For years, the standard diet shake was the low-fat, high-sugar, shake-powder, “boosted” with a complement of synthetic vitamins and indigestible fiber. The idea was that you'd mix the powder with a glass of milk and replace one or two meals a day and eat sensibly for your other meal(s). And it worked, in that it could significantly decrease your calorie intake.
On the other hand, it tended to promote uncomfortable energy swings because of the high sugar intake. It also ultimately exhausted the pancreas for the same reason. And it produced major allergy problems for many people because of the high dairy intake. But probably worst of all, because of the combination of sugar, indigestible fiber, and dairy allergies, it produced a lot of gas.
Recently, thanks to Dr. Atkins, the diet shake has shifted from low-fat, high-sugar, to low-sugar, high-protein.
Actually, this is not new. A version of this concept swept the diet world about 25 years ago. In the 1970s, a book called The Last Chance Diet, written by Dr. Robert Linn, promoted and popularized the use of liquid protein as a weight loss aid. The liquid protein involved was hydrolyzed cow collagen. The diet fell out of favor when 60+ people died on the program. Incidentally, collagen gelatin is one of the primary ingredients in Jell-O. For all intents and purposes, these diets could just as easily have pitched Jell-O as a weight loss miracle. It's worth noting that new versions of this program are once again surfacing, pitching themselves as a “better” version of the current diet du jour: the Atkins low-carb diet.
The Atkins program, however, including their shakes, is a much more sophisticated and safer version of the high protein diet than the liquid protein diets of yore. But the fundamental principle behind the two programs is the same. They both make use of a quirk in the body's metabolism to force it to live off its own fat. The primary source of energy for the human body is glucose, and most of our glucose intake is from carbohydrates. With the Atkins diet, though, you abnormally restrict your intake of carbohydrates (carbs that would normally fuel your blood sugar metabolism cycle) in order to force your metabolism to switch from burning carbohydrates to burning stored fat (or ketones) for energy. The result is a state of ketosis: high energy, coupled with a rapid metabolism of stored fat. And it works. It also helps lower blood-sugar levels and lower blood-pressure and cholesterol levels. However…
There are problems with the program. As the old saying goes: “In for a penny, in for a pound.” That means you must be rigorous. Any intake of high-glycemic carbs turns off the metabolism switch. Now you get none of the benefits and all of the problems, which include among other things:
- Too much protein puts stress on the liver and kidneys, lowers body pH which contributes to osteoporosis and cancer, creates a state of dysbiosis in the intestinal tract which leads to, among other things, a compromised immune system and an increased risk of colon cancer.
- Heavy doses of antibiotics and growth hormones in the high levels of non-organic protein consumed (assuming you're not buying in a health food store).
- Increased allergies and autoimmune diseases resulting from the high consumption of dairy and/or soy.
The Diet Alternative
Call me old-fashioned, but I believe in exercise and balanced meals combined with nutrient-dense food for managing weight. But that said, I also understand that people often need a helping hand. And a number of months ago, I was asked to design a diet shake for a company that wanted to develop a private label line of weight-loss products. Although, they eventually closed their doors before they got a chance to market the shakes, I did get to play with some very interesting concepts before it was over.
The first thing that I did was abandon ideas that I felt were fundamentally flawed in diet shakes.
- I said forget trying to pack the shake with synthetic vitamins or vitamin isolates. First of all, almost everyone now uses some kind of vitamin supplement that provides 100% of their RDI. Taking more useless vitamins in a shake is a meaningless exercise. Its only value is bragging rights on the label. As I discuss in detail in Lessons from the Miracle Doctors, the only vitamins worth getting are either food grown or food based. Vitamin isolates don't exist in nature, and your body doesn't handle them well, and in many cases they are incomplete. Rather than packing the shake with vitamins and minerals that are better covered in other meals or separate supplements, I decided to use superfoods that brought their own unique beneficial phytochemicals to the table -- phytochemicals that you were unlikely to get in your other meals or with ordinary supplements. In other words, I wanted the shake to effectively complement the benefits of your other meals, not ineffectively duplicate them.
- I said forget trying to pack the shake with protein. Shakes, as we've already mentioned are not a good way to provide protein. The major shake sources of protein are either soy (Heaven forbid), or dairy. I have covered the problems with dairy in extensive detail in Miracle Doctors and in my newsletters, but let's focus for a moment on dairy as it relates to shakes.
Milk allergy is not just based on an intolerance of lactose sugars. It is also caused by the immune system's response to one or more of the proteins found in cow's milk. There are many protein allergens in cow's milk that cause allergic reactions, which is why cow's milk is one of the most frequent causes of food allergens in our diets. Casein and whey are the two main protein components of dairy and coincidentally, the two main sources of protein in diet shakes (outside of soy).
- Casein (sodium caseinate) accounts for 80 percent of the protein in milk and is the most important allergen found in milk and cheese. It is worth noting that casein is a key component in many glues and is not tolerated well at all by the human body. Too much casein over too long a time is a health problem for everyone. (And surprise, they add casein to tofu cheese and other "non-dairy" products.)
- Whey accounts for the other 20 percent of milk proteins. It is much better tolerated than casein, but again, if used in excess and for too long still produces excessive Circulating Immune Complexes in the bloodstream. Whey consists of two primary allergenic proteins:
Having ruled out trying to pack a shake with problem plagued protein supplements, I opted for a different path. I chose to build my shake around long-chain, low-glycemic carbohydrates. At first, this might seem like heresy in our current low-carb crazed world, but it actually makes perfect sense.
Good Carbohydrates For Energy
Understand that your body can only use glycogen as energy. Everything must get broken down to this first. Glycogen is the simplest form of sugar in your blood. If there is too much (hyperglycemic), your pancreas produces insulin to shuttle the sugar out of your blood and into your cells, if there is too little (hypoglycemic), your body produces glucose, which gets rid of the insulin so you can build up more sugar in your blood. Hyper- and hypo- glycemia are the extreme conditions of high or low blood sugar, respectively.
The bottom line is that you need carbohydrates for energy. They power every part of your body and energize it to work, run, jump, think, breathe, and more. As long as you're using your body, you need glucose. When you are hungry, you find it hard to think and work. That's because you're running out of glucose, and your brain needs more fuel.
The key to how carbohydrates are used in the body is how quickly they break down in the digestive tract. This is largely determined by their fundamental structure.
- Simple, or short-chain, carbohydrates don't need to be broken down at all. They are instantly available to the body. These are the sugars. To say that all sugars are bad, as is often now stated, is an oversimplification of the problem. There are many times that your body truly needs an instant influx of energy foods. There are many sugars such as mannose that play a key role in our immune systems. However, there is no question that in general, the sustained high-level intake of sugars spikes insulin levels and eventually contributes significantly to major health problems such as obesity, high cholesterol, high triglycerides, and diabetes.
- Complex, or long-chain, carbohydratescannot be utilized by the body until they are broken down. Complex carbohydrates consist of hundreds or thousands of sugar units linked together in single molecules. Theoretically, since they are not instantly available to the body, they should raise glucose levels more slowly and be healthier than simple sugars. But that is not always the case. Some long-chain carbs, such as, potatoes, bananas, all refined grains (in point of fact, many whole grains too), and maltodextrin (which is frequently added to processed foods) breakdown very quickly and are virtually indistinguishable from straight sugar in their effect on the body. There are two reasons for this.
- Fiber. Fiber cannot be digested by human beings. It has no calories because the body cannot absorb it. The more fiber present in the food, the more slowly the carbohydrates bound to that fiber break down. That's why high fiber fruits and vegetables such as broccoli and prunes and berries tend to be very low on the glycemic index. In general, these foods, although they are pure carbohydrates, can be eaten abundantly on any low-carb program.
- Branching. If the simple sugars in a complex carbohydrate are not assembled in a straight line, but include many branches, it slows the breakdown of the carbohydrate dramatically because the enzyme amylase does not work on branches. Examples of branched carbohydrates include the gums such as guar and xanthan.
Whichever form of carb you take, after digestion, it appears in the circulatory system as glucose, on its way to the cells where it is used for energy. The key is how long that process takes. If spread out over several hours:
- There is no spike in blood sugar and insulin levels
- The body does not store fat
- You get sustained energy over a prolonged period of time
In the end, it became obvious to me that the ultimate diet shake should not be built out of protein and fat, but out of long-chain, slow-energy-releasing superfood carbohydrates. I immediately turned my attention to stabilized rice bran and the green foods (alfalfa leaf, wheatgrass, and oat grass) as the core elements of the shake. However, before I could finalize the shake, there were a couple of other issues that had to be dealt with.
Superfood Shake For The Real World
First, I had to acknowledge how the shake would truly be used in the "real world."
Ideally, this superfood powder would be mixed with fresh squeezed vegetable juice, thereby providing sustenance and energy for several hours. But I also realized that we live in the real world. Very few people who need to lose weight are likely to be disciplined enough to drink large amounts of fresh squeezed vegetable juice everyday. They would much rather mix their superfood with sweet juices and fresh fruit. This, of course, would defeat the purpose. So I needed to add herbs to the shake to help control the body's insulin response and minimize sugar swings in the blood. For that purpose, I turned to banaba leaf, blueberry leaf, and stevia.
I also understood that one of the main reasons people feel the need to eat is that their energy levels drop and they need a midday pick-me-up, so I added a small amount of guarana to prevent postprandial dips.
The Final Piece of the Puzzle
We tested this shake for almost 6 months, and people raved about it -- begging us to put it into production. But it never felt finished. Often times formulating is as much about gut instinct as it is anything else. Then, about 2 months ago, the final piece of the puzzle fell into place. I was fortunate to be one of the first people in the country to be exposed to Aktivated Barley, the next great superfood. It was the addition of this ultra-long-chain pre-sprouted barley that made the shake come alive and convince me that it was now time to release it. In a little bit, you'll see how important that ingredient is.
Key Superfood Shake Ingredients
Stabilized Rice Bran
Stabilized rice bran is one of the world's great superfoods. It's high in fiber, obviously, but also high in protein and is one of the premier sources of antioxidants -- containing over 100 of them. Major health components of stabilized rice bran include:
- Hypoallergenic protein with all essential amino acids
- Rich in E complex vitamins (contains the highest natural source of tocopherols and tocotrienols in nature)
- Rich in B complex vitamins
- IP6 (inositol hexaphosphate)
- The only source of Gamma-Oryzanol in nature
- Minerals (including high amounts of potassium, magnesium and manganese) and trace minerals
- Polyphenols, phytosterols, and sterolins (high quantities of Beta-sitosterol and Beta-sitosterolin)
- Mixed carotenoids, including lutein and zeaxanthin
- Dimethylglycine (DMG)
- Trimethylglycine (TMG)
- Lecithin (phosphatidyl choline, phosphatidyl serine)
- Ferulic Acid
- Alpha Lipoic Acid
Before we get into the details of Aktivated Barley, we need to look briefly at barley in general.
Research conducted in Canada, the United States, and Australia has shown that barley can play a significant role in lowering blood cholesterol in hypercholesterolemic subjects. Other studies have shown that non-insulin dependent diabetics (Type II) had improved blood glucose levels as a result of including barley in their diet. It should be noted that barley rates an astoundingly low 27 on the glycemic index. That's 22 percent less than skim milk!
In addition, barley has high concentrations of tocotrienols, anitoxidant compounds that work to suppress the activity of the first rate-limiting enzyme (HMG-CoA Reductase) in the liver, thus reducing cholesterol synthesis. And barley is one of the highest known sources of beta-glucans, carbohydrates (there's that word again) that have remarkable immune boosting properties and have been shown to improve blood glucose and lipid levels among diabetics in clinical trials.
Historically, barley has been used for thousands of years. The Roman army marched on it. It was the primary staple of their diet. They picked up that trick from the Greek gladiators who trained on it and were known as "barley eaters." (So much for meat being the food of choice for macho men.)
In ancient Rome, a food made from spouted barley, honey, and colostrum was used to sustain infants whose mother's died in childbirth. In more recent years, that same formula has been used by the UN to prevent starvation in Third World countries.
The problem with sprouted barley is that it's extremely gelatinous. All attempts to dry it and package it for commercial distribution failed until a company in Sweden figured out a way to use low-temperature steam (produced in a partial vacuum) to take the barley just up to the point of sprouting -- before it turns gelatinous, but after the point where all the proteins and carbohydrates have been converted, and at a temperature low enough so that no enzymes are damaged.
This turns out to be a remarkably interesting point. It's like the food is placed in a state of suspended animation at the point where all of the energy of the grain has been marshaled to sprout -- but has not yet expended that energy in the act of sprouting. The result is a brand new superfood with unbelievable properties. Think of it like a bullet in a gun.
- The bullet in the chamber is like the dry barley pearl. All the energy is dormant -- unavailable.
- The bullet, after it has fired and left the gun, is like the barley sprout. All of the energy has been expended in the act of making the bullet shoot out of the gun -- or in this case, making the barley sprout. The energy has been used up. Once again, it is no longer available.
- But pre-sprouted barley is different. It's like being able to freeze time at the moment the gunpowder has fired and before the bullet has left the gun. A huge amount of energy is now locked in the chamber, available in an easily used form, just waiting to be directed in any way you want. What if you could take that energy and use it for other things rather than making the bullet fly? What if you could use the energy locked in the pre-sprout phase to nourish the body rather than make the barley sprout? That would be a true superfood.
And in fact, this Aktivated Barley produces some astounding numbers on the Bovis Scale.
If you are not familiar with the Bovis Scale, it was developed by a French physicist and theoretically quantifies life energy. The scale ranges from 0 to infinity, with 6,500 considered neutral for humans. From 0 to 6,500, the charge is considered life-detracting, while above the 6,500 point the energy gradually becomes more life-enhancing. The ultra-long-chain carbohydrate found in pre-sprouted barley registers 320,000 on the Bovis Scale. That is unheard of for food.
Note: While the concept of the Bovis scale is based on sound theory, and the results on the body of the ingestion of high Bovis foods and water is observable, accurate methods for measuring substances on the Bovis scale are in short supply. At this point in time, it is probably best to consider Bovis ratings as general indicators, rather than as accurately verifiable numbers.
The Properties of Aktivated Barely
- Like regular barley, it ranks incredibly low on the glycemic index.
- It has all of the nutritional value of barley -- high levels of tocotrienols and beta glucans. In fact, pre-sprouting increases beta glucan levels by some 77% according to tests performed by AnalyCen in Sweden.
- It contains 1,000s of active enzymes.
- It is an ultra-long-chain carbohydrate that takes up to 4 hours to break down in the digestive tract -- thus providing a slow, sustained release of energy and insulin
- Because the release is so slow, it actually lowers the body's insulin response.
- It provides over 400% more energy per calorie than any other food calorie known. (Despite what the FDA may tell you, not all calories are created equal.) As it turns out, there are two different ways to test for caloric value. The traditional way is by burning the product to determine the energy released. This is the FDA approved standard. However, a more meaningful test is to measure the metabolic calorie value -- that is: how much energy the BODY can use or produce from the food in question. For Aktivated Barley, the metabolic calorie value is 400% higher than a standard calorie such as fat. Or to look at it another way, with Aktivated Barley you get the same energy on 1/4 the calories VS standard calories.
- It produces readings of up to 320,000 on the Bovis scale.
Wheatgrass, Alfalfa Leaf, and Oat Grass
First, let me address why I did not include spirulina or chlorella. I love spirulina and chlorella -- particularly chlorella. But they have a pronounced smell and taste. If I were designing a high end superfood combination, I would include one or both of them. But when designing a mainstream weight-loss shake, taste and smell are crucial. If the people who need it won't use it, it is a failed formula no matter how effective it might be.
So instead, I turned to the grasses. They too have a distinctive taste, but nowhere near as pronounced. And when used in support of the rice bran and Aktivated Barley, you can hardly taste them at all. The three I decided to use were wheatgrass, alfalfa, and oat.
- Wheatgrass has been called one of nature's finest medicines. It contains chlorophyll, enzymes, vitamins, and nutrients that are essential for a healthy body. The benefits of wheatgrass are enormous. These include correcting blood sugar imbalances, purifying the blood, enhancing hemoglobin production, neutralizing toxins, purifying the liver, and removing heavy metals from the body.
- Revered as the "father of all foods," alfalfa has been eaten for centuries by people seeking a rich source of essential minerals and vitamins. Alfalfa Leaf helps the body assimilate protein, calcium and other nutrients. It is a rich source of chlorophyll, and is the richest land source of trace minerals. And it is high in fructo-oligosaccarides, which fertilize healthy bacteria in the gut and neutralize bad bacteria overgrowth such as Candida.
- Oat grass has a relaxing and stimulating action that nourishes and strengthens the nervous system, and has been shown to be helpful for arthritis, rheumatism, stress, depression, debility, exhaustion, nerve tremors, epilepsy, convalescence, palpitations, nervous headache, nervous stomach, nervous breakdown, cholesterol levels, herpes, and menopause symptoms. Oat grass is also used for thyroid and estrogen deficiency, for degenerative diseases such as multiple sclerosis and for colds, especially if recurrent or persistent. Oat grass is extremely rich in antioxidants, including polyphenols and one powerful antioxidant called tricin, a flavone compound that exerts smooth muscle relaxing properties, making it beneficial in gastro-intestinal cramping. Green oats are also high in beta-glucan, which helps stimulate immune functions.
The active ingredient in guarana (guaranine) is chemically identical to caffeine -- but with one huge difference. In its natural form, it is bound to the fiber of the guarana seeds. That means its stimulating component is released gently, giving you up to 5 hours of refreshing vitality.
So, unlike coffee which is harsh, quick acting, short lasting, and can increase headaches, water weight gain, and exhaustion; the energy boost from guarana is:
- Slow acting
- Long lasting
- No headaches
- Provides stamina
Banaba Leaf, Blueberry Leaf, and Stevia
- The blood sugar regulating properties of banaba leaf have been demonstrated in cell culture, animal, and human studies. In isolated cells, the active ingredient in banaba leaf, corosolic acid, is known to stimulate glucose uptake. In diabetic mice, rats and rabbits, banaba feeding reduces elevated blood sugar and insulin levels to normal. In humans with type II diabetes, banaba extract, at a dose of 16-48mg per day for 4-8 weeks, has been shown to be effective in reducing blood sugar levels 5%-30% and in maintaining tighter control of blood sugar fluctuations. An interesting “side-effect” of tighter control of blood sugar and insulin levels is a significant tendency of banaba to promote weight loss (an average of 2-4 lbs. per month) – without significant dietary alterations.
- Blueberry leaf contains significant pharmaceutical amounts of both chlorogenic and caffeic acids (20%). New studies have shown that taken together, the unique compounds in blueberry leaf help to simultaneously reduce glucose absorption in the intestines, decrease glucose synthesis in the liver, and speed up the rate of glucose metabolism. Residents of the Caucasia region of the former Soviet Union have traditionally taken medicinal teas infused with leaves of the blueberry plant as a self-treatment for blood sugar imbalances, diabetes, and hypoglycemia. Blueberry leaf extract is also proven to reduce total cholesterol and LDL levels and is beneficial as a food for the pancreas, while helping relieve the problems associated with the kidneys and gallbladder.
- Whether in dry-leaf or concentrate form, stevia has the wonderful ability to help the body regulate blood sugar. Several researchers have reported that, in these natural forms, stevia seems to correct both high and low blood sugar. Other scientists have stated that stevia appears to lower blood pressure, but does not seem to affect normal blood pressure.
Final Superfood Shake Formula
The end result of this formulation is a shake that:
- Tastes great
- Controls the glycemic response even when mixed with fruit or fruit juices
- Creates a sense of fullness and satiety that lasts for 3-4 hours
- Creates a sense of sustained energy release for 3-4 hours
- Provides a whole range of antioxidants and phytochemicals that support and nourish the body
- Helps you lose weight quickly, easily, and sustainably.
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