Friday, June 22, 2012

Paleo Around the Web.

   This is by far not the ultimate list of Paleo hot spots around the web. These sites are generating plenty of buzz and educating people to make healthy choices in their lives. I will add more to this list as I discover more websites. If you guys come across a good resource please share. 

Robb Wolf is one of the leading Paleo spokesperson and he has a great website with a lot of information on the Paleo subject.
Gary Taubes is the author of "Why we get fat and what to do about it?" A prolific writer who approaches food and the whole health issue from a scientific perspective. Also challenges the common well accepted wisdom in the health industry.
NuSi.Org: Nutrition Science Initiative is a brand new site launched by Mr. Gary Taubes and few other of his colleagues. The purpose of this non-profit organization is to challenge the bad science around nutritional topics. 
Mark Sisson has a great site on the Paleo subject. A bit on the commercial side with supplements and many other types of merchandise for sale. Overall a good source of Paleo information.
Paleo Diet Life Style One of my favorite website with short articles clearly explaining all Paleo subjects. My go to website for Paleo recipes as well. A hodgepodge of many good Paleo articles. Good Paleo resource.
Loren Cordain is the author of "The Paleo Answer". The website has many of his published research.
Chris Kresser offers good common sense advice on major health subjects. Good website to visit from time to time to stay informed on the Paleo front.
Matt Metzgar is the author of Stone Age Power. Another good site for Paleo resources.
Dallas and Melissa Hartwig are the authors of "It Starts with Food".
John Durant has a good website with many thought provoking articles. A good website to visit from time to time.
Chris Masterjohn A site dedicated to liberate cholesterol.
Paleo Plan Plenty of recipes, shopping lists, and other tools to keep you focused on the Paleo journey.

Friday, June 15, 2012

Grains go down with a fight.

   In January I went on a business trip with my boss to Arkansas and then to New York City. Dion had finally decided to start his Paleo journey and was of the opinion that this trip would be a good start to break away from breads and sugars. During the trip, we ate eggs and potatoes for breakfast, some kind of a salad for lunch and beef or chicken for dinner. There were few funny moments, when we refused the bread baskets offered to us in various resturants, and the  servers looked at us, as if we had devilish horns growing from our heads. One server was almost offended and looked at us really funny. She kept her composure and managed to get out an incredulous "reeeeaaaally". We were amused. As we looked around, the bread baskets were everywhere, patrons were consuming bread baskets with butter usually before their dinners arrived. Servers brought additional bread basket upon request. Favorite beverages like Coca Cola, and other soft drinks were being consumed with bread while waiting for the entrees to arrive. In addition to bread and the plethora of soft drinks, there was no shortage of large portions of appetizers present on many tables. As we looked around the restaurants, we can see an overweight population.

   In April, I made another trip to the East Coast to visit my family. My family had not seen me in couple of years so they were shocked to see me in my new emaciated state. My mother and father immediately told me that I looked sick and I am withering away. A typical response from concerned parents. Especially, my sub-continent parents who equate health with the girth of your waist. If you are fat then you must be doing well, financially and physically. I assured them that my weight is perfectly normal for my height and I have stopped losing weight. Few other family members threw religion at me (figuratively) by saying Holy Quran mentions grain several times, so there has to be a reason that grains are good for you and should be eaten. I did not have an immediate answer for them, faith and science came in direct conflict. I personally believe that there is nothing in the Holy Quran that is contradicted by science. I found the references in the Holy Quran and my initial perusal showed that everyone of those references had a negative connotation to grains. A more detailed post on this subject for my religious skeptics is in the works. In this post, once again from my understanding and explaining it in layman's terms, I would like to explain why grains are bad for your health and why your life would be so much better without grains?

   Let's understand this common phenomena about survival first. Everything in nature that lives creates defenses for its survival. If someone came up to you and wanted to physically harm you, you would launch some kind of a defense either by putting up a fight or taking a flight. Modern humans may often launch attacks with their fast rhetoric (aka, tongue lashing) as well, Rush Limbaugh is the first example that comes to my mind...:-) We observe this behavior in all animals. Plants are different type of life form. Since, plants are confined to a limited space and don't have the luxury to be mobile, their defense is more subtle, and potent in the form of some kind of a poison. Look at a rose bush with beautiful flowers, but also thorns to deter the animals from taking the flower. Many plants are just not sitting around waiting to be consumed and pooped out by us or other animals. Plants also must ensure their survival by producing a successful offspring. If they are consumed and pooped out then they can not survive.  The poisons contained in the plants harms the animal consuming it, and send a conditional message to the animal to not eat that plant in the future. There are hundreds of plants with various kind of poisonous or toxin attributes. Grains are almost at the top of those plants that deliver a potent poison chemical warfare to the the animals consuming it. The Problem with grains is that their reproductive system, wheat germ, is also contained in the section that is consumed. Grains are essentially wild prairie grasses. The wind blows the grains away and they get buried in the dirt. Once the season, temperature, and water is right the new grass is sprung and a new plant is born. In response to this vulnerability, the grains have developed bad chemicals like gluten, lectin, and phytates. The phytates contained in the grains binds to minerals like calcium, magnesium, and iron from being absorbed in the body. Both gluten and lectin are proteins, and human body has no idea how to digest them. These proteins are slightly different than animal proteins and contain prolamines. Prolamines are different types of proteins with viscous quality. When you soak corn, wheat, or oats the water turns slimy. The sliminess is caused by the prolamines. During the digestion process, lectin and gluten end up in our small intestine and cause gut irritation. In the small intestine, since prolamines are not broken down as animal proteins, they also end up escaping into our blood stream undigested. The body's immune system launches an attack against the foreign body protein and hence this condition leads to autoimmunity. The body's immune system is in hyper drive and is constantly working to fight off these foreign body proteins. Bottom line, grains are going down with a fierce fight. The starches from the grains are absorbed as sugars and raise insulin levels in the body. Insulin ends up storing glucose as glycogen and also promotes the storage of glycogen in the fat cells. The gluten and lectin end up causing irritation in our small intestine and escape in the body where immune system confuses them for disease and launches an attack against them. The phytates in grains rob the body of important nutrients and minerals. This is  an attack well planned from multiple fronts. The body has no choice but to develop chronic diseases like diabetes and chronic inflammation. All this trouble so we can add fiber to our diet and create a bulk to move our bowels. No thank you. I'll get my fiber from vegetables, fruits, and nuts. Bringing this back to my story, I had stomach issues all my life, no matter how much I exercised and ate right, I had gas and upset stomach. I just accepted that as a fact of life and moved on. Since dropping grains from my diet, the stomach issues have completely disappeared.

   You may ask the question then, why people are not dying if grains are that bad? I eat in moderation and I can work it out? Well, People are DYING! diseases like, obesity, diabetes, arthritis, upset stomach, gas, bloating, and occasional diarrhea are accepted by many people as simple facts of life. You hear more and more people developing colon and prostate cancers in their fifties and many end up dying in their sixties. I have friends who are diabetics, but they will not give up their dessert or white flour bread, because they have diabetes medicine like Glucophage. They eat their toast and then take a Glucophage pill to stabilize their blood sugar.  To them the quality of life is taking the pill to control their type II diabetes and still having a dessert. Few of my skeptic friends told me that grains eaten in moderation and coupled with exercise is perfectly normal. You can maintain your weight and stay healthy. Please refer to my earlier post titled "My Story". I ate in moderation and I exercised, my weight refused to go below 170 lbs. and my stomach problems continued. Eating grains in moderation is like saying eat mercury or some other form of poison but eat it in low doses to not kill you but always make you feel sick. Prolonged use of the low poisonous dose will end up taking a toll on your body and the user will end up developing some kind of a chronic disease. With grains gone from my life, my stomach issues have completely gone away and my gut has probably started the repair and the healing process caused by years of eating grains.

   Over this past weekend, I met another one of my skeptic friends and he reported that he stopped eating naans (an Indian flat bread eaten with every meal) and he has dropped about 5 lbs. in matter of few days. All it takes sometimes is giving up the breads for few days to see the advantages. He finally acknowledged that he might be on to something. One believer at a time...

Saturday, June 9, 2012

What is Paleo? Is it like Atkins?

   Often when I speak to my friends and tell them about the Paleo Lifestyle, I am confronted with usual  skepticism and hit with a barrage of similar questions over and over. There is enough literature out there about the Paleo Lifestyle and readers can certainly go to many other sites to get more details. My purpose is not to regurgitate the same information but to offer my own insight to explain this to my friends and family as I understand it. So here is the number one most asked question, What is a Paleo Diet or lifestyle? Is it like Atkins? Here is my understanding...

   A Paleo Diet is all about eating natural unprocessed foods while avoiding foods like grains, sugars, legumes, and dairy. The concept is very simple. As human race progressed and evolved during the paleolithic age, also known as the stone age, the foods available to us during the paleolithic age were wild games, berries, wild fruits, and nuts. Fruits and vegetable varieties may have varied depending on the region of the world, but animal fat and protein were a constant part of human diet. The human race survived and thrived on these foods for over 2.5 million years. The human beings were essentially hunters and gatherers. They hunted their food, and during the times the wild game was not available, they gathered fruits, nuts, and berries. They lived in small bands and traveled several miles per day in search for their food. Living in small bands was necessary for their survival. Every member in the band was responsible for making a positive contribution to the survival for their unit.  The hunter gatherer societies also did not create permanent settlements, they were essentially nomads. The fat and protein from the hunted animals provided nourishment for their bodies. Human brain grew in size and our DNA and genetic make up evolved as we consumed fats, proteins, and carbohydrates from the fruits, vegetables, nuts, and berries. Our genes are designed to process fats and proteins.

   Once the paleolithic era ended and humans began to create permanent settlements, domestication of grains came on the scene. This question may need to be answered, what came first? Did humanity develop settlements before they domesticated grains or the domestication of grains facilitated the development of settlements.The fact is still there that grains allowed the humans to store food for a longer period of time and slowly the hunter-gatherer societies disappeared. The small settlements eventually turned into large cities. At this point in human history, we see the birth of religion, social law/order, and arts. The domestication of grains is a very short phenomena dating back only about 10,000 years ago. Whereas, the human body really evolved during the paleolithic era for 2.5 million years. During this prolonged period our bodies were programmed to process proteins, fats, and little carbohydrates from fruits and plants.

   During this important period in human history, the genetic and hormonal compositions of our bodies were developed and defined. An important hormone insulin was developed in our bodies. Insulin is also known as the fat storing hormone. The purpose of insulin is to metabolize or process the sugars consumed from carbohydrates. Insulin forces glucose into our muscles, where glucose is stored as glycogen. Glycogen is energy that body can readily use when fight or flight situations occurred. Hence, insulin was important during the hunter gatherer years as our bodies needed to store glycogen for fight or flight situations against the predators. During the Paleolithic era the insulin regulation in the body was not a problem. The stored glycogen was always expended by several miles of walks or fight or flight situations. But the grains changed all that. Regulating insulin became a problem when grains came on the scene. See diagram below:

   The green section of the diagram shows when insulin is regulated properly in our bodies. Glycogen is always burned off and we end up staying lean. The red section of the diagram is where muscle cells become insensitive to insulin because there is no room for them to store anymore glycogen. This causes pancreas to produce more insulin and more storage in the fat cells. Our bodies end up becoming fat and eventually we develop diabetes. The grains, carbohydrate rich diets and lack of physical activities cause the insulin to be out of sync in our bodies. Proteins and fats do not cause a sugar spike in our bodies. The proteins and fats are used by the body as building blocks and nourishment. The little carbohydrate that is consumed with vegetables, fruits, nuts, and berries is quickly consumed by the body and we end up staying lean.

   Paleo Diet and Lifestyle is simply to mimic the lifestyles of our ancestors by eating proteins, fats, fruits, vegetables, and nuts.  This does not mean that we renounce our modern day life and move out to the woods and hunt our food. There is no way, I am about to give up running water, toilet, a shower, or my car in the near future. Humanity has worked hard to get to this point and it would be ungrateful for us to throw these things away. The change that we can make, is in our diet. We can give up processed sugary foods that are so detrimental to our health. So here are few things that we can do that are Paleo without giving up our modern life:

  • Eat a diet low in carbohydrates by avoiding sugars, dairy, grains, and starchy vegetables.
  • Eat proteins and fats. They won't kill you. Just remember we were genetically programmed to eat animal products. It is in our DNA.
  • Exercise, by simply getting out. If you have kids, you know this very well, that kids love to play tag games. Don't be afraid to play a tag game with your child. Believe me half hour of chasing the kids in my back yard tires me out and the kids are just getting warmed up.
  • Get some rest. 
   How is Paleo different than Atkins, when both diets push for low carbohydrates and high fats/proteins? The goal of Dr. Atkins was to lose weight, and lose weight fast. A low carbohydrate and high fat/protein diet accomplishes this goal quickly. Dr.Atkins lost the weight himself and stayed on this diet for his whole life. The Paleo Diet and Lifestyle is little different. Paleo focus on the total life experience rather than just focusing on the low carb diet. Paleo approach is to incorporate rest, exercise, and diet in one's life. In Paleo Diet one is to avoid vegetable and seed oils where these oils are perfectly normal to consume in the Atkins diet. The source of meat is a non-issue in the Atkins diet. Atkins diet does not care where the meat comes from. Where in Paleo Diet, the source of meat is very important. The grass fed animals' meat is far superior than grain fed animals. The Paleo idea has been around since the mid seventies and gained more popularity in recent years coupled with the gluten free movement. I personally believe that Dr. Atkins would have accepted and adopted the modern day Paleo Diet and Lifestyle if Paleo had been popular in his time. A pure conjecture on my part of course, but I believe that he would have accepted many facets of the Paleo Lifestyle without a fight. 

Sunday, June 3, 2012

Foods that I eat.

   Most human activities revolve around food. Food plays a major role in all of our social activities. There is food at birthdays, weddings, and certainly there is no shortage of casseroles on even funerals. We are invited to dinner parties, and there are lunch meetings. We often shop at Costco and walking through the aisles there are samples of food being doled out at every corner. Food is everywhere, it controls our life. The food choices are limitless. And to confuse it all, every food manufacturer is trying to add some healthy spin to create a unique appeal for their product. Many breakfast cereals loaded with sugars and grains are proudly marketed as heart healthy products approved by the American Heart Association (AHA). Juices, once again loaded with corn syrup and artificial flavors are marketed to create a special healthy appeal to our younger generation. So in this confusing jungle, how is one to make sense of all this mess? The answer is simple, go back to the basics. Eating unprocessed whole foods is where our livelyhood is and we have a reasonable chance to stay healthy.

   Food is a major staple of Paleo Lifestyle. My friends often ask questions about what foods they can eat and not eat? Most people have trouble putting food groups together. They'll ask can I eat fish, lamb, or beef. Hey, guys, these are all proteins and proteins are allowed. Or they'll ask can we eat brown sugar instead of white processed sugar. Once again, a sugar is a sugar, doesn't matter in what form it exists. In the Paleo Lifestyle there are only few things that are not allowed, everything else is. Of course foods that are not allowed are the ones from which folks are simply unwilling to part with. In this post I've decided to post the foods that I consume on the daily basis. These foods have worked for me and continue to work for me. Before I list all the foods, let me start by giving few foods that are not allowed and should be avoided at all costs. In the future posts, I will write details why these foods are not good for us. So here we go..

Foods that should be avoided.

  • Grains: Wheat, rye, barley, oats, and many other cereal grains. Breads and pastas are all out. Whole grain is no more healthier than white flour. Corn and soy are out.
  • Legumes: Beans and lentils are out.
  • Sugars: Table sugar or any other sweetener. Cookies, cakes, and ice creams are all out.
  • Dairy products are out. Butter in moderation is OK. Clarified butter or Ghee is better.
  • Avoid vegetable, soy, and corn oils. These oils contain high amount of polyunsaturated fats.

   I told this to a friend and he said, "then what else should I eat?" His question was in such a state of desperation as if he knew nothing else existed outside the realm of these forbidden foods. I told him that he should eat the following:

Foods that are good to eat.

  • Animal products, lean meats are in.
  • Fats: Butter, Ghee (clarified butter), coconut oil, olive oil, beef tallow, and animal fat are great source of energy and nourishment.
  • Incorporate coconut in your diet.
  • Don't be afraid of organ meats like liver, heart, and kidneys. My grandmother used to cook organ meats routinely. She cooked tripe, liver, kidneys, lungs, and heart. Organ meats are rich in nutrients. Unfortunately, in our modern society, these foods are not consumed but discarded.
  • Don't be afraid of eggs. Consume eggs on the daily basis.
  • Eat seasonal fruits, berries, and nuts.
  • Eat variety of vegetables. Limit consumption of starchy vegetables like potatoes if you are trying to lose weight.

   Still confused and don't know what to eat? Here is what I do on the daily basis:

Breakfast: 2-3 eggs scrambled. Sometimes I add a handful of chopped onions, tomatoes, and zucchini. Some mornings I have my eggs over easy or poached. On the weekends, I usually add potatoes to my eggs. A cup of tea and usually one or two cups of coffee when I get to work. In my coffee very little sugar, sometimes no sugar, and a table spoon of heavy cream.

Lunch: Most often a salad with chicken, beef, or lamb. If I am busy and can not make it out for lunch, giving my body a break from a meal is perfectly normal. The hunger pangs subside quickly and I am able to skip a meal without too much discomfort. A delicious Larabar ( is a good option few times when nothing is available. Stopping at my local grocery store to pick up a box of fresh blueberries and a hard boiled egg is another lunch option I exercise often. However, most often lunch is a social event and just getting away from work with few of my co-workers is relaxing and helps to clear the mind. My co-workers are patient and tolerant in listening to my ramblings. We frequent Bab's Delta Diner in our local neighborhood and I end up ordering "Luis' Special". A scramble of three eggs, ground beef, spinach, onions, cheese, and potatoes. I always decline the toast.

Dinner: 4 nights per week, I make a salad for dinner, with my own dressing. My wife cooks chicken, beef, or fish for dinner. I try to eat organ meats one night per week. Liver lightly salted and peppered cooked on an open skillet is very delicious. Meat is cooked every night. My wife also makes a pretty yummy cow feet soup once in a while. The soup has ample amount of fats and is very filling. I will share the recipe in my future posts. A cup of tea shortly after my meal is all I need to complete my dinner.

Snacks: In between meals, nuts like cashews, almonds, and macadamias are good snacking options. An apple or pear is also a good choice. That natural drink called water is great and very refreshing. If you want to kick it up a notch then carbonated sparkly water is also a good choice to have in between meals or with meals.

   There is no calorie counting. I eat my fill and enjoy my foods, my weight remains the same. I hope the above examples will give you some kind of a baseline and a good starting point. Some foods may not work for you. Don't be afraid to experiment and change things around. Once again eat when hungry is perfectly acceptable, but creating a routine is better. Planing ahead is always wise.