Monday 3 November 2014

Phytic acid and mineral absorption

Seeds, grains and nuts store Phosphorous (P) in an organic compound called
phytic acid (or phytate in its salt form). Phytic acid has a strong ability to bind with multivalent metal ions, such as iron, zinc and calcium. This binding reduces the bioavailability (absorption) of these minerals. Humans lack the digestive enzyme, phytase, which is required to break down the undigestible phytic acids and release the digestible phosphorus, calcium and other nutrients (Mittal et al, 2013).

Decreasing phytic acid or including the enzyme phytase increases the absorption of iron, zinc, magnesium and calcium (Coulibaly et al, 2011).

% of Phytic Acid in food (Screenshot from Wikipedia)

Neutralising phytic acid to increase mineral absorption
  • Soaking of cereals and grains overnight.
  • Cooking. Heat can destory small amounts of phytic acid but can also destroy vitamin C.
  • Germination/Sproting. 6 to 10 days of germination showed an increase in mineral uptake.
  • Malting, a process where the whole grain is soaked then germinated.
  • Fermentation. Major fermentation microorganisms include lactic acid bacteria, moulds and yeast. More on this point below.

Creating the enzyme, Phytase
Tempeh, miso, koji and soy sauce are the products of fermenting soybeans with Aspergillus oryzae and this has shown to produce phytase (Fujita et al, 2003).
Sumengen et al (2012) presents their results with the production of phytase from Lactobacillus brevis, a well-known lactic acid bacteria found in yogurt. Similar findings are found with bifidobacteria to reduce phytate (Sanz-Penella et al, 2009).

Grains, oats and seeds contain phytic acid that reduce the absorption of minerals (iron, calcium, magnesium, zinc). The enzyme, phytase, is required to breakdown the compound. Phytase can be produced with lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.

To increase mineral absorption with your raw carbs:
  • Add a probiotic with lactobacilli and bifidobacteria.
  • Pick a multi-vitamin with phytase and/or probiotics.
  • Add yogurt!
  • DIY yogurt naturally or with kefir and create more goody bacterias. I use the freeze-dried kefir.

Thursday 30 October 2014

Potassium and electrolytes

Of all the nutrients, potassium is the hardest to hit. At the recommended intake of 4.7g, you'll need to eat 8-11 bananas everyday to reach the daily dose. USDA electrolyte recommendations are 2.3g sodium, 4.7g potassium and 3.6g chloride. Looking at my nutrient tracking over 2 weeks, I average 1.4g of potassium a day without supplements. Here are some sources of potassium:

Estimates of potassium in certain foods1
Food Serving size Potassium amount (milligrams)
Cooked spinach1 cup840 mg
Sweet potato1 medium695 mg
Plain nonfat yogurt8 ounces579 mg
Banana1 cup540 mg
Cooked broccoli1 cup460 mg
Tomato1 cup430 mg
Fat-free milk8 ounces380 mg
Chicken meat100 grams256 mg
Oats0.5 cup (45g)193 mg
Whey Protein1 scoop (30g)145 mg

Supplementing Potassium

Potassium chloride tastes horrendous. I'm currently looking at replacing it with potassium gluconate or citrate, which are better absorbed that the chloride compound.
Heres a discussion on potassium at DIY soylent:

Below table shows the amount of elemental potassium in each compound.
Potassium Compound Potassium per gram
Potassium Chloride 521 mg (remaining is chloride)
Potassium Citrate 360 mg (remaining is citric acid)
Potassium Gluconate 155 mg (remaining is glucose)
Potassium citrate is harder to find in pure powder form so I'll probably mix potassium chloride and gluconate to get my recommended dose of electrolytes. Ill update the exact amounts once I'm happy with the combination.

Keeping sodium-potassium ratio around 3:2 (in moles) is more important since that is required for neural activity (lessons from Sol from Khan academy and brain basics). There is a also a thread on the DIY soylent forum about sodium-potassium.

Wednesday 29 October 2014

Oils, Fatty acids, Fat sources

Our body requires two fatty acids: Omega 3 alpha-linolenic acid and Omega 6 linoleic acid. These are essential fatty acids that we have to consume as our bodies don’t have the enzymes to produce them. These fatty acids are also known as polyunsaturated fatty acids (PUFAs) and you'll be able to find endless sources citing their role in brain function, bone health, skin and hair growth, metabolism and general health.

Omega 3 ALA is converted to eicosapentaenoic acid (EPA) and docosahexaenoic acid (DHA). Omega 6 is converted to gamma-linolenic acid (GLA) and then to arachidonic acid (AA). Several studies have shown that a lower ratio of omega-6/omega-3 fatty acids is more desirable in reducing the risk of many chronic diseases and a ratio of 4:1 showing improvements. [1]

The diagram below shows the components of fatty acids

Increasing my omega 3 to omega 6 ratios

I'm removing canola oil as I cannot find a bottle that does not contain any trans fat. I currently take fish oil for EPA and DHA. Algae is another alternative but it comes with a higher cost.
I've also added coconut oil for its medium-chain triglycerides, which are rapidly digested and acts more like a carbohydrate than a fat. I'm mainly trying it out to increase energy levels [2]. Its the only saturated fat that I'm happy to consume at larger dosages.

Common sources of GLA are evening primrose oil and borage oil. Borage oil contains 20% GLA, evening primrose oil with 9% GLA and black current oil with 15-20% GLA [3]. While I've been unable to find scientific sources, I've read positive personal stories about the use of these oils for controlling hormonal acne [4][5][6].

Heres a list of lipid nutrition:

Soylent forum posts related to oils and fat sources

Saturday 25 October 2014

BentoBlend - my DIY Soylent

My search for a quick, cheap, easy, no-mess and nutritious meal that would keep me full and provide sufficient energy to work through the day.

I don't like cooking, washing up or waiting for food. I love my desserts and my burgers but sometimes I just want to eat healthy and move on. My solution, DIY soylent.
Heres my recipe on the DIY soylent site:

The idea is not to replace all meals but the ones where I just can't be bothered cooking.
I've been drinking bentoblend for breakfast (sometimes eating it as the usual oat, yogurt, whey) for 40 days and I've made a few tweaks during that time.

Heres a pic of the longer shelf-life ingredients in the bentoblend, the breakdown and future additions.

Whey protein fast release protein
Soy protein slow release protein
Oats low GI carbs, fiber
Oat Bran low GI carbs, fiber, magnesium
Egg (hard-boiled) protein, fats, choline
Soy Lecithin fats, choline
Canola oil fats, omega3 ALA, omega6 (watch out for trans fat)
Fish oil omega3 EPA, omega3 DHA
Coconut oil omega6, medium-chain triglycerides (for energy)
Psyllium husk fiber
Potassium chloride potassium, chloride (tastes terrible)
Banana potassium, fiber, taste
Yogurt calcium, taste
Milk calcium, for tea/coffee
Nature Made multi-V and minerals all-rounder multi (female & male versions available)
Cocoa powder, cinnamon taste
Future additions / researching
Algae powder Replace fish oil for EPA and DHA
Digestive enzymes (papaya, pineapple, others) To aid the breakdown of molecules for better absorption by the body
micronutrient ratiosFor optimal absorption and health benefits.
Calcium citrate Replace yogurt. Citrate is better absorbed than carbonate by 20%
Choline bitartrate, CDP choline, alpha GPC Different choline sources
My breakfast before and after blending.
Tastes like a mild chocolate shake.

My preference to DIY over the official Soylent
  • Custom calories. Official soylent is based on a 2000 calorie diet. I'm short and I hardly exercise so 1350 calories is plentiful for my daily needs.
  • Custom blend of macros. The official soylent is 50% carbs. I prefer a balanced diet with 30-40% of each macro and keeping the carbs lowest.

2 Months of bentoblend breakfast (Nov 2014 update)
Below are the ingredients and micronutrients contained in a single serve of bentoblend. I occasionally add in yogurt (sometimes home-made from kefir) for probiotics. Planning to change it based on my food science research.

Whey protein
15g / 0.5 scoop
Soy protein
7.5g / 0.25 scoop
20.625g / 3 tbsp
Oat Bran
13.75g / 2 tbsp
Soy Lecithin
7.5g / 1 tbsp
Fish oil
1g / 1 pill
Cocoa powder
2.7g / 0.5 tbsp
Coconut oil
2.5ml / 0.5 tsp
Psyllium husk
7.5g / 1 tsp
Potassium chloride
0.014g / a pinch
Nature Made multi-V and minerals
1 pill
Egg (hard-boiled)

Total Sugars: 1.1g in a bentoblend (~60g a serve).
Sugar RDI: 90g. I aim for <20g of sugar a day.
Nutrient-packed single serve bentoblend.
Screenshot from my recipe

Tried Nootropics
Piracetam - makes me sleepy. Tried for a week straight and on-off every 2nd day.
DMAE - gives me nightmares. Tried for 3 days straight.
Gingko - no difference. Eating it on an empty stomach results in massive stomach pains.

My conclusion
I'm definitely going to keep tweaking and reading up on food science. I plan to summarise my findings in future posts.
If anyone is interested in trying a blend, I'm happy to make and sell you a bentoblend!