The purpose of the series is to educate people on every aspect of primal eating and living. It’s also intended as further education for those interested in making changes to their current diet: I truly think a major reason why so many people have been successful with primal eating is because they’ve done their research and understand how it works, inside and out. It’s not simply about what to eat and what not to eat; it’s about understanding how our body reacts to different foods and what to do about it. If you’re considering dabbling in ancestral eating, or simply feel like when I use certain terms on this blog you haven’t a clue what I’m talking about, this series is for you. It will cover everything.The purpose of this is to inform, and clear up any misconceptions people may have regarding this facet of low-carb eating. Disclaimer: I’m not a registered dietician, I’m just someone who has done their research and successfully implemented a primal way of eating, and has seen major benefits. I do, however, plan to certify in the next year.
There are two philosophies:
The first is to eliminate the foods that make us sick, (feel poorly and make us tired), and go back to the foods we were meant to eat, and our bodies are adapted to eating. I used to think that I didn’t have any food issues; my stomach and my intestines were strong and healthy. I was healthy. It turns out, I was ‘healthy:’ I was eating everything they (the government, the media) tell you is healthy, but I was gaining weight, felt tired after meals or late in the afternoon, had some pretty severe cravings, was hungry all the time, and other little things that came across as what I thought was just a fact of adult life and getting older. When I now read that, I realise I wasn’t healthy at all, I was just on a slow road to potentially larger health issues, covered in the Science behind Primal Eating. When you first start primal eating, you immediately eliminate three major things in food: sugar, grains, and as a by-product of eliminating grains, gluten. After some time, and through experience, I would also add dairy to this list because while dairy is okay for some, when making a primal transition, too many people go wild with dairy and end up suffering the effects of it, (read: constipation). Dairy is a great source of saturated fat if your body can handle it. I’ve since learned that mine is okay with it in very small doses of dairy, and if I eat too much of it, my eczema flares up.
A part of aging, it seems, is that some of us will get sick, some of us will need to start taking medication, some of us will have some serious health issues, and some of us will be ‘lucky’ and have nothing at all. The origin of these health issues, the need for medication and the onset of illness might seem quite perplexing and a mystery for the majority, but it’s actually quite logical in how it all comes about. It all comes back to food, and what we are, or aren’t, eating. Food can heal and be medicine, but food can also destroy and makes us sick. We need to be eating the right foods, and avoiding the ones that make us feel like a subpar version of ourselves. It’s pretty safe to say that sugar is a monster and a drug, and leads to all major illnesses and health issues that affect the western world today: obesity, type II Diabetes, cancer, heart disease, high cholesterol, atherosclerosis, etc.. For more information on what sugar does to the body, I strongly urge you to read piece about the reasons why you should stop sugar, from my favourite authority on nutrition, Kris Gunnars. Reading gives us knowledge, and the entire point of my Primal Lessons theory is not so much to tell you how to live primally, but instead the reasons why you should do it. For more information on why you should avoid grains, read this article by my favourite primal expert Mark Sisson, called Why Grains are Unhealthy. It should really be called Why Grains are Bad for Us.
The second philosophy of primal eating is Just Eat Real Food, or #jerf. Take things back to what our paleolithic ancestors ate – meat, fat, some fruit, vegetables, nuts and seeds – but jazz it up with modern cooking techniques, herbs and spices, and the use of a full kitchen. Stop eating processed, packaged and tinned food – the foods that incidentally make us feel tired after a meal – and start eating foods that have very little to no ingredients lists.
Eat responsibly sourced and reared, grass-fed, pastured meats. A great place to start is your local butcher: ask them where the meat the carry is from, and what it’s fed. If you can’t find grass-fed beef, grain-fed organic will do, but keep in mind the meat you’re eating is eating the things you should be avoiding. Gluten-free sausages are great too. Your local butcher can make you some if special ordered, but you can find more whole food brands in your grocery store. I’m partial to Heck Sausages, made of 97% pork shoulder and gluten-free – I buy them at my local Tesco. If your not satisfied with your butcher’s fare, and the grocery stores around you aren’t any better, buy from your local farmer’s market. *Read about grass-fed over grain-fed beef here.
Eat preferably organic vegetables and some fruit. I realise that organic = more expensive, and if you’re working with a budget, it’s okay to buy conventionally grown fruit and vegetables – you’re not a bad person if you do. Conventionally grown brassicas (broccoli, cauliflower, kale and brussel sprouts) are totally fine and are great sources of anti-oxidants (best to eat for recovery after hard physical activity, along with a good serving of protein). I buy some conventionally grown vegetables and fruit, and some organic. The point is to eat a lot more vegetables, and if you’re doing primal for weightloss, about 1-3 servings of fruit a day. These are excellent sources of micro-nutrients and are full of anti-oxidants, something that should be a vital part of your post-exercise recovery meal. Eat wild, fatty fish. Again, fish falls into this category of conventional vs. real. If you can easily buy, and afford, wild fish, go for it. If you can’t, don’t worry. Farmed salmon still has health benefits that outweigh avoiding salmon altogether. The best possible fish to consume are those further down the food chain, that live in cold waters, and that are small, like wild Salmon (if possible), sardines, herring, anchovies and my favourite, mackerel. I have about 3 mackerel fillets, either fried or smoked, a week, and it does wonders for my skin because it’s chocked full of omega-3 fats.
Eat plenty of animal and plant based fats, especially the ones that are saturated. A saturated fat is actually easy to spot: it’s the fat that hardens in colder temperatures. Butter, coconut oil, ghee, lard, tallow (or beef dripping in the UK), as well as the majority of full fat dairy (cheese!!!!!), are all sources of saturated fat. We need to be eating these! Avocados are a phenomenal source of good fat as well, and have more potassium in them than a banana. Fatty fish are also perfect for your daily dose of fat. Again, these are great sources of omega-3 fats, and, once you become a fat burner, great sources of lasting energy. Fat – monounsaturated, unsaturated, and saturated – is your friend, not the enemy it’s been made out to be. With regards to the foods that you buy and eat under a primal template, organic, responsibly-reared food is best, but we can’t all afford it. Your next bet is to then buy local: from the butcher, your local fish shop, your local farmer’s market, green grocer or farm shop. Not only are you supporting the local economy, but all these vendors can tell you something most grocery stores can’t: where the food comes from and the name of the farmer that produces/grows it. It’s comforting to truly know where your food comes from. And it’s better to pay the farmer than to pay the doctor! If you feel that you can’t convert to primal eating for the costs, or because it sounds too hard, let me quote my favourite primal guru, Mark Sisson:
You have the right and also the obligation – to yourself and your loved ones – to pursue the absolute highest dietary quality possible. Yes, it may require more time, energy and even expense, but the payoff here is arguable greater than from any other lifestyle change you ponder (new TV, new car, new clothes, vacation, etc.)….an investment in your health today pays dividends far greater and far longer than you might eve see in any health or national insurance contributions you make.
– The Primal Blueprint, page 146
With that said, the point of primal eating is not actually to lose weight, far from it believe it or not. It’s to get your body into an optimal state simply by changing what you eat. It is possible to be the best version of you, and prevent the eventuality of disease, simply through diet alone, but you need to be consistent and stick to it. Modern primal eating follows and preaches that no matter where we are and what we eat, we should just eat real food. Eliminate grains, sugars, legumes or pulses, all of which cause inflammation at the cellular level, because inflammation is the source of ALL disease. By eating primally, you are greatly reducing your chance of disease through diet alone, and reversing the effects of what carb and sugar consumption has done to your metabolism over the years. Some like to say that you can reprogramme your genes to work to their true potential, rather than working at subpar effort. For a more in-depth lists of good foods to eat and bad foods to avoid, head over to my Primal Larder page. With primal eating, you literally have your health in your hands. It’s quite empowering really.
Have I left anything out?
What’s your favourite meat dish?
What’s your favourite vegetable?