It may sound crazy, but it's true! Rich, decadent liver pate, which if you enjoy it, you're probably avoiding because you're worried it will cause you to gain weight, can actually help you lose body fat.
Liver is incredibly rich in vitamin A and is one of the best food sources out there. In fact, vitamin A is difficult to get in high levels from any other food! And don't be fooled by those who say that you can get all the vitamin A you need by eating carrots... Carrots may be a wonderful source of beta-carotene, the plant version of vitamin A, but less than half the population (about 45% of people) have the fast-acting version of the BCMO1 gene that allows them to convert this plant nutrient into the bio-available animal form of vitamin A, called retinol.
So, when's the last time you ate liver? For most people, I'd imagine never! Or, you might have childhood memories of being forced to eat rubbery, overcooked liver. Well, ancient humans routinely ate liver! We evolved the need for nutrients such as vitamin A that are abundantly rich in organ meats. By no longer eating these foods, however, we're missing out on nutrients that the body requires to support the thyroid, our master regulator of metabolism, and to prevent excess fat cell storage.
If you have an underactive thyroid, vitamin A is one of the key nutrients that can get your thyroid working again. Research shows that it improves the conversion of your thyroid hormones to the active T3 form--the super-powered thyroid hormone. (Farhangi et al 2012) It's also your thyroid that converts beta-carotene to the active retinol form of vitamin A, and if you have low thyroid function in the first place, you're converting even less than normal. Another great reason to get your vitamin A in the form of liver! This amazing nutrient has also been shown to induce weight loss and decrease the size of fat cells along with stabilising high blood sugar levels.. (Manolescu et al 2014)
How much liver should you eat to get these fabulous benefits? Two 100g servings per week for an adult will supply your typical full vitamin A requirements. Vitamin A is stored in the body, so it's not something you need to eat every single day. I love to blend liver into a liquid and mix it into meatballs or meat loaf--sneak it in without even noticing. Or try liver pate on Savoury Seed Crackers (avoid the bread!). I'm currently loving this pre-made pate by Pyman. Chicken liver has the mildest flavour, so if you're new to liver, try this first before going with the stronger-flavoured beef or lamb. You can cook liver just like you would any other meat, and many people find that soaking it first in milk removes any strong flavours. The key is to avoid overcooking, which turns the texture into something a bit yuck. It's also important to find an organic, grass-fed source so that you're getting the best quality liver possible (traditionally raised animals are likely to have fatty livers and all sorts of other nasty conditions that you don't want to be eating!). Don't worry about the myth that the liver is full of toxins--it isn't! The liver detoxifies our blood but doesn't actually store toxins (those are stored in our fatty tissues, primarily). However, it is a storage organ for a huge number of key vitamins and minerals, so you'll be getting not only vitamin A but also potent levels of vitamins D, E, K, B12, folate, iron, copper, and more.
If going down the liver route is just a bit too adventurous for you, think about a great-quality retinol supplement. My recommendation is Epigenar's Vitamin A & E drops, 1 drop daily or 7 drops once weekly. (You can get 15% off with code CAH15 at naturaldispensary.co.uk.) Traditionally, cod liver oil has been used to supplement both vitamins A and D. Have a look for a purified or fermented brand if you want to explore this classic approach.
To find out more about your BCMO1 or weight loss genes and learn how to optimise your health, weight loss, or fitness without the trial and error, I'd love to work with you! Check out my programmes or book in a free to chat to discuss how I can help.
Love is in your genes! We understand that falling and staying in love have more to do with the brain chemicals, dopamine and oxytocin, than almost anything else. Dopamine activates the reward centre of the brain and makes us feel ecstatic when we're with that certain person and in withdrawal when we're not. (Does this sound kinda like addiction? Not surprising! Dopamine is also involved in this.) The version of the COMT gene that you have defines how quickly you break down the dopamine in your system--at a fast, intermediate, or slow speed. The higher your baseline dopamine levels, the more prone you may be to the intensity of that feeling of "falling" in love.
Of course, that initial heady feeling of love never seems to last, does it? We become less sensitised to dopamine over time, and after 2-3 months, the responsibility for staying in love is passed over to oxytocin. This neurotransmitter is known as the bonding hormone and is hugely stimulated by physical touch. It helps us feel connected and loving. Large amounts of oxytocin are released in women following birth to develop the mother-baby bond. A 20-second hug releases oxytocin into the body. It is also stimulated as part of sexual orgasm and is believed to increase the intensity of orgasms. Your OXT gene defines your brain chemistry for oxytocin reception and makes you more or less predisposed towards the effects of oxytocin. For example, genetic variations of the OXT gene are believed to be responsible for differing levels of empathy in individuals.
Would you like more love in your life? Apples, almonds, avocado, banana, beets, and of course, dark chocolate all support the production of dopamine in the brain. No wonder chocolate is associated with romance--and also so addictive! (Make sure your chocolate is at least 85% dark to get the benefits. Try making these 100% dark raw chocolates at home!) Eating itself increases oxytocin by stimulating the central vagus nerve, but the best ways involve physical contact and relaxation--hugs, cuddles, sex, massages, a warm bath, and deep breathing. A phone call to a friend or loved one even stimulates its release. How much? Research into hugs suggests that eight 20-second hugs per day are required for maintenance of oxytocin levels and 12 per day develops increased levels over time.
Find Out What's In Your Genes
Get in touch if you'd like to test your own DNA and discover how your brain is wired genetically! Check out our online and 1:1 programmes or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to discuss more.
Last autumn, I ran an 8-week pilot study aimed at disproving 60 years of weight loss science. We called it the Reboot Study and took 60 people through an 8-week programme to reboot their body's natural ability to lose weight without dieting. Sounds crazy, right?! Each person received a nutrition and fitness plan tailored to their individual, unique DNA, and I coached them to eat, eat, eat!
We collected loads of data as part of the study, and my project this month has been analysing the results. I am super excited to give you the early sneak peak:
Is breakfast really the most important meal of the day? It's such a great question. I am both a breakfast lover and a hater. What I hate about breakfast is that we've been brain-washed to force food down first thing in the morning. There's loads of evolutionary evidence around how our eating patterns developed and what might actually be the "norm" (i.e. what our body is designed to work with best) for us humans. All of our exercise came almost exclusively from going out to find our food, and so a really important concept is that we would have almost always "exercised" and been awake and out in the world before eating our first food of the day. I think this is why I talk to so many people who honestly don't feel hungry first thing upon waking. Thirsty, yes. We're somewhat dehydrated from our sleep and need replenishing. But not hungry. However, get out, get moving, and suddenly the appetite kicks in. So, my first rule of breakfast is: don't force yourself to eat it.
There's also evolutionary evidence that we ate 14-17 meals per week, which is the equivalent of occasionally skipping breakfast. The problem that arises with skipping breakfast, however, is that it often leads to poor nutrition and eating choices later in the day. (Hangry, anyone? Biscuit binge, perhaps?) The other problem with always skipping breakfast is what it does to metabolism. The research around this when it applies to weight loss is that we maximise utilisation of stored fat when we sometimes eat more in a day than we "need" and sometimes eat less. This is sort of the equivalent of thinking in terms of 4-5 days per week in calorie deficit and 2-3 days in calorie excess. (I hate thinking in terms of calories, but it's kind of useful for cases like this.) When we are permanently in calorie deficit, our metabolism down regulates to adjust for this. Which is why traditional dieting fails big time, and we can regain fat stores even in a deficit.
But back to the question of breakfast. The other problem with skipping breakfast is whether or not the other food intake across the rest of the day is enough to supply the nutrients (not energy) the body needs for health and optimal function. For most people, it won't. Which isn't a good long-term situation to be in.
So, is breakfast important? Well, I believe it is, but with caveats. Don't force it if you're not hungry. Wait until 10am if that's when your body starts to want it. Ideally, move your body in the morning, which is what we're evolved to expect before food. You'll probably find you're hungry immediately after this. It's OK to occasionally skip breakfast altogether if your food choices throughout the rest of the day are nutritious, but never skip it if it will trigger poor choices or binges later in the day. And definitely don't skip breakfast every day--this will slow overall fat loss down, not speed it up. So, if your goal is weight loss, eat! Finally, there's a whole additional connection to eating windows and time-restricted or intermittent fasting, but I'll do a separate post on that in future.
I believe you are perfect exactly as you are. Why do I believe this? It isn't some meaningless platitude just to make you feel better. I believe this because evolution doesn't make mistakes. Each organism evolves in response to the environment and food available, creating over eons a creature that is perfectly optimised for the world around it. And you are not an exception to this. You are perfectly designed for a uniquely specific environment and certain food. Certain influences from the world around you, stressors, joys, and vegetables,
This means, if you struggle with a recurring challenge--for example, how to lose weight, frequent infections, digestive discomfort, anything--the solution might not be about finding what's wrong with you. It might lie in finding the aspects of the world around you that don't synch up with your perfectly optimised genes.
Understanding your unique DNA design allows you to hone in on what aspects of our modern world just don't work for you. Is it refined carbohydrates, or a sedentary office job, or stress, or toxins, or disturbed sleep that will be your biggest challenges?
And this is hugely empowering! You can let go of those thoughts that tell you you're wrong, you're to blame. You can start believing that it's the world around you that needs to change a little. You can skip all the wrong turns and trial and error and focus on what will make the most difference for you, and you can understand why these things are important for you. You can appreciate your uniqueness but also the uniqueness of every person, cultivating an increased understanding and acceptance of others in a world that could use a lot more of these things.
This doesn't mean, of course, that you don't need to change. Changing your personal environment might mean introducing meditation or more green vegetables or daily physical activity and finding a way to build this into your world so that it becomes non-negotiable. But the difference is that you're no longer working in opposition to who you are in your DNA, and you fundamentally understand why the effort required to make those changes is necessary to who you are.
You are perfectly designed for a particular environment, but our world is generally set up to make us fail. Instead, why not create a world around you that is designed to make you succeed? To bring out all the perfectly evolved qualities of your DNA. Evolution doesn't make mistakes. This is why understanding your genes and personalising your world might be the most important thing you ever do for yourself.
I am so happy the holidays are here, but there's one thing that's helped keep them full of enjoyment rather than stress. Breathing...
Try it with me! Close your eyes and breathe in slowly through your nose for 4 counts, pause, then out for 4, pause. You just hit the switch on your nervous system and took it out of fight-or-flight and into rest, relaxation, and rejuvenation. Amazing. Do this for 2 minutes (about 15 breaths), and you can reverse your production of stress hormones, making you feel calm and strong.
Our sleep is governed by two primary hormones that influence the circadian rhythm of our body: cortisol (a stress hormone), which signals waking, and melatonin, which signals sleeping. Melatonin also helps ensure deep and restful sleep. Many things can interfere with—or support—the amounts and balance of these hormones throughout the 24-hour day. The main culprits are: light, carbohydrates, alcohol, and stress.
Unfortunately, some of us are also more prone genetically to disruptions in our circadian rhythm. If you're someone who can easily override your sleep signals and stay up as late as you want, then you're quite likely to have an alteration on your (awesomely-named) CLOCK gene that makes your circadian rhythm quite sensitive to environmental, physical, or mental disruptors.
Whatever your gene version, however, this straight-forward 3-part plan tackles all of the most common aspects preventing a solid sleep routine and hormone balance in our body. The key is discipline--no sleep routine has ever been improved without this!--but with this plan, you absolutely can achieve the foundation for miraculous, restful, rejuvenating nights.
Part 1 – Food & Drink
Carbohydrate cycling with micronutrient-rich, balanced meals to promote optimal hormone production:
Caffeine and Alcohol:
Part 2 – Routine & Environment
Establish a strict wake-sleep schedule:
Part 3 – Physical & Mental Relaxation
Perform a mindfulness or relaxation activity 2-4 times daily, including once in the evening before bed
Evening supplements to support sustained sleep, physical relaxation, and mental relaxation—layer these supplements in the order below, adding the next one on the list every 3 days if restful sleep is not yet achieved.
Do you get the end-of-the-day "Ugh, I'm tired, I don't feel like making something healthy!" problem? Yeah, me, too. My new ritual to solve this is to set up in the morning when I'm peppy and full of energy the ingredients for all of my meals for the day. It removes the potential for poor choices in the evening since the decision's already made and all ready to go waiting for me on the kitchen counter! Here's today set up and waiting. Loads of healthy fats and fresh vegetables along with just the right amounts of carbohydrates and protein for my unique personal genetic requirements.
Hurrah! You've survived the cold, dark days of winter, and it's time to to come out of hibernation! But there's something that may not have survived so well... Your vitamin D levels. That's because the primary source of vitamin D is the exposure of our skin to the summer sun.
Spring is a perfect time to check your levels since they are likely at their lowest point of the entire year. And you really should care if your levels are low! Vitamin D is linked to over 300 processes in the body--it's not just for calcium absorption and bone health, baby! Low vitamin D levels are now associated with everything from fatigue and cardiovascular disease to auto-immune conditions, neurological degeneration, and cancer. And this makes sense because we evolved in the sunshine, so no wonder it's absolutely critical to all-round healthy functioning of our body.
A great way to test your vitamin D level is with an at-home finger prick test. The kits are quick, easy, and relatively inexpensive. In the UK and Europe, you can purchase NHS kits directly, via Amazon, or through my website. In the US, the Vitamin D Council sells them to the general public. Of course, you can also ask your doctor to test your levels, especially if you're experiencing any symptoms relating to low vitamin D.
Once you get your results, it's time to decide, 'what next?' I like to aim for for an optimal blood level between 100-125 nmol/L. If you are significantly below this, you might want to think about short-term higher dose of vitamin D supplementation between 2000 iu and 5000 iu daily and then re-test 60 days later to see if your levels have reached optimal yet or not. Otherwise, an adult maintenance dose around 1000 iu daily is generally considered safe.
However, lots of other factors come into play with vitamin D. The first is your particular genetic requirement for it. About half of my clients require more vitamin D than the government's recommended daily allowance. You'll need to do genetic testing to determine this, which could be a great idea. There's a pattern that I'm seeing with my clients... those with a raised vitamin D requirement also seem more likely to have developed one of those conditions above linked to low vitamin D status. Which makes sense and also makes understanding your personal vitamin D needs an important key to unlocking your optimal health!
Vitamin D also works in the body with several other nutrients, especially vitamins K and A, magnesium, and boron. If your diet isn't great or you're not eating lots of leafy greens and a wide variety of vegetables, vitamin D may not perform its functions correctly within your body. Ideally, look at making some changes to your nutrition! But in the absence of that, a good multivitamin taken alongside vitamin D could help.
Want to find out your unique genetic vitamin D requirement? It's included within all of my genetic nutrition programmes!
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