Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Balancing Paleo

How long have you been eating a Paleo or Primal Diet?  How strict do you adhere to it?  Lately many people around me - friends, colleagues, and family - are experimenting with "going Paleo." I think its awesome that they are trying to Paleo and are changing to eating more whole foods, vegetables, high quality meats, seafood, nuts, and seeds.   

One thing that people need to be careful of when they change their diet and "go Paleo" is eating too much fruit and Paleo-friendly treats.  Paleo treats are a crutch that help you to get you through your Paleo experiment.  Things like larabars are good when you have no other options or for an occasional snack, but they shouldn't be added to your diet as a new food group.  Enjoy Paleo friendly treats occasionally too, but realize that most of them are still high in natural sugar (dried fruits) or contain a large amount of nuts (which are Paleo but again, shouldn't make up a large part of your food every day).  The key here is to find balance with your Paleo foods, your chosen "cheats", and Paleo treats.  It's ok to eat Paleo treats, but be careful NOT to overdo it - like Cookie Monster says, Paleo treats are a sometimes food.
 A strict Paleo lifestyle is not for everyone long term.  After you do a Paleo challenge, and see how good you feel eating that way, you'll integrate Paleo food choices into your normal routine.  When you experiment with adding things back into your diet, you'll start to decide what is sustainable for you, what foods you will continue to exclude and what foods you will allow once in awhile. One thing that I need to work on is balancing and not being so strict all the time.  I like being strict because I feel better when I eat that way.  Large amounts of sugar give me a headache, and not for a few hours but for days!  As referenced in my last post, after going Paleo I've confirmed that I am senstive to gluten.  When I eat things that contain gluten, I can feel it, and it doesn't make me feel good.  Every once in awhile it is a good idea to kick up your heels and have a treat, espeically if it was made specifically for you, and even if you lead a Paleo life.  This is something I'm working on incorporating into my food choices and need to experiment with having a bite of something - remembering that a small amount won't impact me too much and it could go a long way with others.

Those of you that are doing a Paleo or Primal diet, how are you doing, what are your challenges, where do you need help or need to learn how to flex?

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

Are you sensitive to gluten?

One of the foods that I choose to exclude from my diet are grains, primarily because they contain "anti-nutrients" which your body reacts negatively to when you consume them.  The most well known of the grain anti-nutrients is gluten.  Going gluten free has been pretty trendy lately, and there is a reason why - when people are cutting it out of their food choices generally people feel better.  You don't have to be diagnosed with Celiac Disease to see that your body runs better when it's gluten free.  Each person's gluten sensitivity varies, and some common health ailments that you have: headaches, allergies, stuffiness, bloating, etc could be related to gluten.  The thing is that most people have been eating gluten since they were able to eat solid foods, so its difficult to know how much better you would feel without gluten until you cut it out.  The chart shows 3 levels of gluten intolerance: sensitivity, wheat allergy, and celiac disease.

Gluten Sensitivity: Gluten sensitivity can manifest itself in the form of an "IBS-like stomach problems, headaches, fatigue, numbness and depression, but more than 100 symptoms have been loosely linked to gluten intake."  Diagnosing gluten sensitivity is difficult, since there isn't a targeted set of symptoms, but "some experts think as many as 1 in 20 Americans may have some form of [gluten sensitivity]" so if you experience any of the issues listed above, it may be worth going gluten free to see if you feel better.

Wheat Allergy: If you have a wheat allergy it may be related to the gluten in wheat, but could be realted to something else.  A wheat allergy is rare in adults and children, and most children that do have this allergy outgrow it by the age of 5. 

Celiac Disease: The most extreme reaction to gluten is seen in the diagnosis of Celiac disease, once rarely diagnosed, is now estimated the "1 in 133 Americans" has celiac.  Celiac is a condition where your body attacks gluten, can as a result creates chronic inflammation and can lead to malnutrition in extreme cases.  To read more about celiac, gluten allergies, and gluten sensitivity read this article from the Wall Street Journal, Clues to Gluten Sensitivity

The bottom line, many people are sensitive to gluten and although they are hard to diagnose, the symptoms that they experience are real and can be avoided by avoiding gluten.

Tuesday, March 8, 2011

Food as Medicine

"Let food be thy medicine and let thy medicine be thy food" Hippocrates

The idea of food as medicine has been around since ancient times, its funny how today we've completely disassociated the idea that food makes you feel good or bad, and that food has a direct impact on our health and how we feel everyday. 

Have you considered how foods make you feel - does caffeine perk you up but then make you jittery?  When you eat a donut or a big bowl of pasta do you feel good afterwards? How about more subtle things, like when you eat dairy do you experience that your skin breaks out a few days later, or that you wake up the next morning and are more congested than usual?  Food directly impacts how we feel and directly impacts our health.  Experimenting with how foods impact your body is a great way to determine what you want to eat for your optimal health.  Personally I think that whole foods make me feel best, and I've found that I operate and feel much better when I eat clean.

Check out this article, Spices and herbs that promote longevity on how spices and herbs can help improve your health.  One of my goals is health and longevity - e.g. to live a long time and be healthy for that time.  I'm always looking for ways to increase my longevity, like reducing stress and inflammation and varying my workouts.  I know that food directing impacts how you feel, but hadn't thought about things like spices and how they can help.  A few I found interesting in the article are that cinnamon can help lower blood sugar and that in addition to anti-nausea properties, "ginger is also thought to relieve the aches and pains of arthritis, headaches, sore muscles, and menstrual cramps." 

What new spice or spices are you going to add to your food? 

Wednesday, March 2, 2011

Paleo in the Mainstream

Robb Wolf's Book
Slowly, like Crossfit, the concept of Paleo eating is becoming more mainstream and is getting more media attention.  Last night, March 1 2011, "Eating like a Caveman" was featured on Nightline ABC.  You can watch that piece and read the write up on the story which included interviews with both Robb Wolf and Art De Vany by following this link.  Both Robb and Art have recently released books on Paleo eating, I've read and recommend Robb's book The Paleo Solution and have Art's book The New Evolution Diet in my queue.

Art De Vany's Book
Although I'd really like to move the media image of Paleo nutrition away from what Robb describes as the "lunatic fringe" of images of actual cavemen and the idea of people wearing "bear skins" watching the video you see both Robb in his gym and some normal people at Crossfit South Brooklyn, doing some work and then hanging out with some Paleo food.  I thought it was awesome that they show Art De Vany, who is 73, pulling his Range Rover as exercise and the best part, the interviewer was stunned.  A few things to note is that you don't have to eat at a Brazilian steakhouse to have a Paleo meal (featured in the beginning) and while the nutritionist's comments don't knock the diet they are still forcing it into the confines of what Mark Sisson refers to as conventional wisdom, advised that a Paleo diet is fine - as long as you watch your fat intake. If you know about the principles of the Paleo diet you know that fat is a good thing, check out my previous post on what eating Paleo looks like here.