Cavewoman Part 1: What I Eat
I was reading through the comments on Holly’s post from last week. And a few people asked if someone – anyone – would just explain what the hell all this “primal” hootenanny was about. Someone threw up the link to my Primal Matriarch website where I chronicle my way of eating and post recipes about living grain- and sugar-free.
But a lot of people have a hard time wrapping their brains around the concept – what do I eat? And wait, aren’t whole grains supposed to be good for you? What about FIBER? Anyone who’s ever been on WW has learned the supposed importance of counting grams of fiber.
So I’m going to explain how/what I eat and why. And I know this makes a lot of people superweird and defensive because you think that just because I eat a certain way and do not eat certain things, I must be judging the way YOU eat and you feel the need to defend your choices. But I’m not. Truly.
So let’s not do that, mmmmmkay?
If you want a quick rundown, living “primally” is based on The Primal Blueprint by Mark Sisson who also writes Mark’s Daily Apple Blog. It’s a way of living that tries to embody the health benefits of our neanderthal ancestors (who he morphs into one guy he names Grok). He lays out 10 Laws to live your life by, which are broken down and easily explained here in Primal Blueprint 101.
In short, eat and live like Grok did. This means eat mostly meats, fruits, vegetables, nuts, and seeds. Real food. Yes, this means you can stop being afraid of the so-called saturated fat, which has finally recently been debunked as a role in a heart disease.
This also means no refined sugars and no grain. And this is where you all clutch your chests and go, “But for the last 50 years, the USDA has been telling us that we need grain to be healthy and reduce heart disease and stroke- we need whole grains! THINK OF ALL THE FIBER BABIES!”
Well of course the Department of AGRICULTURE would be telling you that you need grains, just like Big Pharma would rather you take medication than cure the illness. It’s all about the bottom line. But that’s a political and ethical debate left for another time, although if you want to read more on topics like sustainability, local farming, and the dangers of Big Agriculture, check out The Vegetarian Myth or The Ominvores Dillema.
Grain does not occur naturally. It has to be heavily processed in order to be able to be consumed by humans, which can cause and exacerbate a host of issues, including auto-immune diseases such a Celiac (what/gluten intolerance), psoriasis, lupus, fibromyalgia, IBS, eczema and asthma. It also is a Big Monster on the fight against Insulin Resistance (IR) and Type 2 Diabetes, which can lead to Metabolic Disease: serious issues that are becoming more and more prevalent as increasingly more Americans are obese.
I have a very in-depth post up here with tons of links and resources further discussing carbs, grains, and lectins, and why I have chosen not to eat these anymore.
The part about not eating refined sugar is a no-brainer, yes? Good. I still use honey and sometimes agave or maple syrup in some recipes, (and Ode to Splenda: I just can’t QUIT YOU in my coffee), but candy, sugar, and anything with HFCS will not likely be found in my house or in mah belleh.
Ok, so far we’ve got: no grains, no sugar. What about dairy? Some people can’t tolerate dairy well. I’m lucky I’m not one of those people because if we’re being frank, I’d cut a bitch for a good piece of Scottish cheddar. But the dairy I do eat is full-fat, and most often local. Greek yogurt, cottage cheese, heavy cream: these are all part of my diet. “Light” or “low-fat” products often have added crap like sugar and preservatives so I avoid them at all costs.
Dairy kind of falls into the same category as legumes. These are not technically primal because in their natural form, many are toxic to our systems. They have to be soaked and processed in order to be cooked and eaten, and at the end of the day are still high in carbohydrates – something I’d rather get in the form of fruits or veggies. They actually ferment in our bodies (ever wonder why beans are called the magical fruit? ha) The thing is that some legumes, like lentils and chickpeas, ARE very high in protein and I think when eaten sparingly can have their place in a healthy real-food lifestyle.
Another important aspect of primal eating is trying to eat as “clean” as possible: this means grass-fed beef, organic free-range chicken/eggs, wild-caught fish, local organic produce, raw or full-fat dairy. I understand that some people think this is not always possible for budget reasons, but my argument back at that is that the money I’m not spending on Oreos or Lean Cuisines or pasta or bread, I am putting into the quality of the food I do eat.
Nuts and seeds are an important source of good, healthy fat. I remember days I used to not eat an avocado or a handful of nuts because of how many calories they were or how many Points they were and I wish I knew then what I knew now. Because I would punch my old self in the ovary. Today, I eat at least 5 avocados a week and Mike and I go through a giant tub of nuts and seeds each week: we put it in our salads, on our yogurt, eat it with an apple as a lunch.
Someone in another post a few weeks ago commented for a person not to try Primal eating because it was a high-fat, high-calorie diet and should not be used for people trying to lose weight. Besides the blatant ignorance of that statement, it is also untrue. If anything, I eat less calories now than I did when I was desperately trying to count them – something I no longer do.
The funny thing about “real” food and fat is that it satiates your hunger with a lot less food. Therefore, less calories. And the calories I am consuming are all nutritionally dense. Can you say the same for your 100-calorie pack cookies?
And…..wait for it……I’ve gone down two sizes, lost 10% body fat, was taken off BP medication (that I had been on for TEN years), my total cholesterol was 164, and the rest of my blood work was “textbook perfect.” My scalp psoriasis is gone, and my constant bloat and eczema patches disappeared. My husband, who also went primal with me because of a positive Celiac antibiody test, has dropped close to 40 pounds in three months. I work out; he does not.
There are recipes for almost everything you may miss with grains – from biscuits to pizza crust, using alternate sources for white flour, such as almond or coconut flour. But the bottom line is that once you remove those things from your body and go through the detox (which I ain’t gonna lie, sucks big moose bongbongs) you really don’t crave them, at least not as often or with such voracity.
And you learn quickly how a “cheat” affects your body so you choose wisely. Red wine and dark chocolate offer nutritional benefits such an anti-oxidants and reservatrol making them good choice to add to your diet in small amounts. Every once in a while, I’ll go crazy and have a beer or some breaded wings, but mainly I’ve learned how my body functions without grain and how it’s adversely affected when I do eat it: sluggish, moody, often-bathroom-visit-y.
So, to recap: if it was alive, grew, or is found naturally, I eat it. If it rots, I eat it. The less chemicals and processing it takes to make it, the better. For those curious about what I eat on a daily basis, a typical day can look like this. Where applicable, I’ve linked to my recipes for the meal/item.
(If we’re being honest, I almost always skip breakfast, having more of a brunch and then dinner, usually only having two meals a day. I try and only eat when hungry so when I’m not I don’t force myself to, giving my body time to rest and focus on other things like repairing cells, rather than digesting food I wasn’t even hungry enough to eat in the first place.)
- Almond pancakes with fresh berry salsa and whipped cream
- Omelet with spinach and feta, bacon or sausage (Hormel makes a good nitrate-free brand you can find locally).
- Apple slices with almond butter and cheese
- BLT in a bowl
- Cottage cheese with fruit and almonds
- Almond milk smoothie with berries and cocoa powder
- Greek yogurt with berries and honey and sunflower seeds
- Soup and biscuits
- Chicken salad filled with grapes, walnuts, celery, onions on rosemary olive oil bread
- Lettuce wraps with shrimp, cucumber, avocado, carrots slices
- Bison-stuffed peppers
- Coconut Curry Stir Fry
- Cheeseburgers and homemade sweet potato fries
- Steak and roasted cauliflower
- Spaghetti squash with grass-fed meatballs
- Twice-Cooked Chicken and Cabbage Stir-Fry
- Organic Uncured Sausage and Peppers
- Mahi Mahi with homemade Peach Chili Salsa
- Cedar Plank Salmon with Homemade cole slaw
- Seafood Cakes pan-fried in coconut oil
- Stews, Soups, and Chilis like my Autumn Coconut Curry Bisque
- Grain/Gluten-Free Cheeze-Its
- Sesame Crackers
- Almonds and fruit
- Cheese and berries
- Avocado sliced with lime juice and salt
- Mini Apple Pie Bake
So as you can see, I don’t eat the same thing every day. I don’t just eat giant chunks of raw meat with my hands or subsist solely on fat. I eat a very varied diet with lots of fruits and vegetables and am constantly on the lookout for new cookbooks and blogs and resources of clean, grain-free eating. My current favorites are The Grain-Free Gourmet, The Gluten-Free Almond Flour Cookbook (the author also runs a blog Elana’s Pantry), and The Primal Blueprint Cookbook. If you have any recommendations, please let me know!
I hope that answers some of the questions as what “eating primal” means, though I have to use the word “primal” in quotation marks most of the time because I really hate be labeled as anything.
There is more to the “primal lifestyle” as I mentioned before in the 10 Laws. Since this blog post is already a novella, I’ll do another few posts on those another time.
Did that help explain it better? Any questions?