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Diet, Supplements

Posted by nootrope , 21 March 2012 · 1,417 views

Here's one staple of my diet I like to think is particularly healthy:

I make a meal centered on a mixture of lentils, split peas, and semi-grains. The nutrition pendulum has swung away from grains, since the "food pyramid" of last decade over-emphasized them. But I think legumes like lentils and peas should be at the center of any diet to promote longevity, given that the longest-lived peoples in the world tend to be great legume consumers. What I do is:

Start boiling some water, add lentils and split peas. If I have a grain or semi-grain I want to mix in that takes a long time to cook (wild rice), then I add it at the start too. I'm pretty generous with adding spices too, as spices such as cumin and turmeric can be incredible sources of cancer-fighting chemicals (see for example the links in the World's Healthiest Foods site). I add in about 6 cloves of garlic and one carrot, sliced. When the lentils and peas are about half-cooked, 20 minutes in, I add the semi-grains: quinoia (not really a grain--red or black quinoia for extra phytochemicals), buckwheat (in the toasted form of kasha), sometimes black "forbidden" rice. This is also a good stage at which to add some salt. I only add sliced beets at the very end (they will also color the rest of the mix). Beets are a good source of TMG (trimethyl-glycine) and also uridine monophosphate, good for the brain. I cook until all the water is boiled away and all the lentils, peas, and grains are tender, usually a total of 30-40 minutes.

Then I'll top a plate of this stuff with a teaspoon of nutritional yeast, a couple of tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil, some balsamic vinegar, and perhaps anchovies (high in omega-3 fatty acids yet low in heavy metals).

Another staple is oatmeal with ground flax seed, cinnamon, pecans and walnuts, dates, wild blueberries, coconut oil, honey, and either pieces of dark chocolate or cacao nibs.

I get greens mostly from frozen ethnic meals these days: spanakopita or saag paneer.

* * *

Some supplement experiments I hadn't reported on previously:

Pterostilbene is a substance I had been very excited about, and only last summer did supplements appear on the market with high doses created synthetically. This stuff is similar to resveratrol, which was widely touted by Dr. Sinclair at Harvard as a mimetic of calorie restriction. Pterostilbene, however, was found particularly in wild blueberries, which had been shown to delay the decline in mental functioning of lab animals. So I was pretty excited about the possibility of taking large doses of this regularly.

However, during the time I was taking pterostilbene I also had frequent colds. The dose is many times higher than one could ever get from berries. I've also read the criticism that the benefits of resveratrol and calorie restriction only appear for lab animals that are not exposed to the same kinds of pathogens they might encounter in the wild. Calorie restriction / resveratrol may only improve health under pristine laboratory conditions.

Now I'm trying some chlorella. There are apparently two different species of this algae used as nutritional supplements and I'm trying each. I'd tried some earlier without noticing that sometimes one or the other species was included. Particularly because I read that my mutation in the MTHFR methylation gene (C677T) leads to problems dealing with heavy metals that could be ameliorated with chlorella supplementation.

* * *

I'm still looking to lose some weight, in the hope that this will help me sleep better at night. I have some concern I could have sleep apnea, and carrying extra weight is a risk for this (it makes it harder to keep one's airway clear for breathing). I've gained 10-20 pounds in the last year, as I've moved to a part of the country where I can no longer walk around town to meet my needs--instead I need to drive a car. So like most Americans, I'm now packing a little extra weight. I tried a combination of quercetin and fo-ti (contains stilbenes similar to resveratrol but cheaper) combined with a focus on cardio workouts. At least my waist size seems to be shrinking, through slowly.

I assure the reader that it's not the carb-heavy legume staples I eat that have added to my weight: more likely it's the indulgence in cheap Vietnamese Pho soup with lots of red meat cuts that I should swear off in the interests of health and longevity!

For help sleeping, I'm relying on ashwagandha, melatonin, relora (magnolia bark extract), holy basil, and MindCare (which contains bacopa, ashwagandha, and gotu kola, among other herbs). When I need to perform on little sleep, I take some rhodiola. Lots of herbs with many potential interactions? Sure. But these herbs are mostly on the calming/adaptogen/reduce cortisol side of things, and many have been in common use for centuries.

My mental health, knock on wood, has continued to be quite good, to the extent that I don't think people would suspect it's ever been anything other than good. As long as one's able to have some self-objectivity, I think self-experimentation can go a long distance. Doctor supervised treatments themselves I think are still in a dark age. They are still trial-and-error, still perform rarely above placebo. In the gym last night I saw news coverage of some very prominent mental-health lapses: both the young guy who popularized the anti-Kony video (Kony is an African warlord who uses child soldiers) and the American soldier in Afghanistan who massacred whole families after several stressful tours of duty including a head injury. Anyway, I wonder whether not only these people didn't get needed help, but that any help they got may have been counterproductive. Ayurvedic herbs like ashwagandha seem like light sabers, health weapons from a more civilized time, compared with the blasters of medicines developed by modern pharmaceuticals.

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