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Following the Caveman Part I: The Meat Problem

June 26, 2009 6 comments

Royalty free caveman

Though I lost five pounds in my first six days on the Caveman Diet, I don’t think the unintentional weight loss resulted from cutting out the bad stuff alone. I think it was equally due to not eating enough good stuff.  I felt better than usual, but leaner and hungrier.

I recently discovered the Caveman Diet, aka the Paleolithic Diet, or the Stone Age Diet, or the hunter-gatherer diet.  The more I’ve looked into it, the more convinced I’ve become that it’s the optimal way of eating for humans, for life, the way our bodies were designed to be nourished.  The anti-fad diet, it’s the original human diet, as the name indicates. It also appears to be the solution to our modern ills: obesity, high blood pressure, cancer, you name it. Even overcrowded, crooked teeth appear to be a symptom of the typical American diet.

This Caveman Diet (hereafter called CD) consists mainly of vegetables, fruits and lean critter flesh, and some eggs and nuts.  Excluded are all forms of grains (bread, pasta), potatoes, legumes (beans, lentils, peanuts) and dairy products. Processed food, sugar and salt are also out.

It’s all well and good to find the perfect theory. It’s another thing to practice it, as we all know.

Slabs o’ Meat, Mounds o’ Veggies

I’ve found that the CD requires fruit and vegetables in a bit bigger quantities than I’ve been used to, to replace the starchy foods, beans and dairy we were eating.  Also? You need hefty amounts of meat on the CD.

Most Americans apparently are eating a lot of meat, as the earliest humans did. Conventional wisdom today is that we are eating too much meat, but the real problem seems to be the particular meats we modern folk are eating.

Americans are overdosing on fatty, grain-fattened, antibiotic- engorged meat. They’re filling up on processed, salty meats like ham, bacon, hotdogs, sausage and bologna.  Early humans discovered that salting meat was one way to preserve it.  We like the flavor, too. But to survive on the CD, I need to beef up on the kind of meat cavemen ate:  naturally fed, plain and primal.

Eat Your Meat!

It may help to know that for the past several years, our family’s been basically going along with my 18-year-old son’s food choices. Since he went mostly vegetarian, we eat fish and seafood, along with wild venison or other meat that he’s 100 percent sure has been well treated and properly fed. So our diet’s been slim on meat.

We’ve always eaten lots of vegetables, but also lots of legumes of all sorts, including tofu, and some whole grain rice and pasta, and potatoes.  Now that my son’s left home—only temporarily: he’s working in another part of the state now but is going to be home again for a whole week at the end of the summer before he leaves for college five hours away! (sniff)—our options are more open.

Meat Industry: Ignorance is Bliss

But I have my own issues with meat. The more I learn about the meat industry, the narrower my options become. I’m also planning to watch food guru Michael Pollan’s new documentary, Food, Inc., as soon as possible, knowing it’s likely to become even more difficult to get enough acceptable meat at reasonable prices once I discover more to object to.

I’ve only recently started hearing about how pork is produced in some of the most disgusting and objectionable conditions in the industry.  At my husband’s request, I bought and fixed our last delicious, lean pork tenderloin last week, after Pollan had said that no one would eat pork if they witnessed where it came from.

I used to eat chicken once in awhile as long as some claims were made as to it being free range, preferably organic.  I never eat conventional chicken since watching a documentary about factory chicken farms. But now even superior chicken is out.  I haven’t been able to bring myself to eat (or buy) chicken since I grew attached to and then saw die one of our three backyard egg-laying hens this winter.

I love turkey, though. Not only is it cheaper than chicken, it’s also the highest protein, lowest fat meat you can eat. I’ve made two different turkey meatloaves lately that were winners.  Next time, I’ll make a double recipe.  I have never heard anything about turkey farming practices and hope Food, Inc. reveals nothing incriminating about it.

Stock photo cow

Grass–Fed Cow is a Healthy Cow

As for beef, cows should eat grass for many reasons, not grain, which is the industry standard. So we recently found local, grass-fed beef at the new Saturday farmers market at the Pearl Brewery here in San Antonio.

The raiser slaughters two cows a month, and brings half a cow, frozen in small cuts, each market day.  I battle with another buyer over the two tongues per month that reach the market.  When we missed the first one we thought she had saved for us, she gave us a free pound of hamburger (worth $6), which turned out to be possibly the best I’ve ever tasted.

The tongue, baked slowly with some onion and wine, was sumptuous, if a little meager.

We also got some liver. Beef liver is a great source of good fats.  It’s good for you, just like you always heard. We ate it medium rare, cooked briefly and gently with onions and red wine, after a recipe from The Paleo Diet. It was nothing like the overcooked, tough, dry slab I still remember being ordered to eat once as a kindergartner at the babysitter’s house.  At $4 a pound—enough to feed the four of us, though again, not abundantly—it’s a clear winner.

Then there were the beef sweet breads we tried.  I got a small package (under one pound) of this undefined bovine gland, well known in France as a delicacy, for just $4. The recipe I followed required several hours of soaking and pressing.  The sauce was truly a marvel and the four or five bites of meat that we each got were extraordinary, tender, savory.

In my big freezer, I have a 2.54-pound shoulder roast for which I paid $15.24. I expect to fare sumptuously the day I fix that.

Finally Satisfaction

“I don’t want more meat,” my daughter said one night. “I miss my legumes. I want something Asian with soy sauce.”  I gave in and fixed some Tofu Szechuan and even made brown rice. We filled up.

Last night we each ate half a pound of that grass-fed hamburger (no bun, of course) with a little whole grain mustard, with about six ounces of frozen spinach mixed with the last of the Swiss chard from the garden.  These generous portions tasted great. We were so well satisfied we didn’t have room for any soup made from our garden tomatoes.

I’ve gained my weight all back.

As I’ve experienced in the past, any radical change in diet takes some time to adjust to. It takes some time to figure out what you can eat and what works.

Coming up: What I’ve learned about eating like a caveman:

The verdict on fish

How to righteously get around the “no bread” rule

The truth on eggs:  how many, what kind?

Which nuts are best?

For more on grass-fed beef

For more on the horrors of the pork industry

For more on the movie Food, Inc.

© French Kids Don’t Get Fat / Anna Migeon / 26 June 2009 / All rights reserved

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Categories: The Caveman Diet

How to get fat eating vegetables?

June 18, 2009 5 comments

Stock photos fat people

Stock photo granny in wheelchair

Asking if vegetables will make us fat is a bit like finding a dead body in a room and immediately pointing the finger at the granny in the wheel chair who came to deliver a birthday gift, while a couple of different masked villains wielding deadly weapons and yelling death threats are standing right next to her. Sure, it’s possible, but what are the chances?  Yet, it’s a question I get regularly.

Fact: Vegetables are good for us

Stock photos veggies

No real news here. I have never heard anyone deny that vegetables at their best and in themselves are probably the most flawless foods for humans.  We need vegetables. Our bodies and vegetables were made for each other.  Vegetables are the most highly recommended foods by most food experts, I’m willing to claim. There is plenty of debate over the pros and cons of meat, dairy and grains. Even fruit appears likelier to make us fat than vegetables. But vegetables we can count on.  Anything and everything else you can eat is really more likely than vegetables to add pounds. If you get fat, I’m ready to put money on it probably not being their fault. It’s also been recently discovered that you get a lot more good out of your vegetables if you eat them with a little fat (butter or oil or animal fat).

Fact: Processed food makes us fat

Stock photos donuts

As for fast food, junk food, deep fried foods, processed foods, soda, and foods containing refined flour, white sugar, salt or corn syrup, the jury is also in. The general consensus among those claiming even the tiniest bit of authority or knowledge is that theses foods are fattening and generally bad for us. No one is really denying any of that, either.

Stock photos fat waist

Fact: Junk food is a natural for overeating

To add insult to injury, starchy, fatty, sugary, salty processed foods—edibles manufactured by humans—are far easier to overeat than real foods—created by God—namely vegetables, fruit, and meat.

As our granny in the wheelchair would have a hard time murdering someone and appears not to be interested in doing so, and our masked villains express their intent and ability to  do so, there’s some of what appears to be almost intentionality built into the personalities of our two food groups in question.

High fats combined with high-glycemic index carbs (think of a donut) not only conspire together to promote their own consumption by making each other taste better but also fool your body into thinking it’s still hungry, as I’ve heard it explained. Processed junk food sets up a cycle of feeling hungry all the time so you always want more.

You can eat more of bad foods mixed with other bad foods than you ever could of any one of them standing alone. You can eat more fat if it’s mixed with sugar or starch than you could pure fat, for example. Flour alone is unappealing, but add sugar and grease and it’s a dozen donuts, all for you.

On the other hand, all the fiber in fruit and vegetables fills you up. Your body will only accept a certain amount. Protein in lean meat satisfies hunger quickly and it’s hard to glut yourself on it. You might not be able to achieve that popular overstuffed feeling with vegetables that we’ve come to expect from our meals, but maybe that’s OK? So how do you get fat eating veggies? It’s hard.

Not only does it take a lot of work to eat too  much of vegetables, but there’s really no way to overdose on them anyway.  In and of themselves, they’re just all good.  There’s really no reason not to eat “too much” vegetables: no harmful ingredients to worry about.

Wouldn’t it be just too cruel to have absolutely no refuge from fat-inducing foods in this world of woe? No, if any safe harbor there be, vegetables may just be it.

Related post:

We are we so fat if we don’t eat fat?

©  Sacred Appetite / Anna Migeon / 18 June 2009 / All rights reserved

This post was featured on Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday on July 23, 2010.

Perfect Little Shrimp Omelet

June 16, 2009 1 comment

An excellent recipe, this little omelet has everything to recommend it: speed, ease, flavor and nutritional value, plus easy on the budget.  It even looked somewhat impressive and elegant. It was a big hit with my family, though their opinions were based on flavor alone.

I liked knowing I’d served a pretty optimal meal, health-wise, with remarkably little time, effort or expense, and without anyone feeling the least bit deprived.  Shrimp is one of the highest protein foods available, and the eggs and fresh vegetables combined to make a meal with all fresh, primal foods—no compromises, nothing processed at all, unless you count the oil. Even the eggs were above average.

I’ve started buying eggs enriched with omega 3, since learning that they are enriched by improving hens’ feed with flax seeds.  I used to vaguely think that those eggs were enriched artificially somehow, and were probably bogus and a rip off, like adding vitamins to impoverished processed foods. Not sure how I thought that would be accomplished with an egg. I hadn’t thought that one through very carefully. Anyway, I’ve decided they’re well worth the extra $2 per dozen.

Here’s why

Shrimp Avocado Omelet

(for one person—multiply accordingly. I made two servings at a time in the skillet, keeping the first warm in the oven while putting together the second two servings)

2 omega 3-enriched eggs

1/2 T olive oil or walnut oil

1 T chopped green onions

1 T chopped tomato

¼ C small cooked shrimp

1 tsp dried or 2-3 tsp fresh dill weed

¼ t black pepper

Mix eggs in a bowl, heat oil in nonstick skillet, then pour in eggs and cook slowly.  Lift the edge to let uncooked egg run off underneath to cook. Or you can turn it over if you like your eggs well cooked and have the skill to turn it over without tearing it up (or don’t mind it being torn up a bit). Once the omelet is firm, sprinkle green onions, tomatoes and shrimp down the center and top with dill and pepper. Fold omelet sides over the middle and cook about a minute more. Serve topped with the guacamole below or any guacamole.

Quick Guacamole (makes enough for 5-6 omelets)

3 ripe avocados

A little minced onion (to taste)

¼  tsp black pepper

¼  tsp cayenne pepper

1 finely minced garlic clove

2 tsp lemon juice

Cut avocados in half and remove the seed with the tip of a knife. Scoop out the flesh and mash it up in a bowl. Combine with remaining ingredients and mix evenly.

Both recipes adapted from The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Food You Were Designed to Eat (2002), by Loren Cordain, Ph.D.

© Sacred Appetite  / Anna Migeon / 16 June 2009 / All rights reserved

Mamas, Don’t Let Your Babies Grow Up To Need Braces

June 10, 2009 4 comments

Braces teeth We already knew that eating too much sugar causes tooth decay.  But what if our diet is also causing our teeth to be misaligned and overcrowded? What if needing braces is not programmed into a child’s genes, but is completely preventable?

It’s generally broadcast and accepted that a lot of Americans are wrecking their health by eating too much of the wrong stuff.  A well kept secret is that needing braces seems to be simply yet another casualty of that poor diet.

Evidence is “sufficiently compelling” that orthodontic problems, just like cavities, are caused by the typical American diet today, according to science writer Gary Taubes.

Gov food pyramid The average American eats more grains and cereals (bread, potatoes, rice, pasta) than anything else, just as the famous USDA pyramid instructs us to do. We also consume massive quantities sugar and salt (against even the pyramid’s advice). This cereal- and grain-based diet is radically different from that of the earliest humans.

Fossil evidence indicating what ancient peoples ate along with the state of their teeth and their general health is confirmed by not-so-ancient studies of a few modern hunter-gatherer societies. These groups of people—who, like their most distant ancestors, ate only fresh fruits and vegetables, lots of wild critters of all kinds, some eggs and nuts—revealed “splendid physical development,” reports researcher Weston Price in the 1930s.

These peoples’ teeth were found to be not only basically free of decay even without brushing or dentistry, but are also straight, even and well-spaced without orthodontics.

And no, our modern processed food doesn’t appear to be the whole problem. Fossil evidence already reveals a big difference between the earlier hunter gatherers and their nearest descendants, the farmers.

Farming and cooking, along with methods of storing and preserving food, brought in a more sedentary and secure lifestyle. Progress also ushered in the foods that form the base of our USDA pyramid, along with dairy, foods that generations of the earlier humans had thrived without. But just like today, convenience was expensive and progress came with a price.

Quality gave way to quantity, as it tends to do. Population boomed, but general health declined. The fossil record reveals the farmers to be significantly shorter in height than their ancestors. The farmers bear evidence of more infectious disease, more bone problems like osteoporosis and rickets, and vitamin- and mineral deficiency diseases.  They had a higher rate of child mortality and shorter life. The state of their teeth continues the pattern.

“Their jaws, which were formerly square and roomy, were suddenly too small for their teeth, which overlapped each other,” writes Loren Cordain, author of The Paleo Diet: Lose Weight and Get Healthy by Eating the Food You Were Designed to Eat.

Needing braces may actually the least of our worries if we feed our children more of a modern western diet than the more optimal foods of our earliest ancestors. But as Taubes says, saving the $4,000-$6,000 orthodontist bill may alone be worth the extra effort.

Related post:

Your child’s diet and how to prevent osteoporosis

© Sacred Appetite  / Anna Migeon / 10 June 2009 / All rights reserved

To learn more about the benefits of eating the diet of the earliest humans, go to:

http://www.earth360.com/diet_paleodiet_balzer.html

http://www.westonaprice.org/traditional_diets/nasty_brutish_short.html

http://www.blog.sethroberts.net/2008/01/10/interview-with-gary-taubes-part-7/

Categories: The Caveman Diet

She—or He—Who Must Be Obeyed: why children should learn to tune in to their own bodies

Banksy-caveman

This modern day caveman, unlike his ancestors, isn't listening to his body. Art by Banksy

I imagine that early humans figured out what was edible by trial and error. Someone ate something, and it tasted terrible, or he got sick or even died. I imagine that laying that groundwork was a long, costly process.

Later, Science came along and figured out more, refining our knowledge of how our bodies work and what they need to function. Science also has come up with loads of its own custom edibles.

Even today, though, Science produces contradictory evidence and goes back on its statements. Science remains somewhat ignorant, along with the rest of us.  What to eat has become a more and more complicated question.

To add to the confusion, no body is identical to another.

“A diet that is harmful to one person may be consumed with impunity by another,” states Marcia Angell, former editor of the New England Journal of Medicine.

But instead of adding to our confusion, this fact largely solves our problem. The solution: we learn to listen to the signs of our own bodies, just as our first ancestors did.

Suppressing the Conscience of the Body

Fat kid

Culture today is not teaching children to obey their own bodies. It bombards them with temptations to eat junk that will leave them feeling sluggish and bloated and that we all know will harm them.  Their tastes are being conditioned while they learn to ignore their bodies’ reactions. They’re getting accustomed to over-eating and feeling crummy. They come to accept that as the norm.

Parents may also deny children’s appetites, encouraging them eat more than they want and inducing them to eat foods they don’t like. In response to this urging, kids get defensive and they narrow the range of what they will eat. They have to be rewarded, distracted or tricked to eat. Eating becomes a conflict. Kids become afraid of food. At the same time, adults struggle continually to eat less than they want.

Our bodies can be reliable guides to our own health if we tune into what they’re telling us. A basic trust of the appetite and of the body’s ability to regulate its own eating also allows us to enjoy eating again.

Questions to encourage our children to regularly ask themselves:

·Am I really hungry or am I bored or unhappy or just thirsty?

·What am I actually hungry for?

·How do I feel after I eat?

·Do I have bad reactions to certain foods?

·What foods make me feel energetic and satisfied?

·Do certain foods make me feel stuffed and tired?

·When do I get a stomach ache?

·What foods most “agree” with me?

Like our ancestors, we have a lot of tricky choices to make. Modern-day toxins may be carefully disguised behind appealing flavors and be slower to kill us, but just like for those earliest humans, our own bodies are the final word, our most trustworthy source of knowledge.

***

This post joined Food Renegade’s Fight Back Friday on Oct. 30, 2009.

© Sacred Appetite / Anna Migeon / 3 June 2009 / All rights reserved