Oxtail Caserole, country style

✓Gluten-free ✓Grain-free ✓Sugar free ✓Low-carb ✓Cow-Dairy-free

This dish was incredibly easy to make, and super delicious to eat! What more can one desire when it comes to food?

The Ox tail was from Goodwood Farm and consisted of all different sizes, as you would expect, from the tail of the animal. There was thick fat round one side of the larger pieces, which can be seen in these photos, and it tasted very good indeed. Real melt-in-the-mouth fat, not chewy tough stuff at all. And all I had to do was chuck it in some hot ghee (which is great for high heat cooking as it doesn’t burn, as butter would. See how I make ghee here), add some carrot and celery sticks, some red wine and bone broth, and, Bob’s your uncle, dinner! I didn’t have much time that evening so just flung some cauliflower in a pan to accompany this classic dish, and it was a perfect match.

  • About a kilo or so of oxtail (which, at Goodwood’s wholesale prices is only £4 per kilo, or Waitrose – not organic though – £6.99 per kilo)
  • Two or three large onions, chopped
  • A handful of organic carrots, cut into thick batons
  • A few sticks of organic celery, cut into thick batons
  • Ghee – a large chunk

Season the oxtail chunks with plenty of salt and pepper. In a large cast iron pan heat the ghee, add onions and gently fry for 5 minutes. Add the seasoned pieces of oxtail, gradually turning them as they brown. Sling in the carrots and celery, and let them feel the heat for some minutes, moving it all around slowly. Crack open a jar of bone broth (I must write up how to make this… watch this space) and add it to the pan, then chuck in a glass or two of organic red wine. Stir. Cover with the lid and pop the pot in the oven at about 140°C and leave for a couple of hours.

Done.

Gone!

Neanderthal Herbal Medicine

Our closest, extinct, cousins the Neanderthals are often thought of as thuggish and unsophisticated, but evidence over the last decade has began to challenge this picture, indicating that they had a broad range of skills, knowledge and, yes, sensitivity.

There is a lot of evidence from bone assemblages that Neanderthals often behaved as top predators, hunting a wide range of animals including deer, rhinoceroses, bisons and even brown bear. In this pursuit they were highly skilled and more successful than hyenas with whom they competed, indicating a high level of strategic intelligence and cooperation.

  • Read more about Neanderthal hunting prowess here: ScienceDaily

As well as a good knowledge of animal behaviour Neanderthals also used botanical material. Skeletons excavated in the 1950’s from Shanidar cave in northern Iraq indicate that Neanderthals buried their dead with flowers. These skeletons also showed evidence of injuries that had been tended and healed indicating that the sick and wounded had been cared for effectively. Continue reading

Jordan Peterson on Diet and Health

Jordan Peterson (born 1962) is a Canadian clinical psychologist and tenured professor of psychology at the University of Toronto. His research interests include self-deception, mythology, religion, narrative, neuroscience, personality, deception, creativity, intelligence, and motivation. He is a highly cited and respected researcher in his field.

Recently, and much to his own surprise, Peterson has become an internet sensation, appearing all over the alternative media where he is challenging the contemporary narrative on ‘social justice’, free speech and atheism.

He does this with such clarity and insight that his YouTube videos have quickly racked up millions of hits and he has been sought-after for interviews with alternative news shows such as Stefan Molyneux’s FreeDomain Radio, The Rubin Report and The Saad Truth, all of which are intelligent, thought provoking sites, which I also recommend.

To this new-found audience Peterson has brought a much needed paradigm shift in many areas of previously intransigent and polarised debate. In other words, he’s just my kind of man! If you have not heard him speak then I would recommend starting here (over 2 hrs long) or for here for a juicy 20 minute excerpt. His students really rate him, and I am sure you will see why if you listen to the longer interviews above.

The main purpose of this post, however, is to share some specific points that Peterson has recently made on diet and health as they are surprisingly concordant with the approach we advocate on this blog. I’ve selected the relevant clips from his recent live stream Q&A session below.

Peterson recommending regular sleep to improve circadian rhythms, as well as a protein and fat rich breakfast (2 min clip)…

Peterson explaining how a paleo diet helped his daughter and him improve their health (3 min clip)…

Peterson returns to the subject of diet and how his views on it changed (3 min clip)…

There! Isn’t he a good ‘un?

Please do watch the other videos of this man, his new found Rock Star status is justified on the basis of intellectual depth, breadth and honesty. What’s not to like?

March News Round-Up

Happy Easter!

Ten reasons why you should eat chocolate

Lets start off with some good news! The Mail Online (Mar 25th) makes the case for eating chocolate. We have covered most of their points before, but it doesn’t hurt to remind yourself of the health benefits. Our message: for the greatest benefit make sure its dark chocolate (70% cocoa solids or higher). Oh, and if you suffer with acne, then you might be better making your Lent abstinence permanent.

Continue reading

Salt and cardio-vascular disease: Policy and Science clash

The recent video we posted of Dr SalimYusuf’s PURE study had a section on sodium intake, where he showed that the lowest risk of cardiovascular events, cardiovascular deaths and all-cause mortality was associated with an intake between 3000 and 6000 mg of sodium per day (equivalent to 7 to 15g salt per day). The current US average sodium intake is 3800 mg placing the general population nicely within this sweet spot, although towards the lower end.

Current US and UK dietary recommendations recommend an upper limit at 2300mg of sodium (6g of salt) whilst cardiovascular recommendations by bodies such as the American Heart Association aim to reduce sodium intake to 1500 mg per day (approx 3.75 g salt). If the PURE study is right (and it is not alone in questioning the current guidelines), then these aspirations would do more harm than good.

How did such discrepancy arise? The problem may be the use of surrogate markers. The thinking goes like this: Salt raises blood pressure. Raised blood pressure increases CVD risk, so salt increases CVD risk. This kind of thinking was evident in 2011 when the American Heart Association (AHA) called for salt targets to be reduced to 1500mg per day.At the time MedPage Today explained:

The evidence linking salt intake with blood pressure — and the major adverse outcomes of heart disease, stroke, and kidney disease — is “impressive,”…

That evidence includes more than 50 trials assessing the blood pressure effects of salt, as well as a meta-analysis showing that cutting salt intake by about 1,800 mg per day lowered blood pressure by 5 mm Hg systolic and 2.7 mm Hg diastolic.

This is a “critically important public health issue,” according to Appel and colleagues, and this AHA advisory must be considered “a call to action.”

On the basis of this ‘A leads to B leads to C, therefore A leads to C’ thinking initiatives were instigated all round the world to reduce public consumption of salt. A task force of concerned scientists even formed a lobby group to put pressure on food manufacturers, which successfully led to reductions in added salt in manufactured foods.

However, within a short time of the AHA call to action reports started coming in contradicting this advice.

Over this period it is clear that scientists were becoming more and more irritated with the dogmatic approach of the AHA and government bodies, and by the last article were publicly calling the AHA anti-scientific!

Despite all of the research questioning the validity of further salt reduction US and UK policy remains stubbornly wedded to the ‘less is best trajectory’. In their 2016 survey the UK government reported proudly that average sodium consumption fell from 3500mg in 2005 to 3200 mg in 2014.

Their report claimed “Too much salt in the diet can raise blood pressure which increases the risk of heart disease and stroke. A reduction in average salt intake from 8g to 6g per day is estimated to prevent over 8000 premature deaths each year and save the NHS over £570million annually.”

Yet contrary evidence from studies including PURE would suggest that this is not simply futile but probably harmful. You would think that with the swathe of research challenging the low salt dogma that public policy would be questioning the wisdom of further reductions. Not a bit of it. Dr Alison Tedstone, chief nutritionist at Public Health England, makes no bones about it:

Our analysis makes clear that there is a steady downward trend in salt consumption. While people are having less salt than 10 years ago, we are still eating a third more than we should.

Many manufacturers and retailers have significantly reduced the salt levels in everyday foods. However, more needs to be done, especially by restaurants, cafes and takeaways.

The intransigence of health policy makers leads researchers to exasperation and despair. As one writer put it:

…the ‘salt hypothesis’ is rather like a monster from a 1950s B movie. Every time you attack it with evidence it simply shrugs it off and grows even stronger. – Malcolm Kendrick

In an interview with MedPage today researchers who found that patients with heart failure who ate more salt did better than those who ate less made the following statement which we have published before, but is such a gem it deserves another outing:

“We have had no basis for any of our recommendations regarding sodium restriction during the past 50 years, although these recommendations have changed a great deal (for no good reason). After this report, we still have no basis for any of our recommendations regarding sodium restriction. We were ignorant before; we are not any smarter now. Did we really need this report to tell us that we lack evidence for our recommendations regarding dietary sodium in patients with heart failure?”
Milton Packer, Professor in the Division of Cardiology, UT Southwestern

Further reading:

Aloe vera plants – why every home should have one

aloe-vera-plant

We always have a few Aloe vera plants growing in our house. They are easy to look after, drought tolerant succulents that do best in a sunny window but are surprisingly adaptable to lower light levels too.

Aloe is often touted for it’s health and beauty functions, from skin cleansing to collagen support when ingested. However, the stand out function, and the reason I make sure I always have a plant in my house, is for treating burns.

When it comes to first aid when someone has been burned or scalded, nothing beats Aloe vera. The standard hospital treatment for burns is silver sulfadiazine cream. Indeed medical students are taught that silver sulfadiazine is the most effective treatment for minor burns, but this is simply not true. Another common burns treatment is Nitrofurazone, but again this standard of care is beaten hands down by aloe vera. The published literature shows that there are many superior treatments, and aloe vera frequently comes out top. Here is what just a small selection of such studies found:

  • These results clearly demonstrated the greater efficacy of aloe cream over silver sulfadiazine cream for treating second-degree burns. [Khorasani, 2009]
  • Thermal burns patients dressed with Aloe Vera gel showed advantage compared to those dressed with silver sulfadiazine regarding early wound epithelialization, earlier pain relief and cost-effectiveness. [Shahzad, 2013]
  • Speed of healing was better in aloe vera group than silver sulfadiazine… In terms of wound surface area maximal improvement was observed… in the second degree wound of aloe vera. [Akhoondinasab, 2015]
  • In patients treated with Aloe Vera gel, epithelialization and granulation tissue of burn wounds were remarkably earlier than those patients treated with nitrofurazone [Irani, 2016]

So, how would I use Aloe vera with a burn?

It depends on the severity of the burn, but essentially I always try to cool down the site first, with cold water if available, for a good few seconds/minute then I find my Aloe plant and with a clean damp cloth I clean a leaf to remove dust, which can easily be present, then I either cut just the tip off the leaf and dab the cut end on the burn to get some of the clear gelatinous contents of the leaf directly on it, or, if the burn is more extensive I will cut the whole leaf off the plant near the base, with a clean sharp knife. I then lie the leaf on a chopping board and cut off the tooth-like serrations down both edges. Then I slit the whole leaf open, revealing a trove of cool, kind, healing jelly which can be removed with the knife or a spoon and applied directly to the burn or scald.

Scalds: an accidental n=1 trial

On one occasion I poured boiling water onto three fingers of one hand and was convinced I would have very serious and painful blisters the next day. However, I quickly took three finger length leaves off a plant, cut them in half lengthwise and encasing each of my very painful and hurt fingers in a leaf, like three finger puppets, lightly fixing them in place with elastic bands. I kept them on over night (a bit awkward, but I managed). Incredibly, in the morning my fingers were very nearly normal! This astonished me as I had on a previous occasion, some years earlier, managed to similarly scald a finger with boiling water and even though I kept it in cold water all day, I didn’t use aloe. On that occasion my finger was extremely painful for many days afterwards, and it resulted in my nail growing deformed for a time. The Aloe vera was SO much more effective, and the pain vastly reduced.

Sunburn

For sunburn Aloe is a real workhorse. Try not to get sunburnt in the first place, but if you do, simply prepare a leaf as I have described above, trimming off the sharp thorns first, cutting the leaf in half lengthwise, and rubbing the opened up gel onto the shoulders/forehead/thighs or wherever is sore. It works as an ‘after sun’ treatment even if you have not burnt. Skin just loves Aloe vera!

Tongue burns

Coffee too hot? Soup scalded your tongue? Aloe vera to the rescue! A burnt tongue can interfere with eating for days afterwards, so the quicker you can heal it the better. Just wipe any dust off your chosen Aloe vera leaf, cut the tip off, or the next bit down if you have already used the tip, and dab the jelly onto your poor tongue. Hold it outside your mouth for as many seconds as you can manage (which won’t be many) and then carry on, swallow it, re-apply a couple of times if you can, then try to forget the burn. Although you might be aware of the tender area for the rest of that day, it will have resolved by the next day. I am not sure how that happens, but I can assure you that is the pattern I have seen, many times.

Internal use

Internally this ancient healing plant is wonderful for soothing the digestive tract when inflammation occurs for any reason. It speeds up healing, soothes, cools, and restores. You can eat the gel straight from the leaf, with a spoon, or purchase the many refined versions found in health food shops. They will have varying degrees of preservative in, but seek out the most pure. The taste is rather bitter, but if a comfortable stomach is what you are looking for, the taste will be the least of your concern. Obviously, cereal grains are by far the main cause of inflammation in the digestive tract, but this gel is really helpful for all causes of gut inflammation.

In the inner leaf area of the plant, is the ‘latex’ or aloin. This contains high levels of a chemical called anthraquinone, which is a pretty powerful laxative, causing greater peristaltic acton of the colon. Some commercial Aloe vera juices contain this portion as well as the jelly, and others have this part removed. If you are seeking a laxative effect along with the soothing healing properties then seek out a product that contains the latex. Pregnant women, however, should not use this as the action on the colon can also activate the uterus, which is, of course, undesirable. Instead they should seek aloe gels that have had the latex/aloin/anthraquinones removed if they wish to use them internally. Of course externally all versions are safe and excellent on burns.

Conclusion

Every household should ensure they have one of these superb plants at hand, because accidents will happen! Quick, safe, cheap and reliable solutions like having fresh Aloe vera on the spot are invaluable. They look nice too.

Thanks for reading. Give me your comments and Aloe vera experiences below!

Salt vs sodium measurements

We made a boo-boo in out recent post (Cardiologist attacks diet dogma at 2017 symposium) where we summarised the findings from the PURE study regarding salt intake. We originally stated that 3 to 6 grams of salt per day appeared optimal but this should have read 3 to 6 grams of sodium per day.

What’s the difference?

Salt is a simple compound sodium chloride, NaCl, composed of sodium and chlorine atoms in a 1:1 ratio. Sodium has an atomic mass of 23 and chlorine a mass of 35, so the the fraction by weight of sodium in salt is 23/58 = 40%; or said the other way round, 1 gram of sodium is found in 2.5g of salt. To make things even more confusing, sodium is often quoted in milligrams (mg) whilst salt is given in grams, so the conversion becomes: 1000mg sodium = 2.5g salt

Let’s put this to the test with a confusing pair of health policies: UK guidelines recommend you eat no more than 6g of salt per day, whereas US guidelines place the limit at 2,300 mg of sodium per day. How do these compare?

First, converting the US 2,300 mg of sodium to grams gives 2.3 g of sodium. Next, convert this to the equivalent amount of salt by multiplying by two and a half: 2.3g x 2.5 =  5.75g. This figure rounds to 6g. i.e. they are essentially recommending the same thing, but expressing them in different ways. (That’s the special relationship for you!)

Here is a handy table for converting between sodium, salt and teaspoons:

Salt in
grams
Sodium in mg Approx. equivalent to                Guidelines – daily limit
0.5 200 Average pinch of salt
2.5 1000 Half a teaspoon salt
3.75 1500 ¾ a teaspoon salt Recommended (AHA)
5 2000 One teaspoon salt
6 2400 1¼ teaspoons salt Upper limit (UK / US)
10 4000 2 teaspoons salt Current average consumption
15 6000 3 teaspoons salt Upper limit (PURE study*)

*The PURE study found that the lowest risk of cardiovascular and all-cause mortality was associated with a sodium intake of 3000 to 6000 mg per day. A concern I will look at in the next post is that public health policy does not take into account the lower limit, and assumes that less salt is always better. PURE and other studies suggest otherwise!

This sodium/salt mistake crops up a little too often and leads to confusion. For example MedPage Today, a respected medical news site, reported in 2011 that the American Heart Association had called for salt intake to be limited to 1,500 Mg. (I will write more about the conflict between this figure and the findings of the PURE study in my next post)

First off, I’m sure they meant milligrams (mg), not mega grams (Mg). Autocapitalising their title, put them out by a ‘trifling’ factor of one billion, but that’s forgivable. Where they really sowed confusion was by muddling up sodium and salt like I did. The AHA were calling for sodium intake to be reduced from 2300mg per day to 1500 mg per day (for adults), but MedPage reported these figures as salt not sodium.

One bemused commenter wrote “This article suggests 1 1/2 gms of salt a day, in the UK we are told 6gms per day”

So to clarify, the UK and US recommended upper limit is 2300 mg sodium per day (= 6 g salt), and the AHA recommendation is 1500 mg sodium (=just under 4g of salt). In contrast the PURE study found the ideal range was 3000 to 6000 mg sodium (=between 7.5 and 15g of salt per day).

Why then do researchers and nutrition labels quote sodium, not salt quantities? Because in principle at least, you could get sodium from sources other than sodium chloride. In practice non-salt sources of sodium are insignificant.

Anyway, hope that clears up the confusion about measuring sodium levels.

Next up I’ll tackle how the national guidelines are pushing us in the opposite direction to that suggested by the PURE study.

Cardiologist attacks diet dogma at 2017 Symposium

Video

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Dr Salim Yusuf speaking at the Cardiology Update 2017 symposium gives preliminary findings from the PURE study which followed 140,000 people in 17 countries, designed to address causation of cardiovascular disease.

He explains that the results indicate:

  • Greater fat intake is protective
  • Carbohydrates are harmful
  • High fat dairy is beneficial
  • Saturated fat from meat is neutral
  • Fruit is beneficial, but no additional benefit over 2 portions per day
  • Legumes are beneficial
  • 3 to 6 g/day sodium* intake optimal (vs US guidelines of 1.5g)
  • Eggs, fish and vegetables were neutral

*Edit 10/03/2017
Correction: I previously wrote 3 to 6 grams of salt per day, but have corrected this to 3 to 6 grams of sodium per day. This is equivalent to 7.5 to 15 g of salt per day.