Thursday, April 21, 2011

Dr. Neal Barnard Comes to Cleveland, Part II and a Chef A.j. Inspired Quinoa Salad

Here I am at work today, enjoying my variation on Chef A.j.'s Quinoa Salad with Pistachios and Currants, for BREAKFAST. Not my usual fare, but sometimes I just can't eat the same green smoothie again.

I'm still thinking about some of the things I learned at Dr. Barnard's lecture on Tuesday evening.  Here are a few more of the highlights:

1) Even non vegans should be taking a B12 supplement, especially after age 50. There just isn't enough of it in any food for anyone to get enough of it, whether they eat cow or not.

2) Why a low fat diet works so well for weight loss. There are two components to the lean vegan effect. First, because a low fat vegan diet is so high in fiber (plant roughage, fruit and beans), your appetite never gets out of control and you are so much less likely to overeat, a.k.a. "Volumetrics." I have found this to be miraculously true. And second, the thermic effect of food is at work. Also termed "the after meal calorie burn," the following is an explanation of this mechanism:

"Contrary to many popular diet books, Dr. Barnard says: 'Insulin is your best friend when it is working properly.' What�s more, 'Carbohydrates are not the enemy,' says Dr. Barnard. 'They are, in fact, our natural energy source.' Insulin, made by a gene on chromosome 11, can stimulate calorie burn. The problem is it can also shut down fat burn. The trick of is finding a proper balance between the two functions. Again, according to Dr. Barnard, the key is the type of food you eat.

The job of insulin is to push the proteins and sugars we eat into our cells to build body parts and provide fuel (glycogen) for our movements. 'Insulin travels to your muscles, liver, and fat tissues, where it pushes proteins and sugars into your cells,' says Dr. Barnard. 'As it does so, it temporarily shuts down your fat burning machinery,' he adds. That makes sense, of course, because there�s no need to burn fat when food is being pushed into the cells.

Happily, the building process inside the cells speeds up the metabolism and burns calories. '[It�s] is a big job, causing your cells to actually release calories in the form of heat,' says Dr. Barnard. This after-meal metabolism boost is called the thermic effect of food (TEF). 'It�s a nice way to burn calories,' says Barnard. 'All you do is eat, and your body does the rest. These calories are gone forever � they never even get a chance to turn into fat.'

The foods with the biggest TEF are those containing plenty of complex carbohydrates or a mixture of carbs and protein. 'For example, broccoli and other vegetables are about 50 percent complex carbs and 40 percent protein, a mix for a good burn,' says Dr. Barnard. 'On the other hand, butter, chicken grease, and [egg yoke] are just fat, and deliver a much poorer burn.' Again, plant foods win out over animal foods.

Under normal circumstances, the interruption in fat burning is brief. A problem arises if you become flabby and out of shape, however, because your insulin doesn�t work as well. The extra fat on your body requires more insulin and your calorie-burning system becomes sluggish. 'The body produces more and more insulin, and it shuts off fat burning more effectively than it should,' says Dr. Barnard.

You�re insulin also works overtime if you snack constantly. An endless stream of junk food never gives your insulin a chance to rest. 'If you have a constant supply of snacks, your body has no need to use its fat, and insulin keeps your fat-burning processes slower than they would normally be,' Dr. Barnard writes.

A lack of fiber is also a problem. 'Normally, fiber � plant roughage � helps keep insulin levels in check by slowing the release of sugars from the food you eat,' Dr. Barnard counsels.

To keep your after-meal calorie burn up and minimize fat-burn stoppage Dr. Barnard suggests a diet high in healthy carbohydrates and fiber, and low in fat."

3) It's never too late to undo the damage done by years of poor eating. Have you ever cut your finger? Did it heal? Of course it did! The same goes for your internal parts . . .the human body will heal if given a chance!

Dr. Barnard would love this quinoa salad that I'm eating as I type this. I threw it together last night and didn't have all of the ingredients that Chef A.j. called for, but it was outstanding nonetheless!

Simple Quinoa Salad with Currants and Pistachios
based on a recipe from Unprocessed by Chef A.j.

8 cups cooked quinoa
3/4 cup fresh lemon juice (the juice of 3 lemons)
3/4 cup pistachios
1 cup currants
1 cup finely chopped parsley
salt and pepper to taste

Combine ingredients in a large bowl and toss. Enjoy!


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