Mark Sission has a nice post up today about Food Variety vs. Food Contentment. It ties in nicely with the “Food Reward” concept I discussed earlier this week. Happy reading!
The latest post in Stephan Guyunet’s ongoing series about food reward and how it affects obesity (or body-fat set point) is out, and it comes with recommendations for how to lower body-fat. I’ve been waiting for this post for a while. I’ve really enjoyed reading about food reward theory, but was unclear about how to put it into practice. I was more than a little worried that I would have to be even more strict about my food choices. Luckily, that isn’t the case. But before we get to my thoughts on that, let’s do a quick overview of food reward theory for those of you new to the concept.
“Food reward is the process by which eating specific foods reinforces behaviors that favor the acquisition and consumption of the food in question.”(1) Our brain rewards us for good behavior – behavior that it perceives as positive for our survival – and discourages behavior that it perceives as threatening. As you can imagine, this was quite useful for the survival of our species. Fire causes pain, so don’t touch fire, etc. This same system of reward also extends to food. There are several qualities in food that we are programmed to seek out, such as: fat, starch, sugar, salt, meatiness, absence of bitterness (though we can learn to like this in the right context [i.e. beer]), certain food textures, certain aromas, and caloric-dense foods.(2) In the natural environment, foods that contained a high amount of sugar/salt/etc. would have been very limited in quantity, and prized whenever found. As these food qualities were important to our survival, it is completely natural to crave them. Continue reading
This is a quick recipe that Valerie whipped up for “Paleo Feast and Treats” night with some of my clients. It’s an easy salad that is delicious on it’s own or over greens (we used baby leaf).
Simply slice cucumber, red onion, and cherry tomatoes, put in a bowl, and then add 2 Tbs of Garlic Olive Oil for every 1 Tbs of White Whine Vinegar (until the veggies are well covered). Top it off with a bit of sea salt, freshly cracked black pepper, and dill, toss it together, and let it sit in the fridge for a couple hours before serving.
-Stay healthy everybody.
Hey gang! Check out this awesome chart on the history of the Paleolithic diet and be sure to pass it along to friends who are interested in learning more about Paleo. I like the graphic and think it gives a nice general overview of a “Paleo” lifestyle, but be careful of the part that says to “Eat your Omega 3 & Omega 6. A healthy ratio is between 1:1 and 4:1.” It’s a little misleading. That’s 4:1 Omega 6 to Omega 3, not the other way around.
Many people see Paleo as a specifically low-carb diet, but if you are active and metabolically healthy, it doesn’t need to be. In fact, I can argue that it shouldn’t be. The bottom line is – no matter who you are, you need to fuel your activity. Yes you can do this with ketones bodies for the most part, but you also need glycogen made from glucose/starch. This is especially true after a hard workout where your muscles have expended most of their glycogen stores.
Afraid of Carbs?
My sense is that many people starting off on a Paleo diet tend to be worried about carbs – but there is nothing about Paleo that NEED be low carb. In fact, some hunter-gatherer groups do very well on a high carb diet (read: Katavins.) Far more important than focusing on your macronutrient ratios is to focus on eating healthy, nutritionally-dense, non-inflammatory foods. That’s why one of the best “refinement” tips I can offer anyone who is active and on a Paleo diet is to add sweet potato/yams into the mix. Ever since I’ve added glucose-heavy (as opposed to fructose which starts a chain of reactions in the liver that could lead to metabolic derrangement) and nutritious sweet potatoes, I’ve felt better, stronger, and had better recovery post workout. Plus, they are freaking delicious, and are easy to make and store.
To make sweet potato oven fries, simply skin (to remove potential gut irritants), slice, and bake in a pan at 400 degrees for 20-25min. In my neck of the woods in Japan, the main sweet potato is what Robb Wolf likes to call the “birthday cake” potato. It has purple skin, pale-yellow flesh, and is pretty darn sweet (hence the nickname). I have a sneaking suspicion that I am starting to develop a sweet (potato) tooth and have wanted to try some of the less-sweet varieties for a while now. Unfortunately, I could never find any in the market.
There are a wide variety of sweet potatoes grown in Asia, though there was one in particular that I hoped to try before I left Japan - the mysterious Okinawan Purple Sweet Potato. The Okinawan potato’s flesh is literally purple, as it is rich in the same antioxidants as blueberries. How cool is that? Unfortunately, they don’t sell it here (or so I thought).
Last week, I came home with my normal batch of sweet potatoes from the farmer’s baskets at the local supermarket, only to find a pleasant surprise in the mix. When I cut into one of the bags of sweet potato, I found purple staring me in the face. I checked the label again, to make sure I didn’t miss something, but they were marked simply as “sweet potato”. I had hit the sweet potato jack-pot! A single, glorious bag of Okinawan purple sweet potatoes had dropped into my lap. I fired up the oven, sliced-and-diced the potatoes, and made the fries. Here’s how they turned out:
“If it bleeds, we can kill it.”
I LOVED these sweet potatoes. The flavor was much more subtle and “potato-y” than in-your-face sweet. Also, I didn’t feel the compulsive need to eat the entire batch in one sitting (a good thing). Add to that the plethora of anti-oxidants, and I wouldn’t mind making these my main-sweet potato option. If only I could find them again! Does anyone know if you can get these back in the states? (fingers crossed)
In summary, I highly recommend giving sweet potatoes (and the purple variety in particular) a try in your diet. It should help with PWO recovery, and is a nice source of healthy, gut-friendly carbs in your diet. (Sweet potatoes are also a prebiotic for healthy gut flora!) Also, be sure to check out this website for some Purple Sweet Potato recipes (from Hawaii).
-Stay healthy everybody
One of the most important things to consider when you are travelling is FOOD. Normally, I live by this rule: eat real food. But when you are in a new place without access to a stove, on a schedule, and unaware of where the grocery store is, it can get tricky. A little preparation and thought can go a long way – as well as knowing what foods you CAN eat in excess without feeling too crappy.
Here’s a video I shot at Osaka Airport on my way out to the CrossFit Level 1 cert. detailing what I brought along to keep me healthy and ready to go.
What kinds of travel foods would you never leave home without?
-Stay healthy everybody.
This past week was “Golden Week” in Japan, a combination of three back-to-back holidays and one of the busiest travel times of the year in Japan. Not wanting to miss out, Valerie and I headed down the coast to Muroto, where we did some awesome hiking, ate traditional Japanese foods at a ryokan, and took time to appreciate the natural beauty all around us in Kochi.
And the best part about it: it wasn’t even planned. We just up and went one sunny day. We felt no pressure to stick to an itinerary or even stay overnight, but just let things play out as they would. It was wonderful.
Vacation, far from being the stress-relieving time the name implies, often turns into more than we bargained for. Isn’t it only too true that most people need a vacation from their vacation after they’ve been going too hard for too long on too little sleep? Usually, this is a result of trying to do too much. It’s funny how our expectations of what vacation will be like (relaxing) and what we will do (everything possible) are so dissimilar.
My suggested solution: don’t have expectations. Or at least, shift the focus of those expectations. Plan on taking time for yourself, on slowing down, on absorbing the beauty of the world around you, on re-connecting with your loved ones. You can’t rush these things, so don’t load your schedule with things to do. And whatever happens, make your best effort to find the good in your situation (or the hilarity, as often enough). Things always seem to go better if you can laugh about it.
You won’t always have the freedom to be able to up and go like I was this past week. You’ll probably have to do some planning and budgeting. But maybe a little less planning and a little more leeway is just what you need to make your vacation work for you! (No pun intended.)
A couple of months ago, I was asked by a reader about how much I use organ meats in my diet, and if I had any tips on how to stomach the stuff. My answer at that time was not at all and no idea. Though they are nutritionally dense and would have been a part of our ancestral diet, I had never given offal much thought. We never ate liver, heart, or kidney at home growing up, and I didn’t have the first idea of how to cook them, let alone enjoy them. So I pointed them to two articles at Mark’s Daily Apple (#onlinefoodbible) discussing the basics of what to do with offal, and that was that.
This past week, however, I was inspired at the grocery store when I saw a pack of chicken liver. I decided that one way or another, I would work this into my meal. (#challengeaccepted!) This was the result:
Some readers may recognize that this looks a lot like my “Sloppy Paleo Chili” from an earlier post – and they would be right. I’ve already discussed how Paleo Chili is a great way to work a variety of veggies into your evening meal, but I wondered if liver could be ‘hidden’ the same way? (Like when my mom used to chop up broccoli and bury it in her homemade pasta.) Maybe it was a bit of a cop-out, but you gotta start somewhere!
So, we food-processed our veggies (carrots, peppers, onions, red cabbage, garlic) and sauteed them per usual. We didn’t know exactly what to do with the liver, so I suggested blending it up and throwing it in the mix. Valerie was hesitant, and after we blended the liver into a bloody, pasty goo, she looked at me and said “Are you SURE you want to do this?” I was…pretty much. Yea. It was alright. I mean, how bad could it be really? Suddenly, I started to think that this was a bad idea. But I’m nothing if not persistent, and so we soldiered on. We threw it into the batch, added the ground beef and tomato sauce and spices (including fresh coriander which was baller) and there you have it.
Everything ‘looked’ the same. You couldn’t even tell the liver was in there. But I was surprised at how much of a mental battle it turned out to be. Valerie had a couple of bites and then encountered a chunk of “something” and opted for something different. I chowed down, though admittedly I didn’t get any stringy bits (luck of the draw I guess). However, I did notice that I was uncomfortable eating – I was shoving food into my face and swallowing fast enough that it barely touched my tongue, and used enough Tobasco sauce to drown a small horse.
It’s interesting how much my expectations of what it would taste like changed my eating habits, when in fact there was no distinction in taste or texture (for the most part) at all. Guess I still have a little ways to go before I’m comfortable eating offal, but I’m glad I gave it a shot and will try some more recipes out in the future.
Here’s to expectations and the unexpected!