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A few months after starting this blog, I became aware about the ailments that gluten (wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut, triticale, and cross-contamination can occur with oats and other things) can provoke in our health. The wife of a childhood friend of mine initiated me in going gluten-free. I was so interested in learning more, that I read Pandora’s Seed, Wheat Belly and later The Primal Blueprint, which is a great reference for starting a Paleo/Primal lifestyle.
And I have just recently enrolled in a course to become a certified nutritionist. (For the time being, I’ve put my nutritional certification on hold.)
My reasons for going Paleo/Primal are health and well-being. I believe that it is in our control to know what we eat, how we prepare our food, and to ensure we get the most nutritional benefits out of our diet. Yet, Paleo/Primal is not just a diet or a way of eating, but a whole lifestyle, including exercise, sun exposure, proper sleep and even controlling our levels of stress.
In this lifestyle, we use the diet as a tool to eliminate all the foodstuff that are poisonous or produce disease, digestive disturbances and other health issues. A lot of conventional wisdom is based on studies, which today we know are skewed or flawed. Paleo/Primal goes against this wisdom to shed light on a way of eating and living that has helped many people lose weight, become healthy and even eliminate or reduce the symptoms of diseases, otherwise thought of as chronic or incurable, such as coronary disease, diabetes (Type II) and multiple sclerosis.
One often hears that there are many shades of Paleo/Primal, and that we each can adapt the diet to our lifestyle needs. This is true. For example, some people can eat nightshades (tomatoes, potatoes, eggplants, and peppers) without a problem, whilst others have very intense reactions to these vegetables. So, each of us must find within the Paleo/Primal framework what works best for us individually.
However, there are a few basic premises which we can follow to ensure we avoid the foods that are now known to cause diseases, illnesses, and inflammation and to achieve better health.
Before going into these, you’re probably wondering what is the difference between Paleo and Primal. They are both based on similar evolutionary science, with Loren Cordain being the leading spokesperson for the Paleo Diet and Mark Sisson establishing the Primal Blueprint. (Dr. Cordain’s research has lead him to change his stance regarding saturated fats in the link referenced above.)
From my point of view, the main difference between Paleo and Primal is in the consumption of dairy; yet many Paleo followers, including myself, do consume limited amounts of the healthy forms of full-fat dairy, such as fermented kefir, yoghourt, cheese, butter, and ghee and raw goat’s and cow’s milk. So, I use the terms interchangeably. But strict Paleo followers will avoid all dairy, including butter. (The rendering of ghee actually eliminates – or leaves minimal traces of – both lactose and casein, making it a very healthy and safe fat, even for the lactose intolerant, such as myself. Plus, cheese is a source of Vitamin K2, which we need for the production of Vitamin D. So, I continue to consume the dairy forms that do not affect me, as a personal choice.) Another great source of Vitamin K2 is Natto.
Since going Paleo, I’ve noticed improvements in a number of health markers:
• my hair and nails grow rapidly and are strong (prior to Paleo, I was having some issue with hair falling out and very weak nails)
• I have become regular (a very important health marker to let us know whether or not our digestive system and bodies are functioning properly)
• I have more energy and much better concentration (no brain fog)
• have not gotten a cold or bronchial infection (in
almost two over four years!)
• no low-blood sugar or anxiety before meals, that I was constantly having before Paleo
• no food cravings
• improved sleep
Now, to the nitty gritty:
Below are two charts, which I find extremely helpful for understanding both the diet and the exercise components of a Paleo/Primal lifestyle.
The Primal/Paleo Food Pyramid from Mark’s Daily Apple
Primal/Paleo Fitness/Exercise Pyramid
If you’re interested in adopting a Paleo/Primal way of life, I suggest by starting off with Mark’s blog and doing some research on your own, maybe read Wheat Belly and The Primal Blueprint?….
….and go back to basics: cook! I know a lot of you already do (that’s one of the reasons why I hope you’re reading my blog), but most importantly make sure you do not consume any processed foods!
Below are my guidelines, which I hope you will find helpful:
THE DONT’S – or – ELIMINATE/DO NOT CONSUME:
1. Processed foods (they are loaded with unhealthy fats, sugars, chemicals and anti-nutrients).
2. GMOs (genetically modified organisms are known to cause cancer and other diseases, plus they are depleting our lands of nutrients, killing off the bees, which are one of the most important pollinators, and even contaminating our oceans)
3. Grains and cereals (wheat, barley, rye, spelt, kamut, triticale, oats, corn, rice, quinoa, millet, sorghum, teff, amaranth, buckwheat, etc)
Indeed, grains in general are a relatively new addition to the human diet. Our ancestors began eating them, at the earliest, 15,000 years ago, which is a blink of an eye in our 2-million-year history. Some of us have adapted; others have not. It turns out that roughly 30 percent of northern Europeans (those who lived farthest from the origination of dietary grains in Mesopotamia) carry the genes for gluten intolerance — far more than most health experts previously believed.
Legumes, which includes peanuts (yes, we all know peanuts are also a legume, but just in case, I’m reminding you). Update (May 2015): Research is now leaning toward a less defined area on this topic. Please read here for Chris Kresser’s explanation on why legumes are Paleo. And here is a great interview on the Paleo diet in general. I would suggest consuming legumes that are properly prepared, yet not basing your diet on them.
5. Refined sugars (one of the deadliest things we can consume if we want our triglycerides and bad LDL to increase!)
6. Polyunsaturated, trans- and partially hydrogenated oils and vegetable oils
7. Low-fat, homogenized dairy
8. Soy, unless it’s fermented
THE DO’S – or – DO CONSUME:
1. Eat organic, pasture-raised, free-range, whenever possible thereby avoiding GMOs, pesticides and other chemicals and hormones we do not want to consume
2. Eat with the seasons and shop locally, therefore you’ll be eating what comes with nature and your diet will be varied, providing the nutrients that you need (in some areas around the world, during winter, you may have to supplement for the lack of certain fruits/vegetables and/or sun exposure, for example)
3. Healthy & saturated fats, which include animals and their fats: lard, tallow, duck fat, & butter; coconut oil; avocados; and olive oil (healthy fats are our fuel and promote efficient fat metabolism, weight control and stable energy levels)
4. Cook with animal fats, butter, ghee and coconut oil; use olive oil preferably raw or in low heat
5. Eggs (free-range and organic are much better, as they contain more Omega-3 and are healthier)
6. Eat fish and seafood
7. Eat plenty of seasonal vegetables, moderating the intake of “below the ground” vegetables, which are higher in starches and carbs, therefore more sugar
8. Eat seasonal fruits, but in moderation – while fruits provide essential vitamins and minerals, it’s good to understand that they have a sugar content as well. It’s recommended to keep the overall sugar content, including fruits, to 25g per day
9. Eat less frequently: dried fruits, such as figs, dates, prunes, raisins, cranberries. Remember, they have a high sugar content
10. Eat in moderate quantities nuts and seeds and legumes. Nuts have Omega-3 and Omega-6; it’s wise to understand that we need more Omega-3 than Omega-6 in our bodies and eating nuts every day is not optimal. Mark Sisson has a great post about this. About legumes, read this! They have a similar phytic acid and lectin content as nuts and seeds (and even some leafy green vegetables) and as long as they are properly prepared (as nuts and seeds should also be), legumes can definitely be part of the Paleo diet. Just don’t make them the basis of your diet!
11. Consume probiotics and fermented foods. Give Kimchi a try (I have a great cookbook, from which I’ll be sharing recipes soon). Kimchi, like other fermented foods, is a probiotic, providing your body with protective and good bacteria, which are healthy for your gut and well being
12. Consume prebiotics, such as honey, which prepare our bodies for the absorption of probiotics are essentially food for probiotics. (However, remember that honey is a fructose-rich sweetener and should be consumed in moderation.)
Eat more alkaline forming foods. Our bodies are always working to maintain a pH balance; when we eat more acidic forming foods, our body compensates by taking the minerals it needs from our bodies. For example, it will take calcium from our bones if we are lacking in alkaline forming foods, which actually feed our bones. It’s a myth that drinking milk will help with the growth of healthy bones. Milk is actually acidic forming. (Chris Kresser “debunks” this Acid vs Alkaline line of thinking.. so I have to do more research on this. Update Sept 2013.)
14. Drink a cup of coffee and/or green tea a day (provided you enjoy it). Both are antioxidants. A bullet-proof version of coffee is even better, as the fat content in the coconut milk helps slow down the effect on blood sugar and adrenals. I also add some ground cloves (anti-parasitic) and ground cinnamon to mine every morning
15. Learn about cholesterol and fats and how our bodies actually require both to be healthy, contrary to conventional wisdom
16. Make your own condiments; or if you don’t have time, consume those that have no sugar, no additives, no gluten, etc. (Here’s a recipe for homemade mayonnaise)
17. Don’t obsess. But also don’t fall into the mentality of “just this once won’t harm me”…
18. Drink water, filtered or from a healthy source of course (no fluoride or chlorine, for example). Drinking warm water with lemon or lime juice in the morning helps cleanse the liver; however lemon and fruit juices are acidic in the mouth and eat away enamel.. so don’t do this every day!
19. Exercise moderately, but regularly (that includes having safe sex)
20. Get plenty of sunlight, whenever possible, especially UVB rays that occur during mid-day (supplement with Vitamin D in the winter months, if necessary)
21. Get enough sleep
22. Be with your loved ones and friends, enjoy life, laugh and be happy, pursue your passions, engage in hobbies…
SOME USEFUL RESOURCES:
5. Robb Wolf
SOME GREAT RECIPES “COLLECTION” SITES, FOR PALEO & HEALTHY MEALS:
For more sites and other blogs that I like and follow, please check out my Friends + Inspiration page.
*DISCLAIMER: These are the guidelines that work for me. Please use your own discretion in how you want to eat and live your life. I am not a nutritional expert and my knowledge is based, as I’ve mentioned, on the research I’ve done by reading books and online. I would suggest doing the same to learn more.