Many bloggers are listing their most popular posts of the previous year and I probably would not have followed suit but a reader asked me to, so here I go. In terms of traffic here are the most popular posts of the past year:
10 New Ways to Cook Quinoa – Over 20,000 people have visited this post and I didn’t write it until late summer. Wow! I hope it has provided Quinoa cooking ideas for lots of people.
Are You Eating the 30 Healthiest Foods? – I listed the healthiest foods selected by a popular magazine to see how many of them I was eating or not and why.
Six Benefits of Eating Locally Grown Foods – Why we should high tail it out of the chain grocery store and into the farmer’s market.
The Dangers of Soy – My horrendous experience with soy. I let my guard down and I started consuming a protein bar that had soy in it. It did devastating things to my health and it is the gift that just keeps on giving unfortunately.
Natural Sunburn Remedies – Tips and ideas for recovering from a sunburn.
Bringing Food Preservation Back To Our Kitchens – The lost art of food preservation.
Tips on Avoiding Food Waste – Most people in affluent countries waste food left and right but we can tame that beast with some creativity and planning.
Eco Friendly & Sustainable Dollhouses – Turning a classic toy and into a green toy.
Greener Tips for Healthy Skin – Reading this post again was a great reminder to break out the magnesium oil again. I need it!
Okabashi Recyclable Shoes and Flip-Flops – A greener shoe option that I reviewed.
Okay, so that is what drew the most readers in. My personal faves would include some of the above but I would also add:
Happy With What You Have – Feng Shui Tips for the Home – I am a big Feng Shui enthusiast.
Creating a Real Foods Kitchen – This was a very recent post but already gaining in popularity.
The Power of Reclaiming Domesticity
Living the Minimalist Lifestyle
Transitioning Kids to REAL Food
Here is to 2012!!
When I posted about going grain free this week and also eschewing some other foods, I got many comments and emails asking what in the Sam Hill I WOULD be eating. I understand the confusion. As a nourished vegetarian most of my protein came from eggs, dairy, grains, legumes, beans, lentils, nuts and nut butters, greens, and protein supplements. This year I have decided to go grain free and pseudo grain free. This means everything from whole wheat and oats, to rice and Quinoa, is on the chopping block. I am also giving up potatoes, legumes, beans, and lentils. I am restricting dairy to just a small bit of cheese and/or Greek yogurt each day as well.
The comments I got in regards to this were a mixture of confusion (what is left to eat?!) and frustration. It is indeed very frustrating to hear that the foods that have been paraded around in front of you as healthy for all your life, actually aren’t so healthy for you after all. Everyone thinks they have the “right” answer as well. The Weston A. Price folks cling to their lard, tallow, and liver like a security blanket, while the vegetarians and vegans sing the praises of their grains and soy. Raw foodies have wisely ditched the grains but go a bit overboard with nuts and carbs. I have followed all of these diets in the past. None of them seemed to cure everything that ailed me though and recently that has really started to bother me. I truly believe that food should be our medicine and instead of accepting certain nagging health issues as part of life I decided I wanted to get to the bottom of mine. I never imagined that I would want to go paleo or primal and in fact last year I would have said you were out of your cottin pickin mind if you told me I ever would. Those folks are fanatical about meat! And they don’t like dairy, like my beloved yogurt!
So what changed my mind? Actually it was by listening to my own body and analyzing all of my food intake in depth. Thanks to my obsession with SparkPeople.com I have tracked every bit of food that has entered my mouth for over a year. I saw exactly how many grams of carbs, fat, and protein I was consuming as well as all the major vitamins and minerals. It is conventional wisdom that guides Sparkpeople so it is naturally aimed me for a high carb, low fat, moderate protein diet as the goal. Even if I knew that fats were not bad as we have been programmed to believe it still bothered me to get a warning at the end of the day if I went over what they considered healthy. It was almost impossible to eat too many carbs though, which seemed wrong to me. I also had trouble meeting the minimum protein requirements many days.
After I got into weight training I realized my protein load was lacking and my carb load was causing me to feel hungry all day. I was frankly sick and tired of feeling ravenous only an hour or two after a big meal. It got to where I was making dinner for myself later and later because I hoped I would be in bed and asleep before the inevitable after-dinner hunger pangs struck. I knew something was off… my blood sugar and insulin levels. I need protein to keep making gains at the gym. I need less carbs so that I won’t be hungry all the time and be causing my blood sugar to spike all day long. I need more fats in the diet for the same reason… fats are what make you feel satiated and full. My analysis leads me to think I would be better served by a high fat, moderate protein, low carb diet.
If I want low carb then I need to stick to fruits and veggies as my source of carbs and drop any processed carbs that cause blood sugar spikes like grains, rice, potatoes, beans, and the like. After reading books like Wheat Belly I learned of another bazillion reasons to ditch them as well, especially grains like wheat. Going raw again was my first thought but I didn’t want to go crazy with nuts just to get my protein and fat levels higher. They are really hard on the digestive system. I am not a fan of avocados the way most raw foodies are either and coconut products are good but not in massive quantities. Plus raw foodies typically eat metric tons of fruit and dehydrated fruit… ala constant blood sugar spikes yet again. Ironically I had just read a blog post by a raw foodie talking about how many raw food dessert bars they ate in one day, uncontrollably. That sealed it. Lots of dehydrated fruit is no good either because the concentrated sugars will cause you to be ravenous just a short time later as your blood sugar drops. I needed to get off that roller coaster, not find a different version of the same ride.
At the same time I also wanted to address nagging health issues. My thyroid problem was not going away and I am still forced to take meds, something I detest. The hair loss in women is a deal breaker for many, me included. I am also suffering from sleep issues, seasonal depression, some annoying aches and pains, bloating, dry skin, and I broke out like a teenager during a couple of my last menstrual cycles. Yeah, something was way off. It isn’t something I started eating, like the soy-thyroid fiasco, because my diet has been constant, it is most likely something I wasn’t eating.
My research kept leading me back to the paleo or primal diet which is high fat, moderate protein, and low carb (no bad carbs). So why not? Well there is that whole vegetarian thing but I never gave up meat because I thought it was unhealthy to eat. It was out of concern for body acidity and environmental impact that I gave up on meat. I will keep things alkaline by going grain free and the eco issues are solved by buying local, pastured, ethically treated meat and not supporting factory farming. I always said I would go back to eating meat the moment we could raise our own on a small family farm but I guess I can’t wait that long. Of course I will have to put my own spin on the paleo diet and keep most of the fruits and veggies raw, drink my green smoothies, and not forgo dairy entirely. Another big factor is that the rest of my family eats meat and cooking/making different meals has got to stop. It will be such a huge stress reliever to make one meal that all of us eat!
This blog is not vegetarian centric in any way but I know that early this year when I posted a picture of a fish my son caught, some readers acted as though they wanted to come through their computer screens and claw my eyes out. I know some may be disappointed or angry to read I am going back to eating meat but I think I have explained some very solid reasons for doing so. It’s worth a try in my opinion.
I started this diet just before Christmas so it is hard to say with certainty how it is going but I am encouraged thus far that I am on the right track. I am already noticing that I am not experiencing bloating anymore, and I am not hungry between meals. Not hungry AT ALL. In fact I am having trouble getting in all the calories I should be consuming because my body already seems to be using fat stores for energy rather than sending messages to my brain that glucose fuel is needed and I need to eat carbs. I have also been sleeping better already, waking up slightly less in the night. No miracles to proclaim but there is improvement. I look forward to seeing what 2012 brings my way.
Right now I am reading lots about paleo/primal diets. It is based upon meats, seafood, nuts, healthy oils, greens, veggies, and fruit. We all know that previous generations were healthier than our own but rather than eating like my grandmother or my great-grandmother did, I am going back a bit further. The science is there and it is fascinating to read about the way we ate for thousands of years, primal health, and even ways we can exercise that can help us achieve the lean but immensely strong bodies of our ancestors. After reading The Primal Blueprint I was ready to kiss Mark Sisson, whose blog I used to eyeball occasionally but never read in depth, until now. He advises against chronic cardio and shows why that is actually not good for us to run marathons and do extensive cardio as so many do these days. I felt like a lazy slug because I had no desire to run long distances. I am totally content with running a mile or two max (and not every day) and yet all the cool kids seem to be doing marathons and half marathons. Now I am completely content to stick with my mild cardio workouts and weights.
Other Books I am Loving:
The Primal Blueprint Cookbook
Everyday Paleo (pictured above)
The New Evolution Diet
Hope I have answered the “What Will You Eat” question. I wanted to find a happy balance… WAPF with less grains and dairy, raw with more protein and diverse fats, and less sugar/carbs. I think that paleo /primal is a happy middle ground. Is it the “right” way? The jury is still out.
One of the things I thought I would have do without after deciding to go grain free was pancakes. Honestly I was not that sad though since I am not a big pancake eater. Of course that was before I tried these coconut pancakes. Now we have a nice treat for Saturday or Sunday mornings when all of us are together and oh my goodness they are divine! Yum!
I don’t want to list the exact recipe since we got it from The Primal Blueprint Cookbook but it would be a very wise time investment to pick it up at the library so you can try them yourself. The bulk of them is made of coconut flour, coconut milk, butter or coconut oil, eggs, and honey. We did not have any maple syrup though and we can only get the fake stuff nearby so we opted to make compote. We don’t usually buy blackberries out of season but I figured it was better than Giant Eagle brand syrup. The compote is just blackberries, honey, and coconut milk. Also on the plate is local, nitrate free sausage.
I highly recommend these pancakes! You won’t miss grains at all.
I recently spent a few days at my parents’ house a couple counties away. I always bring a few books with me and enjoy the unplugged time and this particular visit was no exception. Almost as soon as I walked in the door I plopped down on a recliner and pulled out a book I was excited to read, Wheat Belly by William Davis, MD. It was the second book I read in a week that dealt with the issue of eschewing grains from the diet (more on the other book later).
For the new year I decided to make some diet changes. I would consider myself a pretty healthy person who eats a healthy, balanced diet. The nourishing vegetarian, high raw diet I have “mostly” followed since my cancer diagnosis in 2006 has brought me back to health and vitality and yet there are some nagging health issues that have not been cleared up. My thyroid issue, which I am certain was caused by the soy I didn’t even know I was eating, is not reversing itself. I have had trouble getting to sleep and staying asleep for several years now. I think I have a few too many aches and pains for a 34 year old woman to have. As healthy as I may think my diet is, something has to be missing, right? The answer seems to be lurking in the dietary realms in which I did not want to go. Time to man up, or woman up, and go there for 2012.
One major change is that I am going grain free this year. No more wheat for me. I am also adding to my “NO” list rice, legumes, lentils, potatoes, corn, and quinoa. All of these things have either gluten-like components that cause digestive issues and immunity issues or they cause blood sugar spikes which can lead to insulin resistance. After reading Wheat Belly I am more and more convinced that this is the right thing to do. Despite the fact that I already limit grains and/or soak and ferment them, I know that they actually have no place in my diet at all and there is no time like the present to bite the bullet.
The book is essentially about modern wheat’s assault on our health. It follows the evolution of wheat, starting with its much milder, ancestors einkorn and emmer to the drastically hybridized and genetically modified wheat we have today. The early versions of wheat would not be suitable for things like bread and doughnuts; it was more suitable for porridge. It was also not suitable to be grown on a very large scale. Hence human involvement to adapt and change wheat so that it was everything we wanted it to be. Everything except safe for consumption ironically. No studies or tests were done to determine if all these changes we have made to wheat were safe and many scientists, including the doctor who wrote this book, think it is one of the most devastating foods to human health there is. It is a major factor behind obesity, diabetes, intestinal issues, Celiac Disease, compromised bones, heart disease, skin conditions, hair loss, and inflammation like rheumatoid arthritis. The book also explains how wheat is an addictive substance. There are numerous stories about how his patients reversed some very serious health conditions simply by kicking wheat to the curb.
The reason the book is called Wheat Belly is pretty clear from the beginning chapters. Wheat actually causes your body to store fat. It elevates blood sugar almost more than any other carb, including candy bars. It triggers insulin and the growth of fat, especially in the abdominal area. Not only does it make us fatter, it also stresses out our endocrine system with all the glucose spikes. If we eat a lot of complex carbs it’s like a roller coaster ride that never ends. It is no wonder that so many are getting type 2 diabetes. They are wearing these bodily systems out!
Another big sticking point is that wheat and other grains make the body acidic. This, coupled with concerns about factory farming, was why I gave up meat. I did not realize that grains had the same, and even worse, effect. I would have been much better served giving those up instead but conventional wisdom trains us to believe that grains are so good for us. Just think about how many times you read a food package and it says “Heart Healthy Whole Grains”.
There is so much information in this book that I barely knew where to start in reviewing it. I think I have hit on several of the major points but I barely scratched the surface. It is a must read for anyone who is eating grains.
Here is to a great “grain free” year!
A couple months ago one of my Facebook friends was discussing how she was going to make a “threading” appointment for her eyebrows, which was supposed to be healthier than using a chemical wax. When I saw mention of this I was instantly curious and did a Google search to find out what this threading stuff was. After reading up I was instantly attracted to the concept and wondered if any place in my area offered such a service.
Threading is actually an ancient method of hair removal that originated in the east (Arab, Indian, and Persian countries). The last couple years or so it has really gained popularity here in the west. Not sure where in the heck I was all this time but I am on the boat now! Basically hair is removed at the follicle level with a thin, twisted piece of cotton thread. The practitioner holds the thread in a cat’s cradle position (anyone remember that string game from when they were kids?), settles it over a section of hair and then twists until hair is pulled out by the root.
While perusing the lovely Easton mall near my home I saw a salon called Exquisite Threading and I decided to check this out for myself. They have locations nationwide. Up until now I have been mostly been waxing. Tweezing is just not enjoyable for me because I have big black caterpillars above my eyes… they are quite thick and bushy. So about 3 or 4 times a year I get them waxed in a salon and “try” to tweeze in between sessions to keep them maintained. The drawback to this is that the wax has chemicals in it and I have yet to find a place that does sugaring or a more natural eyebrow waxing. It also creates a lot of waste I am sure with leftover wax and all the muslin strips that need to be tossed away. Threading seems to be a much healthier and greener way to go. No chemicals, no waste beyond a bit of compostable cotton string.
For my first appointment I settled in the chair and the gorgeous Indian practitioner asked if I wanted my eyebrows on the thin or thick side. I opted to play it safe and go for thick. The last time I had them waxed the practitioner made them so thin it looked like I drew them on with a pencil. I really should have looked at her own eyebrows and asked for another practitioner but I didn’t want to be rude and my eyebrows paid the price. I was VERY satisfied with my threading experience though. It was lightning fast, which surprised me, and my eyebrows look very satisfactory. It did not tickle by any means so I would say it hurts a bit more than waxing but my eyes were not red and puffy for more than 30 minutes though. Waxing usually makes my eyebrow area inflamed for hours and most times I bleed as well. Threading seemed to make for quick and easy healing. Perhaps it was the optional witch hazel they apply afterwards that helped. The only drawback was that I was rubbing my eyes for a good 30 minutes to get stray hairs out of them but that little annoyance will not keep me from future threading sessions. I am sold.
Have you tried threading?