Tuesday, July 7, 2015
The Paleo Cure- By Chris Kresser- A Book Review- And Our Family's Decision
I've read lots of different dietary advice from so many different sources, and I'll be honest, it gets confusing. One person recommends certain dietary advice, and said that following that advice has cured them of all sorts of ails that were troubling them for years. You think about doing what they did until you find out that someone else who tried it actually reacted badly to the advice given, and it didn't solve any of their ailments, but actually caused other ones.
Then there's another person whose dietary recommendations seem very sound to you, reasonable, grounded in facts... and then they say something so out of left field and wrong that it makes you completely change your mind about them and stop trusting their judgement in dietary matters...
It's easy to get confused about what the right way is to eat, especially when everyone seems to think only their way is the right way, and everyone else is dead wrong.
That's why I happen to love Chris Kresser, author of ChrisKresser.com and The Paleo Cure. I've been reading his website for years and have been very impressed by what he writes for many reasons- top among them because everything he says simply makes sense, and is backed up by numerous studies, which he provides links to so you don't need to just take his word for it. And because he isn't dogmatic.
To be honest, I don't buy the whole "eat like a cavemen because we should eat what cavemen ate since our body is still the same" argument- I want actual physical proof, not dogma. And I don't buy that cavemen didn't eat grains and legumes, since, as a forager, I know that grains and legumes can definitely be foraged the same way all other veggies can. So that argument is out. I want things to be explained to me why, and not just go on someone's "say so", especially when I am able to prove via personal experience that people's claims are false.
One of the things I like about Chris Kresser's outlook is he talks about moving "beyond Paleo", that while there are a lot of things beneficial about a Paleo diet, there is no such thing as a one size fits all approach to nutrition and health, but rather, there should be a Paleo template - a general idea of what you should strive to do, to get optimal nutrition, but it needs to be tailored to your specific needs, and even if "cavemen didn't eat it", if it works for you, that's fine to eat.
So, when I saw that Chris Kresser wrote a book, called The Paleo Cure- originally called "Your Personal Paleo Code" I knew I wanted to read it, so I ordered it from bookdepository.com.
I have to say it was a very compelling book, one that, unlike all other Paleo books and websites, actually inspired me to take action and make a change.
Chris Kresser talks about doing what is called a "30 day paleo reset" with a strict diet to help your body "reset", after which you introduce what he calls "grey foods" that many people do fine on, but some people do not. And then he talks about reintroducing things that many people do not do well on, and discusses how to reintroduce those things.
He's not saying a life sentence.
He's saying give it 30 days.
30 days I can do.
A life time of paleo?
Not sure my pocket book can afford that.
So, what exactly is this diet?
Well, Chris talks about the importance of having a nutrient dense diet, and not just high in nutrients, but high in bioavailable nutrients. In the book, he has a list of what foods pack the most nutritional punch for the least amount, and tells us that the emphasis of your diet should be these foods. Awesomely enough- chocolate (dark chocolate, the higher percent chocolate the better) is actually 4th on the list of most nutritious foods- so anyone who advocates chocolate, they win, according to my line of thought. Just kidding, but I liked the factual based approach. Highest on the list was organ meats, for the record- which I love, since the meat we eat most often in this house is gizzards- organ meat.
Chris says that having a varied diet is important, but to stick to things that give you the most nutrition, since most health issues are caused by faulty nutrition.
He talks about how grains and legumes are not only less nutritionally dense than pretty much any other foods, since they have phytic acid in it, they actually cause you to not only not absorb much of their nutrition, but also cause you to not absorb the nutrition in the other foods you eat, making eating them nearly a negative nturitionally, since it takes away from the nutrition you can be getting.
So instead of being all "Grock the caveman didn't eat this" which, as I said before, quite frankly I don't buy, given the wild grains and legumes growing all around me and I'm sure that "Grock" wouldn't have said "Hey these starchy tubers look tasty, but no, that wheat just doesn't look appealing one bit"... Chris just say that if you are limiting what you are eating- since you can't eat everything- it makes sense to put the largest focus on foods that will actually give you the most bang for your buck, because otherwise you're eating pretty much empty calories.
On top of the nutrition aspect, Chis mentions the fact that certain foods damage the body in most people, especially when eaten in large quantities- gluten containing grains, industrial seed oils, and sugar. As I know from experience, eating gluten can contribute to many health issues, both physically and mental health issues, which is why I have been off gluten for a few years already along with one kid, and two other kids are off gluten as well now. My mother put her Hashimoto's thyroiditis into remission via going off gluten as well. Chris Kresser also talks about non celiac gluten sensitivity, which despite countless articles trying to disprove, Chris Kresser proves it exists via scientific facts. I like that Chris talks about how while there are many people with undiagnosed gluten intolerance, there are some people that are gluten tolerant, and doesn't write gluten off as an evil food. He does suggest even gluten tolerant people not eat a gluten heavy diet, because it is possible that eating gluten heavily can bring out the gluten sensitivity in people (I assume that might have happened with me, since I noticed my gluten sensitivity after eating a TON of seitan- pure gluten.)
Chris's recommendations to stay away from industrial seed oils is based on that they have high amounts of linoleic acid, which some research suggests is harmful when consumed in excess. they are easily oxidized and oxidative damage is associated with numerous modern inflammatory diseases, and theres some evidence that they may increase the risk of heart disease.
Refined sugar people generally know is harmful, for many reasons- among which that they promote overeating and weight gain, which causes metabolic and cardiovascular disease, and can cause insulin resistance which is associated with diseases ranging form diabetes to heart disease and Alzheimers. Refined sugar also promotes bacterial overgrowth in the small intestine, which causes lots of digestive issues.
These three things were no biggie for me, since my family already pretty much avoids them already- we dont eat gluten, we pretty much don't eat refined sugar, and our oils of choice are coconut, palm, olive, and rendered chicken fat- as well as sunflower oil, which Chris says to avoid.
Chris also puts an emphasis on the importance of eating the "right fats", and the benefits of saturated fat, monounsaturated fats, medium chain saturated fats, and the naturally occurring transfat- conjugated linolec acid... and omega three vs omega 6 fatty acids, but honestly, this section wasn't as interesting or enlightening to me as the other chapters, since I knew this stuff already, which is why these have been the fats we've been using already for the past few years in our house.
The biggest thing for me in this chapter was reading that my animal protein of choice- chicken- actually is high in omega 6 fatty acids, and low in omega 3, and learning what things are high in omega 3 without being high in omega 6, since the ratio of omega 6 to omega 3 in your diet has an effect on your overall health.
I think the most enlightening chapter for me in this book was the one that talks about the different types of carbohydrates, and the effects they have on the body. I found it interesting to learn that when there is glucose present in something in equal or greater amounts than the fructose- as in the case with bananas, berries, and cantaloupe, the fructose will be well absorbed, but if there is more fructose than glucose in a food, as with apples, peaches, and papas, the additional fructose will stay in the gut longer where it ferments and can contribute to digestive issues. This is something that I do need to pay attention to, because I do have a sensitive gut, and this may be a big part of my problem.
Another thing that I learned from this chapter is how both soluble fiber and insoluble fiber affect gut health. I had known for some time that broccoli, cabbage, cauliflower, peppers, and eggplant gave me stomach issues, but I didn't know what the common denominator was- then I discovered that all those are high in insoluble fiber- and the veggies that actually soothe my stomach are the ones low in insoluble fiber- carrots, squash, zucchini, sweet potatoes, and potatoes. And he suggested how to make the fiber in foods less irritating to a sensitive gut (cook it well, not eating a variety of many vegetables at once, etc...) which wasn't fun to read (I like raw veggies and stir fries al dente!), but at least informative and now I can decide what I want to do with it.
Anyhow- reading this book was very enlightening to me, and I think discovering the common denominator between the foods that cause me stomach issues (coconut and sunflower seeds are two other things that cause me stomach issues- guess what- both high in insoluble fiber as well!) made me decide that maybe, just maybe I can and should try to do what Chris Kresser calls the 30 day Paleo reset.
I've wanted to do a gut healing diet for a while, but since I've been either nursing or pregnant or both non stop for the last 9 years, I couldn't do most of the healing diets since they weren't suitable for nursing or pregnant, but this Paleo reset is suitable for nursing and pregnancy.
While going off gluten and most dairy and eggs, etc... has solved 95% of my stomach issues, I still have stomach issues occasionally, but I haven't been able to pinpoint what exactly is causing them, so I'm hoping that this Paleo reset will work as a good elimination diet, to help me figure out what is causing my issues, so I can avoid it.
This diet also has a big focus, not only on avoiding things that irritate the body, but also on healing the body, via fermented foods, healthy fats, and bone broths.
Another diet that I looked into was very very dogmatic, very into being "low carb for everyone" and I disagree that low carb is good for everyone- when I try going low carb I actually get dizzy. I think if I get dizzy from something, it doesn't mean "my body is adjusting, and I should just give it time", I think getting dizzy is a sign that something is wrong and what I'm doing isn't good for my body- so I like the Chris not only doesn't demonize carbohydrates, but even has little blurbs throughout the book telling personal stories of patients he helped heal, and some of them healed by adding more carbs into their diet.
I would like to lose weight, but that is secondary. I am hoping though that I will be able to lose weight on this thirty day diet.
And lastly, I seem to have started to have some teeth issues, and I've been having b12 issues for a while as well as magnesium issues. I am hoping that by focusing on a nutrient dense diet, especially concentrated for one month, I will be able to give my body the nutrients it needs and take care of these health issues.
When I mentioned that I'm going to do this diet to my husband, he said he'd do it with me, to support me, but that we'd do it in the summer while he isn't working, but in the end he is working this summer so I'm not sure he'll be doing it with me. But he has agreed to only eat non paleo out of the house, not bringing the stuff home, which will just make it harder for me, by having temptations in the home.
I offered to my kids if they want to do this diet with me or not. Lee, my biggest, said that he does want to do it, because he has always had teeth issues, and doesn't understand why if he brushes his teeth so much, so I told him that it may be because of mineral deficiencies if his body isn't actually absorbing the nutrients he eats because of other things he's eating (he's my one kid that does eat gluten, etc...) and maybe, maybe going Paleo for one month can help his body start healing... Ike, my second oldest, decided that he wants to do this diet as well, since he has some stomach issues as well, which we're hoping will be eliminated by this diet.
I'm not really asking my little ones if they want to do it- I'm only going to be making paleo approved foods for the family and my little ones are too young to really be able to tell the difference. Though Anneliese, 3.5, has heard about "the diet" and asked if she can do it too, but to be honest, she doesn't know what she's agreeing to.
I am not pressuring the kids to do this, as I said. I trust my kids, and I trust their reasoning skills- I am explaining it to them and the whys and the hows behind it, not promising any guarantees, and then leaving the decision up to them. My kids care about health, and I am proud of them for making this decision. Especially since I'm not telling them to go off these stuff for life, but just to try it for 30 days.
To make the kids want to do the diet, and not dread it, but to have something to look forward to on the diet instead of just viewing it as a bunch of "can't"s, I stocked up on some paleo approved treats (canned pineapple and raisins) and my kids keep asking me when they can have that, and I tell them when they start the diet... and they keep begging me to start it already. I also ordered a cool kitchen gadget to help with this diet- but more on that tomorrow.
Oh wait- I just realized I didn't even specify what the diet is exactly.
In short- focus on animal proteins other than dairy- ideally organ meats. Since I can't eat eggs (other than maybe yolks- I'm still experimenting with that), and beef, it seems, often gives me stomach issues, it seems I'll be eating mainly chicken and turkey and fish- and since Chris Kresser said that poultry is high in omega 6 and you should balance that out by eating fatty fish that are high in omega 3, I will be eating a lot of sardines, mackerel, and salmon heads (among other fish, but mainly those). My kids will be eating lots of eggs. Gizzards will be my meat of choice, since I can get them cheapest- and of course, just because I'm doing this diet for my health purposes doesn't mean I won't be trying to save money as much as possible.
I will be eating all veggies and fruit, but for myself limiting how many fruit I eat- Chris says 2-5 servings of fruit a day, less for people trying to lose weight. I won't be limiting my kids' fruit at all. Veggies are all ok other than white potatoes- but other starchy tubers are good, including sweet potatoes, tapioca, etc... I will try to avoid veggies high in insoluble fiber.
I'll be using for oils my staple coconut, palm, and olive, and chicken fat, with the occasional sesame oil, and maybe also nut oils- infrequently, but only for things like homemade mayo that would solidify if I used any other oils and stuck them in the fridge. No soy, canola, sunflower, or corn oils, not even sardines packed in them.
No more than a handful of nuts a day because they contain phytic acid. I will try to soak and dehydrate some nuts- that is supposed to help with the phytic acid content- to use to make some treats for the kids as needed.
Minimal sees as well- not too many sesame seeds, flax seeds, etc...
No added sweeteners- not even healthier ones like honey or coconut sugar or jaggery.
No artificial anything or processed foods.
No grains, pseudograins, or legumes. That means no peanuts either...
So that's what we'll be doing.
After one month, I'm going to follow the suggestions of reintroducing "grey" foods- ones Chris suggests trying to see how they are handled are potatoes, white rice, fermented/soaked/sprouted buckwheat, non refined sweeteners, chocolate, and aged cheeses. He said legumes, if fermented, are ok to add- but fermenting is important. I actually tried making dosas last week, specifically to see how we'd enjoy fermented lentils... Ehh... After adding back the "grey area" foods, this pretty much will be similar to how we're eating already, other than not eating corn, or any white sugar, and legumes I have to decide about, from a cost perspective.
It's going to be a challenge, despite already trying to eat healthily. My biggest challenge will be making breakfasts for the kids. I'm trying to come up with lots of great ideas that are quick to prepare in the morning and the kids will still enjoy. I stocked up on a TON of butternut squash, since I can't find bananas, which I would otherwise use to help make breakfasts more easy.
What I will be doing to save money on this diet...
Well, using the cheapest cuts of meat I can find- namely gizzards- at $1.29 per pound locally and entirely meat, they are the most bang for your buck, and are also the best bang for your buck nutritionally being organ meats. I will continue buying salmon heads cheaply (that's why I've been buying so many lately- stocking up for when I'd start this diet), and I will be giving my kids and hubby lots of eggs as protein, eggs that I am buying in trays of 30 on sale cheaper from someone local.
I will be buying my produce all at the farmer's market, making the staple of our produce being things from the reduced rack stands, but I will pay full price as needed for my starchy things- sweet potatoes and butternut squash- if I can't find them cheaper.
I already buy my oils cheaply in bulk.
And by not eating a lot of nuts, since they're discouraged on this diet, it should come out cheaper.
And since no expensive cheeses... for now at least... also cheaper.
And I'm not doing ANYTHING organic. Can't afford it. I still figure doing this diet non organic is still loads better than doing another diet, non organic.
So- I started already, even before the family started. Today was day 2 of the diet for me, and so far so good!
My husband and kids will be starting in the next couple of days (once we finish our leftovers that are not paleo approved).
Stay tuned for more frugal paleo inspired posts...
Wish me luck!
Oh- and I just have to mention, since this is a review of the book- I love that Chris talks about other factors that influence your health, and how to deal with them best, from a scientific perspective- whether it is exercise, sleep, stress management, happiness, etc... And I love that there are a bunch of recipes in the back that are paleo approved- to be honest I haven't really had a look at the recipes yet- and I like that he offers guidelines how to specifically tailor your diet to your specific goals and body type, which is why I just love this guy's stuff... Not dogma, not "one size fits all" dieting which is just stupid and non scientific, not to mention harmful.
Have you ever done a paleo diet? A life time thing, or a 30 day "paleo reset" or as some other variations call it, a "whole 30"? What type of difference did you feel it made in your life, if any? Any tips on keeping down the cost and making it easier for the family to follow?