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Hunter-Gatherer Breakfast

The Paleo diet is getting substantial attention recently.  Not a weight-loss plan,  the Paleo (as in Paleolithic) diet is a choice of foods that harks back to simpler fare eaten up to 2 million years ago.  It is based on what was available then–meats, vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds (no grains, simple carbs or processed foods)–well before farming and industry. Paleo followers and many nutritionists believe our bodies are better off when we eat like our Paleo ancestors did.  For more info on why, see below.  Here, adapted from the Primal Blueprint Reader-Created Cookbook (see http://www.marksdailyapple.com for this cookbook and more on Primal eating), are the easiest pancakes I’ve ever made…and they taste amazing.  They are grainless and flourless.  While the lemon souffle pancakes I shared in my previous post, “Coconut Oil–A New Staple in My Pantry,” are great too, these almond banana pancakes are simple, fast, delicious and paleo-healthful.

Makes 8-9 small pancakes

Banana Almond Pancakes

2 ripe bananas

1 egg, beaten

1 heaping T of almond butter

1/2 t cinnamon

1 T coconut oil

Combine the first four ingredients in a bowl.  Mix well.  This is your batter.  Melt half of the coconut oil in a heated pan or pancake skillet over medium heat.  Spoon a tablespoon of batter per pancake.  Cook two to three minutes per side until golden brown.  Sliding the spatula quickly under each pancake  helps keep its round shape.  Repeat process for second half of batter.

Benefits of a Hunter-Gatherer Diet   Since 99.99% of our current genes existed before agriculture did, our bodies are almost identical to our hunter-gatherer ancestors.  For more than 2 million years the human diet consisted of lean game meat,  fruits and vegetables.  Humans haven’t had much time, evolutionarily speaking, to adapt to our current fatty, processed, high carb diet. It wasn’t until the invention of the agricultural industry that humans began ingesting large amounts of sugar and starch in the form of grains and potatoes.  We all know the complications that can ensue from eating processed foods and too many fats and sugars through carbs and sweets  including obesity, diabetes, heart disease and cancer.  Believe it or not, according to Robb Wolf, author of  The Paleo Solution, current research also shows a link between Neolithic foods including grains, legumes and dairy and autoimmune diseases such as Lupus, Rheumatoid Arthritis, Multiple Sclerosis and many other conditions.  He adds that people have found significant improvements in autoimmune diseases by eliminating the Neolithic foods and adopting nutritious Paleo options.

According to Joseph Mercola, D.O, “while the human shift to agriculture produced indisputable gains for man — modern civilization is based on this epoch — societies where the transition from a primarily meat/vegetation diet to one high in cereals show a reduced lifespan and stature, increases in infant mortality and infectious disease, and higher nutritional deficiencies. We all need a certain amount of carbohydrates, of course, but, through our addiction to grains, potatoes, sweets and other starchy and sugary foods, we are consuming far too many. The body’s storage capacity for carbohydrates is quite limited, though, so here’s what happens to all the excess: they are converted, via insulin, into fat and stored in the adipose, or fatty, tissue.”

What to do?  There’s lots of info out there on the Paleo Diet if you are interested to learn more.  That way you can choose what you feel is best for you.  To start, check out several websites I have been following:  http://www.mercola.com; http://www.marksdailyapple.com; and http://robbwolf.com.


I Have a Bone to Pick with Supplements

Two Mighty Sesame Kale Salads

1) Sesame Tamari,  serves 1 (adapted from Diana Stobo)

3 c bite-sized organic kale pieces from about 10 medium sized leaves, stemmed and torn

1 t dark sesame oil

2 t tamari (or soy sauce if you’re not gluten free)

1 t rice wine vinegar

1 t sesame seeds

1/2 t chia seeds

1/2 t ginger, minced (optional)

Combine all ingredients in bowl.  Toss leaves until evenly and fully coated.  Let sit a few minutes before eating as dressing becomes absorbed into leaves.

2) Miso Tahini, serves 1 (adapted from NavitasNaturals.com)

3 c bite-sized organic kale pieces from about 10 medium-sized leaves, stemmed and torn

1 T tahini

1 T miso paste

1 T lemon juice

1 garlic clove, minced

1 t ginger, minced

1-2 T water

To make dressing, combine pastes, lemon juice, garlic and ginger; mix well.  Add water until consistency is creamy.  Toss with kale.

Who wants to be dense?  I do…in my bones that is.  I’ve been a dairy lover my whole life and thought that was the key to bone health.  When I turned 45 and learned I was going through crazy hormonal shifts, I had my first bone density test and discovered that my bones were thinning.  What!?  Did I miss out on important years of supplementing vitamins and minerals?  Was it the antibiotics I took for years, my coffee addiction, my thin teenage frame?  Could it be, in part, due to the dairy foods which I now learned create an acidic environment, causing our bones to leach out neutralizing calcium into our bloodstream?  For a quick fix, my doctor prescribed a bisphonsphanate (drugs like Fosomax and Boniva). After online research, I learned they can paradoxically yield dense, but more brittle bones–actually putting them at risk of fracture.  Healthy bones are dense and supple, not brittle. Next option, please.  My doctor suggested 1200 mg of calcium pill supplements daily.  I added my own supplement cocktail of complementary vitamins which help anchor calcium to bone: D3, vitamin K, and magnesium.  Fast forward six years.  My bone density was slightly worse.  And, interestingly, my fingernails–a clue to bone health according to Ayurvedic medicine–were peeling and splitting.

Gluten and Osteopenia  This is where gluten came in to my story.  By researching my condition (osteopenia, or thinning bones) online, I discovered a frequent connection to gluten intolerance.  Gluten is linked to many other symptoms as well including inflamed joints and muscles which I also had.  First step: eliminate gluten.  Fast forward one year of gluten-free living, and my nails…were still a mess.  To make matters more complicated, published research at that time (http://www.webmd.com/heart/news/20100729/study-calcium-may-increase-heart-attack-risk) found calcium supplements can cause heart attacks. What’s a girl to do?

Food Supplements  Coincidentally, I saw a segment on split nails on the Today Show and learned a simple solution…kale.  It’s high in vitamin K, calcium and magnesium among others.  Enter the Mighty Asian Kale Salad, recipe above.  I ate it three times a week or more for the next month.  It did the trick!  My nails were suddenly strong and gorgeous.  This was so encouraging that I started “supplementing” naturally and learned that dark green leafy veggies, red cabbage, and sesame are some of the best providers of bone-building nutrients, not to mention the many other benefits they offer (protein, other vitamins and minerals, and phytonutrients with antioxidant power), except for vitamin D3.  D3, and not just any D, is key to bone health.  A simple blood test will tell you whether you are vitamin-D deficient.  While sunshine and milk are both good sources of D, it is important to take a high quality D3 supplement to get the 40+ IU that we need. (Note: The jury is still out on whether it’s smart and safe to take up to 2000 IU daily which some experts advise.)  Here, a few of my favorite foods with awesome bone benefits:

Daily Value of Raw, Chopped Veggies, and Key Ingredients in Recipes Above

                                    Calcium                  Vitamin K                Magnesium

1 c kale                                 9%                           684%                             6%

1 c broccoli                          4%                           116%                              5%

1 c spinach                           3%                           181%                             6%

1 c watercress                      4%                          106%                             2%

1 c red cabbage*                 4%                            42%                              4%

1 c lemon juice                    2%                           0%                                4%

1 c miso                              16%                          101%                             33%

1 T tamari                            0%                            0%                               2%

1 T ginger                            1%                             0%                               2%

1 T tahini                             6%                             0%                              4%

1 oz sesame seeds             140%                         0%                             126%

1 oz chia seeds                   18%                           0%                              0%

*My favorite way to eat cabbage:  raw sauerkraut which has the added benefit of being fermented; fermented foods are great for restoring healthy bacteria in our digestive systems.

Sources  1. Check out this awesome nutrition source from Self Magazine where you can learn all the other benefits of these and other vegetables:  http://nutritiondata.self.com/facts/vegetables-and-vegetable-products/2461/2

2. And take a look here for more info on bone-friendly and bone-leaching foods:  http://www.care2.com/greenliving/12-foods-with-super-healing-powers.html?cid=Facebook_12-foods-with-super-healing-powers

Next Steps  My next two-year bone follow-up is this spring.  We’ll see if this dietary change has improved my bones.  In the meantime, I won’t tell you to stop taking vitamins.  You’ll need to make an educated choice for yourself.  However, from what I’ve seen so far with my own body, and what I’ve deciphered from many conflicting, even contradictory voices out there, we absorb vitamins and minerals best from real food, or if necessary, from food-grade supplements.

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