So You’re Paleo?

That was exactly the question one of my co-workers asked me the other day.

She had been reading my blog, and wanted some confirmation on what eating Paleo actually meant.

The thing is, she was focusing on all the negatives – So you don’t eat grains? So you don’t eat dairy?  So you don’t eat legumes/pulses?  So you don’t eat carbs?  (Actually, Paleo is NOT a carb-free diet, and it doesn’t even have to be a particually low-carb diet unless you want to loose weight!).  I was almost expecting to be asked if there was anything I could eat (some people actually HAVE asked me that question!)

Rather than focusing on all the things I can’t eat, I much prefer to focus on those that I can….

Unlimited tasty, fresh, seasonal, local veggies and fruits.  Delicious tasting grass-fed and pastured beef, pork and chicken.  Wild meats such as elk, bison and rabbit.  Free-range eggs.  Wild caught fish.  Healthy fats such as olive oil, coconut oil, nuts, avocados… and even animal fats as long as they are from grass-fed or pastured sources.

There is a HUGE amount that I can eat, and relatively little that I can’t….  and I find that focusing on what I can eat makes for a far more positive attitude in the long run.

Take tonight’s dinner for example.

We are having crab, shrimp and pork cakes  served with a green salad and an avocado mayonnaise.  It will taste delicious, will be very good for us, very satisfying.  And not a single grain in sight!  and it will actually be relatively low carb as well.  I doubt we will miss any of the non-paleo foods while eating this meal because all of that healthy protein and fats will be far more satisfying than a bunch of grains on our plate.

The other thing to remember is that Paleo is more than just a diet…  it is not something that you follow until you have lost X-amount of pounds and then go back to your normal SAD way of eating…  Paleo is something you follow for the rest of your life.  It is a way of life – a lifestyle.  And you don’t have to embrace the whole paleo-exercise, barefoot-running, sleeping in the dark elements of Paleo to reap the benefits, although many do find that they start to make some of these changes (I know I did).  Just by changing one thing, taking that one step to change your diet will have HUGE benefits to your heath.

I usually advise people to give Paleo a go – just for 30 days….  then honestly evaluate how they feel.  Then add back some of the grains/dairy/legumes and honestly say how they feel then.  I am betting that they feel better over those 30 days, and as soon as they add back the non-paleo foods they feel worse.

And 30 days isn’t really a huge chunk of time to go without bread, pasta, cookies etc is it?  Focus on what you can eat during those 30 days rather than what you can’t and you will find it surprisingly easy!

Paleo Foods

I know there are a lot of other Paleo Food Lists out there, but why not make one up of my own?

These are foods that you can eat as much as you want of

Spices and Herbs – can be freely used.  This includes garlic and ginger.

Most vegetables – remember, corn is a grain, not a vegetable even if it is eaten like one.  Also avoid the starchy vegetables such as potatoes and sweet potatoes.  Aim to buy seasonally, organic and local for preference.

Artichokes

Arugula (Rocket)

Asparagus

Avocado

Beets including the tops

Bell Peppers

Bok Choy and other asian greens such as Gai-lan

Broccoli

Brussels Sprouts

Cabbage

Carrots

Cauliflower

Celery

Chicory

Chili Peppers

Collard Greens

Cucumber

Dandelion greens

Eggplant

Endive

Fennel

Green Beans – technically a legume but can be eaten raw, and low in the anti-nutrients that most legumes contain.

Green Onions

Jerusalem Artichokes

Jicama

Kale

Kohlrabi

Leeks

Lettuce

Mushrooms (All Kinds)

Mustard Greens

Okra

Onions

Parsley

Parsnips

Pea-pods (mange-tout/snap-peas) – technically a legume, but can be eaten raw and are low in the anti-nutrients that most legumes contain.

Pumpkin

Radicchio

Radish

Rapini

Seaweed

Spaghetti Squash

Spinach

Squash (all kinds)

Swiss Chard

Tomatoes

Turnip Greens

Watercress

Yellow Summer Squash

Zucchini

Fruits – most fruits are high in sugar and should be eaten in moderation.  These are the ones that are best to eat.  Aim to buy seasonally, organic and local for preference.

Berries (all types)

Coconut

Melon (all types)

Meat – if possible buy only grass-fed/pastured/wild meats.  Eat the fat and the skin where possible as well and consider nose to tail eating including the organ meats.  If you are having to buy meat that is not grass-fed/pastured (most standard grocery store meat), choose the leanest cuts possible and trim the excess fat as it will be very high in inflammatory-causing omega 6 fats.

Alligator

Beef

Bison

Chicken

Deer

Duck

Elk

Goat

Goose

Lamb

Moose

Pheasant

Pork

Quail

Rabbit

Reindeer

Sheep

Turkey

Veal

Wild Boar

Blood

Brains

Heart

Liver

Kidney

Bone Marrow

Sweetbreads

Testicles

Tongue

Tripe

Fish and Seafood –  choose sustainable wild-caught fish and seafood where possible.  Avoid farmed fish such as salmon as the flesh will be low in omega 3 and relatively high in omega 6.  Consider eating the roe (eggs/caviar) from fish.

Anchovies

Bass

Black Cod (Sablefish)

Cod

Eel

Haddock

Halibut

Mackerel

Mahi Mahi

Orange Roughy

Perch

Red Snapper

Rockfish

Salmon

Sardines

Tuna

Sole

Grouper

Turbot

Trout

Abalone

Clams

Crab

Lobster

Mussels

Oysters

Shrimp

Scallops

Caviar (fish eggs/roe) – avoid sturgeon caviar as they are rapidly becoming an endangered species.  Choose caviar from other fish instead and consider eating the roe/eggs you find in your fish when gutting it.

Eggs – The eggs of all birds are Paleo.  Where possible eat only pastured eggs or omega 3 enriched eggs.  If necessary, eat organic eggs as a third choice.  Avoid standard grocery store eggs as they will be laid by unhealthy hens that are raised in very overcrowded conditions.

Cooking Oils/Fats  – Avoid the grain based oils, most nut and seed oils and “vegetable oil”.  Also avoid all trans-fats (including margarine).  Where possible use only animal fats that are pastured/grass-fed/free-range.  Consider saving the fat that renders out of the meat you are cooking.

Avocado Oil

Coconut Oil

Lard (pork fat)

Tallow (mutton/lamb fat)

Schmaltz (chicken fat)

Beef Dripping

Suet (ok if you can find it where it has not been tossed with flour) – this is the rendered fat from around the kidneys

Olive Oil

Macadamia Oil

Palm Oil

Duck Fat

These Foods Should Be Eaten In Moderation

Vegetables – these are the more carb-heavy vegetables.  Best avoided or eaten in moderation if you are wanting to loose weight.  Aim to buy seasonally, organic and local for preference.

Cassava

Sweet Potato

Taro

Turnips

Yam

Potato

Fruits – these fruits are higher in sugar, so limit your consumption, especially if you want to loose weight.  Remember, drying fruits concentrates the sugar, and each dried fruit counts as one whole fruit.  Eat your fruit as whole fruits not fruit juice as that way you get the benefit of the fiber.  Aim to buy seasonally.  Organic and local for preference.

Apples

Apricot

Bananas

Cherries

Dates

Figs

Goji Berry

Grapefruit

Grapes

Guava

Kiwi

Lemon

Lime

Lychee

Mango

Nectarines

Oranges

Papaya

Passion Fruit

Peaches

Pears

Persimmon

Pineapple

Plums

Pomegranates

Rhubarb

Star Fruit

Tangerine

Nuts and Seeds – these should be considered more of a condiment.  Nuts and seeds, with the exception of macadamia nuts are very high in Omega 6 and chestnuts are very starchy and high in carbs.

Almonds

Brazil Nuts

Chia Seeds

Flax Seeds

Hazelnuts

Macadamias

Pecans

Pine Nuts

Pistachios

Pumpkin Seeds

Sesame Seeds

Sunflower Seeds

Walnuts

Chestnuts

Meats and Fats  – these are ok to eat in moderation as long as you can source quality bacon/ham that has been cured without sugar.  For preference choose meats that are nitrate free and made from pastured pork.

Bacon

Ham

Bacon Fat

Ham Fat

Dairy – These foods are Primal rather than Paleo.  For some people they can be problematic, others will have no issue with them.  Where possible, buy only organic or pastured dairy.  If raw unpasteurized dairy is available buy that as a first preference.   (Not possible in Canada where it is illegal to sell raw dairy).

Butter

Ghee

Milk

Kefir

Full-Fat Yogurt

Cheese

Sweeteners –  these natural sweeteners can still cause a spike in insulin levels, so keep the use to a minimum.  Their saving grace is that they contain some trace nutrients.

Fruit juice (may be used in moderation as sweetener. It contains none of the fiber from the original fruits and is essentially sugar-water)

Raw Honey

Real Maple Syrup

Stevia – sugar free, but can contribute to maintaining a “sweet-tooth”.

Other Foods – some of these foods can cause a problem for some people, others don’t have a problem with them at all.

Dark Chocolate (choose types with 85% cocoa solids)

Coffee

Alcohol – dry wines and spirits not made from grains  (tequila, wheat free vodka, brandy).  Use only club-soda/soda water as a mixer with a little citrus juice for flavour

Salt

Vinegars

Avoid These Foods

Oils and Fats –

corn oil

canola oil

vegetable oil

soybean oil

shortening

sunflower oil

safflower oil

cottonseed oil

grapeseed oil

peanut oil

margarine

Grains – low in nutrients, high in carbs and anti-nutrients, these are best avoided.

Wheat

Barley

Buckwheat

Corn

Millet

Oats

Quinoa

Rice

Rye

Sorghum

Spelt

Any Pasta

Any Bread

Any Crackers

Anything made from flour from any of the above grains

Legumes – the only exceptions I make to these are green beans and pea-pods.  While technically still legumes, these do not contain many of the anti-nutrients that the rest of the legumes contain.  They can also be consumed raw.

Garbanzo Beans

Black Beans

Kidney Beans

Mung Beans

Lima Beans

Chickpeas

Black-Eyed Peas

Lentils

Peanuts

Soybeans

Tofu

Soymilk

White Beans

Pinto Beans

Fava Beans

Red Beans

Sweeteners – these foods contain mostly empty calories and will cause a spike in your blood sugar, with a resulting rise in your insulin levels.

Sugar (all forms)

Coconut Sugar

Dextrose (glucose)

Fructose (fruit sugar)

High Fructose Corn Syrup (may be listed on labels as glucose/fructose)

Artificial Sweeteners (all types)

Agave

Maltodextrin

Corn Syrup

Molasses

Rice Syrup

Any Soda (with the exception of soda water/club soda)

Any Candy

Other Foods

Beer and spirits made from grains (Whisky, Rum, Vodka etc), sweet wines.

Most condiments and relishes (read the labels)

Highly Processed Meats (Hot dogs, most deli meats, salami etc)

And finally all highly processed food.  If your great-grandma would not recognize it as food don’t eat it.  Read the labels.  If it contains any ingredients listed in the “Do not eat” category above, do not eat it.  If there are more than 5 ingredients on the label don’t eat it (most processed foods contain far more than 5 ingredients).  If it contains ingredients that you don’t recognize or cannot pronounce don’t eat it.

Apricot Lassi – A Primal Beverage To Cool Your Mouth When Eating Spicy Food

Lassi is a beverage from the Indian subcontinent, designed to minimize the fire in your mouth after eating very hot curries.  Traditionally a savory, salted lassi is served, but occasionally, a sweetened, fruit based version, more suited to the Western palate is made.

This is a very nutritious drink for growing kids, but is also very cooling if you are eating a spicy curry.  The fat in the yoghurt and milk help remove the effects of the capsiacin, which is fat soluble.  As a result, it will do a much better job of cooling your mouth than plain water.

If you are dairy free or strict Paleo, you could probably sub in coconut yoghurt and coconut milk for the dairy…  I haven’t tried it because hubby and I happily eat really spicy food and don’t need the cooling effect of the fats (the kids do).  Just be sure that whatever you sub in contains a fair amount of fat as it s that which dissolves  the capsaicin from the chillies and causes the cooling effect.

The fermented dairy in this recipe makes this a stage 3 AIP reintroduction.  When reintroducing foods on the AIP, I recommend this guide.

This is what J and I made to go with our spicy Goat Curry…..  This is the first time you have encountered J cooking in the kitchen.

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Apricot Lassi

serves 4

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4 apricots (ours were a little over-ripe, but any stage of ripeness would work fine).  You could also sub in peaches or nectarines or any fruit that takes your fancy.

1 cup full-fat yoghurt – live-cultures are preferred, and if you live in an area where you can obtain raw dairy use that.  If you keep your own milk producing animals even better still…

2 cups full-fat milk – preferably raw and non-homogenized (in Canada this is not available unless you keep your own goats or cows)…  use the best you can

1 small (child sized) hand full of mint leaves

1 tbsp raw, unpasteurized honey

1 pinch of salt

Instructions

Halve your apricots and put them in your blender (ours were a little over-ripe – no problem in this recipe!)

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Add 1 cup of full-fat yoghurt (live cultures preferred).

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then add the mint, milk and honey.

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Blend at a high speed until smooth

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Pour into a jug

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Chill until ready to serve.

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Thinking outside of the box

One of the hardest things I found when I first tried to eat Paleo (about 2 years ago) was how to plan meals like breakfast and lunch.  And how to substitute for the non-paleo staples that are commonly eaten in those meals.

What do you serve instead of breakfast cereal or toast.  What about bread for the sandwiches in the packed lunches?  What about the crackers, the cereal bars, the treats?

I think this was primarily the reason I failed at that point and went back to eating the way I had been before (a clean-eating version of the SAD).

But this time, when I started eating Paleo, back in January 2013, I decided that I was not going to bother with trying to replace those foods.

I just ate meat, eggs, fish, lots and lots of veggies and I avoided the grains and starchy components that I was cooking for the family at the time.

For the most part, I eat eggs for breakfast, or leftovers  (today’s breakfast was some of the delicious cauliflower and spinach soup that I made for lunch yesterday).  For lunch I mostly have soup or a salad with fish canned in either water or olive oil  But sometimes I will have leftovers instead.  And dinner…  well that is the easy part.

I found that you really have to start thinking outside of the box when it comes to food – if you try to substitute paleo versions of all the pancakes, muffins, cakes, cookies, even bread you are pretty much doomed to fail.

Sure eat those things once in a while as a treat.  That is what they are supposed to be – a treat.  They are not supposed to be everyday fare.

You have to come up with other ideas as to what will make a good meal.  Go on – unhinge your mind a little.  Who says you can’t have a piece of wild-caught salmon on a bed of sauteed kale for breakfast?

Slimband – Why?

Last night I was watching TV and there was a commercial for Slimband.

This got me thinking.

Instead of making the effort to loose weight, people are paying for costly and potentially risky surgery.  And all so they don’t have to change their eating habits in order to loose weight.

Crazy!

They will carry on eating the same crappy, nutritionally deficient food, but because the size of their stomachs has been reduced they will just eat less of it.  And because the food they are eating is deficient in nutrients, they will end up even more nutritionally deprived than they were before and as a result their health will suffer.

When did it become the norm to undergo elective surgery instead of eating healthy food in order to loose excess weight?

Slimband claims that you can loose up to half your excess weight in a year while still “eating the foods you love, just in smaller portions”.  And they were promoting one woman who claimed to have lost 50lb and who said that “She was never going back”.

Yes you may be able to loose that excess weight, but at what cost?

I effortlessly managed to loose 50lb in half a year on the Paleo diet with no surgery risk, no scarring and at a cost considerably less than getting Slimband.   I am never going back either!

More Research

A quick post about some recent nutritional research that I have found recently…

First up, seafood is still considered a good source of nutrients although consumers are confused about it’s safety.  The current recommendations are to eat two 3-5oz servings a week of seafoods such as salmon, oysters and rainbow trout but to limit consumption of the large predatory fish such as shark, swordfish and king mackerel.  They don’t mention it, but I would also say to limit  consumption of farmed fish and stick to wild caught varieties as they will have a better omega-3/omega-6 ratio.

The omega-3/omega-6 issue in farmed fish is mentioned in another study.  Despite the health benefits, most children and adults have a “nutrition gap” in omega-3 fatty acids.  In part, the authors attribute this to under consumption of fish and other omega-3 containing foods.  But they also do attribute it in part to 50% or more of seafood consumed being raised in farms on diets that don’t foster a healthy omega-3/omega-6 ratio.  In other words eat more wild caught seafood.

Eating eggs is not linked to high cholesterol in adolescents.  They have found that it is not unsafe to eat more than 2 eggs a week and it does not increase the risk of heart disease….  something that us Paleo folks have been saying for ages.  They also suggest that blood cholesterol levels are more affected by saturated fat and trans fat levels.  So avoid those over processed industrially prepared foods…

High intakes of milk, cheese, yogurt, and butter were not associated with a significantly increased risk of mortality compared with low intakes.  They do say in this one that high intakes of meat, especially processed meat was associated with increased mortality – I suspect that this is due to the processed meats affecting the results.

And finally habits, not cravings, drive food choices during times of stress.  In other words, when you are stressed and reach for that chocolate bar or the carb laden comfort foods, it is not because of cravings.  It is caused by habits.  And habits CAN be broken.  It usually takes around 21 days to break a habit, the same as it does to create one.

A good reason not to use artificial sweeteners

Some more research…  this time showing that artificial sweeteners are not as good as the manufactures like to claim

“Consumption of sugar-sweetened drinks has been linked to obesity, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome—a group of risk factors that raises the risk for heart disease and stroke. As a result, many Americans have turned to artificial sweeteners, which are hundreds of times sweeter than sugar but contain few, if any, calories. However, studies in humans have shown that consumption of artificially sweetened beverages is also associated with obesity, type 2 diabetes, and metabolic syndrome as well as cardiovascular disease. As few as one of these drinks per day is enough to significantly increase the risk for health problems.”

If consumption of artificial sweetened beverages results in the exact same health problems that sugar sweetened beverages cause, why not drink the real sugar-sweetened ones in the first place, especially if it means that you avoid the additional problems that artificial sweeteners cause:

“Moreover, people who regularly consume artificial sweeteners show altered activation patterns in the brain’s pleasure centers in response to sweet taste, suggesting that these products may not satisfy the desire for sweets. Similarly, studies in mice and rats have shown that consumption of noncaloric sweeteners dampens physiological responses to sweet taste, causing the animals to overindulge in calorie-rich, sweet-tasting food and pack on extra pounds.”

If these artificial sweeteners do not satisfy the desire for sweet stuff, they could be one very real reason for the obesity epidemic simply because people are consuming these sweeteners, not getting the sugar hit that they are craving and then are overeating, which results in overconsumption.

The best thing would be to just try to cut down on the sugary snacks and sweet drinks in total, but if you simply cannot do that, go for the real deal…  at least it will be more satisfying and won’t lead to over-consumption the way things sweetened with artificial sweeteners will…

But seriously, if you need a fizzy drink, try plain soda water (club soda) either by itself or flavoured with a squeeze of lemon/lime juice.  It still gives you that bubbly satisfaction without all the sugar and artificial additives.  And club soda and lemon/lime juice are paleo/primal.

Fructose Consumption Causes High Cholesterol

A new study that is being published in the Journal of Nutrition has linked high fructose consumption to high cholesterol….

Hopefully this will put paid to the sugar industry’s claims that high fructose corn syrup is not harmful….