Going Paleo

Most of the recipes I post on this site are either vegan or pesco-vegan friendly, but in all honesty, I follow a mostly Paleo diet. About a year and a half ago, after watching all the plant-based diet documentaries, I decided to cut back on my meat consumption. I went from eating meat twice a week, to once a week, to none at all. Then I began cutting out other things like cheese and cream. I switched to using almond milk in my cereal and tea rather than skim milk or vanilla creamer. Eventually I grew into what I liked to call a pseudo-vegan (I was still eating fish) and began increasing my intake of soy rich foods, rice, legumes, and grains.

Paleo Diet Becauseitsgoodforyou.comIt was fine for a little while, but then I started experiencing some strange symptoms: dizziness, fatigue, mental fog, skin allergies, etc. and I knew something wasn’t right. After sharing these issues with my Naturopathic Doctor, she decided to run a food allergy panel to see if I was allergic to any of the foods I was eating. I also began keeping a food diary and taking note of how I felt, physically and emotionally, after each meal. The food allergy panel came back showing I was in fact showing some allergic reactions toward many of the food items I was consuming on a regular basis. By keeping a food diary, I noticed that many of my physical and mental symptoms I was experiencing resulted after eating a dish with tofu, wheat, rice, or soy. Through drawing my blood, I also learned that I had an O blood type – the most primitive blood type and the type most associated with individuals who thrive off a Paleolithic diet.

According to Dr. D’Adamo, author of “Eat Right for Your Type,” our blood type can help determine what type of foods we should or should not be eating. But he’s not the only one who believes this theory. In Japan, asking someone their blood type is similar to asking someone what their astrological sign is. They believe it not only shows what type of diet you should be on, but it is also an indicator of certain personality traits. For example, an A blood type is said to be creative and analytical, B blood types are known as easygoing and flexible, O’s are objective and practical, and AB’s are intuitive and spiritual. His theory may also explain why many individuals have altered their diet – to either plant-based, lean meat-based, gluten-free, or the like – and seen their medical issues completely reverse. It just goes to show that everyone is unique and what works for one person doesn’t always work for another (you can read how I discovered this notion for myself here).

Robb Wolf is a huge advocate for the Paleo diet. He was a research biochemist who traded in his lab coat to write “The Paleo Solution,” a book that made the New York Times Bestseller’s list. He’s also a strength and conditioning coach, a blogger, public speaker, and has a podcast, all devoted to living a Paleo life. He describes the Paleo diet as the healthiest way we can eat- because it’s the way that our ancestors ate. The Paleo diet is sometimes called the Paleolithic diet, the Caveman diet, Hunter-Gatherer diet, or the Stone Age diet. It’s derived from the principle of consuming an ancient diet of wild plants and animals that hominid species consumed nearly 10,000 years ago, before the agricultural revolution and the production of man-made grains. The basics of it are as follows:

Paleo Diet Becauseitsgoodforyou.comFoods to Eat: Lean proteins such as beef, chicken, duck, lamb, turkey, organ meats, elk, eggs (all must be organic/antibiotic free, grass-fed, and free-range), fish that is low in mercury and caught in the wild or from a company that uses sustainable farming methods, plenty of vegetables, most fruits (low glycemic is best), nuts (except peanuts), seeds, and healthy fats (avocado, coconut).

Foods to Avoid: Dairy, grains, processed foods and oils, sugars, starches, legumes, and alcohol.

The trick to this diet is knowing what to use as a substitute. Coconut milk is a great substitute for dairy products and is a good source of healthy fat. Almond milk also works well as a “creamer” for coffee or tea. Coconut flour and almond meal can be used for baking or “breading.” Extra-virgin olive oil and coconut oil is encouraged over vegetable oils or seed oils (corn, canola, safflower). Once you get the hang of it, eating Paleo is pretty easy. For those of you who are interested in switching to a Paleo lifestyle, stay tuned! I’ll be sharing recipes in my next post to help get you started on your journey.

The Paleo diet also contains many positive anti-inflammatory properties. Studies show that an anti-inflammatory diet has helped many individuals suffering from a variety of health issues including asthma, arthritis, cardiovascular disease, cancer, Alzheimer’s and autoimmune disorders. Inflammatory foods not only affect the body, but also affect the brain. Inflammatory responses have even been linked to symptoms of Asperger’s and Autism. For further information on the role of inflammation in the body, you can check out this post here.

Now that you know the ins and outs of going Paleo, do you think you’ll try to make the switch? Or have you tried living Paleo before and found that maybe it wasn’t the right fit for your blood or body type? I would be interested to hear your thoughts in the comment section below. And don’t forget to check back for my future post with some tasty Paleo recipes!

Feeling S.A.D.?

Do you ever wonder why the rain makes you want to lay in bed all day?  Or why you crave comfort foods and sweets during the chilly winter months?  Do you ever randomly begin to feel tired or blue following the hustle and bustle of the holidays, but can’t quite figure out why?  Well, you’re not alone.

These somewhat odd tendencies fall under the umbrella known as seasonal depression or SAD (seasonal affective disorder) and are actually more common than some may realize.   SAD, according to Mental Health America (2002)1, is a “mood disorder associated with depression that occurs with different variations of light,” and “affects about half a million people every winter between September and April, peaking in December, January, and February.”  MHA goes on to describe some other symptoms of SAD which include lethargy, irritability, overeating, tension or anxiety, difficulties sleeping, and a lack of desire to make social contact.

But why am I talking about depression in winter when we’re in the dead of summer and it’s 100+ degrees outside?  Well, it might always be sunny in California, but it’s not always sunny in other states.  And although the symptoms may not be persistent enough to qualify for SAD, we can still begin to feel blue if the sun decides to take a vacation behind the clouds for a few days.  Why does this happen, you ask? Let me tell you.

During sundown, our bodies begin to emit the hormone melatonin, causing increased drowsiness in the evening hours and a strong desire to sleep.  As the night progresses, we emit less and less melatonin, allowing our bodies to wake again after the sun comes up.  When it’s dark for longer periods of time than normal, such as during a storm or in winter, our biological clocks begin to become off balance and extra melatonin is produced, which increases our desire to sleep and may result in other depressive-like symptoms.  This internal process may also explain the cause of jet lag or the feeling of disorientation if you’ve been working in a dark room all day.  Another example of this was shown in a study conducted by Gonzales and Aston-Jones (2008)2 who kept rats in complete darkness for 6 weeks and noticed they began to show anatomical and behavioral patterns similar to people with depression, such as increased immobility during a swim test and neural damage in the brain.

The good news is that there are quite a few natural remedies to keep you from feeling blue.  The first (and best) way is exercise! Exercise is the best antidepressant out there and can even help re-regulate your circadian rhythm and help you sleep better at night.  Light boxes or light therapy may also available for individuals who have been experiencing symptoms of SAD for many years.  You can find out more information here  or here.  Another easy remedy is getting rid of all that leftover pie from Christmas or the cupcakes you left the party with after your friend’s birthday. Refined sugars deplete the body of B vitamins and can contribute toward feelings of depression.  And although those simple carbohydrates can boost serotonin levels, it’s better to focus on eating complex carbohydrates such as rice, green beans, and whole grains because they offer a more enduring mood lift without all the calories and sugar.3  Maintaining a regular sleep schedule is also important.  Try to go to bed and wake up around the same time every day, and don’t take naps longer than 30 minutes.  Adding these modifications to your daily living should help you feel better in general, but of course if you’re still feeling down, it’s always best to talk to a licensed professional!

1 http://www.nmha.org/go/sad,
2 Gonzalez, M. C., & Aston-Jones, G. G. (2008). Light deprivation damages monoamine neurons and produces a depressive behavioral phenotype in rats. PNAS Proceedings Of The National Academy Of Sciences Of The United States Of America, 105(12), 4898-4903. doi:10.1073/pnas.0703615105
3 Mindell, E. & Mundis, H (2004). The Vitamin Bible. Grand Central Publishing: NY, NY.
photos courtesy of http://www.sxc.hu/

You are what you eat

Dr. Victor Hugo Landlahr, a nutritionist, radio show host, and pioneer in nutritional awareness, popularized the phrase “You Are What You Eat” in his book with the same title, published in 1942.1  Years later, we are finally beginning to understand what this phrase really means.

Everything we put into our body has the potential to effect us.  Whether it’s food, water, soda, medication, breathing in the city smog or even fumes from household cleaning products– all have the capability of altering our overall health and well-being.  Of course some of these things, like healthy foods, clean air, and vitamins are good for you, but most of the other things we unknowingly consume on a daily basis, are not so good.

But what we don’t know can’t hurt us, right?  Wrong.  Does it make enough of a difference in our bodies to really matter?  Yes, definitely.

Here is some proof.

In an article titled, “The Role of Nutrition in Mental Health,” Tieraona Low Dog, MD, discusses various diets and micronutrients that have been associated with decreased levels of mental health issues such as anxiety and depression.2  One study found that a diet rich in whole foods (fruits, vegetables, fish) gave middle-aged, British individuals protection against the onset of depressive symptoms.   On the other hand, another group of individuals who consumed a diet consisting mainly of processed meats, sweet desserts, fried foods, and high-fat dairy products had increased vulnerability for depressive symptoms.3

Need more?

Another double-blind, placebo-controlled study found that adding an omega-3 fatty acid supplement (such as fish oil) to the diets of 30 individuals with bipolar disorder actually alleviated many of their symptoms.3  Also, eating foods high in protein has been known to increase alertness.4  Switching to a gluten-free diet helped one patient with celiac disease and schizophrenia by offering a complete resolution of both diseases (as shown on a brain scan).5

Still a skeptic?  Even walking through the self-help section of your local bookstore will show more than a handful of inspiring success stories similar to the ones presented.  The truth is, individuals all over the world have experienced dramatic, positive changes in their health just by altering what they eat.  Many have also seen major changes in their health by adjusting the ways that they think.  The human body and spirit are incredibly resilient, but if you treat it well, it will flourish. I’m not saying that you can’t enjoy that scoop of double fudge brownie ice cream after you break up with your significant other.  Or that you can’t test out the pork belly sliders at that trendy new restaurant everyone is raving about.  But if you treat your body right, it will treat you the same in return.  And the next time you feel like something is a little off, pay attention and listen to what your body is trying to tell you. It may be saying more than you think!

1 Dog, L.T. (2010). The role of nutrition in mental health. Alternative Therapies in Health and Medicine. doi: 16(2):42-46.
2 Akbaraly T.N., Brunner E.J., Ferrie J.E., Marmot M.G., Kivimaki M., Singh-Manoux A. (2009). Dietary pattern and depressive symptoms in middle age. British Journal of Psychiatry. doi: 195(5):408-413
3 Stoll, A.L., Severus, W.E., Freeman, M.P., Rueter, S., Zboyan, H.A., Diamond, E., Cress, K.K., Marangell, L.B. (1999). Omega 3 fatty acids in bipolar disorder: a preliminary double-blind, placebo-controlled trial. Archive of General Psychiatry. doi: 56:407-412
4 Rogers, P.J. (2001). A healthy body, a healthy mind: long-term impact of diet on mood and cognitive function. Proceedings of the Nutrition Society. doi: 60:135-143.
5 DeSantis, A., Addolorato, G., Romito, A., Caputo, S., Giordano, A., Gambassi, G., Taranto, C., Manna, R., Gasbarrini, G. (1997). Schizophrenic symptoms and SPECT abnormalities in a coeliac patient: regression after a gluten-free diet. Journal of Internal Medicine. doi: 242: 421-423.