Read an Excerpt
There are many thank-yous to be given here, and I know I will invariably forget someone (please forgive me!).
First off, thank you to my amazing staff—Daniel, Sally, Angela, Cara, and the entire menu-writing team.
And of course, thank you to Jaime, whose editing and writing keeps the machine rolling!
Thank you to Jenae, my fabulous assistant, for always being on top of everything!
A special thank-you to my coach, Cameron Herold, who pushes me hard to be my best.
And to my friends and family who lived with my squirreliness throughout yet another book—thanks for putting up with me!
And lastly to my children, Caroline and Peter, and my new son-in-law, Samuel. You inspire me daily and I love you with all my heart.
WHAT IS THE PALEO DIET?
What the heck is this Paleo diet about, anyway? Do you eat nothing but mastodon steaks grilled over an open flame?
I’m a part-time Paleoista myself, so I get asked questions like this all the time. (For the record, there are no mastodon steaks involved in the Paleo diet. But if you find a good source of local, free-range mastodon, let me know. I’ll try anything once!)
The first thing you must understand is that the word Paleo is an abbreviated term referring to the Paleolithic age (but I bet you already knew that). This is the period in history when our ancestors ate what they could hunt, fish, or gather. That is the basis for this diet: meat, fish, eggs, and lots of veggies, berries, and nuts.
MY PERSONAL PALEO JOURNEY
Ten years ago I was diagnosed with Hashimoto’s thyroiditis, an autoimmune disease that makes you feel depressed, exhausted, and generally miserable. And on top of those less-than-pleasant symptoms, Hashimoto’s causes weight gain. I also have a skin condition called rosacea, which only added to my anguish, making me a cranky, overweight, depressed monster with a red face and pimples. Delightful, no?
I was stuck. I was in a vortex that was sucking me down. Everything was a struggle, and I just couldn’t snap out of my sad, sorry state of mind.
As I researched autoimmune diseases, I kept reading over and over again about the Paleo diet and how it was reducing inflammation and healing people who were suffering from all sorts of autoimmune disorders, all the while helping people to lose weight and feel amazing.
When I first heard about the premise of the Paleo diet, to say I was skeptical is an understatement.
I kept thinking, “Oh, come on! I don’t want to give up bread and beans and potatoes! I’ve already done the low-carb thing—how is this any different?”
But after reading so many success stories, I couldn’t help but think that there was a chance that changing my diet would help me, just like it was helping so many other people. I shifted my thinking, and I gave myself a pep talk: “Leanne, stop thinking about what you have to give up, and start thinking about what you have to gain.”
I threw myself into the Paleo diet. At first it was difficult. I missed bread, rice, and the occasional baked potato. But guess what? Things were starting to change. I started feeling better. I was feeling so good that I wanted to exercise more, which, of course, made me feel even better. I added green juicing to the mix, and I began to feel like a brand-new person.
The inflammation in my body was starting to subside and all of my symptoms were disappearing one by one. After just ten days, my skin was clearing up, I was losing weight, and my blood work was coming back with no areas of concern—and let me tell you, blood work doesn’t lie.
It’s been about eight years since I last wrote a book. Before that, I was writing all the time, keeping my publisher very happy. Nothing has really inspired me to write again like the Paleo diet has. And that’s why you’re reading this very passage. I was so inspired by my own journey that I wanted to share it with you. This is a lifestyle that really, really works.
Now, if you’ve been doing any amount of digging into this way of eating and living, no doubt you’ve come across some pretty hard-core Paleo folks (more on them in Chapter Two). If the idea of eating like this seems too stringent, just relax. There’s a reason I called this book Part-Time Paleo!
I knew this book had to be about incorporating the best parts of the Paleo diet into your lifestyle so that it could be effective and manageable. Because let’s be realistic—we can only do what we can do.
Now that you know that you don’t have to live and die by a strict set of caveman rules, let’s look a little deeper into the science of Paleo.
Research has shown that our hunter-gatherer ancestors were lean, strong, and athletic and that they were afflicted with none of our modern-day maladies, such as diabetes and cancer. Interesting, yes?
Here we are in modern-day North America with our fancy medicine and billions of dollars spent on health care and research, and we are sick. Everyone knows someone with diabetes, cancer, high blood pressure, or heart disease because the Standard American Diet (SAD) is actually substandard. We are not eating enough of the right things (organic produce and grass-fed meats), and we’re eating too much of the wrong things (refined sugar and processed foods).
The physiological signs that we were meant to eat Paleo are right under our noses, literally. Let’s start by looking at our teeth. Our teeth tell us what we should eat. We have a combination of sharp teeth like those of carnivores and flat teeth like those of herbivores. With teeth suitable for both meat and vegetables, it’s clear that we’re omnivores. Lucky us! Omnivores have endless options in the food chain—we can eat meat, fish, veggies, eggs, nuts, and plants because we are naturally equipped to handle these foods. And this omnivorous diet is the wisest and best eating option for humans.
Doctors and nutritionists have been researching how eating Paleo can give us lean, healthy bodies and even reverse disease. There is evidence that a lifestyle based on a Paleo diet is beneficial on a variety of levels.
In my own research, I have found that things like legumes, grains, and processed foods, which were brought to us with the advent of agriculture, aren’t as natural as we’ve been led to believe. These types of foods are actually hard on our bodies and can lead to chronic illness.
Since the agricultural revolution, we have drastically changed our diet to one that is very different from what is natural to our bodies. In his national best seller, Why We Get Fat, Gary Taubes explains, “The modern foods that today constitute more than 60 percent of all calories in the typical Western diet—including cereal grains, dairy products, beverages, vegetable oils and dressings, and sugar and candy—would have contributed virtually none of the energy in the typical hunter-gatherer diet.” This change in diet, Taubes theorizes, may have made us more susceptible to a variety of diseases and dangerous health conditions. Taubes goes on to state that “colon cancer is 10 times more common in rural Connecticut than in Nigeria. Alzheimer’s disease is far more common among Japanese Americans than among Japanese living in Japan.”
The implication is that there is a strong connection between particular diseases and the Western diet—a diet that is very different from the one of our ancient ancestors.
Our Western way of eating is harming us. Our physiology has hardly changed in the past ten thousand years. We digest food the same way our ancestors did. But the “foods” we’re putting into our bodies don’t resemble the foods eaten in Paleolithic times. And it’s this introduction of unrecognizable foods into our bodies that is causing harm. Our cells don’t know what to do with all of the chemicals in foods like margarine and microwave popcorn.
The Paleolithic era is where we first find evidence of stone tools being used—not tools that made things more convenient, but tools they needed so they could eat, period. These tools made it easier to hunt bigger game. Eventually, we became hunter-gatherers who ate mostly meat. Researchers hypothesize that the Paleolithic age is when our genes were shaped. If our most natural state of being comes from this time period, then why don’t we live accordingly?
One of the more interesting things I came across during my research is a study that was done in the 1980s called the Kitava Study. Created by Staffan Lindeberg, MD, PhD, associate professor in the Department of Medicine at Lund University, in Sweden, this study closely monitored the dietary habits of a particular Papua New Guinea tribe (the Kitava tribe). The diet of the Kitava people matched that of our Paleolithic ancestors. What the researchers found over a series of years is remarkable: “Despite a fair number of older residents, none of whom showed signs of dementia or poor memory, the only cases of sudden death the residents could recall were accidents such as drowning or falling from a coconut tree.”* They did not find any accounts of heart disease, nor were there any signs of diabetes, dementia, acne, high blood pressure, strokes, or weight problems!
WHAT DO I ACTUALLY EAT?
So, are you ready to go Paleo and start reaping the benefits? Good. Now, let’s get down to basics.
The basis of the diet is the consumption of anything our hunter-gatherer ancestors might have eaten: meat, fish, eggs, veggies, some fruits, and nuts and seeds. Paleoistas live without dairy, grains, and most legumes. So, you can have steak, but skip the dinner roll. You might be surprised that foods you thought were healthy, like peanuts, chickpeas, and whole grains, are forbidden by Paleoistas, but foods like beef, butter, and wine are A-OK!
When you get to the meals and recipes in this book, you’ll see that we Paleoistas use delicious methods of cooking and add herbs and spices to our food. We enjoy liberal use of olive and coconut oils, balsamic vinegar, and some assorted condiments when appropriate (like Dijon mustard or salsa, for example). Paleo eating is naturally gluten-free and low glycemic. Eggs appear frequently in the diet, as does nitrate/nitrite-free bacon. Did I just hear an amen?
Before you start to panic about what you can and cannot eat, relax! As you adjust to this new way of living (yes, this is a lifestyle and not a diet), I’m going to help you as much as I can. Remember, once upon a time I was in the exact mental place as you are now.
PART-TIME PALEO RULES
Here are the basic rules you will follow as a Part-Time Paleo eater:
• Skip the dairy. For the most part, anyway. If you have it, have just a little, and make sure it’s quality cheese, aged more than 120 days (to break down the lactose).
• No. Gluten. Ever. Yes, gluten is evil and will take down your health, pronto. But if you just have to have some pasta, then go with quinoa pasta—just watch your portions (the carb count on quinoa is ridiculous). Carbs break down into sugar, so excessive carbs lead to a sugar overload in your body.
• Legumes. Legumes aren’t allowed on the Paleo diet because they are full of lectins (read more about lectins on page 6). But if you’re craving split pea soup, go on and sprout those split peas and have ’em. I’ve done this. Just allow those little guys to sprout a couple of days, then make some fantabulous split pea soup. Sprouting grains and legumes destroys their lectins, making them Paleo-friendly. You’re welcome.
• Potato patrol. Skip the white ones and go for the purple ones, which have much more nutrition. Even so, see No. 2 regarding the quinoa pasta. Same goes for purple potatoes—go easy.
• Eat veggies! Go crazy and bulk up on as many green veggies as you can, since you won’t be filling up on bread and grains. Watch the starchy veggies and go with lower-glycemic stuff like broccoli, cauliflower, and, of course, dark leafy greens.
PART-TIME PALEO PRINCIPLES
As I mentioned, becoming Part-Time Paleo is about more than just what you eat. It’s a lifestyle based on the following principles:
• We need to fuel our bodies with nutrients. The best source of nutrients is plants, especially organic local produce that’s in season.
• Free-range eggs are packed with protein, amino acids, and minerals.
• Organic, grass-fed, pastured meat is an important protein source. Avoid consuming factory-raised animals.
• Stress-reducing activities (massage, yoga; use your imagination) are essential to good health and should be done daily.
• Exercise is important, but it should involve doing activities you enjoy.
• Rest is an often overlooked key to good health. We need to give our bodies adequate sleep so our hormones function properly.
• Fruit isn’t as beneficial to the body as vegetables are. Because of its high sugar content, it should be enjoyed in small amounts.
• Nuts, berries, and seeds contain vital nutrients and should be eaten daily in moderation.
• Refined sugar, grains, legumes, gluten, and packaged, processed foods are anti-nutrient and should be avoided.
• Healthy fats like olive oil, coconut oil, grass-fed butter, and avocado do the body good.
• Vegetable oils are dangerous, man-made fats that should not be consumed by humans or any other living creature.
• Greek yogurt, kefir, and cheese aged more than 120 days are acceptable forms of dairy, if you can tolerate them. Go easy, if at all.
• Wine, especially red wine, has prebiotic properties and a great nutritional profile. It should be enjoyed in moderation.
• Counting calories is meaningless.
• Probiotics and fermented veggies are beneficial to digestion.
• Bone broth is chock-full of gut-healing properties and should become a staple in your diet.
• Be aware of your digestion and elimination.
PALEO VS. PRIMAL
You may hear the words Paleo and Primal used interchangeably, but there are some slight differences between these two diets.
Both Paleo and Primal lifestyles are based on evolutionary science that states that the diet we Westerners are eating nowadays is nothing like what our ancestors ate a hundred thousand years ago. Both the Paleo and Primal lifestyles say that if we eat what our ancestors ate, we’ll be healthier.
Similarities between Paleo and Primal lifestyles include:
• Eating tons of veggies
• Eating lots of protein
• Avoiding grains
• Eliminating gluten
• Doing away with corn
• Avoiding high-fructose corn syrup
• Avoiding sugar
• Eliminating processed foods
• Enjoying the occasional wine and beer (but only gluten-free beer)
• Exercising regularly
While they are very much alike, the specific rules that differ for Paleo and Primal include the following:
• Paleoistas avoid dairy (many making an exception for grass-fed butter). Primal folks enjoy raw, fermented dairy once in a while.
• Some Paleo folks avoid saturated fats and limit their intake of fatty meats, eggs (six per day), and butter. I am not one of those folks. I eat plenty of butter, grass-fed beef, and coconut oil! Primal eaters are not afraid of saturated fats, and eggs are enjoyed freely.
• Primal allows fermented soy products and organic edamame, while Paleo has its followers avoiding soy.
• Primal allows for occasional intake of legumes, while Paleo says no.
Paleo has evolved quite a bit over the years, adopting more aspects from the Primal way of life. Many Paleoistas, for instance, eat fermented dairy and Greek yogurt. I have many Paleo pals who also don’t limit the amount of eggs they eat. And lots of Paleo followers don’t limit the amount of bacon that they eat either. See what I mean?
In my experience, everyone who eats this way has their own variation of a caveman-like diet and I say that’s fine. The one thing that everyone agrees on is that it’s real food all the time—no pseudo foods.
Rather than settle squarely in either the Paleo or the Primal camp, I have started my own: the Part-Time Paleo community.
TEN COMMON FOODS THAT SEEM PALEO BUT AREN’T
There are some foods you’re going to find referenced in this book that seem perfectly nonthreatening that Paleoistas avoid as if they were junk food.
When you start eating Paleo, it’s hard to wrap your mind around the fact that foods you’ve been led to believe are good for you are actually not, and foods you’ve been avoiding are actually healthy.
The basic idea of the Paleo diet is to eat foods that were available to our Paleolithic ancestors. The argument is that our physiology hasn’t changed enough in the past ten thousand years to allow us to digest some of the foods that came on the scene during the onset of modern agriculture (foods like wheat).
Whole grains aren’t the only “natural” foods you don’t eat when you go Part-Time Paleo. The following ten foods are to be avoided:
• Lentils. These little guys seem healthy enough, right? But lentils contain lectins, which are an enemy of our digestive system. You can still enjoy lentils as a Part-Time Paleoista by sprouting them to destroy the lectins. Sprout lentils the same way you would any other seed. (Read more on sprouting on page 52.)
• Peanuts. Peanuts are not actually nuts; they are legumes. And legumes contain phytic acid, which binds to nutrients, preventing the body from absorbing them. Not only that, but phytic acid can lead to a leaky gut, opening the door for all kinds of problems, like autoimmune disorders and more.
• Rice. Hard-core Paleoistas avoid rice, as it’s a member of the cereal grain family and is essentially void of nutrients. Rice contains anti-nutrients like phytin (a form of phytic acid), which binds to minerals, making them virtually useless.
• Corn. We’ll go into more detail about why corn is to be avoided on page 57, but let’s just say that it’s almost impossible to find corn that’s not GMO, and it’s super high glycemic and a grain—not a vegetable! (Did I hear you gasp?)
• Chickpeas. Just like peanuts, chickpeas are legumes and therefore avoided by Paleoistas.
• White potatoes. White potatoes are pure starch, and as a source of nutrients, they are inferior to most other side dish options. They also belong to the nightshade family and, as such, contain chemicals called glycoalkaloids, which trigger leaky gut symptoms in folks who aren’t able to tolerate them. Purple potatoes and sweet potatoes are much more nutritious options, but you need to temper your consumption with good old-fashioned moderation.
• Soy. Health aficionados have eaten soy for decades. But we now know that soy is full of lectins and phytates and nonorganic soy is one of the main sources of GMOs in North America.
• Peas. Green peas are legumes, so they are avoided by hard-core Paleoistas, but they aren’t very harmful unless you have food sensitivities as the result of a leaky gut. Peas are quite high on the glycemic index, so if you do choose to eat them, go easy! The only exception is pea isolate. The phytates in pea isolate (like the kind in my All-in-One Smoothie Mix) are nearly eliminated in the processing and they are very easy to digest.
• Oats. Cave people didn’t eat oatmeal, so we don’t eat oats on the Part-Time Paleo diet either. Oats contain phytic acid and should be avoided, especially if you have food sensitivities due to a leaky gut.
• Beans. Again, beans are legumes and contain high amounts of lectins, so they are not Part-Time Paleo friendly.
HOW TO USE THIS BOOK
Part-Time Paleo: How to Go Paleo Without Going Crazy includes twelve weeks of menu plans to get you started (including shopping lists!). It also tells you what equipment you need in your kitchen and what ingredients you need to stock your cupboards, pantry, and fridge. In Chapter Nine, you’ll find twenty Paleo freezer meals for those days you might be tempted to do takeout. There are Paleo slow cooker recipes and an entire chapter on soup. (This soup chapter, by the way, includes my fabulous Mighty Mitochondria Soup—this soup will help you get those all-important veggies in each day, deliciously.) There’s a chapter about the parts of the Paleo lifestyle that I consider optional, and there’s even a chapter to help you transition your children into the Part-Time Paleo lifestyle.
BEFORE YOU GO ON
Now, before you skip to the recipes, I cannot stress enough the importance of eating organic veggies, grass-fed beef, pastured pork, organic poultry, and wild fish. Whenever possible, eat as organically, locally, and in-season as you can—this ensures the high quality of your food, which in turn will deliver the highest possible amount of nutrients and phytonutrients to your body.
A lot of people who are considering going Paleo hesitate because they fear it will be expensive. But think about how cost effective (not to mention how much better for you) it would be to take all the cash spent on crappy food and put it toward the best food you can buy. A lot of times we end up spending more money on food that is “cheap” than we do on food that is good for us and considered expensive. When was the last time you added up what you’re spending on packaged snacks and boxed cereal? How much are you spending on restaurant meals, fast food, and takeout?
When we plan our meals ahead of time, we save money because we’re not throwing away wasted food that ends up rotting at the bottom of the fridge, and we’re not buying items we don’t need. This banked money can then be used to buy better-quality products.
Planning really is the key ingredient. Now, let’s get started!
How much thought do you give to your digestive system? I mean, how aware are you of what happens between the time your food goes in your mouth and the time it goes out your . . . well . . . out of your body? Much happens along the way.
Your digestive tract is a thirty-foot-long (give or take a few feet) hollow tube running from your mouth to your rectum. Most of us think of our digestive system as nothing more than the way our food travels through our bodies, but we’re forgetting a very important function of that tube.
The digestive system is tasked with more than just getting our food into our bellies. It’s also responsible for protecting our bodies from toxins, chemicals, and pathogens. That big yucky tube makes up 70 percent of the body’s immune system.
When your digestion is compromised, you are directly affecting your immune system. In order to have a healthy immune system, you need to have a healthy gut. You can’t have one without the other.
The foods and practices followed in the Part-Time Paleo lifestyle give your system the proper elements for optimal digestion and keep out the foods that will do it harm. Make sense?
FIVE TIPS TO ENHANCE DIGESTION
• Chew thoroughly. It’s extremely important to the digestive process for you to chew your food.
• Don’t drink with your meal. Avoid drinking too much liquid with your meal because it dilutes your digestive juices. If you must drink something with a meal, drink a little water or some wine (of course). The majority of your liquid consumption, though, should be either fifteen minutes before or one hour after a meal.
• Stop eating when you’re almost full. Instead of eating until you feel full, eat only until you’re almost full. For your foods to be broken down properly, you need to leave room for those digestive juices to do their job. You can’t stuff a furnace with wood and expect to be able to start a great fire. You need some room for airflow.
• Consume bone broth. With each meal, take a few ounces of bone broth, either plain or in a soup. This is a very healing food, and it will help provide you with a ton of essential nutrients—plus, eating soup (like my delicious Mighty Mitochondria Soup) fills you up and helps you meet your nutritional quota for veggies in a very enjoyable way.
• Eat fermented foods. Fermented foods such as kimchi and sauerkraut should be eaten frequently because that fermentation sends good bacteria to the gut, helping in the process of digestion. You can make your own fermented vegetables quite easily.
CHEW, CHEW, CHEW
The more time your food and your saliva spend together, the better. Contact with saliva not only makes it easier for food to go through the esophagus, but that saliva is also full of enzymes that play a role in the chemical process of digesting our food. The first stage of fat digestion actually happens in the mouth.
Your saliva starts breaking down the food you put into your mouth, and from there, the food continues to break down until it’s reduced to minuscule particles that your cells will use for energy, repair, and ongoing maintenance.
Chewing food slowly and taking time to actually taste and savor every bite goes a long way toward enjoying each morsel you put in your mouth—and it helps give your digestive process the time it needs with your saliva. We eat so quickly that we don’t give our food the attention it needs from our saliva for proper nutrient absorption.
When we chew our food properly, large food molecules are broken down into smaller particles, giving our food a larger surface area as it goes through the digestive system. This breaking up of food molecules is essential to good digestion. It’s also easier on your esophagus to swallow smaller pieces of food.
When your food isn’t chewed up well, the fragments are too large to be broken down properly. Nutrients aren’t extracted from the food like they should be, leading to undigested food, which encourages bacterial overgrowth in the colon. (Can you say flatulence?)
Another useful side effect of chewing each bite more than once or twice is that it slows down the entire process of eating a meal, giving your belly and your brain the message that you’re full much sooner, which prevents you from overeating.
Now, I’m not going to tell you to chew each bite fifty times, but a good rule of thumb is to chew until you can’t tell what kind of food you’re eating anymore based on texture. For example, if you’re eating an apple, don’t stop chewing until you can’t tell the peel from the flesh of the apple.
The digestive system is responsible for getting all those bits and pieces to the proper places within the body, while also getting rid of everything that needs to be eliminated along the way—toxins, pathogens, and other nasties. Your job is to put the highest-quality foods possible into that system. One could argue that the digestive process technically starts with the items in your grocery bags. The more organic foods you put into your mouth, the easier a job you’re giving your digestive system, since it won’t have as many chemicals to sort through.
THE POWER OF PROBIOTICS
One often overlooked aspect of good gut health is getting plenty of those good bacteria moving through your system. I’m talking about probiotics.
Good gut bacteria are extremely beneficial to your health. Did you know that there are roughly 450 different species of bacteria sitting in your gastrointestinal tract right now? If you put all of those little critters on a kitchen scale, they’d add up to about three pounds! Now, I don’t know about you, but that seems like a significant enough population to be concerned about.
We need to be sure that at least 85 percent of those bacteria are in the helpful court—the probiotic side of the equation. Those probiotics activate T cells (the cancer fighters) and trigger many immune system reactions throughout your entire body. And when you consider that about 70 percent of your immune system lives right there in your gut, don’t you think it’s smart to be feeding your gut what it needs to maintain your health?
Your body is counting on 15 percent or less of your intestinal flora to be pathogenic, so it’s up to you to do what you can to keep things optimally balanced, and probiotics are a terrific way to improve your balance. You will find probiotic capsules and powders (I prefer the capsules) at your local health food store or in the health food section of most well-stocked grocery stores (look in the refrigerated section).
Some of the benefits of probiotics include:
• Reversal of ulcers. Probiotics may actually reverse irritable bowl syndrome, ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease, and ulcers. If you’ve had a gut inflammation of any kind, start taking probiotics ASAP.
• Immunity boost. Probiotics may help prevent colds, allergies, and flu.
• Better breast milk. If pregnant women and nursing mothers take probiotics, Mom’s breast milk has enhanced immune protection for baby.
• Relief from GS symptoms. If you’re suffering from gluten sensitivity (GS) or celiac symptoms, you may find relief if you add probiotics to your diet.
• Beat the yeast. A healthy balance of probiotics in the system may help prevent yeast infections.
• Cancer prevention. Probiotics help to nourish certain enzymes in the body, which may go on to reduce tumor production in your body.
• Fight bad foods. If you eat any nonorganic meat or processed foods containing GMOs, you are likely consuming antibiotics. Eating these foods kills healthy bacteria in the gut, so consuming probiotics may help to restore your gut’s healthy balance.
There is some evidence to suggest that probiotics can help those affected by autism. A doctor by the name of Natasha Campbell-McBride moved her son off the autism spectrum by restoring healthy probiotic levels in his body, thereby relieving inflammation in his body. The diet she developed is known as the GAPS (Gut and Psychology Syndrome) diet, and it is followed widely throughout the United States and Canada.
So, how do you get all the probiotics you need?
Well, first off, you can take a supplement. This is absolutely crucial if you’ve been on antibiotics, which kill healthy bacteria in your gut. I wish more doctors would recommend that patients take a probiotic while on a round of antibiotics, but I digress.
Wholesome foods are always preferable over supplements. I’m a big believer in eating fermented foods, which are essentially probiotics! Keep on reading to find a fermented food primer, and learn to make these magical foods yourself on pages 10–13.
A healthy digestive system will get the bad stuff out while hanging on to the good stuff. If you’re digesting food properly, you will feel fantastic, get sick infrequently, and live longer and, God willing, disease-free.
Doing your part for your digestive system means that you have to eat real foods. Those real foods must be quality foods, like organic produce, grass-fed meats, and free-range, pastured poultry and eggs.
The fake foods, sugar, and pesticides found in the Standard American Diet wreak havoc on the human body, jeopardizing our very health. Our bodies do not recognize this stuff as food, and consequently, they are not digested well. This also goes for legumes and grains—foods that were introduced by the onset of modern agriculture. They are tough on the system and can actually cause significant damage to your gut. Much of this can be blamed on dietary lectins.
THE SCOOP ON DIETARY LECTINS
Dietary lectins are probably not on your radar. Most everyday folks don’t know about lectins, and neither do many doctors. Considering the damage these nasty little sons of guns can do, that’s really not good.
Lectins are proteins that bind to carbohydrates, cells, and tissues. These proteins do not break down easily. They cause inflammation in the body, they can be toxic, and they are resistant to digestive enzymes. Think of them as invisible thorns ripping you up on the inside.
This resistance to stomach acid means that lectins are free to latch on to the wall of your stomach, where they can then contribute to the erosion of your intestinal barrier. That, my friend, is known as leaky gut, and it’s about as pretty as it sounds.
When the gut lining is damaged, other proteins can sneak through into the body in an undigested state, causing all kinds of problems, including:
• Crohn’s disease
• Irritable bowel syndrome (IBS)
• Celiac sprue
• Insulin-dependent diabetes
• Rheumatoid arthritis
• Food allergies and sensitivities
• Low energy
• Weight gain
When lectins circulate through your bloodstream, they’re then free to bind to any tissue in your body, including the pancreas, the thyroid, and even the collagen in your joints. Your white blood cells attack the tissue that the lectin has attached to, effectively destroying it. Lectin protein in wheat, for example, is known to cause rheumatoid arthritis, as it attaches to joint collagen.
And lectins are found in a lot of the food we eat, including:
• Grains: wheat, wheat germ, rice, oats, buckwheat, rye, barley, corn, millet, and quinoa
• Nightshade foods: tomatoes, potatoes, cucumbers, eggplant, and peppers
• Some seafood
Some people do seem to be able to tolerate lectins better than others, and that’s because they have the ideal balance of beneficial flora and a strong immune system.
WHY ARE PURPLE POTATOES BETTER THAN WHITE?
There’s no nutrition to speak of in a plate of starchy white potatoes, so we avoid white tubers when we eat Part-Time Paleo. Purple potatoes, however, are a different story, and they make a great stand-in for your old familiar spuds.
Purple potatoes were first grown in Peru, where thousands of years ago they were eaten only by Incan kings because they were so valuable.
You can now find hundreds of varieties of purple potatoes in the United States, and they are not reserved for royalty! The darker their color, the greater the antioxidant content within those potato skins.
Purple potatoes contain iron, folic acid, vitamin C, and potassium. The darkest of them actually have as much antioxidant power as spinach, kale, and brussels sprouts.
While they are a little lower on the glycemic index, they’re not without their carb problems. Keeping carbs on the low side keeps inflammation (and your weight) down.
Then there are some folks with severe lectin sensitivity. Symptoms of severe lectin intolerance include:
• Memory impairment
• Sleep problems
• Irregular moods
• Swollen joints
• Water retention
• Constipation and/or diarrhea
If you’re in this category, your body is unable to stop lectins from binding to cells, and you must eliminate lectins from your diet if you want to feel better.
Most people think they’re getting along fine until they eliminate wheat, dairy, and nightshades from their diet and feel the benefits firsthand with improved energy, better sleep, and a better overall feeling of well-being. With your Part-Time Paleo lifestyle, you’re about to discover these benefits yourself.
FERMENTED FOODS: A PRIMER
I think our ancestors would be pretty surprised at how fermented foods seem to have all but disappeared from our diets.
Since ancient times, humans around the world have been fermenting their food before eating or drinking it. Wine was being made at least eight thousand years ago. Milk fermentation has been happening since around 3000 BC, and folks were eating leavened bread around 1500 BC.
Our grandmothers made sauerkraut and pickles via lacto-fermentation (using salt), whereas today we use vinegar. They used wild yeast (sourdough) to leaven their bread. Those types of fermentation provided us with probiotics, replenishing the good bacteria in our bodies.
Today, almost everything we eat is pasteurized. We use antibacterial soap and drink chlorinated water. We take antibiotic drugs. These modern “fixes” have left us with an imbalanced level of bacteria in our guts, and that can fuel illness.
Adding fermented foods to your diet will help restore those levels of healthy bacteria, and it will do wonders for your well-being.
Here are some good reasons to eat fermented foods:
• Improved digestion. Eating fermented foods is sort of like having it already partially digested before it hits your stomach, because the food has been processed and broken down by acids. That allows your body to take the good out of the food without doing as much heavy lifting. When you improve digestion, nutrient absorption is naturally improved as well.
• Vitamin boost. When you ferment food, you boost its vitamin content, especially with fermented dairy products like kefir.
• Gut health. You need good bacteria in your gut to avoid yeast infections, irritable bowel syndrome, constipation, gluten intolerance, lactose intolerance, and lots of other nasty things. Eating fermented foods can help strike the right balance.
• Flavor. Why does sauerkraut taste so good on our sausages and corned beef go so well with pickles? Because they’re delicious, that’s why! Fermented foods are healthy and delicious.
Fermenting food is inexpensive, requires very basic ingredients (salt and mason jars), and helps to preserve foods for a long period of time.
To get more fermented foods into your diet, drink kombucha (a fermented tea you’ll find in Asian markets) or kefir. Eat naturally fermented condiments that you buy at the store, or make your own at home. Kimchi, sauerkraut, salsa, and pickles are all examples of fermented condiments you can easily make yourself.
PART-TIME PALEO FERMENTED RECIPES
Yields approx. 3 cups
2 cups peeled and chopped peaches
½ cup chopped red onion
1 clove garlic, pressed
2 tablespoons minced jalapeño
2 tablespoons lemon juice
2 teaspoons sea salt
2 tablespoons purified water, as needed
Combine peaches, onion, garlic, jalapeño, lemon juice, and sea salt in a bowl and mix well. Transfer to a canning jar and, using a spoon, crush the mixture to release as much liquid as possible. Liquid should cover the mixture to prevent mold. If you do not have enough liquid, add just enough water to make sure mixture is covered (you may not use the entire 2 tablespoons). Leave at least an inch between the salsa and the top of the jar, as it will expand as it ferments. Cover tightly and store in a warm place for 2–5 days. Taste periodically, and when the salsa suits your taste, transfer to the fridge. Chill and enjoy.
Cranberry Mango Chutney
Yields approx. 4 cups
2 cups chopped bing cherries
1 cup fresh cranberries
1 cup peeled and chopped mango
½ teaspoon ground cloves
½ teaspoon grated ginger
¼ teaspoon ground cardamom
2 tablespoons lime juice
1 teaspoon sea salt
2 tablespoons purified water, as needed