Why the General Public is Orthorexic

Table of Contents
Intro
Analysis of Definition #1
Analysis of Definition #2
Analysis of Definition #3
Analysis of Definition #4
Morale of the story
Important disclaimer
Do we really have to choose either Health or Pleasure?


In my reading and interacting online, I’ve come across different uses of the word “orthorexia”. Some people, like the person who coined this word, strictly reserve it to cases where the person got physically sick from it. Others are happy to throw the word “orthorexia” at anyone who seems to be interested in eating in a healthy way, usually healthier than themselves.

The first time I came across this word it was from someone promoting a very obsolete (health-damaging) dietary lifestyle. When I confronted him, he explained that he should be thanked for working hard to ease people into developing a healthy relationship to food and fight off “orthorexia”. Basically, he was trying to reassure people that are curious about how to eat healthfully, and/or people whom feel bad for genuine excesses of junk foods. His advice was down the line of “a little bit of everything”, “moderation” etc., in short, stuff which we know gives the population a little bit of every cancer, and give otherwise preventable cardiovascular disease to a moderately huge portion of the population.

So I looked at the definition of “orthorexia” and something very interesting happened!

I wasn’t interpreting the definition with the common biases of someone who eats carelessly and judges from there. I read the definition from the standpoint of someone who understands rather extensively and on evidence-based grounds, that what most people eat, makes most of the sickness.

Suddenly, and I must say ironically, orthorexia explained very well why the general public eats its ways to disease and death, in massive numbers and with appalling predictability. By general public I mean most people, of most countries.

denial_610

I called it “orthorexia nervosa populi”  for orthorexia of the people, or “orthorexia nervosa vulgaris”  for Common Orthorexia.

Let’s a take a few definitions from Wikipedia’s article on Orthorexia nervosa, and demonstrate the mechanism. Virtually any definition works.

Analysis of definition #1 – Bratman’s original definition

“dietary restrictions intended to promote health may paradoxically lead to unhealthy consequences, such as social isolation, anxiety, loss of ability to eat in a natural, intuitive manner, reduced interest in the full range of other healthy human activities, and, in rare cases, severe malnutrition or even death.”

Let’s analyse all this.

“dietary restrictions”
People representing the general public’s way of eating are restricting their diet from a wide variety of unprocessed whole plant and mushroom foods.

“intended to promote health”
Based on popular nutritional illiteracy, a (low-fat, whole-food) plant-based diet is commonly viewed as unhealthy and extreme.
The general public avoid eating in what is perceived as “extreme” or “unhealthy” ways, and instead holds beliefs such as:

  • “some oils are health-healthy”,
  • “meat is good because you need protein”,
  • “milk is good for bones”,
  • “fish is good for omega-3s needed by the brain”,
  • “what doesn’t kill you makes you stronger”
  • yin/yang or heating/cooling balance, alkaline/acid balance between health-promoting and health-damaging foods and habits, etc.

Additionally, and beyond physical health, the average eater follows whatever food is pleasurable based on familiarity, which is heavily influenced by culture and the food habits parents have passed on during upbringing. There is a sense of psychological health in the pleasure and satisfaction derived from eating foods we grew used to, unfortunately most often foods with a very relevant negative impact on health.

In short, for most people, pleasure is the new health, and it’s often assumed pleasure can only come from the foods one is already used to, and mistakenly assumed this cannot change.

“may paradoxically lead to unhealthy consequences”
Look at the rates of cancer and heart disease in essentially (low-fat, whole-food) plant-based rural China in the 1980s, and look in your own country.

“such as social isolation”
A majority of people, in a growing number of countries eating a Western-type diet, will unfortunately suffer for decades from cardiovascular disease and/or cancers. These are mostly preventable and largely caused/promoted/worsened by a poor  dietary lifestyle centred on animal and processed foods. Ask someone getting their chest open or undergoing chemotherapy if they don’t feel isolated. Sadly, most cultural or “convenience” diets leads to much isolation.

“anxiety”
There are different ways by which eating “a relaxed, unrestricted diet” causes anxiety: the short-term, the sickness and the guilt.
Some junk foods are known to change the mood and raise anxiety. Few people are aware how sugar or animal protein increases stress levels. That in the short-term.
Disease and illness are also very anxiogenic, especially when people can no longer do simple things they used to, life is threatened, drugs are ineffective and cause undesirable effects.
Anxiety is also what I often observe when I talk to people about healthy eating. Without even doing that, just observe the inner struggles of people that don’t “restrict” anything, and yet are filled with guilt because they know better.
A lifetime of poor choices we’re well-aware of, is a lifetime of anxiety and guilt, and that’s before people even get seriously sick. It gets worse then.

“loss of ability to eat in a natural, intuitive manner
Well, that’s done long ago, find me other apes that naturally and intuitively eat white bread, French fries, ice-cream, or pizza covered in cheese.
There is nothing natural about what most people eat today. There is nothing intuitive in spending a life of eating foods that we don’t digest well, make us regularly sick and result in life-threatening illness. There is nothing intuitive in continuing to eat “like everyone” when we know too well what kills everyone.

“reduced interest in the full range of other healthy human activities”
People who care little about something as central to health as food can be expected to have a reduced interest about not smoking, minimizing drinking, exercising, taking part in constructive social activities…

“and, in rare cases, severe malnutrition or even death.”
This regrettably not rare. The general public, which consumes a processed and carnist diet (containing foods of animal origin) does routinely suffer malnutrition, does routinely intoxicate itself with food, does routinely suffer the subsequent diseases, and the death caused by the diseases. This is not rare at all.
I urge you to consult the public websites with the disease and mortality statistics of your country. They’re made very accessible to the general public nowadays, it’s most often very easy to read.

Analysis of definition number #2 – Ursula Philpot’s definition as former chair of British Dietetic Association

“solely concerned with the quality of the food they put in their bodies, refining and restricting their diets according to their personal understanding of which foods are truly ‘pure’.”

“solely concerned with the quality of the food they put in their bodies”
Most people who have a so-called “relaxed and healthy relationship” to food are solely concerned the pleasure-giving quality of their food.

“refining and restricting their diets according to their personal understanding of which foods are truly ‘pure’.”
“refining”: yes, in all its meanings, including literal meaning of “refining”: refined processed foods.
“and restricting their diets”: from a wide variety of unprocessed whole plant and mushroom foods, which are naturally nutrient-dense and fiber-rich.
“according to their personal understanding of which foods are truly ‘pure'”: “pure” in the understanding of the general public can be:
• what’s pure pleasure, typically the health-damaging “foods” high in animal products, fat, sugar and salt.
pure can mean traditional, authentic, cultural, but health-damaging foods
• what feels homey, those irresistible family recipes that are emotionally rooted yet are tremendously unhealthy
• local and organic animal products, for instance bought from the local butcher who might also be a friend or relative, or dairy and eggs from our very local friend who owns a cow or chickens which you might have seen yourself “happy” in the open air and pastures…all of which, regardless, still cause the same high rates of damage to heath, disease, and death, because you can’t escape the biology of it.

Analysis of definition #3 – Bratman’s reconsidered definition

“In 2015, responding to news articles in which the term orthorexia is applied to people who merely follow a non-mainstream theory of healthy eating, Bratman specified the following: “A theory may be conventional or unconventional, extreme or lax, sensible or totally wacky, but, regardless of the details, followers of the theory do not necessarily have orthorexia. They are simply adherents of a dietary theory. The term ‘orthorexia’ only applies when an eating disorder develops around that theory.”[7] “

So based on Bratman’s statement, the general public does not necessarily have anorexia, even if it follows the conventional theory, lax and wacky, according to which neither of these is harmful: moderation, carnism, “eating a bit of everything”, and “not depriving oneself of any particular food”.

He goes on:

‘Bratman elsewhere clarifies that with a few exceptions, most common theories of healthy eating are followed safely by the majority of their adherents; however, “for some people, going down the path of a restrictive diet in search of health may escalate into dietary perfectionism.”

“with a few exceptions, most common theories of healthy eating are followed safely by the majority of their adherents;”
Some are not theories, but abundantly evidence-based: such as low-fat whole-food plant-based.
In contrast, the mainstream theories (i.e. dietary carnism) and approach to food is surely followed by everyone and is not safe at all. Look at the statistics, compare to plant-based rural Africa half a century ago (or in anywhere today that still eats that way if you find).
All that disease need not exist.

“for some people, going down the path of a restrictive diet in search of health may escalate into dietary perfectionism.”
For many people, going down the path of restricting oneself from unprocessed plant and mushrooms food in search of the pleasure kind of health, does routinely escalate into dietary perfectionism: one that rejects systematically anything that doesn’t have animal products, lots of fat, sugar or salt.

Analysis of definition #4 –  (U.S.) National Eating Disorders Association

“Eventually food choices become so restrictive, in both variety and calories, that health suffers – an ironic twist for a person so completely dedicated to healthy eating.”

“Eventually food choices become so restrictive, in both variety and calories, that health suffers”
In orthorexia nervosa populi, the general public’s food is highly restrictive to almost only to processed foods high in fat, sugar and salt along with animal products. It is restricted in terms of calories as it doesn’t allow many low-calorie foods, if any at all. As a result, health suffers, people get obesity, diabetes, hypertension, cardiovascular disease,  high rates of cancer and so on.

“an ironic twist for a person so completely dedicated to healthy eating.”
An ironic twist for a person so completely dedicated to a life that’s healthy through pleasure.
So much for “having a relaxed and healthy relationship with food”.

Morale of the story

I’ll stop at four definitions, I think you get the point by now.

I could go with virtually any definition of orthorexia nervosa, to easily demonstrate that the general public itself is the leading community that most literally suffers orthorexia nervosa.
The only differences with the conventional interpretation are:

  1. mistaken beliefs on the benefit of harmful foods on physical health
  2. the benchmark for foods that are “healthy” in orthorexia nervosa populi are foods that are “psychologically” healthy through pleasure.

As for the harmful effects on heath, we observe both physical and psychological, and as far as the psychological aspect is concerned, the spectrum of is large:

  • it starts with guilt,
  • turns into anxiety and depression from sickness and disease and
  • can also take the form of neuro-degenerative diseases like far higher rates of Alzeimer’s disease in junk-food-reliant countries.

Important disclaimer:

This article is not to minimize the serious health issues that some people experience by following trends (like Atkins, Paleo, etc…) which are neither rooted in clinical scientific evidence, nor based on any reasonable and coherent considerations.

This is not to take the defence of the many people who get at the doorstep of ways of eating proven to be healthy (ex: plant-based diets) but implement it completely wrongly, for instance :  not introducing enough food diversity, not taking B12, or eating an overly processed version of it and as a result get predictably sick. A good example is a great portion of “ex-vegans” whom often blame the diet instead of questioning their own implementation of it or an unexplored health issue (like, among others, menstrual/intestinal bleeding so important that even the generous amount of iron in a healthy plant-based diet can’t make up for it).

This is not to minimize the gravity of the issue of people seeking physical health and hurting themselves by doing it wrongly, or as a means of self-harm, typically for those who had started the dietary journey loaded with personal issues.

In short, this article is not ammunition for people who genuinely qualify to the conventional definition to retaliate back when they have demonstrably eaten their way to illness. Yes, these people exist and they are relatively very few.

What I am doing here is showing the other side of the big finger pointing at “conventional” orthorexia. There we find many more people making themselves sick, in fact virtually everyone. Almost every person has an obsession for foods that maintain psychological well-being through the pleasure we get from eating junk foods. This attitude is shielded by dogmatic theories (now fallacies) on omnivorism. At the scale of the general population, this attitude leads most systematically to serious nutrient restrictions, chronic food intoxication, and routinely to premature, preventible death.

When a cancer is clinically declared, or a heart disease threatens someone’s life, the illness cares very little whether the person got sick by prioritizing the carefreeness sort of health over physical health (Orthorexia Nervosa Populi), or by seeking physical healthy and getting it wrong (conventional Orthorexia Nervosa). A metastatic cancer cares little whether a fancy name was given to our poor behaviour, or not. It cares little if we were on the side of majority, or breaking out from it trying to eat sanely, or to compensate for personal issues.

Bottom line, all these attitudes have in common: nutritional illiteracy.
Nutritional illiteracy is best achieved by not wanting to know, by thinking we know, or by being confident we know but knowing the wrong things.

The good news is: You are not doomed.

Do we really have to choose between healthy food and pleasure?

I am living proof that no, far from it!
At this time, the best evidence over more than half a century of science and clinical trials, clearly points the healthiest way of eating as being : high-carb, low-fat, whole-food, plant-based nutrition, with no oil, flavour from food instead of salt and sweetness from sweet whole foods instead of from the many extracted sugars out there.

If you want to find out more, watch and listen to: Dr. T. Colin Campbell, Dr. Esselstyn and Dr. McDougall.
That is the science.

As for what it’s like to eat that way: It is the sweet spot that combines pleasure, carefreeness, and health, with no compromise. But to fully understand that, you can’t just use your fear-fed imagination, speculate, or throw a snap judgement and call it “extreme”…To really know you need to do your homework first. If that looks convincing and serious enough, then steer your way out of popular death foods and the theories that try to make sense of then without proving a benefit similar to what low-fat plants, whole-foods, plants and mushrooms have to offer.
The destination is only what we’re all supposed to eat. It’s normal if at first it looks very far, or extreme. What’s actually extreme is how far away each one of us is from eating foods that do what they’re supposed to do: not kill us, taste wonderful, and support our health.

Food for thought…

Related article:
Whole foods FAQ – Why whole-food plant-based? Why no oil, no salt or no sugar?
“Is this a whole food?” – A Guide to Whole-Food Alternatives to Common Processed Foods

Recipes (WFPB, no-SOS)

Thinking Outside the Oil Bottle – Can you solve this puzzle?

It’s almost fascinating how much science and time can be wasted on looking for and perfecting the right way to do the wrong thing. Fascinating…in a concerning way!

At the present time, the debates on (dietary) oil are only one of many such blindfolded colossal efforts to paint the “fine and complex” intricate science of a predictably unhelpful dead-end.

Popular belief and various media regularly bring up the discussions around “Which is oil/fat best for cooking?”, “Which is oil/fat best for salads?” or “Which oil/fat is best for health?”.  How many people take a step back and ask Hold on guys, first of all, do we need added oil any added fats at all?!

I’ve talked about why oil and high-fat are serious health hazards and not compatible with health. For those who understood the “why?” part, I also covered the “how?” part by explaining how we live without oil and high-fat foods.

Today, I want to poke your brains with a…graphic riddle. Mystery is sexy! Are you ready baby? Yes, I just called you baby. Confused? I know. But fear not, you will peel off one by one every layer of this mystery, the truth will be…naked! Ooooh it’s going to be…graphic! Brace yourself, it’s going to get really hot and heavy or perhaps not so heavy at all. In all cases, I hope it stimulates you, and together we can come to the conclusion that oil…is the just the dirty way of doing it, and that if you know what you’re doing and you’re doing it well…you don’t need that stuff.

Alright, more seriously now.

Are you good at solving puzzles? Yes? Then let’s play a game.
It’s a simple puzzle to solve, you can leave your interpretation in the comments if you think you found.

Clue #1: Below is a popular graph compiled by Lifehacker to master the art of using oils [1].

Clue #2: Below that infographic, I just snapped a photo of the front of our very standard (electric) oven at home.

Question: What does that inspire you? (Post in comments)

lifehacker oils fats_610

The various ways of joining the Stroke & Heart Attack club.

oven baking temperatures

Our very basic and standard electric oven.

Think outside the oil box, true “life” hacking starts with caring to preserve and protect life, first and foremost 🙂

Think you found the meaning of this juxtaposition of pictures? => Post in comments.

The debate that wonders “Which oil is the healthiest?” is really is about the same as arguing “Which form of heroin is the healthiest?”. What would be your reaction if there was a debate taken very seriously, and if both your friends and so-called world leading experts on health said “Black-tar heroin is the healthiest choice, because it is the richest in antioxidants. It’s healthiest to not re-use needles”.

Insane?

I know. Talking about “oil for health” is just as insane.

Have you already figured out ways to be happy in your life without heroin? Excellent! Now I’m hoping you solved the above puzzle. If you did, then you have also figured out how to get similar cooking results without cooking oils. A life with a warranty of being heart-attack-proof and stroke-proof is just around the corner for you.

Sources:
[1] The Best Temperatures and Uses for Common Cooking Oils, LifeHacker.com, March 2nd, 2014

“Is this a whole food?” – A Guide to Whole-Food Alternatives to Common Processed Foods

If you are still wondering why on Earth it matters that foods should be whole foods, look into Whole foods FAQ. That article addresses the “Why?” part of the question. Why whole-foods? Why not processed foods? Why low-fat? Why no oil? Why no salt? Why no sugar? Basically explaining why there is a problem.

What about the solution?
Well, the present article is the “What?” part of question. What is a whole food? What is not? What to buy instead? What to do instead?


~ WHOLE-FOOD MENU ~

whole or not

INTRODUCTION
OILS/ADDED FATS
ALTERNATIVES TO OIL / ADDED FAT / HIGH-FAT FOODS
SWEETNESS AND SUGAR
ALTERNATIVES TO SUGAR TO SWEETEN FOOD
SALT
ALTERNATIVES TO SALT
RICE
LEGUMES, PULSES, BEANS, AND PEAS
PASTA
BREADS
DRESSINGS
LEAVENING / RISING DOUGHS / BAKING NEEDS
PICKLES, FERMENTED AND PRESERVED PLANT FOODS
HOW TO DO WHEN EATING OUT?
Do we really need restaurants and take-aways to “eat out”?
Restaurants, take-aways, cafés, and other food venues
COMMENTS? SUGGESTIONS?


INTRODUCTION

There are two ways I know to explain which foods are whole food, which are not, which are acceptable health-wise and which are not. Different people learn in different ways. Some prefer to learn by concepts, some prefer by examples.

If you learn with concepts, what to chose is easy, neat and concise:

“Eat nothing else but low-fat whole plant foods.
If it’s not entirely made of plants, don’t have it.
If it doesn’t look like a plant, make sure the low-fat whole plant food was used and nothing was discarded, nutritionally damaged, extracted nor added that is not a low-fat whole food plant itself.”

That’s it, done. I always prefer positive wording. Simple powerful concepts like this work really well for me. The whole-food concept is a like an alphabet. Once you get the new concept right, the pantry and fridge look more like it, and you then build upwards from that and can’t possibly go wrong. That approach can’t possibly be mistaken for something restrictive. There’s no right way to eat the wrong foods when it comes to health, so drop meals and products that contain processed foods altogether, don’t try to fix processed foods. That strange planet of delicious disease is already obsolete. Just focus on building a *whole* new edifice, that of delicious health, with solid whole-foods foundations.

Now, if you learn best through examples, it’s a bit different. There’s no other way for this than go through a “good/not good” list which may look like a long prohibitive list. But what is really prohibitive? Could it be the insane extent of our reliance on processed foods that is prohibitive to our health? Reading this, chances are that you leave animals alone and off the plate. So imagine making a list of all animal foods people should replace or stop having? It will inevitably be a long list, and will inevitably seem restrictive to some. But you would know better, you would know the reality of it from experience. You would know, that there is no restriction/prohibition when you actually eat far more nutrients, add more years to your life and more life to your years. You would know, it’s not about cutting/eliminating foods (or rather non-foods), it’s fundamentally about having the right foods and nothing else.

Particularly nowadays, and particularly in certain foods cultures, listing all the processed foods we should be weaning from or replacing to eat the right foods can be quite a mouthful!
But I braced myself today to put it all down so it can go to help whoever wants to go whole-food; starting from where many people are (processed foods from supermarkets, restaurants, cafés, take-aways) and moving to food compatible with health that you prepare yourself from whole plants.

Finally, I must insist on two points:

  • Of all processed foods or non-foods below, oil, salt, and sugar will be of particular concern due the particular health concern with these. Please do not use them and consider instead the easy alternatives offered below.
  • Every transition in life can take time to be operated painlessly and sustainably. This list should not scare you. It took us about a year from quitting sugar to being almost 100% whole-foods with no oil, salt, or sugar. With the advice below we could have done that much faster! If you can operate all these changes cold-tofu, do it, you have all the tools now! If you need time, do them one step at a time, just keep challenging yourself until you reach the destination. Pain should not be part of this journey. Do observe priorities: Start first with eliminating oil and high-fat foods. Meanwhile, reduce down to zero your use of sugar and salt gradually enough so it’s not a pain. Meanwhile also, replace the non-whole foods by whole foods. Start with those you eat most, what is it for you? pasta? bread? and rice? Then expand to other things. Expanding your whole-food repertoire can also be done adding whole foods you never had before. We’re learning for example how to prepare whole grain groats as a staple, or legumes. It’s not a very Anglo-saxon thing to do but if other cultures figured it out, and it’s whole foods, that’s more options for you!

OILS/ADDED FATS

In short: no oil *at all*, nothing that is high-fat. What does that mean? For an adult who is 100% oil-free low-fat whole-food nutrition (already a big pre-requisite) : no more than 1~2 tablespoons daily total of any combination of nuts/seeds/avocado. Coconut best avoided. Absolutely zero of all of these of recovering from cardiovascular disease.

Oils and fats are found naturally in all low-fat whole plant foods in sufficient amounts. By energy: kale: 12% (of calories are from fat); brown rice: 6%; potatoes : 1%, etc. Given enough diversity in a low-fat whole-food plant diet, *all* our fat nutritional needs are met, including omega-3. Yes, from just plants only. The addition of fat whether extracted from whole foods (i.e. oil) or even high-fat from whole foods (i.e. nuts and avocado) in large amounts  is not just unnecessary, but majorly harmful. It contributes greatly to cardiovascular and metabolic disease; ending in heart attacks, strokes, diabetes, higher incidence of cancer, and of a number of degenerative diseases. In short, the unforgiving price to pay for our by-default under-informed, over-optimistic illusion of “moderation”.


Not whole foods, because all oils are extracts, or TO NOT EAT:

Everything that is called “oil” when you buying it from a supermarket, an online store,  “health” store, organic shop, or even if you press it yourself from your uncle’s fair-trade organic locally-grown olives. It doesn’t matter. Do not have any oil, whether it’s:

  • Cold-pressed oils
  • Extra virgin oils
  • Extra virgin cold-pressed oils
  • Organic oils
  • High-end oils
  • High-quality oils
  • Vegetable oils
  • Coconut oils
  • Olive oil
  • <plant> oil
  • Minimally-processed oil
  • coconut cream
  • coconut milk
  • grated coconut
  • all chocolate (=> cocoa powder although not technically a whole food, is a high-fiber less-high-fat food, a far more acceptable alternative to chocolate if you’re going to use chocolate)

If you are recovering from any cardiovascular disease (from impotence all the way to  surviving a stroke or heart attack) the above was the #1 (plant) things you must start having  an absolute zero amount of, besides of course ditching absolutely everything of animal origin.


Whole foods, but use at most in very low amounts*:

* Very low amounts = ~1 teaspoon per person per meal, maximum. Absolute zero if recovering from cardiovascular disease.

  • nuts and seeds
  • cocoa beans
  • avocado

Whole foods, but best avoided or kept for occasional use*

* Occasional use = 1 tablespoon per person once a month at most maybe. Absolute zero if recovering from cardiovascular disease.

  • coconut flesh from fresh coconut (even then still among the worst possible whole-food fat there is, almost entirely saturated fat). At home we cut one yearly and freeze it for the whole year. That’s becoming how much coconut we have yearly for two people. Amazing taste, but not worth it as a staple.

ALTERNATIVES TO OIL / ADDED FAT / HIGH-FAT FOODS

Just skip the oil. Below is how to do that for common instances where most people use oil. I know it’s hard at first to think it’s even possible to prepare food without oil. But, trust me, let go of being anxious around this, everything below is based on 6 months of kitchen experience of home-cooking without any oil at all.

How to replace oil to heat up spices
If you need to develop the aroma of certain seeds like is done in Indian cooking, just dry roast on less-than-medium heat for a few minutes while stirring, then add wet foods (like chopped onions/garlic) first, then ground spices.

How to replace oils for stir-fries and caramelizing onions/garlic:

There are a few alternative options to oil-frying:

  • Water-frying on high heat with just enough water so it won’t stick nor burn. Add ground spices if needed only after the onions/garlic have softened and become transparent.
  • OR: Chop onions and garlic very finely and stir on less-than-medium heat in a pan on its own (no added water). Because it is chopped finely it will cook at similar temperatures as with oil, without burning because finely-cut onions/garlic give off their own water.
  • OR: If stir-frying or frying is important to give a certain taste to food: consider baking instead. It works for French fries, potato wedges, garlic, bell-pepper etc. If you ever find that it makes the foods too dry, then bake a combination of dry/hard foods along with moist/wet foods. You will end up with nice glossy foods that look and feel exactly as if they were stir-fried.

These may not always give exactly the same result as with oil of course, but close enough that  people will not even notice you changed something.

How to replace oil/added fat in baking:

Don’t be anxious, just skip the oil, it works in many cases for cakes, breads, etc.

In cakes and breads, oil serves the purpose of holding moisture, that can be done with prune paste. The amount of prune paste* is amount of oil needed divided by 3, there will not be a prune taste. Don’t worry your final food will not taste of prunes. Try for yourself, we did, as recommended in the China Study Cookbook.

*For Wellington, large bags of prunes can be found at reasonably low cost, in bulk, at Moore Wilsons. Store them in the freezer, and you’re good to go for ages.

Other ingredients help hold moisture as well: certain flours more than others, aquafaba, ground flaxseed, applesauce, and other whole-food vegan egg replacements. Also wet foods like applesauce, zucchini, beetroot, bananas, give great moisture-holding.

For dressings and dips:

See Section below “Dressings”.

To prevent sticking:

Use baking paper, non-stick pans, cast iron pans if you don’t like non-stick coatings, or even any regular stainless steel pot with lower heat.

SWEETNESS AND SUGAR

Most sugars even the “brown” ones are generally extracted saps from trees or flowers, roots or corn, etc. Them being brown or having some nutrients does not make thin either health promoting not whole-foods. They are of similar concern as white sugar.

The sugars naturally found and consumed in whole foods do not pose health problems.

Commercial sweeteners are absolutely not whole foods, they are not even foods. Do not use them.

Besides, some do pose health concerns (like stevia or aspartame) others are experimental (erythritol) and may well be the next aspartame or MSG scandal, a risk we don’t run with corn or dates natural sweetness. The only safe whole-food sweetener I know that is a powerful natural sweeteener called Luo Han Guo (more below)

Sweetening sources that are not whole foods – DO NOT USE

Anything that doesn’t look like a whole plant food, and with the word sugar, syrup, or molasses in it, to list only a few:

  • raw cane sugar (or Sucanat)
  • raw sugar
  • brown sugar
  • coconut sugar
  • palm sugar
  • blackstrap molasses
  • maple syrup
  • rice syrup
  • malt syrup

ALTERNATIVES TO SUGAR TO SWEETEN FOOD

The most powerful alternative to sugar is to let your taste buds have less sweet foods so that they can learn to become more sensitive to the natural sweet taste of food and beverages. That should allow you to enjoy beverages with no added sweetness of any kind, and to enjoy food at a lower sweetness level. This being said, there is nothing wrong with enjoying sweetness or sweet foods, as long as that comes from whole foods and not extracted sugars.
There are some very common whole-food sources of sweet flavour that you can use:

  • Apple sauce
  • Date paste
  • Date sugar, homemade only, when it’s made from dried pulverized dates = “date flour”, not the commercial “date sugar” which is often date-extracted sugar and therefore just as mertabolically hazardous as any other sugar.
  • Prune paste
  • Banana
  • Raisins, currants, sultanas and other dried fruits but read the ingredients: some come loaded with oil, sugar, preservatives which you can tell form the ingredients or the sodium content for preservatives.
  • Sweet potatoes like baked orange kumara
  • Jackfruit*
  • Sweet corn
  • Whole-food sweetener: Luo Han Guo*, found in the near tea in many Chinese Shops. Boiled in water it is a very potent natural sweetener with, a long history of usage and not a single known health concern to my best current knowledge after researching it. It might be pulverizable into a powder for use in cooking, baking etc.

* For NZ-Wellington: This can be found at Yan’s Supermarket off Webb Street, or in NZ Lower Hutt’s Davis Trading for Lo Han Guo, see tea section.

SALT

The issue with salt has little to do with whole-food or not. Salt is simply not a food, so the wholeness (process salt vs unprocessed sea salt) is secondary and does not matter at all. Added salt is used as a flavour enhancer, for people who have grown a habit for it and not yet weaned off.

Unfortunately it is the source of unnecessary stress/damage on cardiovascular health because it creates a state of hypertension to push the sodium out of the body.

Hypertension leads to serious health concerns, and is considered a cardiovascular disease, yet it is virtually entirely caused by eating a lot of salt or preserved/processed foods. The sodium naturally occuring in plants is more than we need.

There is no right way to eat the wrong foods so all the salts below are salts and should never be part of food:

DO NOT USE:

  • Himalayan pink salt
  • Sea salt
  • Kosher salt
  • Celtic salt
  • Guerande salt
  • black salt (also known as “kala namak”)
  • blue salt
  • soy sauce
  • or anything with the word “salt” in it or with outrageously high amounts/concentrations of salt or sodium in it.

If you buy partially processed products (like the jarred salt-free tomato paste we use off-season*) always read the ingredients and nutritional content. Sodium per 100g in  whole foods is rarely ever above a few dozens: 5 mg, 10mg, 20mg are numbers that shouldn’t worry you. Just make sure it’s mg (milligrams) not grams like I see sometimes. If you start seeing hundreds, something’s wrong, except for a tiny handful or expections that are naturally high-sodium inside them.

Be aware that salt and sodium also are virtually everywhere in processed foods, from canned foods to cookies, to even dried fruit! In restaurants you may order salt-free food but if they relied on processed foods like pasta, or sauces, etc, those also come generously loaded with sodium. As I said in introduction, do not waste your time trying to fix a broken system, build your own, without any of the otherwise inescapable nonsense.

ALTERNATIVES TO SALT

Quitting all salt, and processed foods, is the single best alternative to salt and sodium.
It can be done painlessly over 3 weeks to 3 months. After only 3 weeks most people start developing a dislike for salted foods and a preference for unsalted foods. Yes, your taste buds are magical, and you need to harness this power you already have.

Immortalizing the moment when we stopped using salt at home :)

Immortalizing the moment when we stopped using salt at home 🙂

What to do about flavour? Preparing food for people that are used to salt?

Simply use more of natural flavours!

We put more of the flavourful foods in our cooking: slightly more spices, more carrots, more celery, more onion, garlic, more whole-food sweetness to lift up the taste without salt, more sourness (from lemon or tamarind) or more whole-food sweetness from dates or other naturally sweet foods. If you hit the tongue right it won’t need a bang from salt, even the highly-demanding tongues and palates of people who have not yet weaned off salt.

People on low-sodium dietary lifestyles have used all sorts of spices instead of salt. They like to go by “salt alternatives” and “salt replacements”. I don’t like those phrasings because when you don’t need salt, you don’t need to replace salt.

I offer to transcend the idea of even replacing salt, and simply understanding that our tongue (and nose) is full of sensors for all sorts of things (for the tongue: sweetness, sourness, bitterness…) and your tongue likes a good whip to be happy. So whip up your tongue (wut-tish!) with everything you have that is an actual food, it will thank you for it.
When we quit salt, my first natural urge was to add sourness (lemon/lime) to everything, but that’s just me.
My tongue loves sour,  bitter, sweet but not too chilli-hot, I like pungent but not too garliquey. For my partner it’s completely different. My partner likes NOT sour, NOT bitter, NOT as sweet as I do. She likes VERY spicy, NOT pungent, but VERY garliquey. If food isn’t chili-hot, for her, it’s not food! For me it’s the same but with sour.
So each person’s tongue likes to be whiped its own way. Find your taste spot and give it what it needs!

How to do about salt-containing products? like canned chickpeas, dried fruits with high sodium, spice mixes, etc? Simple: dont’ use them. Find salt-free options if it’s trivial to find, or just save time and make your own.

If you have concerns about health:

  1. The sodium in whole plant foods is far more than sufficient to meet our body’s needs in sodium. Look around, how many land mammals and animals do you see walking around with salt shaker? Salt does not contribute to health.
  2. For iodine which is important, you don’t have to have get it from chronic hypertension (i.e. salt, iodized), just introduce unprocessed seaweeds *gradually* (for safety) and check their iodine content before using them. While you sort that out an iodine supplement is very encouraged. I wrote a guide to common New Zealand seaweeds you can forage, how to desalt them, and their iodine content.

RICE

Not whole-foods:

  • Any white rice, because it is “milled” = removing the nutrient-rich outer layer (rice bran), then polished after milling to make it look good again.

Whole-food alternatives to milled/polished white rice:

  • Brown rice
  • Red rice
  • Black rice
  • Brown Basmati rice
  • Brown Jasmine rice
  • Brown Thai rice

Note: There are different “whole” grades of the rices below. Some rices that look whole (with a bran on top) are actually partially milled (to remove bran partially) or partially polished. Producers undoubtedly derive extra profits from bran as a by-product, sold as animal feed, for rice bran oil, etc. Ideally you want a rice that is unmilled and unpolished. Visual examination might be enough, I’ll start paying attention and see if I notice differences.

LEGUMES, PULSES, BEANS, AND PEAS

Not whole foods:

  • Split peas
  • Split beans
  • Red lentils (they are what’s left when you remove the highly-nutritious brans)

Whole-food alternatives to split legumes:

  • The unsplit whole grains, i.e. your typical chickpeas or lentils or beans with their skin.

PASTA

Not whole-food:

  • Standard pasta. This is why:

Whole-food alternative to white pasta:

  • Wholemeal or whole grain pasta
  • Any pasta made at home from whole grains or whole grain semolina.

Note: Commercial use of the term “whole” can be abused in “wholemeal” pasta due to expectable partial amounts of whole semolina or recombined whole semolina made from refined semolina some extracted bran or fiber to give a whole “feel”.

BREADS

Not whole-food:

Most breads marketed as “whole meal” or “whole grain” use most often only a small amount of whole-meal flour 10% to 25% only typically. The rest is baker’s white flour, a highly- refined product. Besides whole-food aspects, baker’s flours or bread flours and the wheats they come from are generally under a lot of pressure to be high-protein, high-gluten, and have extremely specific characteristics all highly focused on one thing: to make their final processing standardized and idiot-proof. That requires both high selection of the wheat, and high processing, both of which make the job easy for bakers but has led to wheats that can nutritionally poor since nutrition never was the concern, unnecessarily high-protein, unnecessarily high-gluten, and which generally seem to cause more health issues than more traditional wheats, not specifically selected or refined for bread or bakers. Few people that are not bakers or cereal producers know this.

Commercial breads also come with high amounts of salt/sodium. About a gram of salt per 100g, and I know from personal experience it’s outstandingly easy to eat not just 100g of bread a day, but many hundred grams, which is utterly unnecessary hypertension on our blood vessels and the organs they supply.

Whole-food alternative to store-bought non whole-food breads:

I already wasted ample time looking for truly 100% whole and salt-free bread, let me save you some time. Like many quests to find healthy foods processed by industry, looking for a truly whole and salt-free bread in shops and bakeries was a quest for the Yeti, the Bigfoot, and the Unicorn combined. I would have made enough bread healthy bread for the year by actually not looking for one.

Solution? Make your own bread at home, with baker’s yeast or a sourdough culture, no salt, and if you want to flavour it maybe throw some fennel seeding in the dough. That’s what we’ve been doing.

If you are a breadoholic, invest 50~100$ into a kneading machine and visit op-shops for secondhand baking trays, rolling pins, whatever you may need.

We don’t often make bread anymore, maybe once or twice a month, about 2 kg, and it never lasts as long as we wish it did! At that pace, I actually love and very much enjoy the (minimal) kneading that is required. No machine or fancy equipment here. Home bread-making can be made very easy and very  time-efficient.

There are many recipes online to make bread from 100% whole flour from any grain or seeds that’s suitable to you.

DRESSINGS

Not wholefoods:

  • Pretty much all commercial dressings, primarily due to oil, sugar, salt and other refined ingredients.

Whole-food alternatives to dressings:

  • Find recipes for oil-free dressings, and remove salt, replace sugars by whole sweet foods, and high-fat foods by low-fat foods.
  • Create your own: Play with sweet whole foods (e.g. apples, raisins and dates), sour whole foods (like lemon or lime) and instead of fatty base like oil or cashews use a starchy base like blended and cooked pea, beans, or grains with enough water will make a nice and runny cream.

LEAVENING / RISING DOUGHS / BAKING NEEDS

Not whole-foods:

  • Baking powder (+ extra concern with sodium content as it is sodium bicarbonate)
  • Baking soda (+ extra concern with sodium content as it often contains sodium bicarbonate or other sodium salts)
  • Citric acid
  • Tartaric acid
  • Various essences, either natural or artificial flavours

Whole-food alternatives to baking needs:

  • Baking yeast
  • Sourdough cultures
  • Aromas: spices, spice-seeds (fennel, caraway, etc), herbs, real vanilla, grated lemon, dried fruit, orange peels, bananas, etc.

This will not rise instantly, the rising processes takes longer, but good news: you don’t have to sit and stare at breads and cakes leaven! Yeasts are shy and prefer making babies when no one is starring at them and desperately waiting for them to be done 😛 Set an alarm and go on about your life while it’s rising 🙂

PICKLES, FERMENTED AND PRESERVED PLANT FOODS

These are of particular concern to health not because of the whole-foods being pickled, but because of the ridiculous amounts of salt, oil, sugar and preservatives used to keep those.

I created a project group on Facebook especially for the purpose of pickling and fermenting foods without resorting to any salt, sugar or oil: sauerkraut, pickled lemon, etc.
Whole-food plant-based fermentation, no oil, no sugar, no salt

Salt-free purple cabbage sauerkraut culturing as I write

Salt-free purple cabbage sauerkraut culturing as I write

HOW TO DO WHEN EATING OUT?

It’s a very good question!
We all like to go out, have lunch and dinners with friends.
How do we do?

At this point of time, my partner and I eat about 90% of our meals from home-made food. It’s all low-fat, whole-food vegan, with no oil, no salt, no sugar.

We eat from restaurants and cafés about twice a week, that the 10%. The food we eat out is not always perfect, but we try, and it’s been worth trying so far, even if sometimes it’s a bit of a sport. Restaurants like all businesses care first and foremost about one thing, that is making profit. The health officer in that trade is you and you alone, so you get what you encourage and ask for. Restaurants follow what the people holding the money want, and these people need to express their needs.

Do we really need restaurants and take-aways to “eat out”?

Everything you didn’t make yourself from scratch using whole plant foods is eating out. If you got your act sorted out, that eating out remains the only possible source of unhealthy eating.
Before zooming on restaurants and take-ways, let’s talk about “eating out”.
First of all there are a number of reasons why people eat out. Convenience, hanging out with people, getting food inspiration, etc…A number of these needs can be met without having to go to a restaurant. Since it can be a bit of challenge getting truly healthy whole foods from restaurants, with the help of like-minded friends we have been federating a culture of healthy eating among our friends and communities. So we’re having more potlucks, more dinners and meals at each others house, etc. To some extent, so many restaurants could exist only on a base of lack of community bonds, lack of time spent in the kitchen, and lack of direct sharing in people’s life. This is easy to remedy: Share and make foods for yourself *and* your friends!

Picture-163_bis

That’s our growing whole-food gang, meeting for a lovely autumn picnic. We’re heading towards doing this at least twice a month.

There is also nothing wrong with bringing your own food to work, going to the company/school canteen with your boxes, and sitting at your friends table with your own food. The spotlight won’t be on you too long if you know why you’re doing it and how to articulate it. In fact you may get them to join you…who doesn’t want to spare themselves a heart attack? diabetes? hypertension and all the plagues of animal-based eating?

Restaurants, take-aways, cafés and other food venues

When eating out we skip everything that is deep-fried, or fried, expect stir-fries, more below on this. What’s left is either vegan or not, and to keep choices large, I include non-vegan options so I can explore if it can be veganized (in passing that encourages vegan options). If something is a stir-fry, I ask to water-fry as I ask for “vegan, no oil, no salt, no sugar”.

“No oil” is currently the most frightening new challenge for most restaurants. Oil is still very central to restaurant/café kitchens and it often seems unconceivable for them to not use oil, either for cooking convenience, time-saving, or for taste. It’s not rare that the person taking our order would go and check with the kitchen to see if they can do that.

Good news though: most often restaurants can remove oil, sugar or salt to some relevant amount, if not entirely. There is of course the odd one out where the waiter “vegan, no oil, no salt, no sugar” and the food comes either stir-fried with oil, or drizzed with it, or far too salty or sweet, it happened…but quite rarely. There is also the odd one out where a restaurant would insist “The chef doesnt’ want to do a stir-fry with no oil, he/she/it needs oil”. Other times, they would honestly say they wish but they can’t because the food is batch-prepared with oil, sugar, or salt. But most of the time they can remove something, if not all.

Where my face is not familiar yet, waiters taking my food order the first time often (unwittingly) patronizingly tell me that the food will not be very good. But that’s their worried untrained palate speaking, so it’s worth insisting that they shouldn’t worry about taste and that I eat like that everyday and like it a lot. They can get surprisingly insisting that your palate will not find it tasty basically, afraid perhaps to serve a customer a very unpalatable experience that may convert into bad business. But be “kindly firm” in those cases. And when you’re done with your meal and thank them before leaving, tell them what you thought about the food (it’s usually good!). It’s usually only the first time, it gets smooth and easy when you go regularly to the same food places. Once you develop relationships with them, if they’re open to it, they eventually get interested into your motivations to order in this unusual way for them.

A friend, Caitlin, also gave me the tip of ordering a few hours in advance, ahead of peak hours. Not sure why that works, but it works for her and for other people apparently.

We have had some really lovely restaurant experiences, some waiters, chefs or restaurants owners that would have dealt with disease themselves or through a close person. They’d know about why eating the way we do is vitally important, and they were accommodating. Such a breeze when that happens!

20160424_202942_BLOG_610

Rangoli Restaurant, Kapiti, NZ. Highly recommended!

Such an accommodating place served us this, everything is no oil, no salt, no sugar. 3 out of 4 plates here are low-fat whole foods: Kachumber (Indian salad), wholemeal bread (Indian roti), and the best chana masala (Indian chickpea curry) I’ve had in my life. Only the rice on the top left is not a whole food, but white rice. Not bad at all overall relatively. The restaurant is Rangoli, in Kapiti, NZ. Great friendly/kind service, rather cosy, amazing food, some vegan wines too.

So far, I talked oil, salt, sugar, but that doesn’t make a tofu burger whole-food, does it?
No it doesn’t. At this point of time, most breads in restaurants are white breads (less so in Indian restaurants), pasta is still always refined white pasta, rice is not yet routinely brown rice or another whole rice, etc…We make do our best with what we have at hand. More and more, I do ask though about the wholeness of the pasta, rice, breads. I would know the answer in advance most of the time, so why do I keep asking? Because customers’ questions always act as subtle requests and they are! It can start very constructive educational conversations for the staff and restaurant, as well as for us in terms of the challenges that they encounter, which we may able to help with.

A restaurant we often go to even started to put on the menu that whole-food options are available with no oil, sugar or salt. The owner, it turns out, already had a preference for oil-free food and whole foods and just needed someone to request it to feel motivated to pursue that route.

Adulis Restaurant, Wellington, NZ. Highly recommended!

This restaurant is in Wellington NZ:  Adulis African restaurant, proposing currently essentially Ethiopian/Sudanese foods. Currently in the process of going using more whole foods and pro-actively encouraging options with no oil, salt, sugar. Wonderful! This is at long last the future that many of us have been waiting for, it’s amazing! And again, restaurant owner also very cheerful and friendly person, and so is staff generally. That’s becoming more and more one of regular healthy go-tos.

COMMENTS? SUGGESTIONS?

Was this helpful to you?
What did you learn from this?
Do you feel I forget something important in this list?
Is there something you want to suggest adding?
Do you have short videos (< 5 min) that show clearly the products we’re used to being processed from a whole food to an extracted, refined, nutritionally damaged product?
What struggles are you facing with going WFPN (whole-food plant nutrition)?
or with quitting salt, sugar, and oil?

Post you comments below!

Iodine in Common Edible Wild NZ Seaweeds – An Alternative to Iodized Salt!

Iodine content of New Zealand’s Common Edible Wild Seaweeds, for (low-sodium) adequate iodine intake

This article documents the amount of edible seaweeds commonly found on NZ’s shores, that adults can rely on as their exclusive source of iodine, in replacement for iodized salt. Why would anyone drop salt? That you will get a hint in the second part “The Story” but first…the facts!

It took me so much time to compile all this info together, so today is a very exciting day, finally putting this out for everyone to enjoy 🙂 Here’s the menu, and I wish you a lot of fun in foraging, and a healthy long happy life away from the unnecessary pains of hypertension! Later (in a future post hopefully) I will tell you the story of why I gave up salt completely, and how to achieve that in just about 3 months painlessly. But this post for now is more about the “how” part of staying away from salt.

This article is a work in progress. Since I am starting to have a set of actionable data, I am sharing so you can enjoy it as well.


2 SUMMARY

PART 1/2 – THE FACTS
Things to know beforehand to use the facts intelligently
Safety precautions
Seaweed preparation
Bio-variations
Absorbability
Units
References

Seaweeds Iodine/Sodium contents and daily intake

SEAWEEDS WITH LOW IODINE (FOR EATING)
– Long sea lettuce – Ulva stenophylla
– Nori – Porphyra species– Karengo (Maori)
– Wakame – Undaria pinnatifida
– Bull Kelp – Durvillaea antarctica – Rimurapa/Rimuroa

SEAWEEDS WITH HIGH IODINE (FOR SEASONING)
– Neptune’s necklace – Hormosira  banksii
– Bladder kelp – Macrocystis pyrifera – Rimurimu
– Paddle weed – Ecklonia radiata

Methods of calculation

PART 2/2 – THE STORY (of how you are bound to come to seaweeds to replace iodized salt)

Sources


 

Part 1/2: THE FACTS

Things to know beforehand to use the facts intelligently

Safety precautions

The seaweeds below are found virtually everywhere on New Zealand coasts, if one is not, another will. There is no need to go specifically to the sites listed below, those are just sites chosen by the scientists for their own reasons. In any case, do your foraging safety homework first: always have a buddy, never pull but instead cut live seaweeds so they can regrow, watch your steps to avoid sea snails on rocks, small stand-alone rocks/boulders can are not stable even if they’re big and heavy, no stream pouring nearby, no industries and boating activity nearby, no sewage discharge nearby…I can’t be thorough here on these.

Basically, this article is not a thorough coastal foraging guide. There are some specific things you may want to know for different aspects of safety, other things you may want to know to minimize your impact on the intertidal biodiversity, some sites may be tapu (considered sacred by Māori) and better left alone, etc. All I do here is document the iodine/sodium content of a few common edibles.

Also, this article focuses on iodine requirement for adults. If you need the seaweed numbers for children or adolescents contact me, I’ll be happy computing them and updating this article for you.

Seaweed preparation

The quantities below only apply to cleaned and dried seaweeds, not to wet seaweeds: not drained, not seaweeds that feel dry-ish to the touch. By dried I mean something you put effort into drying: crispy-dry if thin seaweeds or corn-chips-cracky/dry if thick just to be very clear. The cleaning to reduce salt content consists in soaking in freshwater (non-salty) baths with several water changes.

Bio-variations

Seaweeds are known to show some variation in their characteristics like nutrient content, between species even closely related ones, based on the micro-ecosystem, weather, seasons, etc…In fact this applies to all plants, but people tend to be used to the idea that all foods contain exactly what the nutritional facts state. They don’t, those are averages and estimates from ranges that sometimes are very wide! This being said, some of these seaweeds  have been measured in different places of a coherent geographic area (NZ) and at different times of the year. Also, the ranges of iodine are generally always in the same narrow range, most often.

Absorbability

Different seaweeds have different “iodine species” (different molecules that contains iodine) and they are not digested the same. So it’s difficult to know how much iodine is absorbable exactly from seaweeds in general, let alone variations among people etc. This article assumes all iodine in the plant is absorbed, it may not be the case, but this assumption provides a additional margin of safety to stay clear from excess. As for staying of deficiency, minimum iodine requirements are likely to be met at doses between the recommended daily value and the tolerable upper limit. Both will be provided.

Units

The unit below will be “mcg / g” means microgram per gram. I prefer this unit for iodine because daily requirements are expressed in micrograms and grams are something people can measure in their kitchen. This unit is the same as “mg / kg” (milligram per kilogram) or “ppm” (parts per million).

References

The little number between brackets (i.e. [1] or [5]) is to direct to the source of that information, listed below in Sources.

Seaweeds Iodine/Sodium contents and daily intake

If you found in the literature, or measured in your lab other values from these for LOCALLY HARVESTED/FARMED (in New Zealand) seaweeds named below, please comment the sources or drop me an email and I’ll get in touch with you to ask for the more info to update this article.

SEAWEEDS WITH LOW IODINE (FOR EATING)


 

Long sea lettuce – Ulva stenophylla – (Maori name?)

1_Ulva-stenophylla

Image credits: Photo: Algaebase;
Illustration: Setchell and Gardner, 1920b

More info: http://www.marinelife.ac.nz/species/1052
Note: Ulva stenophylla is a specific species of Ulva (sea lettuces). Data provided may be different for other Ulva. To illustrate that, for instance Ulva stenophylla was found to have double the protein of Ulva lactuca [1], another sea lettuce. Nothing guarantees all Ulva have the same nutritional profile.

Wild samples (3): 27 ±12 mcg/g [1]
The adult DRI of 150 mcg/day is attained with: ~10g (washed, dried, sodium: ~20mg)
The NZ Tolerable upper Limit is attained with: ~35g (washed, dried, sodium: ~55mg)
(DRI = Daily Recommended Intake, TUL = Tolerable Upper Limit, defined by NZ, as of 2010)

Wild samples (3):
Onehunga Bay, Auckland April 2004
Onehunga Bay, Auckland April 2004
Onehunga Bay, Auckland August 2004


 

Nori – Porphyra species – Karengo (Maori)

Nori – Porphyra species – Karengo (Maori)

Image credits: (left) Kim Westerskov;
(right) Wendy Nelson, NIWA

More info: http://www.marinelife.ac.nz/species/990
Wild samples (3): 64 ±21 mcg/g [1]
Commercial sample (1): 45.03 mcg/g [1] (within range of wild)

DRI for iodine (150 mcg/day) is attained with: ~4g (washed, dried, sodium: ~6mg)
TUL for iodine (1100 mcg/day) is attained with: ~13g (washed, dried, sodium: ~22mg)
(DRI = Daily Recommended Intake, TUL = Tolerable Upper Limit, defined by NZ, as of 2010)

Wild samples (3):
Nelson May-October 2004 (3)

Commercial sample (1):
Kaikoura Coast 2004


 

Wakame – Undaria pinnatifida – (not a native plant => no Maori name)

Wakame – Undaria pinnatifida

Image credits: © Jon Sullivan
Image cropped from original..
Cc by nc small some rights reserved

More info: http://www.marinelife.ac.nz/species/1053
Wild samples (3): 171 ±28 mcg/g [1]
Commercial sample (1): 100.67 mcg/g [1] (close to range of wild)

DRI for iodine (150 mcg/day) is attained with: ~1g (washed, dried, sodium: ~40mg)
TUL for iodine (1100 mcg/day) is attained with: ~5g (washed, dried, sodium: ~200mg)
(DRI = Daily Recommended Intake, TUL = Tolerable Upper Limit, defined by NZ, as of 2010)

Wild samples (3):
Nelson, April–September 2004 (3)

Commercial sample (1):
Wellington Harbour, 2004


 

Bull Kelp – Durvillaea antarctica – Rimurapa/Rimuroa (Maori)

Bull Kelp – Durvillaea antarctica - Rimurapa/Rimuroa (Maori)

Image credits: © lupra, all rights reserved

More info: http://www.marinelife.ac.nz/species/808
Wild samples (3): 291.9 ±270 mcg/g [1]

This seaweed has a very wide variation of iodine content. Only a tolerable upper limit can be given for the worst-case scenario.
That amount which should be safe in terms of avoiding excess can be in certain cases too low to meet daiy recommended value. This seaweed is safe for occasional seasoning, but not recommended to rely on safely as one’s daily only source of iodine.
TUL for iodine (1100 mcg/day) is attained with *potentially*: ~2g (washed, dried, sodium: ~100mg)

Wild samples (3):
Piha, Auckland, NZ , April 2004 (2)
Maori Bay, Auckland, NZ, in August 2004 (1)


 

SEAWEEDS WITH HIGH IODINE (FOR SEASONING)

Use only as seasoning: from the same way most people sprinkle salt or pepper, to rather the way toddlers would sprinkle super hot chilli pepper in their food 🙂


 

Neptune’s necklace – Hormosira  banksii  – (Maori name?)

Neptune's necklace - Hormosira banksii

Image credits: © Melissa Hutchison
Image cropped and levels adjusted from original..
Cc by nc small some rights reserved

More info: http://www.marinelife.ac.nz/species/862
Wild samples (3) : 1041 ±292 mcg/g [1]

DRI for iodine (150 mcg/day) is attained with: ~0,2g (washed, dried, sodium: ~10mg)
TUL for iodine (1100 mcg/day) is attained with: ~0,8g (washed, dried, sodium: ~50mg)
(DRI = Daily Recommended Intake, TUL = Tolerable Upper Limit, defined by NZ, as of 2010)

If you do not have a microgram scale, to visualise how much that is, start from a large amount that your scale can measure (i.e. 10g) and divide the pile of seaweed just visually and with your hands, until you divide enough to reach those values. Divide 10g ÷ 2 =5g, ÷5 =>1g, ÷5 => 0.2g, *4 = 0.8g

Wild samples (3):
Piha, Auckland April 2004
Ti Point, Leigh April 2004
Beaumont, Auckland August 2004


 

Bladder kelp – Macrocystis pyrifera – Rimurimu (Maori)

Bladder kelp – Macrocystis pyrifera – Rimurimu (Maori)

Image credits: © Sue Mcgaw
Image cropped from original.
Cc by nc small some rights reserved

More info: http://www.marinelife.ac.nz/species/894
Iodine concentrations reported:
2115.81 mcg/g* [1]

DRI for iodine (150 mcg/day) is attained with: ~0,07g (washed, dried, sodium: ~3mg)
TUL for iodine (1100 mcg/day) is attained with: ~0,5g (washed, dried, sodium: ~20mg)
(DRI = Daily Recommended Intake, TUL = Tolerable Upper Limit, defined by NZ, as of 2010)

* Commercial sample (1):
Tory Channel, near Nelson, NZ, 2003. (Sold as “kelp pepper”)


 

Paddle Weed – Ecklonia radiata – (Maori name?)

Paddle Weed – Ecklonia radiata

More info: http://www.marinelife.ac.nz/species/811

Wild samples (4): 3990 ±242 mcg/g [1]
Commercial samples (1): 3719.45 mcg/g [1] (within range of wild)

DRI for iodine (150 mcg/day) is attained with: ~0,04g (washed, dried, sodium: ~1mg)
TUL for iodine (1100 mcg/day) is attained with: ~0,25g (washed, dried, sodium: ~8mg)
(DRI = Daily Recommended Intake, TUL = Tolerable Upper Limit, defined by NZ, as of 2010)

You need a microgram scale if you want to visualize these amounts.

Wild samples (4):
Maori Bay, Auckland April 2004
Matheson Bay, Auckland April 2004
Beaumont, Auckland August 2004
Takapuna, Auckland August 2004

Commercial sample (1):
Wairarapa Coast 2004


 

Methods of calculation

Detail of the method used for calculating amounts of seaweed to attain adult DRI or TUL:
For DRI, the worst-case scenario is when the wild seaweed has the lowest possible average concentration.
This is because you want to have at least the DRI, so even the lowest concentration (in theory*) meets the needs.
Worst-case iodine concentration = Average of wild <minus> standard error (the number after ±)

For TUL, the worst-case scenario is when the wild seaweed has the highest possible average concentration.
This is because you want to not exceed the upper limit, so even the highest concentration (in theory*) meets the needs.
Worst-case iodine concentration = Average of wild <plus> standard error (the number after ±)

Then divide UL or DRI by worst-case concentration => How much covers the needs.

The sodium estimations are obtained in the following way: Average sodium concentration for that species <multiplied by> amount to meet DRI or TUL. The sodium quantities have their own standard error (small variations) but since the sodium amounts are extremely very low, high precision is irrelevant.

* There is no guarantee that seaweeds you may forage will match these number. They are quite likely too, but also may no. That means you can get “worse” with what you forage than my worst case-scenarios. Realistically, since people eat seaweed without caring at all to begin with, the guidelines and maximum edible amounts are very useful and far less risky than eating with no guideline.


 

Part 2/2 – THE STORY

Seaweeds are like Rome, all roads lead to them. I love to forage, to try new things in the kitchen, to try plant foods I never had, and to make sure people have the nutrients and health they need. These are some of many avenues where my insatiable curiosity roams to play, and each of them separately took me to seaweeds, like by enchantment. Can you imagine how fulfilling it can be walking by the beach and just snapping photos of seaweeds and intertidal species, going to the library to find books with pictures, learning to recognize, and then be foraging, preparing, something delicious and which takes an important place in nutrition? As fulfilling as falling in love for the first time. That is what life is all about, and I have yet a new lover. This time it is seaweeds!

Since transitioning to whole-food eating for evident health reasons, my partner and I no longer consume salt at home, like, interestingly, millions of other land-bound animal species that do very well without a salt shaker. Yes folks, sodium is of vital importance. What you may not know is that all the vital sodium you need, and far more than you need, is in all sorts of plant foods you eat, but we’ll keep the detailed story for another day, subscribe the RSS if you want to keep posted on new posts. Anyhow, since something as harmful as salt had been chosen as a vehicle for iodine fortification: if you skip the salt, you also skip the iodine, at least in iodine depleted soils like in New Zealand.
So we had three or really two choices:

  1. Replace the salt shaker by some sort of iodine supplement (in cooking, or as a tablet) but we had lost the salt shaker reflex and it is weird taking a pill each breakfast. You see, a cherry-flavoured vitamin B12 that melts in the mouth, once a week, is not a problem, but an iodine drug-like pill everyday, in a pill box and had with a glass of water, not for us…too medication-like.
  2. Rely on eating sea-animals (fishes, mollusks, etc…) but there’s a major problem with that.
    Recently, we fixed an urgently needed upgrade in our frankly standard and deficient knowledge on animal exploitation and the pressing issues related. Watch these documentaries Earthlings, Seaspiracy, Cowspiracy, to get a better idea what made us a bit less less ignorant on rather very important things. Anyway we decided it made complete sense to stay clear of intentionally killing/exploiting animals and better to instead just leave them alone along with the ecosystems they live in => Everything but sea animals, not even an option.
  3. Simpler, tastier, and far more fun: Learn to forage seaweeds! Go have a fun walk on the beach regularly, forage seaweeds and eat the right amount regularly. Use the right ones as a food and the right ones as a pepper (to sprinkle in small amounts).

Option #3 is very appealing now 🙂

Before that, my first approach was “iodine supplementation only” as can be appreciated in this article.  I was quite wary of variations in iodine content of seaweeds, some of which are enormous, and I did not want to take the risk. Having learned a bit more about seaweeds since that article, and a bit more about iodine acceptable intakes, I feel safe dropping the iodine supplement and relying more on locally foraged seaweeds. A decision like this is not done lightly and required good hands-on and knowledge on a few things:

  • knowing iodine concentrations in local seaweeds locally documented (so basically not something you read about “kombu” or “kelp” in general as a product, but science journals publishing iodine levels in clearly named and specific seaweed species harvested locally). That’s the only thing this article will help with.
  • a good ability to recognize exactly those species when foraging (not too hard but must be learned and practiced)
  • foraging safety (i.e. foraging fresh seaweeds instead of decaying ones, away from sources of pollution such as manufactures, landfills, sewage …)
  • nutritional awareness (safe levels of iodine).

Sources

[1] JL Smith , G Summers & R Wong (2010) Nutrient and heavy metal content of edible seaweeds in New Zealand, New Zealand Journal of Crop and Horticultural Science, 38:1, 19-28, DOI: 10.1080/01140671003619290