extra research which refers specifically to their condition.

The one sentence summary of this article is: drink plenty of water, eat plenty of vegetables, fats and proteins, and don't replace fats with carbohydrates.



Purpose of food

The body asks for food because it needs energy, water and essential nutrients (like vitamins, minerals and aminoacids which form proteins). In general, most nutrients are found in vegetables, while most aminoacids are found in meat. Energy (which is measured in calories) is found in all types of food, but is mostly present in foods made from seeds and meat.

The main reason why people get fat is that they eat foods which contain more calories than their bodies consume. However, the body doesn't require a fixed number of calories, but a range which varies significantly even during a single day.

Because of this variation of energy, for reasons that you will read later, you must not adopt a diet which starves you, you must change your eating style forever.

If you eat more calories than your body's average needs are, the body will either store the extra calories (which means that you will get fatter) or will send more energy to the muscles (which means that you will feel more energetic).

If you eat less calories than your average needs are, the body will reduce its activity and will send less energy to your muscles. This means that if you simply eat fewer calories, you will just feel less energetic and you will not lose weight.

This is why, if you want to lose weight, you have to eat the smart way.

You can lose weight by either doing some physical tasks, or you can reduce the number of calories that you eat.

The average person will not lose weight by doing a physical sport because the body consumes energy very efficiently, so it's much easier to reduce the number of calories that your body assimilates by reducing the amount of calories that you eat. The big problem is that the faster you consume energy, the more intensely your body will ask you for food to compensate the lost energy. Also, tiredness resulted from physical effort leads to muscle exhaustion not (abdominal) fat consumption.

As an example, the body consumes about 800 kilocalories while running 12 kilometers in an hour, 450 kilocalories per hour of swimming, 400 kilocalories per hour of jogging, 200 kilocalories while walking 4 kilometers in an hour (meaning, 600 kilocalories while walking 12 kilometers), 100 kilocalories per hour of vigorous sex. Yet, 100 grams (0.2 pounds) of bread contains about 250 kilocalories, meaning that you have to run for more than 20 minutes in order to consume the calories from 100 grams of bread.

You can see that if you walk or run the same distance (not time), you consume about the same amount of energy (600 versus 800 kilocalories), but running will make you much more tired and will also trigger hunger.

Genetics plays an important role. Someone who is fat may think that the people who do sports are thin to because they do sports, but in reality they are thin because their genetics sends more energy to the muscles rather store it as fat. The genetics of these people makes them feel energetic, so they subconsciously try to consume their energy by doing sports. Women's bodies are genetically inclined to store more fat than men's bodies. However, the majority of people should not be concerned about this; with the correct diet, their bodies would have a normal amount of fat.

There is no magic in losing weight. There is no need for and there are no secrets, magical diets, recipes or potions. Most people can lose weight if they live by common sense phrases like "stop eating before you feel full" and "eat slowly so that your body can have the time to tell you that it's full", and if they understand some of the effects that various foods have on their bodies.



Technical explanations

A calorie is a unit of energy, not a substance.

An approximate number of calories that are necessary for an average person is 2'000 kilocalories per day. Pizza (whose dough is mainly made from flour) contains 200...300 kilocalories per 100 grams, so a 700 grams pizza can even exceed the 2'000 kilocalories daily threshold.

The human body can obtain calories from the following types of food components, each of which contains a different amount of calories:

  • Fats: 9 kilocalories per pure gram of fats (not of whole food). Examples of foods with a high content of fats: oils, butter, chips (because they absorb a lot of the oil in which they are fried), nuts. Fats can be: saturated, unsaturated (which can be monounsaturated and polyunsaturated), trans-saturated (which must be avoided).

  • Proteins (the essential aminoacids form proteins): 4 kilocalories per pure gram of proteins (not of whole food). Examples of foods with a high content of proteins: meat. Hemp is a vegetal source of essential aminoacids, that rivals meat in terms of balance; hemp seeds lack the known hallucinogenic component of hemp.

  • Carbohydrates: 4 kilocalories per pure gram of carbohydrates (not of whole food). Examples of foods with a high content of carbohydrates: sugar (100%), flour (75%), bread (50%), seeds (including nuts).

  • Alcohol: 7 kilocalories per pure gram of alcohol (not of whole liquid).

Through digestion, the body assimilates a number of calories equal with or lower than the one listed above. The actual amount varies significantly depending on the composition of the food and of the bacteria present in the digestive system. For example, some foods, like vegetables (including seeds, nuts and fruits) can only be partly digested by the body, due to their high content of fiber (which is not easily digestible).

Cooking such foods breaks down the fiber, making the food more digestible, and also makes available more essential nutrients. However, some fiber and essential nutrients are also destroyed by heat, so there is a balance in cooking.

The body constantly consumes calories, even during sleep, and varies considerably from person to person. This is called basal metabolic rate (BMR). The highest observed difference between the minimum and maximum BMR was 700 kilocalories.

Physical activity requires extra calories, but the body is very efficient in this regard. For example, the body's basal metabolism uses about 70% from the total consumed energy, physical activity uses about 20%, and the digestion of food uses about 10%.

The number of calories consumed by a person's body is not fixed, but is an interval. Depending on how many calories are available, the body generates more or less energy, so the person feels more or less energetic. Therefore, simply consuming more or less calories on a short term doesn't make a person fatter or thinner, but does make that person more or less energetic. The body must get used to assimilating a higher or lower amount of calories in order to change its weight.

If the body receives fewer calories than what it was used to get, it adapts to the conditions which it considers "difficult" and uses fewer calories to generate energy instead of consuming the extra required energy from the stored energy (which would lead to weight loss).

The number of calories which are necessary to a body depends on the body's weight, but also its composition. For example, while the body's fat does require energy, it requires fewer calories than the rest of the body, per gram.

When the body assimilates more calories than what it needs, it stores the extra calories as fat. It's recommended to go to sleep early, before midnight, else various hormones don't get a chance to act and fat gets deposited easier. It's also recommended to eat lighter and preferably with several hours before going to sleep.

The type of food also affects the rate of storing. For example, the digestion of carbohydrates requires that the body produces insulin, and insulin favors the storing of fat.



Effect of food

The most efficient way to lose weight over a long term, that is, without shocking the body, is to reduce the number of calories that the body assimilates.

Don't follow crash / quick diets, change the way you eat forever! Don't starve your body, eat whenever you feel hungry, but eat varied foods, like vegetables and meat. If you starve your body, it will reduce the energy that it gives you and you would feel less energetic, and you will not lose weight (because your body will effectively consume less energy / calories).

The most important thing in life is to be happy, not slim. The mind has a fundamental effect on the body, on its mental and physical health, so if you feel bad about eating a certain way then that would not improve your life. Find your own long term balance.

Eat vegetables which are solid, without cooking them much; leaves don't satiate, but can be good in smoothies. On one hand, the cooking (heat and cutting) destroys some fiber and nutrients from foods, but on the other hand it releases some nutrients and calories from the destroyed fiber, so there is a balance which depends on the type of food. Just don't cook the life out of food.

If you're not a vegetarian, eat meat for its proteins.

Avoid eating the foods which are (artificially) made with sugar or flour, in particular heavily processed foods which keep most calories from these types of foods but throw away the parts that make your body tell you that it's full.

Foods like bagels, chips and sweetened beverages should be avoided; you can eat them, just consider them (once-in-a-while) treats rather than foods or snacks.

The sugar from the beverages that are made from fruit juice have the same negative effect on health.

The main problem with the foods to avoid is not necessarily that they contain a large number of calories, but that they don't make you feel as satiated as other foods which contain fewer calories. What's more, sugar and flour (and cooked foods in general) are easily digested, but uncooked vegetables (including seeds, nuts and fruits) are only partially digested, and actually require more calories to be used to digest the fiber that they contain, which means that the body can only assimilate fewer calories even though, for example, nuts contain more calories than sugar (for the same weight).

Here, fiber refers to the hard-to-digest or non-digestible parts of food, not the dietary fiber. For example, in oranges the fiber is what is left of the oranges after their juice is squeezed out of them.

It's important to understand that satiation is not proportional with the number of calories of food. It is currently unknown what causes satiation. One possible explanation is leptin.

You will hear that vegetables (including seeds, nuts and fruits) are awesome and that they contain all sorts of essential nutrients. But you will not hear that you would have to eat every day a huge amount of those foods (and many others) in order to get all the essential nutrients which can benefit you.

Vegetables are not magical, but have several key advantages:

  • They keep you from eating the foods that are worse for your health, like foods based mostly on sugar and flour (= refined carbohydrates).

  • They have components which create a fluid environment in the mouth and digestive system, thus helping the beneficial bacteria from the digestive system, and create an oral environment which is less destructive on the teeth. Carbohydrates, sugar in particular, do the opposite, creating a sticky environment which slows down the activity of the beneficial bacteria from the digestive system, and increase teeth deterioration.

  • They contain a lot of water which is easily ingested in large quantities (unlike plain water which is simply drank). Also, the ingested water stays more time in the digestive system due to the fiber.

  • They contain fiber which regulates the digestion (meaning, the entire energy and nutrient absorption mechanism, not just the bowel movement) and controls the appetite. Fiber increases the activity of the beneficial bacteria which are present in the digestive system and help digest the food.

  • Have few calories per unit of weight, fact which may trigger the body to say that it's full after ingesting a smaller amount of calories.

  • Have traces of essential nutrients (like vitamins and minerals); some have significant amounts of essential nutrients.

You should limit the amount of food that are not vegetables or meat because they contain a lot of easily digestible calories. For example, bread contains about 60% more calories that grilled chicken breast, and much easier to digest, which means that it's much easier to gain weight by eating bread than chicken. Even worse, foods which contain a lot of (refined) carbohydrates (like sugar and flour) will give you a lower feeling of satiety, so you are more likely to eat a greater amount of such foods, therefore ending up getting several times more calories than you get from meat.

You should stop eating before you feel full, and you should eat a low volume of food so that your stomach doesn't extend to allow more food. This way the stomach will get used to allowing a small amount of food, and you will therefore feel satiety quicker.

You should avoid destroying the fiber of food by (over)cooking it; cooking can mean various things, like applying heat or mincing. Through cooking, food must be made digestible (and dangerous bacteria must be destroyed), but not turned into mush. This means that the foods which can be eaten without cooking should be cooked as little as possible. The fiber slows down digestion, increases satiety and reduces the amount of calories absorbed by the body.

You should avoid eating soup and a second course, eat only one of them. Soup contains a lot of calories since it's made with oil and many people eat bread with soup; the fiber of the vegetables has been mostly destroyed (and therefore all the calories from the soup are easily absorbed).

If until now you were used to eat meat with, say, rice or potatoes, you should reduce the rice and potatoes as much as possible.

Don't try to lose weight quickly by starving your body because that would lead to reduced energy (and a general feeling of being tired), and a lack of nutrients (for example the lack of salt could lead to fainting).

It's advised to drink water after eating, and especially after eating fruits which contain a lot of acids (like oranges, lemons, pineapple). Don't brush your teeth soon after eating such fruits because the acids may soften the enamel of the teeth, and the brushing could peel it slowly away. These acids, especially when they come from fruit juice rather than the fruit itself, may cause stomach problems to some people.

You should get used to reading the food composition from the labels, so that you can compare the number of calories from various types of food. Make sure that you look at the number of calories for the same food weight, and perhaps calculate it for the portions that you actually eat. Be aware that some producers show with a big font the number of calories for a lower weight than standard (100 grams) so that the buyers would think the food actually contains fewer calories.

It's not necessary to avoid sweets, but it's necessary to consider them occasional treats not food. This is because they are usually made with 50...75% sugar, flour and fat, which means that a cake could easily contain 3 times more calories than 100 grams of lean meat (which has no visible fat on it). You should be most careful about sweets made with about 50% fats and 50% sugar, like cakes, doughnuts; this combination appears to make it very difficult for the body to tell you to stop eating.

Juices (from fruits or artificial) contain a lot of calories due to the high amount of sugar (natural or factory added). For example, Pepsi and Coke have about 10% refined sugar, which for a 1 liter bottle a day is enormous. Fruit juice contains the same amount of natural sugars, and the negative effect on health is the same.

A kilogram (2 pounds) of vegetables offer, for example, the same amount of calories as 100 grams of chocolate, but while such a chocolate is easily eaten at one time, a kilogram of raw vegetables fits with difficulty in the average stomach. What's more, the body will assimilate a smaller amount of the calories from the vegetables because of their fiber.



Essential nutrients

If you feel that you want to eat something but you don't know what, or you eat and your cravings are not satisfied, it's likely that you have a deficiency of some essential nutrient(s) or water.

To get the daily recommended dose of many essential nutrients you would have to eat daily several kilograms (double for pounds) of foods for each specific essential nutrient (because each type of food usually has a single type of essential nutrient in a significant amount). Obviously that's not going to happen, and this is why some people supplement their essential nutrients with multivitamin pills.

The daily recommended doses were calculated to meet the needs of most people, following the scientific literature, although not necessarily using controlled studies. You can find the recent values here. The effect of all the daily recommended doses taken together may be quite different, meaning that it's possible that the independent beneficial effects of some essential nutrients are eliminated by the effects of other essential nutrients.

Centuries ago it was easy to have such severe deficiency of essential nutrients that people died. An example of this was scurvy. In modern times, the available food is varied enough and contains enough essential nutrients that this doesn't happen, except for people who don't eat enough food, or varied enough food.

Essential nutrients are not magic, they are essential (just like air and water). They don't heal diseases (just like air and water), they don't make you a super-hero. They make the body function at peak efficiency, and therefore they strengthen the immune system and reduce the chances that you get sick. Eating more essential nutrients than the daily recommended dose will have no beneficial effect, and some of them might have a negative effect, but having too little of them is likely to increase the chances that you get sick.

Essential nutrients are essential for life. Without them, you might simply feel weak, or you might have muscular cramps, or your teeth might degrade faster, or in extreme cases it's possible to die (which is unlikely in modern times, but those who eat very little are exposed to this possibility).

Take calcium for example. The daily recommended dose (for adults) is 1 gram per day. This can be taken by the body from about 0.8...1 liters of milk, 150...200 grams of cheese, 400...800 grams of yogurt, or 700 grams of bread. A low amount of calcium intake may lead to muscular cramps, weak bones and teeth. However, a too high amount may lead to kidney stones.



Multivitamins

It's actually cheaper to get the essential nutrients from multivitamins than from food because multivitamins are made either from the actual chemicals that form the essential nutrients, or from plants that are not normally used as food and are easier to grow than food is.

However, since people have to eat, and since they can live well without having the extra amount of multivitamins, taking multivitamins may be an unnecessary cost.

Fluorescent-yellow pee indicates that some component of the multivitamins that you are taking is being eliminated by the body because either it doesn't need it, or because it can't assimilate it. Usually, multivitamins contain this component in a dose much higher than the body needs because it is known that such a high dose has no negative effect, and is likely used as a simple way to see that the body does process (though not necessarily assimilates) the multivitamins.

If you see any side effects, like itching skin or headaches (but which can even be as severe as blood loss), immediately stop taking the multivitamins. Your body is reacting to the specific recipe with which those multivitamins were made.

Some people, including some physicians, might tell you that the yellow pee is proof that you are wasting money on multivitamins, but this shows that they misunderstand and misrepresent several factors: both food and multivitamin cost, the recommended doses of vitamins and minerals can't be obtained from food by most people, multivitamins contain larger than recommended doses because the body absorbs what it needs, but some bodies require much higher amounts of multivitamins in order to absorb the recommended doses.

There is in fact a trend of denigrating multivitamin supplementation. However, if you read such articles you can see that the people writing them, aside from trying to provoke emotions instead of explaining facts logically, imply that the people who take multivitamins do so in order to heal themselves of various diseases, a fact which is false (excluding what is told by the people who have a financial interest to say that they heal diseases).

Nutrients, vitamins and minerals don't fight diseases, but taken in appropriate doses they give the immune system the resources with which to fight the body's enemies. That's it. So, while they may help the body avoid a cold, they will not work against disease X (unless the body's immune system can fight it with the extra resources).

While multivitamins may prevent a cold, if a cold has (nearly) installed, it will continue its usual course, but at the very least the symptoms of the cold will be less severe (although the duration stays the same, even though it may seem shorter).

Personally, when I've started to lose weight, I've also taken multivitamins for 2 years, almost continuously. Before that, I used to catch a cold about every spring and autumn. During those 2 years none of this happened, but afterward, when I stopped taking them, the problems have gradually returned over half a year, and have stopped again after taking multivitamins again, and so on. I've found that when taking at least two thirds of the daily dose, I've only had reduced symptoms of colds, but this might not be enough for a more virulent form.

In order to avoid catching a cold, you have to take multivitamins with several weeks before you are exposed to the (common cold) virus, so that your immune system can have the time to build its defenses. If you start sneezing more often than usual, it's a sign that your body is successfully fighting the virus.

So, why do some people who change their diet to vegetables think that these have cured their disease? It's not because of the magic nutrients from vegetables, it's because they have stopped eating whatever foods were poisoning their bodies before the change, or because some vitamin or mineral deficiency that they had was filled.

These clarifications are not meant to be merely semantic, they are meant to limit any potential irrational enthusiasm regarding the healing potential of vegetables, multivitamins and "supernutrients".

As for the ability of various vitamins to decrease the chances of cancer, there is no evidence that they do so with a significant relevance. In fact, vitamin E taken in a daily dose of 400 IU appears to increase the risk of prostate cancer by 17% (this increase represents an extra 1% of the total male population). The most popular multivitamin supplements contain less than this dose of vitamin E.



QA



Should I count the calories that I eat?

No, because you have no idea how many calories your body needs.

However, you should compare how many calories are in the types and amounts of foods that you eat, so that you can choose the ones with fewer calories.



How fast should I be losing weight?

If you can lose at most 1 kilogram (= 2 pounds) per month, that's great, but if you want to lose your extra weight faster than you can increase this limit several times without negatively affecting your health.

If you lose a lot of weight, especially if it happens fast, your body will not lose fat everywhere just as much or just as fast, and some fat will remain in certain areas, like on the abdomen, making the skin look floppy.

While losing weight, fat isn't the only thing that you will be losing, but muscles as well. Read this for details.



How much vegetables should I eat?

If possible, several hundred grams a day, but in depends on what you eat and how you cook food.

In order to benefit from eating vegetables, their fiber content must be made digestible, but not turned into mush. This means that the vegetables, like tomatoes or cucumbers, which can be eaten without cooking should be cooked as little as possible.

Vegetables, like kidney beans, which can't be eaten without cooking should be cooked extensively (but still not turned into mush).

Cooking can mean using heat, but also putting the vegetables through a blender in order to break their fiber.

For best results, this amount of vegetables should replace the majority of foods rich in refined carbohydrates that you are most likely eating now.



What about fried foods?

Beware of fried foods!

Fried oil can be toxic. See here when oils become toxic. Polyunsaturated fats get easily oxidized when heated, so most vegetal oils are a potential health issue.

Cooking in oil can bring you a large amount of unnecessary fats.

Raw potatoes contain about 93% carbohydrates but have a small amount of calories (per 100 grams). However, home made french fries have 2 times the number of calories because they absorb the frying oil; the ones fried at fast foods restaurants have 4 times the number of calories (I don't know why, but you can check this at the USDA food list).



What if I crave sweets?

Eat them, but limit their amount, don't eat until you're full, and reduce with an equal amount of calories the rest of the food that you eat.

If you were to abstain from eating sweets, you would increase the probability that you would simply drop your new eating habits and start eating without limits again.

It's important to eat the way that you can sustain for the rest of your life.



How late should I eat before going to sleep?

It's recommended to go to sleep early, before midnight, else various hormones don't get a chance to act and fat gets deposited easier. It's also recommended to eat lighter and preferably with several hours before going to sleep.



Should I eat a lot of food fewer times a day, or little food more times a day?

This is not so simple. If you eat a lot of food at a time, your stomach would get used to being expanded and would therefore allow more food in the future, that is, you would feel satiation after a longer delay.

On the other hand, every time you eat, you start a metabolic process which tells your brain to continue to eat until satiation. This means that you might find yourself having difficulties in stopping from eating.

You have to find your own balance depending on how you feel, and likely a middle-ground approach is best.

Also, don't create a habit of eating without restraints in the weekends. Eat about the same amount of calories every day. It's better to eat a small treat every day than a lot of them once a week.



I feel the need to eat a lot as if my body is looking for a specific type of food, but I don't know which. Why is this?

Leaving aside any possible medical condition that you may have and the medical tests that you could take, one possible cause is that your body is low on some essential nutrients, and perhaps most importantly, low on water.

Many people delay drinking water when their bodies request it, and when they get used to it and feel no more thirst, they think that they don't need water so much. However, the body simply starts getting water from food, and asks for a lot of food in order to get the needed water.

If you take multivitamins for a while and see that your cravings are decreasing, their absence was likely the reason for the cravings.

If at the same time you feel that you are low on energy, you should check that you are drinking plenty of water, eating plenty of vegetables, fats and proteins, and don't replace fats with carbohydrates.

If you are limiting the number of calories for fear that you may gain weight, you could eat more and at the same time do some physical exercise in order to burn the extra energy.



Should I avoid eating saturated fat?

After a few decades of demonization (apparently without scientifically valid proof) of saturated fat, people are starting to look at the studies which show that there is no causation between the intake of saturated fat and heart attack.

Specifically, a WHO report says that "Replacing dietary sources of SFA with carbohydrates decreases both LDL and HDL cholesterol concentration but does not change the total/HDL cholesterol ratio."

The reason for this observation is that the liver compensates for the cholesterol from food, trying to keep a balance inside the body. So, it's pointless to replace saturated fats with carbohydrates.

Another study says that "Current evidence does not clearly support cardiovascular guidelines that encourage high consumption of polyunsaturated fatty acids and low consumption of total saturated fats."

Another study says that "This current meta-analysis of cohort studies suggested that total fat, SFA, MUFA, and PUFA intake were not associated with the risk of cardiovascular disease."

Another study says that "A low-carbohydrate diet, high in saturated fat, improved insulin-resistant dyslipoproteinemia and lipoprotein(a), without adverse effect on LDL cholesterol."

See this and this for details.



Should I avoid eating meat?

There is no scientific reason why the average person should avoid eating meat. If your philosophy tells you to avoid meat for such and such (moral) reason, then avoid eating meat.

Be aware that "proteins" is a generic word which encompasses any combination of aminoacids, but the body needs a specific combination of aminoacids which are essential for it, and meat provides a much better balance among the essential aminoacids, than vegetables do.

If you want to avoid eating meat, you need a source of balanced proteins (with aminoacids in the ratio that people need). Hemp is a vegetal source of essential aminoacids, that rivals meat in balance; hemp seeds lack the known hallucinogenic component of hemp.

However, the food industry has something called "processed meat" (for example, burgers), which is in fact not meat because the entire food may contain (for example) 30% meat (where the rest is anything except meat). If you look at a can of tuna with vegetables, where the fish is 20...30%, on the can it says "tuna salad", not "tuna"; even this, for full honesty, it should be called vegetables salad because the tuna is only about 25%.

Frequent eating of processed meat has been linked to some health issues.

Lean meat (which has no visible fat on it) provides mainly proteins while giving you much fewer calories than what other types of foods give you for the same amount of proteins.



Should I avoid eating carbohydrates?

There is a trend now to avoid carbohydrates. Carbohydrate dominance, especially refined carbohydrates, causes serious health problems.

For best results, the calories that you eat should come from fats (50...70%, mostly polyunsaturated fats from fish and monounsaturated fats from plants), proteins (10...25%) and carbohydrates (under 25%).

For example, wheat bread is half made of carbohydrates, so 100 grams (3.5 oz) of bread contain 50 grams (1.8 oz) of carbohydrates, which has 200 kilocalories, which makes 10% from the 2'000 kilocalories daily dose recommended for an average adult.

If you are diabetic, you should avoid them to the greatest possible extent.

Also important is what type of food you eat and how it's cooked (that is, how much of the fiber was destroyed), because the carbohydrates from raw vegetables and fruits are absorbed much more slowly by the body.

You should drink plenty of water, eat plenty of vegetables, fats and proteins, and don't replace fats with carbohydrates.



Does eating carbohydrates cause tooth decay?

Yes, eating carbohydrates, and sugar in particular, creates an acidic and sticky environment in the mouth which significantly increases the risk of teeth deterioration (like cavities).

A high risk is indicated by the presence of the biofilm, which is a soft and white substance between the gums and teeth, which mostly forms when eating carbohydrates.

The frequency of sugar ingestion, not the amount, is the most important factor of tooth decay. When sugar is eaten, the formed acids soften the tooth enamel and leave it vulnerable for about half an hour. Eating more sugar doesn't increase this time, but eating sugar more often leaves the enamel vulnerable for longer, so it's better to eat sweets once a day rather than eat a bag of candies throughout the day.

Tooth decay can be reduced by flossing and brushing the teeth with an electrical toothbrush (twice a day, after breakfast and dinner).



Does salt increase the risk of cardiovascular disease?

It's commonly thought that salt (actually the sodium from salt) increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. The maximum daily dose of sodium is 2300 mg, which means 6 g of table salt. This dose includes the sodium from the eaten food, it doesn't refer strictly to the sodium from the table salt that you personally add to food.

Some studies indicate that this may not be the case, and in reality sugar and other refined carbohydrates are the problem.

Nevertheless, too much salt has some effects which indirectly cause health issues, like it creates cravings for sweets, that is, for sugar.



Which is better: fruits, fruit juice, vegetables or vegetable juice?

Avoid drinking fruit juice / smoothies because it has the same amount of sugar as sweetened beverages, so they have the same negative effects on the body (both on the flora of the digestive system, and on the liver).

Fruit juice contains a concentrated amount of calories and acids, due to the high amount of natural sugar, more specifically, about the same amount as Pepsi and Coke, which is about 10%.

If you drink fruit juice, sip it with a straw in order to keep the acids off your teeth (as much as is possible).

The fruit in its entirety has a smaller effect because its fiber slows down the digestion of the fruit components, and makes you feel full before you ingest too many calories.

If you want to drink juice, choose (unsweetened, unsalted) vegetable juice, but still avoid drinking it in large quantities. There are practical advantages to drinking vegetable juice over eating vegetables, like availability (can be purchased all year around), and, since most fiber is removed, much less gas is produced by digestion. The problem is that it's mostly made of carbohydrates.

The amount of sugar from vegetable juice can be close to that from fruit juice. For example, apple and orange juice contain about 10 g of sugar for 100 ml of juice. Beet juice also contains about 10 g. Tomato juice contains only 2.5 g.

Be very careful with the salt as tomato juice often contains 2% salt (in grams), which for 1 liter is 20 g, several times the daily recommended amount.



Some people say to not eat many vegetables because they can't be digested by the body. Is that correct?

It can be, but the amount depends on how your body handles each type of vegetable, more specifically, its fiber.

The body can't digest significant parts of vegetables. However, it's exactly for this reason why vegetables are good, not bad, especially because a large amount would replace the food which is actually bad for health. This undigested (or partly digested) fiber regulates digestion (not only excretion).

Some vegetables may have to be cooked in order to partly destroy their fiber's resistance to digestion. It depends on each type of vegetable, and also on the specifics of your digestive system (mainly on what types of bacteria reside in your digestive system).

For example, it's unlikely that your digestive system requires apples and oranges to be cooked, but it's most likely that it requires potatoes and beans to be cooked to some degree.

An unfortunate side effect of eating vegetables and fruits is that the digestion of their fiber causes gas, but so does the digestion of carbohydrates (= anything made with sugar and flour); carbohydrates are also present in vegetables, especially in seeds and fruits. The amount of gas produced depends on how you prepare the food for eating; for example, a cream soup of vegetable X produces less gas than the whole, uncooked vegetable X.



Is canned food safe?

Canned food is very practical, but it's important to understand its health effects, and what can be done to minimize the possible health risks.

In part, canned food is safe to eat.

In modern times, the cans are made of steel, aluminum or tin, possibly coated inside with a plastic layer which prevents the metal from leaching into the food; some producers even use plastic envelops instead of metal. The healthiest choice is to use glass jars, but they are also the most expensive products (if available at all).

However, the plastic layer usually contains bisphenol-A. Some producers use a plastic layer which doesn't contain bisphenol-A, but you have to check with the producer to make sure that this is the case; still, there is no guarantee that the replacement is safer.

The problem is that the bisphenol-A (BPA), a chemical which may be dangerous to health, leaches into the food. The amount of leached bisphenol-A which ends up in the body depends on the type of food, with canned soup being by far the worst. This doesn't necessarily make the canned food unsafe, because the absolute amount of ingested bisphenol-A is still below the level which is considered safe.

Both Europe's and USA's food safety administrations say that bisphenol-A is safe to use in the packaging of foods.

Bisphenol-A is present in most plastics, including plastic water bottles, so it's quite difficult to avoid. There are some alternatives to this chemical, but there are no guarantees that they are any safer.

Buy canned food with a lower shelf life (below 5 years), presumably because these contain less preservatives.

Look for cans which are close to their manufacturing date, because the metal or plastic had less time to leach into the food.

Throw away the cans that are bulging, dented, cracked, leaking or rusted.

Wash the lid, especially its rim, before you open a can.

After you empty the can, smell it inside. If you have a tingly sensation, if it smells like metal / oxidation, don't buy that product / brand again. Basically, the metal of the can has leached into the food, which makes it taste bad and unsafe on the long term.

Looking at meat from a metallic can, you can see that it's pink inside, but grayish on the outside. This is because the metal has oxidized the meat. This doesn't happen with meat from glass jars.

If there is oil in the metal or plastic can, throw away the oil because it attracts bisphenol-A. It's a good idea to throw away any fluid from the can, be it oil or water. (Oil should not be thrown down the drain because it solidifies and may end up clogging the pipes.)

Don't scrape (the inside of) the can.

Never cook food in the can, first move it in your normal cookware.

Since heat is normally used during canning, vitamins B and C are destroyed in part. However, this also happens during cooking at home, it's not limited to canning.



Should I do sports to lose weight?

Studies show that the average people don't lose weight if they do sports over long periods of time, and that the composition of their bodies doesn't change either. That's because the body is very efficient at energy consumption while doing sports (no matter how tired you feel afterward), because the body asks for the consumed energy to be replaced by eating afterwards, and because the caloric intake from small amounts of food overwhelms the calorie burning that happens during sports.

Sports should be done for health reasons, not for losing weight.

However, simple exercise, like walking at an average pace, or even standing rather than sitting, should complement a healthy diet and may help losing weight because it doesn't triggering hunger to compensate the loss of energy (like sports do).

However, some sports may be particularly effective at removing fat from specific areas of the body. When you realize that you can't lose the fat from, say, your abdomen, by dieting, some sports may help you do that.



Why do I feel tired after eating?

A possible cause of fatigue after eating is that you've eaten a lot of carbohydrates, especially refined carbohydrates like sugar and flour. The digestion of carbohydrates requires the body to generate insulin, and the need of the body to produce a high amount of insulin causes the fatigue.

The intensity of the feeling of fatigue may indicate the potential of a diabetic condition.



Why do most people get fatter as they age?

This is because the body's basal metabolic rate (BMR) is reducing with aging, because the physical activity of older people is reducing, yet people continue to eat as much as they were used to eat when they were young.

Older people should eat fewer calories than they were eating when they were young, in order to maintain their weight.



What are the habits of people who maintain their weight?

Studies show that most people who are keeping their weight under control do the following:

  • Stop eating when their bodies tell them that they are full, not when their parents or friends tell them to stop, or when their plates are empty, or when their TV shows are over.

  • Eat a lot of vegetables.

  • Maintain a low calorie diet.

  • Walk a lot (like an hour every day).

  • Eat breakfast.

  • Weigh themselves weekly.

  • Watch little TV, that is, prefer to stand or walk rather than sit.



How much alcohol is it safe to drink per day?

The USA and UK governments specify a maximum of 150 ml of wine (5 fluid ounces) (with 13% alcohol) for men and women, 400 ml (13 fluid ounces) of beer (with 5% alcohol). The USA government allows for men a maximum that's double, but, considering other sources, this appears to be too much. This amount is per day, you can't accumulate a week's amount in a single day of the week.

Since women generally have a lower mass than men, they should drink less than men in order to get the same amount of alcohol per unit of mass (kilogram or pound).

Alcohol should be drank during meals in order to slow its assimilation.

Constant alcohol drinking increases the risk of cancer. Studies show that daily drinking of an amount of alcohol found in 180 ml (6 fluid ounces) of wine increases the risk of cancer by 5%.



Should I do what the studies say it's good for health?

One of the biggest problems of studies is that they are either performed in test tubes, on animals, or on very few people. You are neither of these and human bodies, maybe yours included, often reacts in opposite ways.

Worse, the researchers measure several (even tens) of health parameters, and in small studies one of them is bound to come out looking good / bad, looking as if eating whatever is studied has made a difference. But the difference exists because there is a huge variation in human physiology and behavior, and in environmental factors. And the more parameters are measured, the higher is the chance that one of them will look good / bad. This is why many studies of the same thing show opposite results.

For details, read the Skirts don't cause cancer principle.

But leaving aside the weakness of studies, what you should do depends on what matters to you. Is it health, happiness or a long life? Ask yourself how happy are the people who follow that path (compared to those who don't). Are you sure that something which appears to improve health also increases the life expectancy?

Studies don't normally look at these factors. In fact, some studies which do look at these factors show that even though some foods and life styles do improve various health characteristics, they don't increase the life expectancy of the people who eat those foods and have those life styles. In other words, in terms of longevity, the improved health has been lost in the noise of life. So, if people feel miserable when eating something and their life expectancy stays the same, why should you eat that?

Sometimes, even if a food shows a positive effect, a neutral or even a negative effect can occur when increasing the dose through food supplements. This is called hormesis. This is a possible explanation why, for example, antioxidants from some foods show a health benefit, but show none or a negative effect when the antioxidant is taken in a larger dose as part of a food supplement.



I hear a lot about antioxidants and polyphenols. Are they really good for health?

While you will hear that they are very good for your health, you will not hear how much the dose should be (= how much you should eat), how they compare with each other or with other things (= which one is worth the trouble), or by how much they improve your health.

Most studies regarding these things are done in test tubes, and at best on animals. People are neither of these and the human body often reacts in opposite ways, especially when you consider that it needs a large amount of these things in order to be affected by them.

There have been some studies done on people, but while some of them show health benefits, some show no health benefits, and some show a negative health impact.

The most important thing is that they don't cure any fatal disease, as claimed by the fans and sellers of the foods which contain antioxidants and polyphenols.

When you read any health claims about a nutrient, think about this: if it can't keep the common cold away, never mind heal it, how could it possibly keep away cancer or whatever other serious disease?



Should I eat foods with added multivitamins?

You should avoid foods (including water and milk) which are specifically marketed as having added multivitamins and minerals, because you can't control their type and amount.

There are studies which show that food fortification benefits people on the average, and people with a low income in particular. However, you can't know if you are part of that average, especially if you don't have a low income, so you can't know that you are indeed deficient with regards to those multivitamins and minerals.

Multivitamin pills can be easily controlled, especially by not taking them, but you can't avoid the food that you want to eat (and is fortified).

If you avoid fluoride water / milk / salt, brush your teeth with fluoride toothpaste.



Should multivitamins be from a natural or artificial source?

Generally, it doesn't matter because the essential nutrients are literally chemicals, not magical elements, so they can be precisely created in laboratories.

More important are the absolute amount and ratios of the components, in what amount they are assimilated by the body, and what potentially toxic chemicals do the pills contain (chemicals which are used during manufacturing).

When you decide which to take, go for the company that you trust most, and for the ones that you can afford.



Should I take breaks from taking multivitamins?

It's generally recommended to do so, for example take multivitamins for 3 months then stop for a while, and so. The main claimed reason is that the body gets used to them and therefore they become less useful.

I have not seen scientific evidence that this is necessary, or that the claimed reason is based on studies rather than mere precautions.

Vitamins and minerals are chemicals that the body uses in its normal operation, like water, air and food. When things are put in this perspective, it sounds silly to say "stop eating because the body will get used to food or to the vitamins and minerals from it". Just as well, it sounds silly to say "stop taking multivitamins because the body will get used to them".

However, it's important to note that multivitamins usually contain some elements which are in a dose far higher than the daily recommended dose; see Multivitamins for details.

Studies have shown that they don't present a risk on the average population, but you can never know how your body will react to them on the long term. You also can't be sure how your kidneys will react while processing (for elimination) huge amounts of those vitamins and minerals. Then again, you also can't be sure how your kidneys will react while processing the calcium (/ limestone) from the water you drink.

One way to follow precautions and still take multivitamins is to take a dose smaller than the daily recommended dose, like two thirds.



All of this is just not working. I barely eat, I have no energy and I'm still gaining weight. Why?

If you want to lose weight, you should avoid barely eating.

It's possible that your metabolism is storing calories rather than using them to generate energy. You may have to seek medical advice if you want to lose weight.



Does a diet with caloric restriction increase the lifespan?

Yes and no, depending on what you actually eat.

According to the largest such study, if you are eating a lot of refined carbohydrates (especially sugar), there is an increase in longevity if you then change to a calorie restricted diet. However, if you are eating very little refined carbohydrates, there is no increase in longevity if you then change to a calorie restricted diet.



Was cooking food necessary for human evolution?

Some people claim that cooking food has been an important factor in human evolution, and this claim is used as argument in favor of cooking food today.

However, cooking food was only a tool for, not a cause of, evolution. The actual cause was an increase of calorie availability in the diet of primates, calories which the body has used to develop, transform and evolve.

As it happens, in those times, cooking food was almost the only way that the primates could use to obtain more calories, since calorie rich foods were scarce.

Today, calories can be found in abundance without cooking, with virtually no physical effort, so cooking food is not necessary to either increase the availability of calories or to evolve further.



Any tips about wine?

Red wines are (usually) astringent, white wines are (usually) not astringent. Rose wines are in between. Astringency is a feeling in the mouth similar to that produced by the dentist's numbing spray.

The alcohol level of wine doesn't change with the wine's age. This is because the alcohol level remains fixed once the fermentation process ends (and wines are not sold before this happens). However, the changes which occur during the aging process do modify the perception of the alcohol level, usually amplifying the taste of alcohol.

If you dislike the taste of alcohol, try wine with an alcohol content around 7...8%, rather than the usual 12...14%. Also try this with a frizzante wine, that is, a lightly sparkling wine.



How do I pick a good watermelon?

The more of the following statements are true, the better the watermelon is:

  • The rind is not hot. The rind has to be either cold, or warm at worst. If it's hot, it means that it has been hit by direct sunlight, and if this happens for a few days then the inside of the watermelon will turn into mush.

  • The rind is firm and doesn't bend, or barely bends, when it's pressed firmly with the weight of an arm and shoulder, but not with the weight of the whole body; the yellow spot normally has a thinner rind than the rest. If the rind feels soft and bends clearly, the watermelon is mush inside, that is, the fiber is very soft. The pressure to apply depends on the thickness of the rind, and this in turn depends partly on the size of the watermelon. If when you press the rind you can clearly hear a cracking sound (inside the watermelon), the watermelon is likely overripe but should still be good. Don't believe the seller's argument that the rind bends because it's thin.

  • The rind is not significantly deformed from its normal (round or oblong) form. For some heavy watermelons, the side with the yellow spot is flat because there is a lot of weight on it all the time, so don't worry if you see this.

  • The rind has no large scars and no holes. Scars indicate a troubled growth.

  • The yellow spot is not white. A white spot indicates that the watermelon didn't have time to mature. A missing yellow spot, or a cream spot, is fine, the white is the problem.

All other indicators of ripeness are unreliable. You will find people who show you various signs of ripeness, but they don't cut open the watermelons that are supposedly bad, to compare the "good" with the "bad".

I like to slap the watermelon (when it's on other watermelons), to feel the propagation of the vibration, and expect it to sound like a wood beam, but this is more a need to tell myself that I did everything that I could, than an indicator of ripeness. I've eaten very good watermelons that sounded dull (= the opposite of a wood beam).

The best indicator of ripeness is the trust you have in the seller. The farmers and the sellers have more options at their disposal to check the ripeness, like knowing when they planted the watermelons and actually cutting them open and tasting them.

Buy watermelons within their season, but avoid those brought from thousands of kilometers / miles away. As with all fresh products, you should buy them from the market, not from the supermarket.

A green stem is an indication of a fresh watermelon, while a dried one is an indication of a potentially stale watermelon.

Watermelons which sit for a few days in the sun at the market become soft inside, so you might want to buy them from shaded shops. The rule about the firm rind might not apply because the fiber inside gets soft faster than the rind, so the rind may be hard when the fiber is soft.

Watermelons don't continue to ripe after they are harvested, but they do get softer inside as time goes by. A watermelon is good, perhaps, up to about two weeks after being harvested, unless they are kept in a cool place (which for most people is not available).

Don't keep sliced watermelons in the refrigerator; keep them at room temperature, away from sunlight. When you slice them, cover the uneaten parts with plastic foil and put them in the refrigerator, but eat them within a few days.

Don't simply accept the seller's advice. Always follow the rules!

To slice watermelons, use a sharp, thin and rigid knife; the blade should be 20...25 cm (8...10 in) long. A pointy tip is useful in creating a starting spot for slicing, a safety measure.

Personally, during their season, I usually eat about 1.5 kg (3.3 pounds) of watermelon (without the rind) per session, which is 450 kilocalories, and 3 kg (6.6 pounds) per day (in two sessions that are several hours apart), which is 900 kilocalories.

The amount of natural sugar in watermelon is 6...7%, so around 200 g (7 oz) per day, yet I have no problems with it, for the entire season, probably because the watermelon's fiber reduces the sugar's assimilation.

Watermelons contain mostly water, and a few liters / kilograms (for example, 4) of water a day can dilute your intestinal microbiota so much that it makes you sick. I can say, after a few days of overindulgence, that the sickness limit for me is around 4 kg (8.8 pounds) a day, because the water had diluted too much the intestinal microbiota; the limit depends on how sweet the watermelon is.

I've weighed some of the slices of watermelon, then I've weighed the rind that I threw away, and the result was that the rind is half of the whole watermelon. So, to understand how much watermelon with rind I was eating, multiply the weights above with 2.



Any other advice?

Stress makes people eat more.

The digestion of the fiber present in vegetables (including seeds, nuts and fruits) causes gas, but the level varies wildly depending on the type of food and on the bacteria present in the digestive system.

The digestion of carbohydrates causes gas.

The digestion of fats and proteins doesn't cause gas.

Nuts may cause colon spasms (a few hours after being eaten); prefer peeled nuts, to reduce the fiber they have.

You should drink plenty of water, eat plenty of vegetables, fats and proteins, and don't replace fats with carbohydrates.

Are there any signs that could tell you if you are stressed and if your mind is hurting your body even if you can't see it happening? An agitated sleep is one such sign, the lack of dreams is another. An agitated sleep means that your body, especially your brain, can't fully reenergize. If you don't dream, or at least don't remember dreaming, it may be because your mind is too stressed to wander around pointlessly (at least that's what it may appear to be doing when dreaming), or is too stressed to give enough importance to the dreams to remember them. Nightmares may actually be a sign that even though your mind is stressed about something, it's also free enough to tell you about it in some twisted way.

If you like tea but dislike the astringency of black and green tea, try mint, chamomile or rooibos tea. Just make sure they are not mixed with black / green tea.



Terminology accuracy

Whenever you research dietary advice, you should be very careful with the terminology and labeling which tries to shorten things.

Many of the people who are very vocal about diets have their own specific terminology which is, unfortunately, created relative to other diets rather than relative to numbers or to the understanding of the average person.

For example, you will find people talking about a "high-carb diet", meaning a diet where carbohydrates are present in a high amount relative to (but not necessarily higher than) other types of nutrients. Unfortunately, for the average person, a "high-XXX diet" means that the food contains mostly XXX, which isn't what such a diet actually means because those types of foods actually contain mostly other types of nutrients (not XXX).

For example, oranges have about 10% carbohydrates (90% water), bananas 22% (75% water), pasta 25% (70% water), nuts 10...30% (40...50% fats and 20% proteins), bread 50% (35% water and 10% proteins), and sugar has 100% (and no water). However the average person will be surprised to find that the people who say that they are on a "high-carb diet" are not eating bread and sugar, but rather vegetables, fruits and pasta.

For the average person, a diet where vegetables make up most of the food is not a "high-carb diet", but one based on... vegetables.



Cooking tips

These tips are about cooking everyday food, in maximum 15 minutes, but they are not recipes.

All the heating powers below are specified for an induction cooktop with a maximum power of 14 (the power boost mode is extra). Therefore, all the values are very precisely expressed relative to the maximum (of 14). At heating power 14, the used electrical power is 2.3 KW, which is common for household induction cooktops.



Induction cooktop

An induction cooktop is an electrical cooktop which uses induction in order to directly heat the bottom of the cookware. This results in it working like a gas stove, where changing the heating power results in an immediate transfer of temperature changes on the cookware's bottom, and therefore on the food.

An induction cooktop is extremely efficient in transferring energy to the food, as the energy is only transferred to the iron in the bottom of the cookware, not around the cookware.

Unlike a gas cooktop, an induction cooktop always transfers the exact same electrical power to the food, for a given heating power. However, professional gas cooktops may be able to produce more heat, which some cooks may need.

An induction cooktop is hot only in the area where the cookware's bottom is in contact with the cooktop. The surrounding area remains cold to the touch.

An induction cooktop is very easy to clean because of its glass top, although some induction cooktops have a stainless-steel edge.

Since induction cooktops are already using electricity, they usually have an integrated timer, so they're great for timed cooking.

Gas burning produces water vapors, but induction doesn't, and this results in induction cooking producing less humidity in the kitchen. Keep in mind that the actual cooking of food produces water vapors because food contains a lot of water.

A plain electrical cooktop, without induction, directly heats the cooktop surface which then heats the cookware's bottom. Because of this, changing the heating power of the cooktop results in a slow transfer of temperature changes to the cookware's bottom. This slowness makes a plain electrical cooktop inferior to an induction cooktop.



Cleaning

After cooking, before you wash the cookware, wipe any fat / oil from it with paper towels and throw those in the trash bin. Fat / oil which is washed will solidify in the pipes, clogging them in time.

After you wash your cookware, wipe it dry as soon as possible, starting with the silverware; wash knives last and wipe them first. If you don't do this and let the water dry naturally, limestone (and even rust) marks will remain on stainless-steel, glass and ceramic.

If you get burn marks on a glass cooktop (like an induction cooktop has), the only way to remove them is to scrape them with a utility razor. Knives don't work (because the handle must be perpendicular on the blade in order to let you push the blade with force).



Cooking in a pan

When food has to be cooked in a pan, in oil, beginner cooks are likely to see: the food sticking to the pan, food that is burned underneath and around the edge, hot oil flying out of the pan, lots of smoke rising from the burning food and oil, burned / black oil in the pan, burn / black spots in the pan, and burn marks on the cooktop (underneath the pan).

All these problems are very simple to avoid: heat the pan at a medium power before you put the food in, and cook at a medium power.

Start by putting the pan on the cooktop and setting the power at medium. Pour some oil in the pan before you start the heat. In a stainless-steel pan the oil can be poured after the pan is hot, without fearing that the empty pan would degrade under heat.

If the pan has a non-stick coating, use just a bit of oil (nowhere near the point of covering the entire bottom of the pan). The reason why you have to put oil in a non-stick pan is that there should be something in the pan to absorb the heat, not because it's going to keep the food from sticking to the pan (like is needed for a stainless-steel pan).

The oil should have a high smoke point. Polyunsaturated fats get easily oxidized when heated, so most vegetal oils are a potential health issue. Olive oil and butter have a low smoke point, although since you're cooking the food at a medium power, so the oil is sizzling not frying heavily, it's fine to also use olive oil; even butter is fine if you're using a medium heating power, like 7...10. Refined oils have a higher smoke point than their unrefined / virgin versions, but also lack taste. Clarified butter has a very high smoke point.

At heating power 7...10, leave the pan to heat for 5 minutes. It's fine to put the food in after a few more minutes, but keep in mind that the longer you heat the oil, the hotter it will get, will start to smoke and will sizzle when you put the food in the pan. From time to time, move the oil all around the bottom of the pan, by tilting the pan left to right (it's best to avoid tilting it toward you). When the oil heats, it becomes more liquid and it's easier to move it around by tilting the pan. There is no need for the oil to lubricate the sides of the pan.

Once the pan is hot, if you want, you can wipe the oil off the pan using paper towels. Hold the paper with grill tongs, not with your hand! Careful, the oil is very hot!

You can now put food in the pan. The food should be at room temperature, else it would cool down the pan and oil too much. If the food is meat, place first in the pan the side of the meat that's closest to you in order to avoid the oil splashing toward you (especially if you accidentally drop the meat in the pan).

Put in the pan vegetables (like fresh peppers) that have to be cooked just enough to taste cooked (instead of raw) but not enough to turn them into mush.

Add seasoning in the pan.

Move the food around the pan in order to avoid it sticking to the pan. For eggs use a spatula, for meat use either a spatula or grill tongs.

In the last minute of cooking, put in the pan vegetables (like tomatoes) that you want to warm, not cook.

The heating power at which cooking should be done is a matter of taste. A low power makes the food soft and cooked homogenously (throughout the food's thickness), whereas a high power makes the food crisp on the outside while the inside is less cooked (than the outside). Keep in mind that the crispy outside hardens as the food cools, and becomes unpleasant if the food is not eaten quickly.

In a pan which has a non-stick coating:

  • At heating power 10, water doesn't boil (even after 10 minutes), so its temperature is below 100 Celsius (212 Fahrenheit). It does boil lightly at power 12.

  • Oil sizzles lightly at power 10. I've used up to power 12 without smoke appearing.

  • Caramelization isn't happening at power 7, but it starts to happen at power 10.

  • From power 12, food starts burning if it's not moved around often, so you might want to have two pans around, one for vegetables, one for meat, to move the food easier around. At power 14, oil sizzles strongly in the pan.

As the heating power is increased, the oil starts to sizzle, the smell of the seasoning intensifies, and smoke may start to appear. Make sure to reduce the cooking time for the higher heating power.

I avoid cooking at powers above 11 because it's messy, and at 14 there is hot oil splashing, some smoke, the food gets burned easily, the food smell is quite intense, and requires a very fast cook.

If you add any fluid in the pan, the food (especially meat) will cook as if steamed instead of fried, so it will be soft and moist instead of crunchy. The same can happen if you cover the food with a lid.

If you add any fluid in the pan, the cooking time will have to increase because the fluid absorbs some of the heat that would otherwise go into the rest of the food.

Using a high heating power will evaporate the fluids from the pan, making the vegetables drier, so you should use a maximum heating power of 10 or use a lot more fluids.

The easiest way to cook food is to put in the pan all the food (almost) at the same time. All the food would then be cooked at the same heating power, for the same amount of time, but each food may need to be cooked more or less. The only way to influence how much food gets cooked is the size of the cut of each food, from minced, to diced, to sliced. The smaller the cut is, the faster the food gets cooked.

In doesn't matter if the pieces are equal in size because having some pieces cooked less and some cooked more brings interesting variety. You can't cut bones (like the backbone of fish) with a normal knife, you have to chop it with a chopping knife.

Cooking with the skin can be useful for salmon, for example, which becomes flaky the more it's cooked; salmon can be cooked perfectly fine with or without the skin. The skin protects the meat from getting burned, but it also blocks its caramelization. An alternative is to cook the fish with skin for a few minutes, on the skin side, after which the fish can be flipped over to (easily) remove the skin, after which the fish can be flipped over again to continue cooking that side.

If the pan's bottom is covered with meat and the vegetables have to sit on top of the meat, the meat blocks the cooking of the vegetables.

When the food is overcrowded it will cook less than when it's not crowded, in the same amount of time.

If you follow these steps, you will have none of the issues above. While there will be no smoke, it's still a good idea to turn on the kitchen hood for practical reasons (like water vapors and lingering food smell). If you do see (a trace of) smoke raising from the pan, it's possible that the pan is not up to the task, that is, it heats up irregularly. While the oil may sizzle a bit in the pan, it will not splash out of the pan, unless you use the highest heating powers.

Have everything ready to eat because the food will cool down very quickly once it's out of the pan. So, if you want to add (uncooked) vegetables on the plate, chop them before you put the food in the pan, because you'll be busy moving the food around the pan, so you won't have time to do anything else. If you cook at a high heating power, the temperature of the food will be higher, so it will remain warm for longer.



If you want meat to get caramelized on the outside, you can do several things: increase the heating power so that you can see the oil sizzling, don't move the meat around the pan, put the meat over sizzling oil (make sure there is enough oil), avoid adding any fluid (other than oil) in the pan, use a stainless-steel pan (not a pan which has a non-stick coating).

Caramelization is blocked by covering the meat with a lot of seasoning because a protection layer is formed between the meat and the pan; salt is an exception because it melts quickly. Caramelization is also blocked by skin; if meat has skin on it, it will be soft and fatty under the skin.

Caramelization is blocked by fluids other than oil and butter (= fats).



Fish

Follow the steps from the section Cooking in a pan.

This is about cooking fish that cooks quickly, like salmon, dorada (gilt-head bream), sea bass, herring. Dorada and sea bass have a bland taste, so they need strong seasoning.

A portion (for a person) should be about 200...500 g (7...18 oz) of fish, depending on what you serve it with.

Take the fish out of the refrigerator and leave it at room temperature for a few minutes. You should lightly wash the fish with water.

Cooking with the skin can be useful for salmon, for example, which becomes flaky the more it's cooked; salmon can be cooked perfectly fine with or without the skin. The skin keeps the meat soft and fatty, on the side with skin. It's possible to cook the fish with skin for a few minutes, on the skin side, after which the fish can be flipped over to (easily) remove the skin, after which the fish can be flipped over again to continue cooking that side.

You can season the fish, on both sides, or you can mix the seasoning with the vegetables.

Once the pan is heated, you can put the food in the pan.

Put in the pan vegetables (like fresh peppers) that have to be cooked just enough to taste cooked (instead of raw) but not enough to turn them into mush.

Put the fish in the pan.

Cook the fish until the original color of the meat disappears. For example, salmon is cooked well when it turns entirely whitish instead of pink. Once the fish in cooked on one side, flip the fish over (with a spatula / tongs) and cook the same way on the other side. Use either a spatula or grill tongs to move the fish around the pan in order to avoid it sticking to the pan.

If the fish is thick, like salmon, I cook it for 10...12 minutes at power 10. I flip it over at half time. This way, the fish is well cooked inside, without being overcooked on the outside. Herring is one fish that I think tastes better when it's crispier, so try cooking it at a high power, which also breaks down most of its tinny bones.

Serve with various vegetables that don't need to be cooked, like fresh tomatoes.

You could squeeze one lime or some lemon over fish, especially herring.



Eggs

Follow the steps from the section Cooking in a pan.

If you're making omelet, put the eggs in a bowl, add seasoning and whisk the eggs. You can also add cheese.

There are types of cheese that you can put in the pan from the beginning, which will barely melt, like the white-colored cheese which in Central and Eastern Europe are known as bryndza / brynza. In the last minute of cooking, you can put in the pan types of cheese which will melt quickly, like the yellow-colored hard cheese; these will continue to melt even after you turn the heat off, because the eggs are still hot.

If you want to add minced onion to an omelet, put it first in the pan and cook it for a few minutes, then move it in the omelet bowl, mix, and put the whole mix in the pan.

Once the pan is heated, put the eggs in the pan.

Add seasoning in the pan, over the eggs. Mint gives eggs a fresh, breakfast-like taste.

You can add salt at any time, either at the beginning or at the end of cooking, with virtually the same result.

Let the eggs cook until the white becomes solid enough to move.

From time to time, insert a spatula under the eggs and move them around the pan in order to ensure that the eggs don't stick to the pan and that the oil doesn't burn.

I cook the eggs for about 5...6 minutes at power 10, flipping them over at half time.

At a high power, the eggs must be flipped over, else the bottom would be overcooked while the top would be undercooked; this is difficult to do because the top side is still liquid.

Serve with various vegetables that don't need to be cooked, like fresh tomatoes.

Contrary to the myth that eggs are bad because they have cholesterol, studies show that eating 3 eggs daily has no negative effect on health, although some studies differ. Unfortunately, studies didn't use more than 3 eggs daily. Personally, when I eat eggs from to time, I eat 6 large eggs, 400 g (14 oz).



Vegetables

Follow the steps from the section Cooking in a pan.

The smaller the food is cut, the faster it gets cooked.

The less crowded the food is, the faster it gets cooked.

Some fresh vegetables that cook fast:

  • Fresh peppers (large diced).

  • Beetroot, kohlrabi, turnip (large diced). The bits will still be a bit crunchy.

  • Onion (minced). The pungent taste will vanish entirely, unless the onion is very pungent, and will even start to become a bit sweet. The larger bits will still be a bit crunchy. Size should be small, as too much onion can cause digestive problems.

  • Zucchini (sliced).

  • Carrots (sliced).

  • Potatoes (very thin slices). The slices will still be a bit crunchy.

  • Radish (sliced).

  • Cauliflower (small chunks).

  • Chili peppers (diced).

  • Garlic (sliced). The pungent taste will vanish entirely. The small slices will be soft.

  • Tomatoes (sliced), only meant to release their fluid in the pan.

In the pan, add the vegetables in steps and stir at each step, even if there is only 1 minute between the steps. First add the onion and the fresh peppers, then other vegetables; the onion cooking in olive oil will smell divine. Onion absorbs all available oil and becomes soft, so don't put too much oil in the pan before cooking the onion for a minute. This layering will improve the smell and taste of the food.

You may have to add in the pan some fluids other than the initial cooking oil, like: (olive) oil, lime or lemon juice, tomato juice. Various vegetables, like tomatoes and beetroot, release some of their juice. As the vegetables are cooked, the fluid will thicken, but will ultimately evaporate.

Adding in the pan fluids like water or orange juice has a steaming effect on the vegetables, which is not what you want.

Add in the pan various beans, already cooked, canned. Since these are already cooked, you can add them after the other vegetables have been cooking for a few minutes.

Personal variant (per person): large fresh pepper, medium onion, medium beetroot, kidney beans. Total vegetables: 700...1'000 g (25...35 oz). Cooking: 15 minutes at power 12, in a 28 cm (11 in) non-stick pan.

A vegetable mix is very low in calories and proteins, so you might want to increase that by adding meat or hemp seeds. The high heat used in cooking oxidizes the omega fatty acids (from hemp), which should be avoided.

The "output" of beetroot will be red, so you should not worry that you're bleeding.



Pasta

Have ready 100...120 grams (3.5...4.2 oz) of pasta, per person. It's that little because pasta is very satiating. Besides, you might want to add other foods, like cheese.

When you decide what type of pasta to use, note that shell-shaped pasta is unlike any other type of pasta because each shell may trap other parts of food inside, like other shells, sauce or minced meat, making each shell like a small package. This is very interesting because, for example, when several shells clump together, the texture becomes a bit firmer for the same amount of cooking.

Get a pot whose volume is at least 2 liters / quarts; this is good for 2 portions. Put cold water in it, much more than what's required to cover the pasta.

Put a lid on the pot and let the water boil at the highest power of the cooktop.

Once the water starts to boil, turn the kitchen hood on in order to absorb the water vapors, and take the lid off the pot. When exposed to the colder air, the boiling will cool down for a few moments.

Put the pasta in the pot. The pasta will absorb some heat from the water, so the boiling will reduce for a few seconds. After that, a foam will start to bubble up from the water and try to overflow from the pot, so you must reduce the heating power enough to stop the foaming, but keep the water boiling. I use power 12 or 13, depending on how the water is boiling (which, oddly enough, depends on the type of used pasta).

Add seasoning in the pot, especially salt. Some seasoning will make the water foam and bubble up, so be ready to stir it in order to slightly reduce the temperature of the water (or temporarily reduce the heating power). The pasta will absorb a bit of the seasoning; for example, salt will make the pasta taste a bit salty. Most seasoning will remain in the water, so the amount of seasoning has to be quite high. If you want all the seasoning to be served with the pasta then put it in a sauce.

For fine salt, add about half of a teaspoon per liter / quart of water. For coarse salt, add about three-quarters of a teaspoon. For Himalayan coarse salt, add about a teaspoon, because it's less salty than table / sea salt.

Some types of cheese are so salty that you don't need to add any salt for seasoning.

Mint gives pasta a fresh, breakfast-like taste.

You should keep the water boiling for at least the amount of time specified on the pasta package. Personally, I find that the time from the package always produces severely undercooked pasta, so, for example, if the package says to cook them for 7...8 minutes, I cook them for 15; the time from the package is probably for cooking at the maximum heating power (which requires a very large pot to keep the water in).

From time to time, stir the pasta in order to keep it from sticking to the pot's bottom.

Be extremely careful when you (slowly) pour the pasta into a colander to drain the water! The water was just boiling and will splash in the direction in which you pour it, so pour away from people!

You can add in the colander seedless green olives, so that the water can warm them; 10 seconds is enough.

Make sure to have everything ready to eat because the pasta will cool very quickly once it's out of the boiling water.

You can add on the plate cheese, tomatoes, olive oil. Personally I don't like cheese melted on pasta, neither taste nor texture.



Tools to use

One or two pans with a 25...28 cm (10...11 in) diameter. While you don't necessarily need the space for eggs, you need it for vegetables and meat. You can start with a single pan.

A pot with a volume of 3...4 liters / quarts.

One or two chopping boards of 45 * 30 cm (18 * 12 in) each, made of soft wood (to reduce the wear of knives). You can work with slightly smaller ones. You can start with a single board.

A chef's knife with an 18 cm (7 in) blade. Learn to cut vegetables with the rocking method.

Spatula.

Vegetable peeler, the vertical kind (with a blade perpendicular on the handle).



Various tips

Don't use too many types of vegetables at once. Focus on making the vegetables and the meat taste as good as possible.

If you use canned food, like beans, you should throw away the liquid because the liquid contains (more) microparticles from the material of the can (either metal or plastic); this doesn't apply to glass jars. If possible, rinse the food with water; put such food last in the pan, else the remaining water and the oil with sizzle strongly.

When you add seasoning to the food which is in a hot pan or pot, you expose the spoon with seasoning (or the seasoning itself) to hot water vapors, and if you reuse that spoon to get more seasoning from a seasoning jar, that jar will get wet inside. So, before you put the seasoning on the food, gather it all elsewhere, like in a small cup.

In pans that have a non-stick coating, use silicone tools (not stainless-steel tools because they can scratch the non-stick layer). Food fragments stick to plastic / nylon, but not to silicone, when used in pans with sizzling oil. Silicone is also more resilient than plastic / nylon.

Seasoning to try: salt, lime / lemon juice, Herbes de Provence, peppercorn (powder), (granulated) garlic, coriander, ginger (powder), dill, parsley, dry mint, cinnamon, chili. Mint works with spicy foods too. The smell of fresh mint is too strong for most food. Put all seasoning in a small cup, and mix it.

Be careful with store bought seasoning. For example, most powder seasoning contain around 50% salt. Why? Because similar seasoning but without the salt is twice the price. The problem is that the salt makes it impossible to adjust the flavor with more seasoning, since the amount of salt is proportionally increased. Also, make sure they don't contain food additives and preservatives because they are not required and don't improve anything for you.

Dry seasoning, like the store bought ones, have a less intense smell than fresh seasoning.



What to eat

For best results, the calories that you eat should come from fats (50...70%, mostly polyunsaturated fats from fish and monounsaturated fats from plants), proteins (10...25%) and carbohydrates (under 25%).

For example, wheat bread is half made of carbohydrates, so 100 grams (3.5 oz) of bread contain 50 grams (1.8 oz) of carbohydrates, which has 200 kilocalories, which makes 10% from the 2'000 kilocalories daily dose recommended for an average adult.

Keep in mind that there is variation in the amount of carbohydrates that a specific type of food contains. Check the labels.

Once you regularly eat a low carbohydrate diet, going back to a high carbohydrate diet, even for a single meal, may possibly cause immediate problems, like headaches, possibly because the body is confused about where to get the energy from: fats or carbohydrates.

Aside from cooked food, take into consideration the foods below.



Fats

Oil should be obtained through cold pressing, stored in dark glass recipients and never heated.

In order to maintain its health enhancing effect, oil must not be affected by high heat, that is, by cooking, especially if it contains polyunsaturated fats.

Polyunsaturated fats get easily oxidized, especially when heated, so most vegetal oils are a potential health issue. They usually oxidize and expire in a few weeks or months after extraction.

Fats / oil digestion doesn't produce gas.

Virgin olive oil appears to improve cardiovascular health. The healthy effect is not due to the monounsaturated fats because when these came from other sources, no such effect was seen. Olive oil is naturally bitter. Olive oil can create a slightly burning sensation in the throat.



Proteins

Proteins, in a large amount, are essential to people.

Be aware that "proteins" is a generic word which encompasses any combination of aminoacids, but the body needs a specific combination of aminoacids which are essential for it, and meat provides a better balance among the essential aminoacids, than vegetables do.



Hemp seeds

If you want to avoid eating meat, you need a source of balanced proteins, with aminoacids in the ratio that people need.

Hemp is a vegetal source of essential aminoacids, that rivals meat in balance; hemp seeds lack the known hallucinogenic component of hemp.

Hemp seeds composition, per 100 grams (3.5 oz): 660 kilocalories, 34% proteins, 37% polyunsaturated fats, 6% monounsaturated fats, 5% saturated fats, 3% carbohydrates, 6% fiber. Fatty acids: 8% omega-3, 29% omega-6, 6% omega-9.

The high heat used in cooking oxidizes the omega fatty acids (from hemp), which should be avoided.

Hemp seeds taste a bit like sunflower seeds, whereas hemp powder (made by the same manufacturer) tastes more like dirt.

A hemp protein shake can be made with a thick fluid like yogurt or tomato juice (mind the salt). The seeds sink in thin fluids, like water.



Mercury in fish

Generally, the smaller the fish is, the less mercury it contains.

Fish which is low in mercury (starting with the lowest): sardines, salmon, trout (not saltwater), herring, cod, light or skipjack tuna.

This research indicates the maximum amount of fish that can be eaten daily with beneficial or neutral effects in children of 1.5 years old (the older a person is, the less sensitive to mercury he / she is, although the difference is not high enough to be ignored):

  • For fish very low in mercury (like sardines, salmon): a very large amount, even over 3000 grams (100 oz).

  • For fish low in mercury (like herring): 1200 grams (42 oz).

  • For fish medium in mercury (like light or skipjack tuna): 500 grams (17 oz).

  • For fish high in mercury (like yellowfin or albacore tuna): 150 grams (5.3 oz).



Non-cooked dishes

Canned fish (100...200 g / 3.5...7 oz, preferably in olive oil) and a large fresh pepper (red ones have a sweetness which balances the dish). You can also add cheese, vegetable mixes, olive oil. This dish is high in balanced proteins (with aminoacids in the ratio that people need), has a high calorie density (for the food volume), prioritizes proteins and fats over carbohydrates, has enough vegetables, needs little preparation time (except when you remove the skin from the fish, which I do), needs no cooking time, needs little cleaning time, and is tasty. Note that this is likely to be high in salt (due to the canning).



Snacks

Bread with cheese, fresh pepper, fresh tomatoes. You can also dip the bread in extra virgin olive oil; toast prevents oil absorption. 50 grams (1.8 oz) of bread are enough to absorb 50 ml (1.7 floz) of oil, bite by bite. Oil has twice the amount of calories that proteins and carbohydrates have, so be careful; it's 820 kilocalories per 100 ml. Oil needs about 30 minutes to reach its full satiating effect.

Macadamia nuts and peeled almonds, uncooked and unsalted. If the almonds are peeled, the amount of carbohydrates and fiber they have is reduced, which is a good thing. Macadamia nuts have no skin to peel off.

Processed meats, like ham and salami, which contain about 20% proteins, should be limited to maximum 50 g (1.8 oz) per day, due to the preservatives they contain.



Tea

The modern life style makes people want to eat even though the body doesn't need more calories. This is affecting particularly people who sit at a desk and have the opportunity to put all sorts of snacks on the desk and eat them throughout the day. Through experimentation, I've found that, for me, drinking warm chamomile tea reduces the need to eat too much. The hydration is also better than with plain water, that is, the water stays in the body longer. Several times a day, I make a cup with 400 ml (13.5 fl) tea made with dry chamomile tea bags, and add nothing to it.



Websites

USDA food list = The reference of food composition from the United States Department of Agriculture.

USDA doses = Webapp for daily recommended doses for essential nutrients.

NIH doses = Daily recommended doses for essential nutrients.

MyDr = Calculator for calories burned during various types of physical activity.







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