Nutrition "hacks"

I want to be healthier. The best way to do that is exercise and diet. Diet is the harder one for me to improve on, so I'm trying out some "hacks" because I'm not at the stage that I want to change too much of my lifestyle yet to get the benefits. The operational definition of a "hack" here is what I think to be a good bang-for-buck in terms effort-to-benefit ratio.

Changelog

September 25, 2022 - Added the file

Goals and guiding principles:

Easy and cheap. I don't want to spend more time if I'm already compromising the enjoyment of taste. I'm addressing one compromise at a time in order to make this mores sustainable. Also, IMO, if it's easy and cheap enough, it's ok to not have the best evidence for the purported health effects. The health effects of cacao powder might be  It leans towards a dietary Pascal's wager.

Microbiome health.  There are more bacteria cells in your body than human cells, and I believe the microbiome has a huge role in the gut-brain axis. If there is one constant in my life, it's that I keep my brain in tip-top shape, and that I keep getting better. I often wonder whether I have been performing sub-optimally my entire life because of my sub-optimal diet. If so, I've lost out on a lot of self-betterment compound interest. To this end, I care a lot about getting enough fiber (95% of Americans don't get enough fiber in their diet--we need about 14 g per 1000 kcal of intake). It's not about softer stools. High-fiber diets lead to better gut microbiome profiles, lower cholesterol , and more stable blood sugar levels. There's been a lot of evidence around the gut microbiota's implication in cognition, stress responses, and autism-related behaviors, and all of this can be tuned with fiber.

Vascular health. I can put this into two buckets: low cholesterol and insulin sensitivity. Healthy vasculature services the mission of being able to do my outdoor and fitness hobbies for as long as possible.

  • Low cholesterol. I want to make sure that my body can efficiently deliver blood to the big parts of my body (e.g., muscles) and also the smallest parts (the tiny blood vessels in my brain). The complications from atherosclerosis range from big (aneurysms, stroke, heart attacks, kidney failure, etc.) to small (sexual dysfunction, decreased fitness, etc.). Keeping my blood vessels squeaky clean is one of my top priorities, so the dietary strategy is to switch to a plant-based diet, which naturally reduces cholesterol intake, and to be mindful of when and how long I'm heating oils (to avoid oxysterols).
  • Insulin sensitivity. Second, I want to make sure my body can regulate glucose effectively, which means making sure insulin is able to get rid of blood glucose before it gets too high. Too much glucose can lead to vascular complications mentioned in the previous paragraph, but also directly impact some of the most sensitive parts of my body, namely my eyes and my nerves (see diabetic neuropathies). The strategy is to reduce added sugar and increase fiber to avoid the glucose spikes.

Hacks

Replacing oils is super easy and cheap. I only use high quality oils, the trifecta of avocado, olive, and grapeseed oil (in order of usage). This is so easy to replace and only costs $2-3 per month more to replace it over corn or vegetable oil. I almost never use animal fats. Coconut oil when I need the flavor.

  • Why: heating oils is bad...

DIY prebiotic and probiotic. They sell and market these as a "synbiotic supplement" already (here's one), but you can just buy a cheap probiotic capsule for $0.25/serving and drink it with a soluble fiber supplement as a prebiotic for $0.10/serving, or about $10 per month. I take them with the first cup of water in the morning when I start my day, or at least an hour before I eat anything. The theory is that the prebiotic is food for the probiotic, a synergistic effect, and the timing before a meal seems to be the most effective.

Green smoothies with OATS. I make a lot of green smoothies because it's nutritious way to get my daily serving of veggies without the hassle of eating vegetables, and it only takes 5 minutes to make. But the secret is adding a half cup of oats to the smoothie, which in combination with the greens, make me feel REALLY full and could even replace a meal.

"Smoothie Master Mix". Instead of adding all of  the "boosters" to my smoothie that come from different packages, I combine the dry ingredients together all at once (for 20+ servings at a time) and throw in a scoop whenever I'm making my smoothies. It cuts down the cooking time by half, and the threshold to making a smoothie is much lower.

  • Ingredients: Maca powder (for energy), psyllium husk powder (for fiber), soluble fiber, salt (just a pinch to cut some bitterness), cinnamon (antioxidants), and cacao (antioxidants).

Nuts and dried fruits in abundance. These are healthy snacks that make me feel full right away. I can usually never eat more than a handful of nuts before I feel sated (in contrast I can probably eat 3-4 packets of fruit snacks). The hack here is to just go to Costco and buy a ton of bags of nuts and dried fruits. Remember, dried fruits require only half the weight to reach a full serving size compared to their hydrated counterparts.

  • Deglet Noor dates are a new find for me, they taste like a caramel candy but they're 100% fruit! So much better than Medjul dates.
  • Shelled pistachios are one of my favorite nuts. I opted for shelled because it saves space in my kitchen, but unshelled are also great because it takes you so long to eat, that your stomach will tell your brain you're sated before you can even shell a full serving of pistachios. (Btw shelled pistachios means they don't have a shell, I know, confusing)
  • Dried mangos. Dried goji berries. Brazil nuts. Almonds. Walnuts.

Switch out white rice for brown rice. Brown rice has a lower glycemic index and has five times more fiber which makes me feel fuller. It's easy to incorporate but totally fine to use white rice when you need the particularly sweeter taste profile of hulled grain (e.g., sushi).

Emergency vegetarian breakfast burritos. I tend to eat unhealthily when I don't have time to cook and don't have any more leftovers to make a meal of. My default used to be to grab a burrito because there are so many in the Mission district, but I need to replace that habit. So, I cook some rice and beans, scrambled eggs, cilantro, cheese, hot sauce, and throw them all together into a fat burrito, then freeze in a freezer Ziploc bag. For emergencies only, otherwise I know I'll get tired of them and will have to find a new emergency meal. Make sure you let them all cool first otherwise your burrito gets soggy from all the excess moisture.

  • DIY Mudwtr drink in the morning
  • Eat more beans
  • 16 hours of fasting
  • A good blender is absolutely crucial. I don't have time to prepare all my foods.

Appendix

DIY "synbiotic"

DIY mushroom tea

Smoothies

The smoothie is usually 4 oz. of oat milk, 8 oz water, frozen banana halves, a tablespoon of almond butter, maybe a half serving of protein powder, half cup of oats, and a big handful of greens. The oats plus the greens do an amazing job of making feel ridiculously full

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