Tuesday, February 22, 2011

Optimal not Tolerable

Why do I make it a priority to cook most of my meals, to paleo-ize recipes, to pack lunches and snacks, and to go to the grocery store multiple times a week to keep up a steady supply of fresh foods?  It seems like a lot of work, and I feel like all I do at home anymore is cook, eat, and do dishes!  So why I do what I do, because I'm striving for optimal not tolerable.

What do I mean by optimal?  Think about it from the perspective of a race car - it's designed to run on high octane fuel.  If you put regular 87 in it you're putting in a "tolerable" fuel source.  The car will still run, but you're going to gunk up your engine and get poor performance out of the car.  When you put in the "optimal" fuel, high octane 93 or racing fuel, your car doesn't just run, but it runs optimally - you'll notice that it has great performance, it responds better, etc.  Your body responds the same way to what you put in it.  Anything with fat, carbs, and protein is considered food.  I believe Paleo foods are truly your optimal food source, based on the way your body breaks them down at a nutritional level and then how your body uses those nutrients to fuel your body and brain.

Tolerable Breakfast

Optimal Breakfast
It's true you can get fiber, vitamins, and minerals from grains, legumes, and dairy but these food groups are tolerated by your body and cause a lot of bad things like inflammation and gut irritation when you eat them. You can get the same vitamins, minerals, and fiber (and in larger quantities with more diversity) through eating more vegetables and fruits and eliminating the foods that your body tolerates and replacing them with ones that your body runs optimally on. Why would you want to put things into your body that are sub-optimal, if you are what you eat - I want to be putting optimal foods in so that I can achieve my best in everything I do.  Being sharper and more attentive at work, having better workouts and faster recovery, and overall having more energy to enjoy all the activities I do in my daily life.

One of the common questions or concerns about switching to a Paleo diet is that you will be missing out on essential vitamins and minerals: Where are you going to get your fiber? and What about calcium? are two of the most common questions I get. When you compare Paleo based meals to the "healthy" Standard American diet meals you will see that the Paleo meal is always higher in vitamins and minerals every time. You can get fiber naturally from eating whole fruits and vegetables. Calcium is a bit more complicated to understand, but you can get calcium from leafy green vegetables (like broccoli) and when you change to eating Paleo foods you better manage the acid/base balance that your body struggles to maintain - primarily through the leaching of calcium from your bones. Now do you understand how a nation that consumes so much dairy could also have a problem with osteoporosis.

The next time you make a food choice, think about what you are putting in your body - personally I'm going for the real, whole foods verses the newest flavor of cheerios which is claiming to have 20% of my daily recommended intake of fiber.  How much fiber do you think is in the veggies in my omelette or in the avacado...definately more than 20% RDA.


  1. good stuff Laura, nice analogy that is easily grasped. I also want to add that once that food is taken out, the effect if reintroduced can be dramatic. I used to be relatively ok with milk, maybe some GI issues but nothing too serious. Once I took it out for awhile, anytime I reintroduced it, I would get acne and feel awful. The last time I had milk I got huge rash on my forearms and it itched for days. Obviously it was the last time for a reason. Same thing with beer. Whenever I have beer now, I get bad stomach aches, most likely from the easily digested gluten. In both cases I can have versions and be relatively ok (such as cheese for the dairy and gluten free beer or hard alcohol and wine) but it's crazy to think what hidden side effects can be magnified.

  2. Hey Laura, perfect timing for this...I'm required to take a Nutrition class for my Nursing degree and right now we are doing something called My Diet Analysis. You enter all your food/beverage intake for up to 7 days and it analyzes and calculates all your nutrition and gives you various reports, all based on the Food Pyramid. Although I am not yet 100% Paleo, my protein is higher than the recommended amount and my carb is lower than the recommended amount. This doesn't concern me because I feel so much better without all the grains. And my vitamins are off the charts! What I'm concerned about is my calcium intake...I drink almond milk which gives me some calcium, but that amount shows as low also. I'm a little concerned about it, though, as I am aging (44 in March) and worry about weak bones. I know that my strength training stimulates bone building osteoblasts, which is good, but I've thought about taking a calcium supplement to add a little more and I'm wondering what your thoughts are on this...

  3. @Chris I agree, I notice a big impact when I eat non-Paleo foods and 2 of my biggest triggers are dairy and gluten as well. I notice if I eat out more than one meal per week I can tell something is going on based on how I feel and how my skin reacts. The skin/acne connection is based on how you process things and this has been a problem for me my whole life.
    Oh and the Cheerios picture is from the last time I went to Walmart, they had a BIG display...

    @Dianne - That's great proof that your vitamins and minerals are off the charts. I am not sure that taking a calcium supplement is what you need; your body actually has trouble using that calcium. Here is a list of foods that have calcium in them, http://www.healthalternatives2000.com/minerals-nutrition-chart.html
    As you are reducing grains, legumes, and dairy from you diet you are changing the acid/base levels in your body. Basically your body needs to maintain a constant PH Balance (remember high school physical science) and in order to maintain these levels your body leaches calcium and magnesium from your bones. Eating more fruits and vegetables create a more alkaline environment, which leaches less from your bones. I personally choose not to do a calcium supplement, if you do decide to give a calcium supplement a try, try magnesium + calcium (Natural Calm makes one. It's a balance of both of these minerals that is used to maintain your body's PH levels.
    Doing weight bearing activity and many of the exercises in Crossfit will also help you, so keep up the good work!

  4. Great point Laura! Most of us do it for our cars...why not put the proper fuel in our bodies!

    Good job.