7 Things I Learned at the Practical Paleo Nutrition Seminar
“Are you going to the open gym on Sunday?” Sheldon asked me on Friday afternoon.
“No, I’m going to the Paleo seminar at CF KoP.”
“Why would you do that?” Sheldon asked. “You’re already the Paleo guru!”
True, I’ve been following a relatively Paleo diet for 3.5 years but that doesn’t make me an expert. So I responded with,
“I’m sure there’s something I can learn.”
And there was a lot to learn. But I did make sure to leave my “Bacon is Rad, Gluten is Bad” shirt at home. I didn’t want anyone to think I was obsessed!
On Sunday, January 9th, I attended the Practical Paleo Nutrition Seminar at Crossfit King of Prussia, presented by Diane Sanfilippo of Balanced Bites. The presentation gave a thorough overview of the Paleo diet vs. the standard American diet (SAD), and provided a lot of the science behind both diets without being too technical. The most basic reason for switching over to a Paleo diet is that the SAD is based off of the food pyramid, which is greatly comprised of irritating foods like refined grains, sugar, trans fats, dairy, legumes and processed grain-fed meats.
If we follow the path of the effect these SAD types of foods have on the body, it would be something like this: SAD foods tend to carry a high glycemic load, which leads to poor insulin management, which leads to higher body fat and poor markers of health in blood panels, which eventually leads to chronic and/or auto-immune diseases. “The effects of irritating foods are commonly at the root of a host of health concerns, the list of which is nearly endless,” said Sanfilippo. She added, “Most people do not recognize the impact of these foods on a regular basis as they may not all result in gastrointestinal distress specifically.”
7 Things I Learned
Below are seven key points I took away from the seminar. I would highly recommend attending this seminar to get a more complete understanding behind why we should eat a paleo diet as well as great tips and advice from Diane.
1) If you eat grains, chances are you have a leaky gut.
That means most of America and the developed world has it. Awesome, I know. But what does that mean? My gut doesn’t feel like it’s leaking.
The “gut” refers to the small intestine, and here’s an example of how it happens. Let’s say you eat a slice of pizza. The food goes down into the stomach and then makes its way into the intestines. The proteins in the gluten of that delicious and crispy pizza crust can’t be broken down because we lack the enzymes to do so. The undigested proteins cause tears in our gut lining because they are larger than what the gut lining can absorb. These tears allow undigested proteins to get through into the blood stream. These undigested proteins are then seen as invaders by our immune system and our body says, “ATTACK!” The problem with that is some of these protein molecules resemble protein molecules in other parts of the body, so the body basically attacks itself, causing a lengthy list of health problems (a list of which can be found here).
2) Cholesterol is Good For You
Sanfilippo described cholesterol as “the precursor to all of your hormones” and added that proper cholesterol levels in women are especially important. Sugar, alcohol, stress and lack of exercise all have negative effects on your cholesterol. “A total cholesterol level under 170 for women is too low and bad for hormone regulation,” according to Sanfilippo. She recommends keeping your total cholesterol levels around 200 for both men and women.
3) Always Double (or Triple) Check the Labels (front and back)
Sanfilippo passed around several examples (mostly from Trader Joe’s) of packaged items that looked very similar but had slightly different ingredients that could make or break your paleo diet. One comparison was two bags of Trader Joe’s dried blueberries, which had nearly identical labels on the front from a distance. However, one was unsweetened and only listed one ingredient on the back: blueberries. The other package listed blueberries and added sugars.
4) Don’t Cook with Olive Oil
Put it on your salads, drink it, use it as a moisturizer, but just don’t cook with it. Olive oil oxidizes (creates cancer-causing free radicals) very easily, so unless you are cooking on extremely low heat (and it’s hard to pinpoint the exact temperature of the pan) you’re most likely doing yourself more harm than good. Sanfilippo prefers cooking without oils but said that if you must use a cooking oil, stick with coconut, palm, bacon fat (only if it’s from a clean source like a farmer’s market) or lard. Mmm, lard. Gee whiz, paleo is the best. What other lifestyle advocates lard and bacon? Now if only dark chocolate was paleo. I digress.
5) Blood Sugar Maintenance
Sanfilippo regarded blood sugar as the first thing to get in line in order to balance your endocrine system. She drew a graph on the board showing the rise and fall of your blood sugar over a two-hour time period with a SAD and a paleo diet. The SAD one had a sharp spike of blood sugar into food coma levels from the typical carb-heavy meal associated with this type of diet followed by a steep crash, leaving the individual hungry, fatigued and moody within a two-hour time span. Whereas a low-carb paleo meal will not spike insulin levels nearly as high and levels off much more slowly, maintaining a level of satiety for much longer.
One other interesting knowledge nugget that Sanfilippo noted was that the human body can release insulin just from tasting something sweet. So even that sugarless gum you chew during the day is tricking your brain into releasing insulin and causing an unnecessary spike in your blood sugar. For more information about sugar and its adverse effects on the human body, check out Diane’s post here.
6) Tips For Fat Loss
• No fruit or starchy carbs. Eliminating these foods completely keeps insulin spikes down and better manages your blood sugar levels, keeping you in a fat-burning zone longer.
• No (or limited) nuts. This is because with something small like nuts it is hard to control the amount you eat.
• No nut butters, as this is something that is also easy to overdo.
• No liquid food, i.e., smoothies and soups. These foods are predigested and usually high in carbs and sugars.
• Sanfilippo is not one to promote supplements but suggested a method for curbing sugar cravings. Add 2 grams of L-Glutamine to a glass of water with either fresh lemon or lime juice, and drink this two to four times per day. Sanfilippo recommend the brand Jarrow. L-Glutamine can also help repair the damage in your small intestine caused by leaky gut.
7) Tips For Mass Gain
• Remove gluten completely from your diet to maximize food absorption. Sorry, dude. You can’t have that beer if you want to get jacked.
• Track your daily intake to ensure you’re getting enough calories and protein (1.5 g/lb of bodyweight). For some reason a lot of men undereat on a paleo diet. Sanfilippo recommended the site Fitday.com. I tried this out but preferred My Daily Plate from Livestrong.com because the extensive food database makes it easier to enter in your food log.
• Drink full fat coconut milk for added calories.
If you can tolerate it, drink grass-fed raw milk. Yes, she said the “m” word: milk. This is one issue Sanfilippo differs on from some of the conventional wisdom of most paleo supporters. Sanfilippo’s point is that just because paleo man most likely didn’t milk a cow, it doesn’t mean that we can’t enjoy raw grass-fed dairy from time to time…IF your body can process dairy without any auto-immune responses. If you’re curious about raw milk you can read about my experience with it here.
My Two Cents
There’s no One Size Fits All nutrition plan for everyone. Each person reacts differently to different foods. I was a little disappointed at first that some of my questions could not be answered in a simple way, or without follow up questions. But that’s the point. There are so many different things at play in our bodies that you need to do some tinkering on your own to find out what works best for you. But the paleo lifestyle is a good foundation to build on.
I left the seminar with a lot of interesting tidbits and a better understanding of the science behind the nutrition, a list of nutrition books I want to read, and a few more blogs to add to my Google Reader.
Now, if you excuse me, I have to go eat more bacon.
Larry Palazzolo is a devout CrossFitter and proponent of primal eating. Check out his blog, ScrawnyWod, and look for more guest articles from Larry on our site soon!