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Did your friends and relatives shove an article in your face that seemed to say a high fat diet causes brain damage? Read the two following blogs and learn the truth. The study mentioned wasn’t about the effect of high fat diets. It was about how the brain changes when an animal (in this case rats) becomes obese. The researchers added fat to the rats’ normal lab chow to get them fat. (Dr. Guyenet was one of the authors of the study.)

Does a High Fat Diet Cause Brain Damage? Mark Sisson, Mark’s Daily Apple, 1/9/2012.

High Fat Diets, Obesity and Brain Damage, Stephan Guyenet, Ph.D., Whole Health Source, 1/2/2012.

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See ancestralhealth.info/vegetarian.htm

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Steak, potatoes and veggiesWhen I was a child 60+ years ago, I ate “meat and ‘tatters” and heard “eat your veggies” and “cut back on the bread and other starches if you need to lose weight.” Milk was whole. We put butter on our bread, potatoes, sweet potatoes, corn, etc. Fruit and vegetables were eaten in season. Variety was the spice of life. (Living in Southern California, we also ate simple Mexican foods.) We “worked up an appetite” instead of snacking all day. (“Don’t spoil your appetite!”)

What have I learned from 60 years of food fads – low fat, whole grains, Mediterranean diet, macrobiotics, veganism, Atkins, low sodium, avoiding cholesterol, strict paleo? Not much. I have learned to mostly avoid grains and go easy on fructose. (And, of course, I have learned the reasons for eating as I do.)

So I eat meat (real not processed), potatoes and other starches to the extent I can, a few servings per day of different colors of veggies, some fruit, butter, whole pasteurized milk and other dairy. Frequently, the dishes are traditional ones from other cultures, or fusions of them. I’m doing fine.

Food fads – Pfft!

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Peanut butter and bacon open faced sandwich

Do not eat!

Peanuts and peanut butter are totally non-Primal. They have a high level of omega-6, they contain anti-nutrients and they always contain at least minute amounts of carcinogenic aflatoxins that can increase the danger of liver cancer. You should not eat them.

Almond butter is better for you. Some people on Primal manage to convince themselves that it is incredibly tastier than peanut butter. Hmmm.

I am 68. Do you know how many times I have seen attitudes toward peanut butter flip flop in my lifetime?

Grrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrrr! Enough! I eat some peanut butter frequently. Period. Full stop. End of discussion. Comprende? I always buy high quality organic peanut butter. (Actually, usually “peanut spread” containing healthy palm oil.) I don’t put it on bread. Usually I put it on pork rinds. Do as I say not as I do.

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Let me begin by saying that this does not taste like guacamole. You won’t taste the avocado at all. It will taste delicious though.

Ingredients
Avocado – two genuinely large ones, not the tiny ones they call “large” in stores.
Unsweetened Cocoa Powder – 1/4 cup
Vanilla Extract – 2 tablespoons
Coconut Cream – 1/4 cup (The stuff at the top of the can.)
Sweetener – to taste
Whipped Cream (optional) – Leave this off for strict Primal/Paleo.
Chocolate – Shavings, nibs, etc. for topping. (optional)
Berries (optional – a few to top or more to layer)
Sprig of mint (optional)

Directions
Mix avocado, cocoa, coconut cream and vanilla in blender, food processor or bowl.
Add sweetener of your choice to taste.
Put in parfait or wine glass, layering with berries if you like.
Top with whipped cream, chocolate nibs or shavings, berries and mint. (optional)

Image © Vanillla | Dreamstime.com

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Oh, no! Not the four-letter F word (fail).

NOTE: When I started this blog, I followed the blueprint fairly closely without actually labeling myself “primal.” As I have read stuff from other paleolithic and ancestral health theorists, this blog has evolved into something of a critique of the blueprint. If the suggestions below don’t work for you, maybe you should try a different ancestral diet.

Archevore is probably the best way to describe me, although I don’t eat as high a percentage of meat as Dr. Haris recommends. Archevore differs from Primal in two ways reflected in Harris’ William Munny eats his vegetables.

  1. Root vegetables over “Big Assed Salad” antioxidants. (Throughout my blog you will see praise for potatoes, which are marginal in Primal.) There is no paleolithic justification for eating as many nutrient dense salads as possible. Our ancestors haven’t done that for millions of years. They have eaten lots of roots.
  2. Balance over intense focus on “nutrient density.” (I am trying avoid using the word “moderation,” which I hate. But, yeah, you could use that word.)

The Primal Blueprint and Mark’s Daily Apple are still the best source of information about living a healthy lifestyle. If following the blueprint strictly works for you, fantastic. If not, consider some of the options from this blog, from Karl Harris’ Archevore and from other ancestral health writers.

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“I don’t want to be a caveman/woman. That image doesn’t appeal to me.” Addressing that issue is the main reason my blog exists. Various writers, e.g. Kurt Harris, start from the paleo premise but avoid the caveman imagery. (The cartoon/B Movie image of cavemen turns me off too. I personally think Mark’s Grok is kinda cute.)

“We can’t live like cavemen.” We can live very much like your grandparents or great grandparents lived. Aside from the fact that they ate (traditionally prepared) grains and legumes, they lived very primally. (And in my opinion, traditionally prepared legumes (beans) are healthy.)

“My doctor/dietician/etc. said ________ [high fat or high protein or ultra-low carb] diets are dangerous.” OR “My doctor/dietician/etc. said I need whole grains and legumes to be healthy.” Your doctor/dietician/whatever doesn’t have the latest facts. Read this. And, by the way, Primal is not high fat nor high protein nor ultra low carb, although some people on the plan do it that way.

“I can never stay on a diet.” Here’s my post about that. And see Mark’s Common Stumbling Blocks. Come to Mark’s Daily Apple forums any time you need encouragement.

“I wanted to lose lots of weight. But I have only lost a few pounds (or have gained a few.)” Primal is not a diet. It is a lifestyle. Throw away your scales. If you are not losing fat, see 17 Reasons You’re Not Losing Weight. (If what you want is a quick weight-loss diet, then, yes, Primal is a fail for you.)

“I was losing weight but now I’m not.” See Mark’s Weight Loss Plateaus.

“Eating all that organic, free-range, pastured food is too expensive.” Eating those high quality food is great, sure, but you don’t have to in order to succeed at primal. We can show you many ways to be primal on a budget. Come to Mark’s Daily Apple and search on “budget” for more posts.

“I was a vegetarian for a long time. I don’t want to eat all that meat.” Some followers of primal do eat lots of meat. You don’t have to. Mark’s wife eats no animal products except some fish and protein powders. You can even be a primal vegetarian if you eat eggs and/or dairy. Vegan primal, or any kind of veganism, is not healthy.

“Eating all that fat is gross.” Primal is not a high fat diet. You do need some saturated fat on a regular basis though. This can come from coconut oil, cold water fishes or other not so “gross” sources.

“I won’t give up bread/rice/potatoes/etc.” Many on primal eat some rice and potatoes. (Actually, I eat potatoes once or twice a day. They are good food.) There are alternative flours that can be made into tasty breads and other baked goods. If you have to have some wheat flour bread, cut down the amount. Eat sourdough or sprouted grain varieties. These compromises are not ideal, and they may keep you from losing fat, but you will still be healthy if you are otherwise very primal.

Think of the foods you probably have already given up. Bacon, richly marbled meat, butter, eggs, full fat dairy products, and others. You may be able to eat all of them!

“I’m living at home/in a dorm/in the service/etc.” OR “I have to eat out a lot.” In Mark’s Daily Apple, we answer concerns like these all the time. You may have to do primal imperfectly for now. You can still benefit from the blueprint and go fully primal some day.

“My husband/wife/boyfriend/girlfriend/children/roommate won’t do Primal.” If you do the cooking and they eat it, with perhaps some rolled eyes, but have bread, sodas and other non-Primal things for lunch, be patient. Don’t force the issue. If you cook just your own food, it may be frustrating to have non-primal stuff in the house, but you can do it. But what if your significant other is very anti-Primal and you have or plan to have children. That leads to tough choices. Come to Mark’s Daily Apple forums and pick our brains.

“I am going through lots of stress right now. I don’t think I can give up comfort foods.” I understand, believe me. I’ve been there. You will handle the stress better if you do the best you can at Primal. Just because you have a big plate of spaghetti for dinner is no reason not to have bacon and eggs for breakfast and a salad for lunch.

For most of us, comfort food means carbs. Try, try, try to avoid grain carbs, except white rice. If you want carbs, choose yams, potatoes, white rice, traditionally soaked and rinsed beans and oats. Pile on the pastured butter, cheese or sour cream. Our ancestors seem to have eaten lots of roots and tubers. Go ahead. Just watch your total carbs.

“I can’t cook.” The basic Primal foods are easy. Bacon and eggs, salad, grilled or fried steak/other meat, steamed or roasted vegetables. We have easy recipes. And we will give you cooking tips.

“I hate exercise.” Do you hate cardio? Weight lifting? Guess what? You don’t have to do either. The goal of Primal is to get you through “exercises” quickly so you can have fun. More

“I do about 100% for a while, then I go on a carb binge.” Some people, including me, need to take small steps or set limits to how completely we are going to follow the blueprint. Trying to follow primal to the letter leads to a junk food binge and giving up. I would never have started a strict Primal diet. Right from the start I was very clear that I wasn’t giving up dairy, potatoes, white rice, corn or corn tortillas, or beans completely.

“I have tried Primal several times. Or I sort of did it.” Other people need to start very strictly. Otherwise they slip more and more, eventually not being primal at all. Once you have been strict for a while, say at least a month, you might be able to add back some marginal foods.

Mileage may vary. You may need to tweak Primal for it to work for you. You may need more or fewer carbs than recommended. You may need extra of some vitamins or minerals. If you come to Mark’s Daily Apple forums and tell us what’s happening, we can probably help. Before you do, keep track of your food for at least a few days in FitDay, NutritionData or some other tracking program.

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SpaghettiItalians eat a fair amount of pasta and are generally not fat. Many other societies rely on wheat and other grains and have reasonably good health. This post by Mark Sisson explains how traditional cultures are able to make grains healthier. The post is brilliant, so I won’t even try to summarize it.

Any traditional diet/lifestyle is going to be better than the Standard American Diet/lifestyle. But even with traditional preparation methods, grains are not going to give you optimal health. And they are way too much work for the small payoff.

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