Be Healthy, Be Happy # 50


A long post today for #50 on my website – a type of “milestone!” Please do your best to get through this one, as it contains many facts about what I consider a very important subject.

People often ask me what they can do to start eating a healthier diet. Typically, I will advise that they eliminate or drastically reduce their consumption of three things: Sugar; Grains (especially refined grains); and Vegetable Oils.

Today’s topic is vegetable oils, which have become fairly ubiquitous – appearing in so many food/cooking products over the last 10-20 years. I have seen numerous research articles and books which highlight the damaging effects of these oils on our overall health. I try to make sure that I very rarely consume any type of vegetable oils, which are sometimes referenced as the three C’s:  Canola oil, Corn Oil, & Cottonseed Oil; and the three S’s: Soybean oil, Sunflower oil, & Safflower oil. Others to avoid: Grapeseed Oil, Rice Bran Oil.

These oils are often main ingredients in many processed food products – crackers, chips, cookies, breakfast cereals, granola, salad dressings, bread, etc …. I make it a point to always check-read the ingredients list on any product I buy in a jar-can-box-bag or any container that lists ingredients.

One of the health-wellness leaders I follow is Dr. Cate Shanahan. She is a board-certified Family Physician, and she has done graduate studies in biochemistry and genetics at Cornell University. Her latest book “Deep Nutrition” is an excellent read!

I was listening to a podcast recently where she made a very illuminating statement – “We knew more about proper, healthy nutrition in 1930 than we do today.” Basically, back in 1930 and for around a couple decades after that, people ate “real food” – as there was not very many “fake-foods” or genetically modified “frankenfood” products – which fill the grocery store shelves these days. Here is Dr. Shanahan’s brief version of the damaging effects that can result from consuming vegetable oils –

(The short version)
‘These oils contain a high percentage of polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs). PUFAs are unstable, and break down rapidly when exposed to chemical stress. Ever heard of varnish? It’s what carpenters use to finish wood. Varnish is made from vegetable oils, including soy and linseed (which is rich in omega-3, like canola), because these oils are chiefly composed of PUFAs. PUFAs react with oxygen in the air to help polymerize the varnish into a nice hard coating that helps preserve the wood.

Varnish is good for your floors, but not so good for your brain, your arteries or mitochondria. I elaborate on that below, throughout this blog, and in Deep Nutrition chapters 7 and 8.

A little bit of PUFA is not a problem for us, we actually need some. And when we get PUFA from whole foods like sunflower, chia or flax seeds, it’s well protected by antioxidants nature builds into the seed. These protectants get stripped away during the industrial scale refining of sunflower and the other vegetable oils, and that’s just the beginning of the problems with vegetable oils.

The refining process not only strips away antioxidants, it makes PUFAs toxic by exposing them to heat, pressure, metals and bleaching agents. This chemically alters the molecules into a wide variety of potent toxins with long names like 4-hydroxynonanal and 4-hydroxyhexanol, aldehydes, and others. These molecules are toxic because they promote free-radical reactions that damage our cellular machinery including mitochondria, enzymes, hormone receptors, and DNA.”

(The chart below from Dr. Cate offers an excellent resource list of the good fats & oils, and also the bad fats & oils.)

The following link offers additional insightful information/rationale as to why I steer far away from consuming vegetable oils: Why You Should Never Eat Vegetable Oil or Margarine

Finally, here in Bangkok and at restaurants all around the world now, vegetable oils are used to prepare many of the meals we are enjoying. When I go out to eat, I try to always ask that my omelettes are cooked in butter instead of oil. For dinner, I will ask that any cooking/frying be done in olive oil or butter.

This was a long post this week, but the consumption of unhealthy vegetable oils is a subject which I believe many people ignore far too often. It is time to start checking those ingredient labels, and being careful of what you are putting into your mouth and body!



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Be Healthy, Be Happy # 49


One of the best (healthy) snacks I try to eat on a daily basis are various kinds of nuts; all kinds really – almonds, macadamias, cashews, pecans, walnuts, pistachios, brazil, hazelnuts – mostly unsalted and sometimes roasted, but preferably not roasted in any type of unhealthy vegetable oil. Regarding peanuts, they are considered a legume, but they do have similar nutrients to the other nuts.

A handful of nuts is usually enough to satisfy any current hunger pangs, providing healthy fats in my daily nutrient intake; along with some protein, carbs and other vitamins.

Additionally, as I mentioned last week, I enjoy some almond butter or cashew butter (or even combined together in a nice almond-cashew butter) for a different healthy snack – sometimes just enjoying a couple spoonfuls, or eating together with celery or a nice green apple – great combination and taste, also providing natural energy to the body. If I want more of a “treat,” then I spread the nut butter on a square of high quality dark chocolate!

For some more information-details, please peruse this article on the health benefits of nuts.

Additionally, this link is an excellent resource from Nutrition Australia.

I always have a bag of mixed nuts around, for when I need something to help keep me going, and especially when I travel – a much healthier option than almost all of the food offered on airplane flights, train trips, etc …. Also a very healthy alternative snack for kids and student-athletes; much better than the majority of pre-packaged processed junk available, which are easier to buy but significantly less healthy than a nice handful of nuts.

So, find yourself a big jar or a zip-lock bag, and go out and buy a bunch of different nuts and mix them all together!



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Be Healthy, Be Happy # 48


As many of you know, I am a big fan and consumer of good quality, high cacao content dark chocolate – YUMMY! I try to have 1-2 squares of some good dark chocolate almost every day; usually with at least 85% cacao. Here in Bangkok, the Lindt bar is a good choice – available at most grocery stores. It may take a while to get used to the slightly bitter flavor, and you could also add a little almond butter for sweetness and increased nutrient density, as almond butter is a wonderfully healthy fat source!

For all the benefits, choices and other facts of dark chocolate, check out this “definitive guide”

Additionally, this link-article offers a good look on the distinction between Cacao and Cocoa – not exactly the same product.

So – be on the lookout for some good dark chocolate soon, and savor the delicious taste and wonderful feel in your mouth!



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Be Healthy, Be Happy # 47


In my youth …. Actually up until I reached my mid-50’s, I did not pay enough attention to the overall value and multiple benefits of getting enough sleep each night. My main focus for many years was on exercise, along with trying to eat what was then considered “healthy” foods-drinks (not true, in many cases). Sleep was often my last “priority,” as I figured I could exist and function reasonably well on 5-6 hours of sleep each evening. Doing this for a number of years eventually caught up to me, and my body started to tire more easily, and my energy levels frequently wavered on the lower end. I found that my mental focus and ability to complete daily work tasks were both negatively affected.

In the past 8-10 years, my #1 personal health-wellness priority has become SLEEP! After sleep, I also then strive to eat properly (healthy, real foods); and to exercise regularly. During this past decade, I have usually been able to get 7-8 hours of sleep on a regular basis. Undoubtedly, my energy level is now consistently much higher during the day, and my brain works better too. Sleep is such a powerful tool in our “toolbox!”

Some of the things I do to help my sleep habits:

– Keep the bedroom cold (60-65 degrees F / 16-18 degrees C)
– Wear as few clothes as possible
– Keep the bedroom as dark as possible
– Use bluelight blocking glasses in the evening (and f.lux on computer)
– Get as much exposure to sunlight (natural blue light) in the mornings
– Go to bed near the same time each night; wake up near the same time each morning – consistent sleep schedule (get some good sleep before midnight)
– No television or other monitors in the bedroom

For some more advice, check out this link-article; and this one also for more evidence-based research on the value and importance of sleep.

AND – keep striving to get your best sleep each night!



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Be Healthy, Be Happy # 46


Just several years ago, I did not even know what a podcast was, and maybe some of you are unaware of podcasts now. A podcast is a series in mostly audio format, which you can download and listen to on your phone or laptop-tablet, or any other listening device. Many topics are highlighted on various podcasts, so that you can listen to stories, the news, and also to a number of people offering information/advice. You can access a large number of available podcasts on your phone – on iTunes/Apple Podcasts, with the majority being free.

I have become an avid podcast listener in the past several years. I listen in the car during my daily commutes, or on longer road trips in the U.S. – if my wife can tolerate whichever podcast I choose! I also listen during my frequent long walks around the city. The information provided is often very insightful and I have learned much from many of the podcasts. These days, I mostly listen to podcasts with topics on health, fitness, nutrition, longevity, etc …. The knowledge I gain has been very helpful for my personal wellness “journey,” while also providing me with new and profound information I can share with friends and clients.

The following are my current favorite podcasts:

– Primal Blueprint Podcast
– Ben Greenfield Fitness
– Get Over Yourself
– Move Your DNA
– Nourish Balance Thrive
– Paleo Magazine Radio
– Renegade Radio (Jay Ferruggia)
– Revolution Health Radio (Dr. Chris Kresser)
– Paleo Solution Podcast (Robb Wolf)
– The Doctor’s Farmacy (Dr. Mark Hyman)
– Fat-Burning Man (Abel James)
– The Joe Rogan Experience
– The Model Health Show
– The Tim Ferriss Show
– Harder to Kill Radio
– Meathead Hippie
– 40+ Fitness

If you are interested, check out some of the descriptions of these podcasts (just google any of them to see if any might resonate with you personally). And, then try downloading and listening to an episode you are curious about. Keep on learning!



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Be Healthy, Be Happy # 45


A special day today, as I mark another year off my own personal life calendar –
Now 66 years old, and actually looking forward to reaching 70 in the next several years! When I do reach that milestone, entering my 8th decade of life, I hope and expect to feel almost the same as I do now.

As many of you may know, one of my goals is to live as long as I can …. and also to remain as healthy as possible until “the day” I leave this mortal state. In past years, I became a bit obsessed with living to be at least 100 years old …. to reach that magic 3-digit number. Do I still desire to get to that special age …. ? Hell, yeah!!

Yet, these days, living to a certain age (lifespan) is not nearly as important to me as living a long, healthy, active life – healthspan. I can honestly say that these days, I feel more healthy, fit, strong, and energetic than I did 10-15 years ago! I can hear some of you asking …. How is that possible?!

Well, I am definitely doing a better job of taking care of my own personal health, while also now helping others do the same in their own lives. This has truly become a powerful passion in recent years, and it is what drives me each day – my purpose in life, or as the Japanese say – my Ikigai. I firmly believe that each of us needs to feel this life purpose – that thing that gets you out of bed in the morning – looking forward to having another awesome day, interacting with others and also spending reflective time alone, becoming more mindful and grateful.

And, I am very grateful for this opportunity to help others. Gratitude is such an important feeling that we all need to “practice” on a regular basis. I am so thankful for so many things …. For my family, our friends, my colleagues at ISB and former students-colleagues-friends from past years at various international schools – many of them now living in various countries all around the world!

When I graduated from college in the U.S., married my lovely wife Claire just a few months later, and as we embarked on this journey together (44 years ago!), I certainly did not imagine how life would unfold, and where we would be today, and what I would be doing at this time. As the years go by, we gain various amounts of wisdom, as we experience and learn so much; and I will continue to share my own knowledge and perceptions with others, for as long as I can – because that is what gets ME out of bed each morning!

Thanks for listening this week, and for being a friend!



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Be Healthy, Be Happy # 44


Regarding healthy nutrition, there has been so much talk and advice given over the years to eat a low cholesterol diet, so that we do not add body fat and extra weight; which was also supposed to help decrease our chances of heart disease. We now know that this is not true, as there is a great deal of science-backed research and evidence to show that consuming high-fat foods such as eggs, butter, etc …. will not cause cholesterol increases in our body. Additionally, we need cholesterol for many functions – more on this in future posts.

It has come to light in recent years that the more accurate cause of obesity and cardiovascular conditions is the consumption of highly processed foods, excess sugar and simple carbohydrates. The reason for this is that eating these types of foods often cause spikes in blood sugar, with more insulin being produced. As long as we remain insulin-sensitive, our pancreas will operate at an optimum level. However, if too much insulin is constantly being introduced, some people eventually become insulin-resistant, which can be very damaging to various systems in the body. This excellent article offers a complete explanation, along with some additional details and advice for reducing insulin resistance.

Personally, my goal with my daily nutrition habits is to increase my glucose-insulin levels as little as possible. That is why I eat low-carbohydrates, along with moderate-sufficient protein intake, and a higher-healthy fats amount. This gives me all the energy I need, without needing to snack throughout each day on foods-drinks that will increase insulin and cause hunger again a short time later.

More details to come in upcoming posts, regarding these important topics – as we also consider satiety, hormone secretions, and other energy sources besides carbohydrates-proteins-fats ….



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