John Williams, Ph.D., has degrees in archaeology and anthropology. His research and fieldwork has focused on the Paleolithic and Neolithic of the "Old World", which basically means the Stone Age of Europe, Africa and Asia. John has always had an interest in nutrition, which actually works quite well within prehistoric studies, because our past was one big food quest.
CB: Tell us more about your approach to nutrition, and more importantly, developing delicious healthy eating recipes.
You might ask, how in the world did an archaeologist get into creating healthy recipes? I've never been a stranger to the kitchen. My Mom never really enjoyed cooking, so she encouraged me to cook for myself from a very early age. In fact, in grade school, I would wake up at 6 AM so I could make an omelet for myself before school. OK, so maybe I was a strange kid, but I certainly learned to find my way around a kitchen.
Cooking skills have also come in very handy on excavations, where there are crews of 10-20 people needing nourishment from long days of heavy labor in the sun. We usually have chefs, but I'm always poking my nose around the kitchen, giving them recipes to make sure we have sufficient protein and a good fatty-acid profile.
My travels have also taught me a lot about international cuisine. I had an Indian roommate in Israel when I was doing my dissertation research, and he taught me a lot about Indian food, which I think is some of the best in the world. I've also been to various places around the Middle East and Europe, where I picked up quite a few cooking tips.
Over the past few years, I've been continually experimenting with making healthy recipes that taste great. Bodybuilders are some of the most knowledgeable people out there when it comes to nutrition, yet many of them will resort to eating tuna from a can and boiling chicken breasts. Not that there's anything wrong with an occasional quick snack, but there are certainly ways to make healthy meals both quick and delicious.
CB: What is your take on eating dairy? Are there any problems with consuming large amounts of dairy products?
My fridge is full of cottage cheese and yogurt. But I'm not a big fan of milk, as I've found that it makes me 'stuffy', for lack of a better word. If you want to know the gory details, I get some mucus buildup after drinking milk, which leads me to suspect I have a low-grade allergy to it. It's the same feeling I've had after eating takeout Chinese food loaded with MSG – not good. Interestingly, I can eat cottage cheese and yogurt all day without the stuffiness.
There's also the whole issue of dairy and insulin response. A few studies have shown that dairy products cause a disproportionately large insulin response, which some people believe could prevent fat breakdown.
But of course milk and dairy are an excellent source of casein, which is one of the best sources of protein out there. So in the end, it's entirely up to the individual. Personally, I will not be making all that many recipes with milk in them, because of the potential side effects.
CB: What is your take on the low-carbohydrate approach to fat loss? Do you have any low-carbohydrate case studies you would like to share? What are your top sources of carbohydrate that you recommend people eat?
Extremely low carb approaches like Atkins, and even all liquid protein and EFA diets like the Velocity Diet certainly can be effective in losing fat fast. But like I said earlier, a more balanced diet is certainly better in the long run. I think that avoiding foods like spinach or broccoli because of their few carbs would be a travesty.
CB: What are your top sources of protein?
I usually grill about 3 pounds of chicken breasts at a time for quick meals during the day, and cook a proper breakfast and dinner with eggs, lean beef, fish, and the occasional game meat (bison, venison, etc.)
CB: What are your top sources of fat?
Each morning I have a strong cup of Joe and a teaspoon of fish oil to clear the mental cobwebs with a caffeine-DHA combo. Not mixed together of course – I would not want to ruin the taste of my Ethiopian Harrar! Then throughout the day, I'll have a couple of omega-3 eggs (Pilgrims Pride EggsPlus), some olive oil in various meals, and various nuts – particularly almonds and walnuts. I also take a couple of fish oil caps with every meal. This tends to balance everything out, providing a moderate amount of saturated fat, sufficient monounsaturated, and about a 2: 1 ratio of omega-6 to omega-3's.
CB: Can you tell us the role of food in controlling "inflammation" (ie controlling arthritis)? What foods should be avoided? What foods should be consumed?
One of the easiest ways to combat inflammation is by drinking sufficient water. Particularly if you drink coffee or any caffeinated beverage, water is a must. The commonly accepted amount for active people is about a gallon a day.
Another major pro-inflammatory aspect of our diets is a high omega-6 to omega-3 ratio. If our cell membranes are full of omega-6's, then muscle soreness and damage will be much worse after weight training. But get those fats balanced (more omega-3's), and inflammation / soreness can be reduced, leading to reduced recovery time.