PaleoTreats: NOM NOM NOM

 Posted by on 5 January 2013 at 10:00 am  Food, Paleo
Jan 052013
 

A few weeks ago, I was lucky enough to receive this sample pack from PaleoTreats, in exchange for blogging about it:

Paul and I enjoyed these goodies immensely… so much so that we ordered more for ourselves, plus some for friends for Christmas too. We particularly liked “Mac Attack” and “Mustang Bar.” They keep nicely in the freezer, and they’re substantial enough to split for dessert.

They’re also strictly paleo — meaning: no gluten, grains, dairy, stabilizers, preservatives, or other junk. You can check out the ingredients and nutritional information here.

You can order them here. I’m delighted to be able to recommend them!

No Gluten, No Migraines

 Posted by on 15 December 2012 at 10:00 am  Food, Health, Medicine
Dec 152012
 

Since high school, I’ve suffered from periodic migraines. Mostly, they were manageable with pain medications, although quite unpleasant. However, I had certain periods in which they were so frequently and painful as to be debilitating. (In college, I had to drop two of my five classes one semester due to unbearable and frequent migraines.)

Happily, eating paleo largely eliminated my migraines. As a result, I could safely leave the house without my migraine medication for the first time in years. That was so liberating!

I still had migraines but only rarely — perhaps just one per month. I noticed that I was particularly prone to get them when pre-menstrual, but I couldn’t detect any pattern otherwise.

However, in the summer of 2011, I had two experiences that made me think that gluten might be the lingering culprit. While at the Ancestral Healthy Symposium, I ate some “brown eggs” made by my mother-in-law. They were made with regular soy sauce, which includes a tiny amount of wheat. Result? Days of migraines. Then, a month or two later, I ate some chicken wings at a restaurant that had been dusted in flour. Result? A sudden migraine in the middle of the night.

So I decided to experiment, to see if I could give myself a migraine by eating gluten even when I wasn’t already feeling prone to a migraine. So I bought a loaf of bread. (Yes, that seemed very strange to me!) I ate a one slice with butter for lunch.

The next day — just about 24 hours later — I had a migraine. Since that experiment, I’ve been super-strict about avoiding gluten. I don’t make assumptions about the menu when eating at a restaurant: I ask.

As a result, I’ve had just two migraines in the last six months — and one was due to something “gluten-free” not being really gluten-free. (Yup, I knew better.) Hence, when someone tells me that paleo is just pseudo-science or a fad… well, you can imagine my reaction.

I don’t think that gluten causes everyone’s migraines. But I think that people with migraines would be smart to try a gluten-free diet — or better yet, full-blown paleo. It might do a world of good!

 

The following comments on the validity of a evolutionary approach to nutrition are from an email that I wrote to an Objectivist philosopher skeptical of the paleo diet. (The email was sent many moons ago, and I only just found it again.) My comments stand pretty well on their own, I think, and I hope that they’ll be of interest to folks interested in thinking about paleo in a philosophical way.

I cannot point you to a single study that definitively proves the superiority of a paleo diet. For a hundred different reasons — most of which probably aren’t on your radar — such a study is not possible. (Gary Taubes and Mike Eades have written on that problem.) Nonetheless, a whole lot of smaller, more delimited studies (as well as well-established biology) support the claims made by advocates of a paleo diet. Plus, people report looking, feeling, and performing better — with improved lab values — on a paleo-type diet. Each of us has our own experiences and experiments to draw on too.

Hence, as I said in a thread on Facebook: “I think I’ve got very good grounds for saying that a paleo diet is (1) healthy for most people, (2) far superior to the diet of most Americans, (3) exceedingly delicious and satisfying, and (4) worth trying to see if you do better on it, particularly if you have certain kinds of health problems.”

I’m not claiming certainty, nor do I assume that my current diet is optimal. We have tons to learn about nutrition and health. Yet that’s hardly a reason to ignore what we do know — or to suppose that we can just keep eating however we please without experiencing pernicious consequences down the road.

Moreover, people are doing themselves harm by eating the standard American diet. In my own case, I was on my way to type 2 diabetes (based on my doctor’s blood glucose tests) and liver disease (based on a CT scan showing non-alcoholic fatty liver disease). We can’t assume that the standard American diet is a safe default just because it’s all around us — just as people shouldn’t assume that the standard American religion is a safe philosophical default.

To address your skepticism about an evolutionary approach to nutrition, let me ask you the following… Imagine that you were given a dog to care for, but you’d never seen or heard of a dog before. Would you say that the fact that dogs are very close relatives of wolves is irrelevant to the question of what you ought to feed this dog? Wouldn’t that evolutionary fact suggest that the dog needs meat, meat, and more meat — not tofu or corn or alfalfa?

That evolutionary inference certainly wouldn’t be the last word on proper diet for the dog by any stretch of the imagination. Yet that inference would help guide your inquiry into the optimal diet for the dog — and guide your feeding of him in the meantime. That evolutionary perspective would be particularly helpful if the government and its lackeys were busy promoting a slew of false views about optimal canine diet. Ultimately, it would help integrate and explain your various findings about canine nutrition, since the nature of the canine was shaped by its evolutionary history.

On this point, your comparison to evolutionary psychology is not apt. Evolutionary psychology is a cesspool. But that’s not because inferences from our evolutionary history are difficult, although that’s true. Evolutionary psychology is a cesspool because it depends heavily on some false philosophical assumptions — particularly determinism and innate ideas.

The same charges cannot be made against an evolutionary approach to nutrition. We know that every organism is adapted to eat certain kinds of foods rather than others. We know that human biology was shaped over the course of millions of years, during which time we ate certain kinds of foods but not others. That suggests the kinds of foods that we’re best adapted to eat. Moreover, we can see in skeletal remains that when people switched to other kinds of foods, particularly grains, they declined remarkably in basic measures of health. Then consider what know about the nature of wheat, including its effects on the gut. Top that off with the positive effects people experience — improved well-being, fat loss, better lab values, less autoimmunity — when they stop eating wheat. Then you’ve got a compelling case against eating wheat.

The evolutionary perspective is not merely a useful starting point in such inquiries, to be discarded with advancements in modern science. It’s relevant causal history: it explains why we respond as we do to wheat. That enables us to integrate disparate findings about wheat (and other foods) into a unified theory of nutrition. That’s hugely important to developing nutrition as a science.

Essential Versus Optional in Paleo

 Posted by on 24 November 2012 at 10:00 am  Epistemology, Food, Health, Philosophy
Nov 242012
 

When I developed my list of Modern Paleo Principles in early 2010, I’d hoped to be able to sort out the essential principles from the optional tweaks. So forgoing grains would be essential to eating paleo whereas intermittent fasting would be just an optional tweak that a person might never even try. Sounds reasonable, right? Perhaps so, but the attempt was a total non-starter.

Almost as soon as I sat down to write out my list of principles, I realized that I couldn’t possibly separate them into “essential” and “optional,” except in a few clear cases. Similarly, I couldn’t rank its principles by priority except in a very rough way. Despite the core features of the diet captured in my definition — avoiding grains, sugars, and modern vegetable oils in favor of high-quality meat, fish, eggs, and vegetables — that just wasn’t possible.

But… why not? Why can’t we identify the essential versus optional principles of a paleo diet or rank its principles by priority? The answer is more interesting than I supposed at first. I see three major obstacles — (1) the value of health, (2) individual differences, and (3) the science of nutrition. Let’s examine each in turn.

Health Is Not Your Ultimate Value

Health is a major value, but it’s not a person’s proper ultimate value. Health is not all that matters in life.

A person’s ultimate value is (or rather, ought to be) his own life. Consequently, people can make legitimate trade-offs with respect to health, in order to serve other, higher values. For example, a paleo-eater might choose to eat restaurant salads with canola oil dressing at business lunches because that’s what best serves her career, even if that risks some harm to her health. Or a paleo-eater might enjoy the occasional “Mo’s Bacon Bar,” because the taste is just so worth the sugar hit. Such choices would be totally legitimate: optimizing health shouldn’t be treated as an out-of-context duty.

What does that mean? It means that no principle of paleo can be treated as “essential” — in the sense that if you violate it, then you’re doing wrong, you’ve fallen off the wagon, you’re no longer paleo. Paleo is not a religious dogma: it has no Ten Commandments — nor even a “thou shalt.” (That’s for the vegans!)

Instead, paleo involves a set of principles to help guide the actions that impact our health, particularly diet. However, if a person is willing to pay the price for deviating occasionally from those principles — if that’s not a sacrifice for him but an enhancement of his life — then he ought to deviate. That’s the rational approach.

Your Health Depends on Individual Context

People are not merely fodder for the aggregate statistics of epidemiologists. They are individuals — and each person’s particular background, constitution, and circumstances matter to his choices about diet.

For example, one paleo-eater might be diabetic, another hypothyroid, and another in perfect health. One person might be disposed to heart disease, whereas another would be more likely to suffer from cancer or stroke. One person might suffer terrible effects from eating wheat, whereas sugar might be the downfall of another. A paleo-eater might be able to find a source of grass-fed beef that matches his budget — or not. A person might have 200 pounds of fat to lose — or 20 pounds of muscle to gain. One person might look, feel, and perform better eating starchy tubers while another does better avoiding them. One person might need to work hard to eliminate the soy from his diet, whereas another has none to remove. One person might live with a supportive spouse, while another lives with a hostile vegan roommate. One person might prepare all his meals at home, while another must eat in restaurants, while another must eat in the college dorm.

In short, people’s backgrounds, constitutions, and circumstances are often hugely different in ways that will affect what they can and should eat. People will implement a paleo diet in very different ways, based on those differences. To claim, as a universal generalization, that certain paleo principles are essential while others are merely optional would be to run roughshod over those individual differences. Instead, each person needs to discover what’s more essential versus more optional for him. Each person need to focus on his own life and values. The experiences of others are often useful guides or hints, but they don’t determine what’s essential versus optional for you.

The Science of Nutrition Is in Its Infancy

Ideally, with further development of science, we might be able to identify certain universal mid-level principles, such as “avoid foods that irritate your gut” or “avoid foods that promote the formation of small LDL.” Then people could focus on those principles, rather than adapting the particular recommendations of paleo to their own cirucmstances. Those kinds of integrations would be useful, undoubtedly, but I see at least three problems with aiming for that.

First, the science of nutrition is not as advanced or definitive as we might like, except on a few issues. I’m routinely amazed by how much we still have left to learn — on the value of tubers, on the different kinds of fats, on carbohydrate sources, and so on. So right now, we’re not in a position to clearly define and defend such mid-level principles. The science needs to be more settled for that.

Second, such mid-level principles wouldn’t be particularly helpful for guiding a person’s everyday choices about what to eat — unless he already knew, for example, what irritates guts in general and his gut in particular. So even if armed with a slew of solid mid-level principles, a person would still need to discover how to implement those principles well in his choices of what to eat for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.

Third, even if all that were known, individuals would still vary in their responses to foods, and they’d have to determine much of their own optimal diet by their own n=1 experiments. For example, people respond very differently to gluten. Personally, even small quantities of gluten give me migraines, but no digestive upset. Others have a different response — or no response at all.

Conclusions

One important conclusions from these reflections on the value of health, individual differences, and the science of nutrition is that even though the various paleo diets have a common core, the principles of paleo cannot be designated “essential” versus “optional” nor ranked in order of importance.

Of course, we can define a paleo diet, because it means something definite. We can also identify the general principles of a paleo approach to health; that’s what I hope that I’ve done with the Modern Paleo Principles. That’s crucial for doing paleo well, I think.

Yet to think of some of these principles as universally “essential” versus universally “optional” would be a mistake. Instead, they should stand in our minds as “more or less important for me.”

Of course, as an advocate of people, I’m interested to know what’s more or less important for most people or for people with certain medical conditions. Still, the individual’s mileage will always vary.

Also, a person often requires a few weeks or even months to learn how to implement the basic principles of paleo well in his own life, then even longer to tweak and optimize. For people really concerned to eat well — and to be fully healthy — that can be well worth the trouble!

Even with the broad range of paleo, we cannot hope to find a “one-size-fits-all” diet, except in a very broad way.

Bacon for President

 Posted by on 22 October 2012 at 2:00 pm  Election, Food, Funny
Oct 222012
 

I support Bacon for President, with pretty much any running mate — scallops, steak, dates, eggs, banana, chocolate, tomato, banana, peaches…

Plus, as Monica said, “If an entire group of countries can win the Nobel Peace Prize, why can’t we have food items as a Presidential ticket?”

Easy Sautéed Pineapple

 Posted by on 6 October 2012 at 2:00 pm  Food
Oct 062012
 

A few days ago, I decided to attempt sautéeing pineapple in butter for dessert. Wow, it was delicious! Basically, just slice the pineapple into thin spears — perhaps 1/4″ to 1/2″ thick. Then sautée that in a pan — no need for non-stick — with a good tablespoon of butter. (Here, I’m using pineapple spears from Costco.)

Brown it on both sides. Toward the end of the cooking, if the pan has gotten a bit dark, add some pineapple juice to unstick that yummy fond. Then serve, perhaps with whipped cream or something else delicious. Melted dark chocolate might be quite yummy. If you don’t eat dairy, you could cook it in ghee or coconut oil.

Oh, and in the first picture, you can see that I have some banana in the pan. Alas, that didn’t work out well: banana is delicate enough to require a non-stick pan. It was a bit of a gooey mess, but still delicious!

Beware “Gluten Free” Labels

 Posted by on 28 July 2012 at 10:00 am  Food, Health
Jul 282012
 

Recently, I ran across this article from Experience Life: Be Cautious of Gluten-Free Labels:

Think you can have your gluten-free cake and eat it, too? Not so fast. Despite the hundreds of products that sport gluten-free labels, the FDA has no official standards to regulate the claim. For those striving to limit their gluten intake, that lack of regulation can be frustrating. But for those with celiac disease, hypersensitivities to cereal grains, or certain autoimmune diseases like Hashimoto’s thyroiditis (in which the body mistakenly attacks the thyroid), a “gluten-free” food with traces of gluten can pose a serious health threat. Fortunately, new rules likely to be unveiled later this year should clear up the confusion.

As it stands now, the FDA only requires companies to state whether common allergens, such as wheat or nuts, are ingredients in a product. Labeling regulations are lax for products potentially cross-contaminated with allergens during the manufacturing process — something that happens frequently in facilities that process a wide variety of foods. That means small quantities of gluten can easily sneak into products labeled “gluten-free.”

The article holds out the hope in the form of FDA regulations, but I don’t think that’s the answer for people with Celiac or severe intolerances. Labels may not be accurate, often due to cross-contamination. A 2010 study found that many “inherently non-gluten grains” contained significant amounts of gluten:

Twenty-two inherently gluten-free grains, seeds, and flours not labeled gluten-free were purchased in June 2009 and sent unopened to a company who specializes in gluten analysis. All samples were homogenized and tested in duplicate using the Ridascreen Gliadin sandwich R5 enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay with cocktail extraction. Thirteen of 22 (59%) samples contained less than the limit of quantification of 5 parts per million (ppm) for gluten. Nine of 22 (41%) samples contained more than the limit of quantification, with mean gluten levels ranging from 8.5 to 2,925.0 ppm. Seven of 22 samples (32%) contained mean gluten levels >/=20 ppm and would not be considered gluten-free under the proposed FDA rule for gluten-free labeling. Gluten contamination of inherently gluten-free grains, seeds, and flours not labeled gluten-free is a legitimate concern.

For people with severe reactions to gluten, the solution should include avoiding all grains, I think. As the Experience Life article says at the end:

In the meantime, you can eliminate the guesswork by avoiding processed foods whenever possible. “The best way to avoid gluten is to eat products that aren’t manufactured,” says Korn. “Most natural, non-grain whole foods, such as vegetables, fruits, meats, legumes and fish, are inherently gluten-free.”

Gluten is everywhere, particularly when eating out… and those “gluten-free” cookies and cupcakes are just increasing the risk of accidental exposure.

Jul 142012
 

My last thyroid report was just about a year ago. So wow, it’s time for an update!

As of last July, I’d just seen a new doctor — Dr. Juetersonke in Colorado Springs. He was willing to raise my dose of desiccated thyroid from 2 grains to 3 grains — even though my TSH was already too low by conventional standards — based on my persistent symptoms of hypothyroidism, plus my low Free T3 and Free T4. (Even when I was seriously mentally and physically disabled by hypothyroidism, my TSH was never terribly high — just 3.23. So that I’d need to keep a lower-than-usual TSH isn’t too surprising.)

The results of that increased dose to 3 grains were excellent. My thyroid symptoms vanished, and they’ve not returned. My lab values are good too, and they’re stable. Happily, my thyroid antibodies (particularly Antithyroglobulin Ab) have fallen from a high of 123 to within the normal range. Hence, I hope to be able to stay well on 3 grains of desiccated thyroid for the foreseeable future.

Here were my labs from 21 December 2011, after 6 months on three grains of desiccated thyroid:

  • TSH = 0.009 uIU/mL (normal range .3 to 3.0)
  • Free T3 = 4.0 pg/mL (normal range 2.0 to 4.4)
  • Free T4 = 1.18 ng/dL (normal range .82 to 1.77)
  • Antithyroglobulin Ab = 31 IU/mL (normal range 0 to 19)

Here were my lab results from 21 June 2012, after a year on three grains of desiccated thyroid:

  • TSH = 0.010 uIU/mL (normal range .3 to 3.0)
  • Free T3 = 3.4 pg/mL (normal range 2.0 to 4.4)
  • Free T4 = 1.19 ng/dL (normal range .82 to 1.77)
  • Antithyroglobulin Ab = 29 IU/mL (normal range 0 to 40)

Also, I’m still taking high-dose iodine — 12.5 mg per day at present — because I’ve found that my menstrual cycles will not happen without it. I’ve never had any ill-effects from high-dose iodine, as some people with Hashi’s do, and I wonder if that’s because I’ve always taken 200 mcgs of selenium with it. (I’ve read that the bad reaction of some people with Hashi’s to iodine might be due to selenium deficiency, not the iodine per se.)

Alas, I’ve not had such great success with my adrenal insufficiency. I’ve gone from two adrenal supplements per day a year ago up to three, down to two, down to one, down to zero, up to one, and now up to two. My recent increase is partly due to a less potent batch of pills than before. (That’s a common problem.) However, it’s also just too damn easy for me to push myself into sheer exhaustion. If I combine too much exertion with lack of sleep — as almost always happens when I travel — I’m toast. The result is feeling sleepy and unmotivated from morning until night, even on a good night of sleep. In my recent appointment, Dr. Juetersonke gave me some suggestions for dealing with that better, so hopefully I’ll get that sorted out soon.

Oh, and I should mention that my elimination diet for gut repair is still ongoing and still working. I’ve kept off the ten pounds that I lost early in the diet without any trouble. I’m tolerating a wider range of foods, including beef and some dairy. I’m not out of the woods yet, but the path that our own Christian Wernstedt of Vital Objectives laid out for me is working well.

Overall: YAY, I’M PRETTY DARN GOOD!

Soft Scrambled Eggs

 Posted by on 16 June 2012 at 10:00 am  Food
Jun 162012
 

I love sous vide scrambled eggs, but they’re a bit of a bother to make. A few days ago, however, I tried these slow-cooked scrambled eggs by Gordon Ramsey:

They’re really easy to make, and the result is about as close to sous vide scrambled eggs as possible. Since dairy and I are enemies right now, I made them using ghee, and I omitted the glob of whatever-dairy-that-was at the end. I used truffle salt, which is pure awesome on scrambled eggs. Also, I made them in a regular pan (i.e. not non-stick), and that worked okay. Obviously, I recommend omitting the toast.

Paleo-Friendly Snacks

 Posted by on 9 June 2012 at 10:00 am  Food
Jun 092012
 

Recently, I received free samples of “That’s It” fruit bars. They’re just dried fruit — no sugar, no preservatives, no nothing, except two kinds of fruit per bar. They’re really quite delicious, and they make a good on-the-go snack. If anything, they’re a bit too easy to eat. (I’m not anti-fruit, but I try to limit my fruit intake, particularly dried fruit.) If you can’t find these bars in your local store, you can buy online.

The “That’s It” Fruit Bars got me thinking about other easy paleo snacks, particular when I’m out and about. Here’s a few items that I like to mix and match:

  • Diced uncured ham
  • Apple
  • Salami
  • Prosciutto ham
  • Macadamia nuts
  • Diced cheese
  • Hard-boiled eggs
  • Dehydrated fruit
  • Dehydrated roasted sweet potato
  • Grape tomatoes
  • Lara Bars
  • Banana
  • Dark chocolate
  • Sweet potato
  • Chicken breast
  • “That’s It” Fruit Bars
  • Greek yogurt

As for the sweet potato and chicken breast: I always keep small portions of them frozen for when I need a full meal while in town, particularly after my SuperSlow workouts.

I’ll roast about 20 pounds of sweet potatoes, cool them and remove their skins, and then pack 5 oz into each sandwich bag. I throw all the sandwich bags into a gallon-sized freezer bag, then store that in the freezer. I do the same for sous-vide chicken breast. (That freezes and thaws very nicely.) Then, even if I’m in a big rush, I can grab a sandwich bag of sweet potato and a sandwich bag of chicken for a decent meal.

As for my dehydrated fruit and sweet potatoes, I’ll save that for a future post.

What are your favorite paleo-friendly snacks?

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