Optimal eating (or rather, a step in the right direction)

by c_edwards7 min read19th Jan 201565 comments

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NutritionCookingWorld OptimizationPractical
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Over the past few months I've been working to optimize my life.  In this post I describe my attempt to optimize my day-to-day cooking and eating - my goal with this post is to get input and to offer a potential template for people who aren't happy with their current cooking/eating patterns.  I'm a) still pretty new to LW, and b) not a nutritionist; I am not claiming that this is optimal, only that it is a step in the right direction for me.  I'd love suggestions/advice/feedback.

Goal:

How do I quantify a successful cooking/eating plan?

Healthy

"Healthy" is a broad term.  I'm not interested in making food a complicated or stressful component of my life - quite the opposite.  Healthy means that I feel good, and that I'm providing my body with a good mix of building blocks (carbs, proteins, fats) and nutrients.  This means I want most/all meals to include some form of complex carbs, protein, and either fruits or veggies or both.  As I'm currently implementing an exercise plan based on the LW advice for optimal exercising, I'm aiming to get ~120 grams of protein per day (.64g/lb bodyweight/day).  There seems to be a general consensus that absorption of nutrients from whole foods is a) higher, and b) less dangerous, so when possible I'm trying to make foods from basic components instead of buying pre-processed stuff.

I have a health condition called hypoglycemia (low blood sugar) that makes me cranky/shaky/weak/impatient/foolish/tired when I am hungry, and can be triggered by eating simple sugars.  So, for me personally, a healthy diet includes rarely feeling hungry and rarely eating simple sugars (especially on their own - if eaten with other food the effect is much less severe).  This also means trying to focus on forms of fruit and complex carbs that have low glycemic indexes (yams are better than baked potatoes, for example).  I would guess that these attributes would be valuable for anyone, but for me they are a very high priority.

I'm taking some advice from the "Exos" (formerly Core Performance) fitness program, as described in the book Core performance essentials. One of the suggestions from this that I'm trying to use here (aside from the above complex carb+protein+fruit/veg meal structure) is to "eat the rainbow every day" - that is, mix up the fruits and veggies you eat, ideally getting as many colors per day as possible.  I'm also taking advice from the (awesome) LW article on increasing longevity: "eat fish, nuts, eggs, fruit, dark chocolate."

When possible I'm trying to focus on veggies that are particularly nutrient dense - spinach, bok choy, tomatoes, etc.  I am (for now) avoiding a few food products that I have heard (but have not yet confirmed!) are linked to potential health issues: tofu, whey proteins.  Note that I do not trust my information on the potential risks of these foods, but as neither of these are important to my diet anyways, I have put researching them as a low priority compared to everything else I want to learn.

So to recap: don't stress about it, but try to do complex carbs, proteins (120g/day for me), fruits, and veggies in every meal, avoid sugars where possible (although dark chocolate is good).  Fish, nuts and eggs are high priority proteins.

Cheap

I'm on a fairly limited budget.  This means trying to focus on the seasonal fruits and veggies (which are typically cheaper, and as an added bonus are likely healthier than the same fruit/veggie when out of season), aiming for less expensive meats, and not trying to eat organically (probably worth a separate discussion of organic vs not, meat vs not).  This also means making my own foods when the price benefit is high and the time cost is low.  I often make my own breads, for example (using a breadmaker) - it takes about 10 minutes of my time, directly saves me about 3+ dollars or so compared to an equivalent quality loaf of bread (many breads can be made for ~$.50-1$), plus saves me either the time of shopping multiple times per week to obtain fresh bread or the grossness of eating bread that I've frozen to keep it from molding.  Additionally, my budget means that I prefer that my weekly meal plan not depend on eating out or buying pre-made foods.

Quick

While I'm on a fairly limited monetary budget, I'm on a very limited time budget.  Cooking can be fun for me, but I prefer that my weekly schedule not REQUIRE much time - I can always replace a quick meal with a longer fun one if I feel like it.


The Plan

My general approach is split my meals between really quick-and-easy (like chickpeas, canned salmon, and olive oil over prewashed spinach with an apple or two on the side) and batch foods where a somewhat longer time investment is split over many nights (like lentil stew in a crockpot).

To keep myself reasonable full I need about 6-7 meals per day: breakfast, snack, lunch, (optional snack depending on schedule), post-workout snack, dinner, snack.  These don't all need to be large, but I'm unhappy/unproductive without something for each of those meals, so I might as well make it easy to eat them.

In general I've found the following system to fulfill my criteria of success (healthy, cheap, quick), and it's been much less stressful to have a general plan in place - I can more easily figure out my shopping list, and it's not hard to ensure I always have food ready when I need it.

Breakfasts

Quick and easy is the key here.  I typically have either

 

  1. Yogurt with sunflower seeds and/or nuts, a handful of rolled oats (yes, uncooked, but add a bit of water at the end to make them tolerable), and sometimes some fruit on top.  Add honey for sweetener as needed (I typically don't do to hypoglycemia).
  2. Bread (often homemade, but whatever floats your boat) with some peanut butter on top, a banana or other fruit item on the side.
  3. (if I have the time) Scrambled eggs mixed with chopped broccoli or bell peppers, bread, and a piece of fruit.
(also a big glass of water, which everyone seems to think is important)(also coffee, although I'm considering transitioning to a different caffeine source.

Lunch

 

I have three "batch" meals here (I make enough for 3+lunches, so I cook lunches ~twice a week):

 

  1. salmon mash plus "spinach salad" (spinach with olive oil and either lemon juice or balsamic vinegar), fruit item.  salmon mash is a mix of cooked rice, canned salmon, black olives (for flavor - not sure that they're useful nutritionally), canned black or garbanzo beans, pasta sauce.  It sounds disgusting, but I find it pretty decent, and it's very cheap and filling, and super balanced in terms of carbs and proteins.  I do proportions of 1 cup rice, 1 large can salmon, 1-2 cans beans, 1/2 can black olives, 1/2 can pasta sauce (typically I do a double batch, which lasts me about 4-5 lunches.  Your mileage may vary)
  2. Baked yams and boneless skinless chicken breasts plus spinach salad or other veggies, fruit item
  3. pasta salad: pasta, raw chopped broccoli, tomatoes (grape/cherry tomatoes are easiest), chopped bell peppers, sliced ham, olives (for flavor again - not important nutritionally, I think), and some olive oil (you could use Caesar salad dressing if you like more flavor).  
If I haven't prepped a batch lunch, I just put salmon and beans on top of spinach, add a little olive oil, and throw in a slice of bread and a fruit on the side. Alternately, PBJ plus veggie and fruit.

 

Dinner

I aim to make one batch dinner per week and have it last for 4-5 meals, and then have several quick-and-easy dinners to fill the gap (this also makes it easy to accommodate dinners out or food related social gatherings).

Some ideas for Batch Dinners (crock pots are your friends here):

 

  • Lentil stew, bread, sliced carrots or bell peppers, fruit item (apple, banana, grapefruit, whatever).  That lentil soup recipe is ridiculously cheap, healthy, and quite tasty.
  • The potato-and-cabbage based rumpledethumps recipe (which freezes very well - make a huge batch and throw half of it in the freezer), plus a meat of some sort, a fruit item and maybe a vegetable something 
  • Other crock pot soups: chicken tortilla soup, chili, stew.  Add a veggie on the side, a fruit item, and maybe a slice of bread.
  • Large stirfry (these often take a bit longer than crock pot meals), rice or noodles, fruit on the side.
Note that since I only make one batch dinner per week, those bullets are sufficient to cover a month (and depending on what your tolerance for repetition is, that might be enough for years).

Some ideas for quick-and-easy dinners:
  • Salad made from salad greens, some form of precooked meat (salmon is good), beans, maybe sliced avacado and tomato, maybe sunflower seeds.
  • Rice/pasta; scrambled/cooked eggs or baked chicken; munching veggie like carrots, raw broccoli, bell pepper; fruit item.  Note on chicken: while there is a reasonably large elapse time from start to finish, your involvement doesn't need to take long.  Typically I have a bunch of boneless skinless chicken breasts in the freezer - pull one out, throw it in a ziplock with soy sauce, garlic powder, ginger (or whatever other marinade you prefer), put the ziplock in a bowl of warm water, preheat oven to 370ish.  Once chicken is thawed, put in a pan and cook in the oven.  Ideally do enough rice/pasta and chicken for several nights.

 

Snacks

In general my snacks are super simple: just combine some kind of munching veggie (carrots, bell pepper, raw broccoli, snap peas, etc) with hummus, some fruit item, something protein-y (handful of nuts or sunflower seeds, usually) and (optionally) a slice of bread or other carb source.  For whatever snack I have after a workout, I want to make sure there is plenty of protein, so I include either hard boiled eggs, baked chicken, or salmon (on bread).


Implementation

So over the weekend, when I plan my week and go shopping, I choose the following:

 

  1. One batch dinner to cook (usually I need to buy the stuff for this)
  2. One type of quick-and-easy dinner to eat for 2-3 nights (often using staples/leftovers I already have)
  3. Two types of batch lunch to make from my list of three.
  4. 2-3 kinds of munching veggies - enough veggies total to include in ~3 meals per day (so like 6ish carrots per day, or 2 bell peppers, etc).  Think carrots, raw broccoli, bell peppers, green beans, sugar snap peas, cherry tomatoes, etc.
  5. 2-3 kinds of fruit items.  Think apples, bananas, grapefruit, grapes, oranges, etc.
  6. Two kinds of protein for post-workout snacks, chosen from: eggs, chicken, salmon
  7. Bread recipes to make 2-3 loaves (which might just be a single recipe repeated)
I also make sure I have enough yogurt and other breakfast supplies to get me through the week.  I drink milk with most of my meals at home, so I check my milk supply as well.

Boom!  Planning done, shopping list practically writes itself!  Once per week I make an small effort on cooking a batch dinner, two or three nights per week I put an extremely minimal effort into quick-and-easy dinners, two evenings per week I make a batch of lunch foods and maybe prep workout protein (hard boil eggs or bake chicken breasts), and otherwise my "cooking" consists of taking things from the fridge and putting them onto a dish (and possibly microwaving).

 


 

Conclusions

I'm still tweaking my system, but it has been a marked improvement from the last-minute scrabbling and suboptimal meals that tended to characterize my eating before this.  It's also a big step up in terms of utility from the more elaborate and time-consuming meals I sometimes cooked to compensate for feelings of inadequacy generated by aforementioned scrabbling/suboptimal meals.  I tend to feel fairly energetic and healthy, and it's a huge reassurance to me to know that I always have food planned out and typically it's available to me without needing to do any cooking.  It appears that it's considerably cheaper, too, although there are several confounding factors that would also drive my grocery bills down (transitioning to not-organic foods, trying to hit sales, etc).

Are there things I'm missing?  Suggestions for meals?  (note that I'm a bit wary of meal-replacement shakes) Alternative systems that people have found to hit that sweet spot of healthy, quick, and inexpensive? Is this something that might be useful for you?


EDIT:  Tuna is high in mercury, and shouldn't be eaten in nearly the quantities I had originally planned.  I've replaced canned tuna with canned salmon.

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(note that I'm a bit wary of meal-replacement shakes)

So, I suspect MealSquares deserve a mention as having many of the benefits of meal-replacement shakes without of the detriments of it being a shake or being thrown together from uncertain ingredients. They seem to be the best option time-wise (it takes approximately five seconds to open a package and start eating), but are significantly more expensive than a diet based on preparing staples yourself. (If you want to eat just MealSquares, you're looking at ~$10 a day; if you want to eat just rice and beans, you're looking at ~$1 a day.)

I have really wanted to try MealSquares for a while now, but they are only sold in the US, with no timeline for availability elsewhere. In fact I don't think their site has been updated since I first encountered them a couple of months ago. Does anyone know if they still exist, and if they have plans to ever sell overseas?

They still exist (I've been subscribed for some time). I have no speculation about their overseas plans, and recommend you use the contact form to ask them--it might possibly make it happen sooner, as it's more evidence of an overseas market.

See also discussion here, in particular, soylent green (unsuitable for OP because hypoglycemia), soylent orange (yay complex carbs!) and ketosoylent (most recently Yudkowsky's Mildly Surprising Super Ketonic Dietary Replacement Fluid: Your Alternative To Healthy Eating.)

I probably should try adding soylent orange to my overall plan. Some part of me is uncomfortable with the idea of meal replacement shakes, but I don't think that's a rational feeling.

The only rational argument against it that I can think of is the same argument against repeating the same meal every day - the lack of diet diversity. RomeoStevens seems to have found no intermediate-term health issues on a mainly-soylent-orange diet, but additionally if I'm using soylent orange as only a part of my diet, I'm still going to have a decent mix of food sources.

Time to dust off the blender.

Absolutely worth mentioning. They're something I'm interested in looking into, but as you say the pricing is a fair bit higher, and at the moment I'd prefer to keep costs lower.

What I'm seeing is $85 for 6 packs of 2000 calories. Which means $14/day for a person consuming 2000 calories per day. I am a large male with an active metabolism who is attempting to exercise on a regular basis - I haven't counted it up, but I'm probably closer to 3000 calories, which means $20/day. Still great compared to other prepared food options, but not the best option for me right now.

For other people, though, with slightly more expendable income and a desire to get a quick balanced diet in a non-shake form, this is probably a fantastic choice.

It sounds like you're using tuna as a staple. Keep in mind that tuna is quite high in mercury. Consumer reports, after measuring the mercury content of some of the common brands, concluded no more than a can a week should be consumed to stay within guidelines on mercury consumption. I'd recommend replacing some of the tuna with herring or salmon, both very low mecury fishes with great omega 3 content.

Thank you! Apparently this is fairly common knowledge (when I mentioned this to several friends they thought it was obvious). But I hadn't been aware, and that could have been very unpleasant.

I'm going to switch "tuna" to "canned salmon" in my post, and I'm trying out canned salmon today. Interestingly, when on sale there's not much difference in price between canned tuna and canned salmon, at least where I live.

Also, frozen salmon burgers are fairly cheap and very convenient. They're $1 each where I live.

Requesting a source for this. I was aware of some mercury in fish, but to my understanding the levels were around about - "its okay to eat 3 serves of fish per week without worrying about it" (this includes salmon and tuna)

and "if you eat 7+ serves of fish a week, you might want to check your metal poisoning levels after about two years"

I would like to be wrong; but I have no sources for this.

This is, unfortunately, complex -- the levels of mercury in fish depend on the kind of fish and where it was caught. So a study of, say, tuna in Tsukiji (Tokyo's fish market) will tell you nothing about the mercury content of your sardines and vice versa. You can estimate averages, but the error bars are going to be pretty big.

[-][anonymous]6y 0

What's the mercury content of kipper like? Kipper is cheaper than everything but tuna where I used to live.

You might want to say something like "quick" instead of "fast" because homonyms (I first thought you were going to talk about intermittent fasting, which didn't make sense because of the hypoglycemia).

Why are you skeptical of whey protein? I've only ever heard good stuff, and I've spent enough time reading about nutrition to construct not-unreasonable arguments against almost every food. (Vegetables? Plants don't want to be eaten (except for fruit), so they contain bad-to-eat chemicals that humans almost certainly can't metabolize! Fruits? Have inferior nutrient density relative to vegetables!)

Thoughts on wheaty things: you can probably dismiss the paleosphere arguments against wheat. You're still dealing with a plant that doesn't want to be eaten and therefore contains toxic chemicals, but unlike other plants (e.g. broccolli), wheat doesn't come with killer micronutrient density. The naive approach would be to displace as many wheat-calories with vegetable/fruit/meat/nut/anything-else-with-higher-micronutrient-density calories. However, I also get the need for cheap calories, so if you're already eating all the micronutrients you need to, I can't really argue too hard against wheat.

Meat: near as I can tell, the important distinction is "processed/not processed" (see top comment thread in Lifestyle Interventions to Increase Longevity). There's also good reasons to prefer lean: better nutrient density, fewer toxins (which often are fat-soluble), although we again run into "more cost per calorie."

Caffeine: have you considered/tried not doing caffeine? I'm biased against it, since I don't really get the stimulant benefits but do suffer from withdrawal symptoms, but if you're a normal human, you're going to build tolerance, and suddenly your coffee-to-improve-performance-beyond-baseline has turned into coffee-to-keep-performance-at-baseline and it costs more than water. Also, chocolate contains caffeine and theobromine (another minor stimulant); consider restricting your chocolate consumption for days you need a performance boost and cut the coffee entirely.

I'll recommend Food and Western Disease as a book on nutrition that reads a bit like Gwern (1, 2) and lends itself to being updated upon (the book concludes with a recommendation for a version of paleo (which is almost closer to what you have here than what you'd find on, say, Mark's Daily Apple, but I used the same principles to arrive at eating soylent exclusively, and I'm confident that it could improve your nutrition plan significantly.)

I'm curious as to how it arrives at a version of paleo while simultaneously dismissing the paleosphere on wheat (of which Scott has listed only a few)?

Because if I could distill the object-level advice of the paleosphere into two words, they would be: "avoid wheat".

(Obviously, standard diet advice doesn't apply when one is hypoglycemic, although I suppose, depending on the underlying causes of the hypoglycemia, the prescription could be more carbohydrates or more fat)

To tl;dr a tl;dr

  • Seeds (read: grains) have the highest concentration of "don't eat me" toxins, because of the role they play in reproduction; phytic acid, for instance, inhibits absorption of several minerals.

  • Humans can live off vegetables and some fish (Kitavans) or almost entirely meat (Inuit) and be pretty healthy. However, even animals optimized for eating seeds, much less humans, cannot live off grains exclusively without developing pellegra and beriberi.

  • Cereals have exceptionally high energy density, which may lead to overfeeding.

  • It's plausible grains interfere with satiety responses via endocrine disruption

  • Grains have a bad omega-3 : omega-6 ratio.

  • Grains have poor nutrient density.


Distilling Lindeberg's object-level advice: eat lean meat, fish, vegetables (including root vegetables), fruit, and nuts (but not too many). Do not eat grains, dairy, sugar, beans, or processed things. Drink water. I've written about how he comes to this (and my reservations about the lack of extant evidence to support any strong recommendations, including his) previously.

You shouldn't care much about omega-3/6 ratio in grains because they don't usually have much of either. Same for meat.

Oh, I think I either misunderstoody your post or phrased my question poorly.

Your description of Lindeberg is precisely representative of the mainstream paleo "party line" as I understand it. I thought the book would "dismiss the paleosphere arguments against wheat", as you suggested, and give justifications for why it was okay while still maintaining paleo - but what you've written is the paleosphere argument against wheat (which is a grain)

Huh. From the time I spent in the paleosphere, the arguments I saw against wheat were the six Scott listed plus "carbs are evil!" (Literally the only input to the delta-weight function is grams_carbs.) Lindeberg either ignores or dismisses these arguments. I stopped spending time in the paleosphere a while back and I'm not overwhelmingly proud of the epistemic purity of the parts I did frequent, so maybe you just got to see the paleosphere make their non-wretched arguments.

Ooh okay. So they both don't like wheat, but for different reasons. I had misunderstood your original statement to meant that Lindeberg would exonerate wheat. My mistake.

tldr!Lindeberg does seems to disagree with Scott about the endocrine disruption thing - unless it's just leptin-lectin specifically we're talking about here, and give the "toxins" idea a bit more weight than Scott does.

I stopped spending time in the paleosphere a while back and I'm not overwhelmingly proud of the epistemic purity of the parts I did frequent, so maybe you just got to see the paleosphere make their non-wretched arguments.

Yeah, amateur nutrition is chock full of quacks, and I think nutrition should be approached with almost as much skepticism as politics (which is a shame, since one's feeding behavior is actually important).

FWIW, I've actually heard both the arguments that Lindenberg listed and the arguments that Scott rebutted in the paleosphere...I whole heartedly agree with Lindenberg, but I don't particularly trust Scott's judgement in this matter (despite otherwise thinking extremely extremely highly of him) because he's making interpretations I wouldn't make.

For example

Something seems to be going on with autism and schizophrenia – but most people don’t have autism or schizophrenia. The intestinal barrier seems to become more permeable with possible implications for autoimmune diseases – but most people don’t have autoimmune disease.

is just...such a weird thing for a psychiatrist to say. From my perspective Intestinal barrier problems leading to generalized inflammation and generalized mental deficiency are something to seriously worry about, especially when ADHD and depression are also linked to inflammation. From my perspective, this clearly pointing to an auto-immune-mediated deficit in general brain health, with an elevated risk of all mental problems in general. You can say that the effect is not real, but once you accept that it's real you can't say "oh but I'm not schizophrenic so it does not apply", as if schizophrenic brains were so fundamentally different from healthy brains that it shouldn't give a healthy person pause when a particular food worsens schizophrenia.

And to me,

But what none of these studies are going to do a good job ruling out is that whole grain is just funging against refined grain which is even worse.

is a big, gaping, chasming hole that Scott is treating as a minor breach. (I mean, forget refined grains, it could be funging against coke and cheetos for all we know). It's interesting that we can look at the same data and see it so differently.

Swapped quick for fast. Thanks for pointing that out!

On whey protein - I was exposed to a lot of unverified health information by an ex. Much of that information came from a group of sources that take a conspiracy-theory approach to nutrition research (there's a big food industry that controls what gets published, and a lack of evidence for or any evidence against fact X is because of the food industry!). This is not to say that the facts I was exposed to were wrong, but rather that I need to verify them. So according to her, whey protein was bad. A quick google search for "whey protein health concerns" turns up quite a bit, although it's a mishmash of stuff. The mayo clinic has a list of side effects from using whey protein, and this article states that "increased whey protein added to the diet of rats increased tumors and cancers". On the other hand, wikipedia mentions the potential value of whey protein in reducing risk of cancer, heart disease, and diabetes. So the picture looks far from clear - I guess I have some more reading to do (unless someone else has already done the reading and can whey in?).

Thanks for the link on wheat stuff - because of the hypoglycemia, wheat has been a major building block of my meals. It's nice to know that I can continue that. Same goes for your suggestions on meat - most of my meat intake is chicken breasts, which fit in the non-processed lean meat category.

I really should try weaning myself off caffeine, and see how I feel. I was 20 before I started drinking it, and I was able to perform in school and work settings just fine without. That said, I'd like to do some more reading about how caffeine actually works - do you have another link to suggest? (if nothing comes to mind, I'll just spend some time with google).

Added Food and Western Disease to my reading list. Thanks!

Let's talk about drugs!

Caffeine's an adenosine antagonist. Now, let's figure out what that means.

Neurons have proteins embedded in their membranes called receptors. Chemicals (e.g. neurotransmitters) can bind to these receptors, which causes stuff to happen. For instance, adenosine is a chemical, and it can bind to receptors in your brain cells, resulting in sleepy behavior.

(Here seems to be the place to mention that this is a vastly oversimplified explanation. Those interested in a technical explanation would do well to check out the appropriate textbook, because I literally just condensed over three chapters of my psychopharmacology textbook in as many sentences.)

Caffeine is an antagonist. Antagonists are able to bind to receptors without causing the stuff to happen. Since the receptors are already bound, the adenosine can't bind to them, meaning the stuff (in this case, sleepy behavior) happens less.

This leads nicely into tolerance. Your body reacts to not-enough-working-adenosine-receptors by adding adenosine receptors. Thus, when your not hopped up on caffeine, you have too many adenosine receptors (and therefore too much sleepy behavior), and even when you are on caffeine, the effects are muted.

Fortunately, it's pretty straightforward to reduce the number of adenosine receptors: you just stop ingesting caffeine, your body notices there's too many adenosine receptors, and removes them. This doesn't happen immediately, so you get withdrawal. Checking wikipedia, this should last 2–9 days at nuisance level. (Relative to the other drugs in my textbook, this is positively innocuous).

Also, it's worth mentioning caffeine's pharmacokinetics. The rate at which caffeine is metabolized is proportional to how much is in your system. Solving the differential equation gives you something like $A e^{-kt}$; the important thing to know is it has a half-life of about 6 hours.


Out of every course I took in college, psychopharmacology had by far the highest [actual IRL use] : [expected IRL use] ratio. Drugs are ubiquitous and having a solid understanding constantly pays small dividends.

Is there any research on why caffeine seems to affect some people more/differently than others? Anecdotally, I've noticed over the years that I get the "jitters" after two cups and have to stop because I can't stand the feeling, whereas others can drink half a pot and barely notice the effects.

I initially thought that these others had just 'pushed through the jitters' and built up a tolerance, but some of them have told me they've never experienced the jittery feeling I'm talking about. Or maybe it just didn't make them as uncomfortable as it makes me?

The answer, as with most questions like 'why does X seem to work well for some people and not others' is going to be complex. For example, one of the recent links in my newsletter touches on this topic:

Aside from finding some hits, caffeine consumption has long had meaningful heritability estimates (some are cited in that paper, others can be found in Google Scholar with the obvious query 'caffeine heritability'). So that seems to be part of it: genetics.

Thanks for the paper (that's a lot of authors!). The complexity you mention makes it difficult to determine whether substance X (caffeine, alcohol, eggs, etc.) has a net positive or negative for any given person when it comes to health benefits. Coffee has been linked to some positive health effects, but maybe only for those people who don't get the jitters....that's the sort of thing that would be cool to know. Until then, I'm just going to listen to my body and minimize consumption.

Fantastic explanation, and now I have another book to read eventually. Thanks!

I eat about 0.5-1kg of cheese each week. I would suggest you include it as a protein source. But its up to your taste preferences. (diversity yo!)

A hard boiled egg might suit your salad.

you can probably try to find pre-roasted oats/museli (sometimes with the nut mix already created. (at extra cost but also tastyness)

A very quick and filling food for me is peanut butter and cellery. (although it depends if that is even remotely normal where you come from)

Also snap-peas, about a bowl full, boil water, pour over peas, sit for 1minute, eat peas, wait 5, drink water. mmmm..

your diet plan lacks rewardy-snacks. for any time you feel like "I did a good job and want to eat something fancier" (read: chocolate, dried fruit)

A completely aesthetic recommendation: herbs and spices. For example, in your spinach salad, throw in some black pepper and aromatic herbs (e.g. buy a packet of mixed herbes de provence). And a little leftover bacon fat if you have any (Okay, that last one is not so healthy). Are you putting cumin in 70% of your stews yet? Consider it! :D

Fantastic point. I'm blessed with fairly simple tastes when it comes to food, and I'm fine with some of my meals being fairly bland (pasta salad, for example, or spinach salads). But when it's easy and healthy, there's no reason not to make the food taste better.

Sidenote: the longevity article points out that garlic is linked to longer lifespans. So seasoning with garlic both increases flavor and health.

Congrats!

A probably important question: how many calories are you eating each day, and what is your BMR? This is what your chances of losing/maintaining/gaining weight hinge on, if these are concerns for you.

And a few recipe suggestions of my own:

  • High-fibre bread loaves/slices with smoked salmon fillets, cheese, sliced hardboiled eggs, with lemon juice and black pepper on top. You may add an endive or lettuce leaf at the very bottom of the sandwich. About all the protein you might need in a quick meal.
  • Oatmeal recipe: oat flakes cooked in boiling milk, with blueberries, finely chopped strawberries, bananas, almonds and/or walnuts, cinnamon, dark chocolate (the darkest you can find), and for me a teaspoon of honey. I cool it quickly by adding some cold milk at the end. Takes about a half hour to make. A very filling breakfast recipe; I found that I could go through about 12 hours of not eating after having this for breakfast.
  • Sweet exotic fruit & almond snack: I make it with little cubes of avocado, banana, pineapple, khaki, occasionally kiwi, almonds and bits of dark chocolate. To this too I add a teaspoon of honey. Absolutely delicious. (Just make sure your avocado is ripe.)
  • Salad with grated carrots, grated celery root, grated apple, lemon juice, salt & pepper, and occasionally salmon and small bits of lettuce in it.
  • Stir-fried vegetable mix from everything I might currently have in the fridge: broccoli, asparagus, bell pepper, zucchini, red onion, mushrooms. Especially red onion and mushrooms; sometimes I use just these as a side dish to grilled chicken.

Also, you might want to enter your recipes here to find out what nutrients they have. It works very well for stuff that lacks food labels, or if you don't want to compute the individual quantities.

Thanks for all the recipes!

I could probably stand to lose a few pounds, but not to much more than that - I wasn't really aiming to change my weight with my diet. My BMR is 2025.04, apparently. My understanding, though, is that exercising can increase your metabolic rate even after you're done? I've been working to implement a workout regime based on http://lesswrong.com/lw/juc/optimal_exercise/, and am lifting weights or doing interval cardio 4-6 days per week.

I don't actually track how many calories I'm eating in a day - it would probably be a good thing to do.

Do you know why you are hypoglycemic? (Diabetes? Liver failure...?) I feel that this is fairly important in determining what the diet aught to be.

Agreed. "hypoglycemia" is really the symptom, not the cause.

What I have appears to be a genetic disorder (my father and his father had it) that doesn't seem to be associated with any other health impacts. I recently realized that I should probably actually get the specifics pinned down, and that's something I'm going to work on in the future.

My understanding (through my father, who had his hypoglycemia tested when he was younger) is that my pancreas overreacts, putting out more insulin than is necessary for any given blood sugar level. It's particularly problematic when I consume simple sugars, as my pancreas drastically overshoots. The consequence is that, unless I eat slow-digesting foods every few hours, I feel cranky/exhausted/sad/impatient, get the shakes, and have general weakness in my muscles. If I continue to not eat, my emotional state stabilizes and I simply get really really tired. Not life threatening, but a serious interference with happiness/productivity.

But I will be looking more specifically into the causes, instead of my father's interpretation of his own diagnoses from forty years ago.

That's Hyperinsulinemia: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hyperinsulinemia

It might or might not be Diabetes-II related: http://care.diabetesjournals.org/content/31/Supplement_2/S262.full

In your shoes, I would recommend low carb diets -I'm partial to paleo, but whatever works. Keep in mind that if calories are to be kept constant, low carb diets are necessarily high fat diets, and this should ideally be animal or fruit fat - for example fish, coconut, olive, avocados ...not milk fat or seed based oils.

(The paleo-fied version of this is simply to use fruits instead of grains for the carbs. Regardless of whether you do paleo, I don't think it's controversial that diabetes_II spectrum disorders benefit from cutting carbs, so you'll likely end up with paleo-like macronutrient ratios one way or another anyhow.)

I would also up the exercise. I just had a quick look at Lesswrong's "optimal exercise" routine - it is indeed optimized...for increasing strength and speed. However, if you need to lose weight (obesity will exacerbate your condition) you might want to add in extended periods of walking or running.

Also, technical correction: fruits are simple sugars. (Don't let that stop you from fruits though, because it turns out that the simple/complex dichotomy turns out not to correlate particularly well with glycemic index anyway.)

Hypoglycemia is a symptom of diabetes. What you are describing is consistent with this.

Go talk to a doctor and do some blood tests, specifically fasting glucose and HbA1C.

Thank you for the advice - something I've already had in the works. My understanding is that typically diabetes-caused hypoglycemia is usually helped (and not harmed) by the consumption of simple sugars? One of the defining characteristics of my condition is that simple sugars make things worse, especially when I'm already experiencing the symptoms of hypoglycemia.

Well, let's put it this way avoiding specific diagnoses: your insulin/sugar regulating system is screwed up. This is pretty common and pretty bad for your health. You should pinpoint the exact problem and fix it to the extent possible.