## What is a Superfood?

Nutrient density is defined as the nutrients divided by the calories in a food. The higher the number, the closer a food would be to being a superfood. I saw a table of these in this article which sets out reasons to become vegetarian. The table shows that raw leafy green vegetables are probably superfoods:

I don’t disagree that kale and spinach are high in nutrients for their calories, but something was missing from this table. It was a class of food that I believed was very nutrient dense. Within that class there was one particular food that I thought would meet the definition of a ‘superfood’- but it was missing. Why was it missing? That question started a journey that I hope you will find as interesting as I do.

## Superfoods (Eye Roll)

Like me, you probably roll your eyes at the ‘superfood’ term. Cynicism aside, it is a common term for foods regarded more highly than others for their nutrition. After a bit of media research, I found that none of these internet articles, which were the top hits in google for ‘superfood’ mentioned the missing food. I found that extraordinary when gram for gram it:

• Has about three times the iron of red meat
• Has about three times the protein and iron of black beans
• Twice the vitamin A of carrots with far more bioavailability
• Kills quinoa & whole grains for B vitamins, some of which are associated with a lower risk of cancer
• Is a significant source of phosphorus, potassium, copper, selenium, and zinc
• Has so much more….

What is this missing ‘superfood’ and why is it not listed with others? Well, the answer lies in the definition. You see if it is not considered very beneficial for health and well-being by ‘experts’, then it is not a superfood.

## The Ignored Superfood?

So while some dietitians and nutritionists wax lyrical about goji & acai berries, kale, blueberries, quinoa, broccoli, salmon and (of course) whole grains, this ‘superfood’ it seems, is not regarded as healthy. They tell you to eat ‘this and that’ in endless articles to spruik their dietetic prowess. They, and a chorus of others on the Internet, give you scientific reasons to eat less or more of all sorts of things. We are told about: fibre, low-fat dairy, high-fat dairy, eat eggs, don’t eat eggs, eat fish but don’t eat animal meat, free-range, grass-fed, non-GMO, stress-free, wild, Patagonian, rare, exotic, antioxidant, phyto-, anti-aging ingredients, but hardly anyone seems to pay any attention to this ‘superfood’.

Right about now you probably think I am trying to get you to eat more of this food. Maybe I have a supplement to sell you? That is NOT what this post is about. I care what I eat because I have had success using diet to reverse my diabetes. While I have incorporated this ‘superfood’ more into my diet, you can eat whatever you want. Do this for whatever reason of belief or science- but please don’t get those reasons mixed up!

## The Superfood not a Superfood

The superfood ‘in waiting’ is liver. Chris Kresser and Chris Masterjohn, have called liver a ‘superfood’. They and Zoë Harcombe make a good case for its nutritional qualities; but irrespective of their reputations, it does not make it much more a superfood. You see the term superfood is a social term deemed by consensus of more than a few people. The really interesting question, and subject of this post, is why there is little fanfare from other nutrition experts to give it superfood status.

But for that recognition, liver should be the king of superfoods.  Unless you are very young, your mother or grandmother would have told you how healthy liver is. Hunter-gatherer cultures used to eat it first after killing an animal. Carnivores are said to also eat it first when they kill their prey. It was the original super food so why are so many nutritionists and dietitians reticent to confer superfood status today? Why were organ meats and liver omitted from the nutritional density table in the vegetarian article? Why are they routinely omitted from other lists of ‘superfoods’?

## Do Superfoods need to Taste Bad?

Liver is not a superfood just because many find it unappetizing although some may joke that tasting bad is almost a necessity for superfood status. Just look at kale or broccoli! Liver can be eaten as liverwurst or paté and disguised and included in ground meat dishes. Chicken livers are even a traditional ingredient in Bolognese. I am sure these tips could be told to us by dietitians to encourage the consumption of a superfood. Its common practice in newspaper pieces from health experts for other superfoods.

## High Cholesterol?

Little has been written about liver’s fall from grace but like eggs, it is high in cholesterol. It may be inferred from the fate of eggs that it fell out of favour due to cholesterol being a nutrient of concern. Unlike eggs, it has not received redemption. It seems it has no friends to make its case. Why is that?

## Toxins?

It could perhaps be said that there is a fear that liver may concentrate toxins like heavy metals. Indeed now banned arsenic compounds have been used in factory chicken farming and accumulate in chicken livers. That really is a food safety issue. If liver is not safe to sell then warn the public and don’t allow it to be sold or change farming practices. We did not stop eating spinach when there were e-Coli deaths or stop eating berries when there were cases of cholera from frozen berries. If that is the reason then it is inconsistent.

Dietitians seem more likely to warn you not to eat liver than extol its virtues. Liver is so high in bioavailable vitamin A that in the UK, pregnant women are told to avoid it by dietitians because of the risk of birth defects. Rather, they should also take iron, folate (and now B6) supplements to prevent birth defects when all are in high amounts in liver! So effective is the message that pregnancy forums are full of mums-to-be frantically worried about an accidental meal of liver as though it will kill their unborn child!  It is more likely that your mother or grandmother was told to eat it when she was pregnant with you or one of your parents, and that she did so. I suppose it is lucky you are here!

## Superfoods are Mostly Plant-Based

Looking at the prominent superfood lists that I quoted, there are few animal-based superfoods and even fewer that are meat. Most of the lists of superfoods are exclusively or near exclusively plant-based. Since livers’ fall from grace as a cholesterol filled organ meat, meat (in general but not liver specifically) has been associated with cancer in a number of studies. Liver has about a quarter of its fat as saturated fat, but is not in itself a very high-fat food so fat is not a sound reason to avoid liver given its other nutritional virtues. Why else could it be neglected?

Recently, in a lecture, Dr Gary Fettke noted that at its foundation, the science of dietetics had a perspective of vegetarianism because of the involvement of Seventh Day Adventists. Seventh Day Adventists have a core belief in a vegetarian lifestyle. Those dietary beliefs were recorded to have been received from God by Ellen G. White in the 1860s in visions. They included the view that meat is unhealthy and causes cancer and that grains, fruits, and vegetables are especially healthful (superfoods). Medical evangelism, a stated goal of Seventh Day Adventists, appears to extend to dietetics and ‘lifestyle medicine‘. Sanitarium, a company owned by the Seventh Day Adventist Church, promotes soy and whole grains as superfoods and promotes vegetarian eating and has strong links to the dietetic profession. Seventh Day Adventists believe that modern science has vindicated her visions but is it instead that her visions that have influenced ‘modern dietetic science’? Could it be that proving your prophet and improving the profits of your church create an unholy conflict of interest?

Some may say this is a conspiracy theory however in the field of anthropology and the social sciences, unlike the say the science of physics, what humans believe provides a prima facie case for associated outcomes.

## Vegetarian Agenda?

Is liver being unfairly denied superfood status because of a belief-based vegetarian zeitgeist? One that started with the introduction of dietary guidelines and has progressed through to today?

Here is what seems readily apparent:

1. On the basis of nutritional elements including proteins, vitamins and minerals, liver is clearly a superfood and one which outperforms others.
2. Liver was likely to have been your grandmother’s and/or mother’s superfood. It was probably your paleo ancestor’s go to food- if available.
3. It rarely (if at all) appears in lists of superfoods. Those lists are dominated by plant-based foods.
4. It is high in cholesterol but this is no longer a nutrient of concern. It is not particularly high in either fat or saturated fat.
5. I could not find any studies even associating the eating of farm animal liver to cancer or adverse health. (If you know of any, then please add to the article comments.)
6. Liver may not taste great to everyone, but this is not a reason to deny it superfood status.
7. Unlike eggs, liver has never recovered from the concern over dietary cholesterol. It seems it has had few friends to redeem its name.
8. Liver may be, without good evidence, tarred by associational studies of other meat products.
9. There is no nutritional benchmark for a superfood. It is a status conferred by social consensus.
10. Liver does not have that consensus and is mostly ignored as a superfood by the nutritional and dietetic professions.

## Liver: A Fistful of Supplements

What good reason is there for liver not to be a superfood when a serving clearly replaces a fistful of supplements? Why are offalorgan meats and liver as a food absent from our food guidelines altogether? Maybe liver is omitted from our guidelines for the same reason it is omitted from a table in an article convincing you to be vegetarian?

A vegetarian (plant-based) zeitgeist certainly explains it. We have guidelines and dietetics that includes the views that:

## An Inconvenient Truth

I made a bet on my health-based on guidelines that appear to be written with a vegetarian agenda and lost. Call me biased, but my hypothesis is simple.

True nutritional science would not have a plant-based bias. Liver is not a superfood because that is an inconvenient truth.

We can’t trust in the nutritional establishment to answer this charge. I am throwing this open to the ‘court of public opinion’.

What do you think?

## Low Carb Yoghurt: Tips & Tricks

For a change of pace after a lot of heavy posts,  I thought I would share some money saving tips about yoghurt- inspired by Joseph Finau who is helping people do low carb on a budget.

Some people don’t eat dairy at all on a low carb diet, and many following a paleo lifestyle also do not regard it as paleo. Coconut yoghurt may be an option, but that is a different beast to the milk based yoghurts that I will discuss and it often has gelatine or other thickeners. Unlike dairy milk, coconut milk is also already low carb and sugar is sometimes added to ferment it.

This post is about getting the sugar (lactose) and cost out of dairy yoghurt. Some people are lactose intolerant but can tolerate yoghurt which has reduced lactose. Many others have a high regard for fermented foods like yoghurt in their diet. Yoghurt (and especially Greek yoghurt) can be very expensive. If you do eat dairy, but are put off by its carbs or price, then this post is for you.

Many commercial yoghurts are high in added sugar and carbs. They may have additives like gelatine or other thickeners. Most of all they are expensive. A one-kilo tub of premium yoghurt can cost $7 to$8. Making your own can make it more carb friendly, even lower in lactose and a lot cheaper.  Would you believe $1 a litre or maybe less? It is pretty easy once you get the hang of it. We never buy made yoghurt, and you will probably not do that either once you learn some tricks. So how do we do it? ## Do You Need Yoghurt Maker? You can make yoghurt in a warm place in a bowl, but a yoghurt maker takes the guesswork out of it. A 1-litre electric yoghurt maker can be picked up on eBay for around$12. I recommend getting a bigger one (1.5 to 2 litre in capacity) if possible.

If you don’t use a yoghurt maker, then an insulating the container like a wide mouthed vacuum flask or wrapping the bowl in a tea towel might be useful. Having somewhere warm to keep it while it ferments (like a warmed oven) is useful. Using a light bulb for heating (as it a chicken incubator) may also be an option. Whatever you do, it is important to keep it below 45C or 113F or the culture may be killed.  If the temperature is lower than 40C or 103F then it may take much longer to ferment.

You need milk and some starter, and that is all.  You can use some store bought yoghurt (if it has live cultures) as a starter or you can purchase the culture from a cheese supply store some of these stores sell online and ship the live culture in a cool pack. Here is a google search that you can add your country’s name onto to find a possible online source.  Although more expensive (about $13), once you are a committed yoghurt maker I recommend purchasing the starter because: • It gives consistent results. Most cultures are a mix of two or more bacteria. Re-using yoghurt batch after batch may deteriorate the ratio. • It is small and stores in the freezer • Commercial strains may be chosen for sweetness. You want a high acid/ low lactose variety • I only use a tiny amount (about 1/8 teaspoon) • You can search for a more acid tolerant starter culture which should give you lower carbs. • My last small jar of culture went for more about eight years of yoghurt making! So divide the cost by 300 to 400! Which starter? There is some technical info here. You can always email the vendor and ask for their most acid tolerant starter or ask for one leaving the lowest lactose. ## Instructions 1. Heat the milk until it is nearly boiling. 2. While hot, pour into the container you will make the yoghurt. 3. Allow it to cool to be lukewarm. Use about 1/8 a teaspoon of yoghurt culture or a tablespoon of yoghurt from a commercial yoghurt. If the milk is too hot (>45C / 113F), you will kill the culture and the milk will not ferment. 4. Allow the milk to ferment for 12 hours (or longer) in a warm place (40 to 45C/ 103 to 113F ). That is what your yoghurt maker does. 5. If there is a clear liquid on top, don’t worry, that is normal. It is whey. 6. For Greek yoghurt, allow it to strain through a sieve until it is the right consistency. 7. Store in a container in the fridge adding in low carb sweetener when you use it. ## Making Lower Carb Yoghurt As the lactose is fermented by the bacteria in the culture, it is converted to lactic acid which makes it sour. Commercial yoghurts may shorten the fermentation time to save money or to make a sweeter product. Only 20 to 25% of the sugars are converted. Once they are chilled, further fermentation is very slow. By making your own and fermenting it for longer, you can make sure it is much a lower carb yoghurt. It is suggested to ferment it until the whey (clear liquid) separates which can be as long as 20 hours. The fermentation slows as the acidity rises stopping at about 4 to 5 grams of carbs. This is where a high acid culture can help to reduce carbs further. Now you have basic yoghurt. If you paid$1 a litre for your milk, you now have a litre of low carb yoghurt for $1. The next trick to go even lower carb is straining. ## Straining Greek yoghurt is yoghurt with some of the whey strained out usually for about 4 to 8 hours. Labneh is a yoghurt cheese that has substantially all of the whey removed, often using a weight or pressure. It may have salt, sweetener or herbs and spices added. By straining yoghurt for longer (1 to 2 days), you get labneh. You can buy a commercial greek yoghurt strainer, but a colander with filter paper or muslin cloth over a bowl or the sink does an excellent job. If you use a bowl, you can use the whey in other cooking. It is possible to just use a very fine sieve (metal or plastic) if you very carefully spoon the set yoghurt into it using a large spoon and taking care not to disturb the ‘curd’. I prefer this as I don’t like buying filter paper to throw away or washing muslin cloth. If your yoghurt runs through your sieve then your sieve is too big, you didn’t ladle it carefully, or it wasn’t fermented for long enough. ## Advantages and Disadvantages of Straining The benefits of straining are: • You lose more of the lactose and other sugars that were not digested by the bacteria as they are soluble and in the whey, so it becomes lower carb even still. • You lose the whey which is a protein that some people with diabetes regard as being insulinogenic (stimulates insulin to rise). • The yoghurt becomes thicker naturally without adding anything, and this makes it more versatile for use as a dip or cream cheese. • The acids are also soluble and disappear with the whey so the yoghurt can be less tart. The disadvantages of straining are: • You lose about a third of the volume of the yoghurt (hence why I recommend a large yoghurt maker). • The lower acid may mean it will keep for less time. On the shorter shelf life, it usually isn’t a problem as you are making it at home you don’t need to factor in time for it to sit in the supermarket waiting to be purchased. Salt is often added to labneh, and this probably extends its shelf life a little. You and your family may find it so yummy that it may also be irrelevant. ## What is the Carb Count? Here are a few commercial yoghurt carb facts. Standard unsweetened commercial yoghurt may have 8g of carbs however this can halve to about 4g when more fully fermented which is where commercial greek yoghurts and labneh also sit. You should do even better than that. I expect that my home-made Greek yoghurt and labneh approaches 2g. This article has a good overview. ## Squeezing Out the Cents Having squeezed out the carbs, let’s squeeze out the cents. I often make yoghurt with the milk that the supermarket is selling cheap because it is close to the ‘use by’ date. It is fine for that because you pasteurise it and the yoghurt bacteria do an excellent job of acidifying and creating other antibacterial agents that stop other mould and fungi anyway. Making yoghurt is a biological ‘reboot’. If you don’t want to invest approximately$40 capital in your yoghurt factory, by now you can see that you could get your yoghurt factory to pay for itself.  Make your first few batches without a yoghurt maker and using some leftover yoghurt.  Make it with reduced price milk from the supermarket to save even more. By putting your savings into a piggy bank, a few batches of that pays for your yoghurt maker.  The next few batches pay for some starter which you can even share with a friend if you wish to get going sooner.

After that, you are miles ahead.  It isn’t difficult or time-consuming to make, but you do need to plan ahead.  I often make it overnight, and it is nice to think of billions of bacteria working for you for free while you sleep. It is kind of therapeutic like counting sheep.

## Time to Rethink Yoghurt?

If you are like me, you may have dropped yoghurt when you stopped eating horse food (aka cereal). It could be a chance to rethink this naturally fermented food. Make your own to keep it low carb and real. As for uses, there are plenty of yoghurt recipes that you might have been avoiding due to the carbs. How about for dressings, sauces or as a (frozen) dessert? How about a refreshing lassi made with your own low carb yoghurt- great on a hot day. It sure beats coca cola or franken-soft drinks full of chemicals.