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2 'Non Diet' books that are very well argued and maybe worth reading

Even if we say we do not, we all follow a diet of some form.. Whether it be mum's sotto voce voice in our head, the culinary habits of a life time or the taboos of a prescribed menu -- we all eat to a template.  At least, maybe we aspire to.

I consume within a generic diet hub because I have Diabetes 2, so 'diet' is very relevant to my  insulin responses -- and I do control my blood sugar pretty well through diet alone. This is why I am so interested in starches.

...and I do my homework.

This book  is in line with my most recent obsession: microbe gardening and the human microbiome (our own commensal microbes). I find the two things relate comfortably to one another, especially dirt and the gut. (Trust me on that).

The first book is Tim Spector's exploration of the human gut The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat.

That Spector draws on the garden as an analogy suggests the parallels. Nonetheless, the book is well written and argued, keenly referenced and located within current microbiome research.(He is a professor of Genetic Epidemiology and a leading microbiome researcher)  No matter what your current menu perspectives this is a read that will surely clarify your direction and enrich your meal times.

“There is no such thing as a one-size-fits-all diet. A recurring theme of this book is that our guts and brains are so individual, and the ways we react to foods so different and yet flexible. Our lives can be a voyage of discovery to find out what works best for us. Having overturned, I hope, many diet and food myths, I also hope that you are now more sceptical about claims concerning food and diet, however convincingly they are sold to you. No one is the infallible expert or completely impartial in this massive field, where we find ten thousand times more recycled theories than rigorous experiments. We can create synthetic DNA and clone animals, but we still know incredibly little about the stuff that keeps us alive.
This book is about dispelling diet myths and arbitrary rules. I have tried not to replace them with new rules or restrictions, but rather with knowledge. You won’t go wrong if you just treat your own microbes like you would treat your own garden. Give them plenty of fertiliser – prebiotics, fibre and nutrients. Plant new seeds regularly in the shape of probiotics and new foods. Give the soil an occasional rest by fasting. Experiment, but avoid poisoning your microbiotic garden with preservatives, antiseptic mouthwashes, antibiotics, junk food and sugar.
These treatments will maximise the diversity of the species that flourish, producing the greatest range of nutrients. In this way your personal garden will cope better with the occasional floods or droughts or invasions of toxic weeds – feasts and famines, infections and cancers. After riding the storm and inevitably suffering a few casualties, the range and balance of your gut flora will allow everything to regrow even more robustly, so allowing you and your microbes to stay healthy. Rather than thinking of your body as a temple, think of it as this precious garden.
Although we still have much to learn, my hunch is that diversity is the key.”

Excerpt From: Tim Spector. “The Diet Myth: The Real Science Behind What We Eat.” iBooks.

As it happens I am a keen potato eater. My forbears were transported to Port Arthur  as convicts in the wake of the Irish Potato Famine -- so spuds and us have a little unfinished business. It also happens that I don't take kindly to fasting. Fasting may currently be  de rigueur but I can't convince my tastebuds to sign on and go without.

However there is a work around -- a hack.  (And I thought this book was a joke!)

The Potato Hack: Weight Loss Simplified is by Tim Steele and boy! it is full of surprises. Steele is an excellent writer who develops his argument about spuds, resistant starch, prebiotics and nutrition relentlessly in a smart little volume full of handy insights into the world of Mr Potato. Even if you don't 'hack' but just grow spuds to eat -- this book is well worth the price of admission. 

While the book is labeled 'weight loss' don't let that put you off ... or turn you on.  This is a fascinating account of a very quick way to reset yourself easily and cheaply without the overbearing arrogance of so much of the guru-driven literature and the online fashions.

The potato hack was modeled after an 1849 diet plan for people that were becoming fat and “dyspeptic” from living too luxuriously. This potato diet simply called for one to eat nothing but potatoes for a few days at a time, promising that fat men become as “lean as they ought to be.” One hundred and sixty-seven years later, we are fatter and sicker than ever, but the potato diet still works. Potatoes contains natural drug-like agents that affect inflammation, hunger, insulin, sleep, dreams, mood, and body weight. The potato is the best diet pill ever invented.

The potato hack is a short-term intervention (3-5 days) where one eats nothing but potatoes. This short mono-food experiment will strengthen your immune system and provide you with all of the nutrition you need to remain energetic, sleep great, and, as a side-effect, lose weight. The potato hack will help you develop a new relationship with food, hunger, taste, and yourself.

The potato hack is not just for the overweight. As noted in 1849, anyone with digestive complaints who follows an all-potato diet for a few days at a time will find their digestion improves greatly. Modern science shows that simple diets high in fiber create an intestinal microbiome that is highly diverse and stable. This diversity and stability is lacking in most people and leads to digestive complaints like Gastroesophageal reflux disease (GERD), Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD), and Small intestinal bacterial overgrowths (SIBO). The "modern dyspeptic gut" affects millions of people and costs billions of dollars annually. The answer might be as simple as 3-5 days of potatoes.

As it turns out there are hacks -- variations -- within hacks. One of which has my name on it. So 3-5 may not be your chosen route. 

The book explains it all and en route you negotiate Potato 101. As these things happen on the page, I reckon Tim Steele is a considerate and very hands-on coach who manages to suppress his own ego in deference to the spuds speaking for themselves.

While not a diet, the Potato hack serves as a handy addition to your tool box. 

“Trademarked diets are big money-makers. Not only do they spawn books, television shows, and videos, but they also create a need for numerous products. Trademarked diets and their cult-like leaders become industries. I hate gurus. I hate the way diets become religions. I hate that people stick to diets because they are so invested, financially and emotionally, yet they are seeing no benefits. Battle lines get drawn between vegans and meat-eaters. Low carb vs high carb. It makes no sense! We are all different, and what we fail to see is that we are getting sucked into these diets by slick marketing and persuasive leaders. One needs only to look at Subway’s Jared Fogle to see what guru status does to a person.
The potato hack is a “no guru zone.” I like talking about the potato hack, but it will never be an industry.. .there’s just no money in it. In fact, the potato hack is the exact opposite of all other diets out there. Everyone who tries it, and likes it, becomes an instant guru. The potato hack is customizable, there are hundreds of possible combinations. I have no doubt that someone will come along and try to capitalize on the potato diet, selling the “perfect” potatoes at double the normal cost, selling secret herbs that will make the potato hack more effective, or devising some method of ensuring that the money you save on the potato hack ends up in their pocket.

I suspect Big Diet would love to discredit the potato hack. I have no doubt that soon there will be those that claim this is all a hoax or that it is somehow dangerous. 

“This entire book is mainly designed to give you freedom from the diet industry. A poke in the eye to Big Diet and its gurus. I’ve done my best to show you what was discovered in 1849 is still valid today and that the simple potato holds great promise to setting us free from the tyranny of the great powers that are, in fact, keeping us dependent on trademarked diets.
The only thing I’ll insist you buy is potatoes.”

Excerpt From: Tim Steele. “The Potato Hack: Weight Loss Simplified.” iBooks.

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Dang it's not in the Moreton Library system but I have put in a request to purchase. Only Potatoes? A tad boring? Not thought of Big Diet before but it's a good description!

It is cheap to buy. Easy read.

Only potatoes for 3 days. ..or related hacks.

I won't explain the rationale here as I'd not be able to do the approach justice...but it really is an excellent book. One in sync with the other by Spector. Even has a chapter on growing spuds (and he lives in Alaska!) and a introduction to microbiology as it relates to the human gut. 

In the meantime Steele's blog has  lots of info. Review it  HERE.

As the author writes:

"You don't need this book to do the potato hack. Just eat potatoes until full every day for 3-5 days. It really is that simple! This book explains the science behind the potato hack, some variations on the basic hack, recipes, and what to do if it does not work as advertised. Also found in The Potato Hack is a comprehensive review of resistant starch, gut health, potato history, and a growing guide for those that want to grow their own. "

As discussed in the book there are any number of variations:

  • one day of spuds only and vary the number of  days each week to your preference (kinda like fasting)
  • spuds for breakfast and lunch and as you will for dinner.
  • spuds and sweet potatoes (sweet potatoes instead of spuds is an option)

..and so on.

Potatoes have many properties that make the hack totally feasible as  Chris Voigt famously proved:  20 potatoes a day, for 60 days straight. See HERE  and HERE. 

A stunning health response.

It is also worth noting that the Irish thrived on potatoes, a little milk and oats (..and whiskey); and that the Okinawans live a long time  on a diet primarily made up of 'Hawaiian' (purple flesh) sweet potatoes.

Risks? The book goes into those. If you are sensitive to the nightshade family, that's a problem. Unmonitored or undiagnosed diabetes is another. You may want to peel the spuds if they are suspect as to sprays. But remember that potatoes have the highest satiation value of all foods so you won't hunger. You also don't turn this into a 'diet' by eating potatoes long term and nothing else. Spuds are not a complete nutrient food. They're pretty good by themselves but best deployed as a 'hack'.  

I'm trying to get my daughter to consider the option as a means to rest  and reset her gut when her GIT plays up.

Interesting read (I admit I skimmed) Dave.


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Vetiver grass helps to stabilise soil and protects it against erosion.  It can protect against pests and weeds. Vetiver is also used as animal feed. (Wiki.)

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