"I saw few die of hunger; of eating, a hundred thousand." -Ben Franklin

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Paleo Food: It's Everywhere!

I'm going to give you three ingredients lists for some pretty awesome dishes, but don't click on the links until I tell you:
-Basil Grilled Chicken: black pepper, chicken breasts, fresh basil leaves, butter, grated Parmesan, garlic powder, salt
-Mahi Mahi Lettuce Wraps: mango, plum tomatoes, red onion, jalapenos, cilantro leaves, limes, salt and pepper, mahi mahi fillets, olive oil, lettuce leaves
-Country Style Fried Cabbage: green cabbage, bacon fat, red pepper flakes, salt and pepper (to taste)

Those lists only contains proteins, vegetables, fruits, fats, and seasonings (and a tiny bit of dairy for those of you who choose to consume it).... so they sound completely Paleo/Primal to me. Actually, they sound straight-up delicious! While I love sharing awesome recipes, these three are pretty special-- don't click the links yet-- because of where they come from. No, they're not from Everyday Paleo. No, they're not from Civilized Caveman Cooking Creations or Primal-Palate or Nom Nom Paleo. They're from..............

Paula Deen, y'all.

That's right, those are Paula Deen's recipes, so go ahead and click on the links and check them out now (because they really do sound yummy!). While I absolutely love Paula Deen and would love to do an entire Paula/Paleo post, I actually have a point I'm trying to make here: Paleo/Primal food is not strange, and you can find recipes everywhere, including Paula Deen's site!

I had dinner with some of my hallmates a few nights ago, and I had mentioned to them earlier about Paleo (it came up when I wouldn't take free granola bars that people were handing out on campus), and they were shocked that my dinner plate looked so normal. I had a big salad with baby spinach, tomatoes, broccoli, and sliced up beef in extra-virgin olive oil-- and I'm sure it looked just like the salads other people in the dining hall were eating! I'm not sure what my friends were expecting, but it led to a more thorough discussion about my lifestyle and made them realize that people on the so-called "Caveman diet" don't just eat raw meat or do the whole reenactment thing. In my personalized version of Paleo/Primal, I eat "normal" things like salads and cooked meat and all types of veggies and fruits, and sometimes I even have cheese or dark chocolate. Breakfast for me is bacon and eggs, which is pretty much identical to breakfast plates all over the world. I usually don't have to make too many modifications to things at restaurants (it's pretty easy to just get a protein with a side of veggies), and most of my meals look "normal" to most people.

A lot of people have no idea what to eat when starting their Paleo/Primal journeys, or they feel totally overwhelmed when going out to restaurants or having friends over. Some other people think they can only eat things labeled Paleo/Primal (like "Paleo [adjective] Chicken" or "Primal [adjective] Tomatoes") or that exclusively come from Paleo/Primal blogs and books. However, as demonstrated by the Paula recipes, you can find suitable dishes pretty much everywhere without those labels. It's really not that hard: proteins, veggies, fruits, good fats, nuts, seeds, (maybe dairy). So easy, a caveman can do it! With all of those food groups, I really don't think Paleo is restrictive at all-- there are so many options, and now with so many cookbooks out on the market (by the way, check out Make It Paleo, which just came out!), I don't see how people can become bored with this lifestyle. In fact, Robb Wolf's Food Matrix creates 81,000 different meals!
While the internet is an amazing resource for Paleo/Primal recipes, a lot of the food people eat is already totally okay. My dorm had a Mexican food night earlier this week, and I had awesome dinner: chopped beef, chicken and veggies, and guacamole (pssh, who needs chips for guac when you can eat it with a spoon!?). How is any of that difficult, strange, or restrictive? If you already eat from the Paleo food groups, you're doing well: you can get Paleo foods pretty much everywhere without people looking at you like you're insane. "Weird" foods are things that come in packages, are loaded with chemicals, and don't resemble anything that can be found in the wild. I think it's more bizarre for a vegan to eat something like "meatless meatballs" than for a Paleo enthusiast to eat cow heart or chicken liver. What the hell is a "meatless meatball" anyway?

With the holiday season quickly approaching, you're probably going to face situations like potlucks or dinners* with friends and family. Dishes don't need to be "Paleo" this or "Primal" that-- just make real food. No one's going to think it's strange if you show up to dinner with a protein or veggie dish that isn't swimming in chemical-laced sauces-- real food is what nature has intended us to eat, and so many people eat real food every day without even realizing it. We're kicking around doing a potluck on my floor soon, and one of my hallmates was like, "I look forward to trying your Paleo food." My response was simply, "It's not Paleo food-- it's just real food."
*Note: There probably are going to be situations where there might not be Paleo/Primal options (like if there's no salad and all of the protein is breaded or sauce-covered), so plan ahead and bring your own dish so you know there's definitely going to be something you can eat.

I absolutely love this chart from FitBomb:
While it's definitely accurate, there's a lot more overlap between Paleo and other ways of eating than most people think.

If Paula Deen can make Paleo-friendly recipes, then it's pretty much guaranteed that you can find Paleo-friendly recipes everywhere. So the next time someone calls your way of eating restrictive, weird, or boring, instead of saying, "I don't eat grains, processed foods, legumes, [dairy], sugar, etc.," go with, "I eat so many different types of fruits and vegetables, lots of animal protein, nuts and seeds, healthy fats, [some dairy], and most things found in nature." People will be more open to the idea of things you do eat instead of things you don't. Positivity is key!

Good luck, and wow your friends and family with some awesome Paleo/Primal dishes this holiday season.

Quote of the Day:
"The body is like a piano, and happiness is like music. It is needful to have the instrument in good order." -Henry Ward Beecher

Thursday, October 13, 2011

Ron English's Cereal Boxes

If you recognize that obese version of Ronald McDonald, it may be because you've seen Super Size Me, Morgan Spurlock's documentary about only eating McDonald's to prove that fast food causes obesity. (Please, please, please watch Tom Naughton's Fat Head, which is not only incredibly informative, but also shows why Spurlock's arguments were flawed.) I'm not blogging today to talk about Super Size Me or any other food documentary, however-- I'm going to be talking about the artist behind the obese Ronald McDonald, Ron English, who came out with a new piece of "popaganda" this week that really relates to the obesity crisis.

The brilliance of this piece is that, at first glance, it looks like a regular shelf of cereal boxes. Look more closely, however, and you'll realize that Capn' Crunch is "Cap'n Corn Starch" and Frosted Flakes is "Sugar Frosted Fat," and that most of the cartoon characters, like Ronald McDonald, are obese. English, who is known for manipulating brand advertisements to reflect the truth, has put these altered boxes throughout a supermarket in California... and this move has gained a lot of attention. This photo has circulated all over the internet, and it even showed up on the front page of MSN. Here's a screen-shot I took of it, which includes an MSN poll about cereal:

Based on this poll, only ten percent of people don't eat cereal. And those 17% who eat "healthy" cereals are probably eating crap with ingredients lists like this:
^^That's Kashi GoLean, one of the supposedly "healthy" cereals that is advertised like crazy as "a good source of whole grains" or "a good source of fiber" or B.S. like that... when in reality, it's just fake food that'll spike your insulin levels and make you sick (and all of that soy is so unhealthy too!).
But I digress. Ten percent of people don't eat cereal (based on this poll)! So that means ninety percent of people do-- and that, ladies and gentlemen, is English's point. With the obesity levels rising like crazy in the U.S., it really shouldn't be a surprise that cereal, arguably the biggest breakfast staple out there, is a main culprit. It's convenient (throw it in a plastic bag and go!), it's addicting (carbs and sugar are addicting-- hence the "low carb flu" people get when they cut these out), the advertising draws in kids (bright colors and cartoon characters are always a hit)... oh, and most of them are "fortified with vitamins and minerals" (insert eye-roll). Society doesn't vilify cereal the way it does fast food-- yet cereal is just as bad, if not worse!

Here are some real cereal statistics, from Cerealizing America by Scott Bruce and Bill Crawford:
"-Americans buy 2.7 billion packages of breakfast cereal each year. If laid end to end, the empty cereal boxes from one year's consumption would stretch to the moon and back.
-The cereal industry uses 816 million pounds of sugar per year, enough to coat each and every American with more than three pounds of sugar. The cereal with the highest amount of sugar per serving is Smacks, which is 53% sugar.
-Americans consume about 10 pounds, or 160 bowls of cereal, per year per person.
-49% of Americans start each morning with a bowl of cereal."

Let's examine one of the other brands that English targeted, Lucky Charms (or "Yucky Children Charmer"). This cereal was one of my all-time favorites pre-Paleo-- the song on the commercial was catchy, the marshmallows were addicting (even though they kind of tasted like cardboard... huh...), and I just loved everything about it. However, if I ate a big bowl of Lucky Charms in milk for breakfast at, say, 6:45 before school, I'd be ravenously hungry again by 8:30 or 9:00. Here's the label:
Let's see... high in carbs, a ton of sugar, a bunch of ingredients that I don't recognize (oh, wait, "color" is a food?), and corn syrup... amongst other things. But it's "made with whole grains, [it's] fortified with 12 vitamins and minerals, and is a good source of calcium." Seriously, General Mills? You're trying to pull this off as healthy? Give me a freaking break.
Kids see the cute leprechaun, the bright colors, and the promise of marshmallows, so they bug their parents, who then see that this cereal has health claims* and buy it for their kids. The kids then have crazy sugar highs (and crashes), can't sit still or concentrate, and are starving again a few hours later. Sound familiar? (And, of course, this isn't even mentioning all of the other learning and behavioral issues that are results of processed, sugary, chemical-laced foods!)
The most ridiculous thing about Lucky Charms is that, despite the claim by General Mills that they've been making their cereals healthier since 2005, they can't reduce the sugar in this particular cereal anymore because, according to The Wall Street Journal, "not only do the cereal's frosted oats need to taste sweet enough to keep kids clamoring, they have to float in milk for at least three minutes." Um... Just think about that for a second. They want their "food" to "float" for at least three minutes. WHAT THE HELL!?!??!?
*Note: One of Michael Pollan's food rules is to avoid foods that make health claims. Based on Kashi and Lucky Charms, can you see why? (Actually, I'm pretty sure cereal breaks all of Pollan's rules.)

I recently finished Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis, which essentially argues that wheat is the biggest culprit of weight-gain due to "high glucose and high insulin," "cycles of satiety and hunger... this is the foggy, irritable, hungry hypoglycemia that occurs 2 hours after your breakfast cereal...," "gliadin proteins," and "leptin resistance." (His blog is pretty great, so here's the link to the full post.) Think about it: does a bowl of cereal or a slice of bread really cure your hunger? Of course not! So you keep eating more wheat, and the cycle never ends*-- more food, higher insulin levels, more weight gain.... and bam, you're diabetic and obese. While I don't completely agree 100% with "lose the wheat, lose the weight" (there are so many other foods and factors for weight loss too), getting rid of wheat-based products (i.e. cereal and most processed food, which contains wheat) will eliminate carb addiction, help regulate insulin levels, improve satiety, and help with curing certain Western diseases (like type 2 diabetes).**
*Note 1: The night before I went Paleo/Primal/LCHF/JERF, I had a huge bowl of Fruity Pebbles for dinner. An hour later, I was still starving so I went and got a hoagie from WaWa. Yes, cereal was the second to last thing I ate pre-this lifestyle. I am never, ever going back to that! The cycle of needing to eat every few hours was horrible!
**Note 2: Other grain-based products have wheat-like effects too... like corn. Yes, corn is a grain; it is not a vegetable. If you're looking to lose weight or heal your gut, I'd suggest eliminating all grains (and gluten!), and not just wheat products.

I think what Ron English did was awesome. While I don't think his piece of popaganda will change anything in this country, I think it's great that the ridiculously unhealthy properties of cereal are being vilified and are finally in the news. If his cereal box artwork encourages just one person to make healthier choices, then it is absolutely a success. Hopefully, though, it encourages many more people to stop eating these fake, processed, sugary, nutritionally inferior foods!

Ron English's take on Fred Flintstone:

Quote of the Day:
The Dalai Lama, when asked what surprised him most about humanity, said, "Man. Because he sacrifices his health in order to make money. Then he sacrifices money to recuperate his health. And then he is so anxious about the future that he does not enjoy the present; the result being that he does not live in the present or future; he lives as if he is never going to die, and then dies having never really lived."

Sunday, October 2, 2011

Food Matters

This week, you can watch the documentary Food Matters online for free! Click here. It's absolutely worth watching simply for its main theme: just eat real food. As I watched it, I took notes, and I'd like to share some of the information I learned, as well as some pretty awesome quotes (and you know how much I love good quotes!).

The documentary opens with one of my favorite quotes by Hippocrates, "Let food be thy medicine and let medicine be thy food," and we are soon shown a rather ironic statistic, "Less than 6% of graduating physicians in the USA receive any formal training in nutrition." This is scary-- the people who take the Hippocratic oath don't know how to treat patients using food as medicine! This is also the basis of our "sickcare" system; one alarming statistic the documentary then presents is, "26% of patients who are discharged from hospitals are more malnourished than when they went in. And the reason they go in, in 80 or 90% of cases, is related to their poor state of nutrition." Imagine what our country would be like if the other 94% of doctors were educated in nutrition! Oh, that's right, it won't happen-- as the movie states a few times in various ways: there is no money in health, and "the medical profession just treats disease; they don't go back to the primary causes because they can't. They don't understand... what chemicals come out of your food."

It then goes on to explain something we know quite well: that cardiovascular disease is a disease of civilization due to the "Western" diet, and that it can be "arrested or reversed" without surgery by just eating real food. While I completely agree with the movie's idea that eating "too much of the wrong thing and not enough of the right thing" is the underlying issue here, I do not like the fact that they mentioned meat and fat in the following phrase about foods that are the "wrong thing": "fast food and meat and fat and sugar and starch and processed food that has few vitamins." Meat and fat don't belong in that sentence, unless it said "bad/trans fats" or "factory-produced meat" or something of that sort-- meat is the best source of Vitamin B12 and other necessary nutrients, and (good) fat is crucial for survival. Oh, and there are good starches too, such as sweet potatoes-- not all meat, fats, and starches are bad!
But I digress. The main theme of this part of the movie, which I agree with 100%, is that processed/unhealthy/frankenfoods are the main cause of Western/neolithic diseases. This can be best summed up by the following graphic by Dr. Kurt Harris in the "Paleo 2.0" post over at archevore.com:

The film then covers a topic that is incredibly important in our health-- sorry, sick--care system: prescription drugs. Here's a frightening bit of information: according to the journal of the American Medical Association, "approximately 106,000 Americans die from pharmaceutical drugs each year... these are people who took the medication as directed (doesn't count overdoses or misuses)." In ten years, that's over a million people, and that is scary. And this is simply because the drug companies "pay the regulators, who are supposed to overseeing the drugs. They pay the academics, who are meant to be researching the drugs. And very often, the trials that they run will be run by people who are part of the drug company. They also put adverts into the medical journals... most [of which] are supported by drug company advertising." This isn't surprising at all, of course-- we've become a drug-dependent nation. Or, in the words of the movie (and I love this quote), "The whole country has come to expect the idea of taking a pill to fix an ill." Sad, but true. It's not okay that we're a "Fast Food Nation," but it's perfectly acceptable that we're a "Drug Company's Dream Nation"? Health is health is health-- and "giving the body drugs doesn't really promote health." (Note: Life-saving drugs such as antibiotics, for conditions that cannot be treated by altering dietary/lifestyle habits, are a completely different story.)
I think this is my favorite quote from the movie: "When in doubt, use nutrition first." So many diseases of civilization can be cured by proper nutrition! Why screw up your body (or, god forbid, be one of those 106,000 people who die per year because of drugs) when you can help yourself through food? Oh, that's right, because 94% of doctors don't understand proper nutrition, and there's no money in making people healthy. Sigh.

The next part of the film covers the link between poor nutrition and depression. It explains that depression can be treated with Vitamin B3 supplementation (or eating foods that contain it, such as animal products, vegetables, and seeds)-- there's a lot of evidence showing the poor nutrition/depression link, so this isn't surprising at all. What I found particularly interesting, though, is that Bill W., the founder of Alcoholics Anonymous, wanted to use niacin (B3) and vitamin therapy for the people in his program because he knew that it helped with depression and sobriety-- however, "AA, which had already been infiltrated by the medical profession, rejected it." Once again, the medical profession failed at holistic treatment... which brings me to the next interesting fact: "Two handfuls of cashews gives you the therapeutic equivalent of a prescription dose of Prozac." While cashews have a mixed status in the Paleo/Primal community (click), this quote still demonstrates how proper food can be so much more beneficial than a drug with a ton of side-effects... and it's cheaper too!

The documentary then discusses the link between poor nutrition and cancer. It cites the study of Japanese, who have the lowest rate of cancer due to their tradition diet, and how the "Western diet" can completely change that: "You take a Japanese woman from Japan, where the incidence of breast cancer is very low, and transplant her into America, and she changes her lifestyle, the incidence of breast cancer starts creeping up to that of the American woman, which is roundabout up to 30% now." We once again see crappy foods being the cause of neolithic diseases-- "with good, healthy, normal, rich, organic food, you can reverse these diseases," and the film shows many examples of this!

The final section is a fabulous wrap-up of many of the points stressed earlier. I love this quote: "We must make nutrition the primary prevention strategy for the population. And we have to be as zealous on nutrition as we are apparently on global warming. What we need to be able to do is persuade the public that you are what you eat, food can change your mood, you are whatever you've ever done to yourself, and the choices you make directly affect the outcome of your life."
I also really love this one: "People should stop being patients and start being people. Why not be healthy and happy? Why not!?"

I really enjoyed this documentary-- it provided a lot of great information and stressed the good nutrition-good health/bad nutrition-bad health connection. My only issue with it is that it really only promoted plant-based and raw-food diets. As I stated earlier, it lumped fat and meat in with crappy food in that one section-- even though we know that fat and meat are very good for you!-- and only mentioned the health benefits of vegetables and fruits. For example, one of the main guys interviewed is a raw foodist, and constantly stressed raw, plant-based stuff (as well as "super foods" like goji), such as in this quote: "When we choose raw, organic, plant-based foods, we take the power back and we decide that we are going to have quality..." While that is true, grass-fed/free-range meat and healthy fats (like coconut oil!) give us "power" and "quality" as well. However, I'm glad that this movie didn't vilify meat or fats (except in that one little section) by saying silly things like "Meat causes cancer" or "Fat makes you fat and causes so many health problems," but instead just focused on cutting out processed crap, not taking drugs, and taking control of our health by eating real food. I'm totally on board with those ideas!

So definitely watch this movie this week-- it runs for only about an hour and 15 minutes, so you can certainly squeeze that into your day! The information is fantastic, and it's something you can share with your friends and family members who truly believe that taking drugs is making them healthier. Just eat real food.

Speaking of watching things:
"I, Caveman," a new two-part series on the Discovery Channel, premiers tonight at 8PM, and it features Robb Wolf! Here's the commercial for it:

Quote of the Day:
"Wheat can also reach deep down into virtually every organ of the body, from the intestines, liver, heart, and thyroid gland all the way up to the brain. In fact, there's hardly an organ that is not affected by wheat in some potentially damaging way." -Wheat Belly by Dr. William Davis (which I'm currently reading-- it's awesome, and I highly recommend it!)