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Crystal Neri | 5 Reasons Why I Like Paleo - Crystal Neri
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5 Reasons Why I Like Paleo

“All human beings agree that there are three necessities to survive: Food, Clothing, Shelter. And in that order. Food first.” -Dr. Aris Latham

Food is a debatable topic because it’s highly subjective and personal. I recently started cooking, and have been slowly learning about smell, flavors, and textures. A problem came up one day while I was baking. The cook book said: “Add three cups of vegetable oil.” Three cups? I certainly won’t sit down and eat that in one gulp. How is it possible to have so much sugar and oil in what we eat? 

I began my research and experimented in the kitchen for hundreds of hours. My goal was to search for a practical diet that will solve my need in losing body fat percentage. I’ve always wondered how I couldn’t rid of adipose fat in spite of hardcore gym training. I discovered the best, most logical approach to my own need:

The Paleo Diet mimics what our Paleolithic ancestors ate — mainly meat, plants, nuts and seeds. In other words, it’s a grain-free, gluten-free, dairy-free. I was one of those who raised my eyebrow when a friend said, “I don’t eat bread.” How could you, when people from Third World countries don’t even have food at all?  I’m Filipino, born and raised in the culture of white rice, oil frying and social functions where people eat way more than they should.

Let me tell you that I was one of those that questioned everything this diet was all about, only to be turned in a short period of time (although I still enjoy occasional non-paleo treats.)

Here are my top 5 reasons for loving Paleo:

5. More energy, Less hunger 

Being a competitive golfer all my life, I’d eat two cups of white rice with meat right after the round. I know that pure salad cannot satisfy me after five hours of walking under the sun. That’s obvious, and the main reason why I would  never be vegetarian. It just would never fill me up. But Paleo taught me to replace all the grains I was eating with vegetables, making them the main staples of my diet.

The biggest lesson in avoiding grains — even whole-grains — is that they contain anti-nutrients called, “phytate” or “phytic acids.” Dr. Cordain, one of the founders of the Paleo diet, warns about anti-nutrients binding calcium, zinc and magnesium, making them harder for our digestive tract to absorb. The more grains you consume, the more deficient you are in these valuable nutrients. 

A friend of mine, Q, loves beans. One time he cooked massive amounts and he consumed them day and night for weeks. After a while, his achilles tendon started swelling. He couldn’t walk for days. I suspect the pinto beans caused it, because they contain lectins which leak out of the gut and get into the blood system. Most of it affects the tendons. As soon as I warned Q about the beans and he stopped eating them, his swelling stopped. 

Like beans, rice and bread are grains, which means they quickly transform from fructose (table sugar) to sucrose (sugar inside the body). When we digest sucrose, half of it goes to our intestines, and stays there. If you have stubborn belly fat, that’s from all the sugar you consume. Sugar is a silent, modern-day killing machine, aging you, making you fat and sluggish. Nobody wants that, yet people are malinformed.

Back to the salad. I learned that I only needed to get some chicken or steak in there, and that would probably sustain me for longer hours without rising my glucose levels. Fat is what satiates hunger. The diet craze of the 90’s told us fat is bad — but it’s only common sense that saturated fat from pizza and cheese are very different from fat obtained from avocado and butter. Paleo is a diet that encourages lean meats, chicken and seafood. Yes, why not?

4. Perfect mix of carbs, proteins, fats, vitamins and minerals on a plate

The more colorful the plate, the more pleasing it is to the eye. All good cooks know that. The book, “What color is your smoothie?” talks extensively on how the various colors of fruits and vegetables have corresponding vitamins and minerals. But if you eat a lot of grains like rice, bread and pasta, your plate would look like this.

Pesto Pasta

Compared to this:

Kale salad with steak, Banana-Pecan Pancakes, Homemade Ice Cream, Strawberry Blueberry Jam

What do you think tastes better?

Paleo is automatic food fancy. I’ve recently discovered kale, a leafy vegetable that has more calcium than milk and more zinc than beef liver (superfood!) Tomatoes are bright red and juicy, and if you add pesto sauce in there, your mouth would literally fizzle.  Butternut squash is delicious when roasted, but also versatile as a soup dish. Just in that menu, you have the color green, red and yellow. All representing calcium, zinc, iron; vitamin A and C; magnesium and manganese, respectively. Now you ask: Is there a need for multivitamin supplements if we eat this whole? 

3. Food is Cure For Disease

I had a rude awakening about this fact. Dr. Cordain in her book “Paleo Answer” has a chapter on her book about Paleo curing auto-immune diseases. She has good reasons, but first, one must always reflect on how any data is applicable to oneself — to how that information is related to your own personal convictions, experiences and practical day-to-day living. At least that we can all agree on.

I have hyperhidrosis, a sweating condition that started as a teenager. I’ve lived with it most of my life, to the point of getting anxious in holding a microphone, to bringing extra clothes during interviews and shoots. In the two months of eating real, fresh foods cooked from scratch — I stopped sweating. This is the first time in eight years that I can wear a solid-colored cotton shirt without any problem. My hands stopped sweating, so are the symptoms of shakiness and cold feet. Apparently, humans sweat to release toxins. I was simply sweating out all the bad food I was eating. So when I started eating healthy, naturally, I my sweating ceased.

If me, a relatively healthy 22-year old woman can be cured my Paleo, what more about sick and overweight people?  

Again in her book, Dr. Cordain explains in detail why Paleo is a no dairy (milk, cheese) and no grain (bread, pasta, rice) diet. First, let’s examine dairy. She said milk is filtered cow’s blood. It’s linked to anemia, heart attacks, cramps, diarrhea, acne, etc. The same hormones we thought could make child grow taller, are also hormones that encourage cancer cells to grow. Plus, any dairy product has too much saturated fat for the poor nutrient ratio they contain. 

Take her example:

If you wanted 2,000 IU levels, as recommended by the world’s Vitamin D experts, you’d have to drink twenty glasses of milk a day. That’s 5,600 calories.

Crazy, when you simply could have gone out for some sunshine. The sun is the best source of Vitamin D!

Moreover, dairy causes calcium-magnesium imbalance. Magnesium is generally protective against heart disease. There’s a story about the Sippy Diet, for which ulcer patients were prescribed to drink milk and dairy constantly, everyday, as a cure. Well, have of those ulcer patients in the study died of heart attacks.

I’m lactose-intolerant anyway, so I never consumed whole milk. I did like powdered milk, but after reading this, I’m saying good bye. 

2. Paleo teaches you to value fresh vegetables and fruit, and to honor slow-cooking

Slow Cooking

Barefoot Contessa’s Ina Garten isn’t Paleo. If you read her recipes you’d see an average cooking time of 30-minutes to sometimes even 18-hours. In a logical mind, why would anyone do that when you can simply buy a $4 McBurger or a $9 Chipotle meal? It’s faster and cheaper, isn’t it?

My super idol, Food Goddess Ina Garten

Well, if you know Ina, you’d know her recipes are sent from heaven above. Tears from my eyes fell after making her Sole Muniere. There’s magic in her cooking — slow-cooking, specifically. Why? Because of AGE’s.

AGE (Advance Glycation end-products), especially in concentrated amounts in the body is linked to damage in all organs and tissue, causing chronic diseases common in the Western World. If you slow-cook — steam, poach, slow roast — you lessen the amount of AGE in your food.

What this means: Cut to the rare inside of your steak to avoid eating overcooked parts of the meat. Cook with lots of lemon because that lowers AGE amounts significantly. The worst ways of cooking is searing, broiling, frying or high-tempeature roasting. Limit those. Plus, slow cooking beautifully mends all the flavors.

Valuing Fresh Food

If you gather all the most famous chefs and cook books in the world, this what they would all agree on:

Make use of the freshest ingredients available to you.

It’s so obvious, but hard to practice. In fact, fresh, organic foods disintegrate faster than waxed ones we buy at the grocery store. This is where Paleo shines — they encourage mixing spices to create homemade sauces. To use real stuff instead of substitute. Like parsley, a cheap and common garnish to get. 

One day our neighbor, Mr. Moore, kindly shared with us his Italian parsley that grew in his backyard. I shook my head in disbelief. It was aromatic, strong in flavor, chewy, just like what parsley should be in all the chef books. I’m never using parsley-in-a-plastic-bottle again. But that’s real food does to you. Once you taste buds get acclimated, even dark chocolate with salted caramel tastes like a block, compare to banana-pecan pancakes made from scratch.

All of this brings us to the number 1 reason why I love Paleo…

1. Paleo is DELICIOUS

Never in my life did I know that veggies are a cannonade of flavors. You eat like a queen. Chicken lettuce wrap sautéed in garlic-onion, sesame oil/seeds, fish sauce, and almonds? OMG. I ate this once while on a 9,700 altitude hike and felt like I’m on top of the world. (I was near the top of California, actually, so close). 

Zuchinni with paprika. Roasted sweet potatoes. Cauliflower fried rice. Roasted broccoli with lemon juice. It’s a bonanza for the belly, without getting fat. (Hint: Secret of Life)

Paleo taught me to balance my plate with fat, carbs and protein. It taught me what Bok Choy or safflower actually looks like, that lavender pepper exists, or how to cut a large butternut squash with all my fingers in tact. Now, I honor the process of cooking. When I sit down on the table, I turn off all my devices to fully take in the delicate flavors of my hard work. I love food now, eating it, cooking it and sharing it. Food is universal, everybody has to eat. It’s also our TOP need: FOOD, shelter and clothing. It’s always food first.

What about you: When was the last time you enjoyed the freshest dish made from scratch?