Symptoms and Insulin
The book begins with a look at “The Symptom Treatment Trap” which I especially like since modern medicine is so focused on treating symptoms rather than people or their nutritional deficiencies (trust me, that’s a whole different blog posting!). That mentality is warped our thinking too, so we often can readily identify problems and symptoms but don’t know what to tie them back to (in our diet). The assumption (and the way the system works) is that you go do your doctor with a symptom and he or she will match that to one or more drugs that can “treat” it. Unfortunately, those drugs often don’t fix the root problem and often bring side-effects of their own!
They refer to this as “treating the symptom but missing the problem” which feels pretty accurate to me. One of the first examples is cholesterol. If your cholesterol is “high” that means you need to take a cholesterol lowering drug, right? As they argue (and I believe), no. What you need to do is fix your diet so that you body can get back in balance. And the key to doing so lies in controlling insulin levels. You do that by replacing carbohydrates (which are both cheap and available in abundance) with good quality fat and protein sources.
The second part of the book focuses on putting the ideas from the first part into action to actually design meals that will improve your health, aid in weight loss, and improve emotional stability. This includes sample recipes and menus and ample tips for sticking with the plan. The real beauty of “the plan” is that after enough days without lots of sweet foods, you’ll be enjoying real food so much and feel so much better, that you probably won’t want to go back to eating the old way.
What I really like about this section is the fact that the really practical advice–the stuff that you’re likely to need most and refer back to several times–isn’t left until the end of the book. They don’t force you to read a lot of theory, history, and criticism of modern culture before getting down to business. In fact, the only really technical material in this section of the book is a crash course on vitamins and minerals in Chapter 6. But that’s well placed and essential to understanding a lot of what comes after it (such as understanding the benefits of good fish and grass-fed meats).
The Bigger Picture
The final section of Protein Power wraps things up by looking at dietary changes through history, starting in Chapter 11 “The Deadly Diseases of Civilization” with a look at obesity and diabetes. You wont’be surprised to learn that insulin plays a role in both. In fact, that was one of the biggest lessons for me the first time I read Protein Power: how important insulin is in regulating important functions in our body. Diabets is really only one manifestation of problems with insulin control caused by our “modern” diets.
The book concludes with a look at what the authors rightfully call “Cholesterol Madness” in Chapter 13. Here they do a good job of succinctly explaining what cholesterol is, why it’s important to your body, and why you need to consume cholesterol. I won’t spoil all the fun here, but this is where I leaned that eating cholesterol doesn’t raise your cholesterol. A series of chemical reactions in your body controls its production of cholesterol (that’s right, your body makes cholesterol). And guess what one of the hormones that has great influence over this process is… Insulin!
Protein Power is a good mix of science (nutrition, chemistry, biology), practical advice, and case studies from their own medical practice. If you’re getting started on your own health journey and looking to go from sick, overweight, and unhealthy to a better life, I definitely recommend Protein Power as one of the first books you should read. It’s practical, very approachable, and packed with a good balance of background knowledge and usable advice.