My journey toward a more Paleo-style of eating
By Elizabeth Kaldeck Smith
Photo by Disiana Caballero on Unsplash
For me, the aroma of fresh baked bread is irresistibly enticing and endorphin-producing. I love it! My positive memories of bread go back to my childhood when it became one of my favorite foods (along with Sky Bars and Milky Ways). Because of the concern about the gluten in grains as a health issue, I switched over from wheat to millet years ago, thinking that since millet is gluten free, it’s okay. But is it?
Dr. Loren Cordain and the Paleo movement.
After dealing with some health challenges, I gave up dairy, ate organic food, and paid attention when Dr.Loren Cordain came out with the “Paleo Diet” in 2002 (revised in 2011). He published the book after fifteen years of research and collaboration with scientists Dr. Boyd Eaton and Dr. Steffan Lindberg. Since then, he has authored many more books on Paleo eating. The diet is quite restrictive. It emphasizes whole foods, meat, fish, eggs, nuts, seeds, low starch vegetables, fruits and healthy fats. It avoids grains, legumes (beans, chickpeas, peas, peanuts, etc.) and dairy. It is supposed to reduce chronic disease, inflammation, and obesity. Helping people with type 2 diabetes by optimizing blood sugar is also a big feature of the low-carb Paleo diet. Proponents of this diet believe that this is the way our hunter-gatherer ancestors ate thousands of years ago before the introduction of modern farming. Unprocessed foods are key in the Paleo diet.
Because of the restrictiveness of the diet, Dr.Cordain suggests having a “cheat” meal 2-3 times a week so you don’t feel deprived of your favorite foods. Dr. Sarah Ballantyne, PhD, Paleo Mom and medical biophysicist, in “How to Cheat and Stay on Track”, advises that “cheating” is something to incorporate after following the diet for at least 30 days. However, she warns against cheating with gluten. She says it can cause six months worth of damage. Dr. Ballantyne is the author of “Paleo Principles”and “The Healing Kitchen” among others.
The late Dorothy Mullen, founder of the Suppers Programs in Princeton, New Jersey, was devoted to helping people overcome health problems either created by or worsened by processed foods. She addressed the many challenges people face when trying to improve their health through better nutrition. For example, many of us have difficulty giving up traditional breads and baked goods. On the Suppers website, a great resource, Dorothy stated that “many Paleo approaches include the use of almond, coconut, and flax meal flowers for baking. At Suppers, we have experimented quite extensively with making crackers, breads, wraps, crepes, pie crusts and muffins out of nuts and seeds”. Some bakeries make Paleo breads and crackers. Suppers also helps those on other diets, not just Paleo.
In addition to teaching the “Suppers” members about the importance of unprocessed foods, Dorothy demonstrated how to do organic gardening and co-founded the Princeton School Garden Cooperative. She worked with teachers to develop garden lesson plans to incorporate into the school curriculum in order to educate kids at an early age about whole foods. Suppers also works with many medical partners and other health professionals who provide advice and lead workshops.
Should legumes be completely avoided because they contain anti-nutrients phytic acid and lectins?
Kris Kresser, expert in functional medicine and founder of the Kresser Institute, says in “Are legumes Really Paleo, and Does It Really Matter?” that cooking legumes for as little as 15 minutes or pressure cooking them for 7.5 minutes almost completely inactivates the lectins they contain. Atli Arnarson, Bsc, PhD, writes in Healthline about soaking, sprouting and fermentation as ways to reduce phytic acid in legumes. So, for people who enjoy beans, and for vegetarians, proper preparation is all-important.
Now, to address the question I presented in the first paragraph about millet. Millet is still a grain. Yes, it is gluten-free, but is there are problems associated with it and it would not be allowed on a Paleo diet. Dr. Loren Cordain along with other nutrition experts advises us to avoid it because it could suppress the thyroid gland function. I heard something about that years ago but ignored it. Will I stop eating millet? My onion millet bagels are starting to look less tempting. Right now, I’m researching organic Paleo nut and seed breads. I hope I find one soon that I like. The question is, could it become my new comfort food?
© Elizabeth Kaldeck Smith, 2021