Monday, March 17, 2008

Food; carnitas

Tonight was carnitas.

Buy some strips of belly pork. Be sure to pick over the selection for the fattiest if you're in a supermarket. Any time from lunch time onwards stick them in a large sauce pan and just cover with water. Add salt and pepper, a chopped onion and a whole root of garlic, cut in half horizontally. Two bay leaves are essential. Buy a bay tree if necessary. Dried might be okay, dunno, I've got the tree.

Cover tightly, bring to boil, turn heat very low and forget about for at least 3 hours. Five hours is fine. You can do this the night before, but the smell is so good I prefer to eat them on the day.

Pick out the strips (gently, they tend to break up) and cut up in to chunks about 2 inches long. I don't use the stock for anything. Transfer the meat pieces to a non stick heavy frying pan and cook them slowly in their own fat. Sprinkle with salt, pepper, chili powder, some cumin and some more chili powder. Flip the pieces once. You're aiming to have a crispy outside and the fat within fully softened. If you over-fry them all the fat runs out and you end up with hard meat in lard. Avoid!

That's it. We had them with sweet potatoes. They should absolutely melt in the mouth. They did.



Anonymous said...

Peter, what do you make of the many studies claiming that cooking foods creates various toxins? It seems to me that it's more convenient to eat raw meat, if nothing else.

There are compelling reasons not to eat raw egg whites. First off, they have enzyme inhibitors that degrade trypsin and chymotryptin. Egg white also has avidin, which binds to and renders biotin unavailable. (Avidin is not completely disabled, even by cooking.) Egg whites also have ovo- mucoid, a protein implicated in egg allergies. Egg yolks are safe.

{raw egg protein less digestible)

(ovo-mucoid implicated in allergy)

(enzyme inhibitors in raw eggs)

It would seem best to eat the yolk, and throw away the white or cook it fully. I'm not as convinced by most raw food arguments any more, but it is undeniably easier to eat raw, if you can adapt to it. Cooking wastes a lot of time and it's messy. Also, there may be other benefits.

You talk about fruit and vegetables causing oxidized cholesterol, but I think most cooking methods have the same effect. Cooking in water would cause the least harm, IMO. But then Leib Krut has argued that you don't have to worry about oxysterols, and they are actually healthy.

Peter said...

Hi Bruce,

As I eat loads of cooked egg yolks I've always found that discussion thread particularly reassuring (on the THINCS site). My objection to fruit and veg oxidising lipids is that it appears to be a generic trait of some compound in them doing cellular damage within the body (DNA and protein too), sidestepping normal oxidative defenses. Dietary oxidised cholesterol seems to be common and I'm unaware that it causes any problem.

I'm a pragmatist and do actually enjoy cooking, so we eat meals we like. Frying doesn't worry me so long as it's in healthy saturated fats. The various time lines I've come across suggest that the use of fire may go back a very long way with humans. Sticking some meat over an open fire looks to be one of the simplest ways of cooking, an extension of thawing out a hunk of frozen stored meat. If fire use really goes back 3,000,000 years I'm willing to chance some toxin generation to continue this. The raw food groups do point out an impressive array of toxins!

I suspect the allergenicity of eggs comes back to gluten and gut endothelial integrity damage. Emma pointed out to me that salicylates in plants damage gut mucosal integrity too (aspirin, grand daddy of all NSAID, being a modified plant derivative), which might increase exposure of the immune system to proteins it should never see. By an accident of protein restriction I bin almost all of my egg white.... Can never quite get all of it separated out but my dose must be low.


Chris said...


would you be able to email me your email address? I occaisionally come across papers I think you'd be interested in/

you could send it initially to

chris AT

paul said...

I would have thought the point about the safety of cooking in water was relatively uncontroversial if I had not recently read this

So tap water is now a hotch-potch of chemicals deliberately-engineered for biological activity, which we drink, cook in, shower in, and use for irrigation. (Bruce - this may be another dimension to the recent story that you mentioned, in which a woman had health improvements after stopping regular washing).

paul said...

sorry that's a truncated url in the last posting, just do a google on "AP drugs tap water" to get the article

Anonymous said...

Peter: I am also not convinced that oxysterols are dangerous in natural foods. In processed food like dried milk and powdered eggs, they may be very bad. Afterall, your body makes like 3,000 mg of cholesterol a day. Unless you ate like 10,000 mg a day and 1/3 of it was oxidized, I can't see how it does much harm. Avoiding PUFA oils in cooking and in general will definitely protect you.

The time line I've seen for cooking is 500k to 1.8m yrs, I believe. See for articles. There's also a lot of debate on what metals are ideal for cooking. Cast iron is probably best. What do you think?

Paul: I imagine most of the poisons in water could be avoided by either throwing it out (as in boiled eggs) or using distilled water. I feel it is best to use cool water for baths and showers, or alternating between hot and cold. You can find articles discussing the many health benefits from contrast showers.

People should think carefully about all the chemicals they are using on their skin, putting in their mouth, etc. Bathing less frequently and/or avoiding chemicals seems wise.

gunther gatherer said...

Hello Peter and thanks for your informative blog. I've been an avid reader of all the studies you cite and the commentary you give. But I have a nagging issue with the diet prescription given here:

Isn't there a huge pH imbalance produced by all these animal foods? You practically eat nothing else. I've always understood that this will cause the body to leach minerals from bone and muscle, causing muscle wasting and osteoporosis in the long term. Long-term high acid imbalance is also supposedly bad for the kidneys and renal system in general.

Is there something I'm missing in your diet that corrects this seeming imbalance? Am I totally off-base with this concern? I agree with your high-fat approach for curing many diseases of civilization, but I can't help thinking that there's a few imbalances in it (sodium to potassium being another) which hunter gatherers may not have had.

I'd love to see a blog on this or if you could point me to any other info, I'd be grateful. Anyone else who'd like to chime in on this, I'd be eager to read your thoughts. Cheers.

Anonymous said...

Gunther, I think this acid-alkaline theory is mostly hogwash. It may be important not to combine acid foods with alkaline foods or to eat foods in a certain order (fastest first). But it has never been proven that a meat diet would cause acidity. Your body will adapt and neutralize acid with ketones and other things, as I understand it. But the typical diet with various things thrown together might be very bad for digestion and overall health. Epidemiological and anecdotal evidence suggests that it is. Try searching for studies where people were fed nothing but meat or low-carb foods and see if there was any huge increase in acidity. In my view, the body regulates acidity by itself. Disease might be correlated with acidity, but we don't know for sure that this is cause-and-effect. Maybe the disease causes acidity or acidity causes disease. Maybe heart disease causes high cholesterol and not vice versa. etc.

gunther gatherer said...

Hi Bruce, thanks for the reply. But as I understand it, the body neutralizes these acids, as you say, precisely by sucking minerals from bone and muscle in order to regulate pH in response to our high-acid foods. Am I wrong on this? I've never understood this pH "regulation" process exactly and I can't find any studies which map this out for laymen such as myself. How does the body do this, and do we know if it even does it at all?

Peter: a definitive blog on acid-alkaline and sodium-potassium balance in HG please! How important are these and to what extent do they affect overall health/insulin resistance, etc.?

Thanks again.

gunther gatherer said...

And Bruce, you hit upon another interesting topic, that of not eating acids and alkalines together. Do you have any other info on this?

It stands to reason that HGs wouldn't have eaten animal (acid) and vegetable (mostly alkaline) foods together during our evolution. They probably didn't eat carbs and fats together very much at all (except maybe in nuts, and I don't know how much of a staple these were).

Maybe there's a case for a new "macro" profile: instead of carbs, fats and protein, maybe the distinction our body makes is simply between animal and vegetable?

Anonymous said...

Hi Gunther. Here are two sites I've mentioned in the past. One is about the Hay Diet and the other talks of eating foods sequentially.

I don't think low-GI vegetables are as much problem as starches. I have been experimenting with eating meat and starch at separate meals. Or at least eat the starch first since it digests faster than (cooked) meat.

Fats are neutral and should be used with carbs to lower the blood sugar response. Something else you should read about is Vilhjalmur Stefansson and his meat diet experiment.

Two men volunteered to eat diets of meat-and-fat exclusively for over a year. Neither suffered deficiencies and their health improved.

Peter said...

Hi Gunther,

A bit like Bruce, I've never really gone in to acid base balance. As I see it the bottom line is that you need a certain amount of protein to live. Protein varies in quality depending how close it is to human metabolic needs. Eggs are the definitive standard, with a score of 1. That is, they supply all of your amino acid needs. Meat comes quite high too, up around 0.8. Real garbage comes from legumes etc which are around 0.4-0.6. If you are going to try balancing pH using dietary amino acids you are going to have to move away from eggs and towards junk... You absolutely need 40g/day of high quality protein, or about 60g/d of meat protein, so adding other sources will just give you more amino acids to de aminate and more ammonia to convert to urea. High protein diets may need more care, but I don't eat a high protein diet (except the occasional pig out, like roast beef last weekend) so I've never felt the need to follow it through.

Re calcium, check the bottom of section 2 for Stefansson's discussion of calcium and meat based diets on Bruce's biblelife link.

There's a study in N and M here which discusses calcium and protein, go to the last paragraph of the discussion. They were supplying 35% of calories as protein of a 6000kJ (about 1500kcal) diet. So about 500kcal of protein, ie 125g, quite a bit more than I might eat in a normal day (almost twice the weight). Bear in mind that calcium excretion increased on the LC diet, but calcium uptake was not measured. Once you dump the whole grains with their phytic acid it seems very likely your calcium uptake would increase. If you uptake more than you need you know where it has to go...

The way I eat is automatically a low salt diet. I routinely lightly salt my food as I like the taste. It just means my kidneys can relax re sodium and get on with potassium retention.

I have to say that potassium is a favourite of mine, not because I think we need 10g/day, but because one of insulin's main functions is potassium transport in to cells. Why is a big question to which I have no answer yet. Must keep reading Nick Lane's book on mitochondria. He has a lot of answers in there...


gunther gatherer said...

Hi Peter and thanks for that info. I read through them and unfortunately now I'm even more confused. I thought specific foods themselves created a net renal acid load; "PRAL", as described in this table Cordain gives (actually it's not his), if you want to check it out:

The theory is that each food has a net acid or alkaline effect in the kidneys, not protein in and of itself, as you seem to be describing. As it seems from looking at the chart, vegetables have a net alkaline effect and animal foods a net acid effect (including dairy). Cordain isn't the only doctor to make note of the bone- and muscle-leaching effects of high acid load, since pH in the blood has to be tightly controlled and this seems to be done by trading minerals between organs when necessary. I'm not sure the study you mentioned applies here, since it's not really about high protein, but the net effect of ALL foods and the way the body balances them (if it does this at all).

Another point which Bruce touched on is food timing. HGs probably never ate fats and carbs in the same meal (except for nuts, and I don't know how much) and also didn't eat acids and alkalines together (if you believe the acid/alkaline theory at all). They were opportunistic eaters, who pretty much had to eat things separately due to foods' seasonal nature, eating meat when there was meat and berries when there were berries, but never a glass of wine and salad with a steak.

The body seems to have two fuel systems: carbs and fat. They are both used by the body in different ways and have different effects. Do you think our neolithic pattern of eating both together has anything to do with overall health/disease/insulin resistance? Thanks for all your help!

Peter said...

Hi Gunther,

Cordain has lots of opinions, and this page is 100% opinion. It's very hard to take him seriously when one has seen the effects of eating 6 egg yolks a day (each +23.4units)! Most people who have perused the European literature will regard uroliths as a product of insulin resistance. There are some refs below. It applies to struvite sones too, lost the ref. Acid base looks to be much less important, noting that acidifying the urine using ascorbate DECREASES stone formation (ref 2). Again, anyone who has eaten LC, and particularly high fat, will be well aware of the effect on blood pressure (it normalises). I've not particularly chased his other subjects amenable to decreasing acid load, but I would guess they're all amenable to LC and dumping the PUFA. The PRAL ref cited is where he gets his data, there's nothing there to suggest decreasing acid load does any of the things he cites. Eating a decent paleo diet will do it, but whether it's the decreased acid load or the lack of Pepsicola is all out to opinion... Probably so will a LC diet which includes the cheese and egg yolks.






PS, you're right, I think insulin resistance is VERY important

PPS I've never really gotten in to the food timings thing, there's too much to think about as it is...

Anonymous said...

Gunther, I think the reason there's so much osteoporosis and disease is stuff like soft drinks and fat-free dairy which people often eat today. Plus all of the PUFA vegetable oils and processed trans fats. I've read books on acid-alkaline, like The PH Miracle. They would have us believe we should all eat a raw vegan diet, while drinking only distilled water or plasma-activated, micro-ionized, clustered, mono-molecular water.

They ignore all the junk food being eaten and put the blame on "acidic" (animal) foods. Do they control for soft drinks, sugar, flour, and PUFA oils being eaten heavily? Cordain's named ArteryCloggingSaturatedFat as the dietary villain today. He cites epidemiological studies with dozens of confounding variables. He's dead wrong about saturated fat, IMO.

Saturated fat is the solution. Lack of saturated fat is the problem. In the 1900s, Americans were eating a lot of butter, cream, cheese, meat, coconut oil, and suet. Now, they're eating margarine, soybean oil, corn oil, safflower oil, and canola oil. These oils cause diabetes and other modern disease epidemics.

Ed said...

Here's a thread on chowhound about carnitas recipes, looks like you are supposed to add orange. I'm about to try this, let's see how it turns out.

Peter said...

Thanks Ed, I think I'll throw some orange peel in to the simmer and see how it goes...

"I do not fear pork", that is such a cool phrase!