This is the fifth and last post in a series about how I turned my health around. This post will detail what I eat on the paleo diet and how I have modified it to fit my needs. My previous posts on this subject are as follows:
- When my health fell off a big cliff
- My experience with doctors and pharma drugs
- How I turned the corner on my failing health
- The health diagnostic and treatment protocols that I am using
Eligible Foods on the Paleo Diet
As a general rule, the paleo diet, which I am on, avoids grains, including rice, beans and legumes, and dairy. Allowable foods include meats, vegetables, fruit, nuts and seeds. The main books about the diet that I have read and the blogs I follow stress the importance of food quality, especially grass feed and free-range meats, wild caught fish and free-range eggs. As much as possible, stick with organic vegetables, fruits, nuts and seeds. Avoid processed foods and sugars, and keep high glycemic foods to a minimum, such as natural sugars like honey and maple syrup, fruits and potatoes. Certain foods that are considered vegetables but which may be unsafe for certain people are russet potatoes, especially the skins, which really no one should be eating due to compounds that are hard to digest. Russet potatoes are also high on the glycemic index. Nightshade vegetables can also affect some people – tomatoes, eggplant and peppers (all types) – and may need to be avoided.
How My Diet Has Changed Since I Went Paleo
When I first went on the paleo diet, I was having 8 meals a day, sometimes 9. I was so hypoglycemic that I had to be eating constantly and a lot of it. A year later, and I eat 4-5 meals a day. Part of this is because my hypoglycemia has improved significantly as I have gotten better and part of it is due to some diet modifications, especially the reduction in eating sweet potato, explained further down.
My protein has not really changed at all since I first went on paleo. I consumer 150-200 grams of protein per day, mostly from red meat and chicken. I eat about a dozen eggs a week and fish a few times a week. It’s all grass fed, free-range and wild caught. For eggs, I buy organic eggs that are not feed any soy in their diet. Soy is heavily used in most chicken feeds. In about 6 months, hopefully, we will have our own chickens (I am getting them as chicks soon and they need to mature to about 20 weeks before they start laying). I eat very few nuts and seeds, so protein intake from these sources its pretty negligible. The only thing that has changed is that I upped my protein consumption for breafkast from around 30 grams per meal to 50-60 grams, sometimes more. I read that eating a big load of protein for breakfast can help with balancing insulin response throughout the day.
My fat intake has increased and I seek it out and consume as much of it as I can. Fat seems to agree with me quite well and I find it to be very fulfilling and really good with my hypoglycemia. As an energy supply, fat is awesome and I think its because of it that my system has adjusted to be a fat burner, hence, I can now get by with 4-5 meals per day. I think it will also be the basis for allowing me to get back to doing longer training and exercise sessions, like I use to do back in my racing and hard training days. I don’t have any desire to do long hard training and racing like I use to, but I do want to be able to go hiking or skiing all day long.
Besides the meats that I eat and the fat they contain, I consume the following foods rich in fats:
- bacon about once a week;
- 1-2 avocados per day;
- some days I eat a lot of almond butter, which I love, but I usually have at least a little everyday;
- Small quantities of nuts and seeds daily;
- The skin from whole chickens;
- Cod liver oil supplement (3-4 teaspoons per day);
- Beef tallow that I use for cooking (I got a screaming deal on 5 pounds of organic tallow, so my freezer is loaded with it and I use it quite generously when I cook);
- Coconut oil, but only a few times per week; I cook with the tallow because it has a better Omega 3/6/9 profile than coconut oil;
- Sometimes, olive oil.
My carbohydrate intake has adjusted quite a bit since I first started paleo. I was concerned about getting an adequate amount of carbs, because low carb intake can lead to weight loss and less energy. I have read that 100-150 gram per day for my body weight is about average. To get to this range on a vegetable and limited fruit diet, I was eating 1-2 sweet potatoes per day. When I started experimenting with eating no sweet potatoes or only a little bit each day, I did not lose any weight and my hypoglycemia improved. I found my meal consumption went from 6-7 down to 4-5 per day. Sweet potatoes are high on the glycemic index.
I can only conclude that if I keep my insulin response low, my body does not burn up the glucose from the increased insulin, and thus, my food lasts longer. I find it hard to believe that the first 40 years of my life was largely supplied by grain-based carbs, with fairly high and consistent loads of workout foods like bars, gels and juices, and to top it all off, pretty good hits of chocolate, cinnamon rolls, coffee, etc. I love deserts. That diet was like jet fuel to my system with a constant insulin overload. Now, I am guessing I consumer around 50 grams per day and I up it on days when I am doing a long hike or doing something active around the house.
I eat very little fruit because of the glycemic load. At most I consume one small serving per day, and some days I go without. A serving for me is a half-cup or less of blueberries/raspberries or a quarter of an apple and I usually only eat fruit before or after a workout.
I did not eat any of the nightshade vegetables for quite a while and only added them back in the last few months. I seem to be doing fine eating these vegetables. I eat tomatoes, and I know they are classified as a fruit, but I consider them a vegetable.
Another item I’ve added back is chocolate, which I am really happy about. However, the chocolate I eat is 100% cacao powder, blended with heated coconut oil and stevia. I allow it to cool in the fridge. I find it to be quite satisfying and I don’t miss milk chocolate with sugar at all. I eat it a few times a week.
So, what do I drink? Water, and that is it. Alcohol has too high a glycemic load for me, as does fruit juice; dairy is out; caffeine is out as well, so no coffee or tea. However, I would like to eventually add back in some herbal tea here and there and maybe a half cup of coffee once in a while. I love coffee and use to drink it regularly.
I try to avoid water with chlorine and fluoride, all of which puts pressure on the thyroid, among other things. The water we drink at home is well water and very good quality. It’s not that I can’t drink regular city-treated water that contains lots of chlorine and fluoride - I seem to be fine if I do – I just try to avoid it as much as possible. I am now in the habit of having 2 gallons of water with me that I leave in the car. That way, if I am out and go through the quart I always bring with me, I can resupply from my stock in the car.
In the winter, I will have hot cups of water with stevia, which is pretty tasty.
An Average Day
An average day might include the following:
- Breakfast: 4 eggs, ground round cooked in tallow; broccoli, romaine lettuce, avocado, cucumber, tomato, 1-2 brazil nuts (rich in selenium);
- Lunch: Red meat, red leaf lettuce, broccoli, avocado, zucchini, pecans, onions, radish;
- Late-afternoon: chicken, carrot, yellow squash, onion, lettuce, celery, almond butter;
- Dinner: chicken in broth or red meat in broth, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, garlic, spinach;
- Late-evening snack: small serving of meat, celery with stevia powder, a few walnuts.
Brocooli, cauliflower, brussels sprouts, garlic, spinach and chard are always steamed. All other vegetables are uncooked.
A few other points:
- Either before or after a workout, I might add some fruit or sweet potato to a meal.
- Snacks, if I need them or feel like eating, might include beef jerky, almond butter, and some vegetable.
- Eating during long hikes is pretty much a meal with meat and vegetables and maybe some fruit. If I have to eat during a high intensity workout, its apple with almond butter.
- My supplement intake is in an earlier post, here.
So, there you have it, the full story of how my health got turned around from the paleo diet. Will I every eat grains, bean/legumes or dairy again? Certainly, I will never go back to gluten, as that seems to be more and more of a universal problem for people. For the other foods, I am not sure. With how sick I was, I just don’t want to ever get anywhere near that again. It might be nice here and there as a treat, but before I do that, I will want at least another year under my belt on a 100% paleo diet.
Disclosure: I have not received any compensation for writing this post. I have no material connection to brands, products or services that I have mentioned. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission’s 16 CFR, Part 255.