NOTE : I do not recommend that you make any changes to your diet without consulting with your health care professional.
Sorry for posting this report a month late, but I indulged myself by going on vacation for the month of October. I’m back at my desk getting caught up and wanted to bring you up to date on what I have been doing since my last Eat To Live vs. Eat Fat Get Thin 2017 Q2 Report.
My Nutrition Plan for 2017
For a quick background update, I started Dr. Hyman’s Eat Fat Get Thin (EFGT) diet at the beginning of the year with the goal of staying on the diet for all of 2017. Then I planned to run a series of blood tests to see how I fared on the EFGT diet versus Dr. Joel Furhman’s Eat To Live (ETL) diet, which I’ve been following for the past few years. (See My Annual Blood Test Results: Did Going Vegan Help Or Hurt Me? post for more background on why I wanted to compare the ETL and EFGT plans.)
As explained in my last quarterly report, I stopped following the EFGT diet mainly because I found it difficult to follow as a vegan. In addition, I developed some strange muscle cramps and felt less energetic on the diet, which I believe is because EFGT restricts consumption of beans, legumes, grains and fruit, which I normally rely on as my “energy carbs”.
The following explains how I’m tweaking my ETL program based on the parts of the EFGT plan I found to be helpful.
Two Parts of the EFGT Plan I’m Sticking With
As I mentioned in my last report, I certainly learned some interesting things on the EFGT program. Although I’m back on the ETL plan, I’m making a couple of modifications based on my experience with the EFGT program.
1) Increasing Healthy Fats
There’s a lot of press nowadays about the benefits to the brain of healthy fat consumption – the more fat, the better, as the brain is mostly made of fat. However, one of the big differences between the EFGT and ETL plans has to do with the amount of fat to consume.
The ETL plan is “low fat” (recommending about 3 or 4 ounces per day) while EFGT is “high fat” (5 ounces or more per day). While both plans stress healthy fats, they differ as to what constitutes a “healthy” fat.
a. What Exactly Is A “Healthy” Fat?
Both plans agree that eating nuts, seeds and avocados for their health benefits is a good thing. But EFGT goes further by recommending oils (such as olive, coconut and avocado), as well as certain animal-based fats, as long as they are organic, pasture-raised and GMO-free. ETL discourages consuming animal-based products, as well as ALL types of oil because they are calorie-dense, low in nutrients and lack any fiber.
b. My “Healthy” Fat Consumption
My experience on both plans came down to this – do I feel “satisfied” after a meal? I find that fats tend to satiate me more than protein or carbs. (As I’ve said before, this is not a scientific experiment – just me trying to figure out what works best for me.) If I have on average 2 servings of fat per meal, I feel full longer and don’t tend to snack as much.
Dr. Fuhrman’s ETL book charts how “full” the stomach is after consuming 400 calories of oil (pretty empty), 400 calories of animal products (still pretty empty) and 400 calories of vegetables (completely full). However, in my experience, even after eating a large salad (which technically should fill up my stomach), the vegetable matter seems to digest quickly and I end up feeling hungry again about an hour later. When I started including more fat in a meal, I actually felt “satisfied” until the next time for a meal.
My “healthy” fat choices include tahini, almond and other nut butters, avocado, nuts (almonds, walnuts, pistachios, pine nuts, cashews, pecans, hazel nuts, macadamia and Brazil nuts) and seeds (chia, flax, hemp, sunflower and pumpkin) – all raw and either whole or ground up into a dressing or dip. All of these are allowed on the ETL plan.
However, going forward I’m also going to include whole olives, full-fat canned coconut milk (for the occasional curry), and small quantities of olive oil (for dressings) and coconut milk (for cooking). These are NOT allowed on the ETL plan, however I only use them in small quantities. And because they help keep me full and prevent snacking, it’s a modification I can live with.
A typical day’s fat consumption for me looks like this. For breakfast, I include 1 tablespoon of ground flaxseed and 1 tablespoon of almond butter in a smoothie. For lunch, I include ½ an avocado (which is considered 2 servings) on my salad, as well as a ½ tablespoon of hemp seed hearts. For dinner, I sauté my vegetables in a ½ tablespoon of coconut oil and add 1 ounce of pumpkin seeds or chopped walnuts on my salad.
c. The Down Side to More “Healthy” Fats? Weight Gain!
During the first 6 months on my EFGT trial diet, I gained about 6 pounds. Now Dr. Hyman’s entire premise in his “Eat Fat Get Thin” book is just that – eat more fat, lose weight. Obviously, that was not my experience. Perhaps his recommendation of eating animal-based protein has the ability to burn more fat as opposed to my vegan “tempeh-tofu” version of his plan. However, due to ethical, environmental and sustainability issues, I’m sticking to my guns on the plant-based diet and will find a way to make that work.
Dr. Hyman recommends exercise, as any good physician would. (Even Dr. Fuhrman says that a thin person who exercises a lot can have 1 – 2 teaspoons of oil per day on ETL’s maintenance plan.) Clearly I’m not doing enough exercise to counteract the increased healthy fats intake. My bad! It is my goal to figure out exactly how much exercise I need to do every day to counteract the extra fat consumption. Hopefully I’ll have the answer in my year-end report.
2) Salt Intake
Dr. Fuhrman’s ETL plan does not recommend adding any salt to food other than what it contains naturally. Not only does excess salt contribute to hypertension and other diseases, but it pulls out calcium and trace minerals in the urine when the excess is excreted, which contributes to osteoporosis. Natural foods contain about .5 mg of sodium per ounce. Dr. Fuhrman recommends keeping your average daily intake of sodium to 1,000 mg or less. (For comparison’s sake, 1 teaspoon of table salt contains 2,325 mg of sodium. The average American consumes around 4,600 mg – 2 teaspoons – of salt every day.)
Dr. Hyman’s EFGT plan suggests consuming 1 -2 teaspoons of sea salt per day, due to the fact that as you cut down on carbs on the EFGT plan, you lose water and salt which can make you feel tired, weak and unable to exercise. Those with blood pressure issues are advised to continually monitor their blood pressure to determine any effects from increased salt intake.
a. My Take On Salt Intake
I have never been a big salt eater. When I was growing up, the salt shaker sat in front of my sister at the dinner table and then got passed around with me being the last to receive it. I wasn’t willing to let my food get cold waiting for the salt shaker so I just ate my food with whatever seasoning my mother cooked with.
Now, I prepare virtually 100% of my food from scratch so I don’t get excess salt from the most common sources – canned and pre-packaged foods. One exception is canned beans which I use frequently, but I rinse them very well. I also use canned tomatoes on occasion, but purchase the low- or no-salt version.
That being said, there are some foods (soups, stir fry) that I prefer to add a little salt to. I don’t cook with salt – I add it on top afterwards as it tastes stronger so you can use less (as advocated by Dr. Fuhrman).
My salt consumption is still pretty minimal. What I do is place 1 teaspoon of sea salt in a small dish and keep it on the kitchen counter. If I want to salt something, I take a small pinch of salt and add it, one pinch at a time, until the flavor is right. Believe it or not, this 1 teaspoon of salt lasts me for more than a week.
b. My Sources Of Salt
As noted above, I keep 1 teaspoon of either sea salt or Himalayan pink salt in a container on the counter for easy access, as well as to monitor how much salt I’m consuming.
If I make a stir fry or other Asian dishes, I use a small amount of organic tamari sauce or Bragg’s liquid amino acids (both of which taste exactly like soy sauce).
In order to make sure I get enough iodine (sea salt and Himalayan pink salt do not have iodine added to them – white table salt does), I use various seaweeds such as kombu, wakame and nori in soups – or just eat them raw. A trick I found is to take a stick of dried kombu and grind it up in a coffee grinder until it’s a fine powder. Then I add it to a big pot of soup which gives a mild salt flavor as well as slightly thickens the broth.
A note of caution about kombu – it has a very high iodine content. The recommended daily intake of iodine for the average adult is 150 mcg. Kombu contains about 1350mcg/g. Iodine affects the thyroid, so anyone with a thyroid condition should carefully monitor iodine intake. Excess iodine intake even by those without a thyroid condition can end up suffering from iodine poisoning if too much is consumed.
My Plan Going Forward
I will continue following Dr. Fuhrman’s ETL maintenance program for the rest of the year, but with the two modifications from Dr. Hyman’s EFGT program noted above. Actually, the only real change is the extra 2 servings of healthy fats per day. My salt intake has stayed the same while I was following both the ETL and EFGT diets. I just wanted to highlight the difference between the two programs in that regard and how I navigate the issue.
In December, I’ll have my annual blood tests done. When I get the results back, I’ll post them in my last ETL vs EFGT quarterly report for the year. Since I have basically spent this entire year consuming a couple of extra healthy fat servings per day, it will be interesting to see whether that adjustment to my diet shows up in the blood tests – and whether it’s in a good way or a bad one!
As always, feel to ask me any questions in the comments section below or shoot me an email.
Eat well, be happy!