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Grains? We Don’t Need No Stinking Grains!

Grains? We Don’t Need No Stinking Grains!

by macdaddy on March 28, 2011 · 34 comments

Post image for Grains? We Don’t Need No Stinking Grains!

For the past 27 days, I’ve been involved in the CrossFit Salem’s “Food as Fuel Paleo Challenge.” Me and about 40 of my favorite crossfitters have been religiously posting the food that we’ve been eating in a note on Facebook with the goal of becoming more aware of the food that we put in our bodies. Each of us put $20 in the pot and those of us who stick with the challenge for the entire month of March will split up the money in the at the end of the month. I think at best I stand to make about 5 bucks on the deal—but that’s OK by me.

Although the main focus of the challenge was to become aware of what we are putting in our mouths on a regular basis (hence the food journal), we were also encouraged to “eat as paleo as possible” during the month. And since I’ve been keeping a food journal pretty much full time for the past three years, I really dove into the paleo aspect. Secretly, my goal was to achieve 90% paleo during the challenge, and I’m fairly confident that I achieved this goal.

What is the Paleo Diet?

The main concept behind the paleo diet is to eat the foods that were available to a caveman (lean meats, vegetables, healthy fats) while avoiding the foods that weren’t available to him (grains, legumes, dairy, sugars, alcohol).

Why Paleo?

One of the premises behind the paleo diet that really intrigues me deals with the evolution of man as it relates to the evolution of food science and agriculture. One argument in favor of the paleo diet states that a modern human hasn’t evolved much from earlier hominids. Similarly, the genes that regulate the digestion of the food that we eat haven’t evolved to efficiently digest the modern diet that most of us are eating these days. In other words, the evolution of food science and agriculture has far outpaced our own evolution.The result of this mismatch is seen in the rising rates of obesity, diabetes, heart disease and other metabolic disorders.

I’m not a nutritionist, nor am I an evolutionist, but this argument really does make sense to me.

My Results

So how has the month gone? Pretty darn well!

grains and alcohol

I’ve successfully managed to avoid grains and alcohol for sure. I’m not much of a drinker anyway, but this month I haven’t had a drop. I’m sure a few servings of grain have snuck their way into my diet (bites of pancakes here and there for example) but I haven’t consumed one serving of bread, pasta, or rice during the entire month—honestly I don’t miss them at all.

legumes

In the legume department, I’ve done a really good job of eliminating all the beans. This has been hard because I love me some beans and haven’t really figured out why they aren’t paleo approved. More on this a bit later. One legume I haven’t been limiting is peanuts—especially peanut butter. I love that stuff, can’t get enough of it, and haven’t been able to find an alternative nut butter that I like as much as good old PB. But I have been eating only the good stuff, no added oils or sugars, just peanuts.

dairy

Here is where things get a little bit sketchy for me. I’ve done a really good job of avoiding dairy. I’ve had no milk or cheese and very little butter since March 1st. But I have been eating a fair amount of protein powder that contains the milk proteins whey and casein. And I still miss my glass of milk with dinner.

sugar

My sugar consumption has also been pretty good. I haven’t had any sweetened beverages, added sugar to any of my foods, or consumed any candy other than 88% dark chocolate this month. However, I have been using high sugar energy gels during my long runs and I did make one trip with the family for frozen yogurt (a total dairy bomb with sugar on top). But hey, nobody’s perfect, right?

More Results

Many people have asked me why I’ve been trying this diet this month. They can’t fathom that grains or legumes may be bad for you. They can’t comprehend that eating as much meat as I’ve been eating can be a healthy thing. These concerns are understandable based upon how ingrained certain food groups are in our culture. To be honest, the amount of information available about the paleo diet is staggering and I haven’t read all of it yet. But I have read some and generally buy into what the research says.

But how do I feel? How has my body responded?

  • In a word, “FANTASTIC!”
  • My sweet cravings have mostly disappeared now that I’m no longer addicted to sugar.
  • My body feels great.
  • I’m noticeably leaner in the midsection.
  • I’m stronger at the gym.
  • My energy levels are more consistent throughout the day.

Unanswered Questions

Even though I’m happy with the results of this experiment, I still have some unanswered questions about the paleo diet. I need to research more on legumes. I need to find out more about which “paleo man” this diet is based on and whether all paleo people ate similar diets. Weren’t there some differences based on the geography of where they lived? How do these differences play into the evolution of our genes? These are all tough questions to research, but I’m intrigued to find the answers.

For the most part, I feel good enough to continue to “mostly” eat this way for a while now. I may try to incorporate a few legumes, and the occasional serving of dairy. Also, I’d like to get my blood drawn to see how much all this animal fat has changed my cholesterol and triglycerides, just to make sure I’m not a walking heart attack.

The paleo experiment was a success. I’m definitely glad I tried it and it’s really accomplished its major goal of making me more aware of what goes in my mouth on a routine basis. I’ve never been so in tune with the food that I eat, and that can’t be a bad thing. I’m sure my diet will evolve over the next few months, but right now I’m pretty happy where it’s at.

{ 33 comments… read them below or add one }

1 Miz March 28, 2011 at 10:16 am

I would rock this.
oh
except for my penchant for cheese.
not a lot.
but a little.
daily.
never mind.
carry on :)

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2 macdaddy March 28, 2011 at 10:26 am

Yeah! straight to approved Miz…no spam today. Finally akismet figured it out. I’m not so sure that dairy is that bad for you. If your body responds well to it, then I say go for it!

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3 Rafael March 31, 2011 at 1:20 am

The idea would be to supplement with a rich source of omega-3. (fish oil, cod liver oil) That way we should be able to bring down the ratio omega-6/omega-3 which is pretty high in the US diet (http://livinprimal.blogspot.com)

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4 Bekka March 28, 2011 at 10:22 am

On legumes. They are a gut irritant, and the hypothesis behind why paleo people wouldn’t eat them is that they assumed that anything that made your stomach hurt/bloat was poisonous, it’s how they stayed alive. So even if they came across a legume and ate it once, the irritation (gas) you get from eating them would have been a warning signal to them. Also, have you tried sunflower seed butter? It’s the closest I have found to PB.
Bekka recently posted..helen

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5 macdaddy March 28, 2011 at 10:28 am

But what if they don’t irritate MY gut? I feel I’m way gassier from all the veggies that I’ve been eating as opposed to the beans that I would have normally eaten. Thanks for the suggestion on the sunflower butter!

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6 Bekka March 28, 2011 at 10:33 am

Hmmm.. don’t know what to tell you on that. I have always hated legumes so I didn’t have any problems giving those up.
Bekka recently posted..helen

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7 Rafael March 28, 2011 at 10:51 am

BUt sunflower seed butter would be very rich in omega-6, which is pretty bad stuff (in excess of course). Rafael (http://livinprimal.blogspot.com)
Rafael recently posted..Mini-challenge month 1 Update

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8 macdaddy March 28, 2011 at 12:16 pm

Thanks for pointing that out Rafael. You’re right.

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9 Michael March 28, 2011 at 10:29 am

Hey Mac, Here is what’s wrong with legumes: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Legume_lectin

Lectins are very similar to Gluten on how they irritate the gut.

Glad you are having good results. Crossfit Santa Clara did a similar challenge and here are the results: http://perfectmike.com/2011/03/01/crossfit-santa-claras-paleo-challenge-results/

Lastly, you are correct that this is not based on a single “paleo man” as most ate drastically different diets based on what was available for them geographically and seasonally. But what they had in common was that they didn’t eat grains or legumes, and they did eat meats, fruits and vegetables (depending on season and geography this would vary greatly), and roots and tubers (very fibrous versions of today’s carrots and potatoes).

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10 BD March 28, 2011 at 10:47 am

Actually, there is evidence that humans have been eating grains for about 100,000 years, in the places where they could find them. So if a grain-free diet of lean meats and veggies works for you, great! Just don’t claim it’s based on archaeological science.

http://www.cbc.ca/news/technology/story/2009/12/17/tech-archaeology-grain-africa-cave.html

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11 macdaddy March 28, 2011 at 12:23 pm

BD—I’m not claiming it’s based on anything. I’m just telling you what I’ve read. I also think I did a pretty good job of saying that I have more to learn. Whether or not paleo man ate grains, there is mounting research that suggests they are bad for your gut.

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12 Doug March 31, 2011 at 1:24 pm

Paleo man existed from 2,600,000 years ago until around 10,000 years ago – when Neolithic man (us) took over

If we look at the complete timeline of Paleo/Neo man, the introduction of grains occurred during the last 4% of the timeline.

And while there are examples of partial genetic adaptation to Neolithic foods (dairy), I have seen more than enough scientific and first hand experience of how a diet devoid of grains, legumes & dairy improves numerous markers of health & physical fitness.
Doug recently posted..Would you vote for a Ban on Junk Food Advertising aimed at kids under 13

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13 Rafael March 28, 2011 at 10:49 am

I have taken a longer approach. My month{s challenge was toeliminate granulated sugar from my diet and increase exercise. How did I do? You can read it here: http://livinprimal.blogspot.com
Rafael recently posted..Mini-challenge month 1 Update

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14 Jason March 28, 2011 at 10:53 am

I’m with you on the legumes! Mine of choice at the moment are lentils. But like you, Mac, they don’t bloat me like they do others. I have no problems at all. Broccoli makes me worse off than beans.

I’ve been following the diet outlined in The 4-Hour Body (more or less) since December, and I will say that since I avoid grains (except onceish a week) I have never felt better. The very first week I noticed how much extra energy I had.

A lot of folks who have started 4HB have been moving towards paleo as well. I think they might be cousins. ;) I like that meat is important in both, but I don’t think I could go paleo totally because of the non-legumes.

-j

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15 K March 28, 2011 at 11:01 am

I’m glad it’s working well for you, but I don’t understand why they think that paleo people had access to peanut butter, natural or otherwise. ;-)

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16 macdaddy March 28, 2011 at 12:16 pm

K–You’re totally right on that point. But this brings me to one of the biggest problems I actually have with the Paleo diet, and the topic of another post: I’M NOT ACTUALLY A CAVEMAN! I’m actually really happy that I live in my house and not in a cave. I’m happy that I’m smarter than the caveman and have figured out how to make my life better. I’m happy that we invented peanut butter. I’m just not sure where technology should stop and our genes should take over.

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17 Doug March 31, 2011 at 1:30 pm

Well said Mac!!!

Some Paleo followers are just a little to cult-y when it comes to their devotion to all things Paleo.

In regard to your love of legumes, I tested myself by going without them for a couple of months and then re-introducing them.

When I blew up like a balloon, I had my answer. Maybe your answer will be different.
Doug recently posted..Punicic Acid Prevents Obesity and Insulin Resistance

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18 macdaddy March 31, 2011 at 1:47 pm

Yeah, Doug…the jury is still out. I have only been off of them for 31 days. I do plan on reintroducing them to see what happens. If I get the same result as you, out they go again.

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19 Andy March 28, 2011 at 11:09 am

Nice work Mac! This is a great website with lots of podcasts to answer some of your questions: http://www.robbwolf.com

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20 Kim March 28, 2011 at 12:16 pm

This is very interesting. I’m studying to be a certified health counselor and one thing I have learned is that there is no one diet that works for everyone. Legumes and I get along fantastic. However, I am a allergic to dairy and eggs. Some meats make my fingers and toes swell up like balloons.

I think the best diet is the one that makes “you” feel fantastic.

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21 macdaddy March 28, 2011 at 1:03 pm

agreed!

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22 Kris March 28, 2011 at 1:03 pm

Interesting post – glad it’s working for you! Several years ago, I tried a meat heavy diet, but found that once I started running, I feel better if I eat more grains and legumes, and less meat. I agree with Kim, different strokes for different folks, and if Paleo is working for you, go for it!

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23 jim March 28, 2011 at 1:03 pm

The irony of reading this in Google Reader was there was an ad
for Kellogg’s Fiber plus Antioxidents Cereal. A paleo post about not eating grains and the ad was for basically processed grains.

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24 macdaddy March 28, 2011 at 1:19 pm

That’s why I dropped google ads on my blog. Every time I shot down a diet pill, there would be an ad for the same diet pill right next to it :)

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25 bill March 29, 2011 at 7:31 am

re: legumes,

gut irritant (thats why you need to cook them).
The paleo idea isnt ‘pretend to be a caveman’ , its ‘eat things that your made to eat’, so beans are off, you can’t just eat them, same for wheat, potatoes etc…

Don’t get hung up on ‘did paleo eat this, or didnt they’ just focus on ‘is it good for me to eat it’ or , ‘is it edible’. So many things we eat now actually aren’t edible in their raw state.

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26 macdaddy March 29, 2011 at 8:11 am

That’s a good point Bill. But it’s hard to take your advice when so much of the paleo ideal is written from that perspective… At least that’s how I’ve read it anyway.

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27 Sheila March 29, 2011 at 12:24 pm

I think that the diet is probably not suggesting that people eat raw meat (I could be wrong) so how does having to cook meat differ from having to cook beans? I am glad that you were so successful but found interesting your point about your cholesterol levels. I am not sure my cardiologist would want me on this diet. Would love to talk to you more, but unfortunately won’t see you this weekend. It is my big triathlon! Have fun

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28 macdaddy March 29, 2011 at 12:49 pm

Leave it to the lawyer to find the loophole! There are a ton of inconsistencies in this (and I think in most) diets. Just for clarification, most of the meat I’ve been eating has been cooked. BUT I think the main difference is that meat COULD be eaten raw if you chose to but legumes and other plant foods (starchy tubers come to mind) need to be cooked in order to remove the toxins and make them safe to eat. I’m making an appointment for my next physical as soon as I get back from vacation. Good luck in your tri this weekend, can’t wait to follow you.

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29 Tina March 29, 2011 at 6:58 pm

BD, RE: “Actually, there is evidence that humans have been eating grains for about 100,000 years, in the places where they could find them. So if a grain-free diet of lean meats and veggies works for you, great! Just don’t claim it’s based on archaeological science.”

The Paleolithic is that the age of stone tools … waaaay before 100,000 years ago – around 2 and half million years ago at its dawn. That is the era the diet is based upon, which is *pre-agriculture* and which is based on the (not unreasonable) idea that as much as we have advanced industrially and technologically, our bodies have not kept up that pace and are biologically not much different from our very ancient ancestors. I won’t argue the absolute scientific vailidity of this position and I do not follow this diet myself, but I understand their rationale. Cheers, Tina

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30 Paul March 29, 2011 at 9:42 pm

Mac, we’ve made the switch to almond butter. The paleo and CrossFit peeps sure seem to love it.

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31 macdaddy March 29, 2011 at 11:14 pm

Yeah they do…Unfortunately, I don’t :(

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32 Greg April 2, 2011 at 5:27 am

Its an interesting discussion Mac. I grew up on a diet of beans & cornbread, so legumes are close to my heart. Cooked southern style, I don’t think there’s a better dish, and from a global perspective, I doubt we could feed the world’s burgeoning population without grains. While its true that grains are high in phytates, which trap out many important nutrients, they’re also an important source of others. Of course, you can get most of those from veggies as well… I’m interested to hear your long-term take.

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33 Martha Conner December 13, 2011 at 9:17 pm

But what if they don’t irritate MY gut? Several years ago, I tried a meat heavy diet, but found that once I started running, I feel better if I eat more grains and legumes, and less meat. daily. I think they might be cousins.
Martha Conner recently posted..Acne Tips

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