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Hi ? I'm new here. I'm a 20 years old girl from Italy (forgive my eventual english mistakes, please), psychology undergraduate. I'm interested in CR for its immediate health benefits and the promise of aging well more than for increasing lifespan (and since my budget is not infinite I like the fact that buying less food would allow me to invest on quality). I would like to understand if and how it could be compatible with an optimal reproductive health, since I'm young and the goal here is to feel better, not worse, and since from what I understand women's hormones balance is more vulnerable to caloric restriction and fat loss.

I'm on the high end of the healthy range of BMI (24.1) but I have a high waist to hip ratio for my age (0.78) that I would like to reduce so I'm pretty sure I could benefit from a patient, balanced, weight loss diet, but the question is: as a young woman how far should I go for optimal health (immediate physical health + hormonal balance, meaning reproductive and mental health + aging well)? Should I do a common diet limited in time and then raise my calories for hormonal balance hoping to mantain eating clean as much as my budget allows or prefer a slight chronic caloric restriction that would allow me to buy and eat only high quality food (with the exception of social occasions)? 

 

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Maria Grazia, welcome to the forum, I'm from Italy as well, your written English is pretty good, I remember that mine improved exponentially after starting writing in internet fora. A few points about your post:

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I'm interested in CR for its immediate health benefits and the promise of aging well more than for increasing lifespan

So you'd be more interested in healthspan than lifespan. This means that it would not be necessary for you to undertake a rigorous CR regime like underlined by Michael Rae (such a regime is the only one which has been proven to significantly increase lifespan in some strains of lab mice and rats). There is no conclusive proof in humans nor in larger mammalians, that I know.

Quote

...and since my budget is not infinite I like the fact that buying less food would allow me to invest on quality

That depends. If you are eating the common Italian diet, based on extra-cheap refined pasta and sugo di pomodori, than even by halving the quantity, a substitution by quality food would cost you more. Also, the average Italian regimen tends to be unbalanced. What you need is an optimization, that is, you need to design a diet with less calories, more nutritional quality, conditioned by the necessity to reach some targets: a minimum amount of certain nutrients, with the added condition/constraint of a monetary upper threshold. It's an interesting optimization problem, not a simple one but a possible one to achieve.

Quote

I would like to understand if and how it could be compatible with an optimal reproductive health, since I'm young and the goal here is to feel better, not worse, and since from what I understand women's hormones balance is more vulnerable to caloric restriction and fat loss.

Ladies practicing rigorous CR or even Michael Rae may chime in here. However, as far as I know, severe hormonal imbalance, such as to stop the menstrual cycle, occurs only with severe caloric restriction. An example is anorexyc women. Moderate CR should not impinge on the balance and you can always start gradually and have blood analyses done to check your values along the way. If your BMI target is not below 20, I'd say there should be no probs at all, if things are done progressively and again, a medical consultation before changing any regime is very much suggested. 

 

Quote

Should I do a common diet limited in time and then raise my calories for hormonal balance hoping to mantain eating clean as much as my budget allows or prefer a slight chronic caloric restriction that would allow me to buy and eat only high quality food (with the exception of social occasions)? 

Again, the hormonal balance issue should not constitute a problem if you follow a patient regime of caloric moderation, not restriction, without very abrupt changes and with an attention to meeting the requirements for amminoacids and micronutrients. Again, it is also something which can and should be checked along the way. 

Please note again that caloric restriction does not necessarily imply less money spent on diet, on the contrary, often it implies more money.

 

My final suggestions (disclaimer, I'm not a medical practitioner, these are mere suggestions based on scientific literature and subjective experience, any dietary change should be discussed with a nutritionist or medical practitioner). The following is the first step of an optimization strategy, it is a necessary step.

Install the cronometer app on your PC and smartphone

Start weighting anything you eat and recording it on cronometer for at least one week

At the same time, start weighing yourself on a scale every morning after wake up and record it, cronometer allows you that.

After this, you can come back here with the data and we may discuss a scientific optimization strategy such as to decrease calories, moderate money spent on food, increase quality and nutrients. But you need to know the starting point (average calories and nutrients, average bodyweight). An optimization strategy for healthspan also includes exercise, stress management and other factors.

 

 

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Thank you for your answer ?

I tracked my nutrients with Cron-o-meter for the past weeks and with a 1200 kcal diet (I upped my calories now because I understood that is much better to do things slowly and I'm seeing what happens in the 1500-1900 range, where I still feel a slight hunger but without weakness) I struggled to reach the adviced amounts of vit B1, D, E, iron, potassium and omega 6. Salmon made me reach all the RDAs but of course I can't eat it everyday both for mercury and price.

I ate mostly eggs, yogurt, oat, frozen vegetables, mixed lettuce + a bit of fruit, nuts, seeds, legumes, fish, chicken, tofu, tomato sauce + wholegrain crackers for pleasure and convenience. This diet was pretty expensive for a student. My cheap calories came from olive oil, grains and legumes but they are not as nutrient-dense as the other things so I think I'll need also to try to buy local and seasonal to buy the biggest amount of nutrients for my money. Also for the same reason I think I'll avoid chicken and tofu and reduce fish, so my macro split will not be only a theoretical choice. Fewer animals killed is a big advantage too. 

My average macro split (protein:carb:fat) was 30:45:25, but that's not very informative because I tried different options to see how I felt. I learned that relatively low carb (60-100 g carbs/day walking a lot) isn't what I'm searching for. I see that on this forum very high carb diets are preferred (because anabolism=reduced lifespan?) but they scare me a bit for hunger management and body composition so right now I'd say I'm interested in a diet with an amount of carbs between 40% and 65% (This includes lots of possibilities I know nothing about)

I'm a beginner at exercising so even with the 1200 kcal diet I think my muscle mass increased (I lost waist cm but less weight than expected. Right now I'm 61,3 kg at 1,63 cm height), and I don't really keep track of what I do, I do planks and squats when and until I feel like it ?, I horseride once a week and walk a lot. I'll start tracking it.

I also will do a blood donation and maybe some extra blood exams as you suggested. BMI of 20 would mean 53 kg, and I think that's a reasonable value not to go under for my goals

 

So I'll

-take things slower and track weight better (I'm very bad at it because I always weight myself at different hours and because my weight has 2 kg fluctuations during my period and because my body is adjusting and every day feels different)

-track exercise

-track money spent

-consume less chicken, tofu and fish and buy seasonal and local

-go on using cronometer

-come back ?

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Maria Grazia, good to see that you already use cronometer, I'm going to add a few considerations right now, probably more later, in successive posts . I have fun with cronometer so I'll try and design a plan for you based on the cited optimization, since I know the cost of food in Italy. From what you wrote, an omnivorous regimen but with a prevalence of plant-based food should be all right.

  1. Too few calories too abruptly in some people trigger a strong homeostatic weight- mantaining mechanism. You'll start feeling cold, weak and your bodyweight will not decrease any longer. This must be avoided and your decision to remain in the 1500-1900 kCal is wise. Also, even if you wish to pursue rigorous CR it must be achieved very progressively.
  2. Try to set a caloric target of 1750 kCal in cronometer an in the average to follow it. Track exercise done as well so you'll have a net caloric target.
  3. Monitor your bodyweight, you can do it several times along the day if you then build an excel graph and average the function, you will have your average bodyweight across time. otherwise you'll better weigh at the same time of the day and with the same clothes. Without a reliable reference, it's not easy to judge the results of your caloric plan. It is perfectly normal for ladies to weigh more during the cycle.
  4. Please note I did not say you should donate blood! It's healthy to donate blood if you suffer a condition by which your ferritin is chronically high. Only in that case and of course for ethical reasons if your blood analyses allow it.
  5. Canned sardines with tomato and olive oil are very cheap and nutrient dense. Little mercury. Good ones you'll find in the INs and in the LIDL supermarkets.
  6. Legumes are the healthiest among the unexpensive food. If you can digest them, increase their quantities: lentils, chickpeas, navy beans, black and red beans. If you cook them they are less expensive but I found boxed legumes in the INs supermarket which are very good, well cooked, very unexpensive, very convenient to use and store. Farmed in Italy.
  7. The best bread choice is the pumpernickel organic rye bread in INs stores (now, I don't know if they are available where you live). 1.5 Euros for 500 grams, low glycamic index, very nutrient dense, very satiating.
  8. Best choice for unexpensive dairy products is  0% fat dairy products like Skyr (LIDL) of 0% greek yogurt ot 0% 'fiocchi' or cottage cheese or 0% ricotta cheese. Some brands are very unexpensive. Plain Skyr has 11 gr protein per 100 gr at about 55 kcal, the same some 0% greek yogurts.
  9. Eggs are unexpensive but you should probably moderate their use
  10. Frozen spinachs are very cheap and extremely nutrient dense, even though they have lots of oxalates. You can try and mix them with frozen chicory, what I'm doing now. Carrots are very unexpensive, healthy and satiating, raw and cooked. 
  11. Use 2 tablespoons of extra-virgin olive oil per day
  12. Use 25 grams of nuts and seed per day. In another thread I made a cost analysis of all common nuts and seeds
  13. If you can find it in health food stores, use 1-2 tablespoons of El Ceibo cacao powder per day.
  14. Use a little season fruit and a little season fresh vegetables, raw or cooked. Choose whatever costs less at a reasonable quality.
  15. Tofu is all right but  there are not very unexpensive sources
  16. Unsweetened organic soy milk (LIDL) is 1 Euro per liter, very good and nourishing.
  17. Use ground flaxseeds, 2-3 tablespoons per day, it's pretty unexpensive.
  18. Tomato sauce is good and cheap, whole grain crackers are good and often pretty cheap, whole grain pasta in moderation is good, cheap and satiating, although it would be healthier to choose non OGM wheat varities like Senatore Cappelli, Solina and so on which are more expensive.
  19. Eat some mushrooms twice a week, frozen prataioli variety is not expensive. one 450 grms per week is all right.
  20. You can avoid eating meat, it's usually not too healthy and expensive.
  21. Avoid of course eating sweets and refined cereals. I'm horrified when I see people's breakfasts in Italy and when I see them eating extremely sweet icecream,  they are terribly cloying, often an invitation to type 2 diabetes.
Edited by mccoy

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Blood donation is something I do for ethical reasons (I have a very rich type 0 blood) and because I think since it's a very safe situation of exposure it'll help to reduce my slight needle phobia. I talked about it because it's a good excuse to do basic bloodwork. I never thought it could be unhealthy, I trust professionals... More or less ?. You are right that you didn't suggest it, I was talking about bloodtests but I wasn't clear, I'm sorry.

The homeostatic response you talked about would explain something. Is it the famous "starvation mode"? Some thinks it's a myth but I agree with you (and feel very validated), calories in calories out is real but how much calories are put "out" is part exercise but part up to the body and its endocrine/thermogenetic/non-exercise activity regulation. Anyway I'll stay with a friend and eat more for some days so I think this problem will disappear, and I'll not go back to such a restrictive diet (I chose 1200 because they say it's the lowest healthy but I should have studied it deeper, and probably they also talk about net calories, not absolute calories). Losing weight isn't the only reason I'm here, I think eating well will make me feel better whatever the effect on my body fat, but surely it's a nice plus. 

I don't have a IN supermarket where I live but I have LIDL and I think I'll run there as soon as needed. (It's incredible that you are Italian, I'd never have imagined to find Italians here.)

I love sardines' taste but always forget they exist. I'm a bit worried about BPA in canned food but sometimes I eat it for convenience and generally speaking sardines are very affordable. They are better than tuna for sure. 

I think I will cook a good amount of beans, lentils and chickpeas, freeze them and eat a bit everyday.

About yogurt I'm interested in probiotics and it's very difficult to find sugar-free probiotic yogurt in supermarkets like LIDL, but a small amount of greek yogurt seems a good idea as a protein source.

I'm very, very sensitive to caffeine so I'm forced to avoid coffee/tea/cacao.

I'm eating 2 eggs a day under the influence of a egg-enthusiast uncle who thinks the more the better (I saw that they are almost a multivitamin). What would be a reasonable amount and why? 

I eat flaxseeds but whole, chewing them before or after a meal. Isn't that enough? How do I ground them? I have a small sesame grounder but it doesn't work with flaxseeds.

I love mushrooms also because I can eat them raw, like lettuces and tomatoes, and because they are nutritionally very different from other vegetables. Non pre-cut are affordable.

I prefer oats to pasta because it's very flexible and if cooked with cinnamon or mixed with yogurt makes for a warm soft meal that reminds me of cuddles ? Also it's a very good source of proteins and fibers. Wholegrain pasta with tomato sauce is of course healthy, convenient, tasty and socially acceptable and I really appreciate every opportunity to add variety to my diet, for my microbiome's sake ?

I generally don't consider unfermented soy products and soy milk in particular to be healthy, because they don't feel like "real food" and because of the not fully understood effects of phytoestrogens, but probably they are healthier than chicken ? I'm open to exceptions (see: tofu) and I think that would be the cheapest way to reach dietary RDA of vit D, especially if I reduce eggs. I'll give it a try.

Yeah, sweets and refined grains are out, as well as cocktails. (I have to do exceptions for refined grains in social occasions though). I generally avoid to eat anything I'll not really savour nor recall I ate (like chips). I can't judge those who don't though, I ate mostly potatoes, meat and sweets until 14 years old.

I'll play a bit with these ingredients and cronometer in the following weeks. You are really helping me to see some mistakes and you are giving very good ideas on how to put together my health and my wallet's.

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It might be best to avoid pasta, whole grain or not.  Pasta is mostly starch; and not a resistant starch.  So me (myself included) would call pasta junk food.

(Of course, I know that you're in Italy, a beautiful country where pasta is endemic.)

  ---  Saul

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Maria Grazia, this is an example of healthy, calorie-controlled, mostly plant-based regimen, similar to Valter Longo suggestions, with one egg every other day, sardined every other day and 200 gr greek yogurt per week animal food.

Pls run it into your version of cronometer, since mine has different setting, you should reach 100% of almost all nutrients. Also some items are custom items, you can create ferrarelle water consultign the label online. You should zero the calcium in spinach. The diet should cost 200 € per month but it can be made even cheaper.  A main drawback is that it is high in protein, but they are mostly plant-based and methionine and leucine are not overly high. 45 g sardiens means 90 gr (one can) every other day and so on. LIDL has nonfat greek yogurt 200 gr 1 € and 90 gram dripped sardines in tomato sacue 0.7 €. Frozen spinac are less than 1.5 € per kg. Ferrarelle is costly but needed for calcium, unless other sources are found. You can play around with this and try to improve it.  Too many eggs are high in cholesterol and IGF-1 boosting amminoacids plus they may boost TMAOs. 

344366267_Cronometerexample-cheap.PNG.6ef0380a81320483966e623bb3c0ee44.PNG

 

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I'm sorry I disappeared, I had to put everything into practice, and being here is quite time consuming. Anyway, I wanted to share the follow up and what I learned. I followed a diet very similar to the one you suggested (differences were: less seeds and more nuts, sesame for calcium instead of Ferrarelle water, vit D supplement instead of vegetable milk -not a good idea that one, I should have checked my levels, I think it's one of the reasons I got an inflamed joint-, and more or less dr. Greger reccomendations for vegetable choice -so a lot of raw cruciferous vegetables and a focus on variety for example-) for 6 months last year and I got mixed results (good sleep, good mood, gradually improved body composition and skin, reduced cravings, better exercise recovery, higher energy, reduced acne BUT low immunity and some knee pain (!), and lost period again in the last month even if not restricting much nor underweigt) until I (think I) understood the problem:

1) k2 vitamin, especially in mk4 form since I was getting some mk7 from sauerkrauts. It seems implied both in hypothalamic amenorrhea and in joint health

2) I meal prepped my vegetables and I think cutting them in advance without any countermeasure (like vacuum packing? It's tricky) made me lose a lot of vit C -they were not the best quality vegetables in the world too, as I said I tried to eat cheap-, which together with stress (emotional and from cold exposure) could explain my vulnerability to illness

So, after a standard italian diet I was forced to do that made me lose both benefits and disadvantages I got, I'm now able to choose what I eat again for one year.

I substituted yogurt with cheese and stopped meal prepping and everything seems going well now, even if I'm split between trying a mk7 and mk4 supplement or keeping those tasty brie/camembert/emmenthal/gouda in my life (ps: Mccoy, since you are in italy I found Gouda cheese here! They sell it in IN'S markets -I moved in Rome-)

Also, I checked at the end of those 6 months and I were not severely anemic for the first time in my life, I think I can thank legumes for that. 

I'll keep you updated

 

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Why did you suggest El Ceibo cacao specifically? I really like your specific suggestions (IN'S rye bread and canned legumes, frozen spinach, ground flaxseeds... I try to avoid canned fish though, I love IN's wild salmon). Is it just a matter of cost or a matter of good quality for some reason? 

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22 hours ago, Maria Grazia said:

Why did you suggest El Ceibo cacao specifically? I really like your specific suggestions (IN'S rye bread and canned legumes, frozen spinach, ground flaxseeds... I try to avoid canned fish though, I love IN's wild salmon). Is it just a matter of cost or a matter of good quality for some reason? 

El Ceibo is unprocessed → About three times the (-)-epicatechin, a strong protective phytochemical plus it's partly defatted → less calories.

I suggested canned sardines because, to my knowledge, it has maybe the best nutrients/price ratio you can find in fish. also, sardines are less contaminated in terms of mercury and heavy metals and are usually caught in the Atlantic and processed fresh. Canned sardines in tomato sauce are best since they are less caloric, but lately I could not find them anymore, my wife liked them.

Wild salmon is great, although price is far higher. Wild salmon caught in the norhern Pacific may be contaminated by the Fukushima radiations from cooling waters, but that's just an hypothesis.

 

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On 10/13/2019 at 9:20 AM, Maria Grazia said:

I'm sorry I disappeared, I had to put everything into practice, and being here is quite time consuming. Anyway, I wanted to share the follow up and what I learned. I followed a diet very similar to the one you suggested (differences were: less seeds and more nuts, sesame for calcium instead of Ferrarelle water, vit D supplement instead of vegetable milk -not a good idea that one, I should have checked my levels, I think it's one of the reasons I got an inflamed joint-, and more or less dr. Greger reccomendations for vegetable choice -so a lot of raw cruciferous vegetables and a focus on variety for example-) for 6 months last year and I got mixed results (good sleep, good mood, gradually improved body composition and skin, reduced cravings, better exercise recovery, higher energy, reduced acne BUT low immunity and some knee pain (!), and lost period again in the last month even if not restricting much nor underweigt) until I (think I) understood the problem:

1) k2 vitamin, especially in mk4 form since I was getting some mk7 from sauerkrauts. It seems implied both in hypothalamic amenorrhea and in joint health

2) I meal prepped my vegetables and I think cutting them in advance without any countermeasure (like vacuum packing? It's tricky) made me lose a lot of vit C -they were not the best quality vegetables in the world too, as I said I tried to eat cheap-, which together with stress (emotional and from cold exposure) could explain my vulnerability to illness

So, after a standard italian diet I was forced to do that made me lose both benefits and disadvantages I got, I'm now able to choose what I eat again for one year.

I substituted yogurt with cheese and stopped meal prepping and everything seems going well now, even if I'm split between trying a mk7 and mk4 supplement or keeping those tasty brie/camembert/emmenthal/gouda in my life (ps: Mccoy, since you are in italy I found Gouda cheese here! They sell it in IN'S markets -I moved in Rome-)

Also, I checked at the end of those 6 months and I were not severely anemic for the first time in my life, I think I can thank legumes for that. 

I'll keep you updated

 

MMMmm, immunity should be increased by a more plant-based diets, you may try and take some zinc supplements, which has been discussed at length in another thread. I have no idea about the knee inflammation and especially amenorrea, but that might be exlained by a lack of transition in changing the regime, maybe starting with too low calories.

Vitamin C; just one kiwifruit a day and half a pepper (red, green or yellow) will drastically increase your Vit C intake, above the RDA.

K2: the vitamin K2 content of K2 is still debated and the literature is pretty controversial. When the data on the literature disagree so much, there is something amiss somewhere. Brie, Gouda etc should (but not necessarily according to recent literature) contain K2, but they are high in fats/calories, so you have to eat little of them. Rhonda Patrick took MK4 but from a costly brand of supplements, I don't know if it is available in Italy. I take MK-7 from an unexpensive supplements brand (Vitamaze from Amazon) but I grew suspicious of all the data on MK7 since they disagree so much. It may even be that all news on K2 are hyped and it is not really necessary, it may be that K2 is synthetized by the body starting from K1. But, just in case, since  D3 and K2 go hand in hand to regulate the Calcium transportation and deposit, some K2 supplementation may still be advisable in a precautionary way.

I'm glad you feel all right now on the new diet. If you like cheese, unfortunately there are very few lowfat brands in Italy, INs has some lowfat sliced cheese, whereas Todis has some excellent lowfat goat cheese (Canestrato di capra). Of course if you are able to restrain yourself and eat very low amounts your caloric balance will not be compromised too much.

 

 

 

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Mccoy:  Wild salmon is great, although price is far higher. Wild salmon caught in the norhern Pacific may be contaminated ...

Consuming wild Atlantic salmon  looks problematic from an ecological standpoint.

Quote

The stocks of wild Atlantic salmon have been reduced to dangerously low levels. The reasons are many: overfishing, pollution, environmental changes, aquaculture, habitat deterioration and disturbances of migration routes. Wild Atlantic salmon stocks in North America, Europe and the Baltic have been over-exploited since the 19th century and in many regions the species has disappeared completely.  https://www.slowfood.com/slowfish/pagine/eng/pagina--id_pg=88.lasso.html

 

Quote

Consumers are being urged to steer clear of North Sea cod and wild Atlantic salmon – and eat more herring, plaice and hake – in a fresh attempt to alleviate pressure on threatened stocks.  The Marine Conservation Society (MCS) will publish its updated 2019 Good Fish Guide this week, setting out which is the most sustainable seafood and what to avoid in order to help safeguardat-risk species in UK waters.

https://www.theguardian.com/environment/2019/oct/02/shoppers-uk-avoid-north-sea-cod-wild-atlantic-salmon
 

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Fishermen in Greenland and the Faroe Islands have agreed to stop the commercial fishing of North Atlantic salmon for 12 years. 

https://www.seafoodsource.com/news/environment-sustainability/greenland-agrees-to-stop-fishing-wild-atlantic-salmon

 

 

Edited by Sibiriak

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