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It’s the time of year to spend more time each day outdoors than in.  Eating meals outdoors on the patio or at the park is a great way to soak up the sun or relax in the shade and enjoy the season!

Reflexively, we may reach for the sandwiches, chips, pasta salad, juice boxes and beer.  But, taking a moment to consider what our bodies might really want and we just might find our perfect picnic looks completely different.

What is Paleo?

The Paleo diet, short for Paleolithic is a dietary trend that is changing people’s energy, sense of vitality, digestive embarrassment, waistlines and much more.  The gist of the story is, skip the grains.  And the dairy, processed oils and junk food.

Long before farming our distant ancestors are believed to have lived a hunter-gatherer lifestyle.  Leaves, berries, tubers, insects and meats were the most abundant food.  As anyone who has grown a garden may know, grains are not the most easily accessible food source.  Our spinach, kale, celery, cucumbers, carrots and more are ready to be eaten as soon as they’ve plumped right up in the ground.  From field to fork, grains take considerably more processing in order to be edible.

Health Benefits

One of our great challenges as human beings is that our biology does not keep up with our creativity and innovation.  Today, grains may be the most readily available food source.  Crackers, cookies, pastas, breads and chips store well and are easily packed with preservatives to last even longer.  Modified from their original form with science, grains become puffs, tings, flakes, charms and other curiosity provoking yummy crunchy things.

Interesting as they seem, grains tend to pack less nutritional punch than vegetables, fruits and meats.  The purpose of the grain of a plant, like all seeds is to preserve itself through the alimentary canal of a larger creature who happens to chomp it down.  Then it will plant into the dirt with some voluptuous compost and start life anew.  Grains come well equipped with a protective force field known as phytic acid.  This compound limits the grains digestibility by tightly binding minerals creating a strong internal layer.

For someone with a powerful digestive system (pH drops below 3 in the combustion chamber of the stomach’s hydrochloric acid bath) phytic acid may be no big deal.  But to the lady eating while she’s driving her car, the guy who’s munching during a meeting, the kids eating mid-stride during backyard playtime and Mom who hardly sits down anymore to eat, the hydrochloric acid may only be a trickle because the body’s attention is elsewhere.

We all need to take a break from life to do nothing but appreciate and ruminate our delicious meals.  But to make things easier on ourselves skipping grains may be the thing for you.  Gluten intolerance, Celiac disease, irritable bowel, gas, bloating, Crohns disease, ulcerative colitis, fatigue, headaches and more have been successfully eliminated by some individuals with a grain diet.

The Picnic Basket

Appetizer – Fruity Salad: finely chopped apple, celery and raisins with fresh squeezed lemon juice.  Get your palate ready with this nice mix to give your blood sugar a boost.  Fruits tend to digest best on their own which can also elevate the blood sugar too quickly.  Paired with a watery, fiber rich vegetable like celery and a balance is struck in flavor and benefits.

Main Dish – Seaweed Wraps.  Create a layer of prosciuto, lettuce leaves, sprouts and sauerkraut in the center of a nori sheet.  Moisten one edge and wrap tightly around the inner filling material.  The moisture of the sauerkraut will help hold the nori together, but don’t wait too long to eat it or it may get soggy!  Seaweeds are one of our under-appreciated foods in western culture as their mineral and specifically iodine content can’t hardly be beat!  Be sure to source from clean(er) waters as they can bind to contaminants from the waters in which they grow.

Side – Salted cucumber slices dipped into tahini.  Double yum!  This quick and tasty snack is high protein with the sesame seed tahini and is a great source of calcium.

After-Snack – Coconut date rolls.  Easy to travel, these treats can be easily made at home by tossing some dates into the food processor and them rolling them in shredded coconut.  Add some cocoa powder for some extra enjoyment.

Dessert – Lemonade popsicles can be made to be electrolyte packed treats for kids wearing themselves out on hot days.  Combine a squeeze of lemon, pureed berries and some liquid stevia to suite your palate.  Pour into ice cube trays with toothpicks to grab and eat quickly once frozen!

Drink – The herbal tea combination of hibiscus & peppermint is ideal for a hot summer day.  Both herbs have a cooling nature and delicious flavor.  Stillwater has a Summer Cooler blend with this combo available in the store!

Like all diets, no one way of eating will suite everyone.  Vegetarian diets, vegan diets, Anti-inflammatory, raw foods, the Mediterranean diet and more all have their place and usefulness depending on where a person is at in life’s phases. To learn more about discovering the right diet for you, consult with myself at Stillwater Clinic any time of the year!

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Recently, I wrote about the information we can gather from understanding our blood work results relating to our bodies fat metabolism; cholesterol, triglycerides and more in the article, “The Skinny on Fats.”  In many cases, the culprit for imbalances in our fat metabolism is the liver.  What is helpful to understand, is that fats do make us fat, when they are the bad fats.

As our society transitioned from an agrarian culture influenced primarily from ancestral dietary traditions, the convenience factor started to play into the choices we made and compromises happened. “Better Living through Chemistry, “ became the country’s moto with the industrial revolution.  Rather than primarily eating the fats that came easily to the table, systems were developed that made it inexpensive to use plant seed oils and chemically altered oils in our everyday lives.

Margarine, Crisco and processed foods containing trans-fatty acids infiltrated the food chain and they became commonplace in most households in the US.  Plant oils were “hydrogenated” to increase their saturation and shelf life.  Unsaturated fats are liquid at room temperature.  Liquid oils are more quickly degraded with oxygen and heat.  The more saturated a fat is, the more stable it is at room temperature.  Alterations to normal fats from the natural world change the way our bodies process them.

When we eat, the body responds to the foods by releasing substances to help break them down.  When we consume fats, the gallbladder releases a burst of bile, a soap-like substance that makes the fats more manageable in the gut by packaging them up.  They are then absorbed into the intestine in small amounts.  Next, they travel to the liver where they are going to be assessed for their functional value and either processed and stored or eliminated.

Everything we eat, breath or absorb eventually makes its way to the liver, the master organizational organ of the body.  There, substances are broken apart, built up and otherwise altered into something that the body can recognize and know what to do with.  Natural substances have a commonality in their makeup and can be easily identified by the body.  Man-made substances, chemicals and altered products have a tendency to be unidentifiable by the body.  Without an enzyme to match, a pathway to go through or another way for the liver to handle these substances, they can irritate and challenge the body.  In the end, are shelved for later by storing them in the fatty tissues.

One of the biggest challenges to our health today is the degree of environmental toxins that we are subject to on an ongoing basis.  While many of the substances are considered harmless in small quantities, the dosage that we accumulate over our lifetimes is typically far beyond what is safe.  One US research center known as the Environmental Working Group (www.ewg.org) has developed an online resource for helping people learn about toxins.  Their project, known as “Skin Deep” is a database of thousands of substances used in the household, foods, health and beauty products.  If a substance has shown a tendency to cause hormone problems, reproductive issues, cancers, neurological diseases or other health concerns, this is a way to check on its track record and safety.  As consumers, we often assume that the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) is adequately protecting our health.  However, it is always wise to be a savvy consumer to what may be slipping through the cracks.

The trouble with toxins and fats is that they love each other.  Many of our worst environmental toxins are lipophilic meaning they love fats, readily absorb into them and are very difficult to separate apart.  This is why when consuming foods to support our health, choosing organic is especially important with our fats.  This includes our meats, nuts, seeds, dairy products and oils.  In nature, toxins that are fat-soluble are known to be bio-accumulative.  This means that they are not eliminated or broken down in the food chain.  There use may have more than a lifetime of detrimental effects.

When trans-fats, hydrogenated or otherwise processed plant oils are consumed, not only is the body going to have a challenge in processing the fat, but they may also carry into the body traces of whatever was utilized during their creation.  If we can’t break down the compound to begin with, we’re even less likely to be able to recognize and deal with the toxins it contains.  All of this creates more challenge and trouble for the liver.  Trouble with the liver results in dysregulation of the body’s fat metabolism and a viscous cycle develops.

To keep the body healthy, lean and vital, choose healthy fats for your diet.  The less processing a fat endures the better it often is for your body.  Fats that are easy to acquire from their source require less processing.  Ideal fats for health include; avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, soaked and sprouted nuts and seeds, wild caught fish, free range eggs, grass-fed, organic meats and raw dairy products.  For more information on nutritional plans to support yourself and your family, please contact me for a personalized assessment of your needs.

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