Last time you heard from me I was embarking on a pseudo cleanse to support my friend with breast cancer. In addition, my term was ending, finals hit, and I fell off of the cliff of sanity into the open waters of insanity. In the meantime, I had an exciting and rocky ride with my health and nutrition. I saw my naturopath in December and found out that I had a parasite. In addition, I was training for a 1/2 marathon and my doc put the kibosh on my cleanse. Due to the parasite, I had to remove most sugars and carbs from my diet to try to starve the little suckers out and repair my gut. Long story a little less long, I had to increase my fats and proteins and drop the carbs (including fruit). So, paleo cooking took over my kitchen. Now after two months of cooking paleo and reading a few anti-carb books (Brain Grain and Wheat Belly) I feel inclined to share some interesting findings with you.
FAT! For those of us that grew up in the 80’s, we shudder at the word fat. The subconscious dialogue that we have been repeating for 30 years is that fat is bad. Whole grains, low-fat foods are the way to go. Well, the times and science are shifting and Paleo is taking the place of the low-fat revolution. Why? Why does fat not make you fat? Well, first let me tell you that fat does make you fat. Anytime you consume more calories than you burn, you will gain weight. However, eating fat, does not normally translate to bigger thighs. Here is how it works. When you eat, your body receives energy. However, when you eat carbs, especially carbs that rank high on the glycemic index (carbs that digest faster), they break down to glucose (sugar) and your blood sugar rises causing insulin to release from the pancreas. Insulin’s job is to attach to insulin receptors on your cells so that the sugar (glucose) in your blood can be taken up into cells to metabolize as energy (so you can run and play) or to store as fat (In case you are forced into starvation or hibernation) . So, as the sugar is taken up into muscle and fat cells, blood sugar drops, sometimes even dipping below normal blood sugar levels causing hypoglycemia (not enough sugar in the blood). Either way, causing the body to be hungry again. In addition, a hormone released in the gut that signals fullness or satiety is released in lower levels when we eat carbs and higher amounts when we eat protein and fat causing the brain to signal fullness faster (click here for study).
When you eat one gram of fat, you receive 9 calories. When you eat one gram of protein or carbohydrate, you receive 4 calories. So, on a weight basis, it makes sense that you would want to eat protein and carbs, because you get more food with less calories. However, eating a meal of fat and protein signals your body to be full faster so you will eat less food and stay full longer. You may ask why we don’t just eat protein then. Well, the body prefers to use protein as building blocks for new cells, enzymes, etc. This is why we normally use fat storage before we begin to break our muscle mass down when we are in starvation mode . Fats and carbs are the best and easiest source of energy.
The green light to eat fats does not mean that one should sit down with a tub of butter (even grass-fed) and a spoon. Fat still offers calories as I mentioned earlier, anything can cause you to gain weight, even carrots if you eat too much (this would prove to be very challenging so I would not recommend it). However, when eating fats, or anything else for that matter, look at the quality of what you are eating. With calories, also comes other vitamins, minerals, phytochemicals, etc. Find ways to maximize the benefits of your foods by making sure your foods are nutrient dense. Some foods have long-chain fatty acids while others have short and medium. Trans-fats from processed foods are horrible for you and are linked to obesity and heart disease. While omega-3 decrease inflammation and are linked to a decrease in cancer. Saturated fats are not the demon that they were once made out to me. In fact, current science cannot link saturated fat intake to cardiovascular disease at all. In the end, my rule of thumb is to eat unprocessed foods, mainly organic. By doing this, I can insure that my food does not have added chemicals that are inflammatory to my body. Don’t feel like you have to become a predator, you can eat paleo without eating tons of meat, think nuts, seeds, veggies, coconut. When I eat meat, I prefer pasture raised meats and dairy products because the animal was eating their natural diet and not a bunch of fattening and inflammatory carbohydrates. This goes back to the old adage, you are what you eat. It is true.
Here are some great recipe sites if you want to try a grain-free, paleo diet. On a separate and personal note, I have found that removing caffeine from my diet has really enhanced the energy stabilizing effects of eating a low-carb diet and has completely curbed sugar cravings.
Check these out!