A lot of people I know ask me about what I eat. This is sometimes tough to answer because the thing is, it’s not a short and sweet conversation. It’s not as simple as saying “I eat low carb” or “gluten free”, the way I eat is part of my lifestyle. It wasn’t always this way either, as you might remember from a previous post about the SAD diet. I used to eat what I thought was healthful because somebody just told me it was healthful. Now, I know I eat healthfully because I did the research and found out for myself what foods are healthful, and most importantly in my opinion, why they are healthful. I’m not claiming that I know everything, and by no means am I saying what I do is right and anyone who disagrees with me is wrong, but most people don’t have facts to back up what they think they know. I know I sure didn’t.
So, what is a Paleolithic/Primal way of eating all about? Let us first define Paleolithic, which Microsoft Word doesn’t seem to recognize as a correctly spelled word. The first definition, as a noun, says: second part of the Stone Age beginning about 750,000 to 500,000 years BC and lasting until the end of the last ice age about 8,500 years BC. The second, as an adjective, says: of or relating to the second period of the Stone Age (following the eolithic). You get where this is going? Primal, is an adjective. It is defined as: 1. serving as an essential component, and 2. having existed from the beginning; in an earliest or original stage or state. So when I talk about Paleo, essentially, I am talking about foods that have been around for quite some time. Foods that aren’t engineered or made and you can find outside of a store. Some like to call it “real food”, which made me cringe at first, but then after my research I realized how true that is.
What kinds of food do I eat? Grass fed and free range meats and eggs, wild caught fish, organic vegetables and fruit, and plenty of healthful fats from avocados, olive oil, and coconut oil. I also eat some raw dairy, which can be a little controversial in the Paleo Community, however after eliminating all dairy for 2 months and reintroducing raw dairy slowly, I discovered I do not have any adverse effects from consuming it. Dairy is a whole other blog post I will most likely do in the near future. So that about sums up what I eat. Next I will explain a little about why.
Why grass fed and free range meat? I am currently reading a book called The Omnivore’s Dilemma: A Natural History of Four Meals By Michael Pollan. In it, he purchased a cow to follow it from birth to plate to see what happens. For the first few months, the cow lived with its mama on a family owned farm, grazing on grass and roaming if he wanted to (50 points for those that get the musical reference). You see, cows are designed to eat and digest grass. They have specific enzymes that break it down, and have you seen their stomachs? But a few months down the road, the cow was sent to a feed lot where it was force fed corn and roamed in a crowded pen in a manure swamp. If you didn’t know, cows were not meant to eat corn, or their own manure. In fact, besides fattening the cow up very quickly (we all know that isn’t a good thing,) it can make the cows sick. Have you heard of E-coli? So antibiotics are pumped into them and they don’t just leave their bodies the next day. This is a pretty common life cycle for the cows here in the USA. I am still reading this cow’s story, I can go on and on about how the government wants to make sure this continues, but again, future blog post alert. The bottom line is that grass fed and free range meat is how meat was meant to be eaten. It is better for us, (hello CLA’s) and frankly, it tastes so much better!!!
As far as the fish goes, it’s pretty similar. Farm raised fish eats what the farmer feeds it, and can be raised inhumanely as well. Wild caught is the way to go. It’s also good to eat those tiny fish that have a shorter life span, like sardines. They have less mercury and a lot of good nutrients like calcium, potassium, and vitamin B-12.
Organic vegetables and fruit are next on the list, and are best if they are local. When produce is shipped, it loses nutrients and taste. Plus it’s usually a pretty good thing to boost your local economy. Why organic? Organic because pesticides are simply not good for us, and they aren’t good for our environment. If you have Netflix, I recommend watching Vanishing of the Bees. It will give you a little more insight on pesticides (and also show you how the honey you’re eating may not even be honey at all). There are some vegetables and fruits that are considered safe to eat conventionally, and a dozen or so that are heavily pesticide laden, but I have trust issues when it comes to buying produce now. So I will let you do your own research on what’s best for you and your family in that department. I buy all organic and locally produced whenever possible. Another great thing about local produce, you can usually talk to the people who plant and farm the food, and find out exactly what they do. It is very expensive for farmers to have their produce certified organic, so sometimes even if it isn’t USDA certified; it can still be grown without pesticides.
Now on to fats. We eat some good fats around here. I’m not talking about manufactured fats like spreadable plastic- I mean margarine, toxic vegetable and canola oil, or other manufactured trans fats. I’m talking about luscious avocados, delightful coconut butter and oil, cold processed extra virgin olive oil, and grass fed butter and/or ghee, even tallow and lard. Tasty, satiating, and good for you. Your body needs these fats. I’m not going to get all technical with you here in this post, (guess what that means), but if you’re having a hard time believing that these fats are good for you, I suggest doing some of your own research. Look at the studies that are done on saturated fat, not some doctor’s opinion that is highly influenced. Have I mentioned how little nutritional education most doctors receive during med school? Oh, I could go on so many more tangents here… but I must focus!
So, you might have noticed that I haven’t listed any grains, or even whole grains. This is the part that usually scares people away. It is also the hardest to summarize, so I’m going to do my best here to cover the basics, then dig a little deeper in a future post. First of all, most grains are not meant to be eaten by us human beings. Do you know why wheat is structure the way it is structured? So it’s hard to eat and to protect it from predators. When we eat brown rice, for example, we are eating the plant’s natural defense to not be consumed. In other words, it could poison us. Most people also have some form of gluten intolerance and don’t even know it. Also, grains also don’t provide a good source of nutrients compared to the other foods I have listed so far. There are so many studies out there to back this up that it is almost overwhelming. Google is a place to start, but I personally think Robb Wolf and Dr. Loren Cordain provide some stunning information. They have dug deep and did all the hard stuff so you and I wouldn’t have to. They can back it all up too. That book I mentioned in an earlier post, called Good Calories, Bad Calories, also has a wealth of scientific research. “But Jenn, what about the people who follow a Weston A. Price approach to grain?” I’m glad you asked. I’m actually going to be reading a book about that after my current one, but from what I learned from Chris Kresser, who has done a lot of his own research on the topic. There is great care taken to remove the toxins in the grain eaten by the uncivilized tribes that Dr. Price studied. I can’t wait for this blog post. I am going to be busy for a while!
I am not saying the Paleo way of eating is perfect, or how everyone should be eating (not that it would be a bad idea). What I am saying is that the more I learn about it, the more I realize how much sense it makes, and how much of an improvement it is from the processed chemical laden diet we have come to call normal.
There are a few things I left out, like if I eat nuts or raw honey, do I drink coffee, and probably more stuff, but this post is getting longer than I expected. I can’t wait to break more of it down and dig deeper in some future posts!!!
I would love to answer any specific questions you may have, so please ask away.