Friday, March 16, 2012

Abandoning beans for Paleo

Sometime towards the end of January 2012, I ran out of beans. That’s not a metaphor, I quite literally depleted my supply of beans. My system was to buy packets of dried beans, soak them over night, and boil them up the next morning, then leave them to cool during the day and bag them up and freeze them in the evening. Then I’d just take out a bag as needed until they ran out, and repeat the process.

Except one time, inevitably, I couldn’t be bothered, and just added some extra veggies to my plate. Low and behold, without realising, or even intending to, I’d gone Paleo!

Here’s my weight from January 2012, clearly trending up (which isn’t necessarily bad):

And then in February 2012 after abandoning beans, trending down:

My body fat over the same period showed the same slight trend down.

What is Paleo?

In a nutshell, the idea is to try and replicate the diet that our ancestors would have followed before the agricultural revolution around 10,000 years ago, and the more recent introduction of processed foods and vegetable oils.

Basically, try and eat plenty of the following:

  • Meat
    • lean cuts of beef, pork, chicken
  • Seafood
    • Wild-bred fish like salmon, shrimp, mussels
  • Vegetables
    • Pretty much anything non-starchy or sweet, like broccoli, cauliflower, cabbage, carrots, etc
  • Fruit
    • Low sugar content fruits, like figs for example
    • In small quantities, preferably after exercise
  • Nuts
    • Walnuts, brazil nuts, pecan nuts (in order of preference for their Omega 3/6 ratios)
    • In small quantities, as snacks if needed
    • Peanuts aren’t actually a nut, but are in fact a legume, so they’re out!

Dairy is generally out, although some allow certain specific types such as low-fat greek-style yogurt, and cottage cheese.

How is it different to the “slow carb” diet

The exclusion of beans & legumes, and a slightly more relaxed stance towards some specific fruit & veggies.

How is it similar to the “slow carb” diet

Besides the exclusion of beans & legumes, it’s very similar. The aim is ultimately the same: to keep satiety high with high-quality lean protein & good fats, and most of our nutrients from non-starchy vegetables with a low glycemic index/load that keeps blood glucose consistent and avoids insulin responses.

What’s wrong with beans

Seeds, grains, beans, and legumes are natures reproductive systems, and as such it’s really not in their best interest to be chewed up and digested, which destroys them in the process. Some fruits have evolved and kind of symbiotic relationship with their diners by packaging tiny seeds that can actually withstand the digestive process, and they actually benefit from being transported away from the parent plant. Generally speaking though, the rest do actually have a defence system against being digested.

Beans contain a toxin that is largely mitigated through cooking, but not completely. Even beans that have been soaked and boiled can still contain trace amounts of lectin phytohaemagglutinin, which doesn’t play too kindly with our sensitive digestive system. It won’t kill you, but after going 30 days without it, you notice the difference.

Too much information warning: before going slow carb, I was famous for my flatulence. After going slow carb, it was much better, but my no. 2s were still not ideal. Since eliminating both grains, and beans/legumes from my diet, I now have healthy, solid, “paleo poos”, and my farts are pretty much just “morning thunder” upon waking :)

Not all carbs are equal

I’m really enjoying this, it’s more sustainable than slow-carb because it doesn’t require processing beans, and I feel healthier from top to bottom. One thing I’ve learned though is that food generally fits into 3 categories:

  • fat
  • protein
  • carbohydrates

Which generally means that if it’s not meat/oil, technically it’s a carbohydrate. That includes all those cruciferous veggies I’ve been munching down. But I’ve also read that once you’re lean & healthy, you can relax your stance on medium GI carbs like figs and sweet potatoes/yams. So I’m going to try following up my kettle bell swings with some some med GI carbs to keep my muscle glycogen levels up, and hopefully reverse that weight trend by gaining some lean muscle mass.

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