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Aside from evaluating the health ramifications of paleo eating, I am also considering its real-life applications for my patients and clients. During my trek through the paleo diet, my main question has been, “is this realistic?” Is a diet like paleo truly something that I feel is so undeniably important that I could, in good conscience, recommend it to the people that I see every day and expect it to improve their lives? Thus far, based on my experience, the answer has been “no.”

There are definitely stories out there about people who start eating paleo who feel so much better. And I have no doubt that that is the case for them. Paleo eating is a drastically healthful change from the way that an “average” American eats. It entirely eliminates “empty calories” in the sense that nearly every single thing that goes in your mouth on a paleo diet contributes something beneficial to your body. Anyone who consumed copious amounts of foods that contribute nothing nutritionally besides calories (I’m talking about you, donuts, soda, and candy) is bound to feel exceptionally better after cutting out these harmful foods and replacing them with foods that actually nourish his or her body. What’s more, the paleo diet eliminates some key underlying allergens that can wreak inflammatory and digestive havoc on their undiagnosed victims. For those people, the paleo diet is sure to improve the way they feel.

Personally, my body feels exactly the way it always has, which is pretty great. Honestly, it would be hard for me to say that I felt better unless I suddenly had Roadrunner energy or Superwoman strength pop out of nowhere. And trust me, that’s not because I am the model of perfect eating (that is a common misconception about dietitians) or exercise, but because I am healthy and still rather young. I have no aches and pains, no digestive issues, no allergies (that I know of), no chronic diseases, and plenty of energy if I get enough sleep. So I really struggle to see how this restrictive eating plan makes my life any better.

In fact, following paleo is kind of a drag for me. I haven’t had any crazy sugar cravings or desperate desires to raid my fiance’s bagel supply, but my dietary quality of life is pretty lame. You see, normally Charlie and I love to go out to eat and cook together, and I would venture that it is safe to say we are novice foodies. We love to try new dishes from all kinds of restaurants and cultures and savor all the delectable flavors we can get our hands on. Since I started on paleo we have only eaten out twice, one of which I chose to be one of my non-paleo meals so that I could actually enjoy it. The other time I was able to order a meal that fit the paleo restrictions, and honestly it was pretty gross. Really all I can order out most places is some version of a hunk of meat or eggs with vegetables, and I’ll be frank – that eating pattern started turning my stomach at day 3. Other than that, my fiance and I rarely end up eating the same food when I visit because mine is so expensive (and doesn’t taste that great) that he usually makes something different for himself. I don’t blame him – though I have found a couple winners, the best thing I can say about most of the recipes I try is “well, it’s better than a hunk of meat and a pile of veggies.” I’m also getting pretty tired of all my food tasting like coconut (which if you know me you know I do not like) because nearly everything involves either coconut milk or coconut oil, but I digress.

I couldn’t really eat much at the places that my friends and I like to go to hang out, so I sat awkwardly and drink my water or tea (or occasionally eat my fruit plate) while everyone else chows down. It is also particularly difficult to anticipate following these diet restrictions when eating at others’ houses (which I do semi-often), and I feel that briefing my poor hostess with “well, I can eat anything except dairy, grains, peas, beans, peanuts, vegetable oil, salt, and sugar” is a pretty rotten thing to do. Together, these issues have placed me on an island of dietary isolation that has definitely impacted my life in an unfavorable way. Imagining a lifetime of eating this way is completely out of the question for me – making, eating, sharing, and discovering good food and drink is far too much a part of my life to amputate it like this.

Wow…I have a lot more to say about where this experience led me and how I discovered that paleo most certainly has a place and an importance for people I meet every day, but this post has grown beyond my expectations rather quickly. I’ll have to make this a “To Be Continued”…Come back next time for part 2!

Paleo Diet

This has been a crazy week (that included finally landing a full-time dietitian position!) that has left me behind on my blogging. I have loads of post ideas so forgive me if I pelt you with posts in the next few days.

Curry

Today, I want to share a yummy recipe that I found on a blog called Stupid Easy Paleo. I made it in the crock pot on Sunday night and ate it for lunch most of this week. This little number contains a teensy bit of salt which, I have discovered, is the case with many a “paleo” recipe online. Since my sodium intake was so crazy low last week, I relented a little in this area and included a pinch of salt in a couple of recipes this week. I realized later that, for the most part, curry is pretty paleo if you don’t include potatoes or peas and don’t serve it over rice. This recipe tasted delicious and was quite filling. Find the recipe for Crock Pot Yellow Chicken Curry here.

1 serving (about 1/4) of this recipe has 280 calories, 13 g carbohydrate, 21 g protein, 18 g fat, and 285 mg sodium. These numbers will vary slightly depending on which vegetables you choose.

Paleo Diet

MosaicThe Good: My sodium intake is at an all-time low. Like, crazy low. I’m wondering if I’m going to get a goiter. Other than that, I’m having a hard time with this one because I’m just starting to hit my stride. Since recovering from my “low carb flu,” I haven’t felt any different than I felt pre-paleo.

The Bad: By the end of the week, I started to resent my food. Like, really despise it. It kinda grossed me out. I did not look forward to eating – I ate because my body required it. Consuming food became completely mechanical and utilitarian. The thought of chewing and swallowing one more boring hunk of animal carcass was just about more than I could bear. I called on a few of my paleo-ite friends for support and they set me straight. The problems I was having with severe food boredom were not “paleo’s fault.” They were, in reality, my fault for choosing the meal plan that I did. When I picked the meal plan that I followed this past week, I did not take into account the fact that the plan called for a piece of meat and/or eggs and a pile of sauteed vegetables. For. Every. Meal. Though paleo allows fruit, this meal plan only included it three times all week, leaving me with basically nil as far as carbohydrate intake. Since, I have escaped the clutches of the meal plan from you-know-where and explored the myriad of paleo recipes out there. Some of them even include such novelties as (Heaven’s to Betsy!) sauces and mixed dishes…and I’m pretty excited about it! In fact, today for lunch I had some crock pot Thai chicken curry and it was deeee-lish!

The ugly: Despite the drastic decrease in my sodium intake, my blood pressure has increased big time. I usually run about 117/75, but today it measured in at 139/95 (and I took it twice)! I couldn’t understand it, so I started looking into other nutrients that affect blood pressure. As it turns out, potassium, magnesium, and calcium can all help in lowering blood pressure. The food diary app I use tracks calcium and potassium, and it indicates that I have been eating about 35% and 50% of the daily recommendations of these important minerals, respectively. I suspect this may be why my BP is so dang high. My mission this week is to actively target these nutrients and hopefully improve my numbers.

Paleo Week 1 Summary

 

 

 

 

 

 

Side note: This diet is definitely more spendy than my standard way of eating. Groceries cost me $50 last week (and most of the meat I already had in my freezer).

Paleo Diet

Feeling BadThe paleo diet in and of itself is not a “high-fat, low-carbohydrate” diet; however, many people utilize paleo thinking as a method of achieving a low-carbohydrate way of eating. The paleo meal plan I’m currently using is based on that method. One of the premises of high-fat, low-carbohydrate is that your body enters into a state of ketosis. That means that your body is switching fuels from using primarily carbohydrate to mainly fat.

Remember in this post when I talked about how your body breaks down carbohydrates to use for energy? Well, here begins chapter 2: After your body turns the carbohydrates into glucose and your cells pick up the glucose, a bunch of active little proteins called enzymes start changing the glucose by adding and taking away chemical bonds. At the end, the glucose is converted to something called Acetyl CoA which then goes on into another process known as the TCA cycle (or Kreb’s cycle, or citric acid cycle, but that’s neither here nor there). This nifty little pathway is the major energy factory in your body. In fact, my metabolism textbook* says that “over 90% of the energy released from food is estimated to occur as a result of TCA cycle oxidation.” Basically, it’s where carbs, fats, and proteins all go to die. They are broken down until there is just water, carbon dioxide, and energy left. Pretty cool, huh?

Since Paleo is considered a high-fat diet, I’ll start with fat. After making its way into the cells, the fatty acids undergo a conversion to (guess what?) acetyl CoA. That molecule then has two possible destinations: it can either go through the TCA cycle just like the former glucose molecules do, or in the presence of extra acetyl CoA the liver can convert it into something called ketones. Ketones can then travel throughout the body to other tissues where they are actually converted back into acetyl CoA and used for energy there.

Starting Wednesday morning (paleo day #3), I started having hot flashes, brain fog, nausea, lightheadedness, and a mild headache. All of these are symptoms described by paleo-diet promoters as the “low-carb flu”. Others complain of such maladies as muscle soreness, extreme fatigue, poor sleep, and digestive disturbances. Doesn’t that just sound like a barrel of monkeys?

Anyway, these ailments are due mostly to chemical shifts in my body (that are super complicated) and the adjustment from using well-oiled glucose burning machinery to my dusty, rusty fat/ketone users. Most of my symptoms have gone away by now, but I now have a bad taste in my mouth (all the time) and occasional hot flashes. My next quest is to investigate the long-term implications of this way of eating and how it affects the body over time. Here goes nothing!

*Gropper, Smith, and Groff. Advanced Nutrition and Human Metabolism. 2009. 5th edition. Wadsworth, Cengage Learning. Belmont, CA.

UPDATE (3/1/14): A friend of mine made a good point that prompted me to edit the original post. I had originally referred to the paleo diet as a high-fat, low-carbohydrate diet, but paleo in and of itself is not “high-anything” or “low-anything.” If one wanted to not eat a low carbohydrate diet and still be paleo, he or she could eat loads of fruit, for example. In my case, the meal plan I chose only included fruit 3 times in the first week, so I have ended up on a high, fat low carbohydrate diet though paleo would not necessarily require that. I updated the post above to reflect this.

How Your Body Works Paleo Diet

The first time I ever heard about the “Paleo diet” I thought it was ridiculous. We are not cavemen anymore. We drive cars, we sleep in heated houses, and most of us had our first slice of Wonder Bread at age 4. We don’t exactly do the hunting and gathering that the hunter-gatherers did either…so why on earth should we eat like them? It doesn’t make sense. I chalked it up as another fad.

I’m opening my mind and looking into it now, and generally, the Paleo diet is a pretty healthful way to go. It cuts out processed foods entirely – including refined grains and sugar – as well as salt, and definitely reins in the excessive carbohydrate intake of a good chunk of the population. I don’t think that really anyone could argue that those are bad changes to make. My first concern with Paleo, however, is that two food groups have been eliminated entirely – grains and dairy. Food groups that have been eaten by successfully healthy humans for quite some time and have nutritional offerings of their own. My other concern is the high amount of saturated fat I’m eating by cooking with coconut oil and eating so much red meat. Each of those concerns touch on hot-button topics in nutrition right now. First, gluten intakes and avoidance of grains. Second, processed vs. raw. vs. low fat vs. no fat vs. full fat dairy. Third, whether or not saturated fats even increase your risk for heart disease. I’d have to know all these answers to be able to fully evaluate this diet.

I’ll be honest – I have opinions, but I do not yet know the answers. In fact, I’m not sure that really anybody actually knows, knows all of those answers. We do the best we can with what we have. These were all reasons I wanted to start this blog – I get asked about these topics all the time, and I need to be the informed expert. So I’ll work through them (or slog through them, depending on how interesting they are) and let you know what I find. I can’t promise to find the answers or research each topic even in it’s full detail, which is why I’m recruiting you all to help me.

I want to know what you’ve heard about these issues, what questions you have, and what other topics might be good for me to look into. My best sources of “up and coming” diet info are usually not my dietitian peers, but my friends and family who ask me about something they saw on Dr. Oz. or some juice their best friend started. So commence to comment in 5, 4, 3, 2…

Paleo Diet

After grocery shopping yesterday I was a little worried – the pile was far smaller than that from my first week of MyPlate meals.

GroceriesThe theory is, though, that the food is nutritionally dense enough that you don’t need to eat as much. And I have to say, I have found that to be the case today. I have only eaten 1300 calories today and I have hardly felt hungry.

paleo dinnerAfter this I’m going out to a comedy show with my ladies. I’ll have to see if there’s anything out there that I am allowed to have. Wish me luck!

Paleo Diet

The common cold has fogged my brain (or sapped my motivation) enough that I haven’t done much research in the last few days. I have a couple of MyPlate recipes stocked up that I had not yet posted, so I thought I’d grace you with one today. I present to you a fiance favorite: The Spinach Lasagna Roll-Up.

done

Ingredients:

10-12 lasagna noodles (you’ll only use 8 but you want to have extra in case some tear)

1/2 pound lean ground beef

1 tablespoon olive oil

1/2 medium onion, chopped

8-10 mushrooms, sliced

1 cup spinach

3/4 cup fat free sour cream

1 cup shredded part-skim mozzarella

1 (15-oz) can no salt added tomato sauce

1/2 teaspoon dried or 1 teaspoon minced fresh basil

1/2 teaspoon dried oregano

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

  1. Cook and drain the lasagna noodles according to the package directions, minus about 2 minutes (you want the noodles to hang together well for the roll-ups).cooked noodles
  2. While the noodles are cooking, brown the ground beef over medium heat and drain the fat (if you prefer a vegetarian option, these are deliciously mushroom-y without the beef too). Add in the olive oil, onions, and mushrooms and saute until soft.mushrooms and meat
  3. Reduce heat to medium-low. Add in spinach, fat free sour cream, and 1/2 cup of the shredded mozzarella. Cook until cheese is melted and spinach is slightly wilted.spinach and meat and sauce
  4. Lay the lasagna noodles out on a plate. Spread a thin layer of the beef and mushroom mixture on each noodle. Roll the noodles up and place in a 9×13 baking dish.rolling
  5. In a bowl, stir together tomato sauce, basil, oregano, and garlic powder. Pour on top of lasagna roll-ups. Top with remaining mozzarella cheese.sauce and cheese
  6. Bake at 350 degrees for 30 minutes. Serve two roll-ups with a side of veggies and some fruit for a complete MyPlate meal. Oh, and try not to splash sauce all over the edge of the plate like I did. =)plate

Two roll-ups count for 1/2 cup vegetables, 2 ounces grains, 2 ounces meat, and 1/2 cup dairy. They contain 457 calories, 58 g carbohydrates, 31 g protein, 13 g fat, and 280 g sodium.

MyPlate Guidelines Recipes