≡ Menu

 

Zotero Citlalcoatl is a permaculture designer based in Tucson, Arizona. He has experience consulting, designing and maintaining over 100 permaculture systems in Arizona and throughout the country.

Permaculture is a holistic approach to landscape design and human culture. It is an attempt to integrate several disciplines, including biology, ecology, geography, agriculture, architecture, appropriate technology, gardening and community building.

In a world where regeneration of our environment and communities is a pressing need, people like Zotero and the work he does are an immediate and sustainable solution.

“And this one speeds up the death penalty! So if you’re tired of paying for these guys to stick arou…” as he waved a clipboard at passing strangers.

“If your fond of sand dunes and salty hair…”

The soothing melody of Groove Armada drown out the vengeful little worm’s spiteful rhetoric. My breathe deepened as I returned to a state of post-workout zen.

In agreement with the decision to return to the calm of the earbuds, the waning afternoon sun cast its last rays of warm glow upon my shoulders. I strode past him and into the parking lot, an unshakeable smile plastered upon my goofy face.

And with that, the cretin’s jibberish fell to the wayside, never to disturb my mind again.

As I sat down and turned the key in the ignition it occurred to me that this simple act was a microcosmic example of the greatest shift we all can make to immediately to foster happiness, compassion, and kindness in our lives – selectively deciding upon the inputs to our consciousness.


 

 

Ruthlessly guarding the thoughts and thought processes we choose to allow into our lives is far and away the greatest strategy towards cultivating inner peace that we have.

And within that peace we build the quiet confidence to go about our lives pursuing exactly that which we feel is our purpose on this planet. That which needs to be done, for ourselves and for others.

Whether that be to become a more loving spouse, to finally get in shape so that we can keep up with our kids, to take control of our career, to make a difference in our communities…

It’s a thinly veiled fact that nearly everything that bombards us in our day-to-day lives is meant to foster unhappiness, fear, insecurity, and a sense of lacking , of a void that’s only a purchase, a relationship, a war away from being filled.

Otherwise why the hell would we work ourselves into the ground for 30 years?

Take on interest-bearing debts?

Agree to fly halfway across the world to shoot at people we don’t know for reasons we don’t even understand?

Consumerism

From the cover models’ flawless airbrushed skin to the enviable wealth and luxury that hollows us out from the inside every time we pry our needy little eyes through the hedges long enough to catch glimpses of our favorite celebrities on television and in their social media feeds…

“There’s something better than what you are or what you have right now.”

 

And if you’re  one of the few who is content with where your life is… there’s a terrorist, an immigrant,  someone who doesn’t look or talk like you hellbent on taking that security away.


 

I’m not mad at the do-gooder pining for revenge and death outside a Trader Joe’s in suburban California. Nor do I pity his blood thirsty little mind.

 

When we express frustration, pity, disgust, or any other critical emotion it removes the power from our hands to change the fabric of the society that spawns these types of individuals.

 

“That’s just the way it is… always has been, always will be.”

 

“I feel sorry for people like that.”

 

These are familiar statements you hear from even the most positive of our friends and family.

Do any of us wonder why we’re overweight, overmedicated, and overly pessimistic about mankind and the fate of our planet?

The reality of the situation is that our current state – both personally and collectively, is the result of the information and concepts which we have chosen to allow into our psyches.

If you can’t lose weight because “dieting doesn’t work for you”- is that a fact? Or is that an idea that you’ve allowed to be reinforced by people who tell you that it’s too complicated a process or by ads that tell you your only hope is to buy “Bullshit in a Bottle Product #3”?

If you can’t take care of your health because you need to spend 5 days a week in the gym to be in decent shape, have you ever considered trying twice a week? 

If you think people are poor, hungry, or rioting because they “don’t want to work”, “are out to get something for free”, or are just “violent thugs”- is that your idea? Or is it someone’s opinion you absorbed as a child or from words you heard on the news?

If you think “we can’t feed the world without torturing animals and spraying millions of gallons of herbicides and pesticides on our soil because the population is too high”- did that notion come to you out of thin air?

I’ll leave you with words of wisdom from a philosopher much more articulate than this over-caffeinated meathead…

 

“We are the past, there is no question about it. And that past is operating, modifying itself in the present. The present, if there is no fundamental change, then the future is what we are now.

So all time, the past, the present, the future is in the now. And if we can really capture the significance of this, then we begin to see the implication of what it means to change.

If you will accept that there is no tomorrow, how will you look at the world? How do you look at yourself? How do you consider God? How do you consider becoming something? If all time is in the now, is there psychological becoming at all?”
-Jiddu Krishnamurti


 

Guard your mind my friends.

Turn off your televisions, turn off the radio, tune out the gossip in your office and the billboards you drive by on the way there every morning.

By all means stay informed, but never fail to read between the lines, and never fail to question what you hold as “fact”, what you can or cannot do, and what is or is not possible for us as human beings…

Krishnamurti quote taken from the 19:50 mark…

Organic Apples?Chances are you’ve met the crunchy yogi who hasn’t eaten a non-organic piece of fruit since the day they learned to channel their chi.

On the opposite side of the spectrum you probably have an Uncle Garth somewhere in your family tree…

Garth may be morbidly obese, have high blood pressure, and may have even lost a toe due to diabetic complications last week; but he’ll be damned if you pry the hotdogs and Pabst Blue Ribbon from his meaty paws and replace it with one of those grass-fed “hippy” steaks and glass of organic Cabernet.

For some reason people take an absurdly hard line on the organic food subject.

One can only assume it’s the standard rationale… the less people know about a subject the more passionate they are about pretending that they do.

Luckily you have this post so you’ll no longer have to pretend. Let’s dive in…


 

So, what is organic food?

Defining organic food is simple.

“Organic” refers to any food produced without the use of synthetic fertilizers, pesticides, antibiotics or any other artificial additives.

An interesting aside is that the regulations for organic certification are subject to change, so what might be organic today wasn’t 5 years ago and may not be next year. If that matters to you, it’s worth checking for changes in regulations every few months.


 

Is there evidence that organic food is healthier for you than conventional food?

Determining the health benefits of organic food consumption, if there are any, is a bit complex.

To start, let’s examine some of the nutritional differences between “conventional” and “organic”  foods.

It appears that organic production provides dairy and beef products with a greater ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats. In several studies comparing grass-fed and conventional dairy and beef products, the grass fed products displayed significantly higher concentrations of omega-3 fats. Evidence strongly suggests that diets rich in omega-3 fatty acids improve cardiovascular health and chronic inflammation.

Grass Fed Beef?

Many individuals turn to supplementing with fish oil as a means of getting omega-3 fatty acids in the diet. Fatty cold-water fish are known as a prime source of omega-3 fatty acids. However, grass-fed beef and dairy appear to also provide significant amounts of omega-3’s. It stands to reason that their inclusion in the diet could have cardio-protective effects.

Beef for heart health, one can almost hear the cries afoul of low-fat dieters carried far upon a midsummer night’s breeze…

As far as nutritional content in conventionally vs. organically produced produce, there is little evidence to suggest that organic food exhibits higher nutritional value in terms of vitamin and mineral content.

It is worth noting that there are some studies that do suggest exceptional benefits to organic production. However, fundamental flaws like not maintaining the same growing season, climate, strains of fruit/vegetable compared, etc. make these studies impossible to cite as credible.

I was able to find a few very well conducted studies that could be viewed as legitimate evidence.

(Talk about disappointing, 3 studies worth citing after reviewing for over 10 hours… it’s times like these  one wonders if they could fashion an intravenous caffeine drip.)

A comparison of tomatoes produced in the exact same conditions over a two year period showed “no significant differences between organic and conventional farming systems for all tomato fruit parameters measured, including content of bioactive compounds with antioxidant activity, and antioxidant activity.”

A second study examining apples displayed that “the production method had a smaller impact on the variation in the polyphenol content and antioxidant capacity of apples than the yearly climate.” Not exactly a striking endorsement of choosing organic…

Finally, a comparison of eggplants grown in the same conditions over a two-year period demonstrated marginally higher potassium, calcium and magnesium levels. Marginally higher being 25mg/100 g of potassium, 2.4 mg/100g of calcium and 1.4 mg/g of magnesium.

To put this in perspective, that’s under 5% of your recommended daily value of each for slightly less than a cup of eggplant. To really make a difference you’d have to consume a borderline inhuman amount of eggplant, at which point we can only assume you’d look like this…

Eggplant effects

It is worth mentioning that in the all studies noted here organically produced fruits did show a slightly greater vitamin and mineral content. Take this for what you will… the difference is miniscule.

So, what’s all the hype?

What stands out is the comparisons in levels of pesticide contamination for organic vs. nonorganic foods. This is really common sense when you look at it… foods sprayed with pesticides would contain them and ones that are not would generally be free of them.

In a German analysis of pesticide contamination in produce, 60% of produce sampled showed pesticide contamination from 1 or more sources.

Pesticide exposure is associated with, but has not been directly proven to, increase the risk of some cancers, Parkinson’s disease and reproductive dysfunctions. Correlation does not equal causation, mind you.

Is the pesticide contamination in conventional produce dangerous?

Possibly, but after an extensive search I was unable to find anything to prove it’s danger or safety absolutely.

Despite what some may have you believe… there is no concrete evidence that eating foods containing trace amounts of pesticides is comparable to building the family vacation home in the shadow of Chernobyl.

Nonetheless, it’s safe to say we as consumers should demand further testing on this subject.


 

In summary:

* The nutritional content of fruits/vegetables appears to be more greatly influenced by factors such as genetics and climate than organic or conventional farming.

* Eating organic the majority of the time would theoretically add up to higher vitamin and mineral intakes than a diet consisting of conventionally grown foods.

* Supplementation of omega 3’s and a multivitamin could provide similar intake levels as compared to eating a diet of organically produced foods.

* From a fat, carbs, and protein standpoint, there is little to no research showing a significant difference in the total amounts of these macronutrients in organic vs. conventionally produced food.

*Conventionally produced foods do undoubtedly show prevalent pesticide contamination

The purpose of this review was not to convince you to eat or not to eat organic foods, it was simply to provide you with the relevant information available to us thus far so that you can make educated decisions about your health rather than go on whatever oversimplifications are presented in advertising, media, etc.

There are many environmental and sociological arguments for organic farming that I chose not to go into here but we will discuss in the future.

I hope that you found the information useful. If you have questions, feel free to post them below. If you enjoyed this post, do me a favor and hit share below…

In this installment of our Nutrition 201 series we talk about fat.

Everyone’s heard of fat but few know what it is or why their body needs it. Some people have heard they should “cut out fat”- nothing could be further from the truth.

Let’s get right into it…

                                                                                                                             

What is it?

We don’t need to turn this into a chemistry course, but just so that you’re able to understand the different types of fat, we need to cover a little background.

***If you don’t care to understand and just want the straight infoz, feel free to skip down to the “Why do you need it?” section.

The essential component of dietary fat as we know it is the fatty acid.

A fatty acid is an acid with an attached chain of carbon atoms. You can think of the chain of carbon atoms as the tail of a fatty acid and the acid as the body.

Now, along the tail of carbon atoms there are hydrogen atoms attached.

If every available bond along the tail has been made with a hydrogen atom, that fatty acid is considered saturated. Saturated fats are typically solid at room temperature.

If there are carbon atoms along the chain have not been bonded with hydrogen, that fatty acid is considered unsaturated.

If there is only one carbon without hydrogen, we’d consider that a monounsaturated fat. Monounsaturated fats can be solid or liquid.

If there is more than one carbon without hydrogen, we’d consider it a polyunsaturated fat. Most polyunsaturated fats are liquid even at low temperatures.

Alright, that’s enough chemistry. If you’re like me, and you imagined yourself wearing a bow-tie as you read that, you can take it off now.

Looking fly, Mr. Nye.

I’m glad you stuck with me through the boring stuff because now we can get down to the practical side of things.

Why do you need Fat?

Fat has a myriad of uses in your body.

The most important of which is that it makes up the membrane of your cells. If things are going to pass into or out of your cells, they’re going to pass through that membrane.

The types of fat you eat will directly affect the manner in which your cells absorb nutrients, excrete waste, produce and respond to hormones, etc. In essence, the cell membrane is the only thing separating your functioning healthily from your being sick and dying.

So, you know, it’s kind of a big deal.

Aside from the cell membrane (termed phospholipid bilayer should you be inclined to come to the Nerd Side… May the force be strong in you), fat also serves to provide the oil that protects and preserves your hair and skin, coats your nerve cells to allow them to communicate quickly, and are utilized in the production of hormones essential to basic processes of the body. It’s also far and away the most abundant energy source we have in our bodies.

In short, you need fat, and avoiding it in your diet is a poorly educa… no, an idiotic decision to make.

How do I get my insufficiently greasy paws on this delicious fat?

 You’ll have to decide what type of fat you’re after before I can tell you where to find it.

It might come as a surprise that your body can actually synthesize and produce much of the fat it needs internally. That’s not to say you don’t need to eat fat, you do.

What it says is that you need to prioritize eating the fats that your body can’t produce, termed Essential Fatty Acids (EFA).

Polyunsaturated Fat and EFA’s, In All Their Smug Glory

The essential fatty acids are polyunsaturated fats often seen on food labels/packaging as omega-3 and omega-6 fats. For those of you paying attention, the numbers refer to what section along the carbon chain is absent of hydrogen. Pretty cool, right?

No? No that’s just me? Well then, this is embarrassing. Okay, moving on….

As we were saying, your body can’t synthesize these fatty acids so you need to get them in your diet. The good news for you omega-6 fans out there (I imagine you being much like Deadheads following Omega-6’s around the country and using psychedelics to enhance “the Omega-6 experience”, man) is that they can be found in most of the food you eat.

They’re so prevalent in the modern diet that it’s actually problematic.

Excessive omega-6 consumption is rampant because it’s found in vegetable oils, wheat, and other staples.

“But I thought they were essential?”

They are. You need to eat some of them. But not the proverbial “metric shit-ton” of them.

Omega-6’s are kind of a double edged-sword. They’re needed in your body, but they’re also pro-inflammatory in large amounts. Inflammation is at the root of many health problems including heart disease and arthritis.

Now, before this turns into a fear mongering rant, let’s talk about the remedy to the problem. Are you ready for this? I’m about to blow your mind.

Well, maybe not, probably just pique your interest, moderately…

The solution is to eat omega-3’s. They’re anti-inflammatory and, as such, can help bring balance to the force. Er, your body.

You can imagine Omega-6’s as Darth Vader and Omega 3’s as Yoda. Keep in mind that Omega-6’s – like Vader, were not born inherently evil. They became that way due to circumstance, and simply need to be balanced with Omega-3’s. How do you achieve that?

By eating foods like salmon, mackerel, eggs, grass fed beef, chia, hemp and flaxseed which are rich in Omega-3’s. If you don’t regularly eat these foods, it’s worth supplementing with fish or krill oil. Don’t use flaxseed oil- it’s much less effective.

Now that we’ve talked EFA’s and polyunsaturated fat, let’s move on to monounsaturated fat.

Mr. Bukowski: great source of writing, terrible source of healthy fat

Monounsaturated Fat: The Charles Bukowski of Fat

I like monounsaturated fat, he does great work on your health and yet he’s not one of these arrogant bastards who terms himself “essential”.

Monounsaturated fat has been shown to reduce “bad cholesterol” and raise “good cholesterol” as well as contribute to reductions in body fat and weight when all things are held equal. There have also been correlations shown between monounsaturated fat consumption and healthy testosterone levels.

You can find monounsaturated fat playing it cool inside of avocadoes, olive oil, pistachios, walnut, peanuts and cashews.

Saturated Fat: “The Scapegoat”

Saturated fat has been absolutely crucified in the media and the “health” industry at large for decades.

It was the cause of heart disease and obesity for quite some time.

It was the first thing people avoided when they wanted to lose weight.

Some wouldn’t leave their homes at night for fear of being victimized by roving gangs of saturated fat…

In a sort of reactionary seizure response to this, saturated fat is now being toted as the secret to vitality by crowds of lunatics putting butter in their coffee and fetishizing bacon and red meat.

The truth lies somewhere in the middle.

To date, there is no definitive evidence that saturated fat is a cause of cardiovascular disease.

Additionally, saturated fat appears to be the safest fat to use when cooking at high temperatures. Let’s look into that part…

Going back to its structure, we recall that saturated fat is quite literally dense. All of the available Hydrogen-Carbon bonds in the chain are made in a saturated fat.

This makes it very stable even in the face of high heat. That makes saturated fatty acids less likely to break down during cooking and release free radicals.

“You talkin’ about me, bro?”

When I say free radicals I’m not referring to revolutionary thinkers like Tom Paine, but instead unstable chemicals in the body that can damage your cells.

If you were to imagine the scene in Austin Powers where Austin stuffs Mini-Me into a pillowcase and bashes him into things…

That’s how free radicals act in your body.

All told, saturated fat doesn’t appear to be the boogeyman it was made out to be. That said, slathering butter on every meal still flies in the face of the all-important notion of calorie balance, so saturated fat should be consumed in moderation just like all the other fats.

Aside from one exception… trans fat, which we’ll cover next.

You can get your saturated fat in through red meat, eggs, coconut oil, butter and full-fat dairy products.

Trans Fat: One Bad Mother…

Trans Fat is one of the few foods we can simplify down to being inherently shitty for you. It has no positive attributes and plenty of terrible ones.

Trans-fats occur in extremely small amounts naturally. The majority of trans-fats in your diet are manmade. They are produced when polyunsaturated fats (liquid oils) are packed with hydrogen in a process called hydrogenation. You’ve probably seen the phrase “hydrogenated vegetable oil” on food labels.

The process of hydrogenation converts the oil into a more solid, creamy texture. It’s ideal for use in processed foods because it’s reusable in deep-fryers and when used in baked goods it won’t dry out regardless of shelf-life.

Aside from the fact that they are more or less terrible for your body once ingested, trans-fats are perfect.

Research suggests that trans-fat consumption actively leads to reductions in “good cholesterol” and elevated “bad cholesterol”. It’s also been linked to type II diabetes, heart attack and stroke.

A food can be labeled as “No Trans Fat” if it has less than 0.5g of trans-fat per serving. Obviously, this is misleading. Most people eat multiple servings of their food and that trans fat can add up quickly. The best course of action is to avoid foods with hydrogenated oils in the ingredients.

Trans-fat is not poison like some people would make you believe. But, it really has no redeeming qualities. If I had to liken trans-fat to something… it would be the television show “The Bachelor”.

If you really love a food that has trans-fat in it, eat it in moderation and it won’t hurt you. Slugging French fries and pre-packaged cookies all day is probably a bad idea though.

So what does all of this mean?

I just dropped a lot of information on you… it’s valuable stuff and I thank you for taking the time to read through it. Your health will definitely be better for it. Let’s get down to some practical recommendations…

The first of which is that you should eat a wide variety of fats. You can basically cycle through the foods listed in each category above and ensure you’re getting the variation you need.

Many people will struggle to eat enough omega-3 fatty acids to balance out their omega-6 consumption. For those of you who don’t eat coldwater fish regularly, so basically everyone… I highly recommend supplementation.

In the larger picture of your entire diet, fat should make up between 20-40% of your total calorie intake.

That range is in direct proportion to the amount of carbohydrates you eat.

For example, if we have a person who weighs 150lb, looking to maintain their bodyweight at 1900 calories/day, they would look for 380-760 calories per day to come from fat. Since fat has 9 calories per gram they’d be eating between 42 and 84 grams of fat/day.

If the extent of their physical exertion is a long walk to the fridge, they’ll probably do best with the higher fat approach. If they’re a jackrabbit, the lower end of the spectrum would allow for more carbs to fuel all that activity. Personal preference trumps all though, so experiment a bit here.

Congrats for making it through all that information, I hope it was helpful to you and that we were able to clear up some of the questions and misconceptions surrounding fat.

Most people have some pretty funny stories on this subject… what’s the craziest thing you’ve heard someone say or have had said to you about eating fat?

In the last post, we discussed calories and total energy balance. At that level of discussion we paused for naptime, hustled our friends for their juiceboxes, and retired to our beds in footy pajamas when it was all said and done.

At the next level of dietary importance we have macronutrients – that is, where your calories are coming from.  As mentioned in 101, there are 3 primary macronutrients; carbohydrates, protein, and fat. To reiterate, if your overall calorie intake is not in line with your goals none of this matters.

In this post, and the subsequent, we’re going to get to know each of the primary  “macros” as they’re often dubbed. In a friendly way; what their hobbies are, where they like to hang out, and how you can relate to them.

“The painting was a gift.”

For those of you who may be thinking about creeping into their bedrooms at night and asking if they’d like their portrait painted, now would be a good time to see yourself out.

Today we’ll talk carbohydrates. Let’s get down to it.

                                                                                        

What are Carbohydrates?

Carbs come in 3 basic varieties, simple sugars, complex carbs, and fiber.

The first two are the primary source of energy for the body. Really just simple sugars, because complex carbs are basically just simple sugars linked together.

Complex carbs take longer to break down and hit the bloodstream whereas simple sugars make it through much faster. For this reason, complex carbs are often deemed “healthier” because they release sugar into the blood at a slower and more manageable pace for your regulatory systems.

Fiber is a bit different, it’s importance comes not so much in that it provides energy, but in that it acts as “nature’s broom”, cleaning out all the crap ( quite literally) that has gotten stuck in your digestive track. It also helps to improve blood sugar management, improve blood lipid profiles and reduce risk factors associated with colon cancer.

Where can I find these “carbz” you speak of?

Carbs can be found in basically everything you eat aside from meat, butter and oil.

They’re much like The Blob, albeit without the insatiable thirst for death and destruction. Although that depends who you ask… we all know that asshole claiming carbs are the root of all evil.

To be a bit more specific- anything made with grains of any kind, flour, fruit, juice, sugar, or syrup will contain simple or complex carbohydrates.

Fiber can be found in most whole grains, fruits, nuts, and vegetables. Basically, the foods that haven’t been processed in a factory have got that sweet, sweet fiber we all lust after. I mean… what?

How much should I eat?

There’s a lot of debate over what amount of carbohydrates is ideal. Which is idiotic.

That’s like debating which James Bond was best.

You stay classy, Mr. Bond.

I like Sean Connery, that accent is all that is man….

The point is that every person is going to be different and their body is going to have different preferences. The two things to consider are how active you are and if your goal is to gain or lose weight.

Let’s break it down, not literally, that would require rhythm and all the other qualities I’m deficient in.

Technically… you can live without carbs (deriving energy from fat and protein) but I don’t recommend it unless there is a diagnosed medical reason. In which case common sense tells you to listen to your doctor instead of some dude on the internet.

Most activity beyond what you’d do on a daily basis- so stuff like playing sports, surfing, biking, working out, is going to be fueled by carbohydrates. As such, active individuals are well suited to eating more carbohydrates than sedentary ones. They use more so they can eat more, simple as that.

If you’re a competitive athlete, I’d go as far as to say you need to eat a lot of carbohydrates.

The second variable to consider is your desire to gain or lose weight. I assume no one wants to lose muscle, so let’s specify that as building muscle and losing fat.

Someone looking to gain muscle would do well to follow the recommendations for an athlete.

Let’s say you want to lose fat, the first place you should start is by creating a calorie deficit like we discussed in Nutrition 101. You have two options, increase activity or decrease calorie intake, a combination of the two works as well.

If you decide that you want to decrease calorie intake, the first place most people should look to do that is by eating fewer carbs.

To put some numbers on things, most people’s diets should range in carbohydrate consumption from 0.75g/lb of bodyweight for a person looking for rapid fat loss, all the way to 2-3 g/lb of bodyweight for an active individual who is looking to gain muscle.

There are some extreme examples (the morbidly obese and athletes training 2x a day) that will fall out of that range but I didn’t include them since they’re outliers.

Much in the way you’d be the outlier who wants to be a pain in the ass and bring up those examples.

I kid, I kid, you know I love you.

If you’re looking for rapid fat loss, lean towards 0.75 g/lb of bodyweight.

If you’re looking to maintain your weight, somewhere in the 1 to 1.5 g/lb of bodyweight is going to be the sweet spot.

And if you’re all about the gainz, 2 to 3g/lb of bodyweight is my recommendation.

Hopefully this answered some of the questions you have on carbohydrates, in the next installment we’ll talk about protein in it’s many delicious forms.

If you have any further questions that you want answered, drop a comment below and I’ll take care of it for you.