This is our way of eating we use as the framework for most people we see in our clinic. The LifeWorks Integrative Health functional medicine team has been using real food based nutrition to help people thrive for over 15 years.
People often ask us, “how should I eat” or “what way of eating is best?” It’s never as straight forward as one wants, because, my friend, you are unique. Your body is yours. It’s for you and not for the craziest nutrition headline. The nutrition conversation is total chaos these days. We hope to bring you clarity and peace of mind as you learn to give your body what it needs.
We still use a general framework of nutrient dense eating to guide you through determining what works best for you.
This framework is what we call:
Plant Dominant Paleo.
This blog series may enough to get you on your way, but when extra help is needed the team at LifeWorks Integrative Health are here to help.
If you aren’t familiar with “Paleo” it is an eating lifestyle that avoids grains, processed foods- including refined sugars, dairy, industrial seed oils, and legumes. It focuses on high quality meats, fats, fruit, vegetables, nuts, seeds and eggs.
The Paleo world is vast and varied in the different voices who make bold claims and broad sweeping generalizations, so blogs, websites and books should be read with a keen eye and open mind. There are people like Diane Sanfilippo and Chris Kresser who have worked tirelessly in the public eye over the years to help people see the practical benefits of the framework without being dogmatic and rigid (stay away from those people).
Then there’s the vegan/vegetarian world that seems like the total other end of the spectrum. Although I can’t get behind being vegan, there are many aspects of eating vegan/vegetarian that are super beneficial and not at all contradictory to the Paleo framework. Here’s a good little article on what Vegan and Paleo have in common. Rich Rollis a great example of plant based eating done right, but the intentionality and passion behind how he eats is not for the faint of heart.
The idea behind Plant Dominant Paleo is that in general, most people need less refined, processed foods/grains and need more plant based foods, but high quality meat and fish also play a vital role in nutrient dense nutrition.
Prioritize Plants– Consider 75% of your diet coming from fruits and vegetables. A general rule of thumb is to make ½ your plate vegetables at each meal. Consider starchy vegetables like sweet potato, yam, peas, pumpkin and winter squash in smaller quantities than all the other non-starchy vegetables
Sugar Slow Down: It is beneficial to eat low quantities of sugars and refined carbohydrates including only modest amounts of honey, maple syrup, and coconut sugars. Dates are a great way to sweeten foods that also includes beneficial fibers. Avoid high fructose corn syrup and white sugar whenever possible.
Focused Fats– Do not resume use of any refined, industrial vegetable and seed oils (corn, canola, peanut, cottonseed, safflower, sunflower oil). Focus on fats from olive oil, coconut oil, avocado, grass-fed meats and grass-fed butter/ghee.
Don’t Diary- We strongly recommend avoiding dairy products. Conventional dairy products are a well-known source of inflammation and allergies. There are a few exceptions to this: homemade 24-hr fermented plain yogurt, grass-fed butter, and raw milk when well tolerated from trusted sources.
Moderate Meats– While high quality meat is a nutrient dense, beneficial food, it is often over-consumed and takes the place of beneficial vegetables. Prioritize plant based foods and eat adequate protein to feel satisfied. For most people this is 3-6oz of protein per meal. Grass-fed, pastured meats when possible. When eating conventional beef or poultry, choose the leanest cuts possible. Use veggies as the main attraction of your meals.
Beans In the Green: Beans/legumes are a good asset to a Plant Dominate Paleo template, even though Paleo “purist” wouldn’t agree. Many people digest beans well when they are prepared properly by soaking overnight and boiling. We suggest using sparingly. Avoid beans if you experience digestive issues after eating. We also recommend avoiding anything containing soybeans whenever possible.
Grains are Gone: Continue to avoid all gluten containing grains. Non-gluten containing grains like rice or corn do not contain much nutrition. If you cannot completely eliminate grains, use them sparingly. Grains are not necessary for a nutrient dense, balanced diet. Adequate carbohydrates can easily come from starchy vegetables and fruits. Corn should always be organic/non-GMO. Maintaining a grain free diet can be very helpful in keeping inflammation low, digestion running smoothly and managing weight.
Go Nuts– Nuts and seeds are nutrient dense plant sources of both protein and fat that are delicious, satisfying and encouraged. If weight is a concern, limit nuts to 1/4-1/2 c daily. Many following the guidelines above can continue to eat nuts often as desired with no concern. To improve digestibility of nuts, soak overnight and roast at lowest oven setting until crispy or use a dehydrator. Consider rotating types of nuts consumed as to not develop sensitivities.
Seed Me– Seeds such as sunflower, chia, hemp, sesame, pumpkin, and flax are also encouraged as sources of amino acids, minerals and essential fatty acids.
You might think, coming from a “Paleo friendly” place, I’m itching for a fight if I suggest that beans/legumes are not the end of the world. Your Paleo purist will suggest that the phytates present in legumes strip the body of minerals and irritate the GI tract. This is what I call, a half-truth. It is true, but oversimplified. Beans do contain phytates, but in practicality, the body does a pretty good job of regulating phytic acid levels in the body and an estimated 35-65% is degraded in the stomach, therefore doesn’t even get to the intestines to cause any problems. Additionally, phytic acid is known to bind minerals (phytic acid bound to a mineral = phytate) and said by some to strip the body of minerals. Again, a half truth. Phytic acid does bind some minerals in a food like beans, but there are still a lot available for the body to use, and it’s only bound in that food, not other foods eaten with them.
There is even evidence phytates can be a beneficial part of preventing chronic disease. There are no people groups eating whole food diets that include beans that have high levels of chronic disease. With all that’s happening in the American food industry, phytates are the least of my worries to be quite honest. Soaking and sprouting the beans before cooking enhances the nutrients available and improves digestibility. So there we are… back at real food traditionally prepared. Go figure.
Beans are both a carbohydrate source and a protein source. For those working to control blood sugars, beans may need to be limited 1/2 cup serving at a time, but work with our nutrition team to determine the level best for you. Beans can also be a helpful part of weight loss. Up to 2/3 c daily has been shown to support good weight management.
*If you are recovering from a severely leaky gut, notice adverse reactions to beans, or are in the process of healing an autoimmune condition, then you may need to avoid beans for a period of time. The team at In2Great can help you know if you fall into this category and when it would be appropriate to re-introduce beans back into your diet.
The bullets on beans:
- Consumed by many thriving cultures without chronic diseases
- Best consumed by soaking dry beans overnight then cooking
- Powerful part of a Plant Dominate Paleo template
- Provide better blood sugar regulation than other carbohydrate sources
Let’s be honest, I have a love/hate relationship with grains. On one hand, the way America consumes, processes and grows grains are extremely problematic, yet that does not mean all grains are a problem for all people all the time. The purest Primal enthusiasts will report that only in recent years (10,000 years ago) did farming and cultivation of grains result in human consumption. They really are talking about large, wide-scale production/human consumption. In reality, grains have been in history and on the scene as far back as 100,000 years ago. So it is realistic to conclude that grains have been a part of human eating for a very long time, but only in recent history have they been a dominate part of the human diet. Therefore, the problems they can cause are due to the quantity and quality.
Lectins are the anti-nutrient that bothers people about grains. Yes, grains (and legume) have substantially higher amounts of lectins than other foods. Yes, lectins cause gut irritation and can cause GI symptoms such as gas, bloating, diarrhea, nausea. BUT, the lectin levels and GI irritations from lectins are from RAW grains and legumes. The processes of soaking, sprouting, fermenting and cooking grains, significantly changes not only the amount of lectins, but the irritability of the lectins. Traditional cultures inherently knew this. Their grain consumption was small and the unaltered, raw grain directly from their fields was then soaked, sprouted, or fermented then cooked. These traditional processes remain the best way to eat and prepare grains.
Grains/seeds like: Buckwheat groats, rice, quinoa and steel-cut oats can be found in relatively unprocessed forms and cooked in a variety of delicious ways. Overly processed grains do not provide much nutrition and are not necessary for a healthy diet. However, their occasional use, when adverse reactions are not present, is also not the demise of health.
The bullets on grains:
- When gluten free (if intolerant) and unprocessed can be a beneficial
- Have been part of human consumption for 100,000’s of years
- Soaking, sprouting and fermenting make them more digestible and significantly reduce lectins
So there you have it- the realistic, balanced, non-sensationalized stance on beans and grains. Remember the staff at LifeWorks Integrative Health is always here to help you navigate the right foods for you.
Contact us for your appointment- we are honored to help you move in to great.