walkitout (walkitout) wrote,

_The Abascal Way: To Quiet Inflammation_, Kathy Abascal

Tigana Press -- looks like it might be the author's own; other than this book, Amazon has a book by the same author about herbal treatments from a hundred years ago for treating the flu.

This is a small pub/self pub diet thing that I stumbled across purely by accident. Apparently, it has taken Vashon Island by storm, for whatever that might be worth.

The book is written in the Quite Awful Way that most diet books are written. So I'm not even going to get into that. I'm instead going to analyze the eating pattern being promoted.

(1) It's a dietary effort to minimize metabolic issues associated with pre diabetes.

(2) Distinct meals, lots of them (3 meals and 2 snacks)

(3) anti grains and high glycemic stuff like potatoes, insists on breakfast (but breakfast is protein and fruit/veg), anti sweeteners (caloric and otherwise), volumetric, proportion rather than portion. The golden ratio for this is: 1/3 protein and/or grain, 2/3 fruit/veg (with the exception of breakfast).

(4) Timing matters: breakfast to be very soon after awakening and there's supposed to be a big gap between the last food consumed and bedtime.

There is a _significant_ inconvenience/expense factor for this eating plan: most oils, peanuts, wheat and anything like wheat, dairy, anything GMO, etc. is off for the elimination phase and only some of it comes back later. It's almost impossible to imagine eating out during the elimination phase.

Speaking of the elimination phase, in addition to trying to reduce insulin overload during the first few weeks, this diet seeks to remove some common food allergens, with a goal to determining whether that is part of why someone is having troubles. I would argue that if you completely cut milk products for a month plus, and you are middle-aged, odds are that if you weren't lactose intolerant going into this, you will be lactose intolerant coming out of it. *shrug* I don't care; I'm allergic to milk products anyway. Treating wheat and wheat like grains with comparable suspicion (down to insisting on wheat free soy or tamari sauce during the opening phase) fits well with the current anti-gluten trend. Also, dried corn, peanuts are eliminated entirely, altho part of the justification there is to get people out of food ruts and to avoid some common molds. This seems like an incredibly weak argument, imo.

So basically, this diet starts out as an allergy elimination diet, with a proportion rule, 3 meals, 2 snacks, eat breakfast upon awakening, last meal some hours before bedtime, no grazing, no sweeteners, no alcohol, don't drink your food (no juices, smoothies, etc., but soup is okay -- this aligns well with a bunch of scientific studies on how we compensate for calories consumed in a beverage vs. in soup) and no dried fruit.

Interestingly, eggs are NOT eliminated, even tho red meat is (I'm assuming this is an inflammatory thing). Poultry, lamb, fish, etc. are left in, with some exceptions.

While I think you could easily argue that the opening phase is overly restrictive, the heart of this diet is clearly in the right place, with its focus on moving in the less-processed direction, more fruit and veg, paying attention to food quality and a lot more attention to our body's responses to food (eating rather than drinking calories).

There's a chapter on intestinal flora that is okay -- not great but okay.

There's a chapter on omega-6 to omega-3 fat ratio. This chapter exposes a lot of typical problems with this kind of nutritional advice. In theory, if you thought the omega-6 to omega-3 ratio was a really big deal, canola oil would be looking pretty good. However, the anti-processing/suspicion of chemical anything turns out to win and she opts for olive oil instead. She argues for leafy greens and wild berries, because they have more omega-3s, but it isn't like these things have that much fat in them anyway. And then basically eat flax, chia and hemp seed (this is the same woman who said _don't_ eat cottonseed oil because it's not a food. Ha!), and "wild, coldwater fish". I've become less and less convinced this ratio is something to worry about every year that goes by (sat fat has some pretty clear problems, by contrast).

There's a chapter on antioxidants: don't try to take pills, this is why to eat fruit and veg, smoking is bad, alcohol is bad, not enough sleep is bad, charred/burned food is bad, organic is good, plastic is bad, antioxidants from whole, (relatively) unprocessed foods are good, supplements are bad. Pretty straightforward.

There's a chapter on toxins and the liver, which is more or less what you would expect, right down to the There's Still DDT in Everything. The theory here is that by eating more fruits and veg, you've moved down the food chain so there's less bioaccumulated awfulness in what you are eating. Probably true ... but then why the Eat Fish recommendation? Sure, farmed fish is worse than wild caught, for the most part, but coldwater fish are particularly awful for bioaccumulating mercury. She does have the sense to acknowledge that conventional fruit and veg are still healthy for us and notes that, for example, human breast milk, despite toxins, is still really really good for babies. So there's that. Also, she isn't advocating some purge/detox thing, but rather more of the advice throughout the book: berries, fruits, veg, also things that make you sweat to clear water soluble so the liver can move on to other stuff, onions, garlic, mushrooms, fermented foods (no she does not mean beer), seaweed on the theory that these things feed supportive microbes, citrus peel, forage for wild greens and exercise in general.

Honestly, given how many odd things are sold as ways to Fix the problems she is describing, her approach looks fairly innocuous.

Next chapter is insulin resistance; I'm off to have some dinner that will likely be very non Abascal Way. Will update later.
Tags: book review, food, health, non-fiction
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