We eat a primal diet. Other terms for similar diets are Paleo, Weston Price, GAPS, Atkins, and South Beach. I prefer to call it Vintage. I talk about our diet in my blog. My husband and I both share recipes here’s mine and here’s his.
This is the Why and How of going Vintage Vittles.
Part 1: of a 4 part series on going Vintage
First I’ll explain some background of a primal diet and why most Americans think what they are eating is healthy or okay. Part 2 will give you a little science about the reactions different food has on the body. Part 3 is some steps you can take to get started eating healthy and Part 4 is the cost compared to the Standard American Diet and how you can cut down on cost.
I’ll try to make this simple but understand I’m summarizing from several in depth studies and personal experience (mine as well as hundreds of others). I know a lot of you get glassy eyed with the science of it all but some basic information is important to understanding why a primal diet is better. For you sciency minds I’ll include a few books to check out in Part 2.
It doesn’t matter if you’re an evolutionist or creationist or a combination (yes they can be combined), the science is still the same. Our bodies are not made to function properly on the food that most people eat. Just because its in the Bible does not mean we can be healthy eating grains, processed foods, and other foods that are converted into sugar in the body. I know it hard to wrap the mind around because we’ve been told one thing for all our lives and its so readily available that we think it must be okay to eat. But the people of ancient times, the people as young as your very own Great Grandma, and the few tribes still in existence who live on whole foods were/are healthier because they didn’t live off processed foods, chemicals, soy, vegetable oils, and tons of sugar that is in nearly everything. People who lived before agriculture were even healthier due to a meat based diet and daily exercise.
The government says whole grains and low fat is healthy because they are paid to do so by the businesses pushing grains and low-fat. That is just the way the government works. So you can’t trust the food pyramid. One of the best ways to learn if a study is true is to follow the money and if it can be duplicated several times. All the studies that say whole grain/ low fat diets are healthy are mis-leading, funded by businesses who make money from whole grain and low-fat foods, and there have actually not even been studies to prove that its true. And there has been no evidence in the population that it is healthy. In fact heart disease, obesity, depression, organ failure, and intestinal issues have all been increased in the past few years since processed foods have been the norm.
Most doctors won’t immediately support my kind of diet either because they’ve been fed the same misinformation. J is a pharmacist and has explained that doctors often get their information from pharmaceutical reps who are pushing their drug. Drugs are band-aids and usually end up causing a bunch of other side affects. But even many doctors are starting to take their education into their own hands and really looking at the studies and the evidence and seeing it as correct. In fact some of the blogs and books I read about it are written by doctors and scientists.
I know many people personally who have healthier bodies due to eating the way I do. I’ve read several websites, blogs, and comments on blogs with personal accounts of better health. Its not just that these people are getting skinner. Their blood pressure and blood work is coming up normal after switching their diet. They are clearing up all intestinal issues. They are coming out of depression, aggression, and anxiety. There have also been people who’ve switched their autistic spectrum kids to a similar diet and the symptoms have been greatly improved if not cleared up entirely (depending on how severe).
One of the most interesting pieces of evidence is the studies of a man named Weston Price. He was a dentist around the time that processed food was becoming the norm. He couldn’t figure out why the teeth of people were continually getting more rotten and crooked. So he decided to travel the world and study many many peoples and their diets. He discovered that the tribes who still lived primarily on animal protein, fats, and organs had absolutely no teeth issues. They had wide jaws and no cavities despite not brushing their teeth or ever seeing a dentist. These people also suffered no other diseases, intestinal problems, or cancers. Some of the tribes also drank milk and cheese that was not pasteurized like all milk in the groceries stores today. Other tribes did eat some grains but they were soaked, sprouted and fermented before being eaten because that breaks down some of the more toxic substances. These are also the way people in the Bible ate their grains as is proven by other historical records. If grains were eaten it was a very small portion of an otherwise fatty, meaty diet. Some people ate more fish then red meat and of course the peoples closer to the equator ate more coconut and palm oil -which has been demonized by our government as being to high in saturated fats. All the people had another thing in common-they didn’t eat any processed food and the only sugar they ate came from seasonal fruit and the few soaked grains they ate. He noticed that even after one generation the tribes/people who’d started eating more sugar and processed foods the teeth and jaws were already messed up. It was usually due to well-meaning missionaries that introduced these foods to the tribes. They’d also started to acquire other diseases and cancers.
Another interesting thing. Studies of bones before agriculture was introduced (when people hunted and gathered most their food) and after (when they started eating more grains) shows lots of degradation, arthritis, shorter stature crooked teeth, and smaller jaws.
This is the basic history of why most people think its okay to eat grains and why that’s wrong. Next I’ll write about what grains and sugar do to the body. There’s more to it than rotten teeth and a fat gut.
Part 2: of a 5 part series on going Vintage
THE BODY AND MACRONUTRIENTS
This explains the reactions that food has on the body. Again this is science and you might not be interested but I’ll make it short. Remember the millions of people before us (and before processed foods) that were healthy by eating this way.
Macronutrients are Carbohydrate, Protein, and Fat-its what makes up food.
First lets define Carbohydrate or “sugar”. Sugar is not just the white grainy stuff in your kitchen canister. Its not just the stuff in candy or desserts. Lots of foods break down in the body and are converted into sugar. If its a plant its a Carbohydrate-including your healthy fruits and veggies. When our blood gets too much sugar-which is pretty easy to do-Insulin comes in to clean it out. Any type of sugar causes a surge in the bloodstream. Sugar also goes by the name of carbohydrate, starch, and glucose. The foods that are converted into sugar are, sugar, honey, maple syrup, corn syrup, high fructose corn syrup, agave, fruit, fruit juice, potatoes and other root veggies, grains (including corn and rice) and the grain flour used to make bread, bagels, pancakes, cake, cookies, pasta. In fact a bagel, a white potato, and 1/4 cup of sugar are converted to about the same amount of glucose in the blood. Its not any healthier to eat a big plate of pasta over a potato over a candy bar. You get a few more vitamins/minerals with some things over others but it still has the same effect on blood sugar and what our bodies try to do to get rid of that excess sugar. The spiking of insulin isn’t so bad once in awhile. But its the constant up and down we put our bodies through every day at nearly every meal because we’re eating diets that are higher in carbohydrates then they should be. A small amount isn’t going to hurt you everyday but a small amount isn’t what most people eat.
The constant insulin spiking and crashing leads to damage to the nerves, arties, retinas, and heart. It tricks you body into storing fat instead of using it. The diseases you get from the over abundance of sugar is diabetes, high blood, pressure, heart attack, stroke, arthritis, and stomach disorders.
I’ll try to explain why grains are so bad as simply as I can. But understand this is pretty complex science and I don’t want to bore you with the details *(If you like the details check out the link below). The first problem with grains is that they are high in sugar. And I explained what sugar does to your insulin above. The high content of sugar will also overload the intestines and create too much bacteria in the colon. This is a big problem for everyone. The intestines aren’t able to digest food properly and the nutrients in food isn’t able to be absorbed. So you are starving your body. Secondly grains contain toxins. Those toxins basically punch holes in your gut and mess up the way your body works. It causes inflammation which causes pretty much every disease. Gluten is one of the most toxic. In fact lots of people increase their health just by eliminating gluten. Sometimes even just eliminating gluten means your intestines are better able to digest things like dairy and a small amount of other grains. The grains that people ate long ago did them harm but over time most people adapted -but it still caused disease. The grains that people ate were also soaked, sprouted, and fermented which means the toxins were broke down a little before digestion and were easier on the body. It still causes problems if eat you too much and there is still the fact that its broken down into sugar and causes spikes in blood sugar. Personally, eliminating gluten has made my digestion much better. I know people who have IBS and Chron’s disease who’ve improved just by eliminating gluten. There are alternatives to wheat based breads and pastas and they are pretty tasty. I’ll give you some of those in part three.
And now for Fat and Oil. Again I’m oversimplifying. Every organ in your body needs cholesterol. Its not a demon. You’re body needs it to function correctly. You brain needs it to maintain the hormones that make you feel sane and normal and happy. We are starving our bodies three ways. First is by not eating enough saturated fat which is found in animals, fish, eggs, coconut oil, cream, and real butter. Second eating foods that are made with vegetable oils instead of animal, coconut, palm, or olive oil is creating an unbalance with your hormones. But most the food, especially processed food is made from unhealthy vegetable oils. Vegetable oils contain Omega 6 while the others contain Omega 3. Now you can help balance out all the Omega 6 by consuming large amounts of Omega 3 supplements but its not going to be enough unless you also get rid of some of the Omega 6 oils in your diet. Omega 6 is another cause of inflammation which is the cause of most diseases you’re familiar with. Its also a problem for hormones that keep you happy. Thirdly eating grains and sugar foods can make your body store all that animal fat and oils instead of use it. So if you decide to eat the healthy fats and oil that your body needs, you’ll have to get rid of most the grains and lower your sugary foods so that the fat gets used and not stored in your arteries, under your chin, and on your muffin top.
But another thing that makes it tricky is that most the animal foods that humans consume has been fed grains. Not only is this painful and cruel to the animal because their bodies are not made to eat grains but the omega 6 that’s in those grains are going to get in the meat and if you eat the meat then you’re getting another source of omega 6. And remember omega 6 is also bad. The solution can be expensive at the grocery store. I’m talking buying meat that’s been grass fed-which you can’t find in regular grocery stores. Buying milk, butter, eggs, cheese, and cream from animals raised on grass. Again most of this can only be found online, speciality stores, farmer’s markets, or local farmers. I realize not everyone can do that but there are other steps you can take and still eat grain fed animals and animal products. I’ll give those suggestions in part three as well.
The perfect Protein is from animal sources. Unless you want the added sugar )and other toxins) from beans and rice or the gut irritants of pasteurized dairy then get your protein from the source. The best animal products are raised humanely-not only is this nice to the animal but it also means they were fed foods that they are supposed to eat and ensure their meat and fat is the best quality. If you feel like you can’t afford quality raised meat then check out part 5 of the series. If you still think you can’t afford it buy all your meat from the grocery, then eat mainly lean meats so you’re not consuming the unhealthy Omega 6 stored in the fat of fattier animals.
So basically what I’m saying is that its usually not enough to just cut out one thing. Though it can help to just cut out gluten, or lower your sugar intake, its not going to be enough to heal your body.
*http://ieatmostlymeat.com/books/whyhow-paleo/ -has a list of primal books
*Not on the link above but books I strongly suggest are The Vegetarian Myth by Lierre Keith and Primal Body-Primal Mind by Nora T Gedgaudas
Part 3: in a 4 part series on going VIntage
THE SUPER SIMPLE STEPS
This is what you can do to improve your health. Its not a one size fits all and there are several options you can add to it. Its the basic model that works for the majority. You’ll have to experiment to see what works but realize some experiments take a couple weeks to really get a feel. I suggest you start with this super easy version, eat this way for a month or so to see if notice any improvement. If not you might have to take a couple more steps which means more involvement in prep work, grocery getting, and some more work all around. But just doing the first two step will greatly improve your health and it might give you a new appreciation for food.
The super easy version:
1. Get rid of gluten
2. Lower your carbohydrate/sugar to preferably under 100 grams a day.
3. Add saturated fats
4. Incorporate a nutrient dense homemade bone broth at least twice a week.
Two more steps you’ll have to take:
1. Get used to preparing and cooking real food-this might take a little more time in the grocery stores/farmer’s markets until you are used to finding real food. And it might take more time at home but not a whole lot.
2. Get rid of all boxed/canned/frozen dinners. You don’t have to throw them away, you can phase them out or give them to people who still eat grains and processed foods-stuffs (its not real food)
Here’s some tips and personal experience in my dealings with the macro-nutrients and food groups:
This can be the tricky part because sweets are very hard to give up. Sugary foods actually have opiates in them. Which means they are literally addictive. Getting off carbs or lowering them is initially hard because is actually breaking an addiction. You are well aware of what addiction does and how hard it is to break out of it. Your addiction is not demonized by religion, government, or society but it is just as damaging to the body as alcohol and cigs. From personal experience I do much better quitting sweets cold turkey rather than phasing them out.
I do have a list of foods (and their portion size) that have higher carbs. I mark off if I’ve had them during the day so I can keep my carbs low. I’ll give you a sample list later. We all try to eat fairly low carb but currently my oldest and the tots eat more. J eats more on days he exercises-but he doesn’t eat any grains at all. When he eats more carbs its usually more chocolate or root veggies like white or sweet potato. I eat more on days I’m more active and unfortunately I sometimes eat more sweet on days I’m stressed.
I have a sweet tooth. Although I try, for the past few months I’ve rarely made it a week without failing in my low-carb attempt. Part of the reason is because I’ve had poor quality sleep because my tots still night nurse. This and just having two active tots is stressful and stress triggers wanting to comfort myself with food. It also causes a hormonal reaction that stores fat. As the tots get older though its been getting a little less stressful. I have maintained my weight for the past year but when I manage my stress better I start to loose weight. Its a lot easier to limit carbs when I’m getting more sleep and my stress is lowered. So basically if you have high stress or aren’t sleeping well then take steps to calm your mind and your body. Try meditating or doing something especially for you that YOU enjoy. For sleeping keep it as dark as possible. If you co-sleep with your kids a good book to try is The No-Cry Sleep solution which is Attachment Parent friendly. It was working well when I had one tot but when I had the next baby it really threw our sleeping habits off-track and they are finally starting to get back on.
If you’re on a limited budget then things like potatoes and rice can really add bulk to a meal. I figure that if you are at a healthy weight without any medical issues you could probably eat one higher carb meal a day and be okay. Still not in the form of gluten (wheat) though. You could still have some white potato for dinner, or add rice or beans to your chicken soup-that kind thing. But if you have a high carb dinner then don’t have french toast that morning (with gluten free bread of course) or a big bowl of ice cream for dessert. Even better would be to keep it to only a couple meals a week. You can also add bulk with veggies and or salad and the cost is about equal Or for weight loss and better health in general try those only once week. Some have a cheat day or meal once a week and are just fine-but stick to that one day. Even a little sweets may trigger your addiction and make it harder to stick to the diet the rest of the week -or you may be one of those that does well psychologically knowing you have an indulgence day to work toward.
Since you won’t be doing much baking it won’t matter much but get rid of your vegetable oils. They are rancid and high in Omega 6. If you remember, Omega 6 is causing so many hormonal problems which leads to depression, disease, infertility, and obesity. The only oil you should be cooking with-sautéing your vegetables and adding to your leaner cuts of meat-is olive oil, coconut oil, bacon grease, and real butter. Eat lots of bacon and strain the fat into a jar and keep it in the fridge (for best health benefits use organic, humanely raised pigs). This is tasty to use for cooking your veggies, potatoes, and eggs. I love to use mine to fry cubed sweet potatoes. Its also great to sear your roasts before slow cooking. Real butter not only tastes better it has the saturated fat you need for proper organ health. If you get it from grass-fed cows it also has load of other healthy vitamins and Omega 3 from the grass they eat. Kerrygold (in a gold foil package) is a brand that’s in many regular grocery stores. Organic Valley (especially the one in the green foil package)is another one to look for either in regular stores or natural food stores.
If you drink coffee with cream, use real whipping or heavy whipping cream or try coconut milk. Look for brands that are pasteurized instead of ultra pasteurized or even Vat pasteurized (probably only in natural food stores) pasteurization kills off most the good in milk so I’d really limit your dairy. More on Dairy next…
Most dairy products are pasteurized. For many reasons this is not so good for the body. In fact most people are somewhat intolerant and it creates problems with the gut. It can also cause an allergic reaction that’s a lot like a cold. It weakens the immune system so that you catch colds easier and also contribute to ear infections. It causes skin rashes and eczema. SO if you or your kids get sinus colds or ear infections a lot then dairy might be contributing. The only way to tell for sure is if you cut it out of your diet for month and then reintroduce it. But I won’t suggest you do this unless you really want to-I haven’t been able to do it either. Cheese is too tasty and too easy to grab as a snack to give it up right now. There’s a couple ways around this-you can buy your cheese and eat it too. A lot of people, once they take gluten out of their diet are able to better digest the things in dairy. Milk has more lactose in it then cheese and sour cream so stop consuming milk-the only milk we drink is raw milk which we get from a local farmer-and we rarely get it.(FYI- Raw milk is illegal in some states because the government can be stupid-I don’t know what your state laws are). V gets pretty rashy and dry so I’ve switched most our cheese consumption to raw cheese and have noticed a difference in her skin. When I cook with cheese its not usually raw simply because its expensive but I don’t cook with cheese often. So once you cut out gluten, dairy may be better digested. My cousin switched to raw milk and her kids’ skin eczema cleared up-but they still have some gluten. Also when I make desserts its often a cream based one. This is full of healthy fats and I can use half the sugar it recommends because I’m used to eating refined foods so my palette is more sensitive. I make lots of custard and creme brule which is easy, uses little sugar, and is full of healthy cream and eggs (sometimes berries)-recipes are on my vintage vittles recipes website.
So basically what you have to remember is:
*Most meals are meat with veg
*no gluten-which is in wheat and pretty much all processed foods-so no processed foods, no bread, no pasta
*keep it low carb/ low sugar-limit candy, sweets, potatoes, rice, beans
*increase your animal fats -but only if you keep it low carb
*only bacon grease, real butter, coconut oil, and olive oil to cook with
Part 4: in a 4 part series on going vintage
THE COST OF GOING VINTAGE
The first thing you have to realize is that you probably spend lots of money on medical bills because of health problems. If not now then you will later. But food is medicine. If you are eating the right foods you eliminate the need for high cost medical bills and prescription drugs. I know, most people want a quick fix pill but tough s**t. There isn’t a such thing. Those pills don’t cure anything and they also cause lots of side effects. If you have had hormonal problems, if you’ve put on a little weight, if your blood pressure is high, or if your gut is often bloated, gassy, or irregular then a diet change is in order, not a miracle pill. These are all problems caused by eating gluten and other grains, too much sugar and starches, and not getting enough animal fats.
The easy version is actually easy to do financially. Most your meals will be meat and veg. Two things make it potentially expensive. The first is if you are trying to make substitutes for wheat at every meal or even once a day. By substitutes, I mean gluten free bread and pasta. There are some very tasty alternatives but you should save them for 1-3 times a week. Gluten free does not mean low-carb which is another reason you’ll want to save those things for 1-3 times a week. I can honestly say that the taste of wheat products isn’t even good to me anymore. But sometimes I want toast with my fried eggs. Sometimes I just want a little crunchy or sweet snack. I don’t have any gluten products in my house but I do occasionally eat other grains or starches.I’ll give you some brands and places to look for those. Most grocery stores will have a gluten free section or several gluten free options-its becoming pretty popular. But I’m pretty sure there are a couple natural health food stores somewhere around you or you can order online.
Here’s some gluten free brands to looks for:
*Udi-makes a really good bread, though we always toast it. It’s expensive but worth it if you really want a sandwich or some toast. They also have bagels and pizza crust.
*Rudi gluten free bread-is even better then Udi
*Glutino makes some tasty snack items, like pretzels. Good for the kids.
*Tinkyada pasta joy-has the best pasta I’ve had. Though, again, I really don’t miss pasta. You can still have the tasty sauces and cheeses over meat and vegatables if you’re craving that Italian flavor.
There are also several gluten free snacks: cookies, corn-chips, rice or nut crackers, etc -you can look for and buy on special occasions. If you get really ambitious you can even bake gluten free treats. Most things made out of corn and rice are gluten free but you still have to look if its marked as gluten free-wheat is “hidden” it lots of things.
But remember these things are still high carb-if you do eat them then check the serving size and the amount of carbs in it and stick to that serving.
The second high expense is organic food and grass-fed meats and animal products (butter, milk, cream). Though when fruit and veg is in season you can get really reasonable priced organic foods from farmers markets and even in regular groceries. Compare the options and use coupons, and sales to your advantage. Really you should be eating fruit only in season or frozen anyway. Its cheaper and more nutrient dense-and opt for berries which have less sugar. Veggies are often just as good frozen and you can get them when on sale-this should help cost.. Canned should be avoided. Except for things like tomatoes, coconut milk and fish you should not be eating many canned foods.
And if you think Organic is more expensive, here’s an interesting article on the subject http://politicsoftheplate.com/?p=864
Suggestion to keep cost low:
*Your costs will remain low if you eat hunted meat.
*If you can save enough money and have enough freezer space then buy cow, pigs, chickens in bulk from local farmers. This will take some work-you can usually find them by asking at the local natural food stores. We get chickens from Hutterites. They sell a couple times a year for about $6 a chicken and at the natural food store for about $9-they are so much tastier and they are not pumped with antibiotics and growth hormones. Buying whole, half, or quarter cows is initially expensive but considering all the different cuts you get it comes out cheaper-you’re getting steak for the price of hamburger. J hasn’t hunted much but we do get free cow from his dad and that helps a lot. But you can make cheaper cuts of cow in the slow cooker or pressure cooker and they are just as good and tender if you do it right. There’s lots of recipes on Josh’s I Eat Mostly Meat website.
*Get things on sale and with coupons.
*Eat fruits and veg when its in season.
*Buy frozen veg and fruit.
*GARDEN! Even if you don’t have the perfect climate and land you can usually still have a few plant. Raised beds or container gardens are great if your soil isn’t so great and will mean you have to water less. Google Urban Gardening books for more information. You can cut your grocery bill by so much-especially if you take the excess and can, freeze, or dry it.
*If you can do it legally where you are you can also have a couple chickens. They are great for eggs and you can also have chickens that you raise to slaughter. Of course this takes some planning and time on your part but its pretty rewarding on a bunch of different levels
*Comparison shop-you’ll probably find that it works out to be about the same cost. Farmers markets usually have an abundance of foods for cheaper then you’ll find in the grocery store. And like produce from your own garden you can freeze, dry, or can the goods for later.
*Join a local food co-op. Many communities have them but they can be hard to find. At ours there is a $20 yearly fee and you get a discount both at the store and on foods you order. There’s an even bigger discount if you volunteer a few hours a week doing anything from stocking the shelves to cleaning. Buying in bulk helps keep your costs low. Even a couple of our local health food stores offer discounts if you order items in bulk-this is great for items we use a lot of like canned tomatoes, coconut milk, tuna, my oldest’s gluten-free bread, and pastured butter.
In a few days and in a few upcoming posts I’m going to follow the paleo recipes and meal planning in Everyday Paleo by Sarah Fragoso. She has shopping lists for each week already written. I’ll be posting the cost of that and where I find my foods. It does take some initial planning and time but once I know my local markets I hardly have to think about where to find the foods I’m looking for. Some organic, grass-fed, sustainable raised foods may be a little more expensive. But in the long run the cost on the planet and your body far out-ways the initial cost of a few healthy whole foods.