What is a Paleo diet and how it can help you

Paleo diet

Many specific diets have come and gone in popularity over the years.  We have had the Atkins, Nutrisystem, Bernstein, Zone, Weight Watchers, Mediterranean, South Beach, Raw Foods diets and more.  Some are long gone, others still around.  The Paleo diet, short for Paleolithic, (think cave man era) is based on what our ancestors supposedly foraged for and lived on centuries ago.  I say supposedly because which one of us was around to confirm the info?

It is not that difficult to realize that all the additives, preservatives and other highly processed and or hydrogenated ingredients were not around back then.  The Paleo diet urges people to eliminate such items from their meal plans.  That includes salt sugar and artificial sweeteners, iodized (table) salt,  omega six oils (unrefined, organic coconut, olive, flaxseed, and avocado are allowed because they are omega 3s), dairy (except butter and ghee which are allowed.)

Beans and legumes (with the exception of green beans and snow peas) are not allowed on a Paleo diet either because they are (for most people) hard to digest.  The same applies to starchy vegetables like white potatoes (sweet ones are allowed in moderation) corn and squash, as well as all (even gluten-free) grains. Grains are taboo because of the lectins they contain that trigger allergic and autoimmune responses as well as leaky gut syndrome.

Paleo diet

Meats allowed on the Paleo diet are grass fed, pasture raised and organic. Fish choices should be wild or farmed under responsible conditions.  Eggs should be free range. Most nuts (except peanuts because they are legumes not nuts) and seeds are allowed too.

This diet is supposed to prevent and eliminate immune responses and many disease states, including cancer.  I must admit, other than eliminating dairy (cheese is a personal weakness) beans and gluten free grains like brown rice and quinoa (actually not a grain, but included in that category) my current choice of diet follows these Paleo choices very closely.  These choices came from figuring out (over many years) what works (and doesn’t work) for my body.  Go figure, here I thought I was unique!

 

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#3 of 4 Healthy Resolutions for 2015: go Green

picture courtesy of plantpoweredkitchen.com

My third healthy resolution for 2015 is to add more greens to my diet.  For the past few years I have been concentrating on eliminating wheat from my diet (see a previous post about this process) and I must admit to sticking to common (in this area) vegetables like broccoli, green beans, mushrooms, and corn.  Of course this is partly because these vegetables are the favourites within my family of five.

This year I would like to experiment with a few new green vegetables, since many health gurus promote them as beneficial and disease fighting.  Leafy green vegetables are rich in vitamins, minerals and fiber, all of which contribute to good health, something all of us should strive for.

Mustard greens, collards, kale, broccoli and cabbage all contain magnesium and tryptophan, beneficial for the health of your brain and heart.  They are cruciferous vegetables which means they have a role in inhibiting cancer growth as well. Their green color means they are rich in chlorophyll, which keeps your blood on the alkaline side of the pH scale, (see another previous post ) another healthy benefit.

Spinach and swiss chard are rich in vitamins A and C, as well as folate and iron.  Iron is important because it carries oxygen to the blood stream.  These vegetables also both contain oxalates, undesirable compounds to those prone to kidney stones.  Oxalate levels can be reduced though by cooking the greens before consumption.

Leaf, Romaine and Iceberg Lettuce are all common ingredients found in salad bowls.  Iceberg lettuce however contains mostly water with very little nutrients, so be sure to use the darker green (or red) versions of lettuce to maximize the health benefits of vitamins and minerals.

I eat broccoli fairly regularly and add spinach to my breakfast smoothies, but that is the extent of my use of green vegetables.  I pledge to look for these other “greens” in the produce department of my favourite grocery stores.

Go green with me this year!

Leftover Soup

I call my homemade soup leftover soup for the obvious reason; many of the ingredients of each batch are leftovers from my fridge or freezer.  Meat, vegetables, broth, gravy, rice, quinoa; anything and everything goes.

I make my own broth by keeping the pan drippings from roast chicken, turkey or beef in a container in my freezer, all mixed together.  As soon as each addition to the container starts to freeze, i scrape off and discard the fat that has risen to the top.  I also add any excess liquid from steamed vegetables to the bucket in the freezer. Then when the day comes to make soup, out comes the container to use for the base of the soup.  This is a simple, healthy and delicious way to make broth without added artificial flavors or preservatives.  If you are really organized and efficient, you can pour the broth into ice cube trays to be frozen individually instead of all together in a bucket.  This works well when you only need a few spoonfuls of broth for a recipe. I prefer the bucket method.

The broth is flavored with the roasted onions and garlic that I always add to  the bottom of the roasting pan before cooking meat.  The onions and garlic brown up nicely when cooked this way, adding color and flavor to the pan drippings.  These pan drippings can be used to baste the roasting meat and then to either make gravy when the meat is done cooking, or to add to my broth bucket in the freezer.

The other thing I freeze for homemade soup is chicken or turkey bones.  When the carcass is almost picked clean after a roast dinner, i stick it in a freezer bag and store it in the freezer until soup day.  Simmered in a pot of water with added spices such as cilantro, basil or bay leaves, it makes a great base for soups too.  If it appears too watery, I just add some of the broth from  my bucket.

I have also frozen broccoli stalks to add to simmering soup stock for added flavor.  I store them in a freezer bag as well after removing them from the florets anytime I serve broccoli as a vegetable. Once cooked, the stocks can be pureed in a blender to thicken the soup or chopped and added to the finished soup in chunks.  It is amazing what nutritious vegetables you can hide in a soup!

Once I have the base prepared, I add rice, quinoa or beans for texture and heartiness, as well as any other fresh vegetables I have on hand such as grape or cherry tomatoes and mushrooms.  Frozen corn is always an option too for added crunch to the soup.  Occasionally I will roast a batch of mushrooms, onions and peppers to add to the soup pot.  Just before serving, I often add a few tablespoons of jalapeno flavored tzatziki to give the soup a little kick.  See a previous post on this miracle ingredient Skotidakis

The only problem with this leftover soup is, no two batches of soup are ever the same!  When one turns out particularly well, it is difficult to remember what exactly was in it.  My mother-in-law used to love my  homemade soup, but would get quite frustrated when I couldn’t produce a recipe for her to follow to make her own.

The Best Gluten-Free Pizza

 

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Since I was diagnosed with a wheat allergy almost three years ago, pizza is probably what I miss most on my wheat free diet.  I have tried numerous gluten-free versions of pizza, but none of them were very satisfying until I tried the gluten-free pizza made by Sabatasso’s pizzeria and purchased at Costco.  The cheese pizzas come in a package of two and cook up beautifully so the crust is indeed thin and crispy as the package boasts.  I add my own toppings by roasting vegetables on a baking sheet while the pizza is cooking, then adding the veggies to the pizza for the last 5 minutes of the required cooking time.  I use 1 red pepper, 1/4 spanish onion and 4 sliced  mushrooms, tossed with olive oil and crushed garlic.  I love the carmelized vegetables with the melted cheese and crispy crust…delicious!

Lose the Wheat and more…

As promised in my last post called Lose the Wheat,

if you want to lose more than a few pounds and/or are concerned about your blood glucose levels, you will have to eliminate more than just wheat from your diet. There are many other foods that stimulate your appetite, and distort your insulin levels. These items all fall into the high glycemic index category, meaning they increase your blood sugar levels the most, which in turn causes more fat to be stored in your body. This theory is the basis of Dr William Davis’ book “Wheat Belly”. It is also the theory the “Zone” diet, popular a few years ago, is based on. I am sure there are many other “diets” based on these ideas, but these two are the ones I found made the most sense and worked the best…

Avoid: cornstarch and cornmeal (tacos, tortillas, corn chips), snack foods (potato chips, rice cakes, popcorn), desserts (pie, cake, ice cream), gluten-free foods (cornstarch, rice starch, potato starch, tapioca starch), fruit juices and soft drinks (sugar, high-fructose corn syrup, colorings, carbonic acid), dried fruit (cranberries, raisins, figs, dates, apricots), some fats (hyrdrogenated/trans, fried oils, cured meats like sausage, bacon, hot dogs, salami)

Eat in moderation (less than 1/2 cup serving): rice (brown, white, wild), potatoes (white, red, sweet, yams), legumes (beans, peas, chickpeas, lentils), other non-wheat grains (quinoa, sorghum, buckwheat, millet, oats)

I know you’re thinking “WHAT CAN I EAT?”   Think back to the hunters and gatherers; vegetables should be the main component of your diet. Eat as many vegetables as you want!

Fruit, on the other hand, should be limited to small servings because modern, hybridized fruits contain too much sugar. The best (highest nutrient content and the least sugars) fruits are blueberries, blackberries, strawberries, cranberries and cherries. Bananas, pineapple, mango and papaya are the worst due to their high sugar content.

Raw (not roasted, or processed) nuts are full of good (monounsaturated) fats, protein and fiber, and are filling. Eat as many as you want of these too, they can reduce your cholesterol level and blood pressure. Almonds, walnuts, pecans, pistachios, hazelnuts, brazil nuts, and cashews are great. Peanuts (legumes, not nuts) cannot be eaten raw, be sure they are boiled or dry roasted without any additions.

Healthy oils are good too: extra-virgin olive, coconut, avocado oils and cocoa butter. Avoid polyunsaturated oils like sunflower, safflower, corn, vegetable oil. To avoid oxidizing the oil, avoid frying and keep cooking temperatures low.

Eat meat, but try to buy meats from grass-fed, hormone and antibiotic free sources, and cook  the meat at lower temperatures for shorter times. Avoid processed and cured meats altogether.

Eggs and real (fermented)cheese are also great for you to eat. A chunk of cheese and a handful of raw nuts is a great snack!  Other dairy products, such as yogurt, (unsweetened, unflavored) milk, cottage cheese and butter should be restricted to two servings a day since the dairy protein in them increases your pancreatic release of insulin. Cheese is unlimited because of its fermentation process that reduces the effect of insulin release.

Other items, such as flax, pumpkin, sunflower and sesame seeds, avocados, olives, coconut, spices, unsweetened cocoa, unsweetened condiments (mustard, horseradish, salsa, vinegar etc) are all unlimited.

Water is your best choice in a beverage. Avoid fruit drinks and soft drinks; 100% fruit juice is acceptable in very small quantities. Tea and coffee (unsweetened, with or without milk) are fine since they are plant derived. Red wine is your best choice in alcoholic beverages; beer is wheat brewed and off-limits!

I am anxious to try the recipes listed in the back of “Wheat Belly”, especially the bread and muffin ones.    I will be sure to let you know what I think of them. Are you ready to lose the wheat?