Thoughts on Paleo
Good Morning! Hope everyone is having a great summer and a fabulous weekend! My summer has been filled with grad classes, some pool-time, work and some messing around in the kitchen. Some of you may know that I’m doing a graduate degree in Food & Nutrition and am in a Dietetics program to be an RD. If all goes well, I’ll be done next summer – and then comes the big job hunt and move (hopefully to Florida!).
Anyway, being in the field of Nutrition I’m always fascinated by any developments in this area – and lately I’ve become more curious about the whole Paleo Lifestyle. Now I’m not saying that I’m suddenly “going Paleo,” – all I’m saying is that I’m intrigued about really understanding the science behind it. I whole-heartedly support the idea of eating minimally processed food and avoiding packed goods as much as possible. That being said, I also know that with our busy lifestyle it’s almost impossible to cook form scratch all of the time – and we inevitably end up buying and consuming some packaged and processed items. Keep in mind though that we also live a very different lifestyle from our “Paleolithic ancestors”…They didn’t have modern technology or office jobs and packed schedules – and for them, survival was the primary goal. WIth that in mind, I often question some premises of the popular Paleo diet – specifically the move towards consuming more animal fats and saturated fats. I don’t think I’m quite on board with it simply because our lifestyle is so different – I’m not out hunting for my food or dragging carcasses home for dinner, nor do I wonder about when my next meal will be. I don’t need to “starve” for long periods of time due to a lack of food…so do I really need to eat like my Paleolithic ancestors? Shouldn’t I just try to eat more whole foods…like vegetables, meat, fish, fruit nuts etc but not necessarily as much saturated fat?Bottom line is – I don’t think we need to try and emulate our ancestors to a T, but eating less processed foods is certainly a good idea!
I’m also intrigued by the argument that grains and legumes lead to inflammation in our bodies (an argument presented by some authors of Paleo books), and that the insulin response is what leads to obesity. Actually – insulin is not the bad guy here. Insulin is a hormone in your body that helps certain cells (those with insulin receptors) remove glucose from your blood and use it for energy. So if you are about to embark on any exercise, supplying your cells with energy is a good thing! Perhaps what the authors are arguing is that we consume too many carbohydrates (particularly processed carbohydrates) in our diet and have excessive glucose-insulin responses in our body….(?). To be fair, I haven’t read any of the books on Paleo yet – but I ordered a couple yesterday to really try and understand the authors’ viewpoint. Once I’ve read them and thought about it, I’ll follow up with another post on this subject.
In support of Paleo though, I do believe that we should consume more of our carbohydrates from unprocessed sources such as vegetables and fruit and less from processed flours. There seems to be an increase in gluten sensitivity and celiac disease in the last few years as well as allergies to peanuts etc, and I wonder if it’s due to the high degree of processing in our food industry. I’ve been eating gluten-free for the last couple of years and have noticed a huge difference in how I feel – no more chronic fatigue, anemia or migraines and that’s why I’m also really curious about the premise behind a grain free diet. I may actually try an experiment and go grain-free for a couple of weeks – just to see how I feel on a more “Paleo” diet (though I will still be eating legumes I think). Anyway, one of the recipes I’ve had on my mind for a while is a Grain-Free Granola (nothing new…there are a whole bunch of recipes for Grain-Free/Paleo granola on the internet). But I made a batch this morning after looking at a few recipes and then coming up with my own. (I’ll post it shortly in a separate post). It was actually fairly easy to make and isn’t as dense as some of the Paleo Granola recipes out there. Yet it was surprisingly quite filling with some berries, sliced banana and coconut milk…so it may become more of a staple in my breakfast (need some variety from eggs and smoothies!)
Anyway – enjoy the rest of the weekend and look out for my granola recipe. I’ll be back at some point with my thoughts on Paleo – after I’ve read a few more books on it!